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

Meantime the man who was the first cause of the tumult sat alone in his cell-like chamber under the church, a bare room without carpet or rug, and having no furniture except a block bed, a small washstand, two chairs, a table, a prayer stool and crucifix, and a print of the Virgin and Child.  He heard the singing of the people outside, but it brought him neither inspiration nor comfort.  Nature could no longer withstand the strain he had put upon it, and he was in deep dejection.  It was one of those moments of revulsion which comes to the strongest soul when at the crown or near the crown of his expectations he asks himself, “What is the good?” A flood of tender recollections was coming over him.  He was thinking of the past, the happy past, the past of love and innocence which he had spent with Glory, of the little green isle in the Irish Sea, and of all the sweetness of the days they had passed together before she had fallen to the temptations of the world and he had become the victim of his hard if lofty fate.  Oh, why had he denied himself the joys that came to all others?  To what end had he given up the rewards of life which the poorest and the weakest and the meanest of men may share?  Love, woman’s love, why had he turned his back upon it?  Why had he sacrificed himself?  O God, if, indeed, it were all in vain!

Brother Andrew put his head in at the half-open door.  His brother, the pawnbroker, was there and had something to say to the Father.  Pincher’s face looked over Andrew’s shoulder.  The muscles of the man’s eyes were convulsed by religious mania.

“I’ve just sold my biziness, sir, and we ’aven’t a roof to cover us now!” he cried, in the tone of one who had done something heroic.

John asked him what was to become of his mother.

“Lor’, sir, ain’t it the beginning of the end?  That’s the gawspel, ain’t it?  ’The foxes hev ‘olés and the birds of the air hev nests ’”

And then close behind the man, interrupting him and pushing him aside, there came another with fixed and staring eyes, crying:  “Look ’ere, Father!  Look!  Twenty years I ’obbled on a stick, and look at me now!  Praise the Lawd, I’m cured, en’ no bloomin’ errer!  I’m a brand as was plucked from the burnin’ when my werry ends ’ad caught the flames!  Praise the Lawd, amen!”

John rebuked them and turned them out of the room, but he was almost in as great a frenzy.  When he had shut the door his mind went back to thoughts of Glory.  She, too, was hurrying to the doom that was coming on all this wicked city.  He had tried to save her from it, but he had failed.  What could he do now?  He felt a desire to do something, something else, something extraordinary.

Sitting on the end of the bed he began again to recall Glory’s face as he had seen it at the race-course.  And now it came to him as a shock after his visions of her early girlhood.  He thought there was a certain vulgarity in it which, he had not observed beforea slight coarsening of its expression, an indescribable degeneracy even under the glow of its developed beauty.  With her full red lips and curving throat and dancing eyes, she was smiling into the face of the man who was sitting by her side.  Her smile was a significant smile, and the bright and eager look with which the man answered it was as full of meaning.  He could read their thoughts.  What had happened?  Were all barriers broken down?  Was everything understood between them?

This was the final madness, and he leaped to his feet in an outburst of uncontrollable rage.  All at once he shuddered with a feeling that something terrible was brewing within him.  He felt cold, a shiver was running over his whole body.  But the thought he had been in search of had come to him of itself.  It came first as a shock, and with a sense of indescribable dread, but it had taken hold of him and hurried him away.  He had remembered his text:  “Deliver him up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

“Why not?” he thought; “it is in the Holy Book itself.  There is the authority of St. Paul for it.  Clearly the early Christians countenanced and practised such things.”  But then came a spasm of physical pain.  That beautiful life, so full of love and loveliness, radiating joy and sweetness and charm!  The thing was impossible!  It was monstrous!  “Am I going mad?” he asked himself.

And then he began to be sorry for himself as well as for Glory.  How could he live in the world without her?  Although he had lost her, although an impassable gulf divided them, although he had not seen her for six months until today, yet it was something to know she was alive and that he could go at night to the place where she was and look up and think, “She is there.”  “It is true, I am going mad,” he thought, and he trembled again.

His mind oscillated among these conflicting ideas, until the more hideous thought returned to him of Drake and the smile exchanged with Glory.  Then the blood rushed to his head, and strong emotions paralyzed his reason.  When he asked himself if it was right in England and in the nineteenth century to contemplate a course which might have been proper to Palestine and the first century, the answer came instantaneously that it was right.  Glory was in peril.  She was tottering on the verge of hell.  It would not be wrong, but a noble duty, to prevent the possibility of such a hideous catastrophe.  Better a life ended than a life degraded and a soul destroyed.

On this the sophism worked.  It was true that he would lose her; she would be gone from him, she who was all his joy, his vision by day, his dream by night.  But could he be so selfish as to keep her in the flesh, and thus expose her soul to eternal torment?  And after all she would be his in the other world, his forever, his alone.  Nay, in this world also, for being dead he would love her still.  “But, O God, must I do it?” he asked himself at one moment, and at the next came his answer:  “Yes, yes, for I am God’s minister.”

