explained. He leaped to the ground, and holding the horse by the bridle, he addressed his admiring companions. ” The groom- the man who has charge of the horses -says that he thinks that the people on the mountain-side are Turks, but I don’t see how that is possible. You see-” he pointed wisely-” that road leads directly south to Arta, and it is hardly possible that the Greek army would come over here and leave that approach to Arta utterly unguarded. It would be too foolish. They must have left some men to cover it, and that is certainly what those troops are. If you are all ready and willing, I don’t see anything to do but make a good, stout-hearted dash for Arta. It would be no more dangerous than to sit here.”
The professor was at last able to make his formal speech. ” Mr. Coleman,” he said distinctly, “we place ourselves entirely in your hands.” It was some. how pitiful. This man who, for years and years had reigned in a little college town almost as a monarch, passing judgment with the air of one who words the law, dealing criticism upon the universe as one to whom all things are plain, publicly disdaining defeat as one to whom all things are easy-this man was now veritably appealing to Coleman to save his wife, his daughter and himself, and really declared himself de. pendent for safety upon the ingenuity and courage of the correspondent.
The attitude of the students was utterly indifferent. They did not consider themselves helpless at all. they were evidently quite ready to withstand anything but they looked frankly up to Coleman as their intelligent leader. If they suffered any, their only expression of it was in the simple grim slang of their period.
” I wish I was at Coney Island.”
” This is not so bad as trigonometry, but it’s worse than playing billiards for the beers.”
And Coke said privately to Coleman: ” Say, what in hell are these two damn peoples fighting for, anyhow? “
When he saw that all opinions were in favour of following him loyally, Coleman was impelled to feel a responsibility. He was now no errant rescuer, but a properly elected leader of fellow beings in distress. While one
of the students held his horse, he took the dragoman for another consultation with the captain of the battery. The officer was sitting on a large stone, with his eyes fixed into his field glasses. When again questioned he could give no satisfaction as to the identity of the troops on the distant mountain. He merely shrugged his shoulders and said that if they were Greeks it was very good, but if they were Turks it was very bad. He seemed more occupied in trying to impress the correspondent that it was a matter of soldierly indifference to himself. Coleman, after loathing him sufficiently in silence, returned to the others and said: ” Well, we’ll chance it.”
They looked to him to arrange the caravan. Speaking to the men of the party he said: ” Of course, any one of you is welcome to my horse if you can ride it, but-if you’re not too tired-I think I had myself better ride, so that I can go ahead at times.”
His manner was so fine as he said this that the students seemed fairly to worship him. Of course it had been most improbable that any of them could have ridden that volcanic animal even if one of them had tried it.
He saw Mrs. Wainwright and Marjory upon the backs of their two little natives, and hoisted the professor into the saddle of the groom’s horse, leaving instructions with the servant to lead the animal always and carefully. He and the dragoman then mounted at the head of the procession, and amid curious questionings from the soldiery they crossed the bridge and started on the trail to Arta. The rear was brought up by the little grey horse with the luggage, led by one student and flogged by another.
Coleman, checking with difficulty the battling disposition of his horse, was very uneasy in his mind because the last words of the captain of the battery had made him feel that perhaps on this ride he would be placed in a position where only the best courage would count, and he did not see his way clear to feeling very confident about his conduct in such a case. Looking back upon the caravan, he saw it as a most unwieldy thing, not even capable of running away. He hurried it with sudden, sharp contemptuous phrases.
On the. march there incidentally flashed upon him a new truth. More than half of that student band were deeply in love with Marjory. Of course, when he had been distant from her he had had an eternal jealous reflection to that effect. It was natural that he should have thought of the intimate camping relations between Marjory and these young students with a great deal of bitterness, grinding his teeth when picturing their opportunities to make Marjory fall in love with some one of them. He had raged particularly about Coke, whose father had millions of dollars. But he had forgotten all these jealousies in the general splendour of his exploits. Now, when he saw the truth, it seemed. to bring him back to his common life and he saw himself suddenly as not being frantically superior in any way to those other young men. The more closely he looked at this last fact, the more convinced he was of its truth. He seemed to see that he had been impropererly elated over his services to the Wainwrights, and that, in the end, the girl might fancy a man because the man had done her no service at all. He saw his proud position lower itself to be a pawn in the game. Looking back over the students, he wondered which one Marjory might love. This hideous Nikopolis had given eight men chance to win her. His scorn and his malice quite centered upon Coke, for he could never forget that the man’s father had millions of dollars. The unfortunate Coke chose that moment to address him querulously : “Look here, Coleman, can’t you tell us how far it is to Arta ? “
“Coke,” said Coleman, ” I don’t suppose you take me for a tourist agency, but if you can only try to distinguish between me and a map with the scale of miles printed in the lower left- hand corner, you will not contribute so much to the sufferings of the party which you now adorn.”
The students within hearing guffawed and Coke retired, in confusion.
The march was not rapid. Coleman almost wore out his arms holding in check his impetuous horse. Often the caravan floundered through mud, while at the same time a hot, yellow dust came from the north.
They were perhaps half way to Arta when Coleman decided that a rest and luncheon were the things to be considered. He halted his troop then in the shade of some great trees, and privately he bade his dragoman prepare the best feast which could come out of those saddle-bags fresh from Athens. The result was rather gorgeous in the eyes of the poor wanderers. First of all there were three knives, three forks, three spoons, three tin cups and three tin plaies, which the entire party of twelve used on a most amiable socialistic principle. There were crisp, salty biscuits and olives, for which they speared in the bottle. There was potted turkey, and potted ham, and potted tongue, all tasting precisely alike. There were sardines and the ordinary tinned beef, disguised sometimes with onions, carrots and potatoes. Out of the saddle-bags came pepper and salt and even mustard. The dragoman made coffee over a little fire of sticks that blazed with a white light. The whole thing was prodigal, but any philanthropist would have approved of it if he could have seen the way in which the eight students laid into the spread. When there came a polite remonstrance-notably from Mrs. Wainwright-Coleman merely pointed to a large bundle strapped back of the groom’s saddle. During the coffee he was considering how best to get the students one by one out of the sight of the Wainwrights where he could give them good drinks of whisky.
There was an agitation on the road toward Arta. Some people were coming on horses. He paid small heed until he heard a thump of pausing hoofs near him, and a musical voice say: “Rufus! “
He looked up quickly, and then all present saw his eyes really bulge. There on a fat and glossy horse sat Nora Black, dressed in probably one of the most correct riding habits which had ever been seen in the East. She was smiling a radiant smile, which held the eight students simpty spell-bound. They would have recognised her if it had not been for this apparitional coming in the wilds of southeastern Europe. Behind her were her people-some servants and an old lady on a very little pony. ” Well, Rufus? ” she said.
Coleman made the mistake of hesitating. For a fraction of a moment he had acted as if he were embarrassed, and was only going to nod and say: ” How d’do ?”
He arose and came forward too late. She was looking at him with a menacing glance which meant difficulties for him if he was not skilful. Keen as an eagle, she swept her glance over the face and figure of Marjory. Without. further introduction, the girls seemed to understand that they were enemies.
Despite his feeling of awkwardness, Coleman’s mind was mainly occupied by pure astonishment. “Nora Black? ” he said, as if even then he could not believe his senses. ” How in the world did you get down here ?
She was not too amiable, evidently, over his reception, and she seemed to know perfectly that it was in her power to make him feel extremely unpleasant. ” Oh, it’s not so far,” she answered. ” I don’t see where you come in to ask me what I’m doing here. What are you doing here? ” She lifted her eyes and shot the half of a glance at Marjory. Into her last question she had interjected a spirit of ownership in which he saw future woe. It turned him cowardly. ” Why, you know I was sent up here by the paper to rescue the Wainwright party, and I’ve got them. I’m taking them to Arta. But why are you here?”
” I am here,” she said, giving him the most defiant of glances, ” principally to look for you.”
Even the horse she rode betrayed an intention of abiding upon that spot forever. She had made her communication with Coleman appear to the Wainwright party as a sort of tender reunion.
Coleman looked at her with a steely eye. “Nora, you can certainly be a devil when you choose.”
” Why don’t you present me to your friends? Mis,; Nora Black, special correspondent of the New York Daylighi, if you please. I belong to your opposition. I am your rival, Rufus, and I draw a bigger salary-see? Funny looking gang, that. Who is the old Johnnie in the white wig?”
“Er-where you goin’-you can’t “-blundered Coleman miserably “Aw-the army is in retreat and you must go back to- don’t you see?”
“Is it?” she agked. After a pause she added coolly: “Then I shall go back to Arta with you and your precious Wainwrights.”
