AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 
 

 

 

BY

 

 

 
 

ELLA WHEELER WILCOX

Author of "Historical Mother Goose," " Poems of Passion,"

"Poem of Pleasure," Etc.

 
 
 
 
 

CHICAGO

E. A. WEEKS & COMPANY

521-531 WABASH AVE.

 
 

Copyright 1896, by

ELLA WHEELER WILCOX

All Rights Reserved

 


 
 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN.

 

CHAPTER I.

 

    PRESTON CHENEY turned as he ran down the steps
of a handsome house on " The Boulevard, " wav-
ing a second adieu to a young woman framed be-
tween the lace curtains of the window. Then he
hurried down the street and out of view. The
young woman watched him with a gleam of sat-
isfaction in her pale blue eyes. A fine looking
young fellow, whose Roman nose and strong jaw
belied the softly curved mouth with its sensitive
darts at the corners ; it was strange that something
warmer than satisfaction did not shine upon the
face of the woman whom he had just asked to be
his wife.

    But Mabel Lawrence was one of those women
who are never swayed by any passion stronger
than worldly ambition, never burned by any fires
other than those of jealousy or anger. Her mea-
ger nature was truly depicted in her meager face.
Nature is ofttimes a great liar and a cruel jester,
giving to the cold and vapid woman the face and

5

 
 

6                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

form of a sensuous siren, and concealing a heart
of volcanic fires, or the soul of a Phryne, under
the exterior of a spinster. But the old dame had
been wholly frank in forming Miss Lawrence.
The thin, flat chest and narrow shoulders, the ag-
ular elbows and prominent shoulder blades, the
sallow skin and sharp features, the deeply set,
pale blue eyes, and the lusterless ashen hair, were
all truthful exponents of the unfurnished rooms
in her vacant heart and soul places.

    Miss Lawrence turned from the window, and
trailed her long silken train across the rich carpet,
seating herself before the open fireplace. It was
an appropriate time and situation for a maiden’s
tender dreams; only a few hours bad passed since
the handsomest and most brilliant young man in
that thriving eastern town bad asked her to be
his wife, and placed the kiss of betrothal upon her
virgin lips. Yet it was with a sense of triumph
and relief, rather than with tenderness and rap-
ture, that the young woman meditated upon the
situation. Triumph over other women who had
shown a decided interest in Mr. Cheney, since his
arrival in the place more than eighteen months
ago, and relief that the dreaded role of spinster
was not to be her part in life’s drama.

    Miss Lawrence was twenty-six--one year older
than her fiance’ ; and she had never received a

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       7

 

proposal of marriage or listened to a word of love
in her life before. Let me transpose that phrase
--she had never before received a proposal of mar-
riage, and had never in her life listened to a word
of love; for Preston had not spoken of love. She
knew that he did not love her. She knew that be
had Sought her hand wholly from ambitious mo-
tives. She was the daughter of the Hon. Sylvester
Lawrence, lawyer, judge, state senator, and pro-
posed candidate for lieutenant-governor in the
coming campaign. She was the only heir to his
large fortune.

    Preston Cheney was a penniless young man from
the West. A self-made youth, with an unusual
brain and an overwhelming ambition, he bad ris-
en from chore boy on a western farm to printer’s
apprentice in a small town, thence to reporter,
city editor, foreign correspondent, and after two
or three years of travel gained in this
manner be had come to Beryngford and bought
out a struggling morning paper, which was mak-
ing a mad effort to keep alive, changed its polit-
ical tendencies, infused it with western activity
and filled it with cosmopolitan news, and now,
after eighteen months, the young man found him-
self coming abreast of his two long established
rivals in the editorial field. This success was
but an incentive to his overwhelming ambition for

 

8                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

place, power and riches. He bad seen just enough
of life and of the world to estimate these things
at double their value; and. he was, beside, looking
at life through the magnifying glass of youth. The
Creator intended as to gaze on worldly possessions
and selfish ambitions through the small end of the
lorgnette, but youth invariably inverts the glass.

    To the young editor, the brief years behind him
seemed like a long bard pull up a steep and rocky
cliff. From the point to which he had attained,
the summit of his desires looked very far away,
much farther than the level from which he had
arisen. To rise to that summit single-handed
and alone would require unremitting effort
through the very best years of his manhood. His
brain, his strength, his ability, his ambitions,
what were they all in the strife after place and
power, compared to the money of some common-
place adversary? Preston Cheney, the native-born
American directly descended from a Revolution-
ary soldier, would be handicapped in the race with
some Michael Murphy whose father had made a
fortune in the saloon business, or who had him-
self acquired a competency as a police officer.

    America was not the same country which gave
men like Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln
and Horace Greely a chance to rise from the lower
ranks to the highest places before they reached

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                     9

 

middle life. It was no longer a land where merit
strove with merit, and the prize fell to the most
earnest and the most gifted. The tremendous in-
flux of foreign population since the war of the Re-
bellion and the right of franchise given unreserv-
edly to the illiterate and the vicious, rendered the
ambitious American youth now a toy in the bands
of aliens, and position a thing to be bought at the
price set by un-American masses.

    Thoughts like these bad more and more with
each year filled the mind of Preston Cheney, until
like the falling of stones and earth into a river
bed, they changed the naturally direct current of
his impulses into another channel. Why not
further his life purpose by an ambitious marriage?
The first time the thought entered his mind he had
cast it out as something unclean and unworthy of
his manhood. Marriage was a holy estate, he
said to himself, a sacrament to be entered
into with reverence, and sanctified by love. He
must love the woman who was to be the com-
panion of his life, the mother of his children.

    Then be looked about among his early friends
who had married, as nearly all the young men of
the middle classes in America do marry, for love,
or what they believe to be love. There was Tom
Somers—a splendid lad, full of life, hope and
ambition when be married Carrie Towne, the pret-

 

10                     AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

tiest girl in Vandalia. Well, what was he now,
after seven years ? A broken-spirited man, with
a sickly, complaining wife and a brood of ill-
clad children. Harry Walters, the most infatuated
lover he had ever seen, was divorced after five
years of discordant marriage.

    Charlie St. Clair was flagrantly unfaithful to
the girl he bad pursued three years with his ardent
wooings before she yielded to suit. Certainly
none of these love marriages were examples for
him to follow. And in the midst of these reveries
and reflections, Preston Cheney came to Beryng-
ford, and met Sylvester Lawrence and his daught-
er Mabel. He met also Berene Dumont. Had
he not met the latter woman he would not have
succumbed so soon at least to the temptation held
out by the former, to advance his ambitious aims.

    He would have hesitated, considered, and recon-
sidered, and without doubt his better nature and
his good taste would have prevailed. But when
fate threw Berene Dumont in his way, and circum-
stances brought about his close associations with
her for many months, there seemed but one way
of escape from the Scylla of his desires, and that
as to the Charybdis of a marriage with Miss
Lawrence.

    Miss Lawrence was not aware of the part Be-
rene Dumont had played in her engagement, but

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                     11

 

she knew perfectly the part her father’s influence
and wealth bad played; but she was quite content
with affairs as they were, and it mattered little to
her what bad brought them about. to be married,
rather than to be loved, bad been her ambition
since she left school; being incapable of loving, she
was incapable of appreciating the passion in any
of its phases. It had always seemed to her that a
great deal of nonsense was written and talked
about love. She thought demonstrative people
very vulgar, and believed kissing a means of con-
veying germs of disease.

    But to be a married woman, with an establish-
ment of her Own, and a husband to exhibit to her
friends, was necessary to the maintenance of her
pride.

    When Miss Lawrence’s mother, a nervous inva-
lid, was informed of her daughter’s engagement,
she burst into tears, as over a lamb offered on
the altar of sacrifice; and Judge Lawrence pressed
a kiss on the lobe of Mabel’s left ear which she
offered him, and told her she bad won a prize in
the market. But as be sat alone over his cigar
that night, be sighed heavily, and said to himself,
" Poor fellow, I wish Mabel were not so much like
her mother. "

 
 
 
 

CHAPTER II.

 

    " BARONESS BROWN " was a distinctive figure in
Beryngford. She came to the place from foreign
parts some three years before the arrival of Pres-
ton Cheney, and brought servants, carriages and
horses, and established herself in a very handsome
house which she rented for a term of years. Her
arrival in this quiet village town was of course
the sensation of the hour, or rather of the year.
She was known as Baroness Le Fevre—an Ameri-
can widow of a French baron. Large, voluptuous,
blonde, and handsome according to the popular
idea of beauty, distinctly amiable, affable and very
charitable, she became at once the fashion.

    Invitations to her house were eagerly sought
after, and her entertainments were described in
column articles by the press.

    This state of things continued only six months,
however. Then it began to be whispered about
that the " Baroness " was in arrears for her rent.
Several of her servants had gone away in a high
state of temper at the titled mistress who had

12

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                      13

 

failed to pay them a cent of wages since they came
to the country with her; and one day the neigh-
bors saw her fine carriage horses led away by the
Sheriff.

    A week later society was electrified by the an-
nouncement of the marriage of Baroness Le Fevre
to Mr. Brown, a wealthy widower who owned the
best shoe store in Beryngford.

    Mr. Brown owned ten children also, but the
youngest was a boy of sixteen, absent in college.
The other nine were married and settled in com-
fortable homes.

    Mr. Brown died at the expiration of a year.
This one year had taught him more of womankind
than be had learned in all his sixty and nine
years before; and feeling that it is never too late
to profit by learning, Mr. Brown discreetly made
his will, leaving all his property save the widow’s
" thirds " equally divided among his ten children.

    The Baroness made a futile effort to break the
will, on the grounds that he was not of sound
mind when it was drawn up; but the effort cost
her several hundred of her few thousand dollars
and the increased enmity of the ten Brown chil-
dren, and availed her nothing. An important
part of the widow’s third was the Brown man-
sion, a large, commodious house built many years
before, when the village was but a country town.

 

14                      AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Everybody supposed the " Baroness," as she was
still called, half in derision and half from the
American love of mouthing a title, would offer
this house for sale, and depart for fresh fields
and pastures new. But the Baroness never did
what she was expected to do.

    Instead of offering her house for sale, she. offered
" Rooms to let," and turned the family mansion
into a fashionable lodging-house.

    Its central location and its adjacence to several
restaurants and boarding houses, rendered it a
convenient place for business people to lodge,
and, the handsome widow found no trouble in filling
her rooms with desirable and well-paying patrons.
In a spirit of fun, people began to speak of the
old Brown Mansion as " The Palace," and in a
short time the lodging-house was known by that
name, just as its mistress was known as "Baroness
Brown."

     " The Palace " yielded the " Baroness" something
like two hundred dollars a month, and cost her
only the wages and keeping of three servants ; or
rather the wages of two and the keeping of three ;
for to Berene Dumont, her maid and persona attendant,
she paid no wages.

    The Baroness did not rise till noon, and she
always breakfasted in bed. Sometimes she re-
mained in her room till mid-afternoon. Berene

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                     15

 

served her breakfast and lunch, and looked after
the servants to see that the lodgers’ rooms were
all in order. These were the services for which
she was given a home. But in truth the young
woman did much more than this; she acted also
as seamstress and milliner for her mistress, and
attended to the marketing and ran errands for her.
If ever a girl paid full price for her keeping, it
was Berene, and yet the Baroness spoke frequently
of " giving the poor thing a home. "

    It had all come about in this. way. Pierre
Dumont kept a second-hand book store in Beryng-
ford. He was French, and the national character-
istic of frugality had assumed the shape of avarice
in his nature. He was, too, a petty tyrant and a
cruel husband and father when under the influence
of absinthe, a state in which be was usually to be
found.

    Berene was an only child, and her mother,
whom she worshiped, said, when dying, " Take
care of your poor father, Berene. Do everything
you can at make him happy. Never desert him. "

    Berene was fourteen at that time. She had
never been at school, but she had been taught to
read and write both French and English, for her
mother was an American girl who bad been disin-
herited by her grandparents, with whom she lived,
for eloping with her French teacher—Pierre

 

16                      AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Dumont. Rheumatism and absinthe turned the
French professor into a shop-keeper before Berene
was born. The grandparents had died without
forgiving their granddaughter, and much as the
unhappy woman regretted her foolish marriage,
she remained a patient and devoted wife to the
end of her life, and imposed the same patience
and devotion when dying on her daughter.

    At sixteen, Berene was asked to sacrifice herself
on the altar of marriage to a man three times her
age; one Jacques Letellier who offered generously
to take the young girl as payment for a debt owed
by his convivial comrade, M. Dumont. Berene
wept and begged piteously to be spared this hor-
rible sacrifice of her young life, whereupon Pierre
Dumont seized his razor and threatened suicide as
the other alternative from the dishonor of debt,
and Berene in terror yielded her word and herself
the next day to the debasing mockery of marriage
with a depraved old gambler and roue.

    Six mouth’s later Jacques Letellier died in a fit
of apoplexy and Berene was freed from her chains ;
but freed only to keep on in a life of martyrdom
as Servant and slave to the caprices of her father,
until his death. When he was finally well buried
under six feet of earth, Berene found herself twen-
ty years of age, alone in the world with just one
thousand dollars in money, the price brought by
her father’s effects.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                      17

 

    Without education or accomplishments, she was
the possessor of youth, health, charm, and a voice
of wonderful beauty and power; a voice which it
was her dream to cultivate, and use as a means of
support. But bow could she ever cultivate it ?
The thousand dollars in her possession was, she
knew, but a drop in the ocean of expense a mu-
sical education would entail. And she must keep
that money until she found some way by which
to support herself.

    Baroness Brown had attended the sale of old
Mr. Dumont’s effects. She had often noticed the
young girl in the shop, and in the street, and had
been struck with the peculiar elegance and refine-
ment of her appearance. Her simple lawn or print
gowns were made and worn in a manner befitting a
princess. Her nails were carefully kept, despite all
the household drudgery which devolved upon her.

    The Baroness was a shrewd woman and a clever
reasoner. She needed a thrifty, prudent person
in her house to look after things, and to attend to
her personal needs. Since she had opened " The
Palace " as a lodging house, this need had stared
her in the face. Servants did very well in their
places, but the person she required was of another
and superior order, and only to be obtained by ac-
cident or by advertising and the paying of a large
salary. Now the Baroness bad been in the habit of

 

18                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

thinking that her beauty and amiability were quite
equivalent to any favors she received from hu-
manity at large. Ever since she was a plump girl
in short dresses, she had learned that smiles and
compliments from her lips would purchase her
friends of both sexes, who would do disagreeable
duties for her. She had never made it a custom
to pay out money for any service she could obtain
otherwise. So now as she looked on this young
woman who, though a widow, seemed still a mere
child, it occurred to her that Fate had with its
usual kindness thrown in her path the very person:
she needed.

    She offered Berene " a home" at the Palace in
return for a few small services. The lonely girl,
whose strangely solitary life with her old father
had excluded her from all social relations outside,
grasped at this offer from the handsome lady whom
she bad long admired from a distance, and went to
make her home at The Palace.

 
 
 
 

CHAPTER III.

 

    BERENE had been several months in her new home
when Preston Cheney came to lodge at " The Pal-
ace. "

    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 nap-
kin, 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 be appreciated a snowy, well-laundried nap-
kin in its place, and be was most considerate and
thoughtful in his treatment of servants.

    He supposed Berene to be an upper servant of

19

 
 

20                     AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

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, colorless
save for the full red lips, the dark eyes full of un-
utterable 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 be chanced to see be
again, and then only for a moment as she passe
through the hall; but he heard a trill of song from
her lips, whicb added to his interest and curiosity
" That girl is no common servant, " he said to him-
self, 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 mis-
tress of the mansion standing in the ball 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

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                     21

 

Welsh rabbit ? I am going to make one in my
chafing dish. "

    The young man bid his surprise under a gallant
smile, and offering the Baroness his arm, descended
to the basement dining-room with her. He had
heard much about the complicated life of this
woman, and he felt a certain amount of natural
curiosity in regard to her. He bad met her but
once, and that was the day when he bad called to
engage his room, a little more than two weeks
past.

    He had thought her an excellent type of the
successful American adventuress on that occasion,
and her quiet and dull life in this ordinary town
puzzled him. He could not imagine a woman of
that order existing a whole year without an adven-
ture; as a rule be knew that those blonde women
with large hips and busts, and small waists and
feet, are as unable to live without excitement as a
fish without water.

    Yet since the death of Mr. Brown, more than a
year past, the Baroness had lived the life of a re-
cluse. It puzzled him, as a student of human nature.
    But in fact, the Baroness was a skilled general
in planning her campaigns. She seldom plunged
into action unprepared.

    She knew from experience that she could not
live in a large city and not use an enormous
amount of money.

 
 

22                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    She was tired of taking great risks, and she
knew that without the aid of money and a fine
wardrobe, she was not able to attract men as she
had done ten years before.

    As long as she remained in Beryngford. she would
be adding to her income every month, and saving
the few thousands she possessed. She would be
saving her beauty, too, by keeping early hours
and living a temperate life; and if she carefully
avoided any new scandal, her past adventures
would be dim in the minds of people, when, after
a year or two more of retirement and retrench-
ment, she sallied forth to new fields, under a new
name, if need be, and with a comfortably filled
purse.

    It was in this manner that the Baroness had
reasoned; but from the hour she first saw Preston
Cheney, her resolutions wavered. He impressed
her most agreeably ; and after learning about him
from the daily papers, and hearing him spoken of
as a valuable acquisition to Beryngford’s intellec-
tual society, the Baroness decided to come out of
her retirement and enter the lists in advance of
other women who would seek to attract this new-
comer.

    To the fading beauty in her late thirties, a man
in the early twenties possesses a peculiar fascina-
tion; and to the Baroness, clothed in weeds for a

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       23

 

husband who died on the eve of his seventieth
birthday, the possibility of winning a young
man like Preston Cheney overbalanced all other
considerations in her mind. She had never been
a vulgar coquette to whom all men were prey.
She had always been more or less discriminating.
A man must be either very attractive or very rich,
to win her regard. Mr. Brown bad been very rich,
and Preston Cheney was very attractive.

     " He is more than attractive, he is positively
fascinating, " she said to herself in the solitude of
her room after the tete-a-tete over the Welsh
rarebit that evening. " I don’t know when I have
felt such a pleasure in a man’s presence. Not
since—" but the Baroness did not allow herself to
go back so far. " If there is any fruit I detest,
it is dates," she often said laughingly. " Some
people delight in a good memory—I delight in a
good forgettory of the past, with its tell-tale mile-
stones of birthdays and anniversaries of mar-
riages, deaths and divorces. "

     " Mr. Cheney said I looked very Young to have
been twice married. Twice !" and she laughed
aloud before her mirror, revealing the pink arch
of her mouth, and two perfect sets of yellow-white
teeth, with only one blemishing spot of gold visi-
ble. " I wonder if be meant it, though ?" she
mused. " And the fact that I do wonder is the

 

24                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

sure proof that I am really interested in this man.
As a rule, I never believe a word men say, thongh
I delight in their flattery all the same. It makes
me feel comfortable even when I know they are
lying. But I should really feel hurt if I thought
Mr. Cheney had not meant what he said. I don’t
believe be knows much about women, or about
himself lower than his brain. He has never
studied his heart. He is all ambition. If an am-
bitious and unsophisticated yout of twenty-five
or twenty-eight does get infatuated with a woman
of my age-he is a perfect toy in her hands. Ah,
well, we shall see what we shall see." And the
Baroness finished her massage in cold cream, and
put her blonde bead on the pillow and went
sound asleep.

    After that first tete-a-tete supper the fair widow
managed to see Preston at least once or twice a
week. She sent for him to ask his advice on busi-
ness matters, she asked him to aid her in chang-
ing the position of the furniture in a room when
the servants were all busy, and she invited him
to her private parlor for lunch every Sunday after-
noon. It was during one of these chats over cake
and wine that the young man spoke of Berene.
The Baroness had dropped some remarks about
her servants, and Preston said in a casual tone of
voice, which hid the real interest be felt in the

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       25

 

subject. " By the way, one of your servants has
quite an unusual voice. I have heard her singing
about the halls a few times, and it seems to me
she has real talent. "

    " 0h, that is Miss Dumont—Berene Dumont—
she is not an absolute servant, " the Baroness re-
plied ; " she is a most unfortunate young woman
to whom my heart went out in pity, and I have
given her a home. She is really a widow, though
she refuses to use her dead husband’s name. "
    " A widow ?" repeated Preston with surprise
and a queer sensation of annoyance at his heart ;
" why, from the glimpse I had of her I thought
her a young girl. "

    " So she is, not over twenty-one at most, and
woefully ignorant for that age, " the Baroness
said, and then she proceeded to outline Berene’s
history, laying a good deal of stress upon her own
charitable act in giving the girl a home.

    " She is so ignorant of life despite the fact that
she has been married, and she is so uneducated
and helpless, I could not bear to see her cast into
the path of designing people," the Baroness said.
    " She has a strong craving for an education, and
I give her good books to read, and good advice to
ponder over, and I hope in time to come she will
marry some honest fellow and settle down to a
quiet, happy home life. The man who brings us

 

26                         AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

butter and eggs from the country is quite fasci-
nated with her, but she does not deign him a
glance." And then the Baroness talked of other
things.

    But the history be bad beard remained in Pres-
ton Cheney’s mind and he could not drive the
thought of this girl away. No wonder her eyes
were sad! better blood ran in her veins than
coursed under the pink flesh of the Baroness, he
would wager; she was the unfortunate victim of
a combination of circumstances, which had de-
frauded her of the advantages of youth.

    He spoke with her in the hall one morning not
long after that ; and then it grew to be a daily
occurrence that he talked with her a few moments,
and before many weeks had passed the young man
approached the Baroness with a request.

    " I have become interested in your protegee Miss
Dumont," he said. "You have done so much for
her that you have stirred my better nature and
made me anxious to emulate. your example. In
talking with her in the ball one day I learned her
great desire for a better education, and her anx-
iety to earn money. Now it has occurred to me
that I might aid her in both ways. We need two
or three more girls in our office. We need one more
in the type-setting department. As the Cla-
rion
is a morning paper, and you never need Miss

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       27

 

Dumont’s services after five o’clock, she could
work a few hours in the office, earn a small sal-
ary, and gain something in the way of an educa-
tion also, if she were ambitious enough to do so.
Nearly all my early education was gained as
a printer. She tells me she is faulty in the mat-
ter of spelling, and this would be excellent train-
ing for her. You have, dear madam, inspired the
girl with a desire for more knowledge, and I hope
you will let me carry on the good work you have
begun. "

    Preston had approached the matter in a way
that could not fail to bring success-by flattering
the vanity and pride of the Baroness. So elated
was she with the agreeable references to herself,
that she never suspected the young man’s deep
personal interest in the girl. She believed in the
beginning that he was showing Berene this kind
attention, solely to please the mistress.

    Berene entered the office as typesetter, and
made such astonishing progress that she was pro-
moted to the position of proofreader ere six
months had passed. And hour by hour, day by
day, week by week, the strange influence which
she had exerted on her employer from the first
moment of their meeting, grew and strengthened,
until he realized with a sudden terror that his
whole being was becoming absorbed by an intense
passion for the girl.

 
 

28                         AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Meantime the Baroness was growing embarrass-
ing in her attentions. The Young man was not
conceited, nor prone to regard himself as an ob-
ject of worship to the fair sex. He had during
the first few months believed the Baroness to be
amusing herself with his society. He bad. not
flattered himself that a woman of her age, who
had seen so much of the world, and whose ambi-
tions were so unmistakable, could regard him
otherwise than as a diversion.

    But of late the truth had forced itself upon him
that the woman wished to entangle him- in a seri-
ous affair. He could not afford to jeopardize his
reputation at the very outset of his career by any
such entanglement, or by the appearance of one.
He cast about for some excuse to leave the "Pal-
ace, " yet this would separate him in a measure
from his association with Berene, beside incurring
the enmity of the Baroness, and possibly causing
Berene to suffer from her anger as well.
    He seemed to be caught like a fly in a net. And
again the thought of his future and his ambi-
tions confronted him, and he felt abashed in his
own eyes, as he realized how far away these ambi-
tions had seemed of late, since he bad allowed his
emotions to overrule his brain.

