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

Glory awoke on New Year’s morning with a little hard lump at her heart, and thought:  “How foolish!  Am I to give up all my cherished dreams because one man is a scoundrel?”

The struggle might be bitter, but she would not give in.  London was the mother of genius.  If she destroyed she created also.  It was only the weak and the worthless she cast away.  The strong she made stronger, the great she made greater.  “O God, give me the life I love!” she thought; “give me a chance; only let me beginno matter how, no matter where!”

She remembered her impulse of the night before to follow Brother Paul, and the little hard lump at her heart grew bitter.  John Storm had gone from her, forgotten her, left her to take care of herself.  Very well, so be it!  What was the use of thinking?  “I hate to be sentimental,” she thought.

If Aggie called on Sunday night she would go with her, no matter if it was beginning at the bottom.  Others had begun there, and what right had she to expect to begin anywhere else?  For the future she would take the world on its own terms and force it to give way.  She would conquer this great cruel London, and yet remain a good girl in spite of all.

Such was the mood in which she came down to breakfast, and the first thing that met her eyes was a letter from home.  At that her face burned for a moment and her breath came in gusts, but she put the letter into her pocket unopened and tossed her head a little and laughed.  “I hate to be so sensitive,” she thought, and then she began to tell Mrs. Jupe what she intended to do.

“The clubs!” cried Mrs. Jupe.  “I thought you didn’t tyke to the shop because you fancied yerself above present company.  But the foreign clubs!  My gracious!”

The hissing of Mrs. Jupe’s taunting voice followed her about all that day, and late at night, when they were going to bed and the streets were quiet, and there was only the jingle of a passing hansom or a drunken shout or the screech of a concertina, she could hear it again from the other side of the plaster partition, interrupted occasionally by the sound of Mr. Jupe’s attempts to excuse and apologize for her.  No matter!  Anything to escape from the atmosphere of that woman’s house, to be free of her and quit of her forever!

Toward eight o’clock on Sunday evening she went up to her bedroom to put on her hat and ulster, and being alone there, and waiting for Aggie, she could not help but open her letter from home.

“Sunday next is your birthday, my dear one,” wrote the parson, “so we send you our love and greetings.  This being the first of your twenty-one that you have spent from home, I will be thinking of you all the day through, and when night comes, and I smoke a pipe by the study fire, I know I shall be leaving the blind up that I may see the evening star and remember the happy birthdays long ago, when somebody, who was so petted and spoiled, used to say she had just come down from it, having dressed herself in some strange and grand disguises, and told us she was Phonodoree the fairy.  You will be better employed than that, Glory, and as long as my dear one is well and happy and prosperous in the great city where she so loves to be ”

The candle was shaking in Glory’s hands, and the little half-lit bedroom seemed to be blinking in and out.

Aunt Anna had added a postscript:  “Glad to hear you are enjoying yourself in London, but rather alarmed at your frequent mention of theatres.  Take care you don’t go too often, child, and mind you send us the name of the vicar of the parish you are living in, for I certainly think grandfather ought to write to him.”

To this again there was a footnote by Aunt Rachel:  “You say nothing of Mr. Drake nowadays.  Is he one of Mrs. Jupe’s visitors?  And is it he who takes you to theatres?”

Then there was a New Year’s card enclosed, having a picture of an Eastern shepherd at the head of his flock of sheep and bearing the inscription, “Follow in his footsteps.”

But the hissing sound of Mrs. Jupe’s voice came up from below, and Glory’s tears were dried in an instant.  On going downstairs, she found Aggie in her mock sealskin and big black feathers sitting in the parlour at the back of the shop, and Mrs. Jupe talking to her in whispers, with an appearance of knowledge and familiarity.  She caught the confused look of the one and the stealthy glances of the other, and the hard lump at her heart grew harder.

“Come on,” said Glory, and a few minutes afterward the girls were walking toward Soho.  The little chapels in the quieter streets were dropping out their driblets of people and the lights in the church windows were being extinguished one by one.  Aggie had recovered her composure, and was talking of Charlie as she skipped along with a rapid step, swinging her stage-box by her side.  Charlie was certain to be at one of the clubs, and he would be sure to see them home.  He wasn’t out of his time yet, and that was why her father wouldn’t allow him about.  But he was in an office at a foundry, and his people lived in a house, and perhaps one of these days

“Did you say that some of the people who are on the stage now began at the clubs?” said Glory.

“Plenty, my dear.  There’s Betty Bellman for one.  She was at a club in Old Compton Street when Mr. Sefton found her out.”

Aggie had to “work a turn” at each of three clubs that night, and the girls were now at the door of the first of them.  It stood at the corner of a reputable square, and was like any ordinary house on the outside.  But people were coming and going constantly, and the doorkeeper was kept opening and closing the door.  In the middle of the hall a clerk stood at a desk, having a great book in front of him, and making a show of challenging everybody as he entered.  He recognised Aggie as an artiste, but passed Glory also on the payment of twopence and the signing of her name in the book.

