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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesContrary Mary - Chapter 15
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Contrary Mary - Chapter 15 Post by :jamesmicucci Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :2819

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Contrary Mary - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

_In Which Barry and Leila Go Over the Hills and Far Away; and in Which a March Moon Becomes a Honeymoon.


The news that Barry must go away had been a blow to Leila's childish dreams of immediate happiness. She knew that Barry was bitter, that he rebelled against the plans which were being made for him, but she did not know that Gordon had told the General frankly and flatly the reason for this delay in the matrimonial arrangements.

The General, true to his ancient code, had protested that "a man could drink like a gentleman," that Barry's good blood would tell. "His wild oats aren't very wild--and every boy must have his fling."

Gordon had listened impatiently, as to an ancient and outworn philosophy. "The business world doesn't take into account the wild oats of a man, General," he had said. "The new game isn't like the old one,--the convivial spirit is not the popular one among men of affairs. And that isn't the worst of it, with Barry's temperament there's danger of a breakdown, moral and physical. If it were not for that, he could come into your office and practice law, as you suggest. But he's got to get away from Washington. He's got to get away from old associations, and you'll pardon me for saying it, he's got to get away from Leila. She loves him, and is sorry for him, even though we've kept from her the knowledge of his fault. She thinks we are all against him and her sympathy weakens him. It was the same with her mother, Constance tells me. She wouldn't believe that her boy could be anything but perfect, and John Ballard wasn't strong enough to counteract her influence. Mary was the only one, and now that it has come to an actual crisis, even Mary blames me for trying to do what I know is best for Barry. I want to take him over to the other side, cut him away from all that hampers him here, and bring him back to you stronger in fiber and more of a man."

The General shook his head. "Perhaps," he said, "but I can't bear to think of the hurt heart of my little Leila."

"They should never have been engaged," Gordon said, "but it won't make matters any better to let things go on. If Leila doesn't marry Barry, she won't have to bear the burdens he will surely bring to her. She'd better be unhappy with you to take care of her, than tied to him and unhappy."

"But I'm an old man, and she is such a child. Life for me is so short, and for her so long."

"We must do what seems best for the moment, and let the future take care of itself. Barry's only a boy. They are neither of them ready for marriage--a few years of waiting won't hurt them."

It was in this strain that Gordon talked to Barry.

"It won't hurt you to wait."

"Wait for what?" Barry flamed; "until Leila wears her heart out? Until you teach her that I'm not--fit? Until somebody else comes along and steals her, while I'm gone?"

"Is that the opinion you have of her constancy?"

"No," Barry said, huskily, "she's as true as steel. But I can't see the use of this, Gordon. If I marry Leila, she'll make a man of me."

"She hasn't changed you during these last months," Gordon stated, inexorably, "and you mustn't run the risk of making her unhappy. It is a mere business proposition that I am putting before you, Barry. You must be able to support a wife before you marry one, and Washington isn't the place for you to start. In a business like ours, a man must be at his best. You are wasting your time here, and you've acquired the habit of sociability, which is just a habit, but it grows and will end by paralyzing your forces. A man who's always ready to be with the crowd isn't the man that's ready for work, and he isn't the man who's usually onto his job. I am putting this not from any moral or spiritual ideal, but from the commercial. The man who wins out isn't the one with his brain fuddled; he's the one with his brain clear. Business to-day is too keen a game for any one to play who isn't willing to be at it all the time."

Thus practical common sense met the boy at every turn. And he was forced at last for pride's sake to consent to Gordon's plans for him. But he had gone to Mary, raging. "Is he going to run our lives?"

"He is doing it for your good, Barry."

"Why can't I go South with Roger Poole?--if I must go away? He told me of a man who stayed in the woods with him."

"That would simply be temporary, and it would delay matters. Gordon's idea is that in this way you'll be established in business. If you went South you'd be without any remunerative occupation."

"Doesn't Poole make a living down there?"

"He hasn't yet. He's to try story-writing."

"Are you corresponding with him, Mary?"

Resenting his catechism, she forced herself to say, quietly, "We write now and then."

"What does Porter think of that?"

"Porter hasn't anything to do with it."

"He has, too. You know you'll marry him, Mary."

"I shall not. I haven't the least idea of marrying Porter."

"Then why do you let him hang around you?"

"Barry," she was blazing, "I don't let him hang around. He comes as he has always come--to see us all."

"Do you think for a moment that he'd come if it weren't for you? He isn't craving my society, or Aunt Isabelle's, or Susan Jenks'."

Barry was glad to blame somebody else for something--he was aware of himself as the blackest sheep in the fold, but let those who had other sins hear them.

He flung himself away from her--out of the house. And for days he did not come home. They kept the reason of his absence from Leila, and as far as they could from Constance. But Mary went nearly wild with anxiety, and she found in Gordon a strength and a resourcefulness on which she leaned.

