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

At the end of the fourth week, after Glory had paid her fee to the agent, she called on him again.  It was Saturday morning, and the vicinity of his office was a strange and surprising scene.  The staircase and passages to the house, as well as the pavement of the streets far as to the public-house at the corner, were thronged with a gaudy but shabby army of music-hall artistes of both sexes.  When Glory attempted to pass through them she was stopped by a cry of, “Tyke yer turn on Treasury day, my dear,” and she fell back and waited.

One by one they passed upstairs, came down again with cheerful faces, shouted their adieus and disappeared.  Meanwhile they amused themselves with salutations, all more or less lively and familiar, told stories and exchanged confidences, while they danced a step or stamped about to keep away the cold.  “You’ve chucked the slap [ Rouge.] on with a mop this morning, my dear,” said one of the girls.  “Have I, my love?  Well, I was a bit thick about the clear, so I thought it would keep me warm.”  “It ain’t no use facing the doner of the casa with that,” said a man who jingled a few coins as he came downstairs, and away went two to the public-house.  Sometimes a showy brougham would drive up to the door and a magnificent person in a fur-lined coat, with diamond rings on both hands, would sweep through the lines and go upstairs.  When he came down again his carriage door would be opened by half a dozen “pros” who would call him “dear old cully” and tell him they were “down on their luck” and “hadn’t done a turn for a fortnight.”  He would distribute shillings and half-crowns among them, cry “Ta-ta, boys,” and drive away, whereupon his pensioners would stroke their cuffs and collars of threadbare astrakhan, tip winks after the carriage, and say, “That’s better than crying cabbages in Covent Garden, ain’t it?” Then they would all laugh knowingly, and one would say, “What’s it to be, cully?” and somebody would answer, “Come along to Poverty Point then,” and a batch of the waiting troop would trip off to the corner.

One of the gorgeous kind was coming down the stairs when his eye fell on Glory as she stood in a group of girls who were decked out in rose pink and corresponding finery.  He paused, turned back, reopened the office door, and said in an audible whisper, “Who’s the pretty young ginger you’ve got here, Josephs?” A moment afterward the agent had come out and called her upstairs.

“It’s salary day, my dearvait there,” he said, and he put her into an inner room, which was tawdrily furnished in faded red plush, with piano and coloured prints of ballet girls and boxing men, and was full of the odour of stale tobacco and bad whisky.

She waited half an hour, feeling hot and ashamed and troubled with perplexing thoughts, and listening to the jingle of money in the adjoining room, mingled with the ripple of laughter and sometimes the exchange of angry words.  At length the agent came back, saying, “Vell, vat can I do for you to-day, my dear?”

He had been drinking, his tone was familiar, and he placed himself on the end of the sofa upon which Glory was seated.

Glory rose immediately.  “I came to ask if you have heard of anything for me,” she said.

“Sit down, my dear.”

“No, thank you.”

“Heard anything?  Not yet, my dear.  You must vait ”

“I think I’ve waited long enough, and if your promises amount to anything you’ll get me an appearance at all events.”

“So I vould, my dear.  I vould get you an extra turn at the Vashington, but it’s very expensive, and you’ve got no money.”

“Then why did you take what I had if you can do nothing?  Besides, I don’t want anything but what my talents can earn.  Give me a letter to a managerfor mercy’s sake, do something for me!”

There was a shrug of the Ghetto as the man rose and said, “Very vell, if it’s like that, I’ll give you a letter and velcome.”

He sat at a table and wrote a short note, sealed it carefully in an envelope which was backed with advertisements, then gave it to Glory, and said, “Daddle doo.  You’ll not require to come again.”

Going downstairs she looked at the letter.  It was addressed to an acting manager at a theatre in the farthest west of London.  The passages of the house and the pavements outside were now empty; it was nearly two o’clock, and snow was beginning to fall.  She was feeling cold and a little hungry, but, making up her mind to deliver the letter at once, she hastened to the Temple station.

There was a matinee, so the acting manager was “in front.”  He took the letter abruptly, opened it with an air of irritation, glanced at it, glanced at Glory, looked at the letter again, and then said in a strangely gentle voice, “Do you know what’s in this, my girl?”

“No,” said Glory.

“Of course you don’tlook,” and he gave her the letter to read.  It ran: 

“Dear :  This wretched young ginger is worrying me for a shop.  She isn’t worth a .  Get rid of her, and oblige Josephs.”