The dining-room of the house had been converted into a bar, with counter and stillage, and after the girls had crushed through the crowds that stood there they came into a large and shabby chamber, which had the appearance of having been built over the space which had once been the backyard.  This room had neither windows nor skylights; its walls were decorated with portraits of Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel in faded colours, and there was a stage and proscenium at its farther end.

It was an Italian club that met there on Sunday nights, and some two or three hundred hairdressers and restaurant-keepers of swarthy complexion sat in groups at little round tables with their wives and sweethearts (chiefly English women), smoking and drinking and laughing at the performance on the stage.

Aggie went down to her dressing-room under the floor, and Glory sat at a table with a yellow-haired lady and a dark-eyed man.  A negro without the burnt cork was twanging a banjo and cracking the jokes of the corner-man.

“That’s my stylea merry touch-and-go,” said the lady.  And then glancing at Glory, “Singing to-night, my dear?”

Glory shook her head.

“Thort you might be a pro’ p’rhaps.  Use ter be myself when I was in the bally at the Lane.  Married now, my dear; but I likes to come of a Sunday night when the kids is got to bed.”

Then Aggie danced a skirt dance, and there were shouts of applause for her, and she came back and danced again.  When she reappeared in jacket and hat, and with her stage-box in her hand, the girls crushed their way out.  Going through the bar they were invited to drink by several of the men who were standing there, but they got into the streets at last.

“They’re rather messy, those bars,” said Aggie; “but managers like you to come round and tyke something after you’ve done your turnif it’s only a cup of cawfy.”

“Do you like this life?” said Glory, taking a long breath.

“Yes, awfully!” said Aggie.

Their next visit was to a Swiss club, which did not greatly differ from the Italian one, except that the hall was more shabby, and that the audience consisted of French and Swiss waiters and skittish young English milliners.  The girls had taken their hats and cloaks off and sat dressed like dolls in white muslin with long streamers of bright ribbon.  A gentleman sang the “Postman’s Knock,” with the character accompaniment of a pot hat and a black-edged envelope, a lady sang “Maud” in silk tights and a cloak, Aggie danced her skirt dance, and then the floor was cleared for a ball.

“They’re going to dance the Swiss dance,” said Aggie, “and the M. C. wants me to tyke a place; but I hate these fellows to be hugging me.  Will you be my partner, dear?”

“Welljust for a minute or two,” said Glory, with nervous gaiety.  And then the dance began.

It proved to be a musical version of odd man out, and Glory soon found herself being snapped up by other partners and addressed familiarly by the waiters and their women.  She could feel the moisture of their hands and smell the oil of their hair, and a feeling like a spasm of physical pain came over her.

“Let us go,” she whispered.

“Yes, it’s getting lyte,” said Aggie, and they crushed through the crowded bar and out into the street.

The twanging of the fiddles, the thud of the dancing, and the peals of coarse laughter followed them from the stifling atmosphere within, and Glory felt sick and faint.

“Do you say that managers of good places call at these clubs sometimes?”

“Often,” said Aggie, and she hummed a music-hall tune as she skipped and tripped along.

The streets, which had been dark and quiet when they arrived in Soho, were now ablaze with lights in every window, and noisy with people on every pavement.  The last club they had to visit was a German one, and as they came near it they saw that a man was standing at the door bareheaded and looking out for somebody.

“It’s Charlie,” said Aggie with a little jump of joy.  But when they came up to him a scowl darkened his dark face, and he said: 

“Lyte as usyal!  Two of the bloomin’ turns not come, and me looking up and dahn the bloomin’ street for you every minute and more!”

The girl’s eyes blinked as if he had struck her, but she only tossed her head and stiffened her under lip, and said:  “Jawing again, are ye?  I’d chuck it for once, Charlie, if it was only for sake of company.”

With that she disappeared to the dressing-room, and Charlie took charge of Glory, crushed a way for her through the refreshment room, offered her a “glaws of somethink,” and with an obvious pride of possession introduced her to admiring acquaintances as “a friend o’ mine.”  “Like yer style, Charlie,” said one of them.  “Oh, yus!  Dare say!” said Charlie.

The proscenium was surmounted by the German and English flags intertwined, the walls were adorned with oleograph portraits of the Kaiser, his father and grandfather, Bismarck and Von Moltke, and the audience consisted largely of lively young German Jews and Jewesses in evening dress, some Polish Jews, and a sprinkling of other foreigners.

During Aggie’s turn Glory was conscious that two strangers out of another world altogether had entered the club and were standing at the back.

“Toffs,” said Charlie, looking at them over her shoulder, and then, answering to himself the meaning of their looks, “No, my luds!  ’Tain’t the first we’ve seen of sech!”

