Rhyme and Reason: February 14, 2013

“What time is it?” demanded Mad Aunt Maud. She was looking directly at Eddie when she asked the question, so he decided that she really must be asking him and not the stuffed stoat.

“I’m afraid I don’t have a watch,” said Eddie.

“Then borrow mine.” His great-aunt rummaged in a small patchwork sack she had on the seat next to her. She pulled out a silver pocket watch on a chain and handed it to him. “Now, what time is it?”

He read the hands. “It’s three minutes after eight o’clock,” he said, passing the watch back to her.

She studied the timepiece in her gnarled hands. “I couldn’t accept this,” she said. “It’s solid silver.” She held the watch up to her right ear and listened. “And it has a very expensive tick. No, I most certainly couldn’t accept such a valuable gift from a mere child.”

“But it’s yours,” Eddie tried to point out.

“No, I cannot accept it,” insisted Mad Aunt Maud sternly. “We’ll hear no more about it. What would your poor, crinkly-edged mother have to say about you trying to give away your treasured watch?”

Eddie sighed, but decided it was nest not to try to argue with his great-aunt. He slipped the watch into his pocket.

“Thief!” cried Maud. “Thief!” She brandished Malcolm the stuffed stoat by the tail, like a club. It was as stiff as a policeman’s truncheon and made a frightening weapon. “Return my property to be at once!” she demanded.

Eddie swallowed hard. He dug his hand back into his pocket and passed her back her watch.

Great-aunt Maud grinned from ear to ear. “What a charming present,” she said. “How thoughtful. How sweet.”

Putting down Malcolm carefully on the seat next to her, she leaned to her left and opened the window of the carriage, then tossed out the silver fob watch. “Useless trinket,” she mumbled.

Philip Ardagh, A House Called Awful End

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