GIVING Coleman another glance of subtle menace Nora repeated: “Why don’t you present me to your friends? ” Coleman had been swiftly searching the whole world for a way clear of this unhappiness, but he knew at last that he could only die at his guns. ” Why, certainly,” he said quickly, ” if you wish it.” He sauntered easily back to the luncheon blanket. “This is Miss Black of the New York Daylight and she says that those people on the mountain are Greeks.” The students were gaping at him, and Marjory and her father sat in the same silence. But to the relief of Coleman and to the high edification of the students, Mrs. Wainwright cried out: ” Why, is she an American woman? ” And seeing Coleman’s nod of assent she rustled to her feet and advanced hastily upon the complacent horsewoman. ” I’m delighted to see you. Who would think of seeing an American woman way over here. Have you been here long? Are you going on further? Oh, we’ve had such a dreadful time.” Coleman remained long enough to hear Nora say: ” Thank you very much, but I shan’t dismount. I am going to ride back to Arta presently.”
Then he heard Mrs. Wainwright cry: ” Oh, are you indeed ? Why we, too, are going at once to Arta. We can all go together.” Coleman fled then to the bosom of the students, who all looked at him with eyes of cynical penetration. He cast a glance at Marjory more than fearing a glare which denoted an implacable resolution never to forgive this thing. On the contrary he had never seen her so content and serene. “You have allowed your coffee to get chilled,” she said considerately. “Won’t you have the man warm you some more?”
“Thanks, no,” he answered with gratitude.
Nora, changing her mind, had dismounted and was coming with Mrs. Wainwright. That worthy lady had long had a fund of information and anecdote the sound of which neither her husband nor her daughter would endure for a moment. Of course the rascally students were out of the question. Here, then, was really the first ear amiably and cheerfully open, and she was talking at what the students called her “thirty knot gait.”
“Lost everything. Absolutely everything. Neither of us have even a brush and comb, or a cake of soap, or enough hairpins to hold up our hair. I’m going to take Marjory’s away from her and let her braid her hair down her back. You can imagine how dreadful it is—“
From time to time the cool voice of Nora sounded without effort through this clamour. ” Oh, it will be no trouble at all. I have more than enough of everything. We can divide very nicely.”
Coleman broke somewhat imperiously into this feminine chat. “Well, we must be moving, you know, ” and his voice started the men into activity. When the traps were all packed again on the horse Coleman looked back surprised to see the three women engaged in the most friendly discussion. The combined parties now made a very respectable squadron. Coleman rode off at its head without glancing behind at all. He knew that they were following from the soft pounding of the horses hoofs on the sod and from the mellow hum of human voices.
For a long time he did not think to look upon himself as anything but a man much injured by circumstances. Among his friends he could count numbers who had lived long lives without having this peculiar class of misfortune come to them. In fact it was so unusual a misfortune that men of the world had not found it necessary to pass from mind to mind a perfec t formula for dealing with it. But he soon began to consider himself an extraordinarily lucky person inasmuch as Nora Black had come upon him with her saddle bags packed with inflammable substances, so to speak, and there had been as yet only enough fire to boil coffee for luncheon. He laughed tenderly when he thought of the innocence of Mrs. Wainwright, but his face and back flushed with heat when lie thought of the canniness of the eight American college students.
He heard a horse cantering up on his left side and looking he saw Nora Black. She was beaming with satisfaction and good nature. ” Well, Rufus,” she cried flippantly, ” how goes it with the gallant rescuer? You’ve made a hit, my boy. You are the success of the season.”
Coleman reflected upon the probable result of a direct appeal to Nora. He knew of course that such appeals were usually idle, but he did not consider Nora an ordinary person. His decision was to venture it. He drew his horse close to hers. ” Nora,” he said, ” do you know that you are raising the very devil? “
She lifted her finely penciled eyebrows and looked at him with the baby-stare. ” How ? ” she enquired.
” You know well enough,” he gritted out wrathfully.
“Raising the very devil?” she asked. ” How do you mean?” She was palpably interested for his answer. She waited for his reply for an interval, and then she asked him outright. ” Rufus Coleman do you mean that I am not a respectable woman ? “
In reality he had meant nothing of the kind, but this direct throttling of a great question stupefied him utterly, for he saw now that she’ would probably never understand him in the least and that she would
at any rate always pretend not to understand him and that the more he said the more harm he manufactured. She studied him over carefully and then wheeled her horse towards the rear with some parting remarks. ” I suppose you should attend more strictly to your own affairs, Rufus. Instead of raising the devil I am lending hairpins. I have seen you insult people, but I have never seen you insult anyone quite for the whim of the thing. Go soak your head.”
Not considering it advisable to then indulge in such immersion Coleman rode moodily onward. The hot dust continued to sting the cheeks of the travellers and in some places great clouds of dead leaves roared in circles about them. All of the Wainwright party were utterly fagged. Coleman felt his skin crackle and his throat seemed to be coated with the white dust. He worried his dragoman as to the distance to Arta until the dragoman lied to the point where he always declared that Arta was only off some hundreds of yards.
At their places in the procession Mrs. Wainwright and Marjory were animatedly talking to Nora and the old lady on the little pony. They had at first suffered great amazement at the voluntary presence of the old lady, but she was there really because she knew no better. Her colossal ignorance took the form, mainly, of a most obstreperous patriotism, and indeed she always acted in a foreign country as if she were the special commissioner of the President, or perhaps as a special commissioner could not act at all. She was very aggressive, and when any of the travelling arrangements in Europe did not suit her ideas she was won’t to shrilly exclaim: ” Well ! New York is good enough for me.” Nora, morbidly afraid that her ex- pense bill to the Daylight would not be large enough, had dragged her bodily off to Greece as her companion, friend and protection. At Arta they had heard of the grand success of the Greek army. The Turks had not stood for a moment before that gallant and terrible advance; no; they had scampered howling with fear into the north. Jannina would fall-well, Jannina would fall as soon as the Greeks arrived. There was no doubt of it. The correspondent and her friend, deluded and hurried by the light-hearted confidence of the Greeks in Arta, had hastened out then on a regular tourist’s excursion to see Jannina after its capture. Nora concealed from her friend the fact that the editor of the Daylight particularly wished her to see a battle so that she might write an article on actual warfare from a woman’s point of view. With her name as a queen of comic opera, such an article from her pen would be a burning, sensation.
Coleman had been the first to point out to Nora that instead of going on a picnic to Jannina, she had better run back to Arta. When the old lady heard that they had not been entirely safe, she was furious with Nora. “The idea!” she exclaimed to Mrs. Wainwright. “They might have caught us! They might have caught us ! “
” Well,” said Mrs. Wainwright. ” I verily believe they would have caught us if it had not been for Mr. Coleman.”
” Is he the gentleman on the fine horse?”
” Yes; that’s him. Oh, he has been sim-plee splendid. I confess I was a little bit-er-surprised. He was in college under my husband. I don’t know that we thought very great things of him, but if ever a man won golden opinions he has done so from us.”
” Oh, that must be the Coleman who is such a great friend of Nora’s.”
“Yes?” said Mrs. Wainwright insidiously. “Is he? I didn’t know. Of course he knows so many people.” Her mind had been suddenly illumined by the old lady and she thought extravagantly of the arrival of Nora upon the scene. She remained all sweetness to the old lady. “Did you know he was here? Did you expect to meet him? I seemed such a delightful coincidence.” In truth she was being subterraneously clever.
” Oh, no; I don’t think so. I didn’t hear Nora mention it. Of course she would have told me. You know, our coming to Greece was such a surprise. Nora had an engagement in London at the Folly Theatre in Fly by Night, but the manager was insufferable, oh, insufferable. So, of course, Nora wouldn’t stand it a minute, and then these newspaper people came along and asked her to go to Greece for them and she accepted. I am sure I never expected to find us-aw-fleeing from the Turks or I shouldn’t have Come.”
” Mrs. Wainwright was gasping. ” You don’t mean that she is– she is Nora Black, the actress.”
” Of course she is,” said the old lady jubilantly.
” Why, how strange,” choked Mrs. Wainwrignt. Nothing she knew of Nora could account for her stupefaction and grief. What happened glaringly to her was the duplicity of man. Coleman was a ribald deceiver. He must have known and yet he had pretended throughout that the meeting was a pure accident She turned with a nervous impulse to sympathist with her daughter, but despite the lovely tranquillity of the girl’s face there was something about her which forbade the mother to meddle. Anyhow Mrs. Wainwright was sorry that she had told nice things of Coleman’s behaviour, so she said to the old lady: ” Young men of these times get a false age so quickly. We have always thought it a great pity, about Mr. Coleman.”
“Why, how so ? ” asked the old lady.
“Oh, really nothing. Only, to us he seemed rather –er- prematurely experienced or something of that kind. The old lady did not catch the meaning of the phrase. She seemed surprised. ” Why, I’ve never seen any full-grown person in this world who got experience any too quick for his own good.”
At the tail of the procession there was talk between the two students who had in charge the little grey horse-one to lead and one to flog. ” Billie,” said one, ” it now becomes necessary to lose this hobby into the hands of some of the other fellows. Whereby we will gain opportunity to pay homage to the great Nora. Why, you egregious thick-head, this is the chance of a life-time. I’m damned if I’m going to tow this beast of burden much further.”
