13 Clocks, a story by James Thurber


The Evil Duke
"His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart...
His nights were spent in evil dreams and his days were given to wicked schemes.
Wickedly scheming, he would limp and cackle through the cold corridors of the castle, planning new impossible feats for the suitors of Saralinda to perform...

The Minstrel
"He called himself Xingu, which was not his name, and dangerous, since the name began with an X--and still does.  He was, quite properly, a thing of shreds and patches, a ragged minstrel, singing for pennies and the love of singing..."

He sang...

The Beautiful Princess, Saralinda
"The varlets were taking the minstrel out of the great hall when down the marble stairs the Princess Saralinda floated like a cloud.  The Duke's eye gleamed like crystal.  The minstrel gazed in wonder.  The Princess Saralinda was tall, with freesias in here dark hair, and she wore serenity brightly like the rainbow...

"...They came and tried and failed and disappeared and never came again.  And some, as I have said, were slain, for using names that start with X, or dropping spoons, or wearing rings, or speaking disrespectfully of sin."

"Hark, hark, the dogs do bark,
But only one in three
They bark at those in velvet gowns,
They never bark at me.

The Duke is fond of velvet gowns
He'll ask you all to tea.
But I'm in rags, and I'm in tags,
He'll never send for me.

Hark, hark, the dogs do bark,
The Duke is fond of kittens.
He likes to take their insides out,
And use their fur for mittens."

"'I wish him well,' the Princess said..."


"The Duke waved a gloved hand at the iron stairs, and Zorn saw Saralinda standing there. 'I wish him well, ' she said, and her uncle laughed and looked at Zorn. 'I hired a witch,' he said, 'to cast a tiny spell upon her.  When she is in my presence, all that she can say is this: 'I wish him well.' You like it?"







It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
—George Orwell, 1984 (1949)