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

“Yes,” said Rosa, across the dinner table, “the sudden fall of a man who has filled a large space in the public eye is always pitiful.  It is like the fall of a great tree in the forest.  One never realized how big it was until it was down.”

“It’s awful! awful!” said Glory.

“Whether one liked the man or not, such a downfall seems hard to reconcile with the idea of a beneficent Providence.”

“Hard?  Impossible, you mean!”

“Glory!”

“Oh, I’m only a pagan, and always have been; but I can’t believe in a God that does nothingI won’t, I won’t!”

“Still, we can’t see the end yet.  After the cross the resurrection, as the Church folks say; and who knows but out of all this ”

“What’s to become of his church?”

“Oh, there’ll be people enough to see to that, and if the dear Archdeaconbut he’s busy with Mrs. Macrae, bless him!  She has gone to wreck at last, and is living hidden away in a farmhouse somewhere, that she may drink herself to death without detection and interruption.  But the Archdeacon and Lord Robert have found her out, and there they are hovering round like two vultures, waiting for the end.”

“And his orphanage?”

“Ah, that’s another pair of shoes altogether, dear.  Being an institution that asks for an income instead of giving one, there’ll be nobody too keen to take it over.”

“O God!  O God!  What a world it is!” cried Glory.

After dinner she went off to Westminster in search of the orphanage.  It stood on a corner of the church square.  The door was closed, and the windows of the ground floor were shuttered.  With difficulty she obtained admission and access to the person in charge.  This was an elderly lady in a black silk dress and with snow-white hair.

“I’m no the matron, miss,” she said.  “The matron’s gonefled awa’ like a’ the lave o’ the grand Sisters, thinking sure the mob would mak’ this house their next point of attack.”

“Then I know whom you areyou’re Mrs. Callender,” said Glory.

“Jane Callender I am, young leddy.  And who may ye be yersel’?”

“I’m a friend of John’s, and I want to know if there’s anything ”

“You’re no the lassie hersel’, are ye?  You are, though; I see fine you are!  Come, kiss meagain, lassie!  Oh, dear! oh, dear!  And to think we must be meeting same as this!  For a’ the world it’s like clasping hands ower the puir laddie’s grave!”

They cried in each other’s arms, and then both felt better.

“And the children,” said Glory, “who’s looking after them if the matron and Sisters are gone?”

“Just me and the puir bairns theirsel’s, and the wee maid of all wark that opened the door til ye.  But come your ways and look at them.”

The dormitory was in an upper story.  Mrs. Gallender had opened the door softly, and Glory stepped into a large dark room in which fifty children lay asleep.  Their breathing was all that could be heard, and it seemed to fill the air as with the rustle of a gentle breeze.  But it was hard to look upon them and to think of their only earthly father in his cell.  With full hearts and dry throats the two women returned to a room below.

By this time the square, which before had only shown people standing in doorways and lounging at street corners, was crowded with a noisy rabble.  They were shouting out indecent jokes about “monks,” “his reverend lordship,” and “doctors of diwinity”; and a small gang of them had got a rope which they were trying to throw as a lasso round a figure of the Virgin in a niche over the porch.  The figure came down at length amid shrieks of delight, and when the police charged the mob they flung stones which broke the church windows.

Again Glory felt an impulse to throw herself on the cowardly rabble, but she only crouched at the window by the side of Mrs. Callender, and looked down at the sea of faces below with their evil eyes and cruel mouths.

“Oh, what a thing it is to be a woman!” she moaned.

“Aye, lassie, aye, there’s mair than one of us has felt that,” said Mrs. Callender.

Glory did not speak again as long as they knelt by the window, holding each other’s hands, but the tears that had sprung to her eyes at the thought of her helplessness dried up of themselves, and in their place came the light of a great resolution.  She knew that her hour had struck at lastthat this was the beginning of the end.

The theatres were emptying and carriages were rolling away from them as she drove home by way of the Strand.  She saw her name on omnibuses and her picture on boardings, and felt a sharp pang.  But she was in a state of feverish excitement and the pain was gone in a moment.

Another letter from Drake was waiting for her at the Inn: 

“I feel, my dear Glory, that you are entirely justified in your silence, but to show you how deep is my regret, I am about to put it in my power to atone, as far as I can, for the conduct which has quite properly troubled and hurt you.  You will put me under an eternal obligation to you if you will consent to become my wife.  We should be friends as well as lovers, Glory, and in an age distinguished for brilliant and beautiful women, it would be the crown of my honour that my wife was above all a woman of genius.  Nothing should disturb the development of your gifts, and if any social claims conflicted with them, they, and not you, would suffer.  For the rest I can bring you nothing, dear, butthanks to the good father who was born before mesuch advantages as belong to wealth.  But so far as these go there is no pleasure you need deny yourself, and if your sympathies are set on any good work for humanity there is no opportunity you may not command.  With this I can only offer you the love and devotion of my whole heart and soul, which now wait in fear and pain for your reply.”

Glory read this letter with a certain quivering of the eyelids, but she put it away without a qualm.  Nevertheless, the letter was hard to reply to, and she made many attempts without satisfying herself in the end.  There was a note of falsehood in all of them, and she felt troubled and ashamed: 

“When I remember how good you have been to me from the first, I could cry to think of the answer I must give you.  But I can’t help itoh, I can’t, I can’t!  Don’t think me ungrateful, and don’t suppose I am angry or in any way hurt or offended, but to do what you desire is impossiblequite, quite impossible.  Oh, if you only knew what it is to deny myself the future you offer me, to turn my back on the gladness with which life has come to me, to strip all these roses from my hair, you would believe it must be a far, far higher call than to worldly rank and greatness that I am listening to at last.  And it is.  A woman may trifle with her heart, while the one she loves is well and happy or great and prosperous, but when he is down and the cruel world is trampling on him, there can be no paltering with it any longer –­Yes, I must go to him if I go to anybody.  Besides, you can do without me and he can not.  You have all the world, and he has nothing but me.  If you were a woman you would understand all this, but you are loyal and brave and true, and when I look at your letter and remember how often you have spoken up for a fallen man my heart quivers and my eyes grow dim, and I know what it means to be an English gentleman.”

