The Christian (First Book, Chapters XI – XXI)
When Glory learned that all nurses eligible to attend the ball were to wear hospital uniform, being on day duty she decided to go to it. But then came John Storm’s protest against the company of Polly Love, and she felt half inclined to give it up. As often as she remembered his remonstrance she was disturbed, and once or twice when alone she shed tears of anger and vexation.
Meantime Polly was full of arrangements, and Glory found herself day by day carried along in the stream of preparation. When the night came the girls dressed in the same cubicle. Polly was prattling like a parrot, but Glory was silent and almost sad.
By help of the curling tongs and a candle Polly did up her dark hair into little knowing curls that went in and out on her temples and played hide-and-seek around the pretty shells of her pink-and-white ears. Glory was slashing the comb through her golden-red hair by way of preliminary ploughing, when Polly cried: “Stop! Don’t touch it any more, for goodness’ sake! It’s perfect! Look at yourself now.”
Glory stood off from the looking glass and looked. “Am I really so nice?” she thought; and then she remembered John Storm again, and had half a mind to tear down her glorious curls and go straight away to bed.
She went to the ball instead, and, being there, she forgot all about her misgivings. The light, the colour, the brilliance, the perfume transported her to an enchanted world which she had never entered before. She could not control her delight in it. Everything surprised her, everything delighted her, everything amused her—she was the very soul of girlish joy. The dark-brown spot on her eye shone out with a coquettish light never seen in it until now, and the warble in her voice was like the music of a happy bird. Her high spirits were infectious—her lighthearted gaiety communicated itself to everybody. The men who might not dance with her were smiling at the mere sight of the sunshine in her face, and it was even whispered about that the President of the College of Surgeons, who opened the ball, had said that her proper place was not there—a girl like that young Irish nurse would do honour to a higher assembly.
In that enchanted world of music and light and bright and happy faces Glory lost all sense of time; but two hours had passed when Polly Love, whose eyes had turned again and again to the door, tugged at her sleeve and whispered: “They’ve come at last! There they are—there—directly opposite to us. Keep your next dance, dear. They’ll come across presently.”
Glory looked where Polly had directed, and, seeing again the face she had seen in the window of the Foreign Office, something remote and elusive once more stirred in her memory. But it was gone in a moment, and she was back in that world of wonders, when a voice which she knew and yet did not know, like a voice that called to her as she was awakening out of a sleep, said:
“Glory, don’t you remember me? Have you forgotten me, Glory?”
It was her friend of the catechism class—her companion of the adventure in the boat. Their hands met in a long hand-clasp with the gallop of feeling that is too swift for thought.
“Ah, I thought you would recognise me! How delightful!” said Drake.
“And you knew me again?” said Glory.
“Instantly—at first sight almost.”
“Really! It’s strange, though. Such a long, long time—ten years at least! I must have changed since then.”
“You have,” said Drake; “you’ve changed very much.”
“Indeed now! Am I really so much changed for all? I’ve grown older, of course.”
“Oh, terribly older,” said Drake.
“How wrong of me! But you have changed a good deal, too. You were only a boy in jackets then.”
“And you were only a girl in short frocks.”
They both laughed, and then Drake said, “I’m so glad we’ve changed together!”
“Are you?” said Glory.
“Why, yes,” said Drake; “for if you had changed and I hadn’t——”
“But what nonsense we’re talking!” said Glory; and they both laughed again.
Then they told each other what had happened in that infinite cycle of time which had spun round since they parted. Glory had not much to narrate; her life had been empty. She had been in the Isle of Man all along, had come to London only recently, and was now a probationer-nurse at Martha’s Vineyard. Drake had gone to Harrow and thence to Oxford, and, being a man of artistic leanings, had wished to take up music, but his father had seen no career in it; so he had submitted—he had entered the subterranean catacombs of public life, and was secretary to one of the Ministers. All this he talked of lightly, as became a young man of the world to whom great things were of small account.
“Glory,” said Polly, at her elbow, “the waltz is going to begin.”
The band was preluding. Drake claimed the dance, and Glory was astonished to find that she had it free (she had kept it expressly).
When the waltz was over he gave her his arm and led her into the circular corridor to talk and to cool. His manners were perfect, and his voice, so soft and yet so manly, increased the charm. In passing out of the hot dancing room she threw her handkerchief over her head, and, with the hand that was at liberty, held its ends under her chin. She wished him to look at her and see what change this had made; so she said, quite innocently:
“And now let me look at you again, sir!”
He recognised the dark-brown spot on her eye, and he could feel her arm through her thin print dress.
“You’ve told me a good deal,” he said, “but you haven’t said a syllable about the most important thing of all.”
“And pray what is that?” said she.
“How many times have you fallen in love since I saw you last?”
“Good gracious, what a question!” said Glory.
His audacity was delightful. There was something so gracious and yet so masterful about him.
“Do you remember the day you carried me off—eloped with me, you know?” said Drake.
“I? How charming of me! But when was that, I wonder?” said Glory.
“Never mind; say, do you remember?”
“Well, if I do? What a pair of little geese we must have been in those days!”
“I’m not so sure of that—now,'” said he.
“You didn’t seem very keen about me then, as far as I can remember,” said she.
“Didn’t I?” said he. “What a silly young fool I must have been!”
They laughed again. She could not keep her arm still, and he could almost feel its dimpled elbow.
“And do you remember the gentleman who rescued us?” she said.
“You mean the tall, dark young man who kept hugging and kissing you in the yacht?”
“Do you forget that kind of thing, then?”
“It was very sweet of him. But he’s in the Church now, and the chaplain of our hospital.”
“What a funny little romantic world it is, to be sure!”
“Yes; it’s like poetry, isn’t it?” she answered.
Lord Robert came up to introduce Drake to Polly (who was not looking her sweetest), and he claimed Glory for the next dance.
“So you knew my friend Drake before?” said Lord Robert.
“I knew him when he was a boy,” said Glory.
And then he began to sing his friend’s praises—how he had taken a brilliant degree at Oxford, and was now private secretary to the Home Secretary, and would go into public life before long; how he could paint and act, and might have made a reputation as a musician; how he went into the best houses, and was a first-rate official; how, in short, he had the promised land before him, and was just on the eve of entering it.
“Then I suppose you know he is rich—enormously rich?” said Lord Robert.
“Is he?” said Glory, and something great and grand seemed to shimmer a long way off.
“Enormously,” said Sir Robert; “and yet a man of the most democratic opinions.”
“Really?” said Glory.
“Yes,” said Lord Robert; “and all the way down in the hansom he has been trying to show me how impossible it is for him to marry a lady.”
“Now why did you tell me that I wonder?” said Glory, and Lord Robert began to fidget with his eye-glass.
Drake returned with Polly. He proposed that they should take the air in the quadrangle, and they went off for that purpose, the girls arm-in-arm some paces ahead.
“There’s a dash of Satan himself in that red-headed girl,” said Lord Robert. “She understands a man before he understands himself.”
“She’s as natural as Nature,” said Drake. “And what lips—what a mouth!”
“Irish, isn’t she? Oh, Manx! What’s Manx, I wonder?”
The night was very warm and close, and there was hardly more air in the courtyard. The sound of the band came to them there, and Glory, who had danced with nearly everybody within, must needs dance by herself without, because the music was more sweet and subdued out there, and dancing in the darkness was like a dream.
“Come and sit down on the seat, Glory,” said Polly fretfully; “you are getting on my nerves, dear.”
“Glory,” said Drake, “how do the Londoners strike you?”
“Much like other mortals,” said Glory; “no better, no worse—only funnier.”
The men laughed at that description, and Glory proceeded to give imitations of London manners—the high handshake, the “Ha-ha” of the mumps, the mouthing of the canon, and the mincing of Mr. Golightly.
Drake bellowed with delight; Lord Robert drawled out a long owlish laugh; Polly Love said spitefully, “You might give us your friend, the new curate, next, dearest,” and then Glory went down like a shot.
“Really,” began Drake, “it’s not hospital nursing, you know——”
But there were low murmurings of thunder and some large splashes of rain, and they returned to the ballroom. The doctors and the matrons were gone by this time; only the nurses and the students remained, and the fun was becoming furious. One young student was pulling down a girl’s hair, and another was waltzing with his partner carried bodily in his arms. Somebody lowered the lights, and they danced in a shadow-land; somebody began to sing, and they all sang in chorus; then somebody began to fling about paper bags full of tiny white wafers, and the bags burst in the air like shells, and their contents fell like stars from a falling rocket, and everybody was covered as with flakes of snow.
Meantime the storm had broken, and above the clash and clang of the instruments of the band and the rhythmic shuffle of the feet of the dancers and the clear, joyous notes of their happy singing, there was the roar of the thunder that rolled over London, and the rattle of the rain on the glass dome overhead.
Glory was in ecstasies; it was like a mist on Peel Bay at night with the moon shining through it and the waves dancing to a northwest breeze. It was like a black and stormy sea outside Contrary, with the gale coming down from the mountains. And yet it was a world of wonder and enchantment and beauty, and bright and happy faces.
It was morning when the ball broke up, and then the rain had abated, though the thunder was still rumbling. The men were to see the girls back to the hospital, and Glory and Drake sat in a hansom-cab together.
“So you always forget that kind of thing, do you?” he said.
“What kind of thing?” she asked.
“Never mind; you know!”
She had put up the hood of her outdoor cape, but he could still see the gleam of her golden hair.
“Give me that rose,” he said; “the white one that you put in your hair.”
“It’s nothing,” she answered.
“Then give it to me. I’ll keep it forever and ever.”
She put up her hand to her head.
“Ah! how sweet of you! And what a lovely little hand! But no; let me take it for myself.”
He reached one arm around her shoulder, put his hand under her chin, tipped up her face, and kissed her on the lips.
“Darling!” he whispered.
Then in a moment she awoke from her world of wonder and enchantment, and the intoxication of the evening left her. She did not speak; her head dropped; she felt her cheeks burn red, and she hid her face in her hands. There was a momentary sense of dishonour, almost of outrage. Drake treated her lightly, and she was herself to blame.
“Forgive me, Glory!” he was saying, in a voice tremulous and intense. “It shall never happen again—never—so help me God!”
The day was dawning, and the last raindrops were splashing on the wet and empty pavement. The great city lay asleep, and the distant thunder was rolling away from it.
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 himself—he would not if he could; but girls liked such things—they 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 feelings—he 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 thin—almost ascetic—and 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 gone—she was dead—she 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 habit—a 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 peace—a 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 commonplace—it had been a pleasure, a happiness; the brother would soon leave them; they would all miss him—perhaps 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 world—how strange it was, how difficult to understand, how tragic, how pitiful! The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye—how 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 sacraments—are they a lie, or are they a sacrilege? Look at our charities—are we Pharisees or are we hypocrites? And our clergy, sir—our fashionable clergy! Surely some tremendous upheaval will shake to its foundations the Church wherein such things are possible—a 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 fashion—in 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 were—symbols of the three bonds by which he was bound—the 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 love—say of mother and son—of 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 enemies—those 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 impulse—he 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 Glenfaba—my 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 death—well, I’m not going to forget it.”
“Give him a wide berth, dear boy. The fellow is an actor—an 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.
“Oh, Lord-a-massy! Oh, Gough bless me sowl! Oh, my beloved grandfather! John Storm has done for himself at last! That man was never an author of peace and a lover of concord; but, my gracious, if you had heard his sermon in church on Sunday morning! Being a holy and humble woman of heart myself, I altered the Litany the smallest taste possible, and muttered away from beginning to end, ‘O Lord, close thou our lips'; but the Lord didn’t heed me in the least, with the result that everybody on earth is now screaming and snarling at our poor Mr. Storm exactly as if he had been picking the pockets of the universe.
“It was all about the morality of men. The text was as innocent as a baby: ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.’ And when he began in the usual way, the dear old goodies in glasses thought he had been wound up like the musical box and had just turned on the crank, so they cuddled in comfortably for forty winks before the anthem. There were two natures in man, and man’s body might be good or bad according as spiritual or carnal affections swayed it, and all the rest of the good old change-for-sixpence-and-a-ha’penny-out, you know. But the lesson had been from Isaiah, where the unreasonable old prophet is indignant with the ladies of Zion because they don’t want to look like dowdies, you remember: ‘Tremble, ye women that are at ease, strip you and make you bare and gird sackcloth upon your loins.’ And off he went like a comet, with the fashionable woman for his tail. If matrimony nowadays didn’t always mean monogamy, who was chiefly to blame? Men were generally as pure as women required that they should be; and if the lives of men were bad it was often because women did not demand that they should be good. Tremble, ye women, that are at ease, and say why you allow your daughters to marry men who in fact and effect are married already. Strip you, and be ashamed for the poor women who were the first wives of your daughters’ husbands, and for the children whom such men abandon and forget! In leading your innocent daughters to courts and receptions you are only leading them to the auction-room; and in dressing and decorating them you are preparing them for the market of base men. Last week some titled philanthropist had hauled up a woman in the East End of London for attempting to sell her daughter. How shocking! everybody said. What a disgrace to the nineteenth century! But the wretched creature had only been doing the best according to her light for the welfare of her miserable child; while here—with their eyes open, with their cultured consciences—the wives of these same philanthropists were doing the same thing every day—the very same!
