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

The chaplain of Martha’s Vineyard had not been to the hospital ball.  Before it came off he had thought of it a good deal, and as often as he remembered that he had protested to Glory against the company of Polly Love he felt hot and ashamed.  Polly was shallow and frivolous, and had a little crab-apple of a heart, but he knew no harm of her.  It was hardly manly to make a dead set at the little thing because she was foolish and fond of dress, and because she knew a man who displeased him.

Then she was Glory’s only companion, and to protest against Glory going in her company was to protest against Glory going at all.  That seemed a selfish thing to do.  Why should he deny her the delights of the ball?  He could not go to it himselfhe would not if he could; but girls liked such thingsthey loved to dance, and to be looked at and admired, and have men about them paying court and talking nonsense.

There was a sting in that thought, too; but he struggled to be magnanimous.  He was above all mean and unmanly feelingshe would withdraw his objection.

He did not withdraw it.  Some evil spirit whispered in his heart that Glory was drifting away from him.  This was the time to see for certain whether she had passed out of the range of his influence.  If she respected his authority she would not go.  If she went, he had lost his hold of her, and their old relations were at an end.

On the night of the ball he walked over to the hospital and asked for her.  She had gone, and it seemed as if the earth itself had given way beneath his feet.

He could not help feeling bitterly about Polly Love, and that caused him to remember a patient to whom her selfish little heart had shown no kindness.  It was her brother.  He was some nine or ten years older, and very different in character.  His face was pale and thinalmost asceticand he had the fiery and watery eyes of the devotee.  He had broken a blood-vessel and was threatened with consumption, but his case was not considered dangerous.  When Polly was about, his eyes would follow her round the ward with something of the humble entreaty of a dog.  It was clear that he loved his sister, and was constantly thinking of her.  But she hardly ever looked in his direction, and when she spoke to him it was in a cold or fretful voice.

John Storm had observed this.  It had brought him close to the young man, and the starved and silent heart had opened out to him.  He was a lay-brother in an Anglican Brotherhood that was settled in Bishopsgate Street.  His monastic name was Brother Paul.  He had asked to be sent to that hospital because his sister was a nurse there.  She was his only remaining relative.  One other sister he had once had, but she was goneshe was deadshe died But that was a sad and terrible story; he did not like to talk of it.

To this broken and bankrupt creature John Storm found his footsteps turning on that night when his own heart lay waste.  But on entering the ward he saw that Brother Paul had a visitor already.  He was an elderly man in a strange habita black cassock which buttoned close at the neck and fell nearly to his feet, and was girded about the waist by a black rope that had three great knots at its suspended ends.  And the habit was not more different from the habit of the world than the face of the wearer was unlike the worldly face.  It was a face full of spirituality, a face that seemed to invest everything it looked upon with a holy peacea beautiful face, without guile or craft or passion, yet not without the signs of internal strife at the temples and under the eyes; but the battles with self had all been fought and won.

As John Storm stepped up, the old man rose from his chair by the patient’s bed.

“This is the Father Superior, sir,” said Brother Paul.

“I’ve just been hearing of you,” said the Father in a gentle voice.  “You have been good to my poor brother.”

John Storm answered with some commonplaceit had been a pleasure, a happiness; the brother would soon leave them; they would all miss himperhaps himself especially.

The Father resumed his chair and listened with an earnest smile.  “I understand you, dear friend,” he said.  “It is so much more blessed to give than to receive!  Ah, if the poor blind world only knew!  How it fights for its pleasures that perish, and its pride of life that passes away!  Yet to succour a weaker brother, or protect a fallen woman, or feed a little child will bring a greater joy than to conquer all the kingdoms of the earth.”

John Storm sat down on the end of the bed.  Something had gone out to him in a moment, and he was held as by a spell.  The Father talked of the love of the worldhow strange it was, how difficult to understand, how tragic, how pitiful!  The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyehow mean, how delusive, how treacherous!  To think of the people of that mighty city day by day and night by night making themselves miserable in order that they might make themselves merry; to think of the children of men scouring the globe for its paltry possessions, that could not add one inch to the stature of the soul, while all the time the empire of peace and joy and happiness lay here at hand, here within ourselves, here in the little narrow compass of the human heart!  To give, not to get, that was the great blessedness, and to give of yourself, of your heart’s love, was the greatest blessedness of all.

John Storm was stirred.  “The Church, sir,” he said, “the Church itself has to learn that lesson.”

And then he spoke of the hopes with which he had come up to London, and how they were being broken down and destroyed; of his dreams of the Church and its mission, and how they were dying or dead already.

“What liars we are, sir!  How we colour things to justify ourselves!  Look at our sacramentsare they a lie, or are they a sacrilege?  Look at our charitiesare we Pharisees or are we hypocrites?  And our clergy, sirour fashionable clergy!  Surely some tremendous upheaval will shake to its foundations the Church wherein such things are possiblea Church that is more worldly than the world!  And then the woman-life of the Church, see how it is thrown away.  That sweetest and tenderest and holiest power, how it goes to waste under the eye and with the sanction of the Church in the frivolities of fashionin drawing-rooms, in gardens, in bazars, in theatres, in balls ”

He stopped.  His last word had arrested him.  Had he been thinking only of himself and of Glory?  His head fell and he covered his face with his hand.

