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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/157

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"No, I think they 'd like it better if I went ahead and picked out the thing that I most liked."

Mrs. Halket admitted that he was right; it amused and pleased her to realize that his instinct of courtesy had been surer than hers. Still standing before the fire, she smiled down at him, thinking gayly, "What a good, well-balanced man he'll make!"

"It's funny," Floyd said presently, "to hear you exhorting for society. I don't believe you care about it."

She came and seated herself on the wide arm of his chair and caressed his face with her hand. "All that I really care about, my dear, are you and your grandfather," she said. "At my age nothing else matters much. Your grandfather has had many honorable ambitions which I have tried to further: we have ambitions for you that we want to help you to realize. Your grandfather has won an eminence here that is more than commercial; we want you to retain it and go beyond it. Your position will be one in which you'll be expected—you'll be more useful—if you can bear yourself royally toward women as well as men—without self-consciousness, without awkwardness, without stiffness and the effort to unbend. We want you to have with all the graces all your natural simplicity and kindness; we want you to keep a manner as unaffected always as it is now; we want you to be in the best sense all that an American gentleman may be who has wealth and position and opportunity. Arbiter elegantiarum need not be an unworthy office for a man—if he is something more."

"It is a large order," Floyd sighed. "And after all, does it pay? The frills, the formality—"

"Yes, it pays," Mrs. Halket responded, firmly. "Of course it is easy to overdo—and excesses, acquired late in life, are not, I fear, to be corrected. We might get along here with a little less—well, flourish of trumpets in our daily routine,—but in a large way I believe your grandfather's idea is sound. This city, where people are