An Ambitious Man (Chapter 6, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 6

Like the prisoner in the iron room, who saw the walls slowly but
surely closing in to crush out his life, Preston Cheney saw his
wedding day approaching, and knew that his doom was sealed.

There were many desperate hours, when, had he possessed the slightest
clue to the hiding-place of Berene Dumont, he would have flown to
her, even knowing that he left disgrace and death behind him. He
realised that he now owed a duty to the girl he loved, higher and
more imperative by far than any he owed to his fiancee. But he had
not the means to employ a detective to find Berene; and he was not
sure that, if found, she might not spurn him. He had heard and read
of cases where a woman's love had turned to bitter loathing and
hatred for the man who had not protected her in a moment of weakness.
He could think of no other cause which would lead Berene to disappear
in such a mysterious manner at such a time, and so the days passed
and he married Mabel Lawrence two months after the death of her
mother, and the young couple set forth immediately on extended
foreign travels. Fifteen months later they returned to Beryngford
with their infant daughter Alice. Mrs Cheney was much improved in
health, though still a great sufferer from nervous disorders, a
misfortune which the child seemed to inherit. She would lie and
scream for hours at a time, clenching her small fists and growing
purple in the face, and all efforts of parents, nurses or physicians
to soothe her, served only to further increase her frenzy. She
screamed and beat the air with her thin arms and legs until nature
exhausted itself, then she fell into a heavy slumber and awoke in
good spirits.

These attacks came on frequently in the night, and as they rendered
Mrs Cheney very "nervous," and caused a panic among the nurses, it
devolved upon the unhappy father to endeavour to soothe the violent
child. And while he walked the floor with her or leaned over her
crib, using all his strong mental powers to control these unfortunate
paroxysms, no vision came to him of another child lying cuddled in
her mother's arms in a distant town, a child of wonderful beauty and
angelic nature, born of love, and inheriting love's divine qualities.

A few months before the young couple returned to their native soil,
they received a letter which caused Preston the greatest
astonishment, and Mabel some hours of hysterical weeping. This
letter was written by Judge Lawrence, and announced his marriage to
Baroness Brown. Judge Lawrence had been a widower more than a year
when the Baroness took the book of his heart, in which he supposed
the hand of romance had long ago written "finis," and turning it to
his astonished eyes revealed a whole volume of love's love.

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