Active Service

by Stephen Crane

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Chapter XXVI

THE next morning Coleman awoke with a sign of a resolute decision on his face, as if it had been a development of his sleep. He would see Marjory as soon as possible, see her despite any barbed-wire entanglements which might be placed in the way by her mother, whom he regarded as his strenuous enemy. And he would ask Marjory's hand in the presence of all Athens if it became necessary.

He sat a long time at his breakfast in order to see the Wainwrights enter the dining room, and as he was about to surrender to the will of time, they came in, the professor placid and self-satisfied, Mrs. Wainwright worried and injured and Marjory cool, beautiful, serene. If there had been any kind of a storm there was no trace of it on the white brow of the girl. Coleman studied her closely but furtively while his mind spun around his circle of speculation. Finally he noted the waiter who was observing him with a pained air as if it was on the tip of his tongue to ask this guest if he was going to remain at breakfast forever. Coleman passed out to the reading room where upon the table a multitude of great red guide books were crushing the fragile magazines of London and Paris. On the walls were various depressing maps with the name of a tourist agency luridly upon them, and there were also some pictures of hotels with their rates-in francs-printed beneath. The room was cold, dark, empty, with the trail of the tourist upon it.

Coleman went to the picture of a hotel in Corfu and stared at it precisely as if he was interested. He was standing before it when he heard Marjory's voice just without the door. "All right! I'll wait." He did not move for the reason that the hunter moves not when the unsuspecting deer approaches his hiding place. She entered rather quickly and was well toward the centre of the room before she perceived Coleman. " Oh," she said and stopped. Then she spoke the immortal sentence, a sentence which, curiously enough is common to the drama, to the novel, and to life. " I thought no one was here." She looked as if she was going to retreat, but it would have been hard to make such retreat graceful, and probably for this reason she stood her ground.

Coleman immediately moved to a point between her and the door. "You are not going to run away from me, Marjory Wainwright," he cried, angrily. " You at least owe it to me to tell me definitely that you don't love me-that you can't love me-"

She did not face him with all of her old spirit, but she faced him, and in her answer there was the old Marjory. " A most common question. Do you ask all your feminine acquaintances that? "

"I mean-" he said. "I mean that I love you and-"

"Yesterday-no. To-day-yes. To-morrow-who knows. Really, you ought to take some steps to know your own mind."

" Know my own mind," he retorted in a burst of in- dignation. "You mean you ought to take steps to know your own mind."

" My own mind! You-" Then she halted in acute confusion and all her face went pink. She had been far quicker than the man to define the scene. She lowered her head. Let me past, please-"

But Coleman sturdily blocked the way and even took one of her struggling hands. "Marjory-" And then his brain must have roared with a thousand quick sentences for they came tumbling out, one over the other. * * Her resistance to the grip of his fingers grew somewhat feeble. Once she raised her eyes in a quick glance at him. * * Then suddenly she wilted. She surrendered, she confessed without words. " Oh, Marjory, thank God, thank God-" Peter Tounley made a dramatic entrance on the gallop. He stopped, petrified. "Whoo!" he cried. "My stars! " He turned and fled. But Coleman called after him in a low voice, intense with agitation.

" Come back here, you young scoundrel! Come baok here I "

Peter returned, looking very sheepish. " I hadn't the slightest idea you-"

" Never mind that now. But look here, if you tell a single soul-particularly those other young scoundrels-I'll break-"

" I won't, Coleman. Honest, I won't." He was far more embarrassed than Coleman and almost equally so with Marjory. He was like a horse tugging at a tether. "I won't, Coleman! Honest!"

" Well, all right, then." Peter escaped.

The professor and his wife were in their sitting room writing letters. The cablegrams had all been answered, but as the professor intended to prolong his journey homeward into a month of Paris and London, there remained the arduous duty of telling their friends at length exactly what had happened. There was considerable of the lore of olden Greece in the professor's descriptions of their escape, and in those of Mrs. Wainwright there was much about the lack of hair-pins and soap.

