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[--382--]


    CHAPTER CXXVI.
    
    THE RECTOR OF SAINT DAVID'S.

    IT is not necessary to explain to our readers the precise locality of the splendid Chapel of Ease known by the name of Saint David's. Suffice it to say, that it is situate not a hundred miles from Russell or Tavistock Square; and that the clergyman attached to it at the period of which we are writing was the Rev. Reginald Tracy.
    It was Sunday morning.
    A crowd of well-dressed persons, of both sexes, poured into the chapel of Saint David's. The street was lined with carriages; and when each in its turn drew up at the door of the sacred edifice, the Úlite of the aristocracy might have been observed to alight and hasten to form part of the immense congregation assembled to hear the most popular preacher of the day.
    The interior of the chapel was vast, and of a convenient oblong form. It was lofty, and beautifully fitted up. On three sides were large and roomy galleries, amphitheatrically arranged with pews. The magnificent organ stood in the gallery over the entrance; and at the further end was the communion-table. The pulpit, with its annexed reading-desk, stood a little in front of the altar, and facing the organ. The pews both of the galleries and the body of the church were provided with soft cushions; for this was a proprietary chapel, and there was but a slender accommodation for the poor. Indeed, this class occupied plain benches in the aisles, and were compelled to enter by a small side-door; so that they might not mingle with the crowd of elegantly dressed ladies and fashionable gentleman that poured into the chapel through the grand entrance in front. A policeman maintained order at the side-door which admitted the humbler classes; but two beadles, wearing huge cocked hats and ample blue cloaks, bedizened with broad gold-lace, and holding gilt wands in their hands, cleared the way for the wealthy, the great, and the proud, who enjoyed the privilege of entrance by means of the front gate.
    "This way, my lord. Pray step this way, my lady," said the polite beadles, in their blandest tones. "The pew-opener is in attendance, my lord. My lady, here is the hymn-book, which your ladyship commanded me to procure for your ladyship. My lord, take care of the step. This door, ladies, if you please. Gentlemen, this way, if you would be so condescending. Yes, sir-certainly, sir-the pew-opener will find you a seat, sir-immediately, sir, Ladies, this way is less crowded. You will find the left aisle comparatively empty. My lord, straight aforward, if your lordship will he so good. Ladies, the pew-opener is in attendance. This way, ladies and gentlemen!"
    And at the side door the policeman might be heard vociferating in somewhat like the following manner:- "Now, then, you young woman, where the deuce are you pushing to? Want to get a good place, eh? What! with sich a rag of a shawl as that there?- I'm afeard I can't admit you. Now, boy, stand back, or I'll show you the reason why. I say, old woman, you ain't wanted here; we does'n't take in vimen with red cloaks. You'd better go to the dissenting chapel round the corner, you had; that's good enow for you. Holloa! what's this mean? a sweep in his Sunday toggery. Come, come ; that's rayther too strong, chummy. You toddle off, now. Here, young woman, you may come in; you may- 'cos you're very pretty: that way, my dear. Holloa! here comes a feller without a nose. No-no-that won't do at no price; my orders is partickler; no von comes here vithout a nose. Vy, you'd frighten all the great ladies out o' their vits. They already complains of the riff-raff that comes to this here chapel; so we must try and keep it select-just like Gibbs's westry. Ha! ha! now then, who's that blaigaird a-talking so loud there? It's on'y me as can talk here at this door, 'cos I'm official-I am. This vay, young woman: push the door, my dear. Well, if you ain't married, I'm sure you ought to be. Now, then, who's that a guffawing like a rhinocerous? I'll clap a stopper - on your mug, I will. Come, come; you go back, old chap; no workus livery here; this is the wrong shop for the workus people; this is - I can tell yer. Vell, you're a genteel couple, I don't think-coming to a propriaitory chapel vithout no gloves, and fists as black as tinkers. Stand back there, boys, and let that young gal vith the yaller ribands come up: she's decent, she is. Yes, my dear,-you may go in, my dear. Now, then, stand back-no more comes in this mornin': the orgin's begun."
