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Chapter 15


CHAPTER XV.

GIVING Coleman another glance of subtle menace Nora
repeated: "Why don't you present me to your friends? "
Coleman had been swiftly searching the whole world for a way
clear of this unhappiness, but he knew at last that he could only
die at his guns. " Why, certainly," he said quickly, " if you
wish it." He sauntered easily back to the luncheon blanket.
"This is Miss Black of the New York Daylight and she says
that those people on the mountain are Greeks." The students
were gaping at him, and Marjory and her father sat in the same
silence. But to the relief of Coleman and to the high edification
of the students, Mrs. Wainwright cried out: " Why, is she an
American woman? " And seeing Coleman's nod of assent she
rustled to her feet and advanced hastily upon the complacent
horsewoman. " I'm delighted to see you. Who would think of
seeing an American woman way over here. Have you been here
long? Are you going on further? Oh, we've had such a dreadful
time." Coleman remained long enough to hear Nora say: "
Thank you very much, but I shan't dismount. I am going to ride
back to Arta presently."

Then he heard Mrs. Wainwright cry: " Oh, are you indeed ?
Why we, too, are going at once to Arta. We can all go
together." Coleman fled then to the bosom of the students, who
all looked at him with eyes of cynical penetration. He cast a
glance at Marjory more than fearing a glare which denoted an
implacable resolution never to forgive this thing. On the
contrary he had never seen her so content and serene. "You
have allowed your coffee to get chilled," she said
considerately. "Won't you have the man warm you some more?"

"Thanks, no," he answered with gratitude.

Nora, changing her mind, had dismounted and was coming
with Mrs. Wainwright. That worthy lady had long had a fund of
information and anecdote the sound of which neither her
husband nor her daughter would endure for a moment. Of
course the rascally students were out of the question. Here,
then, was really the first ear amiably and cheerfully open, and
she was talking at what the students called her "thirty knot
gait."

"Lost everything. Absolutely everything. Neither of us have
even a brush and comb, or a cake of soap, or enough hairpins
to hold up our hair. I'm going to take Marjory's away from her
and let her braid her hair down her back. You can imagine how
dreadful it is---"

From time to time the cool voice of Nora sounded
without effort through this clamour. " Oh, it will be no trouble
at all. I have more than enough of everything. We can divide
very nicely."

Coleman broke somewhat imperiously into this feminine chat.
"Well, we must be moving, you know, " and his voice started
the men into activity. When the traps were all packed again on
the horse Coleman looked back surprised to see the three
women engaged in the most friendly discussion. The combined
parties now made a very respectable squadron. Coleman rode
off at its head without glancing behind at all. He knew that they
were following from the soft pounding of the horses hoofs on
the sod and from the mellow hum of human voices.

For a long time he did not think to look upon himself as
anything but a man much injured by circumstances. Among his
friends he could count numbers who had lived long lives
without having this peculiar class of misfortune come to them.
In fact it was so unusual a misfortune that men of the world had
not found it necessary to pass from mind to mind a perfec t
formula for dealing with it. But he soon began to consider
himself an extraordinarily lucky person inasmuch as Nora Black
had come upon him with her saddle bags packed with
inflammable substances, so to speak, and there had been as yet
only enough fire to boil coffee for luncheon. He laughed
tenderly when he thought of the innocence of Mrs.
Wainwright, but his face and back flushed with heat when lie
thought of the canniness of the eight American college students.

He heard a horse cantering up on his left side and looking he
saw Nora Black. She was beaming with satisfaction and good
nature. " Well, Rufus," she cried flippantly, " how goes it with
the gallant rescuer? You've made a hit, my boy. You are the
success of the season."

Coleman reflected upon the probable result of a direct appeal
to Nora. He knew of course that such appeals were usually idle,
but he did not consider Nora an ordinary person. His decision
was to venture it. He drew his horse close to hers. " Nora," he
said, " do you know that you are raising the very devil? "

She lifted her finely penciled eyebrows and looked at him
with the baby-stare. " How ? " she enquired.

" You know well enough," he gritted out wrathfully.

"Raising the very devil?" she asked. " How do you mean?"
She was palpably interested for his answer. She waited for his
reply for an interval, and then she asked him outright. " Rufus
Coleman do you mean that I am not a respectable woman ? "

In reality he had meant nothing of the kind, but this direct
throttling of a great question stupefied him utterly, for he saw
now that she' would probably never understand him in the
least and that she would
at any rate always pretend not to understand him and that the
more he said the more harm he manufactured. She studied him
over carefully and then wheeled her horse towards the rear with
some parting remarks. " I suppose you should attend more
strictly to your own affairs, Rufus. Instead of raising the devil I
am lending hairpins. I have seen you insult people, but I have
never seen you insult anyone quite for the whim of the thing.
Go soak your head."

