Contrary Mary (Chapter 2, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 2

In spite of the fact that Mary Ballard had seemed to Roger Poole like a
white-winged angel, she was not looked upon by the family as a beauty.
It was Constance who was the "pretty one," and tonight as she stood in
her bridal robes, gazing up at her sister who was descending the stairs,
she was more than pretty. Her tender face was illumined by an inner
radiance. She was two years older than Mary, but more slender, and her
coloring was more strongly emphasized. Her eyes were blue and her hair
was gold, as against the gray-green and dull fairness of Mary's hair.
She seemed surrounded, too, by a sort of feminine aura, so that one
knew at a glance that here was a woman who would love her home, her
husband, her children; who would lean upon masculine protection, and
suffer from masculine neglect.

Of Mary Ballard these things could not be said at once. In spite of her
simplicity and frankness, there was about her a baffling atmosphere. She
was like a still pool with the depths as yet unsounded, an uncharted
sea--with its mystery of undiscovered countries.

The contrast between the sisters had never been more marked than when
Mary, leaning over the stair-rail, answered the breathless, "Dearest,
where have you been?" with her calm: "There's plenty of time, Constance."

And Constance, soothed as always by her sister's tranquillity, repeated
Mary's words for the benefit of a ponderously anxious Personage in amber
satin.

"There's plenty of time, Aunt Frances."

That Aunt Frances was a Personage was made apparent by certain exterior
evidences. One knew it by the set of her fine shoulders, the carriage of
her head, by the diamond-studded lorgnette, by the string of pearls about
her neck, by the osprey in her white hair, by the golden buckles on her
shoes.

"It is five minutes to eight," said Aunt Frances, "and Gordon is waiting
down-stairs with his best man, the chorus is freezing on the side porch,
and everybody has arrived. I don't see why you are waiting----"

"We are waiting for it to be eight o'clock, Aunt Frances," said Mary.
"At just eight, I start down in front of Constance, and if you don't
hurry you and Aunt Isabelle won't be there ahead of me."

The amber train slipped and glimmered down the polished steps, and the
golden buckles gleamed as Mrs. Clendenning, panting a little and with a
sense of outrage that her nervous anxiety of the preceding moment had
been for naught, made her way to the drawing-room, where the guests were
assembled.

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