On the morning of the 9th of May, 18—, three persons important to this story stood among the passengers on the deck of the Isle of Man steamship Tynwald as she lay by the pier at Douglas getting up steam for the passage to Liverpool. One of these was an old clergyman of seventy, with a sweet, mellow, childlike face; another was a young man of thirty, also a clergyman; the third was a girl of twenty. The older clergyman wore a white neckcloth about his throat, and was dressed in rather threadbare black of a cut that had been more common twenty years before; the younger clergyman wore a Roman collar, a long clerical coat, and a stiff, broad-brimmed hat with a cord and tassel. They stood amidships, and the captain, coming out of his room to mount the bridge, saluted them as he passed.
“Good morning, Mr. Storm.”
The young clergyman returned the salutation with a slight bow and the lifting of his hat.
“Morning to you, Parson Quayle.”
The old clergyman answered cheerily, “Oh, good morning, captain; good morning.”
There was the usual inquiry about the weather outside, and drawing up to answer it, the captain came eye to eye with the girl.
“So this is the granddaughter, is it?”
“Yes, this is Glory,” said Parson Quayle. “She’s leaving the old grandfather at last, captain, and I’m over from Peel to set her off, you see.”
“Well, the young lady has got the world before her—at her feet, I ought to say.—You’re looking as bright and fresh as the morning, Miss Quayle.”
The captain carried off his compliment with a breezy laugh, and went along to the bridge. The girl had heard him only in a momentary flash of consciousness, and she replied merely with a side glance and a smile. Both eyes and ears, and every sense and every faculty, seemed occupied with the scene before her.
It was a beautiful spring morning, not yet nine o’clock, but the sun stood high over Douglas Head, and the sunlight was glancing in the harbour from the little waves of the flowing tide. Oars were rattling up the pier, passengers were trooping down the gangways, and the decks fore and aft were becoming thronged.
“It’s beautiful!” she was saying, not so much to her companions as to herself, and the old parson was laughing at her bursts of rapture over the commonplace scene, and dropping out in reply little driblets of simple talk—sweet, pure nothings—the innocent babble as of a mountain stream.
She was taller than the common, and had golden-red hair, and magnificent dark-gray eyes of great size. One of her eyes had a brown spot, which gave at the first glance the effect of a squint, at the next glance a coquettish expression, and ever after a sense of tremendous power and passion. But her most noticeable feature was her mouth, which was somewhat too large for beauty, and was always moving nervously. When she spoke, her voice startled you with its depth, which was a kind of soft hoarseness, but capable of every shade of colour. There was a playful and impetuous raillery in nearly all she said, and everything seemed to be expressed by mind and body at the same time. She moved her body restlessly, and while standing in the same place her feet were always shuffling. Her dress was homely—almost poor—and perhaps a little careless. She appeared to smile and laugh continually, and yet there were tears in her eyes sometimes.
The young clergyman was of a good average height, but he looked taller from a certain distinction of figure. When he raised his hat at the captain’s greeting he showed a forehead like an arched wall, and a large, close-cropped head. He had a well-formed nose, a powerful chin, and full lips—all very strong and set for one so young. His complexion was dark—almost swarthy—and there was a certain look of the gipsy in his big golden-brown eyes with their long black lashes. He was clean shaven, and the lower part of his face seemed heavy under the splendid fire of the eyes above it. His manner had a sort of diffident restraint; he stood on the same spot without moving, and almost without raising his drooping head; his speech was grave and usually slow and laboured; his voice was bold and full.
The second bell had rung, and the old parson was making ready to go ashore.
“You’ll take care of this runaway, Mr. Storm, and deliver her safely at the door of the hospital?”
“And you’ll keep an eye on her in that big Babylon over there?”
“If she’ll let me, sir.”
“Yes, indeed, yes; I know she’s as unstable as water and as hard to hold as a puff of wind.”
The girl was laughing again. “You might as well call me a tempest and have done with it, or,” with a glance at the younger man, “say a storm—Glory St—— Oh!”
With a little catch of the breath she arrested the name before it was uttered by her impetuous tongue, and laughed again to cover her confusion. The young man smiled faintly and rather painfully, but the old parson was conscious of nothing.
“Well, and why not? A good name for you too, and you richly deserve it.—But the Lord is lenient with such natures, John. He never tries them beyond their strength. She hasn’t much leaning to religion, you know.”
The girl recalled herself from the busy scene around and broke in again with a tone of humour and pathos mixed.
“There, call me an infidel at once, grandfather. I know what you mean. But just to show you that I haven’t exactly registered a vow in heaven never to go to church in London because you’ve given me such a dose of it in the Isle of Man, I’ll promise to send you a full and particular report of Mr. Storm’s first sermon. Isn’t that charming of me?”
The third bell was ringing, the blast of the steam whistle was echoing across the bay, and the steamer was only waiting for the mails. Taking a step nearer to the gangway, the old parson talked faster.
“Did Aunt Anna give you money enough, child?”
“Enough for my boat fare and my train.”
“No more! Now Anna is so——”
“Don’t trouble, grandfather. Woman wants but little here below—Aunt Anna excepted. And then a hospital nurse——”
“I’m afraid you’ll feel lonely in that great wilderness.”
“Lonely with five millions of neighbours?”
“You’ll be longing for the old island, Glory, and I half repent me already——”
“If ever I have the blue-devils, grandpa, I’ll just whip on my cape and fly home again.”
“To-morrow morning I’ll be searching all over the house for my runaway.”
Glory tried to laugh gaily. “Upstairs, downstairs, and in my lady’s chamber.”
“‘Glory,’ I’ll be crying, ‘Where’s the girl gone at all? I haven’t heard her voice in the house to-day. What’s come over the old place to strike it so dead?'”
The girl’s eyes were running over, but in a tone of gentle raillery and heart’s love she said severely: “Nonsense, grandfather, you’ll forget all about Glory going to London before the day after to-morrow. Every morning you’ll be making rubbings of your old runes, and every night you’ll be playing chess with Aunt Rachel, and every Sunday you’ll be scolding old Neilus for falling asleep in the reading desk, and—and everything will go on just the same as ever.”
The mails had come aboard, one of the gangways had been drawn ashore, and the old parson, holding his big watch in his left hand, was diving into his fob-pocket with the fingers of the right.
“Here”—panting audibly, as if he had been running hard—”is your mother’s little pearl ring.”
The girl drew off her slack, soiled glove and took the ring in her nervous fingers.
“A wonderful talisman is the relic of a good mother, sir,” said the old parson.
The young clergyman bent his head.
“You’re like Glory herself in that though—you don’t remember your mother either.”
“I’ll keep in touch with your father, John, trust me for that. You and he shall be good friends yet. A man can’t hold out against his son for nothing worse than choosing the Church against the world. The old man didn’t mean all he said; and then it isn’t the thunder that strikes people dead, you know. So leave him to me; and if that foolish old Chalse hasn’t been putting notions into his head——”
The throbbing in the steam funnel had ceased and in the sudden hush a voice from the bridge cried, “All ashore!”
“Good-bye, Glory! Good-bye, John! Good-bye both!”
“Good-bye, sir,” said the young clergyman with a long hand-clasp.
But the girl’s arms were about the old man’s neck. “Good-bye, you dear old grandpa, and I’m ashamed I—I’m sorry I—I mean it’s a shame of me to—good-bye!”
“Good-bye, my wandering gipsy, my witch, my runaway!”
“If you call me names I’ll have to stop your mouth, sir. Again—another——”
A voice cried, “Stand back there!”
The young clergyman drew the girl back from the bulwarks, and the steamer moved slowly away.
“I’ll go below—no, I won’t; I’ll stay on deck. I’ll go ashore—I can’t bear it; it’s not too late yet. No, I’ll go to the stern and see the water in the wake.”
The pier was cleared and the harbour was empty. Over the white churning water the sea gulls were wheeling, and Douglas Head was gliding slowly back. Down the long line of the quay the friends of the passengers were waving adieus.
“There he is, on the end of the pier! That’s grandpa waving his handkerchief! Don’t you see it? The red-and-white cotton one! God bless him! How wae his little present made me! He has been keeping it all these years. But my silk handkerchief is too damp—it won’t float at all. Will you lend me——Ah, thank you! Good-bye! good-bye! good——”
The girl hung over the stern rail, leaning her breast upon it and waving the handkerchief as long as the pier and its people were in sight, and when they were gone from recognition she watched the line of the land until it began to fade into the clouds, and there was no more to be seen of what she had looked upon every day of her life until to-day.
“The dear little island! I never thought it was so beautiful! Perhaps I might have been happy even there, if I had tried. Now, if I had only had somebody for company! How silly of me! I’ve been five years wishing and praying to get away, and now! … It is lovely, though, isn’t it? Just like a bird on the water! And when you’ve been born in a place … the dear little island! And the old folks, too! How lonely they’ll be, after all! I wonder if I shall ever…. I’ll go below. The wind’s freshening, and this water in the wake is making my eyes… Good-bye, little birdie! I’ll come back—I’ll…. Yes, never fear, I’ll——”
The laughter and impetuous talking, the gentle humour and pathos, had broken at length into a sob, and the girl had wheeled about and disappeared down the cabin stairs. John Storm stood looking after her. He had hardly spoken, but his great brown eyes were moist.
Her father had been the only son of Parson Quayle, and chaplain to the bishop at Bishopscourt. It was there he had met her mother, who was lady’s maid to the bishop’s wife. The maid was a bright young Frenchwoman, daughter of a French actress, famous in her day, and of an officer under the Empire, who had never been told of her existence. Shortly after their marriage the chaplain was offered a big mission station in Africa, and, being a devotee, he clutched at it without fear of the fevers of the coast. But his young French wife was about to become a mother, and she shrank from the perils of his life abroad, so he took her to his father’s house at Peel, and bade her farewell for five years.
He lived four, and during that time they exchanged some letters. His final instructions were sent from Southampton: “If it’s a boy, call him John (after the Evangelist); and if it’s a girl, call her Glory.” At the end of the first year she wrote: “I have shortened our darling, and you never saw anything so lovely! Oh, the sweetness of her little bare arms, and her neck, and her little round shoulders! You know she’s red—I’ve really got a red one—a curly red one! Such big beaming eyes, too! And then her mouth, and her chin, and her tiny red toes! I don’t know how you can live without seeing her!” Near the end of the fourth year he sent his last answer: “Dear Wife—This separation is bitter; but God has willed it, and we must not forget that the probabilities are that we may pass our lives apart.” The next letter was from the English consul on the Gaboon River, announcing the death of the devoted missionary.
Parson Quayle’s household consisted only of himself and two maiden daughters, but that was too much for the lively young Frenchwoman. While her husband lived, she suffocated under the old-maid régime; and when he was gone she made no more fight with destiny, but took some simple ailment, and died suddenly.
A bare hillside frowned down on the place where Glory was born; but the sun rose over it, and a beautiful river hugged its sides. A quarter of a mile down the river there was a harbour, and beyond the harbour a bay, with the ruins of an old castle standing out on an islet rock, and then the broad sweep of the Irish Sea-the last in those latitudes to “parley with the setting sun.” The vicarage was called Glenfaba, and it was half a mile outside the fishing town of Peel.
Glory was a little red-headed witch from the first, with an air of general uncanniness in everything she did and said. Until after she was six there was no believing a word she uttered. Her conversation was bravely indifferent to considerations of truth or falsehood, fear or favour, reward or punishment. The parson used to say, “I’m really afraid the child has no moral conscience—she doesn’t seem to know right from wrong.” This troubled his religion, but it tickled his humour, and it did not disturb his love. “She’s a perfect pagan—God bless her innocent heart!”
She had more than a child’s genius for make-believe. In her hunger for child company, before the days when she found it for herself, she made believe that various versions of herself lived all over the place, and she would call them out to play. There was Glory in the river, under the pool where the perches swam, and Glory down the well, and Glory up in the hills, and they answered when she spoke to them. All her dolls were kings and queens, and she had a gift for making up in strange and grand disguises. It was almost as if her actress grandmother had bestowed on her from her birth the right to life and luxury and love.
