An Ambitious Man (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 3

Berene had been several months in her new home when Preston Cheney
came to lodge at the Palace.

He met her on the stairway the first morning after his arrival, as he
was descending to the street door.

Bringing up a tray covered with a snowy napkin, she stepped to one
side and paused, to make room for him to pass.

Preston was not one of those young men who find pastime in
flirtations with nursery maids or kitchen girls. The very thought of
it offended his good taste. Once, in listening to the boastful tales
of a modern Don Juan, who was relating his gallant adventures with a
handsome waiter girl at a hotel, Preston had remarked, "I would as
soon think of using my dinner napkin for a necktie, as finding
romance with a servant girl."

Yet he appreciated a snowy, well-laundried napkin in its place, and
he was most considerate and thoughtful in his treatment of servants.

He supposed Berene to be an upper servant of the house, and yet, as
he glanced at her, a strange and unaccountable feeling of interest
seized upon him. The creamy pallor of her skin, colourless save for
the full red lips, the dark eyes full of unutterable longing, the
aristocratic poise of the head, the softly rounded figure, elegant in
its simple gown and apron, all impressed him as he had never before
been impressed by any woman.

It was several days before he chanced to see her again, and then only
for a moment as she passed through the hall; but he heard a trill of
song from her lips, which added to his interest and curiosity. "That
girl is no common servant," he said to himself, and he resolved to
learn more about her.

It had been the custom of the Baroness to keep herself quite hidden
from her lodgers. They seldom saw her, after the first business
interview. Therefore it was a matter of surprise to the young editor
when he came home from his office one night, just after twelve
o'clock, and found the mistress of the mansion standing in the hall
by the register, in charming evening attire.

She smiled upon him radiantly. "I have just come in from a benefit
concert," she said, "and I am as hungry as a bear. Now I cannot
endure eating alone at night. I knew it was near your hour to
return, so I waited for you. Will you go down to the dining-room
with me and have a Welsh rarebit? I am going to make one in my
chafing dish."

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