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AN INNOCENT JUDAS.

[By Charles Proctor.] (Continual from Thursday's Issue.) XXVI. A YBOBUEU AND A MEETING. l Coventry Lancaster raised his shaggy eyebrows in surpriie, took his cigar from bis mouth, and laughed. “My dear Morion, you are really an •mazing young woman ?’ he expostulated. “ Honeetly, you bewilder and baffle me." “In what way, uncle?" queried Marion, gravely. “In many ways. You have aeon nothing ol the world, yet at times you seem to possess the wisdom of all the ages, and Jon sum people up with each remarkable insight that occasionally I find myself almost afraid of you." „ "You are poking fun at me," protested Marion, half smiling. “I am really serious, uncle." “1 know. That'© the amazing part of It. I come home to find that you have had a hard time of it, to find that you earned youir own living for a year, working for some months among a crowd of men, and not only held your own, but made them respect you.” “They were gentlemen; that simplified matters, von fees," said Morion. " Hnmp’hher uncle grunted, and! puffed hard at his Havana. "Art sts and ] writers are a mad lot, even if they do j happen to be gentlemen,” he commented, dryly. "But to resume: 1 inform you that you are possessed of fifty thousand pounds in your own right, and you receive the news without enthusiasm.” “Don’t think me ungrateful, Undo Coventry," interposed Marion, quickly. "I shall hies you and thank you as long as I Jive for saving me. Ido appreciate all you have done for me, really and trulv.“ “I am not reproaching you, my dear,” responded Mr Lancaster; “and yourpresence here is sufficient proof of your gratitude for anything I have been able to do. As for saving you—well, come to think of it, that’s another amazing and perplexing thing—l moan, how you came to engage yourself to that brainless whippersnapper Mostyn. I suppose you were badgered into it,* eh? ’ He paused, but Marion made no response, and he resumed alter another draw at. hie cigar. I "Yon "were naturally ind : gnant when vou found out how you had been tricked : bv the Mcstyns; yet the first thing you | did after I opened* a drawing account for you at the bank waa to send Mrs 'Mostyn a cheque for two hundred pounds. - ’ j “ Well, yon see, unde, - ’ explained . Marion, flushing under the gaze of his keen, twinkling eyes, "they were very i kind to me whilo 1 was there, and they ! must have hid a treat deal of extra ex- i pense. Besides, vr.u told me yourself that j they were fearfully hard up.” ! Her uncle threw up his hands despairingly, and latiched again. I “I can’t follow your tine of argument, Marlon,” he exclaimed. “Feminine logic is beyond me. However, let it pass. We go on to a new chapter. I turn you loose in Bond street with anv amount of j money, bidding you buy everything you need *and anything you fancy, and vou j buy only necessities. I grant you that j yon bought wisely' and well, that your , frocks were good and in excellent taste; but meet girls would have hankered after heaps and heap® of dresses and lots and _dozens of diamond necklaces.” “ Perhaps you forget that I ‘ coom fra Lancashire’ and my mother was Scotch,” retorted Marion, pawkily. *’ I might remember the fact if I could ; forget the Mostyn cheque, various other ' acta of indiscriminate charity, and wh.it I, yon now propose to do. Now, don’t i think I am complaining; I am merely trying to explain why I find you amazing. Yon are not vexed, little woman?" “ Of course not, uncle !’’ “ Then 1 shall go on, and mention i few more amazing things. When we hac settled that we were going to be friends you and I, wo gave a little party here and yon filled the part of hostess to per fection. Then we took a trip to Nice foi the Carnival in January, sunned ourselve: and enjoyed ourselves, but even Kin; Carnival didn’t succeed in making yoi joyous and light-hearted. Perhaps tht company of an old man has a depressing effect upon you?" “If yon are referring to yourself, yot are doubly wrong.” answered Marion “for hi tile first place I do not considei Jon an old man, and in the second place have been happier these last few month: since you came home than I have beer since—well, for months.” “Thank you Marion,” said Coventry Lancaster, gravely, and bowed bis head “I could wish for no better compliment than that. I am glad that you are happier, but I should like to see you happier still. At 21 a girl like you. gifted with beauty, brains, and wealth, should be babbling over with happiness, living for enjoyment, and keenly appreciating the good things of life.” “1 do appreciate them, uncle.” “Then why do you wish to leave them? We have been in London since the beginning of the season, have been to dinners, dances, theatres, balls, and all manner oi functions, have met all the best people, and been made much of generally; and now you tell me that you are tired of it all, and want to run off to Manchester to see how the institute founded by your father is getting on! I repeat that I find it amazing, Marion.” “There is nothing amazing about it, Uncle Coventry," said Marion, with a smile. “ I have always worked, and I feel that I must do something. This round of dinners and dances and all that sort of thing is so purposeless, and 1 think 1 am a little tired of London.” “And that strikes me as another amazing thing,” commented Coventry Lancaster, rising and gazing out of the window, “To mo London is always attractive, and If 1 were down on iny uppers even, I think I would rather be in London than anywhere else.” They were in the sitting room of his suite at the Savoy Hotel, and the big window looked out across the Embankment and tbs Thames. “Why,” he went on, as Marion sat silent, “ half the charm of living abroad is the home-coming to the mother of cities. That sounds Irish, but you know what 1 mean. Out on the veldt at night I have lain awake watching the stars and thinking of the lights of Piccadilly and the roar of the Strand.” “Perhaps it is different for a man,” ■aid Marion. “Maybe, but I’ve met ladies out in Sonth Africa who confessed that they would give anything to be back here*. 1 find old London a new London this time, bat the charm is still the same. Motors have replaced carriages, taxis have taka the place of hansoms, and the motor omnibus has ousted the horse bus, but London is still London.” “Possibly I may come to love London after I have spent a year or two in South Africa," said Marion, smilingly. “At present I feel that I should be glad to get •way.” “I have been wondering whether it is hir to you to > take you out to South Africa, Marion,” said Mr Lancaster, turning from the window again and laying his band on Marion's shoulder. “ I want to do the best for your welfare and happiness, and by taking you back with me I may possibly be spoiling your chance of a nappy marriage.” “You wont be doing that." Marion! rasa with heightened color as she responded. “I don’t think I shall ever marry." I " Pooh! Nonsense, my dear!” ex-' claimed her nncle. smilingly. “ You are yonng, good-looking, and rich, as I have said before, and since we have been in London I have noticed that von ■re always the centre of attraction for ’the young men. No, don’t look offended. Marion. I know you don’t encourage them, and their attentions seem to bore you, but ■ooner^or , later the right man will come. SpjS*pau»«d expectantly, bat Marion made ■ cmd.: be, ehrugged. his ahonLj