“You are right, my son,” said the Father quietly, “and yet you are wrong, too.  The Church of God will not be shaken to its foundations because of the Pharisees who stand in its public places, or because of the publicans who haunt its purlieus.  Though the axe be laid to the rotten tree, yet the little seed will save its kind alive.”

Then with an earnest smile and in a gentle voice he spoke of their little brotherhood in Bishopsgate Street; how ten years ago they had founded it for detachment from earthly cares and earthly aims, and for hiddenness with God; how they had established it in the midst of the world’s, busiest highway, in the heart of the world’s greatest market, to show that they despised gold and silver and all that the blind and cheated world most prizes, just as St. Philip and St. Ignatius had established the severest of modern rules in a profane and self-indulgent century, to show that they could stamp out every suggestion of the flesh as a spark from the fires of hell.

And then he lifted his cord and pointed to the knots at the end of it, and told what they weresymbols of the three bonds by which he was boundthe three vows he had taken:  the vow of poverty, because Christ chose it for himself and his friends; the vow of obedience, because he had said, “He that heareth you heareth Me”; and the vow of chastity, because it was our duty to guard the gates of the senses, and to keep our eyes and ears and tongue from all inordinateness.

“But the lawful love of home and kindred,” said John; “what of that?”

“We convert it into what is spiritual,” said the Father.  “All human love must be based on the love of God if it is to be firm and true and enduring, and the reason of so much failure of love in natural friendship is that the love of the creature is not built upon the love of the Creator.”

“But the lovesay of mother and sonof brother and sister?”

“Ah, we have placed ourselves above the ordinary conditions of life that none may claim our affections in the same way as Christ.  Man has to contend with two sets of enemiesthose from within and those from without; and no temptations are more subtle than those which come in the name of our holiest affections.  But the sword of the spirit must keep the tempter away.  There is the Judas in all of us, and he will betray us with a kiss if he can.”

John Storm’s breast was heaving.  He could scarcely conceal his agitation; but the Father had risen to go.

“It is eight o’clock, and I must be back to Compline,” he said.  And then he laughed and added:  “We never ride in cabs; but I must needs walk across the park to-night, for I have given away all my money.”

At that the smile of an angel came into his old face, and lie said, with a sweet simplicity: 

“I love the park.  Every morning the children play there, and then it is the holy Catholic Church to me, and I like to walk in it and to lay my hands on the heads of the little ones, and to ask a blessing for them, and to empty my-self.  This morning as I was coming here I met a little boy carrying a bundle.  ‘And what is your name, my little man?’ I said, and he told me what it was.  ‘And how old are you?’ I asked.  ’Twelve years,’ he answered.  ‘And what have you got in your bundle?’ ’Father’s dinner, sir,’ he said.  ‘And what is your father, my son?’ ‘A carpenter,’ said the boy.  And I thought if I had been living in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago I might have met another little Boy carrying the dinner of his father, who was also a carpenter, in a little bundle which Mary had made up for him.  So I felt in my pocket, and all I had was my fare home again, and I gave it to the little man as a thank-offering to God that he had suffered me to meet a sweet boy of twelve whose father was a carpenter.”

John Storm’s eyes were dim with tears.

“Good-bye, Brother Paul, and God send you back to us soon!Good-bye to you, dear friend; and when the world deals harshly with you come to us for a few days in Retreat, that in the silence of your soul you may forget its vanities and vexations and fix your thoughts above.”

John Storm could not resist the impulsehe dropped to his knees at the Father’s feet.

“Bless me also, Father, as you blessed the carpenter’s boy.”

The Father raised two fingers of his right hand and said: 

“God bless you, my son, and be with you and strengthen you, and when he smiles on you may the frown of man affect you not!Father in heaven, look down on this fiery soul and succour him!  Help him to cast off every anchor that holds him to the world, and make him as a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Come out of her, my people, saith our God.’”

When John rose from his knees the saintly face was gone, and all the air seemed to be filled with a heavenly calm.

While he had been kneeling for the Father’s blessing he had been aware of a step on the floor behind him.  It was his fellow-curate, the Reverend Golightly, who was still waiting to deliver his message.

The canon had been disappointed in one of his preachers for Sunday, and being himself engaged to preside over the annual dinner of a dramatic benevolent fund to be held on the Saturday night, and therefore incapable of extra preparation, he desired that Mr. Storm should take the sermon on Sunday morning.

John promised to do so; and then his fellow-curate smiled, bowed, coughed, and left him.  A small room was kept for the chaplain on the ground floor of the hospital, and he went down to it and wrote a letter.

It was to the parson at Peel.

“No doubt you hear from Glory frequently, and know all about her progress as a probationer.  She seems to be very well, and certainly I have never seen her look so bright and so cheerful.  At the moment of writing she is out at a ball given by some of the hospital authorities.  Well, it is a perfectly harmless source of pleasure, and with all my heart I hope she is enjoying herself.  No doubt some form of amusement is necessary to a young girl in the height of her youth and health and beauty, and he would be only a poor sapless man who could not take delight in the thought that a good girl was happy.  Her fellow-nurses, too, are noble and devoted women, doing true woman’s work, and if there are some black sheep among them, that is no more than might be expected of the purest profession in the world.

