THE TIME SHOP
By John Kendrick Bangs
OF course it was an extraordinary thing for a clock to do, especially a parlor clock, which one would expect to be particularly dignified and well-behaved, but there was no denying the fact that the Clock did it. With his own eyes, Bobby saw it wink, and beckon to him with its hands. To be sure, he had never noticed before that the Clock had eyes, or that it had any fingers on its hands to beckon with, but the thing happened in spite of all that, and as a result Bobby became curious. He was stretched along the rug in front of the great open fireplace, where he had been drowsily gazing at the blazing log for a half hour or more, and looking curiously up at the Clock’s now smiling face, he whispered to it.
“Are you beckoning to me?” he asked, rising up on his hands and knees.
“Of course I am,” replied the Clock in a soft, silvery tone, just like a bell, in fact. “You didn’t think I was beckoning to the piano, did you?”
“I didn’t know,” said Bobby.
“Not that I wouldn’t like to have the piano come over and call upon me some day,” the Clock went on, “which I most certainly would, considering him, as I do, the most polished four-footed creature I have ever seen, and all of his family have been either grand, square, or upright, and if properly handled, full of sweet music. Fact is, Bobby, I’d rather have a piano playing about me than a kitten or a puppy dog, as long as it didn’t jump into my lap. It would be awkward to have a piano get frisky and jump into your lap, now, wouldn’t it?”
Bobby had to confess that it would; “But what did you want with me?” he asked, now that the piano was disposed of.
“Well,” replied the Clock, “I am beginning to feel a trifle run down, Bobby, and I thought I’d go over to the shop, and get in a little more time to keep me going. Christmas is coming along, and everybody is so impatient for its arrival that I don’t want to slow down at this season of the year, and have all the children blame me because it is so long on the way.”
“What shop are you going to?” asked Bobby, interested at once, for he was very fond of shops and shopping.
“Why, the Time Shop, of course,” said the Clock. “It’s a shop that my father keeps, and we clocks have to get our supply of time from him, you know, or we couldn’t keep on going. If he didn’t give it to us, why, we couldn’t give it to you. It isn’t right to give away what you haven’t got.”
“I don’t think I understand,” said Bobby, with a puzzled look on his face. “What is a Time Shop, and what do they sell there?”
“Oh, anything from a bunch of bananas or a barrel of sawdust up to an automobile,” returned the Clock. “Really, I couldn’t tell you what they don’t sell there if you were to ask me. I know of a fellow who went in there once to buy a great name for himself, and the floor-walker sent him up to the third floor, where they had fame, and prosperity, and greatness for sale, and ready to give anybody who was willing and able to pay for them, and he chose happiness instead, not because it was less expensive than the others, but because it was more worth having. What they’ve got in the Time Shop depends entirely upon what you want. If they haven’t got it in stock, they will take your order for it, and will send it to you, but always C.O.D., which means you must pay when you receive the goods. Sometimes you can buy fame on the instalment plan, but that is only in special cases. As a rule, there is no charging things in the Time Shop. You’ve got to pay for what you get, and it is up to you to see that the quality is good. Did you ever hear of a man named George Washington?”
“Hoh!” cried Bobby, with a scornful grin. “Did I ever hear of George Washington! What a question! Was there anybody ever who hasn’t heard of George Washington?”
“Well, yes,” said the Clock. “There was Julius Caesar. He was a pretty brainy sort of a chap, and he never heard of him. And old Father Adam never heard of him, and Mr. Methusaleh never heard of him, and I rather guess that Christopher Columbus, who was very much interested in American history, never heard of him.”
“All right, Clocky,” said Bobby, with a smile. “Go on. What about George Washington?”
“He got all that he ever won at the Time Shop; a regular customer, he was,” said the Clock; “and he paid for what he got with the best years of his life, man or boy. He rarely wasted a minute. Now I thought that having nothing to do for a little while but look at those flames trying to learn to dance, you might like to go over with me and visit the old shop. They’ll all be glad to see you and maybe you can spend a little time there whilst I am laying in a fresh supply to keep me on the move.”
“I’d love to go,” said Bobby, starting up eagerly.
“Very well, then,” returned the Clock. “Close your eyes, count seventeen backward, then open your eyes again, and you’ll see what you will see.”
Bobby’s eyes shut; I was almost going to say with a snap. He counted from seventeen back to one with a rapidity that would have surprised even his school-teacher, opened his eyes again and looked around, and what he saw – well, that was more extraordinary than ever! Instead of standing on the parlor rug before the fireplace, he found himself in the broad aisle of the ground floor of a huge department store, infinitely larger than any store he had ever seen in his life before, and oh, dear me, how dreadfully crowded it was!
The crowd of Christmas shoppers that Bobby remembered to have seen last year when he had gone out to buy a lead pencil to put into his father’s stocking was as nothing to that which thronged this wonderful place. Ah me, how dreadfully hurried some of the poor shoppers appeared to be, and how wistfully some of them gazed at the fine bargains to be seen on the counters and shelves, which either because they had not saved it, or had wasted it, they had not time to buy!
Go to Part 2 here.