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Chapter 23


CHAPTER XXIII

"Om," said Coleman, " I was thinking of starting."

"Why? " asked Marjory, unconcernedly.

Coleman shot her a quick glance. " I believe my
period of usefulness is quite ended," he said. with just
a small betrayal of bitter feeling.

" It is certainly true that you have had a remark-
able period of usefulness to us," said Marjory with a
slow smile, "but if it is ended, you should not run
away from us."

Coleman looked at her to see what she could mean.
From many women, these words would have been
equal, under the circumstances, to a command to stay,
but he felt that none might know what impulses
moved the mind behind that beautiful mask. In his
misery he thought to hurt her into an expression of
feeling by a rough speech. " I'm so in love with Nora
Black, you know, that I have to be very careful of
myself."

" Oh," said Marjory, never thought of that. I
should think you would have to be careful of yourself."
She did not seem moved in any way. Coleman
despaired of finding her weak spot. She was a'damantine,
this girl. He searched his mind for something
to say which would be still more gross than his last
outbreak, but when he felt that he was about to hit
upon it, the professor interrupted with an agitated
speech to Marjory. "You had better go to your
mother, my child, and see that you are all ready to
leave here as soon as the carriages come up."

"We have absolutely nothing to make ready," said
Marjory, laughing. " But I'll go and see if mother
needs anything before we start that I can get for her."
She went away without bidding good-bye to Coleman.
The sole maddening impression to him was that the
matter of his going had not been of sufficient importance
to remain longer than a moment upon her mind.
At the same time he decided that he would go, irretrievably go.

Even then the dragoman entered the room. " We
will pack everything -upon the horse?"

" Everything-yes."

Peter Tounley came afterward. " You are not going to bolt ? "

" Yes, I'm off," answered Coleman recovering him-
self for Peter's benefit. " See you in Athens, probably."

Presently the dragoman announced the readiness of
the horses. Coleman shook hands with the students
and the Professor amid cries of surprise and polite
regret. "What? Going, oldman? Really? What
for ? Oh, wait for us. We're off in a few minutes.
Sorry as the devil, old boy, to' see you go." He
accepted their protestations with a somewhat sour
face. He knew perfectly well that they were thinking
of his departure as something that related to Nora
Black. At the last, he bowed to the ladies as a
collection. Marjory's answering bow was affable; the
bow of Mrs. Wainwright spoke a resentment for some-
thing; and Nora's bow was triumphant mockery. As
he swung into the saddle an idea struck him with over
whelming force. The idea was that he was a fool.
He was a colossal imbecile. He touched the spur to
his horse and the animal leaped superbly, making the
Greeks hasten for safety in all directions. He was off ;
he could no more return to retract his devious idiocy
than he could make his horse fly to Athens. What
was done was done. He could not mend it. And he
felt like a man that had broken his own heart;
perversely, childishly, stupidly broken his own heart.
He was sure that Marjory was lost to him. No
man could be degraded so publicly and resent it so
crudely and still retain a Marjory. In his abasement
from his defeat at the hands of Nora Black he had
performed every imaginable block-headish act and had
finally climaxed it all by a departure which left the
tongue of Nora to speak unmolested into the ear of
Marjory. Nora's victory had been a serious blow to
his fortunes, but it had not been so serious as his own
subsequent folly. He had generously muddled his
own affairs until he could read nothing out of them
but despair.

He was in the mood for hatred. He hated many
people. Nora Black was the principal item, but he
did not hesitate to detest the professor, Mrs. Wain-
wright, Coke and all the students. As for Marjory,
he would revenge himself upon her. She had done
nothing that he defined clearly but, at any rate, he
would take revenge for it. As much as was possible,
he would make her suffer. He would convince her
that he was a tremendous and inexorable person.
But it came upon his mind that he was powerless in
all ways. If he hated many people they probably
would not be even interested in his emotion and, as
for his revenge upon Marjory, it was beyond his
strength. He was nothing but the complaining victim
of Nora Black and himself.

He felt that he would never again see Marjory, and
while feeling it he began to plan his attitude when
next they met. He would be very cold and reserved.
At Agrinion he found that there would be no train
until the next daybreak. The dragoman was excessively
annoyed over it, but Coleman did not scold at
all. As a matter of fact his heart had given a great
joyus bound. He could not now prevent his being
overtaken. They were only a few leagues away, and
while he was waiting for the train they would easily
cover the distance. If anybody expressed surprise at
seeing him he could exhibit the logical reasons.
If there had been a train starting at once he would
have taken it. His pride would have put up with no
subterfuge. If the Wainwrights overtook him it was
because he could not help it. But he was delighted
that he could not help it. There had been an inter-
position by some specially beneficent fate. He felt
like whistling. He spent the early half of the night
in blissful smoke, striding the room which the dragoman
had found for him. His head was full of plans
and detached impressive scenes in which he figured
before Marjory. The simple fact that there was no
train away from Agrinion until the next daybreak had
wrought a stupendous change in his outlook. He
unhesitatingly considered it an omen of a good future.
He was up before the darkness even contained presage
of coming light, but near the railway station was
a little hut where coffee was being served to several
prospective travellers who had come even earlier to
the rendezvous. There was no evidence of the Wainwrights.

