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

“‘Where’s that bright young Irish laidy?’ the gentlemen’s allwiz sayin’, my dear,” said Mrs. Jupe, and for very shame’s sake, having no money to pay for board and lodgings, Glory returned to the counter.

A little beyond Bedford Row, in a rookery of apartment houses in narrow streets, there lives a colony of ballet girls and chorus girls who are employed at the lighter theatres of the Strand.  They are a noisy, merry, reckless, harmless race, free of speech, fond of laughter, wearing false jewellery, false hair, and false complexions, but good boots always, which they do their utmost not to conceal.

Many of these girls pass through the Turnstile on their way to their work, and toward seven in the evening the tobacconist’s would be full of them.  Nearly all smoked, as the stained forefinger of their right hands showed, and while they bought their cigarettes they chirruped and chirped until the little shop was like a tree full of linnets in the spring.

Most of them belonged to the Frailty Theatre, and their usual talk was of the “stars” engaged there.  Chief among these were the “Sisters Bellman,” a trio of singers in burlesque, and a frequent subject of innuendo and rapartee was one Betty, of that ilk, whose name Glory could remember to have seen blazing in gold on nearly every hoarding and sign.

“Says she was a governess in the country, my dear.”  “Oh, yus, I dare say.  Came out of a slop shop in the Mile End Road though, and learned ’er steps with the organ man in the court a-back of the jam factory.”  “Well, I never!  She’s a wide un, she is!” “About as wide as Broad Street, my dear.  Use ter sell flowers in Piccadilly Circus till somebody spoke to ’er, and now she rides ’er brougham, doncher know.”  Then the laughter would be general, and the girls would go off with their arms about each other’s waists, and singing, in the street substitute for the stage whisper, “And ’er golden ’air was ’anging dahn ’er back!”

This yellow-haired and yellow-fingered sisterhood saw the game of life pretty clearly, and it did not take them long to get abreast of Glory.  “Like this life, my dear?” “Go on!  Do she look as if she liked it?”

“Perhaps I do, perhaps I don’t,” said Glory.

“Tell that to the marines, my dear.  I use ter be in a shop myself, but I couldn’t a-bear it.  Give me my liberty, I say; and if a girl’s got any sort o’ figure Unnerstand, my dear?”

Late that night one of the girls came in breathless and cried:  “Hooraa!  What d’ye think?  Betty wants a dresser, and I’ve got the shop for ye, my dear.  Guinea a week and the pickings; and you go tomorrow night on trial.  By-bye!”

Glory’s old infirmity came back upon her, and she felt hot and humiliated.  But her vanity was not so much wounded by the work that she was offered as her honour was hurt by the work she was doing.  Mrs. Jupe’s absences from home were now more frequent than ever.  If the business that took her abroad was akin to that which had taken her to Polly Love

To put an end to her uneasiness, Glory presented herself at the stage door.

“You the noo dresser, miss?” said the doorkeeper.  “Collins has orders to look after you.Collins!”

A scraggy, ugly, untidy woman who was passingthrough an inner door looked back and listened.

“Come along of me then,” she said, and Glory followed her, first down a dark passage, then through a dusty avenue between stacks of scenery, then across the open stage, up a flight of stairs, and into a room of moderate size which had no window and no ventilation and contained three cheval glasses, a couch, four cane-bottom chairs, three small toilet tables with gas jets suspended over them, three large trunks, some boxes of cigarettes, and a number of empty champagne bottles.  Here there was another woman as scraggy and untidy as the first, who bobbed her head at Glory and then went on with her work, which was that of taking gorgeous dresses out of one of the trunks and laying them on the end of the couch.

“She told me to show you her first act,” said the woman called Collins, and, throwing open another of the trunks, she indicated some of the costumes contained in it.

It was a new world to Glory, and there was something tingling and electrical in the atmosphere about her.  There were the shouts and curses of the scene-shifters on the stage, the laughing voices of the chorus girls going by the door, and all the multitudinous noises of the theatre before the curtain rises.  Presently there was a rustle of silk, and two young ladies came bouncing into the room.  One was tall and pink and white, like a scarlet runner, the other was little and dainty.  They stared at Glory, and she was compelled to speak.

“Miss Bellman, I presume?”

“Ye mean Betty, down’t ye?” said the tall lady, and at that moment Betty herself arrived.  She was a plump person with a kind of vulgar comeliness, and Glory had a vague sense of having seen her before somewhere.

