Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 20


CHAPTER XX.


NORA and Coke were an odd looking pair at the
time. They stood indeed as if rooted to the spot,
staring vacuously, like two villagers, at the surprising
travellers. It was not an eternity before the practiced
girl of the stage recovered her poise, but to the end of
the incident the green youth looked like a culprit and
a fool. Mrs. Wainwright's glower of offensive
incredulity was a masterpiece. Marjory nodded
pleasantly; the professor nodded. The seven students
clambered boisterously into the forward carriage
making it clang with noise like a rook's nest. They
shouted to Coke. " Come on; all aboard; come on,
Coke; - we're off. Hey, there, Cokey, hurry up."
The professor, as soon as he had seated himself on
the forward seat of' the second carriage, turned in
Coke's general direction and asked formally: " Mr.
Coke, you are coming with us ? " He felt seemingly
much in doubt as to the propriety of abandoning the
headstrong young man, and this doubt was not at all
decreased by Coke's appearance with Nora Black. As
far as he could tell, any assertion of authority on his
part would end only in a scene in which Coke would
probably insult him with some gross violation of
collegiate conduct. As at first the young man made
no reply, the professor after waiting spoke again.
"You understand, Mr. Coke, that if you separate
yourself from the party you encounter my strongest
disapproval, and if I did not feel responsible to the
college and your father for your safe journey to New
York I-I don't know but what I would have you ex-
pelled by cable if that were possible."

Although Coke had been silent, and Nora Black had
had the appearance of being silent, in reality she had
lowered her chin and whispered sideways and swiftly.
She had said: " Now, here's your time. Decide
quickly, and don't look such a wooden Indian."
Coke pulled himself together with a visible effort,
and spoke to the professor from an inspiration in
which he had no faith. " I understand my duties to
you, sir, perfectly. I also understand my duty to the
college. But I fail to see where either of these
obligations require me to accept the introduction of
objectionable people into the party. If I owe a duty to
the college and to you, I don't owe any to Coleman,
and, as I understand it, Coleman was not in the
original plan of this expedition. If such had been the
case, I would not have been here. I can't tell what
the college may see fit to do, but as for my father I
I have no doubt of how he will view it."

The first one to be electrified by the speech was
Coke himself. He saw with a kind of sub-conscious
amazement this volley of bird-shot take effect upon
the face of the old professor. The face of Marjory
flushed crimson as if her mind had sprung to a fear
that if Coke could develop ability in this singular
fashion he might succeed in humiliating her father in
the street in the presence of the seven students, her
mother, Coleman and-herself. She had felt the bird-
shot sting her father.

When Coke had launched forth, Coleman with his
legs stretched far apart had just struck a match on
the wall of the house and was about to light a cigar.
His groom was leading up his horse. He saw the
value of Coke's argument more appreciatively and
sooner perhaps than did Coke. The match dropped
from his fingers, and in the white sunshine and still
air it burnt on the pavement orange coloured and
with langour. Coleman held his cigar with all five
fingers-in a manner out of all the laws of smoking.
He turned toward Coke. There was danger in the
moment, but then in a flash it came upon him that
his role was not of squabbling with Coke, far less of
punching him. On the contrary, he was to act the
part of a cool and instructed man who refused to be
waylaid into foolishness by the outcries of this
pouting youngster and who placed himself in complete
deference to the wishes of the professor. Before the
professor had time to embark upon any reply to Coke,
Coleman was at the side of the carriage and, with a
fine assumption of distress, was saying: "Professor,
I could very easily ride back to Agrinion alone. It
would be all right. I don't want to-"

To his surprise the professor waved at him to be
silent as if he were a mere child. The old man's face
was set with the resolution of exactly what hewas
going to say to Coke. He began in measured tone,
speaking with feeling, but with no trace of anger.

