Read THE RELIGIOUS LIFE - CHAPTER VI. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on

It was at least some comfort to be out of the proximity of Brother Paul.  The sounds of the lay brother in the neighbouring cell had brought back recollections of Glory, and he had more than he could do to conquer his thoughts of her.  Since he had taken his vows and had ceased to mention her in his prayers she had been always with him, and his fears for her fate had been pricked and goaded by the constant presence of Brother Paul’s anxieties.

On the other hand, it was some loss that he could not go to the church, and he remembered with a pang how happy he had been after a night of terrors when he had gone into God’s house in the morning and cast his burden on him with one yearning cry of “God bless all women and young children!”

It was now the Christmas season, and his heart tingled and thrilled as the brothers passed through the door at midday and talked of the women who attended the Christmas services.  Were they really so calm as they seemed to be, and had they conquered their natural affections?

Sometimes during the midday service he would slide back the grating and listen for the women’s voices.  He heard one voice in all of them, but he knew it was only a dream.  Then he would watch the snow falling from the little patch of dun-coloured sky crossed by bars, and tell himself that that was all he was to see of the world henceforth.

The sky emptied itself at last, and Brother Paul came again to shovel away the snow.  He was weaker than ever, for the wax was melting away.  When he began to work, his chest was oppressed and his face was feverish.  John snatched the spade out of his hand and fell to doing his work instead of him.

“I can’t bear to see it, and I won’t!” he said.

“But the Father ?”

“I don’t careyou can tell him if you like.  You are killing yourself by inches, and you are a failing man any way.”

“Am I really dying?” said Brother Paul, and he staggered away like one who had heard his sentence.

John looked after, him and thought:  “Now what should I do if I were in that man’s place?  If the case were Glory’s, and I fixed here as in a vice?”

He was ashamed when he thought of Glory like that, and he dismissed the idea, but it came back with mechanical obstinacy and he was compelled to consider it.  His vows?  Yes, it would be death to his soul to break them.  But if she were lost who had no one but him to look toif she went down to wreck and ruin, then the fires of hell would be as nothing to his despair!

Brother Paul came to him next day and sat on the form by his side and said: 

“If I’m really dying, what am I to do?”

“What would you like to do, Brother Paul?”

“I should like to go out and find her.”

“What good would there be in that?”

“I could say something that would stop her and put an end to everything.”

“Are you sure of it?”

A wild light came into his eyes and he answered, “Quite sure.”

John played the hypocrite and began to counsel patience.

“But a man can’t live without hope and not go mad,” said Brother Paul.

“We must trust and pray,” said John.

“But God never answers us.  If it were your own case what would you do?  If some one outside were lost ”

“I should go to the Father and say, ‘Let me go in search of her.’”

“I’ll do it,” said Brother Paul.

“Why not?  The Father is kind and tender and he loves his children.”

“Yes, I will do it,” said Paul, and he made for the Father’s room.

He got to the door of the cell and then came back again.  “I can’t,” he said.  “There’s something you don’t know.  I can’t look in his face and ask.”

“Stay here and I’ll ask for you,” said John.

“God bless you!” said Paul.

John made three hasty strides and then stopped.

“But if he will not ”

“ThenGod’s will be done!”

It was morning, and the Superior was reading in his room.

“Come in, my son,” he said, and he laid his book on his lap.  “This is a book you must read some daythe Inner Life of Pere Lacordaire.  Most fascinating!  An inner life of intolerable horror until he had conquered his natural affections.”

“Father,” said John, “one of our lay brothers has a little sister in the world and she has fallen into trouble.  She has gone from the place where he left her, and God only knows where she is now!  Let him go out and find her.”

“Who is it, my son?”

“Brother Pauland she is all he has, and he can not help but think of her.”

“This is a temptation of the evil one, my son.  Brother Paul has newly taken the vows and so have you.  The vows are a challenge to the powers of evil, and it is only to be expected that he who takes them will be tested to the uttermost.”

