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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/304

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293
TWO AMATEURS

especially like about the paintings is that they all bring out the dignity of labor; they show the laboring-man as he is, performing his task, industrious and happy."

Stewart gave an imperceptible start; Marion availed herself of the opportunity to withdraw her hand from Colonel Halket's grasp, which he had relaxed in his earnestness. Floyd had an uncomfortable idea that the notes which the three newspaper persons were making in front of the picture did not concern the picture at all.

"Yes," continued Colonel Halket, "I think I have never seen anything so well calculated to illustrate the pride of the good workman in his work and his joy in it as these pictures. It seems to me a high testimonial to your skill, Lee, that I recognize so distinctly the idea that you have put into your painting—the animating motive and expression, if I may call it that. And I am pleased that it should be so; if I am not mistaken, it is the characteristic of the great artist to seize unerringly and portray the salient and significant truth. I wish to congratulate you, sir, on your insight as well as on your technical skill."

Stewart had a struggle to conceal his anger and contempt.

"Damned old fool!—old humbug!" was the exclamation that was passionate in his mind. He had an impulse to reject the inane commendation with the scorn it deserved. But he restrained himself; prudence as well as good manners imposed endurance upon him. It would be folly to offend and turn away a possible purchaser, especially one like Colonel Halket who might not only pay an absurd price, but who might also more than any one else direct toward his work the current of popular appreciation and demand. "The work is good—it's art; there are no compromises in it," Stewart thought to himself proudly. "Well then, where's the harm in—in using methods to get it before the public? They won't many of them take such an asinine view of it."

Colonel Halket interrupted his vague murmured words