    What was this ignorant daughter of a French
professor, that she should stand between him and

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       29

 

glory, riches and power? Desperate diseases needed
desperate remedies. He had been an occasional
caller at the Lawrence homestead ever Since he
came to Beryngford. Without being conceited on
the subject, he realized that Mabel Lawrence would
not reject him as a suitor.

    The masculine party is very dull, or the feminine
very deceptive, when a man makes a mistake in
his impressions on this subject.

    That afternoon the young editor left his office
at five o’clock and asked Miss Lawrence to be his
wife.

 
 
 
 

CHAPTER IV.

 

    PRESTON CHENEY walked briskly down the street
after be left his fiancee, his steps directed toward
" The Palace." It was seven O’clock, and be knew
the Baroness would be at home.

    He had determined upon heroic treatment for
his own mental disease (as be regarded his pecu-
liar 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 bride-
groom 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 be was galled by his new fetters ; al-
ready he was feeling a sense of repulsion toward

30

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        31

 

the woman be bad asked to be his wife: and be-
cause of these feelings be 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 be observed that she had made an elab-
orate toilet in his honor. Her sumptuous shoul-
ders 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 re-
minded Preston of the grotesque cuts in the hu-
morous weeklies, where well-known politicians
were represented with large heads and small ex-
tremities. Artistic by nature, and. with an eye
to form, he had never admired the Baroness’ type
of beauty, which was the theme of admiration for
nearly every other man in Beryngford. Her face
with its infantine coloring, its large, innocent
azure eyes, and its short retrousse features he con-
ceded to be Captivatingly pretty, however, and it
seemed unusually so this evening. Perhaps be-
cause he had so recently looked upon the sharp,
sallow face of fiancee.

 
 

32                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Preston frequently came to his room about this
hour, after having dined and before going to the
office for his final duties; but be 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 bad seated herself on the
divan at his side, leaned forward and looked in-
quiringly in his face.

    " You are going away?" she asked, with a tremor
in her voice. "Is it not very sudden?"

    " No, I am not going away," be replied, "not
from Beryngford-but I shall doubtless leave your
house ere many months. I am engaged to be
married to Miss Mabel Lawrence. You are the
first person to whom I have imparted the news,
but you have been so kind, and I feel that you
ought to know it in time to secure a desirable ten-
ant for my room."

    Again there was a pause. The rosy face of the
Baroness bad grown quite pale, and an unpleasant
expression bad settled about the corners of her
small mouth. She waved a feather fan to and

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        33

 

fro languidly. Then she gave a slight laugh and
said:

    " Well, I must confess that I am surprised.
    Miss Lawrence is the last woman in the world
whom I would have imagined you to select as a
wife. Yet I congratulate you on your good sense.
You are very ambitious, and you can rise to great
distinction if you have the right influence to aid
you. Judge Lawrence, with his wealth and position,
is of all men the one who can advance your inter-
ests, and what more natural than that he should
advance the interests of his son-in-law? You are
a very wise youth and I again congratulate you.
No romantic folly will ever ruin your life."

    There was irony and ridicule in her voice and
face, and the young man felt his cheek tingle
with anger and humiliation. The Baroness had
read him like an open book—as every one else
doubtless would do. It was bitterly galling to
his pride, but there was nothing to do, save to
keep a bold front, and carry out his role with as
much dignity as possible.

    He rose, spoke a few formal words of thanks to
the. Baroness for her kindness to him, and bowed
himself from her presence, carrying with him down
the street the memory of her mocking eyes.

    As he entered his private office, he was amazed
to see Berene Dumont sitting in his Chair fast

 

34                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

asleep, her head framed by her folded arms, which
rested on his desk. Against the dark maroon of
her sleeve, her classic face was outlined like a
marble statuette. Her long lashes swept her cheek,
and in the attitude in which she sat, her graceful,
perfectly proportioned figure displayed each beau-
tiful curve to the best advantage.

    To a noble nature, the sight of even an enemy
asleep, awakes softening emotions, while the sight
of a loved being in the unconsciousness of slum-
ber stirs the fountain of affection to its very
depths.

    As the young editor looked upon the girl before
him, a passion of yearning love took possession of
him. A wild desire to seize her in his arms and
cover her pale face with kisses, made his heart
throb to suffocation and brought cold beads to his
brow; and just as these feelings gained an almost
uncontrollable dominion over his reason, will and
judgment, the girl awoke and started to her feet
in confusion.

    " Oh, Mr. Cheney, pray forgive me !" she cried,
looking more beautiful than ever with the flush
which overspread her face. " I came in to ask
about a word in your editorial which I could not
decipher. I waited for you, as I felt sure you
would be in shortly—and I was so tired I sat down
for just a second to rest—and that is all I knew

 

             AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       35

 

about it. You must forgive me, sir!—I did not
mean to intrude."

    Her confusion, her appealing eyes, her magnet-
ic voice were all fuel to the fire raging in the
young man’s heart. Now that she was forever
lost to him through his own deliberate action,
she seemed tenfold more dear and to be desired.
Brain, soul, and body all seemed to crave her;
he took a step forward, and drew in a quick breath
as if to speak; and then a sudden sense of his own
danger, and an overwhelming disgust for his weak-
ness swept over him; and the intense passion the
girl bad aroused in his heart changed to unrea-
sonable anger.

    " Miss Dumont," he said coldly, " I think we
will have to dispense with your services after to-
night. Your duties are evidently too bard for you.
You can leave the office at any time you wish.
Good-night.

    The girl shrank as if be had struck her, looked
up at him with wide, wondering eyes, waited for
a moment as if expecting to be recalled, then, as
Mr. Cheney wheeled his chair about and turned
his back upon her, she suddenly sped away without
a word.

    She left the office a few moments later; but it
was not until after eleven o’clock that she dragged
herself up two flights of stairs toward her room

 

36                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

on the attic floor at the Palace. She had been
walking the streets like a mad creature all that
intervening time, trying to still the agonizing pain
in her heart. Preston Cheney bad long been her
ideal of all that was noble, grand and good, she
worshiped him as devout pagans worshiped
their sacred idols ; and without knowing it, she gave
him the absorbing passion which an intense wom-
an gives to her lover.

    It was only now that be 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 be 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.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        37

 

nerveless hand, and be made his way toward the
Palace in a most unenviable state of mind and
body.

    Yet be believed be bad 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, " be said as
he walked home. " It was brutal the way I
spoke to her; poor child, she looked as if I bad
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 employé her good taste and another
reason bad caused her to avoid him as much as
possible in the house. He seldom saw more than a
passing glimpse of her in the balls, and frequently
whole days elapsed that be 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 light-
est breeze Berene felt this unexpressed sentiment

 

38                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

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 be reached the landing, be
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 Du-
mont 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.

    " If she is dead, I am her murderer," he thought.
    But at that moment she opened her eyes and looked
full into his, with a gaze which made his impetu-
ous, uncontrolled heart forget that any one or any-
thing existed on earth but this girl and his love
for her.

 
 
 
 

CHAPTER V.

 

    ONE of the greatest factors in the preservation
of the Baroness’ beauty had been her ability to
sleep under all conditions. The woman who can
and does sleep eight or nine hours out of each
twenty-four is well armed against the onslaught
of time and trouble.

    To say that such women do not possess heart
enough or feeling enough to suffer is ofttimes
most untrue.

    Insomnia is a disease of the nerves or of the
stomach, rather than the result of extreme
emotion. Sometimes the people who sleep
the most profoundly at night in times Of sor-
row, suffer the more intensely during their
waking hours. Disguised as a friend, deceit-
ful Slumber comes to them only to strengthen
their powers of suffering, and to lend a new edge
to pain.

    The Baroness was not without feeling. Her
temperament was far from phlegmatic, She had
experienced great cyclones of grief and loss in
her varied career, though many years bad elapsed

39

 
 

40                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

since she had known what the French call a
" white night."

    But the night following her interview with Pres-
ton Cheney she never closed her eyes in Sleep. It
was in vain that she tried all known recipes for
producing slumber. She said the alphabet back-
ward ten times, she counted one thousand, she
conjured up visions of sleep, jumping the time-
honored fence in battalions, yet the sleep god
never once drew near.

    " I am certainly a brilliant illustration of the
saying that there is no fool like an old fool," she
said to herself as the night wore on, and the
strange sensation of pain and loss which Preston
Cheney’s unexpected announcement had caused
her, gnawed at her breast like a rat in a wainscot.

    That she had been unusually interested in the
young editor she knew from the first; that she had
been mortally wounded by Cupid’s shaft she only
now discovered. She had passed through a di-
vorce, two " affairs" and a legitimate widowhood,
without feeling any of the keen emotions which
now drove sleep from her eyes. A long time ago,
longer than she cared to remember, she bad expe-
rienced such emotions, but she had supposed such
folly only possible in the high tide of early youth.
It was absurd, nay more, it was ridiculous to lie
awake at her time of life thinking about a penni-

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        41

 

less country youth whose mother she might almost
have been. In this bitterly frank fashion the
Baroness reasoned with herself as she lay quite
still in her luxurious bed, and tried to sleep.

    Yet despite her frankness, her philosophy and
her reasoning, the rasping hurt at her heart re-
mained—a hurt so cruel it seemed to her the
end of all peace or pleasure in life.

    It is harder to War the suffocating heat of a
late September day which the year sometimes
brings, than all the burning June suns.

    The Baroness heard the click of Preston’s key
in the street door, and she listened to his slow step
as be ascended the stairs. She heard him pause,
too, and waited for the sound of the opening of
his room door, which was situated exactly above
her own. But she listened in vain, her ears,
brain and heart on the alert, with surprise, curi-
osity, and at last suspicion. The Baroness was as
full of curiosity as a cat.

    It was not until just before dawn that she beard
his step in the hall, and his door open and close.
    An hour later a sharp ring came at the street

door bell. A message for Mr. Preston, the servant
said, in answer to her mistress’ question as she
descended from the room above.

    " Was Mr. Preston awake when you rapped on
his door ?" asked the Baroness.

 
 

42                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " Yes, madame, awake and dressed."

    Mr. Preston ran hurriedly through the balls and
out to the street a moment later; and the Baroness,
clothed in a dressing-gown and A silken slippers,
tiptoed lightly to his room. The bed bad not been
occupied the whole night. On the table lay a note
which the young man had begun when interrupted
by the message which lie bad thrown down beside
it.

    The Baroness glanced at the note, On which the
ink was still moist, and read, "My dear Miss
Lawrence, I want you to release me from the ties
formed only yesterday—I am basely unworthy—"
here the note ended. She now turned her atten-
tion to the message which had prevented the com-
pletion of the letter. It was signed by Judge
Lawrence and ran as follows.

 

     " MY DEAR BOY :—My wife was taken mortally
ill this morning just before daybreak. She cannot
live many hours, our physician says. Mabel is in
a state of complete nervous prostration caused by
the shock of this calamity. I wish you would come
to us at once. I fear for my dear child’s reason
unless you prove able to calm and quiet her through
this ordeal. Hasten then, my dear son ; every
moment before you arrive will seem an age of sor-
row and anxiety to me.      S. LAWRENCE. "

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        43

 

    A strange smile curved the corners of the Bar-
oness’ lips as she finished reading this note
and tiptoed down the stairs to her own room
Meantime the hour for her hot water arrived,
and Berene did not appear. The Baroness drank
a quart of hot water every morning as a tonic for
her system, and another quart after breakfast to
reduce her flesh. Her excellent digestive powers
and the clear condition of her blood she attributed
largely to this habit.

    After a few moments she rang the bell vigor-
ously. Maggie, the chambermaid, came in an-
swer to the call.

    " Please ask Miss Dumont" (Berene was always
known to the other servants as Miss Dumont) " to
hurry with the hot water," the Baroness said.

    " Miss Dumont has not yet come downstairs,
madame."

    " Not come down? Then will you please call her,
Maggie ?"

    The Baroness was always polite to her servants.
She bad observed that a graciousness of speech
toward her servants often made up for a deficien-
cy in wages. Maggie ascended to Miss Dumont’s
room, and returned with the information that
Miss Dumont bad a severe headache, and begged
the. indulgence of madame this morning.

 
 

44                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Again that strange smile curved the corners of
the Baroness’ lips.

    Maggie was requested to bring up hot water and
coffee, and great was her surprise to find the Bar
oness moving about the room when she appeared
with the tray.

    Half an hour later Berene Dumont, standing
by an open window with her hands clasped behind
her head, heard a light tap on her door. In answer
to a mechanical " Come," the Baroness appeared.

    The rustle of her silken morning gown caused
Berene to turn suddenly and face her; and as she
met the eyes of her visitor the young woman’s
pallor gave place to a wave of deep crimson, which
dyed her face and neck like the shadow of a red
flag falling on a camellia blossom.

    " Maggie tells me you are ill this morning, " the
Baroness remarked after a moment’s silence. " I
am surprised to find you up and dressed. I came
to see if I could do anything for you."

    " You are very kind," Berene answered, while
in her heart she thought how cruel was the ex-
pression in the face of the woman before her, and
how faded she appeared in the morning light.
    " But I think I shall be quite well in a little while.
I only need to keep quiet for a few hours."

    " I fear you passed a sleepless night, " the Bar-
oness remarked with a solicitous tone, but with

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        45

 

the same cruel smile upon her lips. " I see you
never opened your bed. Something must have
been in the air to keep us all awake. I did not
sleep an hour, and Mr. Cheney never entered his
room till near morning. Yet I can understand his
wakefulness—he announced his engagement to
Miss Mabel Lawrence to me last evening, and a
young man is not expected to woo sleep easily
after taking such an important step as that.
Judge Lawrence sent for him a few hours ago to
come and support Miss Mabel during the trial that
the day is to bring them in the, death of Mrs.
Lawrence. The physician has predicted the poor
invalid’s near end. Sorrow follows close on joy
in this life."

    There was a moment’s silence; then Miss Du-
mont said: " I think I will try to get a little
sleep now, madame. I thank you for your kind
interest in me.

    The Baroness descended to her room humming
an air from an old opera, and settled to the task
of removing as much as possible all evidences of
fatigue and sleeplessness from her countenance.

    It has been said very prettily of the spruce tree,
that it keeps the secret of its greenness well; so
well that we hardly know when it sheds its leaves.
There are women who resemble the spruce in their
perennial youth, and the vigilance with which

 

46                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

they guard the secret of it. The Baroness was one
of these. Only her mirror shared this secret.
She was an adept at the art of preservation, and
greatly as she disliked physical exertion, she toiled
laboriously over her own person an hour at least
every day, and never employed a maid to assist
her. One’s rival might buy one’s maid, she rea-
soned, and it was well to have no confidant in
these matters.

    She slipped off her dressing-gown and corset,
and set herself to the task of pinching and maul-
ing her throat, arms and shoulders, to remove su-
perfluous flesh, and strengthen muscles and fibers
to resist the flabby tendencies which time produces.
    Then she used the dumb-bells vigorously for fif-
teen minutes, and that was followed by five min-
utes of relaxation. Next she lay on the floor flat
upon her face, her arms across her back, and lifted
her head and chest twenty-five times. This exer-
cise Was to replace flesh with muscle across the
abdomen. Then she rose to her feet, set her small
heels together, turned her toes out squarely, and
keeping. her body upright, bent her knees out in a
line with her hips, sinking and rising rapidly fif-
teen times. This produced pliancy of the body,
and induced a healthy condition of the loins and
adjacent organs.

    To further fight against the deadly enemy of

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        47

 

obesity, she lifted her arms above her head slowly
until she touched her finger tips, at the same
time rising upon her tiptoes, while she inhaled a
long breath, and as slowly dropped to her heels,
and lowered her arms while she exhaled her breath.
    While these exercises bad been taking place, a till
cup of water had been coming to the boiling point
over an alcohol lamp. This was now poured into
a china bowl containing a small quantity of sweet
milk, which was always brought on her breakfast tray.

    The Baroness seated herself before her
mirror, in a glare of cruel light which revealed
every blemish in her complexion, every line about
the mouth and eyes.

    " You are really hideously passee, mon amie,"
she observed as she peered at herself searchingly ;
" but we will remedy all that.

    Dipping a soft linen handkerchief in the bowl
of steaming milk and water, she applied it to her
face, holding it closely over the brow and eyes,
and about the mouth, until every pore was sat-
urated and every weary drawn tissue fed and
strengthened by the tonic, After this she dashed
ice-cold water over her face. Still there were
little folds at the corners of the eyelids, and an
ugly line across the brow, and these were manip-
ulated with painstaking care, and treated with

 

48                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

mysterious Oils and fragrant astringents and final-
ly washed in cool toilet water and lightly brushed
with powder, until at the end of an hour’s labor,
the face of the Baroness bad resumed its rose-leaf
bloom and transparent smoothness for which she
was so famous. And when by the closest inspec-
tion at her mirror in the broadest light, she saw
no flaw in skin, hair, or teeth, the Baroness pro-
ceeded to dress for a drive. Even the most jeal-
ous rival would have been obliged to concede that
she looked like a woman of twenty—eight, that
most fascinating of all ages, as she took her seat
in the carriage.

    In the early days of her life in Beryngford, when
as the Baroness Le Fevre she had led society in
the little town, Mrs. Lawrence had been one of
her most devoted friends, Judge Lawrence one
of her most earnest, if silent admirers. As " Bar-
oness Brown" and as the landlady of the " Pal-
ace" she had still maintained her position as
friend of the family, and the Lawrences, secure in
their wealth and power, bad allowed her to do so,
where some, of the lower social lights had dropped
her from their visiting lists.

    The Baroness seemed to exercise a sort of hyp-
notic power over the fretful, nervous invalid who
shared, Judge Lawrence’s name, and this influence
was not wholly lost upon the Judge himself, who

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        49

 

never looked upon the Baroness’ abundant charms,
glowing with health, without giving vent to a pro-
found sigh like some hungry child standing before
a confectioner’s window.

    The news of Mrs. Lawrence’s dangerous illness
was voiced about the town by noon, and there-
fore the Baroness felt safe in calling at the door
to make inquiries, and to offer any assistance
which she might be able to render. Knowing her
intimate relations with the mistress of the house,
the servant admitted her to the parlor and an-
nounced her presence to Judge Lawrence, who left
the bedside of the invalid to tell the caller in per-
son that Mrs. Lawrence bad fallen into a peaceful
slumber, and that slight hopes were entertained
of her possible recovery. Scarcely had the words
passed his lips, however, when the nurse in attend-
ance hurriedly called him. " Mrs. Lawrence is
dead!" she cried. "She breathed only twice after
you left the room."

    The Baroness, shocked and startled, rose to go,
feeling that her presence longer would be an in-
trusion.

    " Do not go," cried the Judge in tones of dis-
tress. " Mabel is nearly distracted, and this news
will excite her still further. We thought this
morning that she was on the verge of serious men-
tal disorder. I sent for her fiance, Mr. Cheney,

 

50                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

and he has calmed her somewhat. You always ex-
erted a soothing and restful influence over my
wife, and you may have the same power with
Mabel. Stay with us, I beg of you, through the
afternoon at least.

    The Baroness sent her carriage home and re-
mained in the Lawrence mansion until the follow-
ing morning. The condition of Miss Lawrence
was indeed serious. She passed from one attack
of hysteria to another, and it required the con-
stant attention of her fiance and her mother’s
friend to keep her from acts of violence.

    It was after midnight when she at last fell
asleep, and Preston Cheney in a state of complete
exhaustion was shown to a room, while the Bar-
oness remained at the bedside of Miss Lawrence.
When the Baroness and Mr. Cheney returned to
the Palace they were struck with consternation to
learn that Miss Dumont had packed her trunk and
departed from Beryngford on the three o’clock
train the previous day.

    A brief note thanking the Baroness for her, kind-
ness, and stating that she had imposed upon that
kindness quite too long, was her only farewell.

There was no allusion to her plans or her desti-
nation, and all inquiry and secret search failed to
find one trace of her. She seemed to vanish like
a phantom from the face of the earth.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        51

 

    No one had seen her leave the Palace, save the
laundress, Mrs. Connor; and little this humble
personage dreamed that Fate was reserving for her
an important role in the drama of a life as yet
unborn.





CHAPTER VI.

 

    WHATEVER hope of escape from his self-imposed
bondage Preston Cheney had entertained when be
began the note to his fiancee which the Baroness
had read, completely vanished during the weeks
which followed the death of Mrs. Lawrence.

    Mabel’s nervous condition was alarming, and
her father seemed to rely wholly upon his future
son-in-law for courage and moral support during
the trying ordeal. Like most large men of strong
physique, Judge Lawrence was as helpless as an
infant in the presence of an ailing woman;
and his experience as the husband of a wife whose
nerves were the only notable thing about her, had
given him an absolute terror of feminine invalids.

    Mabel bad never been very fond of her mother ;
she had not been a loving or a dutiful daughter.
A petulant child and an irritable, fault-finding
young woman, who had often been devoid of sym-
pathy for her parents, she now exhibited such an
excess of grief over the death of her mother that
her reason seemed to be threatened.

52

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        53

 

    It was, in fact, quite as much anger as grief
which caused her nervous paroxysms. Mabel
Lawrence had never since her infancy known what
it was to be thwarted in a wish. Both parents had
been slaves to her slightest caprice and she had
ruled the household with a look or a word. Death
had suddenly deprived her of a mother who was
necessary to her comfort and to whose presence
she was accustomed, and her heart was full of
angry resentment at the fate which had dared to
take away a member of her household. It had
never entered her thoughts that death could dev-
astate her home.

    Other people lost fathers and mothers, of course ;
but that Mabel Lawrence could be deprived of a
parent seemed incredible. Anger is a strong in-
gredient in the excessive grief of every selfish
nature.

    Preston Cheney became more and more disheart-
ened with the prospect of his future, as he studied
the character and temperament of his fiancee dur-
ing her first weeks of loss.

    But the net which be had woven was closing
closer and closer about him, and every day he
became more hopelessly entangled in its meshes.
At the end of one month, the family physician
decided that travel and change of air and scene
was an imperative necessity for Miss Lawrence.

 

54                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Judge Lawrence was engaged in some important
legal matters which rendered an extended journey
impossible for him. To trust Mabel in the hands
of hired nurses alone, was not advisable. It was
her father who suggested an early marriage and
a European trip for bride and groom, as the wisest
expedient under the circumstances.

    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 ap-
proaching, 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 flow to her even
knowing that be left disgrace and death behind
him. He realized that he now owed 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 bad 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 time, and
so the days passed, and be married Mabel Law-
rence two months after the death of her mother,

 

    AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       55

 

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 nerv-
ous 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 fur-
ther 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 slum-
ber 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 endeavor 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 na-
ture, 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

 
 

56                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

caused Preston the greatest astonishment and
Mabel some hours of hysterical weeping. This
letter was written by Judge Lawrence and an-
nounced 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 aston-
ished eyes, revealed a whole volume of love’s love.

    It is in the second reading of their hearts
that the majority of men find the most interest-
ing literature.

    Before the Baroness bad been three months his
wife, the long years of martyrdom he had endured
as the husband of Mabel’s mother seemed like a
nightmare dream to Judge Lawrence; and all of
life, hope and happiness was embodied in the
woman who ruled his destiny with a hypnotic
sway no one could dispute, yet a woman whose
heart still throbbed with a stubborn and lawless
passion for the man who called her husband father.





CHAPTER VII.

 

    MORE than two decades had passed since Preston
Cheney followed the dictates of his ambition and
married Mabel Lawrence.

    Many of his early hopes and desires had been
realized during these years. He had attained to
high political positions; and honor and wealth
were his to enjoy Yet Senator Cheney, as he was
now known, was far from a happy man. Disap-
pointment was written in every lineament of his
face, restlessness and discontent spoke in his every
movement, and at times the spirit of despair
seemed to look from the depths of his eyes.

    To a man of any nobility of nature, there can
be small satisfaction in honors which be knows
are bought with money and bribes; and to the
proud young American there was the additional
sting of knowing that even the money by which
his honors were purchased was not his own.

