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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/389

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XXIV

A LETTER TO A NEWSPAPER

On the morning of September twenty-fourth Stewart Lee called bis draughtsmen and assistants into bis private office and announced to them that the plans for the Hospitals would be submitted in their original form without further delay.

"You have all been very faithful and earnest in "working over this matter," he said to them, "and you've done your best to remedy some impossible conditions." He smiled cheerfully; his serenity and good humor in making this premature confession of defeat bewildered his men. They had attributed to his entire absorption in the competition the impatience, sharpness, and ill temper which had this summer made him a hard taskmaster. Only the day before he had given them some fresh instructions to carry out and had been insistent on improving certain details over which they had all long ago despaired. Now he vouchsafed no explanation for this sudden smiling abandonment of the purpose to which he had apparently dedicated himself.

"I want to thank you all," he continued, "and I think after the way we've been working ourselves to death we'd better declare a holiday. And if you'd each of you do me the favor to take one of these envelopes,"—he passed them round as he spoke,—"maybe you draw a prize, maybe you draw a blank. Life's a lottery."

By his manner and by some subtle quality of charm he had the power to win back in a moment the affections of men whom he had gradually been alienating for a year. They tried awkwardly to express their appreciation of his