chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >
rector of Saint David's returned home a prey to the most unenviable feelings.
Rage — disappointment — humiliation conspired to make
The old hag had raised his hopes to the highest pitch;
and at the moment when the cup of bliss seemed to approach his lips, it was
rudely dashed away.
A woman had triumphed over him — mocked his passion
— spurned his offers — read him a lesson of morality — taught him that
proud man must not always domineer over feminine weakness.
Oh! it was too much for that haughty — that vain —
that self-sufficient ecclesiastic to endure!
As he returned home in a hired cab, he threw from the
window of the vehicle the Carmelite gown and cowl which he had worn; and
bitterly did he reproach himself for his folly in having been seduced into the
degradation of that masqued mummery.
Arrived at his own house, he rushed part the housekeeper
who opened the door, and was hurrying up-stairs to the solitude of his chamber,
when the voice of the old lady compelled him to pause.
"Mr. Tracy — Mr. Tracy," she exclaimed;
"here is a note from Lady Harborough."
"Tell Lady Harborough to go to the devil, Mrs.
Kenrick!" cried the rector, goaded almost to madness by this new proof of
Cecilia's indiscretion. [-37-]
The old housekeeper dropped the candle and the note, as
if she were thunderstruck.
Was it possible that she had heard aright? could such an
expression have emanated from the lips of her master — of that man whom the
"What is the matter now, Mrs. Kenrick?" asked
the rector, suddenly recovering his presence of mind, and perceiving the immense
error into which his excited feelings had betrayed him.
"Nothing, sir — nothing," answered the
house-keeper, as she re-lighted her candle by means of a lamp which was standing
on the hall-table; "only I thought that something very terrible had
occurred to annoy you."
"Yes — yes — I have indeed been grievously
annoyed," said Reginald; "and you must forgive my hasty conduct. I was
wrong — very wrong. Do not think anything more of it, Mrs. Kenrick. But did
you not observe that Lady Harborough had sent a message — "
"A note, sir. Here it is."
And as the housekeeper handed her master the perfumed billet,
she cast a scrutinizing glance upon his countenance.
He was as pale as death — his lips quivered — and
his eyes had a wild expression.
"I am afraid, sir, that something very dreadful has
happened to you," she observed timidly. "Shall I send for the
"No — no, Mrs. Kenrick: I shall be quite well in
the morning. I have received a violent shock-the sudden communication of ill
news — the death of a dear friend — "
"Ah! sir, I was convinced that all was not
right," observed the housekeeper. "If you would follow my advice you
would take something to compose you — to make you sleep well — "
"An excellent thought, Mrs. Kenrick! If it be not
too late, I wish you would send and procure me a little laudanum: I will take a
few drops to en sure a sound slumber."
"I will do so, sir," answered the housekeeper.
She then repaired to the kitchen, while Reginald hurried
up to his own chamber to read Lady Cecilia's letter, the contents of which ran
as follow: —
"Nearly a week has elapsed, dearest Reginald, and I
have not seen you! neither have I heard from you. What is the meaning of this?
Is it neglect, or extreme caution? At all events the interval which you enjoined
for the cessation of my visits to you, has nearly expired; and my impatience
will brook no longer delay. I must see you to-night! Precisely as the clock
strikes twelve, I will be at your front-door, when you must admit me as on
previous occasions — or I shall imagine that you are already wearied of your
"After all," said the rector, "the
presence of Cecilia will in some degree console me for my disappointment of this
evening! I cannot remain alone with my reflections — it drives me mad to think
of what I am, and what I have been! And laudanum is a miserable resource for one
who dreads a sleepless night: it peoples slumber with hideous phantoms. Yes —
I will admit Cecilia at the appointed hour: — my housekeeper does not suspect
me-my guilty conscience alone makes me think at times that she reads the secrets
of my soul!"
The rector seated himself before the cheerful fire which
burnt in the grate, and fell into a long train of voluptuous meditation.
He had become in so short a time a confirmed sensualist;
and now that his long pent-up passions had broken loose, they never left him a
moment of repose.
His reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door; and
Mrs. Kenrick entered.
"Kate was fortunate enough to find a druggist's
shop open, sir," she said, "and procured some laudanum. But pray be
cautious how you use it."
"Never fear," returned the rector: "I may
not avail myself of it at all — for I feel more composed now."
The housekeeper wished her master a good night's rest,
The rector then took a decanter of wine from a cupboard,
and tossed off two glasses full, one immediately after the other.
