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Chapter 1


CHAPTER I.

MARJORY walked pensively along the hall. In the cool
shadows made by the palms on the window ledge, her face
wore the expression of thoughtful melancholy expected on the
faces of the devotees who pace in cloistered gloom. She halted
before a door at the end of the hall and laid her hand on the
knob. She stood hesitating, her head bowed. It was evident
that this mission was to require great fortitude.

At last she opened the door. " Father," she began at once.
There was disclosed an elderly, narrow-faced man seated at a
large table and surrounded by manuscripts and books. The
sunlight flowing through curtains of Turkey red fell sanguinely
upon the bust of dead-eyed Pericles on the mantle. A little
clock was ticking, hidden somewhere among the countless
leaves of writing, the maps and broad heavy tomes that
swarmed upon the table.

Her father looked up quickly with an ogreish scowl.

Go away! " he cried in a rage. " Go away. Go away. Get out "
" He seemed on the point of arising to eject the visitor. It was
plain to her that he had been interrupted in the writing of one
of his sentences, ponderous, solemn and endless, in which wandered
multitudes of homeless and friendless prepositions, adjectives
looking for a parent, and quarrelling nouns, sentences which no
longer symbolised the languageform of thought but which had about
them a quaint aroma from the dens of long-dead scholars. " Get out,"
snarled the professor.

Father," faltered the girl. Either because his formulated
thought was now completely knocked out of his mind by his
own emphasis in defending it, or because he detected
something of portent in her expression, his manner suddenly
changed, and with a petulant glance at his writing he laid down
his pen and sank back in his chair to listen. " Well, what is it,
my child ? "

The girl took a chair near the window and gazed out upon
the snow-stricken campus, where at the moment a group of
students returning from a class room were festively hurling
snow-balls. " I've got something important to tell you, father,"
said she,
but i don't quite know how to say it."

"Something important ? " repeated the professor. He was
not habitually interested in the affairs of his family, but this
proclamation that something important could be connected
with them, filled his mind with a capricious interest.  "Well,
what is it, Marjory ? "

She replied calmly: " Rufus Coleman wants to marry me."

"What?" demanded the professor loudly. "Rufus Coleman.
What do you mean? "

The girl glanced furtively at him. She did not seem to be able
to frame a suitable sentence.

As for the professor, he had, like all men both thoughtless
and thoughtful, told himself that one day his daughter would
come to him with a tale of this kind. He had never forgotten that
the little girl was to be a woman, and he had never forgotten
that this tall, lithe creature, the present Marjory, was a woman.
He had been entranced and confident or entranced and
apprehensive according' to the time. A man focussed upon
astronomy, the pig market or social progression, may
nevertheless have a secondary mind which hovers like a spirit
over his dahlia tubers and dreams upon the mystery of their
slow and tender revelations. The professor's secondary mind
had dwelt always with his daughter and watched with a faith
and delight the changing to a woman of a certain fat and
mumbling babe. However, he now saw this machine, this self-
sustaining, self-operative love, which had run with the ease of a
clock, suddenly crumble to ashes and leave the mind of a great
scholar staring at a calamity. " Rufus Coleman," he repeated,
stunned. Here was his daughter, very obviously desirous of
marrying Rufus Coleman. " Marjory," he cried in amazement
and fear, "what possesses, you? Marry Rufus Colman?"

The girl seemed to feel a strong sense of relief at his prompt
recognition of a fact. Being freed from the necessity of making a
flat declaration, she simply hung her head and blushed
impressively. A hush fell upon them. The professor stared long
at his daugh. ter. The shadow of unhappiness deepened upon
his face. " Marjory, Marjory," he murmured at last. He had
tramped heroically upon his panic and devoted his strength to
bringing thought into some kind of attitude toward this terrible
fact. " I am-I am surprised," he began. Fixing her then with a
stern eye, he asked: "Why do you wish to marry this man? You,
with your opportunities of meeting persons of intelligence. And
you want to marry-" His voice grew tragic.  "You want to marry
the Sunday editor of the New York Eclipse."

" It is not so very terrible, is it?" said Marjory sullenly.

"Wait a moment; don't talk," cried the professor. He arose
and walked nervously to and fro, his hands flying in the air. He
was very red behind the ears as when in the Classroom some
student offended him. " A gambler, a sporter of fine clothes, an
expert on champagne, a polite loafer, a witness knave who edits
the Sunday edition of a great outrage upon our sensibilities.
You want to marry him, this man? Marjory, you are insane. This
fraud who asserts that his work is intelligent, this fool comes
here to my house and-"

He became aware that his daughter was regarding him coldly.
"I thought we had best have all this part of it over at once," she
remarked.

