Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Midnight Platoon
by [?]

He had often heard of it. Connoisseurs of such matters, young newspaper men trying to make literature out of life and smuggle it into print under the guard of unwary editors, and young authors eager to get life into their literature, had recommended it to him as one of the most impressive sights of the city; and he had willingly agreed with them that he ought to see it. He imagined it very dramatic, and he was surprised to find it in his experience so largely subjective. If there was any drama at all it was wholly in his own consciousness. But the thing was certainly impressive in its way.

I.

He thought it a great piece of luck that he should come upon it by chance, and so long after he had forgotten about it that he was surprised to recognize it for the spectacle he had often promised himself the pleasure of seeing.

Pleasure is the right word; for pleasure of the painful sort that all hedonists will easily imagine was what he expected to get from it; though upon the face of it there seems no reason why a man should delight to see his fellow-men waiting in the winter street for the midnight dole of bread which must in some cases be their only meal from the last midnight to the next midnight. But the mere thought of it gave him pleasure, and the sight of it, from the very first instant. He was proud of knowing just what it was at once, with the sort of pride which one has in knowing an earthquake, though one has never felt one before. He saw the double file of men stretching up one street, and stretching down the other from the corner of the bakery where the loaves were to be given out on the stroke of twelve, and he hugged himself in a luxurious content with his perspicacity.

It was all the more comfortable to do this because he was in a coup, warmly shut against the sharp, wholesome Christmas-week weather, and was wrapped to the chin in a long fur overcoat, which he wore that night as a duty to his family, with a conscience against taking cold and alarming them for his health. He now practised another piece of self-denial: he let the cabman drive rapidly past the interesting spectacle, and carry him to the house where he was going to fetch away the child from the Christmas party. He wished to be in good time, so as to save the child from anxiety about his coming; but he promised himself to stop, going back, and glut his sensibility in a leisurely study of the scene. He got the child, with her arms full of things from the Christmas-tree, into the coup, and then he said to the cabman, respectfully leaning as far over from his box to listen as his thick greatcoat would let him: “When you get up there near that bakery again, drive slowly. I want to have a look at those men.”

“All right, sir,” said the driver intelligently, and he found his why skilfully out of the street among the high banks of the seasonable Christmas-week snow, which the street-cleaners had heaped up there till they could get round to it with their carts.

When they were in Broadway again it seemed lonelier and silenter than it was a few minutes before. Except for their own coup, the cable-cars, with their flaming foreheads, and the mechanical clangor of their gongs at the corners, seemed to have it altogether to themselves. A tall, lumbering United States mail van rolled by, and impressed my friend in the coup with a cheap and agreeable sense of mystery relative to the letters it was carrying to their varied destination at the Grand Central Station. He listened with half an ear to the child’s account of the fun she had at the party, and he watched with both eyes for the sight of the men waiting at the bakery for the charity of the midnight loaves.