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AN INNOCENT JUDAS.

[By Ch\rles PuocTom] {Continued from Saturdays Issue.) CHARTLU VI. THE EMPTY FI!\MK. The men in high authority, partly for political reasons and partly out of consideration for the man who had committed an unpardonable blunder, had let Raeburn Chestert m down lightly. There are wheels within wheels in politics, and the machinery, constructive and destructive, is always in motion, in season and out of season. A couple oi ila-ys after the' Record s sensational disclosure, and while tho men on the tlovernment. iron*, benches were giving non-committal answers to -earthing questions, and busily engaged in endeavoring to throw dust in the eyes of the.ir opponents, the Press announced that Mr Raeburn Chesterton, Lnder-lietrotary tor Foteign Affairs, was routined to his loom suffering from a slight breakdown, end had been ordered by his medical adviser to rest for a lew days. Later it was rumored that he had had a. di-agreement with his chief, and while people wcie -till rqiemlating as to the muse of the disagreement. it was announced that Mr Raeburn Chesterton had resigned. Rr.niot was rife as to bis reason tor such a step, hat Raeburn declined stuliliofnly to make any announcement. The members of the Cabiiat wore equally reti.vnt. and only three people--Mrs Arnold Power. Marion, and the editor of the ' Keen! ■—outside the (-Manned circle knew the tiuth. and they also held their |H-ace. Rut although Raeburn had been let down hghtly. the downfall had been none Tie less bitter. He had Iwen so sin© of himself, so sure of success, so g r vcd\ lor power”—as h© himself had described ’t — and so certain of attaining it, that the disaster had almost overwhelmed him. It .-et-nied impossible, iiicoueeivab!©. that lie. Raeburn Chesterton, "the brd.iaiu young nian of the party.” had really failed. Lor days during the jiermd be was reported no he indisftosed he fretted and tinned. Tailed at fate and anathematised the girl he regarded as the -ole cause of hi- downfall.

liter© was a fiamcd pbotograph ©t Marion on the dc,-k bi In's study, r, peril-, lit he had begged a month before, and ■■n lhe day that h© decided t > resign Ins scat he picked up this ptctwie and bitterly a[Kist rophiaed tbe ,-W'Vt laic that gazed at 'lint

" Whv did vt>u ili. iIV Mli n iu the f=:• in*."- of Heaven i!!il iin * I yon to play sin !i ; scurvy truk on -ue v Was it sheer love ■■t money? You could have 11 ;■ ■ 1 money tor tie-, asking. Why make p:et-circ ot love unless—Unless it. ;v.l< .lil pa!' ol lilf Judas nick? flood (.Jodi I . mil understand it. .It' von wanted monev. it' y.m love money, .on could have had it hy keeping up tin" pretence of love and marrying me, As my wire van would have had money and po>|. th.m. "yet lor the s,.ke ‘.I a p'llu.v hundred or two—dt could net have licet! un.ie—you sacnlict- me —blast my cateei. \ou have ’’air face a.nd fovni. Mi.lion hamasler. but a- Judas heart, and you tricked in. fooled mel”

He dashed, down tin- ft time, suddenly picked it up again. pulled nut the photograph, and tore u acr.es, hurling the pieces into tile tireida.ee. Tlioti came the reaction as his |>assion exhausted its.‘lt, and he gazed down. hi# face white arid twisted, at the empty frame. .symhcdical ul' the emptiness of Ids life now that Marion had com- o U t of it. He dropped into Ids chair with a despairing tTioau. only to rise a moment later and cross the’ room to pick up the pieces of the torn photograph. Taking then! bark t» tlte desk, liepieced the ragged edges together, and. a sob rose to his tluoat as he slaved a stain at the pictured face. ‘'Marion! How could you do it?" he whispered brokenly. " 1 loved you—loved you. and. poor tool that I am, I love \ou vet.”

