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LONDON [Vol. II]
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RECTOR IN NEWGATE.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"You are true to your promise," said the
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
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.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
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