The Thief of Time, A Play


John Ray,
Charley Cheerful,
Ralph Ready,
} School-boys.

Mr. Hanks, a Deaf Gentleman.

John Clod, a Countryman.

Patsy Flinn, an Irishman.

Scene.A Quiet Place in the Country.

Enter  Ralph Ready, r., with School-books.

Ralph.   Twenty minutes of nine. I can take it easy this morning. How glad I am I staid at home last night and studied "Spartacus." It's Declamation Day, and I want to win the highest mark. If I  fail, it will not be for want of study. I believe I'm all right. (Declaims.)

"Ye call me Chief—"*

Enter Charley Cheerful, l.

Charley.   (Clapping his hands.)   Bravo! Bravo! Spartacus. "They do well to call you chief!" number one in arithmetic, history, and geography; and to-day I've no doubt we shall call you number one in declamation.

Ralph.   Ah, Charley, glad to see you. Are you all ready for the contest?

Charley.   Yes, Ralph. (Declaims.)

"Again to the battle, Achaians;

Our hearts bid the tyrants defiance."

Ralph.   I see "a foeman worthy of my steel." Well, Charley, good luck to you.

Charley.   The same to you. I believe we are about equally matched. I want to take the highest mark, but if I am to be defeated, there's no one to whom I'd sooner surrender the "victor's laurels" than to you.

Ralph.   And I can heartily say the same of you; but we must both look out. John Ray told the boys yesterday he was bound to have the highest mark.

Charley.   I don't fear him.

Ralph.   But he's a good declaimer, Charley.

Charley.   I'll acknowledge that; but you know he's a terrible fellow for putting off study until the last moment. It was only yesterday morning Master Jones decided to have declamation to-day. The only time we had to prepare was yesterday noon, last night, and this morning.


Ralph.   Time enough, Charley.

Charley.   Certainly. But I know John Ray hasn't employed it. Yesterday noon he went boating; last night I'm afraid he visited Hopkins's melon patch; and this morning I saw him from my window playing ball.

Ralph.   Then we've not much to fear from him; but here he is, puffing like a porpoise.

Enter John Ray, l., with a book.

John.   Hallo, boys! what's the time?

Charley.   Eighteen minutes of nine. All ready for the declamation?

John.   Not yet; there's time enough.

Ralph.   Time enough! What have you selected?

John.   "Tell's Address." I'm going to pitch into it now. I can do it in eighteen minutes.

Charley.   Why, you haven't left it till now?

John.   Of course I have. Time enough, I tell you. I've got a locomotive memory, you know. None of your slow coaches. I shall only have to read it over two or three times.

Ralph.   But why didn't you take it up before?

John.   What's the use? I went boating yesterday; and last night I went—somewhere else.

Charley.   Yes! you took a meloncholy walk. Hey, John?

John.   What do you mean by that?

Charley.   No matter. You'd better study Tell's Address, if you expect to be ready by nine o'clock.

John.   So I had. Well, you run along, and let me have this place to myself. It's a quiet place. So good by. I'll see you by nine o'clock, with Tell's Address perfect.

Charley.   Well, good luck to you. Come Ralph.

Ralph.   I say, Ray; what's the proverb about the "thief of time"?


John.   Who do you call a thief?

Ralph.   A slow coach, that will rob you of your laurels spite of your locomotive memory. Come along Charley.

[Exeunt Charley and Ralph r.

John.   Now, who told them I was after melons last night.   (Opens book.)   "Tell's Address." Won't I astonish those lads! What's the use of wasting time in study before it's needed?   (Reads.)

"Ye crags and peaks, I'm with you once again."

Enter Mr. Hanks, l.

Mr. Hanks.   Look here, boy; where's Mr. Simmons's house?

John.   O, bother! Over by the mill.

Mr. H.   Hey?

John.   Over by the mill.

Mr. H.   Over that hill? Good gracious! You don't mean I've got to travel as far as that, do you, in the hot sun?

John.   No, no; it's only a little ways.

Mr. H.   Only a little blaze! It's an awful hot morning.

John.   O, dear! this old fellow is as deaf as a post.   (Very loud.)   Mr.—Simmons—lives—down—by—the—mill.

Mr. H.   O, he does! Why didn't you say so before? Down that way?   (Points r.)

John.   (Loud.)   Yes! To—the—right! That—old—wooden—one—ahead!

Mr. H.   Who do you call an old wooden head?

John.   O, dear! I never shall get that piece. You don't understand. I—said—wooden—house.

Mr. H.   Hey?

John.   O, dear! O, dear!   (Points r.)   That's Mr. Simmons's—house—down—there!

Mr. H.   O, yes. Thank you, thank you. I'm a little hard of hearing.


John.   I see you are. Suffering from a cold?

Mr. H.   Hey?

John.   O, what a nuisance! Is it—from a cold you—suffer?

Mr. H.   Old buffer, indeed! Be more respectful to your elders, young man; more respectful.

[Exit, r.

John.   I've got rid of him at last, and five minutes gone. O, dear!   (Reads.)

"Ye crags and peaks, I'm with you once again!"

Enter Mr. Hanks, r.

Mr. H.   Did you say right or left?

John.   Good gracious! the man's back! To—the right! To the right! Follow the stream.

Mr. H.   Hey?

John.   Follow—the—stream—as—it—flows.

Mr. H.   Follow my nose! You're an impudent scamp! I'll ask you no more questions.

[Exit, r.

John.  I hope you won't. This comes of trying to do a good-natured act. O, dear! that address!   (Reads.)

