An Ambitious Man (Chapter 1, page 1 of 3)


 
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Chapter 1

Preston Cheney turned as he ran down the steps of a handsome house on
"The Boulevard," waving a second adieu to a young woman framed
between the lace curtains of the window. Then he hurried down the
street and out of view. The young woman watched him with a gleam of
satisfaction in her pale blue eyes. A fine-looking young fellow,
whose Roman nose and strong jaw belied the softly curved mouth with
its sensitive darts at the corners; it was strange that something
warmer than satisfaction did not shine upon the face of the woman
whom he had just asked to be his wife.

But Mabel Lawrence was one of those women who are never swayed by any
passion stronger than worldly ambition, never burned by any fires
other than those of jealousy or anger. Her meagre nature was truly
depicted in her meagre face. Nature is ofttimes a great lair and a
cruel jester, giving to the cold and vapid woman the face and form of
a sensuous siren, and concealing a heart of volcanic fires, or the
soul of a Phryne, under the exterior of a spinster. But the old dame
had been wholly frank in forming Miss Lawrence. The thin, flat chest
and narrow shoulders, the angular elbows and prominent shoulder-
blades, the sallow skin and sharp features, the deeply set, pale blue
eyes, and the lustreless, ashen hair, were all truthful exponents of
the unfurnished rooms in her vacant heart and soul places.

Miss Lawrence turned from the window, and trailed her long silken
train across the rich carpet, seating herself before the open
fireplace. It was an appropriate time and situation for a maiden's
tender dreams; only a few hours had passed since the handsomest and
most brilliant young man in that thriving eastern town had asked her
to be his wife, and placed the kiss of betrothal upon her virgin
lips. Yet it was with a sense of triumph and relief, rather than
with tenderness and rapture, that the young woman meditated upon the
situation--triumph over other women who had shown a decided interest
in Mr Cheney, since his arrival in the place more than eighteen
months ago, and relief that the dreaded role of spinster was not to
be her part in life's drama.

Miss Lawrence was twenty-six--one year older than her fiance; and she
had never received a proposal of marriage or listened to a word of
love in her life before. Let me transpose that phrase--she had never
before received a proposal of marriage, and had never in her life
listened to a word of love; for Preston had not spoken of love. She
knew that he did not love her. She knew that he had sought her hand
wholly from ambitious motives. She was the daughter of the Hon.
Sylvester Lawrence, lawyer, judge, state senator, and proposed
candidate for lieutenant-governor in the coming campaign. She was
the only heir to his large fortune.

 
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