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One Hour in Advance
Basle was once surrounded by enemies, and very hard pressed on all sides. A troop of discontented citizens made a shameful compact with the besiegers to help them to conquer the town. It was arranged one dark night that exactly as the clock was striking twelve the attack was to be made from within and without. The traitors were all ready, waiting for midnight in great excitement, having no evil presentiments of what was about to happen.
The expected hour approached. Accidentally the watchman of the tower heard of the proposed attack, and no time being left to warn the commander of the garrison or the guard, he quickly and with great presence of mind determined upon a safe expedient; he put forward the hand of the great clock one hour, so that instead of striking midnight, the clock struck one.
The traitors in the town looked at each other aghast, believing the enemies outside had neglected or perhaps betrayed them. General doubt and misunderstanding reigned in both camps. While they were debating what plan they must now adopt, the sharp-witted watchman had time to communicate with the magistrate and with the governor of the town. The alarm was raised, the citizens warned, and the treacherous plan completely wrecked. The enemy at last, tired of the useless siege, retired discouraged.
The magistrate in remembrance of this remarkable deed ordered that the town-clock should remain in advance as the courageous watchman had set it that eventful night. This singular regulation continued till the year 1798, and although the honest inhabitants of Basle were, as talkative tongues asserted, a century behind-hand in everything else, yet with regard to time they were always one hour in advance.
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