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Chapter 27


CHAPTER XXVIL

WHEN the professor arrived before Coleman's door,
he paused a moment and looked at it. Previously,
he could not have imagined that a simple door would
ever so affect him. Every line of it seemed to express
cold superiority and disdain. It was only the door of
a former student, one of his old boys, whom, as the
need arrived, he had whipped with his satire in the
class rooms at Washurst until the mental blood had
come, and all without a conception of his ultimately
arriving before the door of this boy in the attitude of
a supplicant. Hewould not say it; Coleman probably
would not say it; but-they would both know it. A
single thought of it, made him feel like running away.
He would never dare to knock on that door. It would
be too monstrous. And even as he decided that he
was afraid to knock, he knocked.

Coleman's voice said; "Come in." The professor
opened the door. The correspondent, without a coat,
was seated at a paper-littered table.  Near his elbow,
upon another table, was a tray from which he had evidently
dined and also a brandy bottle with several
recumbent bottles of soda. Although he had so lately
arrived at the hotel he had contrived to diffuse his
traps over the room in an organised disarray which
represented a long and careless occupation if it did
not represent t'le scene of a scuffle. His pipe was in
his mouth.

After a first murmur of surprise, he arose and
reached in some haste for his coat. " Come in, professor,
come in," he cried, wriggling deeper into his
jacket as he held out his hand. He had laid aside his
pipe and had also been very successful in flinging a
newspaper so that it hid the brandy and soda. This
act was a feat of deference to the professor's well
known principles.

"Won't you sit down, sir ? " said Coleman cordially.
His quick glance of surprise had been immediately
suppressed and his manner was now as if the pro-
fessor's call was a common matter.

" Thank you, Mr. Coleman, I-yes, I will sit down,".
replied the old man. His hand shook as he laid it on
the back of the chair and steadied himself down into
it. " Thank you!" -

Coleman looked at him with a great deal of ex-
pectation.

" Mr. Coleman ! "

"Yes, sir."

" I--"

He halted then and passed his hand over his face.
His eyes did not seem to rest once upon Coleman,
but they occupied themselves in furtive and frightened
glances over the room. Coleman could make neither
head nor tail of the affair. He would not have believed
any man's statement that the professor could
act in such an extraordinary fashion. " Yes, sir," he
said again suggestively. The simple strategy resulted
in a silence that was actually awkward. Coleman, despite
his bewilderment, hastened into a preserving
gossip. " I've had a great many cables waiting for
me for heaven knows- how long and others have been
arriving in flocks to-night. You have no idea of the
row in America, professor. Why, everybody must
have gone wild over the lost sheep. My paper has
cabled some things that are evidently for you. For
instance, here is one that says a new puzzle-game
called Find the Wainwright Party has had a big success.
Think of that, would you." Coleman grinned
at the professor. " Find the Wainwright Party, a
new puzzle-game."

The professor had seemed grateful for Coleman's
tangent off into matters of a light vein. " Yes?" he
said, almost eagerly. " Are they selling a game really
called that?"

" Yes, really," replied Coleman. " And of course
you know that-er-well, all the Sunday papers would
of course have big illustrated articles-full pages-
with your photographs and general private histories
pertaining mostly to things which are none of their
business."
" Yes, I suppose they would do that," admitted the
professor. " But I dare say it may not be as bad as
you suggest."

" Very like not," said Coleman. " I put it to you
forcibly so that in the future the blow will not be too
cruel. They are often a weird lot."

" Perhaps they can't find anything very bad about
us."

" Oh, no. And besides the whole episode will probably
be forgotten by the time you return to the United States."

