On a bright sunny day while Ned set at the breakfast table he tried to get his mother or sister to tell him where they were all going.
“I’m as much in the dark as you are,” said Carolyn. “I think that mother was afraid I would let out the secret, for she sometimes calls me her little chatterbox. We’re to be ready at ten o’clock sharp.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll know in a few hours. Look, here comes Charley Wood. I promised to show him something in my workshop.” Away ran Ned.
The boys played together until after nine o’clock; and then, instead of going directly to the house, to be on hand promptly at ten o’clock, Ned thought: “Oh, there’s time enough for me to finish my kite.”
Two or three times his eyes were upon his watch; but there were a few minutes to spare, he thought. When he looked again, he was startled to find that it was three minutes past ten. By the time he had his hat and rushed to the front room, he was five minutes late, and no one was there.
He could not believe that his mother would disappoint him for such a little delay, so he called for Carolyn. Then he ran to his mother’s room to see if she were there, then out the front door; but no one was to be seen.
“Why did mother not tell me where she was going? Then I might have overtaken her. Now I don’t know in which direction to go,” mumbled Ned.
It was because of this that his mother had not told Ned where she was going. He was in the habit of trying to make up for lost time by hurrying at the last minute.
Mrs. Gray had planned a visit to her sister, who lived on a farm. Ned and Carolyn had once visited there and had a grand time with their cousins. They played in the hayloft, searched for eggs, helped feed the cattle, and rode the horses to water. They often begged mother to take them again; but she had many home cares and could not get away.
Poor Ned! When he found his mother and sister gone, he was a disappointed boy. Half ashamed to have Jane, the maid, see his tears or know how miserable he was, he went back to his play. He knew that if his mother returned, Carolyn would be sure to run out to the playhouse in search of him, so he stayed out there by himself until dinnertime.
Jane called Ned to dinner. She had lived in the Gray home a long time and knew Ned’s one failing. She had promised Mrs. Gray not to tell him where his mother and sister had gone, until dinnertime. The woman saw the boy with sad, downcast face enter the dining room. Seeing the table set for only one person, Ned was surprised, for his mother rarely stayed away all day.
The boy sat down to his lonely meal, and when Jane came in with a piece of pie, he asked why his mother was not home to dinner.
“Oh, Ned,” she replied, “your mother won’t be back today, or tomorrow either—no, not until Monday morning. She and Carolyn have gone to visit your Aunt Mary.”
This was too much for the youth. Dropping knife and fork, he rushed upstairs to his room, where he flung himself on the bed and cried bitterly.
When he had recovered from the first burst of tears, he remembered his mother’s request “not to forget,” that she should expect him “in the front room at ten o’clock precisely.” Now he understood that she must have started with Carolyn to the station at the very moment the clock hands pointed to the hour. It was a good lesson. He knew his mother had not meant to be cruel to him, and he resolved to improve in promptness.
It was with bright, sunny face, from which all sadness had vanished, that Ned met his mother and sister when they reached home Monday morning. Mrs. Gray saw at once that the hard lesson she had been obliged to teach him had not been in vain.
Storytime Treasury, compiled by P. G. Temple, Harvestime Books, Altamont, Tenessee.