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mE CLOCKMAKER'S CHRISTMAS…

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[ALL RIGHTS REHIRTED.] mE CLOCKMAKER'S CHRISTMAS GIFT. BY BEATRICE HERON-MAXWELL. "You wore in a factory yourself once, father." The sentence, quietly and un aggressively spoken, stopped Jasper Redwood in tlhe midsr. of s. voieat speech, am! he stared at his son in nee for a. moment, the frown deepening on his rugged, massive brow, while bis brown «ws gleamed with anger. And wbac if I was ? he demanded, roughly. Is it for you to throw it in my teeth now that, I've worked my way up to be luaeter wlic-ve I was man? Who gets tibe profit of my er me that?" "I do," Roger, in a level tone, "and I'm grateful for it. I wasn't meaning lID vex vo: —only to remind you that there's tm good i &t .he bottom are at the bop. Some make their cltanec—as you did-Othcr. haven't- tii-e sense- or tbe pluck. But they'r- not to be of that." "I'm not de-pising anyone," retorted Red- wood. "All I inv son can look higher than the d'P g'xjr of ..1 foreman in a jam j laatorv for his wife." "Ycu looL higher than happiness." persisted R-ger: tw bet. t tiling there is. and money v.on'i, huy it. I could never care for anyone bu: Lucy Bridge." R-ed-wood fbitiig himself into a chair and reached; for a cigar, which he clipped in an exasperated way, v-hile ho still eyed his eon afcormiiy. It's not." went on Ro<-er. ns if she was ignorant or c-zumou. She was -.te-Ii taught at a Board School got the manners of a lady, and she'* a- nr-ettv and near and self- rt-s-reacting as any 11 in the land. She didn't set i- >• cap T me. y-c u said just now. I s< rvi Vie out. anrl (she .-aid 'No' three times 'vefore -;)'" ?aid 'Yep. An exclu at", a o? scent tea] annoyance «Bca'pe<f Re Knew how to make you keen mvked. "The cirls don't want teaching vi you "11011 are cor.earned." Roger hurt, i showed it. "Very well- father. l"< own and above- boar(t with ? r,~ yon are angry and titt-i, you're jarcasi'- better drop the subject." And how aniu- the girl ? Are von going to drop her I shall never give Li,v up." "Have you told h»>r have nothing but vonr s.larv a* av clerk iif you marry against mr *« is-li? "Yes. I s eid I w" dependent em you one day." "That .« one of the days she said. 'No,' I expect." Roger did not He loved- his cross- grained, hea-d old i.j-her, and hurt him that j the old should be so savay. He had ex- peered op^osatior. but not such bitter wrath and con-deranitt.cn. t h<ere are plenty of <rie, daughters of 'I ■»*to-do traddsmen. you might have had for the as-kin g." grv:n'bh:fl Herlwood. Perha.pe. I don't want, any of them." "I had thought of or tv • for you, and then there'•-• she 00 rate' daughter. They're I baddy off. btH- well --c'-ed, and Father, please don't. I have no inten- tion of iaarryi!]• anyone but Lucy. If I can't have I'll -ta.' single." u: 11 you think I should welcome her with opon arT."R? "I t-hi-ghi yoa would ask her here for Christmas, seeing that tike's -a motherless girl, and hae a dull home for Her holi-daye." It W6E< lledw-i.-iod'e turn tu be- silent now. The very andacitv—^ he thought it--ol Boger's proposition t-ook hio breatli away. I Who was Luey Rridge, that she should some and i,n liie house as his fiancee? He had never seen the- girL but, he knew 4a tny of her type, and, disco uniting Roger's k) fat nation, felt he eould describe her exactly. He had1 not takeT. the big Manor bourse Out- odde Whipperto'.i, and spent hundreds of Bounds on Ttiaking it eomfGi*;a'nIe and urn to llate, for the sake of entertaining Lucy Bridge « her kind. In fact. be had already invited Nlw Aine- worth, the elderly lady wlioee father had ow-ied the Manor, to spend Christmas tide Ctnera, and to lrin2 a young nieoe and nephew With hex, ao ;av u f*>tion which they hod all aooeprtod. Vague hopes about Roger and tflie n>ieoe, IKitt-y kiii,worth, h io1 begun to ferment in his brain; ir was a crushing bftaw to find that his eon had a! r. -.dv fn^strarted' them. And then an i,kü flashed into mind. M Let the girl come," he thought. Show Roger dilTvreriice between and these alhers-leavo him bis head a bit, and ten