An Ambitious Man (Chapter 1, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 1

Preston Cheney was a penniless young man from the West. A self-made
youth, with an unusual brain and an overwhelming ambition, he had
risen from chore boy on a western farm to printer's apprentice in a
small town, thence to reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent,
and after two or three years of travel gained in this manner he had
come to Beryngford and bought out a struggling morning paper, which
was making a mad effort to keep alive, changed its political
tendencies, infused it with western activity and filled it with
cosmopolitan news, and now, after eighteen months, the young man
found himself coming abreast of his two long established rivals in
the editorial field. This success was but an incentive to his
overwhelming ambition for place, power and riches. He had seen just
enough of life and of the world to estimate these things at double
their value; and he was, beside, looking at life through the
magnifying glass of youth. The Creator intended us to gaze on
worldly possessions and selfish ambitions through the small end of
the lorgnette, but youth invariably inverts the glass.

To the young editor, the brief years behind him seemed like a long
hard pull up a steep and rocky cliff. From the point to which he had
attained, the summit of his desires looked very far away, much
farther than the level from which he had arisen. To rise to that
summit single-handed and alone would require unremitting effort
through the very best years of his manhood. His brain, his strength,
his ability, his ambitions, what were they all in the strife after
place and power, compared to the money of some commonplace adversary?
Preston Cheney, the native-born American directly descended from a
Revolutionary soldier, would be handicapped in the race with some
Michael Murphy whose father had made a fortune in the saloon
business, or who had himself acquired a competency as a police
officer.

America was not the same country which gave men like Benjamin
Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Horace Greeley a chance to rise from
the lower ranks to the highest places before they reached middle
life. It was no longer a land where merit strove with merit, and the
prize fell to the most earnest and the most gifted. The tremendous
influx of foreign population since the war of the Rebellion and the
right of franchise given unreservedly to the illiterate and the
vicious rendered the ambitious American youth now a toy in the hands
of aliens, and position a thing to be bought at the price set by un-
American masses.

Thoughts like these had more and more with each year filled the mind
of Preston Cheney, until, like the falling of stones and earth into a
river bed, they changed the naturally direct current of his impulses
into another channel. Why not further his life purpose by an
ambitious marriage? The first time the thought entered his mind he
had cast it out as something unclean and unworthy of his manhood.
Marriage was a holy estate, he said to himself, a sacrament to be
entered into with reverence, and sanctified by love. He must love
the woman who was to be the companion of his life, the mother of his
children.

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