The Voice of the Clock

Mary E. Wilkins (Freeman)

From Edgewater People (Harper and Brothers; New York: 1918)

Leicester had been in the beginning West Barr. It had been rechristened because of the frankly expressed wish of the head of the Leicester family, old Marcus Leicester. All the members of the family had approved heartily of the decision of Marcus to offer to the village of West Barr a public library, a town hall, a high-school, improvement for the cemetery, and a soldiers' monument on the village green, on condition that West Barr be afterward known as Leicester. There had been a meeting of the selectmen of the village, and the vote of the majority had been for the change.

The only radical dissenters had been two brothers named Sylvester. The Sylvesters were as proud as the Leicesters; but they had been of late a notably unprosperous family. They as well as the Leicesters dated back to the beginning of the village, but they had not kept pace, as far as worldly prosperity was concerned, with the Leicesters.

The Sylvesters, as a family, urged by financial stress, had moved away from their native heath; they had sold, acre by acre, their ancestral lands, until there were left only the two brothers and a small parcel of land. The brothers were elderly men, so nearly of an age that many thought them twins. One was William, the other Arthur. They kept a small shop devoted to the sale and repair of antiques in furniture and bric-à-brac.

William and Arthur Sylvester appreciated all they sold. They dealt in works of art — wonderful old pieces of Sheraton and Chippendale and Adam, brought in the holds of heaving sailing-vessels from overseas; pieces made by American cabinetmen, perhaps more wonderful still. Often the brothers discovered a treasure of such cabinet work which was individual and aroused in their sentimental breasts patriotic enthusiasm.

“Work could be done in this country, if people only knew it,” William often said to Arthur. “There are plenty of Sheratons; but how many pieces like this old clock made by some fellow who came over in the Mayflower?”

He pointed to an ancient timepiece which stood directly before them.

“Yes,” agreed William, “that is a clock; and yet people will buy clocks made in Germany and England and leave this standing here, this clock made in our own country when it first was a country. What if it hasn't quite so many ornaments, tricks to catch the eye? Look at the grain of the mahogany in that clock.”

“It is like a picture of a Spanish forest,” said Arthur. “And look at the lines! It is a wonderful clock.”

“The face of that clock is wonderful, too,” said William.

“It is as clear as the face of the splendid old history of the country,” said Arthur, “and it was made in this country. It is an American clock, and yet Americans scorn it.”

“It is true we have never been able to make it go,” admitted William.

“What of that?” returned Arthur, irascibly. “That English clock we sold at such a figure last week would not go. It is made wrong; but it sold because it had so many brass topknots.”

“I wonder,” said William, thoughtfully, “if there is anything really wrong about this clock?”

“There is something wrong about the times,” said Arthur. “The times are not suited to the clock. The question is whether the clock can ever be made to suit the times.”

“Well,” returned William, “you and I have tinkered this clock, and we have had Emerson over from the Center; he understands clocks; and we none of us have been able to make this clock go.”

“I wonder what it sounds like when it strikes,” said Arthur. “Marcus Leicester has many old clocks, and all of them go.”

“None of them is American,” returned William, with scorn.

“Sometimes I have wondered whether the works in his clocks were anything like the works in this,” said Arthur, ponderingly.

William turned sharply. “You don't mean to say that you would ask to see the works of Marcus Leicester's clocks?” he demanded.

“Of course not, brother,” said Arthur, meekly.

The brothers had to pass the old Leicester house on their way home. Marcus emerged from his front gate just as they came opposite. He lifted his hat in courtly fashion, displaying a thick bush of white hair. The Sylvesters were as courtly as he. They lifted their hats. “Good day, gentlemen,” said Marcus.

“Good day, sir,” responded William and Arthur.

“A fine day for the season,” remarked old Marcus Leicester, and his tone fairly patronized the day and the season.

“Very fine,” returned William, in a tone which disposed finally of the day and the weather. He and Arthur walked on.

Marcus moved in the opposite direction. He wore a magnificent coat of finest broadcloth and swung a gold-headed stick with perfectly regular motions, like a drum major.

“They have no more right,” said William, as they moved on, “to name the town for him than for us. Sylvester would have been as good and as proud a name as Leicester. The Sylvesters came of just as good stock — better. All the difference is — money, just a little money.”

“Yes, the Leicesters have been fortunate with regard to this world's goods,” returned Arthur, a bit wearily. He was a delicate man; his brother harped a good deal on the same strain, and sometimes, although he never demurred, it tired him. He was glad when they reached home.

