Contrary Mary (Chapter 1, page 4 of 4)


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Chapter 1

She saw the question in his eyes and answered it, "You see--my family
have no idea that I am doing this. If they knew, they wouldn't want me
to rent the rooms--but the house is mine---I shall do as I please."

She seemed to fling it at him, defiantly.

"And you want me to be accessory to your--crime."

She gave him a startled glance. "Oh, do you look at it--that way?
Please don't. Not if you like them."

For a moment, only, he wavered. There was something distinctly unusual
in acquiring a vine and fig tree in this fashion. But then her
advertisement had been unusual--it was that which had attracted him,
and had piqued his interest so that he had answered it.

And the books! As he looked back into the big room, the rows of
volumes seemed to smile at him with the faces of old friends.

Lonely, longing for a haven after the storms which had beaten him, what
better could he find than this?

As for the family of Mary Ballard, what had he to do with it? His
business was with Mary Ballard herself, with her frank laugh and her
friendliness--and her arms full of roses!

"I like them so much that I shall consider myself most fortunate to get
them."

"Oh, really?" She hesitated and held out her hand to him. "You don't
know how you have helped me out--you don't know how you have helped
me----"

Again she saw a question in his eyes, but this time she did not answer
it. She turned and went into the other room, drawing back the curtains
of the deep windows of the round tower.

"I haven't shown you the best of all," she said. Beneath them lay the
lovely city, starred with its golden lights. From east to west the
shadowy dimness of the Mall, beyond the shadows, a line of river,
silver under the moonlight. A clock tower or two showed yellow faces;
the great public buildings were clear-cut like cardboard.

Roger drew a deep breath. "If there were nothing else," he said, "I
should take the rooms for this."

And now from the lower hall came the clamor of voices.

"Mary! Mary!"

"I must not keep you," he said at once.

"Mary!"

Poised for flight, she asked, "Can you find your way down alone? I'll
go by the front stairs and head them off."

"Mary----!"

With a last flashing glance she was gone, and as he groped his way down
through the darkness, it came to him as an amazing revelation that she
had taken his coming as a thing to be thankful for, and it had been so
many years since a door had been flung wide to welcome him.

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