Their heads were lowered over their writing when the door into the corridor opened and shut quickly, and upon looking up they saw in the room a radiant girl, a new Marjory. She dropped to her knees by her father's chair and reached her arms to his neck. " Oh, daddy! I'm happy I I'm so happy! "

" Why-what-" began the professor stupidly.

" Oh, I am so happy, daddy!

Of course he could not be long in making his conclusion. The one who could give such joy to Marjory was the one who, last night, gave her such grief. The professor was only a moment in understanding. He laid his hand tenderly upon her head " Bless my soul," he murmured. "And so-and so-he-"

At the personal pronoun, Mrs. Wainwright lum- bered frantically to her feet. " What ? " she shouted. Coleman ? "

" Yes," answered Marjory. " Coleman." As she spoke the name her eyes were shot with soft yet tropic flashes of light.

Mrs. Wainwright dropped suddenly back into her chair. "Well-of-all-things!" The professor was stroking his daughter's hair and although for a time after Mrs. Wainwright's outbreak there was little said, the old man and the girl seemed in gentle communion, she making him feel her happiness, he making her feel his appreciation. Providentially Mrs. Wainwright had been so stunned by the first blow that she was evidently rendered incapable of speech.

" And are you sure you will be happy with him? asked her father gently.

" All my life long," she answered.

" I am glad! I am glad! " said the father, but even as he spoke a great sadness came to blend with his joy. The hour when he was to give this beautiful and beloved life into the keeping of another had been heralded by the god of the sexes, the ruthless god that devotes itself to the tearing of children from the parental arms and casting them amid the mysteries of an irretrievable wedlock. The thought filled him with solemnity.

But in the dewy eyes of the girl there was no question. The world to her was a land of glowing promise. " I am glad," repeated the professor.

The girl arose from her knees. " I must go away and-think all about it," she said, smiling. When the door of her room closed upon her, the mother arose in majesty.

" Harrison Wainwright," she declaimed, "you are not going to allow this monstrous thing! "

The professor was aroused from a reverie by these words. "What monstrous thing ? " he growled.

" Why, this between Coleman and Marjory."

" Yes," he answered boldly.

" Harrison! That man who-"

The professor crashed his hand down on the table. "Mary! I will not hear another word of it! " " Well," said Mrs. Wainwright, sullen and ominous, " time will tell! Time will tell!"

When Coleman bad turned from the fleeing Peter Tounley again to Marjory, he found her making the preliminary movements of a flight. "What's the matter? " he demanded anxiously.

" Oh, it's too dreadful"

" Nonsense," lie retorted stoutly. " Only Peter Tounley! He don't count. What of that ? " ' Oh, dear! " She pressed her palm to a burning cheek. She gave him a star-like, beseeching glance. Let me go now-please."

" Well," he answered, somewhat affronted, " if you like—"

At the door she turned to look at him, and this glance expressed in its elusive way a score of things which she had not yet been able to speak. It explained that she was loth to leave him, that she asked forgiveness for leaving him, that even for a short absence she wished to take his image in her eyes, that he must not bully her, that there was something now in her heart which frightened her, that she loved him, that she was happy—-

When she had gone, Coleman went to the rooms of the American minister. A Greek was there who talked wildly as he waved his cigarette. Coleman waited in well-concealed impatience for the dvapora- tion of this man. Once the minister, regarding the correspondent hurriedly, interpolated a comment. " You look very cheerful ? "

" Yes," answered Coleman, " I've been taking your advice."

" Oh, ho ! " said the minister.

The Greek with the cigarette jawed endlessly. Coleman began to marvel at the enduring good man- ners of the minister, who continued to nod and nod in polite appreciation of the Greek's harangue, which, Coleman firmly believed, had no point of interest whatever. But at last the man, after an effusive farewell, went his way.

" Now," said the minister, wheeling in his chair tell me all about it."

