An Ambitious Man (Chapter 8, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 8

The Baroness had always been a churchgoing woman, yet she had never
united with any church, or subscribed to any creed.

Religious observance was only an implement of social warfare with
her. Wherever her lot was cast, she made it her business to discover
which church the fashionable people of the town frequented, and to
become a familiar and liberal-handed personage in that edifice.

Judge Lawrence and his family were High Church Episcopalians, and the
second Mrs Lawrence slipped gracefully into the pew vacated by the
first, and became a much more important feature in the congregation,
owing to her good health and extreme desire for popularity. Mabel
and Alice were devout believers in the orthodox dogmas which have
taken the place of the simple teachings of Christ in so many of our
churches to-day. They believed that people who did not go to church
would stand a very poor chance of heaven; and that a strict
observance of a Sunday religion would ensure them a passport into
God's favour. When they returned from divine service and mangled the
character and attire of their neighbours over the Sunday dinner-
table, no idea entered their heads or hearts that they had sinned
against the Holy Ghost. The pastor of their church knew them to be
selfish, worldly-minded women; yet he administered the holy sacrament
to them without compunction of conscience, and never by question or
remark implied a doubt of their true sincerity in things religious.
They believed in the creed of his church, and they paid liberally for
the support of that church. What more could he ask?

This had been true of the pastor in Beryngford, and it proved equally
true of their spiritual adviser in Washington and in New York.

Just across the aisle from the Lawrences sat a rich financier, in his
sumptuously cushioned pew. During six days of each week he was
engaged in crushing life and hope out of the hearts of the poor,
under his juggernaut wheels of monopoly. His name was known far and
near, as that of a powerful and cruel speculator, who did not
hesitate to pauperise his nearest friends if they placed themselves
in his reach. That he was a thief and a robber, no one ever denied;
yet so colossal were his thefts, so bold and successful his
robberies, the public gazed upon him with a sort of stupefied awe,
and allowed him to proceed, while miserable tramps, who stole
overcoats or robbed money drawers, were incarcerated for a term of
years, and then sternly refused assistance afterward by good people,
who place no confidence in jail birds.

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