Open main menu

Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/364

This page needs to be proofread.

curiosity, Stewart looked over them; the copy of Keats was not there, nor was the wooden toy.

Stewart turned out the lights and went upstairs to his room, stung by a disappointment and chagrin that dulled the softer sense of melancholy. Lydia, in spite of what had seemed her repentant and appealing surrender, had taken with her the book and the toy that Floyd had given to beguile the tedium of the journey. If she had declined to avail herself of his gifts, she would have shown, Stewart felt, a better spirit, a more loyal support of her husband. The discovery made clear to him the fact which he had ignored—that, after all, his difference with Lydia had not been settled, but merely glossed over at their parting.

Stewart set himself rather leisurely to the task of completing his plans. Three months seemed plenty of time in which to elaborate ideas already definite; besides, he had a good start over the other competitors. He felt, therefore, that the important thing was to keep himself from going stale, not to work with a feverish haste, but to take his time and keep his mind free, and not neglect exercise; there was nothing to be gained by risking a break-down in the hot weather. So for the first month he left the office early in the afternoons and played golf or billiards, or sat in the club at the game of poker that was fairly continuous there. "Great Scott, Lee," one of his friends observed one day, "if I had your leisure, I'd go away for the summer."

"I do more work than you think," Stewart replied in an injured tone. "But I've been so steadily at it for weeks that I've got to have a little relaxation,—or I'd simply get fat-witted. Midsummer is the deuce of a time to hold a competition."

If it had not been for his constant meetings with Floyd and Bennett, this bachelor summer would have been quite tolerable; but the encounters with these two men, which took place nearly every day at one club or the other, kept Stewart in a state of intermittent irritation. To Floyd it