That sent him back to his text again.  “Deliver him up to Satan ” But there was a marginal reference to Timothy, and he turned it up with a trembling hand. Satan again, but the Revised Version gave “the Lord’s servant,” and thus the text should read, “Deliver him up to the Lord’s servant for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”  This made him cry out.  He drank it in with inebriate delight.  The thing was irrevocably decided.  He was justified, he was authorized, he was the instrument of a fixed purpose.  No other consideration could move him now.

By this time his heart and temples were beating violently, and he felt as if he were being carried up into a burning cloud.  Before his eyes rose the vision of Isaiah, the meek lamb converted into an inexorable avenger descending from the summit of Edom.  It was right to shed blood at the divine commandnay, it was necessary, it was inevitable.  And as God had commanded Abraham to take the life of Isaac, whom he loved, so did God call on him, John Storm, to take the life of Glory that he might save her from the risk of everlasting damnation!

There may have been intervals in which his sense of hearing left him, for it was only now that he became conscious that somebody was calling to him from the other side of the door.

“Is anybody there?” he asked, and a voice replied: 

“Dear heart, yes, this five minutes and better, but I didna dare come in, thinking surely there was somebody talking with you.  Is there no somebody here then?  No?”

It was Mrs. Callender, who was carrying a small glad-stone bag.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?”

“Aye, it’s myself, and sorry I am to be bringing bad news to you.”

“What is it?” he asked, but his tone betrayed complete indifference.

She closed the door and answered in a whisper:  “A warrant!  I much misdoubt but there’s one made out for you.”

“Is that all?”

“Bless me, what does the man want?  But come, laddie, come; you must tak’ yoursel’ off to some spot till the storm blows over.”

“I have work to do, auntie.”

“Work!  You’ve worked too much alreadythat’s half the botherment.”

“God’s work, auntie, and it must be done.”

“Then God will do it himself, without asking the life of a good man, or he’s no just what I’ve been takin’ him for.  But see,” opening the bag and whispering again, “your auld coat and hat!  I found them in your puir auld room that you’ll no come back to.  You’ve been looking like another body so long that naebody will ken you when you’re like yoursel’ again.  Come, now, off with these lang, ugly things ”

“I can not go, auntie.”

“Can not?”

“I will not.  While God commands me I will do my duty.”

“Eh, but men are kittle cattle!  I’ve often called you my ain son, but if I were your ain mother I ken fine what I’d do with youI’d just slap you and mak’ you.  I’ll leave the clothes, anyway.  Maybe you’ll be thinking better of it when I’m gone.  Good-night to you.  Your puir head’s that hot and moidered –­But what’s wrang with you, John, man?  What’s come over ye anyway?”

He seemed to be hardly conscious of her presence, and after standing a moment at the door, looking back at him with eyes of love and pity, she left the room.

He had been asking himself for the first time how he was to carry out his design.  Sitting on the end of the bed with his head propped on his hand he felt as if he were in the hold of a great ship, listening to the plash and roar of the stormy sea outside.  The excitement of the populace was now ungovernable and the air was filled with groans and cries.  He would have to pass through the people, and they would see him and detain him, or perhaps follow him.  His impatience was now feverish.  The thing he had to do must be done to-night, it must be done immediately.  But it was necessary in the first place to creep out unseen.  How was he to do it?

When he came to himself he had a vague sense of some one wishing him good-night.  “Oh, good-night, good-night!” he cried with an apologetic gesture.  But he was alone in the room, and on turning about he saw the bag on the floor, and remembered everything.  Then a strange thing happened.  Two conflicting emotions took hold of him at oncethe first an enthusiastic, religious ecstasy, the other a low, criminal cunning.

Everything was intended.  He was only the instrument of a fixed purpose.  These clothes were proof of it.  They came to his hand at the very moment when they were wanted, when nothing else would have helped him.  And Mrs. Callender had been the blind agent in a higher hand to carry out the divine commands.  Fly away and hide himself?  God did not intend it.  A warrant?  No matter if it sent him like Cranmer to the stake.  But this was a different thing entirely, this was God’s will and purpose, this

Yet even while thinking so he laughed an evil laugh, tore the clothes out of the bag with trembling hands, and made ready to put them on.  He had removed his cassock when some one opened the door.

“Who’s there?” he cried in a husky growl.

“Only me,” said a timid voice, and Brother Andrew entered, looking pale and frightened.

“Oh, you!  Come in; close the door; I’ve something to say to you.  Listen!  I’m going out, and I don’t know when I shall be back.  Where’s the dog?”

“In the passage, brother.”

“Chain him up at the back, lest he should get out and follow me.  Put this cassock away, and if anybody asks for me say you don’t know where I’ve goneyou understand?”

“Yes; but are you well, Brother Storm?  You look as if you had just been running.”

There was a hand-glass on the washstand, and John snatched it up and glanced into it and put it down again instantly.  His nostrils were quivering, his eyes were ablaze, and the expression of his face was shocking.

“What are they doing outside?  See if I can get away without being recognised,” and Brother Andrew went out to look.