“As for myself, I have tried to carry out-my undertaking to look after Glory, but I can not say how long I may be able to continue the task.  Do not be surprised if I am compelled to give it up.  You know I am dissatisfied with my present surroundings, and I am only waiting for the ruling and direction of the pillar of cloud and fire.  God alone can tell how it will move, but God will guide me.  I don’t go out more than I can help, and when I do go I get humiliated and feel foolish.  The life of London has been a great and painful surprise.  I had supposed that I knew all about it, but I have really known nothing until now.  Its cruelty, its deceit, and its treachery are terrible.  London is the Judas that is forever betraying with a kiss the young, the hopeful, the innocent.  However, it helps one to know one’s self, and that is better than lying wrapped in cotton wool.  Give my kindest greetings to everybody at Glenfabamy love to my father, too, if there are any means of conveying it.”

The letter took him long to write, and when it was written he went out into the hall to post it.  There he saw that a thunderstorm was coming, and he concluded to remain until it had passed over.  He stepped into the library and selected a book, and returned to his room to read it.  The book was St. John Chrysostom on the Priesthood, and the subject was congenial, but he could not keep his mind on the printed page:  He thought of the Father Superior, of the little brotherhood in Bishopsgate, and then of Glory at the hospital ball, and again of Glory, and yet again and again of Glory.  Do what he would, he could not help but think of her.

The storm pealed over his head, and when he returned to the hall two hours later it was still far from spent.  He stood at the open door and watched it.  Forks of lightning lit up the park, and floods of black rain made the vacant pavements like the surface of the sea.  A tinkling cab slid past at intervals, with its driver sheeted in oilskins, and now and then there was an omnibus, full within and empty without.  Only one other living thing was to be seen anywhere.  An Italian organ-man had stationed himself in front of a mansion to the left and was playing vigorously.

John Storm walked through the hospital.  It was now late, and the house was quiet.  The house-doctor had made the last of his rounds and turned into his chambers across the courtyard, and the night-nurses were boiling little kettles in their rooms between the wards.  The surgical wards were darkened, and the patients were asleep already.  In the medical wards there were screens about certain of the beds, and weary moans came from behind them.

It was after midnight when John Storm came round to the hall again, and then the rain had ceased, but the thunder was still rumbling.  He might have gone home at length, but he did not go; he realized that he was waiting for Glory.  Other nurses returned from the ball, and bowed to him and passed into the house.  He stepped into the porter’s lodge, and sat down and watched the lightning.  It began to be terrible to him, because it seemed to be symbolical.  What doom or what disaster did this storm typify and predict?  Never could he forget the night on which it befell.  It was the night of the Nurses’ Ball.

He thought he must have slept, for he shook himself and thought:  “What nonsense!  Surely the soul leaves the body while we are asleep, and only the animal remains!”

It was now almost daylight, and two hansom-cabs had stopped before the portico, and several persons who were coming up the steps were chattering away like wakened linnets.  One voice was saying: 

“Mr. Drake proposes that we should all go to the theatre, and if we can get a late pass I should like it above everything.”  It was Glory, and a fretful voice answered her: 

“Very well, if you say so.  It’s all the same to me.”  It was Polly; and then a man’s voice said: 

“What night shall it be, then, Robert?”

And a second man’s voice answered, with a drawl, “Better let the girls choose for themselves, don’t you know.”

John Storm felt his hands and feet grow cold, and he stepped out into the porch.  Glory saw him coming and made a faint cry of recognition.

“Ah, here is Mr. Storm!  Mr. Storm, you should know Mr. Drake.  He was in the Isle of Man, you remember ”

“I do not remember,” said John Storm.

“But you saved his life, and you ought to know him ”

“I do not know him,” said John Storm.

She was beginning to say, “Let me introduce ” But she stopped and stood silent for a moment, while the strange light came into her gleaming eyes of something no word could express, and then she burst into noisy laughter.

A superintendent Sister going through the hall at the moment drew up and said, “Nurse, I am surprised at you!  Go to your rooms this instant!” and the girls whispered their adieus and went off giggling.

“What a glorious night it has been!” said Glory, going upstairs.

“I’m glad you think so,” said Polly.  “To tell you the truth, I found it dreadfully tiresome.”

The two men lit their cigarettes and got back into one of the hansoms and drove away.

“What a bear that man is!” said Lord Robert.

“Rude enough, certainly,” said Drake; “but I liked his face for all that; and if the Fates put it into his head to stand between me and deathwell, I’m not going to forget it.”

“Give him a wide berth, dear boy.  The fellow is an actoran affected fop.  I met him at Mrs. Macrae’s on Thursday.  He is a religious actor and a poseur.  He’ll do something one of these days, take my word for it.”

And meanwhile John Storm had buttoned his long coat up to his throat and was striding home through the echoing streets, with both hands clinched and his teeth set hard.