Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Father Ignatius had been invited and he was very eager to attend since he had not seen Monsignor Thomas for quite sometime. They knew each other well and had trained together as young priests all those many years ago.
A few weeks before the Reunion Father Ignatius was in the big city for business. He passed by an antiques shop and saw a lovely old wooden mantelpiece clock. It was made of very dark ebony wood with a clock face made of pale yellowish ivory encrusted with large gold numerals and hands. It wasn’t too big, or too small. Just the right size to put on a mantelpiece, a bookshelf or on a desk! In fact it was the perfect present for Monsignor Thomas. He would be so pleased to have that in his office, thought Father Ignatius.
He entered the shop and to his surprise, despite the antique's age and quality it was priced just right. So he bought it and was very pleased with himself.
When he arrived back at his Parish that evening Father Ignatius discovered to his great chagrin that the clock did not work. It was OK in the shop, so something must have happened during transit from the city.
The next day he took the clock to the local horologist … at least that’s what it said on the shop window. “James Merry-Time Horologist”
The young attendant at the shop, dressed very smartly in a three-piece suit, welcomed the priest and announced proudly in an impeccable upper-class English accent that the Company had been in business for 150 years and now had 27 branches nationwide.
“We are proud to serve time after time! That’s our Company motto Sir!” he concluded with a smile.
He then looked at the clock carefully and advised Father Ignatius that it was a unique and very valuable time-piece. The mechanism had been slightly damaged during the journey from the city but it could easily be fixed for £20.
The priest readily agreed to this and left the clock in the shop intending to collect it when it was fixed.
A week later he returned and was greeted by the same shop attendant.
Ashen faced the attendant announced that the clock was nowhere to be found. They looked everywhere for it but could not find it. It wasn’t in the storeroom, nor the workshop, and not in the safe either, where valuable pieces are always kept for safe-keeping.
The young attendant lamented the disappearance of the clock … “Tempus Fugit” he said with a wry smile which the priest did not appreciate.
“It was such a lovely time-piece too,” he said soothingly, “perfect movement and spring action … reminiscent of the Georgian period I would say, probably earlier … solid gold numerals and hands set against an ivory clock face all encased in an ebony framework …Very unusual combination of materials, if I may say so Sir!”
And so he went on describing the missing clock as if he was at an auction enticing as many buyers as possible to bid highly for it.
All this did not help the priest one bit.
“What do you propose doing about it?” he asked in desperation.
“Well Sir …” said the attendant, “we could offer you a refund if you have proof of purchase or a valuation certificate or something that would ascertain its true value!”
As it happened, the priest still had the receipt from the city shop where he bought the clock. It cost exactly £100.
“That is indeed a valuable clock Sir.” said the attendant looking at the receipt, “I would have valued it at that sum if not a little higher … but then it should be … it is unique after all. They don’t make such lovely clocks like this anymore you know. Beautiful wooden craftsmanship is very difficult to find these days! And solid gold numerals and hands as I recall.”
The priest felt really low at having lost such a valuable item; especially when he heard it described so eloquently by someone who knew his trade very well.
The man continued in the same polite and considered voice.
“Our establishment deeply apologizes for the loss you have suffered Sir, and we offer you the sum of £80 in full recompense for our temporary drop in our high standard of service.”
Father Ignatius was totally perplexed at the amount offered in compensation.
“Why are you offering just £80?” he asked, “you can see from the receipt I paid £100 for the clock only a few days ago.”
“That is indeed correct Sir,” said the shop attendant, “but we have to deduct £20 for fixing the clock as you requested.”
Father Ignatius was astounded at what he’d just heard.
“But …” he paused for a while, “you lost the clock. A clock costing me £100 to purchase! You can’t deduct £20 because you fixed it since I do not have the clock to take with me.”
“Oh indeed we can …” continued the attendant politely, “the work was done at our workshop Sir. I inspected the clock myself after it was fixed and it passed our high standards of quality control. It was working perfectly. Surely you can’t expect us not to be paid for work carried out? That would hardly be fair, would you not say?”
There was no point in arguing further. The attendant was adamant that only £80 would be offered in compensation because the clock which was not working properly beforehand had indeed now been fixed. Father Ignatius took the amount offered and went away more puzzled than deflated.
It seems that there must be in Heaven a Patron Saint of Horology and all things relating to clocks.
Because a few days later Father Ignatius received a letter from the shop stating that the clock was ready for collection.
He rushed to the shop with a heart overflowing with joy and met the very same young attendant … and there, ready for collection, was the valuable clock working perfectly.
“Oh you found it … thank you so much!” said the priest smiling broadly.
“Indeed Sir,” said the attendant, “it was not so much lost than just temporarily misplaced due to refurbishment of our premises. We pride ourselves in this establishment never to lose our patrons property Sir.”
“That’s nice … now I’d better give you your £80 back.”
“What for Sir?” enquired the young man rather puzzled.
“You know … the £80 compensation you gave me when the clock was lost!”
“That will not be necessary Sir. As I’ve explained, the clock was never lost. It was temporarily misplaced. It was here all the time.”
“I’m glad about that … but you must see that you’re down on the deal, as they say. You fixed the clock for me, it is now found, and you gave me £80.”
“I do understand Sir,” said the man in his impeccable English, “I have checked with our Head Office and they explained that as the clock was never lost we were wrong to give you £80 compensation. That transaction never took place as far as we’re concerned.”
“That’s very generous,” replied Father Ignatius with a smile, “but tell me … what would have happened if the clock had not been found?”
“That is an impossibility as far as we’re concerned Sir. In our 150 years’ history no item has ever been lost. Very rarely, as indeed it did occur on this occasion, an item is misplaced and eventually found. Misplaced Sir, never lost!”
Father Ignatius was very pleased at what he’d heard and grateful for the generosity of this organization. He left the shop with his treasured time-piece restored to good working order and £80 in his pocket put to good use in helping his poor parishioners.
And it made a good story to relate at Monsignor Thomas’ Celebratory Reunion as well as the subject of the sermon on Sunday.
“A soul is never lost,” he thought to himself, “just temporarily misplaced!”