” You wouldn’t stand a show,” said Billie pessimistically. ” Look at Coleman.”
” That’s all right. Do you mean to say that you prefer to continue towing pack horses in the presence of this queen of song and the dance just because you think Coleman can throw out his chest a little more than you. Not so. Think of your bright and sparkling youth. There’s Coke and Pete Tounley near Marjory. We’ll call ’em.” Whereupon he set up a cry. ” Say, you people, we’re not getting a, salary for this. Supposin’ you try for a time. It’ll do you good.” When the two addressed bad halted to await the arrival of the little grey horse, they took on glum expressions. ” You look like poisoned pups,” said the student who led the horse. ” Too strong for light work. Grab onto the halter, now, Peter, and tow. We are going ahead to talk to Nora Black.”
” Good time you’ll have,” answered Peter Tounley.
” Coleman is cuttin’ up scandalous. You won’t stand a show.”
” What do you think of him ? ” said Coke. ” Seems curious, all ’round. Do you suppose he knew she would show up? It was nervy to–“
” Nervy to what? ” asked Billie.
“Well,” said Coke, ” seems to me he is playing both ends against the middle. I don’t know anything about Nora Black, but-“
The three other students expressed themselves with conviction and in chorus. ” Coleman’s all right.”
” Well, anyhow,” continued Coke, ” I don’t see my way free to admiring him introducing Nora Black to the Wainwrights.”
” He didn’t,” said the others, still in chorus.
” Queer game,” said Peter Tounley. ” He seems to know her pretty well.”
” Pretty damn well,” said Billie.
“Anyhow he’s a brick,” said Peter Tounley. “We mustn’t forget that. Lo, I begin to feel that our Rufus is a fly guy of many different kinds. Any play that he is in commands my respect. He won’t be hit by a chimney in the daytime, for unto him has come much wisdom, I don’t think I’ll worry.”
“Is he stuck on Nora Black, do you know?” asked Billie.
” One thing is plain,” replied Coke. ” She has got him somehow by the short hair and she intends him to holler murder. Anybody can see that.”
” Well, he won’t holler murder,” said one of them with conviction. ” I’ll bet you he won’t. He’ll hammer the war-post and beat the tom-tom until he drops, but he won’t holler murder.”
” Old Mother Wainwright will be in his wool presently,” quoth Peter Tounley musingly, ” I could see it coming in her eye. Somebody has given his snap away, or something.” ” Aw, he had no snap,” said Billie. ” Couldn’t you see how rattled he was? He would have given a lac if dear Nora hadn’t turned up.”
“Of course,” the others assented. “He was rattled.”
” Looks queer. And nasty,” said Coke.
” Nora herself had an axe ready for him.”
They began to laugh. ” If she had had an umbrella she would have basted him over the head with it. Oh, my! He was green.”
” Nevertheless,” said Peter Tounley, ” I refuse to worry over our Rufus. When he can’t take care of himself the rest of us want to hunt cover. He is a fly guy-“
Coleman in the meantime had become aware that the light of Mrs. Wainwright’s countenance was turned from him. The party stopped at a well, and when he offered her a drink from his cup he thought she accepted it with scant thanks. Marjory was still gracious, always gracious, but this did not reassure him, because he felt there was much unfathomable deception in it. When he turned to seek consolation in the manner of the professor he found him as before, stunned with surprise, and the only idea he had was to be as tractable as a child.
When he returned to the head of the column, Nora again cantered forward to join him. ” Well, me gay Lochinvar,” she cried, ” and has your disposition improved? “
” You are very fresh,” he said.
She laughed loud enough to be heard the full length of the caravan. It was a beautiful laugh, but full of insolence and confidence. He flashed his eyes malignantly upon her, but then she only laughed more. She could see that he wished to strangle her. ” What a disposition ! ” she said. ” What a disposition ! You are not. nearly so nice as your friends. Now, they are charming, but you-Rufus, I wish you would get that temper mended. Dear Rufus, do it to please me. You know you like to please me. Don’t you now, dear? ” He finally laughed. ” Confound you, Nora. I would like to kill you.”
But at his laugh she was all sunshine. It was as if she. had been trying to taunt him into good humour with her. “Aw, now, Rufus, don’t be angry. I’ll be good, Rufus. Really, I will. Listen. I want to tell you something. Do you know what I did? Well, you know, I never was cut out for this business, and, back there, when you told me about the Turks being near and all that sort of thing, I was frightened almost to death. Really, I was. So, when nobody was looking, I sneaked two or three little drinks out of my flask. Two or three little drinks-“
” GOOD God!” said Coleman. “You don’t Mean-“
Nora smiled rosily at him. ” Oh, I’m all right,” she answered. ” Don’t worry about your Aunt Nora, my precious boy. Not for a minute.”
Coleman was horrified. ” But you are not going to-you are not going to-“
“Not at all, me son. Not at all,” she answered.
I’m not going to prance. I’m going to be as nice as pie, and just ride quietly along here with dear little Rufus. Only * * you know what I can do when I get started, so you had better be a very good boy. I might take it into my head to say some things, you know.”
Bound hand and foot at his stake, he could not even chant his defiant torture song. It might precipitate– in fact, he was sure it would precipitate the grand smash. But to the very core of his soul, he for the time hated Nora Black. He did not dare to remind her that he would revenge himself; he dared only to dream of this revenge, but it fairly made his thoughts flame, and deep in his throat he was swearing an inflexible persecution of Nora Black. The old expression of his sex came to him, ” Oh, if she were only a man ! ” she had been a man, he would have fallen upon her tooth and nail. Her motives for all this impressed him not at all; she was simply a witch who bound him helpless with the pwer of her femininity, and made him eat cinders. He was so sure that his face betrayed him that he did not dare let her see it. ” Well, what are you going to do about it ? ” he asked, over his shoulder.
” 0-o-oh,” she drawled, impudently. “Nothing.” He could see that she was determined not to be confessed. ” I may do this or I may do that. It all depends upon your behaviour, my dear Rufus.”
As they rode on, he deliberated as to the best means of dealing with this condition. Suddenly he resolved to go with the whole tale direct to Marjory, and to this end he half wheeled his horse. He would reiterate that he loved her and then explain- explain ! He groaned when he came to the word, and ceased formulation.
The cavalcade reached at last the bank of the Aracthus river, with its lemon groves and lush grass. A battery wheeled before them over the ancient bridge -a flight of short, broad cobbled steps up as far as the centre of the stream and a similar flight down to the other bank. The returning aplomb of the travellers was well illustrated by the professor, who, upon sighting this bridge, murmured : ” Byzantine.”
This was the first indication that he had still within him a power to resume the normal.
The steep and narrow street was crowded with soldiers; the smoky little coffee shops were a-babble with people discussing the news from the front. None seemed to heed the remarkable procession that wended its way to the cable office. Here Coleman resolutely took precedence. He knew that there was no good in expecting intelligence out of the chaotic clerks, but he managed to get upon the wires this message :
” Eclipse, New York: Got Wainwright party; all well. Coleman.” The students had struggled to send messages to their people in America, but they had only succeeded in deepening the tragic boredom of the clerks.
When Coleman returned to the street he thought that he had seldom looked upon a more moving spectacle than the Wainwright party presented at that moment. Most of the students were seated in a row, dejectedly, upon the kerb. The professor and Mrs. Wainwright looked like two old pictures, which, after an existence in a considerate gloom, had been brought out in their tawdriness to the clear light. Hot white dust covered everybody, and from out the grimy faces the eyes blinked, red-fringed with sleeplessness. Desolation sat upon all, save Marjory. She possessed some marvellous power of looking always fresh. This quality had indeed impressed the old lady on the little pony until she had said to Nora Black: “That girl would look well anywhere.” Nora Black had not been amiable in her reply.
Coleman called the professor and the dragoman for a durbar. The dragoman said: “Well, I can get one carriage, and we can go immediate-lee.”
” Carriage be blowed! ” said Coleman. ” What these people need is rest, sleep. You must find a place at once. These people can’t remain in the street.” He spoke in anger, as if he had previously told the dragoman and the latter had been inattentive. The man immediately departed.
Coleman remarked that there was no course but to remain in the street until his dragoman had found them a habitation. It was a mournful waiting. The students sat on the kerb. Once they whispered to Coleman, suggesting a drink, but he told them that he knew only one cafe, the entrance of which would be in plain sight of the rest of the party. The ladies talked together in a group of four. Nora Black was bursting with the fact that her servant had hired rooms in Arta on their outcoming journey, and she wished Mrs. Wainwright and Marjory to come to them, at least for a time, but she dared not risk a refusal, and she felt something in Mrs. Wainwright’s manner which led her to be certain that such would be the answer to her invitation. Coleman and the professor strolled slowly up and down the walk.
” Well, my work is over, sir,” said Coleman. ” My paper told me to find you, and, through no virtue of my own, I found you. I am very glad of it. I don’t know of anything in my life that has given me greater pleasure.”