The Sylvester house was as fine a specimen of old Colonial architecture as any of the Leicesters'. It stood well back from the road, haughtily guarded by its deep front yard. Before the yard was a fretwork of iron fence as fine as Marcus Leicester's. The front door of the Sylvester house was the grandest in the village. Famous architects had begged permission to copy it. William and Arthur never failed to glance at it with pride.

Now there were left of the Sylvesters in the old house only the two brothers, and a late arrival. She was the unmarried daughter of the eldest of the Sylvesters, who had moved South before the Civil War and had died there. When his daughter, Adeline Sylvester, had written the two brothers of her delicate health and utter impecuniosity, they had at once replied and offered her a home; but they were of one mind with regard to her. “Of course she is not, cannot be, a real Sylvester,” they agreed.

When she had arrived they were forced to admit grudgingly that Sylvester she was as far as looks went. Adeline was no longer young; neither was she old. She was not pretty, nor yet homely. She had the rare and singular charm of the Sylvesters; a delicacy and fineness of physique which was not illness, nor even weakness, but something distinguished and arresting. She had the aquiline features of the race, so cleanly cut that they verged on transparency, as to nostrils and temples. She had the tall and slender grace of her father's family, and she moved with the firm suppleness of a willow bough in a wind. Poor Adeline Sylvester had been exposed to many winds of fate all her life. It was like the bitterness of death for her to write to her Northern uncles, but, after all, they were her kin, and a Sylvester could not appeal for aid to others than of her blood.

Adeline had arrived, and at first sight her uncles approved. Arrayed in amazing ancient garments, originally of such richness that they had withstood the years and were yet impressive, she got out of the train, and both William and Arthur, awaiting her on the station platform, had found a place for her in their hearts. That long face, strangely ungirlish, yet strangely girlish, regarding them through the embroidered flowers of her white Brussels lace veil, with a pale, gentle smile, won their hearts.

They still owned the old Sylvester carriage, lumbering and jolting, but with the family arms on the door. An old man, shaggy as to hair and beard, who tended the garden and cared for the old span of horses, held the lines. Adeline would have been surprised beyond bounds had there not been that much of state wherewith to greet her. She held out her long slim hand in its shabby glove, first to one uncle, then to the other, got into the carriage, and beneath the slants of the faded green silk curtains of the carriage window looked a true Sylvester face. William beside her, and Arthur opposite, regarded her with entire approval.

“You look like your father, our brother, niece,” said William.

“So I have always understood,” replied Adeline, in a curious voice which partook of the South and the North. It was a clean-cut voice, yet it drawled. She leaned back against the shabby cushions and drew her old velvet cloak around her over her thin knees. She had arrived in early spring, and the raw east wind smote her unkindly. When she entered the Sylvester house the wide warmth from the furnace awakened her to smiles. She spread out her hands with a childlike gesture of approval.

“It is warm,” she said, and smiled, and with the smile her face became lovely.

“Our niece is very good-looking, brother,” said Arthur, when she had gone upstairs to remove her wraps.

The door opened, and Hitty Fowler came in.

“Our niece has come, Hitty,” said William, and there was in his look and tone slight intimidation. Hitty Fowler was the old servant woman of the Sylvester family. William and Arthur had worried a good deal concerning Hitty's attitude with regard to the niece, but the worry had been wasted. Hitty was devoted to Adeline from the first.

When the brothers entered the house by the side door that day of late spring after the conversation concerning the clock, they were met by Hitty, portentous and frowning with anxiety.

“What is the matter, Hitty?” asked William.

“She,” stated Hitty, “has got another of them dreadful headaches. I think, for my part, that she has entirely too many of them headaches. Strikes me it would be a good plan to telephone Doctor Ellerton over to the Center.”

William looked anxiously at his brother, who was unexpectedly optimistic. “Don't you remember how many headaches mother used to have?” said he. “I think ladies quite generally have headaches.”

“Mr. Marion Leicester was over here,” said Hitty. She screwed up her face as if she had fired a gun and was waiting for the shock of the explosion.

However, neither of the brothers made any remark. While they felt antagonism toward the Leicesters, it was, after all, the antagonism of equals. To their comprehension, Marion Leicester was only a boy, although he was over thirty. He was younger than Adeline. They had no suspicion of a romance. They were covertly glad that a Leicester, old Marcus's youngest son, found the Sylvester house and a Sylvester woman attractive.

