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Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock
by [?]

In one of these years a paragraph appeared in a daily paper to the effect that a constable had discovered a little boy asleep on the steps of Grinder Bros’ factory at four o’clock one rainy morning. He awakened him, and demanded an explanation.

The little fellow explained that he worked there, and was frightened of being late; he started work at six, and was apparently greatly astonished to hear that it was only four. The constable examined a small parcel which the frightened child had in his hand. It contained a clean apron and three slices of bread and treacle.

The child further explained that he woke up and thought it was late, and didn’t like to wake mother and ask her the time “because she’d been washin’.” He didn’t look at the clock, because they “didn’t have one.” He volunteered no explanations as to how he expected mother to know the time, but, perhaps, like many other mites of his kind, he had unbounded faith in the infinitude of a mother’s wisdom. His name was Arvie Aspinall, please sir, and he lived in Jones’s Alley. Father was dead.

A few days later the same paper took great pleasure in stating, in reference to that “Touching Incident” noticed in a recent issue, that a benevolent society lady had started a subscription among her friends with the object of purchasing an alarm-clock for the little boy found asleep at Grinder Bros’ workshop door.

Later on, it was mentioned, in connection with the touching incident, that the alarm-clock had been bought and delivered to the boy’s mother, who appeared to be quite overcome with gratitude. It was learned, also, from another source, that the last assertion was greatly exaggerated.

The touching incident was worn out in another paragraph, which left no doubt that the benevolent society lady was none other than a charming and accomplished daughter of the House of Grinder.

It was late in the last day of the Easter Holidays, during which Arvie Aspinall had lain in bed with a bad cold. He was still what he called “croopy.” It was about nine o’clock, and the business of Jones’s Alley was in full swing.

“That’s better, mother, I’m far better,” said Arvie, “the sugar and vinegar cuts the phlegm, and the both’rin’ cough gits out. It got out to such an extent for the next few minutes that he could not speak. When he recovered his breath, he said:

“Better or worse, I’ll have to go to work to-morrow. Gimme the clock, mother.”

“I tell you you shall not go! It will be your death.”

“It’s no use talking, mother; we can’t starve–and–s’posin’ somebody got my place! Gimme the clock, mother.”

“I’ll send one of the children round to say you’re ill. They’ll surely let you off for a day or two.”

“Tain’t no use; they won’t wait; I know them–what does Grinder Bros care if I’m ill? Never mind, mother, I’ll rise above ’em all yet. Give me the clock, mother.”

She gave him the clock, and he proceeded to wind it up and set the alarm.

“There’s somethin’ wrong with the gong,” he muttered, “it’s gone wrong two nights now, but I’ll chance it. I’ll set the alarm at five, that’ll give me time to dress and git there early. I wish I hadn’t to walk so far.”

He paused to read some words engraved round the dial:

Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise.

He had read the verse often before, and was much taken with the swing and rhythm of it. He had repeated it to himself, over and over again, without reference to the sense or philosophy of it. He had never dreamed of doubting anything in print–and this was engraved. But now a new light seemed to dawn upon him. He studied the sentence awhile, and then read it aloud for the second time. He turned it over in his mind again in silence.