    It was the second Mrs. Lawrence (still desig-
nated as the " Baroness" by her stepdaughter and
by old acquaintances) to whom Preston owed the
constant reminder of his dependence upon the

57

 
 

58                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

purse of his father-in-law. In those subtle, occult
ways known only to a jealous and designing na-
ture, the Baroness found it possible to, make Pres-
ton’s, life a torture, without revealing her weapons
of warfare to her husband; indeed, without allow-
ing him to even smell the powder while she still
kept up a constant small fire upon the helpless
enemy.

    Owing to the fact that Mabel had come as com-
pletely under the hypnotic influence of the Baron-
ess as the first Mrs. Lawrence had been during her
lifetime, Preston was subjected to a great deal
more of her persecutions than would otherwise
have been possible. Mabel was never happier than
when enjoying the companionship of her new
mother; a condition of things which pleased the
Judge as much as it made his son-in-law miserable.

    With a malicious adroitness possible only to such
a woman as the second Mrs. Lawrence, she en-
deared herself to Mrs. Cheney by a thousand flat-
tering and caressing ways, and by a constant
exhibition of sympathy, which to a weak and selfish
nature is as pleasing as it is distasteful to the
proud and strong. And by this inexhaustible flow
of sympathetic feeling, she caused the wife to
drift farther and farther away from her husband’s
influence, and to accuse him of all manner of
shortcomings and faults which bad not suggested
themselves to her own mind.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        59

 

    Mabel had not given or demanded a devoted
love when she married Preston Cheney. She was
quite satisfied to bear his name, and do the hon-
ors of his house, and to be let alone as much as
possible. It was the name, not the estate of wife-
hood she desired; and motherhood she had ac-
cepted with reluctance and distaste.

    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 husband.

    This role was one he had very willingly permit-
ted 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 step-mother
aroused a resentful consciousness of being neg-
lected. Again the Baroness would say :

 
 

60                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " 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 admira-
ble 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, realizing how superior you are to all of
his favorites." It was the insidious effect of
poisoned flattery like this, which made the Baron-
ess a ruling power in the Cheney household, and
at the same time turned an already cold and unlov-
ing 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. In-
dulged 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

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        61

 

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 ren-
dered systematic study of any kind impossible and
her twentieth birthday found her with no educa-
tion, 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 at-
tempts at music, art, or conversation.

    Judge Lawrence died when Alice was fifteen
years of age, leaving both his widow and his
daughter handsomely provided for.

    The " Baroness" not only possessed the Beryng-
ford homestead, but a house in Washington as
well; and both of these were occupied by tenants,
for Mabel insisted upon having her step-mother
dwell under her own roof. Senator Cheney had
purchased a house in New York to gratify his wife
and daughter, and it was here the family resided
when not in Washington or at the seaside resorts.
Both women wished to forget, and to make others
forget that they had ever lived in Beryngford.
They never visited the place and never referred
to it. They desired to be considered "New Yorkers"
and always spoke of themselves as such.

    The Baroness was now hopelessly passee. Yet it
was the revealing of the inner woman, rather

 

62                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

than the withering of the exterior, which betrayed
her years. The woman who understands the art
of bodily preservation can, with constant toil and
care, retain an appearance of youth and charm
into middle life ; but she who would pass that
dreaded meridian and still remain a goodly sight
for the eyes of men, must possess, in addition to
all the secrets of the toilet, those divine elixirs,
unselfishness, and love for humanity. Faith in
divine powers, too, and resignation to earthly ills,
must do their part to lend the fading eye luster,
and, to give a softening glow to the paling cheek.
Before middle life, it is the outer woman who is
seen; after middle life, skilled as she may be by
art and however endowed by nature, yet the inner
woman becomes visible to the least discerning
eye, and the thoughts and feelings which have
dominated her during all the past, are shown upon
her face and form like printed words upon the
open leaves of a book. That is why so many young
beauties become ugly old ladies, and why plain
faces sometimes are beautiful in age.

    The Baroness had been unremitting in the care
of her person, and she bad by this toil saved her
figure from becoming gross, retaining the upright
carriage and the tapering waist of youth, though
she was upon the verge of her sixtieth birthday.
Her complexion, too, owing to her careful diet,

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        63

 

her hours of repose, and her knowledge of skin
foods and lotions, remained smooth, fair and un-
furrowed. But the long-guarded expression in her
blue eyes of childlike innocence had given place
to the hard look of a selfish and unhappy nature,
and the lines about the small mouth accented the
expression of the eyes.

    It was, despite its preservation of Nature’s gifts,
and despite its forced smiles, the face of a selfish,
cruel pessimist, disappointed in her past and with
no uplifting faith to brighten the future.

    The Baroness had been the wife of Judge Law-
rence a number of years, before she relinquished
her hopes of one day making Preston Cheney re-
spond to the passion which burned unquenched in
her breast. It bad been with the idea of augment-
ing the interests of the man whom she believed to
be her future lover, that she aided and urged on
her husband in his efforts to procure place and
honor for his son-in-law.

    It was this idea which caused her to widen the
breach between wife and husband by every subtle
means in her power; and it was when this idea
began to lose color and substance and drop away
among the wreckage of past hopes, that the Bar-
oness ceased to compliment and began to taunt
Preston Cheney with his dependence upon his
father-in-law, and to otherwise goad and torment

 

64                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

the unhappy man. And Preston Cheney grew into
the habit of staying anywhere longer than at
home.

    During the last ten years the Baroness had
seemed to abandon all thoughts of gallant adven-
ture. When the woman who has found life and
pleasures only in coquetry and conquest, is forced
to relinquish these delights, she becomes either
very devout or very malicious.

    The Baroness was devoid of religious feelings,
and she became, therefore, the most bitter and
caustic of cynical critics at heart, though she
guarded her expression of these sentiments from
policy.

    Yet to Mabel she expressed herself freely,
knowing that her listener enjoyed no conversa-
tion so much as that of gossip and criticism. A
beautiful or attractive woman was the target
for her most cruel shafts of sarcasm, and indeed
no woman was safe from her secret malice save
Mabel and Alice, over whom she found it a great-
er pleasure to exercise her hypnotic control. For
Alice, indeed, the Baroness entertained a peculiar
affection. The fact that she was the child of the
man to whom she bad given the strongest passion
of her life, and the girl’s lack of personal beauty,
and her unfortunate physical condition, awoke a
medley of love, pity and protection in the heart
of this strange woman.





CHAPTER VIII.

 

    THE BARONESS bad always been a church- going
woman, yet she had never united with any church,
or subscribed to any creed.

    Religious observance was only an implement of
social warfare with her. Wherever her lot was
cast, she made it her business to discover which
church the fashionable people of the town fre-
quented, and, to become a familiar and liberal-
handed personage in that edifice.

    Judge Lawrence and his family were High
Church Episcopalians, and the second Mrs. Law-
rence slipped gracefully into the pew vacated by
the first, and became a much more important
feature in the congregation, owing to her good
health and extreme desire for popularity. Mabel
and Alice were devout believers in the orthodox
dogmas which have taken the place of the simple
teachings of Christ in so many of our churches to-
day. They believed that people who did not go
to church would stand a very poor chance of heav-
en; and that a strict observance of a Sunday re-
ligion would insure them a passport into God’s

65

 
 

66                       AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

favor. When they retired from divine service
and mangled the character and attire of their
neighbors over the Sunday dinner-table, no idea
entered their heads or hearts that they had
sinned against the Holy Ghost. The pastor of
their church knew them to be selfish, wordly-
minded women ; yet he administered the holy
sacrament to them without compunction of con-
science, and never by question or remark implied
a doubt of their true sincerity in things religious.
they believed in the creed of his church, and
they paid liberally for support of that church.
What more could he ask ?

    This had been true of the pastor in Beryngford,
and it proved equally true of their spiritual ad-
viser in Washington and in New York.

    Just across the aisle from the Lawrences sat a
rich financier, in his sumptuously cushioned pew,
During six days of each week he was engaged in
crushing life and hope out of the hearts of the poor,
under his juggernaut wheels of ,monopoly. His
name was known far and near, as that of a pow-
erful and cruel speculator, who did not hesitate
to pauperize his nearest friends if they placed
themselves in his reach. That he was a thief and
a robber, no one ever denied ; yet so colossal were
his thefts, so bold and successful his robberies,
the public gazed upon him with a sort of stupefied

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       67

 

awe, and allowed him to proceed, while miserable
tramps, who stole overcoats or robbed money
drawers, were incarcerated for a term of years,
and then sternly refused assistance afterward by
good people, who place no confidence in jail
birds.
    But each Sunday this successful robber occu-
pied his high-priced church pew, devoutly listen-
ing to the divine word.

    He never failed to partake of the holy commu-
nion, nor was his right to do so ever questioned.

    The rector of the church knew his record per-
fectly; knew that his gains were ill-gotten blood
money, ground from the suffering poor by the
power of monopoly, and from confiding fools by
smart lures and scheming tricks. But this young
clergyman, having recently been called to preside
over the fashionable church, bad no idea of being
so impolite as to refuse to administer the bread
and wine to one of its most liberal supporters !

    There were constant demands upon the treasury
of the church ; it required a vast outlay of money
to maintain the splendor and elegance of the tem-
ple which held its bead so high above many oth-
ers ; and there were large charities to be sustained,
not to mention its rector’s princely salary. The
millionaire pew-holder was a liberal giver. It
rarely occurs to the fashionable dispensers of spir-

 

68                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

itual knowledge to ask whether the devil’s money
should be used to gild the Lord’s temple; nor to
quest on if it be a wise religion which allows a
man to rob his neighbors on week days, to give
to the cause of charity on Sundays.

    And yet if every clergyman and priest in the
land were to make and maintain these standards
for their followers, there might be an astonishing
decrease in the needs of the poor and unfortunate.

    Were every church member obliged to open
his month’s ledgers to a competent jury of inspec-
tors, before be was allowed to take the holy sac-
rament and avow himself a humble follower of
Christ, what a revolution might ensue ! How church
spires would crumble for lack of support, and poor-
houses lessen in number for lack of inmates !

    But the leniency of clergyman toward the short-
comings of their wealthy parishioners is often a
touching lesson in charity to the thoughtful ob-
server who stands outside the fold.

    For how could they obtain money to convert
the heathen, unless this sweet cloak of charity
were cast over the sins of the liberal rich? Christ
is crucified by the fashionable clergymen to-day
more cruelly than He was by the Jews of old.

    Senator Cheney was not a church member, and
be seldom attended service. This was a matter of
great solicitude to his wife and daughter.  The

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                       69

 

Baroness felt it to be a mistake on the part of
Senator Cheney, and even Judge Lawrence, who
adored his son-in-law, regretted the young man’s
indifference to things spiritual. But with all Pres-
ton Cheney’s worldly ambitions and weaknesses,
there was a vein of sincerity in his nature which
forbade his feigning a faith he did not feel ; and
the daily lives of the three feminine members of
his family were so in disaccord with his views of
religion that he felt no incentive to follow in
their footsteps. Judge Lawrence he knew to be an
honest, loyal-hearted, God and humanity loving
man, " A true Christian by nature and educa-
tion," be said of his in-law-in-law, " but I am not
born with his tendency to religious observance,
and I see less and less in the churches to lead me
into the fold. It seems to me that these religious
institutions are getting to be vast monopolistic
corporations like the railroads and oil trusts, and
the like. I see very little of the spirit of Christ
in orthodox people to-day."

    Meanwhile Senator Cheney’s purse was always
open to any demand the church made; be believed
in churches as benevolent if not soul-saving in-
stitutions, and cheerfully aided their charitable
work.

    The rector of St. Blanks, the fashionable edifice
where the ladies of the Cheney household obtained

 

70                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

spiritual manna in New York, died when Alice
was sixteen years old. He was a good old man,
and a sincere Episcopalian, and whatever origin-
ality of thought or expression be may have
lacked, his strict observance of the High Church
codes of ethics maintained the tone of his church
and rendered him an object of reverence to his
congregation. His successor was Reverend Arthur
Emerson Stuart, a young man barely thirty years
of age, heir to a comfortable fortune, gifted with
strong intellectual powers and dowered with phys-
ical attractions.

    It was not a case of natural selection which
caused Arthur Stuart to adopt the church as a
profession. It was the result of his middle name.
Mrs. Stuart had been an Emerson—in some re-
mote way her family claimed relationship with
Ralph Waldo. Her father and grandfather and
several uncles bad been clergymen. She married
a broker, who left her a rich widow with one child,
a son. From the hour this son was born his moth-
er designed him for the clergy, and brought him
up with that idea firmly while gently fixed in his
mind.

    Whatever seed a mother plants in a young
child’s mind, carefully watches over, prunes and
waters, and exposes to sun and shade, is quite cer-
tain to grow, if the soil is not wholly stony ground.

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        71

 

    Arthur Stuart adored his mother, and stifling
some commercial instincts inherited from the pa-
rental side, be turned his attention to the minis-
try and entered upon his chosen work when only
twenty-five years of age. Eloquent, dramatic in
speech, handsome, and magnetic in person, inde-
pendent in fortune, and of excellent lineage on
the mother’s side, it was not surprising that be
was called to take charge of the spiritual welfare
of fashionable St. Blank’s Church on the death of
the old pastor; or that having taken the charge,
be became immensely popular, especially with
the ladies of his congregation. And from the first
Sabbath day when they looked up from their ex-
pensive pew into the handsome face of their new
rector, there was but one man in the world for
Mabel Cheney and her daughter Alice, and that
was the Reverend Arthur Emerson Stuart.

    It has been said by a great and wise teacher,
that we may worship the god in the human being,
but never the human being as God. This distinc-
tion is rarely drawn by women, I fear, when their
spiritual teacher is a young and handsome man.
The ladies of the Rev. Arthur Stuart’s congrega-
tion went home to dream, not of the Creator and
Maker of all things, nor of the divine Man, but
of the handsome face, stalwart form and mag-
netic voice of the young rector. They feasted their

 

72                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

eyes upon his agreeable person, rather than their
souls upon his words of salvation. Disappointed
wives, lonely spinsters and romantic girls be
lieved they were coming nearer to spiritual truths
in their increased desire to attend service, while
in fact they were merely drawn nearer to a very
attractive male personality.

    There was not the holy flame in the young cler-
gyman’s own heart to ignite other souls; but his
strong magnetism was perceptible to all, and they
did not realize the difference. And meantime the
church grew and prospered amazingly.

    It was observed by the congregation of St.
Blanks Church, shortly after the advent of the
new rector, that a new organist also occupied the
organ loft; and inquiry elicited the fact that the
old man who had officiated in that capacity dur-
ing many years, bad been retired on a pension,
while a young lady who needed the position and
the salary bad been chosen to fill the vacancy.

    That the change was for the better could not
be questioned. Never before bad such music
pealed forth under the tall spires of St. Blank’s.
The new organist seemed inspired; and many peo-
ple in the fashionable congregation, hearing that
this wonderful musician was a young woman, lin-
gered near the church door after service to catch
a glimpse of her as she descended from the loft.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        73

 

    A goodly sight she was, indeed, for human eyes
to gaze upon. Young, of medium height and per-
fect symmetry of shape, her blonde hair and satin
skin and eyes of velvet darkness were but her
lesser charms. That which riveted the gaze of
every beholder, and drew all eyes to her wherever
she passed, was her air of radiant health and hap-
piness, which emanated from her like the perfume
from a flower.

    A sad countenance may render a heroine of ro-
mance attractive in a book, but in real life there
is no charm at once so rare and so fascinating as
happiness. Did you ever think bow few faces of
the grown up, however young, are really happy in
expression? Discontent, restlessness, longing,
unsatisfied ambition, or ill health mar ninety and
nine of every hundred faces we meet in the daily
walks of life. When we look upon a countenance
which sparkles with health and absolute joy in
life, we turn and look again and yet again,
charmed and fascinated, though we do not know
why.

    It was such a face that Joy Irving, the new or-
ganist of St. Blank’s Church, flashed upon the peo-
ple who bad lingered near the door to see her pass
out. Among those who lingered was the Baroness ;
and all day she carried about with her the mem-
ory of that sparkling countenance; and strive as

 

74                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

she would, she could not drive away a vague,
strange uneasiness which the sight of that face
bad caused her.

    Yet a vision of youth and beauty always made
the Baroness unhappy, now that both blessings
were irrevocably lost to her.

    This particular young face, however, stirred
her with those half-painful, half-pleasurable
emotions which certain perfumes awake in us—
vague reminders of joys lost or unattained, of
dreams broken or unrealized. Added to this, it re-
minded her of some one she bad known, yet she
could not place the resemblance.

    " Oh to be young and beautiful like that !" she
sighed as she buried her face in her pillow that
night. " And since I cannot be, if only Alice had
that girl’s face. "

    And because Alice did not have it, the Baroness
went to sleep with a feeling of bitter resentment
against its possessor, the beautiful young organist
of St. Blank’s.





CHAPTER IX.

 

    UP in the loft of St. Blank’s Church the young
organist had been practicing the whole morning.
People paused on the street to listen to the glori-
ous Pounds, and were thrilled by them, as one is
thrilled when the strong personality of the
player enters into the execution.

    Down into the committee-room, where several
deacons and the young rector were seated discuss-
ing some question pertaining to the well-being of
the church, the music penetrated too, Causing the
business which had brought them together, to be
suspended. temporarily.

    " It is a sin to talk while music like that can be
heard," remarked one man. " You have found a
genius in this new organist, Rector. "

    The young man nodded silently, his eyes half
closed with an expression of somewhat sensuous
enjoyment of the throbbing chords which vibrated
in perfect unison with the beating of his strong
pulses.

    " Where does she come from ?" asked the deacon
as a pause in the music occurred.

75

 
 

76                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " Her father was an earnest and prominent
member of the little church down-town of which
I had charge during several years," replied the
young man. " Miss Irving was scarcely more than
a child when she volunteered her services as or-
ganist. The position brought her no remunera-
tion, and at that time she did not need it. Young
as she was, the girl Was one of the most active
workers among the poor, and I often met her in
my visits to the sick and unfortunate. She had
been a musical prodigy from the cradle, and Mr.
Irving bad given her every advantage to study
and perfect her art.

    " I was naturally much interested in her. Mr.
Irving’s long illness left his wife and daughter
without means of support, at his death, and when
I was called to take charge of St. Blanks, I at
once realized the benefit to the family as well as
to my church could I secure the young lady the
position here as organist. I am glad that my con-
gregation seem so well satisfied with my choice."

    Again the organ pealed forth, this time in that
passionate music originally written for the Gar-
den Scene in " Faust," and which the church has
boldly taken and arranged as a quartette to the
words, " Come unto me."

    It may be that to some who listen, it is the Di-
vine spirit which makes its appeal through those

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        77

 

stirring strains; but to the rector of St. Blank’s, at
least on that morning, it was human heart, calling
unto human heart. Mr. Stuart I and the deacons
sat silently drinking in the music. At length the
rector rose. " I think perhaps we had better drop
the matter under discussion for to-day," he said.
" We can meet here Monday evening at five o’clock
if agreeable to you all, and finish the details.
There are other and more important affairs waiting
for me now."

    The deacons departed, and the young rector
sank back in his chair, and gave himself up to the
enjoyment of the sounds which flooded not only
the room, but his brain, heart and soul.

    " Queer," he said to himself as the door closed
behind the human pillars of his church, " Queer,
but I felt as if the presence of those men was an
intrusion upon something belonging personally
to me. I wonder why I am so peculiarly affected
by this girl’s music ? It arouses my brain to ac-
tion, it awakens ambition and gives me courage
and hope, and yet—" he paused before allowing
his feeling to shape itself into thoughts. Then.
closing his eyes and clasping his hands behind his
head while the music surged about him, he lay
back in his easy chair as a bather might lie back
and float upon the water, and his unfinished
sentence took shape thus: " And yet Stronger
than all other feelings which her music arouses

 

78                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

in me, is the desire to possess the musician for
my very own forever; ah, well I the Roman Catho-
lics are wise in not allowing their priests and
their nuns to listen to all even so-called sacred
music."

    It was perhaps ten, minutes later that Joy Ir-
ving became conscious that she was not alone in
the organ loft. She bad neither beard nor seen
his entrance, but she felt the presence of her rec-
tor, and turned to find him silently watching her.
She played her phrase to the end, before she
greeted him with other than a smile. Then
she apologized, saying: " Even one’s rector
must wait for a musical phrase to reach its
period. Angels may interrupt the rendition
of a great work, but not man. That were
sacrilege. You see I was really praying, when you
entered, though my heart spoke through my fin-
gers instead of my lips."

    " You need Dot apologize," the young man an-
swered. " One who receives your smile would be
ungrateful indeed if be asked for more. That
alone would render the darkest spot radiant with
light and welcome to me."

    The girl’s pink cheek flushed crimson, like a
rose bathed in the sunset colors of the sky.

    " I did not think you were a man to coin pretty
speeches," she said.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        79

 

    " Your estimate of me was a wise one. You read
human nature correctly. But come and walk in the
park with me. You will overtax yourself if you
practice any longer. The sunlight and the air are
vying with each other to-day to see which can be
the most intoxicating. Come and enjoy their
sparring match with me; I want to talk to you
about one of my unfortunate -parishioners. It is
a peculiarly pathetic case. I think you can help
and advise me in the matter."

    It was a superb morning in early October. New
York was like a beautiful woman arrayed in her
fresh autumn costume, disporting herself before
admiring eyes.

    Absorbed in each other’s society, their pulses
beating high with youth, love and health, the
young couple walked through the crowded avenues
of the great city, as happily and as naturally as
Adam and Eve might have walked in the Garden
of Eden the morning after Creation.

    Both were city born and city bred, yet both were
as unfashionable and untrammeled by customs
as two children of the plains.

    In the very heart of the greatest metropolis in
America, there are people who live and retain all
the primitive simplicity of village life and thought.
Mr. Irving had been one of these. Coming to New
York from an interior village when a young man,

 

80                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

he had, through simple and quiet tastes and religi-
ous convictions, kept himself wholly free from
the social life of the city in which he lived. After
his marriage his entire happiness lay in his home,
and Joy was reared by parents who made her world.
Mrs. Irving sympathized fully with her husband
in his distaste for society, and her delicate health
rendered her almost a recluse from the world.

    A few pleasant acquaintances, no intimates,
music, books, and a large share of her time given
to charitable work, composed the life of Joy Ir-
ving.

    She had never been in a fashionable assemblage ;
she had never attended a theater, as Mr. Irving
did not approve of them.

    Extremely fond of outdoor life, she walked,
unattended, wherever her mood led her. As she
had no acquaintances among society people, she
knew nothing and cared less for the rules which
govern the promenading habits of young women
in New York. Her sweet face and graceful figure
were well known among the poorer quarters of the
city, and it was through her work in such places
that Arthur Stuart’s attention had first been called
to her.

    As for him, he was filled with that high, but
not always wise disdain for society and its cus-
toms, which we so often find in town bred young

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        81

 

men of intellectual pursuits. He was clean-minded,
independent, sure of his own purposes, and wholly
indifferent to the opinions of inferiors regarding
his habits.

    He loved the park, and be asked Joy to walk
with him there, as freely as be would have asked
her to sit with him in a conservatory. It was a
great delight to the Young girl to go.

    " It seems such a pity that the women of New
York get so little benefit from this beautiful park, "
she said as they strolled along through the wind-
ing paths together. " The wealthy people enjoy
it in a way from their carriages, and the poor
people no doubt derive new life from their Sunday
promenades here, But there are thousands like
myself who are almost wholly debarred from its
pleasures. I have always wanted to walk here,
but once I came and a rude man in a carriage
spoke to me. Mother told me never to come alone
again. It seems strange to me that men who are
so proud of their strength, and who should be the
natural protectors of woman, can belittle them-
selves by annoying or frightening her when alone.
I am sure. that same man would never think of
speaking to me now that I am with you. How
cowardly be seems when you think of it I Yet I
am told there are many like him, though that was
my only experience of the kind."

 
 

82                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " Yes, there are many like him," the rector an-
swered. " But you must remember bow short a
time man has been evolving from a lower animal
condition to his present state, and bow much high-
er he is to-day than be was a hundred years ago
even when occasional drunkenness was considered
an attribute of a gentleman. Now it is a vice of
which be is ashamed."