When Barry came back, he offered no further objections to their plans. Yet they could see that he was consenting to his exile only because he had no argument with which to meet theirs. He refused to resign from the Patent Office until the last moment, as if hoping for some reprieve from the sentence which his family had pronounced. He was moody, irritable, a changed boy from the one who had hippity-hopped with Leila on Constance's wedding night.

Even Leila saw the change. "Barry, dear," she said one evening as she sat beside him in her father's library, "Barry--is it because you hate to leave--me?"

He turned to her almost fiercely. "If I had a penny of my own, Leila, I'd pick you up, and we'd go to the ends of the earth together."

And she responded breathlessly, "It would be heavenly, Barry."

He dallied with temptation. "If we were married, no one could take you away from me."

"No one will ever take me away."

"I know. But they might try to make you give me up."

"Why should they?"

"They'll say that I'm not worthy--that I'm a poor idiot who can't earn a living for his wife."

"Oh, Barry," she whispered, "how can any one say such things?" She knelt on a little stool beside him, and her brown hair curled madly about her pink cheeks. "Oh, Barry," she said again, "why not--why not get married now, and show them that we can live on what you make, and then you needn't go--away."

He caught at that hope. "But, sweetheart, you'd be--poor."

"I'd have you."

"I couldn't take you to our old house. It--belongs to Mary. Father knew that Constance was to be married, so he tried to provide for Mary until she married; after that the property will be divided between the two girls. He felt that I was a man, and he spent what money he had for me on my education."

"I don't want to live in Mary's house. We could live with Dad."

"No," sharply. Barry had been hurt when the General had seemed to agree so entirely with Gordon. He had expected the offer of a place in the General's office, and it had not come.

"If we marry, darling," he said, "we must go it alone. I won't be dependent on any one."

"We could have a little apartment," her eyes were shining, "and Dad would furnish it for us, and Susan Jenks could teach me to cook and she could tell me your favorite things, and we'd have them, and it would be like a story book. Barry, please."

He, too, thought it would be like a story book. Other people had done such things and had been happy. And once at the head of his own household he would show them that he was a man.

Yet he tried to put her away from him. "I must not. It wouldn't be right."

But as the days went on, and the time before his departure grew short, he began to ask himself, "Why not?"

And it was thus, with Romance in the lead, with Love urging them on, and with Ignorance and Innocence and Impetuosity hand in hand, that, at last, in the madness of a certain March moon, Leila and Barry ran away.

Leila had a friend in Rockville--an old school friend whom she often visited. Barry knew Montgomery County from end to end. He had fished and hunted in its streams, he had motored over its roads, he had danced and dined at its country houses, he had golfed at its country clubs, he had slept at its inns and worshiped in its churches.

So it was to Montgomery County and its county seat that they looked for their Gretna Green, and one night Leila kissed her father wistfully, and told him that she was going to see Elizabeth Dean.

"Just for Saturday, Dad. I'll go Friday night, and come back in time for dinner Saturday."

"Why not motor out?"

"The train will be easier. And I'll telephone you when I get there."

She took chances on the telephoning--for had he called her up, he would have found that she did not reach Rockville on Friday night, nor was she expected by Elizabeth Dean until Saturday in time for lunch.

There was thus an evening and a night and the morning of the next day in which Little-Lovely Leila was to be lost to the world.

She took the train for Rockville, but stopped at a station half-way between that town and Washington, and there Barry met her. They had dinner at the little station restaurant--a wonderful dinner of ham and eggs and boiled potatoes, but the wonderfulness had nothing to do with the food; it had to do rather with Little-Lovely Leila's shining eyes and blushes, and Barry's abounding spirits. He was like a boy out of school. He teased Leila and wrote poetry on the fly-specked dinner card, reading it out loud to her, reveling in her lovely confusion.

When they finished, Leila telephoned to her father that she had arrived at Rockville and was safe. If her voice wavered a little as she said it, if her eyes filled at the trustfulness of his affectionate response, these things were soon forgotten, as Barry caught up her little bag, and they left the station, and started over the hills in search of happiness.

The way was rather long, but they had thought it best to avoid trolley or train or much-traveled roads, lest they be recognized. And so it came about that they crossed fields, and slipped through the edges of groves, and when the twilight fell Little-Lovely Leila danced along the way, and Barry danced, too, until the moon came up round and gold above the blackness of the distant hills.

Once they came to a stream that was like silver, and once they passed through a ghostly orchard with budding branches, and once they came to a farmhouse where a dog barked at them, and the dog and the orchard and the budding trees and the stream all seemed to be saying:

"_You are running away---you are running away._"

And now they had walked a mile, and there was yet another.

"But what's a mile?" said Barry, and Little-Lovely Leila laughed.

