Punctuality is the habit of never being behind time appointed. The punctual boy comes to college in good time for his lessons, and is in his place with his books spread out ready for immediate use as soon as his teacher comes into the room. He has his lesson well prepared, as he began to learn it in good time.
When he grows up to manhood, he is distinguished by the same excellent characteristic. If he makes an appointment, you may count upon finding him at the appointed time at the place of meeting agreed upon.
Give him any work to do, and if he promises to have it completed at a certain date, be is sure not to disappoint you. The unpunctual man, on the contrary, goes through life as if he had deliberately determined to make a practice of being too late on every possible occasion. He begins the day by lying in bed too long. After hurriedly dressing, he finds that he has only time to snatch a few mouthfuls of breakfast, which he sw'allows so hastily that he suffers from indigestion for the rest of the day.
He now starts off at a run in a vain effort to be in time for his work. On his way he suddenly recollects that in his hurry he has forgotten some important paper, so he has to run back to his house to get them. Perhaps he goes to his office by the railway. If this is the case, of course he misses his proper train, and has to wait impatiently for half an hour on the station platform.
Hot and tired with his struggles against time, he rushes into office at least half an hour late and receives a rebuke from his superiors. A large office is a complicated machine, and probably his more punctual associates have been unable to get on with their work satisfactorily owing to the absence of the late comer, for whom therefore they entertain no kindly feelings.
The whole establishment may have to be kept working for some time after office hours because one man has come late. In the evening we may suppose that our unpunctual man's wife has a well-cooked dinner to refresh him after his day’s work. But she has to be ready at the hour w'hen he ought to return, and he loiters on the way.
So when at last he arrives, the carefully prepared dinner has been kept waiting till it is overcooked, and the whole family sits down in no pleasant temper to a meal which might have been, but for one man's selfish irregularity, an agreeable termination to the labours of the day.
In this way the vice of unpunctuality makes a man a continued source of worry and annoyance to himself and others. In special cases it may produce far more serious evil effects. Many men by . being late for appointments have lost valuable chance of improving their position in life, and opportunities of this kind, when once lost, are too likely never to return.
Unpunctuality in the starting of a train often leads to a disastrous railway accident. A campaign in war may be ruined by the failure of a general to effect a junction with his colleague at the appointed time and place. Marshall Blucher pledged himself to come to the support of Wellington on June 18th, 1815.
If he had not made tremendous efforts punctually to keep his promise, Napoleon might have won the battle of Waterloo and changed the future course of European history. Although in ordinary matters such great issues do not depend on the faithful observance of appointments, in almost all cases the habit of unpunctuality works much mischief, and even- one who, without sufficient excuse, is late for an .appointment, is besides guilty of great rudeness to those whom he keeps waiting.