Not considering it advisable to then indulge in such
immersion Coleman rode moodily onward. The hot dust
continued to sting the cheeks of the travellers and in some
places great clouds of dead leaves roared in circles about them.
All of the Wainwright party were utterly fagged. Coleman felt
his skin crackle and his throat seemed to be coated with the
white dust. He worried his dragoman as to the distance to Arta
until the dragoman lied to the point where he always declared
that Arta was only off some hundreds of yards.

At their places in the procession Mrs. Wainwright and
Marjory were animatedly talking to Nora and the old lady on
the little pony. They had at first suffered great amazement at the
voluntary presence of the old lady, but she was there really
because she knew no better. Her colossal ignorance took the
form, mainly, of a most obstreperous patriotism, and indeed she
always acted in a foreign country as if she were the
special commissioner of the President, or perhaps as a
special commissioner could not act at all. She was
very aggressive, and when any of the travelling
arrangements in Europe did not suit her ideas she was
won't to shrilly exclaim: " Well ! New York is good
enough for me." Nora, morbidly afraid that her ex-
pense bill to the Daylight would not be large enough,
had dragged her bodily off to Greece as her companion,
friend and protection. At Arta they had heard of the
grand success of the Greek army. The Turks had not
stood for a moment before that gallant and terrible
advance; no; they had scampered howling with fear
into the north. Jannina would fall-well, Jannina
would fall as soon as the Greeks arrived. There was
no doubt of it. The correspondent and her friend,
deluded and hurried by the light-hearted confidence
of the Greeks in Arta, had hastened out then on a
regular tourist's excursion to see Jannina after its
capture. Nora concealed from her friend the fact
that the editor of the Daylight particularly wished
her to see a battle so that she might write an article
on actual warfare from a woman's point of view.
With her name as a queen of comic opera, such an
article from her pen would be a burning, sensation.

Coleman had been the first to point out to Nora that instead
of going on a picnic to Jannina, she had better run back to
Arta. When the old lady heard that they had not been entirely
safe, she was furious with Nora. "The idea!" she exclaimed to
Mrs. Wainwright. "They might have caught us! They might have
caught us ! "

" Well," said Mrs. Wainwright. " I verily believe they would
have caught us if it had not been for Mr. Coleman."

" Is he the gentleman on the fine horse?"

" Yes; that's him. Oh, he has been sim-plee splendid. I
confess I was a little bit-er-surprised. He was in college under
my husband. I don't know that we thought very great things of
him, but if ever a man won golden opinions he has done so from
us."

" Oh, that must be the Coleman who is such a great friend of
Nora's."

"Yes?" said Mrs. Wainwright insidiously. "Is he? I didn't
know. Of course he knows so many people." Her mind had been
suddenly illumined by the old lady and she thought
extravagantly of the arrival of Nora upon the scene. She
remained all sweetness to the old lady. "Did you know he was
here? Did you expect to meet him? I seemed such a delightful
coincidence." In truth she was being subterraneously clever.

" Oh, no; I don't think so. I didn't hear Nora mention it. Of
course she would have told me. You know, our coming to
Greece was such a surprise. Nora had an engagement in
London at the Folly Theatre in Fly by Night, but the manager
was insufferable, oh, insufferable. So, of course, Nora wouldn't
stand it a minute, and then these newspaper people came along and
asked her to go to Greece for them and she accepted. I am sure I
never expected to find us-aw-fleeing from the Turks or I
shouldn't have Come."

" Mrs. Wainwright was gasping. " You don't mean that she is--
she is Nora Black, the actress."

" Of course she is," said the old lady jubilantly.

" Why, how strange," choked Mrs. Wainwrignt. Nothing she
knew of Nora could account for her stupefaction and grief.
What happened glaringly to her was the duplicity of man.
Coleman was a ribald deceiver.  He must have known and yet he
had pretended throughout that the meeting was a pure accident
She turned with a nervous impulse to sympathist with her
daughter, but despite the lovely tranquillity of the girl's face
there was something about her which forbade the mother to
meddle. Anyhow Mrs. Wainwright was sorry that she had told
nice things of Coleman's behaviour, so she said to the old lady:
" Young men of these times get a false age so quickly. We
have always thought it a great pity, about Mr. Coleman."

"Why, how so ? " asked the old lady.

"Oh, really nothing. Only, to us he seemed rather --er-
prematurely experienced or something of that kind.
The old lady did not catch the meaning of the phrase.
She seemed surprised. " Why, I've never seen any full-grown
person in this world who got experience any too
quick for his own good."