The professor was himself again in so far as he had lost all manner of dependence. But still he could not yet be bumptious. ” Mr. Coleman,” he said, “I am placed under life-long obligation to you. * * * I am not thinking of myself so much. * * * My wife and daughter—” His gratitude was so genuine that he could not finish its expression.
” Oh, don’t speak of it,” said Coleman. ” I really didn’t do anything at all.”
The dragoman finally returned and led them all to a house which he had rented for gold. In the great, bare, upper chamber the students dropped wearily to the floor, while the woman of the house took the Wainwrights to a more secluded apartment., As the door closed on them, Coleman turned like a flash.
” Have a drink,” he said. The students arose around him like the wave of a flood. “You bet.” In the absence of changes of clothing, ordinary food, the possibility of a bath, and in the presence of great weariness and dust, Coleman’s whisky seemed to them a glistening luxury. Afterward they laid down as if to sleep, but in reality they were too dirty and too fagged to sleep. They simply lay murmuring Peter Tounley even developed a small fever.
It was at this time that Coleman. suddenly discovered his acute interest in the progressive troubles of his affair of the heart had placed the business of his newspaper in the rear of his mind. The greater part of the next hour he spent in getting off to New York that dispatch which created so much excitement for him later. Afterward he was free to reflect moodily upon the ability of Nora Black to distress him. She, with her retinue, had disappeared toward her own rooms. At dusk he went into the street, and was edified to see Nora’s dragoman dodging along in his wake. He thought that this was simply another manifestation of Nora’s interest in his movements, and so he turned a corner, and there pausing, waited until the dragoman spun around directly into his arms. But it seemed that the man had a note to deliver, and this was only his Oriental way of doing it.
The note read: ” Come and dine with me to-night.” It was, not a request. It was peremptory. “All right,” he said, scowling at the man.
He did not go at once, for he wished to reflect for a time and find if he could not evolve some weapons of his own. It seemed to him that all the others were liberally supplied with weapons.
A clear, cold night had come upon the earth when he signified to the lurking dragoman that he was in readiness to depart with him to Nora’s abode. They passed finally into a dark court-yard, up a winding staircase, across an embowered balcony, and Coleman entered alone a room where there were lights.
His, feet were scarcely over the threshold before he had concluded that the tigress was now going to try some velvet purring. He noted that the arts of the stage had not been thought too cheaply obvious for use. Nora sat facing the door. A bit of yellow silk had been twisted about the crude shape of the lamp, and it made the play of light, amber-like, shadowy and yet perfectly clear, the light which women love. She was arrayed in a puzzling gown of that kind of Gre- cian silk which is so docile that one can pull yards of it through a ring. It was of the colour of new straw. Her chin was leaned pensively upon her palm and the light fell on a pearly rounded forearm. She was looking at him with a pair of famous eyes, azure, per- haps-certainly purple at times-and it may be, black at odd moments-a pair of eyes that had made many an honest man’s heart jump if he thought they were looking at him. It was a vision, yes, but Coleman’s cynical knowledge of drama overpowered his sense of its beauty. He broke out brutally, in the phrases of the American street. “Your dragoman is a rubber-neck. If he keeps darking me I will simply have to kick the stuffing out of him.”
She was alone in the room. Her old lady had been instructed to have a headache and send apologies. She was not disturbed by Coleman’s words. “Sit down, Rufus, and have a cigarette, and don’t be cross, because I won’t stand it.”
He obeyed her glumly. She had placed his chair where not a charm of her could be lost upon an observant man. Evidently she did not purpose to allow him to irritate her away from her original plan. Purring was now her method, and none of his insolence could achieve a growl from the tigress. She arose, saying softly: “You look tired, almost ill, poor boy. I will give you some brandy. I have almost everything that I could think to make those Daylight people buy.” With a sweep of her hand she indicated the astonishing opulence of the possessions in different parts of the room.
As she stood over him with the brandy there came through the smoke of his cigarette the perfume of orris-root and violet.
A servant began to arrange the little cold dinner on a camp table, and Coleman saw with an enthusiasm which he could not fully master, four quart bottles of a notable brand of champagne placed in a rank on the floor.
At dinner Nora was sisterly. She watched him, waited upon him, treated him to an affectionate inti. macy for which he knew a thousand men who would have hated him. The champagne was cold.
Slowly he melted. By the time that the boy came with little cups of Turkish coffee he was at least amiable. Nora talked dreamily. ” The dragoman says this room used to be part of the harem long ago.” She shot him a watchful glance, as if she had expected the fact to affect him. “Seems curious, doesn’t it? A harem. Fancy that.” He smoked one cigar and then discarded tobacco, for the perfume of orris-root and violet was making him meditate. Nora talked on in a low voice. She knew that, through half-closed lids, he was looking at her in steady speculation. She knew that she was conquering, but no movement of hers betrayed an elation. With the most exquisite art she aided his contemplation, baring to him, for instance, the glories of a statuesque neck, doing it all with the manner of a splendid and fabulous virgin who knew not that there was such a thing as shame. Her stockings were of black silk.
Coleman presently answered her only in monosyllable, making small distinction between yes and no. He simply sat watching her with eyes in which there were two little covetous steel-coloured flames.
He was thinking, “To go to the devil-to go to the devil-to go to the devil with this girl is not a bad fate-not a bad fate-not a bad fate.”
” Come out on the balcony,” cooed Nora. “There are some funny old storks on top of some chimneys near here and they clatter like mad all day and night.”
They moved together out to the balcony, but Nora retreated with a little cry when she felt the coldness of the night. She said that she would get a cloak. Coleman was not unlike a man in a dream. He walked to the rail of the balcony where a great vine climbed toward the roof. He noted that it was dotted with. blossoms, which in the deep purple of the Oriental night were coloured in strange shades of maroon. This truth penetrated his abstraction until when Nora came she found him staring at them as if their colour was a revelation which affected him vitally. She moved to his side without sound and he first knew of her presence from the damning fragrance. She spoke just above her breath. “It’s a beautiful evening.” ” Yes,” he answered. She was at his shoulder. If he moved two inches he must come in contact. They remained in silence leaning upon the rail. Finally he began to mutter some commonplaces which meant nothing particularly, but into his tone as he mouthed them was the note of a forlorn and passionate lover. Then as if by accident he traversed the two inches and his shoulder was against the soft and yet firm shoulder of Nora Black. There was something in his throat at this time which changed his voice into a mere choking noise. She did not move. He could see her eyes glowing innocently out of the pallour which the darkness gave to her face. If he was touching her, she did not seem to know it.
“I am awfully tired,” said Coleman, thickly. “I think I will go home and turn in.”
” You must be, poor boy,” said Nora tenderly.
“Wouldn’t you like a little more of that champagne?”
” Well, I don’t mind another glass.”
She left him again and his galloping thought pounded to the old refrain. ” To go to the devil-to go to the devil-to go to the devil with this girl is not a bad fate-not a bad fate- not a bad fate.” When she returned he drank his glass of champagne. Then he mumbled: ” You must be cold. Let me put your cape around you better. It won’t do to catch cold here, you know.”
She made a sweet pretence of rendering herself to his care. ” Oh, thanks * * * I am not really cold * * * There that’s better.”
Of course all his manipulation of the cloak had been a fervid caress, and although her acting up to this point had remained in the role of the splendid and fabulous virgin she now turned her liquid eyes to his with a look that expressed knowledge, triumph and delight. She was sure of her victory. And she said: “Sweetheart * * * don’t you think I am as nice as Marjory ?” The impulse had been airily confident.
It was as if the silken cords had been parted by the sweep of a sword. Coleman’s face had instantly stiffened and he looked like a man suddenly recalled to the ways of light. It may easily have been that in a moment he would have lapsed again to his luxurious dreaming. But in his face the girl had read a fatal character to her blunder and her resentment against him took precedence of any other emotion. She wheeled abruptly from him and said with great contempt: ” Rufus, you had better go home. You’re tired and sleepy, and more or less drunk.”
He knew that the grand tumble of all their little embowered incident could be neither stayed or mended. “Yes,” he answered, sulkily, “I think so too.” They shook hands huffily and he went away.
When he arrived among the students he found that they had appropriated everything of his which would conduce to their comfort. He was furious over it. But to his bitter speeches they replied in jibes.
“Rufus is himself again. Admire his angelic disposition. See him smile. Gentle soul.”
A sleepy voice said from a comer: ” I know what pinches him.”
” What ? ” asked several.
“He’s been to see Nora and she flung him out bodily.”
” Yes?” sneered Coleman. “At times I seem to see in you, Coke, the fermentation of some primeval form of sensation, as if it were possible for you to de- velop a mind in two or three thousand years, and then at other times you appear * * * much as you are now.”
As soon as they had well measured Coleman’s temper all of the students save Coke kept their mouths tightly closed. Coke either did not understand or his mood was too vindictive for silence. ” Well, I know you got a throw-down all right,” he muttered.