Coleman sat in the hut and listened for the rumble
of wheels. He was suddenly appalled that the Wainwrights
were going to miss the train. Perhaps they
had decided against travelling during the night. Perbaps
this thing, and perhaps that thing. The morning
was very cold. Closely muffled in his cloak, he went
to the door and stared at where the road was whiten-
ing out of night. At the station stood a little spectral
train, and the engine at intervals emitted a long, piercing
scream which informed the echoing land that, in
all probability, it was going to start after a time for
the south. The Greeks in the coffee room were, of
course, talking.

At last Coleman did hear the sound of hoofs and
wheels. The three carriages swept up in grand procession.
The first was laden with students ; in the
second was the professor, the Greek officer, Nora
Black's old lady and other persons, all looking marvellously
unimportant and shelved. It was the third
carriage at which Coleman stared. At first be
thought the dim light deceived his vision, but in a
moment he knew that his first leaping conception of
the arrangement of the people in this vehicle had
been perfectly correct. Nora Black and Mrs. Wainwright
sat side by side on the back seat, while facing
them were Coke and Marjory.

They looked cold but intimate.

The oddity of the grouping stupefied Coleman. It
was anarchy, naked and unashamed. He could not
imagine how such changes could have been consummated
in the short time he had been away from them,
but he laid it all to some startling necromancy on the
part of Nora Black, some wondrous play which had
captured them all because of its surpassing skill and
because they were, in the main, rather gullible people.
He was wrong. The magic had been wrought
by the unaided foolishness of Mrs. Wainwfight. As
soon as Nora Black had succeeded in creating an
effect of intimacy and dependence between herself
and Coleman, the professor had flatly stated to his
wife that the presence of Nora Black in the party, in
the inn, in the world, was a thiag that did not meet
his approval in any way. She should be abolished.
As for Coleman, he would not defend him. He preferred
not to talk to him. It made him sad. Coleman at
least had been very indiscreet, very indiscreet.
It was a great pity. But as for this blatant woman,
the sooner they rid themselves of her, the sooner he
would feel that all the world was not evil.

Whereupon Mrs. Wainwright had changed front
with the speed of light and attacked with horse, foot
and guns. She failed to see, she had declared, where
this poor, lone girt was in great fault. Of course it
was probable that she had listened to this snaky.
tongued Rufus Coleman, but that was ever the mistake
that women made. Oh, certainly ; the professor
would like to let Rufus Coleman off scot-free. That
was the way with men. They defended each other in
all cases. If wrong were done it was the woman who
suffered. Now, since this poor girl was alone far off
here in Greece, Mrs. Wainwright announced that she
had such full sense of her duty to her sex that her
conscience would not allow her to scorn and desert a
sister, even if that sister was, approximately, the victim
of a creature like Rufus Coleman. Perhaps the
poor thing loved this wretched man, although it was
hard to imagine any woman giving her heart to such.
a monster.

The professor had then asked with considerable
spirit for the proofs upon which Mrs. Wainwright
named Coleman a monster, and had made a wry face
over her completely conventional reply. He had told
her categorically his opinion of her erudition in such
matters.

But Mrs. Wainwright was not to be deterred from
an exciting espousal of the cause of her sex. Upon
the instant that the professor strenuously opposed her
she becamean apostle, an enlightened, uplifted apostle
to the world on the wrongs of her sex. She had
come down with this thing as if it were a disease.
Nothing could stop her. Her husband, her daughter,
all influences in other directions, had been overturned
with a roar, and the first thing fully clear to the professor's
mind had been that his wife was riding affably
in the carriage with Nora Black.
Coleman aroused when he heard one of the students
cry out: " Why, there is Rufus Coleman's dragoman.
He must be here." A moment later they thronged
upon him. " Hi, old man, caught you again! Where
did you break to? Glad to catch you, old boy. How
are you making it? Where's your horse?"

" Sent the horses on to, Athens," said Coleman.
He had not yet recovered his composure, and he was
glad to find available this commonplace return to their
exuberant greetings and questions. " Sent them on to
Athens with the groom."

In the mean time the engine of the little train was
screaming to heaven that its intention of starting was
most serious. The diligencia careered to the station
platform and unburdened. Coleman had had his
dragoman place his luggage in a little first-class carriage
and he defiantly entered it and closed the door.
He had a sudden return to the old sense of downfall,
and with it came the original rebellious desires. However,
he hoped that somebody would intrude upon
him.
It was Peter Tounley. The student flung open the
door and then yelled to the distance : " Here's an
empty one." He clattered into the compartment.
" Hello, Coleman! Didn't know you were in here! "
At his heels came Nora Black, Coke and Marjory.
" Oh! " they said, when they saw the occupant of the
carriage. " Oh ! " Coleman was furious. He could
have distributed some of his traps in a way to create
more room, but he did not move.


Stephen Crane

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