Read THE OUTER WORLD - CHAPTER V. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on

“I will be a poor man among poor men,” said John Storm to himself as he drove to his vicar’s house in Eaton Place, but he awoke next morning in a bedroom that did not answer to his ideas of a life of poverty.  A footman came with hot water and tea, and also a message from the canon overnight saying he would be pleased to see Mr. Storm in the study after breakfast.

The study was a sumptuous apartment immediately beneath, with soft carpets on which his feet made no noise, and tiger-skins over the backs of chairs.  As he entered it a bright-faced man in middle life, clean-shaven, wearing a gold-mounted pince-nez, and bubbling over with politeness, stepped forward to receive him.

“Welcome to London, my dear Mr. Storm.  When the letter came from the Prime Minister I said to my daughter Felicityyou will see her presentlyI trust you will be good friendsI said, ’It is a privilege, my child, to meet any wish of the dear Earl of Erin, and I am proud to be in at the beginning of a career that is sure to be brilliant and distinguished.’”

John Storm made some murmur of dissent.

“I trust you found your rooms to your taste, Mr. Storm?”

John Storm had found them more than he expected or desired.

“Ah, well, humble but comfortable, and in any case please regard them as your own, to receive whom you please therein, and to dispense your own hospitalities.  This house is large enough.  We shall not meet oftener than we wish, so we can not quarrel.  The only meal we need take together is dinner.  Don’t expect too much.  Simple but wholesomethat’s all we can promise you in a clergyman’s family.”

John Storm answered that food was an indifferent matter to him, and that half an hour after dinner he never knew what he had eaten.  The canon laughed and began again.

“I thought it best you should come to us, being a stranger in London, though I confess I have never had but one of my clergy residing with me before.  He is here now.  You’ll see him by-and-bye.  His name is Golightly, a simple, worthy young man, from one of the smaller colleges, I believe.  Useful, you know, devoted to me and to my daughter, but of course a different sort of person altogether, ander ”

It was a peculiarity of the canon that whatever he began to talk about, he always ended by talking of himself.

“I sent for you this morning, not having had the usual opportunity of meeting before, that I might tell you something of our organization and your own duties....  You see in me the head of a staff of six clergy.”

John Storm was not surprised; a great preacher must be followed by flocks of the poor; it was natural that they should wish him to help them and to minister to them.

“We have no poor in my parish, Mr. Storm.”

“No poor, sir?”

“On the contrary, her Majesty herself is one of my parishioners.”

“That must be a great grief to you, sir?”

“Oh, the poor!  Ah, yes, certainly.  Of course, we have our associated charities, such as the Maternity Home, founded in Soho by Mrs. Callendera worthy old Scotswomanodd and whimsical, perhaps, but rich, very rich and influential.  My clergy, however, have enough to do with the various departments of our church work.  For instance, there is the Ladies’ Society, the Fancy Needlework classes, and the Decorative Flower Guild, not to speak of the daughter churches and the ministration in hospitals, for I always holder ”

John Storm’s mind had been wandering, but at the mention of the hospital he looked up eagerly.

“Ah, yes, the hospital.  Your own duties will be chiefly concerned with our excellent hospital of Martha’s Vineyard.  You will have the spiritual care of all patients and nursesyes, nurses alsowithin its precincts, precisely as if it were your parish.  ‘This is my parish,’ you will say to yourself, and treat it accordingly.  Not yet being in full Orders, you will be unable to administer the sacrament, but you will have one service daily in each of the wards, taking the wards in rotation.  There are seven wards, so there will be one service in each ward once a week, for I always say that fewer ”

“Is it enough?” said John.  “I shall be only too pleased ”

“Ah, well, we’ll see.  On Wednesday evenings we have service in the church, and nurses not on night duty are expected to attend.  Some fifty of them altogether, and rather a curious compound.  Ladies among them?  Yes, the daughters of gentlemen, but also persons of all classes.  You will hold yourself responsible for their spiritual welfare.  Let me seethis is Fridaysay you take the sermon on Wednesday next, if that is agreeable.  As to views, my people are of all shades of colour, so I ask my clergy to take strictly via media viewsstrictly via media.  Do you intone?”