They talked onin this way slowly, strainedly, until
they each found that the situation would soon become
insupportable. The professor had come for a distinct
purpose and Coleman knew it; they could not sit
there lying at each other forever. Yet when he saw
the pain deepening in the professor's eyes, the correspondent
again ordered up his trivialities. " Funny
thing. My paper has been congratulating me, you
know, sir, in a wholesale fashion, and I think-I feel
sure-that they have been exploiting my name all
over the country as the Heroic Rescuer. There is no
sense in trying to stop them, because they don't care
whether it is true or not true. All they want is the
privilege of howling out that their correspondent rescued
you, and they would take that privilege without
in any ways worrying if I refused my consent. You
see, sir? I wouldn't like you to feel that I was such a
strident idiot as I doubtless am appearing now before
the public."

" No," said the professor absently. It was plain
that he had been a very slack listener. " I-Mr. Coleman-"
he began.

"Yes, sir," answered Coleman promptly and gently.

It was obviously only a recognition of the futility
of further dallying that was driving the old man on-
ward. He knew, of course, that if he was resolved to
take this step, a longer delay would simply make it
harder for him. The correspondent, leaning forward,
was watching him almost breathlessly.

" Mr. Coleman, I understand-or at least I am led
to believe-that you-at one time, proposed marriage
to my daughter? "

The faltering words did not sound as if either man
had aught to do with them. They were an expression
by the tragic muse herself. Coleman's jaw fell and he
looked glassily at the professor. He said: "Yes!"
But already his blood was leaping as his mind flashed
everywhere in speculation.

" I refused my consent to that marriage," said the
old man more easily. " I do not know if the matter
has remained important to you, but at any rate, I-I
retract my refusal."

Suddenly the blank expression left Coleman's face
and he smiled with sudden intelligence, as if informa-
tion of what the professor had been saying had just
reached him. In this smile there was a sudden be.
trayal, too, of something keen and bitter which had
lain hidden in the man's mind. He arose and made a
step towards the professor and held out his hand.
"Sir, I thank yod from the bottom of my heart!"
And they both seemed to note with surprise that
Coleman's voice had broken.

The professor had arisen to receive Coleman's hand.
His nerve was now of iron and he was very formal.
" I judge from your tone that I have not made a mis-
take-somcthing which I feared."

Coleman did not seem to mind the professor's formality.
" Don't fear anything. Won't you sit down
again? Will you have a cigar. * * No, I couldn't
tell you how glad I am. How glad I am. I feel like
a fool. It--"

But the professor fixed him with an Arctic eye and
bluntly said: " You love her ? "

The question steadied Coleman at once. He
looked undauntedly straight into the professor's face.
He simply said: " I love her! "

" You love her ? " repeated the professor.

" I love her," repeated Coleman.

After some seconds of pregnant silence, the
professor arose. " Well, if she cares to give her life to
you I will allow it, but I must say that I do not consider
you nearly good enough. Good-night." He
smiled faintly as he held out his hand.

" Good-night, sir," said Coleman. " And I can't
tell, you, now-"

Mrs. Wainwright, in her room was languishing in a
chair and applying to her brow a handkerch-ief wet
with cologne water. She, kept her feverish glarice
upon the door. Remembering well the manner of her
husband when he went out she could hardly identify
him when he came in. Serenity, composure, even
self-satisfaction, was written upon him. He, paid no
attention to her, but going to a chair sat down with
a groan of contentment.

" Well ? " cried Mrs. Wainwright, starting up.
" Well ? "

" Well-what ? " he asked.

She waved her hand impatiently. " Harrison,
don't be absurd. You know perfectly well what I
mean. It is a pity you couldn't think of the anxiety
I have been in." She was going to weep.

"Oh, I'll tell you after awhile," he said stretching
out his legs with the complacency of a rich merchant
after a successful day.

"No! Tell me now," she implored him. "Can't
you see I've worried myself nearly to death?" She
was not going to weep, she was going to wax angry.

"Well, to tell the truth," said the professor with
considerable pomposity, " I've arranged it. Didn't
think I could do it at first, but it turned out   "

"I Arranged it,"' wailed Mrs. Wainwright. " Arranged what? "

It here seemed to strike the professor suddenly
that he was not such a flaming example for
diplomatists as he might have imagined. " Arranged," he
stammered. " Arranged ."