to one he will give her up of hÍ6 own accord." "Well." he taiu. "I auppoet- it's no good arguing dl a young c:ha.p who's in love. Let her c-orr-. « d Hay Christmas. I make no pro- 1Q 1,(1 yo,u--I'm oommit-ting myself to OOIiliing-mt if you can't, be satisfied with your fit CLriatmae here withou-i her, she m'l com" For r nvrnenL Roger's pride rebelled agaimst the idea of the girl he khdised being an unwanted guept. but he reflected that it was best policy to take this grunying permxs- •ion and c-ivc b'r the chance to meke her own way with his f;.Ihe-r. So Oil Chri tmas Eve Lucy Bridge arrived lit thjfa ■> to fiiMi a house-ful of peopl, all prosper-ir- and vveli dares&ed, a.nd pleased "tb iliA'inseivee and each other. Roger had wished to meet her at the station and briiijj h2i.' home with him. but hi? father put so many difficulties in the wav that he gave it up tI\ner than vex the old r. an at the very out of her visit. She was eh own in, therefore, to the inner hall, where tea was going on, as an ordinary visitor, and Miss A ins worth, who had been I fIId by Redwood to play hostess, rose &nd cam# to meet her. Redwood had dropped a hint to her that the girl wae of rather humble origin, and it WM therefore with an added touch of kindness that Miss Ainsworth greeted Lucy, for ahe was descended from people who had gained their nobility by noble deeds, and the new vice of snobbery waa un- known to her. Roger, tingling v. ith pride touched with nervousness, was relieved to <)uen,eas see hov quietly Lucy responded tr' all the introductions, and how gently she anew-ered Mr. Red^vood s patronising and noisy greeting. Roger's description of Lucy as "pretty had not prepared anyone for the unusual ftttractiveno*ri d her appearance. She was, Tennyson's worde, "'divinely tall, and mot* divinely fair." A srr-.tll head, with nut- htwwn hn-ir swathed round it, deep hazel •y«- a beautiful mooth, and a lovely clear I JOmpiexirii v t--e undeniable charms, and in addition ih-o had the natural manner which is too unaffected to be self-conscious. The musioal voice, too, possessed by so many peorde who live amongst the hum of xA,w!- at I get the rhythm of it in their Wood, was hers. Kedwood's heart mMiga.ve him. for he had aaaated on her fueling and looking awkward ia the conij,, ho had asked to meet her. Kitty Ainsworth, already more than half in love w:rl- handsome Roger, wws n ■ittl^ taken tback w lie a sh. the eager ^Unlucss Oil his Jool: Lucy's hand, and noted that mger titan he need have while he < h r. She was a, wilful, spoilt girl. R.C: ,ned to a great deal of admiration, ird Siad already begun to wonder whether die w-uld engaged before the year was Hit. Sk* «*Qed Roger to her side, and kept r, m tallrog for so ne minutes, but, his ab. tiracted anawers showed her that his thoughts vere wai,d- ring with his Lucy Jfidge. So she decided to make friends with j c- jclcj. and Fee if she oould eircunavent them < iuat way "Isn't this a delightful old house?" sh< said, perching herself on the arm of Lucy> chair. It's like home to me, you know because my aunt-Au,nt Cecilia, over there- used to live here. Do let me show you over it.' Lucy assented, and, linking an arm in hera Kitty threw a glance of invitation over hei shoulder to Roger. He joined them directly, and the three rambled from room to room, I along dark corridors and up winding stair- cases. until finally on the top floor they came to the Clock Room, allotted to Lucy. It was a quaint little latticed chamber under the eaves, with odds and ends of old furniture weeded out from larger and more important rooms, and might have seemed gloomy. with its dark oak :irid sombre tapestry hangings, but for a fire of Yule logs in the wide chimncy that filled it with a crimison glow. On the narrow earved-wood mantel stood a curious clock, in ebony, with a gilded metal network over the- wood, and mantel stood a curious clock. in ebony, with a gilded metal network over the- wood, and I, gold lettering round the rlial. i:, tl centre of which was a figure carrying r sevthe—a grim, .stark figure that looked Death. Beneath, set in a garland of blood-red flowers, was an engraved inscription "Avenged by the Destroyer Tmi. I give thee- death with my one." "What a wonderful old uioJ." Lucy exclaimed. "It has a weird history. Ki; rv answered. "I don't think I had better tell it i■> you, as you are going to sleep her; "I'm ;:0: ivrvous," Lucy dvc-ir. d. "Do tell me." Better not." interposed R; ;yv. quickly; it mi2,in giv•? you bad dreams." j Kitty laughed derisively. "Ye." have the old fashioned idea about women Fed- wood,' she said. "You think we always scream or faint at everything." He knows that I don't," remarked Lucy, with a tender mil. at him. Kitty intercepted the snrle and began to see I ligoo So these two Here lovers, aud her own I chance with Roger was a forlorn hope! It mad.^ her feel a little spiteful. The story is much too interesting to be lost, .-he .said, and Christmas Evo is just j the time for it. Come down to the hall and I'll tell it to everybody." They follow-.1, her dr,vn>rs. -.v'l-re every- [ one was sitting in the firelight. ,oid the idea of a ghostly tale was hailed .with joy. a; of a ghostly tale was hailed .with joy. A wicked ours," said Kitty. who lived about a hundred years ago, married someone beneath hi-n and, after treating her very badly fnr y .deserted her end v fnt "broad. She won, one of her I mind with g f. because she ,11 loved him, in spite of his unkindness, and u.-ed to sit all day long counting the hours until site should see him again. She had an idea that when the clock struck twelve he v, ,1.1 return; and one night—I believe "L was :1. Christmas time-slle was found lying dead, with her arms round :he clock, and its hands pointing to midnight. Some said that he iviurned. and that her rca-soti came bck to her at sight of him, and she reproached him, whereupon he killed her; others declare that she died of a broken heart. At all events, her father, who was an old clockmaker in the town, swore that he would be revenged. He made a clock with very beautiful chimes, and took nearly two years over the workmanship cf it. When my great grand- father returned at last to the Manor the old man came up here, and there was a terrible scene; but in the end the quarrel was made up on Christmas Eve, and, in token of recon- ciliation. he gave this clock, which he {if!.id was the masterpiec of his life, and asked his son-in-law to place it in his bedroom. SIr Hugo Ainsworth accepted it in order to get rid of the old man, and directly the clock- maker was gone ordered it to be taken away and broken np. For some reason or other, however, all his household refused to touch it. They were superstitious about it, and warned him that unless the clock was kept going misfortune would come to the house. Sir Hugo was furious at first, but after a time he began to be afraid of it himself, and though he would not have it in any of the rooms he used, nor allow it to be wound up, he did not part with it. Some people say that it will not go again until the Ainsworth race is coming to an end, and that it has a.n evil influence on anyone who comes near it It has been up in the little room where it is now for years and years. No one ever movee it in case they should set it going, as that would be a bad omen." There was silence after Kitty's gay voice died away. and a sort of spell ,e.emed to hold everyone captivp. The fire had died down, and in the eemi- darkness Roger's hand sought and found Lucy's. ,nd he whispered, "I shall take the clock away from your room, sweetheart." "No, no," she whispered back; "it might bring you bad luck: You mustn't move it on any -account." Then someone made a laughing remark and turned on the electric light, suggesting a game of coon-can before dinner, and instantly the storv ws forgotten in the excitement of the game. Three people only remembered it: Kitty, Roger, and Lucy. The dressing-gong for dinner sounded while the game was still in progress, and at last, when everyone hurried upstairs to drees, it was close upon the dinner-hour. Lucy, unpacking quickly, eager to make herself look her best for this eventful night, noticed nothing unusual in her room until Kitty tapped at her door and asked if she was ready. Come in." Lucy answered, glad to have