“So ye’ve came,” she said, and she took possession of Glory straightway.  “Help me off of my sealskin.”

Glory did so.  The others were similarly disrobed, and in a few moments their three ladyships were busy before the toilet tables with their grease and rose-pink and black pencils.

Glory was taking down the hair of her stout ladyship, and her stout ladyship was looking at Glory in the glass.

“Not a bad face, girls, eh?”

The other two glanced at Glory approvingly.  “Not bad,” they answered, and then hummed or whistled as they went on with their making-up.

“Oh, thank you,” said Glory, with a low courtesy, and everybody laughed.  It was really very amusing.  Suddenly it ceased to be so.

“And what’s it’s nyme, my dear?” said the little lady.

A sort of shame at using in this company the name that was sacred to home, to the old parson, and to John Storm, came creeping over Glory like a goosing of the flesh, and by the inspiration of a sudden memory she answered, “Gloria.”

The little lady paused with the black pencil at her eyebrows, and said: 

“My!  What a nyme for the top line of a bill!”

“Ugh!  Mykes me feel like Sundays, though,” said the tall lady with a shudder.

“Irish, my dear?”

“Something of that sort,” said Glory.

“Brought up a laidy, I’ll be bound?”

“My father was a clergyman,” said Glory, “but ”

A sudden peal of laughter stopped her, whereupon she threw up her head, and her eyes flashed:  but her stout ladyship patted her hands and said: 

“No offence, Glo, but you re’lly mustn’tthey’re all clergymen’s daughters, doncher know?”

A sharp knock came to the door, followed by the first call of the call-boy.  “Half-hour, ladies.”  Then there was much bustle and some irritation in the dressing-room and the tuning up of the orchestra outside.  The knock came again.  “Curtain up, please.”  The door was thrown open, the three ladies swept outthe tall one in tights, the little one in a serpentine skirt, the plump one in some fancy costumeand Glory was left to gather up the fragments, to listen to the orchestra, which was now in full power, to think of it all and to laugh.

The ladies returned to the dressing-room again and again in the coarse of the performance, and when not occupied with the changing of their dresses they amused themselves variously.  Sometimes they smoked cigarettes, sometimes sent Collins for brandy and soda, sometimes talked of their friends in front:  ’Lord Johnny’s ’ere again.  See ’im in the prompt box?  It’s ’is sixtieth night this piece, and there’s only been sixty-nine of the runand sometimes they discussed the audience generally:  “Don’t know what’s a-matter with ’em to-night; ye may work yer eyes out and ye can’t get a ’and.”

The curtain came down at length, the outdoor costumes were resumed, the call-boy cried “Carriages, please,” the ladies answered “Right ye are, Tommy,” her plump ladyship nodded to Glory, “You’ll do middling, my dear, when ye get yer ’and in”; and then nothing was left but the dark stage, the blank house, and the “Good-night, miss,” of the porter at the stage door.

So these were favourites of the footlights!  And Glory Quayle was dressing and undressing them and preparing them for the stage!  Next morning, before rising, Glory tried to think it out.  Were they so very beautiful?  Glory stretched up in bed to look at herself in the glass, and lay down again with a smile.  Were they so much cleverer than other people?  It was foolishness to think of it, for they were as empty as a drum.  There must be some explanation if a girl could only find it out.

The second night at the theatre passed much like the first, except that the ladies were visited between the acts by a group of fellow-artistes from another company, and then the free-and-easy manners of familiar intercourse gave way to a style that was most circumspect and precise, and, after the fashion of great ladies, they talked together of morning calls and leaving cards and five-o’clock tea.

There was a scene in the performance in which the three girls sang together, and Glory crept out to the head of the stairs to listen.  When she returned to the dressing-room her heart was bounding, and her eyes, as she saw them in the glass, seemed to be leaping out of her head.  It was ridiculous!  To think of all that fame, all that fuss about voices like those, about singing like that, while sheif she could only get a hearing!

But the cloud had chased the sunshine from her face in a moment, and she was murmuring again, “O God, do not punish a vain, presumptuous creature!”

All the same she felt happy and joyous, and on the third night she was down at the theatre earlier than the other dressers, and was singing to herself as she laid out the costumes, for her heart was beginning to be light.  Suddenly she became aware of some one standing at the open door.  It was an elderly man, with a bald head and an owlish face.  He was the stage manager; his name was Sefton.

“Go on, my girl,” he said.  “If you’ve got a voice like that, why don’t you let somebody hear it?”

