Read SANCTUARY - CHAPTER VII. of The Christian A Story, free online book, by Hall Caine, on ReadCentral.com.

The journey home from the Derby had been a long one, but Glory had enjoyed it.  When she had settled down to the physical discomfort of the blinding and choking dust, the humours of the road became amusing.  This endless procession of good-humoured ruffianism sweeping through the most sacred retreats of Nature, this inroad of every order of the Stygian demi-monde on to the slopes of Olympus, was intensely interesting.  Men and women merry with drink, all laughing, shouting, and singing; some in fine clothes and lounging in carriages, others in striped jerseys and yellow cotton dresses, huddled up on donkey barrows; some smoking cigarettes and cigars and drinking champagne, others smoking clay pipes with the bowls downward, and flourishing bottles of ale; some holding rhubarb leaves over their heads for umbrellas, and pelting the police with confetti; others wearing executioners’ masks, false mustaches, and red-tipped noses, and blowing bleating notes out of penny trumpetsbut all one family, one company, one class.

There were ghastly scenes as well as humorous onesan old horse, killed by the day’s work and thrown into the ditch by the roadside, axletrees broken by the heavy loads and people thrown out of their carts and cut, boy tramps dragging along like worn-out old men, and a Welsher with his clothes torn to ribbons, stealing across the fields to escape a yelping and infuriated crowd.

But the atmosphere was full of gaiety, and Glory laughed at nearly everything.  Lord Robert, with his arm about Betty’s waist, was chaffing a coster who had a drunken woman on his back seat.  “Got a passenger, driver?” “Yuss, sir, and I’m agoin’ ’ome to my wife to-night, and thet’s more nor you dare do.”  A young fellow in pearl buttons was tramping along with a young girl in a tremendous hat.  He snatched her hat off, she snatched off his; he kissed her, she smacked his face; he put her hat on his own head, she put on his hat; and then they linked arms and sang a verse of the Old Dutch.

Glory reproduced a part of this love-passage in pantomime, and Drake screamed with laughter.

It was seven o’clock before they reached the outskirts of London.  By that time a hamper on the coach had been emptied and the bottles thrown out; the procession had drawn up at a dozen villages on the way; the perspiring tipsters, with whom “things hadn’t panned out well,” had forgotten their disappointments and “didn’t care a tinker’s! cuss”; every woman in a barrow had her head-gear in confusion, and she was singing in a drunken wail.  Nevertheless Drake, who was laughing and talking constantly, said it was the quietest Derby night he had ever seen, and he couldn’t tell what things were coming to.

“Must be this religious mania, don’t you know,” said lord Robert, pointing to a new and very different scene which they had just then come upon.

It was an open space covered with people, who had lit fires as if intending to camp out all night, and were now gathered in many groups, singing hymns and praying.  The drunken wails from the procession stopped for a moment, and there was nothing heard but the whirring wheels and the mournful notes of the singers.  Then “Father Storm!” rose like the cry of a cormorant from a thousand throats at once.  When the laughter that greeted the name had subsided, Betty said: 

“’Pon my honour, though, that man must be off his dot,” and the lady in blue went into convulsions of hysterical giggling.  Drake looked uneasy, and Lord Robert said, “Who cares what an Elephant says?” But Glory took no notice now, save that for a moment the smile died off her face.

It had been agreed, when they cracked the head off the last bottle, that the company should dine together at the Cafe Royal or Romano’s, so they drove first to Drake’s chambers to brush the dust off and to wash and rest.  Glory was the first to be ready, and while waiting for the others she sat at the organ in the sitting-room and played something.  It was the hymn they had heard in the suburbs.  At this there was laughter from the other side of the wall, and Drake, who seemed unable, to lose sight of her, came to the door of his room in his shirt sleeves.  To cover up her confusion she sang a “coon” song.  The company cheered her, and she sang another, and yet another.  Finally she began My Mammie, but floundered, broke down, and cried.

“Rehearsal, ten in the morning,” said Betty.

