Contrary Mary (Chapter 3, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 3

When Roger Poole came a week later to the big house on the hill, it was
on a rainy day. He carried his own bag, and was let in at the lower
door by Susan Jenks.

Her smiling brown face gave him at once a sense of homeyness. She led
the way through the wide hall and up the front stairs, crisp and
competent in her big white apron and black gown.

As he followed her, Roger was aware that the house had lost its
effulgence. The flowers were gone, and the radiance, and the stairs
that the silken ladies had once ascended showed, at closer range,
certain signs of shabbiness. The carpet was old and mended. There was
a chilliness about the atmosphere, as if the fire, too, needed mending.

But when Susan Jenks opened the door of the Tower Room, he was met by
warmth and brightness. Here was the light of leaping flames and of a
low-shaded lamp. On the table beside the lamp was a pot of pink
hyacinths, and their fragrance made the air sweet. The inner room was
no longer a rosy bower, but a man's retreat, with its substantial
furniture, its simplicity, its absence of non-essentials. In this room
Roger set down his bag, and Susan Jenks, hanging big towels and little
ones in the bathroom, drawing the curtains, and coaxing the fire,
flitted cozily back and forth for a few minutes and then withdrew.

It was then that Roger surveyed his domain. He was monarch of all of
it. The big chair was his to rest in, the fire was his, the low lamp,
all the old friends in the bookcases!

He went again into the inner room. The glass candlesticks were gone
and the photographs in their silver and ivory frames, but over the
mantel there was a Corot print with forest vistas, and another above
his little bedside table. On the table was a small electric lamp with
a green shade, a new magazine, and a little old bulging Bible with a
limp leather binding.

As he stood looking down at the little table, he was thrilled by the
sense of safety after a storm. Outside was the world with its harsh
judgments. Outside was the rain and the beating wind. Within were
these signs of a heart-warming hospitality. Here was no bleak
cleanliness, no perfunctory arrangement, but a place prepared as for an
honored guest.

Down-stairs Mary was explaining to Aunt Isabelle. "I'll have Susan
Jenks take some coffee to him. He's to get his dinners in town, and
Susan will serve his breakfast in his room. But I thought the coffee
to-night after the rain--might be comfortable."

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