Read THE RELIGIOUS LIFE - CHAPTER III. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on

“5a Little Turnstile, High Holborn, London, W. C., November 9, 18 .

“Oh yiz, oh yiz, oh yiz!  This is to announce to you with due pomp and circumstance that I, Glory Quayle, am no longer at the hospitalfor the present.  Did I never tell you?  Have you never noticed it in the regulations?  Every half-year a nurse is entitled to a week’s holiday, and as I have been exactly six months to-day at Martha’s Vineyard, and as a week is too short a time for a trip to the ‘oilan,’ [ Island.] and as a good lady whose acquaintance I have made here had given me a pressing invitation to visit her See?

“Being the first day since I came up to London that I have been sole mistress of my will and pleasure, I have been letting myself loose, like Cæsar does the moment his mad hoofies touch the grass.  I must tell you all about it.  The day began beautifully.  After a spell of laughing and crying weather, and all the world sneezing and blowing its nose, there came a frosty morning with the sun shining and the air as bright as diamonds.  I left the hospital between, eleven and twelve o’clock, and crossing the park by Birdcage Walk I noticed that flags were flying on Buckingham Palace and church bells ringing everywhere.  It turned out to be the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and the Lord Mayor’s Day as well, and by the time I got to Storey’s Gate bands of music were playing and people were scampering toward the Houses of Parliament.  So I ran, too, and from the gardens in front of Palace Yard I saw the Lord Mayor’s Show.

“Do you know what that is, good people?  It is a civic pageant.  Once a year the City King makes a royal procession through the streets with his soldiers and servants and keepers and pipers and retainers, bewigged and bepowdered and bestockinged pretty much as they used to be in the days before the flood.  There have been seven hundred of him in succession, and his particular vanity is to show that he is wearing the same clothes still.  But it was beautiful altogether, and I could have cried with delight to see those grave-looking signiors forgetting themselves for once and pretending they were big boys over again.

“Such a sight!  Flags were flying everywhere and festoons were stretched across the streets with mottoes and texts, such as ‘Unity is strength’ and ‘God save the Queen,’ and other amiable if not original ideas.  Traffic was stopped in the main thoroughfares, and the ’buses were sent by devious courses, much to the astonishment of the narrow streets.  Then the crowds, the dense layers of potted people with white, upturned faces, for all the world like the pictures of the round stones standing upright at the Giant’s Causewayit was wonderful!

“And then the fun!  Until the procession arrived the policemen were really obliging in that way.  The one nearest me was as fat as Falstaff, and a slim young Cockney in front kept addressing intimate remarks to him and calling him Robert.  The young impudence himself was just as ridiculous, for he wore a fringe which was supported by hair-oil and soap, and rolled carefully down the right side of his forehead so that he could always keep his left eye on it.  And he did, too.

“But the pageant itself!  My gracious! how we laughed at it!  There were Epping Forest verderers, and beef-eaters from the Tower, and pipers of the Scots Guards, and ladies of the ballet shivering on shaky stools and pretending to be ‘Freedom’ and ‘Commerce,’ and last of all the City King himself, smiling and bowing to all his subjects, and with his liegemen behind him in yellow coats and red silk stockings.  Perhaps the most popular character was a Highlander in pink tights, where his legs ought to have been, walking along as solemnly as if he thought it was a sort of religious ceremony and he was an idol out for an airing.

“And then the bands!  There must have been twenty of them, both brass and fife, and they all played the Washington Post, but no two had the luck to fall on the same bar at the same moment.  It was a medley of all the tunes in music, an absolute kaleidoscope of sounds, and meantime there was the clash of bells from the neighbouring belfries in honour of the Prince’s birthday, and the rattle of musketry from the Guards, so that when the double event was over I felt like the man whose wife presented him with twinsI wouldn’t have lost either of them for a million of money, but I couldn’t have found it in my heart to give a bawbee for another one.

“The procession took half an hour to pass, and when it was gone, remembering the ladies in lovely dresses who had rolled by in their gorgeous carriages, looking not a bit cleverer or handsomer than other people, I turned away with a little hard lump at my heart and a limp in my left footthe young Cockney with the fringe had backed on to my toe.  I suppose they are feasting with the lords and all the nobility at the Guildhall to-night, and no doubt the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table will go in pies and cakes to the alleys and courts where hunger walks, and I dare say little Lazarus in the Mile End Road is dreaming at this very moment of Dick Whittington and the Lord Mayor of London.

“It must have been some waking dream of that sort which took possession of me also, for what do you suppose I did?  Shall I tell you?  Yes, I will.  I said to myself:  ’Glory, my child, suppose you were nearly as poor as he was in this great, glorious, splendid London; supposeonly supposeyou had no home and no friends, and had left the hospital, or perhaps even been turned away from it, and hadn’t a good lady’s door standing open to receive you, what would you do first, my dear?’ To all which I replied promptly, ’You would first get yourself lodgings, my child, and then you would just go to work to show this great, glorious London what a woman can do to bring it to her little feet.’

