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his richer suburban parishioners, who were, with a few exceptions, tradesmen retired or non-retired, and professional men. He had no longings after the fashionable Chapel-of-ease on the right hand beyond Raventree, for the lip oratory and stage tricks of gesture of whose curate he had indeed a profound contempt. Neither was le envious of the quieter but more solid parish of St. Mark far away to the left, whose curate, Martin Thorpe, was well meaning enough, but still did not come up to his standard of ecclesiastical excellence.
Moreover, poverty had nothing to do with his depression. It was quite true that he did not rank in the category of poor curates; and true also that the living of Repton Magna would probably be his before very long, but there was no comfort for him in these reflections. There had been and was still in his heart, though just now it shone less brilliantly than usual, a sort of feeling that he stood apart from and above the accidents of position and wealth. Inasmuch as he believed in his own powers of reasoning and imagination, those accidents were separate from his career, having nothing to do with his life, his duties, or his performance of them. He had a fancy for thinking of himself as a poor curate; for divesting himself of every sign that he was in reality a rich one. The small, unostentatious lodging he had chosen was in conformity with this idea, and he might even have succeeded in impressing it upon his landlady if Repton Magna had been in some distant county, instead of standing as it did within an easy distance of the Church of St. Peter. The landlady, however, knew all about him, and all about his brother Cresset, and all about the Repton Park family; bat she did not know why, on this peculiar evening, when he must surely need it most, the curate never rang for his tea or for candles, but sat there moping by himself in the chill twilight. And as the thought of his loneliness and possible exhaustion grew upon her sho took courage. It would be no harm to go in and see if anything was amiss with him, and she could profess to have heard the bell.
She carried the tray in and set it before him without attracting any notice; then she lighted the lamp, and the sudden glare produced only a quick movement of the curate's hand to screen his face from it. But when the andacious intruder proceeded to lay hands upon the velvet cover, with intent to make him speak or perish in the attempt, his look up, and his irritated, “Let that be, please!" made her start and drop the touch-me-not as though it had burnt her fingers.
“ The night is chilly, sir," said the landlady, glancing from the open window to the fireless grate.
“Yes," responded the curate, curtly.
He was not disposed to be talkative, and would have been highly indignant at the notion that this woman compassionated his loneliness and wanted to cheer him up. He wondered why she chose to stay there baiting him, and what possible interest he could be expected to take in the chilliness of the night. But the landlady was not to be balked. As she said to herself complacently she “ saw how it was. He can't let the sermon writing alone. It's like everything else, even wickedness; when it's new they do go at it so fast that they knock themselves up at starting, and then they're fit for nothing all their lives.”
“Very chilly,” she repeated aloud, “and foggy too, if you look through the little window into the court. It's bad for the chest, sir, that fog off the river. If you'd like the window shut and a bit of fire ?"
“Yes, a fire, please," interrupted Ralph impatiently. Not that he felt the cold, or wanted a fire, but he wanted to be let alone.
And when his tormentor, after an admonitory rattle of the tea tray, had lighted the fire and shut the door after her, he tried to go
back again into the dismal reverie which she had interrupted. But it would not do. The tormentor had wrought her will upon him, and the peculiar gloominess which had been gathering over his lot in life being disturbed refused to settle again.
He looked up and saw the blaze struggling feebly upwards in the grate, and the red curtains drawn over both windows, the front one and that little one looking upon the court. To former lodgers that little window had always been an eyesore; its whole prospect comprehending a dreary range of tall chimneys, varied by occasional wheels and the slow working up and down of a huge iron piston in front. But Ralph Selturne took the room as he found it. If a thought concerning the interior of Repton Chase did cross his mind, he ratl er gloried in the contrast which his present quarters afforded. There was no luxury surrounding him now, he thought, and there should be none. The good things of the world were not for him, but rather to be thrust aside as beggarly elements, clogging the higher and nobler parts of rational man. He even glanced at the fire with a momentary thought that it was an indulgence; with a fragment of the asceticism which thinks to do the soul a service by denying the body what is indispensably necessary to its well-being, but which instead only renders the victim ill-tempered, carping, cynical, a scourge to his neighbours and to himself, making a god of his self-denial as others do of their selfindulgence-asceticism which makes it a study to select articles of food repulsive to the palate, and set aside the gift of God, who has ordained that it should be pleasant to satisfy hunger. But Ralph was not so far gone as that. He drank his tea although he liked it, and he drew his chair nearer to the fire, although its warmth was pleasant to him. He even smiled as the glow grew brighter, and in its genial comfort seemed to melt away half the dreariness of his retrospections. And then his eye fell on the lamp, which suggested a memory, ard he began retracing calmly and meditatively the day's events. He could do it now
with a more patient reasoning, and could ask himself reprovingly what was the worth of that zeal which suffered itself to be so easily damped.
There was a sort of sublime satire in the reflection that he with his high notions of fitness and propriety, his rigorous adoption of the fiat " Let all things be done decently and in order," should have been called upon to bear part in the services of that day. In the first place his eye was accustomed to architectural beauty, and craved it. And there was the miserable, squat church, with a square window or two stuck here and there in its poor seamed old sides which bulged from the pressure of the roof; with one sound bell and one cracked one in a little shed on that roof, alternately striking horror into his musical ear as he walked towards the gate. He knew, too, that people were curious to see him; that he was talked about, and that all eyes would be turned upon him, all ears—as he expected—wide awake to receive the sermon he had prepared so elaborately. He could see that the children pointed at him ; men and women stared openly, and ladies and gentlemen cast furtive glances towards him. He was seen but not known; and he did not care to be known to his parishioners as a Selturne of Repton, one of a good county family, and a near neighbour; these were the accidents he desired to shake himself free of. For himself alone, his untiring energy and his genius, he must be known and appreciated.
And then, somehow, he scarcely knew how, amidst a clatter and confusion almost deafening; having had his toes trodden upon and his progress impeded more than once by small boys eager to
forward to their seats at the altar railings, he had reached the reading-desk, and was glad to hide his face in sheer confusion and shame. For the sake of common decency, was that the style of thing these people were accustomed to ? Moreover, when he had recovered himself a little and stood up to read the prefatory sentence, the cracked bell which had stopped once began to tinkle again sharply, as though rejecting at the first view all idea that the clergyman in the desk could be the right one, and clamouring for some other. And then there was a rush of nailed shoes to the stairs of that hideous gallery, and an audible cry of " Charlie, Charlie, he's in, stop her!" till the curate's cheeks burnt afresh, and he was afraid to look upon the congregation facing him. He need not have troubled himself; such little solecisms as these were too common to excite much notice. When he did look up, at the close of the first lesson, wondering what caused the delay and the peculiar wheezing noise in the gallery, he became aware that the organ was what is popularly termed a “grinder,” and that as the air escaped, it took considerable time and labour to get up the steam at all. When it did start, however, it went on bravely, and ground out the requisite number of bars long before the few feeble singers had got through the words.
And then came the Psalm. Even while he gave it out the curate's