The Time Shop Continued…
“Don’t mind him, Bobby,” said Mr. Promptness, anxiously whispering in the boy’s ear. “Come along with me and see the things we keep on the upper floors—I am sure they will please you.”
“Wait just a minute, Mr. Promptness,” replied Bobby. “I want to see what Mr. Procrastination looks like close to.”
“But, my dear child, you don’t seem to realize that he will pick your pocket if you let him come close—” pleaded Mr. Promptness But it was of no use, for the unwelcome visitor from across the way by this time had got his arm through Bobby’s and was endeavoring to force the boy out through the door, although the elevator on which Bobby and Mr. Promptness were to go upstairs was awaiting them.
“When did you come over?” said Procrastination, with his pleasantest smile, which made Bobby feel that perhaps Mr. Promptness, and his father, too, for that matter, had been very unjust to him.
“Going up,” cried the elevator boy. “Come, Bobby,” said Mr. Promptness, in a beseeching tone. “The car is just starting.”
“Nonsense. What’s your hurry?” said Procrastination. “You can take the next car just as well.”
“All aboard!” cried the elevator boy.
“I’ll be there in two seconds,” returned Bobby.
“Can’t wait,” cried the elevator boy, and he banged the iron door to, and the car shot up to the upper regions where the keepers of the Time Shop kept their most beautiful things.
“Too bad!” said Mr. Promptness, shaking his head, sadly. “Too bad! Now, Mr. Procrastination,” he added fiercely, “I must ask you to leave this shop, or I shall summon the police. You can’t deceive us. Your record is known here, and—”
“Tutt-tutt-tutt, my dear Mr. Promptness!” retorted Procrastination, still looking dangerously pleasant, and smiling as if it must all be a joke. “This shop of yours is a public place, sir, and I have just as much right to spend my time here as anybody else.”
“Very well, sir,” said Mr. Promptness, shortly. “Have your own way if you prefer, but you will please remember that I warned you to go.”
Mr. Promptness turned as he spoke and touched an electric button at the back of the counter, and immediately from all sides there came a terrific and deafening clanging of bells; and from upstairs and down came rushing all the forces of time to the rescue of Bobby, and to put Procrastination out. They fell upon him like an army, and shouting, and struggling, but still smiling as if he thought it the greatest joke in the world, the unwelcome visitor was at last thrust into the street, and the doors were barred and bolted against his return.
“Mercy me!” cried Bobby’s friend the Clock, rushing up just as the door was slammed to. “What’s the meaning of all this uproar?”
“Nothing,” said Mr. Promptness, “Only that wicked old Procrastination again. He caught sight of Bobby here—”
“He hasn’t hurt him?” cried the Clock.
“Not much, if any,” said Mr. Promptness.
“You didn’t have anything to do with him, did you, Bobby?” asked the Clock, a trifle severely.
“Why, I only stopped a minute to say how do you do to him,” began Bobby, sheepishly.
“Well, I’m sorry that you should have made his acquaintance,” said the Clock. “But come along. It’s getting late and we’re due back home. Paid your bill?”
“No,” said Mr. Promptness, sadly. “He hasn’t had it yet, but there it is, Bobby. I think you will find it correct.”
He handed the little visitor a memorandum of all the charges against him. Bobby ran over the items and saw that the total called for a payment of eight days, and fifteen hours, and twenty-three minutes, and nine seconds, well within the value of the time-checks the good floorwalker had given him, but alas! when he put his hand in his pocket to get them they were gone. Not even a minute was left!
Procrastination had succeeded only too well!
“Very sorry, Bobby,” said Mr. Promptness, “but we cannot let the goods go out of the shop until they are paid for. However,” he added, “although I warned you against that fellow, I feel sorry enough for you to feel inclined to help you a little, particularly when I realize how much you have missed in not seeing our treasures on the higher floors. I’ll give you five minutes, my boy, to pay for the little card for your mother’s Christmas present.”
He placed the card in the little boy’s hand, and turned away with a tear in his eye, and Bobby started to express his sorrow at the way things had turned out, and his thanks for Mr. Promptness’s generosity, but there was no chance for this. There was a whirr as of many wheels, and a flapping as of many wings. Bobby felt himself being whirled around, and around, and around, and then there came a bump. Somewhat terrified he closed his eyes for an instant, and when he opened them again he found himself back on the parlor rug, lying in front of the fire, while his daddy was rolling him over and over. The lad glanced up at the mantelpiece to see what had become of the Clock, but the grouchy old ticker stared solemnly ahead of him, with his hands pointed sternly at eight o’clock, which meant that Bobby had to go to bed at once.
“Oh, let me stay up ten minutes longer,” pleaded Bobby.
“No, sir,” replied his father. “No more Procrastination, my son—trot along.”
And it seemed to Bobby as he walked out of the room, after kissing his father and mother good-night, that that saucy old Clock grinned.
INCIDENTALLY, let me say that in the whirl of his return Bobby lost the card that the good Mr. Promptness had given him for his mother, but the little fellow remembered the words that were printed on it, and when Christmas morning came his mother found them painted in watercolors on a piece of cardboard by the boy’s own hand; and when she read them a tear of happiness came into her eyes, and she hugged the little chap and thanked him, and said it was the most beautiful Christmas present she had received.
“I’m glad you like it,” said Bobby. “It isn’t so very valuable though, Mother. It only cost me two hours and a half, and I know where you can get better looking ones for five minutes.”
Which extraordinary remark led Bobby’s mother to ask him if he were not feeling well!