“I know grandfather is saying, ’Gough bless me, girl! you didn’t try it, though?’ Well, yes, I didjust for fun, you know, and out of the spirit of mischief that’s born in every daughter of Eve.  Do you remember that Manx cat that wouldn’t live in the house, notwithstanding all the bribes and corruption of Aunt Rachel’s new milk and softened bread, but went off by the backyard wall to join the tribe of pariah pussies that snatch a living how they may?  Well, I felt like Rumpy for once, having three ‘goolden sovereigns’ in my pocket and a mind superior to fate.

“It was glorious fun altogether, and the world is so amusing that I can’t imagine why anybody should go out of it before he must.  I hadn’t gone a dozen yards in my new character as Dick Whittington fille before a coachman as fat as an elephant was shouting, ’Where d’ye think yer going ter?’ and I was nearly run down in the Broad Sanctuary by a carriage containing two brazen women in sealskin jackets, with faces so thick with powder and paint that you would have thought they had been quarrelling on washing day and thrown the blue bag at each other’s eyes.  I recognised one of them as a former nurse who had left the hospital in disgrace, but happily she didn’t see me, for the little hard lump at my heart was turning as bitter as gall at that moment, so I made some philosophical observations to myself and passed on.

“Oh, my gracious, these London landladies!  They must be female Shylocks, for the pound of flesh is the badge of all their tribe.  The first one I boarded asked two guineas for two rooms, and lights and fires extra.  ’By the month?’ says I.  ‘Yus, by the month if ye like,’ says she.  ’Two guineas a month?’ says I. Marry come up!  I was out of that house in a twinkling.

“Then I looked out a group of humbler thoroughfares, not far from the Houses of Parliament, where nearly every house had a card fixed up on a little green blind.  At last I found a place that would dofor my week, only my week, you know.  Ten shillings and no extras.  ‘I’ll take them,’ said I with a lofty air, and thereupon the landlady, a grim person, with the suspicion of a mustache, began to cross-examine me.  Was I married?  Oh, dear, no!  Then what was my business?  Fool that I was, I said I had none, being full of my Dick Whittingtonism, and not choosing to remember the hospital, for I was wearing my private clothes, you know.  But hoot!  She didn’t take unmarried young ladies without businesses, and I was out in the street once more.

“I didn’t mind it, not I indeed, and it was only for fun after all; but since people objected to girls without businesses, I made up my mind to be a singer if anybody asked me the question again.  My third landlady had only one room, and it was on the second floor back, but before I got the length of mounting to this eyry I went through my examination afresh.  ’In the profession, miss?’ ‘What profession?’ ‘The styge, of course.’  ’Well, yeyes, something of that sort.’  ’Don’t tyke anybody that’s on the styge.’

“Oh, dear!  Oh, dear!  I could have screamed, it was so ridiculous; but time was getting on, Big Ben was striking four, and the day was closing in.  Then I saw the sign, ‘Home for Girls.’  ‘Wonder if it is a charity?’ thinks I; but no, it didn’t look like that, so in I went as bold as brass, and inquired for the manageress.  ’Is it the matron you mean, miss?’ ‘Very well, the matron then,’ said I, and presently she came upno, not smiling, for she wasn’t an amiable-looking Christian, but I thought she would smother me with mysterious questions.  ’Tired of the life, are you, my dear?  It is a cruel one, isn’t it?’ I stood my ground for some minutes, and then, feeling dreadfully thick in the throat, and cold down the back, I asked her what she was talking about, whereupon she looked bewildered and inquired if I was a good girl, and being told that I hoped so, she said she couldn’t take me in there, and then pointed to a card oh the wall which, simpleton that I was, I hadn’t read before:  ’A home and rescue is offered to women who desire to leave a life of misery and disgrace.’

“I did scream that time, the world was so nonsensical.  At one place, being ‘on the styge’ I was not good enough to be taken in, at another I was not bad enough, and what in the name of all that was ridiculous was going to happen next?  But it was quite dark by this time, the air was as black as a northwest gale, and I was ‘aweary for all my wings,’ so forgetting Dick Whittington fille, and only remembering the good female Samaritan who had asked me to stay with her, I made a dart for Victoria Street and jumped into the first ’bus that came along, just as the hotels and the clubs and the great buildings were putting’ out the Prince of Wales’s feathers as sign and symbol of the usual rejoicings within.

“It was an ‘Atlas’ omnibus, and it took me to Piccadilly Circus, and that being the wrong direction, I had to change.  But a fog had come down in the meanwhile, and lo, there I was in the middle of it!

“O Ananias, Azarias, and Misael!  Do you know what a London fog is?  It’s smoke, it’s soot, it’s sulphur.  It is darker than night, for it extinguishes the lights, and denser than the mist on the Curragh, and filthier than the fumes of the brick-kiln.  It makes you think the whole round earth must be a piggery copper and that London has lifted the lid off.  In the midst of this inferno the cabs crawl and the ’buses creep, and foul fiends, who turn out to be men merely, go flitting about with torches, and you grope and croak and cough, and the most innocent faces come puffing and snorting down on you like the beasts in the Apocalypse.

“I thought it good fun at first, but presently I could only keep from crying by having a good laugh, and I was doing that, and asking somebody the way to the Holborn omnibus, when a policeman pushed me and said:  ‘Come, move on; none of yer lyterin’ abart here!’