“And how would you know when I got a throw down? You pimply, milk-fed sophomore.”
The others perked up their ears in mirthful appreciation of this language.
” Of course,” continued Coleman, ” no one would protest against your continued existence, Coke, unless you insist on recalling yourself violently to people’s attention in this way. The mere fact of your living would not usually be offensive to people if you weren’t eternally turning a sort of calcium light on your prehensile attributes.”
Coke was suddenly angry, angry much like a peasant, and his anger first evinced itself in a mere sputtering and spluttering. Finally he got out a rather long speech, full of grumbling noises, but he was understood by all to declare that his prehensile attributes had not led him to cart a notorious woman about the world with him. When they quickly looked at Coleman they saw that he was livid. ” You-“
But, of course, there immediately arose all sorts of protesting cries from the seven non-combatants. Coleman, as he took two strides toward Coke’s corner, looked fully able to break him across his knee, but for this Coke did not seem to care at all. He was on his feet with a challenge in his eye. Upon each cheek burned a sudden hectic spot. The others were clamouring, “Oh, say, this won’t do. Quit it. Oh, we mustn’t have a fight. He didn’t mean it, Coleman.” Peter Tounley pressed Coke to the wall saying: ” You damned young jackass, be quiet.”
They were in the midst of these. festivities when a door opened and disclosed the professor. He might. have been coming into the middle of a row in one of the corridors of the college at home only this time he carried a candle. His speech, however, was a Washurst speech : ” Gentlemen, gentlemen, what does this mean ? ” All seemed to expect Coleman to make the answer. He was suddenly very cool. “Nothing, professor,” he said, ” only that this-only that Coke has insulted me. I suppose that it was only the irresponsibility of a boy, and I beg that you will not trouble over it.”
” Mr. Coke,” said the professor, indignantly, ” what have you to say to this? ” Evidently he could not clearly see Coke, and he peered around his candle at where the virtuous Peter Tounley was expostulating with the young man. The figures of all the excited group moving in the candle light caused vast and uncouth shadows to have conflicts in the end of the room.
Peter Tounley’s task was not light, and beyond that he had the conviction that his struggle with Coke was making him also to appear as a rowdy. This conviction was proven to be true by a sudden thunder from the old professor, ” Mr. Tounley, desist ! “
In wrath he desisted and Coke flung himself forward. He paid less attention to the professor than if the latter had been a jack-rabbit. ” You say I insulted you? he shouted crazily in Coleman’s face.
“Well * * * I meant to, do you see ? “
Coleman was glacial and lofty beyond everything. “I am glad to have you admit the truth of what I have said.”
Coke was, still suffocating with his peasant rage, which would not allow him to meet the clear, calm expressions of Coleman. “Yes * * * I insulted you * * * I insulted you because what I said was correct * * my prehensile attributes * * yes but I have never—-“
He was interrupted by a chorus from the other students. “Oh, no, that won’t do. Don’t say that. Don’t repeat that, Coke.”
Coleman remembered the weak bewilderment of the little professor in hours that had not long passed, and it was with something of an impersonal satisfac- tion that he said to himself: ” The old boy’s got his war-paint on again.” The professor had stepped sharply up to Coke and looked at him with eyes that seemed to throw out flame and heat. There was a moment’s pause, and then the old scholar spoke, bit- ing his words as if they were each a short section of steel wire. ” Mr. Coke, your behaviour will end your college career abruptly and in gloom, I promise you. You have been drinking.”
Coke, his head simply floating in a sea of universal defiance, at once blurted out: ” Yes, sir.”
“You have been drinking?” cried the professor, ferociously. “Retire to your-retire to your—-retire—” And then in a voice of thunder he shouted: “Retire.”
Whereupon seven hoodlum students waited a decent moment, then shrieked with laughter. But the old professor would have none of their nonsense. He quelled them all with force and finish.
Coleman now spoke a few words.” Professor, I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I should be concerned in any such riot as this, and since we are doomed to be bound so closely into each other’s society I offer myself without reservation as being willing to repair the damage as well as may be, done. I don t see how I can forget at once that Coke’s conduct was insolently unwarranted, but * * * if he has anything to sayof a nature that might heal the
breach I would be willing to to meet him in the openest manner.” As he made these re- marks Coleman’s dignity was something grand, and, Morever, there was now upon his face that curious look of temperance and purity which had been noted in New York as a singular physical characteristic. If he. was guilty of anything in this affair at all-in fact, if he had ever at any time been guilty of anything- no mark had come to stain that bloom of innocence. The professor nodded in the fullest appreciation and sympathy. ” Of course * * * really there is no other sleeping placeI suppose it would be better-” Then he again attacked Coke. “Young man, you have chosen an unfortunate moment to fill us with a suspicion that you may not be a gentleman. For the time there is nothing to be done with you.” He addressed the other students. ” There is nothing for me to do, young gentleman, but to leave Mr. Coke in your care. Good-night, sirs. Good-night, Coleman.” He left the room with his candle.
When Coke was bade to ” Retire ” he had, of course, simply retreated fuming to a corner of the room where he remained looking with yellow eyes like an animal from a cave. When the others were able to see through the haze of mental confusion they found that Coleman was with deliberation taking off his boots. ” Afterward, when he removed his waist-coat, he took great care to wind his large gold watch.
The students, much subdued, lay again in their places, and when there was any talking it was of an extremely local nature, referring principally to the floor As being unsuitable for beds and also referring from time to time to a real or an alleged selfishness on the part of some one of the recumbent men. Soon there was only the sound of heavy breathing.
When the professor had returned to what he called the Wainwright part of the house he was greeted instantly with the question: “What was it?” His wife and daughter were up in alarm. “What was it ” they repeated, wildly.
He was peevish. ” Oh, nothing, nothing. But that young Coke is a regular ruffian. He had gotten him. self into some tremendous uproar with Coleman. When I arrived he seemed actually trying to assault him. Revolting! He had been drinking. Coleman’s behaviour, I must say, was splendid. Recognised at once the delicacy of my position-he not being a student. If I had found him in the wrong it would have been simpler than finding him in the right. Confound that rascal of a Coke.” Then, as he began a partial disrobing, he treated them to grunted scrap of information. ” Coke was quite insane * * * I feared that I couldn’t control him * * * Coleman was like ice * * * and as much as I have seen to admire in him during the last few days, this quiet beat it all. If he had not recognised my helplessness as far as he was concerned the whole thing might have been a most miserable business. He is a very fine young man.” The dissenting voice to this last tribute was the voice of Mrs. Wainwright. She said: ” Well, Coleman drinks, too-everybody knows that.”
” I know,” responded the professor, rather bashfully, but I am confident that he had not touched a drop.” Marjory said nothing.
The earlier artillery battles had frightened most of the furniture out of the houses of Arta, and there was left in this room only a few old red cushions, and the Wainwrights were camping upon the floor. Marjory was enwrapped in Coleman’s macintosh, and while the professor and his wife maintained some low talk of the recent incident she in silence had turned her cheek into the yellow velvet collar of the coat. She felt something against her bosom, and putting her hand carefully into the top pocket of the coat she found three cigars. These she took in the darkness and laid aside, telling herself to remember their position in the morning. She had no doubt that Coleman: would rejoice over them, before he could get back to, Athens where there were other good cigars.
THE ladies of the Wainwright party had not complained at all when deprived of even such civilised advantages as a shelter and a knife and fork and soap and water, but Mrs. Wainwright complained bitterly amid the half-civilisation of Arta. She could see here no excuse for the absence of several hundred things which she had always regarded as essential to life. She began at 8.30 A. M. to make both the professor and Marjory woeful with an endless dissertation upon the beds in the hotel at Athens. Of course she had not regarded them at the time as being exceptional beds * * * that was quite true, * * * but then one really never knew what one was really missing until one really missed it * * * She would never have thought that she would come to consider those Athenian beds as excellent * * * but experience is a great teacher * * * makes- one reflect upon the people who year in and year out have no beds at all, poor things. * * * Well, it made one glad if one did have a good bed, even if it was at the time on the other side of the world. If she ever reached it she did not know what could ever induce her to leave it again. * * * She would never be induced—
“‘Induced!'” snarled the professor. The word represented to him a practiced feminine misusage of truth, and at such his white warlock always arose. “” Induced!’ Out of four American women I have seen lately, you seem to be the only one who would say that you had endured this thing because you had been ‘induced’ by others to come over here. How absurd!”
Mrs. Wainwright fixed her husband with a steely eye. She saw opportunity for a shattering retort. ” You don’t mean, Harrison, to include Marjory and I in the same breath with those two women? “
The professor saw no danger ahead for himself. He merely answered: ” I had no thought either way. It did not seem important.”
” Well, it is important,” snapped Mrs. Wainwright.
” Do you know that you are speaking in the same breath of Marjory and Nora Black, the actress? “
” No,” said the professor. ” Is that so ? ” He was astonished, but he was not aghast at all. “Do you mean to say that is Nora Black, the comic opera star ? “
” That’s exactly who she is,” said Mrs. Wainwright, dramatically. ” And I consider that-I consider that Rufus Coleman has done no less than-misled us.”