William and Arthur sat down in the dim old sitting-room and waited for supper. Arthur said, “It is a good thing for that Leicester boy that he likes to come over here to see our niece. She can improve him. Adeline has a very fine mind for a woman.”

“I heard something about Doctor Ellerton's sister Margy and Marion a while ago,” said William.

“Did you?” said Arthur indifferently. “It speaks well for a boy to like to visit a woman like our niece rather than a silly young girl. Adeline is very well read. I dare say they talk about Emerson.”

Then Adeline came gliding into the room. She looked startlingly young. In a sense she was young. The years, despite her monotonous, hard life, had not counted for this fragile, gently-thinking woman creature their full measure of days. She did not belong to the youth of the day, but she was hard-fast to the youth of her own day. There was no strenuous out-of-door life for Adeline. She was a lover of the ancient delights of womankind; she embroidered; she played on the piano — her uncles had bought a new one for her; — she loved to take little walks; she loved to sit, idly dreaming.

Perhaps it was because of this subtle, innocent youth that Marion Leicester had become so attracted by Adeline. However, he always maintained that Adeline was unusually beautiful. She certainly was at times beautiful, with a strange beauty beyond the physical, yet not separated from it. She was beautiful that afternoon as she glided into the room as her grandmother might have glided. Her old gown was very full in the skirts. Although her uncles gave her money, Adeline used none for her clothes. And now those skirts of hers, gathered about the waist, were beginning to partake of ultra fashion. Adeline's way of dressing her hair was quite according to the mode; it was looped softly over her ears and knotted midway of her head. Her profile was so fine that people compared her to a cameo; but she had color.

That afternoon her cheeks were vividly pink, her lips rosy, her eyes brilliantly blue. There was a slight frown of pain between the blue eyes, and a redness beneath them. Adeline had a headache, and she had been weeping. Marion Leicester had asked her to marry him, and she considered that as most unseemly. She considered herself entirely too old to marry Marion Leicester, or, indeed, to marry at all; but she was unhappy because of it. Adeline was much in love with Marion, and wondered what was the matter with her. She had declined Marion's offer of marriage, and sent him home, and then she had gone upstairs with a headache, and wept. The brothers arose when their niece entered. They inquired concerning her headache, which she said was not at all severe.

“You look feverish,” said William.

Then all Adeline's delicate unlined face was rose-red, as she murmured that she was not feverish, and went out to supper with her uncles. Hitty Fowler eyed her shrewdly. Hitty never considered a woman beyond the reach of love and matrimony until she was in her tomb.

After supper that evening, when Adeline sat with her uncles under the trellised hood of the side porch, Mr. Marion Leicester, although he had been refused and dismissed that very afternoon, came again.

He swung along jauntily, with much the air of his father. He was a handsome young man; but when he calmly seated himself on the porch beside the astonished Adeline, removed his hat, and lighted his cigar, he was clearly, although younger, older in appearance. Marion had lost the hair from the top of his head and his face was lined. He looked into Adeline's face of almost piteous astonishment, and laughed.

“How do you do this warm evening, Miss Adeline?” he inquired.

“Our niece has been suffering from a headache,” replied William with some degree of pomposity.

Marion looked at Adeline whimsically and tenderly.

“I have no headache,” she said shortly. All this was beyond her calculations. She had never known that rejected young men called again in the evening, and behaved precisely as if nothing had happened.

Marion said politely that he was very much please to hear it; then he talked politics with her uncles. The Sylvesters never mentioned business outside their shop. They were not ashamed of the shop; but they were Sylvesters, and Sylvesters before them had never been in trade. Consequently they did not carry the trade home, out of deference to their ancestors.

They did not dream of mentioning their business to Marion Leicester; but presently the young man himself broached the subject. “That is an amazing old clock you have in your stock, Mr. Sylvester,” he said to William. “I was passing your shop this noon when you were at home, and I took a notion to stop and look in the window. That magnificent old clock looked back at me, and I felt as if I were an intruder. He is superb! He might have stood in Governor Bradford's house.”

“He is old enough,” returned William, with a sudden flare of pride. “That is a magnificent old clock; American, too, and yet people will buy English and German clocks and pass that by.”

“I wonder why,” Marion said, with real interest. He had never thought of the matter before.

