An Ambitious Man (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 5

One of the greatest factors in the preservation of the Baroness's
beauty had been her ability to sleep under all conditions. The woman
who can and does sleep eight or nine hours out of each twenty-four is
well armed against the onslaught of time and trouble.

To say that such women do not possess heart enough or feeling enough
to suffer is ofttimes most untrue.

Insomnia is a disease of the nerves or of the stomach, rather than
the result of extreme emotion. Sometimes the people who sleep the
most profoundly at night in times of sorrow, suffer the more
intensely during their waking hours. Disguised as a friend,
deceitful Slumber comes to them only to strengthen their powers of
suffering, and to lend a new edge to pain.

The Baroness was not without feeling. Her temperament was far from
phlegmatic. She had experienced great cyclones of grief and loss in
her varied career, though many years had elapsed since she had known
what the French call a "white night."

But the night following her interview with Preston Cheney she never
closed her eyes in sleep. It was in vain that she tried all known
recipes for producing slumber. She said the alphabet backward ten
times; she counted one thousand; she conjured up visions of sheep
jumping the time-honoured fence in battalions, yet the sleep god
never once drew near.

"I am certainly a brilliant illustration of the saying that there is
no fool like an old fool," she said to herself as the night wore on,
and the strange sensation of pain and loss which Preston Cheney's
unexpected announcement had caused her gnawed at her breast like a
rat in a wainscot.

That she had been unusually interested in the young editor she knew
from the first; that she had been mortally wounded by Cupid's shaft
she only now discovered. She had passed through a divorce, two
"affairs" and a legitimate widowhood, without feeling any of the keen
emotions which now drove sleep from her eyes. A long time ago,
longer than she cared to remember, she had experienced such emotions,
but she had supposed such folly only possible in the high tide of
early youth. It was absurd, nay more, it was ridiculous to lie awake
at her time of life thinking about a penniless country youth whose
mother she might almost have been. In this bitterly frank fashion
the Baroness reasoned with herself as she lay quite still in her
luxurious bed, and tried to sleep.

Yet despite her frankness, her philosophy and her reasoning, the
rasping hurt at her heart remained--a hurt so cruel it seemed to her
the end of all peace or pleasure in life.

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