She shoved back the hood and lifted the table cover. And looked with horror on the face of the clock.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 5, 1941.

“Are you busy?” inquired Jimmie Frise over the telephone.

“I’m just studying the seed catalogues,” I replied.

“I wonder would you drive down for a minute,” said Jim, “and take me over to the watch repair man’s?”

“Jim, my car’s in the repair shop,” I informed him rather comfortably, because it was a rotten day out. April showers. Cold sleet, in other words. In this country it is May showers bring June flowers.

“The kids have my car out,” grumbled Jim, “and they won’t be home till late.”

“Sorry, Jim,” I said. “I left my car in this morning for that spring overhaul. You know. The one they describe in the circular they send around. Your car needs spring cleaning.'”

“You’re falling for everything,” laughed Jim. “Circulars about your car. Seed catalogues.”

“It’s in the air, Jim,” I assured him. “Everybody’s restless at this time of year. What are you falling for? What do you want to drive to the watch repair man’s for? Why can’t you walk?”

“It’s our clock,” explained Jim. “I’m sick and tired of sitting here looking at a clock that not only isn’t running; it hasn’t run for six years. And I just suddenly decided to have it fixed.”

“Aha,” I crowed. “So you’ve got the spring bug, too.”

“That fool clock,” said Jim, “has been sitting on the mantel now ever since 1935 and it hasn’t uttered a tick. There in its place of honor, on the mantel, presiding over my household, it sits at two minutes to two. I’ve looked at it thousands of times. My family has done the same. It is always two to two.”

“I hate to see your high purpose come to nothing, Jim,” I urged. “Couldn’t you carry it over to the watch repair man? It’s only three or four blocks.”

“It’s too measly a day,” said Jim. “It’s raining. And while it’s not a heavy clock, it would be an awkward package to carry on a day like this.”

“Jim,” I egged him on, “maybe this impulse to have that clock fixed may never come again for another six years. I know this feeling. It passes very quickly.”

“I’ve had it dozens of times before,” confessed Jim. “But it never was strong enough to make me take the blame clock over. And now, when I haven’t a car and your car is in the repair shop, I’ve got the urge stronger than it’s ever been.”

“But not strong enough to make you carry it over,” I submitted.

“Maybe if you came with me I’d carry it,” wheedled Jimmie.

“It’s pouring rain,” I retorted. “And I’m just at the zinnias.”

“April showers,” pleaded Jim.

“Ice water,” I corrected.

Restlessness of Spring

And we hung up. But it only takes a little while to come to the end of a seed catalogue. Even if you take your pencil and mark with an X the ones you are going to get plants of and a V for the ones you are going to get seeds for, in about 15 minutes you come to the vegetables at the back. Then you get up and go to the back dining-room window and look out at the winter-killed garden, all full of mud and patches of ice in the lee and broken hockey sticks and half-buried rusty snow shovels. And what is more natural than that you should realize that it is a long time yet to the 24th of May and the planting of the garden?

Besides, the rain looks as if it were slackening.

So I put my coat on and an old hat and walked down to Jimmie’s.

“I’ve been sitting here expecting you,” he grinned.

“The heck you have,” I retorted. “I hadn’t the faintest intention of coming.”

“But you’re here,” cried Jim. “It’s the spring.”

“I don’t like people to be able to read my mind,” I informed him. “Or my character either.”

“I knew you’d come,” stated Jim, “because you are restless and impulsive like everybody and everything else at this time of year. Nature makes us all impulsive and restless in April. How else would all the June marriages take place if everybody didn’t go suddenly impulsive about the first of April?”

“I’d hate to understand everything the way you do,” I assured him. “Is this the clock?”

“And a lot heavier than I suspected,” said Jim.

I lifted the clock off the mantel. It weighed about 12 or 15 pounds.

“What a brute,” I exclaimed. “You couldn’t carry that.”

“We could carry it between us,” submitted Jim, “but it would be awkward walking half-sideways for four blocks with that thing between us. But I’ve thought up an idea while I was waiting for you. There’s an old baby carriage down cellar.”

“Then you don’t need me,” I said hastily. “You can wheel it over yourself.”

“You’ll help me carry the baby carriage up from the cellar?” inquired Jim.

“Certainly,” I agreed. “But you don’t catch me perambulating through the streets with a clock in a baby carriage. Not at my age. I mean, after all, there is a little dignity …”

“Now, look here,” protested Jimmie. “What’s wrong with pushing a baby carriage through the streets with a clock in it? What’s the difference what you’ve got in the baby carriage?”

“Jim,” I declared firmly, “a baby carriage is a baby carriage. It is dedicated to a high and sacred purpose. I gave up pushing baby carriages many years ago. I don’t expect to start again until my grandchildren begin to arrive. And then I’ll not only do it gladly; I’ll do it proudly. But in the meantime I don’t propose to go through the streets of my own neighborhood like a peddler shoving a barrow.”

“Just walk beside me,” insisted Jimmie.

“No, Jim, no,” I said emphatically. It wouldn’t look dignified, the two of us using a baby carriage for a wheelbarrow. No, sir.”

“You’re a snob,” accused Jim.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m a snob.”

“Thousands of people use baby carriages for carrying parcels,” pleaded Jim. “Every Saturday afternoon you’ll see hundreds of young couples out shopping with their baby and the carriage filled with parcels.”

“Ah, that’s different,” I said. “I don’t know why it is different. But the very idea of us using a baby carriage as a parcel carrier seems to me infra dig.”

