The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
The Musical Clock
The Musical Clock.
"D'you hear the news, Hoppy? Poor old Bob Gordon's gone magnune."
"Cripes! What happened to him?"
"It was all over a damned clock, that he pinched from a Jacko, out at Beersheba. Give us some fags, Hop, and I'll tell you the yarn.
This is the sorrowful story, as it was toldby Corporal O'Dea one night when he and Hoppy Danton lay snug in their bivvy:
Bob and I were riding together down a narrow lane in Beersheba, when we spotted a Jacko, with a big bulge on his left side, sneaking away.
"That chap's gettin' off with some loot" cried Bob, "the thievin' swine,"
And with a wild yell, Bob started the chase The Jacko dodged into a house, but Bob was off his horse in a jiffy and dived through the open doorway after his prey. I wasn't far behind, but before I reached the old house, out comes Bob, carrying a nickel-cased clock; you know the kind, like a biscuit tin cut in half, with a saucer dial, and a brass handle on top.
"You blamed fool:" I said to Bob, "It might be an infernal machine. Put it down gently, and go for your life." And I made myself scarce.
But old Bob is an obstinate devil, and he clung to that clock as a mother does to her child. Anyway, nothing happened for a while, and I began to feel pretty comfortable though Bob was beside me with his souvenir. When we camped that night, he brought the clock from his saddle bag, and started to mess about with the brass knobs and things at the back. Suddenly there was a whirring noise, and then, strike me pink! if the clock didn't start to rule off a German tune. It was one of those maddening, catchy things, which haunt your brain.
I soon got fed up with it, but Bob was as pleased as a pup with two tails.
"My oath!" he said, as he gloated over his treasure, "I'll send this to my little bint in Sydney."
The clock music had been going for half-an-hour, when Bob reckoned he'd switch it off. He fiddled about with the brass keys and knobs, but nothing happened, and he began to get wild,
'"Struth!" he cried, "how do you stop the flamin' thing?"
I had a go; nothing doing. That clock was out to fill the Desert with music, and it wasn't going to be put off its job. It would have been bearable if more than one tune came from it, but it could play only that horrible, brain-fagging melody.
"Sorry, Bob, old man!" I remarked at the end of an hour, "But I'm. shifting. Promised Don Ransome that I'd bivvy with him to-night."
Bob snorted, But said nothing. I knew that he would hang on to that clock, out of sheer pig-headedness, and he did. Next morning, I saw him, looking pale and wild-eyed.
"How's the musical clock, Bob?" I asked. "Still doing the Johnny Walker stunt?"
"Bet your life," he replied, with a feeble smile. "That clock's not going to stop playin' this side of Doomsday." And he walked away wearily.
Did n't have achance to see my pal for a couple of days after that. When I did strike him, I hardly recognised the poor beggar. His face was haggard, and he was as surly as a wounded bear. I heard later, from a Field Ambulance bloke, that Bob had paraded sick. He came up carrying the clock, which was playing the same old tune.
"What's that you've got, man?" the M.O. asked.
"It's only a souvenir, Sir," answered Bob. "I'm sendin' it home to my bint. Listen! listen! Isn't it lovely," and he swung the clock like a pendulum.
The M.O. quietly makes a sign to his orderly, who speaks gently to poor old Bob, and then leads him away. "Detained for observation," was marked against Bob's name on the sheet.
Yes, poor Bob Gordon's gone magnune. Last I saw of him, he was in a sand cart, swinging that cursed souvenir clock, and humming in tune with its maddening melody.