Her plump ladyship arrived late that night, and her companions were dressed and waiting when she swept into the room like a bat with outstretched wings, crying:  “Out o’ the wy!  Betty Bellman’s coming!  She’s lyte.”

There were numerous little carpings, backbitings, and hypocrisies during the evening, and they reached a climax when Betty said, “Lord Bobbie is coming to-night, my dear.”  “Not if I know it, my love,” said the tall lady.  “We are goin’ to supper at the Nell Gwynne Club, dearest.”  “Surprised at ye, my darling.” “You are a nice one to preach, my pet!”

After that encounter two of their ladyships, who were kissing and hugging on the stage, were no longer on speaking terms in the dressing-room, and as soon as might be after the curtain had fallen, the tall lady and the little one swept out of the place with mysterious asides about a “friend being a friend,” and “not staying there to see nothing done shabby.”

“If she don’t like she needn’t, my dear,” said the boycotted one, and then she dismissed Glory for the night with a message to the friend who would be waiting on the stage.

The atmosphere of the dressing-room had become oppressive and stifling that night, and, notwithstanding the exaltation of her spirits since the stage manager had spoken to her, Glory was sick and ashamed.  The fires of her ambition were struggling to burn under the drenching showers that had fallen upon her modesty, and she felt confused and compromised.

As she stepped down the stairs the curtain was drawn up, the auditorium was a void, the stage dark, save for a single gas jet that burned at the prompter’s wing, and a gentleman in evening dress was walking to and fro by the extinguished footlights.  She was about to step up to the man when she recognised him, and turning on her heel she hurried away.  It was Lord Robert Ure, and the memory that had troubled her at the first sight of Betty was of the woman who had ridden with Polly Love on the day of the Lord Mayor’s show.

Feeling hot and foolish and afraid, she was scurrying through the dark passages when some one called her.  It was the stage manager.

“I should like to hear your voice again, my dear.  Come down at eleven in the morning, sharp.  The leader of the orchestra will be here to play.”

She made some confused answer of assent, and then found herself in the back seat, panting audibly and taking long breaths of the cold night air.  She was dizzy and was feeling, as she had never felt before, that she wanted some one to lean upon.  If anybody had said to her at that moment, “Come out of the atmosphere of that hot-bed, my child, it is full of danger and the germs of death,” she would have left everything behind her and followed him, whatever the cost or sacrifice.  But she had no one, and the pain of her yearning and the misery of her shame were choking her.

Before going home she walked over to the hospital; but no, there was still no letter from John Storm.  There was one from Drake, many days overdue: 

“Dear Glory:  Hearing that you call for your letters, I write to ask if you will not let me know where you are and how the world is using you.  Since the day we parted in St. James’s Park I have often spoken of you to my friend Miss Macquarrie, and I am angry with myself when I remember what remarkable talents you have, and that they are only waiting for the right use to be made of them.

“Yours most kindly,

“F.  H. N. Drake.”

“Many thanks, good Late-i’-th’-day,” she thought, and she was crushing the latter in her hand when she saw there was a postscript: 

“P.  S.This being the Christmas season, I have given myself the pleasure of sending a parcel of Yuletide goodies to your dear old grandfather and his sweet and simple household; but as they have doubtless long forgotten me, and I do not wish to embarrass them with, unnecessary obligations, I will ask you not to help them to the identification of its source.”

She straightened out the letter and folded it, put it in her pocket and returned home.  Another letter was waiting for her there.  It was from the parson: 

“So you sent us a Christmas-box after all!  That was just like my runaway, all innocent acting and make-believe.  What joy we had of it!Rachel and myself, I mean, for we had to carry on the fiction that Aunt Anna knew nothing about it, she being vexed at the thought of our spendthrift spending so much money.  Chalse brought it into the parlour while Anna was upstairs, and it might have been the ark going up to Jerusalem it entered in such solemn stillness.  Oh, dear! oh, dear!  The bun-loaf, and the almonds, and the cheese, and the turkey, and the pound of tobacco, and the mull of snuff!  On account of Anna everything had to be conducted in great quietness, but it was a terrible leaky sort of silence, I fear, and there were hot and hissing whispers.  God bless you for your thought and care of us!  Coming so timely, it is like my dear one herself, a gift that cometh from the Lord; and when people ask me if I am not afraid that my granddaughter should be all alone in that great and wicked Babylon, I tell them:  ’No; you don’t know my Glory; she is all courage and nerve and power, a perfect bow of steel, quivering with sympathy and strength.’”