This last declaration seemed to have no effect upon the professor’s pure astonishment, but Marjory looked at her mother suddenly. However, she said no word, exhibiting again that strange and, inscrutable countenance which masked even the tiniest of her maidenly emotions.
Mrs. Wainwright was triumphant, and she immediately set about celebrating her victory. ” Men never see those things,” she said to her husband. ” Men never see those things. You would have gone on forever without finding out that your-your- hospitality was, being abused by that Rufus Coleman.”
The professor woke up.” Hospitality ?” he said, indignantly. ” Hospitality ? I have not had any hospitality to be abused. Why don’t you talk sense? It is not that, but-it might-” He hesitated and then spoke slowly. ” It might be very awkward. Of course one never knows anything definite about such people, but I suppose * * * Anyhow, it was strange in Coleman to allow her to meet us. “
“It Was all a pre-arranged plan,” announced the triumphant Mrs. Wainwright. ” She came here on putpose to meet Rufus Coleman, and he knew it, and I should not wonder if they had not the exact spot picked out where they were going to meet.”
“I can hardly believe that,” said the professor, in distress. “I can, hardly believe that. It does, not seem to me that Coleman–“
” Oh yes. Your dear Rufus Coleman,” cried Mrs. Wainwright. ” You think he is very fine now. But I can remember when you didn’t think—“
And the parents turned together an abashed look at their daughter. The professor actually flushed with shame. It seemed to him that he had just committed an atrocity upon the heart of his child. The instinct of each of them was to go to her and console her in their arms. She noted it immediately, and seemed to fear it. She spoke in a clear and even voice. ” I don’t think, father, that you should distress me by supposing that I am concerned at all if Mr. Coleman cares to get Nora Black over here.”
” Not at all,” stuttered the professor. ” I—“
Mrs. Wainwright’s consternation turned suddenly to, anger. ” He is a scapegrace. A rascal. A– a–“
” Oh,” said Marjory, coolly, ” I don’t see why it isn’t his own affair. He didn’t really present her to you, mother, you remember? She seemed quite to force her way at first, and then you-you did the rest. It should be very easy to avoid her, now that we are out of the wilderness. And then it becomes a private matter of Mr. Coleman’s. For my part, I rather liked her. I don’t see such a dreadful calamity.”
“Marjory!” screamed her mother. “How dreadful. Liked her! Don’t let me hear you say such shocking things.”
” I fail to see anything shocking,” answered Marjory, stolidly.
The professor was looking helplessly from his daughter to his wife, and from his wife to his daughter, like a man who was convinced that his troubles would never end. This new catastrophe created a different kind of difficulty, but he considered that the difficulties were as robust as had been the preceding ones. He put on his hat and went out of the room. He felt an impossibility of saying anything to Coleman, but he felt that he must look upon him. He must look upon this man and try to know from his manner the measure of guilt. And incidentally he longed for the machinery of a finished society which prevents its parts from clashing, prevents it with its great series of I law upon law, easily operative but relentless. Here he felt as a man flung into the jungle with his wife and daughter,
where they could become the victims of any sort of savagery. His thought referred once more to what he considered the invaluable services of Coleman, and as he observed them in conjunction with the present accusation, he was simply dazed. It was then possible that one man could play two such divergent parts. He had not learned this at Washurst. But no; the world was not such a bed of putrefaction. He would not believe it; he would not believe it.
After adventures which require great nervous en. durance, it is only upon the second or third night that the common man sleeps hard. The students had expected to slumber like dogs on the first night after their trials. but none slept long, And few slept.
Coleman was the first man to arise. When he left the room the students were just beginning to blink. He took his dragoman among the shops and he bought there all the little odds and ends which might go to make up the best breakfast in Arta. If he had had news of certain talk he probably would not have been buying breakfast for eleven people. Instead, he would have been buying breakfast for one. During his absence the students arose and performed their frugal toilets. Considerable attention was paid to Coke by the others. ” He made a monkey of you,” said Peter Tounley with unction. ” He twisted you until you looked like a wet, grey rag. You had better leave this wise guy alone.”
It was not the night nor was it meditation that had taught Coke anything, but he seemed to have learned something from the mere lapse of time. In appearance he was subdued, but he managed to make a temporary jauntiness as he said : ” Oh, I don’t know.”
” Well, you ought to know,” said he who was called Billie. “You ought to know. You made an egregious snark of yourself. Indeed, you sometimes resembled a boojum. Anyhow, you were a plain chump. You exploded your face about something of which you knew nothing, and I’m damned if I believe you’d make even a good retriever.”
“You’re a half-bred water-spaniel,” blurted Peter Tounley. “And,” he added, musingly, “that is a pretty low animal.”
Coke was argumentative. “Why am I? ” he asked, turning his head from side to side. ” I don’t see where I was so wrong.”
” Oh, dances, balloons, picnics, parades and ascensions,” they retorted, profanely. ” You swam voluntarily into water that was too deep for you. Swim out. Get dry. Here’s a towel.”
Coke, smitten in the face with a wet cloth rolled into a ball, grabbed it and flung it futilely at a well-dodging companion ” No,” he cried, ” I don’t see it. Now look here. I don’t see why we shouldn’t all resent this Nora Black business.”
One student said: “Well, what’s the matter with Nora B lack, anyhow ?”
Another student said “I don’t see how you’ve been issued any license to say things about Nora Black.”
Another student said dubiously: ” Well, he knows her well.”
And then three or four spoke at once. ” He was very badly rattled when she appeared upon the scene.”
Peter Tounley asked: “Well, which of you people know anything wrong about Nora Black? “
There was a pause, and then Coke said: ” Oh, of course-I don’t know-but-“
He who was called Billie then addressed his com- panions. ” It wouldn’t be right to repeat any old lie about Nora Black, and by the same token it wouldn’t be right to see old Mother Wainwright chummin’ with her. There is no wisdom in going further than that. Old Mother Wainwright don’t know that her fair companion of yesterday is the famous comic opera star. For my part, I believe that Coleman is simply afraid to tell her. I don’t think he wished to see Nora Black yesterday any more than he wished to see the devil. The discussion, as I understand itconcerned itself only with what Coleman had to do with the thing, and yesterday anybody could see that he was in a panic.”
They heard a step on the stair, and directly Coleman entered, followed by his dragoman. They were laden with the raw material for breakfast. The correspondent looked keenly among the students, for it was plain that they had been talking of him. It, filled him with rage, and for a stifling moment he could not think why he failed to immediately decamp in chagrin and leave eleven orphans to whatever fate. their general incompetence might lead them. It struck him as a deep shame that even then he and his paid man were carrying in the breakfast. He wanted to fling it all on the floor and walk out. Then he remembered Marjory. She was the reason. She was the reason for everything.
But he could not repress certain, of his thoughts. “Say, you people,” he said, icily, ” you had better soon learn to hustle for yourselves. I may be a dragoman, and a butler, and a cook, and a housemaid, but I’m blowed if I’m a wet nurse.” In reality, he had taken the most generous pleasure in working for the others before their eyes had even been opened from sleep, but it was now all turned to wormwood. It is certain that even this could not have deviated this executive man from labour and management. because these were his life. But he felt that he was about to walk out of the room, consigning them all to Hades. His glance of angry, reproach fastened itself mainly upon Peter Tounley, because he knew that of all, Peter was the most innocent.
Peter, Tounley was abashed by this glance. So you’ve brought us something to eat, old man. That is tremendously nice of you-we-appreciate it like everything.”
Coleman was mollified by Peter’s tone. Peter had had that emotion which is equivalent to a sense of guilt, although in reality he was speckless. Two or three of the other students bobbed up to a sense of the situation. They ran to Coleman, and with polite cries took his provisions from him. One dropped a bunch of lettuce on the floor, and others reproached him with scholastic curses. Coke was seated near the window, half militant, half conciliatory. It was
impossible for him to keep up a manner of deadly enmity while Coleman was bringing in his breakfast. He would have much preferred that Coleman had not brought in his breakfast. He would have much preferred to have foregone breakfast altogether. He would have much preferred anything. There seemed to be a conspiracy of circumstance to put him in the wrong and make him appear as a ridiculous young peasant. He was the victim of a benefaction, and he hated Coleman harder now than at any previous time. He saw that if he stalked out and took his breakfast alone in a cafe, the others would consider him still more of an outsider. Coleman had expressed himself like a man of the world and a gentleman, and Coke was convinced that he was a superior man of the world and a superior gentleman, but that he simply had not had words to express his position at the proper time. Coleman was glib. Therefore, Coke had been the victim of an attitude as well as of a benefaction. And so he deeply hated Coleman.
The others were talking cheerfully. “What the deuce are these, Coleman ? Sausages? Oh, my. And look at these burlesque fishes. Say, these Greeks don’t care what they eat. Them thar things am sardines in the crude state. No ? Great God, look at those things. Look. What? Yes, they are. Radishes. Greek synonym for radishes.”
