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Chapter 7


CHAPTER VII.

SWEEPING out from between two remote, half-submerged
dunes on which stood slender sentry light. houses, the steamer
began to roll with a gentle insinuating motion. Passengers in
their staterooms saw at rhythmical intervals the spray racing
fleetly past the portholes. The waves grappled hurriedly at the
sides of the great flying steamer and boiled discomfited astern
in a turmoil of green and white. From the tops of the enormous
funnels streamed level masses of smoke which were
immediately torn to nothing by the headlong wind. Meanwhile
as the steamer rushed into the northeast, men in caps and
ulsters comfortably paraded the decks and stewards arranged
deck chairs for the reception of various women who were
coming from their cabins with rugs.

In the smoking room, old voyagers were settling down
comfortably while new voyagers were regarding them with a
diffident respect. Among the passengers Coleman found a
number of people whom he knew, including a wholesale wine
merchant, a Chicago railway magnate and a New York
millionaire. They lived practically in the smoking room.
Necessity drove them from time to time to the salon, or to their
berths. Once indeed the millionaire was absent, from the group
while penning a short note to his wife.

When the Irish coast was sighted Coleman came on deck to
look at it. A tall young woman immediately halted in her walk
until he had stepped up to her. " Well, of all ungallant men,
Rufus Coleman, you are the star," she cried laughing and held
out her hand.

" Awfully sorry, I'm sure," he murmured. " Been playing poker
in the smoking room all voyage. Didn't have a look at the
passenger list until just now. Why didn't you send me word?"
These lies were told so modestly and sincerely that when the
girl flashed her, brilliant eyes full upon their author there was a
mixt of admiration in the indignation.

" Send you a card " I don't believe you can read,  else you
would have known I was to sail on this steamer. If I hadn't been
ill until to-day you would have seen me in the salon. I open at
the Folly Theatre next week. Dear ol' Lunnon, y' know."

" Of course, I knew you were going," said Coleman.
"But I thought you were to go later. What do you open in? "

" Fly by Night. Come walk along with me. See those two old
ladies " They've been watching for me like hawks ever since we
left New York. They expected me to flirt with every man on
board. But I've fooled them. I've been just as g-o-o-d. I had to
be."

As the pair moved toward the stern, enormous and
radiant green waves were crashing futilely after the steamer.
Ireland showed a dreary coast line to the north. A wretched
man who had crossed the Atlantic eighty-four times was
declaiming to a group of novices. A venerable banker, bundled
in rugs, was asleep in his deck chair.

" Well, Nora," said Coleman, " I hope you make a hit in
London. You deserve it if anybody does. You've worked hard."

"Worked hard," cried the girl. "I should think so. Eight years
ago I was in the rear row. Now I have the centre of the stage
whenever I want it. I made Chalmers cut out that great scene in
the second act between the queen and Rodolfo. The idea! Did
he think I would stand that ? And just because he was in love
with Clara Trotwood, too."

Coleman was dreamy. " Remember when I was dramatic man
for the Gazette and wrote the first notice ? "

" Indeed, I do," answered the girl affectionately.
" Indeed, I do, Rufus. Ah, that was a great lift. I believe that
was the first thing that had an effect on old Oliver. Before that,
he never would believe that I was any good. Give me your arm,
Rufus. Let's parade before the two old women." Coleman
glanced at her keenly. Her voice had trembled slightly. Her eyes
were lustrous as if she were about to weep.

" Good heavens," he said. " You are the same old
Nora Black. I thought you would be proud and 'aughty by this
time."

" Not to my friends," she murmured., " Not to my friends. I'm
always the same and I never forget. Rufus."

" Never forget what? " asked Coleman.

" If anybody does me a favour I never forget it as long as I
live," she answered fervently.

" Oh, you mustn't be so sentimental, Nora. You remember
that play you bought from little Ben Whipple, just because he
had once sent you some flowers in the old days when you were
poor and happened to bed sick. A sense of gratitude cost you
over eight thousand dollars that time, didn't it? " Coleman
laughed heartily.

" Oh, it wasn't the flowers at all," she interrupted seriously. "
Of course Ben was always a nice boy, but then his play was
worth a thousand dollars. That's all I gave him. I lost some more
in trying to make it go. But it was too good. That was what was
the matter. It was altogether too good for the public. I felt
awfully sorry for poor little Ben."

"Too good?" sneered Coleman. "Too good? Too
indifferently bad, you mean. My dear girl, you mustn't imagine
that you know a good play. You don't, at all."

She paused abruptly and faced him. This regal, creature
was looking at him so sternly that Coleman
felt awed for a moment as if he, were in the presence of a great
mind. " Do you mean to say that I'm not an artist ? " she asked.

