Contrary Mary (Chapter 4, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 4

He groped his way back through the darkness to the tower window, opened
it and leaned out. The rain beat upon his face, the wind blew his hair
back, and fluttered the ends of his loose tie. Below him lay the
storm-swept city, its lights faint and flickering. He remembered a
test which he had chosen on a night like this.

"O Lord, Thou art my God. I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name,
for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thou hast been a strength to the
poor, a strength to the needy in distress . . . a refuge from the
storm----"

How the words came back to him, out of that vivid past. But
to-night--why, there was no--God! Was he the fool who had once seen
God--in a storm?

He shut the window, and finding a heavy coat and an old cap put them
on. Then he made his way, softly, down the tower steps to the side
door. Mary had pointed out to him that this entrance would make it
possible for him to go and come as he pleased. To-night it pleased him
to walk in the beating rain.

At the far end of the garden there was an old fountain, in which a
bronze boy rode on a bronze dolphin. The basin of the fountain was
filled with sodden leaves. A street lamp at the foot of the terrace
illumined the bronze boy's face so that it seemed to wear a twisted
grin. It was as if he laughed at the storm and at life, defying the
elements with his sardonic mirth.

Back and forth, restlessly, went the lonely man, hating to enter again
the rooms which only a few hours before had seemed a refuge. It would
have been better to have stayed in his last cheap boarding-house,
better to have kept away from this place which brought memories--better
never to have seen this group of young folk who were gay as he had once
been gay--better never to have seen--Mary Ballard!

He glanced up at the room beneath his own where her light still burned.
He wondered if she had stayed awake to think of the young Apollo of the
auburn head. Perhaps he was already her accepted lover. And why not?

Why should he care who loved Mary Ballard?

He had never believed in love at first sight. He didn't believe in it
now. He only knew that he had been thrilled by a look, warmed by a
friendliness, touched by a frankness and sincerity such as he had found
in no other woman. And because he had been thrilled and warmed and
touched by these things, he was feeling to-night the deadly mockery of
a fate which had brought her too late into his life.

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