An Ambitious Man (Chapter 4, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 4

Preston Cheney walked briskly down the street after he left his
fiancee, his steps directed toward the Palace. It was seven o'clock,
and he knew the Baroness would be at home.

He had determined upon heroic treatment for his own mental disease
(as he regarded his peculiar sentiments toward Berene Dumont), and he
had decided upon a similar course of treatment for the Baroness.

He would confide his engagement to her at once, and thus put an end
to his embarrassing position in the Palace, as well as to establish
his betrothal as a fact--and to force himself to so regard it. It
was strange reasoning for a young man in the very first hour of his
new role of bridegroom elect, but this particular groom elect had
deliberately placed himself in a peculiar position, and his reasoning
was not, of course, that of an ardent and happy lover.

Already he was galled by his new fetters; already he was feeling a
sense of repulsion toward the woman he had asked to be his wife: and
because of these feelings he was more eager to nail himself hand and
foot to the cross he had builded.

He was obliged to wait some time before the Baroness came into the
reception-room; and when she came he observed that she had made an
elaborate toilet in his honour. Her sumptuous shoulders billowed
over the low-cut blue corsage like apple-dumplings over a china dish.
Her waist was drawn in to an hourglass taper, while her ample hips
spread out beneath like the heavy mason work which supports a slender
column. Tiny feet encased in pretty slippers peeping from beneath
her silken skirts looked oddly out of proportion with the rest of her
generous personality, and reminded Preston of the grotesque cuts in
the humorous weeklies, where well-known politicians were represented
with large heads and small extremities. Artistic by nature, and with
an eye to form, he had never admired the Baroness's type of beauty,
which was the theme of admiration for nearly every other man in
Beryngford. Her face, with its infantine colouring, its large,
innocent azure eyes, and its short retrousse features, he conceded to
be captivatingly pretty, however, and it seemed unusually so this
evening. Perhaps because he had so recently looked upon the sharp,
sallow face of his fiancee.

Preston frequently came to his room about this hour, after having
dined and before going to the office for his final duties; but he
seldom saw the Baroness on these occasions, unless through her own
design.

"You were surprised to receive my message, no doubt, saying I wished
to see you," he began. "But I have something I feel I ought to tell
you, as it may make some changes in my habits, and will of course
eventually take me away from these pleasant associations." He paused
for a second, and the Baroness, who had seated herself on the divan
at his side, leaned forward and looked inquiringly in his face.

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