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Chapter 24


CHAPTER XXIV.

THERE was a demonstration of the unequalled facilities
of a European railway carriage for rendering
unpleasant things almost intolerable. These people
could find no way to alleviate the poignancy of their
position. Coleman did not know where to look.
Every personal mannerism becomes accentuated in a
European railway carriage. If you glance at a man,
your glance defines itself as a stare. If you carefully
look at nothing, you create for yourself a resemblance
to all wooden-headed things. A newspaper is, then, in
the nature of a preservative, and Coleman longed for
a newspaper.

It was this abominable railway carriage which
exacted the first display of agitation from Marjory.
She flushed rosily, and her eyes wavered over the
cornpartment. Nora Black laughed in a way that
was a shock to the nerves. Coke seemed very angry,
indeed, and Peter Tounley was in pitiful distress.
Everything was acutely, painfully vivid, bald, painted
as glaringly as a grocer's new wagon. It fulfilled
those traditions which the artists deplore when they
use their pet phrase on a picture, "It hurts." The
damnable power of accentuation of the European
railway carriage seemed, to Coleman's amazed mind,
to be redoubled and redoubled.

It was Peter Tounley who seemed to be in the greatest
agony. He looked at the correspondent beseechingly
and said: "It's a very cold morning, Coleman."
This was an actual appeal in the name of humanity.

Coleman came squarely. to the front and even
grinned a little at poor Peter Tounley's misery.
"Yes, it is a cold morning, Peter. I should say it to
one of the coldest mornings in my recollection."

Peter Tounley had not intended a typical American
emphasis on the polar conditions which obtained
in the compartment at this time, but Coleman had
given the word this meaning. Spontaneously every
body smiled, and at once the tension was relieved.
But of course the satanic powers of the railway carriage
could not be altogether set at naught. Of course
it fell to the lot of Coke to get the seat directly in
front of Coleman, and thus, face to face, they were
doomed to stare at each other.

Peter Tounley was inspired to begin conventional
babble, in which he took great care to make an appear.
ance of talking to all in the carriage. " Funny thing
I never knew these mornings in Greece were so cold.
I thought the climate here was quite tropical. It
must have been inconvenient in the ancient times,
when, I am told, people didn't wear near so many-
er-clothes. Really, I don't see how they stood it.
For my part, I would like nothing so much as a buffalo
robe. I suppose when those great sculptors were doing
their masterpieces, they had to wear gloves.
Ever think of that? Funny, isn't it? Aren't you
cold, Marjory ? I am. jingo! Imagine the Spartans
in ulsters, going out to meet an enemy in cape-overcoats,
and being desired by their mothers to return
with their ulsters or wrapped in them."

It was rather hard work for Peter Tounley. Both
Marjory and Coleman tried to display an interest in
his labours, and they laughed not at what he said, but
because they believed it assisted him. The little train,
meanwhile, wandered up a great green slope, and the
day rapidly coloured the land.

At first Nora Black did not display a militant mood,
but as time passed Coleman saw clearly that she was
considering the advisability of a new attack. She had
Coleman and Marjory in conjunction and where they
were unable to escape from her. The opportunities
were great. To Coleman, she seemed to be gloating
over the possibilities of making more mischief. She
was looking at him speculatively, as if considering the
best place to hit him first. Presently she drawled :
" Rufus, I wish you would fix my rug about me a little
better." Coleman saw that this was a beginning.
Peter Tounley sprang to his feet with speed and en-
thusiasm. " Oh, let me do it for you." He had her
well muffled in the rug before she could protest, even
if a protest had been rational. The young man had
no idea of defending Coleman. He had no knowledge
of the necessity for it. It had been merely the exercise
of his habit of amiability, his chronic desire to
see everybody comfortable. His passion in this direction
was well known in Washurst, where the students
had borrowed a phrase from the photographers in order
to describe him fully in a nickname. They called
him " Look-pleasant Tounley." This did not in any
way antagonise his perfect willingness to fight on
occasions with a singular desperation, which usually
has a small stool in every mind where good nature has
a throne.

" Oh, thank you very much, Mr. Tounley," said
Nora Black, without gratitude. " Rufus is always so
lax in these matters."

"I don't know how you know it," said Coleman
boldly, and he looked her fearlessly in the eye. The
battle had begun.

" Oh," responded Nora, airily, " I have had opportunity
enough to know it, I should think, by this
time."

" No," said Coleman, " since I have never paid you
particular and direct attention, you cannot possibly
know what I am lax in and what I am not lax in. I
would be obliged to be of service at any time, Nora,
but surely you do not consider that you have a right
to my services superior to any other right."

Nora Black simply went mad, but fortunately part
of her madness was in the form of speechlessness.
Otherwise there might have been heard something
approaching to billingsgate.

Marjory and Peter Tounley turned first hot and then
cold, and looked as if they wanted to fly away; and
even Coke, penned helplessly in with this unpleasant
incident, seemed to have a sudden attack of distress.
The only frigid person was Coleman. He had made
his declaration of independence, and he saw with glee
that the victory was complete. Nora Black might
storm and rage, but he had announced his position in
an unconventional blunt way which nobody in the
carriage could fail to understand. He felt somewhat
like smiling with confidence and defiance in Nora's
face, but he still had the fear for Marjory.