“Yon are quite atm?, then, that there ia no one in England that you care Ipf, and that you would prefer to come to South Africa with me in August?" he asked quietly, after a brief silence. “Yes. I think T would prefer to go with you. unde,” Morion answered, steadily. “ Think it over, tot dear, and don’t imocine I shall feel hurt it you change yo'nr mind. I should be clad to have you with mo, hut I would rather see you hapi pily married. I have an idea, somehow, that there is a man in the case, hut I i won’t worry von with questions.” “And meanwhile you won’t mind my i coin" to Manchester!” asked Marion. ( “Alone?” i( “Why not? 'I shall he among friends, . and I can take care of myself.” Her uncle scratched hie head and , stared at her quizzically. { “I suppose you must have your own r way,” ho said, at length. “ Don’t stay > more than a few' days, and don’t give away i too much money. You’d better take your > maid with you. ‘• ” I would" rather go alone, if you don’t j mird,” said Marion. “I don’t want to pose as a great lady. I simply want to be Oeoffrev Lancasters daughter again, ami to renew my acquaintance with all ■ the plain, straightforward, honest Lancashire folk I knew in the old days. It j will be qn'V a relief after all the gran- j denr mnd luxury of the last few months.” ] “ Quite so,” said her ’uncle, dryly, his ! eyes twinkling with amusement again | “ Well, have your own way. ray dear. I hope you enjoy youreelf. Write and let me know what you are doing, and how you are getting on.” He lit a fresh dear, chatted for some little time on diverse subjects, and at > leucth went off to tr.urwaet some business in the city, leaving Marion to reflect on ’ what he bad said. j “I wonder if I am doing right’:” murmured Marion, after a period of deep thought. “ I wonder if it is really my duty'to marry?” It was of Mark Sampson she was thinking. She knew that Mark was sincere, she knew that he still hoped to win her, and thnt ho would probably propose again i before the left London Should she accept I him? She i’ked and respected him. hnt ■ she did not love him. Would she be able to put Eaobum Chesterton out of her ( thoughts for good once she was married, ) and return Mark’s affection? Mark, she knew, would I t- prepared to take the risk, j but would it be fair to him to become his ' wife w-hen her heart was given to another , man? | “I can’t decide,” she said aloud, at last, rising to her feet. “ Perhaps it will bo , I better, after all, to go away to Africa, to I ) try to forget the past, and to begin a new life I don't seem to have any hj art left!” j She was still in a state of indecision i when she left for Manchester cvext morning, and long and earnestly she debated j tho subject with herself during the jour- j I nay north. But once she had reached the , cotton metropolis she shelved the problem for the time being. | ! She felt like a" returned wanderer, and < in- the pleasurable excitement of being back in the home of her youth again her troubles we're temporarily forgotten. Every street brought back memories, and as she | hastened along Deansgate to call on Mr Atherley she found herself looking eagerly i at the 'passers-by for a familiar face, .and j listening with strange interest to snatches : of conversation in the familiar Manchester dialect. Mr Atherley was in, and received her with enthusiasm, co graUihue i c t i heartily on her good fortune, expressed , contrition for having failed to suspect the , Mostyns of ulterior motives, and asked a I i hundred-and-one questions. j • “The Institute!” he repeated, when ; Marion at last got an opportunity to ex- , plain the object of her visit to Manchester, ( ( and to ask questions in turn. “Yes, of i course, it is still being carried on, and it is called the ‘Lancaster Institute,’ but it isn’t being run quite on the same lines, I fancy. I met the secretary the other ] day •” j “Who is he?” interrupted Marion. (

