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49. CHAPTER XLIX (continued)
Ernest and his friends consulted. Moved by the feeling that as they were now preparing to be clergymen they ought not to stand so stiffly on social dignity as heretofore, and also perhaps by the desire to have a good private view of a preacher who was then much upon the lips of men, they decided to accept the invitation. When the appointed time came they went with some confusion and self-abasement to the rooms of this man, on whom they had looked down hitherto as from an immeasurable height, and with whom nothing would have made them believe a few weeks earlier that they could ever come to be on speaking terms.
Mr Hawke was a very different-looking person from Badcock. He was remarkably handsome, or rather would have been but for the thinness of his lips, and a look of too great firmness and inflexibility. His features were a good deal like those of Leonardo da Vinci; moreover he was kempt, looked in vigorous health, and was of a ruddy countenance. He was extremely courteous in his manner, and paid a good deal of attention to Badcock, of whom he seemed to think highly. Altogether our young friends were taken aback, and inclined to think smaller beer of themselves and larger of Badcock than was agreeable to the old Adam who was still alive within them. A few well-known "Sims" from St John's and other colleges were present, but not enough to swamp the Ernest set, as for the sake of brevity, I will call them.
After a preliminary conversation in which there was nothing to offend, the business of the evening began by Mr Hawke's standing up at one end of the table, and saying "Let us pray." The Ernest set did not like this, but they could not help themselves, so they knelt down and repeated the Lord's Prayer and a few others after Mr Hawke, who delivered them remarkably well. Then, when all had sat down, Mr Hawke addressed them, speaking without notes and taking for his text the words, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Whether owing to Mr Hawke's manner, which was impressive, or to his well-known reputation for ability, or whether from the fact that each one of the Ernest set knew that he had been more or less a persecutor of the "Sims" and yet felt instinctively that the "Sims" were after all much more like the early Christians than he was himself--at any rate the text, familiar though it was, went home to the consciences of Ernest and his friends as it had never yet done. If Mr Hawke had stopped here he would have almost said enough; as he scanned the faces turned towards him, and saw the impression he had made, he was perhaps minded to bring his sermon to an end before beginning it, but if so, he reconsidered himself and proceeded as follows. I give the sermon in full, for it is a typical one, and will explain a state of mind which in another generation or two will seem to stand sadly in need of explanation.
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