She was a born mimic, and could hit off to a hair an eccentricity or an affectation. The frown of Aunt Anna, who was severe, the smile of Aunt Rachel, who was sentimental, and the yawn of Cornelius Kewley, the clerk who was always sleepy, lived again in the roguish, rippling face. She remembered some of her mother’s French songs, and seeing a street-singer one day, she established herself in the market-place in that character, with grown people on their knees around her, ready to fall on her and kiss her and call her Phonodoree, the fairy. But she did not forget to go round for the ha’pennies either.
At ten she was a tomboy, and marched through the town at the head of an army of boys, playing on a comb between her teeth and flying the vicar’s handkerchief at the end of his walking-stick. In these days she climbed trees and robbed orchards (generally her own) and imitated boys’ voices, and thought it tyranny that she might not wear trousers. But she wore a sailor’s blue stocking-cap, and it brightened existence when, for economy’s sake and for the sake of general tidiness, she was allowed to wear a white woollen jersey. Then somebody who had a dinghy that he did not want asked her if she would like to have a boat. Would she like to have paradise, or pastry cakes, or anything that was heavenly! After that she wore a sailor’s jacket and a sou’wester when she was on the sea, and tumbled about the water like a duck.
At twelve she fell in love—with love. It was a vague passion interwoven with dreams of grandeur. The parson being too poor to send her to the girls’ college at Douglas, and his daughters being too proud to send her to the dame’s school at Peel, she was taught at home by Aunt Rachel, who read the poetry of Thomas Moore, knew the birthdays of all the royal family, and was otherwise meekly romantic. From this source she gathered much curious sentiment relating to some visionary world where young girls were held aloft in the sunshine of luxury and love and happiness. One day she was lying on her back on the heather of the Peel hill, with her head on her arms, thinking of a story that Aunt Rachel had told her. It was of a mermaid who had only to slip up out of the sea and say to any man, “Come,” and he came—he left everything and followed her. Suddenly the cold nose of a pointer rubbed against her forehead, a strong voice cried, “Down, sir!” and a young man of two and twenty, in leggings and a shooting-jacket, strode between her and the cliffs. She knew him by sight. He was John Storm, the son of Lord Storm, who had lately come to live in the mansion house at Knockaloe, a mile up the hill from Glenfaba.
For three weeks thereafter she talked of nobody else, and even began to comb her hair. She watched him in church, and told Aunt Rachel she was sure he could see quite well in the dark, for his big eyes seemed to have the light inside of them. After that she became ashamed, and if anybody happened to mention his name in her hearing she flushed up to the forehead and fled out of the room. He never once looked at her, and after a while he went away to Canada. She set the clock on the back landing to Canadian time, so that she might always know what he was doing abroad, and then straightway forgot all about him. Her moods followed each other rapidly, and were all of them overpowering and all sincere, but it was not until a year afterward that she fell in love, in the church vestry, with the pretty boy who stood opposite to her in the catechism class.
He was an English boy of her own age, and he was only staying in the island for his holidays. The second time she saw him it was in the grounds at Glenfaba, while his mother was returning a call indoors. She gave him a little tap on the arm and he had to run after her—down a bank and up a tree, where she laughed and said. “Isn’t it nice?” and he could see nothing but her big white teeth.
His name was Francis Horatio Nelson Drake, and he was full of great accounts of the goings-on in the outer world, where his school was, and where lived the only “men” worth talking about. Of course he spoke of all this familiarly and with a convincing reality which wrapped Glory in the plumage of dreams. He was a wonderful being, altogether, and in due time (about three days) she proposed to him. True, he did not jump at her offer with quite proper alacrity, but when she mentioned that it didn’t matter to her in the least whether he wanted her or not, and that plenty would be glad of the chance, he saw things differently, and they agreed to elope. There was no particular reason for this drastic measure, but as Glory had a boat, it seemed the right thing to do.
She dressed herself in all her Confirmation finery, and stole out to meet him under the bridge where her boat lay moored. He kept her half an hour waiting, having sisters and other disadvantages, but “once aboard her lugger,” he was safe. She was breathless, and he was anxious, and neither thought it necessary to waste any time in kissing.
They slipped down the harbour and out into the bay, and then ran up the sail and stood off for Scotland. Being more easy in mind when this was done, they had time to talk of the future. Francis Horatio was for work—he was going to make a name for himself. Glory did not see it quite in that light. A name, yes, and lots of triumphal processions, but she was for travel—there were such lots of things people could see if they didn’t waste so much time working.
“What a girl you are!” he said derisively; whereupon she bit her lip, for she didn’t quite like it. But they were nearly half an hour out before he spoiled himself utterly. He had brought his dog, a she-terrier, and he began to call her by her kennel name and to say what a fine little thing she was, and what a deal of money they would make by her pups. That was too much for Glory. She couldn’t think of eloping with a person who used such low expressions.
“What a girl you are!” he said again; but she did not mind it in the least. With a sweep of her bare arm she had put the tiller hard aport, intending to tack back to Peel, but the wind had freshened and the sea was rising, and by the swift leap of the boat the boom was snapped, and the helpless sail came napping down upon the mast. Then they tumbled into the trough, and Glory had not strength to pull them out of it, and the boy was of no more use than a tripper. She was in her white muslin dress, and he was nursing his dog, and the night was closing down on them, and they were wobbling about under a pole and a tattered rag. But all at once a great black yacht came heaving up in the darkness, and a grown-up voice cried, “Trust yourself to me, dear.”
It was John Storm. He had already awakened the young girl in her, and thereafter he awakened the young woman as well. She clung to him like a child that night, and during the four years following she seemed always to be doing the same. He was her big brother, her master, her lord, her sovereign. She placed him on a dizzy height above her, amid a halo of goodness and grandeur. If he smiled on her she flushed, and if he frowned she fretted and was afraid. Thinking to please him, she tried to dress herself up in all the colours of the rainbow, but he reproved her and bade her return to her jersey. She struggled to comb out her red curls until he told her that the highest ladies in the land would give both ears for them, and then she fondled them in her fingers and admired them in a glass.
He was a serious person, but she could make him laugh until he screamed. Excepting Byron and “Sir Charles Grandison,” out of the vicar’s library, the only literature she knew was the Bible, the Catechism, and the Church Service, and she used these in common talk with appalling freedom and audacity. The favourite butt of her mimicry was the parish clerk saying responses when he was sleepy.
The parson: “O Lord, open thou our lips” (no response). “Where are you, Neilus?”
The clerk (awakening suddenly in the desk below): “Here I am, your reverence—and our mouth shall show forth thy praise.”
When John Storm did laugh he laughed beyond all control, and then Glory was entirely happy. But he went away again, his father having sent him to Australia, and all the light of her world went out.
It was of no use bothering with the clock on the back landing, because things were different by this time. She was sixteen, and the only tree she climbed now was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that tore her terribly. John Storm was the son of a lord, and he would be Lord Something himself some day. Glory Quayle was an orphan, and her grandfather was a poor country clergyman. Their poverty was sweet, but there was gall in it, nevertheless. The little forced economies in dress, the frocks that had to be turned, the bonnets that were beauties when they were bought, but had to be worn until the changes of fashion made them frights, and then the mysterious parcels of left-off clothing from goodness knows where—how the independence of the girl’s spirit rebelled against such humiliations!
The blood of her mother was beginning to boil over, and the old-maid régime, which had crushed the life out of the Frenchwoman, was suffocating the Manx girl with its formalism. She was always forgetting the meal times regulated by the sun, and she could sleep at any time and keep awake until any hour. It tired her to sit demurely like a young lady, and she had a trick of lying down on the floor. She often laughed in order not to cry, but she would not even smile at a great lady’s silly story, and she did not care a jot about the birthdays of the royal family. The old aunts loved her body and soul, but they often said, “Whatever is going to happen to the girl when the grandfather is gone?”
And the grandfather—good man—would have laid down his life to save her a pain in her toe, but he had not a notion of the stuff she was made of. His hobby was the study of the runic crosses with which the Isle of Man abounds, and when she helped him with his rubbings and his casts he was as merry as an old sand-boy. Though they occupied the same house, and her bedroom that faced the harbour was next to his little musty study that looked over the scullery slates, he lived always in the tenth century and she lived somewhere in the twentieth.
The imprisoned linnet was beating at the bars of its cage. Before she was aware of it she wanted to escape from the sleepy old scene, and had begun to be consumed with longing for the great world outside. On summer evenings she would go up Peel Hill and lie on the heather, where she had first seen John Storm, and watch the ships weighing anchor in the bay beyond the old dead castle walls, and wish she were going out with them—out to the sea and the great cities north and south. But existence closed in ever-narrowing circles round her, and she could see no way out. Two years passed, and at eighteen she was fretting that half her life had wasted away. She watched the sun until it sank into the sea, and then she turned back to Glenfaba and the darkened region of the sky.
It was all the fault of their poverty, and their poverty was the fault of the Church. She began to hate the Church; It had made her an orphan; and when she thought of religion as a profession it seemed a selfish thing anyway. If a man was really bent on so lofty an aim (as her own father had been) he could not think of himself; he had to give up life and love and the world, and then these always took advantage of him. But people had to live in the world for all that, and what was the good of burying yourself before you were dead?
Somehow her undefined wishes took shape in visions of John Storm, and one day she heard he was home again. She went out on the hill that evening and, being seen only by the gulls, she laughed and cried and ran. It was just like poetry, for there he was himself lying on the edge of the cliff near the very spot where she had been used to lie. On seeing him she went more slowly, and began to poke about in the heather as if she had seen nothing. He came up to her with both hands outstretched, and then suddenly she remembered that she was wearing her old jersey, and she flushed up to the eyes and nearly choked with shame. She got better by-and-bye and talked away like a mill-wheel, and then fearing he might think it was from something quite different, she began to pull the heather and to tell him why she had been blushing. He did not laugh at all. With a strange smile he said something in his deep voice that made her blood run cold.
“But I’m to be a poor man myself in future, Glory. I’ve quarrelled with my father. I’m going into the Church.”
It was a frightful blow to her, and the sun went down like a shot. But it burst open the bars of her cage for all that. After John Storm had found a curacy in London and taken Orders, he told them at Glenfaba that among his honorary offices was to be that of chaplain to a great West End hospital. This suggested to Glory the channel of escape. She would go out as a hospital nurse. It was easier said than done, for hospital nursing was fashionable, and she was three years too young. With great labour she secured her appointment as probationer, and with greater labour still overcame the fear and affection of her grandfather. But the old parson was finally appeased when he heard that Glory’s hospital was the same that John Storm was to be chaplain of, and that they might go up to London together.
“Dear Grandfather Of Me, And Everybody At Glenfaba: Here I am at last, dears, at the end of my Pilgrim’s Progress, and the evening and the morning’ are the first day. It is now eleven o’clock at night, and I am about to put myself to bed in my own little room at the hospital of Martha’s Vineyard, Hyde Park, London, England.
“The captain was quite right; the morning was as fresh as his flattery, and before we got far beyond the Head most of the passengers were spread out below like the three legs of Man. Being an old sea-doggie myself, I didn’t give it the chance to make me sick, but went downstairs and lay quiet in my berth and deliberated great things. I didn’t go up again until we got into the Mersey, and then the passengers were on deck, looking like sour buttermilk spilt out of the churn.
“What a glorious sight! The ships, the docks, the towers, the town! I couldn’t breathe for excitement until we got up to the landing-stage. Mr. Storm put me into a cab, and for the sake of experience I insisted on paying my own way. Of course he tried to trick me, but a woman’s a woman for a’ that. As we drove up to Lime Street station there befell—a porter. He carried my big trunk on his head (like a mushroom), and when I bought my ticket he took me to the train while Mr. Storm went for a newspaper. Being such a stranger, he was very kind, so I flung the responsibility on Providence and gave him sixpence.