“Not enough ornament, for one thing,” said William. Arthur hesitated. Then he said: “Well, brother, most of the clocks of foreign make which we have handled —” He paused before the look in his brother's face.

“What?” asked Marion Leicester.

“Go,” said Arthur feebly.

“Doesn't that American clock go?”

William straightened himself. “The clock is not yet adjusted to the floor, probably,” said he.

“All the old clocks require adjustment. They stood on floors which depended upon a center chimney in those old houses. The shop is rather a modern building. I am thinking of trying the clock in this house. It ought to work well here. This house dates back nearly as far as the clock.”

Arthur regarded his brother with surprised delight.

“That is the very thing, brother,” he declared.

“So I think,” declared William, who had only that moment thought of it. “We will have the clock set up in the north room to-morrow.”

“That will be lovely,” said Adeline. The moon had come out, and Adeline in that pure light, leaning back in her chair with her long gracefulness, was charming. Her face gleamed like a pearl between the folds of her fair hair. Her white muslin skirts fluttered around her feet in an occasional breeze.

Presently William and Arthur entered the house, bidding good night to Marion and their niece. They had no more idea of impropriety in leaving her alone with him than if she had been their mother.

Adeline arose as soon as her uncles were in the house.

“Oh, sit down,” said Marion, with a light laugh.

“I don't know what you mean, Mr. Leicester,” faltered Adeline.

“I know entirely well what you mean, Miss Adeline, and that is the solution of my conduct,” replied Marion, and laughed again.

“After what passed only this afternoon,” said Adeline, with an attempt at frigid dignity.

“That,” stated Marion, “is precisely the reason why I came again to-night.”

Adeline sank reluctantly back into her chair. “I don't understand,” she murmured.

“I do, my dear Miss Adeline, perfectly.”

“I have not had much experience,” said Adeline, “but I thought —”

Marion laughed again. “You thought that men after they had been jilted had sense enough to stay away from the jilter?”

“Oh, Mr. Leicester, it is unkind to put it that way.”

“Why? Didn't you jilt me?”

Marion leaned nearer Adeline. He bent over her. She trembled.

“You know it is not suitable,” she whispered. She could hardly bring the words out.

“Because when I was six months old, you might possibly have been old enough to be trusted to wheel me out for an airing in my little carriage. Say, Adeline, you must have been a darling little girl. I know just what you were. You were too good to be true when you were a little girl, as you are now; and you always minded your mother, as now you are going to mind me.”

“It is not suitable, Mr. Leicester.”

“Say Marion.”

“It is not suitable, Marion.”

“Honestly, Adeline, is there any earthly reason besides that little difference in our ages?”

“Your family would not approve.”

“I haven't any immediate family except Father. He would be horrified to have me marry out of Leicester, and out of one of the best families, and the Sylvesters are one of the best families.”

“That is true,” assented Adeline, with a slight upward toss of her fair head.

“Then what else? Would your uncles object?”

Adeline replied with sudden firmness. “They would think I had gone stark, staring mad,” said she. “They think me as settled in —”

“In what?”

“In being an old maid,” replied Adeline, with a troubled accent. She just glanced into Marion's eyes. Then he kissed her. “You an old maid!” he whispered, fondly.

“You mustn't,” Adeline said, faintly. “I must go in. It will never do. You must not come again.”

“Well, I am coming again, all right,” said Marion, gaily. “I'll drop in to-morrow to see that old American clock.”

Marion kissed Adeline again, when she fled before him into the house. Then he went down the walk whistling.

Hitty Fowler was standing in the hall when Adeline entered. She eyed her severely. “It will never do!” said she, “for you to marry into the Leicester family.”

Adeline leaned against the old landscape-papered wall.

“I wish it would,” said Hitty, “for Mr. Marion is a fine gentleman, but Mr. William and Mr. Arthur have dreadful un-Christian feelings about that family, if I do say so.”

Adeline cast a scared look of inquiry at her.

“I've often wished I darst speak my mind about it,” said Hitty. “Your uncles are two as good gentlemen as ever lived, but it ain't showing Christian spirit to be so set against another family just because it has got more money and more glory in this world.”

“I can't hear anything against my uncles,” half sobbed Adeline.

“I ain't saying anything against your uncles. I'm saying things against the way they feel about the Leicesters.”

“I don't understand anything about it, Hitty,” Adeline said, piteously.

