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

The dinner party at the Home Secretary’s took place on Wednesday, in the week after Easter.  It had rained during the day, but cleared up toward night.  Glory and Koenig had taken an omnibus to Waterloo Place, and then walked up the wide street that ends with the wide steps going down to the park.  Two lines of lofty stone houses go off to right and left, and the house they were going to was in one of them.

A footman received them with sombre but easy familiarity.  The artistes?  Yes.  They were shown into the library, and light refreshments were brought in to them on a tray.  Three other members of the choral company were there already.  Glory was seeing it all for the first time, and Koenig was describing and explaining everything in broken whispers.

A band was playing in the well of the circular staircase, and a second footman stood in an alcove behind an outwork of hats and overcoats.  The first footman reappeared.  Were the artistes ready to go to the drawing-room?

They followed him upstairs.  The band had stopped, and there was the distant hum of voices and the crackle of plates.  Waiters were coming and going from the dining-room, and the butler stood at the door giving instructions.  At one moment there was a glimpse within of ladies in gorgeous dresses, and a table laden with silver and bright with fairy-lamps.  When the door opened the voices grew louder, when it closed the sounds were deadened.

The upper landing opened on to a salon which had three windows down to the ground, and half of each stood open.  Outside there was a wide terrace lit up by Chinese and Moorish lanterns.  Beyond was the dark patch of the park, and farther still the towers of the Abbey and the clock of Westminster, but the great light was not burning to-night.

“De House naivare sits on Vednesday night,” said Koenig.

They passed into the drawing-room, which was empty.  The standing lamps were subdued by coverings of yellow-silk lace.  There was a piano and an organ.

“Ve’ll stay here,” said Koenig, opening the organ, and Glory stood by his side.

Presently there were ripples of laughter, sounds of quick, indistinguishable voices, waves of heliotrope, and the rustle of silk dresses on the stairs.  Then the ladies entered.  Two or three of them who were elderly leaned their right hands on the arms of younger women, and walked with ebony sticks in their left.  An old lady wearing black satin and a large brooch came last.  Koenig rose and bowed to her.  Glory prepared to bow also, but the lady gave her a side inclination of the head as she sat in a well-cushioned chair under a lamp, and Glory’s bow was abridged.

The ladies sat and talked, and Glory tried to listen.  There were little nothings, punctuated by trills of feminine laughter.  She thought the conversation rather silly.  More than once the ladies lifted their lorgnettes and looked at her.  She set her lips hard and looked back without flinching.

A footman brought tea on a tray, and then there was the tinkle of cup and saucer, and more laughter.  The lady in satin looked round at Koenig, and he began to play the organ.  He played superbly, but nobody seemed to listen.  When he finished there was a pause, and everybody said:  “Oh, thank you; we’re aller ” and then the talk began again.  The vocal soloist sang some ballad of Schumann, and as long as it lasted an old lady with an ear-trumpet sat at the foot of the piano, and a young girl spoke into it.  When it was over, everybody said, “Ah, that dear old thing!” Then there was an outbreak of deeper voices from the stairs, with lustier laughter and heavier steps.

The gentlemen appeared, talking loudly as they entered.  Koenig was back at the organ and playing as if he wished it were the ’cello and the drum and the whole brass band.  Glory was watching everything; it was beginning to be very funny.  Suddenly it ceased to be so.  One of the gentlemen was saying, in a tired drawl:  “Old Koenig again!  How the old boy lasts!  Seem to have been hearinghim since the Flood, don’t you know.”

It was Lord Robert Ure.  Glory caught one glimpse of him, then looked down at her slipper and pawed at the carpet.  He put his glass in his eye, screwed up the left side of his face, and looked at her.

An elderly man with a leonine head came up to the organ and said:  “Got anything comic, Mr. Koenig?  All had the influenza last winter, you know, and lost our taste for the classical.”

“With pleasure, sir,” said Koenig, and then turning to Glory he touched her wrist.  “How’s de pulse?  Ach Gott! beating same like a child’s!  Now is your turn.”

Glory made a step forward, and the talk grew louder as she was observed.  She heard fragments of it.  “Who is she?” “Is she a professional?” “Oh, noa lady.”  “Sing, does she, or is it whistling?” “No, she’s a professional; we had her last year; she does conjuring.”  And then the voice she had heard before said, “By Jove, old fellow, your young friend looks like a red standard rose!” She did not flinch.  There was a nervous tremor of the lip, a scarcely perceptible curl of it, and then she began.