John Storm had been wandering again, but he recovered himself in time to say he did not.

“That is a pity; our choir is so excellenttwo violins, a viola, clarinet, ’cello, double bass, the trumpets and drums, and of course the organ.  Our organist himself ”

At that moment a young clergyman came into the room, making apologies and bowing subserviently.

“Ah, this is Mr. Golightlythe-h’mHon. and Rev. Mr. Storm.You will take charge of Mr. Storm and bring him to church on Sunday morning.”

Mr. Golightly delivered his message.  It was about the organist.  His wife had called to say that he had been removed to the hospital for some slight operation, and there was some difficulty about the singer of Sunday morning’s anthem.

“Most irritating!  Bring her up.”  The curate went out backward.  “I shall ask you to excuse me, Mr. Storm.  My daughter, Felicityah, here she is.”

A tall young woman in spectacles entered.

“This is our new housemate, Mr. Storm, nephew of dear Lord Erin.  Felicity, my child, I wish you to drive Mr. Storm round and introduce him to our people, for I always say a young clergyman in London ”

John Storm mumbled something about the Prime Minister.

“Going to pay your respects to your uncle now?  Very good and proper.  Next week will do for the visits.  Yes, yes.  Come in, Mrs. Koenig.”

A meek, middle-aged woman had appeared at the door.  She was dark, and had deep luminous eyes with the moist look to be seen in the eyes of a tired old terrier.

“This is the wife of our organist and choir master.  Good day!  Kindest greetings to the Prime Minister....  And, by the way, let us say Monday for the beginning of your chaplaincy at the hospital.”

The Earl of Erin, as First Lord of the Treasury, occupied the narrow, unassuming brick house which is the Treasury residence in Downing Street.  Although the official head of the Church, with power to appoint its bishops and highest dignitaries, he was secretly a sceptic, if not openly a derider of spiritual things.  For this attitude his early love passage had been chiefly accountable.  That strife between duty and passion which had driven the woman he loved to religion had driven him in the other direction and left a broad swath of desolation in his soul.  He had seen little of his brother since that evil time, and nothing whatever of his brother’s son.  Then John had written, “I am soon to be bound by the awful tie of the priesthood,” and he had thought it necessary to do something for him.  When John was announced he felt a thrill of tender feeling to which he had long been a stranger.  He got up and waited.  The young man with his mother’s face and the eyes of an enthusiast was coming down the long corridor.

John Storm saw his uncle first in the spacious old cabinet room which looks out on the little garden and the Park.  He was a gaunt old man with, meagre mustache and hair, and a face like a death’s head.  He held out his hand and smiled.  His hand was cold and his smile was half tearful and half saturnine.

“You are like your mother, John.”

John never knew her.

“When I saw her last you were a child in arms and she was younger than you are now.”

“Where was that, uncle?”

“In her coffin, poor girl.”

The Prime Minister shuffled some papers and said, “Well, is there anything you wish for?”

“Nothing.  I’ve come to thank you for what you’ve done already.”

The Prime Minister made a deprecatory gesture.

“I almost wish you had chosen another career, John.  Still, the Church has its opportunities and its chances, and if I can ever ”

“I am satisfied; more than satisfied,” said John.  “My choice is based, I trust, on a firm vocation.  God’s work is great, sir; the greatest of all in London.  That is why I am so grateful to you.  Think of it, sir ”

John was leaning forward in his chair with one arm stretched out.

“Of the five millions of people in this vast city, not one million cross the threshold of church or chapel.  And then remember their condition.  A hundred thousand live in constant want, slowly starving to death, every day and hour, and a quarter of the old people of London die as paupers.  Isn’t it a wonderful scene, sir?  If a man is willing to be spiritually dead to the worldto leave family and friendsto go forth never to return, as one might go to his execution ”

The Prime Minister listened to the ardent young man who was talking to him there with his mother’s voice, and then said

“I’m sorry.”


