Contrary Mary (Chapter 9, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 9

Yet he thanked the gods for the part which he was allowed to play in
her life. He lived for that one hour out of the twenty-four. He dared
not think what a day would be if he were deprived of that precious
sixty minutes.

Now and then, when she had been very sure that no one would come, he
had stayed with her in the moonlight, and the little bronze boy had
smiled at him from the fountain, and there had been the fragrance of
the roses, and Mary Ballard in white on the stone bench beside him,
giving him her friendly, girlish confidences; she discussed problems of
genteel poverty, the delightful obstinacies of Susan Jenks, the
dominance of Aunt Frances. She gave him, too, her opinions--those
startling untried opinions which warred constantly with his prejudices.

And now to-night--his advice.

"Do you think love can change a man's nature? Make a weak man strong,
I mean?"

He laid down his book. "You ask that as if I could really answer it."

"I think you can. You always seem to be able to put yourself in the
other person's place, and it--helps."

"Thank you. And now in whose place shall put myself?"

"The girl's," promptly.

He considered it. "I should say that the man should be put to the test
before marriage."

"You mean that she ought to wait until she is sure that he is made
over?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I feel that way. But what if the girl believes in him? Doesn't
dream that he is weak--trusts him absolutely, blindly? Should any one
try to open her eyes?"

"Sometimes it is folly to be wise. Perhaps for her he will always be
strong."

"Then what's the answer?"

"Only this. That the man himself should make the test. He should wait
until he knows that he is worthy of her."

She made a little gesture of hopelessness, just the lifting of her
hands and letting them drop; then she spoke with a rush of feeling.

"Mr. Poole--it is Barry and Leila. Ought I to let them marry?"

He smiled at her confidence in her ability to rule the destinies of
those about her.

"I fancy that you won't have anything to do with it. He is of age, and
you are only his sister. You couldn't forbid the banns, you know."

"But if I could convince him----"

"Of what?" gravely. "That you think him a boy? Perhaps that would
tend to weaken his powers."

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