“Having gone for the mammies like this, he went for the dear girls themselves one better. Let them gird sackcloth on their loins and hide their faces. Why did they suffer themselves to be sold? The woman who married a man for the sake of his title or his position or any worldly advantage whatever was no better than an outcast of the streets. Her act was the same, and in all reason and justice her name should be the same also.
“Hey, nonny, nonny! I told you how he broke down before; but on Sunday morning, in spite of mine own amended Litany, I had just as much hope of the breakdown of the Falls of Niagara, or a nineteen-feet spring tide. You would have said his face was afire, and those great eyes of his were lit up like the red lamps on Peel pier.
“Pulpit oratory! I don’t know what it is, only I never heard the like of it in all my born days. I begin to think the real difference between preachers is the difference of the fire beneath the crust. In some it burns so low that it doesn’t even warm the surface, and you couldn’t get up enough puff to boil the kitchen kettle; but in others—look out! It’s a volcano, and the lava is coming down with a rush.
“Mercy me, how I cried! ‘Oh, my daughter, oh, my child, what a ninny you are!’ I told myself; but it was no use talking. His voice was as hoarse as a raven’s, and sometimes you would have thought his very heart was breaking.
“But the congregation! You should have seen the transformation scene! They had come in bowing and smiling and whispering softly until the church was a perfect sheet of sunshine, an absolute aurora borealis; but they went out like a northeast gale, with mutterings of thunder and one man overboard.
“And John Storm having put his foot in it, of course Glory Quayle had to get her toe in too. Coming down the aisle some of the dear ladies of Zion, who looked as if they wanted to ‘swear in their wrath,’ were mumbling all the lamentations of Jeremiah. Who was he, indeed, to talk to people like that? Nobody had ever heard of him except his mother. And in the porch they came upon a fat old dump in a velvet dollman who declared it was perfectly scandalous, and she had come out in the middle. Whereupon Glory, not being delivered that day from all evil and mischief, said, ‘Quite right, ma’am, and you were not the only one who had to leave the church in the middle of that sermon.’ ‘Why, who else had to go?’ said this female Pharisee. ‘The devil, ma’am!’ said Glory, and then left her with that bone to gnaw.
“It turns out that the old girlie in the dollman is a mighty patron of this hospital, so everybody says I am in for nasty weather. But hoot! My heart’s in the Hielan’s, my heart is not here; my heart’s in the Hielan’s, sae what can I fear!
“John Storm is in for it too, and they say his vicar waited for him in the vestry, but he looked like forked lightning coming out of the pulpit, so the good man thought it better to keep his rod in pickle awhile. It seems that the Lords of the Council and all the nobility were there, and it is a point of religious etiquette in London that in the hangman’s house nobody speaks of the rope; but our poor John gave them the gibbet as well. It was a fearful thing to do, but nobody will make me believe he had not got his reasons. He hasn’t been here since, but I am certain he has his eye on some fine folks, and, whoever they are, I’ll bet ‘my bottom dollar’ they deserved all they got.
“But heigho! I haven’t left myself breath to tell you about the ball. I was there! You remember I was lamenting that I hadn’t got the necessary finery. In fact, I had put in a bit at the end of my prayers about it. ‘O God, be good to me this once and let me look nice.’ And he was. He put it into the heads of the nabobs of this vineyard that nurses should ‘appear at the Nurses’ Ball in regulation uniform only.’ So my cloak and my bonnet and my gray dress and my apron covered a multitude of sins.
“You should have seen Glory that night, grandfather. She was a redder young lobster than ever somehow, but she put a white rose in her carroty curls, and, Gough bless me, what a bogh [* Dear] she was, though! Of course, she made the acquaintance of the ‘higher ranks of society,’ and danced with all the earth. The great surgeon of something opened the ball with the matron of Bartimaeus’s, and she went round on his arm like a dolly in a dolly-tub; but he soon saw what a marvellous and miraculous being Glory was, and after I had waltzed so beautifully with the ancient personage I had the hearts of all the young men flying round at the hem of my white petticoat—it was a nice new one for the occasion.
“But the strangest thing was that somebody from the Isle of Man flopped down on me there just as if he had descended from the blue. It was that little English boy Drake, who used to come to the catechism class, only now he is one of the smartest and handsomest young men in London. When he came up and announced himself I am sure he expected me to expire on the spot or else go crazy, and of course I was trembling all over, but I behaved like a rational person and stood my ground. He looked at me as much as to say, ‘Do you know you’ve grown to be a very fine young woman, and I admire you very much?’ Whereupon I looked back as much as to reply, ‘That’s quite right, my dear young sir, and I should have a poor opinion of you if you didn’t.’ So, being of the same opinion on the only subject worth thinking about (that’s me), I behaved charmingly to him, and even forgave him when he carried off my white rose at the end.
“Mr. Drake has a friend who is always with him. He is a willowy person who owns sixteen setters and three church livings, they say, and wears (on week days) a thunder-and-lightning suit of clothes—you know, a pattern so large that one man can’t carry the whole of it and somebody else goes about with the rest. His name is Lord Robert Ure, and I intend to call him Lord Bob, for, since he is such a frivolous person himself, I must make a point of being severe. I danced with him, of course, and he kept telling me what a wonderful future Mr. Drake had, and how the Promised Land was before him, and even hinting that it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be Mrs. Joshua. Fancy Glory making a tremendous match with a leader of society! And if I hadn’t gone to that hospital ball no doubt the history of the nineteenth century would have been different!
“They are going to take me next week to something far, far better than a ball, only I must not tell you anything about it yet, except that I keep awake all night sometimes to think of it. But thou sure and firmest earth, hear not my steps which way they walk!
“It’s late, and I’m just going to cuddle in. Good-night! My kisses for the aunties, and my love to everybody! In fact, you can serve out my love in ladles this time—being cheap at present, and plenty more where this is coming from.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you what happened when we returned to the hospital! It was shockingly late, and the gentlemen had brought us back, but there was our John Storm with his sad and anxious face waiting up to see us safely home. He was angry with me, and I didn’t mind that in the least; but when I saw that he liked me well enough to be rude to the gentlemen I fell a victim to the crafts and assaults of the devil, and couldn’t help laughing out loud; and then Ward Sister Allworthy came along and lifted her lip and showed me her tusk.
“It was a wonderful night altogether, and I was never so happy in my life, but all the same I had a good cry to myself alone before going to bed. Too much water hadst thou, poor Ophelia! Talk about two natures in one; I’ve got two hundred and fifty, and they all want to do different things! Ah me! the ‘ould Book’ says that woman was taken out of the rib of a man, and I feel sometimes as if I want to get back to my old quarters. Glory.
“P.S.—I’ll write you a full and particular account of the great event of next week after it is over. Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, till thou applaud the deed. You see I don’t want you to eat your meal in fear—or your porridge either. But I am burning with impatience for the night to come, and would like to run to it. Oh, if it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly! See? I am going in for a course of Shakespeare!”
A week later Glory made her first visit to the theatre. Her companions were Drake, who was charmed with her naïveté; Lord Robert, who was amused by it; and Polly Love, who was annoyed and ashamed, and uttered little peevish exclamations.
As they entered the box which they were to occupy, the attendant drew back the curtain, and at sight of the auditorium she cried, “Oh!” and then checked herself and coloured deeply. With her eyes down she sat where directed in one of the three seats in front, Polly being on her right and Drake on her left, and Lord Robert at the back of the lace curtain. For some minutes she did not smile or stir, and when she spoke it was always in whispers. A great awe seemed to have fallen upon her, and she was behaving as she behaved in church.
Drake began to explain the features of the theatre. Down there were the stalls, and behind the stalls was the pit. The body? Well, yes—the body, so to speak. And the three galleries were the dress circle, the family circle, and the gallery proper. The organ loft? No, there was no organ, but that empty place below was the well for the orchestra.
“And what is this little vestry?” she said.
“Oh, this is a private box where we can sit by ourselves and talk!” said Drake.
At every other explanation she had made little whispered cries of astonishment and delight; but when she heard that conversation was not forbidden she was entirely happy. She thought a theatre was even more beautiful than a church, and supposed an actor must have a wonderful living.
The house was filling rapidly, and as the people entered she watched them intently.
“What a beautiful congregation!” she whispered—”audience, I mean!”
“Do you think so?” said Polly; but Glory did not hear her.
It was delightful to see so many lovely faces and listen to the low hum of their conversation. She felt happy among them already and quite kind to everybody, because they had all come together to enjoy themselves. Presently she bowed to some one in the stall with a face all smiles, and then said to Polly:
“How nice of her! A lady moved, to me from the body. How friendly they are in theatres!”
“But it was to Mr. Drake,” said Polly; and then Glory could have buried her face in her confusion.
“Never mind, Glory,” said Drake; “that’s a lady who will like you the better for the little mistake.—Rosa,” he added, with a look toward Lord Robert, who smoothed his mustache and bent his head.
Polly glanced up quickly at the mention of the name; and Drake explained that Rosa was a friend of his own—a lady journalist, Miss Rosa Macquarrie, a good and clever woman. Then, turning back to Glory, he said:
“She has been standing up for your friend Mr. Storm this week. You know there have been attacks upon him in the newspapers?”
“Has she?” said Glory, recovering herself and looking down again. “Which pew—stall, I mean——”
But the people were clapping their hands and turning their faces to the opposite side of the theatre. Some great personage was entering the royal box.
“My chief, the Home Secretary,” said Drake; and, when the applause had subsided and the party were seated, the great man recognised his secretary and bowed to him; whereupon it seemed to Glory that every face in the theatre turned about and looked at her.
She did not flinch, but bore herself bravely. There was a certain thrill and a slight twitching of the head, such as a charger makes at the first volley in battle—nothing more, not even the quiver of an eyelid. This was the atmosphere in which Drake lived, and she felt a vague gratitude to him for allowing her to move in it.
“Isn’t it beautiful!” she whispered, turning toward Polly; but Polly’s face was hidden behind the curtain.
The orchestra was coming in, and Glory leaned forward and counted the fiddles, while Drake talked with Lord Robert across her shoulder.
“I found him reading Rosa’s article this morning, and it seems he was present himself and heard the sermon,” said Drake.
“And what’s his opinion?” asked Lord Robert.
“Much the same as your own. Affectation—the man is suffering from the desire to be original—more egotism than love of truth, and so forth.”
“Right, too, dear boy. All this vapouring is as much as to say: ‘Look at me! I am the Hon. and Rev. Mr. Thingamy, nephew of the Prime Minister; and yet——'”
“I don’t at all agree with the chief,” said Drake, “and I told him so. The man has enthusiasm, and that’s the very salt of the earth at present. We are all such pessimists in these days! Thank God for anybody who will warm us up with a little faith, say I!”
Glory’s bosom heaved, and she was just about to speak, when, there was a sudden clap as of thunder, and she leaped up in her seat. But it was only the beginning of the overture, and she sat down laughing. There was a tender passage in the music; and after it was over she was very quiet for a while, and then whispered to Polly that she hoped little Johnnie wasn’t worse to-night, and it seemed wicked to enjoy one’s self when any one was so poorly.
“Who is that?” said Drake.
“My little boy whose leg was amputated,” said Glory.
“This Glory is so funny!” said Polly. “Fancy talking of that here!”
“Hush!” said Lord Robert; “the curtain is going up.” And at the next moment Glory was laughing because they were all in the dark.
The play was Much Ado about Nothing, and Glory whispered to Drake that she had never seen it before, but she had read Macbeth, and knew all about Shakespeare and the drama. The first scene took her breath away, being so large and so splendid. It represented the outside of a gentleman’s house, and she thought what a length of time it must have taken to build it, considering it was to last only a single night. But hush! The people were going indoors. No; they preferred to talk in the street. Oh, we were in Italy? Yes, indeed, that was different.
Leonato delivered his first speeches forcibly, and was rewarded with applause. Glory clapped her hands also, and said he was a very good actor for such a very old gentleman.
Then Beatrice made her entrance, and was greeted with cheers, whereupon Glory looked perplexed.
“It’s Terry,” whispered Polly; and Drake said, “Ellen Terry”; but Glory still looked puzzled.
“They are calling her ‘Beatrice,'” she said. Then, mastering the situation, she looked wise and said: “Of course—the actress—I quite understand; but why do they applaud her—she has done nothing yet?”
Drake explained that the lady playing Beatrice was a great favourite, and that the applause of the audience had been of the nature of a welcome to a welcome guest, as much as to say they had liked her before, and were glad to see her again. Glory thought that was beautiful, and, looking at the gleaming eyes that shone out of the darkness, she said:
“How lovely to be an actress!”
Then she turned back to the stage, where all was bright and brilliant, and said, “What a lovely frock, too!”
“Only a stage costume, my dear,” said Polly.
“And what beautiful diamonds!”
“Paste,” said Lord Robert,
“Hush!” said Drake; and then Benedick entered, and the audience received him with great cheering. “Irving,” whispered Drake; and Glory looked more perplexed than before and said:
“But you told me it was Mr. Irving’s theatre, and I thought it would have been his place to welcome——”
The vision of Benedick clapping his hands at his own entrance set Lord Robert laughing in his cold way: but Drake said, “Be quiet, Robert!”
Glory, like a child, had ears for no conversation except her own, and she was immersed in the play in a moment. The merry war of Beatrice and Benedick had begun, and as she watched it her face grew grave.
