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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/436

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WIDENING THE BREACH

"Yes. You know." Tustin laughed. "He used to board at her house when he was in the mills. Any of the fellows can tell you,—except Shelton; he always said there was nothing in it, but he has a soft spot anyhow. I lived next door; and my wife always had her suspicions. He and Farrell had some kind of understanding about it, so that they did n't interfere. My wife told me how they managed, but I've forgotten the particulars. When it came time for Mr. Halket to leave the works, then it was arranged for Farrell and the girl to get married. Mr. Halket of course has been interested ever since and done things for 'em; that was part of the trade. He got you to fix 'em up a better house than the rest of us could have; he pretty near furnished the house for 'em; this trying to shove Farrell ahead that we've split on is only another part of it."

"Good Lord!" Stewart exclaimed, and there was sincere regret as well as stupefaction in his voice. With all his readiness to think evil of Floyd, he had never suspected him of this particular depravity, he had always thought him to be what he had been in college—the man of the purest and most blameless life. Stewart was cynical enough about the virtue of most men; yet even now, when his friendship for Floyd had ceased, there remained a sensitiveness that was touched painfully by Tustin's recital. The type of stainless boyhood, for which in his heart Stewart had always had a yearning admiration, the type which had always seemed to him summed up in Floyd, was smirched; that which he had heard seemed to reach back and defile even the innocent years. The regret in his voice had been not for Floyd's fall, but for the loss of an ideal with which in spite of enmity and distrust he had till now associated Floyd unconsciously.

"It seems as if it could hardly be true," Stewart said, after a long pause.

Caskey hammered his pipe against the edge of the table. "It's true, all right," he remarked.