Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Dandelion Clocks
by [?]

Every child knows how to tell the time by a dandelion clock. You blow till the seed is all blown away, and you count each of the puffs–an hour to a puff. Every child knows this, and very few children want to know any more on the subject. It was Peter Paul’s peculiarity that he always did want to know more about everything; a habit whose first and foremost inconvenience is that one can so seldom get people to answer one’s questions.

Peter Paul and his two sisters were playing in the pastures. Rich, green, Dutch pastures, unbroken by hedge or wall, which stretched–like an emerald ocean–to the horizon and met the sky. The cows stood ankle-deep in it and chewed the cud, the clouds sailed slowly over it to the sea, and on a dry hillock sat Mother, in her broad sun-hat, with one eye to the cows and one to the linen she was bleaching, thinking of her farm.

Peter Paul and his sisters had found another little hillock where, among some tufts of meadow-flowers which the cows had not yet eaten, were dandelion clocks. They divided them quite fairly, and began to tell each other the time of day.

Little Anna blew very hard for her size, and as the wind blew too, her clock was finished in a couple of puffs. “One, two. It’s only two o’clock,” she said, with a sigh.

Her elder sister was more careful, but still the wind was against them. “One, two, three. It’s three o’clock by me,” she said.

Peter Paul turned his back to the wind, and held his clock low. “One, two, three, four, five. It’s five o’clock by my dandelion–I wonder why the fairy clocks all go differently.”

“We blow differently,” said his sister.

“Then they don’t really tell the time,” said Peter Paul.

“Oh yes, they do–the fairy time.” And the little girls got more clocks, and turned their backs to the wind in imitation of Peter Paul, and went on blowing. But the boy went up to his mother.

“Mother, why do dandelion clocks keep different time? It was only two o’clock by Anna’s, and three o’clock by Leena’s, and five by mine. It can’t really be evening with me and only afternoon with Anna. The days don’t go quicker with one person than another, do they?”

“Drive Daisy and Buttermilk nearer this way,” said his mother; “and if you must ask questions, ask your Uncle Jacob.”

There was a reason for sending the boy to Uncle Jacob with his difficulties. He had been born after his father’s death, and Uncle Jacob had taken up the paternal duties. It was he who had chosen the child’s name. He had called him Peter Paul after Peter Paul Rubens, not that he hoped the boy would become a painter, but he wished him to be called after some great man, and–having just returned from Antwerp–the only great man he could think of was Peter Paul.

“Give a boy a great name,” said Uncle Jacob, “and if there’s any stuff in him, there’s a chance he’ll live up to it.”

This was a kindly way of putting the proverb about giving a dog a bad name, and Uncle Jacob’s strongest quality was kindness–kindness and the cultivation of tulips.

He was sitting in the summer-house smoking, and reading over a bulb-list when Peter Paul found him.

“Uncle Jacob, why do dandelion clocks tell different time to different people? Sixty seconds make a minute, sixty minutes make an hour, twenty-four hours make a day, three hundred and sixty-five days make a year. That’s right, isn’t it? Hours are the same length for everybody, aren’t they? But if I got to tea-time when it was only two o’clock with Anna, and went on like that, first the days and then the years would go much quicker with me, and I don’t know if I should die sooner,–but it couldn’t be, could it?”