CHARLOTTE BALLOU sat curled up on the sofa in the library, lost in thought. It was not such a very important matter that absorbed her mind either. She had been reading, but had stopped to consider whether she would not have acted differently under the circumstances in which the heroine of the story was placed.  Charlotte had one prominent fault, which unfortunately she could not be made to consider as of much consequence. She was always a little behindhand, given to dilly-dallying. Tom had called her twice, saying the last time, "I shall be at the door with the horse in a jiffy, and if you want to ride you must be ready."

Presently she put away her book, and went upstairs, glancing at her watch. "Ten minutes of three! I'll be ready at three, and that will be soon enough; Tom need not be in such a fret." As the hall clock chimed out the hour, she went down stairs. She could do things quickly when she once got at them. The trouble was, the habit of delay in starting was strong upon her. She opened the door, and stood upon the steps waiting for Tom. Just then the stable boy came around the corner.

"Where is Tom?" she asked.

"Gone to the city."


"Yes'm; he said I was to tell you he could not wait any longer, as he had an engagement in the city, and must be there before banking hours were over."

"Bother!" said Charlotte, in a vexed tone. "He can't have been gone more than a minute or two!"

"No, ma'am; he only just went, but he said every minute was precious;" and here the boy stopped suddenly, which Charlotte noticed, and she insisted upon his finishing the sentence.

"Well, Miss Charlotte, it was nothing, only he said he had given you time enough to get ready.  "Charlotte went slowly up stairs, and indulged in a hearty cry; she was disappointed, for she very much wanted to do some errands in the city, and now they must wait till Monday.  "It was just horrid of Tom, anyway!"

Three hours later they met at the tea-table; some way the story leaked out, and Mrs. Ballou, seeing Charlotte's sober face, and knowing how great had been her disappointment, said gently,—

"Tom, dear, couldn't you have waited for Charlotte this afternoon?"

"No, mother; I was obliged to be in the city at half-past three, and I told Charlotte to be ready at ten minutes of the hour, so as to allow for delays.  And as it was, I didn't get away until almost the hour." "You said ten minutes of three, and I was ready and down stairs at the door at three. I'm sure ten minutes isn't much to wait. I don't think that would have made much difference."

"I could tell you of a time when ten minutes saved a whole regiment," remarked Mr. Ballou, quietly. "We didn't know what we were saving up the minutes for, but we found out when we came to the river."

"It was during Colonel Griersoh's expedition through Mississippi, in 1863. We were approaching the Pearl River, and we knew it was the season of high water, and consequently it would be impossible to ford the river. The bridge was our only hope. If the enemy succeeded in destroying the bridge before we reached it, we would be at their mercy. Every horse was urged to its utmost speed, and every man, anxious for his life, was on the lookout for the gleaming of the river.  Before we caught sight of the waters, we heard the roar of the rushing flood, and above that sound came the crashing of the timbers which told us that the enemy were at the work of destruction. I tell you, Charlotte, ten minutes made all the difference to us between life and death, or at least between liberty and a Southern prison. The work of demolition was ended by a short encounter, and we passed over the bridge, on and beyond the reach of the coming army. That ten minutes might easily have been spent in getting started, if our commander had been like our Charlotte in thinking that a few moments more or less could make no difference."

"But, father," said Charlotte, "that was in war, and of course it was important to save up the minutes."

"My child, we did not know that ten minutes would make us too late, and you may come to a bridge, just a little too late, when you least expect it."

"I hate to be always hurrying!" pouted the young girl.

"There is no need of hurry, if you are always prompt to put the right work in the right time, you will never have to hurry. I'll venture to say that you hurried to get ready this afternoon, and were too late, after all, because you did not save the minutes in the first place. How long did you sit dreaming after Tom told you he was going to the city, and that you could go if you were ready? 'Charlotte's cheeks flushed, as she replied:—

"Well, I know it is a bad habit. Next time I'll be on hand!"

"Let it be not only next time, but every time!" responded Mr. Ballou. "For you can never for see the exact spot where your ten minutes will make the difference."




Faye Huntington.