“Well,” said Jim with finality, “I fail to see it. There is an old baby carriage in almost every cellar in the world. Put down there to keep in case some other member of the family might want it. But when it is wanted, no new parent would even look at a second-hand pram. There always has to be a new one. So all over the world are these little and highly useful vehicles lying in cobwebs and coal dust.”

“It can’t be helped,” I insisted.

“Well, there’s a war on,” stated Jim. “And we’re going to see a lot of funny things before it’s over. We are going to see people casting silly pride aside. We’re going to see old clothes worn with pride and baby carriages used for wheelbarrows. For I’m going to take my clock over to the watch repair shop in the pram. And there is no reason on earth, intelligent or otherwise, why I shouldn’t use a baby carriage to carry bundles. It has wheels. Okay. I wheel it.”

So I took off my coat and went down cellar with Jim and found the old baby carriage in behind stacks of stored garden furniture and curtain stretchers and retired iron beds and things. And we worked it out and dusted it off and carried it upstairs.

Jim lifted the clock and set it in the pram.

“Look,” said Jim. “What better vehicle could be imagined than this pram for carrying so delicate an instrument as a clock? See this little mattress? See those big soft springs? Why, it’s ideal for transporting clocks. Even a $2,000 car would jolt the stuffing out of a clock, as compared with the soft ride it’ll get in here.”

“Quite so,” I said drily, putting on my coat.

Jim went and got a couple of small tablecloths and a bridge table cover and tucked them over the clock.

“Ha,” I scoffed. “Weakening, eh? Trying to pretend it is a baby?”

“Certainly not,” said Jim. “I am just protecting the clock from the rain.”

I looked out. It had begun its weary April drizzle again.

“Turn that hood up well over it,” I suggested. “You don’t want a good clock all stained and wet.”

So while Jim was getting his coat on, I undid the little screws that hold the hood and turned it up so as to protect thoroughly the contents of the carriage. I altered the covers a little, tucking them down around the foot of the carriage and creating a lifelike illusion of a baby stowed within.

“There,” I said. “That’s realistic enough.”

“Help me down the steps with it,” said Jim.

So I took the front end and helped him lower the carriage down the front steps.

Then, since I was going his way as far as my house, I could not do other than walk with him as he pushed the pram along. After all, there was no way of telling, from appearances, that there was a clock in the carriage. The only thing that occurred to me was that if any of the neighbors saw Jimmie pushing a pram it might inspire some lively curiosity. I caught Jimmie casting a few slantwise glances at the windows of his immediate neighbors.

But half way up the block we encountered an elderly couple, a man and wife, walking under the one umbrella. And the way they stood aside for us, and the warm, friendly smiles they bestowed on us, trying to get a glimpse of the little one within as we went by, was quite gratifying. There is, after all nothing so flattering to people of 50 as to have people of 70 mistake them for youngsters.

Protests and Explanations

“I’ll stick with you, Jim,” I assured him as we went on.

“You don’t have to,” replied Jim. “I can get along very nicely.”

“You’d do as much for me,” I insisted.

As a matter of fact, despite the drizzle of rain, we got quite a kick pushing that pram. At the street crossings I got hold of it myself, and when Jim lighted a cigarette I had it all to myself and shoved it at least three or four doors along. It was years and years since I had felt a pram jouncing and smoothly rolling before me. Nice feeling.

When we turned on to the shopping street it began to rain a little heavier.

“Only a block more,” said Jim.

But an elderly lady barred our way.

“Tssk, tssk,” she said, smiling benignly. “You’ll soak the child. Don’t you men know how to tuck …”

She had shoved back the hood and lifted the table cover. And was looking with horror into the face of the clock.

Then she stared, with incredible suspicion on her face for so elderly and kindly a lady, at us.

Like a traffic cop, she signalled the doorman of the movie theatre to come to her aid: had sent a boy on a bicycle down the street for a policeman; and had 40 people in a tight ring around us so that we could neither escape nor make our protests and explanations heard above the loud murmur.

“Imagine,” said the elderly lady. “Making off with a clock! I’ve heard of them making off with a pound of butter. Or a can of peas. But a clock!”

“Slickest scheme I ever saw,” said the movie doorman. And others gave similar summaries, while Jimmie and I tried vainly to locate one neighborly face to whom we could explain that we were on the way to the watch repair shop.

At first the policeman was inclined to look upon us as guilty until proven innocent. But we produced our registration cards, drivers permits, letters, bills, receipts; and then the girl in the movie ticket window, who couldn’t resist the excitement any longer, came out and identified us as a couple of regular customers for years past, though she didn’t know our names. Finally a grocery messenger boy wheeled in and positively identified us. The policeman accompanied us down to the watch repair shop. And the man there knew us well.

So all was well except for one thing.

“You can push it home alone, Jim,” I assured him. “After all, snobbery is just another name for the respect for a certain type of law or convention. A baby carriage is for babies.”

However, the movie got out just then and in the crowd we saw two little neighbor girls from only a couple of doors away from Jimmie’s. And we hailed them and asked them if they would like to wheel the baby carriage back home for us.

Which they were vastly delighted to do.

With the little girls walking ahead, in the most ladylike, the most motherly air you ever saw, we followed slowly.

And so back home and down again into the cellar, behind the iron bed and the curtain stretchers and the garden furniture, went the baby carriage once more.

Editor’s Notes: “In the lee” means next to something. “Infra dig” means demeaning.