    " Then you believe in evolution ?" Joy asked
with a note of surprise in her voice.

    " Yes, I surely do ; nor does the belief conflict
with my religious faith. I believe in many things
I could not preach from my pulpit. My congre-
gation is not ready for broad truths. I am like
an eclectic physician—I suit my treatment to my
patient—I administer the old school or the new
school medicaments as the case demands."

    " It seems to me there can be but One school in
spiritual matters," Joy said gravely—" the right
one. And I think one should preach and teach
what he believes to be true and right, no matter
what his congregation demands. Oh, forgive me !
I am very rude to Speak like that to you !" And
she blushed and paled with fright at her boldness.

    They were seated on a rustic bench now, under
the shadow of a great tree.

    The rector smiled, his eyes fixed with pleased
satisfaction on the girl’s beautiful face, with its

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        83

 

changing color and expression. He felt he could
well afford to be criticised or rebuked by her, if
the result was so gratifying to his sight. The
young rector of St. Bank’s lived very much more
in his senses than in his ideals,

    " Perhaps you are right," be said. " I some-
times wish I had greater courage of my convic-
tions. I think I could have, were you to stimulate
me with such words often. But my mother is so
afraid that I will wander from the old dogmas,
that I am constantly checking myself. However, in
regard to the case I mentioned to you—it is a del-
icate subject, but you are not like ordinary young
women, and you and I have stood beside so many
sick-beds and death-beds together that we can
speak as man to man, or woman to woman, with
no false modesty to bar our speech.

    " A very sad case has come to my knowledge of
late; Miss Adams, a woman who for some years
has been a devout member of St. Blank’s Church,
has several times mentioned her niece to me, a
young girl who was away at boarding school. A
few months ago the young girl graduated and came
to live with this aunt. I remember her as a bright,
buoyant, and very intelligent girl. I have not
seen her now during two months; and last week
I asked Miss Adams what bad become of her niece.
Then the poor woman broke into sobs and told me

 

84                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

the sad state of affairs. It seems that the girl
Marah is her daughter. The poor mother had
believed she could guard the truth from her child,
and bad educated her as her niece, and was now
prepared to enjoy her companionship, when some
mischief-making gossip dug up the old scandal
and imparted the facts to Marah.

    " The girl came to Miss Adams and demanded
the truth, and the mother confessed. Then the
daughter settled into a profound melancholy, from
which nothing seemed to rouse her. ‘She will not
go out, remains in the house, and broods constant-
ly over her disgrace.

    " It occurred to me that if Marah Adams could
be brought out of herself and interested in some
work, or study, it would be the salvation of her
reason. Her mother told me she is an accom-
plished musician, but that she refuses to touch her
piano now. I thought you might take her as an
understudy on the organ, and by your influence
and association lead her out of herself. You
could make her acquaintance through approach-
ing the mother, who is a milliner, on business, and
your tact would do the rest. In all my large and
wealthy congregation I know of no other woman
to whom I could appeal for aid in this delicate
matter, so I am sure you will pardon me. In
fact, I fear were the matter to be known in the

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        85

 

congregation at all, it would lead to renewed pain
and added hurts for both Miss Adams and her
daughter. You know women can be so cruel to
each other in subtle ways, and I have seen. almost
death-blows dealt in church aisles by one church
member to another. "

    " Oh, that is a terrible reflection on Christians,"
cried Joy, who, a born Christ-woman, believed
that all professed church members must feel the
same divine spirit of sympathy and charity which
burned in her own sweet soul.

    " No, it is a simple truth-an unfortunate fact,"
the young man replied. " I preach sermons at
such members of my church, but they seldom take
them home. They think I mean somebody else.
These are the people who follow the letter and not
the spirit of the church. But one such member
as you, recompenses me, for a score of the others.
I felt I must come to you with the Marah Adams
affair. "

    Joy was still thinking of the reflection the rec-
tor had cast upon his congregation. It hurt her,
and she protested.

    " Oh, surely," she said, " you cannot mean that
I am the only one of the professed Christians in
your church who would show mercy and sympathy
to poor Miss Adams. Surely few, very few would
forget Christ’s words to Mary Magdalene, ‘Go and

 

86                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

sin no more, ’ or fail to forgive as He forgave.
She has led such a good life all these years. "

    The rector smiled sadly.

    " You judge others by your own true heart, " he
said. " But I know the world as it is. Yes, the
members of my church would forgive Miss Adams
for her sin-and cut her dead. They would daily
crucify her and her innocent child by their cold
scorn or utter ignoring of them. They would not
allow their daughters to associate with this blame-
less girl, because of her mother’s misstep.

    " It is the same in and out of the churches.
Twenty people will repeat Christ’s words to a
repentant sinner, but nineteen of that twenty in-
terpolate a few words of their own, through tone,
gesture, or manner, until ‘Go and sin no more’
sounds to the poor unfortunate more like ‘Go just
as far away from me and mine as you can get—
and sin no more !’ Only one in that score puts
Christ’s merciful and tender meaning into the
phrase, and tries by sympathetic association to
make it possible for the sinner to sin no more. I
felt you were that one, and so I appealed to you
in this matter about Marah Adams."

    Joy’s eyes were full of tears. " You must know
more of human nature than I do," she said, " but
I hate terribly to think you are right in this esti-
mate of the people of your congregation I will

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN            87

 

go and see what I can do for this girl to-morrow.
Poor child, poor mother, to pass through a second
Gethsemane for her sin. I think any girl or boy
whose home life is shadowed, is to be pitied. I have
always bad such a happy home, and such dear
parents, the world would seem insupportable, I
am sure, were I to face it without that background.
Dear papa’s death was a great blow, and mother’s
ill health has been a sorrow, but we have always
been so happy and harmonious, and that, I think,
is worth more than a fortune to a child. Poor,
poor Marah—unable to respect her mother, what
a terrible thing it all is !"

    " Yes, it is a sad affair. I cannot help thinking
it would have been a pardonable lie if Miss Adams
had denied the truth when the girl confronted her
with the story. It is the one situation in life where
a lie is excusable, I think. It would have saved this
poor girl no end of sorrow, and it could not have
added much to the mother’s burden. I think lying
must have originated with an erring woman. "

    Joy looked at her rector with startled eyes. " A
lie is never excusable," she said, " and I do not
believe it ever saves sorrow. But I see you do not
mean what you say, you only feel very sorry for
the girl; and you surely do not forget that the
lie originated with Satan, who told a falsehood-
to Eve."





CHAPTER X.

 

    EVER since early girlhood Joy Irving had
formed a habit of jotting down in black and white
her own ideas regarding any book, painting, con-
cert, conversation or sermon, which interested
her, and epitomizing the train of thought to
which they led.

    The evening after her walk and talk with the
rector of St. Blank’s, she took out her note book,
which bore a date four years old under its title
" My Impression," and read over the last page of
entries. They bad evidently been written at the
close of some Sabbath day, and ran as follows:

    Many a kneeling woman is more occupied with
how her skirts hang than how her prayers ascend.
I am inclined to think we all ought to wear a uni-
form to church if we would really worship there.
God must grow weary looking down on so many
new bonnets.

    I wore a smart hat to church to-day, and I found
myself criticising every other woman’s bonnet
during service, so that I failed in some of my re-
sponses.

    If we could all be compelled by some mysteri-

88

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        89

 

ous power to think aloud on Sunday, what a veri-
table holy day we would make of it !—Though we
are taught from childhood that God hears our
thoughts, the best of us would be afraid to have
our nearest friends know them.

    I sometimes think it is a presumption on the
part of any man to rise in the pulpit ‘and under-
take to tell me about a Creator with whom I feel
every whit as well acquainted as lie. I suppose such
thoughts are wicked, however, and should be. sup-
pressed.

    It is a curious fact, that the most aggressively
sensitive persons are at heart the most conceited.
    I wish people smiled more in church aisles. In
fact, I think we all laugh at one another too much
and smile at one another too seldom.

    After the devil had made all the trouble for
woman be could with the fig leaf, he introduced
the French heel.

    It is well to see the ridiculous side! of things,
but not of people.

    Most of us would rather be popular than right.

——

    To these impressions Joy added the following:

    It is not the interior of one’s house, but the in-
terior of one’s mind which makes home.

    It seems to me that to be, is to love. I can
conceive of no state of existence which is not per-
meated with this feeling toward something, some-
body or the illimitable " nothing" which is mother
to everything.

 
 

90                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    I wish we had more religion in the world and
fewer churches.

    People who believe in no God, invariably exalt
themselves into His position, and worship with
the very idolatry they decry in others.

    Music is the echo of the rhythm of God’s respira-
tions.

    Poetry is the effort of the divine part of man to
formulate a worthy language in which to converse
with angels.

    Painting and sculpture seem to me the most
presumptuous of the arts. They are an effort of
man to outdo God in creation. He never made
a perfect form or face-the artist alone makes
them.

    I am Sure I do not play the organ as well at St.
Blank’s as I played it in the little church where I
gave my services and was unknown. People are
praising me too much here, and this mars all spon-
taneity.

    The very first hour of positive success is often
the last hour of great achievement, So. soon as
we are conscious of the admiring and expectant
gaze of men, we cease to commune with God. It
is when we are unknown to or neglected by mor-
tals, that we reach up to the Infinite and are in-
spired.

    I have seen Marah Adams to-day, and I felt
strangely drawn to her. Her face would express
all goodness if it were not so unhappy. Unhap-
piness is a species of evil, since it is a discourtesy
to God to be unhappy.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        91

 

    I am going to do all I can for the girl I to bring
her into a better frame of mind. No blame can
be attached to her, and yet now that I am face to
face with the situation, and realize how the world
regards such a *person I myself find it a little hard
to think of braving public opinion and identifying
myself with her. But, I am going to overcome
such feelings, as they are cowardly and unworthy
of me, and purely the result of education. I am
amazed, too, to discover this weakness in myself.
    How sympathetic dear mamma is ! I told her
about Marah, and she wept bitterly, and has car-
ried her eyes full of tears ever Since. I must be
careful and tell her nothing sad while she is in
such a weak state physically.

    I told mamma what the rector said about lying.
She coincided with him that Mrs. Adams would
have been justified in denying the truth if she had
realized how her daughter was to be affected by this
knowledge. A woman’s past belongs only to her-
self and her God, she says, unless she wishes to
make a confidant. But I cannot agree with her or
the rector. I would want the truth from my par-
ents, however much it hurt. Many sins which
men regard as serious only obstruct the bridge
between our souls and truth. A lie burns the
bridge.

    I hope I am not uncharitable, yet I cannot con-
ceive of committing an act through love of any
man, which would lower me in his esteem, once
committed. Yet of course I have had little ex-
perience in life, with men, or with temptation.
But it Seems to me I could not continue to love a
man who did not seek to lead me higher. The
moment be stood before me and asked me to de-

 

92                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

scend, I should realize be was to be pitied—not
adored.

    I told mother this, and she said I was too young
and inexperienced to form decided Opinions on
such subjects, and she warned me that I must not
become uncharitable. She wept bitterly as she
thought of my becoming narrow or bigoted in my
ideas, dear, tender-hearted mamma.

    Death should be called the Great Revealer in-
stead of the Great Destroyer.

    Some people think the way into heaven is
through embroidered altar cloths.

    The soul that has any conception of its own
possibilities does not fear solitude.

    A girl told me to-day that a rude man annoyed
her by staring at her in a public conveyance. It
never occurred to her that it takes four eyes to
make a stare annoying.

    Astronomers know more about the character of
the stars than the average American mother about
the temperament of her daughters.

    To some women the most terrible thought con-
nected with death is the dates in the obituary
notice.

    As a rule, when a woman opens the door of an
artistic career with one hand, she shuts the door
on domestic happiness with the other.





CHAPTER XI.

 

    THE rector of St. Blank’s Church dined at the
Cheney table or drove in the Cheney establish-
ment every week, beside which there were always
one or two confidential chats with the feminine
Cheneys in the parsonage on matters pertaining
to the welfare of the church, and occasionally to
the welfare of humanity

    That Alice Cheney bad conceived a sudden and
consuming passion for the handsome and brilliant
rector of St, Blank’s, both her mother and the
Baroness knew, and both were doing all in their
power to further the girl’s hopes.

    While Alice resembled her mother in appear-
ance and disposition, propensities and impulses
occasionally exhibited themselves which spoke of
paternal inheritance. She had her father’s strongly
emotional nature, with her mother’s stubbornness ;
and Preston Cheney’s romantic tendencies were
repeated in his daughter, without his reasoning
powers. Added to her father’s lack of self-
control in any strife with his passions, Alice
possessed her mother’s hysterical nerves. In fact,

93

 
 

94                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

the unfortunate child inherited the weaknesses
and faults of both parents, without any of their
redeeming virtues.

    The passion which bad sprung to life in her
breast for the young rector, was as strong and un-
reasoning as the infatuation which her father had
once experienced for Berene Dumont; but in-
stead of struggling against the feeling as her
father had at least attempted to do, she dwelt
upon it with all the mulish persistency which her
mother exhibited in small matters, and luxuriated
in romantic dreams of the future.

    Mabel was wholly unable to comprehend the
depth or violence of her daughter’s feelings, but
she realized the fact that Alice bad set her mind
on winning Arthur Stuart for a husband, and she
quite approved of the idea, and saw no reason why
it should not succeed. She herself had won Pres-
ton Cheney away from all rivals for his favor, and
Alice ought to be able to do the same with Arthur,
after all the money which had been expended upon
her wardrobe. Senator Cheney’s daughter and
Judge Lawrence’s granddaughter, surely was a
prize for any man to win as a wife.

    The Baroness, however, reviewed the situation
with more concern of mind. She realized that
Alice was destitute of beauty and charm, and that
Arthur Emerson Stuart (it would have been con-

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        95

 

sidered a case of high treason to speak of the rec-
tor of St. Blank’s without using his three names)
was independent in the matter of fortune, and
so dowered with nature’s best gifts that he could
have almost any woman for the asking whom he
should desire. But the Baroness believed much
in propinquity ; and she brought the rector and
Alice together as often as possible, and coached
the girl in coquettish arts when alone with her,
and credited her with witticisms and bon mots
which she bad never uttered, when talking of her
to the young rector.

    " If only I could give Alice the benefit of my
past career," the Baroness would say to herself
at times. " I know so well bow to manage men ;
but what use is my knowledge to me now that I
am old? Alice is young, and even without beauty
she could do so much, if she only understood the
art of masculine seduction. But then it is a gift,
not an acquired art, and Alice was not born
with the gift."

    While Mabel and Alice bad been centering
their thoughts and attentions on the rector, the Bar-
oness bad not forgotten the rector’s mother. She
knew the very strong affection which existed be-
tween the two, and she had discovered that the
leading desire of the young man’s heart was to
make his mother happy. With her wide knowl-

 

96                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

edge of human nature, she bad not been long in
discerning the fact that it was not because of his
own religious convictions that the rector had
chosen his calling, but to carry out the life-long
wishes of his beloved mother.

    Therefore she reasoned wisely that Arthur would
be greatly influenced by his mother in his choice
of a wife; and the Baroness brought all her vast
battery of fascination to bear on Mrs. Stuart, and
succeeded in making that lady her devoted friend.

    The widow of Judge Lawrence was still an im-
posing and impressive figure wherever she went.
Though no longer a woman who appealed to the
desires of men, she exhaled that peculiar mental
aroma which hangs ever about a woman who has
dealt deeply and widely in affairs of the heart.
It is to the spiritual senses what musk is to the
physical; and while it may often repulse, it
sometimes attracts, and never fails to be noticed.
About the Baroness’ mouth were hard lines, and
the expression of her eyes was not kind or tender ;
yet she was everywhere conceded to be a univer-
sally handsome and attractive woman. Quiet and
tasteful in her dressing, she did not accentuate
the ravages of time by any mistaken frivolities of
toilet, as so many faded coquettes have done, but
wisely suited her vestments to her appearance, as
the withering branch clothes itself in russet

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        97

 

leaves, when the fresh sap ceases to course through
its veins. New York City is a vast sepulcher of
" past careers, " and the adventurous life of the
Baroness was quietly buried there with that of
many another woman. In the mad whirl of life,
there is small danger that any Of these skeletons
will rise to view, unless the woman permits her-
self to strive for eminence either socially or in the
world of art.

    While the Cheneys were known to be wealthy,
and the Senator had achieved political position,
there was nothing in their situation to challenge
the jealousy of their associates. They moved in
one of the many circles of cultured and agreeable
people, which, despite the mandate of a McAllister,
form a varied and delightful society in the metrop-
olis ; they entertained in an unostentatious manner,
and there was nothing in their personality to incite
envy or jealousy. Therefore the career of the Bar-
oness bad not been unearthed.

    That the widow of Judge Lawrence, the step-
mother of Mrs. Cheney, was known as " The Bar-
oness" caused some questions, to be sure, but the
simple answer that she bad been the widow of a
French baron in early life served to allay curios-
ity, while it rendered the lady herself an object of
greater interest to the majority of people.

    Mrs. Stuart, the rector’s mother, was one of

 

98                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

those who were most impressed by this incident
in the life of Mrs. Lawrence. " Family pride"
was her greatest weakness, and she dearly loved a
title. She thought Mrs. Lawrence a typical " Bar-
oness," and though she knew the title bad only
been obtained through marriage, it still rendered
its possessor peculiarly interesting in her eyes.

    In her prime, the Baroness bad been equally
successful in cajoling women and men. Though
her day for ruling men was now over, she still
possessed the power to fascinate women when she
chose to exert herself. She did exert herself with
Mrs. Stuart, and succeeded admirably in her de-
sign.

    And one day Mrs. Stuart confided her secret anx-
iety to the ear of the Baroness ; and that secret
caused the cheek of the listener to grow pale, and
the look of an animal at bay to come into her
eyes.

    " There is just one thing that gives me a con-
stant pain at my heart," Mrs. Stuart had said.
" You have never been a mother, yet I think your
sympathetic nature causes you to understand much
which you have not experienced, and knowing as
you do the great pride I feel in my son’s career,
and the ambition I have for him to rise to the
very highest pinnacle of success and usefulness,
I am sure you will comprehend my anxiety when I

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        99

 

see him exbibiting an undue interest in a girl who
is in every way his inferior, and wholly unsuited
to fill the position his wife should occupy."

    The Baroness listened with a cold, sinking sen-
sation at her heart.

    I am sure your son would never make a choice
which was not agreeable to you," she ventured.

    " He might not marry any one I objected to,"
Mrs. Stuart replied, " but I dread to think his
heart may be already gone from his keeping. Young
men are so susceptible to a pretty face and figure,
and I confess that Joy Irving has both. She is a
good girl, too, and a fine musician; but she has no
family, and her alliance with my son would be a
great drawback to his career. Her father was a
grocer, I believe, or something of that sort; quite
a common man, who married a third-class actress,
Joy’s mother. Mr. Irving Was in very comfortable
circumstances at one time, but a stroke of par-
alysis rendered him helpless some four years ago.
He died last year and left his widow and child in
straitened circumstances. Mrs. Irving is an
invalid now, and Joy supports her with her music.
Mr. Irving and Joy, were members of Arthur
Emerson’s former church (Mrs. Stuart always
spoke of her son in that manner), and that is how
my son became interested in the daughter. An
interest I supposed to be purely that of a rector

 

100                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

in his parishioner until of late, when I began to
fear it took root in deeper soil. But I am sure,
dear Baroness, you can understand my anxiety.

    And then the Baroness, with drawn lips and an-
guished eyes, took both of Mrs. Stuart’s hands in
hers, and cried out:

    " Your pain, dear madam, is second to mine.
I have no child, to be sure, but as few mothers
love I love Alice Cheney, my dear husband’s
granddaughter. My very life is bound up in her,
and she—God help us, she loves your son with her
whole soul. If he marries another it will kill her
or drive her insane."

    The two women fell weeping into each other’s
arms.





CHAPTER XII.

 

    PRESTON CHENEY conceived such a strong, ear-
nest liking for the young clergyman whom he met
under his own roof during one of his visits home,
that he fell into the habit of attending church for
the first time in his life.

    Mabel and Alice were deeply gratified with this
intimacy between the two men, which brought the
rector to the house far oftener than they could
have tastefully done without the cooperation of
the husband and father. Besides, it looked well to
have the head of the household represented in the
church. To the Baroness, also, there was added
satisfaction in attending divine service, now that
Preston Cheney sat in the pew. All hope of win-
ning the love she had " so longed to possess, died
many years before; and she had been cruel and
unkind in numerous ways to the object of her
hopeless passion, yet like the smell of dead rose-
leaves long shut in a drawer, there clung about
this man the faint, suggestive fragrance of a per-
ished dream.

    She knew that he did not love his wife, and that

101

 
 

102                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

be was disappointed in his daughter; and she did
not at least have to suffer the pain of seeing him
lavish the affection she bad missed, on others.

    Mr. Cheney bad been called away from home on
business the day before the new organist took her
place in St. Blank’s Church. Nearly a month had
passed when he again occupied his pew.

    Before the organist had finished her introduc-
tion, he turned to Alice, saying:

    " There has been a change here in the choir,
since I went away, and for the better. That is a
very unusual musician. Do yon know who it is ?"

    " Some lady, I believe; I do not remember her
name," Alice answered indifferently. Like her
mother, Alice never enjoyed bearing any one
praised. It mattered little who it was, or how
entirely out of her own line the achievements or
accomplishments on which the praise was be-
stowed, she still felt that petty resentment: of
small natures who believe that praise to others
detracts from their own value.

    A fortune had been expended on Alice’s musical
education, yet she could do no more than rattle
through some mediocre composition, with neither
taste nor skill.

    The money which has been wasted in trying to
teach, music to unmusical people would pay our
national debt twice over, and leave a competency
for every orphan in the land.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        103

 

    When the organist had finished her second se-
lection, Mr. Cheney addressed the same question
to his wife which he had addressed to Alice.
" Who is the new organist ?" he queried. Mabel
only shook her head and placed her finger on her
lip as a signal for silence during service.

    The third time it was the Baroness, sitting
just beyond Mabel, to whom Mr. Cheney spoke.
" That’s a very remarkable musician, very remark-
able," He said. " Do you know anything about
her?

    " Yes, wait until we get home, and I will tell
you all about her," the Baroness replied.

    When the service was over, Mr. Cheney did not
pass out at once, as was his custom. Instead he
walked toward the pulpit, after requesting his
family to wait a moment.

    The rector, saw him and came down in the aisle
to speak to him.

    " I want to congratulate you on the new organ-
ist," Mr. Cheney said, " and I want to meet her.
Alice tells me it is a lady. She must have de-
voted a lifetime to bard study to become such
a marvelous mistress of that difficult instrument."

    Arthur Stuart smiled. " Wait a moment," he
said, " and I will send for her. I would like you
to meet her, and like her to meet your wife and
family. She has few, if any, acquaintances in
my congregation."

 
 

104                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Mr. Cheney went down the aisle, and joined the
three ladies who were waiting for him in the pew.
All were smiling, for all three believed that he
had been asking the rector to accompany them
home to dinner His first word dispelled the illu-
sion.

    " Wait here a moment," he said. " Mr. Stuart
is going to bring the organist to meet us. I want
to know the woman who can move me so deeply
by her music. "

    Over the faces of his three listeners there fell a
cloud. Mabel looked annoyed, Alice sulky, and a
flush of the old jealous fury darkened the brow of
the Baroness. But all were smiling deceitfully
when Joy Irving approached.

    Her radiant young beauty, and the expressions
of admiration with which Preston Cheney greeted
her as a woman and an artist, filled life with gall
and wormwood for the three feminine listeners.

    " What I this beautiful young miss, scarcely out
of short frocks, is not the musician who gave us
that wonderful harmony of sounds ! My child,
how did you learn to play like that in the brief
life you have passed on earth? Surely you must
have been taught by the angels before you came."
A deep blush of pleasure at the words which,
though so extravagant, Joy felt to be Sincere,
increased her beauty as she looked up into Pres-
ton Cheney’s admiring eyes.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        105

 

    And as he held her hands in both of his and
gazed down upon her it seemed to the Baroness
she could strike them dead at her feet and rejoice
in the act.