“There were two old ladies in the carriage beside ourselves, and the train we travelled by was an express. It was perfectly delightful, and for all the world like plunging into a stiff sou’wester off the rocks at Contrary. But the first part of the journey was terrible. That tunnel nearly made me shriek. It was a misty day too at Liverpool, and all the way to Edge Hill they let off signals with a noise like battering-rams. My nerves were on the rack; so taking advantage of the darkness of the carriage, I began to sing. That calmed me, but it nearly drove the old ladies out of their wits. They screamed if I didn’t; and just as I was summoning the Almighty to attend to me a little in the middle of that inferno, out we came as innocent as a baby. There was another of these places just before getting into London. I suppose they are purgatories through which you have to pass to get to these wonderful cities. Only if I had been consulted in the making of the Litany (‘from sudden death, good Lord, deliver us’) I should have made an exception for people in tunnels.
“You never knew what an absolute ninny Glory is! I was burning with such impatience to see London that when we came near it I couldn’t see anything for water under the brain. Approaching a great and mighty city for the first time must be like going into the presence of majesty. Only Heaven save me from such palpitation the day I become songstress to the Queen!
“Mercy! what a roar and boom—a deep murmur as of ten hundred million million moths humming away on a still evening in autumn! On a nearer view it is more like a Tower-of-Babel concern, with its click and clatter. The explosion of voices, the confused clamour, the dreadful disorder—cars, wagons, omnibuses—it makes you feel religious and rather cold down the back. What a needle in a haystack a poor girl must be here if there is nobody above to keep track of her!
“Tell Aunt Rachel they are wearing another kind of bonnet in London—more pokey in front—and say if I see the Queen I’ll be sure to tell her all about it.
“We didn’t get to the hospital until nine, so I’ve not seen much of it yet. The housekeeper gave me tea and told me I might go over the house, as I wouldn’t be wanted to begin duty before morning. So for an hour I went from ward to ward like a female Wandering Jew. Such silence! I’m afraid this hospital nursing is going to be a lockjaw business. And now I’m going to bed—well, not homesick, you know, but just ‘longing a lil bit for all.’ To-morrow morning I’ll waken up to new sounds and sights, and when I draw my blind I’ll see the streets where the cars are forever running and rattling. Then I’ll think of Glenfaba and the birds singing and rejoicing.
“Dispense my love throughout the island. Say that I love everybody just the same now I’m a London lady as when I was a mere provincial girl, and that when I’m a wonderful woman, and have brought the eyes of England upon me, I’ll come back and make amends. I can hear what grandfather is saying: ‘Gough bless me, what a girl, though!’ Glory.
“P. S.—I’ve not said much about Mr. Storm. He left me at the door of the hospital and went on to the house of his vicar, for that is where he is to lodge, you know. On the way up I expended much beautiful poetry upon him on the subject of love. The old girlies having dozed off, I chanced to ask him if he liked to talk of it, but he said no, it was a profanation. Love was too sacred, it was a kind of religion. Sometimes it came unawares, sometimes it smouldered like fire under ashes, sometimes it was a good angel, sometimes a devil, making you do things and say things, and laying your life waste like winter. But I told him it was just charming, and as for religion, there was nothing under heaven like the devotion of a handsome and clever man to a handsome and clever woman, when he gave up all the world for her, and his body and his soul and everything that was his. I think he saw there was something in that, for though he said nothing, there came a wonderful light into his splendid eyes, and I thought if he wasn’t going to be a clergyman—but no matter. So long, dear!”
John Storm was the son of Lord Storm (a peer in his own right), and nephew of the Prime Minister of England, the Earl of Erin. Two years before John’s birth the brothers had quarrelled about a woman. It was John’s mother. She had engaged herself to the younger brother, and afterward fallen in love with the elder one. The voice of conscience told her that it was her duty to carry out her engagement, and she did so. Then the voice of conscience took sides with the laws of life and told the lovers that they must renounce each other, and they both did that as well. But the poor girl found it easier to renounce life than love, and after flying to religion as an escape from the conflict between conjugal duty and elemental passion she gave birth to her child and died. She was the daughter of a rich banker, who had come from the soil, and she had been brought up to consider marriage distinct from love. Exchanging wealth for title, she found death in the deal.
Her husband had never stood in any natural affinity to her. On his part, their marriage had been a loveless and selfish union, based on the desire for an heir that he might found a family and cancel the unfair position of a younger son. But the sin he committed against the fundamental law, that marriage shall be founded only in love, brought its swift revenge.
On hearing that the wife was dead, the elder brother came to attend the funeral. The night before that event the husband felt unhappy about the part he had played. He had given no occasion for scandal, but he had never disguised, even from the mother of his son, the motives of his marriage. The poor girl was gone; he had only trained himself for the pursuit of her dowry, and the voice of love had been silent. Troubled by such thoughts, he walked about his room all night long, and somewhere in the first dead gray of dawn he went down to the death chamber that he might look upon her face again. Opening the door, he heard the sound of half-stifled sobs. Some one was leaning over the white face and weeping like a man with a broken heart. It was his brother.
From that time forward Lord Storm considered himself the injured person. He had never cared for his brother, and now he designed to wipe him out. His son would do it. He was the heir to the earldom, for the earl had never married. But a posthumous revenge was too trivial. The earl had gone into politics and was making a name. Lord Storm had missed his own opportunities, though he had got himself called to the Upper House, but his son should be brought up to eclipse everything.
To this end the father devoted his life to the boy’s training. All conventional education was wrong in principle. Schools and colleges and the study of the classics were drivelling folly, with next to nothing to do with life. Travel was the great teacher. “You shall travel as far as the sun,” he said. So the boy was taken through Europe and Asia and learned something of many languages. He became his father’s daily companion, and nowhere the father went was it thought wrong for the boy to go also. Conventional morality was considered mawkish. The chief aim of home training was to bring children up in total ignorance, if possible, of the most important facts and functions of life. But it was not possible, and hence suppression, dissimulation, lying, and, under the ban of secret sin, one half the world’s woe. So the boy was taken to the temples of Greece and India, and even to Western casinos and dancing gardens. Before he was twenty he had seen something of nearly everything the world has in it.
When the time came to think of his career England was in straits about her colonial empire. The vast lands over sea wanted to take care of themselves. It was the moment of the “British North America Act,” and that gave the father his cue for action. While his brother the earl was fiddling the country to the tune of limited self-government for Crown colonies, the father of John Storm conceived the daring idea of breaking up the entire empire, including the United Kingdom, into self-governing states. They were to be the “United States of Great Britain.”
This was to be John Storm’s policy, and to work it out Lord Storm set up a house in the Isle of Man where he might always look upon his plan in miniature. There he established a bureau for the gathering of the data that his son would need to use hereafter. Newspapers came to him in his lonely retreat from all quarters of the globe, and he cut out everything relating to his subject. His library was a dusty room lined all around with brown-paper pockets, which were labelled with the names of colonies and counties.
“It will take us two generations to do it, my boy, but we’ll alter the history of England.”
At fifty he was iron-gray, and had a head like a big owl.
Meanwhile the object of these grand preparations, the offspring of that loveless union, had a personality all his own. It seemed as if he had been built for a big man every way, and Nature had been arrested in the making of him. When people looked at his head they felt he ought to have been a giant, but he was far from rivalling the children of Anak. When they listened to his conversation they thought he might turn out to be a creature of genius, but perhaps he was only a man of powerful moods. The best strength of body and mind seemed to have gone into his heart. It may be that the sorrowful unrest of his mother and her smothered passion had left their red stream in John Storm’s soul.
When he was a boy he would cry at a beautiful view in Nature, at a tale of heroism, or at any sentimental ditty sung excruciatingly in the streets. Seeing a bird’s nest that had been robbed of its eggs he burst into tears; but when he came upon the bleeding, broken shells in the path, the tears turned to fierce wrath and mad rage, and he snatched up a gun out of his father’s room and went out to take the life of the offender.
On coming to the Isle of Man he noticed as often as he went to church that a little curly red-headed girl kept staring at him from the vicar’s pew. He was a man of two-and-twenty, but the child’s eyes tormented him. At any time of day or night he could call up a vision of their gleaming brightness. Then his father sent him to Canada to watch the establishment of the Dominion, and when he came back he brought a Canadian canoe and an American yacht, and certain democratic opinions.
The first time he sailed the yacht in Manx waters he sighted a disabled boat and rescued two children. One of them was the girl of the vicar’s pew, grown taller and more winsome. She nestled up to him when he lifted her into the yacht, and, without knowing why, he kept his arms about her.
After that he called his yacht the Gloria, in imitation of her name, and sometimes took the girl out on the sea. Notwithstanding the difference of the years between them, they had their happy boy and girl days together. In her white jersey and stocking-cap she looked every inch a sailor. When the wind freshened and the boat plunged she stood to the tiller like a man, and he thought her the sweetest sight ever seen in a cockpit. And when the wind saddened and the boom came aboard she was the cheeriest companion in a calm. She sang, and so did he, and their voices went well together. Her favourite song was “Come, Lasses and Lads”; his was “John Peel”; and they would sing them off and on for an hour at a spell. Thus on a summer evening, when the bay was lying like a tired monster asleep, and every plash of an oar was echoing on the hills, the people on the land would hear them coming around the castle rock with their—
"D'ye ken John Peel, with his coat so gay? D'ye ken John Peel at the break of day? D'ye ken John P-e-e-l...."
For two years he amused himself with the child, and then realized that she was a child no longer. The pity of the girl’s position took hold of him. This sunny soul with her sportfulness, her grace of many gifts, with her eyes that flashed and gleamed like lightning, with her voice that was like the warble of a bird, this golden-headed gipsy, this witch, this fairy—what was the life that lay before her? Pity gave place to a different feeling, and then he was aware of a pain in the breast when he thought of the girl. As often as her eyes lasted upon him he felt his face tingle and burn. He began to be conscious of an imprisoned side to his nature, the passionate side, and he drew back afraid. This wild power, this tempest, this raging fire within, God only knew whither it was to lead him. And then he had given a hostage to fortune, or his father had for him.
From his father’s gloomy house at Knockaloe, where the winds were ever droning in the trees, he looked over to Glenfaba, and it seemed to him like a little white cloud lit up by the sunshine. His heart was forever calling to the sunny spot over there, “Glory! Glory!” The pity of it was that the girl seemed to understand everything, and to know quite well what kept them apart. She flushed with shame that he should see her wearing the same clothes constantly, and with head aside and furtive glances she talked of the days when he would leave the island for good, and London would take him and make much of him, and he would forget all about his friends in that dead old place. Such talk cut him to the quick. Though he had seen a deal of the world, he did not know much about the conversation of women.
The struggle was brief. He began to wear plainer clothes—an Oxford tweed coat and a flannel shirt—to talk about fame as an empty word, and to tell his father that he was superior to all stupid conventions.
His father sent him to Australia. Then the grown-up trouble of his life began.
He passed through the world now with eyes open for the privations of the poor, and he saw everything in a new light. Unconsciously he was doing in another way what his mother had done when she flew to religion from stifled passion. He had been brought up as a sort of imperialist democrat, but now he bettered his father’s instructions. England did not want more Parliaments, she wanted more apostles. It was not by giving votes to a nation, but by strengthening the soul of a nation, that it became great and free. The man for the hour was not he who revolved schemes for making himself famous, but he who was ready to renounce everything, and if he was great was willing to become little, and if he was rich to become poor. There was room for an apostle—for a thousand apostles—who, being dead to the world’s glory, its money or its calls, were prepared to do all in Christ’s spirit, and to believe that in the renunciation, which was the “secret” of Jesus, lay the only salvation remaining for the world.
He tramped through the slums of Melbourne and Sydney, and afterward through the slums of London, returned to the Isle of Man a Christian Socialist, and announced to his father his intention of going into the Church.
The old man did not fume and fly out. He staggered back to his room like a bullock to its pen after it has had its death-blow in the shambles. In the midst of his dusty old bureau, with its labelled packets full of cuttings, he realized that twenty years of his life had been wasted. A son was a separate being, of a different growth, and a father was only the seed at the root that must decay and die.