Coleman remained cool. " I've never been decorated for
informing people of their own affairs," he observed, " but I
should say that you were about as much of an artist as I am."

Frowning slightly, she reflected upon this reply. Then, of a
sudden, she laughed. " There is no use in being angry with
you, Rufus. You always were a hopeless scamp. But," she
added, childishly wistful, "have you ever seen Fly by Night?
Don't you think my dance in the second act is artistic? "

" No," said Coleman, " I haven't seen Fly by Night yet, but
of course I know that you are the most beautiful dancer on the
stage. Everybody knows that."

It seemed that her hand tightened on his arm. Her
face was radiant. " There," she exclaimed. " Now
you are forgiven. You are a nice boy, Rufus-some-
times."

When Miss Black went to her cabin, Coleman strolled into
the smoking room. Every man there covertly or openly
surveyed him. He dropped lazily into a chair at a table where
the wine merchant, the Chicago railway king and the New York
millionaire were playing cards. They made a noble pretense of
not being aware of him. On the oil cloth top of the table the
cards were snapped down, turn by turn.

Finally the wine merchant, without lifting his head to-
address a particular person, said: " New conquest."

Hailing a steward Coleman asked for a brandy and soda.

The millionaire said: " He's a sly cuss, anyhow." The railway
man grinned. After an elaborate silence the wine merchant
asked: " Know Miss Black long, Rufus?" Coleman looked
scornfully at his friends. " What's wrong with you there,
fellows, anyhow?" The Chicago man answered airily. " Oh,
nothin'. Nothin', whatever."

At dinner in the crowded salon, Coleman was aware that
more than one passenger glanced first at Nora Black and then
at him, as if connecting them in some train of thought, moved to
it by the narrow horizon of shipboard and by a sense of the
mystery that surrounds the lives of the beauties of the stage.
Near the captain's right hand sat the glowing and splendid
Nora, exhibiting under the gaze of the persistent eyes of many
meanings, a practiced and profound composure that to the
populace was terrfying dignity.

Strolling toward the smoking room after dinner, Coleman met
the New York millionaire, who seemed agitated. He took
Coleman fraternally by the arm. " Say, old man, introduce me,
won't you ? I'm crazy to know her."

"Do you mean Miss Black?" asked Coleman.

" Why, I don't know that I have a right. Of course, you know,
she hasn't been meeting anybody aboard. I'll ask her, though-
certainly."

" Thanks, old man, thanks. I'd be tickled to death. Come
along and have a drink. When will you ask her? "
" Why, I don't know when I'll see her. To-morrow, I suppose-"

They had not been long in the smoking room, however,
when the deck steward came with a card to Coleman. Upon it
was written: "Come for' a stroll?" Everybody, saw Coleman read
this card and then look up and whisper to the deck steward.
The deck steward bent his head and whispered discreetly in
reply. There was an abrupt pause in the hum of conversation.
The interest was acute.

Coleman leaned carelessly back in his chair, puffing at his
cigar. He mingled calmly in a discussion of the comparative
merits of certain trans-Atlantic lines. After a time he threw away
his cigar and arose. Men nodded. "Didn't I tell you?" His
studiously languid exit was made dramatic by the eagle-eyed
attention of the smoking room.

On deck he found Nora pacing to and fro. "You didn't hurry
yourself," she said, as he joined her. The lights of Queenstown
were twinkling. A warm wind, wet with the moisture of rain-
stricken sod, was coming from the land.

"Why," said Coleman, "we've got all these duffers very much excited."

"Well what do you care? " asked hte girl. "You don't, care do you?"

"No, I don't care.  Only it's rather absurd to be
watched all the time."  He said this precisely as
if he abhorred being watched in this case.
"Oh by the way," he added.  Then he paused for a
moment.  "Aw--a friend of mine--not a bad fellow--
he asked me for an introduction.  Of course, I
told him I'd ask you."

She made a contemptuous gesture.  "Oh, another Willie.
Tell him no.  Tell him to go home to his family.  Tell
him to run away."

"He isn't a bad fellow.  He--" said Coleman diffidently,
"he would probably be at the theatre every night in a box."

"yes, and get drunk and throw a wine bottle on the
stage instead of a bouquet. No," she declared positively,
"I won't see him."

Coleman did not seem to be oppressed by this ultimatum.
"Oh, all right.  I promised him--that was all."

"Besides, are you in a great hurry to get rid of me?"

"Rid of you?  Nonsense."

They walked in the shadow.  "How long are you going to be
in London, Rufus?" asked Nora softly.

"Who?  I? Oh, I'm going right off to Greece.  First
train.  There's going to be a war, you know."

"A war?  Why, who is going to fight?  The Greeks
and the--the--the what?"

"The Turks.  I'm going right over there."