Coleman arose, and thrusting his hands deep in his trousers' pockets, began to pace the room with long strides. He, said nothing, but kept his eyes on the floor.

" Can I have a drink ? " he asked, abruptly pausing.

" What would you like? " asked the minister, benevolently, as he touched the bell.

" A brandy and soda. I'd like it very much. You see," he said, as he resumed his walk, " I have no kind of right to burden you with my affairs, but, to tell the truth, if I don't get this news off my mind and into somebody's ear, I'll die. It's this-I asked Marjory Wainwright to marry me, and-she accepted, and- that's all."

" Well, I am very glad," cried the minister, arising and giving his hand. "And as for burdening me with your affairs, no one has a better right, you know, since you released me from the persecution of Washington and the friends of the Wainwrights. May good luck follow you both forever. You, in my opinion, are a very, very fortunate man. And, for her part she has not done too badly."

Seeing that it was important that Coleman should have his spirits pacified in part, the minister continued: " Now, I have got to write an official letter, so you just walk up and down here and use up this surplus steam. Else you'll explode."

But Coleman was not to be detained. Now that he had informed the minister, he must rush off some. where, anywhere, and do-he knew not what.

All right," said the minister, laughing. " You have a wilder head than I thought. But look here," he called, as Coleman was making for the door. " Am I to keep this news a secret? "

Coleman with his hand on the knob, turned im. pressively. He spoke with deliberation. " As far as I am concerned, I would be glad to see a man paint it in red letters, eight feet high, on the front of the king's palace."

The minister, left alone, wrote steadily and did not even look up when Peter Tounley and two others entered, in response to his cry of permission. How ever, he presently found time to speak over his shoulder to them. "Hear the news?"

"No, sir," they answered.

" Well, be good boys, now, and read the papers and look at pictures until I finish this letter. Then I will tell you."

They surveyed him keenly. They evidently judged that the news was worth hearing, but, obediently, they said nothing. Ultimately the minister affixed a rapid signature to the letter, and turning, looked at the students with a smile. " Haven't heard the news, eh ?"

"No, Sir."

"Well, Marjory Wainwright is engaged to marry Coleman." The minister was amazed to see the effect of this announcement upon the three students. He had expected the crows and cackles of rather absurd merriment with which unbearded youth often greets, such news. But there was no crow or cackle. One young man blushed scarlet and looked guiltily at the floor. With a great effort he muttered: " Shes too good for him." Another student had turned ghastly pate and was staring. It was Peter Tounley who relieved the minister's mind, for upon that young man's face was a broad jack-o-lantern grin, and the minister saw that, at any rate, he had not made a complete massacre.

Peter Tounley said triumphantly: "I knew it ! "

The minister was anxious over the havoc he had wrought with the two other students, but slowly the colour abated in one face and grew in the other. To give them opportunity, the minister talked busily to Peter Tounley. "And how did you know it, you young scamp ?"

Peter was jubilant. " Oh, -I knew it! I knew it I I am very clever." The student who had blushed now addressed the minister in a slightly strained voice. " Are you positive that it is true, Mr. Gordner?,"

" I had it on the best authority," replied the minister gravely.

The student who had turned pale said: " Oh, it's true, of course."

" Well," said crudely the one who had blushed, she's a great sight too good for Coleman or anybody like him. That's all I've got to say."

" Oh, Coleman is a good fellow," said Peter Tounley, reproachfully. " You've no right to say that-exactly. You don't know where you'd. be now if it were not for Coleman." The, response was, first, an angry gesture. " Oh, don't keep everlasting rubbing that in. For heaven's sake, let up. - Supposing I don't. know where I'd be now if,it were not for Rufus Coleman? What of it? For the rest of my life have I got to—"

The minister saw. that this was the embittered speech of a really defeated youth, so, to save scenes, he gently ejected the trio. " There, there, now ! Run along home like good boys. I'll be busy until luncheon. And I -dare say you won't find Coleman such a bad chap."'