It was Mylecharaine, a Manx ballad in the Anglo-Manx, about a farmer who was a miser.  His daughter was ashamed of him because he dressed shabbily and wore yellow stockings; but he answered that if he didn’t the stocking wouldn’t be yellow that would be forthcoming for her dowry.

She sang, recited, talked, acted, lived the old man, and there was not a sound until she finished, except laughter and the clapping of hands.  Then there was a general taking of breath and a renewed outbreak of gossip.  “Really, really!  Howernatural!” “Naturalthat’s it, natural.  I neverer ” “Rather good, certainly; in fact, quite amusing.”  “What dialect is it?” “Irish, of course.”  “Of course, of course,” with many nods and looks of knowledge, and a buzz and a flutter of understanding.  “Hope she’ll do something else.”  “Hush! she’s beginning.”

It was Ny Kiree fo Niaghtey, a rugged old wail of how the sheep were lost on the mountains in a great snowstorm; but it was full of ineffable melancholy.  The ladies dropped their lorgnettes, the men’s glasses fell from their eyes and their faces straightened, the noisy old soul with the ear-trumpet sitting under Glory’s arm was snuffling audibly, and at the next moment there was a chorus of admiring remarks. “’Pon my word, this is something new, don’t you know!” “Fine girl too!” “Fine!  Irish girls often run to it.”  “That old miseryou could see him!”

“What’s her next piece?something funny, I hope.”

Koenig’s pride was measureless, and Glory did not get off lightly.  He cleared the floor for her, and announced that with the indulgence, etc., the young artiste would give an imitation of common girls singing in the street.

The company laughed until they screamed, and when the song was finished Glory was being overwhelmed with congratulations and inquiries, “Charming!  All your pieces are charming!  But really, my dear young lady, you must be more careful about our feelings.  Those sheep nowit was really quite too sad.”  The old lady with the ear-trumpet asked Glory whether she could go on for the whole of an afternoon, and if she felt much fatigued sometimes, and didn’t often catch cold.

But the lady in satin came to her relief at last.  “You will need some refreshment,” she said.  “Let me see now if I can not ” and she lifted her glass and looked round the room.  At the next moment a voice that made a shudder pass over her said: 

“Perhaps I may have the pleasure of taking Miss Quayle down.”

It was Drake.  His eyes were as blue and boyish as before, but Glory observed at once that he had grown a mustache, and that his face and figure were firmer and more manlike.  A few minutes afterward they had passed through one of the windows on to the terrace and were walking to and fro.

It was cool and quiet out there after the heat and hubbub of the drawing-room.  The night was soft and still.  Hardly a breath of wind stirred the leaves of the trees in the park below.  The rain had left a dewy moistness in the air, and a fragrant mist was lying over the grass.  The stars were out, and the moon had just risen behind the towers of Westminster.

Glory was flushed with her success.  Her eyes sparkled and her step was light and free.  Drake touched her hand as it lay on his arm and said: 

“And now that I’ve got you to myself I must begin by scolding you.”

They looked at one another and smiled.  “Have I displeased you so much to-night?” she said.

“It’s not that.  Where have you been all this time?”

“Ah, if you only knew!” She had stopped and was looking into the darkness.

“I want to know.  Why didn’t you answer my letter?”

“Your letter?” She was clutching at the lilies of the valley in her bosom.

He tapped her hand lightly and said, “Well, we’ll not quarrel this time, only don’t do it again, you know, or else ”

She recovered herself and laughed.  Her voice had a silvery ring, and he thought it was an enchanting smile that played upon her face.  They resumed their walk.

“And now about to-night.  You have had a success, of course.”

“Why of course?”

“Because I always knew you must have.”

She was proud and happy.  He began to be grave and severe.

“But the drawing-room after dinner is no proper scene for your talents.  The audience is not in the right place or the right mood.  Guests and auditorstheir duties clash.  Besides, to tell you the truth, art is a dark continent to people like these.”

“They were kind to me, at all events,” said Glory.

“To-night, yes.  The last new manthe last new monkey ”

She was laughing again and swinging along on his arm as if her feet hardly touched the ground.

“What is the matter with you?”

