The Teacher Clock

I first heard of the strange case of the Teacher Clock from my grandmother when I was a child, and have researched the weird tale over the years to glean the following.
In Edwardian times, a Professor of Latin named Herbert A. Strong, lived in Liverpool's Falkner Square. He was a stern and highly studious academic with a terrible temper. His own children had grown up and left the family nest, and in the summer months, Professor Strong's 8-year-old niece, Jesamine Middleton, often stayed at the house. The pretty little red-haired girl adored her Uncle Herbert, and he had a soft spot for her as well, although he was usually too haughty to show his affection. Jesamine had difficulty reading and speaking certain words, and was probably dyslexic. She said 'pisketti' instead of spaghetti and had great difficulty reciting the alphabet in its proper order. The cruel children at school called her muddled up Middleton and mixed-up Jesamine. Uncle Herbert attempted to give his niece intense private lessons in speech and English but his strong-arm teaching methods only served to put the timid girl on the spot and make her too nervous to learn. He would slam the chalkboard duster down on the desk and shout: 'Spaghetti! Say it child!'
'Pisketti,' Jesamine would whisper, with her sad face bowed.
Sometimes Jesamine would cry and flee up the stairs to hide in her aunt's wardrobe from all the adjectives and nouns and unpronounceable words.
One afternoon at her uncle's house, Jesamine noticed an old grandfather clock in the hallway. The moment she set eyes on it, the clock chimed melodiously, and Jesamine smiled in surprise. The girl hadn't seen that clock before. Being curious, Jesamine opened the door on the front of the clock and saw a shining golden pendulum swinging slowly from side to side. Jesamine's blue eyes swung left and right as they followed the large round pendulum. The ticking sound seemed to echo, and the tick-tock noise became a faint voice that spoke the letters of the alphabet. The voice was that of a softly spoken woman, and it was very calming and reassuring to Jesamine. All time seemed to cease while Jesamine stood there before the old clock in a trance, and when a servant at the house came down the hall and asked the girl what she was doing, the hypnotic spell was broken. Jesamine rushed into the study of her uncle and blabbed out the full alphabet. Professor Strong was very impressed. He enquired how she had learned her A to Z, and Jesamine said the clock in the hall had taught her. Uncle Herbert returned a puzzled look to the girl, who was now bristling with confidence. Throughout the remainder of that summer, Jesamine would often be found standing spellbound before the grandfather clock, watching the pendulum with a look of utter fascination. At school she wrote impressive tales of Kings, battles, Christopher Columbus and the Fire of London - all tales told to her by the 'Teacher Clock' as she called it. Her grammar improved, and when the taunting children asked Jesamine what her favourite food was, she would eloquently reply: "spaghetti of course."
Professor Strong felt unnerved by the tales of the Teacher Clock. That grandfather clock had been left to him months before in the will of an elderly teacher named Mrs Denny, who had died from pneumonia. Had Mrs Denny's spirit somehow become attached to the clock? Perhaps she had returned from beyond to gently teach her last pupil, little Jesamine Middleton.


©Tom Slemen 2003. All rights reserved.