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Chapter 22


CHAPTER XXII.

From below they could hear the thunder of weapons
and fits upon the door of the inn amid a great
clamour of. tongues. Sometimes there arose the
argumtntative howl of the innkeeper. Above this roar,
Coleman's quick words sounded in Marjory's ear.

" I've got to go. I've got to go back to the boys, but
-I love you."

" Yes go, go," she whispered hastily. " You should
be there, but-come back."

He held her close to him. " But you are mine, remember,"
he said fiercely and sternly. " You are
mine-forever-As I am yours-remember."
Her eyes half closed. She made intensely solemn
answer. "Yes." He released her and vphs gone.
In the glooming coffee room of the inn he found
the students, the dragoman, the groom and the innkeeper
armed with a motley collection of weapons which
ranged from the rifle of the innkeeper to the table leg
in the hands of PeterTounley. The last named young
student of archeology was in a position of temporary
leadefship and holding a great pow-bow with the
innkeeper through the medium of peircing outcries by
the dragoman. Coleman had not yet undestood why
none of them had been either stabbed or shot in the
fight in the steeet, but it seemed to him now that
affairs were leading toward a crisis of tragedy. He
thought of the possibilities of having the dragoman go
to an upper window and harangue the people, but he
saw no chance of success in such a plan. He saw that
the crowd would merely howl at the dragoman while
the dragoman howled at the crowd. He then asked
if there was any other exit from the inn by which
they could secretly escape. He learned that the door
into the coffee room was the only door which pierced
the four great walls. All he could then do was to
find out from the innkeeper how much of a siege the
place could stand, and to this the innkeeper answered
volubly and with smiles that this hostelry would easily
endure until the mercurial temper of the crowd had
darted off in a new direction. It may be curious to
note here that all of Peter Tounley's impassioned
communication with the innkeeper had been devoted
to an endeavour to learn what in the devil was the
matter with these people, as a man about to be bitten
by poisonous snakes should, first of all, furiously
insist upon learning their exact species before deciding
upon either his route, if he intended to run away, or
his weapon if he intended to fight them.

The innkeeper was evidently convinced that this
house would withstand the rage of the populace, and
he was such an unaccountably gallant little chap that
Coleman trusted entirely to his word. His only fear
or suspicion was an occasional one as to the purity of
the dragoman's translation.

Suddenly there was half a silence on the mob without
the door. It is inconceivable that it could become
altogether silent, but it was as near to a rational
stillness of tongues as it was able. Then there was a
loud knocking by a single fist and a new voice began
to spin Greek, a voice that was somewhat like the
rattle of pebbles in a tin box. Then a startling voice
called out in English. " Are you in there, Rufus? "

Answers came from every English speaking person
in the room in one great outburst. "Yes."

" Well, let us in," called Nora Black. " It is all
right. We've got an officer with us."

" Open the door," said Coleman with speed. The
little innkeeper labouriously unfastened the great bars,
and when the door finally opened there appeared on
the threshold Nora Black with Coke and an officer of
infantry, Nora's little old companion, and Nora's
dragoman.

" We saw your carriage in the street," cried the
queen of comic opera as she swept into the room.
She was beaming with delight. " What is all the row,
anyway? O-o-oh, look at that student's nose. Who
hit him? And look at Rufus. What have you boys
been doing?"

Her little Greek officer of infantry had stopped the
mob from flowing into the room. Coleman looked
toward the door at times with some anxiety. Nora,
noting it, waved her hand in careless reassurance;
" Oh, it's, all right. Don't worry about them any
more. He is perfectly devoted to me. He would
die there on the threshold if I told him it would
please me. Speaks splendid French. I found him
limping along the road and gave him a lift. And now
do hurry up and tell me exactly what happened."
They all told what had happened, while Nora and
Coke listened agape. Coke, by the way, had quite
floated back to his old position with the students. It
had been easy in the stress of excitement and wonder.
Nobody had any titne to think of the excessively remote
incidents of the early morning. All minor interests
were lost in the marvel of the present situation.