    With these words the policeman thrust the poor people violently down the steps, entered the chapel, and closed the door in their faces.
    The interior was crowded throughout; and it was very evident that curiosity and fashion, more than devotion, had congregated in that chapel the rank wealth, and beauty that filled the pews below and above.
    The solemn swell of the organ pealed through the sacred edifice; and then arose the morning hymn, [-383-] sung by a select corps of choristers and by twelve youths belonging to the school of a celebrated professor of Music for the Millions.
    A venerable clergyman, with hair as white as his own surplice, occupied the reading-desk; and in a pew close by the pulpit, was the cynosure that attracted all eyes-the Rev. Reginald Tracy.
    The tall commanding form of this clergyman would have rendered him conspicuous amongst the congregation, had no other circumstance tended to endow him with popularity. His countenance was us eminently handsome; his high and open forehead was set off, but not shaded, by dark brown hair, which curled naturally; his hazel eyes beamed with the fire of a brilliant intellect; the Roman nose, small mouth, and well-turned chin, formed a profile at once pleasing and commanding; and his large well-curled whiskers, meeting beneath his chin, confirmed the manly beauty of that proud and imposing countenance.
    There was a profound, but totally unassuming, sense of the solemnity of the scene and of the sanctity of his profession in his manner and deportment: his voice did not join in the hymn, but his mind evidently followed the words, as he from time to time glanced at the book which he held in his hand.
    Doubtless he was well aware-but nothing in his demeanour seemed to indicate this consciousness-that he was the centre of all attraction: though not as servilely meek or hypocritically austere, he was still surrounded by a halo of religious fervour which commanded the most profound respect. And towards him were turned hundreds of bright eyes; and the glances of fair maids dwelt upon his countenance rather than on their books.
    The hymn ceased, and the service proceeded.
    At length the anthem succeeding the communion-service, filled the chapel with its solemn echoes, accompanied by the pealing of the magnificent organ. Then a simultaneous sensation pervaded the entire congregation, and all eyes were directed towards the Rev. Reginald Tracy, who was now ascending the steps to the pulpit.
    The anthem was ended; the congregation resumed their seats; and the preacher commenced.
    It is not, however, our intention to treat our readers to a sermon: suffice it to say, that the eloquence and matter of the discourse which the Rev. Reginald Tracy delivered upon this occasion, were well calculated to sustain his high reputation.
    But of the attentive audience, no individual seemed to be more deeply impressed with his sermon than Lady Cecilia Harborough, who sate in a pew near the pulpit-next indeed to the one which the clergyman himself had occupied during the former part of the service.
    She was alone; for on the previous day she had hired that pew for her own especial use.
    Whenever the eyes of the preacher were turned in the direction where she sate, she appeared to be wiping away tears from her cheeks; for the sermon was on a solemn and pathetic subject.
    More than once she fancied that he observed her, and her heart beat triumphantly in her bosom.
    When the sermon was concluded she remained in her pew, and allowed the rest of the congregation to leave the chapel ere she moved from her seat. At length the sacred edifice was deserted, save by herself and two or three officials connected with the establishment.
    In a few minutes the pew-opener-an elderly matron-like person-accosted her, and said, "If you please, ma'am, the doors will be closed almost directly."
    "Could you-could you oblige me with a glass of water?" faltered Lady Cecilia; "I feel as if I were about to faint."
    "Oh, certainly, ma'am," answered the pew-opener; and she hurried to the vestry.
    Presently she returned, accompanied by the Rev. Reginald Tracy himself.
    "Is the lady very unwell?" inquired the clergyman of the pew-opener, as they advanced together towards Lady Cecilia's seat.
    " She seems very languid-quite overcome, sir," was the answer. "But this is the pew."
    The clergyman stepped forward, and instantly recognised the fair indisposed.