“Now, that’s very foolish of her,” she said; “and if, as you say, she’s a great actress, she shouldn’t do such things. To talk like that to a man is to let everybody see that she likes him better than anybody else, though she’s trying her best to hide it. The silly girl—he’ll find her out!”
But the curtain had gone down on the first act, the lights had suddenly gone up, and her companions were laughing at her. Then she laughed also.
“Of course, it’s only a play,” she said largely, “and I know all about plays and about acting, and I can act myself, too.”
“I’m sure you can,” said Polly, lifting her lip. But Glory took no notice.
Throughout the second act she put on the same airs of knowledge, watching the masked ball intently, but never once uttering a laugh and hardly ever smiling. The light, the colour, the dresses, the gay young faces enchanted her; but she struggled to console herself. It was only her body that was up there, leaning over the front of the box with lips twitching and eyes gleaming; her soul was down on the stage, clad in a lovely gown, and carrying a mask and laughing and joking with Benedick; but she held herself in, and when the curtain fell she began to talk of the acting.
She was still of the opinion that Leonato was excellent for such an elderly gentleman, and when Polly praised Claudio she agreed that he was good too.
“But Benedick is my boy for all,” she said. In some way she had identified herself with Beatrice, and hardly ever spoke of her.
During the third act this air of wisdom and learning broke down badly. In the middle of the ballad, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,” she remembered Johnnie, and whispered to Drake how ill he had been when they left the hospital. And when it was over, and Benedick protested that the song had been vilely sung, she sat back in her seat and said she didn’t know how Mr. Irving could say such a thing, for she was sure the boy had sung it beautifully.
“But that’s the author,” whispered Drake; and then she said wisely:
“Oh, yes, I know—Shakespeare, of course.”
Then came the liming of the two love-birds, and she declared that everybody was in love in plays of that sort, and that was why she liked them; but as for those people playing the trick, they were very simple if they thought Beatrice didn’t know she loved Benedick. Claudio fell woefully in her esteem in other respects also, and when he agreed to spy on Hero she said he ought to be ashamed of himself anyhow.
“How ridiculous you are!” said Polly. “It’s the author, isn’t it?”
“Then the author ought to be ashamed of himself, also, for it is unjust and cruel and unnecessary,” said Glory.
The curtain had come down again by this time, and the men were deep in an argument about morality in art, Lord Robert protesting that art had no morality, and Drake maintaining that what Glory said was right, and there was no getting to the back of it.
But the fourth act witnessed Glory’s final vanquishment. When she found the scene was the inside of a church and they were to be present at a wedding, she could not keep still on her seat for delight; but when the marriage was stopped and Claudio uttered his denunciation of Hero, she said it was just like him, and it would serve him right if nobody believed him.
“Hush!” said somebody near them.
“But they are believing him,” said Glory quite audibly.
“Hush! Hush!” came from many parts of the theatre.
“Well, that’s shameful—her father, too——” began Glory.
“Hush, Glory!” whispered Drake; but she had risen to her feet, and when Hero fainted and fell she uttered a cry.
“What a girl!” whispered Polly. “Sit down—everybody’s looking!”
“It’s only a play, you know,” whispered Drake; and Glory sat down and said:
“Well, yes; of course, it’s only a play. Did you suppose——”
But she was lost in a moment. Beatrice and Benedick were alone in the church now; and when Beatrice said, “Kill Claudio,” Glory leaped up again and clapped her hands. But Benedick would not kill Claudio, and it was the last straw of all. That wasn’t what she called being a great actor, and it was shameful to “sit and listen to such plays. Lots of disgraceful scenes happened in life, but people didn’t come to the theatre to see such things, and she would go.
“How ridiculous you are!” said Polly; but Glory was out in the corridor, and Drake was going after her.
She came back at the beginning of the fifth act with red eyes and confused smiles, looking very much ashamed. From that moment onward she cried a good deal, but gave no other sign until the green curtain came down at the end, when she said:
“It’s a wonderful thing! To make people forget it’s not true is the most wonderful thing in the world!”
Lord Robert, standing behind the curtain at the back of Polly’s chair, had been laughing at Glory with his long owlish drawl, and making cynical interjections by way of punctuating her enthusiasm; and now he said, “Would you like to have a nearer view of your wonderful world, Glory?”
Glory looked perplexed, and Drake muttered, “Hold your tongue, Robert!” Then, turning to Glory, he said shortly: “He only asked if you would like to go behind the scenes; but I don’t think——”
Glory uttered a cry of delight. “Like it? Better than anything in the world!”
“Then I must take you to a rehearsal somewhere,” said Lord Robert; “and you’ll both come to tea at the chambers afterward.”
Drake made some show of dissent; but Polly, with her most voluptuous look upward, said it would be perfectly charming, and Glory was in raptures.
The girls, by their own choice, went home without escort by the Hammersmith omnibus. They sat on opposite sides and hardly talked at all. Polly was humming idly. “Sigh no more, ladies.”
Glory was in a trance. A great, bright, beautiful world had that night swum into her view, and all her heart was yearning for it with vague and blind aspirations. It might be a world of dreams, but it seemed more real than reality, and when the omnibus passed the corner of Piccadilly Circus she forgot to look at the women who were crowding the pavement.
The omnibus drew up for them at the door of the hospital, and they took long breaths as they went up the steps.
In the corridor to the surgical ward they came upon John Storm. His head was down and his step was long and measured, and he seemed to be trying to pass them in his grave silence; but Glory stopped and spoke, while Polly went on to her cubicle.
“You here so late?” she said.
He looked steadily into her face and answered, “I was sent for—some one was dying.”
“Was it little Johnnie?”
There was not a tear now, not a quiver of an eyelid.
“I don’t think I care for this life,” she said fretfully. “Death is always about you everywhere, and a girl can never go out to enjoy herself but——”
“It is true woman’s work,” said John hotly, “the truest, noblest work a woman can have in all the world!”
“Perhaps,” said Glory, swinging on her heel. “All the same——”
“Good-night!” said John, and he turned on his heel also.
She looked after him and laughed. Then with a little hard lump at her heart she took herself off to bed.
Polly Love, in the next cubicle, was humming as she undressed:
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever.
That night Glory dreamed that she was back at Peel. She was sitting up on the Peel hill, watching the big ships as they weighed anchor in the bay beyond the old dead castle walls, and wishing she were going out with them to the sea and the great cities so far away.
John Storm was sitting in his room next morning fumbling the leaves of a book and trying to read, when a lady was announced. It was Miss Macrae, and she came in with a flushed face, a quivering lip, and the marks of tears in her eyes. She held his hand with the same long hand-clasp as before, and said in a tremulous voice:
“I am ashamed of coming, and mother does not know that I am here; but I am very unhappy, and if you can not help me——”
“Please sit down,” said John Storm.
“I have come to tell you——” she said, and then her sad eyes moved about the room and came back to his face. “It is about Lord Robert Ure, and I am very wretched.”
“Tell me everything, dear lady, and if there is anything I can do——”
She told him all. It was a miserable story. Her mother had engaged her to Lord Robert Ure (there was no other way of putting it) for the sake of his title, and he had engaged himself to her for the sake of her wealth. She had never loved him, and had long known that he was a man of scandalous reputation; but she had been taught that to attach weight to such considerations would be girlish and sentimental, and she had fought for a while and then yielded.
“You will reproach me for my feebleness,” she said, and he answered haltingly:
“No, I do not reproach you—I pity you!”
“Well,” she said, “it is all over now, and if I am ruined, and if my mother——”
“You have told her you can not marry him!”
“Then who am I to reproach you?” he said; and rising to his feet, he threw down his book.
Her dark eyes wandered about the room, and came back to his face again and shone with a new lustre.
“I heard your sermon on Sunday, Mr. Storm, and I felt as if there were nobody else in the church, and you were speaking to me alone. And last night at the theatre——”
He had been tramping the room, but he stopped.
“I saw him in a box with his friend and two—two ladies.”
“Were they nurses from the hospital?”
She made a cry of surprise and said, “Then you know all about it, and the sermon was meant for me?”
He did not speak for a moment, and then he said with a thick utterance:
“You wish me to help you to break off this marriage, and I will try. But if I fail—no matter what has happened in the past, or what awaits you in the future——”
“Oh,” she said, “if I had your strength beside me I should be brave—I should be afraid of nothing.”
“Good-bye, dear lady,” said John Storm; and before he could prevent her she had stooped over his hand and kissed it.
John Storm had returned to his book and was clutching it with nervous fingers, when his fellow-curate came with a message from the canon to request his presence in the study.
“Tell him I was on the point of going down,” said John. And the Reverend Golightly coughed and bowed himself out.
The canon had also had a visitor that morning. It was Mrs. Macrae herself. She sat on a chair covered with a tiger skin, sniffed at her scented handkerchief, and poured out all her sorrows.
Mercy had rebelled against her authority, and it was entirely the fault of the new curate, Mr. Storm. She had actually refused to carry out her engagement with Lord Robert, and it all came of that dreadful sermon on Sunday. It was dishonourable, it was unprincipled, and it was a pretty thing to teach girls to indulge their whims without regard to the wishes of parents!
“Here have I been two years in London, spending a fortune on the girl and trying to do my best for her, and the moment I fix her in one of the first English families, this young man—this curate—this—— Upon my honour, it’s real wicked, it’s shameful!” And the handkerchief steeped in perfume went up from the nose to the eyes.
The canon swung his pince-nez. “Don’t put yourself about, my dear Mrs. Macrae. Leave the matter to me. Miss Macrae will give up her objections, and——”
“Oh, you mustn’t judge her by her quietness, canon. You don’t know her character. She’s real stubborn when her mind’s made up. But I’ll be as stubborn as she is—I’ll take her back to America—I’ll never spend another penny——”
“And as for Mr. Storm,” continued the canon, “I’ll make everything smooth in that quarter. You mustn’t think too much about the unhappy sermon—a little youthful esprit fort—we all go through it, you know.”
When Mrs. Macrae had gone, he rang twice for Mr. Golightly and said, “Tell Mr. Storm to come down to me immediately.”
“With pleasure, sir,” said the little man; and then he hesitated.
“What is it?” said the canon, adjusting his glasses.
“I have never told you, sir, how I found him the night you sent me to the hospital.”
“On his knees to a Catholic priest who was visiting a patient.”
The canon’s glasses fell from his eyes and his broad face broke into strange smiles.
“I thought the Sorceress of Rome was at the bottom of it,” he said. “His uncle shall know of this, and unless I am sadly deceived—but fetch him down.”
John Storm was wearing his flannel shirt that morning, and he came downstairs with a heavy tread and swung himself, unasked, into the chair that had just before been occupied by Mrs. Macrae.
The perpendicular wrinkles came between the canon’s eyebrows and he said: “My dear Mr. Storm, I have postponed as long as possible a most painful interview. The fact is, your recent sermon has given the greatest offence to the ladies of my congregation, and if such teaching were persisted in we should lose our best people. Now, I don’t want to be angry with you, quite the contrary, but I wish to put it to you, as your spiritual head and adviser, that your idea of religion is by no means agreeable to the needs and necessities of the nineteenth century. There is no freedom in such a faith, and St. Paul says, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ But the theory of your religion is not more unscriptural than its application is unwholesome. Yours is a gloomy faith, my dear Storm, and what did Luther say of a gloomy faith?—that the devil was very apt to be lurking behind it. As for himself he married, you may remember; he had children, he played chess, he loved to see young people dancing——”
“I don’t object to the dancing, sir,” said John Storm. “I only object to the tune.”
“What do you mean?” said the canon, not without insolence, and the perpendicular wrinkles became large and heavy.
“I mean, sir,” said John Storm, “that half the young people nowadays—the young women in the west of London especially—are asked to dance to the Dead March.”
And then he spoke of the infamous case of Mercy Macrae, how she was being bought and sold, and how scandalous was the reputation of the man she was required to marry.
“That was what I was coming down to speak about, sir—to ask you to save this innocent girl from such a mockery of holy wedlock. She is not a child, and the law can not help her, but you can do so, because the power of the Church is at your back. You have only to set your face against this infamy, and say——”
“My dear Mr. Storm,” the canon was smiling condescendingly and swinging his glasses, “the business of the Church is to solemnize marriages, not to make them. But if the young lady comes to me I will say: ‘My dear young lady, the conditions you complain of are more common than you suppose; put aside all foolish, romantic notions, make a nest for yourself as comfortably as you can, and come back in a year to thank me.'”
John Storm was on his feet; the blood was mounting to his face and tingling in his fingers.
“And so these men are to make their wives of the daughters of the poor first, and then ask the Church to solemnize their polygamy——”
But the canon had lifted his hand to silence him.
“My dear young friend, a policy like yours would decimate the House of Commons and abolish the House of Lords. Practical religion has a sweet reasonableness. We are all human, even if we are all gentlemen; and while silly young things——”
But John Storm was out in the hall and putting on his hat to see Glory.
Glory had not yet awakened from her trance. While others were living in to-day she was still going about in yesterday. The emotion of the theatre was upon her, and the world of reality took the tone and colour of drama. This made her a tender woman, but a bad nurse.