Hitty softened. “There, don't you worry one mite about it,” said she. “You just go to bed and to sleep, Miss Adeline. I set a glass of blackberry wine and a plate of cakes on your table. You drink that wine and eat the cake and go to sleep. It will come out all right. If you are meant by the Lord Almighty to marry Mr. Marion, you will; and if you ain't you won't. That's all there is to it.”

The old American clock was brought over the next forenoon. It was set in a corner of the sitting-room, and William and Arthur, and Mr. Emerson, the jeweler from Barr Center, worked over it all day. Neither of the brothers went to the shop. They and the jeweler toiled over the clock. It was after sunset when the jeweler started for his home in Barr Center. Hitty Fowler met him just out of sight of the house, where the road turned. He stopped at her hail.

“Mr. Emerson, I want to know if that clock is ever going to go?” demanded Hitty.

“Hitty,” replied Mr. Emerson — he was a dry old man with a light of sarcastic humor in his face — “that clock is as dead as the man that made it; and he's been about as dead as he can be for a mighty long time. That clock is dead. All things made by men have their times, though they outlive men, if men are made in the fear of the Lord and the beauty of holiness; but they have their appointed times. That old clock had his. He is dead.”

“Land!” said Hitty.

That evening the brothers sat with Adeline in the room with the clock. Already it seemed a presence, silent, almost menacing. The brothers did not talk. They were tired and downcast. Then Marion arrived. Adeline rose to greet him. The brothers said good evening with stiff courtesy.

Marion looked at the clock; then at Adeline. She shook her head very slightly.

“It is a pleasant evening,” said Marion.

Then, self-possessed as he was, he started, for suddenly William Sylvester awoke to the situation. “Are you coming here courting our niece?” he demanded.

Hitty Fowler was listening at the door.

Marion flushed; then he replied readily and pleasantly, “With her permission and yours, gentlemen.”

“You will never have our permission!” shouted William.

“No,” echoed his brother.

“Nor our niece's, if she has a particle of womanly pride and family pride,” said William. “A woman older than you, and a Sylvester.”

Then poor Adeline went rose-red from pure shame that she, little woman-child, had been summoned through the gate of earth-life a few years before her lover. It was shame so exquisite that it seemed to her she would die of it.

But Marion persisted. “Yes,” he said, “with her permission and yours, gentlemen. The difference in our ages is not enough to mention. I love your niece, and she is the woman I have chosen to be my wife, if she will have me, and if you will consent.”

Marion put his protecting hand on poor Adeline's shoulder, but she began to weep softly. Then William spoke his mind, his long-restrained mind.

“Our niece can choose,” said he; “but as for my brother and myself, we shall never consent. The Leicesters have enough. They own all the town except the Sylvesters; and the Sylvesters will never be owned by mortal man.”

Marion looked honestly puzzled. William continued.

“I have lived right here in this town where I was born,” said he, “and so has my brother. We are old men. We have seen the Leicesters lording it over everybody. They are no better than the Sylvesters.”

“Nobody —” began Marion, but the old man's voice of terrible, jealous accusation stopped him. “They are not as good,” shouted William. “The Leicesters are not of as good stock as we; but everything a Leicester has ever touched has succeeded, and everything a Sylvester has touched has failed. The Sylvesters never will knuckle down. Let the Leicesters have it all. Let even their clocks go, when the Sylvesters' American clock, which is an honor to the land, whether it goes or not, won't go an hour.” William shook his clenched fist at Marion, then turned and shook it at the silent clock.

Arthur echoed him — “Yes, let the Leicester clocks go, when the Sylvesters' won't; even that little success denied us,” said Arthur. “Let your family have everything, but you never shall have Sylvesters.”

With that William, followed by Arthur, went stately-wise out of the room.

Marion stared at Adeline. “Don't cry,” he said; “but what does it all mean?”

“They have been trying to make the clock go all day,” she said, faintly. “They are nervous, and all wrought up, poor old gentlemen.”

“I can see that,” said Marion. “Don't cry, dear; but for the life of me, I can't understand why they hate my father so because his clocks go and this one won't.”

“It is simply because the clock is the last straw,” said Adeline.

“I don't understand there being any straws at all,” said Marion. “Of course the Leicesters have always been a lucky set; but I really don't think any of us are especially set up about it. Father did want to have the town called after his family. I thought it rather a fool thing myself, but if he wanted it and the townspeople didn't object I could see no reason for objecting. I know, of course, your uncles did oppose it; but I did not know they felt so strongly about it — and now this old clock!” Marion rose and went over to the clock. He opened the door and tried to start the pendulum. It swung to and fro, and was still. “I wonder what does ail this clock.”

