Contrary Mary (Chapter 1, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 1

When the door was finally opened, it was done quickly and was shut
quickly, and the girl who had entered laughed breathlessly as she
turned to him.

"Oh, you must forgive me--I've kept you waiting?"

If their meeting had been in Sherwood forest, he would have known her
at once for a good comrade; if he had met her in the Garden of
Biaucaire, he would have known her at once for more than that. But,
being neither a hero of ballad nor of old romance, he knew only that
here was a girl different from the silken ladies who had ascended the
stairs. Here was an air almost of frank boyishness, a smile of
pleasant friendliness, with just enough of flushing cheek to show
womanliness and warm blood.

Even her dress was different. It was simple almost to the point of
plainness. Its charm lay in its glimmering glistening sheen, like the
inside of a shell. Its draperies were caught up to show slender feet
in low-heeled slippers. A quaint cap of silver tissue held closely the
waves of thick fair hair. Her eyes were like the sea in a storm--deep
gray with a glint of green.

These things did not come to him at once. He was to observe them as
she made her explanation, and as he followed her to the Tower Rooms.
But first he had to set himself straight with her, so he said: "I was
sorry to interrupt you. But you said--seven?"

"Yes. It was the only time that the rooms could be seen. My sister
and I occupy them--and Constance is to be married--to-night."

This, then, was the reason for the effulgence and the silken ladies.
It was the reason, too, for the loveliness of her dress.

"I am going to take you this way." She preceded him through a narrow
passage to a flight of steps leading up into the darkness. "These
stairs are not often used, but we shall escape the crowds in the other
hall."

Her voice was lost as she made an abrupt turn, but, feeling his way, he
followed her.

Up and up until they came to a third-floor landing, where she stopped
him to say, "I must be sure no one is here. Will you wait until I see?"

She came back, presently, to announce that the coast was clear, and
thus they entered the room which had been enlarged and rounded out by
the fourth tower.

It was a big room, ceiled and finished in dark oak, The furniture was
roomy and comfortable and of worn red leather. A strong square table
held a copper lamp with a low spreading shade. There was a fireplace,
and on the mantel above it a bust or two.

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