“I could have choked, but remembering something I had seen on that very spot on the night of my first day out, I dived across the street and ran in spite of curses and collisions.  But the ‘somebody,’ whoever he was, had followed me, and he put me into the right ’bus, so I got here at last.  It took two mortal hours to do it, and after that spell of purgatory this house is like a blessed paradise, peopled with angels of mercy and grace, as paradise ought to be.

“The good Samaritan was very kind, and she made tea for me in a twinkling and slaughtered the fatted calf in the shape of a pot of raspberry jam.  Her name is Mrs. Jupe, and her husband is something in a club, and she has one child of eleven, whose bedfellow I am to be, and here I am now with Miss Slyboots in our little bedroom feeling safe and sound and monarch of all I survey.

“Good-night, good people!  Half an hour hence I’ll be going through a mad march of the incidents of the day, turned topsy-turvy according to the way of dreams.  But wae’s me! wae’s me!  If it had all been trueif I had been really homeless and friendless and penniless, instead of having three ‘goolden’ pounds in my purse, and Providence in the person of Mrs. Jupe, to fall back upon!  When I grow to be a wonderful woman and have brought the eyes of all the earth upon me, I am going to be good to poor girls who have no anchorage in London.  John Storm was right:  this great, glorious, brilliant, delightful London can be very cruel to them sometimes.  It calls to them, beckons to them, smiles on them, makes them think there must be joy in the blaze of so much light and luxury and love by the side of so many palaces, and then

“But perhaps the mischief lies deeper down; and though I’m not going to cut my hair and wear a waistcoat and stand up for the equal rights of the sexes, I feel at this moment that if I were only a man I should be the happiest woman in the world, God bless me!  Not that I am afraid of London, not I indeed; and to show you how I long to take a header into its turbulent tides, I hereby warn and apprize and notify you that perhaps I may use my week’s holiday to find a more congenial employment than that of deputy White Owl at the hospital.  I am not in my right place yet, Aunt Anna, notwithstanding, so look out for revelations!  ’To be or not to be? that is the question.’  Just say the word and I’ll leave it to Providence, which is always a convenient legatee, and in any casebut wait, only wait and see what a week will bring forth!

“Greet the island for me to the inmost core of its being.  The dear little ‘oilan!’ Now that I am so far away, I go over it in my mind’s eye with the idiotic affection of a mother who knows every inch of her baby’s body and would like to gobble it.  The leaves must be down by this time, and there can be nothing on the bare boughs but the empty nests where the little birdies used to woo and sing.  My love to them and three tremendous kisses for yourselves!


“P.S.Oh, haven’t I given you the ‘newses’ about John Storm?  There are so many things to think about in a place like London, you see.  Yes, he has gone into a monasterycommunication cut offwires broken down by the ‘storm,’ etc.  Soberly, he has gone for good seemingly, and to talk of it lightly is like picking a penny out of a blind man’s hat.  Of course, it was only to be expected that a man with an upper lip like that should come to grief with all those married old maids and elderly women of the opposite sex.  Canons to right of him, canons to left of him, canons in front of himbut rumour says it was John himself who volleyed and thundered.  He wrote me a letter when he was on the point of going, saying how London had shocked and disappointed him, and how he longed to escape from it and from himself at the same time, that he might dedicate his life to God.  It was right and true, no doubt; but wherefore could not I pronounce Amen?  He also mentioned something about myself, how much I had been to him; for he had never known his mother, and had never had a sister, and could never have a wife.  All which was excellent, but a mere woman like Glory doesn’t want to read that sort of thing in a letter, and would rather have five minutes of John Storm the man than a whole eternity of John Storm the saint.  His letter made me think of Christian on his way to the eternal city; but that person has always seemed to me a doubtful sort of hero anyway, taking Mrs. Christian into account and the various little Christians, and I can’t pity him a pin about his bundle, for he might just as well have left behind him what he couldn’t enjoy of God’s providence himself.

“But this is like hitting a cripple with his crutch, John being gone and past all defending himself, and when I think of it in the streets I have to run to keep myself from doing something silly, and then people think I’m chasing an omnibus, when I’m really only chasing my tears.  I can’t tell you much about the Brotherhood.  It looks like a cross between a palace and a penitentiary, and it appears that ritualism has gone one better than High-Churchmanship, and is trying to introduce the monastic system, which, to an ordinary woman of the world, seems well enough for the man in the moon, though the man in the moon might have a different way of looking at things.  They say the brothers are all celibates and live in cells, but I think I’ve seen a look in John Storm’s eyes that warns me that he wasn’t intended for ‘the lek o’ that’ exactly.  To tell you the truth, I half blame myself for what has happened, and I am ashamed when I remember how jauntily I took matters all the time our poor John was fighting with beasts at Ephesus.  But I am vexed with him too; and if only he had waited patiently before taking such a serious step in order to hear my arguments But no matter.  A jackdaw isn’t to be called a religious bird because it keeps a-cawing on the steeple, and John Storm won’t make himself into a monk by shutting himself up in a cell.  Good-night.”