“But, Father, she is young and thoughtless.  Let him go out and find her and save her, and he will come back and praise God a thousand times the more.”

“The temptations of Satan are very subtle; they come in the guise of duty.  Satan is tempting our brother through love, and you, also, through pity.  Let us turn our backs on him.”

“Then it is impossible?”

“Quite impossible.”

When John returned to the door Brother Paul was standing by the alcove gazing with wet eyes on the text hanging above the bed.  He saw his answer in John’s face, and they sat down on the form without speaking.

The bell rang for service and the religious began to pass through the hall.  As the Father was crossing the threshold Brother Paul flung himself down at his feet and clutched his cassock and made a frantic appeal for pity.

“Father, have pity upon me and let me go!”

The Father’s eyes became moist but his will remained unshaken.  “As a man I ought to have pity,” he said, “and as the Father of all of you I should be kind to my children; but it is not I who refuse you, it is God, and I should be guilty of a sin if I let you go.”

Then Paul burst into mad laughter and the religious gathered round and looked at him in astonishment.  There was foam on his lips and fire in his eyes, and he threw up his hands and fell back fainting.

The Father made the sign of the cross on his breast and his lips moved in silence for a moment.  Then he said to John, who had raised the lay brother in his arms: 

“Leave him there.  Damp his forehead and hold his hands.”

And turning to the religious he added:  “I ask the prayers of the community for our poor brother.  Satan is fighting for his soul.  Let us wrestle in prayer that we may expel the spirit that possesses him.”

At the next moment John was alone with the unconscious man, except for the dog which was licking his forehead.  And looking after the Superior, he told himself that such unlimited power over the body and soul of another the Almighty could have meant for no man.  The love of God and the fear of the devil had swallowed up the love of man and stifled all human affections.  Such religion must have hardened the best man ever born.  As for the poor broken creature lying there so still, his vows had been made to heaven, and to heaven alone his obedience was due.  The nature within him had spoken too loudly, but there were laws of Nature which it was a sin to resist.  Then why should he resist them?  The cry of blood was the voice of God, or God had no voice and He could speak to no man.  Then, why should he not listen?

Brother Paul recovered consciousness and raised his head.  The waves of memory flowed back upon him and his eyes flamed and his lips trembled.

“I will go if I have to break my vows!” he said.

“No need for that,” said John.

“Why so?”

“Because I will let you out at night and let you in again in the morning.”


“Yes, I. Listen!”

And then these two crushed and fettered souls, bound by no iron bonds, confined by no bolts and bars, but only under the shadow of the supernatural, sat together like prisoners in a dungeon concocting schemes for their escape.

“The Father locks the outer gate himself,” said John.  “Where does he keep the key?”

“In his own room on a nail above his bed,” said Paul.

“Who is the lay brother attending to him now?”

“Brother Andrew.”

“Brother Andrew will do anything for me,” said John.

“But the dog?” said Paul.  “He is always in the court at night, and he barks at the sound of a step.”

“Not my step,” said John.

“I’ll do it,” said Paul.

“I will send you to some one who can find your sister.  You’ll tell her you come from me and she’ll take you with her.”

They could hear the singing in the church, and they paused to listen.

“When I come back in the morning I’ll confess everything and do my penance,” said Paul.

“And I too,” said John.

The sun had come out with a sudden gleam and the thawing snow was dripping from the trees in drops like diamonds.  The singing ceased, the service ended, and the brothers came back to the house.  When the Father entered, Paul was clothed and in his right mind and sitting quietly on the form.

“Thank God for this answer to our prayers!” said the Father.  “But you must pray without ceasing lest Satan should conquer you again.  Until the end of the year say your Rosary in the church every night alone from Compline to midnight.”

Then turning to John he said with a smile:  “And you shall be like the anchoret of old to this household, my son.  We monks pray by day, but the anchoret prays by night.  Unless we know that in the dark hours the anchoret guards the house, who shall rest on his bed in peace?”