At the tail of the procession there was talk between the
two students who had in charge the little grey horse-one
to lead and one to flog. " Billie," said one, " it now
becomes necessary to lose this hobby into the hands of
some of the other fellows. Whereby we will gain
opportunity to pay homage to the great Nora. Why, you
egregious thick-head, this is the chance of a life-time. I'm
damned if I'm going to tow this beast of burden much
further."

" You wouldn't stand a show," said Billie
pessimistically. " Look at Coleman."

" That's all right. Do you mean to say that you prefer to
continue towing pack horses in the presence of this queen
of song and the dance just because you think Coleman can
throw out his chest a little more than you. Not so. Think
of your bright and sparkling youth. There's Coke and
Pete Tounley near Marjory. We'll call 'em." Whereupon
he set up a cry. " Say, you people, we're not getting a,
salary for this. Supposin' you try for a time. It'll do you
good." When the two addressed bad halted to await the
arrival of the little grey horse, they took on glum
expressions. " You look like poisoned pups," said the
student who led the horse. " Too strong for
light work. Grab onto the halter, now, Peter, and tow.
We are going ahead to talk to Nora Black."

" Good time you'll have," answered Peter Tounley.

" Coleman is cuttin' up scandalous. You won't stand a
show."

" What do you think of him ? " said Coke. " Seems
curious, all 'round. Do you suppose he knew she would
show up? It was nervy to--"

" Nervy to what? " asked Billie.

"Well," said Coke, " seems to me he is playing both
ends against the middle. I don't know anything about
Nora Black, but-"

The three other students expressed themselves with
conviction and in chorus. " Coleman's all right."

" Well, anyhow," continued Coke, " I don't see my way
free to admiring him introducing Nora Black to the
Wainwrights."

" He didn't," said the others, still in chorus.

" Queer game," said Peter Tounley. " He seems to
know her pretty well."

" Pretty damn well," said Billie.

"Anyhow he's a brick," said Peter Tounley. "We
mustn't forget that. Lo, I begin to feel that our Rufus is a
fly guy of many different kinds. Any play that he is in
commands my respect. He won't be hit by a chimney in
the daytime, for unto him has come much wisdom, I
don't think I'll worry."

"Is he stuck on Nora Black, do you know?" asked Billie.

" One thing is plain," replied Coke. " She has got him
somehow by the short hair and she intends him to holler
murder. Anybody can see that."

" Well, he won't holler murder," said one of them with
conviction. " I'll bet you he won't. He'll hammer the war-post
and beat the tom-tom until he drops, but he won't holler
murder."

" Old Mother Wainwright will be in his wool presently,"
quoth Peter Tounley musingly, " I could see it coming in her
eye. Somebody has given his snap away, or something."
" Aw, he had no snap," said Billie. " Couldn't you see how
rattled he was? He would have given a lac if dear Nora hadn't
turned up."

"Of course," the others assented. "He was rattled."

" Looks queer. And nasty," said Coke.

" Nora herself had an axe ready for him."

They began to laugh. " If she had had an umbrella she
would have basted him over the head with it. Oh, my! He was
green."

" Nevertheless," said Peter Tounley, " I refuse to worry over
our Rufus. When he can't take care of himself the rest of us
want to hunt cover. He is a fly guy-"

Coleman in the meantime had become aware that
the light of Mrs. Wainwright's countenance was turned from
him. The party stopped at a well, and when he offered her a
drink from his cup he thought she accepted it with scant
thanks. Marjory was still gracious, always gracious, but this did
not reassure him, because he felt there was much unfathomable
deception in it. When he turned to seek consolation in the
manner of the professor he found him as before, stunned with
surprise, and the only idea he had was to be as tractable as a
child.

When he returned to the head of the column, Nora again
cantered forward to join him. " Well, me gay Lochinvar," she
cried, " and has your disposition improved? "

" You are very fresh," he said.

She laughed loud enough to be heard the full length of the
caravan. It was a beautiful laugh, but full of insolence and
confidence. He flashed his eyes malignantly upon her, but then
she only laughed more. She could see that he wished to
strangle her. " What a disposition ! " she said. " What a
disposition ! You are not. nearly so nice as your friends. Now,
they are charming, but you-Rufus, I wish you would get that
temper mended. Dear Rufus, do it to please me. You know you
like to please me. Don't you now, dear? "
He finally laughed. " Confound you, Nora. I would like to kill
you."

But at his laugh she was all sunshine. It was as if she.
had been trying to taunt him into good humour with her.
"Aw, now, Rufus, don't be angry. I'll be good, Rufus.
Really, I will. Listen. I want to tell you something. Do you
know what I did? Well, you know, I never was cut out for
this business, and, back there, when you told me about the
Turks being near and all that sort of thing, I was
frightened almost to death. Really, I was. So, when
nobody was looking, I sneaked two or three little drinks
out of my flask. Two or three little drinks-"


Stephen Crane

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