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

“Martha’s Vineyard.

“Dear Auntie Rachel:  Tell grandpa, to begin with, that John Storm preached his first sermon on Wednesday last, and, according to programme, I was there to hear it.  Oh, God bless me!  What a time I had of it!  He broke down in the middle, taking stage fright or pulpit fright or some such devilry, though there was nothing to be afraid of except a bandboxful of chattering girls who didn’t listen, and a few old fogies with ear-trumpets.  I was sitting in the darkness at the back, effectually concealed from the preacher by the broad shoulders of Ward Sister Allworthy, who is an example of ‘delicate femaleism’ just verging on old-maidenism.  They tell me the ‘discoorse’ was a short one, but I never got so many prayers into the time in all my born days, and my breath was coming and going so fast that the Sister must have thought they had set up a pumping-engine in the pew behind her.  Our poor, heavy-laden Mr. Storm has been here since then with his sad and eager face, but I hadn’t the stuff in me to tell him the truth about the sermon, so I told him I had forgotten to go and hear it, and may the Lord have mercy on my soul!

“You want to know how I employ my time?  Well, lest you should think I give up my days to dreams and my nights to idleness, I hasten to tell that I rise at 6, breakfast at 6.30, begin duty at 7, sup at 9.30 P.M., gossip till 10, and then go into my room and put myself to bed; and there I am at the end of it.  Being only a probationer, I am chiefly in the out-patient department, where my duties are to collect the things wanted at the dispensary, make the patients ready to see the surgeon, and pass them on to the dressers.  My patients at present are the children, and I love them, and shall break my heart when I have to leave them.  They are not always too well looked after by the surgeon, but that doesn’t matter in the least, because, you see, they are constantly watched by the best and most learned doctor in the worldthat’s me.

“Last Saturday I had my first experience of the operating theatre.  Gracious goodness!  I thought I shouldn’t survive it.  Fortunately, I had my dressings and sponges to look after, so I just stiffened my back with a sort of imaginary six-foot steel bar, and went on ‘like blazes.’  But some of these staff nurses are just ‘ter’ble’; they take a professional pleasure in descending to that inferno, and wouldn’t miss a ‘theatre’ for worlds.  On Saturday it was a little boy of five who had his leg amputated, and now when you ask the white-faced darling where he’s going to he says he’s going to the angels, and he’ll get lots of gristly pork up there.  He is too.

“The personnel of our vineyard is abundant, but there are various sour grapes growing about.  We have a medical school (containing lots of nice boys, only a girl may not speak to them even in the corridors), and a full staff of honorary and visiting physicians and surgeons.  But the only doctor we really have much to do with is the house surgeon, a young fellow who has just finished his student’s course.  His name is Abery, and since Saturday he has so much respect for Glory that she might even swear in his presence (in Manx), but Sister Allworthy takes care that she doesn’t, having designs on his celibacy herself.  He must have sung his Te Deum after the operation, for he got gloriously drunk and wanted to inject morphia in a patient recovering from trouble of the kidney.  It was an old hippopotamus of a German musician named Koenig, and he was in a frantic terror.  So I whispered to him to pretend to go to sleep, and then I told the doctor I had lost the syringe.  But’Gough bless me sowl!’what a dressing the Sister gave me!

“Yesterday was visiting-day, and when the friends of the patients come even an hospital can have its humours.  They try to sneak in little dainties which may be delicious in themselves, but are deadly poison to the people they are intended for.  Then we have to search under the bedclothes of the patients, and even feel the pockets of their visitors.  The mother of my little boy came yesterday, and I noticed such a large protuberance at her bosom under her ulster that I began to foresee another operation.  It was only a brick of currant cake, paved with lemon peel.  I hauled it out and moved round like a cloud of thunder and lightning.  But she began to cry and to say she had made it herself for Johnnie, and thenwell, didn’t I just get a wigging from the Sister, though!

“But I don’t mind what happens here, for I am in London, and to be in London is to live, and to live is to be in London.  I’ve not seen much of it yet, having only two hours off duty every dayfrom ten to twelveand then all I can do is to make little dips into the park and the district round about, like a new pigeon with its wings clipped.  But I watch the great new world from my big box up here, and see the carriages in the park and the people riding on horseback.  They have a new handshake in London.  You lift your hand to the level of your shoulder, and then waggle horizontally as if you had put your elbow out; and when you begin to speak you say, ‘Ier’ as if you had got the mumps.  But it is beautiful!  The sound of the traffic is like music, and I feel like a war-horse that wants to be marching to it.  How delightful it is to be young in a world so full of loveliness!  And if you are not very ugly it’s none the worse.

“All hospital nurses are just now basking in the sunshine of a forthcoming ball.  It is to be given at Bartimaeus’s Hospital, where they have a lecture theatre larger than the common, and the dancing there is for once to be to a happier tune.  All the earth is to be presentall the hospital earthand if I could afford to array myself in the necessary splendour, I should show this benighted London what an absolute angel Glory is!  But then my first full holiday is to be on the 24th, when I expect to be out from 10 A. M. until 10 P. M. I am nearly crazy whenever I think of it, and when the time comes to make my first plunge into London, I know I shall hold my breath exactly as if I were taking a header off Creg Malin rocks....  Glory.”