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Chapter 5


CHAPTER V.

By a strange mishap of management the train which bore
Coleman back toward New York was fetched into an obscure
side-track of some lonely region and there compelled to bide a
change of fate. The engine wheezed and sneezed like a paused
fat man. The lamps in the cars pervaded a stuffy odor of smoke
and oil. Coleman examined his case and found only one cigar.
Important brakemen proceeded rapidly along the aisles, and
when they swung open the doors, a polar wind circled the legs
of the passengers. " Well, now, what is all this for? " demanded
Coleman, furiously. " I want to get back to New York."

The conductor replied with sarcasm, " Maybe you think I'm
stuck on it " I ain't running the road. I'm running this train, and I
run it according to orders." Amid the dismal comforts of the
waiting cars, Coleman felt all the profound misery of the
rebuffed true lover. He had been sentenced, he thought, to a
penal servitude of the heart, as he watched the dusky, vague
ribbons of smoke come from the lamps and felt to his knees the
cold winds from the brakemen's busy flights. When the train
started with a whistle and a jolt, he was elate as if in his
abjection his beloved's hand had reached to him from the clouds.

When he had arrived in New York, a cab rattled him to an
uptown hotel with speed. In the restaurant he first ordered a
large bottle of champagne. The last of the wine he finished in
sombre mood like an unbroken and defiant man who chews the
straw that litters his prison house. During his dinner he was
continually sending out messenger boys. He was arranging a
poker party. Through a window he watched the beautiful
moving life of upper Broadway at night, with its crowds and
clanging cable cars and its electric signs, mammoth and
glittering, like the jewels of a giantess.

Word was brought to him that the poker players were
arriving. He arose joyfully, leaving his cheese. In the broad hall,
occupied mainly by miscellaneous people and actors, all deep
in leather chairs, he found some of his friends waiting. They
trooped up stairs to Coleman's rooms, where as a preliminary,
Coleman began to hurl books and papers from the table to the
floor. A boy came with drinks. Most of the men, in order to
prepare for the game, removed their coats and cuffs and drew
up the sleeves of their shirts. The electric globes shed a
blinding light upon the table. The sound of clinking chips
arose; the elected banker spun the cards, careless and
dexterous.

Later, during a pause of dealing, Coleman said:
" Billie, what kind of a lad is that young Coke up at Washurst?"
He addressed an old college friend.

" Oh, you mean the Sophomore Coke? " asked the friend.
" Seems a decent sort of a fellow. I don't know. Why? "

"Well, who is he? Where does he come from? What do you
know about him? "

" He's one of those Ohio Cokes-regular thing-- father
millionaire-used to be a barber-good old boy -why? "

" Nothin'," said Coleman, looking at his cards. " I know the
lad. I thought he was a good deal of an ass. I wondered who
his people were."

" Oh, his people are all right-in one way. Father owns rolling
mills. Do you raise it, Henry? Well, in order to make vice
abhorrent to the young, I'm obliged to raise back."

" I'll see it," observed Coleman, slowly pushing forward two
blue chips. Afterward he reached behind him and took another
glass of wine.

To the others Coleman seemed to have something bitter
upon his mind. He played poker quietly, steadfastly, and,
without change of eye, following the mathematical religion of
the game. Outside of the play he was savage, almost
insupportable.
" What's the matter with you, Rufus ? " said his old college
friend. " Lost your job? Girl gone back on you? You're a
hell of -a host. We don't get any. thing but insults and drinks."

Late at night Coleman began to lose steadily. In the
meantime he drank glass after glass of wine. Finally he made
reckless bets on a mediocre hand and an opponent followed
him thoughtfully bet by bet, undaunted, calm, absolutely
without emotion. Coleman lost; he hurled down his cards. "
Nobody but a damned fool would have seen that last raise on
anything less than a full hand."

" Steady. Come off. What's wrong with you, Rufus ? " cried
his guests.

" You're not drunk, are you ? " said his old college friend,
puritanically.

" 'Drunk' ?" repeated Coleman.

" Oh, say," cried a man, " let's play cards. What's all this
gabbling ? "

It was when a grey, dirty light of dawn evaded the thick
curtains and fought on the floor with the feebled electric glow
that Coleman, in the midst of play, lurched his chest heavily
upon the table. Some chips rattled to the floor. " I'll call you,"
he murmured, sleepily.

" Well," replied a man, sternly, " three kings."

The other players with difficulty extracted five cards from
beneath Coleman's pillowed head. " Not a pair! Come, come,
this won't do. Oh, let's stop playing. This is the rottenest game I
ever sat in.    Let's go home. Why don't you put him. to bed, Billie?"

When Coleman awoke next morning, he looked back upon
the poker game as something that had transpired in previous
years. He dressed and went down to the grill-room. For his
breakfast he ordered some eggs on toast and a pint of
champagne. A privilege of liberty belonged to a certain Irish
waiter, and this waiter looked at him, grinning. "Maybe you
had a pretty lively time last night, Mr Coleman? "

" Yes, Pat," answered Coleman, " I did. It was all because of
an unrequited affection, Patrick." The man stood near, a napkin
over his arm. Coleman went on impressively. " The ways of the
modern lover are strange. Now, I, Patrick, am a modern lover,
and when, yesterday, the dagger of disappointment was driven
deep into my heart, I immediately played poker as hard as I
could and incidentally got loaded. This is the modern point of
view. I understand on good authority that in old times lovers
used to. languish. That is probably a lie, but at any rate we do
not, in these times, languish to any great extent. We get drunk.
Do you understand, Patrick? "
The waiter was used to a harangue at Coleman's breakfast
time. He placed his hand over his mouth and giggled. "Yessir."

" Of course," continued Coleman, thoughtfully. " It might be
pointed out by uneducated persons that
it is difficult to maintain a high standard of drunkenness for the
adequate length of time, but in the series of experiments which
I am about to make I am sure I can easily prove them to be in
the wrong."

" I am sure, sir," said the waiter, " the young ladies would
not like to be hearing you talk this way."

" Yes; no doubt, no doubt. The young ladies have still quite
medieval ideas. They don't understand. They still prefer lovers
to languish."

" At any rate, sir, I don't see that your heart is sure
enough broken. You seem to take it very easy. "

" Broken! " cried Coleman. " Easy? Man, my heart is in
fragments. Bring me another small bottle."


Stephen Crane

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