Midnight on the St. Lawrence River. In the darkness, barge after barge loaded with British soldiers floated silently down the broad river. As they were nearing their destination, the commander of the army, Wolfe, recited to the officers of his staff these lines of Thomas Gray:
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
When he had finished the stanzas, he told his officers he would rather be the author of that poem than win the battle with the French on the morrow.
By a mountain path the army made its ascent in the darkness from the river to the Plains of Abraham. When the sun began to shine the morning of September 13, 1759, its rays were reflected upon the bayonets and cannon of the English army. The French army fought well and courageously all that day; but their courage and their heroism, and that of their gallant commander, Montcalm, were all in vain. The battle had been irrevocably lost by night. An empire, a kingdom, the dominion of North America, had been lost by night. It was not the first, and not the last, time that a battle and a kingdom were lost by night.
Belshazzar lost his kingdom at night. He fell a victim to the sins of the night. One night did the fatal business for this young king of Babylon. One night has done the fatal business for many another young man.
In Philadelphia sometime ago the courts had a peculiar case of a man who was adjudged sane by day but insane by night. Sometimes the mistakes and errors of the night suggest and demand the sins of the day. Lawless acts of the day are committed to cover up and meet the demands of the sins of the night.
Night life has played its part, and a chief part, in the downfall of many a trusted employee. The stealings and dishonest transactions of the day are carried out to cover up the losses of the night. God knows there are enough sins by day, but many of them are the lineal descendants of the sins of the night. The true epitaph for many a man who has made shipwreck of his career, and cast away his kingdom, and who now lies dissceptered and uncrowned, is this: "In that night he was slain." Every night, in every city, immortal souls, made for fellowship with God, made for the purple robe of honor and the scepter of right and the throne of influence, are stained, marred, broken, slain, lost. O night watchman! O policeman! O physician! O nurse! O priest! O minister! O magistrate! O father or mother! O sister or wife! What if thy lips could open and tell of the tragedies of the night!