The Whitechapel Interlude: The Calling of Molly Jane Hardy

Six Sentence Stories is a weekly writers’ challenge hosted by Denise at Girlie on the Edge blog.

Each week a cue word is given and everyone is invited to submit a poem, short story or article made of exactly six sentences. Join us as we have fun with the form!

This week’s cue word is: Walk


The Calling of Molly Jane Hardy

By Ford, 15 April 2021


No one knew what happened that night, but a fair few penny dreadfuls were published concerning the disappearance of the famous singer Molly Jane Hardy, who had walked off stage in the middle of a performance at Wilton’s Music Hall, in front of an audience of four-hundred admirers left utterly aghast.

As though in some blissful trance, she sashayed between the ladies and gentlemen of the auditorium and into the cloakroom, where she slipped into the fur coat of a complete stranger, lit a cigarette, then disappeared outside to the cold air and cobbles of Graces Alley.

She hummed songs as she went, her hazelgreen eyes never once leaving the man she was following; Cable Street, Commercial Street, she discarded the fur coat into the arms of a beggar, who said – Where you goin’ Miss? Shouldn’t be walking these streets alone at night.

I’m following that man – and she pointed to a figure becoming one with the shadows of an alley, the tails of his monastic robes flapping behind him like an afterthought to his silent call; musical notes decaying in the acoustics; wisps of pollen departing the flower.

Oh, those penny dreadfuls – they soon had Molly getting herself into all kinds of pacts with all sorts of devils: spirited away by magicians from the east, forced into marriages with dashing highwaymen, tricked by imps at the behest of witches, even turned into a beautiful she-wolf by the lantern of a moon seductive and plump.  

Yet, only I know where Molly truly went, as I followed her into the bleak squalor of Thrawl Street, where I witnessed her glide through the doors of a soup kitchen in pursuit of the robed man, and how she sang her final song with angelic refrain: Brother I come, my Brother I’m home, Brother let’s eat, for my work is all done – and you may ask why I did not go after Molly Jane Hardy into that kitchen that night, and I might reply that I was simply too afraid for my dear life.    




Editor’s note: The Calling of Molly Jane Hardy is set in the universe of The Whitechapel Interlude by Clark Farley. Many thanks to Clark for inviting me to write this walk on part. Wilton’s Music Hall – the initial location in my short, is a real venue in Whitechapel, and is: “The most important surviving early music hall to be seen anywhere… It is of outstanding architectural and archaeological significance” – The Theatres Trust

The character Molly Jane Hardy is entirely fictional, though perhaps based on someone in the music industry I very much admire. ‘Penny dreadfuls’ were cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom.

The Calling of Molly Jane Hardy by Ford.

Image 1: Victorian sketch of Wilton’s Music Hall. Artist unknown. I found the image on Hidden London.

Image 2: Sketch of Wilton’s Music Hall by H. W. Smith 1871. Courtesy of the most excellent Wilton’s Music Hall Archives.

Image 2: Wilton’s Music Hall view from stage. Photograph by Paul Marc Mitchell with thanks. Digital colour render by Ford.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Edit 16/04/21: I changed the location ‘Ensign Street’ to ‘Cable Street’ in stanza 3, as Ensign Street was known by a different name in the late 19th century.

30 comments

  1. Penny dreadful ambience: check
    Early music theatre: check
    Dark loose ends:check

    So, you see my dear Mage, all my boxes are ticked.!
    I have a few phrases that are a tour de force, but I will leave that to more eloquent observers.
    Meanwhile, the WMHall is magnificent. And though I am a passionate listener of early music, I could almost hear Jethro Tull’s Minstrel in the Gallery album performed there!
    🌘👏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks dear Wizard! Ah, while researching I totally fell in love with Wilton’s, and I intend to visit there as a matter of course when I next go to London. Annie Lennox and Frankie Goes to Hollywood both shot music videos there in the 80s and 90s. The archives folk there found previously unseen photos and documents stored away in one of the unused parts of the venue. Then there is that sketch by HW Smith – amazing they found that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. (The sound of knuckles rapping, a leisurely, yet obviously enthusiastic staccato, like the echoes of a bat in the night. The audience smiles the barest glimmers of ivory against a susurrus of words, mostly Bravissimo and Riff exquis sur le scénario)

    Dude!
    Thats what I’m talkin about.

    Being pulled, feet frictionlessly off the floor/cobblestones, by your Six, as we trail behind Molly Jane through her dark evening adventure, has been a pleasure.

    Thanks for the most excellent Six!

    It is the kind of story we all hope for, the lighting a path that lay hidden within the background narrative, waiting for someone to say(write), “My god! Come with me and see what I’ve discovered.”

    The atmosphere, the context? ‘Dead-on seamless’. (For those who have not had the pleasure of trying a ‘walk-on’), establishing the sense of being in the root story, is the first, and imo, surely the most difficult part of this kind of writing.

    très cool yo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Clark, glad it met with approval.

      ‘The Whitechapel Interlude’ is a fascinating universe in which to take a walk on part, and a walk which I’m pleased to have taken now. Many thanks again for the invite!

      I enjoy reading about your characters and the mood you insert into this timeframe, so for me finding out about a place such as Wilton’s Music Hall which existed then and still does now, was a joy, and to include it as a setting for my part.
      and … Viva BA!

      Like

  3. Wow! What an impressive piece of writing. You set a very high bar. I loved reading your Editor’s notes about the art work of Wilton’s Music Hall too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank, Pat. Wow, I was honestly blown away by Wilton’s history, especially their archives – being a bit of an archive junkie myself 😁 Was the perfect setting in which to place Molly Jane!

      Like

  4. applause slowing to a whisper…
    Nice flow and rhythm to this, your first “walk on” Six. Well done, V 😎
    The last sentence in particular sounds echoes from the Whitechapel Interlude, without overly obvious reference. Always enjoy your storytelling and especially like reading the Editor’s notes. Images are a treat as well 🙂
    Eyes closing…night night 😴

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, D 😊 I keep saying it but it was a pleasure to do this walk on at The Whitechapel Interlude. Clark has brilliantly inserted his rich characters and mood into this real location, so for me to add an ‘extra mood and layer’ is quite the treat 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Mage, as always an engrossing read. I could just see Wilton’s stage lit up with the scallop shaped footlights (known as Limes) just as Molly Jane exited stage left. Then the description of the surrounding streets and the “penny dreadfuls”…drew me in, I had a bad feeling about this.
    And I can vouch for the fact that Wilton’s Music Hall was very famous, as when I was at Performing Arts college there was talk of our class going to visit it. However we missed out as a few students left the course and the course was shut down.

    Liked by 1 person

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