The professor entered. ” Oh,” he said apologetically, as if he were intruding in a boudoir. All his serious desire to probe Coleman to the bottom ended in embarrassment. Mayhap it was not a law of feeling, but it happened at any rate. ” He had come in a puzzled frame of mind, even an accusative frame of mind, and almost immediately he found himself suffer. ing like a culprit before his judge. It is a phenomenon of what we call guilt and innocence.
” Coleman welcomed him cordially. ” Well, professor, good-morning. I’ve rounded up some things that at least may be eaten.”
” You are very good ” very considerate, Mr. Coleman,” answered the professor, hastily. ” I’am sure we are much indebted to you.” He had scanned the correspondent’s face, land it had been so devoid of guile that he was fearful that his suspicion, a base suspicion, of this noble soul would be detected. ” No, no, we can never thank you enough.”
Some of the students began to caper with a sort of decorous hilarity before their teacher. ” Look at the sausage, professor. Did you ever see such sausage ” Isn’t it salubrious ” And see these other things, sir. Aren’t they curious ” I shouldn’t wonder if they were alive. Turnips, sir? No, sir. I think they are Pharisees. I have seen a Pharisee look like a pelican, but I have never seen a Pharisee look like a turnip, so I think these turnips must be Pharisees, sir, Yes, they may be walrus. We’re not sure. Anyhow, their angles are geometrically all wrong. Peter, look out.” Some green stuff was flung across the room. The professor laughed; Coleman laughed. Despite Coke, dark-browed, sulking. and yet desirous of reinstating himself, the room had waxed warm with the old college feeling, the feeling of lads who seemed never to treat anything respectfully and yet at the same time managed to treat the real things with respect. The professor himself contributed to their wild carouse over the strange Greek viands. It was a vivacious moment common to this class in times of relaxation, and it was understood perfectly.
Coke arose. ” I don’t see that I have any friends here,” he said, hoarsely, ” and in consequence I don’t see why I should remain here.”
All looked at him. At the same moment Mrs. Wainwright and Marjory entered the room.
“Good-morning,” said Mrs. Wainwright jovially to the students and then she stared at Coleman as if he were a sweep at a wedding.
” Good-morning,” said Marjory.
Coleman and the students made reply. ” Good-morning. Good-morning. Good-morning. Good-morning–“
It was curious to see this greeting, this common phrase, this bit of old ware, this antique, come upon a dramatic scene and pulverise it. Nothing remained but a ridiculous dust. Coke, glowering, with his lips still trembling from heroic speech, was an angry clown, a pantaloon in rage. Nothing was to be done to keep him from looking like an ass. He, strode toward the door mumbling about a walk before breakfast.
Mrs. Wainwright beamed upon him. ” Why, Mr. Coke, not before breakfast ? You surely won’t have time.” It was grim punishment. He appeared to go blind, and he fairly staggered out of the door mumbling again, mumbling thanks or apologies or explanations. About the mouth of Coleman played a sinister smile. The professor cast. upon his wife a glance expressing weariness. It was as if he said ” There you go again. You can’t keep your foot out of it.” She understood the glance, and so she asked blankly: “Why, What’s the matter? Oh.” Her belated mind grasped that it waw an aftermath of the quarrel of Coleman and Coke. Marjory looked as if she was distressed in the belief that her mother had been stupid. Coleman was outwardly serene. It was Peter Tounley who finally laughed a cheery, healthy laugh and they all looked at him with gratitude as if his sudden mirth had been a real statement or recon- ciliation and consequent peace.
The dragoman and others disported themselves until a breakfast was laid upon the floor. The adventurers squatted upon the floor. They made a large company. The professor and Coleman discussed the means of getting to Athens. Peter Tounley sat next to Marjory. ” Peter,” she said, privately, ” what was all this trouble between Coleman and Coke ? “
Peter answered blandly: ” Oh, nothing at Nothing at all.”
” Well, but–” she persisted, ” what was the cause of it?”
He looked at her quaintly. He was not one of those in love with her, but be was interested in the affair. ” Don’t you know ? ” he asked.
She understood from his manner that she had been some kind of an issue in the quarrel. ” No,” she answered, hastily. ” I don’t.”
“Oh, I don’t mean that,” said Peter. “I only meant –I only meant–oh, well, it was nothing-really.”
” It must have been about something,” continued Marjory. She continued, because Peter had denied that she was concerned in it. ” Whose fault ? “
“I really don’t know. It was all rather confusing,” lied Peter, tranquilly.
Coleman and the professor decided to accept a plan of the correspondent’s dragoman to start soon on the first stage of the journey to Athens. The dragoman had said that he had found two large carriages rentable.
Coke, the outcast, walked alone in the narrow streets. The flight of the crown prince’s army from Larissa had just been announced in Arta, but Coke was probably the most woebegone object on the Greek peninsula.
He encountered a strange sight on the streets. A woman garbed in the style for walking of an afternoon on upper Broadway was approaching him through a mass of kilted mountaineers and soldiers in soiled overcoats. Of course he recognised Nora Black.
In his conviction that everybody in the world was at this time considering him a mere worm, he was sure that she would not heed him. Beyond that he had been presented to her notice in but a transient and cursory fashion. But contrary to his conviction, she turned a radiant smile upon him. ” Oh,” she said, brusquely, ” you are one of the students. Good morning.” In her manner was all the confidence of an old warrior, a veteran, who addresses the universe with assurance because of his past battles.
Coke grinned at this strange greeting. ” Yes, Miss Black,” he answered, ” I am one of the students.”
She did not seem to quite know how to formulate her next speech. ” Er-I suppose you’re going to Athens at once ” You must be glad after your horrid experiences.”
” I believe they are going to start for Athens today,” said Coke.
Nora was all attention. “‘They ?'” she repeated. “Aren’t you going with them? “
” Well,” he said, ” * * Well—“
She saw of course that there had been some kind of trouble. She laughed. ” You look as if somebody had kicked you down stairs,” she said, candidly. She at once assumed an intimate manner toward him which was like a temporary motherhood. ” Come, walk with me and tell me all about it.” There was in her tone a most artistic suggestion that whatever had happened she was on his side. He was not loath. The street was full of soldiers whose tongues clattered so loudly that the two foreigners might have been wandering in a great cave of the winds. ” Well, what was the row about ? ” asked Nora. ” And who was in it? “
It would have been no solace to Coke to pour out his tale even if it had been a story that he could have told Nora. He was not stopped by the fact that he had gotten himself in the quarrel because he had insulted the name of the girt at his side. He did not think of it at that time. The whole thing was now extremely vague in outline to him and he only had a dull feeling of misery and loneliness. He wanted her to cheer him.
Nora laughed again. ” Why, you’re a regular little kid. Do you mean to say you’ve come out here sulking alone because of some nursery quarrel? ” He was ruffled by her manner. It did not contain the cheering he required. ” Oh, I don’t know that I’m such a regular little kid,” he said, sullenly. ” The quarrel was not a nursery quarrel.”
“Why don’t you challenge him to a duel? ” asked Nora, suddenly. She was watching him closely.
” Who?” said Coke.
” Coleman, you stupid,” answered Nora.
They stared at each other, Coke paying her first the tribute of astonishment and then the tribute of admiration. “Why, how did you guess that?” he demanded.
” Oh,” said Nora., ” I’ve known Rufus Coleman for years, and he is always rowing with people.”
“That is just it,” cried Coke eagerly. “That is just it. I fairly hate the man. Almost all of the other fellows will stand his abuse, but it riles me, I tell you. I think he is a beast. And, of course, if you seriously meant what you said about challenging him to a duel–I mean if there is any sense in that sort of thing-I would challenge Coleman. I swear I would. I think he’s a great bluffer, anyhow. Shouldn’t wonder if he would back out. Really, I shouldn’t.
Nora smiled humourously at a house on her side of the narrow way. “I wouldn’t wonder if he did either ” she answered. After a time she said ” Well, do you mean to say that you have definitely shaken them? Aren’t you going back to Athens with them or anything? “
” I-I don’t see how I can,” he said, morosely.
” Oh,” she said. She reflected for a time. At last she turned to him archly and asked: “Some words over a lady?”
Coke looked at her blankly. He suddenly remembered the horrible facts. ” No-no-not over a lady.”
” My dear boy, you are a liar,” said Nora, freely. “You are a little unskilful liar. It was some words over a lady, and the lady’s name is Marjory Wainwright.”
Coke felt as though he had suddenly been let out of a cell, but he continued a mechanical denial. “No, no * * It wasn’t truly * * upon my word * * “
“Nonsense,” said Nora. ” I know better. Don’t you think you can fool me, you little cub. I know you’re in love with Marjory Wainwright, and you think Coleman is your rival. What a blockhead you are. Can’t you understand that people see these things?”
” Well-” stammered Coke.