The idea that Cecilia would shortly be there and the
effects of the wine inflamed his blood, and brought back the colour to his
Midnight soon sounded: the rector threw off his shoes,
took a candle in his hand, and hastened down stairs.
He opened the front-door with the utmost caution; and a
female, muffled in an ample cloak, darted into the hall.
"Cecilia?" whispered the rector.
"Dearest Reginald," answered the lady, in the
same under tone.
They then stole noiselessly up stairs, and reached the
rector's chamber without having scarcely awakened the faintest echo in the
The remainder of the night was passed by them in the
intoxicating joys of illicit love. Locked in Cecilia's arms, the rector forgot
the humiliation he had received at the hands of Ellen, and abandoned himself to
those pleasures for which he risked so much!
It was still dark — though at a later hour in the
morning than Cecilia had been previously in the habit of quitting the rector's
house — when the guilty pair stole softly down stairs, without a light.
"Hasten, Cecilia," murmured the rector:
"it is later than you imagine."
"My God!" whispered the lady: "I hear a
The rector listened for a moment, and then said in a
faint tone, "Yes: we are lost!"
A light flashed on the wall a few steps beneath those on
which they were standing: it was too late to retreat; and in another moment Mrs.
Kenrick made her appearance on the stairs.
"What! Mr. Tracy?" ejaculated the housekeeper,
her eyes glancing from the rector in his dressing-gown to the lady in her cloak.
Then the good woman stood motionless and silent — her
tongue tied, and her feet rooted to the spot, with astonishment.
Lady Cecilia drew her veil hastily over her countenance;
but not before Mrs. Kenrick had recognised her.
A thousand ideas passed rapidly through the rector's
brain during the two or three moments that succeeded this, encounter.
At first he thought of inventing some excuse for his
awkward situation; — next he felt inclined to spring upon his old housekeeper
and strangle her, — then he conceived the desperate idea of rushing back to
his room and blowing his brains out.
"Mrs. Kenrick," at length he exclaimed,
"I hope you will say nothing of this." [-38-]
The housekeeper made no reply to her master; but,
turning a contemptuous glance upon the lady, said, "Madam, allow me to
conduct you to the front door."
Cecilia followed her mechanically; and Reginald rushed
up the stairs to his room, a pray to emotions more readily conceived than
The housekeeper preceded Lady Cecilia in silence, and
opened the front door.
"My dear Mrs. Kenrick," said the frail
patrician, who had now nearly recovered her presence of mind, "I hope you
will take no notice of this unpleasant discovery."
"I shall remain silent, madam," answered the
housekeeper; "but through no respect for you. I however value the
reputation of a master whom I have served for many years, too much to be the
means of ruining him."
She then closed the door unceremoniously, and, seating
herself on one of the mahogany benches in the hall, burst into tears.
That good woman loved her master with a maternal
affection; and she was shocked at this dread confirmation of the faint
suspicions which she had already entertained, and which had so sorely afflicted
"It is then true!" she thought within herself.
"He has fallen! He is a living, breathing falsehood. His eloquence is a
mere talent, and not the spontaneous outpouring of holy conviction! The world
adores an idle delusion — worships a vain phantom. Oh! what a discovery is
this! How can I ever respect him more? how can I ever talk with others of his
virtues again? And yet he may repent — oh! God grant that he may! Yes — he
must repent: he must again become the great, the good man he once was! It
behoves me, then, to shield his guilt: — at the same time all temptation
should be removed from his presence. Ah! now I bethink me that he has cast
wistful eyes upon that poor girl whom he has taken into the establishment. I
must remove her: yes-I will remove her, upon my own authority. He will thank me
hereafter for my prudence."
Thus did the good woman reason within herself. When she
had somewhat recovered from the first shock which the unpleasant discovery of
her master's criminality had produced upon her, she repaired to her domestic
Kate was already in the kitchen, occupied with her usual
"Katherine, my dear child," said Mrs. Kenrick,
"I am going to give you my advice — or rather to propose to you a plan
which I have formed — relative to you — "
"To me, ma'am?" exclaimed the young maiden,
desisting from her employment, and preparing to listen with attention.
"Yes, my dear girl," continued the
housekeeper; "and when I tell you that it is for your good — entirely for
your good — you would thank me — "
"Oh! I do, ma'am — I thank you in advance,"
said Kate; "for I have already experienced too much kindness at your hands
not to feel convinced that all you propose is for my good."