Unexpectedly, the fight was all out of Nora Black.
She had the fury of a woman scorned, but evidently
she had perceived that all was over and lost. The
remainder of her wrath dispensed itself in glares which
Coleman withstood with great composure.

A strained silence fell upon the group which lasted
until they arrived at the little port of Mesalonghi,
whence they were to take ship for Patras. Coleman
found himself wondering why he had not gone flatly
at the great question at a much earlier period, indeed
at the first moment when the great question began to
make life exciting for him. He thought that if he
had charged Nora's guns in the beginning they would
have turned out to be the same incapable artillery.
Instead of that he had run away and continued to run
away until he was actually cornered and made to fight,
and his easy victory had defined him as a person
who had, earlier, indulged in much stupidity and
cowardice.
Everything had worked out so simply, his terrors
had been dispelled so easily, that he probably was led
to overestimate his success. And it occurred suddenly
to him. He foresaw a fine occasion to talk privately
to Marjory when all had boarded the steamer for
Patras and he resolved to make use of it. This he
believed would end the strife and conclusively laurel
him.

The train finally drew up on a little stone pier and
some boatmen began to scream like gulls. The
steamer lay at anchor in the placid blue cove. The
embarkation was chaotic in the Oriental fashion and
there was the customary misery which was only relieved
when the travellers had set foot on the deck of
the steamer. Coleman did not devote any premature
attention to finding Marjory, but when the steamer
was fairly out on the calm waters of the Gulf of Corinth,
he saw her pacing to and fro with Peter Tounley.
At first he lurked in the distance waiting for an opportunity,
but ultimately he decided to make his own
opportunity. He approached them. "Marjory,would
you let me speak to you alone for a few moments?
You won't mind, will you, Peter? "

" Oh, no, certainly not," said Peter Tounley.

"Of course. It is not some dreadful revelation, is
it? " said Marjory, bantering him coolly.

" No," answered Coleman, abstractedly. He was
thinking of what he was going to say. Peter Tounley
vanished around the corner of a deck-house and Marjory
and Coleman began to pace to and fro even as
Marjory and Peter Tounley had done. Coleman had
thought to speak his mind frankly and once for all, and
on the train he had invented many clear expressions
of his feeling. It did not appear that he had forgotten
them. It seemed, more, that they had become entangled
in his mind in such a way that he could not
unravel the end of his discourse.

In the pause, Marjory began to speak in admiration
of the scenery. " I never imagined that Greece was so
full of mountains. One reads so much of the Attic
Plains, but aren't these mountains royal? They look
so rugged and cold, whereas the bay is absolutely as
blue as the old descriptions of a summer sea."

" I wanted to speak to you about Nora Black," said
Coleman.

"Nora Black? Why?" said Marjory, lifting her eye-
brows.

You know well enough," said Coleman, in a head.
long fashion. " You must know, you must have seen
it. She knows I care for you and she wants to stop it.
And she has no right to-to interfere. She is a fiend,
a perfect fiend. She is trying to make you feel that I
care for her."

" And don't you care for her ? " asked Marjory.

"No," said Coleman, vehemently. " I don't care
for her at all."

" Very well," answered Marjory, simply. " I believe
you." She managed to give the words the effect of a
mere announcement that she believed him and it was
in no way plain that she was glad or that she esteemed
the matter as being of consequence.

He scowled at her in dark resentment. " You mean
by that, I suppose, that you don't believe me ? "

" Oh," answered Marjory, wearily, " I believe you.
I said so. Don't talk about it any more."

"Then," said Coleman, slowly, " you mean that you
do not care whether I'm telling the truth or not?"

" Why, of course I care," she said. " Lying is not
nice."

He did not know, apparently, exactly how to deal
with her manner, which was actually so pliable that-it
was marble, if one may speak in that way. He looked
ruefully at the sea. He had expected a far easier
time. " Well-" he began.

" Really," interrupted Marjory, " this is something
which I do not care to discuss. I would rather you
would not speak to me at all about it. It seems too
-too-bad. I can readily give you my word that I
believe you, but I would prefer you not to try to talk
to me about it or-anything of that sort. Mother!"

Mrs. Wainwright was hovering anxiously in the
vicinity, and she now bore down rapidly upon the
pair. "You are very nearly to Patras," she said
reproachfully to her daughter, as if the fact had some
fault of Marjory's concealed in it. She in no way ac-
knowledged the presence of Coleman.

" Oh, are we ? " cried Marjory.

"Yes," said Mrs. Wainwright. " We are."

She stood waiting as if she expected Marjory to in-
stantly quit Coleman. The girl wavered a moment
and then followed her mother. " Good-bye." she said.
"I hope we may see you again in Athens." It was a
command to him to travel alone with his servant on
the long railway journey from Patras to Athens. It
was a dismissal of a casual acquaintance given so
graciously that it stung him to the depths of his pride.
He bowed his adieu and his thanks. When the yelling
boatmen came again, he and his man proceeded
to the shore in an early boat without looking in any
way after the welfare of the others.

