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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/191

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he reverenced even while it diminished him unflatteringly. This afternoon, when he rose to go, he said with some awkwardness:

"Lydia, I want to tell you—it's good of you not to lay up anything against me—what I said to you that day we were skating—"

"Oh," she interrupted with a laugh, "that was years ago. We've both got over that—long since."

"Have we?" said Floyd.

"Oh yes; quite." She smiled at him firmly, as they shook hands.

Their close and friendly relations continued unimpaired. But Lydia had awakened to the fact that Floyd had not in all her years of absence ceased to care for her and that he cared for no other woman. She was touched rather than annoyed by this fidelity; she was not annoyed, for she felt as secure in his honor as in her own. In the happiness of her married life, she did not resent his constancy, and she rather liked being the woman of his dreams. She could even have been jealous a little of another woman, should any appear to whom he might turn. Of course she had no desire to intervene between Floyd and happiness—such happiness as she and Stewart knew—but if one finds oneself first in a good man's affection, and the position involves neither risk nor sacrifice, one does not wish to be dethroned. Lydia never went so far as to speculate on what might have happened if Floyd instead of Stewart had been the first to propose marriage; any other arrangement than the actual one was unthinkable; no one was ever happier than she.

Stewart established himself in Avalon with remarkable celerity. At the Avalon Club within a month no member was unknown to him, and with all who frequented the place he was on terms of an easy familiarity; he never had to sit down at a table alone like a stranger. Men liked him and complimented Floyd on his protégé; Floyd was not backward in proclaiming Stewart's qualities.