" Arranged what? "

" Why, I fixed-I fixed it up."

" Fixed what up? "

"It-it-" began the professor. Then he swelled
with indignation. " Why, can't you understand anything
at all? I-I fixed it."

" Fixed what? "

" Fixed it. Fixed it with Coleman."

" Fixed what with Coleman?

The professor's wrath now took control of him.
"Thunder and lightenin' ! You seem to jump at the
conclusion that I've made some horrible mistake. For
goodness' sake, give me credit for a particle of sense."

" What did you do? " she asked in a sepulchral voice.

" Well," said the professor, in a burning defiance,
" I'll tell you what I did. I went to Coleman and
told him that once-as he of course knew-I had re-
fused his marriage with my daughter, but that now---"

" Grrr," said Mrs. Wainwright.

" But that now-" continued the professor,
" I retracted that refusal."

" Mercy on us! " cried Mrs. Wainwright, throwing
herself back in the chair. " Mercy on us! What
fools men are!"

" Now, wait a minute-"
But Mrs. Wainwright began to croon: " Oh, if
Marjory should hear of this! Oh, if she should hear
of it! just let her. Hear-"

" But she must not," cried the professor, tigerishly.
just you dare! " And the woman saw before her a
man whose eyes were lit with a flame which almost
expressed a temporary hatred.

The professor had left Coleman so abruptly that
the correspondent found himself murmuring half.
coherent gratitude to the closed door of his room.
Amazement soon began to be mastered by exultation.
He flung himself upon the brandy and soda and nego-
tiated a strong glass. Pacing. the room with nervous
steps, he caught a vision of himself in a tall mirror.
He halted before it. " Well, well," he said. " Rufus,
you're a grand man. There is not your equal anywhere.
You are a great, bold, strong player, fit to sit
down to a game with the -best."

A moment later it struck him that he had appropriated
too much. If the professor had paid him a visit
and made a wonderful announcement, he, Coleman,
had not been the engine of it. And then he enunciated
clearly something in his mind which, even in a
vague form, had been responsible for much of his early
elation. Marjory herself had compassed this thing.
With shame he rejected a first wild and preposterous
idea that she had sent her father to him. He reflected
that a man who for an instant could conceive
such a thing was a natural-born idiot. With an equal
feeling, he rejected also an idea that she could have
known anything of her father's purpose. If she had
known of his purpose, there would have been no visit.

What, then, was the cause? Coleman soon decided
that the professor had witnessed some demonstration
of Marjory's emotion which had been sufficiently
severe in its character to force him to the extraordinary
visit. But then this also was wild and preposterous.
That coldly beautiful goddess would not
have given a demonstration of emotion over Rufus
Coleman sufficiently alarming to have forced her
father on such an errand. That was impossible. No,
he was wrong; Marjory even indirectly, could not be
connected with the visit. As he arrived at this decision,
the enthusiasm passed out of him and he wore
a doleful, monkish face.

"Well, what, then, was the cause?" After eliminating
Marjory from the discussion waging in his
mind, he found it hard to hit upon anything rational.
The only remaining theory was to the effect that the
professor, having a very high sense of the correspond.
ent's help in the escape of the Wainwright party, had
decided that the only way to express his gratitude
was to revoke a certain decision which he now could
see had been unfair. The retort to this theory seemed
to be that if the professor had had such a fine conception
of the services rendered by Coleman, he had had
ample time to display his appreciation on the road to
Arta and on the road down from Arta. There was
no necessity for his waiting until their arrival in Athens.
It was impossible to concede that the professor's
emotion could be anew one; if he had it now, he
must have had it in far stronger measure directly
after he had been hauled out of danger.

So, it may be seen that after Coleman had eliminated
Marjory from the discussion that was waging in his
mind, he had practically succeeded in eliminating the
professor as well. This, he thought, mournfully, was
eliminating with a vengeance. If he dissolved all the
factors he could hardly proceed.