"Who landed you in the eye, Billie?" asked the
awed Coke. " That was a bad one."
" Oh, I don't know," said Billie. " You really
couldn't tell who hit you, you know. It was a football
rush. They had guns and knives, but they didn't use
'em. I don't know why Jinks! I'm getting pretty
stiff. My face feels as if it were made of tin. Did
they give you people a row, too ? "

" No; only talk. That little officer managed them.
Out-talked them, I suppose. Hear him buzz, now."
The Wainwrights came down stairs. Nora Black
went confidently forward to meet them. "You've
added one more to your list of rescuers,"  She cried,
with her glowing, triumphant smile. "Miss Black of
the New York Daylight-at your service. How in
the world do you manage to get yourselves into such
dreadful Scrapes? You are the most remarkable people.
You need a guardian. Why, you might have all
been killed. How exciting it must seem to be regularly
of your party." She had shaken cordiaily one of
Mrs. Wainwright's hands without that lady indicating
assent to the proceeding but Mrs. Wainwright had
not felt repulsion. In fact she had had no emotion
springing directly from it. Here again the marvel of
the situation came to deny Mrs. Wainwright the right
to resume a state of mind which had been so painfully
interesting to her a few hours earlier.

The professor, Coleman and all the students were
talking together. Coke had addressed Coleman civilly
and Coleman had made a civil reply. Peace was upon
them.

Nora slipped her arm lovingly through Marjbry's
arm. "That Rufus! Oh, that Rufus," she cried joyously.
" I'll give him a good scolding as soon as I
see him alone. I might have foreseen that he would
get you all into trouble. The old stupid ! "

Marjory did not appear to resent anything. " Oh, I
don't think it was Mr. Coleman's fault at ail," she an-
swered calmly. "I think it was more the fault of
Peter Tounley, poor boy."

" Well, I'd be glad to believe it, I'd be glad to believe it,"
said Nora. "I want Rufus to keep out of
that sort of thing, but he is so hot-headed and foolish."
If she had pointed out her proprietary stamp on Coleman's
cheek she could not have conveyed what she
wanted with more clearness.

" Oh," said the impassive Marjory, " I don't think
you need have any doubt as to whose fault it was, if
there were any of our boys at fault. Mr. Coleman
was inside when the fighting commenced, and only ran
out to help the boys. He had just brought us safely
through the mob, and, far from being hot-headed and
foolish, he was utterly cool in manner, impressively
cool, I thought. I am glad to be able to reassure you
on these points, for I see that they worry you."

".Yes, they do worry me," said Nora, densely.
They worry me night and day when he is away from
me."

" Oh," responded Marjory, " I have never thought
of Mr. Coleman as a man that one would worry about
much. We consider him very self-reliant, able to take
care of himself under almost any conditions, but then,
of course, we do not know him at all in the way that
you know him. I should think that you would find
that he came off rather better than you expected from
most of his difficulties. But then, of course, as. I said,
you know him so much better than we do." Her
easy indifference was a tacit dismissal of Coleman as
a topic.

Nora, now thoroughly alert, glanced keenly into the
other girl's face, but it was inscrutable. The actress
had intended to go careering through a whole circle
of daring illusions to an intimacy with,Coleman, but
here, before she had really developed her attack,
Marjory, with a few conventional and indifferent
sentences, almost expressive of boredom, had made
the subject of Coleman impossible. An effect was left
upon Nora's mind that Marjory had been extremely
polite in listening to much nervous talk about a person
in whom she had no interest.

The actress was dazed. She did not know how it
had all been done. Where was the head of this thing?
And where Was the tail? A fog had mysteriously
come upon all her brilliant prospects of seeing Marjory
Wainwright suffer, and this fog was the product of
a kind of magic with which she was not familiar.
She could not think how to fight it. After being
simply dubious throughout a long pause, she in the
end went into a great rage. She glared furiously at
Marjory, dropped her arm as if it had burned her and
moved down upon Coleman. She must have reflected
that at any rate she could make him wriggle. When
she was come near to him, she called out: "Rufus!"
In her tone was all the old insolent statement of
ownership. Coleman might have been a poodle. She
knew how to call his same in a way that was anything
less than a public scandal. On this occasion everybody
looked at him and then went silent, as people
awaiting the startling denouement of a drama.
" Rufus! " She was baring his shoulder to show the
fieur-de-lis of the criminal. The students gaped.

