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THE ANCIENT GRUDGE

of the summer—just to touch up my plans for a competition that they will be too good to win. Yes, exactly that. Whereas, if I'd been given the chance that I had a right to expect,—I could have allowed myself a decent vacation and elaborated my plans at leisure."

"I'm perfectly ready to stay here and keep house for you, Stewart, if that would make it a little more pleasant for you."

"No, I should n't think of it. You'll go next week—and I'll stay and be as miserable as I can, slaving for a thing that there's no possibility of my winning."

"Oh, if you talk that way! Faint heart ne'er won fair competition."

"There's no such thing as a fair competition," declared Stewart. "It's always one of three things that determines the award in a competition. It's prejudice or compromise or ignorance. It's never merit. It's a fact; I've never known the best set of plans to win a competition."

"Then spend the summer making yours just bad enough to win," suggested Lydia. She laughed and kissed him, and then stood by his chair and passed her hand back and forth over his forehead. "Now we've smoothed it out," she said after a moment, in a tone of triumph. "Now we've chased away the frown."

Stewart accepted the consolations of her humorous spirit, and at the same time felt they were not the best that she could have bestowed. If she had taken this matter seriously and shown a little animus, it would have been more sympathetic. Since the most that she could do for his relief was to urge him on lightly to the competition, he began to suspect that she held Floyd justified in his refusal and that she had, therefore, not cooled by the fraction of a degree in her friendship for Floyd. This unseemly tenacity of hers, as he regarded it, irritated him as much as the exoneration of Floyd which it presupposed. When Stewart was with his wife her personal charm could indeed operate to smooth out the frown; but