AN INNOCENT JUDAS.
[By Chabxis Proctor.] (Continued from, Saturdays Issue.) " CHAPTER XXYHI. "AMBITIOjr." Marion's first impulse on learning that Bacburn Chesterton was to visit Manchester and deliver an address at the Institute on the following evening was to abandon the plans and return to London at once. The very prospect of meeting him again hero in wis place of memarie* was painful, and she felt that it would be tetter for her own, peace of mind to avoid the meeting. Jonathan Todhunter had supplied her with all the details X)i tho programme for collecting funds and members for the In'etitute, and Marion, after paying a series of brief visit* to houses where she was ]jnown— in every one of which she was enthusiastically welcomed—knew practically all there was to know about how the work begun by her father was being carried on.
"I shall see the secretary this evening, and return to London to-morrow morning," she decided, when she returned to her hotel to rest end await Mr Atherley, and then, woman-like, she changed her mind. " No, I won't," ehe thought, with a defiant toss of her red-gold head. "Why should I fear to face him? He is nothing to me—nothing at all—and it might amuse him if he learned that I had been here, and left suddenly just prior to his arrival I'll stav and face him.
She bent forward, staring thoughtfully out of the hotel window, and her mind went hack again to the events of the past, to the time immediately preceding her departure from Manchester. How different everything might have been if she had known of her fortune then ! Raeburn would not have held back, and she would not have hesitated to accept him. "Even then he thought only of himself," she ruminated, as she stared unseeingry out of the window. "That was why he refrained. I was poor and a nobody. Yes, he has always put himself first. He has always been an egotist, and I am a little fool to waste regrets on him. I should go down on my knees and thank Heaven for having saved me from becoming the wife of an egotist who loved rue less than his ambition, but I won't. I wonder how he will look! What if he should bring Lady Violet with him? Surely ho wouldn't dare do that! Oh, what does it matter?"
The arrival of Mr Atherley interrupted heT Teverie, and after chatting for a fow minutes she accompanied the lawyer to the Institute, and was duly introduced to the secretary, a young, very earnest man, with a bulgy forehead, glasses, and rather a weak chin. Marion recognised the type at once—the earnest young man who will deliver a speech on the slightest pretext and a homily on tho slightest provocation—tho young man who has an overweening confidence in himself, and who usually is something of a crank. "We are doing a great work here, Miss Lancaster," he said, after a few questions from Marion. "I have a staff of willing helpers, and we try to rouso these poor fellows—try to turn their thoughts to higher things."' Quite admirable; but yon are going the wrong way about it, if I may say so," said Marion, in business-like tones, and the remark made the secretary stare at her in amaaement. "You aro scaring the men away by preaching at them when they come here for recreation. That is why your membership is decreasing." •'But surely your father——" began the secretary, looking hurt. "My father never preached," said Marion, quickly. "He was satisfied in the first place to keep the men away from the pubs., and from dog fights and from rat-killing, and so on. A man can play draughts, or billiards, or enjoy himself in the gymnasium, you know, even if he doesn't happen to be ' saved.' In fact, the Lancaster Institute is intended ior those who aro saved." "To me their immortal souls are of greater importance than their worldly pluasurea," returned the secretary, huffily. "My father's idea was that yon must first make a man a good citizen, make him a thinking, reasoning being, before you could do anything with his soul. If vou save one man and scare a dozen liack to the public-houses by cramming religion down their throats, you are not doing good work. You need to lead them up by gentle stages to the question of salvation. That, at least, was my father's theory." Marion had heard enough during the afternoon to rouse hor. £>he warmed to her subject, speaking' plainly, expounding the doctrine of Geoffrey Lancaster, pointing out defects that had crept into the organisation of the Institute since her departure, and leaving the well-meaning secretary feeling very sore and guilty. Once she had spoken her mind, however, ehe became igraciousnesa personified, soothed the earnest young man s wounded feelings, cajoled him into promising to adopt her suggestions, to appoint a managing committee of working men who should influence their fellows, and finally, after inspecting a statement of affairs, volunteered to pay off tho debt of the Institute and subscribe a thousand pounds to carry on the work on the lines laid down by her father. "This ia a great day for the Institute, Miss Lancaster," cried the secretary, glowing with pleasure and