Coleman's temper was, if one may be allowed to
speak in that way, broken loose inside of him. He
could hardly beeathe; he felt that his body was about
to explode into a thousand fragments. He simply
snarled out " What? " Almost at once he saw that
she had at last goaded him into making a serious
tactical mistake. It must be admitted that it is only
when the relations between a man and a woman are
the relations of wedlock, or at least an intimate
resemblance to it, that the man snarls out " What? " to
the woman. Mere lovers say " I beg your pardon ? "
It is only Cupid's finished product that spits like a
cat. Nora Black had called him like a wife, and he
had answered like a husband. For his cause, his
manner could not possibly have been worse. He saw
the professor stare at him in surprise and alarm, and
felt the excitement of the eight students. These
latter were diabolic in the celerity with which they
picked out meanings. It was as plain to them as if
Nora Black had said: " He is my property."

Coleman would have given his nose to have been
able to recall that single reverberating word. But he
saw that the scene was spelling downfall for him, and
he went still more blind and desperate of it. His
despair made him burn to make matters Worse. He
did not want to improve anything at all. " What?"
he demanded. " What do ye' want?"

Nora was sweetly reproachful. " I left my jacket
in the carriage, and I want you to get it for me."

" Well, get it for yourself, do you see? Get it for
yourself."

Now it is plainly to be seen that no one of the
people listening there had ever heard a man speak
thus to a woman who was not his wife. Whenever
they had heard that form of spirited repartee it had
come from the lips of a husband. Coleman's rude
speech was to their ears a flat announcement of an
extraordinary intimacy between Nora Black and the
correspondent. Any other interpretation would not
have occurred to them. It was so palpable that it
greatly distressed them with its arrogance and
boldness. The professor had blushed. The very
milkiest word in his mind at the time was the word
vulgarity.

Nora Black had won a great battle. It was her
Agincourt. She had beaten the clever Coleman in a
way that had left little of him but rags. However,
she could have lost it all again if she had shown her
feeling of elation. At Coleman's rudeness her manner
indicated a mixture of sadness and embarrassment.
Her suffering was so plain to the eye that Peter
Tounley was instantly moved. " Can't I get your
jacket for you, Miss Black? " he asked hastily, and at
her grateful nod he was off at once.

Coleman was resolved to improve nothing. His
overthrow seemed to him to be so complete that he
could not in any way mend it without a sacrifice of his
dearest prides. He turned away from them all and
walked to an isolated corner of the room. He would
abide no longer with them. He had been made an
outcast by Nora Black, and he intended to be an
outcast. Therc was no sense in attempting to stem this
extraordinary deluge. It was better to acquiesce.
Then suddenly he was angry with Marjory. He
did not exactly see why he was angry at Marjory,
but he was angry at her nevertheless. He thought
of how he could revenge himself upon her. He
decided to take horse with his groom and dragoman and
proceed forthwith on the road, leaving the jumble as
it stood. This would pain Marjory, anyhow, he
hoped. She would feel it deeply, he hoped.
Acting upon this plan, he went to the professor.
Well, of course you are all right now, professor, and
if you don't mind, I would like to leave you-go on
ahead. I've got a considerable pressure of business
on my mind, and I think I should hurry on to Athens,
if you don't mind."

The professor did not seem to know what to say.
" Of course, if you wish it-sorry, I'm sure-of course
it is as you please-but you have been such a power
in our favour-it seems too bad to lose you-but-if
you wish it-if you insist-"

" Oh, yes, I quite insist," said Coleman, calmly. "I
quite insist. Make your mind easy on that score,
professor. I insist."

"Well, Mr. Coleman," stammered the old man.
" Well, it seems a great pity to lose you-you have
been such a power in our favour-"

"Oh, you are now only eight hours from the rail-
way. It is very easy. You would not need my as-
sistance, even if it were a benefit!

" But-" said the professor.

Coleman's dragoman came to him then and said:
"There is one man here who says you made to take
one rifle in the fight and was break his head. He
was say he wants sunthing for you was break his
head. He says hurt."

"How much does he want?" asked Coleman, im-
patiently.

The dragoman wrestled then evidently with a desire
to protect this mine from outside fingers. "I-I think
two gold piece plenty."
"Take them," said Coleman. It seemed to him
preposterous that this idiot with a broken head
should interpolate upon his tragedy. " Afterward
you and the groom get the three horses and we will
start for Athens at once."

"For Athens? At once? " said Marjory's voice
in his ear.


Stephen Crane

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