She began the day in the Outpatient Department, and a poor woman came with a child that had bitten its tongue. Its condition required that it should remain in the house a day or two. “Let me put the pore thing to bed; she’s allus used to me,” said the woman piteously. “Are you the mother?” said the Sister. “No, the grandmother.” “The mother is the only person who can enter the wards except on visiting day.” The poor woman began to cry. Glory had to carry the child to bed, and she whispered to the grandmother, “Come this way,” and the woman followed her. When they came to the surgical ward, she said to the nurse in charge, “This is the child’s mother, and she has come to put the poor little thing to bed.”
Later in the morning she was sent up to help in the same ward. A patient in great pain called to her and said, “Loosen this bandage for me, nurse; it is killing me!” And she loosened it.
But the glamour of the theatre was upon her as well as its sentiment and emotion, and in the space before the bed of one of the patients, at a moment when the ward Sister was away, she began to make imitations of Beatrice and Benedick and the singer of “Sigh no more, ladies.” The patient was Koenig, the choirmaster of “All Saints’,” a little fat German with long mustaches, which he waxed and curled as he lay in bed. Glory had christened him “the hippopotamus,” and at her mimicry he laughed so much that he rolled and pitched and dived among the bedclothes.
“Ach, Gott!” he cried, “vot a girl! Never—I haf never heard any one so goot on de stage. Vot a voice, too! A leetle vork under a goot teacher, and den, mein Gott! Vot is it de musicians say?—the genius has a Cremona inside of him on which he first composes his immortal vorks. You haf the Cremona, my dear, and I will help you to bring it out. Vot you tink?”
It was the hour of the morning when the patients who can afford it have their newspapers brought up to them, but the newspapers were thrown aside; every eye was on Glory, and there was much noisy laughter and even some clapping of hands.
Ward Sister Allworthy entered with the house doctor.
“What’s the meaning of this?” she demanded. Glory told the truth, and was reproved.
“Who has loosened this bandage?” said the doctor. The patient tried to prevaricate, but Glory told the truth again, and was reproved once more.
“And who permitted this woman to come into the ward?” said the nurse.
“I did,” said Glory.
“You’re not fit to be a nurse, miss, and I shall certainly report you as unfit for duty.”
Glory laughed in the Sister’s face.
It was at this moment that John Storm arrived after his interview with the canon. He drew Glory into the corridor and tried to pacify her.
“Oh, don’t suppose I’m going to do hospital nursing all my life,” she said. “It may be good womanly work, but I want to be a human being with a heart, and not a machine called Duty. How I hate and despise my surroundings! I’ll make an end of them one of these days. Sooner or later it must come to that.”
“Your life has been deranged, Glory, and that is why you disdain your surroundings. You were at the theatre last night.”
“Who told you that? Well, what of it? Are you one of those who think the theatre——”
“I don’t object to the theatre, Glory. It is the derangement of your life I am thinking of; and if anybody is responsible for that he is your enemy, not your friend.”
“You will make me angry again, as you did before,” and she began to bite her quivering lip.
“I did not come to make you angry, Glory. I came to ask you—even to entreat you—to break off this hateful connection.”
“Because you know nothing of this—this connection, as you say—you call it hateful.”
“I know what I am talking about, my child. The life these men live is worse than hateful; and it makes my heart bleed to see you falling a victim to it.”
“You are degrading me again; you are always degrading me. Other men try to be agreeable to me, but you—— Besides, I can not hear my friends abused. Yes, they are my friends. I wasat the theatre with them last night, and I am going to take tea at their chambers on my next holiday. So please——”
With one plunge of his arm he had gripped her by the wrist.
“You are hurting me.”
“You are never to set foot in the rooms of those men!”
“Let me go!”
“You are as inexperienced as a child, Glory, and it is my duty to protect you against yourself.”
“Let go, I say!”
“Don’t destroy yourself. Think while there’s time—think of your good name, your character!”
“I shall do as I please.”
“Listen! If I have chosen to be a clergyman, it’s not because I’ve lived all my life in cotton wool. Let me tell you what the lives of such men really are—the best of them, the very best. He gets up at noon, walks in the park, takes tea with some one, grunts and groans that he must go to somebody’s dinner party, escapes to the Gaiety Theatre, sups at a so-called club——”
“You mean Lord Robert. But what right have you to say——”
“The right of one who knows him to be as bad as this, and worse—ten times worse! Such a man thinks he has a right to play with a girl if she is poor. She may stake her soul, her salvation, but he risks nothing. To-day he trifles with her; to-morrow he marries another, and flings her to the devil!”
“There’s something else in this. What is it?”
But John Storm had swung about and left her.
As soon as she was at liberty she went in search of Polly Love, expecting to find her in her cubicle, but the cubicle was empty. Coming out of the little room she saw a piece of paper lying on the floor. It was a letter, carefully folded. She picked it up, unfolded it, and read it, hardly knowing what she was doing, for her head was dizzy and her eyes were swimming in unshed tears. It ran:
“You ask, Do I mean to adopt entirely? Yes; to bring up just the same as if it were born to me. I hope yours will be a strong and healthy boy; but if it is a girl——”
Glory could not understand what she was reading. Whose letter could it be? It was addressed “X. Y. Z., Office of Morning Post.”
There was a hurried footstep approaching, and Polly came in, with her eyes on the ground as if looking for something she had dropped. At the next moment she had snatched the letter out of Glory’s hand, and was saying:
“What are you doing in my room? Has your friend the chaplain told you to spy upon me?”
The expression on her face was appalling, and Glory, who had flushed up with shame, turned away without a word.
When John Storm got back to his room he found the following letter from the canon on his table:
“Since our interview of this morning (so strangely abridged) I have had the honour to visit your dear uncle, the Prime Minister, and he agrees with me that the strain of your recent examinations and the anxieties of a new occupation have probably disturbed your health, and that it will be prudent of you to take a short vacation. I have therefore the greatest pleasure in assuring you that you are free from duty for a week, a fortnight, or a month, as your convenience may determine; and during your much-regretted absence I will do my best to sustain the great loss of your invaluable help.”
On reading the message, John Storm flung himself into a chair and burst into a long peal of bitter laughter. But when the laughter was spent there came a sense of great loneliness. Then he remembered Mrs. Callender, and went across to her little house in Victoria Square, and showed her the canon’s letter and told her everything.
“Lies, lies, lies!” she said. “Ah, laddie, laddie! to lie, to know you lie, to be known to lie, and yet to go on lying—that is the whole art of life with these fashionable shepherds and their fashionable flock. As for that woman—ugh! She was separated from her husband for two years before his death; and he died in a hotel abroad without kith or kin to comfort him: and now she wears his hair in a gold locket on her bosom—that’s what she is! But all’s well that ends well, laddie. The holly will do ye good, for you were killing yerself with work. You’ll no be spending it in your little island, now, eh?”
John Storm was sitting with one leg across the other, and his head on his hand and his elbow on his knee.
“I shall spend it,” he said, “in Retreat at the Brotherhood in Bishopsgate.”
“God bless me, man! is that the change of air ye’ll be going to gie yoursel’? It may be well enough for men with water in their veins; but you have blood, laddie—blood! Tak’ care, tak’ care!”
“Still at Martha’s.
“Quite right, dear Aunt Anna, the terms ‘authority’ and ‘obedience’ must be known and honoured. Only, when it is a case of put a penny in the slot and out comes the word of command, you can’t exactly feel that way. The board of directors put the penny into the slot of this institution, and the word of command, so far as I am concerned, comes out of the mouth of Ward Sister Allworthy. I call her the White Owl. She is five feet ten, and has big round cheeks which sometimes I should dearly love to slap—as mothers slap their ‘childers’ when they administer a humiliating punishment.
“So you think you notice ‘a certain want of aptitude’? Well, I don’t think I am naturally a bad nurse, Aunt Anna. The patients like me, and they don’t die of the dumps when I am about. Only I can’t practise nursing by the rule of three, and as a consequence I get myself reported. Sister Allworthy has reported me three times, bless her! Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed, and now she threatens to have me up before the matron. That dear soul has difficulties of locomotion, being buried under the Pelion on Ossa of a mountain of fat. She inhabits a cave of Adullam on the edge of the Inferno—i. e., the ‘theatre’—below stairs, and has a small dog with a bad heart and broken wind always nagging on her knee. I call her the Chief Broker in Breakages and Head Dealer in Diseases, and she is only seen once a day when she comes round to take stock. You have to be nice with her Majesty,’ for she can haul you up at the weekly board, and put a score against you in the black book, and send you away without a certificate. If that happens, a girl who expects to earn her living as a nurse has never any particular need to pray, ‘In all time of our wealth, good Lord deliver us.’
“But, oh, my dear grandfather, what do you think of our John Storm now? After uttering the lamentations of Jeremiah and predicting all the plagues of Egypt, he has gone off to hold his peace—that is to say, he has gone to make his ‘Retreat,’ which, being interpreted, means praying without ceasing, and also without speaking, eighteen hours a day, six days at a spell, and sometimes sixty. When he comes back reeking with all that holiness I shall feel myself such a miserable sinner——
“Soberly, I could cry to think of it, though, and when I remember that perhaps I was partly to blame——
“It was this way: In that ‘ter’ble discoorse’ I told you he had scotched the snake, not killed it, and his vicar (I call him Mr. Worldly Wiseman), finding that his ladies and nobility went out like the Pharisees, one by one, told our poor John he was ill and stood in need of instant rest. It looked like it certainly, and the trouble must have been a sort of human rabies in which the poor victim bites at his best friends first. He came here with his lower lip hanging like an old dog’s, and I was so stupid as not to see that he was being hunted like a dog too, and only told myself how ugly and untidy he had grown of late. But the Sister had just before been showing me her tusks again, and being possessed with a fury, I gave it him world without end. He was very unreasonable though, and seemed to say that I must have no friends and no amusements that were not of his choosing, and that after spending my days walking through the inside of this precious hospital I must spend my nights walking round the outside of it. Being a woman of like passions with himself, I had a ‘ter’ble dust’ with him on the subject, and the next I heard was that he was going to make Retreat in a kind of English-church monastery somewhere in the city, where he would ‘try to disentangle’ himself ‘from the world’ and see what he ‘ought to do next.’ He sent me his blessing with this message, and I sent him back mine—a less holy one, but he’ll make it do.
“I thought you would remember Mr. Drake’s mother, dear Auntie Rachel. Yes, he is fair also, and wears his hair brushed across his forehead, much as you see in the portraits of Napoleon. In fact, he is a sort of fair-haired Napoleon in nature as well.
“He took me to the theatre the other evening, and that was the great event I intended to tell you about. It was quite a proper sort of place, and nobody behaved badly except Glory, who kept talking and preaching and going silly with excitement all the evening through, with the result that everybody was staring mewards and wanting to turn me out.
“Since then Mr. Drake’s friend, Lord Bob, who knows all the actors on earth seemingly, has taken us ‘behind,’ and we have seen a rehearsal. Things don’t look quite the same behind as before, but nothing in the world does that, and I wasn’t a bit disenchanted. In fact, I found everything delightfully romantic and amusing, and really I do not think it can be so very wicked to be an actress. Do you?
“My friend Polly Love was with us. Polly is a probationer also, and sleeps in the cubicle next to mine, and after the rehearsal we went to the gentlemen’s chambers to tea. I can hear what Aunt Anna is saying: ‘Goodness gracious! you didn’t do that, girl?’ Well, yes, I did though. In the interest of my sex I wanted to see how two boys could live in rooms all by themselves, and it’s perfectly shocking how well they get on without a woman. Of course I wasn’t such a silly as to let wit about that, but after I had examined their sitting-room and cross-examined its owners on its numerous photographs (chiefly feminine) and tried how it feels to hold their big pipes between one’s teeth, I whipped off my hat at once and began to put things straight for them, and then I made the tea.
“By this time the gentlemen had changed into their jackets, and I sent them flying around for cups and saucers and sugar basins. It turned out that they had only one teaspoon in the place, and when anybody wanted to stir her tea she said, ‘Will you oblige me with spoon please?’ What fun it was! We laughed until we cried—at least one of us did—and eventually we managed to break the teapot and a slop basin and to overturn a standing lamp. It was perfectly delightful!
“But the best sport was after tea was over, and Glory was called on for imitations of the people we had seen at the theatre. Of course she couldn’t imitate a man when she was in a woman’s frock, so being as bright as diamonds that night and twice ‘as impudent as a white stone,’ [* A Manx proverb] she actually conceived the idea of dressing up in man’s clothes. Naturally the gentlemen were enchanted, so I hope Auntie Rachel isn’t terribly shocked. Mr. Drake lent me his knickerbockers and a velvet jacket, and Polly and I went into the bedroom, where she helped me to find the way to put them on. With my own blouse and my own hat (I am wearing a felt one now with a broad brim and a feather), and of course my own slippers and stockings, I made a bogh of a boy, I can tell you. I thought Polly would have died of delight in the bedroom, but when we came out she kept covering her face and crying, ‘Glory, how canyou!’
“I’m afraid I sang and talked more than was good for the soul, but it was all Mr. Drake’s doing. He declared I was such a marvellous mimic that it was simply a waste of time and the good gifts of God to go on hospital nursing any longer. And I do believe that if anything happened, and the need arose, he would——
“Only fancy Glory a public person, and all the world and his wife going down on their knees to her! But then it’s fearful to think of being an actress, isn’t it?
