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 My Watch

by Mark Twain 1870



MY beautiful new watch had run eighteen months
without losing or gaining, and without break-
ing any part of its machinery or stopping. I had
come to believe it infallible in its judgments about
the time of day, and to consider its constitution and
its anatomy imperishable. But at last, one night, I
let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a
recognized messenger and forerunner of calamity.
But by and by I cheered up, set the watch by guess,
and commanded my bodings and superstitions to
depart. Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler's
to set it by the exact time, and the head of the
establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded
to set it for me. Then he said, "She is four min-
utes slow -- regulator wants pushing up." I tried
to stop him -- tried to make him understand that
the watch kept perfect time. But no; all this
human cabbage could see was that the watch was
four minutes slow, and the regulator MUST be pushed
up a little; and so, while I danced around him in
anguish, and implored him to let the watch alone,
he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. My
watch began to gain. It gained faster and faster
day by day. Within the week it sickened to a
raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundred
and fifty in the shade. At the end of two months
it had left all the timepieces of the town far in the
rear, and was a fraction over thirteen days ahead of
the almanac. It was away into November enjoying
the snow, while the October leaves were still turn-
ing. It hurried up house rent, bills payable, and such
things, in such a ruinous way that I could not abide
it. I took it to the watchmaker to be regulated.
He asked me if I had ever had it repaired. I said
no, it had never needed any repairing. He looked
a look of vicious happiness and eagerly pried the
watch open, and then put a small dice box into his
eye and peered into its machinery. He said it
wanted cleaning and oiling, besides regulating --
come in a week. After being cleaned and oiled,
and regulated, my watch slowed down to that degree
that it ticked like a tolling bell. I began to be left
by trains, I failed all appointments, I got to missing
my dinner; my watch strung out three days' grace
to four and let me go to protest; I gradually drifted
back into yesterday, then day before, then into last
week, and by and by the comprehension came upon
me that all solitary and alone I was lingering along
in week before last, and the world was out of sight.
I seemed to detect in myself a sort of sneaking
fellow-feeling for the mummy in the museum, and
desire to swap news with him. I went to a watch
maker again. He took the watch all to pieces while
I waited, and then said the barrel was "swelled."
He said he could reduce it in three days. After this
the watch AVERAGED well, but nothing more. For
half a day it would go like the very mischief, and
keep up such a barking and wheezing and whooping
and sneezing and snorting, that I could not hear
myself think for the disturbance; and as long as it
held out there was not a watch in the land that stood
any chance against it. But the rest of the day it
would keep on slowing down and fooling along until
all the clocks it had left behind caught up again.
So at last, at the end of twenty-four hours, it would
trot up to the judges' stand all right and just in
time. It would show a fair and square average, and
no man could say it had done more or less than its
duty. But a correct average is only a mild virtue in
a watch, and I took this instrument to another
watchmaker. He said the kingbolt was broken. I
said I was glad it was nothing more serious. To
tell the plain truth, I had no idea what the kingbolt
was, but I did not choose to appear ignorant to a
stranger. He repaired the kingbolt, but what the
watch gained in one way it lost in another. It would
run awhile and then stop awhile, and then run awhile
again, and so on, using its own discretion about the
intervals. And every time it went off it kicked back
like a musket. I padded my breast for a few days,
but finally took the watch to another watchmaker.
He picked it all to pieces, and turned the ruin over
and over under his glass; and then he said there
appeared to be something the matter with the hair-
trigger. He fixed it, and gave it a fresh start. It
did well now, except that always at ten minutes to
ten the hands would shut together like a pair of
scissors, and from that time forth they would travel
together. The oldest man in the world could not
make head or tail of the time of day by such a
watch, and so I went again to have the thing re-
paired. This person said that the crystal had got
bent, and that the mainspring was not straight. He
also remarked that part of the works needed half-
soling. He made these things all right, and then
my timepiece performed unexceptionably, save that
now and then, after working along quietly for nearly
eight hours, everything inside would let go all of a
sudden and begin to buzz like a bee, and the hands
would straightway begin to spin round and round so
fast that their individuality was lost completely, and
they simply seemed a delicate spider's web over the
face of the watch. She would reel off the next
twenty-four hours in six or seven minutes, and then
stop with a bang. I went with a heavy heart to one
more watchmaker, and looked on while he took her
to pieces. Then I prepared to cross-question him
rigidly, for this thing was getting serious. The watch
had cost two hundred dollars originally, and I
seemed to have paid out two or three thousand for
repairs. While I waited and looked on I presently
recognized in this watchmaker an old acquaintance
-- a steamboat engineer of other days, and not a
good engineer, either. He examined all the parts
carefully, just as the other watchmakers had done,
and then delivered his verdict with the same con-
fidence of manner.

He said:

"She makes too much steam -- you want to hang
the monkey-wrench on the safety-valve!"

I brained him on the spot, and had him buried at
my own expense.

My uncle William (now deceased, alas!) used to
say that a good horse was a good horse until it had
run away once, and that a good watch was a good
watch until the repairers got a chance at it. And he
used to wonder what became of all the unsuccessful
tinkers, and gunsmiths, and shoemakers, and engin-
eers, and blacksmiths; but nobody could ever tell


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