" Mr. Coke, it has probably escaped your attention
that Mr. Coleman, at what I consider a great deal of
peril to himself, came out to rescue this party-you
and others-and although he studiously disclaims all
merit in his finding us and bringing us in, I do not
regard it in that way, and I am surprised that any
member of this party should conduct himself in
this manner toward a man who has been most
devotedly and generously at our service." It was
at this time that the professor raised himself and
shook his finger at Coke, his voice now ringing with
scorn. In such moments words came to him and
formed themselves into sentences almost too rapidly
for him to speak them. " You are one of the most
remarkable products of our civilisation which I have
yet come upon. What do you mean, sir? Where
are your senses? Do you think that all this pulling
and pucking is manhood? I will tell you what I will
do with you. I thought I brought out eight students
to Greece, but when I find that I brought out, seven
students and--er--an--ourang-outang--don't get
angry, sir--I don't care for your anger--I say when I
discover this I am naturally puzzled for a moment. I
will leave you to the judgment of your peers. Young
gentlemen! "
Of the seven heads of the forward carriage none
had to be turned. All had been turned since the
beginning of the talk. If the professor's speech had
been delivered in one of the class-rooms of
Washurst they would have glowed with delight over the
butchery of Coke, but they felt its portentous aspect.
Butchery here in Greece thousands of miles from
home presented to them more of the emphasis of
downright death and destruction. The professor
called out " Young gentlemen, I have done all that I
can do without using force, which, much to my regret,
is impracticable. If you will persuade your fellow
student to accompany you I think our consciences
will be the better for not having left a weak minded
brother alone among the by-paths."
The valuable aggregation of intelligence and refine-
ment which decorated the interior of the first carriage
did not hesitate over answering this appeal. In fact,
his fellow students had worried among themselves
over Coke, and their desire to see him come out of his
troubles in fair condition was intensified by the fact
that they had lately concentrated much thought upon
him. There was a somewhat comic pretense of
speaking so that only Coke could hear. Their chorus was
law sung. " Oh, cheese it, Coke. Let up on your-self,
you blind ass. Wait till you get to Athens and
then go and act like a monkey. All this is no
good-"

The advice which came from the carriage was all in
one direction, and there was so much of it that the
hum of voices sounded like a wind blowing through a
forest.

Coke spun suddenly and said something to Nora
Black. Nora laughed rather loudly, and then the two
turned squarely and the Wainwright party contemplated
what were surely at that time the two most insolent
backs in the world.

The professor looked as if he might be going to
have a fit. Mrs. Wainwright lifted her eyes toward
heaven, and flinging out her trembling hands, cried:
" Oh, what an outrage. What an outrage! That
minx-" The concensus of opinion in the first carriage
was perfectly expressed by Peter Tounley, who
with a deep drawn breath, said : " Well, I'm damned! "
Marjory had moaned and lowered her head as from a
sense of complete personal shame. Coleman lit his
cigar and mounted his horse. " Well, I suppose there
is nothing for it but to be off, professor? " His tone
was full of regret, with sort of poetic regret. For a
moment the professor looked at him blankly, and then
gradually recovered part of his usual manner. " Yes,"
he said sadly, " there is nothing for it but to go on."
At a word from the dragoman, the two impatient
drivers spoke gutturally to their horses and the car-
riages whirled out of Arta. Coleman, his dragoman
and the groom trotted in the dust from the wheels of
the Wainwright carriage. The correspondent always
found his reflective faculties improved by the constant
pounding of a horse on the trot, and he was not sorry
to have now a period for reflection, as well as this
artificial stimulant. As he viewed the game he had in his
hand about all the cards that were valuable. In fact,
he considered that the only ace against him was Mrs.
Wainwright. He had always regarded her as a stupid
person, concealing herself behind a mass of trivialities
which were all conventional, but he thought now that
the more stupid she was and the more conventional in
her triviality the more she approached to being the
very ace of trumps itself. She was just the sort of a
card that would come upon the table mid the neat
play of experts and by some inexplicable arrangement
of circumstance, lose a whole game for the wrong man.
After Mrs. Wainwright he worried over the students.
He believed them to be reasonable enough;
in fact, he honoured them distinctly in regard to their
powers of reason, but he knew that people generally
hated a row. It, put them off their balance, made
them sweat over a lot of pros and cons, and prevented
them from thinking for a time at least only of themselves.
Then they came to resent the principals in a
row. Of course the principal, who was thought to be
in the wrong, was the most rescnted, but Coleman be-
lieved that, after all, people always came to resent the
other principal, or at least be impatient and suspicious
of him. If he was a correct person, why was
he in a row at all? The principal who had been in
the right often brought this impatience and suspicion
upon himself, no doubt, by never letting the matter
end, continuing to yawp about his virtuous suffering,
and not allowing people to return to the steady
contemplation of their own affairs. As a precautionary
measure he decided to say nothing at all about the
late trouble, unless some one addressed him upon it.
Even then he would be serenely laconic. He felt that
he must be popular with the seven students. In the
first place, it was nice that in the presence of Marjory
they should like him, and in the second place he
feared to displease them as a body because he believed
that he had some dignity. Hoodlums are seldom
dangerous to other hoodlums, but if they catch
pomposity alone in the field, pomposity is their prey.
They tear him to mere bloody ribbons, amid heartless
shrieks. When Coleman put himself on the same
basis with the students, he could cope with them
easily, but he did not want the wild pack after him
when Marjory could see the chase. And so be rea-
soned that his best attitude was to be one of rather
taciturn serenity.