He tried to laugh at his folly and weakness, hut only a hoar-e croak came from Ids throat. Ho tried to crush the stiff mount of the portrait in his strong white hands; then suddenly his strength seemed to fail him, and lie buried his head in his amis.

"Perhaps there is some explanation that has not occurred to me—some mitigating circumstances,” he soliloquised half an hour later, as he paced his study, puffing furiously at a cigar. The breakdown, or outbreak, had done him good, acted as a safety valve to his passion and overwrought nerves, and left him calmer and saner. ” 1 did not wait for explanations—it seemed to me that there could he none —but- it may be that Marion was tempted, and did not realise what the consequences would be for me. -Any way, now that [ come to think of it.. 1 acted like a brute •nid spoko like a cad. 1 owe it to my self to hear her explanation, and 1 must apologise for my hitter words. Perhaps if the truth is known .Marion has been deceived and misled, and is suffering as well ns 1. 1 wonder if she would see me? Well, .1 can but try. It cannot make matters worse, and who knows but she may have something to ray.” Lps, than an hour later he was shaking hands with Mrs Arnold-Power. who had been daily expecting and dreading hi.-. visit, and rehearsing the part she intended playing. She had guessed that Raeburn might -aspect that she had been the pi ime factor in Ids betrayal, ami would call to •' have it out” with her. and she had decided that at all co.-ts -he must dispel his .sii-picions.

" Delighted to .-ee you. .Air Chesterton,” she murmured, us he bowed over her hand. “So good of you. to call. I do hope you have quite recovered." She seemed perfectly at ea.-c ami selfpossessed. Her manner was that of Die effusively polite society hostess, and there was nothing to indicate that her heart was beating apprehensively a.- -he smiled at him, her eyes searching Die pale, clever face.

*’ Thank you, I am much better." said Raeburn, as he sut down. "The hot weather and the all-night sitting© have been very trying, hut ! should .-non be all light now that I am out of the parliamentary scuffle.” "Yon have given u- all -all your friends, J mean--a great -iirpri-© by resigning, Mr Chesterton. AVbv ever did you do it?"

"Can’t yon guev-. Mr- Arnold-Pov.er?" »-ki;d Raeburn, looking at hi- questioner keenly, and smiling grimly. Mrs Arnold-Power’:, eye- fell, hut her well-trained face did not betray her feelings—did not reveal the fact that she believed this to lie the opening -lint of (he engagement.

"Mv tkar Mr Cm-stci ton, lmw ian I guess'.'" the mortal, with a -light shrug. 1 have heart! rumor.-, ot course ; hut then Rumor is such a .King jade ! May 1 ask why you really did such a thing just when we had all decided that you weie on the royal ro;wl to the Premiership?” ‘‘Ah, it’s a State secret, Mrs Arnold - Power,"’ said Raeburn, ironically, still smiling; "but I know I can safely ciinlide in you. They wouldn't hi me, run the Hritish. Empire in rny own way said I was too young to have such a big thing to play with—so I left in a luilf.” Mrs A mold-Power .trilled <>irt a laugh, and shook her finger at him in play nil rebuke, inwardly immensely relieved that he had not attacked, but still wondering how much be knew —or guessed. "Really, you are incorrigible. Mr Chesterton I 1 ’' .-he exclaimed. " Uue can get nothing out of you. I suppose you will krep us all guessing and conjecturing, and then do something big. " I shouldn’t be surprised, you know, if you have only anticipated the downfall of the present (lovernment. and whatever may lie the truth about your resignation, I know that the 0 oven ime at have lost a strong man.” ” It is very good of you to say so.” said Raeburn, flushing slightly under the admiring gaze and the discharge of flattery ; •• but I daresay the Government will be able to struggle along without me.” “ I fear the party you have been serving has never reallv realised your true worth, said Mrs Arnold-Power, reflectively, wondering if he would rise to the bait. “ Now, if vou were to go over to the other side, ym would have a real chance, and—” I* .