enthusiasm. "'lf only we had you amongst us, wo should accomplish wonders. This will be eomething to announce at tho meeting to-morrow. I thank you from my heart." Ho had quite forgotten his resentment now, and plunged into details of the- work ho had done in connection with organising the meeting and collecting funds. "Eeally, it is in connection with the Literary Society," he explained. " I wanted some influential speaker, some* one who would attract a big audience, hut I hardly hoped to be lucky enough to persuade Mr Raoburn Chesterton to j come and speak. Yet ho consented ini- i mediately, wrote that he had always admired Geoffrey Lancaster, and would be j only too pleased to do anything in his ! power to help on the good work. He is goring to deliver an address on ' Am- j bition. '* He should be well versed in his subject," remarked Marion, and none of her listeners suspected hex- of irony. "I am sure it will be a pleasant surprise for Mr Chesterton to find you here, Miss Marion," said Mr Atherley, after some further conversation, and * Marion laughed, " Yes, I rather think it will be a surprise," she responded, calmly, and •droltly changed the subject. More than once during the following day did Marion Tepent of her decision to stay and face Raebttrn; but, nevertheless, »he wa3 in the anteroom of the big hall of the Lancaster Institute 15 minutes before the meeting was timed to start, and feeling as if she were inwardly seething with excitement. Raeburn had wired from London in the morning that he would arrive before 8 o'clock, but it -was five minutes past the hour, and tho secretary and chairman ■were beginning to look perturbed, before he put in an appearance. "Sorry I'm late," he exclaimed, as he hastened in and shook hands with the chairman, whom he knew, and nodded to tiio others- "Tb» train wa& delayed." As he spoke he caught sight of Marion, who had been standing in the background, and she saw him start convulsively and the blood rush to his pale face. "We have the daughter of the founder •with us to-night, Mr Chesterton," said ike secretary, pushing himself to the izont. "Truly a delightful surprise," responded Haeburfi, recovering himself instantly and bowing to Marion. "Misa Lancaster and I are old friends. Hadn't we better get on to the platform at once? Tho audience must oe getting impatient." They filed on to the platform, to be Cited with a burst of cheering and d-clapping, and the audience settled down to listen patiently to the chairman's opening remarks. He spoke of the alms «g the Institute, referred sympathetically
to Its founder, announced Marion's generous subscription, and flnalhr introduced the speaker, Mr Raeburn Chesterton. ]saet>urn, whilst the chairman was speaking, bad been covertly watching Marion, wondering what her presence here could portend, wondering vaguely if she had heard that he had undertaken to address the mooting, and for some purpose of her own had decided to attend. He had boen admiring Marion's perfect profile, marvelling at the brightness of her eyes, the glory of her hair, and trying vainly to guess her thoughts. Marion, who had been conscious of his scrutiny, although she gave no sign, turned to watch him as he roe© to address the audience, and now that she saw him in the full light and at close quarters she waa •hocked by the* change in hia appearance. His eyes seemed sunken, hie face woe pale, and his cheeks were hollow. Obviously there must be something wrong with Raeburn Chesterton.
She noted another change before he had been speaking five minutes, a change that startled her even more. " Ambition " was his theme, and he 6Poko with an earnestness, a sincerity, which went straight to the hearts of his hearers. He was a born orator, and he held his audience from the first words, riveting their attention and playing on their emotions. Ambition, ho said, was tho mainspring of life. Xo man had any right to bo satisfied. Always he should be striving to better himself, physically, mentally, materially, and spiritually. As Browning had it, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
He did not mean, ho went on, that a man should strive to better himself at the cost of others, or be ambitious merely for his own Bake. That was the lowest type of ambition. The genuine ambition was that which spurred a man to do better, to be better, so that he might make others better, so that he might leave .the world a little better than he found it. The noblest ambition was to make as many of our fellows better and happier by our effort*, and so en.
For a little time Marion was under the spell of the orator, but only for a little time. Then sh» found herself listening to the carefully-chosen words, tho wellrounded sentences, with a growing sense of disgust. S'irelv, she thought, as the speech went on, this was the final proof of Raeburn's insincerity. _ Here he was, with every appearance of sincerity, preaching the h'igher ambition—he, a man who lived for nothing but self-aggrandisement, who had rarrifked everything for the sake of ambition.