She wore a frock of pale yellow, with a thick warm coat of the same fashionable color. Her hat was demurely tied under her little chin with black velvet ribbons. She was like a primrose of the spring--and Barry kissed her.

"May I tell Dad, when I get home to-morrow night?" she asked.

"We'll wait until Sunday. April Fool's Day, Leila. We'll tell him, and he will think it's a joke. And when he sees how happy we are, he will know we were right."

So like children they refused to let the thought of the future mar the joy of the present.

Once they rested on a fallen log in a little grove of trees. The wind had died down, and the air was warm, with the still warmth of a Southern spring. Between the trees they could see a ribbon of white road which wound up to a shadowy church.

"The minister's house is next to the church," Barry told her; "in a half hour from now you'll be mine, Leila. And no one can take you away from me."

In the wonder of that thought they were silent for a time, then:

"How strange it will seem to be married, Barry."

"It seems the most natural thing in the world to me. But there will be those who will say I shouldn't have let you."

"I let myself. It wasn't you. Did you want my heart to break at your going, Barry?"

For a moment he held her in his arms, then he kissed her, gently, and let her go. When they came back this way, she would be his wife.

The old minister asked few questions. He believed in youth and love; the laws of the state were lenient. So with the members of his family for witnesses, he declared in due time that this man and woman were one, and again they went forth into the moonlight.

And now there was another little journey, up one hill and down another to a quaint hostelry--almost empty of guests in this early season.

A competent little landlady and an old colored man led them to the suite for which Barry had telephoned. The little landlady smiled at Leila and showed the white roses which Barry had sent for her room, and the old colored man lighted all the candles.

There was a supper set out on the table in their sitting-room, with cold roast chicken and hot biscuits, a bottle of light wine, and a round cake with white frosting.

Leila cut the cake. "To think that I should have a wedding cake," she said to Barry.

So they made a feast of it, but Barry did not open the bottle of wine until their supper was ended. Then he poured two glasses.

"To you," he whispered, and smiled at his bride.

Then before his lips could touch it, he set the glass down hastily, so that it struck against the bottle and broke, and the wine stained the white cloth.

Leila looking up, startled, met a strange look. "Barry," she whispered, "Barry, dear boy."

He rose and blew out the candles.

"Let me tell you--in the dark," he said. "You've got to know, Leila."

And in the moonlight he told her why they had wanted him to go away.

"It is because I've got to fight--devils."

At first she did not understand. But he made her understand.

She was such a little thing in her yellow gown. So little and young to deal with a thing like this.

But in that moment the child became a woman. She bent over him.

"My husband," she said, "nothing can ever part us now, Barry."

So love taught her what to say, and so she comforted him.


The next morning Elizabeth Dean met Leila Dick at the station. That she was really meeting Leila Ballard was a thing, of course, of which she had no knowledge. But Leila was acutely conscious of her new estate. It seemed to her that the motor horn brayed it, that the birds sang it, that the cows mooed it, that the dogs barked it, "_Leila Ballard, Leila Ballard, Leila Ballard, wife of Barry--you're not Leila Dick, you're not, you're not, you're not._"

"I never knew you to be so quiet," Elizabeth said at last, curiously. "What's the matter?"

Leila brought herself back with an effort. "I like to listen," she said, "but I am usually such a chatterbox that people won't believe it."

Somehow she managed to get through that day. Somehow she managed to greet and meet the people who had been invited to the luncheon which was given in her honor. But while in body she was with them, in spirit she was with Barry. Barry was her husband--her husband who loved her and needed her in his life.

His confession of the night before had brought with it no deadening sense of hopelessness. To her, any future with Barry was rose-colored.

But it had changed her attitude toward him in this, that she no longer adored him as a strong young god who could stand alone, and whom she must worship because of his condescension in casting his eyes upon her.

He needed her! He needed little Leila Dick! And the thought gave to her marriage a deeper meaning than that of mere youthful raptures.

He had put her on the train that morning reluctantly, and had promised to call her up the moment she reached town.

So her journey toward Washington on the evening train was an hour of anticipation. To those who rode with her, she seemed a very pretty and self-contained young person making a perfectly proper and commonplace trip on the five o'clock express--in her own mind, she was set apart from all the rest by the fact of her transcendant romance.

Her father met her at the station and put her into a taxi. All the way home she sat with her hand in his.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked.

"Heavenly, Dad."

They ate dinner together, and she talked of her day, wishing that there was nothing to keep from him, wishing that she might whisper it to him now. She had no fear of his disapproval. Dad loved her.

No call had come from Barry. She finished dinner and wandered restlessly from room to room.

When nine o'clock struck, she crept into the General's library, and found him in his big chair reading and smoking.

She sat on a little stool beside him, and laid her head against his knee. Presently his hand slipped from his book and touched her curls. And then both sat looking into the fire.