On the hard military road the hoofs of the horses
made such clatter that it was practically impossible to
hold talk between the carriages and the horsemen
without all parties bellowing. The professor, how-
ever, strove to overcome the difficulties. He was
apparently undergoing a great amiability toward
Coleman. Frequently he turned with a bright face, and
pointing to some object in the landscape, obviously
tried to convey something entertaining to Coleman's
mind. Coleman could see his lips mouth the words.
He always nodded cheerily in answer and yelled.

The road ultimately became that straight lance-handle
which Coleman-it seemed as if many years had
passed-had traversed with his dragoman and the
funny little carriers. He was fixing in his mind a
possible story to the Wainwrights about the snake and
his first dead Turk. But suddenly the carriages left
this road and began a circuit of the Gulf of Arta,
winding about an endless series of promontories. The
journey developed into an excess of dust whirling from
a road, which half circled the waist of cape after cape.
All dramatics were lost in the rumble of wheels and
in the click of hoofs. They passed a little soldier
leading a prisoner by a string. They passed more
frightened peasants, who seemed resolved to flee down
into the very boots of Greece. And people looked at
them with scowls, envying them their speed. At the
little town from which Coleman embarked at one stage
of the upward journey, they found crowds in the
streets. There was no longer any laughter, any confidence,
any vim. All the spirit of the visible Greek
nation seemed to have been knocked out of it in two
blows. But still they talked and never ceased talking.
Coleman noticed that the most curious changes had
come upon them since his journey to the frontier.
They no longer approved of foreigners. They seemed
to blame the travellers for something which had
transpired in the past few days. It was not that they
really blamed the travellers for the nation's calamity:
It was simply that their minds were half stunned by
the news of defeats, and, not thinking for a moment to
blame themselves, or even not thinking to attribute
the defeats to mere numbers and skill, they were
savagely eager to fasten it upon something near enough
at hand for the operation of vengeance.

Coleman perceived that the dragoman, all his former
plumage gone, was whining and snivelling as he argued
to a dark-browed crowd that was running beside the
cavalcade. The groom, who always had been a
miraculously laconic man, was suddenly launched forth
garrulously. The, drivers, from their high seats, palavered
like mad men, driving with oat hand and gesturing
with the other, explaining evidently their own great
innocence.

Coleman saw that there was trouble, but he only sat
more stiffly in his saddle. The eternal gabble moved
him to despise the situation. At any rate, the travellers
would soon be out of this town and on to a more
sensible region.

However he saw the driver of the first carriage sud-
denly pull up boforg a little blackened coffee shop and
inn. The dragman spurred forward and began wild
expostulation. The second carriage pulled close behind
the other. The crowd, murmuring like a Roman mob in
Nero's time, closed around them.

.

Stephen Crane

Sorry, no summary available yet.