Then Aggie came up with an oily person in a flowered waistcoat and said, “This is my friend, guv’nor, and she wouldn’t mind doing a turn if you asked her.”

“If de miss vill oblige,” began the oily one, and then the blood rushed to Glory’s face, and before she knew what else had happened, her hat and ulster were in Aggie’s hands and she was walking up the steps to the stage.

There was some applause when she went on, but she was in a dazed condition and it all seemed to be taking place a hundred miles away.  She heard her own voice saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, with your kind permission I will endeavour to give you an imitation ” and something more.  Down to that moment her breath had been coming and going in hot gasps, and she had felt a dryness in her throat; but every symptom of nervousness suddenly disappeared, and she threw up her head like a charger in battle.

Then she sang.  It was only a common street song, and everybody had heard it a thousand times.  She sang “And her golden hair was hanging down her back” after the manner of a line of factory girls going home from work at night.  Arm-in-arm, decked in their Vandyke hats, slashed with red ribbons and crowned with ostrich feathers, with their free step, their shrill voicesthey were there before everybody’s eyes, everybody could see them, everybody could recognise them, and before the end of the first verse there were shouts and squeals of laughter.

Glory felt dizzy yet self-possessed; she gave a little audible laugh while she stood bowing between the verses.  In a few minutes the song was finished and the people were stamping, whistling, uttering screeching cat-calls, and shouting “Brayvo!” But Glory was sitting at the foot of the stage by this time with a face contorted as in physical pain.  After the first thrill of success the shame of it all came over her and she saw how low she had fallen, and felt horrified and afraid.  The clamour, the clapping of hands, the vulgar faces, the vulgar laughter, the vulgar song, Sunday night, her own birthday!  It all passed before her like the incidents in some nightmare, and at the back of it came other memoriesGlenfaba, the sweet and simple household, the old parson smoking by the study fire and looking up at the evening star, and then John Storm and the church chimes at Bishopsgate!  One moment she sat there with her burning face, staring helplessly before her, while people crowded round to shake hands with her and cried into her ears above the deafening tumult, “You’ll have to tyke another turn, dear”; and then she burst into passionate weeping.

“Stand avay!  De lady’s not fit to sing again,” said some one, and she opened her eyes.

It was one of the two gentlemen who had been standing at the back.

Ach Gott!  Is it you?  Don’t you know me, nurse?”

It was Mr. Koenig, the organist.

“My gracious!  Vot are you doing here, my child?  Two monts ago I haf ask for you at de hospital, and haf write to de matron, but you vere gone.  Since den I haf look for you all over London.  Vhere do you lif?”

Glory told him, and he wrote down the address.

“Ugh!  A genius, and lif in a tobacco shop!  My vife vill call on you and fetch you avay.  She is a goot woman, and vhatever she tell you to do you must do it; but not musical and clever same like as you.  Bless mine soul!  Singing in a Sunday club!  Do you know, my child, you haf a voice, and talents, great talents!  Vants trainingyes.  But vhat vould you haf?  Here am I, Carl Koenig!  I speak ver’ bad de Englisch, but I know ver’ goot to teach music.  I vill teach you same like I teach oder ladies who pay me many dollare.  Do you know vhat I am?”

Yes, she knew what he washe was the organist at All Saints’, Belgravia.

“Pooh!  I am a composer as veil.  I write songs, and all your countrymen and countryvomen sing dem.  I haf a choral company, too, and it is for dat I vant you.  I go to de first houses in de land, de lords, de ministers, de princes.  You shall come vith me.  Your voice is sopranono, mezzo-sopranoand it vill grow.  I vill pitch it, and vhen it is ready I vill bring you out.  But now get away from dis place and naivare come back, or I vill be more angry as before.”

Then Glory rose, and he led her to the door.  Her heart felt big and her eyes were glistening.  Aggie was in the refreshment-room.  Having finished for the night, the girl had resumed her outdoor costume without removing her make-up, and was laughing merrily among a group of men and playing them off against Charlie, who was still in the sulks and drinking at the bar.  When Glory appeared, Aggie fidgeted with her glove and said, “Aren’t you going to see us home, Charlie?”

“No,” said Charlie.

“Where are you going to?”

“Nowhere as you can come.”

Aggie’s eyes watered, and she wrenched a button off, but she only laughed and answered, “Don’t think as we’re throwing ourselves at your head, my man!  We only wanted to knowTa-ta!”

It was now midnight, and the streets were thin of people, but sounds of music and dancing came from nearly every open window and door.

Aggie was crying.  “That’s the worst of the clubs,” she said, “they lead ’em to the gambling hells.  And then a young man always knows when he can tyke advantage.”

As they returned past the Swiss club somebody who was being thrown out into the street was shouting in a gurgling voice, “Let go o’ my throat or I’ll corpse ye!” And farther on two or three girls in their teens, with their arms about the necks of twice as many men, were reeling along the pavement and singing in a tuneless wail.