In the corridor, one of the students said offensively to Peter Tounley : " Say, how in hell did you find out all this so early ? "

Peter's reply was amiable in tone. " You are a damned bleating little kid and you made a holy show of yourself before Mr. Gordner. There's where you stand. Didn't you see that he turned us out because he didn't know but what you were going to blubber or something. - you are a sucking pig, and if you want to know how I find out things go ask the Delphic Oracle, you blind ass."

" You better look out or you may get a punch in the eye!,"

"You take one punch in the general direction of my eye, me son," said -Peter cheerfully, " and I'll distribute your remains, over this hotel in a way that will cause your, friends years of trouble to collect you. Instead of anticipating an attack upon my eye, you had much better be engaged in improving your mind, which is at present not a fit machine to cope with exciting situations. There's Coke! Hello, Coke, hear the news? Well, Marjory Wainwright and Rufus Coleman , are engaged.. Straight ? Certainly ! Go ask the minister."

Coke did not take Peter's word. "Is that so ? " he asked the others.

" So the minister told us," they answered, and then these two, who seemed so unhappy, watched Coke's face to see if they could not find surprised misery there. But Coke coolly said: " Well, then, I suppose it's true."

It soon became evident that the students did not care for each other's society. Peter Tounley was probably an exception, but the others seemed to long for quiet corners. They were distrusting each other, and, in a boyish way, they were even capable of maligant things. Their excuses for separation were badly made.

"I-I think I'll go for a walk." " I'm going up stairs to read." " Well, so long, old man.' " So long." There was no heart to it. Peter Tounley went to Coleman's door, where he knocked with noisy hilarity. " Come in I " The correspondent apparently had just come from the street, for his hat was on his head and a light top-coat was on his back. He was searching hurriedly through some, papers. " Hello, you young devil What are you doing here ?

Peter's entrance was a somewhat elaborate comedy which Coleman watched in icy silence. Peter after a long,and impudent pantomime halted abruptly and fixing Coleman with his eye demanded: "Well?"

"Well-what?." said Coleman, bristling a trifle.

" Is it true ?"

" Is what true ?"

" Is it true? " Peter was extremely solemn. " Say, me bucko," said Coleman suddenly, " if you've. come up here to twist the beard of the patriarch, don't you think you are running a chance? "

"All right. I'll be good," said Peter, and he sat on the bed. " But-is it true?

" Is what true? "

" What the whole hotel is saying."

] "I haven't heard the hotel making any remarks lately. Been talking to the other buildings, I sup- pose."

"Well, I want to tell you that everybody knows that you and Marjory have done gone and got yourselves engaged," said Peter bluntly.

"And well? " asked Coleman imperturbably.

" Oh, nothing," replied Peter, waving his hand. " Only-I thought it might interest you." Coleman was silent for some time. He fingered his papers. At last he burst out joyously. "And so they know it already, do they? Well-damn them- let them know it. But you didn't tell them yourself ? "

" I ! " quoth Peter wrathfully. " No! The minister told us."

Then Coleman was again silent for a time and Peter Tounley sat on the. bed reflectively looking at the ceiling. " Funny thing, Marjory 'way over here in Greece, and then you happening over here the way you did."

" It isn't funny at all."

" Why isn't it ? "

" Because," said Coleman impressively,, " that is why I came to Greece. It was all planned. See?"

"Whirroo," exclaimed Peter. "This here is magic."

" No magic at all." Coleman displayed some complacence. " No magic at all. just pure, plain— whatever you choose to call it."

" Holy smoke," said Peter, admiring the situation. "Why, this is plum romance, Coleman. I'm blowed if it isn't."

Coleman was grinning with delight. He took a fresh cigar and his bright eyes looked at Peter through the smoke., "Seems like it, don't it? Yes. Regular romance. Have a drink, my boy, just to celebrate my good luck. And be patient if I talk a great deal of my-my-future. My head spins with it." He arose to pace the room flinging out bis arms in a great gesture. " God! When I think yesterday was not like to-day I wonder how I stood it." There was a knock at the door and a waiter left a note in Coleman's hand

"Dear Ruf us:-We are going for a drive this afternoon at three, and mother wishes you to come, if you. care to. I too wish it, if you care to. Yours, " MARJORY."

