Read THE OUTER WORLD - CHAPTER XIV. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on

A week later Glory made her first visit to the theatre.  Her companions were Drake, who was charmed with her naïveté; Lord Robert, who was amused by it; and Polly Love, who was annoyed and ashamed, and uttered little peevish exclamations.

As they entered the box which they were to occupy, the attendant drew back the curtain, and at sight of the auditorium she cried, “Oh!” and then checked herself and coloured deeply.  With her eyes down she sat where directed in one of the three seats in front, Polly being on her right and Drake on her left, and Lord Robert at the back of the lace curtain.  For some minutes she did not smile or stir, and when she spoke it was always in whispers.  A great awe seemed to have fallen upon her, and she was behaving as she behaved in church.

Drake began to explain the features of the theatre.  Down there were the stalls, and behind the stalls was the pit.  The body?  Well, yesthe body, so to speak.  And the three galleries were the dress circle, the family circle, and the gallery proper.  The organ loft?  No, there was no organ, but that empty place below was the well for the orchestra.

“And what is this little vestry?” she said.

“Oh, this is a private box where we can sit by ourselves and talk!” said Drake.

At every other explanation she had made little whispered cries of astonishment and delight; but when she heard that conversation was not forbidden she was entirely happy.  She thought a theatre was even more beautiful than a church, and supposed an actor must have a wonderful living.

The house was filling rapidly, and as the people entered she watched them intently.

“What a beautiful congregation!” she whispered“audience, I mean!”

“Do you think so?” said Polly; but Glory did not hear her.

It was delightful to see so many lovely faces and listen to the low hum of their conversation.  She felt happy among them already and quite kind to everybody, because they had all come together to enjoy themselves.  Presently she bowed to some one in the stall with a face all smiles, and then said to Polly: 

“How nice of her!  A lady moved, to me from the body.  How friendly they are in theatres!”

“But it was to Mr. Drake,” said Polly; and then Glory could have buried her face in her confusion.

“Never mind, Glory,” said Drake; “that’s a lady who will like you the better for the little mistake.Rosa,” he added, with a look toward Lord Robert, who smoothed his mustache and bent his head.

Polly glanced up quickly at the mention of the name; and Drake explained that Rosa was a friend of his owna lady journalist, Miss Rosa Macquarrie, a good and clever woman.  Then, turning back to Glory, he said: 

“She has been standing up for your friend Mr. Storm this week.  You know there have been attacks upon him in the newspapers?”

“Has she?” said Glory, recovering herself and looking down again.  “Which pewstall, I mean ”

But the people were clapping their hands and turning their faces to the opposite side of the theatre.  Some great personage was entering the royal box.

“My chief, the Home Secretary,” said Drake; and, when the applause had subsided and the party were seated, the great man recognised his secretary and bowed to him; whereupon it seemed to Glory that every face in the theatre turned about and looked at her.

She did not flinch, but bore herself bravely.  There was a certain thrill and a slight twitching of the head, such as a charger makes at the first volley in battlenothing more, not even the quiver of an eyelid.  This was the atmosphere in which Drake lived, and she felt a vague gratitude to him for allowing her to move in it.

“Isn’t it beautiful!” she whispered, turning toward Polly; but Polly’s face was hidden behind the curtain.

The orchestra was coming in, and Glory leaned forward and counted the fiddles, while Drake talked with Lord Robert across her shoulder.

“I found him reading Rosa’s article this morning, and it seems he was present himself and heard the sermon,” said Drake.

“And what’s his opinion?” asked Lord Robert.

“Much the same as your own.  Affectationthe man is suffering from the desire to be originalmore egotism than love of truth, and so forth.”

“Right, too, dear boy.  All this vapouring is as much as to say:  ’Look at me!  I am the Hon. and Rev. Mr. Thingamy, nephew of the Prime Minister; and yet ’”

“I don’t at all agree with the chief,” said Drake, “and I told him so.  The man has enthusiasm, and that’s the very salt of the earth at present.  We are all such pessimists in these days!  Thank God for anybody who will warm us up with a little faith, say I!”

Glory’s bosom heaved, and she was just about to speak, when, there was a sudden clap as of thunder, and she leaped up in her seat.  But it was only the beginning of the overture, and she sat down laughing.  There was a tender passage in the music; and after it was over she was very quiet for a while, and then whispered to Polly that she hoped little Johnnie wasn’t worse to-night, and it seemed wicked to enjoy one’s self when any one was so poorly.