someone's opinion on the .simple white ninon which was her only evening dress. Do I look all right? she asked Kitty, relieved to find that Miss Ainsworth's dress was quite as simple as her own. Quite right—ripping answered Kitty. "Come along down." Then, as they went to the door, she stopped suddenly and pointed to the mantelpiece. rc Why," she exclaimed, with a tragic accent, the clock is going The hands had moved since they looked at it in the afternoon, and were pointing now to half-past seven, while, as they stood there, a silvery chime tolled the half-hour, and the -low, soft tick-tack showed that the wheels 80 long silent had resumed their work. "How extraordinary!" said Kitty. "I wonder what it means? Aren't you afraid, Miss Bridge ? But Lucy, seized with a swift distrust of her, answered steadily, Oh, no—nothing of of that eort makes me nervous. I don't mind at all." "Well, I wouldn't be you for anything!" Kitty declared. Nothing would induce an Ainsworth to sleep in a room with that clock Lucy dec. ned, however, to be alarmed, and they went down. She made a point of not telling Roger that the clock had begun to go, and was vexed to find later in the evening that Kitty had done so. It seemed as if the girl was bent on making mischief between them. Roger implored Lucy to let him fetch the clock away from her room and put it in the hall, but she refused, and they were nearer to a quarrel than they had ever been. The fact of the clock's sudde.n return to business reached Redwood's ears, and he made light of the superstition concerning it, and spoke rather rudely in a bantering way to Lucy. She answered him with her usual sweet- ness, and a touch of dignity that incensed him. Ifeng it:" he said to Roger later, "she's full of airs and graoes, this girl of yours, and thinks she's good enough for anyone. She may be-but, not for my son." Father:" said Roger, di-,maved," you surely do not dislike heor. You cannot help seeing that she is fit to mix with your friends, and would not.disgrace you in any way as a daughter-in-law." She's not my daughter-in-law yet," re- torted his father disagreeably; "and there's someone else here who would have no objec tion to taking that place. You're a fool, Roger; you don't know which side your bread is buttered." It was a terrible disappointment to Roger. He had hoped so much from Lucy's own power to charm, and did not realise that she had herself baulked his father's scheme, and angered him all the more. The evening, however, for the rest of the house-party waa one of joyous excitement, with aU the usual Christmas merry-making, and it waa arfter midnight wh they all said good-night &t the foot of th staircase and dispersed to their rooms. Only onoe had Roger succeeded in getting five minuu alone with Liu-y—when vmr." one having deserted the (irLNi-ing-rocia U bake in the dining-room, they found them-elves at last toget-hi r. She wa. j>:ts-sing out after the others pfcei) he caught her hand. Lucy." he said, "I'm sorry I was vexed over the dock. But you are so precious to me. my darling If harm came to you what should I ? What harm could come from a clock?" she asked. You foolish boy." He folded her in his arms and kissed the sweet, reproving lips. "You are my life," he murmured, fondly. And then Kitty's voice rang through the hall calling for Lucy. nnd their golden moment was over. As she entered her bedroom Lucy felt a curious, shrinking dislike of the clock, and wished that. she had yielded to Roger's wish to take it away. But that would have proved her a coward, and given success to Kitty's mitSch;evous plan. For Lucy felt no doubt at all that Kitty herself had set the clock going on purpose to frighten her. The soft tick haunted her as she moved about tlv room, and the words inside the garland kept repeating themselves in her brain. What did they mean? She found herself pondering over them, and wondering what sinister motive the old clockmaker had when he set the in there. The clock seemed to have become a living thing, and its two keyholes- were like eyes watching ii-er unwinkingly. The room felt oppressively warm, and the glow from the log fire, which had been -so pleasant before, seemed like a- crimson I flood, that drowned her c'c 1 yg-e and made a lurid background for thor.e. is of vague dis- aster and tragedy. "Suppose," -die thought to herself, "I wanted to escape from this room and t(he door was locked. Could I get out by the wanted to escape from this room and tihe door was locked. Could I get out by the winc!