With a radiant face, Coleman gave the note a little crackling flourish in the air. " Oh, you don't know what life is, kid."

" S-steady the Blues," said Peter Tounley seriously. You'll lose your head if you don't watch out." " Not I" cried Coleman with irritation. " But a man must turn loose some times, mustn't he?"

When the four, students had separated in the corri- dor, Coke had posted at once to Nora Black's sitting room. His entrance was somewhat precipitate, but he cooled down almost at once, for he reflected that he was not bearing good news. He ended by perching in awkward fashion on the brink of his chair and fumbling his hat uneasily. Nora floated to him in a cloud of a white dressing gown. She gave him a plump hand. "Well, youngman? "she said, with a glowing smile. She took a chair, and the stuff of her gown fell in curves over the arms of it.,

Coke looked hot and bothered, as if he could have more than half wanted to retract his visit. " I-aw- we haven't seen much of you lately," he began, sparing. He had expected to tell his news at once.

No," said Nora, languidly. " I have been resting after that horrible journey-that horrible journey. Dear, dear! Nothing,will ever induce me to leave London, New York and Paris. I am at home there. But here I Why, it is worse than living in Brooklyn. And that journey into the wilds! No. no; not for me! "

" I suppose we'll all be glad to get home," said Coke, aimlessly. At the moment a waiter entered the room and began to lay the table for luncheon. He kept open the door to the corridor, and he had the luncheon at a point just outside the door. His excursions to the trays were flying ones, so that, as far as Coke's purpose was concerned, the waiter was always in the room. Moreover, Coke was obliged, naturally, to depart at once. He had bungled everything.

As he arose he whispered hastily: " Does this waiter understand English ? "

"Yes," answered Nora. "Why?"

"Because I have something to tell you-important."

"What is it? " whispered Nora, eagerly.

He leaned toward her and replied: " Marjory Wainwright and Coleman are engaged." To his unfeigned astonishment, Nora Black burst into peals of silvery laughter, " Oh, indeed? And so this is your tragic story, poor, innocent lambkin? And what did you expect? That I would faint?" -

" I thought-I don't know-" murmured Coke in confusion.

Nora became suddenly business-like. " But how do you know? Are you sure? Who told you? Anyhow, stay to luncheon. Do-like a good boy. Oh, you must."

Coke dropped again into his chair. He studied her in some wonder. " I thought you'd be surprised," he said, ingenuously.

" Oh, you did, did you ? Well, you see I'm not. And now tell me all about it." "There's really nothing to tell but the plain fact. Some of the boys dropped in at the minister's rooms a little while ago, and, he told them of it. That's all." Well, how did he know?

"I am sure I can't tell you. Got it first hand, I suppose. He likes Coleman, and Coleman is always hanging up there."

" Oh, perhaps Coleman was lying," said Nora easily. Then suddenly her face brightened and she spoke with animation. " Oh, I haven't told you how my little Greek officer has turned out. Have I? No? Well, it is simply lovely. Do you know, he belongs to one of the best families in Athens? Hedoes. And they're rich-rich as can be. My courier tells me that the marble palace where they live is enough to blind you, and that if titles hadn't gone out of style-or something-here in Greece, my little officer would be a prince! Think of that! The courier didn't know it until we got to Athens, and the little officer-the prince-gave me his card, of course. One of the oldest, noblest and richest families in Greece. Think of that! There I thought he was only a bothersome little officer who came in handy at times, and there he turns out to be a prince. I could hardly keep myself from rushing right off to find him and apologise to him for the way I treated him. It was awful! And-" added the fair Nora, pensively, "if he does meet me in Paris, I'll make him wear that title down to a shred, you can bet. What's the good of having a title unless you make it work?"

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