Active Service

by Stephen Crane

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Chapter XXVII

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."


IT seems strange that the one who was the most hilarious over the engagement of Marjory and Cole- man should be Coleman's dragoman who was indeed in a state bordering on transport. It is not known how he learned the glad tidings, but it is certain that he learned them before luncheon. He told all the visible employes of the hotel and allowed them to know that the betrothal really had been his handi-work He had arranged it. He did not make quite clear how he had performed this feat, but at least he was perfectly frank in acknowledging it.

When some of the students came down to luncheon, they saw him but could not decide what ailed him. He was in the main corridor of the hotel, grinning from ear to ear, and when he perceived the students he made signs to intimate that they possessed in com- mon a joyous secret. " What's the matter with that idiot?" asked Coke morosely. " Looks as if his wheels were going around too fast." Peter Tounley walked close to him and scanned him imperturbably, but with care. " What's up, Phidias ? " The man made no articulate reply. He continued to grin and gesture. "Pain in oo tummy? Mother dead? Caught the cholera? Found out that you've swallowed a pair of hammered brass and irons in your beer? Say, who are you, anyhow? " But he could not shake this invincible glee, so he went away.

The dragoman's rapture reached its zenith when Coleman lent him to the professor and he was commissioned to bring a carriage for four people to the door at three o'clock. He himself was to sit on the box and tell the driver what was required of him. He dashed off, his hat in his hand, his hair flying, puffing, important beyond everything, and apparently babbling his mission to half the people he met on the street. In most countries he would have landed speedily in jail, but among a people who exist on a basis of'jibbering, his violent gabble aroused no suspicions as to his sanity. However, he stirred several livery stables to their depths and set men running here and there wildly and for the most part futiltiy.

At fifteen minutes to three o'clock, a carriage with its horses on a gallop tore around the corner and up to the . front of the hotel, where it halted with the pomp and excitement of a fire engine. The dragoman jumped down from his seat beside the driver and scrambled hurriedly into the hoiel, in the gloom of which hemet a serene stillness which was punctuated only by the leisurely tinkle of silver and glass in the dining room. For a moment the dragoman seemed really astounded out of specch. Then he plunged into the manager's room. Was it conceivable that Monsieur Coleman was still at luncheon? Yes; in fact, it was true. But the carriage, was at the door! The carriage was at the door! The manager, undisturbed, asked for what hour Monsieur Coleman had been pleased to order a carriage. Three o'clock ! Three o'clock? The manager pointed calmly at the clock. Very well. It was now only thirteen minutes of three o'clock. Monsieur Coleman doubtless would appear at three. Until that hour the manager would not disturb Monsieur Coleman. The dragoman clutched both his hands in his hair and cast a look of agony to the ceiling. Great God! Had he accomplished the herculean task of getting a carriage for four people to the door of the hotel in time for a drive at three o'clock, only to meet with this stoniness, this inhumanity? Ah, it was unendurable? He begged the manager; he implored him. But at every word. the manager seemed to grow more indifferent, more callous. He pointed with a wooden finger at the clock-face. In reality, it is thus, that Greek meets Greek.

Professor Wainwright and Coleman strolled together out of the dining room. The dragoman rushed ecstatically upon the correspondent. " Oh, Meester Coleman! The carge is ready !"

"Well, all right," said Coleman, knocking ashes from his cigar. "Don't be in a hurry. I suppose we'll be ready, presently." The man was in despair.

The departure of the Wainwrights and Coleman on this ordinary drive was of a somewhat dramatic and public nature, No one seemed to know how to prevent its being so. In the first place, the attendants thronged out en masse for a reason which was plain at the time only to Coleman's dragoman. And, rather in the background, lurked the interested students. The professor was surprised and nervous. Coleman was rigid and angry. Marjory was flushed and some what hurried, and Mrs. Wainwright was as proud as an old turkey-hen.