    "Lady Harborough!" he exclaimed. "Is your ladyship unwell?"
    And taking the tumbler of water from the pewopener, he handed it to the baronet's wife.
    "It is nothing-the heat, I suppose," murmured Lady Cecilia; and she drank a portion of the water. "Thank you, Mr. Tracy, for your attention: I feel better-much better now."
    "Will your ladyship step into the vestry, and sit down for a few minutes?" inquired the clergyman, really concerned at the presumed indisposition of the lady.
    "If it would not be indiscreet, I should esteem it a favour," answered Cecilia, still speaking in a tremulous and faltering tone.
    Reginald Tracy instantly proffered his arm to the lady, and conducted her to the vestry, where the venerable clergyman who had read the service was calmly discussing a glass of sherry.
    "I am ashamed-perfectly ashamed, to give you all this trouble, Mr. Tracy," said Cecilia, as she accepted the chair which was offered her; "but the heat of the chapel-and, to tell the truth, the emotions which your beautiful discourse aroused within me - quite overcame me."
    "The chapel was, indeed very much crowded," answered Reginald Tracy, touched by the homage rendered to his talents in the second cause which Lady Cecilia alleged for her indisposition.
    "Nevertheless, this little incident will not in future me prevent from becoming one of the most regular of your congregation," observed Cecilia with a smile.
    Mr. Tracy bowed, and smiled also.
    Both had brilliant teeth, and it was impossible for either to fail to notice this beautiful feature in each other.
    "I feel quite recovered now," said Cecilia, after a short pause, "and will return home. I offer you my best thanks for this kind attention on your part."
    "Do not mention it, Lady Harborough. But I cannot permit you to return alone, after this indisposition: allow me to conduct you as far as your door?"
    "I could not think of taking you out of your way-"
    "It happens that I have a call to make in Tavistock Square, and am actually going that way," interrupted Reginald Tracy.
    Lady Cecilia, like a well-bred person as she was, offered no farther objection, but accepted the clergyman's escort to her own abode.
    During the short walk she rendered herself as agreeable as possible; though purposely conversing upon topics suitable to the Sabbath, and to the profession of her companion. She also introduced one [-384-] or two delicate, and apparently unsophisticated, allusions to the eloquence which had produced so deep an impression upon a crowded congregation, and the profound attention with which the sermon was received. Then she artfully, but with admirably assumed sincerity, questioned Mr. Tracy upon two or three passages in that discourse, and suffered him to perceive that not one word of it had been lost upon her.
    Mr. Reginald Tracy was mortal like any other human being, and was not exempt from any of the weaknesses of that mortality. It was impossible for him not to experience a partial sentiment of pride and satisfaction at the impression which his eloquence had evidently made upon a young and beautiful woman; and that feeling became in the least degree more tender by the fact that this young and beautiful woman was leaning upon his arm.
    Then how could he feel otherwise than flattered when, with her witching eyes upturned towards his countenance, she questioned him-so meekly and so sincerely, as he thought-upon the very passages of his sermon which he himself considered to be the best, and which he had studied to render the most effective. He was flattered-he smiled, and endeavoured to render himself agreeable to so charming a woman.
    At length they reached the door of Lady Harborough's abode. The syren invited him to walk in, as a matter of course; but Mr. Tracy was compelled to forego that pleasure. He was really engaged elsewhere; or there is no saying but that he might have stepped in-only for a few minutes.
    Lady Cecilia extended her hand to him at parting, and held his for just two or three moments, while she renewed her thanks for his attention. The action was perfectly natural; and yet the gentle contact of that delicate hand produced upon Reginald Tracy a sensation which he had never before experienced. It seemed to impart a glow of warmth and pleasure to his entire frame.
    At length they separated; and as the Rector of Saint David's pursued his walk, he found his mind from time to time wandering away from more serious reflections, and reverting to the half hour which he had passed so agreeably in the society of Lady Harborough.

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