“Nothing; I am only thinking how polite you are,” and then they looked at each other again and laughed together.

The mild radiance of the stars was dying into the brighter light of the moon.  A bird somewhere in the dark trees below had mistaken the moonlight for the dawn, and was making its early call.  The clock at Westminster was striking eleven, and there was the deep rumble of traffic from the unseen streets round about.

“How beautiful!” said Glory.  “It’s hard to believe that this can be the same London that is so full of casinos and clubs and-monasteries.”

“Why, what does a girl like you know about such places?”

She had dropped his arm and was looking over the balcony.  The sound of voices came from the red windows behind them.  Then the soloist began to sing again.  His second ballad was the Erl King: 

  Du liebes Kind, komm’ geh’ mit mir
  Gar schoene Spiele spiel’ ich mit dir.

“Any news of John Storm?” said Drake.

“Not that I know of.”

“I wonder if you would like him to come out againnow?”

“I wonder!”

At that moment there was a step behind them, and a soft voice said, “I want you to introduce me, Mr. Drake.”

It was a lady of eight or nine and twenty, wearing short hair brushed upward and backward in the manner of a man.

“Ah, RosaMiss Rosa Macquarrie,” said Drake.  “Rosa is a journalist, and a great friend of mine, Glory.  If you want fame, she keeps some of the keys of it, and if you want friendship But I’ll leave you together.”

“My dear,” said the lady, “I want you to let me know you.”

“But I’ve seen you beforeand spoken to you,” said Glory.

“Why, where?”

Glory was laughing awkwardly.  “Never mind now!  Some other time perhaps.”

“The people inside are raving about your voice.  ’Where does it come from?’ they are saying’from a palace or Ratcliffe Highway?’ But I think I know.  It comes from your heart, my dear.  You have lived and and loved and sufferedand so have I. Here we are in our smart frocks, dear, but we belong to another world altogether and are the only working women in the company.  Perhaps I can help you a little, and you have helped me already.  I may know you, may I not?”

There was a deep light in Glory’s eyes and a momentary quiver of her eyelids.  Then without a word she put her arms about Rosa’s neck and kissed her.

“I was sure of you,” said Rosa.  Her voice was low and husky.  “Your name is Glory, isn’t it?  It wasn’t for nothing you were given that name.  God gave it you!”

The party was breaking up and Koenig came for “his star.”  “I vill give you an engagement for one, two, tree year, upon my vord I vill,” he said as they went downstairs.  While the butler took him back to the library to sign his receipt and receive his cheque, Glory stood waiting by the billiard table in the hall and Drake and Lord Robert stepped up to her.

“Until when?” said Drake with a smile, but Glory pretended not to understand him.  “I dare say you thought me cynical to-night, Glory.  I only meant that if you are to follow this profession I want you to make the best of it.  Why not look for a wider scene?  Why not go directly to the public?”

“But de lady is engaged to me for tree year,” said Koenig, coming up.

Drake looked at Glory, who shook her head, and then Koenig made an effort at explanation.  It was an understood thing.  He had taught her, taken her into his house, found her in a Sunday

But Drake interrupted him.  If they could help Miss Quayle to a better market for her genius Mr. Koenig need be no loser by the change.  Then Koenig was pacified, and Drake handed Glory to a cab.

“We’re good friends again, aren’t we?” he said, touching her hand lightly.

“Yes,” she answered.

There was a letter from Aunt Rachel waiting for her at the Priory.  Aunt Anna didn’t like these frequent changes, and she had no faith in music or musicians either, but the Parson thought Anna too censorious, and as for Mr. Koenig’s Sunday evening companies, he had no doubt they were of Germans chiefly, and that they came to talk of Martin Luther and to sing his hymn.  Sorry to say his infirmities were increasing; the burden of his years was upon him, and he was looking feeble and old.

Glory slept little that night.  On going to her room she threw up the window and sat in front of it, that the soft night breeze might play on her hot lips and cheeks.  The moon was high and the garden was slumbering under its gentle light.  Everything around was hushed, and there was no sound anywhere except the far-off rumble of the great city, as of the wind in distant trees.  She was thinking of a question which Drake had put to her.

“I wonder if I should?” she murmured.

And through the silence there was the unheard melody of the German song: 

  Du liebes Kind, komm’ geh’ mit mir
  Gar schoene Spiele spiel’ ich mit dir.