As the carriage rolled away, Peter Tounley turned to his companions and said: " Now, that's official! That is the official announcement! Did you see Old Mother Wainwright? Oh, my eye, wasn't she puffed up ! Say, what in hell do you suppose all these jay hawking bell-boys poured out to the kerb for? Go back to your cages, my good people-"

As soon as the carriage wheeled into another street, its occupants exchanged easier smiles, and they must have confessed in some subtle way of glances that now at last they were upon their own mission, a mission undefined but earnest to them all. Coleman had a glad feeling of being let into the family, or becoming one of them

The professor looked sideways at him and smiled gently. " You know, I thought of driving you to some ruins, but Marjory would not have it. She flatly objected to any more ruins. So I thought we would drive down to New Phalerum." Coleman nodded and smiled as if he were immensely pleased, but of course New Phalerum was to him no more nor-less than Vladivostok or Khartoum. Neither place nor distance had interest for him. They swept along a shaded avenue where the dust lay thick on the leaves; they passed cafes where crowds were angrily shouting over the news in the little papers; they passed a hospital before which wounded men, white with bandages, were taking the sun; then came soon to the and valley flanked by gaunt naked mountains, which would lead them to the sea. Sometimes to accentuate the dry nakedness of this valley, there would be a patch of grass upon which poppies burned crimson spots. The dust writhed out from under the wheels of the carriage; in the distance the sea appeared, a blue half-disc set between shoulders of barren land. It would be common to say that Coleman was oblivious to all about him but Marjory. On the contrary, the parched land, the isolated flame of poppies, the cool air from the sea, all were keenly known to him, and they had developed an extraordinary power of blending sympathetically into his mood. Meanwhile the professor talked a great deal. And as a somewhat exhilarating detail, Coleman perceived that Ms. Wainwright was beaming upon him.

At New Phalerum-a small collection of pale square villas-they left the carriage and strolled, by the sea. The waves were snarling together like wolves amid the honeycomb rocks and from where the blue plane sprang level to the horizon, came a strong cold breeze, the kind of a breeze which moves an exulting man or a parson to take off his hat and let his locks flutter and tug back from his brow.

The professor and Mrs. Wainwright were left to themselves.

Marjory and Coleman did not speak for a time. It might have been that they did not quite know where to make a beginning. At last Marjory asked: "What has become of your splendid horse?"

"Oh, I've told the dragoman to have him sold as soon as he arrives," said Coleman absently.

" Oh. I'm sorry * * I liked that horse."

"Why? "

"Oh, because-"

"Well, he was a fine-" Then he, too, interrupted himself, for he saw plainly that they had not come to this place to talk about a horse. Thereat he made speech of matters which at least did not afford as many opportunities for coherency as would the horse. Marjory, it can't be true * * * Is it true, dearest * * I can hardly believe it. -I-"

" Oh, I know I'm not nearly good enough for you."

" Good enough for me, dear?

" They all told me so, and they were right ! Why, even the American minister said it. Everybody thinks it."

"Why, aren 't they wretches To think of them saying such a thing! As if-as if anybody could be too—"

" Do you know-" She paused and looked at him with a certain timid challenge. " I don't know why I feel it, but-sometimes I feel that I've been I've been flung at your head."

He opened his mouth in astonishment. " Flung at my head!

She held up her finger. "And if I thought you could ever believe it ! "

" Is a girl flung at a man's head when her father carries her thousands of miles away and the man follows her all these miles, and at last-"

" Her eyes were shining. "And you really came to Greece-on purpose to-to-" " Confess you knew it all the time! Confess!" The answer was muffled. " Well, sometimes I thought you did, and at other times I thought you- didn't."

In a secluded cove, in which the sea-maids once had played, no doubt, Marjory and Coleman sat in silence. He was below her, and if he looked at her he had to turn his glance obliquely upward. She was staring at the sea with woman's mystic gaze, a gaze which men at once reverence and fear since it seems to look into the deep, simple heart of nature, and men begin to feel that their petty wisdoms are futile to control these strange spirits, as wayward as nature and as pure as nature, wild as the play of waves, sometimes as unalterable as the mountain amid the winds; and to measure them, man must perforce use a mathematical formula.

He wished that she would lay her hand upon his hair. He would be happy then. If she would only, of her own will, touch his hair lightly with her fingers-if she would do it with an unconscious air it would be even better. It would show him that she was thinking of him, even when she did not know she was thinking of him.

Perhaps he dared lay his head softly against her knee. Did he dare? As his head touched her knee, she did not move. She seemed to be still gazing at the sea. Presently idly caressing fingers played in his hair near the forehead. He looked up suddenly lifting his arms. He breathed out a cry which was laden with a kind of diffident ferocity. " I haven't kissed you yet-"

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