to be taken too seriously—that one could, if one chose, regard as an exercise of voice and vocabulary. As a husband he could not have been more devoted. When he and Lydia walked together on the street, he would place himself between her and the curb as scrupulously as he had always done in his courtship, and if they crossed the street, he would at once slip round behind her and again take the outside. His faithful, constant chivalry in small things such as this made his unhappiness in the larger order of his life the more poignant to Lydia.
She loved her native town in spite of its ugliness, in spite of its disregard of charm as a necessary element for well-being. "The people, anyway," she laughed back at one of Stewart's flashes of censure,—"I don't see how you can help liking the people." Stewart did not reply that he found them less interesting and attractive since they had receded from their first ready welcome of him as the long-expected architect of Avalon. But he had certainly cooled toward them in a degree corresponding to that by which they were pruning their first exuberance about his work.
Lydia fell into a long silence one evening after Stewart had been exercising his wit at the expense of the natural gas fire which burned in the library grate, and before which they sat. She usually laughed back at his attacks and kept alive a spirit of light-heartedness. But now he realized after a few moments that she was pained. He rose and seated himself on the arm of her chair.
"Look here, dear," he said, taking her hands, "you're not hurt by my remarks about the old fire, are you? There was n't anything personal intended, you know."
She smiled up at him affectionately. "Oh, I understand, Stewart," she said. "I was n't feeling hurt—just sorry because—because you aren't happier. Why would n't it be a good thing for you to move away from Avalon, since you don't like it? Would n't you be better satisfied to live in New York—or Boston?"