A lean, awkward boy came to the door of the principal of a celebrated school one morning, and asked to see him. The servant eyed his mean clothes, and thinking he looked more like a beggar than anything else, told him to go around to the kitchen. The boy did as he was bidden, and soon appeared at the back door.
“I should like to see Mr. Slade,” said he.
“You want a breakfast, more like,” said the servant girl, “and I can give you that without troubling him.”
“Thank you,” said the boy; “I should like to see Mr. Slade, if he can see me.”
“Some old clothes maybe you want,” remarked the servant again, eying the boy’s patched clothes. “I guess he has none to spare; he gives away a sight.” And, without minding the boy’s request, she went about her work.
“May I see Mr. Slade?” again asked the boy, after finishing his bread and butter.
“Well, he is in the library; if he must be disturbed, he must. He does like to be alone sometimes,” said the girl in a peevish tone.
She seemed to think it very foolish to admit such a fellow into her master’s presence. However, she wiped her hands, and bade him follow. Opening the library door, she said:—
“Here’s somebody, sir, who is dreadful anxious to see you, and so I let him in.”
I do not know how the boy introduced himself, or now he opened the business, but I know that, after talking awhile, the principal put aside the volume that he was studying, and took up some Greek books, and began to examine the boy. The examination lasted for some time. Every question the principal asked was answered promptly.
“Upon my word,” exclaimed the principal, “you do well!” looking at the boy from head to foot over his spectacles. “Why, my boy, where did you pick up so much?”
“In my spare moments,” answered the boy.
Here was a poor, hard-working boy, with few opportunities for schooling, yet almost fitted for college by simply improving his spare moments.
Truly are spare moments the “gold-dust of time”! How precious they should be regarded! What account can you give for your spare moments? What can you show for them? Look and see. This boy can tell you how very much can be laid up by improving them; and there are many, very many other boys, I am afraid, in jail and in the house of correction, in the forecastle of a whaleship, in the gambling-house, in the tippling-shop, who, if you should ask them when they began their sinful course, might answer, “In my spare moments.” “In my spare moments I gambled for marbles.” “In my spare moments I began to swear and drink.” “It was in my spare moments that I began to steal chestnuts from the old woman’s stand.” “It was in my spare moments that I gathered with wicked associates.”
Then be very careful how you spend your spare moments. The tempter always hunts you out in small seasons like these; when you are not busy, he gets into your hearts, if he possibly can, in just such gaps. There he hides himself, planning all sorts of mischief Take care of your spare moments.