"If your mother had lived, my darling," the old man said, "she would have made things easier for you."

"About Barry's going away?"

"Yes."

"It seems silly for him to go, Dad. Surely there's something here for him to do."

"Gordon thinks that the trip will bring out his manhood, make him less of a boy."

"I don't think Gordon understands Barry."

"And you do, baby? I'm afraid you spoil him."

"Nobody could spoil Barry."

"Don't love him too much."

"As if I could."

"I'm not sure," the old man said, shrewdly, "that you don't. And no man's worth it. Most of us are selfish pigs--we take all we can get--and what we give is usually less than we ask in return."

But now she was smiling into the fire. "You gave mother all that you had to give, Dad, and you made her happy."

"Yes, thank God," and now there were tears on the old cheeks; "for the short time that I had her--I made her happy."

When Barry came, he found her curled up in her father's arms. Over her head the General smiled at this boy who was some day to take her from him.

But Barry did not smile. He greeted the General, and when Leila came to him, tremulously self-conscious, he did not meet her eyes, but he took her hand in his tightly, while he spoke to her father.

"You won't mind, General, if I carry Leila off to the other room. I've a lot of things to say to her."

"Of course not. I was in love once myself, Barry."

They went into the other room. It was a long and formal parlor with crystal chandeliers and rose-colored stuffed furniture and gilt-framed mirrors. It had been furnished by the General's mother, and his little wife had loved it and had kept it unchanged.

It was dimly lighted now, and Leila in her white dinner gown and Barry tall and slender in his evening black were reflected by the long mirrors mistily.

Barry took her in his arms, and kissed her. "My wife, my wife," he said, again and again, "my wife."

At first she yielded gladly, meeting his rapture with her own. But presently she became aware of a wildness in his manner, a broken note in his whispers.

So she released herself, and stood back a little from him, and asked, breathing quickly, "Barry, what has happened?"

"Everything. Since I left you this morning I've lost my place. I found the envelope on my desk this morning--telling of my discharge. They said that I'd been too often away without sufficient excuse, and so they have dropped me from the rolls. And you see that what Gordon said was true. I can't earn a living for a wife. Now that I have you, I can't take care of you--it is not much of a fellow that you've married, Leila."

Oh, the little white face with the shining eyes!

Then out of the stillness came her cry, like a bird's note, triumphant. "But I'm your wife now, and nothing can part us, Barry."

He caught up her hands in his. "Dearest, dearest--don't you see that I can't ever tell them of our marriage until I can show them----"

"Show them what, Barry?"

"That I can take care of you."

"Do you mean that I mustn't even tell Dad, Barry?"

"You mustn't tell any one, not until I come back."

Every drop of blood was drained from her face.

"Until you come back. Are you going--away?"

"I promised Gordon to-day that I would."

She swayed a little, and he caught her. "I had to promise, Leila. Don't you see? I haven't a penny, and I can't confess to them that I've married you. I wanted to tell him that you were mine--that all your sweetness and dearness belonged to me. I wanted to shout it to the world. But I haven't a penny, and I'm proud, and I won't let Gordon think I've been a--fool."

"But Dad would help us."

"Do you think I'd beg him to give me what he hasn't offered, Leila? I've got to show them that I'm not a boy."

She struggled to bring herself out of the strange numbness which gripped her. "If I could only tell Dad."

"Surely it can be our own sweet secret, dearest."

She laid her cheek against his arm, in a dumb gesture of surrender, and her little bare left hand crept up and rested like a white rose petal against the blackness of his coat.

He laid his own upon it. "Poor little hand without a wedding ring," he said.

And now the numbness seemed to engulf her, to break----

"Hush, Leila, dear one."

But she could not hush. That very morning they had slipped the wedding ring over a length of narrow blue ribbon, and Barry had tied it about her neck. To-morrow, he had promised, she should wear it for all the world to see.

But she was not to wear it. It must be hidden, as she had hidden it all day above her heart.

"Leila, you are making it hard for me."

It was the man's cry of selfishness, but hearing it, she put her own trouble aside. He needed her, and her king could do no wrong.

So she set herself to comfort him. In the month that was left to them they would make the most of their happiness. Then perhaps she could get Dad to bring her over in the summer, and he should show her London, and all the lovely places, and there would be the letters; she would write everything--and he must write.

"You little saint," he said when he left her, "you're too good for me, but all that's best in me belongs to you--my precious."

She went to the door with him and said "good-night" bravely.

Then she shut the door and shivered. When at last she made her way through the hall to the library, she seemed to be pushing against some barrier, so that her way was slow.

On the threshold of that room she stopped.

"Dad," she said, sharply.

"My darling."

He sprang to his feet just in time and caught her.

She lay against his heart white and still. The strain of the last two days had been too great for her, and Little-Lovely Leila had fainted dead away.

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