At the train, the party split into three sections.
Coleman and his man had one compartment, Nora
Black and her squad had another, and the Wainwrights
and students occupied two more.

The little officer was still in tow of Nora Black.
He was very enthusiastic. In French she directed
him to remain silent, but he did not appear to understand.
" You tell him," she then said to her dragoman,
" to sit in a corner and not to speak until I tell
him to, or I won't have him in here." She seemed
anxious to unburden herself to the old lady companion.
" Do you know," she said, " that girl has a
nerve like steel. I tried to break it there in that inn,
but I couldn't budge her. If I am going to have her
beaten I must prove myself to be a very, very artful
person."

" Why did you try to break her nerve ? " asked the
old lady, yawning. "Why do you want to have her
beaten ? "

" Because I do, old stupid," answered Nora. " You
should have heard the things I said to her."

"About what?"

" About Coleman. Can't you understand anything
at all?"

" And why should you say anything about Coleman
to her?" queried the old lady, still hopelessly befogged.

" Because," cried Nora, darting a look of wrath at
her companion, " I want to prevent that marriage."
She had been betrayed into this avowal by the singularly
opaque mind of the old lady. The latter at once
sat erect. - " Oh, ho," she said, as if a ray of light had
been let into her head. " Oh, ho. So that's it, is it ? "

"Yes, that's it, rejoined Nora, shortly.

The old lady was amazed into a long period of
meditation. At last she spoke depressingly. " Well,
how are you going to prevent it? Those things can't
be done in these days at all. If they care for each
other-"

Nora burst out furiously. "Don't venture opinions
until you know what you are talking about, please.
They don't care for each other, do you see? She
cares for him, but he don't give a snap of his fingers
for her."

" But," cried the bewildered lady, " if he don't care
for her, there will be nothing to prevent. If he don't
care for her, he won't ask her to marry him, and so
there won't be anything to prevent."

Nora made a broad gesture of impatience. " Oh,
can't you get anything through your head ? Haven't
you seen that the girl has been the only young
woman in that whole party lost up there in the mountains,
and that naturally more than half of the men
still think they are in love with her? That's what it
is. Can't you see ? It always happens that way.
Then Coleman comes along and makes a fool of himself
with the others."

The old lady spoke up brightly as if at last feeling
able to contribute something intelligent to the talk.
" Oh, then, he does care for her."

Nora's eyes looked as if their glance might shrivel
the old lady's hair. "Don't I keep telling you that
it is no such thing ? Can't you understand? It is
all glamour! Fascination! Way up there in the
wilderness! Only one even passable woman in sight."

" I don't say that I am so very keen," said the old
lady, somewhat offended, "but I fail to see where I
could improve when first you tell me he don't care
for her, and then you tell me that he does care for
her."

" Glamour,' ' Fascination,'" quoted Nora. " Don't
you understand the meaning of the words ? "

" Well," asked the other, didn't he know her, then,
before he came over here ?"

Nora was silent for a time, while a gloom upon her
face deepened. It had struck her that the theories
for which she protested so energetically might not be
of such great value. Spoken aloud, they had a sudden
new flimsiness. Perhaps she had reiterated to herself
that Coleman was the victim of glamour only because
she wished it to be true. One theory, however, re-
mained unshaken. Marjory was an artful rninx, with
no truth in her.

She presently felt the necessity of replying to the
question of her companion. " Oh," she said, care-
lessly, " I suppose they were acquainted-in a way."

The old lady was giving the best of her mind to
the subject. " If that's the case-" she observed,
musingly, " if that's the case, you can't tell what is
between 'em."

The talk had so slackened that Nora's unfortunate
Greek admirer felt that here was a good opportunity
to present himself again to the notice of the actress.
The means was a smile and a French sentence, but
his reception would have frightened a man in armour.
His face blanched with horror at the storm, he had
invoked, and he dropped limply back as if some one
had shot him. "You tell this little snipe to let me
alone! " cried Nora, to the dragoman. " If he dares
to come around me with any more of those Parisian
dude speeches, I-I don't know what I'll do! I
won't have it, I say." The impression upon the
dragoman was hardly less in effect. He looked with
bulging eyes at Nora, and then began to stammer at
the officer. The latter's voice could sometimes be
heard in awed whispers for the more elaborate explanation
of some detail of the tragedy. Afterward, he
remained meek and silent in his corner, barely more
than a shadow, like the proverbial husband of imperious
beauty.

"Well," said the old lady, after a long and thoughtful
pause, " I don't know, I'm sure, but it seems to me
that if Rufus Coleman really cares for that girl, there
isn't much use in trying to stop him from getting her.
He isn't that kind of a man."

" For heaven's sake, will you stop assuming that he
does care for her ? " demanded Nora, breathlessly.

"And I don't see," continued the old lady, "what
you want to prevent him for, anyhow."

Stephen Crane

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