The mind of a lover moves in a circle, or at least on
a more circular course than other minds, some of
which at times even seem to move almost in a straight
line. Presently, Coleman was at the point where he
bad started, and he did not pause until he reached
that theory which asserted that the professor had
been inspired to his visit by some sight or knowledge
of Marjory in distress. Of course, Coleman was wistfully
desirous of proving to himself the truth of this
theory.

The palpable agitation of the professor during the
interview seemed to support it. If he had come on
a mere journey of conscience, he would have hardly
appeared as a white and trembling old, man. But
then, said Coleman, he himself probably exaggerated
this idea of the professor's appearance. It might have
been that he was only sour and distressed over the
performance of a very disagreeable duty.

The correspondent paced his room and smoked.
Sometimes he halted at the little table where was the
brandy and soda. He thought so hard that sometimes
it seemed that Marjory had been to him to propose
marriage, and at other times it seemed that there had
been no visit from any one at all.

A desire to talk to somebody was upon him. He
strolled down stairs and into the smoking and reading
rooms, hoping to see a man he knew, even if it were
Coke. But the only occupants were two strangers,
furiously debating the war. Passing the minister's
room, Coleman saw that there was a light within, and
he could not forbear knocking. He was bidden to
enter, and opened the door upon the minister, care-
fully reading his Spectator fresh from London.
He looked up and seemed very glad. "How are
you?" he cried. "I was tremendously anxious to
see you, do you know! I looked for you to dine
with me to-night, but you were not down?"
"No ; I had a great deal of work."

" Over the Wainwright affair? By the way, I want
you to accept my personal thanks for that work. In
a week more I would have gone demented and spent
the rest of my life in some kind of a cage, shaking
the bars and howling out State Department messages
about the Wainwrights. You see, in my territory
there are no missionaries to get into trouble, and I
was living a life of undisturbed and innocent calm,
ridiculing the sentiments of men from Smyrna and
other interesting towns who maintained that the
diplomatic service was exciting. However, when the
Wainwright party got lost, my life at once became
active. I was all but helpless, too; which was the
worst of it. I suppose Terry at Constantinople must
have got grandly stirred up, also. Pity he can't see
you to thank you for saving him from probably going
mad. By the way," he added, while looking
keenly at Coleman, " the Wainwrights don't seem to
be smothering you with gratitude? "

" Oh, as much as I deserve-sometimes more,"
answered Coleman. " My exploit was more or less of
a fake, you know. I was between the lines by accident,
or through the efforts of that blockhead of a
dragoman. I didn't intend it. And then, in the
night, when we were waiting in the road because of a
fight, they almost bunked into us. That's all."

"They tell it better," said the minister, severely.
" Especially the youngsters."

"Those kids got into a high old fight at a town up
there beyond Agrinion. Tell you about that, did
they? I thought not. Clever kids. You have noted
that there are signs of a few bruises and scratches?"
" Yes, but I didn't ask-"
" Well, they are from the fight. It seems the people
took us for Germans, and there was an awful palaver,
which ended in a proper and handsome shindig. It
raised the town, I tell you."

The minister sighed in mock despair. " Take these
people home, will you ? Or at any rate, conduct
them out of the field of my responsibility. Now,
they would like Italy immensely, I am sure."

Coleman laughed, and they smoked for a time.

" That's a charming girl-Miss Wainwright," said the
minister, musingly. "And what a beauty! It does
my exiled eyes good to see her. I suppose all those
youngsters are madly in love with her ? I don't see
how they could help it."

" Yes," said Coleman, glumly. " More than half of
them."

The minister seemed struck with a sudden thought.
" You ought to try to win that splendid prize yourself.
The rescuer ! Perseus! What more fitting? "

Coleman answered calmly: "Well * * * I think
I'll take your advice."


Stephen Crane

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