Then everybody laughed, and while Drake busied himself putting Glory’s cloak on her shoulders, he whispered:  “What’s to do, dear?  A bit off colour to-night, eh?”

“Be a good boy and leave me alone,” she answered, and then she laughed also.

They were on the point of setting out when somebody said, “But it’s late for dinner nowwhy not supper at the Corinthian Club?” At that the other ladies cried “Yes” with one voice.  There was a dash of daring and doubtful propriety in the proposal.

“But are you game for it?” said Drake, looking at Glory.

“Why not?” she replied, with a merry smile, whereupon he cried “All right,” and a look came into his eyes which she had never seen there before.

The Corinthian Club was in St. James’s Square, a few doors from the residence of the Bishop of London.  It was now dark, and as they passed through Jermyn Street a line of poor children stood by the poulterer’s shop at the corner waiting for the scraps that are thrown away at closing time.  York Street was choked with hansoms, but they reached the door at last.  There were the sounds of music and dancing within.  Officials in uniform stood in a hall examining the tickets of membership and taking the names of guests.  The ladies removed their cloaks, the men hung up their coats and hats, a large door was thrown open, and they looked into the ballroom.  The room was full of people as faultlessly dressed as at a house in Grosvenor Square.  But the women were all young and pretty, and the men had no surnames.  A long line of gilded youths in dress clothes occupied the middle of the floor.  Each held by the waist the young man before him as if he were going to play leap-frog.  “Hello there!” shouted one of them, and the band struck up.  Then the whole body kicked out right and left, while all sang a chorus, consisting chiefly of “Tra-la-la-la-la-la!” One of them was a lord, another a young man who had lately come into a fortune, another a light comedian, another belonged to a big firm on the Stock Exchange, another was a mystery, and another was one of “the boys” and lived by fleecing all the rest.  They were executing a dance from the latest burlesque.  “Hello, there!” the conductor shouted again, and the band stopped.

Lord Robert led the way upstairs.  Pretty women in light pinks and blues sat in every corner of the staircase.  There was a balcony from which you could look down on the dancers as from the gallery of a playhouse.  Also there was an American bar where women smoked cigarettes.  Lord Robert ordered supper, and when the meal was announced they went into the supper-room.

“Hello there!” greeted them as they entered.  At little tables lit up by pink candles sat small groups of shirt fronts and butterfly ties with fair heads and pretty frocks.  Waiters were coming and going with champagne and silver dishes; there was a clatter of knives and forks, and a jabber of voices and laughter.  And all the time there came the sounds of the band, with the “Tra-la-la” from the ballroom below.

Glory sat by Drake.  She realized that she had lowered herself in his eyes by coming there.  He was drinking a good deal and paying her endless compliments.  From time to time the tables about them were vacated and filled again by similar shirt fronts and fair heads.  People were arriving from the Derby, and the talk was of the day’s racing.  Some of the new arrivals saluted Drake, and many of them looked at Glory.  “A rippin’ good race, old chappie.  Didn’t suit my book exactly, but the bookies will have smiling faces at Tattersall’s on Monday.”

A man with a big beard at the next table pulled down his white waistcoat, lifted his glass, and said, “To Gloria!” It was her acquaintance of the race-course.

“Who is Blue Beard?” she asked in a whisper.

“They call him the Faro King,” said Drake.  “Made all his money by gambling in Paris, and now he is a squire with a living in his gift.”

Then over the laughter and voices, the band and the singing, with an awful suddenness there came a crash of thunder.  The band and the comic song stopped, and there was a hush for a moment.  Then Lord Robert said: 

“Wonder if this is the dreadful storm that is to overwhelm the nation, don’t you know!”

That fell on the house of frivolity like a second thunderbolt, and people began to look up with blanched faces.

“Well, it isn’t the first time the storm has howled; it’s been howling all along,” said Lord Robert, but nobody laughed.

Presently the company recovered itself, the bands and the singing were heard again, louder and wilder than before, the men shouted for more champagne, and nicknamed every waiter “Father Storm.”

