An Ambitious Man (Chapter 7, page 2 of 4)

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Chapter 7

Never was a more undesired or unwelcome child born than her daughter
Alice, and the helpless infant shared with its father the resentful
anger which dominated her unwilling mother the wretched months before
its advent into earth life.

To be let alone and allowed to follow her own whims and desires, and
never to be crossed in any wish, was all Mrs Cheney asked of her

This role was one he had very willingly permitted her to pursue,
since with every passing week and month he found less and less to win
or bind him to his wife. Wretched as this condition of life was, it
might at least have settled into a monotonous calm, undisturbed by
strife, but for the molesting "sympathy" of the Baroness.

"Poor thing, here you are alone again," she would say on entering the
house where Mabel lounged or lolled, quite content with her situation
until the tone and words of her stepmother aroused a resentful
consciousness of being neglected. Again the Baroness would say: "I do think you are such a brave little darling to carry so smiling a
face about with all you have to endure." Or, "Very few wives would
bear what you bear and hide every vestige of unhappiness from the
world. You are a wonderful and admirable character in my eyes." Or,
"It seems so strange that your husband does not adore you--but men
are blind to the best qualities in women like you. I never hear Mr
Cheney praising other women without a sad and almost resentful
feeling in my heart, realising how superior you are to all of his
favourites." It was the insidious effect of poisoned flattery like
this, which made the Baroness a ruling power in the Cheney household,
and at the same time turned an already cold and unloving wife into a
jealous and nagging tyrant who rendered the young statesman's home
the most dreaded place on earth to him, and caused him to live away
from it as much as possible.

His only child, Alice, a frail, hysterical girl, devoid of beauty or
grace, gave him but little comfort or satisfaction. Indeed she was
but an added disappointment and pain in his life. Indulged in every
selfish thought by her mother and the Baroness, peevish and petulant,
always ailing, complaining and discontented, and still a victim to
the nervous disorders inherited from her mother, it was small wonder
that Senator Cheney took no more delight in the role of father than
he had found in the role of husband.

Alice was given every advantage which money could purchase. But her
delicate health had rendered systematic study of any kind impossible,
and her twentieth birthday found her with no education, with no use
of her reasoning or will powers, but with a complete and beautiful
wardrobe in which to masquerade and air her poor little attempts at
music, art, or conversation.

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