“After all such glorious ‘outs’ I have to go ‘in’ to the hospital, and then comes my fit again. Do you remember my little boy who said he was going to the angels, and he would get lots of gristly pork up there? He has gone, and I don’t think I like nursing children now. Oh, how I long to go out into the world! I want to shine in it. I want to become great and glorious. I could do it too, I know I could. I have got it in me, I am sure I have. Yet here I am in a little dark corner crying for the sunshine!
“How silly this is, isn’t it? It sounds like madness. My dears, allow me to introduce you to some one—
“Glory Quayle, ‘March Hare and Madwoman.'”
The board room of the hospital of Martha’s Vineyard was a large and luxurious chamber, with an oval window at its farther end, and its two side walls panelled with portraits of former chairmen and physicians. In great oaken armchairs, behind ponderous oaken tables, covered with green cloth and furnished with writing pads, the Board of Governors sat in three sides of a square, leaving an open space in the middle. This open space was reserved for patients seeking admission or receiving discharge, and for officers of the hospital presenting their weekly reports.
On a morning in August the matron’s report had closed with a startling item. It recommended the immediate suspension of a nurse on the ground of gross impropriety of conduct. The usual course in such a case was for the board of the hospital to depute the matron to act for them in private, but the chairman in this instance was a peppery person, with a stern mouth and a solid under-jaw.
“This is a most serious matter,” he said. “I think—this being a public institution—I really think the board should investigate the case for itself. We ought to assure ourselves that—that, in fact, no other irregularity is going on in the hospital.”
“May it please your lordship,” said a rotund voice from, one of the side tables, “I would suggest that a case like this of grievous moral delinquency comes directly within the dispensation of the chaplain, and if he has done his duty by the unhappy girl (as no doubt he has) he must have a statement to make to the board with regard to her.”
It was Canon Wealthy.
“I may mention,” he added, “that Mr. Storm has now returned to his duties, and is at present in the hospital.”
“Send for him,” said the chairman.
When John Storm entered the board room it was remarked that he looked no better for his holiday. His cheeks were thinner, his eyes more hollow, and there was a strange pallor under his swarthy skin.
The business was explained to him, and he was asked if he had any statement to make with regard to the nurse whom the matron had reported for suspension.
“No,” he said, “I have no statement.”
“Do you mean to tell the board,” said the chairman, “that you know nothing of this matter—that the case is too trivial for your attention—or perhaps that you have never even spoken to the girl on the subject?”
“That is so—I never have,” said John.
“Then you shall do so now,” said the chairman, and he put his hand on the bell beside him, and the messenger appeared.
“You can not intend, sir, to examine the girl here,” said John.
“And why not?”
“Before so many—and all of us men save one. Surely the matron——”
The canon rose to his feet again. “My young brother is naturally sensitive, my lord, but I assure him his delicate feelings are wasted on a girl like this. He forgets that the shame lies in the girl’s sin, not in her just and necessary punishment.”
“Bring her in,” said the chairman. The matron whispered to the messenger, and he left the room.
“Pardon me, sir,” said John Storm; “if it is your expectation that I should question the nurse on her sin, as the canon says, I can not do so.”
“Well, I will not.”
“And is that your idea of your duty as a chaplain?”
“It is the matron’s duty, not the chaplain’s, to——”
“The matron! The matron! This is your parish, sir—your parish. A great public institution is in danger of a disgraceful scandal, and you who are responsible for its spiritual welfare—really, gentlemen——”
Again the canon rose with a conciliatory smile.
“I think I understand my young friend,” he said, “and your lordship and the hoard will appreciate his feelings, however you may disapprove of his judgment. What generous heart can not sympathize with the sensitive spirit of the youthful clergyman who shrinks from the spectacle of guilt and shame in a young and perhaps beautiful woman? But if it will relieve your lordship from an embarrassing position, I am myself willing——”
“Thank you,” said the chairman; and then the girl was brought into the room in charge of Sister Allworthy.
She was holding her head down and trying to cover her face with her hands.
“Your name, girl?” said the canon.
“Mary Elizabeth Love,” she faltered.
“You are aware, Mary Elizabeth Love, that our excellent and indulgent matron” (here he bowed to a stout lady who sat in the open space) “has been put to the painful duty of reporting you for suspension, which is equivalent to your immediate discharge. Now, I can not hold out a hope that the board will not ratify her recommendation, but it may perhaps qualify the terms of your ‘character’ if you can show these gentlemen that the unhappy lapse from good conduct which brings you to this position of shame and disgrace is due in any measure to irregularities practised perhaps within this hospital, or to the temptations of any one connected with it.”
The girl began to cry.
“Speak, nurse; if you have anything to say, the gentlemen are willing to hear it.”
The girl’s crying deepened into sobs.
“Useless!” said the chairman.
“Impossible!” said the canon.
But some one suggested that perhaps the nurse had a girl friend in the hospital who could throw light on the difficult situation. Then Sister Allworthy whispered to the matron, who said, “Bring her in.”
John Storm’s face had assumed a fixed and absent expression, but he saw a girl of larger size than Polly Love enter the room with a gleam, as it were, of sunshine on her golden-red hair. It was Glory.
There was some preliminary whispering, and then the canon began again:
“You are a friend and companion of Mary Elizabeth Love?”
“Yes,” said Glory.
Her voice was full and calm, and a look of quiet courage lit up her girlish beauty.
“You have known her other friends, no doubt, and perhaps you have shared her confidence?”
“I think so.”
“Then you can tell the board if the unhappy condition in which she finds herself is due to any one connected with this hospital.”
“I think not.”
“Not to any officer, servant, or member of any school attached to it?”
“Thank you,” said the chairman, “that is quite enough,” and down the tables of the governors there were nods and smiles of satisfaction.
“What have I done?” said Glory.
“You have done a great service to an ancient and honourable institution,” said the canon, “and the best return the board can make for your candour and intelligence is to advise you to avoid such companionship for the future and to flee such perilous associations.”
A certain desperate recklessness expressed itself in Glory’s face, and she stepped up to Polly, who was now weeping audibly, and put her arm about the girl’s waist.
“What are the girl’s relatives?” said the chairman.
The matron replied out of her book. Polly was an orphan, both her parents being dead. She had a brother who had lately been a patient in the hospital, but he was only a lay-helper in the Anglican Monastery at Bishopsgate Street, and therefore useless for present purposes.
There was some further whispering about the tables. Was this the girl who had been recommended to the hospital by the coroner who had investigated a certain notorious and tragic case? Yes.
“I think I have heard of some poor and low relations,” said the canon, “but their own condition is probably too needy to allow them to help her at a time like the present.”
Down to this moment Polly had done nothing but cry, but now she flamed up in a passion of pride and resentment.
“It’s false!” she cried. “I have no poor and low relations, and I want nobody’s help. My friend is a gentleman—as much a gentleman as anybody here—and I can tell you his name, if you like. He lives in St. James’s Street, and he is Lord——”
“Stop, girl!” said the canon, in a loud voice. “We can not allow you to compromise the honour of a gentleman by mentioning his name in his absence.”
John stepped to one of the tables of the governors and took up a pamphlet which lay there. It was the last annual report of Martha’s Vineyard, with a list of its governors and subscribers.
“The girl is suspended,” said the chairman, and reaching for the matron’s book, he signed it and returned it.
“This,” said the canon, “appears to be a case for Mrs. Callender’s Maternity Home at Soho, and with the consent of the board I will request the chaplain to communicate with that lady immediately.”
John Storm had heard, but he made no answer; he was turning over the leaves of the pamphlet.
The canon hemmed and cleared his throat. “Mary Elizabeth Love,” he said, “you have brought a stain upon this honourable and hitherto irreproachable institution, but I trust and believe that ere long, and before your misbegotten child is born, you may see cause to be grateful for our forbearance and our charity. Speaking for myself, I confess it is an occasion of grief to me, and might well, I think, be a cause of sorrow to him who has had your spiritual welfare in his keeping” (here he gave a look toward John), “that you do not seem to realize the position of infamy in which you stand. We have always been taught to think of a woman as sweet and true and pure; a being hallowed to our sympathy by the most sacred associations, and endeared to our love by the tenderest ties, and it is only right” (the canon’s voice was breaking), “it is only right, I say, that you should be told at once, and in this place—though tardily and too late—that for the woman who wrongs that ideal, as you have wronged it, there is but one name known among persons of good credit and good report—a hard name, a terrible name, a name of contempt and loathing—the name of prostitute!”
Crushing the pamphlet in his hand, John Storm had taken a step toward the canon, but he was too late. Some one was there before him. It was Glory. With her head erect and her eyes flashing, she stood between the weeping girl and the black-coated judge, and everybody could see the swelling and heaving of her bosom.
“How dare you!” she cried. “You say you have been taught to think of a woman as sweet and pure. Well, I have been taught to think of a man as strong and brave, and tender and merciful to every living creature, but most of all to a woman, if she is erring and fallen. But you are not brave and tender; you are cruel and cowardly, and I despise you and hate you!”
The men at the tables were rising from their seats.
“Oh, you have discharged my friend,” she said, “and you may discharge me, too, if you like—if you dare! But I will tell everybody that it was because I would not let you insult a poor girl with a cruel and shameful name, and trample upon her when she was down. And everybody will believe me, because it is the truth; and anything else you may say will be a lie, and all the world will know it!”
The matron was shambling up also.
“How dare you, miss! Go back to your ward this instant! Do you know whom you are speaking to?”
“Oh, it’s not the first time I’ve spoken to a clergyman, ma’am. I’m the daughter of a clergyman, and the granddaughter of a clergyman, and I know what a clergyman is when he is brave and good, and gentle and merciful to all women, and when he is a man and a gentleman—not a Pharisee and a crocodile!”
“Please take that girl away,” said the chairman.
But John Storm was by her side in a moment.
“No, sir,” he said, “nobody shall do that.”
But now Glory had broken down too, and the girls, like two lost children, were crying on each other’s breasts. John opened the door and led them up to it.
“Take your friend to her room, nurse: I shall be with you presently.”
Then he turned back to the chairman, still holding the crumpled pamphlet in his hand, and said calmly and respectfully:
“And now that you have finished with the woman, sir, may I ask what you intend to do with the man?”
“Though I did not feel myself qualified to sit in judgment on the broken heart of a fallen girl, I happen to know the name which she was forbidden to mention, and I find it here, sir—here in your list of subscribers and governors.”
“Well, what of it?”
“You have wiped the girl out of your books, sir. Now I ask you to wipe the man out also.”
“Gentlemen,” said the chairman, rising, “the business of the board is at an end.”
John Storm wrote a letter to Mrs. Callender explaining Polly Love’s situation and asking her to call on the girl immediately, and then he went out in search of Lord Robert Ure at the address he had discovered in the report.
He found the man alone on his arrival, but Drake came in soon afterward. Lord Robert received him with a chilly bow; Drake offered his hand coldly; neither of them requested him to sit.
“You are surprised at my visit, gentlemen,” said John, “but I have just now been present at a painful scene, and I thought it necessary that you should know something about it.”
Then he described what had occurred in the board room, and in doing so dwelt chiefly on the abjectness of the girl’s humiliation. Lord Robert stood by the window rapping a tune on the window pane, and Drake sat in a low chair with his legs stretched out and his hands in his trousers pockets.
“But I am at a loss to understand why you have thought it necessary to come here to tell that story,” said Lord Robert.
“Lord Robert,” said John, “you understand me perfectly.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Storm, I do not understand you in the least.”
“Then I will not ask you if you are responsible for the girl’s position.”
“But I will ask you a simpler and easier question.”
“What is it?”
“When are you going to marry her?”
Lord Robert burst into ironical laughter and faced round to Drake.
“Well, these men—these curates—their assurance, don’t you know… May I ask your reverence what is your position in this matter—your standing, don’t you know?”
“That of chaplain of the hospital.”
“But you say she has been, turned out of it.”
“Very well, Lord Robert, merely that of a man who intends to protect an injured woman.”
“Oh, I know,” said Lord Robert dryly, “I understand these heroics. I’ve heard of your sermons, Mr. Storm—your interviews with ladies, and so forth.”
“And I have heard of your doings with girls,” said John. “What are you going to do for this one?”
“Exactly what I please.”
“Take care! You know what the girl is. It’s precisely such girls—— At this moment she is tottering on the brink of hell, Lord Robert. If anything further should happen—if you should disappoint her—she is looking to you and building up hopes—if she should fall still lower and destroy herself body and soul——”
“My dear Mr. Storm, please understand that I shall do everything or nothing for the girl exactly as I think well, don’t you know, without the counsel or coercion of any clergyman.”
There was a short silence, and then John Storm said quietly: “It is no worse than I expected. But I had to hear it from your own lips, and I have heard it. Good-day.”
He went back to the hospital and asked for Glory. She was banished with Polly to the housekeeper’s room. Polly was catching flies on the window (which overlooked the park) and humming, “Sigh no more, ladies.” Glory’s eyes were red with weeping. John drew Glory aside.
“I have written to Mrs. Callender, and she will be here presently,” he said.
“It is useless,” said Glory. “Polly will refuse to go. She expects Lord Robert to come for her, and she wants me to call on Mr. Drake.”
“But I have seen the man myself.”
“Yes. He will do nothing.”
“Nothing, or worse than nothing.”
“Nothing of that kind is impossible to men like those.”
