Read THE DEVIL’S ACRE - CHAPTER III. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on ReadCentral.com.

“The Priory, Friday Morning.

“Oh, my dear aunties, don’t be terrified, but Glory has had a kind of a wee big triumph!  Nothing very awful, you know, but on Monday night, before a rather larger company than usual, she sang and recited and play-acted a little, and as a result all the earththe London earthis talking about her, and nobody is taking any notice of the rest of the world.  Every post is bringing me flowers with ribbons and cards attached, or illustrated weeklies with my picture and my life in little, and I find it’s wonderful what a lot of things you may learn about yourself if you’ll only read the papers.  My room at this moment is like a florist’s window at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, and I have reason to suspect that mine host and teacher, Carl Koenig, F. E. C. O., exhibits them to admiring neighbours when I am out.  The voice of that dear old turtle has ever since Monday been heard in the land, and besides telling me about Poland day and night from all the subterranean passages of the house, he has taken to waiting on me like a nigger, and ordering soups and jellies for me as if I had suddenly become an invalid.  Of course, I am an able-bodied woman just the same as ever, but my nerves have been on the rack all the week, and I feel exactly as I did long ago at Peel when I was a little naughty minx and got up into the tower of the old church and began pulling at the bell rope, you remember.  Oh, dear! oh, dear!  My frantic terror at the noise of the big bells and the vibration of the shaky old walls!  Once I had begun I couldn’t leave off for my life, but went on tugging and tugging and quaking and quaking untilhave you forgotten it?all the people came running helter-skelter under the impression that the town was afire.  And then, behold, it was only little me, trembling like a leaf and crying like a ninny!  I remember I was scolded and smacked and dismissed into outer darkness (it was the chip vault, I think), for that first outbreak of fame, and now, lest you should want to mete out the same punishment to me again

“Aunt Anna, I’m knitting the sweetest little shawl for you, dearblue and white, to suit your complexionbeing engaged in the evening only, and most of the day sole mistress of my own will and pleasure.  How charming of me, isn’t it?  But I’m afraid it isn’t, because you’ll see through me like a colander, for I want to tell you something which I have kept back too long, and when I think of it I grow old and wrinkled like a Christmas apple.  So you must be a pair of absolute old angels, aunties, and break the news to grandfather.

“You know I told you, Aunt Rachel, to say something for me at nine o’clock on the Queen’s birthday.  And you remember that Mr. Drake used to think pearls and diamonds of Glory, and predict wonderful things for her.  Then you don’t forget that Mr. Drake had a friend named Lord Robert Ure, commonly called Lord Bob.  Well, you see, by Mr. Drake’s advice, and Lord Bobbie’s influence and agency, and I don’t know what, I have made one more changeit’s to be the last, dears, the very lastin my Wandering-Jew existence, and now I am no longer a society entertainer, because I am a music-hall art ”

Glory had written so far when she dropped the pen and rose from the table, wiping her eyes.

“My poor child, you can’t tell them, it’s impossible; they would never forgive you!”

Then a carriage stopped before the house, the garden bell was rung, and the maid came into the room with a lady’s card.  It was inscribed “Miss Polly Love,” with many splashes and flourishes.

“Ask her up,” said Glory.  And then Polly came rustling up the stairs in a silver-gray silk dress and a noticeable hat, and with a pug-dog tucked under her arm.  She looked older and less beautiful.  The pink and ivory of her cheeks was coated with powder, and her light gray eyes were pencilled.  There was the same blemished appearance as before, and the crack in the vase was now plainly visible.

Glory had met the girl only once since they parted after the hospital, but Polly kissed her effusively.  Then she sat down and began to cry.

“Perhaps you wouldn’t think it, my dear, but I’m the most miserable girl in London.  Haven’t you heard about it?  I thought everybody knew.  Robert is going to be married.  Yes, indeed, to-morrow morning to that American heiress, and I hadn’t an idea of it until Monday afternoon.  That was the day of your luncheon, dear, and I felt sure something was going to happen, because I broke my looking-glass dressing to go out.  Robert took me home, and he began to play the piano, and I could see he was going to say something.  ’Do you know, little woman, I’m to be married on Saturday?’ I wonder I didn’t drop, but I didn’t, and he went on playing.  But it was no use trying, and I burst out and ran into my room.  After a minute I heard him coming in, but he didn’t lift me up as he used to do.  Only talked to me over my back, telling me to control myself, and what he was going to do for me, and so on.  He used to say a few tears made me nicer looking, but it was no good cryingand then he went away.”

