Contrary Mary (Chapter 7, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 7

"I don't understand."

"I mean who is going to pay your bills for the rest of your life?
Barry isn't making enough to support you, and I can't imagine that
you'd care to be dependent on Gordon Richardson. And the house is
rapidly losing its value. The neighborhood isn't what it was when your
father bought it, and you can't rent rooms when nobody wants to come
out here to live. And then what? It's a woman's place to marry when
she meets a man who can take care of her--and you'll find that you
can't pick Porter Bigelows off every bush--not in Washington."

Thus spoke Worldly-Wisdom, not mincing words, and back came Youth and
Romance, passionately. "Aunt Frances, a woman hasn't any right to
marry just because she thinks it is her best chance. She hasn't any
right to make a man feel that he's won her when she's just little and
mean and mercenary."

"That sounds all right," said the indignant dame opposite her, "but as
I said before, if you don't marry,--what are you going to do?"

Faced by that cold question, Mary met it defiantly. "If the worst
comes, I can work. Other women work."

"You haven't the training or the experience." Aunt Frances told her
coldly; "don't be silly, Mary. You couldn't earn your shoe-strings."

And thus having said all there was to be said, the two ate their salad
with diminished appetite, and rode home in a taxi in stiff silence.

Aunt Frances' mind roamed back to Aunt Isabelle, and fixed on her as a
scapegoat. "She's like you, Isabelle," she said, "with just the
difference between the ideals of twenty years ago and to-day. You
haven't either of you an idea of the world as a real place--you make
romance the rule of your lives--and I'd like to know what you've gotten
out of it, or what she will."

"I'm not afraid for Mary." There was a defiant ring in Aunt Isabelle's
voice which amazed Aunt Frances. "She'll make things come right. She
has what I never had, Frances. She has strength and courage."

It was this conversation with Aunt Frances which caused Mary, in the
weeks that followed, to bend for hours over a yellow pad on which she
made queer hieroglyphics. And it was through these hieroglyphics that
she entered upon a new phase of her friendship with Roger Poole.

He had gone to work one morning, haggard after a sleepless night.

As he approached the Treasury, the big building seemed to loom up
before him like a prison. What, after all, were those thousands who
wended their way every morning to the great beehives of Uncle Sam but
slaves chained to an occupation which was deadening?

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