When Time Was Valuable
HOW FIVE MINUTES MADE A DIFFERENCE.
An Incident Growing Out of President McKinley’s Funeral Which the
Principal in It Will Not Soon Forget—Came Within an Ace of Losing
A group of traveling men were discussing
the assassination of President McKinley the other day when one of
“Gentlemen—not to digress from the
subject—but have any of you ever considered the value of five minutes?”
All answered in the negative.
“Well, I never considered it myself
until the other day, when a friend of mine met with an experience
which showed how precious five minutes can be under some circumstances.
It was on the day the dead president was buried, when, as you remember
the street cars and the telegraph ceased to operate for five minutes
as a mark of respect for the martyred chief.
“My friend, whose home is in Washington,
was engaged to be married to a young lady in Cincinnati. (I’ve never
seen the lady, but it goes without saying that she is the sweetest
girl in the world and all that sort of thing—they all are!) Her
father is a very particular old gentleman and had not looked with
favor on my friend’s suit. The couple had been engaged in secret
for three years and it was only a month ago that the parental consent
“The young lady and her father were
visiting friends near Annapolis and it was while there that he was
prevailed upon to give in.
“Of course, they wanted to have the
ceremony performed at once before father could change his mind and
it was arranged to take place on the 19th of September—the day McKinley
ONLY TWO DAYS’ LEAVE.
“My friend travels
through the south for a New York house, whose busiest month is September,
and he could only get two days’ leave. He fixed his dates so that
he would be in Baltimore, where the wedding was to take place on
the 19th and all arrangements for the affair were perfected by letter.
“Well, the day of the wedding the
groom-to-be came up from Richmond, where he was working, and stopped
over in Washington to attend to some important business matters.
The bride-to-be and father-in-law-to-be were to leave Annapolis
for Baltimore on the 2.35 train, meet him at a hotel near the station,
where the ceremony would be performed by a minister who would be
in waiting, the three would then take the 4.50 train for Cincinnati.
“The business took more time than
he had anticipated, and it was 15 minutes after 2 before he could
break away and start for the train. He would have to catch the 2.35
train in order to be in Baltimore on time to meet his bride-elect
and her father, and he did some tall hustling, I tell you.
“As I said before, the old gentleman
is very particular; he is also very punctilious—one of those gentlemen
of the old school whose eleventh commandment is ‘be punctual.’ He
and his daughter would leave Annapolis at the same time my friend
left Washington, and all three would arrive in Baltimore simultaneously.
My friend knew that if he wasn’t in Baltimore to meet them when
they arrived pater would be furious and, of course, break off the
match. If he missed that 2.35 train he wouldn’t have any more chance
of getting the girl than Czolgosz had of being pardoned.
“At 25 minutes past 2 he was on a
trolley car going down Pennsylvania avenue, and, allowing for stops,
would reach the B. and O. station at 2.30 and have five minutes
to spare before the train pulled out. Confident of being on time
he lit a cigar and was soon lost in contemplation of the great happiness
in store for him.
THE CAR STOPPTD [sic].
“Suddenly the car stopped
and remained still longer than it was necessary to take on a passenger.
He looked up and saw a string of cars in front of him.
“‘What’s the matter?’ he asked the
conductor excitedly, with his heart in his mouth.
“‘The cars are stopped for five minutes
out of respect for the dead president,’ replied the conductor.
“He looked at his watch: it was half-past
two! The train would leave in five minutes and he couldn’t possibly
catch it now. What was he to do? Across the street was a telegraph
office. Quick as a flash he conceived the idea of telegraphing to
his fiance’s father before he left Annapolis informing him of his
predicament. Of course, he realized that only by great good fortune
could the message be delivered in time, but it was his only resource
and he was desperate. In a moment he was inside the office, and
scribbled a few lines on one of the blanks and handed it over the
counter to the operator.
“‘Get this off at once—it’s a matter
of life and death!’
“‘Sorry, sir, but the telegraph is
shut off for five minutes out of respect——’
“‘But this is a matter——’
“‘Very sorry; but the current is off
all over the country.’
“Beads of perspiration stood out on
his brow. Visions of a gloomy future with no loving wife to cheer
it rose up before him. There was no question of it—the girl was
lost to him now beyond a doubt, and the boy felt pretty blue. He
started to walk out of the office when a thought flashed through
his brain that gave him a new lease on life. There was a possibility,
he thought, that the Annapolis train might be delayed by reason
of the heavy traffic on the railroads that day, and he might still
be able to communicate with the girl’s father before it was too
“At last the clock
in the office pointed to twenty-five minutes to 3. The cars out
in the street were clanging their gongs and slowly moving off—click—click—click—the
telegraph was again at work and the noise of the sounders was the
sweetest music he had ever heard.
“‘Hurry off my message!’ he blurted
out to the operator, who already had his finger on the key, preparing
to send the despatch [sic].
“‘Wait!’ said the operator, quickly.
‘Annapolis is calling now!’
“He gave the answer to the call and
threw in his switch; after a slight pause the sounder started off
again at a lively rate.
“The operator listened for a moment,
then glanced hurriedly at the copy my friend had given him and exclaimed
“‘Why, it’s for you, sir!’
“‘For me? Great—what is it—quick!’
he gasped, dumbfounded.
“These are the words the operator
called out as fast as the instrument clicked them off.
“My friend stood stock still for a
moment, hardly able to believe his own ears. Then he let out a whoop
that would have done credit to a Comanche Indian, and, tossing a
bill to the operator, danced out of the office.
“Talk about walking on air; why, he
had Santos-Dumont beat to death!
“After he had collected himself and
come down to earth again he wired his sweetheart asking for full
particulars concerning her father’s illness. The an- [sic]
answer informed him that the old gentleman had been attacked with
vertigo while waiting at the station, causing them to miss the train,
but it had soon passed off and he was as well as ever.
“Well, the wedding took place the
next day, and you can safely wager my friend did not take any more
chances with street cars or telegrams. That little experience he
had on the 19th was one he won’t forget very soon, and it taught
him something of the value of time, which will make him appreciate
ever yminutes [sic] in the day hereafter.”