'I “A Mr Ashby. I don't think you know him. A very energetic and earnest young roan. He was telling me that funda( are low and the membership is falling, so ho • is organising an entertainment and a meet--1 ing, and trying to secure some influential i speakers. You must call and see him this i evening, and let him tell you all about it. ' I*ll come and introduce you, if I may.” ‘ Marion thanked him and accepted his 1 offer ; but when she took her leave she I went straight to Ancoats to investigate 1 on her own account, and almost the first 1 man she met as she neared the Institute I was Jonathan Todhunter. “ God bless me ! Miss Marion !” ejacn--1 lated Jonathan, in amazement. “I—l ; thowt you wor a ghost!” He gripped Marion’s hand in his huge ' palm, grinning from ear to ear when fie 1 had recovered from his astonishment. 1 “Did you hear as I was goin’ to Canada?” he asked.' “I suppose you wouldn't like to come with me, eh?” “Come with you?” Marion looked 1 puzzled, as she repeated the words. 1 “You're no’ married, are you?” Jonathan inquired. “Yo see,'l thowt as how yon might ha’ changed your mind about me. Miss Marion, and come up to see mo about it.” Marion laughed uncomfortably, and shook her head as she grasped his meanhig. “ No, you’re wrong, Jonathan,” she said, patiently, and changed the subject abruptly, demanding news of the Institute and Mission. “ It’s all different, Miss Marion,” said Jonathan. “ As soon as a chap goes in now they shoves a tract in hia ’and and asks him if he’s saved. And they’re always preaching and lecturing on* temperance, and all that sort of thing. The chaps don’t like it, so they stays away, and some o’ them goes to the pubs. They don’t like to be prayed at, you see. Your father never did that, but, all tho same, he made them better.” “ It is all wrong,” cried Marion. “ Why cpuldn’t they leave well alone?” “ There’s a fine meeting coming off tomorrow night, though,” said Jonathan, after shaking his head. “To raise funds, it is, and connected with the literary society. Rare tip-top, it’ll be. Mr Ashby's persuaded Mr Chesterton, the M.P.—you know him, dont’ you?—to come and give an address. TliaVll be rare—eh? It’ll be quite like old times to see you and Mr Chesterton both in the Institute.” CHAPTER XXVII. RETRIBUTION? Raeburn Chesterton had been indisposed for fully a week, and confined to his rooms. Liver trouble and a slight nervous breakdown, said the doctor who attended him, and wrote a proscription and advised a holiday, “ Ton much work and too little exercise, Mr Chesterton,” he remarked, in his breezy wav. “You don’t play golf? No? j You should. It’s a great game tor keeping { a man fit and making him forget his troubles.” “ I suppose I shall have to trv it, doctor,” Raeburn responded ; “ although it seems to mo that when a man takes up golf he merely exchanges one set of worries for another. I know many men to whom a war or a financial catastrophe is of less importance than tho fact that they axe ‘oft their drive.”’ “True,” laughed the doctor; “but a man doesn’t have a nervous breakdown because he's off his drive, and usually he does if ha worries overmuch about business, financial affairs, and politics. I warn you, Mr Chesterton, that you will have to choose between taking up golf and giving up politics.” “An interesting problem—eh?” retorted Raeb.urn, with an inscrutable smile. “ I’ll i think it over.” The doctor smiled, believing him to he joking; but, strangely enough, Raeburn Chesterton was perfectly serious, and he devoted much thought to the problem during the week he spent indoors. And if the worthy doctor had known the result' he would nave been amazed beyond mea- j ure. For Raeburn Chesterton had de- 1 eided in favor of golf! I “It will be decidedly interesting to hear ! Violet’s views on the matter,” he mut- ■ teced, smiling grimly at the reflection of his own pale, thin face in the dressing glass as he completed his toilet on the first i morning he felt well enough to go out ' alter his spell of illness. “She hasn't troubled me much during the last ten i