“Who is that?” said Drake.

“My little boy whose leg was amputated,” said Glory.

“This Glory is so funny!” said Polly.  “Fancy talking of that here!”

“Hush!” said Lord Robert; “the curtain is going up.”  And at the next moment Glory was laughing because they were all in the dark.

The play was Much Ado about Nothing, and Glory whispered to Drake that she had never seen it before, but she had read Macbeth, and knew all about Shakespeare and the drama.  The first scene took her breath away, being so large and so splendid.  It represented the outside of a gentleman’s house, and she thought what a length of time it must have taken to build it, considering it was to last only a single night.  But hush!  The people were going indoors.  No; they preferred to talk in the street.  Oh, we were in Italy?  Yes, indeed, that was different.

Leonato delivered his first speeches forcibly, and was rewarded with applause.  Glory clapped her hands also, and said he was a very good actor for such a very old gentleman.

Then Beatrice made her entrance, and was greeted with cheers, whereupon Glory looked perplexed.

“It’s Terry,” whispered Polly; and Drake said, “Ellen Terry”; but Glory still looked puzzled.

“They are calling her ‘Beatrice,’” she said.  Then, mastering the situation, she looked wise and said:  “Of coursethe actressI quite understand; but why do they applaud hershe has done nothing yet?”

Drake explained that the lady playing Beatrice was a great favourite, and that the applause of the audience had been of the nature of a welcome to a welcome guest, as much as to say they had liked her before, and were glad to see her again.  Glory thought that was beautiful, and, looking at the gleaming eyes that shone out of the darkness, she said: 

“How lovely to be an actress!”

Then she turned back to the stage, where all was bright and brilliant, and said, “What a lovely frock, too!”

“Only a stage costume, my dear,” said Polly.

“And what beautiful diamonds!”

“Paste,” said Lord Robert.

“Hush!” said Drake; and then Benedick entered, and the audience received him with great cheering.  “Irving,” whispered Drake; and Glory looked more perplexed than before and said: 

“But you told me it was Mr. Irving’s theatre, and I thought it would have been his place to welcome ”

The vision of Benedick clapping his hands at his own entrance set Lord Robert laughing in his cold way:  but Drake said, “Be quiet, Robert!”

Glory, like a child, had ears for no conversation except her own, and she was immersed in the play in a moment.  The merry war of Beatrice and Benedick had begun, and as she watched it her face grew grave.

“Now, that’s very foolish of her,” she said; “and if, as you say, she’s a great actress, she shouldn’t do such things.  To talk like that to a man is to let everybody see that she likes him better than anybody else, though she’s trying her best to hide it.  The silly girlhe’ll find her out!”

But the curtain had gone down on the first act, the lights had suddenly gone up, and her companions were laughing at her.  Then she laughed also.

“Of course, it’s only a play,” she said largely, “and I know all about plays and about acting, and I can act myself, too.”

“I’m sure you can,” said Polly, lifting her lip.  But Glory took no notice.

Throughout the second act she put on the same airs of knowledge, watching the masked ball intently, but never once uttering a laugh and hardly ever smiling.  The light, the colour, the dresses, the gay young faces enchanted her; but she struggled to console herself.  It was only her body that was up there, leaning over the front of the box with lips twitching and eyes gleaming; her soul was down on the stage, clad in a lovely gown, and carrying a mask and laughing and joking with Benedick; but she held herself in, and when the curtain fell she began to talk of the acting.

She was still of the opinion that Leonato was excellent for such an elderly gentleman, and when Polly praised Claudio she agreed that he was good too.

“But Benedick is my boy for all,” she said.  In some way she had identified herself with Beatrice, and hardly ever spoke of her.

During the third act this air of wisdom and learning broke down badly.  In the middle of the ballad, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,” she remembered Johnnie, and whispered to Drake how ill he had been when they left the hospital.  And when it was over, and Benedick protested that the song had been vilely sung, she sat back in her seat and said she didn’t know how Mr. Irving could say such a thing, for she was sure the boy had sung it beautifully.

“But that’s the author,” whispered Drake; and then she said wisely: 

“Oh, yes, I knowShakespeare, of course.”

Then came the liming of the two love-birds, and she declared that everybody was in love in plays of that sort, and that was why she liked them; but as for those people playing the trick, they were very simple if they thought Beatrice didn’t know she loved Benedick.  Claudio fell woefully in her esteem in other respects also, and when he agreed to spy on Hero she said he ought to be ashamed of himself anyhow.

