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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 237 pages of information about Mercy Philbrick's Choice.

Chapter III.

The next morning the sun shone, and Mercy was herself again.  Her depression of the evening before seemed to her so causeless, so inexplicable, that she recalled it almost with terror, as one might a temporary insanity.  She blushed to think of her unreasonable sensitiveness to the words and tones of Stephen White.  “As if it made any sort of difference to mother and to me whether he were our friend or not.  He can do as he likes.  I hope I’ll be out when he calls,” thought Mercy, as she stood on the hotel piazza, after breakfast, scanning with a keen and eager glance every feature of the scene.  To her eyes, accustomed to the broad, open, leisurely streets of the Cape Cod hamlet, its isolated little houses with their trim flower-beds in front and their punctiliously kept fences and gates, this somewhat untidy and huddled town looked unattractive.  The hotel stood on the top of one of the plateaus of which I spoke in the last chapter.  The ground fell away slowly to the east and to the south.  A poorly kept, oblong-shaped “common,” some few acres in extent, lay just in front of the hotel:  it had once been fenced in; but the fences were sadly out of repair, and two cows were grazing there this morning, as composedly as if there were no town ordinance forbidding all running of cattle in the streets.  A few shabby old farm-wagons stood here and there by these fences; the sleepy horses which had drawn them thither having been taken out of the shafts, and tethered in some mysterious way to the hinder part of the wagons.  A court was in session; and these were the wagons of lawyers and clients, alike humble in their style of equipage.  On the left-hand side of the hotel, down the eastern slope of the hill ran an irregular block of brick buildings, no two of a height or size, The block had burned down in spots several times, and each owner had rebuilt as much or as little as he chose, which had resulted in as incoherent a bit of architecture as is often seen.  The general effect, however, was of a tendency to a certain parallelism with the ground line:  so that the block itself seemed to be sliding down hill; the roof of the building farthest east being not much above the level of the first story windows in the building farthest west.  To add to the queerness of this “Brick Row,” as it was called, the ingenuity of all the sign-painters of the region had been called into requisition.  Signs alphabetical, allegorical, and symbolic; signs in black on white, in red on black, in rainbow colors on tin; signs high up, and signs low down; signs swung, and signs posted,—­made the whole front of the Row look at a little distance like a wall of advertisements of some travelling menagerie.  There was a painted yellow horse with a fiery red mane, which was the pride of the heart of Seth Nims, the livery-stable keeper; and a big black dog’s head with a gay collar of scarlet and white morocco, which

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