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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/269

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this which might compensate him for the loss of that scientific interest to which his mind naturally turned. The one thing that seemed to him to give value to what his grandfather was doing, to what he would eventually have to do, was the burden of other lives which the work imposed on him. To guard the happiness and prosperity of ten thousand dependent people would be work enough and interest enough for anybody,—at least he had gradually and willingly been coming to this conclusion. In his awakening interest in the opportunities of such a position, he had already begun to diverge from his grandfather's views; he felt that there would have to be a radical readjustment to make happiness and prosperity permanent. Bit by bit, and more or less unconsciously, ideas for reconstruction had been taking shape in his own mind,—ideas which might perhaps have their fulfillment some time when he should be the commanding figure of Halket & Company.

Now at the intimation that this time was never coming he felt little disappointment. His expectations had long been merely an impersonal and rather reluctant acceptance of a matter of fact. Indeed, for himself there now emerged from the plan proposed an attractive vision of escape from the exacting responsibilities for which he had been laboriously preparing. He might be his own master, and not the master of other men—a relation for which, with a sensitiveness that few suspected, he had a real distaste. The thought that here suddenly his path was open, away from the mills, back to the academic laboratory, was a temptation.

"But the people out at New Rome when they hear of it!" Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pictured the consternation that would run through all the grades of employees, from the superintendents down. There would be among them all, he felt instinctively, but one thought,—that their employer had sold and betrayed them. Perhaps, so long as Colonel Halket lived and was president of the