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


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Chapter 4

It was only now that he had treated her with such rough brutality,
and discharged her from his employ for so slight a cause, that the
knowledge burst upon her tortured heart of all he was to her.

She paused at the foot of the third and last flight of stairs with a
strange dizziness in her head and a sinking sensation at her heart.

A little less than half-an-hour afterwards Preston Cheney unlocked
the street door and came in for the night. He had done double his
usual amount of work and had finished his duties earlier than usual.
To avoid thinking after he sent Berene away, he had turned to his
desk and plunged into his labour with feverish intensity. He wrote a
particularly savage editorial on the matter of over-immigration, and
his leaders on political questions of the day were all tinctured with
a bitterness and sarcasm quite new to his pen. At midnight that pen
dropped from his nerveless hand, and he made his way toward the
Palace in a most unenviable state of mind and body.

Yet he believed he had done the right thing both in engaging himself
to Miss Lawrence and in discharging Berene. Her constant presence
about the office was of all things the most undesirable in his new
position.

"But I might have done it in a decent manner if I had not lost all
control of myself," he said as he walked home. "It was brutal the
way I spoke to her; poor child, she looked as if I had beat her with
a bludgeon. Well, it is just as well perhaps that I gave her good
reason to despise me."

Since Berene had gone into the young man's office as an employe her
good taste and another reason had caused her to avoid him as much as
possible in the house. He seldom saw more than a passing glimpse of
her in the halls, and frequently whole days elapsed that he met her
only in the office. The young man never suspected that this fact was
due in great part to the suggestion of jealousy in the manner of the
Baroness toward the young girl ever after he had shown so much
interest in her welfare. Sensitive to the mental atmosphere about
her, as a wind harp to the lightest breeze, Berene felt this
unexpressed sentiment in the breast of her "benefactress" and strove
to avoid anything which could aggravate it.

With a lagging step and a listless air, Preston made his way up the
first of two flights of stairs which intervened between the street
door and his room. The first floor was in darkness; but in the upper
hall a dim light was always left burning until his return. As he
reached the landing, he was startled to see a woman's form lying at
the foot of the attic stairs, but a few feet from the door of his
room. Stooping down, he uttered a sudden exclamation of pained
surprise, for it was upon the pallid, unconscious face of Berene
Dumont that his eyes fell. He lifted the lithe figure in his sinewy
arms, and with light, rapid steps bore her up the stairs and in
through the open door of her room.

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