"Ye crags and peaks, I'm with you once again!"

Enter John Clod, l.

Clod.   I say, sonny; yer hain't seen nothin' of a keow, have yer, here or hereabouts?

John.   No, I haven't seen no cow.

Clod.   Well, don't git mad. It's plaguy strange where that are keow has travelled tew. Brand new keow dad brought hum from market yesterday. What on airth shall I do? She's a brindle, short horns. Yeou hain't seen her?

John.   No, I haven't seen her. I've seen no cows or cattle of any kind. It's no use stopping here.

Clod.   Well, I dunno what's to be did. Marm,  she dropped her bakin', and scooted one way; dad quit ploughin', and scooted another; and I've been scootin' every which way. Ain't heard a keow moo—mooing, have yer?

John.   I don't believe there's a cow within forty miles of here.

Clod.   Sho! yer jokin' neow. Neow, see here; I kinder think yeou dew know somethin' about that keow. Jest tell me where she is, and I don't mind ginning yer fo'pence.

John.   I tell you again, I know nothing about your cow. I'm studing my lesson; and if you don't clear out and leave me in peace, I shall never get it.

Clod.   Sho! Well, I don't want to hender ye, but I should like to know what's become of that are keow.

[Exit, r.

John.   Gone at last. Was ever a fellow so plagued! I've only got eight minutes, and I must study.   (Goes to back of stage, and walks up and down, studying.)

Enter Patsy Flinn, l.

Patsy.   Begorra, it's a foine irrant I's on ony way. It's all along iv thim watthermillons, bad luck to 'em! Slaping swately on my bid last night thinking uv the bould b'ys that fit, blid, and run away from Canady, I heerd a v'ice in the millon patch, "Here's a bouncer, b'ys." Faix, didn't I lept out uv that bid, and didn't I hurry on my clo'es, and didn't I take a big shtick, and didn't I run fur the patch, and didn't I find nobody? To be sure I did! So this morning, Mr. Hopkins sinds me to the school-house to find the b'ys that invadid the sacred retrait, which is the millon-patch. But how will I find thim? Begorra, I should know that v'ice; and I'll make the whole school shtand up togither one by one and shout, "Here's a bouncer!" that I will.


John.   (Coming down r. of stage.)   Now let's see how much I know.   (Declaims.)

"Ye crags and peaks, I'm with you once again!"

Patsy.   By my sowl, that's the v'ice of my dr'ams!

 "I hold to you the hands you first beheld,

To show they still are free."

Patsy.   Fray, is it, begorra! Ye'll not hould thim long, me b'y!

 "Methinks I hear

A spirit in your echoes answer me."

Patsy.   Begorra, ye'll soon hear an Irish echo ax ye something else!

 "And bid your tenant welcome to his home


Patsy.   Begorra, you're wilcome to no more watermillons, ye'll find!

 "Ye guards of Liberty!"

Patsy.   Ye little blackguard!

 "I'm with you once again! I hold my hands to you,

To show they still are free!"

Patsy.   Begorra, they're stained with watermillons, sure!

 "I rush to you,

As though I could embrace you!"

(Runs into Patsy's arms.)

Patsy.   Come on, I'm waiting for you! O, you blackguard! O, yes spalpeen! I've got yes!

John.   Who are you? What do you want? Let me go!

Patsy.   Niver! Ye must go along wid me, my fine lad; there's a bill a waiting for you at farmer Hopkins's.

John.   Farmer Hopkins! But I shall be late for school.

Patsy.   O, niver mind the school. You'll get a little uv it there, from a nice big cowhide.


John.   Let me go, I say!

Patsy.   Quit your howling, and come along.

John.   I won't. Help! Help! Help!

Enter Charley and Ralph, r.

Charley.   What's the matter, Ray?

Ralph.   Hallo, Patsy! What's to pay now?

Patsy.   A small bill for watermillons, Master Ralph.

Ralph.   O, I see; you're found out, Ray!

John.   Well, I wan't the only one in the patch last night.

Ralph.   But you're the only one found out; so you must take the consequences.

Charley.  Master Jones sent us to look for you; it's five minutes after nine.

John.   O, dear, what's to become of me!

Ralph.   You must get to school at once. Patsy, I'll be answerable for John Ray's appearance at Farmer Hopkins's after school. Won't that do?

Patsy.   To be sure it will. I can depind upon you, Master Ralph. But mind and cape an eye on that chap; fur it's my opinion he's a little cracked; he's bin ravin' about crags, and peaks, and liberty like a full-blooded Fenian. I'll go home and practise a bit wid that cowhide.

[Exit, L.

Charley.   Well, John, got your piece?

John.   Got my piece? No. I've been bothered to death!

Ralph.   You've been keeping company with the "thief of time."

John.   I'd like to know what you mean by that.

Ralph.   I'll tell you. You should have studied your piece yesterday noon; but, instead of that, you went boating. You should have studied last night; but instead of that, you got into a scrape, which  promises to make trouble for you; and this morning you played ball instead of taking time for your work.

John.   Well, I meant to have studied it yesterday, but I thought I had plenty of time. I wanted a little recreation.

Charley.   Yes, John; but you should look out for the lessons first, and not neglect them. Come, let's go to school.

John.   And be at the foot of the class. I don't like this.

Ralph.   You'll find a remedy for it in the copy-book.

John.   What is it?

Ralph.   A warning to the dilatory—"Procrastination is the thief of time."

[Exeunt, R.

* The dialogue can be lengthened, if necessary, by allowing Charley and Ralph to declaim the whole of their pieces.