She began to cry again, and the dog in her lap began to howl.

“O God!  I don’t know what I’ve done to be so unfortunate.  I’ve not been flash at all, and I never went to cafes at night, or to Sally’s or Kate’s, as so many girls do, and he can’t say I ever took notice of anybody else.  When I love anybody I think of him last thing at night and first thing in the morning, and now to be left aloneI’m sure I shall never live through it!”

Glory tried to comfort the poor broken creature.  It was her duty to live.  There was her childhad she never even seen it since she parted with it to Mrs. Jupe?  It must be such a darling by this time, creeping about and talking a little, wherever it was.  She ought to have the child to live with her, it would be such company.

Polly kissed the pug to stop its whining, and said:  “I don’t want company.  Life isn’t the same thing to me now.  He thinks because he is marrying that womanWhat better is she than me, I would like to know?  She’s only snapping at him for what he is, and he is only taking her for what she’s got, and I’ve a great mind to go to All Saints’ and shame them.  You wouldn’t?  Well, it’s hard to hide one’s feelings, but it would serve them right ifif I did it.”

Polly had risen with a wild look, and was pressing the pug so hard that it was howling again.

“Did what?” said Glory.

“Nothingthat is to say ”

“You mustn’t dream of going to the church.  The police ”

“Oh, it isn’t the police I’m afraid of,” said Polly, tossing her head.

“What then?”

“Never mind, my dear,” said Polly.

On the way downstairs she reproached herself for not seeing what was coming.  “But girls like us never do, now do we?”

Glory coloured up to her hair, but made no protest.  At the gate Polly wiped her eyes and drew down her veil, and said:  “I’m sorry to say it to your face, my dear, but it’s all been that Mr. Drake’s doings, and a girl ought to know he’d do as much himself, and worse.  But you’re a great woman now, and in everybody’s mouth, so you needn’t care.  Only ”

Glory’s face was scarlet and her under lip was bleeding.  Yet she kissed the poor shallow thing at parting, because she was down, and did not understand, and lived in another world entirely.  But going back to where her letter lay unfinished she thought:  “Impossible!  If this girl, living in an atmosphere so different, thinks that ” Then she sat at the table and forced herself to tell all.

She had got through the red riot of her confession and was writing:  “I don’t know what he would think of it, but do you know I thought I saw his face on Wednesday night.  It was in the dark, and I was in a cab driving away from the stage door.  But so changed! oh, so changed!  It must have been a dream, and it was the same as if his ghost had passed me.”

Then she became aware of voices in dispute downstairs.  First a man’s voice, then the voices of two menone of them Koenig’s, the other with a haunting ring in it.  She got up from the table and went to the door of her room, going on tip-toe, yet hardly knowing why.  Koenig was saying:  “No, sair, de lady does not lif here.”  Then a deep, strong chest-voice answered, “Mr. Koenig, surely you remember me?” and Glory’s heart seemed to beat like a watch.  “No-o, sair.  Are youOh, yes; what am I thinking of?But de lady ”

“Mr. Koenig,” Glory called, cried, gasped over the stair-rail, “ask the gentleman to come up, please.”

She hardly knew what happened next, only that Koenig seemed to be muttering confused explanations below, and that she was back in her sitting-room giving a glance into the looking-glass and doing something with her hair.  Then there was a step on the stairs, on the landing, at the threshold, and she fell back a few paces from the door, that she might see him as he came in.  He knocked.  Her heart was beating so violently that she had to keep her hand over it.  “Who’s there?”

“It is I.”

“Who’s I?”

Then she saw him coming down on her, and the very sunlight seemed to wave like the shadows on a ship.  He was paler and thinner, his great eyes looked weary though they smiled, his hand felt bony though firm, and his head was closely cropped.

She looked at him for a moment without speaking and with a sensation of fulness at her heart that was almost choking her.

“Is it you?  I didn’t know it was youI was just thinking ” She was talking at random, and was out of breath as if she had been running.

“Glory, I have frightened you!”

“Frightened?  Oh, no!  Why should you think so?  Perhaps I am crying, but then I’m always doing that nowadays.  And, besides, you are so ”

“Yes, I am altered,” he said in the pause that followed.

“And I?”

