The Midnight Plot
Edward H. Joy
This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
'Our Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The
In the days of my boyhood one of the great occasions during
the stay of an Officer was the night when ‘My Life Story’ was
to be delivered by the Captain.
Some of the, of course, were prowsy in the extreme,
expecting us to be interested in details of the village from
which they came, and some of them, I now suspect, laid on the
colours a wee bit thickly, being grafted with vivid
There was one Captain, much beloved in spite of his
asthmatical voice and his idea that he could play a cornet –
he has long since been put down as ‘promoted to Glory’ – or
should it be ‘put up’?
He told us an exciting tale.
One night he was called out of bed to find a rough
fierce-looking man standing in the street insisting that he
should accompany him to a certain district of the town which
the Officer knew to be of a very disreputable character.
He was assured that the man was dying and had sent for
him to pray with him.
Through the silent streets they took their way, nobody seeing
them pass and the Captain trying to make conversation, efforts
which were discouraged by his companion, until they reached a
house where they climbed up stairs to the top-most floor, and
the guide ushered the Officer into a room in which, on a bed
in the far corner, was lying a man.
“That’s him wot sent fer yer!” said the rough, fierce-looking
The Salvationist made his way across the room with the
intention of speaking to the occupant of the bed, when,
suddenly, the man jumped up, threw aside his clothes, and
exclaimed, “Righto, Bill, we’ll settle him!”
Question and answer gave a clue to the situation.
It appeared that that same evening, while speaking in
the Market Place, the Captain had so accurately described the
state of an unsaved man – incidentally, drawing from his own
experiences – as to fit into the circumstances of these men,
and to make their consciences convict them of being the very
men the speaker was describing.
If their deeds were known to him, they thought, then it
was vital to their safety that he should be quietened.
It was not easy for our man to convince them otherwise, and
long was the wordy argument, and tense was the situation.
(how we hugged ourselves, as youngsters, in the
excitement of the story, for the picture of our little Captain
in the grasp of two hulking roughs was a thriller indeed!)
But wisdom on the part of the Salvationist, as he fell
to his knees and prayed for the Salvation of his captors –
never mentioning his own needs – and, at length, it dawned on
his captors that they had made a huge mistake, and without
much more ado apologies were forthcoming, and the two men
offered to show him the way home.
This was not the end of the story, for the Captain, being that
sort of a forgiving man, struck up a chumship with them which
eventually led to their conversion; it was they, themselves,
who first told the story of the ‘midnight plot’.
Both lived for many years in the enjoyment of an ardent
The thought, however, of that supposed sick man jumping off
the bed and laying hold of the unsuspecting Captain, sent me
to my bed with vivid dreams ahead of me, and a wonder as to
what might happen to me if I ever became an Officer.