"Well, then, my dear — without giving you any
reasons for my present conduct-I am anxious that you should leave this house —
"Leave. ma'am!" cried Kate, astonished at this
"Yes, Katherine: you must leave this house,"
proceeded Mrs. Kenrick. "But think not that you will be unprovided for. I
have a sister who resides a few miles from London; and to her care I shall
recommend you. She will be a mother to you."
"But why would you remove me from the roof of my
benefactor?" asked Kate: "why would you send me away from London,
where my only relations on the face of the earth reside?" she added,
bursting into tears; for she thought of her poor persecuted cousin the
"Do not ask me, my good child," returned Mrs.
Kenrick: "my reasons are of a nature which cannot be communicated to you.
And yet-if you knew them, and could rightly understand them — you would not
object — "
"Alas! ma'am, I am afraid that I understand them
but too well," interrupted the girl: " the executioner's niece brings
discredit upon the house of her benefactor."
"Oh! no-no," exclaimed the good-natured
housekeeper; "do not entertain such an idea! Not for worlds would I have
you labour under such an error. You know I would not tell a falsehood; and I
declare most solemnly that you have totally misunderstood me and my
There was an earnestness in the way in which Mrs.
Kenrick spoke that immediately removed from Katherine's mind the suspicion she
"Why should you send the poor girl away, Mrs.
Kenrick?" said the footman, now suddenly emerging from the pantry, which
joined the kitchen.
"Have you overheard our conversation, then,
Thomas?" exclaimed Mrs. Kenrick, angrily.
"I could n't very well avoid it," answered the
footman, "since I was in there all the time."
"It would have been more discreet on your part to
have let us know that you were there, when you heard a private conversation
begin," remarked the housekeeper.
"How should I know the conversation was
private?" exclaimed Thomas. "I suppose you're jealous of the girl, and
want to get rid of her."
"You must value your place very little by speaking
to me in this way," said Mrs. Kenrick. "However, I scorn your base
allusions. And you, my dear," she continued, now addressing herself to
Katherine, "look upon me as your friend — your very sincere friend. What
I am doing is for your good: to-day I will write to my sister — and to-morrow
you shall, proceed to her abode."
The housekeeper then resumed her avocations with the
complacency of one conscious of having performed a duty.
"Thomas," she said, after a pause, "go up
and inquire if your master will have breakfast served in his own chamber, or in
The footman hastened to obey this order.
"Master says he is very unwell, and desires no
breakfast at all," was the information which the man gave on his return to
The housekeeper made no reply: she was however pleased
when she reflected that the rector felt his situation — a state of mind which
she hoped would lead to complete repentance and reform.
The morning passed: the afternoon arrived: and still
Reginald Tracy kept his room.
The housekeeper sent the footman up to ask if he
required any thing.
Thomas returned with a negative answer, adding
"Master spoke to me without opening the door, and seemed by his tone of
voice to be very unwell."
Again the housekeeper remained silent, more convinced
than before that contrition was working its good effects with her master.
Hour after hour passed; the sun went down; and darkness
once more threw its veil over the mighty city.
Mrs. Kenrick again sent up Thomas with the same inquiry
The servant returned to the kitchen with a letter in his
"This time master opened the door," he said,
"and gave me this letter to take up to Mr. Markham at Holloway. But I shall
take the omnibus there and back."
Thomas then departed to execute his commission.
Shortly after he was gone, the bell of the rector s room
Mrs. Kenrick hastened to answer it.
She found Mr. Tracy sitting in a musing attitude before
the fire in his bed-room.
"My dear Mrs. Kenrick," he said, "I wish
to have some conversation with you — I need scarcely now explain upon what
subject. I have sent Thomas out of the way with an excuse: do you get rid of
Katherine for an hour; I am faint-and require refreshment; and I will take my
tea with you in the kitchen."
"In the kitchen, sir!" exclaimed the
house-keeper, in surprise.
"Yes — If you will permit me," answered the
rector: "I can then converse with you at the same time.
Mrs. Kenrick left the room to execute her master's
wishes; and, as she descended the stairs, she thought within herself, "I am
right! he has repented: he will become the virtuous and upright man he once
And the good woman experienced a pleasure as sincere as
if any one had announced to her that she was entitled to a princely fortune.
To send Katherine out of this way for an hour was no
difficult matter. The old housekeeper gave her leave to repair to Saint Giles's
to visit her relatives; and the young girl, thinking that her uncle might repent
of his recent harshness towards her, now that she was no longer dependant upon
him, gladly availed herself of this permission.
Katherine accordingly proceeded to Saint Giles: and the
moment she had left the house Mrs Kenrick spread the kitchen table with the
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >