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Chapter 29


CHAPTER XXIX.

COKE did not stay to luncheon with Nora Black.
He went away saying to himself either that girl
don't care a straw for Coleman or she has got a heart
absolutely of flint, or she is the greatest actress on
earth or-there is some other reason."

At his departure, Nora turned and called into an
adjoining room. " Maude I " The voice of her companion
and friend answered her peevishly. " What ?"

"Don't bother me. I'm reading."

" Well, anyhow, luncheon is ready, so you will have
to stir your precious self," responded Nora. " You're
lazy."

" I don't want any luncheon. Don't bother me.
I've got a headache."

" Well, if you don't come out, you'll miss the news.
That's all I've got to say."

There was a rustle in the adjoining room, and
immediately the companion appeared, seeming much
annoyed but curious. " Well, what is it ? "

" Rufus Coleman is engaged to be married to that
Wainwright girl, after all."

" Well I declare! " ejaculated the little old lady.
" Well I declare." She meditated for a moment,
and then continued in a tone of satisfaction. " I told
you that you couldn't stop that man Coleman if he
had feally made up his mind to-"

" You're a fool," said Nora, pleasantly.
" Why? " said the old lady.
Because you are. Don't talk to me about it. I
want to think of Marco."

" 'Marco,'" quoted the old lady startled.

"The prince. The prince. Can't you understand?
I mean the prince."

" ' Marco!'" again quoted the old lady, under her
breath.

" Yes, 'Marco,'" cried Nora, belligerently. " 'Marco,'
Do you object to the name? What's the matter with
you, anyhow?"

" Well," rejoined the other, nodding her head wisely,
"he may be a prince, but I've always heard that
these continental titles are no good in comparison to
the English titles."

"Yes, but who told you so, eh? " demanded Nora,
noisily. She herself answered the question. " The
English! "

" Anyhow, that little marquis who tagged after you
in London is a much bigger man in every way, I'll
bet, than this little prince of yours."

" But-good heavens-he didn't mean it. Why, he
was only one of the regular rounders. But Marco, he
is serious I He means it. He'd go through fire and
water for me and be glad of the chance."

" Well," proclaimed the old lady, " if you are not
the strangest woman in the world, I'd like to know!
Here I thought-"

"What did you think?" demanded Nora, suspisciously.
" I thought that Coleman---"

"Bosh!" interrupted, the graceful Nora. "I tell
you what, Maude; you'd better try to think as little
as possible. It will suit your style of beauty better.
And above all, don't think of my affairs. I myself
am taking pains not to think of them. It's easier."

Mrs. Wainwright, with no spirit of intention what.
ever, had sit about readjusting her opinions. It is
certain that she was unconscious of any evolution. If
some one had said to her that she was surrendering to
the inevitable, she would have been immediately on
her guard, and would have opposed forever all suggestions
of a match between Marjory and Coleman. On
the other hand, if some one had said to her that her
daughter was going to marry a human serpent, and
that there were people in Athens who would be glad
to explain his treacherous character, she would have
haughtily scorned the tale-bearing and would have
gone with more haste into the professor's way of
thinking. In fact, she was in process of undermining
herself., and the work could have been. retarded or
advanced by any irresponsible, gossipy tongue.

The professor, from the depths of his experience
with her, arranged a course of conduct. " If I just
leave her to herself she will come around all right,
but if I go 'striking while the iron is hot,' or any of
those things, I'll bungle it surely."

As they were making ready to go down to luncheon,
Mrs. Wainwright made her speech which first indicated
a changing mind. " Well, what will be, will be,"
she murmured with a prolonged sigh of resignation.
" What will be, will be. Girls are very headstrong in
these days, and there is nothing much to be done with
them. They go their own roads. It wasn't so in my
girlhood. - We were obliged to pay attention to our
mothers wishes."

" I did not notice that you paid much attention to
your mother's wishes when you married me," remarked
the professor. " In fact, I thought-"

" That was another thing," retorted Mrs. Wainwright
with severity. " You were a steady young man
who had taken the highest honours all through your
college course, and my mother's sole objection was
that we were too hasty. She thought we -ought to
wait until you had a penny to bless yourself with,
and I can see now where she was quite right."
" Well, you married me, anyhow," said the professor,
victoriously.

Mrs. Wainwright allowed her husband's retort to
pass over her thoughtful mood. " They say * * they
say Rufus Coleman makes as much as fifteen thousand
dollars a year. That's more than three times your income
* * I don't know. * * It all depends on whether
they try to save or not. His manner of life is, no
doubt, very luxurious. I don't suppose he knows
how to economise at all. That kind of a man usually
doesn't. And then, in the newspaper world positions
are so very precarious. Men may have valuable positions
one minute and be penniless in the street the
next minute. It isn't as if he had any real income,
and of course he has no real ability.   If he was suddenly
thrown out of his position, goodness knows what
would become of him. Still stillfifteen thousand
dollars a year is a big incomewhile it lasts. I
suppose he is very extravagant. That kind of a man
usually is. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was
heavily in debt; very heavily in debt.  Still * * if
Marjory has set her heart there is nothing to be done,
I suppose. It wouldn't have happened if you had
been as wise as you thought you were. * * I suppose
he thinks I have been very rude to him. Well, some
times I wasn't nearly so rude as I felt like being.
Feeling as I did, I could hardly be very amiable. * *
Of course this drive this afternoon was all your affair
and Marjory's. But, of course, I shall be nice to him."

" And what of all this Nora Black business? " asked
the professor, with, a display of valour, but really with
much trepidation.

" She is a hussy," responded Mrs. Wainwright with
energy. " Her conversation in the carriage on the
way down to Agrinion sickened me! "

" I really believe that her plan was simply to break
everything off between Marjory and Coleman," said
the professor, " and I don't believe she had any-grounds
for all that appearance of owning Coleman and the
rest of it."

" Of course she didn't" assented Mrs. Wainwright.
The vicious thing! "

" On the other hand," said the professor, " there
might be some truth in it."
" I don't think so," said Mrs. Wainwright seriously.
I don't believe a word of it."

" You do not mean to say that you think Coleman
a model man ? " demanded the professor.

"Not at all! Not at all!" she hastily answered.
" But * * one doesn't look for model men these days."

"'Who told you he made fifteen thousand a year?
asked the professor.

"It was Peter Tounley this morning. We were
talking upstairs after breakfast, and he remarked that
he if could make fifteen thousand, a year: like Coleman,
he'd-I've forgotten what-some fanciful thing."

" I doubt if it is true," muttered the old man wagging his head.

"Of course it's true," said his wife emphatically.
" Peter Tounley says everybody knows it."

Well * anyhow * money is not everything."

But it's a. great deal, you know well enough. You
know you are always speaking of poverty as an evil,
as a grand resultant, a collaboration of many lesser
evils. Well, then?

" But," began the professor meekly, when I say
that I mean-"

" Well, money is money and poverty is poverty,"
interrupted his wife. " You don't have to be very
learned to know that."

"I do not say that Coleman has not a very nice
thing of it, but I must say it is hard to think of his
getting any such sum, as you mention."

" Isn't he known as the most brilliant journalist in
New York?" she demanded harshly.

" Y-yes, as long as it lasts, but then one never
knows when he will be out in the street penniless.
Of course he has no particular ability which would
be marketable if he suddenly lost his present employment.
Of course it is not as if he was a really talented young man.
He might not be able to make his way at all in any new direction."

" I don't know about that," said Mrs. Wainwright
in reflective protestation. " I don't know about that.
I think he would."

" I thought you said a moment ago-" The professor
spoke with an air of puzzled hesitancy. "I
thought you said a moment ago that he wouldn't succeed
in anything but journalism."

Mrs. Wainwright swam over the situation with a
fine tranquility. " Well-I-I," she answered musingly,
"if I did say that, I didn't mean it exactly."

" No, I suppose not," spoke the professor, and de-
spite the necessity for caution he could not keep out
of his voice a faint note of annoyance.

" Of course," continued the wife, " Rufus Coleman
is known everywhere as a brilliant man, a very brilliant
man, and he even might do well in-in politics or
something of that sort."

" I have a very poor opinion of that kind of a mind
which does well in American politics," said the pro-
fessor, speaking as a collegian, " but I suppose there
may be something in it."

" Well, at any rate," decided Mrs. Wainwright.
" At any rate-"

At that moment, Marjory attired for luncheon and
the drive entered from her room, and Mrs. Wainwright
checked the expression of her important conclusion.
Neither father or mother had ever seen her so glowing
with triumphant beauty, a beauty which would
carry the mind of a spectator far above physical
appreciation into that realm of poetry where creatures
of light move and are beautiful because they cannot
know pain or a burden. It carried tears to the old
father's eyes. He took her hands. " Don't be too
happy, my child, don't be too happy," he admonished
her tremulously. " It makes me afraid-it makes me
afraid."

Stephen Crane

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