“I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake.”

John Storm looked puzzled.

“I’ve sent you to the wrong place, John.  When you wrote, I naturally supposed you were thinking of the Church as a career, and I tried to put you in the way of it.  Do you know anything of your vicar?”

John knew that fame spoke of him as a great preacherone of the few who had passed through their Pentecost and come out with the gift of tongues.

“Precisely!” The Prime Minister gave a bitter little laugh.  “But let me tell you something about him.  He was a poor curate in the country where the lord of the manor chanced to be a lady.  He married the lady of the manor.  His wife died and he bought a London parish.  Then, by the help of an old actor who gave lessons in elocution, hewell, he set up his Pentecost.  Since then he has been a fashionable preacher and frequents the houses of great people.  Ten years ago he was made an honorary canon, and, when he hears of an appointment to a bishopric, he says in a tearful voice, ‘I don’t know what the dear Queen has got against me.’”

“Well, sir?”

“Well, if I had known you felt like that I should scarcely have sent you to Canon Wealthy.  And yet I hardly know where else a young man of your opinions...  I’m afraid the Church has a good many Canon Wealthys in it.”

“God forbid!” said John.  “No doubt there are Pharisees in these days just as in the days of Christ, but the Church is still the pillar of the State ”

“The caterpillar, you mean, boyeating out its heart and its vitals.”

The Prime Minister gave another bitter little laugh, then looked quickly into John’s flushed face and said: 

“But it’s poor work for an old man to sap away a young man’s enthusiasm.”

“You can’t do that, uncle,” said John, “because God is the absolute ruler of all things, good and bad, and he governs both to his glory.  Let him only give us strength to endure our exile ”

“I don’t like to hear you talk like that, John.  I think I know what the upshot will be.  There’s a gang of men aboutAnglican Catholics they call themselves; well, remember the German proverb, ’Every priestling hides a popeling.’...  And if you are to be in the Church, John, is there any reason why you shouldn’t marry and be reasonable?  To tell you the truth, I’m rather a lonely old man, whatever I may seem, and if your mother’s son would give me a sort of a grandsoneh?”

The Prime Minister was pretending to laugh again.

“Come, John, come, it seems a pitya fine young fellow like you, too.  Are there no sweet young girls about in these days?  Or are they all dead and gone since I was a young fellow?  I could give you a wide choice, you know, for when a man stands high enough... in fact, you would find me reasonableyou might have anybody you liked, rich or poor, dark or fair. ”

John Storm had been sitting in torment, and now he rose to go.  “No, uncle,” he said, in a thicker voice, “I shall never marry.  A clergyman who is married is bound to life by too many ties.  Even his affection for his wife is a tie.  And then there is her affection for the world, its riches, its praise, its honours. ”

“Well, well, we’ll say no more.  After all, it’s better than running wild, and that’s what most young men seem to be doing nowadays.  But then your long education abroadand your poor father left to look after himself!  Good-day to you.  Come and see me now and then.  How like your mother you are sometimes!  Good-day!”

When the door of the cabinet room closed on John Storm the Prime Minister thought, “Poor boy, he’s laying up for himself a big heartache one of these fine days!”

And John Storm, going down the street with uncertain step, said to himself:  “How strange he should talk like that!  But, thank God, he didn’t produce a flicker in me.  I died to all that a year ago.”

Then he lifted his head and his footstep lightened, and deep in some secret place the thought came proudly, “She shall see that to renounce the world is to possess the worldthat a man may be poor and have all the kingdom of the world at his feet.”

He went back by the Underground from Westminster Bridge.  It was midday, and the train was crowded.  His spirits were high and he talked with every one near him.  Getting out at Victoria, he came upon his vicar on the platform and saluted him rather demonstratively.  The canon responded with some restraint and then stepped into a first-class carriage.