After writing this letter she went up to her bedroom and busied herself about for an hour, making up parcels of her clothing and jewellery, and labelling them with envelopes bearing names.  The plainer costumes she addressed to Aunt Anna, a fur-lined coat to Aunt Rachel, an opera cloak to Rosa, and a quantity of underclothing to Liza.  All her jewels, and nearly all the silver trinkets from the dressing-table, were made up in a parcel by themselves and addressed back to the giverSir Francis Drake.

The clock of St. Clement’s Danes was chiming midnight when this was done, and she stood a moment and asked herself, “Is there anything else?” Then there was a slippered foot on the stair, and somebody knocked.

“It’s only me, miss, and can I do anythink for ye?”

Glory opened the door and found Liza there, half dressed and looking as if she had been crying.

“Nothing, Liza, nothing, thank you!  But why aren’t you in bed?”

“I can’t sleep a blessed wink to-night somehow, miss,” said Liza.  And then, looking into the room, “But are ye goin’ away somewhere.  Miss Gloria?”

“Yes, perhaps.”

“Thort ye wasI could hear ye downstairs.”

“Not far, thoughjust a little journeygo back to bed now.  Good-night.”

“Good-night, miss,” and Liza went down with lingering footsteps.

Half an hour or so afterward Glory heard Rosa come in from the office and pass up to her bedroom on the floor above.  “Dear, unselfish soul!” she thought, and then she sat down to write another letter: 

“Darling Rosa:  I am going to leave you, but there is no help for itI must.  Don’t you remember I used to say if I should ever find a man who was willing to sacrifice all the world for me I would leave everything and follow him?  I have found him, dear, and he has not only sacrificed all the world for my sake, but trampled on Heaven itself.  I can’t go to him nowwould to Heaven I could!but neither can I go on living this present life any longer.  So I am turning my back on it all, exactly as I said I wouldthe world, so sweet and so cruel; art, so beautiful and so difficult, and even ‘the clapping of hands in a theatre.’  You will say I am a donkey, and so I may be, but it must be a descendant of Balaam’s old friend, who knew the way she ought to go.

“Forgive me that I am going without saying good-bye.  It is enough to have to resist the battering of one’s own doubts without encountering your dear solicitations.  And forgive me that I am not telling you where I am going and what is to become of me.  You will be questioned and examined, and I feel as much frightened of being overtaken by my old existence as the poor simpleton who took it into his head that he was a grain of barley, and as often as he saw a cock or a hen he ran for his life.  Thank you, dearest, for allowing me to share your sweet rooms with you, for the bright hours we have spent in them, and all the merry jaunts we have had together.  There will be fewer creature comforts where I am going to, and my feet will not be so quick to do evil, which will at least be a saving of shoe-leather.

“Good-bye, old girlloyal, unselfish, devoted friend!  God will reward you yet, and a good man who has been chasing a Will-o’-the-wisp will open his eyes to see that all the time the star of the morning has been by his side.  Tomorrow, when I leave the house, I know I shall want to run up and kiss you as you lie asleep, but I mustn’t do thatthe little druggeted stairs to your room would be like the road to another but not a better place, which is also paved with good intentions.  What a scatter-brain I am!  My heart is breaking, too, with all this severing of my poor little riven cords.  Your foolish old chummie (the last of her),

“Glory.”

Next morning, almost as soon as it was light, she rose and drew a little tin box from under the bed.  It was the box that had brought all her belongings to London when she first came from her island home.  Out of this box she took a simple gray costumethe costume she had bought for outdoor wear when a nurse at the hospital.  Putting it on, she looked at herself in the glass.  The plain gray figure, so unlike what she had been the night before, sent a little stab to her heart, and she sighed.

“But this is Glory, after all,” she thought.  “This is the granddaughter of my grandfather, the daughter of my father, and not the visionary woman who has been masquerading in London so long.”  But the conceit did not comfort her very much, and scalding tear-drops began to fall.

Tying up some other clothing into a little bundle, she opened the door and listened.  There was no noise in the house, and she crept downstairs with a light tread.  At the drawing-room she paused and took one last look round at the place where she had spent so many exciting hours, and lived through such various phases of life.  While she stood on the threshold there was a sound of heavy breathing.  It came from the pug, which lay coiled up on the sofa, asleep.  Reproaching herself with having forgotten the little thing, she took it up in her arms and hushed it when it awoke and began to whine.  Then she crept down to the front door, opened it softly, passed out, and closed it after her.  There was a click of the lock in the silent gardens, and then no sound anywhere but the chirrup of the sparrows in the eaves.

The sun was beginning to climb over the cool and quiet streets as she went along, and some cabmen at the stand looked over at the woman in nurse’s dress, with a little bundle in one hand and the dog under the other arm.  “Been to a death, p’r’aps.  Some uv these nurses, they’ve tender ’earts, bless ’em, and when I was in the ’awspital ” But she turned her head and hurried on, and the voice was lost in the empty air.

As she dipped into the slums of Westminster the sun gleamed on her wet face, and a group of noisy, happy girls, going to their work in the jam factories of Soho, came toward her laughing.

The girls looked at the Sister as she passed; their tongues stopped, and there was a hush.