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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/259

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Colonel Halket surveyed the table with satisfaction. His reflection that the twenty guests represented a total capital of nearly two hundred million dollars was gratifying to his vanity; they had all been glad to come at his bidding. Except for Kerr, the New York banker, all were iron and steel manufacturers of Avalon; Colonel Halket had invited them to dinner to discuss a financial scheme and they had come impelled by an interest greater than that of curiosity, greater than that of sympathy—self-interest. Floyd was the only man in the room who was quite ignorant of the purpose of the dinner.

When the dinner was at an end, Colonel Halket rose from his chair.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I suggest that we adjourn to the library."

He led the way and at the door stood aside to let the others enter. Floyd came last, and when he saw the chairs arranged at the farther end of the room in two stiff rows of ten each, he stopped and looked at his grandfather.

"What's the show?" he asked.

"I am," said Colonel Halket. "Get along in with you."

The guests walked across the room and seated themselves in the two rows of chairs with what seemed to Floyd uncanny promptness. But then they had come prepared to hear a speech. Colonel Halket stood before them with the tips of the fingers of his right hand resting on the table, with the thumb of his left hand caught negligently in the arm-hole of his waistcoat. In this attitude he took several puffs of his cigar even after the others had