Adeline rose. “You must go home, Mr. Leicester,” she said. “I cannot remain longer here with you after what Uncle William said. It is treacherous. I own everything to him and Uncle Arthur.”

“But, Adeline —”

Adeline was gone. Her white skirts fluttered through the door. Marion gasped. Then Hitty Fowler came in. She hushed him with warning gestures; she beckoned. He followed, puzzled. When they were out of the house and a little way down the road she stopped him.

“Look here,” she said, “how many old clocks has your father got, Mr. Marion?”

“Oh, I don't know. They stand round ticking and striking in almost every room in the house,” replied Marion, impatiently. “Why in the world do the old Sylvester gentlemen care so much about that clock's not going, when ours do?”

“All your father's clocks go, you say, Mr. Marion?”

“Every one of them. What ails this clock of the Sylvesters'?”

“That clock,” said Hitty solemnly, “is dead.”

“Dead?”

“Yes, Mr. Emerson told me so. It never will go. It has stopped because it had to. It died. Now all your father's clocks are alive. Don't they ever put live organs into things when organs are dead in hospitals?” inquired Hitty.

Marion stared. Then he started. “By Jove!” said he. “Hitty, you have struck it! The live works go out of one of father's clocks and into that dead one, and the dead works go into one of father's clocks!”

That night, Adeline, wakeful, thought she heard strange noises; then thought them due to the wind, which was fresh around the old house. She lay awake listening. At another time she might have been frightened, but that night she was too unhappy.

The next day the brothers went to the shop as usual. Adeline read and embroidered and played on the piano. The old clock stood silent in its corner. That evening she and her uncles sat in their usual places. The old gentlemen were reading the papers. Adeline was making a pretense of work. Hitty Fowler came to the door and said a man wanted to see Mr. William and Mr. Arthur about some business, and the brothers went out into the dining-room.

“Miss Adeline,” whispered Hitty.

“What is it?”

“Go out on the porch, Miss Adeline.”

“Why? What are you laughing about?”

Hitty did not reply. She was shaking with convulsions of mirth; she darted back into the room where the clock stood.

Adeline went out on the porch, and there was Marion. “Good evening,” she said. “Oh, you ought not to have come!”

“Yes, I ought. You don't know. I hope, I think it will be all right now. Adeline, if only your uncles felt well disposed toward me you would —?”

“Hush, you know how they feel.”

“Wait a moment. Don't go in.”

“I must,” said Adeline, firmly. She went in, and Marion followed her. The business errand had been a short one, the brothers had returned. When they saw Marion they greeted him with cold courtesy. He sat down beside Adeline on the sofa.

All at once William Sylvester started; Arthur started; Adeline started. Everybody stared at the clock. It was as if an actual living presence was in the room. All through the room came the heavy halting drone of the tick of the old clock.

“One of father's clocks has stopped,” remarked Marion coolly. “I got Emerson over from Barr Center this afternoon to look at it, and he says it is worn out, cogs too smooth or something. I see you have your clock going — a magnificent old piece.”

William and Arthur Sylvester rose and went to the clock.

William opened the door as if it were a court ceremony. The great pendulum swung regularly to and fro, the slightly halting tick was louder.

“It is going, after all,” said William, in an awed tone.

“Yes, it is going,” said Arthur.

William turned to Marion. “Did you say one of your father's clocks had stopped?” he asked.

“Yes, worn out. All things have their limit. I suppose that old clock has reached his.”

“This has not,” said William, proudly. “American clocks and American furniture, made by American patriots in the beginning of our history, were made on honor. It is the foreign pieces which are not to be depended on. American clocks go. This is an American clock.”

Arthur, who was quite pale, nodded in solemn assent.

Then the old clock spoke. It struck nine, the old curfew hour. It pealed out the nine strokes with a silver and crystal resonance.

“What a beautiful voice,” said William, in a sort of ecstasy. He turned to Marion with extended hand. “I am pleased to see you, sir,” he said. “I offer you my hand, with congratulations to you and my niece.”

“I also,” said Arthur, advancing with extended hand. Marion rose and shook hands. Both brothers kissed Adeline upon the pure triangle of white forehead between her fair waves of hair. Then they went out, and the lovers were alone with the clock, whose tick sounded in their ears like the oldest love song of time, to be repeated forever while the world endures.