    Beside this radiant vision of loveliness and
genius, Alice looked plainer and more meager than
ever before. She was like a wayside weed beside
an American Beauty rose.

    " I hope you and Alice will become good friends,"
Mr. Cheney said warmly. " We should like to see
you at the house any time you can make it conven-
ient to come, would we not, Mabel?"

    Mrs. Cheney gave a formal assent to her hus-
band’s words as they turned away, leaving Joy
with the rector. And a scene in one of life’s
strangest dramas had been enacted, unknown to
them all.

    " I would like you to be very friendly with that
girl, Alice," Mr. Cheney repeated as they seated
themselves in the carriage. " She has a rare face,
a rare face, and she is highly gifted. She reminds
me of some one I have known, yet I can’t think
who it is? What do you know about her, Baron-
ess?"

    The Baroness gave an expressive -shrug. " Since
you admire her so much," she said, " I rather
hesitate telling you. But the girl is of common
origin—a grocer’s daughter, and her mother quite

 

106                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

an inferior person. I hardly think it a suitable
companionship for Alice."

    " I am sure I don’t care to know her," chimed
in Alice. " I thought her quite bold and forward
in her manner."

    " Decidedly so! She seemed to hang on to your
father’s hand as if she would never let go," added
Mabel, in her most acid tone. " I must say, I
should have been horrified to see you act in such
a familiar manner toward any stranger." A quick
color shot into Preston Cheney’s cheek and a
spark into his eye.

    " The girl was perfectly modest in her deport-
ment tome." be said. " She is a lady through
and through, however humble her birth may be.
But I ought to have known better than to ask my
wife and daughter to like any one whom I chanced
to admire. I learned long ago how futile such an
idea was.

    " Oh, well, I don’t see why you need get so an-
gry over a perfect stranger whom you never laid
eyes on until to-day," pouted Alice. " I am sure
she’s nothing to any of us that we need quarrel
over her."

    " A man never gets so old that be is not likely
make a fool of himself over a pretty face,"
supplemented Mabel, " and there is no fool like an
old fool."

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        107

 

    The uncomfortable drive home came to an end
at this juncture, and Preston Cheney retired to
his own room, with the disagreeable words of his
wife and daughter ringing in his ears, and the
beautiful face of the young organist floating be-
fore his eyes.

    " I wish she were my daughter," he said to him-
self; " what a comfort and delight a girl like that
would be to me !"

    And while these thoughts filled the man’s heart,
the Baroness paced her room with all the jealous
passions of her still ungoverned nature roused
into new life and violence at the remembrance of
Joy Irving’s fresh young beauty and Preston
Cheney’s admiring looks and words.

    " I could throttle her," she cried, " I could throttle
her. Oh, why is she sent across my life at every
turn ? Why should the only two men in the world
who interest me to-day, be so infatuated over
that girl? But if I cannot remove so humble an
obstacle as she from my pathway, I Shall feel that
my day of power is indeed over, and that I do not
believe to be true."





CHAPTER XIII.

 

    Two weeks later the organ loft of St. Blank’s
Church was occupied by a stranger. For a few
hours the Baroness felt a wild hope in her heart
that Miss Irving had been sent away.

    But inquiry elicited the information that the
young musician had merely employed a substitute
because her mother was lying seriously ill at
home.

    It was then that the Baroness put into execution
a desire she had to make the personal acquaintance
of Joy Irving.

    The desire bad sprung into life with the knowl-
edge of the rector’s interest in the girl. No one
knew better than the Baroness bow to sow the
seeds of doubt, distrust and discord between two
people whom she wished to alienate. Many a
sweetheart, many a wife, had she separated from
lover and husband, scarcely leaving a sign by
which the trouble could be traced to her, so
adroit and subtle were her methods.

    She felt that she could insert an invisible wedge
between these two hearts, which would eventually

108

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        109

 

separate them, if only she might make the ac-
quaintance of Miss Irving. And now chance had
opened the way for her.

    She made her resolve known to the rector.

    " I am deeply interested in the young organist
whom I had the pleasure of meeting, some weeks
ago," she said, and she noted with a sinking heart
the light which flashed into the Man’s face at the
mere mention of the girl. "I understand her
mother is seriously ill, and I think I will go
around and call. Perhaps I can be of use. I
understand Mrs. Irving is not a church woman,
and she may be in real need, as the family is in
straitened circumstances. May I mention your
name when I call, in order that Miss Irving may
not think I intrude?"

    " Why, certainly," the rector replied with
warmth. " Indeed, I will give you a card of intro-
duction. That will open the way for you, and at
the same time I know you will use your delicate
tact to avoid wounding Miss Irving’s pride in any
way. She is very sensitive about their strait-
ened circumstances; you may have board that they
were quite well-to-do until the stroke of paralysis
rendered her father helpless. All their means were
exhausted in efforts to restore his health, and in
the employment of nurses and physicians. 1 think
they have found life a difficult problem since his

 

110                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

death, as Mrs. Irving has been under medical care
constantly, and the whole burden falls on Miss
Joy’s young shoulders, and she is but twenty-one."

    " Just the age of Alice," mused the Baroness.
" How differently people’s lives are ordered in
this world I But then we must have the hewers of
wood and the drawers of water, and we must have
the delicate human flowers. Our Alice is one of the
latter, a frail blossom to look upon, but she is one
of the kind which will bloom out in great splendor
under the sunshine of love and happiness. Very few
people realize what wonderful reserve force that
delicate child possesses. And such a tender heart !
she was determined to come with me when she
heard of Miss Irving’s trouble, but I thought it
unwise to take her until Iliad seen the place. She
is so sensitive to her surroundings and it might
be too painful for her. I am forever holding her
back from overtaxing herself for otters. No one
dreams of the amount of good that girl does in a
secret, quiet way; and at the same time she assumes
an indifferent air and talks as if she were quite
heartless, just to binder people from suspecting
her charitable work. She is such a strange, com-
plicated character."

    Armed with her card of introduction, the Baron-
ness set forth on her "errand of mercy." She had
not mentioned Miss Irving’s name to Mabel or

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        111

 

Alice. The secret of the rector’s interest in the
girl was locked in her own breast. She knew that
Mabel was wholly incapable of coping with such
a situation and she dreaded the effect of the news on
Alice, who was absorbed in her love dream.
The girl bad never been denied a wish. in her life,
and no thought came to her that she could be
thwarted in this, her most cherished hope of all.

    The Baroness was determined to use every gun
in her battery of defense before she allowed Ma-
bel or Alice to know that defense was needed.

    The rector’s card admitted her to the parlor of
a small flat. The portieres of an adjoining room
were thrown open presently, and a vision of ra-
diant beauty entered the room.

    The Baroness could not explain it, but as the
girl emerged from the curtains, a strange, confused
memory of something and somebody she had
known in the past came over her. But when the
girl spoke, a more inexplicable sensation took
possession of the listener, for her voice was the
feminine of Preston Cheney’s masculine tones,
and then as she looked at the girl again the haunt-
ing memories of the first glance were explained,
for she was very like Preston Cheney as the Bar-
oness remembered him when he came to the
" Palace" to engage rooms more than a score of
years ago. " What a strange thing these resem-

 

112                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

blances are !" she thought. " This girl is more like
Senator Cheney, far more like him than Alice is.
Ah, if Alice only had her face and form !"

    Miss Irving gave a slight start, and took a step
back as her eyes fell upon the Baroness. The
rector’s card had read, "Introducing Mrs. Sylves-
ter Lawrence." She had known this lady by sight
ever since her first Sunday as organist at St.
Blank’s and for some unaccountable reason she
had conceived a most intense dislike for her. Joy
was drawn toward humanity in general, as natur-
ally as the sunlight falls on the earth’s foliage.
Her heart radiated love and sympathy toward the
whole world. But when she did feel a sentiment
of distrust or repulsion she bad learned to respect
it.

    Our guardian angels sometimes. send these feel-
ings as danger signals to our souls.

    It therefore required a strong effort of her will
to go forward and extend a hand in greeting to
the lady whom her rector and friend had intro-
duced.

    " I must beg pardon for this intrusion," the
Baroness said with her sweetest smile; " but our
rector urged me to come and so I felt emboldened
to carry out the wish I have long entertained to
make your acquaintance. Your wonderful music
inspires all who hear you to know you personally ;

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        113

 

the service lacked half its charm on Sunday be-
cause you were absent. When I learned that your
absence was occasioned by your mother’s illness,
I asked the-rector if be thought a call from me
would be an intrusion, and be assured me to the
contrary. I used to be considered an excellent
nurse; I am very Strong, and full of vitality, and
if you would permit me to sit by your mother
some Sunday when you are needed at church, I
should be most happy to do so. I should like to
make the acquaintance of your mother, and com-
pliment her on the happiness of possessing such a
gifted and dutiful daughter."

    Like all who sat for any time under the spell
of the second Mrs. Lawrence, Joy felt the charm
of her voice, words and manner, and it began to
seem as if she bad been very unreasonable in en-
tertaining unfounded prejudices.

    That the rector had introduced her was alone
proof of her worthiness ; and the gracious offer
of the distinguished looking lady to watch by the
bedside of a stranger, was certainly evidence of
her good heart. The frost disappeared from her
smile, and she warmed toward the Baroness. The
call lengthened into a visit, and as the Baroness
finally rose to go, Joy said:

    " I will take you in and introduce you to mamma
now. I think it will do her good to meet you,

 

114                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

and the Baroness followed the graceful girl
through a narrow hall, and into a room which had

evidently been intended for a dining-room, but
which, owing to its size and its windows opening
to the south, bad been utilized as a sick chamber.

    The invalid lay with her face turned away from
the door. But by the movement of the delicate
hand on the counterpane, Joy knew that her
mother was awake.

    " Mamma, I have brought a lady, a friend of Dr.
Stuart’s, to see you," Joy said gently. The inva-
lid turned her bead upon the pillow, and the
Baroness looked upon the face of-Berene Dumont.

    " Berene !"

    " Madam !"

    The two spoke simultaneously, and the invalid
had started upright in bed.

    " Mamma, what is the matter? Oh, please lie
down, or you will bring on another hemorrhage,"
cried the startled girl; but her mother lifted her
hand.

    " Joy," she said in a firm, clear voice, " this lady
is an old acquaintance of mine. Please go out,
dear, and shut the door. I wish to see her alone."

    Joy passed out with drooping head and a sink-
ing heart. As the door closed behind her the Bar-
oness spoke.

    " So that is Preston Cheney’s daughter," she

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        115

 

said. " I always had my suspicions of the cause
which led you to leave my house so suddenly.
Does the girl know who her father is? and does
Senator Cheney know of her existence, may I ask?"

    A crimson blush suffused the invalid’s face.

    Then a flame of fire Shot into the dark eyes, and
a small red spot only glowed on either pale cheek.

    " I do not know by what right you ask these
questions, Baroness Brown," she answered slowly ;
and her listener cringed under the old appellation
which recalled the miserable days when she had
kept a lodging-house—days she had almost for-
gotten during the last decade of life.

    " But I can assure you, madam" continued
the speaker, " that my daughter knows no father
save the good man, my husband, who is dead. I
have never by word or line made my existence
known to any one I ever knew since I left Beryng-
ford. I do not know why you should come here to
insult me, madam; I have never harmed you or
yours, and you have no proof of the accusation
you just made, save your own evil suspicions.

    The Baroness gave an unpleasant laugh.

    " It is an easy matter for me to find proof of
my suspicions if I choose to take the trouble,"
she said. " There are detectives enough to hunt
up your trail, and I have money enough to pay
them for their trouble. But Joy is the living evi-

 

116                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

dence of the assertion. She is the image of Pres-
ton Cheney, as he was twenty-three years ago. I
am ready, however, to let the matter drop on one
condition; and that condition is, that you extract
a promise from your daughter that she will not
encourage the attentions of Arthur Emerson Stu-
art, the rector of St. Blank’s. That she will never
under any circumstances be his wife."

    The red spots faded to a sickly yellow in the
invalid’s cheeks. " Why should you ask this of
me?" she cried. " Why should you wish to de-
stroy the happiness of my child’s life? She loves
Arthur Stuart, and I know that he loves her. It
is the one thought which resigns me to death; the
thought that I may leave her the beloved wife of
this good man."

    The Baroness leaned lower over the pillow of
the invalid as she answered: " I will tell you why
I ask this sacrifice of you.

    Perhaps you do not know that I married Judge
Lawrence after the death of his first wife. Per-
haps you do not know that Preston Cheney’s legit-
imate daughter is as precious to me as his illegiti-
mate child is to you. Alice is only six months
younger than Joy, she is frail, delicate, sensitive.

    A severe disappointment would kill her. She, too,
loves Arthur Stuart. If your daughter will let
him alone, he will. marry Alice. Surely the ille-

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        117

 

gitimate child should give way to the legitimate?

    " If you are selfish in this matter, I shall be
obliged to tell your daughter the true story of her
life, and let her be the judge of what is right and
what is wrong. I fancy she might have a finer
perception of duty than you have-she is so much
like her father."

    The tortured invalid fell back panting on her
pillow. She put out her hands with a distracted,
imploring gesture.

    " Leave me to think," she gasped, " I never
knew that Preston Cheney had a daughter; I did
not know he lived here. My life has been so quiet,
so secluded these many years. Leave me to think.
I will give you my answer in a few days; I will
write you after I reflect and pray."

    The Baroness passed out, mid Joy, hastening
into the room, found her mother in a wild parox-
ysm of tears. Late that night Mrs. Irving called
for writing materials; and for many hours she
sat propped up in bed writing rapidly.

    When she bad completed her task she called,
Joy to her side.

    " Darling," she said, placing a sealed manuscript
in her hands, " I want you to keep this seal un-
broken as long as you are happy. I know in spite
of your deep sorrow at my death, which must come
ere long, you will find much happiness in life.

 

118                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

You came smiling into existence, and no common
sorrow can deprive you of the joy which is your
birthright. But there are numerous people in the
world who may strive to wound you after I am
gone. If slanderous tales or cruel reports reach
your ears, and render you unhappy, break this
seal and read the story I have written here. There
are some things which will deeply pain you, I
know. Do not force yourself to read them until
a necessity arises. I leave you this manuscript
as I might leave you a weapon for self-defense."
Use it only when you are in need of that defense."

    The next morning Mrs. Irving was weakened by
another and most serious hemorrhage of the lungs.
Her physician was grave, and urged the daughter
to be prepared for the worst.

    " I fear your mother’s life is a matter of days
only," he said.





CHAPTER XIV.

 

    THE Baroness went directly from the home
which she bad entered only to blight, and sent
her card marked "urgent" to Mrs. Stuart.

    " I have come to tell you an unpleasant story,"
she said. " A painful and revolting story, the
early chapters of which were written years ago,
but the sequel has only just been made known to
me. It concerns you and yours vitally; it also
concerns me and mine. I am sure when you have
heard the story to the end, you will say that truth
is stranger than fiction, indeed: and you will more
than ever realize the necessity. of preventing your
son from marrying Joy Irving—a child who was
born before her mother ever met Mr. Irving; and
whose mother, I. dare say, was no more the actual
wife of Mr. Irving in the name of law and decency
than she had been the wife of his many predeces-
sors."

    Startled and horrified at this beginning of the
story, Mrs. Stuart was in a state of excited indig-
nation at the end. The Baroness had magnified
facts and distorted truths until she represented

119

 
 

120                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Berene Dumont as a monster of depravity; a vi-
cious being who had been for a short time the re-
cipient of the Baroness’ mistaken charity, and who
had repaid kindness by base ingratitude, and im-
morality. The man implicated in the scandal which
she claimed was the cause of Berene’s flight, was
not named in this recital.

    Indeed the Baroness claimed that be was more
sinned against than sinning, and that it was a
case of mesmeric influence, or evil eye, On the part
of the depraved woman.

    Mrs. Lawrence took pains to avoid any reference
to Beryngford also; speaking of these occurrences
having taken place while she spent a summer in
a distant interior town, where, " after the death of
the baron, she bad rented a villa, feeling that she
wanted to retire from the world."

    " My heart is always running away with my
head." she remarked, "and I thought this poor
creature, who was shunned and neglected by all,
worth saving. I tried to befriend her, and hoped
to waken the better nature which every woman
possesses, I think, but she was too far gone in in-
iquity.

    " You cannot imagine, my dear Mrs. Stuart,
what a shock it was to me on entering that sick
room to-day, my heart full of kindly sympathy,
to encounter in the invalid the ungrateful recip-

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        121

 

ient of my past favors ; and to realize that her
daughter was no other than the shameful offspring
of her immoral past. In spite of the girl’s beauty,
there is an expression about her face which I never
liked; and I fully understand now why I did not
like it. Of course, Mrs. Stuart, this story is told
to you in strict confidence. I would not for the
world have dear Mrs. Cheney know of it, nor
would I pollute sweet Alice with such a tale. In-
deed, Alice would not understand it if she were
told, for she is as ignorant and innocent as a
child in arms of such matters. We have kept her
absolutely unspotted from the world. But I knew
it was my duty to tell you the whole shameful
story. If worst comes to worst, you will be obliged
to tell your son perhaps, and if he doubts the
story send him to me for its verification."

    Worst came to worst before twenty-four hours
had passed. The rector received word that Mrs.
Irving was rapidly failing, and went to act the
part of spiritual counselor to the invalid, and
sympathetic friend to the suffering girl.

    When he returned his mother watched his face
with eager, anxious eyes. He looked haggard and
ill, as if lie bad passed through a severe ordeal.
He could talk of nothing but the beautiful and
brave girl, who was about to lose her one wor-
shiped companion, and who ere many hours passed
would stand utterly alone in the world.

 
 

122                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " I never saw you so affected before by the
troubles and sorrows of your parishioners," Mrs.
Stuart said. " I wonder, Arthur, why you take the
sorrows of this family so keenly to heart."

    The young rector looked his mother full in the
face with calm, sad eyes. Then he said slowly:
    " I suppose, mother, it is because I love Joy Ir-
ving with all my heart. You must have suspected
this for some time. I know that you have, and
that the thought has pained you. You have had
other and more ambitious aims for me. Earnest
Christian and good woman that you are, you have
a worldly and conventional vein in your nature,
which makes you reverence Position, wealth and
family to a marked degree. You would, I know,
like to see me unite myself with some royal family,
were that possible; failing in that, you would
choose the daughter of some great and aristocratic
house to be my bride. Ah, well, dear mother, you
will? I know, concede that marriage without love
is unholy. I am not able to force myself to love
some great lady, even supposing I could win her
if I did love her."

    " But you might keep yourself from forming a
foolish and unworthy attachment," Mrs. Stuart
interrupted. " With your will-power, your brain,
your reasoning faculties, I see no necessity for
your allowing a pretty face to run away with your

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        123

 

heart. Nothing could be more unsuitable, more
shocking, more dreadful, than to have you make
that girl your wife, Arthur."

    Mrs. Stuart’s voice rose as she spoke, from a
quiet reasoning tone to a high, excited wail. She
had not meant to say so much. She had intended
merely to appeal to her son’s affection for her,
without making any unpleasant disclosures regard-
ing Joy’s mother; she thought merely to win a
promise from him that he would not compromise
himself at present with the girl, through an ex-
cess of sympathy. But already she had said
enough to arouse the young man into a defender
of the girl be loved.

    " I think your language quite too strong, moth-
er," be said, with a reproving tone in his voice.
"Miss Irving is good, gifted, amiable, beautiful,
beside being young and full of health. I am sure
there could be nothing shocking or dreadful in
any man’s uniting his destiny with such a being,
in case be was fortunate enough to win her. The
fact that she is poor, and not of illustrious lineage,
is but a very worldly consideration. Mr. Irving
was a most intelligent and excellent man, even if
he was a grocer. The American idea of aristoc-
racy is grotesquely absurd at the best. A man
may spend his time and strength in buying and
selling things wherewith to clothe the body, and

 

124                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

if he succeeds, his children are admitted to the in-
timacy of princes ; but no success can open that
door to the children of a man who trades in food,
where with to sustain the body. We can none of
us afford to put on airs here in America, with,
butchers and Dutch peasant traders only three or
four generations back of our ‘best families.’
As for me, mother, remember my loved father was
a broker. That would damn him in the eyes of
some people, you know, cultured gentleman that
he was."

    Mrs. Stuart sat very still, breathing bard and
trying to gain control of herself for some moments
after her son ceased speaking. He, too, had said
more than he intended, and be was sorry that he
had hurt his mother’s feelings as be saw her evi-
dent agitation. But as he rose to-go forward and
beg her pardon, she spoke.

    " The person of whom we were speaking has
nothing whatever to do with Mr. Irving," she
said. " Joy Irving was born before her mother
was married. Mrs. Irving has a most infamous
past, and I would rather see you dead than the
husband of her child. You certainly would not
want your children to inherit the propensities of
such a grandmother? And remember the curse
of descends to the third and fourth generations. If
you doubt my words, go to the Baroness. She

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN            125

 

knows the whole story, but has revealed it to no
one but me."

    Mrs. Stuart left the room, closing the door be-
hind her as she went. She did not want to be
obliged to go over the details of the story which
she had heard; she bad made her statement, one
which she knew must startle and horrify her son,
with his high ideals of womanly purity, and she
left him to review the situation in silence. It was
several hours before the rector left his room.

    When he did, be went, not to the Baroness, but
directly to Mrs. Irving. They were alone for more
than an hour. When he emerged from the room,
his face was as white as death, and be did not look
at Joy as she accompanied him to the door.

    Two days later Mrs. Irving died.





CHAPTER XV.

 

    THE congregation of St. Blank’s Church was
rendered sad and solicitous by learning that its
rector was on the eve of nervous prostration, and
that his physician had ordered a change of air.
He went away in company with his mother for a
vacation of three months. The day after his de-
parture, Joy Irving received a letter from him
which read as follows:

    " MY DEAR MISS IRVING:—You may not in your
deep grief have given me a thought. If such a
thought has been granted one so unworthy, it
must have taken the form of surprise that your
rector and friend has made no call of condolence
since death entered your household. I want to
write one little word to you, asking you to be leni-
ent in your judgment of me. I am ill in body and
mind. I feel that I am on the eve of some distress-
ing malady. I am not able to reason clearly, or
to judge what is right and what is wrong. I am as
one tossed between the laws of God and the laws
made by men, and bruised in heart and in soul. I
dare not see you or speak to you while I am in
this state of mind. I fear for what I may say or
do. I have not slept since I last saw you. I must
go away and gain strength and equilibrium.

126

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        127

 

    " When I return I shall hope to be master of my-
self. Until then, adieu."

" ARTHUR EMERSON STUART."      

    These wild and almost incoherent phrases
stirred the young girl’s heart with intense pain
and anxiety. She had known for almost a year
that she loved the young rector; she had believed
that he cared for her, and without allowing her-
self to form any definite thoughts of the future,
she had lived in a blissful consciousness of loving
and being loved, which is to the fulfillment of a
love dream, like inhaling the perfume of a rose,
compared to the gathered flower and its attend-
ant thorns.

    The young clergyman’s absence at the time of
her greatest need had caused her both wonder and
pain. His letter but increased both sentiments
without explaining the cause.

    It increased, too, her love for him, for whenever
over-anxiety is aroused for one dear to us, our
love is augmented.

    She felt that the young man was in some great
trouble, unknown to her, and she longed to be able
to comfort him. Into the maiden’s tender and
ardent affection stole the wifely wish to console
and the motherly impulse to protect her dear one
from pain, which are strong elements in every
real woman’s love.

 
 

128                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Mrs. Irving had died without writing one word
to the Baroness; and that personage was in a state
of constant excitement until she beard of the rec-
tor’s plans for rest and travel. Mrs. Stuart in-
formed her of the conversation which bad taken
place between herself and her son; and of his evi-
dent distress of mind, which had reacted on his
body and made it necessary for him to give up
mental work for a season.

    " I feel that I owe you a debt of gratitude, dear
Baroness," Mrs. Stuart had said. " Sad as this con-
dition of things is, imagine how much worse it
would be, had my son, through an excess of sym-
pathy for that girl at this time, compromised
himself with her before we learned the terrible
truth regarding her birth. I feel sure my son will
regain his health after a few months’ absence, and
that be will not jeopardize my happiness and his
future by any further thoughts of this unfortu-
nate girl, who in the meantime may not be here
when we return."

