A premium excess

The Morris chair, invented by and named after William Morris, had an adjustable back that could be let down to make a fairly comfortable bed for a boy of my size. I was twelve. I did have my own true bed up in my own attic room , but on this occasion I was ousted in favor of Uncle Bert and Aunt Grace, who came unexpectedly and unannounced for the weekend. Our big house was already in use by the resident family; I was moved to the Morris chair in the kitchen, and as I tried to drift off into noddy-nod I could hear the family and our guests talking and laughing in the ''front room.'' When they did clear out, Uncle Bert and Aunt Grace going up to my attic room, the house was quiet.

Well, not quite, and this is really a story about a subscription premium and not a Morris chair. Magazines and newspapers used to give away valuable premiums when subscriptions were entered and renewed. The ''paid circulation'' could be a valuable asset, and the premium was always worth more than the money taken in. The New England Homesteadm , a fine farm family publication out of Springfield, Massachusetts, used to offer a two-year subscription and a beautiful shade tree for 35 cents. Whenever you see a lovely red Norway maple on a New England lawn, a mature tree of just about that time, you are probably looking at a New England Homesteadm premium. Now, shortly after William Randolph Hearst established his Boston Americanm , his smart boys began building a subscription list with a wall clock. Made by a Connecticut firm, the clock was modified from the usual pattern so the premium clock was available only from the Americanm . It was an eight-day movement, with hour and half-hour strike, and a visible pendulum. Today a great many New England kitchens still have these Americanm clocks, and when an antique dealer gets one he sets a big price. My father, who needed a kitchen clock but otherwise had little use for William Randolph Hearst, sent in his two dollars, got a year's subscription to the Americanm , and the clock that came shortly is still running and my sister has it. The clock was on the kitchen wall the night Uncle Bert and Aunt Grace came - the night I slept in the kitchen on the Morris chair.

I slept, but was restless. I was aware of the sounds from the front room, and when people went to bed I knew that Dad tippy-toed into the kitchen and wound the clock - a regular Saturday night bedtime rite. Then he came to see if my covers were over my shoulders, patted me, and went to bed. The big difference between my attic room and the kitchen was that clock - it ticked, and in the dark and the quiet it ticked loud and clear. I was half asleep when the clock struck eleven, but wide awake afterward. I heard the one at half-past. Then midnight was a rouser, but it was followed by the three ones and a two, and I was settled by now and doing rather well on my Morris chair.

Then came a bang that brought me to my feet. The house, I supposed, had exploded. I expected to hear feet immediately, as everybody would jump out of bed and run about to find out what happened. But the bang, it turned out, was entirely in my kitchen and nobody else heard it. I didn't sleep again that night , but sat in terror on the Morris chair with a blanket around me. When daylight came, I was still sitting there, wide-eyed, when Mother came down to make breakfast.

''The clock!'' was all I could say.

She found that the pendulum had come loose, and the bang I heard was when it struck the floor. Afterwards, we presumed Dad had fumbled something in the dark and caused that very important item to dislodge itself.

With the pendulum gone, the Americanm clock ran amok, and during the next ten minutes or so it exhausted the complete repertoire of its eight-day schedule. It was a fearful experience for a boy forlorn out of his customary attic. The tick was like a running boy dragging a stick on a picket fence. A half hour would pass in about ten seconds, and the strike went too fast to be counted. It was certainly the swiftest week on record, and when the springs came to their ends and my kitchen was quiet indeed, the silence was more awful than the noise. I simply sat there, staring at nothing, the bewildered victim of disjointed time and the Boston American.m You may like to know that while my sister got the clock and I got the Morris chair, she kept the one, and I gave the Morris chair away.

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