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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/27

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the woodland path, distilled the hot dampness from the soil, the little insects of the wood hummed in busy clouds, now over a greenish-golden pool, now about a rotting stump. There were no notes of birds, only the murmuring quiver of the leaves, yet to Stewart the freshness and gladness in the air was that of spring. Before he emerged from the woods he heard the cries of those on the beach; it was a warm August mornings such as sends bathers shouting into the water, sure of its welcome.

When Stewart came out on the sand, walking slowly, a cry went up, and boys and girls ran to meet him. They were delighted to see him out once more. How good and lovable people are, he thought; he was glad to be among them and alive; and he felt that until now he had never understood the sympathy and kindness in every human heart; he recalled and regretted uncharitable opinions that he had expressed about some of those who were now walking by his side.

They sat down with him on the smooth sand in front of the bath-houses; one of the girls changed her position in order that she might not keep the sunlight from him,—her hat had cast a shadow on his legs,—and another girl offered him candy. Three boys who had been swimming came ashore, ran up, and pranced around the group, waving their hands at him. "We can't shake hands, we'd get you all wet," one of them shouted; and another said, "The water's great to-day; wish you could come in, Stewart." With a juvenile impulse to amuse him, they played leap-frog, and then raced into the water, yelling and diving with the greatest possible splash.

Stewart laughed aloud. "Oh, I must n't keep you here," he said, looking round. "You ought to be doing that."

"Oh, we're in no hurry," said Lydia, who was sitting beside him.

She was the prettiest girl, and to Stewart's eyes the most attractive, even in the fact that little things about