è)ow?" She rai ,ed the blind and peered out. Far below a. pale glint showed -where the moat lay, with its sluggish water. surrounding that wing, of the house. that wing, of the house. To de-v -id from her room would be im- possible. Even if she had the courage to swing herself down from such a height by the ivy, a single slip, a treacherous branch, and she would be flung into the water beneath. Chiding herself for fears that she argued were senseless, she went back to the fire- place and stood there, a graceful figure re- flected in the mirror albove it. her beautiful hair hanging over her shoulders, a white dressing-gown wrapped' round her. At this moment the clock chimed one. She could see it in the ghu-is, and as she stared at its diai, fascinated once more by the weird mystery surrounding it, a strange and dreadful change took place in it.. The dial slid downwards until it was oovered by the ebony stand, and in its place appeared a woman's face—pale, with parted lips and tear-laden eyes, that were full of a Dtassionate re D roach. .Lucy s senses reeled. For an instant she thought she must faint, and then her ears, quickened by terror, caught a whirring 0 sound, souf, yet continuous, that had taken the place of the monotonous tick-tack. In an in-i-ant her wife had returned, and a frenzy of courage came to her aid. She ran to the window and flung it open, then with her limbs shaking under her she approached the clock. The beautiful, pathetic, angry eyes seemed to menace her now, but she had gone beyond fear, and seizing the clock with both hands she carried it to the window and cast it down- wards into space. There was an instant's pause as it clove the air, and then it touched the water. The explosion th.at followed shook the Manor to its foundations, broke all the win- dows on that side of the house, and sent great j-e-ts of water up into the air as though a vol- cano had burst its bonds.! Sounds of flying footsteps and terrified voices arose, but it was Roger who, bursting open the door of Lucy's room, rushed in and found her unconscious on the floor by the window. He carried her swiftly down to Miss Ainsworth, where restoratives brought her round—to find herself the heroine of the hour. "My dear," said Jasper Redwood brokenly, a little later, I can't ever forgive myself. You have saved all our lives—there's not a doubt of it. But for your courage the clock would have killed everyone of us. The in- fernal machine, timed to go off as soon as it struck one and the woman's portrait had taken the place of the dial, would have made the Manor a ruin. It was meant for thit—a diabolical plan The old clockmaker plotted his revenge well. You've saved Roger's home —I hope you'll share it with him. I shall be proud of you." And he stooped and kissed the pale face of his future daughter-in-law. Kitty, humble amd subdued, came smiling through her tears presently to ask forgive- ness. I set the clock going," she confessed, "just to be spiteful. I deserved to be blown up. Won't you pleaae blow me up, Lucy?" But Lucy, still very shattered from her ordeal, was ordered by the doctor, when he came, to have complete rest all Christmas Day, with only Roorr's companionship to be- guile the hours. "She's had a bit of a shock," the doctor said to Roger, with a twinkling eye, but she'll be ao right to-morrow. Keep her quiet, Mr. Redwood. I daresay she won't find her Christmas too dull. It was a piece of wonder- ful luck her being here. That clock would have sent you all to kingdom come' in an- other moment but for Miss Lucy's presence of mind and pluck. I congratulate you 1 I hope you will have many happy Christmasea together. And the Manor house-party, realising how great the danger had been, echoed LLe wiah. [THE END.]

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