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The room was nearly full already, for the Father Superior had come, bringing lay brother Andrew along with him, and Aggie was sitting in a corner, and Mrs. Pincher was moving about, and there was also a stranger present. And though the little place was so mean and poor, it was full of soft radiance from the sky, and people walked about in it with a glow upon their faces.
Glory was by the bedside, standing erect and saying nothing. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears, and sometimes her mouth was twitching. John Storm was conscious and very quiet. Holding Glory's hand as if he could not part with it, he was looking around with the expression of the soldier who has done the fearful, perhaps the foolish and foolhardy thing and scaled the walls of the enemy. He is lying with the enemy's shot in his breast now, and with death in his eyes, but he is smiling proudly for all that, because he knows that the army is coming on. The Superior had brought from the Brotherhood the picture of the head of Christ in its crown of thorns to hang on the wall at the end of the bed, and the light from the window made flickering gleams on the gla.s.s, and they were reflected on to his face.
Hardly anybody spoke. As soon as the Prime Minister arrived he took a paper from his pocket and gave it to the stranger, who glanced at it and bowed. Then they all gathered about the bed, and the Superior opened a book which he had carried in his hands, and in solemn accents began to read:
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together in the sight of G.o.d----"
Brother Andrew, who was kneeling at the foot of the bed, whined like a dog, and some women on the landing, who were peering in at the open door, whispered among themselves: "It's the Holy Communion! Hus.h.!.+"
John's power did not fail him. He made his responses in a clear voice, although his last strength was thrilling along the thread of life. And Glory, when her turn came, was brave, too. There was just a touch of the old hoa.r.s.eness in her glorious voice, a slight quivering of the lids of her glistening eyes, and then she went on to the end without faltering.
"--_take thee, JOHN_--
"--take thee, JOHN--
"--_to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward_--
"....to have and to hold from this day forward--
"--_for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health_--
"....in sickness and in health--
"--_to love, cherish, and obey, till death us do part_--
"....till death us do part----
_It will be seen that in writing this book I have sometimes used the diaries, letters, memoirs, sermons, and speeches of recognisable persons, living and dead. Also, it will be seen that I have frequently employed fact for the purposes of fiction. In doing so, I think I am true to the principles of art, and I know I am following the precedent of great writers. But being conscious of the grievous: danger of giving personal offence, I would wish to say that I have not intended to paint anybody's portrait, or to describe the life of any known Society or to indicate the management of any particular Inst.i.tution. To do any of these things would be to wrong the theory of fiction as I understand it, which is not to offer mock history or a subst.i.tute for fact, but to present a thought in the form of a story, with as much realism as the requirements of idealism will permit. In presenting the thought which is the motive of "The Christian" my desire has been to depict, however imperfectly, the types of mind and character, of creed and culture, of social effort and religious purpose which I think I see in the life of England and America at the close of the nineteenth century. For such a task my own observation and reflection could not be enough, and so I am conscious that in many pa.s.sages of this book I have often been merely as the mould through which the metal has pa.s.sed from the fires kept burning round about._
_Greeba Castle, Isle of Man, 1897_.