2001年の大学入試センターの長文問題 問５ The authority of the clock の意味
Going to the shore on the first morning of the vacation, Jerry stopped and looked at a wild and rocky bay, and then over to the crowded beach he knew so well from other years. His mother looked back at him.
“Are you tired of the usual beach, Jerry?”
“Oh, no!” he said quickly, but then said, “I’d like to look at those rocks down there.”
“Of course, if you like.”
Jerry watched his mother go, then ran straight into the water and began swimming. He was a good swimmer. He swam out over the gleaming sand and then he was in the real sea.
He saw some older, local boys — men, to him — sitting on the rocks. One smiled and waved. It was enough to make him feel welcome. In a minute, he had swum over and was on the rocks beside them. Then, as he watched, the biggest of the boys dived into the water, and did not come up. Jerry gave a cry of alarm, but after a long time the boy came up on the other side of a big dark rock, letting out a shout of victory. Immediately the rest of them dived and Jerry was alone. He counted the seconds they were under water: one, two, three… fifty… one hundred. At one hundred and sixty, one, then another, of the boys came up on the far side of the rock and Jerry understood that they had swum through some gap or hole in it. He knew then that he wanted to be like them. He watched as they swam away and then swam to shore himself.
Next day he swam back to the rocks. There was nobody else there. He looked at the great rock the boys had swum through. He could see no gap in it. He dived down to its base, again and again. It took a long time, but finally, while he was holding on to the base of the rock, he shot his feet out forward and they met no obstacle. He had found the hole.
In the days that followed, Jerry hurried to the rocks every morning and exercised his lungs as if everything, the whole of his life, depended on it. He counted how long he could hold his breath. Each day he improved his time. Even back at home he timed himself by the clock, and was proud to find he could hold his breath for two minutes. The authority of the clock brought close the adventure that was so important to him.
The day after tomorrow, his mother reminded him casually one morning, they must go home. He swam straight out to the rock and looked down into the water. This was the moment when he would try. If he did not do it now, he never would. He filled his lungs, started to count, and dived to the bottom.
He was soon inside the dark, narrow hole. The water pushed him up against the roof. The roof was sharp and hurt his back. He pulled himself along with his hands — fast, fast. His head knocked against something; a sharp pain dizzied him. He counted: one hundred… one hundred and fifteen. The hole had widened! He gave himself a kick forward and swam as fast as he could. He lost track of time and said one hundred and fifteen to himself again. Then he saw light. Victory filled him. His hands, reaching forward, met nothing; and his feet propelled him out into the open sea. He floated to the surface, pulled himself up onto the rock and lay face down, catching his breath. After a time he felt better and sat up. Then he swam to shore and climbed slowly up the path to the house.
His mother came to meet him, smiling.
“Have a nice time?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, thank you,” he said.
“How did you cut your head?”
“Oh, I just cut it.”
They sat down to lunch together.
“Mom,” he said, “I can hold my breath for two minutes — three minutes.”
“Can you, darling?” she said. “Well, you shouldn’t overdo it. You look a bit pale. I don’t think you ought to swim any more today.”
She was ready for a battle of wills, but he gave in at once. It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay.
He watched as they swam away
He watched as they swam away のwatchの目的語がないことやasに引っ掛かるひとがいるかもしれません。watchは他動詞として使われることが多いですが、自動詞もあります。この文章でも、
Jerry watched his mother go ジェリーは母親が立ち去るのを見た。（watchは他動詞）
Then, as he watched, the biggest of the boys dived into the water, and did not come up. そして、彼が見ていると、グループで一番大きな少年が水の中に飛び込み、上がって来なかった。（watchは自動詞）
He watched as they swam awayの中で使われているasは、whenやwhileと同じ意味で、「～している間」です。ここでは、as以下のことを見ていた、という意味になります。似た表現をインターネット上から拾ってみます。
He watched as they looked around the coffee shop, knowing they couldn’t recognize him. (A Warming Trend by Pamela Toth) 彼は、気付かれる恐れがないことを確信しながら、彼らがコーヒーショップの中を見て回るのを眺めていた。
he watched as they bullied one certain classmate of his. 彼は、クラスメイトの特定の一人が彼らに虐められるのを見ていた。 （出典：http://w11.zetaboards.com/Pokemon_Godai/topic/30035251/1/）
The authority of the clock
The authority of the clock brought close the adventure that was so important to him. はかなり訳しにくいようです。まず構文は、主語がThe authority of the clock、動詞がbring。これは他動詞で、目的語がthe adventure that was so important to himです。closeは副詞で、「近くへ」という意味です。closeが副詞なのは、たとえば、
Bring him here. 彼をここに連れてきなさい。
What brings you here? なぜあなたはここに来たの？
わかりにくいのは、The authority of the clockの意味するところが何か？ということでしょう。authorityの辞書的な意味、「権威」を知っているのは当然としてもそれだけではしっくりきません。単語の意味を決めるのは文脈ですから、The authority of the clockが出てくる前の部分をよく読んで意味を掴むことが重要になります。clock（時計）やtime（時間）に関する単語に注意して前の部分を見て見ると、ジェリー少年は、海に潜って遊ぶ少年らがどれくらい潜水していたかの秒数を数えています。
He counted the seconds they were under water: one, two, three… fifty… one hundred. At one hundred and sixty, ジェリーは、彼らが水の中にいる秒数を数えた：１、２、３、、、５０、、１００．１６０数えたところで、
He counted how long he could hold his breath. Each day he improved his time. Even back at home he timed himself by the clock, and was proud to find he could hold his breath for two minutes. 彼はどれくらい長く息を止めていられるかを測った。一日ごとに彼は記録を更新した。家にいるときも彼は時計（the clock）で時間を計った。そして、2分間の間息を止めていられるようになったことがわかり誇らしく思った。
ここまで読んでくれば、「時計の権威」の意味がわかります。ジェリー少年がどれくらい長く息を止めていられるかを示す、絶対的な指標というわけです。自分でひとつ、ふたつ、と時間を数えるのは客観性がなく、絶対的ではありませんが、時計はきちんと時を刻むので、時計の言うことは絶対に正しい、という意味で「権威」なのです。そういうつもりでもう一度辞書を良く読んでみると、「典拠、よりどころ；出典：on the authority of … … をよりどころとして」という意味（訳語）も書いてあることに気づきます（参照：研究者英和中辞典第６版）。よって、
The authority of the clock brought close the adventure that was so important to him. 時計で測定した記録が拠り所となり、彼にとって非常に大きな意味を持つ冒険を実行すべき時が近づいた。
no longer of the least importance
It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay.も引っ掛かる人が多い文です。no longer は、「もはや～でない」という意味。of the least importanceは、「最小の重要性」。となると、二重否定で肯定なのか？と思ってしまう人が出てきそうなところです。この長文を頭から読んでストーリーがつかめていれば、no longer of the least importanceは内容的に、「もはやまったく重要ではなかった」の意味しかありません。