The passage from the chambers under the church was into a dark and narrow street at the back, but even there a group of people had gathered, attracted by the lights in the windows.  Their voices could be heard through the door which Brother Andrew had left ajar, and John stood behind it and listened.  They were talking of himselfpraising him, blessing him, telling stories of his holy life and gentleness.

Brother Andrew reported that most of the people were at the front, and they were frantic with religious excitement.  Women were crushing up to the rail which the Father had leaned his head upon for a moment after he had finished his prayer, in order to press their handkerchiefs and shawls on it.

“But nobody would know you now, Brother Stormeven your face is different.”

John laughed again, but he turned off the lights, thinking to drive away the few who were still lingering in the back street.  The ruse succeeded.  Then the man of God went out on his high errand, crept out, stole out, sneaked out, precisely as if he had been a criminal on his way to commit a crime.

He followed the lanes and narrow streets and alleys behind the Abbey, past the “Bell,” the “Boar’s Head,” and the “Queen’s Arms”taverns that have borne the same names since the days when Westminster was Sanctuary.  People home from the races were going into them with their red ties awry, with sprigs of lilac in their buttonholes; and oak leaves in their hats.  The air was full of drunken singing, sounds of quarrelling, shameful words and curses.  There were some mutterings of thunder and occasional flashes of lightning, and over all there was the deep hum of the crowd in the church square.

Crossing the bottom of Parliament Street he was almost run down by a squadron of mounted police who were trotting into Broad Sanctuary.  To escape observation he turned on to the Embankment and walked under the walls of the gardens of Whitehall, past the back of Charing Cross station to the street going up from the Temple.

The gate of Clement’s Inn was closed, and the porter had to come out of his lodge to open it.

“The Garden House!”

“Garden House, sir?  Inner court left-hand corner.”

John passed through.  “That will be remembered afterward,” he thought.  “But no matterit will all be over then.”

And coming out of the close streets, with their clatter of traffic, into the cool gardens, with their odour of moistened grass, the dull glow in the sky, and the glimpse of the stars through the tree-tops, his mind went back by a sudden bound to another night, when he had walked over the same spot with Glory.  At that there came a spasm of tenderness, and his throat thickened.  He could almost see her, and feel her by his side, with her fragrant freshness and buoyant step.  “O God! must I do it, must I, must I?” he thought again.

But another memory of that night came back to him; he heard Drake’s voice as it floated over the quiet place.  Then the same upheaval of hatred which he had felt before he felt again.  The man was the girl’s ruin; he had tempted her by love of dress, of fame, of the world’s vanities and follies of every sort.  This made him think for the first time of how he might find her.  He might find her with him.  They would come back from the Derby together.  He would bring her home, and they would sup in company.  The house would be lit up; the windows thrown open; they would be playing and singing and laughing, and the sounds of their merriment would come down to him into the darkness below.

All the better, all the better!  He would do it before the man’s face.  And when it was done, when all was over, when she lay therelay theretherehe would turn on the man and say:  “Look at her, the sweetest girl that ever breathed the breath of life, the dearest, truest woman in all the world!  You have done thatyouyouyouand God damn you!”

His tortured heart was afire, and his brain was reeling.  Before he knew where he was he had passed from the outer court into the inner one.  “Here it isthis is the house,” he thought.  But it was all dark.  Just a few lights burning, but they had been carefully turned down.  The windows were closed, the blinds were drawn, and there was not a sound anywhere!  He stood some minutes trying to think, and during that time the mood of frenzy left him and the low cunning came back.  Then he rang the bell.

There was no answer, so he rang again.  After a while he heard a footstep that seemed to come up from below.  Still the door was not opened, and he rang a third time.

“Who’s there?” said a voice within.

“It is Iopen the door,” he answered.

“Who are you?” said the voice, and he replied impatiently: 

“Come, come, Liza, open, and see.”

Then the catch lock was shot back.  At the next moment he was in the hall, shutting the door behind him, and Liza was looking up into his face with eyes of mingled fear and relief.

“Lor’, sir, whyever didn’t you say it was you?”

“Where’s your mistress?”

“Gone to the office, and won’t be back till morning.  And Miss Gloria isn’t home from the races yet.”

“I must see her to-nightI’ll wait upstairs.”

“You must excuse me, sirFarver, I meanbut I wouldn’t a-known your voice, it seemed so different.  And me that sleepy too, being on the go since six in the mornin’ ”

“Go to bed, Liza.  You sleep in the kitchen, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir, thank you, I think I will, too.  Miss Gloria can let herself in, anyway, same as comin’ from the theatre.  But can I git ye anythink?  No?  Well, you know your wye up, sir, down’t ye?”

“Yes, yes; good-night, Liza!”

“Good-night, Farver!”

He had set his foot on the stair to go up to the drawing-room when it suddenly occurred to him that though he was the minister of God he was using the weapons of the devil.  No matter!  If he had been about to commit a crime it would have been different.  But this was no crime, and he was no criminal.  He was the instrument of God’s mercy to the woman he loved. He was going to slay her body that he might save her soul!