Glory was ashamed.  With her head on her hand she was looking at the people around when the “Faro King,” who had been making eyes at her, leaned over her shoulder and said in a confidential whisper, “And what is Gloria looking for?”

“I am looking for a man,” she answered.  And as the big beard turned away with “Oh, confound it!” she became aware that Drake and Lord Robert were at high words from opposite sides of the table.

“No, I tell you no, no, no!” said Drake.  “Call him a weakling and a fool and an ass, if you will, but does that explain everything?  This is one of the men with the breath of God in him, and you can’t judge of him by ordinary standards.”

“Should think not, indeed, dear chap,” said Lord Robert, “Common sense laughs at the creature.”

“So much the worse for common sense.  When it judges of these isolated beings by the standards of the common herd then common sense is always the greatest nonsense.”

“Oho! oho!” came in several voices, but Drake paid no attention.

“Jesus Christ himself was mocked at and ridiculed by the common sense of his time, by his own people, and even his own family, and his family and people and time have been gibbeted by all the centuries that have come after them.  And so it has been with every ardent soul since who has taken up his parable and introduced into the world a new spirit.  The world has laughed at him and spat upon him, and, only for its fear of the sublime banner he has borne, it would have shut him up in a mad-house.”

They were strange words in a strange place.  Everybody listened.

“But these sombre giants are the leaders of the world for all that, and one hour of their Divine madness is worth more to humanity than a cycle of our sanity.  And yet we deny them friendship and love, and do our best to put them out of the pale of the human family!  We have invented a new name for them toodegeneratespygmies and pigs as we are, who ought to go down on our knees to them with our faces buried in the dirt!  Gentlemen,” he cried, filling his glass and rising to his feet, “I give you a toastthe health of Father Storm!”

Glory had sat trembling all over, breathing hard, blushing, and wide-eyed until he had done.  Then she leaped up to where he stood beside her, threw her arms about his neck, and kissed him.

“And now you ring down quick, my dear,” said Betty, and everybody laughed a little.

Drake was laughing with the rest, and Glory, who had dropped back to her seat in confused embarrassment, was trying to laugh too.

“Another bottle of fizz anyway,” cried Drake.  He had mistaken the meaning of Glory’s kiss, and was utterly intoxicated by it.  She could have cried with shame and rage, seeing he thought such conduct came naturally to her and perhaps imagined it wasn’t the first time she had done as much.  But to carry off the situation she laughed a good deal with him, and when the wine came they jingled glasses.

“I’m going to see you home to-night,” he whispered, smiling slyly and looking her full in the eyes.  She shook her head, but that only provoked him to fresh effort.

“I must, I willyou shall allow me,” and he began to play with her hand and ruffle up the lace that covered her round arm.

Just then his man Benson, looking hot and excited, came up to him with a message.  Glory overheard something about “the office,” “the Secretary,” and “Scotland Yard.”  Then Drake turned to her with a smile, over a look of vexation, and said:  “I’m sorry, dearveryI must go away for a while.  Will you stay here until I return, or ”

“Take me out and put me in a cab,” said Glory.  Their getting up attracted attention, and Lord Robert said: 

“Is it, perhaps, something about that ”

“It’s nothing,” said Drake, and they left the room.

The band in the ballroom was still playing the dance out of the burlesque, and half a hundred voices were shouting “Tra-la-la-la” as Glory stepped into a hansom.

“I’ll follow on, though,” whispered Drake with a merry smile.

“We shall all be in bed, and the house locked up How magnificent you were to-night!”

“I couldn’t see the man trodden on when he was down But how lovely you’ve looked to-day, Glory!  I’ll get in to-night if I have to ring up Liza or break down the door for it!”

As the cab crossed Trafalgar Square it had to draw up for a procession of people coming up Parliament Street singing hymns.  Another and more disorderly procession of people, decorated with oak leaves and hawthorns and singing a music-hall song, came up and collided with it.  A line of police broke up both processions; and the hansom passed through.