■ | phone message. I wonder if she is an- ,; noved about something! She might have i called personally. Mrs Grundy couldn’t [ raise the slightest objection, since wo are to be married next month. Well ” t 1 He shrugged his shoulders, laughed mirthlessly, and, having finished dressing, ; I went to the telephone and rang for Laoy ’ j Violet. [ I "So glad you’re better, Raeburn," Lady . I Violet said, when at last she came to the j telephone. “ I’ve been worrying about ; < you. Yes, I shall be at homo all fore--1 noon. Do call, Raeburn; I—er—l have , something very important to say. No, I j won’t explain now. About half-past j eleven. Yes." To Raeburn the voice sounded flustered, and, as he had never known anything to fluster Lady Violet, ho found himself aim- ! lessly speculating as to the cause, and ; decided at last that ho must have unwittingly offended his fiancee. He felt sure of it an hour or so later when Lady Violet received him at Down- ' ing street, for he detected immediately ' a certain constraint in her welcome, a jerkiness in her speech, as if she were nervous; and he waited expectantly for the , explanation. i None, however, was immediately forthi coming. Lady Violet inquired about the j cause of his illness, explained rather j lamely why she had been unablo to visit | him, and asked what the doctor had said. I Raeburn, still perplexed by her demeanor, repeated what the doctor had ordered. “ Oh; so, of course, you are going to take a holiday—a rest —and take up golf!’’ queried Lady Violet. “Yes; tnat is what I wanted to discuss with you, Vi,” ’answered Raeburn, choosing his words with care. “ I have an en- ■ gagemeut to deliver an address in Man- : cheater to-morrow evening, and, although it is of no great importance, for—er—sentimental reasons 1 mean to keep it, since it will be the last time I shall speak in public for some time to come.” “ The last I Why, what on earth do you mean, Raeburn?” “I mean simply that I don’t feel equal to the stra : n of party politics—that I have realised the futility of it all—and I need a rest,” said Raeburn, steadily. “ I don’t know what has changed me,*.but — well, a change has taken place.” “ I don’t understand," said Lady Violet, in a curiously tense and eager voice. “Y’ou mean ” “I mean that I am tired of it all, and I want to suggest that as soon as we are manned next month we leave England, go for a leisurely tour round the world, and settle doxvn to a qtret, private life on our return. I propose resigning my seat on the grounds of ill-health, and retiring from public life. Perhaps I may fii d some sphere for my activities on my return;—find some useful work; but it will or ly be if I can feel that I can benefit the community that I shall enter Parliament again. That is how I • feel now, Violet. What have you to say?” He had been watching Lady Violet closely as he made his momentous announcement, and had been perplexed by the change in her expression. He had seen amazement first, then—to his surprise—unmistakable relief, and now, to increase hie perplexity. Lady Violet looked nervous and a little excited. “What have I to say?” Lady Violet rose to her feet, her face paling, *and her hands locked tightly together. “ I say it is perfectly ridiculous, Raeburn—perfectly ridiculous! I agreed to marry you because my father wished me 'to do so, because I liked you, admired your strenuous energy, and because everyone expected you lo go far—to go right to the top of the political tree.” She paused, breathless, turned away, then abruptly wheeled round again and eat down, seemingly a little disconcerted by Raeburn’s unmoved countenance.

