An Ambitious Man (Chapter 5, page 3 of 6)


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Chapter 5

After a few moments she rang the bell vigorously. Maggie, the
chambermaid, came in answer to the call.

"Please ask Miss Dumont" (Berene was always known to the other
servants as Miss Dumont) "to hurry with the hot water," the Baroness
said.

"Miss Dumont has not yet come downstairs, madame."

"Not come down? Then will you please call her, Maggie?"

The Baroness was always polite to her servants. She had observed
that a graciousness of speech toward her servants often made up for a
deficiency in wages. Maggie ascended to Miss Dumont's room, and
returned with the information that Miss Dumont had a severe headache,
and begged the indulgence of madame this morning.

Again that strange smile curved the corners of the Baroness's lips.

Maggie was requested to bring up hot water and coffee, and great was
her surprise to find the Baroness moving about the room when she
appeared with the tray.

Half-an-hour later Berene Dumont, standing by an open window with her
hands clasped behind her head, heard a light tap on her door. In
answer to a mechanical "Come," the Baroness appeared.

The rustle of her silken morning gown caused Berene to turn suddenly
and face her; and as she met the eyes of her visitor the young
woman's pallor gave place to a wave of deep crimson, which dyed her
face and neck like the shadow of a red flag falling on a camellia
blossom.

"Maggie tells me you are ill this morning," the Baroness remarked
after a moment's silence. "I am surprised to find you up and
dressed. I came to see if I could do anything for you."

"You are very kind," Berene answered, while in her heart she thought
how cruel was the expression in the face of the woman before her, and
how faded she appeared in the morning light. "But I think I shall be
quite well in a little while, I only need to keep quiet for a few
hours."

"I fear you passed a sleepless night," the Baroness remarked with a
solicitous tone, but with the same cruel smile upon her lips. "I see
you never opened your bed. Something must have been in the air to
keep us all awake. I did not sleep an hour, and Mr Cheney never
entered his room till near morning. Yet I can understand his
wakefulness--he announced his engagement to Miss Mabel Lawrence to me
last evening, and a young man is not expected to woo sleep easily
after taking such an important step as that. Judge Lawrence sent for
him a few hours ago to come and support Miss Mabel during the trial
that the day is to bring them in the death of Mrs Lawrence. The
physician has predicted the poor invalid's near end. Sorrow follows
close on joy in this life."

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