"Why, that's dreadful, Rufus,"  said the girl, mournfull
and shocked.  "You might get hurt or something."  
Presently she asked: "And aren't you going to be in
London any time at all?"

"Oh," he answered, puffing out his lips, "I may stop
in Londom for three or four days on my way home.  I'm
not sure of it."

"And when will that be?"

"Oh, I can't tell.  It may be in three or four months,
or it may be a year from now.  When the war stops."

There was a long silence as the walked up and down
the swaying deck.

"Do you know," said Nora at last, "I like you, Rufus Coleman.
I don't know any good reason for it either, unless it is because
you are such a brute.  Now, when I was asking you if you were
to be in London you were perfectly detestable.  You know I was
anxious."

"I--detestable?" cried Coleman, feigning amazement.  
"Why, what did I say?"   

"It isn't so much what you said--" began Nora slowlly.  
Then she suddenly changed her manner.
"Oh, well, don't let's talk about it any more.  It's
too foolish. Only-you are a disagreeable person sometimes."

In the morning, as the vessel steamed up the Irish channel,
Coleman was on deck, keeping furtive watch on the cabin
stairs. After two hours of waiting, he scribbled a message on a
card and sent it below. He received an answer that Miss Black
had a headache, and felt too ill to come on deck. He went to the
smoking room. The three card-players glanced up, grinning.
"What's the matter?" asked the wine merchant. "You look
angry." As a matter of fact, Coleman had purposely wreathed
his features in a pleasant and satisfied expression, so he was
for a moment furious at the wine merchant.

"Confound the girl," he thought to himself. "She has
succeeded in making all these beggars laugh at me." He mused
that if he had another chance he would show her how
disagreeable or detestable or scampish he was under some
circumstances. He reflected ruefully that the complacence with
which he had accepted the comradeship of the belle of the
voyage might have been somewhat overdone. Perhaps he had got a
little out of proportion. He was annoyed at the stares of the
other men in the smoking room, who seemed now to be reading
his discomfiture. As for Nora Black he thought of her wistfully
and angrily as a superb woman whose company was honour
and joy, a payment for any sacrifices.

" What's the matter? " persisted the wine merchant. " You
look grumpy."
Coleman laughed. " Do I?"

At Liverpool, as the steamer was being slowly warped to the
landing stage by some tugs, the passengers crowded the deck
with their hand-bags. Adieus were falling as dead leaves fall
from a great tree. The stewards were handling small hills of
luggage marked with flaming red labels. The ship was firmly
against the dock before Miss Black came from her cabin.
Coleman was at the time gazing shoreward, but his three
particular friends instantly nudged him. "What?" "There she
is?" "Oh, Miss Black?" He composedly walked toward her. It
was impossible to tell whether she saw him coming or whether it
was accident, but at any rate she suddenly turned and moved
toward the stern of the ship. Ten watchful gossips had noted
Coleman's travel in her direction and more than half the
passengers noted his defeat. He wheeled casually and returned
to his three friends. They were colic-stricken with a coarse and
yet silent merriment. Coleman was glad that the voyage was
over.

After the polite business of an English custom house, the
travellers passed out to the waiting train. A nimble little
theatrical agent of some kind, sent from London, dashed
forward to receive Miss Black. He had a first-class compartment
engaged for her and he bundled her and her maid into it in an
exuberance of enthusiasm and admiration.. Coleman passing moodily
along the line of coaches heard Nora's voice hailing him.

" Rufus." There she was, framed in a carriage window,
beautiful and smiling brightly. Every near. by person turned to
contemplate this vision.

" Oh," said Coleman advancing, " I thought I was not going
to get a chance to say good-bye to you." He held out his hand.
" Good-bye."

She pouted. " Why, there's plenty of room in this
compartment." Seeing that some forty people were transfixed in
observation of her, she moved a short way back. " Come on in
this compartment, Rufus," she said.

"Thanks. I prefer to smoke," said Coleman. He went off
abruptly.

On the way to London, he brooded in his corner on the two
divergent emotions he had experienced when refusing her
invitation. At Euston Station in London, he was directing a
porter, who had his luggage, when he heard Nora speak at his
shoulder. " Well, Rufus, you sulky boy," she said, " I shall be at
the Cecil. If you have time, come and see me."

" Thanks, I'm sure, my dear Nora," answered Coleman
effusively. "But honestly, I'm off for Greece."

A brougham was drawn up near them and the nimble
little agent was waiting. The maid was directing the
establishment of a mass of luggage on and in a four-wheeler
cab. " Well, put me into my carriage, anyhow," said Nora. " You
will have time for that."

Afterward she addressed him from the dark interior.
Now, Rufus, you must come to see me the minute you strike
London again- of She hesitated a moment and then smiling
gorgeously upon him, she said: " Brute! "


Stephen Crane

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