“They are not so bad as that though, and even if Lord Robert is all you say, Mr. Drake——”
“They are friends and housemates, Glory, and what the one is the other must be also.”
“Oh, no. Mr. Drake is quite a different person.”
“Don’t be misled, my child. If there were any real difference between them——”
“But there is; and if a girl were in trouble or wanted help in anything——”
“He would drop her, Glory, like an old lottery ticket that has drawn a blank and is done for.”
She was biting her lip, and it was bleeding slightly.
“You dislike Mr. Drake,” she said, “and that is why you can not be just to him. But he is always praising and excusing you, and when any one——”
“His praises and excuses are nothing to me. I am not thinking of myself. I am thinking——”
He had a look of intense excitement, and his speaking was abrupt and disconnected.
“You were splendid this morning, Glory, and when I think of the girl who defied that Pharisee, being perhaps herself the victim—The man asked me what my standing was, as if that—But if I had really had a right, if the girl had been anything to me, if she had been somebody else and not a light, shallow, worthless creature, do you know what I should have said to him? ‘Since things have gone so far, sir, you must marry the girl now, and keep to her and be faithful to her, and love her, or else I——”
“You are flushed and excited, and there is something I do not understand——”
“Promise me, Glory, that you will break off this bad connection.”
“You are unreasonable. I can not promise.”
“Promise that you will never see these men again.”
“But I must see Mr. Drake at once and arrange about Polly.”
“Don’t mention the man’s name again; it makes my blood boil to hear you speak it!”
“But this is tyranny; and you are worse than the canon; and I can not bear it.”
“Very well; as you will. It’s of no use struggling—What is the time?”
“Six o’clock nearly.”
“I must see the canon before he goes to dinner.”
His manner had changed suddenly. He looked crushed and benumbed.
“I am going now.” he said, turning aside.
“So soon? When shall I see you again?”
“God knows!—I mean—I don’t know,” he answered in a helpless way.
He was looking around, as if taking a mental farewell of everything.
“But we can not part like this,” she said. “I think you like me a little still, and——”
Her supplicating voice made him look up into her face for a moment. Then he turned away, saying, “Good-bye, Glory.” And with a look of utter exhaustion he went out of the room.
Glory walked to a window at the end of the corridor that she might see him when he crossed the street. There was just a glimpse of his back as he turned the corner with a slow step and his head on his breast. She went back crying.
“I could fancy a fresh herring for supper, dear,” said Polly. “What do you say, housekeeper?”
John Storm went back to the canon’s house a crushed and humiliated man. “I can do no more,” he thought. “I will give it up.” His old influence with Glory must have been lost. Something had come between them—something or some one. “Anyhow it is all over and I must go away somewhere.”
To go on seeing Glory would be useless. It would also be dangerous. As often as he was face to face with her he wanted to lay hold of her and say, “You must do this and this, because it is my wish and direction and command, and it is I that say so!” In the midst of God’s work how subtle were the temptations of the devil!
But with every step that he went plodding home there came other feelings. He could see the girl quite plainly, her fresh young face, so strong and so tender, so full of humour and heart’s love, and all the sweet beauty of her form and figure. Then the old pain in his breast came back again and he began to be afraid.
“I will take refuge in the Church,” he thought. In prayer and penance and fasting he would find help and consolation. The Church was peace—peace from the noise of life, and strength to fight and to vanquish. But the Church must be the Church of God—not of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
“Ask the canon if he can see me immediately,” said John Storm to the footman, and he stood in the hall for the answer.
The canon had taken tea that day in the study with his daughter Felicity. He was reclining on the sofa, propped up with velvet cushions, and holding the teacup and saucer like the wings of a butterfly in both hands.
“We have been deceived, my dear” (sip, sip), “and we must pay the penalty of the deception. Yet we have nothing to blame ourselves for—nothing whatever. Here was a young man, from Heaven knows where, bent on entering the diocese. True, he was merely the son of a poor lord who had lived the life of a hermit, but he was also the nephew, and presumably the heir, of the Prime Minister of England” (sip, sip, sip). “Well, I gave him his title. I received him into my house. I made him free of my family—and what is the result? He has disregarded my instructions, antagonized my supporters, and borne himself toward me with an attitude of defiance, if not disdain.”
Felicity poured out a second cup of tea for her father, sympathized with him, and set forth her own grievances. The young man had no conversation, and his reticence was quite embarrassing. Sometimes when she had friends, and asked him to come down, his silence—well, really——
“We might have borne with these little deficiencies, my dear, if the Prime Minister had been deeply interested. But he is not. I doubt if he has ever seen his nephew since that first occasion. And when I called at Downing Street, about the time of the sermon, he seemed entirely undisturbed. ‘The young man is in the wrong place, my dear canon; send him back to me.’ That was all.”
“Then why don’t you do it?” said Felicity.
“It is coming to that, my child; but blood is thicker than water, you know, and after all——”
It was at this moment the footman entered the room to ask if the canon could see Mr. Storm.
“Ah, the man himself!” said the canon, rising. “Jenkyns, remove the tray.” Dropping his voice: “Felicity, I will ask you to leave us together. After what occurred this morning at the hospital anything like a scene——” Then aloud: “Bring him in, Jenkyns.—Say something, my dear. Why don’t you speak?—Come in, my dear Storm.—You’ll see to that matter for me, Felicity. Thanks, thanks! Sorry to send you off, but I’m sure Mr. Storm will excuse you. Good-bye for the present.”
Felicity went out as John Storm came in. He looked excited, and there was an expression of pain in his face.
“I am sorry to disturb you, but I need not detain you long,” he said.
“Sit down, Mr. Storm, sit down,” said the canon, returning to the sofa.
But John did not sit. He stood by the chair vacated by Felicity, and kept beating his hat on the back of it.
“I have come to tell you, sir, that I wish to resign my curacy.”
The canon glanced up with a stealthy expression, and thought: “How clever of him! To resign before he is told plainly that he has to go—that is very clever.”
Then he said aloud: “I am sorry, very sorry. I’m always sorry to part with my clergy. Still—you see I am entirely frank with you—I have observed that you have not been comfortable of late, and I think you are acting for the best. When do you wish to leave me?”
“As soon as convenient—as early as I can be spared.”
The canon smiled condescendingly. “That need not trouble you at all. With a staff like mine, you see—— Of course, you are aware that I am entitled to three months’ notice?”
“But I will waive it; I will not detain you. Have you seen your uncle on the subject?”
“When you do so please say that I always try to remove impediments from a young man’s path if he is uncomfortable—in the wrong place, for example.”
“Thank you,” said John Storm, and then he hesitated a moment before stepping to the door.
The canon rose and bowed affably. “Not an angry word,” he thought. “Who shall say that blood does not count for something?”
“Believe me, my dear Storm,” he said aloud, “I shall always remember with pride and pleasure our early connection. Perhaps I think you are acting unwisely, even foolishly, but it will continue to be a source of satisfaction to me that I was able to give you your first opportunity, and if your next curacy should chance to be in London, I trust you will allow us to maintain the acquaintance.”
John Storm’s face was twitching and his pulses were beating violently, but he was trying to control himself.
“Thank you,” he said; “but it is not very likely——”
“Don’t say you are giving up Orders, dear Mr. Storm, or perhaps that you are only leaving our church in order to unite yourself to another. Ah! have I touched on a tender point? You must not be surprised that rumours have been rife. We can not silence the tongues of busybodies and mischief-makers, you know. And I confess, speaking as your spiritual head and adviser, it would be a source of grief to me if a young clergyman, who has eaten the bread of the Establishment, and my own as well, were about to avow himself the subject and slave of an Italian bishop.”
John Storm came back from the door.
“What you are saying, sir, requires that I should be plain spoken. In giving up my curacy I am not leaving the Church of England; I am only leaving you.”
“I am so glad, so relieved!”
“I am leaving you because I can not live with you any longer, because the atmosphere you breathe is impossible to me, because your religion is not my religion, or your God my God!”
“You surprise me. What have I done?”
“A month ago I asked you to set your face as a clergyman against the shameful and immoral marriage of a man of scandalous reputation, but you refused; you excused the man and sided with him. This morning you thought it necessary to investigate in public the case of one of that man’s victims, and you sided with the man again—you denied to the girl the right even to mention the scoundrel’s name!”
“How differently we see things! Do you know I thought my examination of the poor young thing was merciful to the point of gentleness! And that, I may tell you—notwithstanding the female volcano who came down on me—was the view of the board and of his lordship the chairman.”
“Then I am sorry to differ from them. I thought it unnecessary and unmanly and brutal, and even blasphemous!”
“Mr. Storm! Do you know what you are saying?”
“Perfectly, and I came to say it.”
His eyes were wild, his voice was hoarse; he was like a man breaking the bonds of a tyrannical slavery.
“You called that poor child a prostitute because she had wasted the good gifts which God had given her. But God has given good gifts to you also—gifts of intellect and eloquence with which you might have raised the fallen and supported the weak, and defended the downtrodden and comforted the broken-hearted—and what have you done with them? You have bartered them for benefices, and peddled them for popularity; you have given them in exchange for money, for houses, for furniture, for things like this—and this—and this! You have sold your birthright for a mess of pottage, therefore you are the prostitute!”
“You’re not yourself, sir; leave me,” and, crossing the room, the canon touched the bell.
“Yes, ten thousand times more the prostitute than that poor fallen girl with her taint of blood and will! There would be no such women as she is to fall victims to evil companionship if there were no such men as you are to excuse their betrayers and to side with them. Who is most the prostitute—the woman who sells her body, or the man who sells his soul?”
“You’re mad, sir! But I want no scene——”
“You are the worst prostitute on the streets of London, and yet you are in the Church, in the pulpit, and you call yourself a follower of the One who forgave the woman and shamed the hypocrites, and had not where to lay his head!”
But the canon had faced about and fled out of the room.
The footman came in answer to the bell, and, finding no one but John Storm, he told him that a lady was waiting for him in a carriage at the door.
It was Mrs. Callender. She had come to say that she had called at the hospital for Polly Love, and the girl had refused to go to the home at Soho.
“But whatever’s amiss with ye, man?” she said. “You might have seen a ghost!”
He had come out bareheaded, carrying his hat in his hand.
“It’s all over,” he said. “I’ve waited weeks and weeks for it, but it’s over at last. It was of no use mincing matters, so I spoke out.”
His red eyes were ablaze, but a great load seemed to be lifted off his mind, and his soul seemed to exult.
“I have told him I must leave him, and I am to go, immediately. The disease was dire, and the remedy had to be dire also.”
The old lady was holding her breath and watching his flushed face with strained attention.
“And what may ye be going to do now?”
“To become a religious in something more than the name; to leave the world altogether with its idleness and pomp and hypocrisy and unreality.”
“Get yoursel’ some flesh on your bones first, man. It’s easy to see ye’ve no been sleeping or eating these days and days together.”
“That’s nothing—nothing at all. God can not take half your soul. You must give yourself entirely.”
“Eh, laddie, laddie, I feared me this was what ye were coming til. But a man can not bury himself before he is dead. He may bury the half of himself, but is it the better half? What of his thoughts—his wandering thoughts? Choose for yoursel’, though, and if you must go—if you must hide yoursel’ forever, and this is the last I’m to see of ye—ye may kiss me, laddie—I’m old enough, surely.—Go on, James, man, what for are ye sitting up there staring?”
When John Storm returned to his room he found a letter from Parson Quayle. It was a good-natured, cackling epistle, full of sweet nothings about Glory and the hospital, about Peel and the discovery of ancient ruins in the graveyards of the treen chapels, but it closed with this postscript:
“You will remember old Chalse, a sort of itinerant beggar and the privileged pet of everybody. The silly old gawk has got hold of your father and has actually made the old man believe that you are bewitched! Some one has put the evil eye on you—some woman it would seem—and that is the reason why you have broken away and behaved so strangely! It is most extraordinary. That such a foolish superstition should have taken hold of a man like your father is really quite astonishing, but if it will only soften his rancour against you and help to restore peace we may perhaps forgive the distrust of Providence and the outrage on common sense. All’s well that ends well, you know, and we shall all be happy.”
“Lost, stolen, or strayed—a man, a clergyman, answers to the name of John Storm. Or rather he does not answer, having allowed himself to be written to twice without making so much as a yap or a yowl by way of reply. Last seen six days ago, when he was suffering from the sulks, after being in a de’il of a temper, with a helpless and innocent maiden who ‘doesn’t know nothin’,’ that can have given him offence. Any one giving information of his welfare and whereabouts to the said H. and I. M. will be generously and appropriately rewarded.
“But, soberly, my dear John Storm, what has become of you? Where are you, and whatever have you been doing since the day of the dreadful inquisition? Frightful rumours are flying through the air like knives, and they cut and wound a poor girl woefully. Therefore be good enough to reply by return of post—and in person.
