Contrary Mary (Chapter 1, page 3 of 4)


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Chapter 1

But it was not these things which at once caught the attention of Roger
Poole.

Lining the walls were old books in stout binding, new books in cloth
and fine leather--the poets, the philosophers, the seers of all ages.
As his eyes swept the shelves, he knew that here was the living,
breathing collection of a true book-lover--not a musty, fusty
aggregation brought together through mere pride of intellect. The
owner of this library had counted the heart-beats of the world.

"This is the sitting-room," his guide was telling him, "and the bedroom
and bath open out from it." She had opened a connecting door. "This
room is awfully torn up. But we have just finished dressing Constance.
She is down-stairs now in the Sanctum. We'll pack her trunks to-morrow
and send them, and then if you should care to take the rooms, we can
put back the bedroom furniture that father had. He used this suite,
and brought his books up after mother died."

He halted on the threshold of that inner room. If the old house below
had seemed filled with rosy effulgence, this was the heart of the rose.
Two small white beds were side by side in an alcove. Their covers were
of pink overlaid with lace, and the chintz of the big couch and chairs
reflected the same enchanting hue. With all the color, however, there
was the freshness of simplicity. Two tall glass candlesticks on the
dressing table, a few photographs in silver and ivory frames--these
were the only ornaments.

Yet everywhere was lovely confusion--delicate things were thrown
half-way into open trunks, filmy fabrics floated from unexpected
places, small slippers were held by receptacles never designed for
shoes, radiant hats bloomed in boxes.

On a chair lay a bridesmaid's bunch of roses. This bunch Mary Ballard
picked up as she passed, and it was over the top of it that she asked,
with some diffidence, "Do you think you'd care to take the rooms?"

Did he? Did the Peri outside the gates yearn to enter? Here within
his reach was that from which he had been cut off for five years. Five
years in boarding-houses and cheap hotels, and now the chance to live
again--as he had once lived!

"I do want them--awfully--but the price named in your letter seems
ridiculously small----"

"But you see it is all I shall need," she was as blissfully
unbusinesslike as he. "I want to add a certain amount to my income, so
I ask you to pay that," she smiled, and with increasing diffidence
demanded, "Could you make up your mind--now? It is important that I
should know--to-night."

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