“I may as well confers to a certain love lot notoriety,” she proceeded, quickly. ‘Everyone was talking about you, and'l mew that 1 should be more talked about f I married you than if I married someone >f my own rank.” “I bee your pardon,” interposed Raeburn. coldly. “ You know what I mean. My father is an earl, I am a lady in my own right, and yon are merely Mr Chesterton, although you are a celebrity. And now you suggest ceasing to be a celebrity, an I ask me to retire with you into private life and become a nobody It is perfectly ridiculous, I say, and I am sure my father would never consent to such a thing.” “I think, for th« time being, we need not bring your father into the question,” remarked Raeburn, without any emotion. “Am I to understand, Violet, that if I resign you will not marry me?” “That is what I mean,” replied Lady Violet. “ But yon will understand that I feel really very unwell, and that I may have a serious breakdown if I go on? It would surely be better to he the wife of a commoner who had once been a celebrity and was still capable of something than the wife of an invalid. However, perhaps it wouldn't be fair to yon to retire as I suggested. If you wish it, I will throw myself into the struggle again after we have had a lengthy holiday. Will that suit you, Violet?” Lady Violet moved uneasily in her chair, her face flushed slightly, and she lowered her eves from his impassive face. “No,” she said after a pause. "I —I am very sorry, Raeburn, and I hope you won’t feel very much cut up about it, but I find that—that I can’t marry you after all. I don’t care for you well enough, and there is someone else. To be truthful, that is what I wanted to tell you this morning, and now this absurd suggestion of yours has simplified matters for me.”