Then he made some show of resistance.
“But with your talents, boy, surely you are not going to throw away your chances of a great name?”
“I care nothing for a great name, father,” said John. “I shall win a greater victory than any that Parliament can give me.”
“But, my boy, my dear boy! one must either be the camel or the camel-driver; and then society——”
“I hate society, and society would hate me. It is only for the sake of the few godly men that God spares it as he spared Sodom for Lot’s sake.”
Having braved this ordeal and nearly broken the heart of his old father, he turned for his reward to Glory. He found her at her usual haunt on the headlands.
“I was blushing when you came up, wasn’t I?” she said. “Shall I tell you why?”
“It was this,” she said, with a sweep of her hand across her bosom.
He looked puzzled.
“Don’t you understand? This old rag—it’s the one I was wearing before you went away.”
He wanted to tell her how well she looked in it—better than ever now that her bosom showed under its seamless curves, and her figure had grown so lithe and shapely. But though she was laughing he saw she was ashamed of her poverty, and he thought to comfort her.
“I’m to be a poor man myself in future, Glory. I’ve quarrelled with my father. I’m going to take Orders.”
Her face fell. “Oh, I didn’t think anybody would be poor who could help it. To be a clergyman is all right for a poor man, perhaps, but I hate to be poor; it’s horrid.”
Then darkness fell upon his eyes and he felt sad and sick. Glory had disappointed him. She was vain, she was worldly, she was incapable of the higher things; she would never know what a sacrifice he had made for her; she would think nothing of him now; but he would go on all the same, the more earnestly because the devil had drawn a bow at him and the arrow had gone in up to the feathers.
“With God’s help I shall nail my colours to the mast,” he said.
Thus he made up his mind to follow the unrolling of the scroll. He had the strength called character. The Church had been his beacon before, but now it was to be his refuge.
He found no difficulty in making the necessary preparations. For a year he read the Anglican divines—Jeremy Taylor, Hooker, Butler, Waterland, Pearson, and Pusey—and when the time came for his ordination his uncle, the Earl of Erin, who was now Prime Minister, obtained him a title to a curacy under the popular and influential Canon Wealthy of All Saints, Belgravia. The Bishop of London gave letters dimissory to the Bishop of Sodor and Man, by whom he was examined and ordained.
On the morning of his departure for London his father, with whom there had in the meantime been trying scenes, left him this final word of farewell: “As I understand that you intend to lead the life of poverty, I presume that you do not need your mother’s dowry, and I shall hold myself at liberty to dispose of it elsewhere, unless you require it for the use of the young lady who is, I hear, to go up with you.”
“I will be a poor man among poor men,” said John Storm to himself as he drove to his vicar’s house in Eaton Place, but he awoke next morning in a bedroom that did not answer to his ideas of a life of poverty. A footman came with hot water and tea, and also a message from the canon overnight saying he would be pleased to see Mr. Storm in the study after breakfast.
The study was a sumptuous apartment immediately beneath, with soft carpets on which his feet made no noise, and tiger-skins over the backs of chairs. As he entered it a bright-faced man in middle life, clean-shaven, wearing a gold-mounted pince-nez, and bubbling over with politeness, stepped forward to receive him.
“Welcome to London, my dear Mr. Storm. When the letter came from the Prime Minister I said to my daughter Felicity—you will see her presently—I trust you will be good friends—I said, ‘It is a privilege, my child, to meet any wish of the dear Earl of Erin, and I am proud to be in at the beginning of a career that is sure to be brilliant and distinguished.'”
John Storm made some murmur of dissent.
“I trust you found your rooms to your taste, Mr. Storm?”
John Storm had found them more than he expected or desired.
“Ah, well, humble but comfortable, and in any case please regard them as your own, to receive whom you please therein, and to dispense your own hospitalities. This house is large enough. We shall not meet oftener than we wish, so we can not quarrel. The only meal we need take together is dinner. Don’t expect too much. Simple but wholesome—that’s all we can promise you in a clergyman’s family.”
John Storm answered that food was an indifferent matter to him, and that half an hour after dinner he never knew what he had eaten. The canon laughed and began again.
“I thought it best you should come to us, being a stranger in London, though I confess I have never had but one of my clergy residing with me before. He is here now. You’ll see him by-and-bye. His name is Golightly, a simple, worthy young man, from one of the smaller colleges, I believe. Useful, you know, devoted to me and to my daughter, but of course a different sort of person altogether, and—er——”
It was a peculiarity of the canon that whatever he began to talk about, he always ended by talking of himself.
“I sent for you this morning, not having had the usual opportunity of meeting before, that I might tell you something of our organization and your own duties…. You see in me the head of a staff of six clergy.”
John Storm was not surprised; a great preacher must be followed by flocks of the poor; it was natural that they should wish him to help them and to minister to them.
“We have no poor in my parish, Mr. Storm.”
“No poor, sir?”
“On the contrary, her Majesty herself is one of my parishioners.”
“That must be a great grief to you, sir?”
“Oh, the poor! Ah, yes, certainly. Of course, we have our associated charities, such as the Maternity Home, founded in Soho by Mrs. Callender—a worthy old Scotswoman—odd and whimsical, perhaps, but rich, very rich and influential. My clergy, however, have enough to do with the various departments of our church work. For instance, there is the Ladies’ Society, the Fancy Needlework classes, and the Decorative Flower Guild, not to speak of the daughter churches and the ministration in hospitals, for I always hold—er——”
John Storm’s mind had been wandering, but at the mention of the hospital he looked up eagerly.
“Ah, yes, the hospital. Your own duties will be chiefly concerned with our excellent hospital of Martha’s Vineyard. You will have the spiritual care of all patients and nurses—yes, nurses also—within its precincts, precisely as if it were your parish. ‘This is my parish,’ you will say to yourself, and treat it accordingly. Not yet being in full Orders, you will be unable to administer the sacrament, but you will have one service daily in each of the wards, taking the wards in rotation. There are seven wards, so there will be one service in each ward once a week, for I always say that fewer——”
“Is it enough?” said John. “I shall be only too pleased——”
“Ah, well, we’ll see. On Wednesday evenings we have service in the church, and nurses not on night duty are expected to attend. Some fifty of them altogether, and rather a curious compound. Ladies among them? Yes, the daughters of gentlemen, but also persons of all classes. You will hold yourself responsible for their spiritual welfare. Let me see—this is Friday—say you take the sermon on Wednesday next, if that is agreeable. As to views, my people are of all shades of colour, so I ask my clergy to take strictly via media views—strictly via media. Do you intone?”
John Storm had been wandering again, but he recovered himself in time to say he did not.
“That is a pity; our choir is so excellent—two violins, a viola, clarinet, ‘cello, double bass, the trumpets and drums, and of course the organ. Our organist himself——”
At that moment a young clergyman came into the room, making apologies and bowing subserviently.
“Ah, this is Mr. Golightly—the-h’m—Hon. and Rev. Mr. Storm.—You will take charge of Mr. Storm and bring him to church on Sunday morning.”
Mr. Golightly delivered his message. It was about the organist. His wife had called to say that he had been removed to the hospital for some slight operation, and there was some difficulty about the singer of Sunday morning’s anthem.
“Most irritating! Bring her up.” The curate went out backward. “I shall ask you to excuse me, Mr. Storm. My daughter, Felicity—ah, here she is.”
A tall young woman in spectacles entered.
“This is our new housemate, Mr. Storm, nephew of dear Lord Erin. Felicity, my child, I wish you to drive Mr. Storm round and introduce him to our people, for I always say a young clergyman in London——”
John Storm mumbled something about the Prime Minister.
“Going to pay your respects to your uncle now? Very good and proper. Next week will do for the visits. Yes, yes. Come in, Mrs. Koenig.”
A meek, middle-aged woman had appeared at the door. She was dark, and had deep luminous eyes with the moist look to be seen in the eyes of a tired old terrier.
“This is the wife of our organist and choir master. Good day! Kindest greetings to the Prime Minister…. And, by the way, let us say Monday for the beginning of your chaplaincy at the hospital.”
The Earl of Erin, as First Lord of the Treasury, occupied the narrow, unassuming brick house which is the Treasury residence in Downing Street. Although the official head of the Church, with power to appoint its bishops and highest dignitaries, he was secretly a sceptic, if not openly a derider of spiritual things. For this attitude his early love passage had been chiefly accountable. That strife between duty and passion which had driven the woman he loved to religion had driven him in the other direction and left a broad swath of desolation in his soul. He had seen little of his brother since that evil time, and nothing whatever of his brother’s son. Then John had written, “I am soon to be bound by the awful tie of the priesthood,” and he had thought it necessary to do something for him. When John was announced he felt a thrill of tender feeling to which he had long been a stranger. He got up and waited. The young man with his mother’s face and the eyes of an enthusiast was coming down the long corridor.
John Storm saw his uncle first in the spacious old cabinet room which looks out on the little garden and the Park. He was a gaunt old man with, meagre mustache and hair, and a face like a death’s head. He held out his hand and smiled. His hand was cold and his smile was half tearful and half saturnine.
“You are like your mother, John.”
John never knew her.
“When I saw her last you were a child in arms and she was younger than you are now.”
“Where was that, uncle?”
“In her coffin, poor girl.”
The Prime Minister shuffled some papers and said, “Well, is there anything you wish for?”
“Nothing. I’ve come to thank you for what you’ve done already.”
The Prime Minister made a deprecatory gesture.
“I almost wish you had chosen another career, John. Still, the Church has its opportunities and its chances, and if I can ever——”
“I am satisfied; more than satisfied,” said John. “My choice is based, I trust, on a firm vocation. God’s work is great, sir; the greatest of all in London. That is why I am so grateful to you. Think of it, sir——”
John was leaning forward in his chair with one arm stretched out.
“Of the five millions of people in this vast city, not one million cross the threshold of church or chapel. And then remember their condition. A hundred thousand live in constant want, slowly starving to death, every day and hour, and a quarter of the old people of London die as paupers. Isn’t it a wonderful scene, sir? If a man is willing to be spiritually dead to the world—to leave family and friends—to go forth never to return, as one might go to his execution——”
The Prime Minister listened to the ardent young man who was talking to him there with his mother’s voice, and then said—
“I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake.”
John Storm looked puzzled.
“I’ve sent you to the wrong place, John. When you wrote, I naturally supposed you were thinking of the Church as a career, and I tried to put you in the way of it. Do you know anything of your vicar?”
John knew that fame spoke of him as a great preacher—one of the few who had passed through their Pentecost and come out with the gift of tongues.
“Precisely!” The Prime Minister gave a bitter little laugh. “But let me tell you something about him. He was a poor curate in the country where the lord of the manor chanced to be a lady. He married the lady of the manor. His wife died and he bought a London parish. Then, by the help of an old actor who gave lessons in elocution, he—well, he set up his Pentecost. Since then he has been a fashionable preacher and frequents the houses of great people. Ten years ago he was made an honorary canon, and, when he hears of an appointment to a bishopric, he says in a tearful voice, ‘I don’t know what the dear Queen has got against me.'”
“Well, if I had known you felt like that I should scarcely have sent you to Canon Wealthy. And yet I hardly know where else a young man of your opinions … I’m afraid the Church has a good many Canon Wealthys in it.”
“God forbid!” said John. “No doubt there are Pharisees in these days just as in the days of Christ, but the Church is still the pillar of the State——”
“The caterpillar, you mean, boy—eating out its heart and its vitals.”
The Prime Minister gave another bitter little laugh, then looked quickly into John’s flushed face and said:
“But it’s poor work for an old man to sap away a young man’s enthusiasm.”
“You can’t do that, uncle,” said John, “because God is the absolute ruler of all things, good and bad, and he governs both to his glory. Let him only give us strength to endure our exile——”
“I don’t like to hear you talk like that, John. I think I know what the upshot will be. There’s a gang of men about—Anglican Catholics they call themselves; well, remember the German proverb, ‘Every priestling hides a popeling.’ … And if you are to be in the Church, John, is there any reason why you shouldn’t marry and be reasonable? To tell you the truth, I’m rather a lonely old man, whatever I may seem, and if your mother’s son would give me a sort of a grandson—eh?”
