Contrary Mary (Chapter 4, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 4

Up-stairs among his books Roger Poole heard Mary come in. With the
curtains drawn behind him to shut out the light, he looked down into
the streaming night, and saw Porter drive away alone.

Then Mary's footstep on the stairs; her raised voice as she greeted
Aunt Isabelle, who had waited up for her. A door was shut, and again
the house sank into silence.

Roger turned to his books, but not to read. The old depression was
upon him. In the glow of his arrival, he had been warmed by the hope
that things could be different; here in this hospitable house he had,
perchance, found a home. So he had gone down to find that he was an
outsider--an alien--old where they were young, separated from Barry and
Porter and Mary by years of dark experience.

To him, at this moment, Mary Ballard stood for a symbol of the things
which he had lost. Her youth and light-heartedness, her high courage,
and now, perhaps, her romance. He knew the look that was in Porter
Bigelow's eyes when they had rested upon her. The look of a man who
claims--his own. And behind Bigelow's pleasant and perfunctory
greeting Roger had felt a subtle antagonism. He smiled bitterly. No
man need fear him. He was out of the running. He was done with love,
with romance, with women, forever. A woman had spoiled his life.

Yet, if before the other, he had met Mary Ballard? The possibilities
swept over him. His life to-day would have been different. He would
be facing the world, not turning his back to it.

Brooding over the dying fire, his eyes were stern. If it had been his
fault, he would have taken his punishment without flinching. But to be
overthrown by an act of chivalry--to be denied the expression of that
which surged within him. Daily he bent over a desk, doing the work
that any man might do, he who had been carried on the shoulders of his
fellow students, he whose voice had rung with a clarion call!

In the lower hall, a door was again opened, and now there were
footsteps ascending. Then he heard a little laugh. "I've found
her--Aunt Isabelle, she insists upon going up."

He clicked off his light and very carefully opened his door. Mary was
in the lower hall, the heavy gray cat hugged up in her arms. She wore
a lace boudoir cap, and a pale blue dressing-gown trailed after her.
Seen thus, she was exquisitely feminine. Faintly through his
consciousness flitted Porter Bigelow's name for her--Contrary Mary.
Why Contrary? Was there another side which he had not seen? He had
heard her flaming words to Barry, "If I were a man--I'd make the world
move----" and he had been for the moment repelled. He had no sympathy
with modern feminine rebellions. Women were women. Men were men. The
things which they had in common were love, and that which followed, the
home, the family. Beyond these things their lives were divided,
necessarily, properly.

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