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[-63-]

CHAPTER CLX.

THE RECTOR IN NEWGATE.

REGINALD TRACY awoke early on the morning when Cecilia was to return to him.
    He had been dreaming of delicious scenes and voluptuous pleasures; and he opened his eves to the fearful realities of Newgate.
    He clasped his hands together with the convulsiveness of ineffable mental agony; and the smile that had played upon his lips in his elysian dream, was suddenly changed into the contortion of an anguish that could know no earthly mitigation.
    "Fool  madman that I have been!" he exclaimed aloud, in a piercing tone of despair. "From what a brilliant position have I fallen! Wealth  pleasure  fame-love-life, all about to pass away! The entire fabric destroyed by my own hands! Oh! wretch  senseless idiot  miserable fool that I have been! But is it really true?  can it be as it seems to me? Have I done the deed? Am I here  here in Newgate? Or is it all a dream? Perhaps I have gone suddenly mad, and my crime and its consequences are only the inventions of my disordered imagination? Yes  it may be so; and this is a mad-house!"
    Then the rector sate up in his bed, and glanced wildly around the cell.
    "No  no!" he cried with a shriek of despair; "I cannot delude myself thus. I am indeed a murderer  and this is Newgate!"
    He threw himself back on the rude bolster, and covered his face with his hands.
    But though he closed his eyes, and pressed his fingers upon the lids until the balls throbbed beneath, he could not shut out from his mind the horrors of his position.
    "Oh! this is insupportable!" he cried, and then rolled upon his bed in convulsions of rage: he gnashed his teeth  he beat his brow  he tore his hair  he clenched his fists with the fury of a demon.
    His emotions were terrible.
    He seemed like a wild beast caught in a net whose meshes were inextricable.
    Then a rapid reaction took place in that man of powerful passion; and he grew exhausted  humble  and penitent.
    "O God, have mercy upon me!" he said, joining his hands in prayer. "I have grievously offended against thee: oh! have mercy upon me. Why didst thou permit me to fall? Was I not enthusiastic in thy cause? O heaven, have mercy upon me!"
    This short prayer, in which reproach and intercession were commingled, was said with profound sincerity. [-64-]
    But the image of Cecilia suddenly sprang up in  the rector's imagination; and then his entire form once more became convulsed with rage.
    "That wretch  that adulteress was my ruin!" he exclaimed, clenching his fist so violently that the nails of his fingers almost penetrated into his palms. "I was virtuous and untainted until I knew her. She led me astray: she taught me the enjoyment of those pleasures which have proved so fatal to me! The wretch  the adulteress! And to be condemned the day before yesterday to maintain a forced calmness towards her! Oh! I could tear her limb from limb: I could dig my nails into the flesh whose dazzling whiteness and whose charms were wont to plunge my soul in ecstacies. The foul  the vile creature! May she die in a dungeon, as I shall die: no, may she rot upon the straw  may she perish by degrees  of starvation,  a cruel, lingering loath of agony! Had I never known her, I should yet be on the pinnacle of pride and fortune,  yet be respected and adored! Ah! these thoughts drive me mad  mad."
    And again he beat his forehead and his breast: again he tore his hair, and writhed convulsively on his bed.
    "Senseless idiot that I have been!" he continued " Better  better far were it to have thrown off the mask  to have dared the world! I was rich and I was independent. I might have lived a life of luxury and ease, pleasure and enjoyment  but I was too weak to risk exposure. And that poor old woman whom I destroyed  was she not devoted to me! would she have proclaimed my hypocrisy? My conscience made me behold every thing in its worst light. I anticipated complete security in her death. And now I must die myself,  give up this bright and beautiful world in the prime of my existence,  abandon all earth's pleasures and enjoyments in the vigour of my days! Senseless idiot that I was to suppose that murder could be perpetrated so easily  to imagine that the finger of God would not point to me, as much as to say 'That is the man!' Yes  though millions be assembled together in one vast crowd, the hand of the Almighty will single out the ruthless murderer!"
    The rector ceased, and lay for some instants still sad motionless.
    But his mind was fearfully active.
    "Had not all this occurred," he thought within himself, "I should now be awaking, in my comfortable chamber, to a day which would be marked with the same happiness and security that other men are now enjoying. I should be free to go out and come in at will  free to walk hither and thither as I might choose. I should not have death staring me in the face, as at present! I should be able to say with confidence, 'Tomorrow I will do this,' and 'Next day I will do that.' I should be my own master, possessed of all that can make man happy. But, now  now what a wretch I am! Confined to these four walls  a mere automaton that must eat and drink when a gaoler chooses!"
    These thoughts were too heart-rending for the miserable man to endure; and, starting from his bed, he threw on his clothes with a rapidity that denoted the feverish state of his mind.
    The clock struck eight; and his breakfast was brought to him.
    "How many times more shall I hear that sound?" he asked himself. "Once how welcome were the notes of bells to my ears! With what happiness did I obey their summons to that church to which crowds flocked to hear me! Oh! what calm, what peaceful enjoyments were mine then  in the days of my innocence! And these days are gone-never to return! No human power can restore me to those enjoyments and to that innocence; and God will not do it!"
    Thus passed the time of this truly wretched man.
    At length the clock struck nine-next ten.
    "Will she come?" he said, as he paced his cell with agitated steps. "Or will she be afraid of compromising herself? And yet she must have confidence in me: I have acted in a manner to inspire it. I suffered her to believe that it was out of regard for her that I did not write to her, and that I recommended her to pass in as my sister. The vile wretch! she little knows that all this was the result of calculation on my part! If I had shown myself indifferent to her reputation  careless of her name,  she would not have so readily consented to do my bidding. Perhaps she would never have come to me at all! Now she believes that I am anxious to avert the breath of scandal from herself, and she will serve me: yes  I feel convinced that she will come!"
    Nor was Reginald mistaken.
    Scarcely had he arrived at that point in his musings, when the bolts of his cell were drawn back, and Lady Cecilia entered the dungeon.
    "You are true to your promise," said the rector.
    "Yes  I would not fail you," answered Cecilia, throwing herself into a chair: "but I tremble  oh! I tremble like a leaf."
    "Have you brought  it?" asked Reginald in a hollow tone.
    Cecilia drew from her bosom a small crystal phial, and handed it to the rector.
    He greedily withdrew the cork, and placed the bottle to his nostrils.
    "Yes  you have not deceived me! Now  now," he exclaimed, as he carefully concealed the phial about his person, "I am the master of my own destinies!"
    And, as he spoke, his countenance was animated with an expression of diabolical triumph.
    Cecilia was alarmed.
    "My God, what have I done?' she cried; "perhaps I have involved myself  "
    "Set aside these selfish considerations," said the rector; "you have earned wealth  for I have kept my promise-I have bequeathed all my fortune to you."
    "Do not imagine that I shall ever receive enjoyment from its possession, dear Reginald," returned Cecilia, affecting a tenderness of tone and manner which she did not feel.
    "Oh! I know your good heart, beloved Cecilia," exclaimed the rector; and as she cast down her eyes beneath his looks, he glared upon her for a moment with the ferocity of a tiger. "But you will be surprised  yes, agreeably surprised," he added composedly, "when you call upon my solicitor  which you must do to-morrow! Here is his address."
    "To-morrow!" echoed Cecilia, turning deadly pale. "You cannot mean to-to-"
    "To take this poison to day?" said Reginald. "Yes  this evening at seven o'clock you may pray for my soul!" [-65-]