On turning into Eaton Place he came upon a group of people standing around something that lay on the pavement.  It was an old woman, a tattered, bedraggled creature with a pinched and pallid face.  “Is it an accident?” a gentleman was saying, and somebody answered, “No, sir, she’s gorn off in a faint.”  “Why doesn’t some one take her to the hospital?” said the gentleman, and then, like the Levite, he passed by on the other side.  The butcher’s cart drew up at the curb, and the butcher jumped down, saying, “There never is no p’lice about when they’re wanted for anythink.”

“But they aren’t wanted here, friend,” said somebody from the outside.  It was John Storm, and he was pushing his way through the crowd.

“Will somebody knock at that door, please?” He lifted the old thing in his arms and carried her toward the canon’s house.  The footman looked aghast.  “Let me know when the canon returns,” said John, and then marched up the carpeted stairs to his rooms.

An hour afterward the old woman opened her eyes and said:  “Anythink gorn wrong?  Wot’s up?  Is it the work’us?”

It was a clear case of destitution and collapse.  John Storm began to feed the old creature with the chicken and milk sent up for his own lunch.

Some time in the afternoon he heard the voice and step of the vicar in the room below.  Going down to the study, he was about to knock; but the voice continued in varying tones, now loud, now low.  During a pause he rapped, and then, with noticeable irritation, the voice cried, “Come in!”

He found the vicar, with a manuscript in hand, rehearsing his Sunday’s sermon.  It was a shock to John, but it helped him to understand what his uncle had said about the canon’s Pentecost.

The canon’s brow was clouded.  “Ah, is it you?  I was sorry to see you getting out of a third-class carriage to-day, Mr. Storm.”

John answered that it was the poor man’s class, and therefore, he thought, it ought to be his.

“You do yourself an injustice, Mr. Storm.  Besides, to tell you the truth, I don’t choose that my assistant clergy ”

John looked ashamed.  “If that is your view, sir,” he said, “I don’t know what you’ll say to what I’ve been doing since.”

“I’ve heard of it, and I confess I’m not pleased.  Whatever your old protegee may be, my house is no place for her.  I help to maintain charitable institutions for such cases, and I will ask you to lose no time in having her removed to the hospital.”

John was crushed.  “Very well, sir, if that is your wish; only I thought you said my rooms Besides, the poor old thing fills her place as well as Queen Victoria, and perhaps the angels are watching the one as much as the other.”

Next day John Storm called to see the old woman at Martha’s Vineyard, and he saw the matron, the house doctor, and a staff nurse as well.  His adventure was known to everybody at the hospital.  Once or twice he caught looks of amused compassion, and heard a twitter of laughter.  As he stood by the bed, the old woman muttered:  “I knoo ez it wuzn’t the work’us, my dear.  He spoke to me friendly and squeedged my ’and.”

Coming through the wards he had looked for a face he could not see; but just then he was aware of a young woman, in the print dress and white apron of a nurse, standing in silence at the bed-head.  It was Glory, and her eyes were wet with tears.

“You mustn’t do such things,” she said hoarsely; “I can’t bear it,” and she stamped her foot.  “Don’t you see that these people ”

But she turned about and was gone before he could reply.  Glory was ashamed for him.  Perhaps she had been taking his part!  He felt the blood mounting to his face, and his cheeks tingling.  Glory!  His eyes were swimming, and he dared not look after her; but he could have found it in his heart to kiss the old bag of bones on the bed.

That night he wrote to the parson in the island:  “Glory has left off her home garments, and now looks more beautiful than ever in the white simplicity of the costume of the nurse.  Her vocation is a great one.  God grant she may hold on to it!” Then something about the fallacy of ceremonial religion and the impossibility of pleasing God by such religious formalities.  “But if we have publicans and Pharisees now, even as they existed in Christ’s time, all the more service is waiting for that man for whom life has no ambitions, death no terrors.  I thank God I am in a great measure dead to these things....  I will fulfil my promise to look after Glory.  My constant prayer is against Agag.  It is so easy for him to get a foothold in a girl’s heart here.  This great new world, with its fashions, its gaieties, its beauty, and its brightnessno wonder if a beautiful young girl, tingling with life and ruddy health, should burn with impatience to fling herself into the arms of it.  Agag is in London, and as insinuating as ever.”