“Meantime please accept it as a proof of my eternal regard that after two knock-down blows received in silence I am once more coming up smiling. Know, then, that Mr. Drake has justified all expectations, having compelled Lord Robert to provide for Polly, who is now safely ensconced in her own country castle somewhere in St. John’s Wood, furnished to hand with servants and vassals complete. Thus you will be charmed to observe in me the growth of the prophetic instinct, for you will remember my positive prediction that if a girl were in trouble, and the necessity arose, Mr. Drake would be the first to help her. Of course, he had a great deal to say that was as sweet as syrup on the loyalty of my own friendship also, and he expended much beautiful rhetoric on yourself as well. It seems that you are one of those who follow the impulse of the heart entirely, while the rest of us divide our allegiance with the head; and if you display sometimes the severity of a tyrant of our sex, that is only to be set down as another proof of your regard and of the elevation of the pedestal whereon you desire us to be placed. Thus he reconciles me to the harmony of the universe, and makes all things easy and agreeable.
“This being the case, I have now to inform you that Polly’s baby has come, having hastened his arrival (it is a man, bless it!) owing either to the tears or the terrors of the crocodile. And being on night duty now, and therefore at liberty from 6.30 to 8.30, I intend to pay him my first call of ceremony this evening, when anybody else would be welcome to accompany me who might be willing to come to his shrine of innocence and love in the spirit of the wise men of the East. But, lest anybody should inquire for me at the hospital at the first of the hours aforesaid, this is to give warning that the White Owl has expressly forbidden all intercourse between the members of her staff and the discharged and dishonoured mother. Set it down to my spirit of contradiction that I intend to disregard the mandate, though I am only too well aware that the poor discharged and dishonoured one has no other idea of friendship than that of a loyalty in which she shares but is not sharing. Of course, woman is born to such selfishness as the sparks fly upward; but if I should ever meet with a man who isn’t I will just give myself up to him—body and soul and belongings—unless he has a wife or other encumbrance already and is booked for this world, and in that event I will enter into my own recognisances and be bound over to him for the next. Glory.”
At six-thirty that evening Glory stood waiting in the portico of the hospital, but John Storm did not come. At seven she was ringing at the bell of a little house in St. John’s Wood that stood behind a high wall and had an iron grating in the garden door. The bell was answered by a good-natured, slack-looking servant, who was friendly, and even familiar in a moment.
“Are you the young lady from the hospital? The missis told me about you. I’m Liza, and come upstairs—Yes, doing nicely, thank you, both of ‘em is—and mind your head, miss.”
Polly was in a little bandbox of a bedroom, looking more pink and white than ever against the linen of her frilled pillow slips. By the bedside a woman of uncertain age in deep mourning, with little twinkling eyes and fat cheeks, was rocking the baby on her knee and babbling over it in words of maudlin endearment.
“Bless it, ‘ow it do notice! Boo-loo-loo!”
Glory leaned over the little one and pronounced it the prettiest baby she had ever seen.
“Syme ‘ere miss. There ain’t sech another in all London! It’s jest the sort of baby you can love. Pore little thing, it’s quite took to me already, as if it wanted to enkirridge you, my dear.”
“This is Mrs. Jupe,” said Polly, “and she’s going to take baby to nurse.”
“Boo-loo-loo-boo! And a nice new cradle’s awaiting of it afront of the fire in my little back parlour. Boo-loo!”
“But surely you’re never going to part with your baby!” said Glory.
“Why, what do you suppose, dear? Do you think I’m going to be tied to a child all my days, and never be able to go anywhere or do anything or amuse myself at all?”
“Jest that. It’ll be to our mootual benefit, as I said when I answered your advertisement.”
Glory asked the woman if she was married and had any children of her own.
“Me, miss? I’ve been married eleven years, and I’ve allwiz prayed the dear Lord to gimme childring. Got any? On’y one little girl; but I want to adopt another from the birth, so as to have something to love when my own’s growed up.”
Glory supposed that Polly could see her baby at any time, but the woman answered doubtfully:
“Can she see baby? Well, I would rather not, certingly. If I tyke it I want to feel it is syme as my very own and do my dooty by it, pore thing! And if the mother were coming and going I should allwiz feel as she ‘ad the first claim.”
Polly showed no interest in the conversation until Mrs. Jupe asked for the name of her “friend,” in lieu of eighty pounds that were to be paid down on delivery of the child.
“Come, myke up your mind, my dear, and let me tyke it away at onct. Give me ‘is nyme, that’s good enough for me.”
After some hesitation Glory gave Lord Robert’s name and address, and the woman prepared the child for its departure.
“Don’t tyke on so, my dear. ‘Tain’t sech a great crime, and many a laidy of serciety ‘as done worse.”
At the street door Glory asked Mrs. Jupe for her own address, and the woman gave her a card, saying if she ever wanted to leave the hospital it would be easy to help such a fine-looking young woman as she was to make a bit of living for herself.
Polly recovered speedily from the trouble of the child’s departure, and presently assumed an easy and almost patronizing tone toward Glory, pretending to be amused and even a little indignant when asked how soon she expected to be fit for business again, and able to do without Lord Robert’s assistance.
“To tell you the truth,” she said, “I was as much to blame as he was. I wanted to escape from the drudgery of the hospital, and I knew he would take me when the time came.”
Glory left early, vowing in her heart she would come no more. When she changed her omnibus at Piccadilly the Circus was very full of women.
“Letter for you, nurse,” said the porter as she entered the hospital. It was from John Storm.
“Dear Glory: I have at length decided to enter the Brotherhood at Bishopsgate Street, and I am to go into the monastery this evening. It is not as a visitor that I am going this time, but as a postulant or novice and in the hope of becoming worthy in due course to take the vows of lifelong consecration. Therefore I am writing to you probably for the last time, and parting from you perhaps forever.
“Since we came up to London together I have suffered many shocks and disappointments, and I seem to have been torn in ribbons. My cherished dreams have proved to be delusions; the palaces I had built up for myself have turned out to be pasteboard, gilt, and rubbish; I have been robbed of all my jewels, or they have shown themselves to be shingle stones. In this condition of shame and disillusionment I am now resolved to escape at the same time from the world and from myself, for I am tired of both alike, and already I feel as if a great weight had been lifted off me.
“But I wish to speak of you. You must have thought me cantankerous, and so I have been sometimes, but always by conviction and on principle. I could not countenance the fashionable morality that is corrupting the manhood of the laity, or endure the toleration that is making the clergy thoroughly wicked; I could not without a pang see you cater to the world’s appetites or be drawn into its gaieties and frivolities; and it was agony to me to fear that a girl of your pure if passionate nature might perhaps fall a victim to a gamester in life’s follies—an actor indulging a pastime—a mere cheat.
“And what you tell me of your friend’s altered circumstances does not relieve me of such anxieties. The man who has deceived a girl once is likely to deceive her again. Short of marriage itself, such connections should be cut off entirely, whatever the price. When they are maintained in relations of liberty the victim is sure to be further victimized, and her last state is always worse than the first.
“However, I do not wish to blame anybody, least of all you, who have done everything for the best, and especially now when I am parting from you forever. You have never realized how much you have been to me, and I doubt if I knew it myself until to-day. You know how I was brought up—with a solitary old man—God be with him!—who tried to be good to me for the sake of his ambitions, and to love me for the sake of his revenge. I never knew my mother, I never had a sister, and I can never have a wife. You were all three to me and yourself besides. There were no women in our household, and you stood for woman in my life. I have never told you this before, but now I tell it as a dying man whispers his secret with his parting breath.
“I have written my letters of farewell—one to my father, asking his forgiveness if I have done him any wrong; one to my uncle, with my love and thanks; and one to your good old grandfather, giving up my solemn and sacred trust of you. My conduct will of course be condemned as weak and foolish from many points of view, but by my departure some difficulties will be removed, and for the rest I have come to see that everything is done by the spirit and nothing by the flesh, and that by prayer and fasting I can help and protect you more than by counsel and advice. Thus everything is for the best.
“The rule under which the Brothers live in community forbids them to write and receive letters without special permission, or even to think too constantly of the world outside; and now that I am on the eve of that new life, memories of the old one keep crowding on me as on a drowning man. But they are all of one period—the days when we were at Peel in your sweet little island, before the vain and cruel world came in between us, when you were a simple, merry girl, and I was little more than a happy boy, and we went plunging and laughing through your bright blue sea together.
“But earth’s joys grow very dim and its glories are fading. That also is for the best. I have my Koh-i-noor—my desire to depart and surrender my life to God. John Storm.”
“Anything wrong, nurse? Feeling ill, ain’t ye? Only dizzy a bit? Unpleasant news from home, perhaps?”
“No, something else. Let me sit in your room, porter.”
She read the letter again and again, until the words seemed blurred and the lines irregular as a spider’s web. Then she thought: “We can not part forever like this. I must see him again whatever happens. Perhaps he has not yet gone.”
It was now half-past eight and time to go on duty, but she went upstairs to Sister Allworthy and asked for an hour’s further leave. The request was promptly refused. She went downstairs to the matron and asked for half an hour, only that she might see a friend away on a long journey, and that was refused too. Then she tightened her quivering lips, returned to the porter’s room, fixed her bonnet on before the scratched pier-glass, and boldly walked out of the hospital.
It was now quite dark and the fashionable dinner hour of Belgravia, and as she hurried through the streets many crested and coroneted carriages drew up at the great mansions and discharged their occupants in evening dress. The canon’s house was brilliantly lighted, and when the door was opened in answer to her knock she could see the canon himself at the head of his own detachment of diners coming downstairs with a lady in white silk chatting affably on his arm.
“Is Mr. Storm at home?”
The footman, in powdered wig and white cotton gloves, answered haltingly. “If it is—er—anything about the hospital, miss, Mr.—er—Golightly will attend.”
“No, it is Mr. Storm himself I wish to see.”
“Gorn!” said the footman, and he shut the door in her face.
She had an impulse to hammer on the door with her hand, and command the flunky to go down on his knees and beg her pardon. But what was the good? She had no time to think of herself now.
As a last resource she would go to Bishopsgate. How dense the traffic seemed to be at Victoria! She had never felt so helpless before.
It was better in the city, and as she walked eastward, in the direction indicated by a policeman, every step brought her into quieter streets. She was now in that part of London which is the world’s busiest market-place by day, but is shut up and deserted at night. Her light footsteps echoed against the shutters of the shops. The moon had risen, and she could see far down the empty street.
She found the place at last. It was one of London’s weather-beaten old churches, shouldered by shops on either hand, and almost pushed back by the tide of traffic. There was an iron gate at the side, leading by an arched passage to a little courtyard, which was bounded by two high blank walls, by the back wall of the church, and by the front of a large house with a small doorway and many small windows. In the middle of the courtyard there was a tree with a wooden seat round its trunk.
And being there, she felt afraid and almost wished she had not come. The church was dimly lighted, and she thought perhaps the cleaners were within. But presently there was a sound of singing, in men’s voices only, and without any kind of musical accompaniment. Just then the clock in the steeple struck nine, and chimes began to play:
Days and moments quickly flying.
The singing came to an end, and there was some low, inarticulate droning, and then a general “Amen.” The hammer of the bell continued to beat out its hymn, and Glory stood under the shadow of the tree to collect her thoughts.
Then the sacristy door opened and a line of men came out. They were in long black cassocks, and they crossed the courtyard from the church to the house with the measured and hasty step of monks, and with their hands clasped at their breasts. Almost at the end of the line, walking with an old man whose tread was heavy, there was a younger one who was bareheaded, and who did not wear the cassock. The moon threw a light on his face, which looked pale and worn. It was John Storm.
Glory gave a faint cry, a gasp, and he turned round as if startled.
“Only the creaking of the sycamore,” said the Superior. And then the mysterious shadows took them; they passed into the house, the door was closed, and she was alone with the chimes:
Days and moments quickly flying, Blend the living with the dead.
Glory’s strength had deserted her, and she went away as she came. When she got back to Victoria, she felt for the first time as if her own little life had been swallowed up in the turmoil of London, and she had gone down to the cold depths of an icy sea.
It was a quarter to ten when she returned to the ward, and the matron, with her dog on her lap, was waiting to receive her.
“Didn’t I tell you that you could not go out to-night?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Glory.
“Then how did you dare to go?”
Glory looked at her unwaveringly, with glittering eyes that seemed to smile, whereupon the matron picked up her dog, gathered up her train, and swept out of the ward, saying:
“Nurse, you can leave me at the end of your term; and you need never cross the doors of this institution again.”
Then Glory, who had all night wanted to cry, burst into laughter. The ward Sister reproved her, but she laughed in the woman’s fat face, and would have given worlds to slap it.
There was not a nurse in the hospital who showed more bright and cheerful spirits when the patients were being prepared for the night. But next morning, in the gray dawn, when she had dragged herself to bed, and was able at length to be alone, she beat the pillows with both hands and sobbed in her loneliness and shame.
But youth is rich in hope, and at noon, when Glory awoke, the thought of Drake flashed upon her like light in a dark place. He had compelled Lord Robert to assist Polly in a worse extremity, and he would assist her in her present predicament. How often he had hinted that the hospital was not good enough for her, and that some day and somewhere Fate would find other work for her and another sphere. The time had come; she would appeal to him, and he would hasten to help her.
She began to revive the magnificent dreams that had floated in her mind for months. No need to tell the people at home of her dismissal and disgrace; no need to go back to the island. She would be somebody in her own right yet. Of course, she would have to study, to struggle, to endure disappointments, but she would triumph in the end. And when at length she was great and famous she would be good to other poor girls; and as often as she thought of John Storm in his solitude in his cell, though there might be a pang, a red stream running somewhere within, she would comfort herself with the thought that she, too, was doing her best; she, too, had her place, and it was a useful and worthy one.