Glory flushed up to the forehead and bit her lip; then a little nervous laugh broke from her throat, and two great tears came rolling from her eyes.  The acting manager took the letter out of her hands and tapped her kindly on the shoulder.

“Never mind, my child.  Perhaps we’ll disappoint him yet.  Tell me all about it.”

She told him everything, for he had bowels of compassion.  “We can’t put you on at present,” he said, “but our saloon contractor wants a young lady to give out programmes, and if that will do to begin with ”

It was a crushing disappointment, but she was helpless.  The employment was menial, but it would take her out of the tobacco shop and put her into the atmosphere of the theatre, and bring fifteen shillings a week as well.  She might begin on Monday if she could find her black dress, white apron, cap, and cuffs.  The dress she had already, but the apron, cap, and cuffs would take the larger part of the money she had left.

By Sunday night she had swallowed her pride with one great gulp and was writing home to Aunt Anna: 

“I’m as busy as Trap’s wife these days; indeed, that goddess of industry is nothing to me now; but Christmas is coming, and I shall want to buy a present for grandfather (and perhaps for the aunties as well), so please send me a line in secret saying what he is wanting most.  Snow! snow! snow!  The snow it snoweth every day.”

On the Monday night she presented herself at the theatre and was handed over to another girl to be instructed in her duties.  The house was one of the best in London, and Glory found pleasure in seeing the audience assemble.  For the first half hour the gorgeous gowns, the beautiful faces, and the distinguished manners excited her and made her forget herself.  Then little by little there came the pain of it all, and by the time the curtain had gone up her gorge was rising, and she crept out into the quiet corridor where her colleague was seated already under an electric lamp reading a penny number.

The girl was a little, tender black and white thing, looking like a dahlia.  In a quarter of an hour Glory knew all about her.  During the day she served in a shop in the Whitechapel Road.  Her name was Agatha Jonesthey called her Aggie.  Her people lived in Bethnal Green, but Charlie always came to the theatre to take her home.  Charlie was her young man.

In the intervals between the acts Glory assisted in the cloak-room, and there the great ladies began to be very amusing.  After the tinkle of the electric bell announcing the second act she returned to the deserted corridor, and before her audience of one gave ridiculous imitations in dead silence of ladies using the puff and twiddling up their front hair.

“My!  It’s you as oughter be on the styge, my dear,” said Aggie.

“Do you think so?” said Glory.

“I’m going on myself soon.  Charlie’s getting me on the clubs.”

“The clubs?”

“The foreign clubs in Soho.  More nor one has begun there.”


“The foreigners like dancing best.  If you can do the splits and shoulder the leg it’s the mykings of you for life.”

When the performance was over they found Charlie waiting on the square in front of the house.  Glory had seen him before, and she recognised him immediately.  He was the young Cockney with the rolled fringe who had bantered the policeman by Palace Yard on Lord Mayor’s Day.  They got into the Underground together, and when Glory returned to the subject of the foreign clubs Charlie grew animated and eloquent.

“They give ye five shillings a turn, and if yer good for anythink ye may do six turns of a Sunday night, not ter speak of special nights, and friendly leads and sech.”

When Glory got out at the Temple Aggie’s head was resting on Charlie’s shoulder, and her little gloved fingers were lightly clasped in his hand.

On the second night Glory had conquered a good deal of her pride.  The grace of her humour was saving her.  It was almost as if somebody else was doing servant’s duty and she was looking on and laughing.  After all it was very funny that she should be there, and what delicious thoughts it would bring later!  Even Nell Gwynne sold oranges in the pit at first, and then some day when she had risen above all this

It must have been a great night of some sort.  She had noticed red baize and an awning outside, and the front of one of the boxes was laden with flowers.  When its occupants entered, the orchestra played the national anthem and the audience rose to their feet.  It was the Prince with the Princess and their daughters.  The audience was only less distinguished, and something far off and elusive moved in her memory when a lady handed her a check and said in a sweet voice: 

“A gentleman will come for this seat.”

Glory’s station was in the stalls, and she did not go out when the lights went down and the curtain rose.  The play was a modern onethe story of a country girl who returned home after a life of bitterness and shame.

It moved her and thrilled her, and stirred the smouldering fires of her ambition.  She was sorry for the actress who played the partthe poor thing did not understandand she would have given worlds to pour her own voice through the girl’s mouth.  Then she was conscious that she was making a noise with her hands, and looking down at them she saw the crumpled programmes and her white cuffs, and remembered where she was, and what, and she murmured, “O God, do not punish me for these vain thoughts!”

