The out-door air rings with laughter, and with the moving to and fro of thousands on the great promenades. The dashing span, adrip with the foam of the long country ride, rushes past as you halt at the curb-stone.
Mirth, revelry, beauty, fashion, magnificence mingle in the great metropolitan picture, until the thinking man goes home to think more seriously, and the praying man to pray more earnestly.
A beautiful and overwhelming thing is the city in the first and second watches of the night.
But the clock strikes twelve, and the third watch begins. The thunder of the city has rolled from the air. Slight sounds now cut the night with a distinctness that excites your attention. You hear the tinkling of the bell of the street-car in the far distance; the baying of the dog; the stamp of the horse in the adjoining street; the slamming of a saloon door; the hiccoughing of the inebriate; and the shriek of the steam-whistle five miles away. Solemn and stupendous is this third watch. There are respectable men abroad. The city missionary is going up that court, to take a scuttle of coal to a poor family. The undertaker goes up the steps of that house, from which there comes a bitter cry, as though the destroying angel had smitten the first-born. The minister of Jesus passes along; he has been giving the sacrament to a dying Christian. The physician hastens past, the excited messenger a few steps ahead, impatient to reach the threshold. Men who are forced to toil into the midnight are hastening to their pillow. But the great multitudes are asleep. The lights are out in the dwellings, save here and there one. That is the light of the watcher, for the remedies must be administered, and the fever guarded, and the restless tossing of the coverlet resisted, and the ice kept upon the temples, and the perpetual prayer offered by hearts soon to be broken. The street-lamps, standing in long line, reveal the silence and the slumber of the town.
Stupendous thought: a great city asleep! Weary arm gathering strength for to-morrow’s toil. Hot brain getting cooled off. Rigid muscles relaxing. Excited nerves being soothed. White locks of the octogenarian in thin drifts across the white pillow—fresh fall of flakes on snow already fallen. Children with dimpled hands thrown put over the pillow, with every breath inhaling a new store of fun and frolic.
Let the great hosts sleep! A slumberless Eye will watch them. Silent be the alarm-bells and merciful the elements! Let one great wave of refreshing slumber roll across the heart of the great town, submerging trouble and weariness and pain. It is the third watch of the night, and time for the city to sleep.