Joe Gallop stood in the doorway of this hall, a few days after the Tempting of Mr. James. It was about ten o’clock, when the entertainments were in full blast. He had a cigarette between his lips, as becomes a young man of fashion, but it had gone out, and he was thinking of something. To judge from the cunning look in his eyes, it was something not immediately connected with the good of his fellow-creatures. Presently the music of the orchestra ceased, and certain female acrobats, who had been “contorting” themselves fearfully and horribly for a quarter of an hour upon the stage, kissed their hands, which were as hard as ropes, from the nature of their profession, and smiled a fond farewell. There was some applause, but not much, because neither man nor woman cares greatly for female acrobats, and the performers themselves are with difficulty persuaded to learn their art, and generally make haste to “go in” again as soon as they can, and try henceforward to forget that they have ever done things with ropes and bars.
Joe, when they left the stage, ceased his meditations, whatever may have been their subject, lit a fresh cigarette, and assumed an air of great expectation, as if something really worth seeing and hearing were now about to appear. And when the chairman brought down the hammer with the announcement that Miss Carlotta Claradine, the People’s Favorite, would now oblige, it was Joe who loudly led the way for a tumultuous burst of applause. Then the band, which at this establishment, and others like unto it, only plays two tunes, one for acrobats, and one for singers, struck up the second air, and the People’s Favorite appeared. She may have had by nature a sweet and tuneful voice; perhaps it was in order to please her friends, the people, that, she converted it into a harsh and rasping voice, that she delivered her words with even too much gesture, and that she uttered a kind of shriek at the beginning of every verse, which was not in the composer’s original music, but was thrown in to compel attention. She was dressed with great simplicity, in plain frock, apron, and white cap, to represent a fair young Quakeress, and she sung a song about her lover with much “archness”—a delightful quality in woman.
“Splendid, splendid! Bravo!” shouted Joseph at the end of the first verse. “That fetches ’em, don’t it, sir? Positively drags ’em, in, sir.”
He addressed his words, without turning his head, to a man who had just come in, and was gazing at him with unbounded astonishment.
“You here, Joe??” he said.
“Why, Chalker, who’d have thought to meet you in this music-hall?”
“It’s a good step, isn’t it? And what are you doing, Joe? I heard you’d left the P. and O. Company.”
“Had to,” said Joe. “A gentleman has no choice but to resign. Ought never to have gone there. There’s no position, Chalker—no position at all in the service. That is what I felt. Besides, the uniform, for a man of my style, is unbecoming. And the captain was a cad.”