All at once a light shot across her face as she stood in the darkness.  The door of the corridor had been opened, and a gentleman was coming in.  He stood a moment beside her with his eyes on the stage and said in a whisper: 

“Did a lady leave a seat?”

It was Drake!  She felt as if she would suffocate, but answered in a strained voice: 

“Yes, that one.  Programme, please.”

He took the programme without looking at her, put his fingers into his waistcoat pocket, and slid something into her hand.  It was sixpence.

She could have screamed.  The humiliation was too abject.  Hurrying out, she threw down her papers, put on her cloak and hat and fled.

But next morning she laughed at herself, and when she took out Drake’s sixpence she laughed again.  With the poker and a nail she drove a hole through the coin and then hung it up by a string to a hook over the mantelpiece, and laughed (and cried a little) every time she looked at it.  Life was so funny!  Why did people bury themselves before they were dead?  She wouldn’t do it for worlds!  But she did not go back to the theatre for all that, and neither did she return to the counter.

Christmas was near, the shops became bright and gay, and she remembered what beautiful presents she had meant to send home out of the money she had hoped to earn.  On Christmas Eve the streets were thronged with little family groups out shopping, and there were many amusing sights.  Then she laughed a good deal; she could not keep from laughing.

Christmas Day opened with a rimy, hazy morning, and the business thoroughfares were deserted.  They had sucking pig for dinner, and Mr. Jupe, who was at home for the holiday, behaved like a great boy.  It was afternoon before the postman arrived with a bag as big as a creel, and full of Christmas cards and parcels.  There was a letter for Glory.  It was from Aunt Anna.

“We are concerned about the serious step you have taken, but trust it is for the best, and that you will give Mrs. Jupe every satisfaction.  Don’t waste your savings on us.  Remember there are post-office savings banks everywhere, and that there is no friend like a little money.”

At the bottom there was a footnote from Aunt Rachel:  “Do you ever see the Queen in London, and the dear Prince and Princess?”

She went to service that night at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Entering by the west door, a verger in a black cloak directed her to a seat in the nave.  The great place was dark and chill and half empty.  All the singing seemed to come from some unseen region far away, and when the preacher got into the curious pulpit he looked like a Jack-in-the-box, and it seemed to be a drum that was speaking.

Coming out before the end, she thought she would walk to the Whitechapel Road, of which Aggie had told her something.  She did so, going by Bishopsgate Street, but turning her head away as she passed the church of the Brotherhood.  The motley crowd of Polish Jews, Germans, and Chinamen, in the most interesting street in Europe, amused her for a while, and then she walked up Houndsditch and passed through Bishopsgate Street again.

At the Bank she took an omnibus for home.  The only other fare was a bouncing girl in a big hat with feathers.

“Going to the market, my dear?  No?  I hates it myself, too, so I goes to the ’alls instead.  Come from the country, don’t ye?  Same here.  Father’s a farmer, but he’s got sixteen besides me, so I won’t be missed.  Live?  I live at Mother Nan’s dress-house now.  Nice gloves, ain’t they?  My hat?  Glad you like the style.  I generally get a new hat once a week, and as for gloves, if anybody likes me ”

That night in her musty bedroom Glory wrote home while little Slyboots slept:  “‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft aglee.’  Witness me!

“I intended to send you some Christmas presents, but the snow has been so industrious that not a mouse has stirred if he could help it.  However, I send three big kisses instead, and a pair of mittens for grandfatherworked with my own hands, because I wouldn’t allow any good Brownie to do it for me.  Tell Aunt Rachel I do see the Prince and Princess sometimes.  I saw them at the theatre the other night.  Yes, the theatre!  You must not be shockedwe are rather gay in Londonwe go to the theatre occasionally.  It is so interesting to meet all the great people!  You see I am fairly launched in fashionable society, but I love everybody just the same as ever, and the moment the candle is out I shall be thinking of Glenfaba and seeing the ‘Waits,’ and ‘Oiel Verree,’ and ‘Hunting the Wren,’ and grandfather smoking his pipe in the study by the light of the fire, and Sir Thomas Traddles, the tailless, purring and blinking at his feet.  Merry Christmas to you, my dears!  By-bye.”