She sat etill and straight in her chair when the audience burst out with a veritable storm of cheering as Raeburn concluded his speech at "last, and as tho orator turned to resume his seat after bowing he caught her glance and read in it contempt, almost loathing. For a moment ho found himself confused, at a loss to account for the manifestation; but thi? explanation flashed upon him quickly, and he smiled grimly. It, would be useless now even to attempt to explain, ho decided, wretchedly. Tho secretary of the institute was speaking to tho now restive audience, assuring them of a hearty welcomo if they joined the institute, and go forth, giving details concerning the advantages they would enjov, and Marion listened, or rather pretended to listen. She did not want to look agaiu at Raeburn Chesterton, and therefore fixed her gaze on the secretary's sparse, well-oiled black hair. But a curious ecmnd mado her turn quickly, and she was just in time to eee Raeburn slip suddenly from his chair to the floor, his face grey and contorted with agony. Instantly all was confusion. Those on the platform rushed to Raeburn's a.-tsist-ance. whilo the audience clambered on chairs, anxious to discover what was wrong. "Mr Chesterton has fainted. The meeting is over," cried the chairman. " Please disperse. Soneono run for a. doctor." Raeburn was carried immediately into the ane-room, and efforts were mado to revive him. Marion stood by, her laco blanched with dread, all her bitterness and contempt sudeuly gone, for Raeburn looked horribly like a dead man. Just as the doctor arrived, however, Raeburn stirred, groaning faintly, and presently he was sitting up, sipping from a. glass which tho doctor was holding to bis lips, and trying vainly to smile. "Very foolish—sorry—sudden attack—ghastly "pain—fiorry,"' he gasped, painfully. "I had better go. Mr Atherley, whispered Marion, suddenly possessed by an unreasoning terror. "Take me away." She was the only woman present, and the little lawyer nodded in quick comprehension, wtiisjirred a few words to the secretary, and immediately picked up Marion's wraps and 'rushed her out into tho cool night air. "An unfortunate finish to a highly successful evening," he commented, after a long pause, as they drove to the Victoria Hotel, at which Marion was staying. "I'll go back presently and see how Mr Chesterton is getting on, then call in and report to you. He looked desperately ill, and I know you will be anxious about him, Miss Marion." " Yes, do, please," said Marion, shakily. " Drop mo at the hotel and drive "back. I'll wait." She waited anxiously, pacing to and fro ceaselessly in a state of suppressed agitation, daring not to think, to analyse her feelings. An hour passed, but Mr Atherley did not return ; another 30 minutes crawled by, then at last tho little lawyer hastened in, liia genial face exceptionally grave. Marion tried to speak, bub the words seemed to stick in her throat, and she could ouly gaze with appealing, questioning eves, terror gripping her heart. "It soems to "be something rather serious, Miss Marion." said Mr Atherley, dropping into a chair and moppiug his brow. "He recovered, and I drove him and the doctor to the Midland Hotel, where Mr Chestorton has engaged a room, and I waited while the doctor made a thorough examination. Then the doctor asked me to telephone for Professor Morlev, and 1 waited until he arrived. "The Professor examined Mr Chesterton then, and at last they told me that there is something seriously wrong. I have forgotten exactly what the Professor said, but it seems that Mr Chesterton is suffering from something like appendicitis, and that an operation will be necessary." "Is—is his life in danger?'' gasped Marion.
" I can't say. He is well enough to sit up now, and he is going to travel back to London in the morning to enter a nursing home. Professor Morlev is wiring and writing to Sir Percival Tripp, the great specialist, who will perform the operation. Slater was very hopeful, but the other doctor seemed to take a very serious view of the case. However, everything possible is being done, and I'm sure that wo shall all pray that Mr Chesterton will recover."
Permanent link to this item
AN INNOCENT JUDAS., Evening Star, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
AN INNOCENT JUDAS. Evening Star, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
Using This Item
Allied Press Ltd is the copyright owner for the Evening Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Allied Press Ltd. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.