The Prime Minister was pretending to laugh again.
“Come, John, come, it seems a pity—a fine young fellow like you, too. Are there no sweet young girls about in these days? Or are they all dead and gone since I was a young fellow? I could give you a wide choice, you know, for when a man stands high enough … in fact, you would find me reasonable—you might have anybody you liked, rich or poor, dark or fair.——”
John Storm had been sitting in torment, and now he rose to go. “No, uncle,” he said, in a thicker voice, “I shall never marry. A clergyman who is married is bound to life by too many ties. Even his affection for his wife is a tie. And then there is her affection for the world, its riches, its praise, its honours.——”
“Well, well, we’ll say no more. After all, it’s better than running wild, and that’s what most young men seem to be doing nowadays. But then your long education abroad—and your poor father left to look after himself! Good-day to you. Come and see me now and then. How like your mother you are sometimes! Good-day!”
When the door of the cabinet room closed on John Storm the Prime Minister thought, “Poor boy, he’s laying up for himself a big heartache one of these fine days!”
And John Storm, going down the street with uncertain step, said to himself: “How strange he should talk like that! But, thank God, he didn’t produce a flicker in me. I died to all that a year ago.”
Then he lifted his head and his footstep lightened, and deep in some secret place the thought came proudly, “She shall see that to renounce the world is to possess the world—that a man may be poor and have all the kingdom of the world at his feet.”
He went back by the Underground from Westminster Bridge. It was midday, and the train was crowded. His spirits were high and he talked with every one near him. Getting out at Victoria, he came upon his vicar on the platform and saluted him rather demonstratively. The canon responded with some restraint and then stepped into a first-class carriage.
On turning into Eaton Place he came upon a group of people standing around something that lay on the pavement. It was an old woman, a tattered, bedraggled creature with a pinched and pallid face. “Is it an accident?” a gentleman was saying, and somebody answered, “No, sir, she’s gorn off in a faint.” “Why doesn’t some one take her to the hospital?” said the gentleman, and then, like the Levite, he passed by on the other side. The butcher’s cart drew up at the curb, and the butcher jumped down, saying, “There never is no p’lice about when they’re wanted for anythink.”
“But they aren’t wanted here, friend,” said somebody from the outside. It was John Storm, and he was pushing his way through the crowd.
“Will somebody knock at that door, please?” He lifted the old thing in his arms and carried her toward the canon’s house. The footman looked aghast. “Let me know when the canon returns,” said John, and then marched up the carpeted stairs to his rooms.
An hour afterward the old woman opened her eyes and said: “Anythink gorn wrong? Wot’s up? Is it the work’us?”
It was a clear case of destitution and collapse. John Storm began to feed the old creature with the chicken and milk sent up for his own lunch.
Some time in the afternoon he heard the voice and step of the vicar in the room below. Going down to the study, he was about to knock; but the voice continued in varying tones, now loud, now low. During a pause he rapped, and then, with noticeable irritation, the voice cried, “Come in!”
He found the vicar, with a manuscript in hand, rehearsing his Sunday’s sermon. It was a shock to John, but it helped him to understand what his uncle had said about the canon’s Pentecost.
The canon’s brow was clouded. “Ah, is it you? I was sorry to see you getting out of a third-class carriage to-day, Mr. Storm.”
John answered that it was the poor man’s class, and therefore, he thought, it ought to be his.
“You do yourself an injustice, Mr. Storm. Besides, to tell you the truth, I don’t choose that my assistant clergy——”
John looked ashamed. “If that is your view, sir,” he said, “I don’t know what you’ll say to what I’ve been doing since.”
“I’ve heard of it, and I confess I’m not pleased. Whatever your old protégée may be, my house is no place for her. I help to maintain charitable institutions for such cases, and I will ask you to lose no time in having her removed to the hospital.”
John was crushed. “Very well, sir, if that is your wish; only I thought you said my rooms——Besides, the poor old thing fills her place as well as Queen Victoria, and perhaps the angels are watching the one as much as the other.”
Next day John Storm called to see the old woman at Martha’s Vineyard, and he saw the matron, the house doctor, and a staff nurse as well. His adventure was known to everybody at the hospital. Once or twice he caught looks of amused compassion, and heard a twitter of laughter. As he stood by the bed, the old woman muttered: “I knoo ez it wuzn’t the work’us, my dear. He spoke to me friendly and squeedged my ‘and.”
Coming through the wards he had looked for a face he could not see; but just then he was aware of a young woman, in the print dress and white apron of a nurse, standing in silence at the bed-head. It was Glory, and her eyes were wet with tears.
“You mustn’t do such things,” she said hoarsely; “I can’t bear it,” and she stamped her foot. “Don’t you see that these people——”
But she turned about and was gone before he could reply. Glory was ashamed for him. Perhaps she had been taking his part! He felt the blood mounting to his face, and his cheeks tingling. Glory! His eyes were swimming, and he dared not look after her; but he could have found it in his heart to kiss the old bag of bones on the bed.
That night he wrote to the parson in the island: “Glory has left off her home garments, and now looks more beautiful than ever in the white simplicity of the costume of the nurse. Her vocation is a great one. God grant she may hold on to it!” Then something about the fallacy of ceremonial religion and the impossibility of pleasing God by such religious formalities. “But if we have publicans and Pharisees now, even as they existed in Christ’s time, all the more service is waiting for that man for whom life has no ambitions, death no terrors. I thank God I am in a great measure dead to these things…. I will fulfil my promise to look after Glory. My constant prayer is against Agag. It is so easy for him to get a foothold in a girl’s heart here. This great new world, with its fashions, its gaieties, its beauty, and its brightness—no wonder if a beautiful young girl, tingling with life and ruddy health, should burn with impatience to fling herself into the arms of it. Agag is in London, and as insinuating as ever.”
On Sunday morning his fellow-curate came to his room to accompany him to church. The Rev. Joshua Golightly was a little man with a hook nose, small keen eyes, scanty hair, and a voice that was something between a whisper and a whistle. He bowed subserviently, and made meek little speeches.
“I do trust you will not be disappointed with our church and service. We do all we can to make them worthy of our people.”
As they walked down the streets he talked first of the church officers—there were honorary wardens, gentlemen sidesmen, and lady superintendents of floral decorations; then of the choir, which consisted of organist and choir master, professional members, voluntary members, and choir secretary. The anthem was sung by a professional singer, generally the tenor from the opera; the canon could always get such people—he was a great favourite with artistes and “the profession.” Of course, the singers were paid, and the difficulty this week had been due to the exorbitant fee demanded by the Italian barytone from Covent Garden.
Disappointment and disenchantment were falling on John Storm at every step.
All Saints’ was a plain, dark structure with a courtyard in front. The bells were ringing, and a line of carriages was drawing up at the portico as at the entrance to a theatre, discharging their occupants and passing on. Vergers in yellow and buff, with knee-breeches, silk stockings, and powdered wigs, were receiving the congregation at the doors.
“Let us go in by the west door—I should like you to see the screen to advantage,” said Mr. Golightly.
The inside of the church was gorgeous. As far up as the clerestory every wall was frescoed, and every timber of the roof was gilded. At the chancel end there was a wrought-iron screen of delicate tracery, and the altar was laden with gold candlesticks. Above the altar and at either side of it were stained glass windows. The morning sun was shining through them and filling the chancel with warm splashes of light. Ladies in beautiful spring dresses were following the vergers up the aisles.
“This way,” the curate whispered, and John Storm entered the sacristy by a low doorway like the auditorium entrance to a stage. There he met some six others of his fellow-curates. They nodded to him and went on arranging their surplices. The choir were gathering in their own quarters, where the violins were tuning up and the choir boys were laughing and behaving after their kind.
The bell slackened and stopped, and the organ began to play. When all were ready they stepped into a long corridor and formed in line with their faces to the chancel and their backs to a little door, at which a verger in blue stood guard.
“The canon’s room,” whispered Mr. Golightly.
A prayer was said by some one, the choir sang the response, and then they walked in procession to their places in the chancel, the choir boys first, the canon last. Seen through the tracery of the screen, the congregation appeared to fill every sitting in the church with a blaze of light and colour, and the atmosphere was laden with delicate perfume.
The service was choral. An anthem was sung at the close of the sermon, the collection being made during the hymn before it. The professional singer looked like any other chorister in his surplice, save for his swarthy face and heavy mustache.
The canon preached. He wore his doctor’s hood of scarlet cloth. His sermon was eloquent and literary, and it was delivered with elocutionary power. There were many references to great writers, painters, and musicians, including a panegyric on Michael Angelo and a quotation from Browning. The sermon concluded with a passage from Dante in the original.
John Storm was dazed and perplexed. When the service was over he came out alone, returning down the nave, which was now empty but still fragrant. Among other notices pasted on a board in the porch he found this one: “The vicar and wardens, having learned with regret that purses have been lost on leaving the church, recommend the congregation to bring only such money as they may need for the offertory.”
Had he been to the house of God? No matter! God ruled the world in righteousness and wrought out everything to his own glory.
Next morning he began duty as chaplain at the hospital, and when he had finished the reading of his first prayers he could see that he had lived down some of the derision due to his adventure with the old woman. That poor old bag of bones was sinking and could not last much longer.
Going out by way of the dispensary, he saw Glory again, and heard that she had been at church the day before. It was lovely. All those hundreds of nice-looking people in gay colours, with the rustle of silk and the hum of voices—it was beautiful—it reminded her of the sea in summer. He asked her what she thought of the sermon, and she said, “Well, it wasn’t religion exactly—not what I call religion—not a ‘reg’lar rousing rampage for sowls,’ as old Chalse used to say, but——”
“Glory,” he said impetuously, “I’m to preach my first sermon on Wednesday.”
He did not ask her to come, but inquired if she was on night duty. She answered No, and then somebody called her.
“She’ll be there,” he told himself, and he walked home with uplifted head. He would look for her; he would catch her eye; she would see that it was not necessary to be ashamed of him again.
And then close behind, very close, came recollections of her appearance. He could reconstruct her new dress by memory—her face was easy to remember. “After all, beauty is a kind of virtue,” he thought. “And all natural friendship is good for the progress of souls if it is built upon the love of God.”
He wrote nothing and learned nothing by heart. The only preparation he made for his sermon was thought and prayer. When the Wednesday night came he was very nervous. But the church was nearly empty, and the vergers, who were in their everyday clothes, had only partially lit up the nave. The canon had done him the honour to be present; his fellow-curates read the prayers and lessons.
As he ascended the pulpit he thought he saw the white bonnets of a group of nurses in the dim distance of one of the aisles, but he did not see Glory and he dared not look again. His text was, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He gave it out twice, and his voice sounded strange to himself—so weak and thin in that hollow place.
When he began to speak his sentences seemed awkward and difficult. The things of the world were temporal and the nations of the world were out of harmony with God. Men were biting and devouring each other who ought to live as brothers. “Cheat or be cheated” was the rule of life, as the modern philosopher had said. On the one side were the many dying of want, on the other side the few occupied with poetry and art, writing addresses to flowers, and peddling—in the portraiture of the moods and methods of love, living lives of frivolity, taking pleasure in mere riches and the lusts of the eye, while thousands of wretched mortals were grovelling in the mire…. Then where was our refuge? … The Church was the refuge of God’s people … from Christ came the answer—the answer—the——
His words would not flow. He fought hard, threw out another passage, then stammered, began again, stammered again, felt hot, made a fresh effort, flagged, rattled out some words he had fixed in his mind, perspired, lost his voice, and finally stopped in the middle of a sentence and said, “And now to God the Father—” and came down from the pulpit.
His sermon had been a failure, and he knew it. On going back to the sacristy the Reverend Golightly congratulated him with a simper and a vapid smile. The canon was more honest but more vain. He mingled lofty advice with gentle reproof. Mr. Storm had taken his task too lightly. Better if he had written his sermon and read it. Whatever might serve for the country, congregations in London—at All Saints’ especially—expected culture and preparation.