Before that time came, however, there would be managers to influence and engagements to seek, and perhaps teachers to pay for. But Drake was rich and generous and powerful; he had a great opinion of her talents, and he would stop at nothing.
Leaping out of bed, she sat down at the table as she was and wrote to him:
“Dear Mr. Drake: Try to see me to-night. I want your advice immediately. What do you think? I have got myself ‘noticed’ at last, and as a consequence I am to leave at the end of my term. So things are urgent, you see. I ‘wave my lily hand’ to you. Glory.
“P.S.—save time I suggest the hour and the place: eight o’clock, St. James’s Park, by the bridge going down from Marlborough House.”
Drake received this note as he was sitting alone in his chambers smoking a cigarette after drinking a cup of tea, in that hour of glamour that is between the lights. It seemed to bring with it a secret breath of passion out of the atmosphere in which it had been written. At the first impulse it went up to his lips, but at the next moment he was smitten by the memory of something, and he thought: “I will do what is right; I will play the game fair.”
He dined that night with a group of civil servants at his club in St. James’s Street, but at a quarter to eight, notwithstanding some playful bantering, he put on his overcoat and turned toward the park. The autumn night was soft and peaceful; the stars were out and the moon had risen; a fragrant mist came up from the lake, and the smoke of his cigar was hardly troubled by the breeze that pattered the withered tassels of the laburnums. Big Ben was striking eight as he reached the end of the little bridge, and almost immediately afterward he was aware of soft and hurrying footsteps approaching him.
Glory had come down by the Mall. The whispering of the big white trees in the moonlight was like company, and she sang to herself as she walked. Her heart seemed to have gone into her heels since yesterday, for her step was light and sometimes she ran a few paces. She arrived out of breath as the great clock was striking, and seeing the figure of a gentleman in evening dress by the end of the bridge, she stopped to collect herself.
Her hand was hot and a little damp when Drake took it, and her face was somewhat flushed. She had all at once become ashamed that she had come to ask him for anything, and she took out her pocket-handkerchief and began to roll it in her palms. He misunderstood her agitation, and trying to cover it he offered her his arm and took her across the bridge, and they turned westward down the path that runs along the margin of the lake.
“Mr. Storm has gone,” she said, thinking to explain herself.
“I know,” he answered.
“Is it generally known, then?”
“I had a letter from him yesterday.”
“Was it about me?”
“You must not mind if he says things, you know.”
“I don’t, Glory. I set them down to the egotism of the religious man. The religious man can not believe that anybody can live a moral life and act on principle except from the religious impulse…. I suppose he has warned you against me, hasn’t he?”
“I’m at a loss to know what I’ve done to deserve it. But time must justify me. I am not a religious man myself, you know, though I hate to talk of it. To tell you the truth, I think the religious idea a monstrous egotism altogether, and the love of God merely the love of self. Still, you must judge for yourself, Glory.”
“Are we not wasting our time a little?” she said. “I am here; isn’t that proof enough of my opinion?” And then in an agitated whisper she added: “I have only half an hour, the gates will be closing, and I want to ask your advice, you know. You remember what I told you in my letter?”
He patted the hand on his arm and said, “Tell me how it happened.”
She told him everything, with many pauses, expecting every moment that he would break in upon her and say, “Why didn’t you box the woman’s ears?” or perhaps laugh and assure her that it did not matter in the least, and she was making too much of a mere bagatelle. But he listened to every syllable, and after she had finished there was silence for a moment. Then he said: “I’m sorry—very sorry; in fact, I am much troubled about it.”
Her nerves were throbbing hard and her hand on his arm was twitching.
“If you had left of your own accord after that scene in the board room, it would have been so different—so easy for me to help you!”
“I should have spoken to my chief—he is a governor of many hospitals—and said, ‘A young friend of mine, a nurse, is uncomfortable in her present place and would like to change her hospital.’ It would have been no sooner said than done. But now—now there is the black book against you, and God knows if … In fact, somebody has laid a trap for you, Glory, intending to get rid of you at the first opportunity, and you seem to have walked straight into it.”
She felt stunned. “He has forgotten all he has said to me,” she thought. In a feeble, expressionless voice she asked:
“But what am I to do now?”
“Let me think.”
They walked some steps in silence. “He is turning it over,” she thought. “He will tell me how to begin.”
He stopped, as if seized by a new idea.
“Did you tell them where you had been?”
“No,” she replied, in the same weak voice.
“But why not do so? There is hope in that. The chaplain was your friend—your only friend in London, so far as they know. Surely that is an extenuating circumstance so plausible——”
“But I cannot——”
“I know it is bitter to explain—to apologize—and if I can do it for you——”
“I will not allow it!” she said. Her lips were set, and her breath was coming through them in gusts.
“It is a pity to allow the hospitals to be closed against you. Nursing is a good profession, Glory—even a fashionable one. It is true womanly work, and——”
“That was what he said.”
“Who? John Storm? He was right. Indeed, he was an entirely honourable and upright man, and——”
“But you always seemed to say there were other things more worthy of a girl, and if she had a mind to—— But no matter. We needn’t talk about the hospitals any longer. I am not fit for them and shall never go back to them, whatever happens.”
He looked down at her. She was biting her lips, and the tears were gathering in her eyes.
“Well, well, never mind, dear,” he said, and he patted her hand again.
The moon had begun to wane, and out of the dark shadows they walked in they could see the lines of houses lit up all around.
“Look,” she said, with a feeble laugh, “in all this great busy London is there nothing else I’m fit for?”
“You are fit for anything in the world, my dear,” he answered.
Her nerves were throbbing harder than ever. “Perhaps he doesn’t remember,” she thought. Should she tell him what he said so often about her talents, and how much she might be able to make of them?
“Is there nothing a girl can do except go down on her knees to a woman?”
He laughed and talked some nonsense about the kneeling. “Poor little woman, she doesn’t know what she is doing,” he thought.
“I shouldn’t mind what people thought of me,” she said, “not even my own people, who have been brought up with such narrow ideas, you know. They might think what they liked, if I felt I was in the right place at last—the right place for me, I mean.”
Her nervous fingers were involuntarily clutching at his coat sleeve. “Now, any other man——” he thought.
She began to cry. “He won’t remember,” she told herself. “It was only his way of being agreeable when he praised me and predicted such wonderful things. And now his good breeding will not allow him to tell me there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of girls in London as likely to——”
“Come, you mustn’t cry, Glory. It’s not so bad as that.”
She had never seemed to him so beautiful, and he wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her.
“I had no one but you to come to,” she murmured in her confusion. But she was thinking: “Why didn’t you stop me before? Why have you let me go on all these months?”
“I must try to think of something, and I’ll speak to my friend Rosa—Miss Macquarrie, you know.”
“You are a man,” said Glory, “and I thought perhaps——” But she could not speak of her fool’s paradise now, she was so deeply ashamed and abased.
“That’s just the difficulty, my dear. If I were not a man, I might so easily help you.”
What did he mean? The frogs kept croaking at the margin of the lake, disturbed by the sound of their footsteps.
“Whatever you were to tell me to do I should do it,” she said, in the same confused murmur. She was ruining herself with every word she uttered.
He drew up and stood before her, so close that she could feel his breath, on her face. “My dear Glory,” he said passionately, “don’t think it isn’t terrible to me to renounce the happiness of helping you, but I must not, I dare not, I will not take it.”
She could scarcely breathe for the shame that took sudden hold of her.
“Heaven knows I would give anything to have the joy of looking after your happiness, dear, but I should despise myself forever if I took advantage of your circumstances.”
Good God! What did he think she had been asking of him?
“I am thinking of yourself, Glory, because I want to esteem you and honour you, and because your good name is above everything else—everything else in the world.”
Her shame was now abject. It stifled her, deafened her, blinded her. She could not speak or hear or see.
He took her hand and pressed it.
“Let me go,” she stammered.
“Stay—do not go yet!”
“Let me go, will you?”
But with a cry like the cry of a startled bird she disappeared in the shadow of the trees.
He stood a moment where she had left him, tingling in every nerve, wanting to follow her, and overtake her, and kiss her, and abandon everything. But he buttoned up his overcoat and turned away, telling himself that whatever another man might have done in the same case he at least had done rightly, and that men like John Storm were wrong if they thought it was impossible to act on principle without the impulse of religion.
Meanwhile Glory was flying through the darkness and weeping in the bitterness of her disappointment and shame. The big trees overhead were all black now and very gaunt and grim, and the breeze was moaning in their branches.
“I had disgrace enough already,” she thought; “I might have spared myself a degradation like this!”
Drake had supposed that she came to plead for herself to-night as she had pleaded for Polly a week ago. How natural that he should think so! How natural and yet how hideous!
“I hate him! I hate him!” she thought.
John Storm had been right. In their heart of hearts these men of society had only one idea about a girl, and she had stumbled on it unawares. They never thought of her as a friend and an equal, but only as a dependent and a plaything, to be taken or left as they liked.
“Oh, how shameful to be a woman—how shameful, how shameful!”
And Drake had renounced her! In the hideous tangle of his error he had renounced her! For honour’s sake, and her own sake, and for sake of his character as a gentleman—renounced her! Oh, there was somebody who would never have renounced her whatever had happened, and yet she had driven him away, and he was gone forever!
“I hate myself! I hate myself!”
She remembered how often out of recklessness and daring and high spirits, but without a thought of evil, she had broken through the barrier of manners and given Drake occasion to think lightly of her—at the ball, at the theatre, at tea in his chambers, and by dressing herself up as a man.
“I hate myself! I hate myself!”
John Storm was right, and Drake in his different way was right too, and she alone had been to blame. But Fate was laughing at her, and the jest was very, very cruel.
“No matter. It is all for the best,” she thought. She would be the stronger for this experience—the stronger and the purer too, to stand alone and to face the future.
She got back to the hospital just as the great clock of Westminster was chiming the half-hour, and she stood a moment on the steps to listen to it. Only half an hour had passed, and yet all the world had changed!
It was the last day of Glory’s probation, and, dressed in the long blue ulster in which she came from the Isle of Man, she was standing in the matron’s room waiting for her wages and discharge. The matron was sitting sideways at her table, with her dog snarling in her lap. She pointed to a tiny heap of gold and silver and to a foolscap paper which lay beside it.
“That is your month’s salary, nurse, and this is your ‘character.’ The ‘character’ has given me a deal of trouble. I have done all I could for you. I have said you were bright and cheerful, and that the patients liked you. I trust I have not committed myself too far.”
Glory gathered up the money, but left the “character” untouched.
“You need not be anxious, ma’am; I shall not require it.”
“Have you got a situation?”
“Then where are you going next?”
“I don’t know—yet.”
“How much money have you saved?”
“About three months’ wages.”
“Only three pounds altogether!”
“It will be quite sufficient.”
“What friends have you got in London?”
“None—that is to say—no, none whatever.”
“Then why don’t you go back to your island?”
“Because I don’t wish to be a burden upon my people, and because earning my living in London doesn’t depend on the will or the whim of any woman.”
“That’s just like you. I might have dismissed you instantly, but for the sake of the chaplain I’ve borne with your rudeness and irregularities, and even tried to be your friend, and yet—— I dare say you’ve not even told your people why you are leaving the hospital?”
“I haven’t—I haven’t told them yet that I’m leaving at all.”
“Then I’ve a great mind to do it for you. A venturesome, headstrong girl who flings herself on London is in danger of ruin.”
“You needn’t trouble yourself, ma’am,” said Glory, opening the door to go.
“Why so?” said the matron.
Glory stood at her full height and answered:
“Because if you said that of me there is nobody in the world would believe you!”
Her box had been brought down to the hall, and the porter, who wished to be friendly, was cording it.
“May I leave it in your care, porter, until I am able to call for it?”
“Certingly, nurse. Sorry you’re goin’. I’ll miss your face, too.”
“Thank you. I’ll call for my letters also.”
“There’s one just come.”
It was from Aunt Anna, and was full of severe reproof and admonition. Glory was not to think of leaving the hospital; she must try to be content with the condition to which God had called her. But why had her letters been so few of late? and how did it occur that she had never told them about Mr. Storm? He had gone for good into that strange Brotherhood, it seemed. Not Catholic, and yet a monastery. Most extraordinary! They were all eagerly waiting to hear more about it. Besides, the grandfather was anxious on Glory’s account. If half they heard was true, the dangers of London——
The house-surgeon came down to say good-bye. He had always been as free and friendly as Sister Allworthy would allow. They stood a moment at the door together.
“Where are you going to?” he asked.
“Anywhere—nowhere—everywhere; to ‘all the airts the wind can blaw.'”
It was a clear, bright morning, with a light, keen frost. On looking out, Glory saw that flags were flying on the public buildings.
“Why, what’s going on?” she said.
“Don’t you know? It’s the ninth of November—Lord Mayor’s Day.”
She laughed merrily. “A good omen. I’m the female Dick Whittington! Here goes for it! Good-bye, hospital nursing.—By-bye, doctor.”
She dropped him a playful curtsy at the bottom of the steps, and then tripped along the street.
“What a girl it is!” he thought. “And what is to become of her in this merciless old London?”
She had taken less than a score of steps from the hospital when blinding teardrops leaped from her eyes and ran down her cheeks; but she only dropped her veil and walked on boldly.
END OF FIRST PART.