“How ridiculous you are!” said Polly.  “It’s the author, isn’t it?”

“Then the author ought to be ashamed of himself, also, for it is unjust and cruel and unnecessary,” said Glory.

The curtain had come down again by this time, and the men were deep in an argument about morality in art, Lord Robert protesting that art had no morality, and Drake maintaining that what Glory said was right, and there was no getting to the back of it.

But the fourth act witnessed Glory’s final vanquishment.  When she found the scene was the inside of a church and they were to be present at a wedding, she could not keep still on her seat for delight; but when the marriage was stopped and Claudio uttered his denunciation of Hero, she said it was just like him, and it would serve him right if nobody believed him.

“Hush!” said somebody near them.

“But they are believing him,” said Glory quite audibly.

“Hush!  Hush!” came from many parts of the theatre.

“Well, that’s shamefulher father, too ” began Glory.

“Hush, Glory!” whispered Drake; but she had risen to her feet, and when Hero fainted and fell she uttered a cry.

“What a girl!” whispered Polly.  “Sit downeverybody’s looking!”

“It’s only a play, you know,” whispered Drake; and Glory sat down and said: 

“Well, yes; of course, it’s only a play.  Did you suppose ”

But she was lost in a moment.  Beatrice and Benedick were alone in the church now; and when Beatrice said, “Kill Claudio,” Glory leaped up again and clapped her hands.  But Benedick would not kill Claudio, and it was the last straw of all.  That wasn’t what she called being a great actor, and it was shameful to “sit and listen to such plays.  Lots of disgraceful scenes happened in life, but people didn’t come to the theatre to see such things, and she would go.

“How ridiculous you are!” said Polly; but Glory was out in the corridor, and Drake was going after her.

She came back at the beginning of the fifth act with red eyes and confused smiles, looking very much ashamed.  From that moment onward she cried a good deal, but gave no other sign until the green curtain came down at the end, when she said: 

“It’s a wonderful thing!  To make people forget it’s not true is the most wonderful thing in the world!”

Lord Robert, standing behind the curtain at the back of Polly’s chair, had been laughing at Glory with his long owlish drawl, and making cynical interjections by way of punctuating her enthusiasm; and now he said, “Would you like to have a nearer view of your wonderful world, Glory?”

Glory looked perplexed, and Drake muttered, “Hold your tongue, Robert!” Then, turning to Glory, he said shortly:  “He only asked if you would like to go behind the scenes; but I don’t think ”

Glory uttered a cry of delight.  “Like it?  Better than anything in the world!”

“Then I must take you to a rehearsal somewhere,” said Lord Robert; “and you’ll both come to tea at the chambers afterward.”

Drake made some show of dissent; but Polly, with her most voluptuous look upward, said it would be perfectly charming, and Glory was in raptures.

The girls, by their own choice, went home without escort by the Hammersmith omnibus.  They sat on opposite sides and hardly talked at all.  Polly was humming idly.  “Sigh no more, ladies.”

Glory was in a trance.  A great, bright, beautiful world had that night swum into her view, and all her heart was yearning for it with vague and blind aspirations.  It might be a world of dreams, but it seemed more real than reality, and when the omnibus passed the corner of Piccadilly Circus she forgot to look at the women who were crowding the pavement.

The omnibus drew up for them at the door of the hospital, and they took long breaths as they went up the steps.

In the corridor to the surgical ward they came upon John Storm.  His head was down and his step was long and measured, and he seemed to be trying to pass them in his grave silence; but Glory stopped and spoke, while Polly went on to her cubicle.

“You here so late?” she said.

He looked steadily into her face and answered, “I was sent forsome one was dying.”

“Was it little Johnnie?”


There was not a tear now, not a quiver of an eyelid.

“I don’t think I care for this life,” she said fretfully.  “Death is always about you everywhere, and a girl can never go out to enjoy herself but ”

“It is true woman’s work,” said John hotly, “the truest, noblest work a woman can have in all the world!”

“Perhaps,” said Glory, swinging on her heel.  “All the same ”

“Good-night!” said John, and he turned on his heel also.

She looked after him and laughed.  Then with a little hard lump at her heart she took herself off to bed.

Polly Love, in the next cubicle, was humming as she undressed: 

  Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
  Men were deceivers ever.

That night Glory dreamed that she was back at Peel.  She was sitting up on the Peel hill, watching the big ships as they weighed anchor in the bay beyond the old dead castle walls, and wishing she were going out with them to the sea and the great cities so far away.