“If I change my coat or mv color you will doubtless be «motig the first to .rear o£ it, Mrs A mold-Power,” interrupted Raebum, anxious to change the subject, and Mrs Arnold-Power thought that ho spoke with significant emphasis, and that he was at length coming to the point,- Mis next words confirmed her fears, for he asked : “ Is not Miss Lancaster at home' ’ “No, she is not, Mr Chesterton bho has deserted me,” she replied sharply, in an altered tone. " Deserted you?” qneated Raeburn raising his eyebrows, and gazing at her in searching inquiry. . , ~ “Yes.' basely deseited me. said Mrs Arnold-Power.'spreading out her plump, well-kept hands, and nodding vigorously. •‘ Then- is no other vay to describe it. I am bitterly disappointed m Miuu-n, -tr Chesterton— bitterly disappointed••Whv. what has happened?’ “ I a'm sure you will be as greatly surprised and shocked as I was, and am, Mr Chesterton,” explained Mrs ArnoldPower. quickly. “I brought Mamin Lancaster from Manchester, gave, her a home, cave her a post as my secretary, made tier mv confidante, and introduced her into society—and how have I been rewarded? She has left me without a word of thanks and taken advantage of the information she .gained while here in the capacity of my companion and secretary.'* . , *• Jn what wav 1 don t (pute understand.” asked ’Raeburn, frowning, bis heartstrings tightening in dismay. “ I encouraged her to dabble in journalism, trained her to (In sonic of my work, and now she has left me in the kurh, availed herself of the knowledge of my plan,-, and of mv connection, to blossom into "something 'of a- journalist herself. Having brought off some mysterious (■rum, for which, it appears, she was well paid, she suddenly decided that she had no further use for me, informed me that she could get better terms elsewhere, and intended to live her own life and be her own mistress. And she has coolly left me in the lurch in the height of the season —left me without a word of thanks. She must have planned the whole thing carefully, must have been making a mere makeshift of me for a long time. I call it base ingratitude, Mr Chesterton and 1 should never have thought Marion Lancaster capable of such conduct. "Nor L” said Raeburn, after a pause, risino to Ins feet. He* was hard hit, but., sav.Ahat hi? lips tightened and his eyes darkened slightly, lie gave no sign of what the information meant to him.

•• How long has she been gone?” .*• Ret me see.” said Mrs' Arnohl-Power. pulling her head on one side. ” \ os, 1 believe it was the day you called here last that she left. I remember being sorry tbat I bad missed you, and was so surprised to find .Marion annoyed about something when I came home and anxious to trv "In pick a quarrel with me. It has been a bitter disappointment to me. Mr Chesterton.”

“ I can imagine that.” remarked Raeburn, grimly. ’•' 1 am very much surprised and grieved. Mrs A mold-Power. 3on don't know where Miss Lancaster lias

gi me ? '• No, and I don't cure. ! have done with her!” she exclaimed, spitefully. Well. I must be off now,” said Raeburn. with affected carelessness. " Goodbye. Mrs Aruold-Power.”

’•■Dood-bye. Mr Chesterton ; so glad to have seen you again. Call again soon, and don't forget we are still expecting great tilings of you.” From the window she watched him walk quickly away from the house, watched him until he was out of sight, then she turned away with a little jarring laugh. "He swallowed it. every word.' she murmured. “ 1 wonder if he was really sweet on .Marion, or only amusing himself' Well. I have saved myself, and it serves the little fool right for leaving me in the lurch if he does think badly of her. ” Raeburn Chesterton was striding along, his face impassive as a mask, but a veritable inferno raging within him. ‘‘All a plot! All for gain—a very Judas!'' he muttered through clenched teeth. “My God! and this—this is the woman I loved ! And I thought I had spoken too harshly ! Loot, fool, font that I was—but I'll find her, get even with her (To bo continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141021.2.65

Bibliographic details

AN INNOCENT JUDAS., Issue 15629, 21 October 1914

Word Count
2,112

AN INNOCENT JUDAS. Issue 15629, 21 October 1914

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