“For my own part I confess—nay, I am proud to declare—my watchword is Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!”
As for the doctrine of the sermon it was not above question. It was necessary to live in the nineteenth century, and it was impossible to apply to its conditions the rules of life that had been proper to the first.
John Storm made no resistance. He slept badly that night. As often as he dozed off he dreamed that he was trying to do something he could not do, and when he awoke he became hot as with the memory of a disgrace. And always at the back of his shame was the thought of Glory.
Next morning he was alone in his room and fumbling the toast on his breakfast table, when the door opened and a cheery voice cried, “May I no come in, laddie?”
An elderly lady entered. She was tall and slight and had a long, fine face, with shrewd but kindly eyes, and nearly snow-white hair.
“I’m Jane Callender,” she said, “and I couldna wait for an introduction or sic bother, but must just come and see ye. Ay, laddie, it was a bonnie sermon yon! I havena heard the match of it since I came frae Edinburgh and sat under the good Doctor Guthrie. Now he was nae slavish reader neither—none of your paper preachers was Thomas. My word, but you gave us the right doctrine, too! They’re given over to the worship of Beelzebub—half these church-going folks! Oh, these Pharisees! They are enough to sour milk. I wish they had one neck and somebody would just squeeze it. Now, where did ye hear that, Jane? But no matter! And the lasses are worse than the men, with their fashions and foldololls. They love Jesus, but they like him best in heaven, not bothering down in Belgravia. But I must be going my ways. I left James on the street, and there’s nae living with the man if you keep his horses waiting. Good-morning til ye! But eh, laddie, I’m afraid for ye! I’m thinking—I’m thinking … but come and see me at Victoria Square. Good-morning!”
She had rattled this off at a breath, and had hardly given time for a reply, when her black silk was rustling down the stairs.
John Storm remembered that the canon had spoken of her. She was the good woman who kept the home for girls at Soho.
“The good creature only came to comfort me,” he thought. But Glory! What was Glory thinking? That morning after prayers at the hospital he went in search of her in the out-patient department, but she pretended to be overwhelmed with work, and only nodded and smiled and excused herself.
“I haven’t got a moment this morning either for the king or his dog. I’m up to my eyes in bandages, and have fourteen plasters on my conscience, and now I must run away to my little boy whose leg was amputated on Saturday.”
He understood her, but he came back in the evening and was resolved to face it out.
“What did you think of last night, Glory?” Then she put on a look of blank amazement.
“Why, what happened? Oh, of course, the sermon! How stupid of me! Do you know I forgot all about it?”
“You were not there, then?”
“Don’t ask me. Really, I’m ashamed; after my promise to grandfather, too! But Wednesday doesn’t count anyway, does it? You’ll preach on Sunday—and then!”
His feeling of relief was followed by a sense of deeper humiliation. Glory had not even troubled herself to remember. Evidently he was nothing to her, nothing; while she——
He walked home through St. James’s Park, and under the tall trees the peaceful silence of the night came down on him. The sharp clack of the streets was deadened to a low hum as of the sea afar off. Across the gardens he could see the clock in the tower of Westminster, and hear the great bell strike the quarters. London! How little and selfish all personal thoughts were in the contemplation of the mighty city! He had been thinking only of himself and his own little doings. It was all so small and pitiful!
“Did my shame at my failure in the pulpit proceed solely from fear of losing the service of God, or did it proceed from wounded ambition, from pride, from thoughts of Glory——”
But the peaceful stars were over him. It was a majestic night.
“Dear Auntie Rachel: Tell grandpa, to begin with, that John Storm preached his first sermon on Wednesday last, and, according to programme, I was there to hear it. Oh, God bless me! What a time I had of it! He broke down in the middle, taking stage fright or pulpit fright or some such devilry, though there was nothing to be afraid of except a bandboxful of chattering girls who didn’t listen, and a few old fogies with ear-trumpets. I was sitting in the darkness at the back, effectually concealed from the preacher by the broad shoulders of Ward Sister Allworthy, who is an example of ‘delicate femaleism’ just verging on old-maidenism. They tell me the ‘discoorse’ was a short one, but I never got so many prayers into the time in all my born days, and my breath was coming and going so fast that the Sister must have thought they had set up a pumping-engine in the pew behind her. Our poor, heavy-laden Mr. Storm has been here since then with his sad and eager face, but I hadn’t the stuff in me to tell him the truth about the sermon, so I told him I had forgotten to go and hear it, and may the Lord have mercy on my soul!
“You want to know how I employ my time? Well, lest you should think I give up my days to dreams and my nights to idleness, I hasten to tell that I rise at 6, breakfast at 6.30, begin duty at 7, sup at 9.30 P.M., gossip till 10, and then go into my room and put myself to bed; and there I am at the end of it. Being only a probationer, I am chiefly in the out-patient department, where my duties are to collect the things wanted at the dispensary, make the patients ready to see the surgeon, and pass them on to the dressers. My patients at present are the children, and I love them, and shall break my heart when I have to leave them. They are not always too well looked after by the surgeon, but that doesn’t matter in the least, because, you see, they are constantly watched by the best and most learned doctor in the world—that’s me.
“Last Saturday I had my first experience of the operating theatre. Gracious goodness! I thought I shouldn’t survive it. Fortunately, I had my dressings and sponges to look after, so I just stiffened my back with a sort of imaginary six-foot steel bar, and went on ‘like blazes.’ But some of these staff nurses are just ‘ter’ble’; they take a professional pleasure in descending to that inferno, and wouldn’t miss a ‘theatre’ for worlds. On Saturday it was a little boy of five who had his leg amputated, and now when you ask the white-faced darling where he’s going to he says he’s going to the angels, and he’ll get lots of gristly pork up there. He is too.
“The personnel of our vineyard is abundant, but there are various sour grapes growing about. We have a medical school (containing lots of nice boys, only a girl may not speak to them even in the corridors), and a full staff of honorary and visiting physicians and surgeons. But the only doctor we really have much to do with is the house surgeon, a young fellow who has just finished his student’s course. His name is Abery, and since Saturday he has so much respect for Glory that she might even swear in his presence (in Manx), but Sister Allworthy takes care that she doesn’t, having designs on his celibacy herself. He must have sung his Te Deum after the operation, for he got gloriously drunk and wanted to inject morphia in a patient recovering from trouble of the kidney. It was an old hippopotamus of a German musician named Koenig, and he was in a frantic terror. So I whispered to him to pretend to go to sleep, and then I told the doctor I had lost the syringe. But—’Gough bless me sowl!’—what a dressing the Sister gave me!
“Yesterday was visiting-day, and when the friends of the patients come even an hospital can have its humours. They try to sneak in little dainties which may be delicious in themselves, but are deadly poison to the people they are intended for. Then we have to search under the bedclothes of the patients, and even feel the pockets of their visitors. The mother of my little boy came yesterday, and I noticed such a large protuberance at her bosom under her ulster that I began to foresee another operation. It was only a brick of currant cake, paved with lemon peel. I hauled it out and moved round like a cloud of thunder and lightning. But she began to cry and to say she had made it herself for Johnnie, and then—well, didn’t I just get a wigging from the Sister, though!
“But I don’t mind what happens here, for I am in London, and to be in London is to live, and to live is to be in London. I’ve not seen much of it yet, having only two hours off duty every day—from ten to twelve—and then all I can do is to make little dips into the park and the district round about, like a new pigeon with its wings clipped. But I watch the great new world from my big box up here, and see the carriages in the park and the people riding on horseback. They have a new handshake in London. You lift your hand to the level of your shoulder, and then waggle horizontally as if you had put your elbow out; and when you begin to speak you say, ‘I—er—’ as if you had got the mumps. But it is beautiful! The sound of the traffic is like music, and I feel like a war-horse that wants to be marching to it. How delightful it is to be young in a world so full of loveliness! And if you are not very ugly it’s none the worse.
“All hospital nurses are just now basking in the sunshine of a forthcoming ball. It is to be given at Bartimaeus’s Hospital, where they have a lecture theatre larger than the common, and the dancing there is for once to be to a happier tune. All the earth is to be present—all the hospital earth—and if I could afford to array myself in the necessary splendour, I should show this benighted London what an absolute angel Glory is! But then my first full holiday is to be on the 24th, when I expect to be out from 10 A. M. until 10 P. M. I am nearly crazy whenever I think of it, and when the time comes to make my first plunge into London, I know I shall hold my breath exactly as if I were taking a header off Creg Malin rocks…. Glory.”
On the morning of the 24th Glory rose at five, that she might get through her work and have the entire day for her holiday. At that hour she came upon a rough-haired nurse wearing her cap a little on one side and washing a floor with disinfectants. Being in great spirits, Glory addressed her cheerfully.
“Are you off to-day too?” she said.
The nurse gave her a contemptuous glance and answered: “I’m not one of your paying probationers, Miss—playing probationers I call them. We nurses are hard-working women, whose life spells duty; and we’ve got no time for sight-seeing and holiday-making.”
“No, but you are one of those who ruin the profession altogether,” said a younger woman who had just come up. “They will expect everybody to do the same. This is my day off, but I have to do the grate, and sweep the ward, and make the bed, and tidy the Sister’s room—and it’s all through people like you. Small thanks you get for it either, for a girl may not even wear her hair in a fringe, and she is always expecting to hear the matron’s ‘You’re not fit for nursing, Miss.'”
Glory looked at her. She was an exquisitely pretty girl, with dark hair, pink and ivory cheeks, and light-gray eyes; but her hands were coarse, and her finger nails flat and square, and when you looked again there was a certain blemished appearance about her beauty as of a Sèvres vase that is cracked somewhere.
“Do you say you are off to-day?” said Glory,
“Yes, I am; are you?”
“Yes, but I’m strange to London. Could you take me with you—if you are going nowhere in particular?”
“Certainly, dear. I’ve noticed you before and wanted to speak to you. You’re the girl with the splendid name—Glory, isn’t it?”
“Yes; what is yours?”
At ten o’clock that morning the two girls set out for their long day’s jaunt.
“Now where shall we go?” said Polly.
“Let’s go where we can see a great many people,” said Glory.
“That’s easy enough, for this is the Queen’s birthday, and——”
Glory thought of Aunt Rachel and made a cry of delight.
“And now that I think of it,” said Polly, as if by a sudden memory, “I’ve got tickets for the trooping of the colours—the Queen’s colours, you know.”
“Shall we see her?” said Glory.
“What a question! Why, no, but we’ll see the soldiers, and the generals, and perhaps the Prince. It’s at ten-thirty, and only across the park.”
“Come along,” said Glory, and she began to drag at her companion and to run.
“My gracious, what a girl you are, to be sure!”
But they were both running in another minute, and laughing and chattering like children escaped from school. In a quarter of an hour they were at the entrance to the Horse Guards. There was a crowd at the gates, and a policeman was taking tickets. Polly dived into her pocket.
“Where are mine? Oh, here they are. A great friend gave me them,” she whispered. “He has a chum in one of those offices.”
“A gentleman,” said Glory with studied politeness; but they were crushing through the gate by that time, and thereafter she had eyes and ears for nothing but the pageant before her.
It was a beautiful morning, and the spring foliage of the park was very green and fresh. Three sides of the great square were lined with redcoats; the square itself was thronged with people, and every window and balcony looking over it was filled. There were soldiers, sentries, policemen, the generals in cocked hats, and the Prince himself in a bearskin, riding by with the jingle of spurs and curb-chain. Then the ta-ra-ta-ta-ra of the bugle, the explosive voice crying, “Escort for the colour!” the officer carrying it, the white gloves of the staff fluttering up the salute, the flash of bayonets, the march round, and the band playing The British Grenadiers. It was like a dream to Glory. She felt her bosom heaving, and was afraid she was going to cry.
Polly was laughing and prattling merrily. “Ha, ha, ha! see that soldier chasing a sunshade? My! he has caught it with his sword.”
“I suppose these are all great people,” whispered Glory.