    The Baroness made a mental resolve that the
girl should not be there.

    While the rector’s illness and proposed absence
was sufficient evidence that be had resolved upon
sacrificing his love for Joy on the altar of duty to
his mother and his calling, yet the Baroness felt
that danger lurked in the air while Miss Irving

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        129

 

occupied her present position. No sooner had Mrs.
Stuart and her son left the city, than the Baroness
sent an anonymous letter to the young organist.
It read:

    " I do not know whether your mother im-
parted the secret of her past life to you before
she died, but as that secret is known to several
people, it seems cruelly unjust that you are kept
in ignorance of it. You are not Mr. Irving’s
child. You were born before your mother married.
While it is not your fault, only your misfortune,
it would be wise for you to go where the facts are
not so well known as in the congregation of St.
Blank’s. There are people in that congregation
who consider you guilty of a willful deception in
wearing the name you do, and of an affront to
good taste in accepting the position you occupy.
Many people talk of leaving the church on your
account. Your gifts as a musician would win you
a position elsewhere, and as I learn that your
mother’s life was insured for a considerable sum,
I am sure you are able to seek new fields where
you can bide your disgrace.

" A WELL-WISHER."      

    Quivering with pain and terror, the young girl
cast the letter into the fire, thinking that it was
the work of one of those half-crazed beings whose
mania takes the form of anonymous letters to un-
offending people. Only recently such a person
had been brought into the courts for this offense.
    It occurred to her also that it might be the work
of some one who wished to obtain her position as

 

130                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

organist of St. Blank’s. Musicians, she knew,
were said to be the most jealous of all people, and
while she had never suffered from them before, it
might be that her time had now come to experi-
ence the misfortunes of her profession.

    Tender-hearted and kindly in feeling to all
humanity, she felt a sickening sense of sorrow and
fear at the thought that there existed such a
secret enemy for her anywhere in the world.

    She went out upon the street, and for the first
time in her life she experienced a sense of suspi-
cion and distrust toward the people she met ; for
the first time in her life, she realized that the
world was not all kind and ready to give her back
the honest friendship and the sweet good-will
which filled her heart for all her kind. Strive as
she would, she could Dot cast off the depression
caused by this vile letter. It was her first experi-
ence of this cowardly and despicable phase of hu-
man malice, and she felt wounded in soul as by a
poisoned arrow shot in the dark. And then, sud-
enly there came to her the memory of her moth-
er’s words-"If unhappiness ever comes to you,
read this letter."

    Surely this was the time she needed to read that
letter. That it contained some secret of her moth-
er’s life she felt sure, and she was equally sure
that it contained nothing that would cause her to
blush for that beloved mother.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        131

 

    " Whatever the manuscript may have to reveal
to me she said "it is time that I should know."
She took the package from the hiding place, and
broke the seal. Slowly she read it to the end, as
if anxious to make no error in understanding
every phase of the long story it related. Begin-
ning with the marriage of her mother to the French
professor, Berene gave a detailed account of her
own sad and troubled life, and the shadow which
the father’s appetite for drugs cast over her whole
youth. "They say," she wrote, "that there is no
personal devil in existence. I think this is true;
he has taken the form of drugs and spirituous
liquors, and so his work of devastation goes on."
Then followed the story, of the sacrilegious mar-
riage to save her father from suicide, of her early
widowhood; and the proffer of the "Baroness" to
give her a home. Of her life of servitude there,
her yearning for an education, and 1 her meeting
with "Apollo," as she designated Preston Cheney.
"For truly he was like the glory of the rising day
to me, the first to give me hope, courage and un-
selfish aid. I loved him, I worshiped him. He
loved me, but he strove to crush and kill this love
because be had worked out an ambitious career for
himself. To extricate himself from many difficul-
ties and embarrassments, and to further his am-
bitious dreams, he betrothed himself to the

 

132                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

daughter of a rich and powerful man. He made
no profession of love, and she asked none. She
was incapable of giving or inspiring that holy
passion. She only asked to be married.

    " I only asked to be loved. Knowing nothing of
the terrible conflict in his breast, knowing nothing
of his new-made ties, I was wounded to the soul
by his speaking unkindly to me-words be forced
himself to speak to. bide his real feelings. And
then it was that a strange fate caused him to find
me fainting, suffering, and praying for death.
The love in both hearts could no longer be re-
strained. Augmented by its long control, sharp-
ened by the agony we had both suffered,
overwhelmed by the surprise of the meeting, we
lost reason and prudence. Everything was for-
gotten save our love. When it Was too late I fore-
saw the anguish and sorrow I must bring into this
man’s life. I fear it was this thought rather than
repentance for sin which troubled me. Well may
you ask why. I did not think of all this before in-
stead of after the error was committed. Why did
not Eve realize the consequences of the fall until
she had eaten of the apple? Only afterward did
I learn of the unholy ties which my lover had
formed that very day-ties which he swore to me
should be broken ere another day passed, to ren-
der him free to make me his wife in the eyes of
men, as I already was in the sight of God.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        133

 

    " Yet a strange and sudden resolve came to me
as I listened to him. Far beyond the thought of
my own ruin, rose the consciousness of the ruin I
should bring upon his life by allowing him to car-
ry out his design. To be his wife, his helpmate,
chosen from the whole world as one be deemed
most worthy and most able to cheer and aid him
in life’s battle-that seemed heaven to me; but to
know that by one rash, impetuous act of folly, I
had placed him in a position where be felt that
honor compelled him to marry me-why, this
thought was more bitter than death. I knew that
he loved roe; yet I knew, too, that by a union with
me under the circumstances he would antagonize
those who were Dow his best and most influential
friends, and that his entire career would be ruined.
I resolved. to go away; to disappear from his life
and leave no trace. If his love was as sincere as
mine, he would find me; and time would show
him some wiser way of breaking his new-made
fetters than the rash and sudden method be now
contemplated. He had forgotten to protect me
with his love, but I could not forget to protect
him. In every true woman’s love there is the ma-
ternal element which renders sacrifice natural.

    "Fate hastened and furthered my plans for de-
parture. Made aware that the Baroness was sus-
picious of my fault, and learning that my lover

 

134                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

was suddenly called to the bedside of his fiancée,
I made my escape from the town and left no trace
behind, I went to that vast haystack of lost
needles—New York, and effaced Berene Dumont
in Mrs. Lamont. The money left from my fa-
ther’s belongings I resolved to use in cultivating my
voice. I advertised for embroidery and fine sew-
ing also, and as I was an expert with the needle,
I was able to support myself and lay aside a little
sum each week. I trimmed hats at a small price,
and added to my income in various manners, ow-
ing to my French taste and my deft fingers.

    "I was desolate, sad, lonely, but not despair-
ing. What woman can despair when she knows
herself loved? To me that consciousness was a
far greater source of happiness than would have
been the knowledge that I was an empress, or the
wife of a millionaire, envied by the whole world.
I believed my lover would find me in time, that
we should be reunited. I believed this until I saw
the announcement of his marriage in the press,
and read that be and his bride had sailed for an
extended foreign tour; but with this stunning
news, there came to me the strange, sweet, start-
ling consciousness that you, my darling child,
were coming to console me.

    "I know that under the circumstances I ought to
have been borne down to the earth with a guilty

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        135

 

shame; I ought to have considered you as a pun-
ishment for my sin-and walked in the valley of
humiliation and despair.

    " But I did not. I lived in a state of mental
exaltation; every thought was a prayer, every
emotion was linked with religious fervor. I was
no longer alone or friendless, for I bad you. I
sang as I had never sung, and one theatrical man-
ager who happened to call upon my teacher dur-
ing my lesson hour, offered me a position at a
good salary at once if I would accept.

    "I could not accept, of course, knowing what
the coming months were to bring to me, but I took
his card and promised to write him, when I was
ready to take a position. You came into life in
the depressing atmosphere of a city hospital, my
dear child, yet even there I was not depressed, and
your face wore a smile of joy the first time I gazed
upon it. So I named you Joy-and well have you
worn the name. My first sorrow was in being
obliged to leave you; for I bad to leave you with
those human angels, the sweet sisters of charity,
while I went forth to make a home for you. My
voice, as is sometimes the case, was richer, strong-
er and of greater compass after I had passed
through maternity. I accepted a position with a
traveling theatrical Company, where I was to sing
a solo in one act. My success was not phenome-

 

136                        IN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

nal, but it was success nevertheless. I followed
this life for three years, seeing you only at inter-
vals. Then the consciousness came to me that
without long and profound study I could never
achieve more than a third-rate success in my pro-
fession.

    " I had dreamed of becoming a great singer ; but
I learned that a voice alone does not make a great
singer, I needed years of study, and this would
necessitate the expenditure of large sums of money.
I had grown heart-sick and disgusted with the an-
noyances and vulgarity I was subjected to in my
position. When you were four years old a good
man offered me a good home as his wife. It was
the first honest love I bad encountered, while
scores of men bad made a pretense of loving me
during these years.

    " I was hungering for a home where I could
claim you and have the joy of your daily compan-
ionship instead of brief glimpses of you at the in-
tervals of months. My voice, never properly
trained, was beginning to break. I resolved to
put Mr. Irving to a test; I would tell him the true
story of your birth, and if be still wished me to
be his wife, I would marry him.

    " I carried out my resolve, and we were married
the day after he had heard my story. I lived a
peaceful and even happy life with Mr. Irving. He

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        137

 

was devoted to you, and never by look, word or
act, seemed to remember my past. I, too, at times
almost forgot it, so strange a thing is the human
heart Under the influence of time. Imagine, then,
the shock of remembrance and the tidal wave of
memories which swept over me when in the lady
you brought to call upon me I recognized—the
Baroness.

    " It is because she threatened to tell you that
you were not born in wedlock that I leave this
manuscript for you. It is but a few weeks since
you told me the story of Marah Adams, and as-
sured me that you thought her mother did right
in confessing the truth to her daughter. Little
did you dream with what painful interest I lis-
tened to your views on that subject. Little did
I dream that I should so soon be called upon to
act upon them.

    "But the time is now come, and I want no
strange hand to deal you a blow in the dark ; if
any part of the story comes to you, I want you
to know the whole truth. You will wonder why I
have not told you the name of your father. It is
strange, but from the hour I knew of his marriage,
and of your dawning life, I have felt a jealous fear
lest he should ever take you from me; even after
I am gone, I would not have him know of your ex-
istence and be unable to claim you openly. Any

 

138                     AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

acquaintance between you could only result in
sorrow.

    "I have never blamed him for my past weak-
ness, however I have blamed him for his unholy
marriage. Our fault was mutual. I was no ig-
norant child; while young in years, I had suffi-
cient knowledge of human nature to protect my-
self bad I used my will-power and my reason. Like
many another woman, I used neither ; unlike the
majority, I did not repent My sin or its conse-
quences. I have ever believed you to be a more
divinely born being than any children who may
have resulted from my lover’s unholy marriage.
I die strong in the belief. God bless you, my dear
child, and farewell."

    Joy sat silent and pale like one in a trance for
a long time after she bad finished reading. Then
she said aloud, "So I am another like Marah
Adams; it was this knowledge which caused the
rector to write me that strange letter. It was this
knowledge which sent him away without coming
to say one word of adieu. The woman who sent
me the message, sent it to him also. Well, I can
be as brave as my mother was. 1, too, can disap-
pear. "

    She arose and began silently and rapidly to
make preparations for a journey. She felt a nerv-
ous haste to get away from something—from all

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        139

 

things. Everything stable in the world seemed
to have slipped from her bold in the last few days.
Home, mother, love, and now hope and pride
were gone too. She worked for more than two
hours without giving vent to even a sigh. Then
suddenly she buried her face in her bands and
sobbed aloud: "Oh, mother, mother, you were
not ashamed, but I am ashamed for you ! Why
was I ever born ? God forgive me for the sinful
thought, but I wish you had lied to me in place
of telling me the truth."





CHAPTER XVI.

 

    JUST as Mrs. Irving had written her story for
her daughter to read, she told it, in the main, to
the rector a few days before her death.

    Only once before had the tale passed her lips ;
then her listener was Horace Irving; and his only
comment was to take her in his arms and place
the kiss of betrothal on her lips. Never again was
the painful subject referred to between them.
So imbued bad Berene Dumont become with her
belief in the legitimacy of her child, and in her
own purity, that she felt but little surprise at the
calm manner in which Mr. Irving received her
story, and now when the rector of St, Blank’s
Church was her listener, she expected the same
broad judgment to be given her. But it was the
calmness of a great and all-forgiving love which
actuated Mr. Irving, and overcame all other feel-
ings.

    Wholly unconventional in nature, caring noth-
ing and knowing little of the extreme ideas of or-
thodox society on these subjects, the girl Berene
and the woman Mrs. Irving bad lived a life so
wholly secluded from the world at large, so abso-

140

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        141

 

lutely devoid of intimate friendships, ‘so absorbed
in her own ideals, that she was incapable of un-
derstanding the conventional opinion regarding a
woman with a history like hers.

    In all those years she had never once felt a Sen-
sation of shame. Mr. Irving had requested her to
rear Joy in the belief that she was his child. As
the matter could in no way concern any one else,
Mrs. Irving’s lips bad remained sealed on the sub-
ject; but not with any idea of concealing a dis-
grace. She could not associate disgrace with her
love for Preston Cheney. She believed herself to
be his spiritual widow, as it were. His mortal clay
and legal name only belonged to his wife.

    Mr. Irving had met Berene on a railroad train,
and bad conceived one of those sudden and intense
passions with which a woman with a past often
inspires an innocent and unworldly young man.
He was sincerely and truly religious by nature,
and as spotless as a maiden in mind and body.

    When be bad dreamed of a wife, it was always
of some shy, innocent girl whom be should woo
almost from her mother’s arms; some gentle, pious
maid, carefully reared, who would help him to
establish the Christian household of his imagina-
tion. He had thought that love would first come
to him as admiring respect, then tender friend-
ship, then love for some such maiden; instead it

 

142                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

had swooped down upon him in the form of an
intense passion for an absolute stranger—a woman
traveling with a theatrical company. He was like
a sleeper who awakens suddenly and finds a scorch-
ing midday sun beating upon his eyes. A wrecked
freight train upon the track detained for several
hours the car in which they traveled. The passenger
waived ceremony and conversed to pass the time,
and Mr. Irving learned Berene’s name, occupation
and destination. He followed her for a week, and
at the end of that time asked her band in mar-
riage.

    Even after he had beard the story of her life,
he was not deterred from his resolve to make
her his wife. All the Christian charity of his na-
ture, all its chivalry was aroused, and be believed
he was plucking a brand from the burning. He
never repented his act. He lived wholly for his
wife and child, and for the good be could do with
them as his faithful allies. He drew more and
more away from all the allurements of the world,
and strove to rear Joy in what be believed to be a
purely Christian life, and to make his wife forget,
if possible, that she had ever known a sorrow.
All of sincere gratitude, tenderness and gentle
affection possible for her to feel, Berene bestowed
upon her husband during his life, and gave to his
memory after he was gone.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        143

 

    Joy had been excessively fond of Mr. Irving,
and it was the dread of causing her a deep sorrow
in the knowledge that she was not his child, and
the fear that Preston Cheney would in any way in-
terfere with her possession of Joy, which had dis-
tressed the mother during the visit of the Baroness,
rather than an unwillingness to have her sin re-
vealed to her daughter. Added to this, the intru-
sion of the Baroness into this long hidden and
sacred experience seemed a sacrilege from which
she shrank with horror. But she now told the tale
to Arthur Stuart frankly and fearlessly.

    He bad asked her to confide to him whatever
secret existed regarding Joy’s birth.

    " There is a rumor afloat," be said, "that Joy
is not Mr. Irving’s child. I love your daughter,
Mrs. Irving, and I feel it. is my right to know all
the circumstances of her life. I believe the story
which was told my mother to be the invention of
some enemy who is jealous of Joy’s beauty and
talents, and I would like to be in a position to
silence these slanders."

    So Mrs. Irving told the story to the end; and
having told it, she felt relieved and happy in the
thought that it was imparted to the only two peo-
ple whom it could concern in the future.

    No disturbing fear came to her, that the rector
would hesitate to make Joy his wife. To Berene

 

144                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Dumont, love was the law. If love existed between
two souls she could not understand why any con-
vention of society should stand in the way of its
fulfillment.

    Arthur Stuart in his role of spiritual confessor
and consoler bad never before encountered such a
phase of human nature. He bad listened to many
a tale of sin and folly from women’s lips, but al
ways bad the sinner bemoaned her sin, and bit-
terly repented her weakness. Here instead was
what the world would consider a fallen woman
who on her deathbed regarded her weakness as her
strength, her shame as her glory, and who seemed
to expect him to take the same view of the matter.
    When he attempted to urge her to repent, the words
stuck in his throat. He left the deathbed of the
unfortunate sinner without having expressed one
of the conflicting emotions which filled his heart.
But he left it with such a weight on his soul, Such
distress in his mind that death seemed to him the
only way of escape from a life of torment.
    His love for Joy Irving was not killed by the
story be bad beard. But it bad received a terrible
shock, and the thought of making her his wife
with the probability that the Baroness would
spread the scandal broadcast, and that his mar-
riage would break his mother’s heart, torture
him. Added to this were his theories on heredity,

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        145

 

and the fear that there might, nay, must be,
some dangerous tendency bidden in the daughter
of a mother who had so erred, and who in dying
showed no comprehension of the enormity of her
sin. Had Mrs. Irving bewailed her fall, and rep-
resented herself as the victim of a wily villain,
the rector would not have felt so great a fear of the
daughter’s inheritance. A frail, repentant woman
he could pity and forgive, but it seemed to him
that Mrs. Irving was utterly lacking in moral na-
ture. She was spiritually blind. The thought
tortured him. To leave Joy at this time without
calling to see her seemed base and cowardly ; yet
be dared not trust himself in her presence. So
be sent her the strangely worded letter, and went
away hoping to be shown the path of duty before
he returned.

    At the end of three months he came home
stronger in body and mind. He had resolved to
compromise with fate; to continue his calls upon
Joy Irving; to be her friend and rector only, un-
til by the passage of time, and the changes which
occur so rapidly in every society, the scandal in
regard to’ her birth bad been forgotten. And until
by patience and tenderness, be won his mother’s
consent to the union. He felt that all this must
come about as he desired, if he did not aggravate
his mother’s feeling or defy public opinion by too
precipitate methods.

 
 

146                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    He could not wholly give up all thoughts of Joy
Irving. She bad grown to be a part of his hopes
and dreams of the future, as she was a part of the
reality of his present. But she was very young;
he could afford to wait, and while he waited to
study the girl’s character, and if he saw any bud-
ding shoot which bespoke the maternal tree, to
prune and train it to his own liking. For the sake
of his unborn children he felt it his duty to care-
fully study any woman be thought to make his
wife.

    But when he reached home, the surprising intel-
ligence awaited him that Miss Irving had left the
metropolis. A brief note to the church authori-
ties, resigning her position, and saying that she
was about to leave the city, was all that any one
knew of her.

    The rector instituted a quiet search, but only
succeeded in learning that she bad conducted her
preparations for departure with the greatest se-
crecy, and that to no one bad she imparted her
plans.

    Whenever a young woman shrouds her actions
in the garments of secrecy- she invites suspicion.
The people who love to suspect their fellow-beings
of wrong-doing were not absent on this occasion.

    The rector was hurt and wounded by all this,
and while be resented the intimation from another

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        147

 

that Miss Irving’s conduct had been peculiar and
mysterious, be felt it to be so in his own heart.

    "Is it her mother’s tendency to adventure devel-
oping in her?" be asked himself.

    Yet be wrote her a letter, directing it to her at
the old number, thinking she would at least leave
her address with the post office for the forwarding
of mail. The letter was returned to him from that
cemetery of many a dear hope, the dead-letter
office. A personal in a leading paper failed to
elicit a reply. And then one day six months after
the disappearance of Joy Irving, the Young rector
was called to the Cheney household to offer spir-
itual consolation to Miss Alice, who believed her-
self to be dying. She had been in a decline ever
since the rector went away for his health. Since
his return she bad seen him but seldom, rarely
save in the pulpit, and for the last six weeks she
had been too ill to attend divine service.

    It was Preston Cheney himself, at home upon
one of his periodical visits, who sent for the rector,
and gravely met him at the door when be arrived,
and escorted him into his study.

    " I am very anxious about my daughter," he
said. "She has been ‘a nervous child always, and
over-sensitive. I returned yesterday after an ab-
sence of some three months in California, to find
Alice in bed, wasted to a shadow, and constantly

 

148                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

weeping. I cannot win her confidence—she has
never confided to me. Perhaps it is my fault ; per-
haps I have not been at home enough to make her
realize that the relationship of father and daughter
is a sacred one. This morning when I was urging
her to tell me what grieved her, she remarked that
there was but One person to whom she could com-
municate this sorrow-her rector. So, my dear
Dr. Stuart, I have sent for you. I will conduct
you to my child, and I leave her in your hands.
Whatever comfort and consolation you can offer,
I know will be given. I hope she will not bind
you to secrecy; I hope you may be able to tell me
what troubles her, and advise me how to help
her.

    It was more than an hour before the rector re-
turned to the library where Preston Cheney
awaited him. When the senator heard his approach-
ing step, be looked up, and was startled to see the
pallor on the young man’s face. "You have some-
thing sad, something terrible to tell me !" be cried.
"What is it?"

    The rector walked across the room several times,
breathing deeply, and with anguish written on
is countenance. Then be took Senator Cheney’s
hand and wrung it. " I have an embarrassing an-
nouncement to make to you," he said. " It is
something so surprising, so unexpected, that I am
completely unnerved."

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        149

 

    " You alarm me more and more," the senator
answered. "What can be the secret which my
frail child has imparted to you that should so
distress you? Speak; it is my right to know."

    The rector took another turn about the room,
and then came and stood facing Senator Cheney.

    " Your daughter has conceived a strange passion
for me," he said in a low voice. "It is this which
has caused her illness, and which she says will
cause her death, if I cannot return it."

    " And you ?" asked his listener after a moment’s
silence.

    " I? Why, I have never thought of your daugh-
ter in any such manner," the young man replied.
"I have never dreamed of loving her, or winning
her love.

    " Then do not marry her," Preston Cheney said
quietly." Marriage without love is unholy. Even
to save life it is unpardonable.

    The rector was silent, and walked the room
with nervous steps. III must go home and think
it all out," be said after a time. "Perhaps Miss
Cheney will find her grief less, now that she has
imparted it to me. I am alarmed at her condi-
tion, and I Shall hope for an early report from you
regarding her."

    The report was made twelve hours later. Miss
Cheney was delirious, and calling constantly for
the rector. Her physician feared the worst.

 
 

150                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    The rector came, and his presence at once
soothed the girl’s delirium.

    " History repeats itself," said Preston Cheney
meditatively to himself. "Alice is drawing this
man into the net by her alarming physical condi-
tion as Mabel riveted the chains about me when
her mother died.

    " But Alice really loves the rector, I think, and
she is capable of a much stronger passion than
her mother ever felt; and the rector loves no other
woman at least, and so this marriage, if it takes
place, will not be so wholly wicked and unholy
as mine was."

    The marriage did take place three months later.

    Alice Cheney was not the wife whom Mrs. Stu-
art would have chosen for her son, yet she urged
him to this step, glad to place a barrier for all
time between him and Joy Irving, whose possible
return at any day she constantly feared, and
whose power over her son’s heart she knew was
undiminished.

    Alice Cheney’s family was of the best on both
sides; there was wealth, station, and honor; and
a step-grandmamma who could be referred to on
occasions as "The Baroness." And there was no
skeleton to be hidden or excused.
And Arthur Stuart, believing that Alice Che-
ney’s life and reason depended upon, his making

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        151

 

her his wife, resolved to end the bitter struggle
with his own heart and with fate, and do what
seemed to be his duty, toward the girl and toward
his mother. When the wedding took place, the
saddest face at the ceremony, save that of the
groom, was the face of the bride’s father. But
the bride was radiant, and Mabel and the Baroness
walked in clouds.