“You are altered too.”  He was looking at her with an earnest and passionate gaze.  It was sheherselfGlorynot merely a vision or a dream.  Again he recognised the glorious eyes with their brilliant lashes and the flashing spot in one of them that had so often set his heart beating.  She looked back at him and thought, “How ill he must have been!” and then a lump came into her throat and she began to laugh that she might not have to cry, and broke out into broad Manx lest he should hear the tremor in her voice: 

“But you’re coming too, aren’t ye?  And you’ve left that theerAw, it’s glad ter’ble I am, as our people say, and it’s longin’ mortal you’d be for all, boy.”

Another trill of nervous laughter, and then a burst of earnest English:  “But tell me, you’ve come for goodyou are not going back to ”

“No, I am not going back to the Brotherhood, Glory.”  How friendly his low voice sounded!

“And you?”

“Well, I’ve left the hospital, you see.”

“Yes, I see,” he said.  His weary eyes were wandering about the room, and for the first time she felt ashamed of its luxuries and its flowers.

“But how did you find me?”

“I went to the hospital first ”

“So you hadn’t forgotten me?  Do you know I thought you had quiteBut tell me at once, where did you go then?”

He was silent for a moment, and she said, “Well?”

“Then I went to Mr. Drake’s chambers.”

“I don’t know why everybody should think that Mr. Drake ”

His great eyes were fixed on her face and his mouth was quivering, and, to prevent him from speaking, she put on a look of forced gaiety and said, “But how did you light on me at last?”

“I meant to find you, Glory, if I tramped all London over and everybody denied you to me”the lump in her throat was hurting her dreadfully“but I chanced to see the name over the music hall.”

She saw it coming, and broke into laughter.  “The music hall!  Only think!  You looking at music halls!”

“I was there on Monday night.”

“You?  Monday?  Then perhaps it was not my fancy that I saw you by the stage do .”  Her nerves were getting more and more excited, and to calm them she crossed her arms above her head.  “So they gave you my address at the stage door, did they?”

“No, I wrote for it to Peel.”

“Peel?” She caught her breath, and her arms came down.  “Then perhaps you told them where ” “I told them nothing, Glory.”  She looked at him through her eyelashes, her head held down.

“Not that it matters, you know.”  I’ve just been writing to them, and they’ll soonBut, oh, I’ve so much to say, and I can’t say it here.  Couldn’t we go somewhere?  Into the park or on to the heath, or farthermuch fartherthe room is so small, and I feel as if I’ve been suffocating for want of air.”

“I’ve something to say too, and if ”

“Then let it be to-morrow morning, and we’ll start early, and you’ll bring me back in time for the theatre.  Say Paddington Station, at elevenwill that do?”

“Yes.”

She saw him to the gate, and when he was going she wanted him to kiss her hand, so she pretended to do the high handshake, but he only held it for a moment and looked steadily into her eyes.  The sunshine was pouring into the garden, and she was bareheaded.  Her hair was coiled up, and she was wearing a light morning blouse.  He thought she had never looked so beautiful.  On getting into the omnibus at the end of the street he took a letter out of his vest pocket, and, being alone, he first carried it to his lips, then reopened and read it: 

“See her at once, dear John, and keep in touch with her, and I shall be happy and relieved.  As for your father, that old Chaise is going crazy and is sending Lord Storm crazy too.  He has actually discovered that the dust the witch walks on who has cast the evil eye on you lies in front of Glenfaba gate, and he has been sweeping it up o’ nights and scattering it in front of Knockaloe!  What simplicity!  There are only two women here.  Does the silly old gawk mean Rachel? or is it, perhaps, Aunt Anna?”

And while the omnibus joggled down the street, and the pale young clergyman with the great weary eyes was poring over his letter, Glory was sitting at her table and writing with flying fingers and a look of enthusiastic ecstasy: 

“I’ve had three bites at this cherry.  But who do you think has just been here?  John!John Storm!  But then you know that he is back, and it wasn’t merely my fancy that I saw him by the stage door.  It seems as if people have been denying me to him, and he has been waiting for me and watching over me.” (Blot.) “His voice is so low, but I suppose that comes to people who are much alone, and he is so thin and so pale, and his eyes are so large, and they have that deep look that cuts into the heart.  He knew he was changed, and I think he was ashamed” (blot), “but of course I didn’t let whit that I was taking notice, and I’m so happy for his sake, poor fellow! that he has escaped from his cage in that Salvation zoo that I know I shall make them split their sides in the theatre to-night.”  (Blot, blot.) “How tiresome!  This ink must have got water in it somehow, and then my handwriting is such a hop-skip-and-a-jump anyway.  But hoots!

  “Why shouldn’t I love Johnny,
  “And why shouldn’t Johnny love me?

“Glory.”