Contrary Mary (Chapter 8, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 8

"Porter will take us out in his car. You'll need your heavy coat, and
something good-looking underneath, for lunch, you know."

"Is Mary Ballard going?"

"Of course. We shouldn't get Porter's car if she weren't."

"Mary wasn't with us the day we had tea with him in the Park."

"No, but she was asked. Porter never leaves her out."

"Are they engaged?"

"No, Mary won't be."

"She'll never get a better chance," Delilah reflected. "She isn't
pretty, and she's rather old style."

Leila blazed. "She's beautiful----"

"To you, duckie, because you love her. But the average man wouldn't
call Mary Ballard beautiful."

"I don't care--the un-average one would. And Mary Ballard wouldn't
look at an ordinary man."

"No man is ordinary when he is in love."

"Oh, with you," Leila's tone was scornful, "love's just a game."

Lilah rose, crossed the room with swift steps, and kissed her. "Don't
let me ruffle your plumage, Jenny Wren," she said; "I'm a screaming
peacock this morning."

"What's the matter?"

"I'm not the perfect success I planned to be. Oh, I can see it. I've
been here for three months, and people stare at me, but they don't call
on me--not the ones I want to know. And it's because I am
too--emphasized. In New York you have to be emphatic to be anything at
all. Otherwise you are lost in the crowd. That's why Fifth Avenue is
full of people in startling clothes. In the mob you won't be singled
out simply for your pretty face--there are too many pretty faces; so it
is the woman who strikes some high note of conspicuousness who attracts
attention. But you're like a flock of cooing doves, you Washington
girls. You're as natural and frank and unaffected as a--a covey of
partridges. I believe I am almost jealous of your Mary Ballard this
morning."

"Not because of Porter?"

"Not because of any man. But there are things about her which I can't
acquire. I've the money and the clothes and the individuality. But
there's a simplicity about her, a directness, that comes from years of
association with things I haven't had. Before I came here, I thought
money could buy anything. But it can't. Mary Ballard couldn't be
anything else. And I--I can be anything from a siren to a soubrette,
but I can't be a lady--not the kind that you are--and Mary Ballard."

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