“I should think so,” said Polly. “Do you see that gentleman in the window opposite?—that’s the Foreign Office.”
“Which?” said Glory, but her eyes were wandering.
“The one in the frock-coat and the silk hat, talking to the lady in the green lawn and the black lace fichu and the spring bonnet.”
“You mean beside that plain girl wearing the jungle of rhododendrons?”
“Yes; that’s the gentleman that gave my friend the tickets.”
Glory looked at him for a moment, and something very remote seemed to stir in her memory; but the band was playing once more, and she was wafted away again. It was God save the Queen this time, and when it ended and everybody cried “All over!” she took a long, deep breath and said, “Well!”
Polly was laughing at her, and Glory had to laugh also. They set each other off laughing, and people began to look at them, and then they had to laugh again and run away.
“This Glory is the funniest girl,” said Polly; “she is surprised at the simplest thing.”
They went to look at the shops, passing up Regent Street, across the Circus and down Oxford Street toward the City, laughing and talking nonsense all the time. Once when they made a little purchase at a shop the shopwoman looked astonished at the freedom with which they carried themselves, and after that they felt inclined to go into every shop in the street and behave absurdly everywhere. In the course of two hours they had accomplished all the innocent follies possible to the intoxication of youth, and were perfectly happy.
By this time they had reached the Bank and were feeling the prickings of hunger, so they looked out a restaurant in Cheapside and went in for some dinner. The place was full of men, and several of them rose at once when the two girls entered. They were in their out-door hospital costume, but there was something showy about Polly’s toilet, and the men kept looking their way and smiling. Glory looked back boldly and said in an audible voice, “What fun it must be to be a barmaid, and to have the gentlemen wink at you, and be laughing back at them!” But Polly nudged, her and told her to be quiet. She looked down herself, but nevertheless contrived to use her eyes as a kind of furtive electric battery in the midst of the most innocent conversation. It was clear that Polly had flown farthest in the ways of the world, and when you looked at her again you could see that the balance of her life had been deranged by some one.
After dinner the girls got into an omnibus and went still farther east, sitting at opposite sides of the car, and laughing and talking loudly to each other, amid the astonishment of the other occupants. But when they came to mean and ugly streets with green-grocers’ barrows by the curbstone, and weird and dreary cemeteries in the midst of gaunt, green sticks that were trying to look like trees, Glory thought they had better return.
They went back by the Thames steamboat from some landing stage among the docks. The steamer picked up passengers at every station on the river, and at London Bridge a band came aboard. As they sailed under St. Paul’s the boat was crowded with people going west to see the celebrations in honour of the birthday, and the band was playing And her Golden Hair was hanging down her Back.
At one moment Glory was wild with delight, and at the next her gaiety seemed to be suddenly extinguished. The sun was setting behind the towers of Westminster in a magnificent lake of fire, and it seemed like the sun going down at Peel, except that the lights beneath, which glistened and flashed, were windows, not waves, and the deep hum was not the noise of the mighty sea, but the noise of mighty millions.
They landed at Westminster Bridge and went to a tearoom for tea. When they came out it was quite dark, and they got on to the top of an omnibus. But the town was now ablaze with gas and electric lights that were flinging out the initials of the Queen, and Whitehall was dense with carriages going to the official receptions. Glory wanted to be in the midst of so much life, so the girls got down and walked arm in arm.
As they passed through Piccadilly Circus they were laughing again, for the oppression of the crowds made them happy. The throng was greatest at that point and they had to push their way through. Among others there were many gaily-dressed women, who seemed to be waiting for omnibuses. Glory noticed that two of these women, who were grimacing and lisping, had spoken to a man who was also lounging about. She tugged at Polly’s arm.
“That’s strange! Did you see that?” she said.
“That! Oh, that’s nothing. It’s done every day,” said Polly.
“What does it mean?” said Glory.
“Why, you don’t mean to say—well, this, Glory—— Really your friends ought to take care of you, my dear, you are so ignorant of the world.”
And then suddenly, as by a flash of lightning, Glory had her first glimpse of the tragic issues of life.
“Oh, my gracious! Come along,” she whispered, and dragged Polly after her.
They were panting past the end of St. James’s Street when a man with an eye-glass and a great shield of shirt-front collided with them and saluted them. Glory was for forging ahead, but Polly had drawn up.
“It’s only my friend,” said Polly in another voice.—”This is a new nurse. Her name is Glory.”
The man said something about a glorious name and a glorious pleasure to be nursed by such a nurse, and then both the girls laughed. He was glad they had found his tickets useful, but sorry he could not see them back to the hospital, being dragged away to the bally Foreign Office reception in honour of the Queen’s birthday.
“But I’m coming to the ball, you know, and,” with a glance at Glory, “I’ve half a mind to bring my chum along with me!”
“Oh, do,” said Polly, partly covering the pupils of her eyes with her eyelids.
The man lowered his voice and said something about Glory which Glory did not catch, then waved his white-kid glove, saying “Ta-ta,” and was gone.
“Is he married?” said Glory.
“Married! Good gracious, no; what ridiculous ideas you’ve got!”
It was ten minutes after ten as the girls turned in at a sharp trot at the door of the hospital, still prattling and chattering and bringing some of the gaiety and nonsense of their holiday into the quiet precincts of the house of pain. The porter shook his finger at them with mock severity, and a ward Sister going through the porch in her white silence stopped to say that a patient had been crying out for one of them.
“It’s me—I know it’s me,” said Polly. “I’ve got a brother here out of a monastery, and he can’t do with anybody else about him. It makes me tired of my life.”
But it was Glory who was wanted. The woman whom John Storm had picked up out of the streets was dying. Glory had helped to nurse her, and the poor old thing had kept herself alive that she might deliver to Glory her last charge and message. She could see nobody, so Glory leaned over the bed and spoke to her.
“I’m here, mammie; what is it?” she said, and the flushed young face bent close above the withered and white one.
“He spoke to me friendly and squeedged my ‘and, he did. S’elp me never, it’s true. Gimme a black cloth on the corfin, my dear, and mind yer tell ‘im to foller.”
“Yes, mammie, yes. I will-be sure I—I—Oh!”
It was Glory’s first death.
John Storm had been through his first morning call that afternoon. For this ordeal he had presented himself in a flannel shirt in the hall, where the canon was waiting for him in patent-leather boots and kid gloves, and his daughter Felicity in cream silk and white feathers. After they had seated themselves in the carriage the canon, said: “You don’t quite do yourself justice, Mr. Storm. Believe me, to be well dressed is a great thing to a young man making his way in London.”
The carriage stopped at a house that seemed to be only round the corner.
“This is Mrs. Macrae’s,” the canon whispered. “An American lady-widow of a millionaire. Her daughter—you will see her presently—is to marry into one of our best English families.”
They were walking up the wide staircase behind the footman in blue. There was a buzz of voices coming from a room above.
“Canon—er—Wealthy, Miss Wealthy, and—er—the—h’m—Rev. Mr. Storm!”
The buzz of voices abated, and a bright-faced little woman, showily dressed, came forward and welcomed them with a marked accent. There were several other ladies in the room, but only one gentleman. This person, who was standing, with teacup and saucer in hand, at the farther side, screwed an eyeglass in his eye, looked across at John Storm, and then said something to the lady in the chair beside him. The lady tittered a little. John Storm looked back at the man, as if by an instinctive certainty that he must know him when he saw him again. He was engulfed in a high, stiff collar, and was rather ugly; tall, slender, a little past thirty; fair, with soft, sleepy eyes, and no life in his expression, but agreeable; fit for good society, with the stamp of good breeding, and capable of saying little humorous things in a thin “roofy” voice.
“I was real sorry I didn’t hear Mr. Storm Wednesday evening,” Mrs. Macrae was saying, with a mincing smile. “My daughter told me it was just too lovely.—Mercy, this is your great preacher. Persuade him to come to my ‘At Home’ Tuesday.”
A tall, dark girl, with gentle manners and a beautiful face, came slowly forward, put her hand into John’s, and looked steadily into his eyes without speaking. Then the gentleman with the eyeglass said suavely, “Have you been long in London, Mr. Storm?”
“Two weeks,” John answered shortly, and half turned his head.
“How—er—interesting!” with a prolonged drawl and a little cold titter.
“Oh, Lord Robert Ure—Mr. Storm,” said the hostess.
“Mr. Storm has done me the honour to become one of my assistant clergy, Lord Robert,” said the canon, “but he is not likely to be a curate long.”
“That is charming,” said Lord Robert. “It is always a relief to hear that I am likely to have one candidate the less for my poor perpetual curacy in Pimlico. They’re at me like flies round a honey-pot, don’t you know. I thought I had made the acquaintance of all the perpetual curates in Christendom. And what a sweet team they are, to be sure! The last of them came yesterday. I was out, and my friend Drake—Drake of the Home Office, you know—couldn’t give the man the living, so he gave him sixpence instead, and the creature went away quite satisfied.”
Everybody seemed to laugh except John, who only stared into the air, and the loudest laughter came from the canon. But suddenly an incisive voice said:
“But why sharpen your teeth on the poor curates? Is there no a canon or a bishop handy that’s better worth a bite?”
It was Mrs. Callender.
“I tell ye a story too, only mine shall be a true one.”
“Jane! Jane!” said the hostess, shaking her fan as a weapon; and Lord Robert stretched his neck over his collar and made an amiable smile.
“A girl of eighteen came to me this morning at Soho, and she was in the usual trouble. The father was a wicked rector. He died last year leaving thirty-one thousand pounds; and the mother of his unfortunate child—that is to say, his mistress—is now in the Union.”
It was the first sincere word that had been spoken, where every tone had been wrong, every gesture false, and it fell on the company like a thunderclap. John Storm drew his breath hard, looked up at Lord Robert by a strange impulse, and felt himself avenged.
“What a beautiful day it has been!” said somebody. Everybody looked up at the maker of this surprising remark. It was a lady, and she blushed until her cheeks burned again.
A painful silence followed, and then the hostess turned to Lord Robert and said:
“You spoke of your friend Drake, didn’t you? Everybody is talking of him, and as for the girls, they seem to be crazy about the man. So handsome, they say; so natural, and such a splendid talker. But then, girls are so quick to take fancies to people. You really must take care of yourself, my dear.” (This to Felicity.) “Who is he? Lord Robert will tell you—an official of some kind, and son of Sir something Drake, of one of the northern counties. He knows the secret of getting on in the world, though he doesn’t go about too much. But I’ve determined not to live any longer without making the acquaintance of this wonderful being, so Lord Robert must just bring him along Tuesday evening, or else——”
John Storm escaped at last, without promising to come to the “At Home.” He went direct to the hospital and learned that Glory was out for the day. Where she could have gone, and what she could be doing, puzzled him grievously. That she had not put herself under his counsel and direction on her first excursion abroad hurt his pride and wounded his sense of responsibility. As the night fell his anxiety increased. Though he knew she would not return until ten, he set out at nine to meet her.
At a venture he took the eastward course, and passed slowly down Piccadilly. The façade of nearly every club facing the park was flaming with electric light. Young men in evening dress were standing on the steps, smoking and taking the air after dinner, and pretty girls in showy costumes were promenading leisurely in front of them. Sometimes, as a girl passed, she looked sharply up and the corner of her mouth would be raised a little, and when she had gone by there would be a general burst of laughter.
John’s blood boiled, and then his heart sank; he felt so helpless, his pity and indignation were so useless and unnecessary. All at once he saw what he had been looking for. As he went by the corner of St. James’s Street he almost ran against Glory and another nurse in the costume of their hospital. They did not observe him; they were talking to a man; it was the man he had met in the afternoon—Lord Robert Ure.
John heard the man say, “Your Glory is such a glorious——” and then he lowered his voice, and appeared to say something that was very amusing, for the other girl laughed a great deal.
John’s soul was now fairly in revolt, and he wanted to stop, to order the man off and to take charge of the two nurses as his duty seemed to require of him. But he passed them, then looked back and saw the group separate, and as the man went by he watched the girls going westward. There was a glimpse of them under the gas-lamp as they crossed the street, and again a glimpse as they passed into the darkness under the trees of the park.
