Open main menu

Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/433

This page needs to be proofread.
422
THE ANCIENT GRUDGE

"Next, to demonstrate your chaste and incorruptible spirit, you announced that there would be a competition, open only to the best—the best and Bennett! The committee of judges was of your appointing. You probably knew that you could on any question control a two-thirds vote in the committee. Your placing yourself on that committee was a subtle indication of the purpose that appealed to your love of power,—a purpose not to let go, to keep a supervision of the work in your own hands, even up to the end. With that purpose in mind, you felt it essential that the work should be given to a local man,—not to one of the celebrated outsiders, whom you knew you could not handle. Do I read your mental processes correctly?"

Floyd made no motion and no answer.

"There were two local men entered in this competition—Bennett and myself. You may at one time have entertained a generous impulse to grant your old friend the award, if his drawings seemed to merit it. You may have been the more inclined toward this since it would have enabled you again to show me your power—your power, first to bestow, and afterwards perhaps to interfere. For you knew that I was always sensible of my one great obligation, and it always pleased you to see that I kept it in mind. But something happened which destroyed your benevolent, friendly impulse. It was this: I had the presumption to follow duty rather than discretion; when your treatment of your workingmen became a public scandal, I had to be a witness for the truth; and I knew then that I was sacrificing my own interests. You after that eliminated me from consideration. Bennett alone remained. You gave him the prize. The same impartial, disinterested spirit which had conceived the competition dominated it."

Stewart's tone had grown more venomous as he proceeded; and he delivered the last sentences of his tirade with an insulting, sneering emphasis. When it became quite clear that he had finished, Floyd raised his eyes and let them rest on Stewart's face. There was an inexorable,