    "Oh! this is, indeed, dreadful!" cried Cecilia. "Give me back that phial  or I will raise an alarm!  "
    "Foolish woman! Will you not be worth twenty thousand pounds!" ejaculated Reginald. "And fear not that you will be compromised. I shall leave upon this table a letter that will exculpate you from any suspicion of having been the bearer to me of the means of self-destruction-  even if it be discovered who it was that visited me here as my alleged sister."
    "This consideration on your part is truly generous, Reginald," said Cecilia, in whose breast the mention of the twenty thousand pounds had stifled all compunction.
    "We must now part, Cecilia  part for ever," observed the rector. "Go  do not offer to embrace me  I could not bear it!"
    "Then farewell, Reginald  farewell!" exclaimed Cecilia. who was not sorry to escape a ceremony which she had anticipated with horror  for the idea that her paramour was a murderer was ever present in her mind.
    "Farwell, Cecilia," added the rector, and he turned his back to the door.
    In another moment she was gone.
    "Thank heaven that I was enabled to master my rage," cried Reginald, when he was once more alone. "Oh! how I longed to fall upon her  to tear her to pieces! The selfish harlot  as if I could not read her soul now  as if I were any longer her dupe. But I shall be avenged upon her  I shall be avenged!  My death will be the signal of her exposure-my dissolution will be the beginning of her shame! Oh! deeply shall she rue every caress she has lavished upon me  every accursed wile that she practised to ensnare me! Her blandishments will turn to moans and tears  her smiles to the contortions of hell. The fascinating syren shall become the mark be every scornful finger. Fool that she is  to think I would die unavenged! If my existence be cut short suddenly  hers shall be dragged out in sorrow and despair."
    Then the rector paced his cell, while from his breast escaped a hoarse sound like the low growling of a wild beast.[-66-]
    But we will not dwell upon the wretched man's thoughts and words throughout that long day.
    Evening came.
    Six o'clock struck; and Reginald feared no farther interruption from the turnkeys.
    He then sate down to write two letters. Having occupied himself in this manner for a short time, he sealed the letters, and addressed them.
    When this task was accomplished, he felt more composed and calm than he had done during the day.
    He walked three or four times up and down his cell.
    Then he fell upon his knees, and prayed fervently.
    Yes  fervently!
    Seven o'clock struck.
    "Now is the hour!" he exclaimed, rising from his suppliant posture near the bed.
    He took the bottle from his pocket: a convulsive shudder passed over him as he handled the fatal phial whose contents were to sever the chain which bound his spirit to the earth.
    Then he felt weak and nervous; and he sate down.
    "My courage is failing," he said to himself: "I must not delay another moment."
    But he still hesitated for a minute!
    "No  no!" he exclaimed, as if in answer to an idea which had occupied him during that interval; "there is no hope! My fate would be  the scaffold!"
    This thought nerved him with courage to execute his desperate purpose.
    He raised the phial to hit lips, and swallowed the contents  greedy of every drop.
    In a few seconds he fell from his chair  a heavy, lifeless mass  upon the floor of the dungeon.

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