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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/293

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He folded up the manifesto with fingers that trembled, and turned away.

"Oh, look here, Grandfather! Don't take it that way." Colonel Halket stood irresolute. "You know I don't mean just to be fault-finding when I differ with you; but I feel I'm a little more in touch with the men out at New Rome than you are—and I can't help seeing—"

"You can't help seeing nightmares," broke in Colonel Halket peevishly. "You are in touch with the men; very well; so have my superintendents been in touch with the men, and often they have come to me afraid—afraid—and always because they were in touch with the men! But their fears never influenced me; I held to my own course; I may not have been in touch with the men—but I knew my power over them. And I know my power over them now. I tell you, Floyd, I have borne with timorous, complaining superintendents, who were always volunteering warnings and advice; but never till now have I had to live with that sort of thing in my own house,—and I don't like it—I won't have it! It seems hard that a man at my age should be persecuted constantly by such dismal croakings in his own house—at his very elbow—from one whom he wishes to look on as his right hand."

During the latter part of this speech he had been walking to and fro across the room with increasing agitation, and his voice had grown unsteady; having finished, he seemed to feel that he could control himself no longer, for he turned abruptly and went out of the door.

Floyd was left with a feeling of helplessness and pity. He had not needed this fresh evidence of his grandfather's failing powers, of a decline which had been ominously rapid. A comparatively short time before, the note of querulousness had never been heard in Colonel Halket's voice; now it seemed to Floyd almost as frequent as his tone of assurance and self-confidence. His vanity seemed to have grown more childish and apparent, his mental outlook