He could not trust himself to return to the hospital that night, and his indignation was no less in the morning. But there was a letter from Glory saying that his poor old friend was dead, and had begged that he would bury her. He dressed himself in his best (“We can’t take liberties with the poor,” he thought) and walked across to the hospital at once. There he asked for Glory, and they went downstairs together to that still chamber underground which has always its cold and silent occupant. It is only a short tenancy that anybody can have there, so the old woman had to be buried the same morning. The parish was to bury her, and the van was at the door.
He was standing with Glory in the hall, and his heart had softened to her.
“Glory,” he said, “you shouldn’t have gone out yesterday without telling me, the dangers of London are so great.”
“What dangers?” she asked.
“Well, to a young girl, a beautiful girl——”
Glory peered up under her long eyelashes.
“I mean the dangers from—I’m ashamed in my soul to say it—the dangers from men.”
She shot up a quick glance into his face and said in a moment, “You saw us, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I saw you, and I didn’t like your choice of company.”
She dropped her head demurely and said, “The man?”
John hesitated. “I was speaking of the girl. I don’t like the freedom with which she carries herself in this house. Among these good and devoted women is there no one but this—this——?”
Glory’s lower lip began to show its inner side. “She’s bright and lively, that’s all I care.”
“But it’s not all I care, Glory, and if such men as that are her friends outside——”
Glory’s head went up. “What is it to me who are her friends outside?”
“Everything, if you allow yourself to meet them again.”
“Well,” doggedly, “I am going to meet them again. I’m going to the Nurses’ Ball on Tuesday.”
John answered with deliberation, “Not in that girl’s company.”
“I say not in that girl’s company.”
There was a short pause, and then Glory said with a quivering mouth: “You are vexing me, and you will end by making me cry. Don’t you see you are degrading me too? I am not used to being degraded. You see me with a weak silly creature who hasn’t an idea in her head and can do nothing but giggle and laugh and make eyes at men, and you think I’m going to be led away by her. Do you suppose a girl can’t take care of herself?”
“As you will, then,” said John, with a fling of his hand, going off down the steps.
“Mr. Storm—Mr. Storm—Jo—Joh——”
But he was out on the pavement and getting into the workhouse van.
“Ah!” said a mincing voice beside her. “How jolly it is when anybody is suffering for your sake!” It was Polly Love, and again her eyelids were half covering her eyes.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Glory. Her own eyes were swimming in big tear-drops.
“Don’t you? What a funny girl you are! But your education has been neglected, my dear.”
It was a combination van and hearse with the coffin under the driver’s box, and John Storm (as the only discoverable mourner) with the undertaker on the seat inside.
“Will ye be willin’ ter tyke the service at the cimitery, sir?” said the undertaker, and John answered that he would.
The grave was on the paupers’ side, and when the undertaker, with his man, had lowered the coffin to its place, he said, “They’ve gimme abart three more funerals this morning, so I’ll leave ye now, sir, to finish ‘er off.”
At the next moment John Storm in his surplice was alone with the dead, and had opened his book to read the burial service which no other human ear was to hear.
He read “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” and then the bitter loneliness of the pauper’s doom came down on his soul and silenced him.
But his imprisoned passion had to find a vent, and that night he wrote to the Prime Minister: “I begin to understand what you meant when you said I was in the wrong place. Oh, this London, with its society, its worldly clergy, its art, its literature, its luxury, its idle life, all built on the toil of the country and compounded of the sweat of the nameless poor! Oh, this ‘Circe of cities,’ drawing good people to it, decoying them, seducing them, and then turning them into swine! It seems impossible to live in the world and to be spiritually-minded. When I try to do so I am torn in two.”
On the following Tuesday evening two young men were dining in their chambers in St. James’s Street. One of them was Lord Robert Ure; the other was his friend and housemate, Horatio Drake. Drake was younger than Lord Robert by some seven or eight years, and also beyond comparison more attractive. His face was manly and handsome, its expression was open and breezy; he was broad-shouldered and splendidly built, and he had the fair hair and blue eyes of a boy.
Their room was a large one, and it was full of beautiful and valuable things, but the furniture was huddled about in disorder. A large chamber-organ, a grand piano, a mandolin, and two violins, pictures on the floor as well as on the walls, many photographs scattered about everywhere, and the mirror over the mantelpiece fringed with invitation-cards, which were stuck between the glass and the frame.
Their man had brought in the coffee and cigarettes. Lord Robert was speaking in his weary drawl, which had the worn-out tone of a man who had made a long journey and was very sleepy.
“Come, dear boy, make up your mind, and let us be off.”
“But I’m tired to death of these fashionable routs.”
“So am I.”
“They’re so unnatural—so unnecessary.”
“My dear fellow, of course they’re unnatural—of course they’re unnecessary; but what would you have?”
“Anything human and natural,” said Drake. “I don’t care a ha’p’orth about the morality of these things—not I—but I am dead sick of their stupidity.”
Lord Robert made languid puffs of his cigarette, and said, in a tearful drawl: “My dear Drake, of course it is exactly as you say. Who doesn’t know it is so? It has always been so and always will be. But what refuge is there for the poor leisured people but these diversions which you despise? And as for the poor titled classes—well, they manage to make their play their business sometimes, don’t you know. Confess that they do sometimes, now, eh?”
Lord Robert was laughing with an awkward constraint, but Drake looked frankly into his face and said:
“How’s that matter going on, Robert?”
“Fairly, I think, though the girl is not very hot on it. The thing came off last week, and when it was over I felt as if I had proposed to the girl and been accepted by the mother, don’t you know. I believe this rout to-night is expressly in honour of the event, so I mustn’t run away from my bargain.”
He lay back, sent funnels of smoke to the ceiling, and then said, with a laugh like a gurgle: “I’m not likely to, though. That eternal dun was here again to-day. I had to tell him that the marriage would come off in a year certain. That was the only understanding on which he would agree to wait for his money. Bad? Of course it’s bad; but what would you have, dear boy?”
The men smoked in silence for a moment, and then Lord Robert said again: “Come, old fellow, for friendship’s sake, if nothing else. She’s a decent little woman, and dead bent on having you at her house to-night. And if you’re badly bored we’ll not stay long. We’ll come away early and—listen—we’ll slip across to the Nurses’ Ball at Bartimaeus’s Hospital; there’ll be fun enough there, at all events.”
“I’ll go,” said Drake.
Half an hour later the two young men were driving up to the door of Mrs. Macrae’s house in Belgrave Square. There was a line of carriages in front of it, and they had to wait their turn to approach the gate. Footmen in gorgeous livery were ready to open the cab door, to help the guests across the red baize that lay on the pavement, to usher them into the hall, to lead them to the little marble chamber where they entered their names in a list intended for the next day’s Morning Post, and finally to direct them to the great staircase where the general crush moved slowly up to the saloon above.
In the well of the stairs, half hidden behind a little forest of palms and ferns, a band in yellow and blue uniform sat playing the people in. On the landing the hostess stood waiting to receive, and many of the guests, by a rotary movement like the waters of a maelstrom, moved past her in a rapid and babbling stream, twisted about her, and came down again. She welcomed Lord Robert effusively, and motioned to him to stand by her side. Then she introduced her daughter to Drake and sent them adrift through the rooms.
The rooms were large ones with parquet flooring from which all furniture had been removed, except the palms and ferns by the walls and the heavy chandeliers overhead. It was not yet ten o’clock, but already the house was crowded, and every moment there were floods of fresh arrivals. First came statesmen and diplomatists, then people who had been to the theatres, and toward the end of the evening some of the actors themselves. The night was close and the atmosphere hot and oppressive. At the farther end of the suite there was a refreshment-room with its lantern lights pulled open; and there the crush was densest and the commotion greatest. The click-clack of many voices cut the thick air as with a thousand knives, and over the multitudinous clatter there was always the unintelligible boom of the band downstairs.
Most of the guests looked tired. The men made some effort to be cheerful, but the women were frankly jaded and fagged. Bedizened with diamonds, coated with paint and powder, laden with rustling silks, they looked weary and worn out. When spoken to they would struggle to smile, but the smiles would break down after a moment into dismal looks of misery and oppression.
“Had enough?” whispered Lord Robert to Drake.
Drake was satisfied, and Lord Robert began to make their excuses.
“Going already!” said Mrs. Macrae. “An official engagement, you say?—Mr. Drake, is it? Oh, don’t tell me! I know—I know! Well, you’ll be married and settled one of these days—and then!”
They were in a hansom cab driving across London in the direction of Bartimaeus’s Hospital. Drake was bare-headed and fanning himself with his crush hat. Lord Robert was lighting a cigarette.
“Pshaw! What a stifling den! Did you ever hear such a clitter-clatter? A perfect Tower of Babel building company! What in the name of common sense do people suppose they’re doing by penning themselves up like that on a night like this? What are they thinking about?”
“Thinking about, dear boy? You’re unreasonable! Nobody wants to think about anything in such scenes of charming folly.”
“But the women! Did you ever see such faded, worn-out dummies for the display of diamonds? Poor little women in their splendid misery! I was sorry for your fiancée, Robert. She was the only woman in the house without that hateful stamp of worldliness and affectation.”
“My dear Drake, you’ve learned many things, but there’s one thing you have not yet learned—you haven’t learned how to take serious things as trifles, and trifles as serious things. Learn it, my boy, or you’ll embitter existence. You are not going to alter the conditions of civilization by any change in your own particular life; so just look out the prettiest, wittiest, wealthiest little woman who is a dummy for the display of diamonds——”
“Me? Not if I know it, old fellow! Give me a little nature and simplicity, if it hasn’t got a second gown to its back.”
“All right—as you like,” said Lord Robert, flinging out the end of his cigarette. “You’ve got the pull of some of us—you can please yourself. And here we are at old Bartimaeus’s, and this is a very different pair of shoes!”
They were driving out of one of London’s main thoroughfares, through a groined archway, into one of London’s ancient buildings with its quiet quadrangle where trees grow and birds sing. Every window of the square was lighted up, and there was a low murmur of music being played within.
“Listen!” said Lord Robert. “I am here ostensibly as the guest of the visiting physician, don’t you know, but really in the interests of the little friend I told you of.”
“The one I got the tickets for last week?”
At the next moment they were in the ballroom. It was the lecture theatre for the students of the hospital school—a building detached from the wards and of circular shape, with a gallery round its walls, which were festooned with flags and roofed with a glass dome. Some two hundred girls and as many men were gathered there; the pit was their dancing ring and the gallery was their withdrawing room. The men were nearly all students of the medical schools; the girls were nearly all nurses, and they wore their uniform: There was not one jaded face among them, not one weary look or tired expression. They were in the fulness of youth and the height of vigour. The girls laughed with the ring of joy, their eyes sparkled with the light of happiness, their cheeks glowed with the freshness of health.
The two men stood a moment and looked on.
“Well, what do you think of it?” said Lord Robert.
Drake’s wide eyes were ablaze, and his voice came in gusts.
“Think of it!” he said. “It’s wonderful! It’s glorious!”
Lord Robert’s glass had dropped from his eye, and he was laughing in his drawling way.
“What are you laughing at? Women like these are at least natural, and Nature can not be put on.”
The mazurka had just finished, and the dancers were breaking into groups.
“Robert, tell me who is that girl over there—the one looking this way? Is it your friend?”
Lord Robert readjusted his glass.
“The pretty dark girl with the pink-and-white cheeks, like a doll?”
“Yes; and the taller one beside her—all hair, and eyes, and bosom. She’s looking across now. I’ve seen that girl before somewhere. Now, where have I seen her? Look at her—what fire, and life, and movement! The dance is over, but she can’t keep her feet still.”
“I see—I see. But let me introduce you to the matron and doctors first, and then——”
“I know now—I know where I’ve seen her! Be quick, Robert, be quick!”
Lord Robert laughed again in his tired drawl. He was finding it very amusing.