CHAPTER XVII.

 

    ALICE did not rally in health or spirits after her
marriage, as her family, friends and physician
had anticipated. She remained nervous, ailing
and despondent.

    " Should maternity come to her, she would
doubtless be very much improved in health after-
ward," the doctor said, and Mabel, remembering
how true a similar prediction proved in her case,
despite her rebellion against it, was not sorry
when she knew that Alice was to become a mother,
scarcely a year after her marriage.

    But Alice grew more and more despondent as
the months passed by; and after the birth of her
son, the young mother developed dementia of the
most hopeless kind. The best specialists in two
worlds were employed to bring her out of the state
of settled melancholy into which she bad fallen,
but all to no avail. At the end of two years, her
case was pronounced hopeless. Fortunately the
child died at the age of six weeks, so the seed of
insanity which in the first Mrs. Lawrence was
simply a case of "nerves," growing into the plant

152

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        153

 

hysteria in Mabel, and yielding the deadly fruit
of insanity in Alice, was allowed by a kind provi-
dence to become extinct in the fourth generation.

    This disaster to his only child caused a com-
plete breaking down of spirit and health in Pres-

ton Cheney.

    Like some great, strongly coupled car, which
loses its grip and goes plunging down an incline
to destruction, Preston Cheney’s will-power lost
it hold on life, and lie went down to the valley of
death with frightful speed.

    During the months which preceded his death,
Senator Cheney’s only pleasure seemed to be in
the companionship of his son-in-law. The strong
attachment between the two men ripened with
every day’s association. One day the rector was
sitting by the invalid’s couch, reading aloud,
when Preston Cheney laid his band on the young
man’s arm and said: " Close your book and let
me tell you a true story which is stranger than
fiction. It is the story Of an ambitious man and
all the disasters which his realized ambition
brought into the lives of others. It is a story
whose details are known to but two beings on
earth, if indeed the other being still exists on
earth. I have long wanted to tell you this story
—indeed, I wanted to tell it to you before you
made Alice your wife, yet the fear that I would be

 

154                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

wrecking the life and reason of my child kept me
silent. No doubt if I had told you, and you had
been influenced by my experience against a love-
less marriage, I should to-day be blaming myself
for her condition, which I see plainly ]now is but
the culmination of three generations of hysterical
women. But I want to tell you the story and urge
you to use it as a warning in your position of
counselor and friend of ambitious young men.

    " No matter what else a Man may do for posi-
tion, don’t let him marry a woman he does not
love, especially if he crucifies a vital passion for
another, in order to do this. " Then Preston Che-
ney told the story of his life to his son-in-law ;
and as the tale proceeded, a strange interest which
increased until it became violent excitement, took
possession of the rector’s brain and heart. The
story was so familiar-so very familiar; and at
length when the name of Berene Dumont escaped
the speaker’s lips, Arthur Stuart clutched his
bands and clenched his teeth to keep silent until
the end of the story came.

    " From the hour Berene disappeared, to this
very day, no word or message ever came from
her," the invalid said. "I have never known
whether she was dead or alive, married, or, terri-
ble thought, perhaps driven into a reckless life by
her one false step with me. This last fear has been
a constant torture to me all these years.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        155

 

    " The world is cruel in its judgment of woman.
And yet I know that it is woman herself who has
shaped the opinions of the world regarding these
matters. If men had had their way since the
world began, there would be no virtuous women.
Woman has realized this fact, and she has in con-
sequence walled herself about with rules and con-
veutions which have in a measure protected her
from man. When any woman breaks through
these conventions and errs, she suffers the scorn
of others who have kept these self-protecting and
society-protecting laws; and conscious of their
scorn, she believes all hope is lost forever.

    "The fear that Berene took this view of her
one mistake, and plunged into a desperate life
has embittered my whole existence. Never
before did a man suffer such a mental hell
as I have endured for this one act of sin and
weakness. Yet the world, looking at my life of
success, would say if it knew this story, ‘Behold
how the man goes free.’ Free ! Great God ! there
is no bondage so terrible as that of the mind. I
have loved Berene Dumont with a changeless pas-
sion for twenty-three years, and there has not
been a day in all that time that I have not during
some hours endured the agonies of the damned,
thinking of all the disasters and misery that might
have come into her life through me. Heaven
knows I would have married her if she had re-

 
 

156                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

mained. Strange and intricate as the not was
which the devil wove about me when I had
furnished the cords, I could and would have
broken through it after that strange night—at
once the heaven and the bell of my memory—if
Berene had remained. As it was—I married Mabel,
and you know what a farce, ending in a tragedy,
our married life has been. God grant that no
worse woes befell Berene ; God grant that I may
meet her in the spirit world and tell her bow I
loved her and longed for her companionship.

    The young rector’s eyes were streaming with
tears, as he reached over and clasped the sick
man’s bands in his, "You will meet her," he
said with a choked voice. "I beard this same
story, but without names, from Berene Dumont’s
dying lips more than two years ago. And just as
Berene disappeared from you-so her daughter
disappeared from me; and God help me, dear
father-double now my father, I crushed out my
great passion for the glorious natural child of
your love, to marry the loveless, wretched and un-
natural child of your marriage."

    The sick man started up on his couch, his eyes
flaming, his cheeks glowing With sudden luster.

    "My child-the natural child of Berene’s love
and mine, you say; oh, my God, speak and tell me
what you mean; speak before I die of joy so ter-
rible it is like anguish."

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        157

 

    So then it became the rector’s turn to take the
part of narrator. When the story was ended,
Preston Cheney lay weeping like a woman on his
couch; the first tears he had shed since his mother
died and left him an orphan of ten.

    Berene living and dying almost, within reach
of my arms-almost within sound of my voice !"
he cried. "Oh, why did I not find her before the
grave closed between us? and why did no voice
speak from that grave to tell me when I held my
daughter’s hand in mine?-my beautiful child,
no wonder my heart went out to her with such a
gush of tenderness no wonder I was fired with
unaccountable anger and indignation when Mabel
and Alice spoke unkindly of her. Do you remem-
ber how her music stirred me? It was her moth-
er’s heart speaking to mine through the genius of
our child.

    "Arthur, you must find her-you must find her
for me ! If it takes my whole fortune I must see
my daughter, and clasp her in my arms before I
die."

    But this happiness was not to be granted to the
dying man. Overcome by the excitement of this
new emotion, be grew weaker and weaker as the
next few days passed, and at the end of the fifth
day his spirit took its flight, let us hope to join
its true mate.

 
 

158                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    It had been one of his dying requests to have
his body taken to Beryngford and placed beside
that of Judge Lawrence.

    The funerel services took place in the new and
imposing church edifice which had been con-

structed recently in Beryngford. The quiet in-

terior village bad taken a leap forward during the
last few years, and was now a thriving city, owing
to the discovery of valuable stone quarries in
its borders.

    The Baroness and Mabel had never been in
Beryngford since the death of Judge Lawrence
many years before; and it was with sad and bit-
ter hearts that both women recalled the past and
realized anew the disasters which bad wrecked
their dearest hopes and ambitions.

    The Baroness, broken in spirit and crushed by
the insanity of her beloved Alice, now saw the
form of the man whom she bad hopelessly loved
for so Many years, laid away to crumble back to
dust; and yet, the sorrows which should have
softened her soul, and made her heart tender to-
ward all suffering humanity,. rendered her pitiless
as the grave toward one lonely and desolate being
before the shadows of night bad fallen upon the
grave of Preston Cheney.

    When the funeral march pealed out from the
grand new organ during the ceremonies in the

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        159

 

church, both the Baroness and the rector, absorbed
as they were in mournful sorrow, started with
surprise. Both gazed at the organ loft; and there,
before the great instrument, sat the graceful fig-
ure of Joy Irving. The rector’s face grew pale as
the corpse in the casket; the withered cheek of
the Baroness turned a sickly yellow, and a spark
of anger dried the moisture in her eyes.

    Before the night bad settled over the thriving
city of Beryngford, the Baroness dropped a point
of virus from the lancet of her tongue to poison
the social atmosphere where Joy Irving bad by the
merest accident of fate made her new home, and
where in the office of organist she bad, without
dreaming of her dramatic situation, played the
requiem at the funeral of her own father.





CHAPTER XVIII.

 

    JOY IRVING had come to Beryngford at the time
when the discoveries of the quarries caused that
village to spring into sudden prominence as a
growing city. Newspaper accounts of the build-
ing of the new church, and the purchase of a large
pipe organ, chanced to fall under her eye just as
she was planning to leave the scene of her unhap-
piness.

    " I can at least only fail if I try for the position
of organist there," she said, "and if I succeed in
this interior town, I can hide myself from all the
world without incurring heavy expense."

    So all unconsciously Joy fled from the metrop-
olis to the very place from which her mother had
vanished twenty-two years before.

    She had been the organist in the grand new
Episcopalian Church now for three years; and she
had made many. cordial acquaintances who would
have become near friends, if she had encouraged
them But Joy’s sweet and trustful nature had
received a great shock in the knowledge of the
shadow which hung about her birth. Where for-

160

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        161

 

merly she bad expected love and appreciation from
every one she met, she now shrank from forming
new ties, lest new hurts should await her.

    She was like a flower in whose perfect heart a
worm has coiled. Her entire feeling about life had
undergone a change For many weeks after her
self-imposed exile, she bad been unable to think of
her mother without a mingled sense of shame and
resentment; the adoring love she had borne this
being seemed to die with her respect. After a
time the bitterness of this sentiment wore away,
and a pitying tenderness and sorrow took its
place; but from her heart the twin angels, Love
and Forgiveness, were absent. She read her moth-
ers manuscript over, and tried to argue herself
into the philosophy which had sustained the author
of her being through all these years.

    But her mind was shaped far more after the
conventional pattern of her paternal ancestors,
who had been New England Puritans, and she
could not view the subject as Berene bad viewed
it.

    In spite of the ideality which her mother had
woven about him, Joy entertained the most bitter
contempt for the unknown man who was her
father, and the whole tide of her affections turned
lavishly upon the memory of Mr. Irving whom
she felt now more than ever so worthy of her re-
gard.

 
 

162                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Reason as she would on the supremacy of love
over law, yet the bold, unpleasant fact remained
that she was the child of an unwedded mother.
She shrank in sensitive pain from having this story
follow her, and the very consciousness that her
mother’s experience had been an exceptional one,
caused her the greater dread of having it known
and talked of as a common vulgar liaison.

    There are two things regarding which the world
at large never asks any questions, namely: How a
rich man made his money, and how an erring
woman came to fall, It is enough for the world to
know that be is rich-that fact alone opens all
doors to him, as the fact that the woman has
erred, closes them to her.

    There was a common vulgar creature in Beryng-
ford, whose many amours and bold defiance of law
and order rendered her name a synonym for in-
decency. This woman had begun her career in
early girlhood as a mercenary intriguer; and yet
Joy Irving knew that the majority of people would
make small distinctions between the conduct of
this creature and that of her mother, were the
facts of Berene’s life and her own birth to be made
public. The fear that the story would follow here
wherever she went became an absolute dread with
her, and caused her to live alone and without

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        163

 

companions, in the midst of people who would
gladly have become her warm’ friends, had she
permitted.

    Her book of "Impressions" reflected the changes
which had taken place in the complexion of her
mind during these years. Among its entries
were the following :

    People talk about following a divine law of love,
when they wish to excuse their brute impulses
and break social and civil codes.

    No love is sanctioned by God, which shatters
human hearts.

    Fathers are only distantly related to their chil-
dren; love for the male parent is a matter of edu-
cation.

    The devil macadamizes all his pavements.

    A natural child has no place in an unnatural
world.

    When we cannot respect our parents, it is dif-
ficult to keep our ideal of God.

    Love is a mushroom, and lust is its poi-
sonous counterpart.

    It is a pity that people who. despise civilization
should be so uncivil as to stay in it. There is
always darkest Africa.

    The extent of a man Is gallantry depends on the
goal. He follows the good Woman to the borders
of Paradise and leaves her with a polite bow; but
he follows the bad Woman to the depths of hell.

 
 

164                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    It is easy to trust in God until be permits us to
suffer. The dentist seems a skilled benefactor to
mankind when we look at his sign from the street.
When we sit in his chair be seems a brute, armed
with devil’s implements.

    An anonymous letter is the bastard of a diseased
mind.

    An envious woman is a spark from Purgatory.

    The consciousness that we have anything to hide
from the world stretches a veil between our souls
and heaven. We can not reach up to meet the
gaze of God, when we are afraid to meet the eyes
of men.

    It may be all very well for two people to make
their own laws, but they have no right to force a
third to live by them.

    Virtue is very secretive about her payments,
but the whole world hears of it when vice settles
up.

    We have a sublime contempt for public opinion
theoretically so long as it favors us. When it
turns against us we suffer intensely from the loss
of what we claimed to despise.

    When the fruit must apologize for the tree, we
do not care to save the seed.

    It is only when God and man have formed a
syndicate and agreed upon their laws, that mar-
riage is a safe investment.

    The love that does not protect its object would
better change its name.

    When- we say of people what we would not say
to them, we are either liars or cowards.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        165

 

    The enmity of some people is the greatest com-
pliment they can pay us.

    It was in thoughts like these that Joy relieved
her heart of some of the bitterness and sorrow
which weighed upon it. And day after day she bore
about with her the dread of having the story of
her mother’s sin known in her new home.

    As our fears, like our wishes, when strong and
unremitting, prove to be magnets, the result of
Joy’s despondent fears came in the scandal which
the Baroness had planted and left to flourish and
grow in Beryngford after her departure. An hour
before the services began, on the day of Preston
Cheney’s burial, Joy learned at whose rites she
was to officiate as organist. A pang of mingled
emotions shot through her heart at the sound of his
name. She had Seen this man but a few times, and
spoken with him but once : yet he had left a strong
impression upon her memory. She had felt drawn
to him by his sympathetic face and atmos-
phere, the sorrow of his kind eyes, and the keen
appreciation he had shown in her art; and just
in the measure that she bad been attracted by
him, she bad been repelled by the three women
to whom she was presented at the same time.
She saw them all again mentally, as she had seen
them on that and many other days. Mrs. Cheney
and Alice, with their fretful, plain, dissatisfied




AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

faces, and their over-burdened costumes, and the
Baroness, with her cruel heart gazing through her
worn mask of defaced beauty.

    She bad been conscious of a feeling of overwhelm-
ing pity for the kind, attractive man who made the
fourth of that quartette. She knew that he had
obtained honors and riches from life, but she pitied
him for his home environment. She had felt so
thankful for her own happy home life at the time;
and she remembered, too, the sweet hope that lay
like a closed-up bud in the bottom of her heart that
day, as the quartette moved away and left her stand-
ing alone with Arthur Stuart. It was only a few
weeks later that the end came to all her dreams,
through that terrible anonymous letter.

    It was the Baroness who had sent it, she knew
—the Baroness whose early hatred for her mother
had descended to the child. "And now I must sit
in the same house with her again," she said, " and
perhaps meet her face to face; and she may tell
the story here of my mother’s shame, even as I
have felt and feared it must yet be told. How
strange that a ‘love child’ should inspire so
much hatred !"

    Joy had carefully refrained from reading New
York papers ever since she left the city; and she
had no correspondents. It was her wish and de-

166

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        167

 

sire to utterly sink and forget the past life there.
Therefore she know nothing of Arthur Stuart’s
marriage to the daughter of Preston Cheney. She
thought of the rector as dead to her. She believed
he had given her up because of the stain upon her
birth, and, bitter as the pain had been, she never
blamed him. She had fought with her love for
him and believed that it was buried in the grave
of all other happy memories.

    But as the earth is wrenched open by volcanic
eruptions and long buried corpses are revealed
again to the light of day, so the unexpected sight
of Arthur Stuart, as be took his place beside Mabel
and the Baroness during the funeral services, re-
vealed all the pent up passion of her heart to her
own frightened soul.

    To strong natures, the greater the inward ex-
citement the more quiet the exterior; and Joy
passed through the services, and performed her
duties, without betraying to those about her the
violent emotions under which she labored.

    The rector of Beryngford Church requested her
to remain for a few moments, and consult with
him on a matter concerning the next week’s
musical services. It was from him Joy learned the
relation which Arthur Stuart bore to the dead
man, and that Beryngford was the former home
of the Baroness.

 
 

168                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Her mother’s manuscript had carefully avoided
all mention of names of people or places. Yet
Joy realized now that she must be living in the
very scene of her mother’s early life; she longed to
make inquiries, but was prevented by the fear that
she might bear her mother’s name mentioned dis-
respectfully.

    The days that followed were full of sharp agony
for her. It was not until long afterward that
she was able to write her "impressions" of that
experience. In the extreme hour of joy or agony
we formulate no impressions; we only feel. We
neither analyze nor describe our friends or enemies
when face to face with them, but after we leave
their presence. When the day came that she could
write, some of her reflections were thus epito-
mized:

    Love which rises from the grave to comfort us,
possesses more of the demons’ than the angel’s
power. It terrifies us with its supernatural qual-
ities and deprives us temporarily of our reason.

Suppressed steam and suppressed emotion are
dangerous things to deal with.

    The infant who wants its mother’s breast, and
the woman who wants her lover’s arms, are poor
subjects to reason with. Though you tell the
former that fever has poisoned the mother’s milk,
or the latter that destruction lies in the lover’s
embrace, one heeds you no more than the other.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        169

 

    The accumulated knowledge of ages is sometimes
revealed by a kiss. Where wisdom is bliss, it is
folly to be ignorant.

    Some of us have to crucify our hearts before we
find our souls.

    A woman can not fully know charity until she
has met passion; but too intimate an acquaintance
with the latter destroys her appreciation of all
the virtues.

    To feel temptation and resist it, renders us lib-
eral in our judgment of all our kind. To yield to
it, fills us with suspicion of all.

    There is an ecstatic note in pain which is never
reached in happiness.

    The death of a great passion is a terrible thing,
unless the dawn of a greater truth shines on the
grave.

    Love ought to have no past tense.

    Love partakes of the feline nature. It has nine
lives.

    It seems to be difficult for some of us to distin-
guish between looseness of views, and charitable
judgments. To be sorry for people’s sins and fol-
lies and to refuse harsh criticism is right; to ac-
cept them as a matter of course is wrong.

    Love and sorrow are twins, and knowledge is
their nurse.

    The pathway of the soul is not a steady ascent,
but hilly and broken. We must Sometimes go
lower, in order to got higher.

    That which is to-day, and will be to-morrow,

 
 

170                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

must have been yesterday. I know that I live, I be-
lieve that I shall live again, and have lived before.

    Earth life is the middle rung of a long ladder
which we climb in the dark though we can not
see the steps below or above, they exist all the
same.

    The materialist denying spirit is like the burr
of the chestnut denying the meat within.

    The inevitable is always right.

    Prayer is a skeleton key that opens unexpected
doors. We may not find the things we came to
seek, but we find other treasures.

    The pessimist belongs to God’s misfit counter.

    Art, when divorced from Religion, always be-
comes a wanton.

    To forget benefits we have received is a crime.
To remember benefits we have bestowed is a great-
er one.

    To some men a woman is a valuable book, care-
fully studied and choicely guarded behind glass
doors. To others, she is a daily paper, idly scanned
and tossed aside.

 





CHAPTER XIX.

 

    WHILE Joy battled with her sorrow during the
days following Preston Cheney’s burial, she woke
to the consciousness that her history was known
in Beryngford. The indescribable change in the
manner of her acquaintances, the curiosity in the
eyes of some, the insolence or familiarity of others,
all told her that her fears were realized; and then
there came a letter from the church authorities
requesting her to resign her position as organist.

This letter came to the young girl on one of
those dreary autumn nights when all the desola-
tion of the. dying summer, and none of the ex-
hilaration of the approaching winter, is in the air.
She had been laboring all day under a cloud of
depression which hovered over her heart and brain
and threatened to wholly envelop her; and the
letter from the church committee out her heart
like a poniard stroke. Sometimes we are able to
bear a series of great disasters with courage and
equanimity, while we utterly collapse under some
slight misfortune. Joy had been a heroine in her
great sorrows, but now in the undeserved loss of

171

 
 

172                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

her position as church organist, she felt herself
unable longer to cope with Fate.

    " There is no place for me anywhere," she said
to herself. Had she known the truth, that the
Baroness had represented her to the committee as
a fallen woman of the metropolis, who had left
the city for the city’s good, the letter would not
have seemed to her so cruelly unjust and unjusti-
fiable.

    Bitter as had been her suffering at the loss of
Arthur Stuart from her life, she had found it pos-
sible to understand his hesitation to make her his
wife. With his fine sense of family pride, and his
reverence for the estate of matrimony, his belief in
heredity, it seemed quite natural to her that he
should be shocked at the knowledge of the condi-
tions under which she was born ; and the thought
that her disappearance from his life was helping
him to solve a painful problem, had at times, before
this unexpected sight of him, rendered her almost
happy in her lonely exile. She had grown strangely
fond of Beryngford—of the old streets and homes
which she knew must have been familiar to her
mother’s eyes, of the new church whose glorious
voiced organ gave her so many hours of comfort
and relief of soul, of the tiny apartment where
she and her heart communed together. She was
cat-like in her love of places, and now she must

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        173

 

tear herself away from all these surroundings and
seek some new spot wherein to bide herself and
her sorrows.

    It was like tearing up a half-rooted flower, al-
ready drooping from one transplanting. She said
to herself that she could never survive another
change. She read the letter over which lay in her
hand, and tears began to slowly well from her eyes.
Joy seldom wept; but now it seemed to her she
was some other person, who stood apart and wept
tears of sympathy for this poor girl, Joy Irving,
whose life was so, hemmed about with troubles,
none of which were of her own making; and then,
like a dam which suddenly gives way and allows
a river to overflow, a great storm of sobs shook
her frame, and she wept as she had never wept be-
fore; and with her tears there came rushing back
to her heart all the old love and sorrow for the
dead mother which had so long been bidden un-
der her burden of shame; and all the old passion
and longing for the man whose insane wife she
knew to be a more hopeless obstacle between them
than this mother’s history had proven.

    " Mother, Arthur, pity me, pity me !" she cried.
" I am all alone, and the strife is so terrible. I
have never meant to harm. any living thing !
Mother, Arthur, God, how can you all desert me
so?"

 
 

174                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    At last, exhausted, she fell into a deep and
dreamless sleep.

    She awoke the following morning with an ach-
ing head, and a heart wherein all emotions seemed
dead save a dull despair. She was conscious of
only one wish, one desire—a longing to sit again
in the organ loft, and pour forth her soul in one
last farewell to that instrument, which had grown
to seem her friend, confidant and lover.

    She battled with her impulse as unreasonable
and unwise, till the day was well advanced. But
it grew stronger with each hour; and at last she
set forth under a leaden sky and through a dreary
November rain to the church.

    Her bead throbbed with pain, and her bands
were hot and feverish, as she seated herself before
the organ and began to play. But with the first
sounds responding to her touch, she ceased to
think of bodily discomfort.

    The music was the voice of her own soul, utter-
ing to God all its desolation, its anguish and its
despair. Then suddenly, with no seeming volition
of her own, it changed to a passion of human love,
human desire; the sorrow of separation, the strife
with the emotions, the agony of renunciation were
all there; and the November rain, beating in wild
gusts against the window-panes behind the musi-
cian, lent a fitting accompaniment to the strains.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                  175

 

    She had been playing for perhaps an hour, when
a sudden exhaustion seized upon her, and her
hands fell nerveless and inert upon her lap; she
dropped her chin upon her breast and closed her
eyes. She was drunken with her own music.

    When she opened them again a few moments
later, they fell upon the face of Arthur Stuart,
who stood a few feet distant regarding her with
haggard eyes. Unexpected and strange as his
presence was, Joy felt neither surprise nor wonder.
She had been thinking of him so intensely, he had
been so interwoven with the music she had been
playing, that his bodily presence. appeared to her
as a natural result. He was the first to speak ; and
when he spoke she noticed that his voice sounded
hoarse and broken, and that his face was drawn
and pale.