Raeburn drew a long breath, sat back in his chair, and regarded her in amazed silence. “Have you thought of the sensation, the gossip, the scandal, which the announcement that our engagement _ is broken off will cause?” he inquired, in a curiously calm voice. “ Yes, but I would rather bo the object of gossip than to go on now—now that I find that I really love someone else,” responded Lady Violet, steadily. “ I know we should never bo happy, Raeburn, and it is best to end it now. I am truly sorry for you, but you must realise “ Pray spare your sympathy!” interrupted Raeburn, somewhat curtly. “ Besides, the breaking off of the engagement will not hurt you socially or affect your career,” wont on Lady Violet, after a momentary pause. “ I am going to get married quietly, almost at once, and leave for the Continent, so people will say I have jilted yon heartlessly, will blame me entirely and sympathise with you.” “Yes, people always sympathise with a man of whom a woman has made a laughing-stock!" commented Raeburn, bitterly. “ I know the sort of sympathy I shall get.” “ Oh, I know it seems utterly heartless, and I would never have dared to do it if I had not found out about Miss Lancaster,” said Lady Violet, with nervous haste. “ About Miss Lancaster? What do you mean!” Raeburn looked startled, and for the 1 first time betrayed agitation. “What has Miss Lancaster told you?” he demanded, as Lady Violet did not immediately answer. The thought that occurred to him instantly was that Marion j hid betrayed his secret—revealed to Lady ( Violet the cause of his change of party, I “ Miss Lancaster has told mo nothing. | I tried to question her about you, but she politely snubbed me, so I knew there had been something between yon. It was— ' a friend—who told_ me; she had it from j Mrs Arnold-Power in confidence—that you : jilted Miss Lancaster. So—so, as yon nave jilted someone else, you can understand better why—I —why ” “ Why you wish to jilt me.” Raeburn ;ompleted the sentence as she paused in some confusion. “ I see your idea—a sort j£ poetic justice!” His voice was hard, »nd his face looked ghastly now. “ May [ venture to ask who the man is who has —er —replaced mo!” “ Raeburn, please promise me that you won't do anything rash—don’t make a icena or any unpleasantness. There will ie quite enough scandal as it is.” “Oh, yon need have no fear on that core,” returned Badburn/ rising to his. ■ ’44 4 ’ Are.es ■ ’ J . I *

one’ are quite out of date. I merely inquired out of curiosity, so that—er—so that I might have an opportunity of congratulating my successful rival.” "Ho is Bobby Bateman—Lord Bateman,” said Lady Violet, after hesitating for a few seconds. " You need not blame him; it—it wasn’t his fault. We loved each other before you came on the scene, before my father asked me ” “ I won’t trouble you to go into details," interposed Raeburn, coldly. "Perhaps yon have acted wisely—and I may live down the ridicule in time. Goodbye. You have my best wishes.” “ Raeburn, I began Lady Violet, tremulously, and stopped, sinking back into her chair, as Raeburn, without another glance at her, and without offering to shake hands, strode quickly from the room. “Jilted, by Heaven!” muttered Raeburn, savagely, as ho walked quickly away from Downing street. “This will bo the jest of the season, and I shall have to tolerate the mock sympathy of crowds of people who are laughing up their oleeves at me. And, indirectly, Marion Lancaster is responsible. How she will laugh when she hears the news!" He went back to his chambers feeling hurt and resentful, completely forgetfuJ for the time being of the fact that he had prayed for some way of escape from an engagement that had become distasteful to him. And again it was his vanity that had been wounded, and he writhed at the prospect of ridicule. “If I retire now everyone will attribute my action to the fact that I have been jilted," he soliloquised bitterly; “and if I don’t retire I snail have to brazen the matter out. I don’t know which course to take now. If I hang on, the Prime Minister will, as some compensation for hi; daughter's heartless treatment of mo, probably take the earliest opportunity of offering me an appointment—but I don’t want it. I’m sick of the whole business; I have nothing to look forward to, and 1 wish to God I were dead!” For a long time he sat huddled in hi chair, feeling sick and ill, thinking, thinking, thinking. “It seems like retribution!” he said] aloud, at last, rising painfully, with a j sigh that was half a groan. " t throw up the sponge. I won’t face the ridicule. ' won’t change my plans. I have sacrificed I enough to ambition—love, honor, and ! health—and I am sick of it all. I shall go to Manchester to-morrow, speak at | the Lancaster Institute, as I have promised—l could escape on the plea of illness if I like, but for old times’ sake I'll go — then I shall clear out of England, got away and try to forget. But t know in my heart that only death will bring forgetfulness.” (To he continued.)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141128.2.19

Bibliographic details

AN INNOCENT JUDAS., Issue 15662, 28 November 1914

Word Count
4,663

AN INNOCENT JUDAS. Issue 15662, 28 November 1914

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