He confronted her in a new kind of surprise. The little keen-
eyed professor was at this time imperial, on the verge of a
majestic outburst. " Be still," he said. "Don't be clever with your
father. Don't be a dodger. Or, if you are, don't speak of it to me. I
suppose this fine young man expects to see me personally ? "

" He was coming to-morrow," replied Marjory. She began to
weep. " He was coming to-morrow."

" Um," said the professor. He continued his pacing while
Marjory wept with her head bowed to the arm of the chair. His
brow made the three dark vertical crevices well known to his
students. Some. times he glowered murderously at the
photographs of ancient temples which adorned the walls. "My
poor child," he said once, as he paused near her, " to think I
never knew you were a fool. I have been deluding myself. It has
been my fault as much as it has been yours. I will not readily
forgive myself."

The girl raised her face and looked at him. Finally, resolved
to disregard the dishevelment wrought by tears,
she presented a desperate front with her wet
eyes and flushed cheeks. Her hair was disarrayed. "I don't see
why you can call me a fool," she said. The pause before this
sentence had been so portentous of a wild and rebellious
speech that the professor almost laughed now. But still the
father for the first time knew that he was being un-dauntedly
faced by his child in his own library, in the presence Of 372
pages of the book that was to be his masterpiece. At the back
of his mind he felt a great awe as if his own youthful spirit had
come from the past and challenged him with a glance. For a
moment he was almost a defeated man. He dropped into a chair.
" Does your mother know of this " " he asked mournfully.

"Yes," replied the girl. "She knows. She has been trying to
make me give up Rufus."

"Rufus," cried the professor rejuvenated by anger.

"Well, his name is Rufus," said the girl.

"But please don't call him so before me," said the father with
icy dignity. " I do not recognise him as being named Rufus.
That is a contention of yours which does not arouse my
interest. I know him very well as a gambler and a drunkard, and
if incidentally, he is named Rufus, I fail to see any importance
to it."

" He is not a gambler and he is not a drunkard," she said.

" Um. He drinks heavily-that is well known. He gambles.
He plays cards for money--more than he
possesses-at least he did when he was in college."

" You said you liked him when he was in college."

" So I did. So I did," answered the professor sharply. " I
often find myself liking that kind of a boy in college. Don't I
know them-those lads with their beer and their poker games in
the dead of the night with a towel hung over the keyhole. Their
habits are often vicious enough, but something remains in them
through it all and they may go away and do great things. This
happens. We know it. It happens with confusing insistence. It
destroys theo- ries. There-there isn't much to say about it. And
sometimes we like this kind of a boy better than we do the-the
others. For my part I know of many a pure, pious and fine-
minded student that I have positively loathed from a personal
point-of-view. But," he added, " this Rufus Coleman, his life in
college and his life since, go to prove how often we get off the
track. There is no gauge of collegiate conduct whatever, until we
can get evidence of the man's work in the world. Your precious
scoundrel's evidence is now all in and he is a failure, or worse."

" You are not habitually so fierce in judging people," said
the girl.

"I would be if they all wanted to marry my daughter,"
rejoined the professor. " Rather than let that man make love to
you-or even be within a short railway journey of you,
I'll cart you off to Europe this winter and keep you there
until you forget. If you persist in this silly fancy, I shall at once
become medieval."

Marjory had evidently recovered much of her composure.
"Yes, father, new climates are alway's supposed to cure one,"
she remarked with a kind of lightness.

" It isn't so much the old expedient," said the professor
musingly, "as it is that I would be afraid to leave you herewith
no protection against that drinking gambler and gambling
drunkard."

" Father, I have to ask you not to use such terms in speaking
of the man that I shall marry."

There was a silence. To all intents, the professor remained
unmoved. He smote the tips of his fingers thoughtfully
together. " Ye-es," he observed. "That sounds reasonable from
your standpoint." His eyes studied her face in a long and
steady glance. He arose and went into the hall. When he
returned he wore his hat and great coat. He took a book and
some papers from the table and went away.

Marjory walked slowly through the halls and up to her room.
From a window she could see her father making his way across
the campus labouriously against the wind and whirling snow.
She watched it, this little black figure, bent forward, patient,
steadfast. It was an inferior fact that her father was one of the
famous scholars of the generation. To her, he was now a little
old man facing the wintry winds. Recollect. ing herself and
Rufus Coleman she began to weep again, wailing amid the ruins
of her tumbled hopes. Her skies had turned to paper and her
trees were mere bits of green sponge. But amid all this woe
appeared the little black image of her father making its way
against the storm.

Stephen Crane

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