    " I came to Beryngford this morning expressly
to see you, Joy, " he said. "I have many things
to say to you. I went to your residence and was
told by the maid that I would find you here. I
followed, as you see. We have had many meetings
in church edifices, in organ lofts. It seems nat-
ural to find you in such a place, but I fear it will
be unnatural and unfitting to say to you here,
what I came to say. Shall we return to your home?"

    His eyes Shone strangely from dusky caverns,
and there were deep lines about his mouth.

 
 

176                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    " He, too, has suffered," thought Joy; " I have not
borne it all alone." Then she said aloud : " We
are quite undisturbed here; I know of nothing I
could listen to in my room which I could not hear
you say in this place. Go on."

    He looked at her silently for a moment, his
cheek pale, his breast heaving. Before he came
to Beryngford, be had fought his battle between
religion and human passion, and passion had won.
He had cast under his feet every principle and
tradition in which be had been reared, and re-
solved to live alone henceforth for the love and
companionship of one human being, could he ob-
tain her consent to go with him.

    Yet for the moment, be hesitated to speak the
words he had resolved to 1. utter, under the roof of
a house of God, so strong were the influences of
his early training and his habits of thought. But
as his eyes feasted upon the face before him, his
hesitation vanished, and be leaned toward her and
spoke. " Joy," be said, " three years ago I went
away and left you in sorrow, alone, because I was
afraid to brave public opinion, afraid to displease
my mother and ask you to be my wife. The story
your mother told me of your birth, a story she
left in manuscript for you to read, made a social
coward of me. I was afraid to take a girl born
out of wedlock to be my life companion, the mother

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        177

 

of my children. Well, I married a girl born in
wedlock; and where is my companion ?" He
paused and laughed recklessly. Then be went on
hurriedly: "She is in an insane asylum. I am
chained to a corpse for life. I had not enough
moral courage three years ago to make you my
wife. But I have moral courage enough now to
come here and ask you to go with me to Australia,
and begin a new life together. My mother died
a year ago. I donned the surplice at her bidding.
I will abandon it at the bidding of Love. I sinned
against heaven in marrying a woman I did not
love. I am willing to sin against the laws of man
by living with the woman I do love; will you go
with me, Joy?" There was silence save for the
beating of the rain against the stained window,
and the wailing of the wind.

    Joy was in a peculiarly overwrought condition
of mind and body. Her hours of extravagant
weeping the previous night, followed by a day of
fasting, left her nervous system in a state to be
easily excited by the music she had been playing.
She was virtually intoxicated with sorrow and
harmony. She was incapable of reasoning, and
conscious only of two things—that she must leave
Beryngford, and that the man whom she had
loved with her whole heart for five years, was ask-
ing her to go with him; to be no more homeless,

 

178            AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

unloved, and alone, but his companion while life
should last.

    " Answer me, Joy," he was pleading. " Answer
me.

    She moved toward the stairway that led down
to the street door; and as she flitted by him, she
said, looking him full in the eyes with a slow,
grave smile, " Yes, Arthur, I will go with you."
He sprang toward her with a wild cry of joy, but
she was already flying down the stairs and out
upon the street.

    When he joined her, they walked in silence
through the rain to her door, neither speaking a
word, until be would have followed her within.
Then she laid her hand upon his shoulder and
said gently but firmly: "Not now, Arthur; we must
not see each other again until we go away. Write
me where to meet you, and I will join you within
twenty-four hours. Do not urge me—you must
obey me this once—afterward I will obey you.
Good-night."

    As she. closed the door upon him, he said, " Oh,
Joy, I have so much to tell you. I promised your
father when be was dying that I would find you ;
I swore to myself that when I found you I would
never leave you, save at your own command. I
go now, only because you bid me go. When we
meet again, there must be no more parting; and

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        179

 

you shall hear a story stranger than the wildest
fiction—the story of your father’s life. Despite
your mother’s secretiveness regarding this portion
of her history, the knowledge has come to me in
the most unexpected manner, from the lips of the
man himself. "

    Joy listened dreamily to the words be was say-
ing. Her father—she was to know who her father
was? Well, it did not matter much to her now
—father, mother, what were they, what was any-
thing save the fact that he had come back to her
and that be loved her?

    She smiled silently into his eyes. Glance be-
came entangled with glance, and would not be
separated.

    She pushed open the almost closed door and she
felt herself enveloped with arms and lips.

    A second later she stood alone, leaning dizzily
against the door; heart, brain and blood in a mad
riot of emotion.

    Then she fell into a chair and covered her burn-
ing face with her bands as she whispered, "Mother,
mother, forgive me—I understand—I understand. "





CHAPTER XX

 

    THE first shock of the awakened emotions brings
recklessness to some women, and to others fear.

    The more frivolous plunge forward like the
drunken man who leaps from the open window
believing space is water.

    The more intense draw back, startled at the un-
known world before them.

    The woman who thinks love is all ideality is
more liable to follow into undreamed of chasms
than she who, through the complexity of her own
emotions, realizes its grosser elements.

    It was long after midnight when Joy fell into a
heavy sleep, the night of Arthur Stuart’s visit.

    She beard the drip of the dreary November rain
upon the roof, and all the light and warmth
seemed stricken from the universe save the fierce
fire in her own heart.

    When she woke in the late morning, great
splashes of sunlight were leaping and quivering
like living things across the foot of her bed ; she
sprang up, dazed for a moment by the flood of
light in the room, and went to the window and

180

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        181

 

looked out upon a sun-kissed world smiling in the
arms of a perfect Indian summer day.

    A happy little sparrow chirped upon the window

sill, and some children ran across the street bare-
headed, exulting in the soft air. All was innocence
and sweetness. Mind and morals are greatly in-
fluenced by weather. Many things seem right in
the fog and gloom, which we know to be wrong
in the clear light of a sunny morning. The events
of the previous day came back to Joy’s mind as
she stood by the window, and stirred bar with a
sense of strangeness and terror. The thought of
the step she had resolved to take brought a sudden
trembling to her limbs. It seemed to her the eyes
of God were piercing into her heart, and she was
afraid.

    Joy had from bar early girlhood been an earnest
and sincere follower of the Christian religion.
The embodiment of love and sympathy herself, it
was natural for bar to believe in the God of Love
and to worship Him in outward forms, as well as
in her secret Soul. It was the deep and earnest
fervor of religion in bar heart, which rendered her
music so unusual and so inspiring. There never
was is not, and never can be greatness in any
art where religious feeling is lacking.

    There must be the consciousness of the Infinite,
in the mind which produces infinite results.

 
 

182                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

    Though the artist be gifted beyond all other men,
though be toil unremittingly, so long as be says,
" Behold what I, the gifted and tireless toiler, can
achieve," he shall produce but mediocre and
ephemeral results. It is when be says reverently,
" Behold what powers greater than I, shall achieve
through me, the instrument," that be becomes
great, and men marvel, at his power.

    Joy’s religious nature found expression in her
music, and so something more than a harmony of
beautiful sounds impressed her bearers.

    The first severe blow to her faith in the church
as a divine institution, was when her rector and
her lover left her alone in the hour of her darkest
trials, because be knew the story of her mother’s
life. His hesitancy to make her his wife she un-
derstood, but his absolute desertion of her at such
a time, seemed inconsistent with his calling as a
disciple of the Christ.

    The second blow came in her dismissal from
the position of organist at the Beryngford Church,
after the presence of the Baroness in the town.

    A disgust for human laws, and a bitter resent-
ment towards society took possession of her.
When a gentle and loving nature is roused to an-
ger and indignation, it is often capable of extremes
of action and Arthur Stuart had made his propo-
sition of flight to Joy Irving in an hour when her

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        183

 

high-wrought emotions and intensely strung nerves
made any desperate act possible to her. The sight
of his face, with its evidences of severe suffering,
awoke all her smoldering passion for the man ;
and the thought that lie was ready to tread his
creed under his feet and to defy society for her
sake, stirred her with a wild joy. God had seemed
very far away, and human love was very precious ;
too precious to be thrown away in obedience to
any man-made law.

    But somehow this morning God seemed nearer,
and the consciousness of what she had promised
to do terrified her. Disturbed by her thoughts, she
turned towards her toilet-table and caught sight
of the letter of dismissal from the church commit-
tee. It acted upon her like an electric shock. Re-
sentment and indignation re-enthroned themselves
in her bosom.

    " Is it to cater to the opinions and prejudices of
people like these that I hesitate to take the hap-
piness offered me?" she cried, as she tore the let-
ter in bits and cast it beneath her feet. Arthur
Stuart appeared to her once more, in the light of
a delivering angel. Yes, she would go with him to
the ends of the earth. It was her inheritance to
lead a lawless life. Nothing else was possible for
her. God must see—how she had been hemmed in
by circumstances, how she had been goaded and

184                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

driven from the paths of peace and purity where
she had wished to dwell. God was not a man, and
He would. be merciful in judging her.

    She sent her landlady two mouths’ rent in ad-
vance, and notice of her departure, and set hur-
riedly about her preparations.

    Twenty-five years before, when Berene Dumont
disappeared from Beryngford, she had, quite un-
known to herself, left one devoted though humble
friend behind, who sincerely mourned her absence.

    Mrs. Connor liked to be spoken of as " the wash-
lady at the Palace." Yet proud as she was of this
appellation, she was not satisfied with being an
excellent laundress. She was a person of ambi-
tions. To be the owner of a lodging-house, like
the Baroness, was her leading ambition, and to
possess a " peany" for her young daughter Kath-
leen was another.

    She kept her mind fixed on these two achieve-
ments, and she worked always for those two re-
sults. And as mind rules matter, so the laundress
became in time the landlady of a comfortable and
respectable lodging-house, and in its parlor a
piano was the chief object of furniture.

    Kathleen Connor learned to play; and at last, to
the joy of the lodgers, she married and bore her
" peany" away with her. During the time when

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        185

 

Mrs. Connor was the ambitious " wash-lady" at
the Palace, Berene Dumont came to live there;
and every morning when the young woman car-
ried the tray down to the kitchen after having
served the Baroness with her breakfast, she offered
Mrs. Connor a cup of coffee and a slice of toast.

    This simple act of thoughtfulness from the
young dependent touched the Irish woman’s ten-
der heart and awoke her lasting, gratitude. She
had heard Berene’s story, and she had been pre-
pared to mete out to her that disdainful dislike
which Erin almost invariably feels towards France.
Realizing that the young widow was by birth and
breeding above the station of housemaid, Mrs.
Connor and the servants had expected her to treat
them with the same lofty airs which the Baroness
made familiar to her servants. When, instead,
Berene toasted the bread for Mrs. Connor and
poured the coffee and placed it on the kitchen
table with her own hands, the heart of the wash-
lady malted in her ample breast. When the heart
of the daughter of Erin melts, it permeates her
whole being; and Mrs. Connor became a secret
devotee at the shrine of Miss Dumont.

    She had never entertained cordial feelings to-
ward the Baroness. When a society lady—espe-
cially a titled one—enters into competition with
working people and yet refuses to associate with

 

186                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

them, it always incites their enmity. The work-
ing population of Beryngford, from the highest to
the lowest grades, felt a sense of resentment to-
ward the Baroness, who in her capacity of land-
lady still maintained the airs of a grand dame,
and succeeded in keeping her footing with some
of the most fashionable people in the town.

    Added to these causes of dislike, the Baroness
was, like many wealthier people, excessively close
in her dealings with working folk, haggling over a
few cents or a low moments of wasted time, while
she was generosity itself in association with her
equals.

    Mrs. Connor, therefore, felt both pity and sym-
pathy for Miss Dumont, whose position in the
"Palace" she knew to be a difficult one; and when
Preston Cheney came upon the scene the romantic
mind of the motherly Irish woman fashioned a
future for the young couple which would have done
credit to the pen of a Mrs. Southworth.

    Mr. Cheney always had a kind word for the
laundress, and a tip as well; and when Mrs. Con-
nor’s dream of seeing him act the part of the
Prince and Berene the Cinderella of a modern
fairy story, ended in the disappearance of Miss
Dumont and the marriage of Mr. Cheney to Mabel
Lawrence, the unhappy wash-lady mourned un-
ceasingly.

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        187

 

    Ten years of hard, unremitting toil and rigid
economy passed away before Mrs. Connor could
realize her ambition of becoming a landlady in
the purchase of a small house which contained but
four rooms, three of which were rented to lodg-
ers. The increase in the value of her property
during the next five years, left the fortunate specu-
lator with a fine profit when she sold her house
at the end of that time, and rented a larger one ;
and as she was an excellent financier, it was not
strange that at the time Joy Irving appeared on
the scene, " Mrs. Connor’s apartments" were as
well and favorably known in Beryngford, if not
as distinctly fashionable, as the " Palace" had
been more than twenty years ago.

    So it was under the roof of her mother’s devoted
and faithful mourner that the unhappy young or-
phan had found a home when she came to hide her-
self away from all who had ever known her.

    The landlady experienced the same haunting
sensation of something past and gone when she
looked on the girl’s beautiful face, which had so
puzzled the Baroness; a something which drew
and attracted the warm heart of the Irish woman,
as the magnet draws the steel. Time and expe-
rience had taught Mrs. Connor to be discreet in
her treatment of her tenants; to curb her curios-
ity and control her inclination to sociability. But

 

188                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

in the case of Miss Irving she had found it impos-
sible to refrain from sundry kindly sets which
were not included in the terms of the contract.
Certain savory dishes found their way mysteri-
ously to Miss Irving’s menage, and flowers ap-
peared in her room as if by magic, and in various
other ways the good heart and intentions of Mrs.
Connor were unobtrusively expressed toward her
favorite tenant. Joy had taken a suite of four
rooms, where, with her maid, she lived in modest
comfort, and complete retirement from the social
world of Beryngford, save as the close connection
of the church with Beryngford society rendered
her, in the position of organist, a participant in
many of the social features of the town.

    While Joy was in the midst of her preparations
for departure, Mrs. Connor made her appearance
with swollen eyes and red, blistered face.

    " And it’s the talk of that ould witch of a Bar-
oness, may the divil run away with her, that is
drivin’ ye away, is it?" she cried excitedly; " and
it’s not Mrs. Connor as will consint to the daugh-
ter of your mother, God rest her soul, lavin’ my
house like this. To think that I should have had
ye here all these years, and never known ye to be
her child till now, and now to see ye driven away
by the divil’s own ! But if it’s the fear of not
being able to pay the rint because ye’ve lost your

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        189

 

position, ye needn’t lave for many a long day to
come. It’s Mrs. Connor would only be as happy
as the queen herself to work her hands to the bone
for ye, remembering your darlint of a mother,
and not belavin’ one word against her, nor ye. "

    So soon as Joy could gain possession of her
surprised senses, she calmed the weeping woman
and began to question her.

    " My good woman," she said, " what are you
talking about ? Did you ever know my mother,
and where did you know her ?"

    " In the Palace, to be sure, as they called the
house of that imp of Satan, the Baroness. I was
the wash-lady there, for it’s not Mrs. Connor the
landlady as is above spoken’ of the days when she
wasn’t as high in the world as she is now; and
many is the cheerin’ cup of coffee or tay from
your own mother’s hand, that I’ve had in the
forenoon, to chirk me up and put me through my
washing, bless her sweet face; and niver have I
forgotten her; and niver have I ceased to miss her
and the fine young man that took such an interest
in her and that I’m as sure loved her, in spite of
his marrying the Judge’s spook of a daughter, as
I am that the Holy Virgin loves us all; and it’s
a foine man that your father must have been, but
young Mr. Cheney was foiner."

    So little by little Joy drew the story from Mrs.

 

190                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

Connor and learned the name of the mysterious
father, so carefully guarded from her in Mrs.
Irving’s manuscript, the father at whose funeral
services she had so recently officiated as organist.

    And strangest and most startling of all, she
learned that Arthur Stuart’s insane wife was her
half-sister.

    Added to all this, Joy was made aware of the
nature of the reports which the Baroness had been
circulating about her; and her feeling of, bitter
resentment and anger toward. the church commit-
tee was modified by the knowledge that it was not
owing to the shadow on her birth, but to the false
report of her own evil life, that she had been asked
to resign.

    After Mrs. Connor had gone, Joy was for a long
time in meditation, and then turned in a me-
chanical manner to her delayed task. Her book
of " Impressions" lay on a table close at hand,
and as she took it up the leaves opened to the
sentence she had written three years before, after
her talk with the rector about Marah Adams.

    " It seems to me I could not love a man who
did not seek to lead me higher ; the moment he
stood below me and asked me to descend I should
realize he was to be pitied, not adored. "

    She shut the book and fell on her knees in
prayer; and as she prayed a strange thing hap-
pened. The room filled with a peculiar mist like the

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        191

 

smoke which is illuminated by the brilliant rays
of the morning sun ; and in the midst of it a
small square of intense rose-colored light was vis-
ible. This square grew larger and larger, until
it assumed the size and form of a man, whose
face shone with immortal glory. He smiled and
laid his band on Joy’s head. " Child, awake," he
said, and with these words vast worlds dawned
upon the girl’s sight. She stood above and apart
from her grosser body, untrammeled and free ;
she saw long vistas of lives in the past through
which she had come to the present ; she saw long
vistas of lives in the future through which she
must pass to gain the experience which would
lead her back to God. An ineffable peace and
serenity enveloped her. The divine Presence
seemed to irradiate the place in which she stood—
she felt herself illuminated, transfigured, sancti-
fied by the holy flame within her.

    When she came back to the kneeling form by
the couch, and rose to her feet, all the aspect of
life had changed for her.





CHAPTER XXI.

 

    JOY IRVING had unpacked her trunks and set
her small apartment to rights, when the post-
man’s ring sounded, and a moment later a letter
was slipped under her door.

    She picked it up, and recognized Arthur Stuart’s
penmanship. She sat down, holding the unopened
letter in her hands.

    " It is Arthur’s message, appointing a time and
place for our meeting," she said to herself.
" How long ago that strange interview with him
seems !—yet it was only yesterday. How utterly
the whole of life has changed for me since then !
The universe seems larger, God nearer, and life
grander. I am as one who slept and dreamed of
darkness and sorrow, and awakes to light and
joy."

    But when she opened the envelope and read the
few hastily written lines within, an exclamation
of surprise escaped her lips. It was a brief note
from Arthur Stuart and began abruptly without
an address (a manner more suggestive of strong
passion than any endearing words).

192

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        193

 

    " The first item which my eye fell upon in the
telegraphic column of the morning paper, was the
death of my wife in the Insane Retreat. I leave
by the first express to bring her body here for
burial.

    " A merciful providence has saved us the neces-
sity of defying the laws of God or man, and
opened the way for me to claim you before all the
world as my worshiped wife so soon as propriety
will permit.

    " I shall see you at any hour you may indicate
after to-morrow, for a brief interview.

                     " ARTHUR EMERSON STUART."

    Joy held the letter in her hand a long time, lost
in profound reflection. Then she sat down to her
desk and wrote three letters; one was to Mrs.
Lawrence; one to the chairman of the church
committee, who had requested her resignation ;
the third was to Mr. Stuart, and read thus:

    "MY DEAR MR. STUART:—Many strange things
have occurred to me since I saw you. I have learned
the name of my father, and this knowledge reveals
the fact to me that your unfortunate wife was my
half-sister. I have learned, too, that the loss of
my position here as organist is not due to the nar-
row prejudice of the committee regarding the
shadow on my birth, but to malicious stories put
in circulation by Mrs. Lawrence, relating to me.

    " Infamous and libelous tales regarding my life
have been told, and must be refuted. I have writ-
ten to Mrs. Lawrence demanding a letter from

her, clearing my personal character, or giving her
the alternative of appearing in court to answer the
charge of defamation of character. I have also
written to the church committee requesting them

 

194                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

to meet me here in my apartments to-morrow,
and explain their demand for my resignation.

    "I now write to you my last letter and my
farewell.

    " In the overwrought and desperate mood in
which you found me, it did not seem a sin for me
to go away with the man who loved me and whom
I loved, before false ideas of life and false ideas
of duty made him the husband of another. Con-
scious that your wife was a hopeless lunatic whose
present or future could in no way be influenced by
our actions, I reasoned that we wronged no one
in taking the happiness so long denied us.

    "The last three years of my life have been full of
desolation and sorrow. From the day my mother
died, the stars of light which had gemmed the
firmament for me, seemed one by one to be obliter-
ated, until I stood in utter darkness. You found
me in the very blackest hour of all—and you
seemed a shining sun to me.

    " Yet soon as my tired brain and sorrow-worn
heart were able to think and reason, I realized
that it was not the man I had worshiped as an
ideal, who had come to me and asked me to lower
my standard of womanhood. It was another and
less worthy man—and this other was to be my
companion through time, and perhaps eternity.
When I learned that your insane wife was my
sister, and that knowing this fact you yet planned
our flight, an indescribable feeling of repulsion
awoke in my heart.

    " I confess that this arose more from a sentiment
than a principle. The relationship of your wife to
me made the contemplated sin no greater, but
rendered it more tasteless.

    " Had I gone away with you as I consented to do,
the world would have said, ‘ She but follows her

 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        195

 

fatal inheritance—like mother like daughter.’
There were some bitter rebellious hours, when
that thought came tome. But to-day light has
shone upon me, and I know there is a law of Di-
vine Heredity which is greater and more powerful
than any tendency we derive from parents or
grandparents. I have believed much in creeds all
my life; arid in the hour of great trials I found I
was leaning on broken reeds. I have now ceased
to look to men or books for truth—I have found
it in my own Soul. I acknowledge no unfortunate
tendencies from any earthly inheritance; centur-
ies of sinful or weak ancestors are as nothing be-
side the God within. The divine and immortal
me is older than my ancestral tree; it is as old as
the universe. It is as old as the first great Cause
of which it is a part. Strong with this conscious-
ness, I am prepared to meet the world alone, and
unafraid from this day onward. When I think
of the optimistic temperament, the good brain,
and the vigorous body which were naturally mine,
and then of the wretched being who was my legit-
imate sister, I know that I was rightly generated,
however unfortunately born, just as she was
wrongly generated though legally born.

    " My father, I am told, married into a family
whose crest is traced back to the tenth century.
I carry a coat-of-arms older yet—the Cross ; it
dates back eighteen hundred years—yes, many
thousand years, and so I feel myself the nobler of
the two. Had you been more of a disciple of
Christ, and less of a disciple of man, you would
have realized this truth long ago, as I realize it
to-day. No man should dare stand before his fel-
lows as a revealer of divine knowledge until he
has penetrated the inmost recesses of his own

 

196                        AN AMBITIOUS MAN

 

soul, and found God’s holy image there ; and
until he can show others the way to the same won-
derful discovery. The God you worshiped was far
away in the heavens, so far that he could not
come to you and save you from your baser self in
the hour of temptation. But the true God has
been miraculously revealed to me. He dwells
within ; one who has found Him, will never debase,
His temple.

    " Though there is no legal obstacle now in the
path to our union, there is a spiritual one which
is insurmountable. I no longer love you. I am
sorry for you, but that is all. You belonged to
my yesterday—you can have no part in my to-day.
The man who tempted me in my weak hour to
go lower, could not help me to go higher. And
my face is set toward the heights.

    " I must prove to that world that a child born
under the shadow of shame, and of two weak, un-
controlled parents, can be virtuous, strong,
brave and sensible. That she can conquer pas-
sion and impulse, by the use of her divine inher-
itance of will; and that she can compel the re-
spect of the public by her discreet life and lofty
ideals.

    " I shall stay in this place until I have vindi-
cated my name and character from every asper-
sion cast upon them. I shall regain my position
of organist, and retain it until I have accumulated
sufficient means to go abroad and prepare myself
for the musical career in which I know I can ex-
cel. I am young, strong and ambitious. My un-
usual sorrows will give me greater power of
character if I accept them as spiritual tonics—
bitter but strengthening.

    " Farewell, and may God be with you.

" JOY IRVING."      

 
 

AN AMBITIOUS MAN                        197

 

    When the rector of St. Blank’s returned from
the Beryngford Cemetery, where he had placed
the body of his wife beside her father, he found
this letter lying on his table in the hotel.

 
 
 

THE END.

Courtesy of John M. Freiermuth