“Nonsense,” said Nora again. “Don’t try to fool me, you may as well understand that it’s useless. I am too wise.”
” Well-” stammered Coke.
” Go ahead,” urged Nora. ” Tell me about it. Have it out.”
He began with great importance and solemnity. “Now, to tell you the truth * * that is why I hate him * * I hate him like anything. * * I can’t see why everybody admires him so. I don’t see anything to him myself. I don’t believe he’s got any more principle than a wolf. I wouldn’t trust him with two dollars. Why, I know stories about him that would make your hair curl. When I think of a girl like Marjory– “
His speech had become a torrent. But here Nora raised her hand. ” Oh! Oh! Oh! That will do. That will do. Don’t lose your senses. I don’t see why this girl Marjory is any too good. She is no chicken, I’ll bet. Don’t let yourself get fooled with that sort of thing.”
Coke was unaware of his incautious expressions. He floundered on. while Nora looked at him as if she wanted to wring his neck. ” No-she’s too fine and too good-for him or anybody like him-she’s too fine and too good-“
” Aw, rats,” interrupted Nora, furiously. “You make me tired.”
Coke had a wooden-headed conviction that he must make Nora understand Marjory’s infinite superiority to all others of her sex, and so he passed into a pariegyric, each word of which was a hot coal to the girl addressed. Nothing would stop him, apparently. He even made the most stupid repetitions. Nora finally stamped her foot formidably. “Will you stop? Will you stop ? ” she said through her clenched teeth. ” Do you think I want to listen to your everlasting twaddle about her? Why, she’s-she’s no better than other people, you ignorant little mamma’s boy. She’s no better than other people, you swab! “
Coke looked at her with the eyes of a fish. He did not understand. “But she is better than other people,” he persisted.
Nora seemed to decide suddenly that there would be no accomplishment in flying desperately against this rock-walled conviction. ” Oh, well,” she said, with marvellous good nature, ” perhaps you are right, numbskull. But, look here; do you think she cares for him?”
In his heart, his jealous heart, he believed that Marjory loved Coleman, but he reiterated eternally to himself that it was not true. As for speaking it to, another, that was out of the question. ” No,” he said, stoutly, ” she doesn’t care a snap for him.” If he had admitted it, it would have seemed to him that. he was somehow advancing Coleman’s chances.
“‘Oh, she doesn’t, eh ?” said Nora enigmatically.
“She doesn’t?” He studied her face with an abrupt, miserable suspicion, but he repeated doggedly: ” No, she doesn’t.”
“Ahem,” replied Nora. ” Why, she’s set her cap for him all right. She’s after him for certain. It’s as plain as day. Can’t you see that, stupidity ?”
“No,” he said hoarsely.
“You are a fool,” said Nora. ” It isn’t Coleman that’s after her. It is she that is after Coleman.”
Coke was mulish. ” No such thing. Coleman’s crazy about her. Everybody has known it ever since he was in college. You ask any of the other fellows.”
Nora was now very serious, almost doleful. She remained still for a time, casting at Coke little glances of hatred. ” I don’t see my way clear to ask any of the other fellows,” she said at last, with considerable bitterness. ” I’m not in the habit of conducting such enquiries.”
Coke felt now that he disliked her, and he read plainly her dislike of him. If they were the two villains of the play, they were not having fun together at all. Each had some kind of a deep knowledge that their aspirations, far from colliding, were of such character that the success of one would mean at least assistance to the other, but neither could see how to confess if. Pethapt it was from shame, perhaps it was because Nora thought Coke to have little wit ; perhaps it was because Coke thought Nora to have little conscience. Their talk was mainly rudderless. From time to time Nora had an inspiration to come boldly at the point, but this inspiration was commonly defeated by, some extraordinary manifestation of Coke’s incapacity. To her mind, then, it seemed like a proposition to ally herself to a butcher-boy in a matter purely sentimental. She Wondered indignantly how she was going to conspire With this lad, who puffed out his infantile cheeks in order to conceitedly demonstrate that he did not understand the game at all. She hated Marjory for it. Evidently it was only the weaklings who fell in love with that girl. Coleman was an exception, but then, Coleman was misled, by extraordinary artifices. She meditatecf for a moment if she should tell Coke to go home and not bother her. What at last decided the question was his unhappiness. Shd clung to this unhappiness for its value as it stood alone, and because its reason for existence was related to her own unhappiness. ” You Say you are not going back toAthens with your party. I don’t suppose you’re going to stay here. I’m going back to Athens to-day. I came up here to see a battle, but it doesn’t seem that there are to be any more battles., The fighting will now all be on the other side of’the mountains.” Apparent she had learned in some haphazard way that the Greek peninsula was divided by a spine of almost inaccessible mountains, and the war was thus split into two simultaneous campaigns. The Arta campaign was known to be ended. “If you want to go back to Athens without consorting with your friends, you had better go back with me. I can take you in my carriage as far as the beginning of the railroad. Don’t you worry. You’ve got money enough, haven’t you ? The pro- fessor isn’t keeping your money ?”
“Yes,” he said slowly, “I’ve got money enough.” He was apparently dubious over the proposal. In their abstracted walk they had arrived in front of the house occupied by Coleman and the Wainwright party. Two carriages, forlorn in dusty age, stood be- fore the door. Men were carrying out new leather luggage and flinging it into the traps amid a great deal of talk which seemed to refer to nothing. Nora and Coke stood looking at the scene without either thinking of the importance of running away, when out tumbled seven students, followed immediately but in more decorous fashion by the Wainwrights and Coleman.
Some student set up a whoop. ” Oh, there he is. There’s Coke. Hey, Coke, where you been? Here he is, professor.”
For a moment after the hoodlum had subsided, the two camps stared at each other in silence.
NORA and Coke were an odd looking pair at the time. They stood indeed as if rooted to the spot, staring vacuously, like two villagers, at the surprising travellers. It was not an eternity before the practiced girl of the stage recovered her poise, but to the end of the incident the green youth looked like a culprit and a fool. Mrs. Wainwright’s glower of offensive incredulity was a masterpiece. Marjory nodded pleasantly; the professor nodded. The seven students clambered boisterously into the forward carriage making it clang with noise like a rook’s nest. They shouted to Coke. ” Come on; all aboard; come on, Coke; – we’re off. Hey, there, Cokey, hurry up.” The professor, as soon as he had seated himself on the forward seat of’ the second carriage, turned in Coke’s general direction and asked formally: ” Mr. Coke, you are coming with us ? ” He felt seemingly much in doubt as to the propriety of abandoning the headstrong young man, and this doubt was not at all decreased by Coke’s appearance with Nora Black. As far as he could tell, any assertion of authority on his part would end only in a scene in which Coke would probably insult him with some gross violation of collegiate conduct. As at first the young man made no reply, the professor after waiting spoke again. “You understand, Mr. Coke, that if you separate yourself from the party you encounter my strongest disapproval, and if I did not feel responsible to the college and your father for your safe journey to New York I-I don’t know but what I would have you ex- pelled by cable if that were possible.”
Although Coke had been silent, and Nora Black had had the appearance of being silent, in reality she had lowered her chin and whispered sideways and swiftly. She had said: ” Now, here’s your time. Decide quickly, and don’t look such a wooden Indian.” Coke pulled himself together with a visible effort, and spoke to the professor from an inspiration in which he had no faith. ” I understand my duties to you, sir, perfectly. I also understand my duty to the college. But I fail to see where either of these obligations require me to accept the introduction of objectionable people into the party. If I owe a duty to the college and to you, I don’t owe any to Coleman, and, as I understand it, Coleman was not in the original plan of this expedition. If such had been the case, I would not have been here. I can’t tell what the college may see fit to do, but as for my father I I have no doubt of how he will view it.”
The first one to be electrified by the speech was Coke himself. He saw with a kind of sub-conscious amazement this volley of bird-shot take effect upon the face of the old professor. The face of Marjory flushed crimson as if her mind had sprung to a fear that if Coke could develop ability in this singular fashion he might succeed in humiliating her father in the street in the presence of the seven students, her mother, Coleman and-herself. She had felt the bird- shot sting her father.
When Coke had launched forth, Coleman with his legs stretched far apart had just struck a match on the wall of the house and was about to light a cigar. His groom was leading up his horse. He saw the value of Coke’s argument more appreciatively and sooner perhaps than did Coke. The match dropped from his fingers, and in the white sunshine and still air it burnt on the pavement orange coloured and with langour. Coleman held his cigar with all five fingers-in a manner out of all the laws of smoking. He turned toward Coke. There was danger in the moment, but then in a flash it came upon him that his role was not of squabbling with Coke, far less of punching him. On the contrary, he was to act the part of a cool and instructed man who refused to be waylaid into foolishness by the outcries of this pouting youngster and who placed himself in complete deference to the wishes of the professor. Before the professor had time to embark upon any reply to Coke, Coleman was at the side of the carriage and, with a fine assumption of distress, was saying: “Professor, I could very easily ride back to Agrinion alone. It would be all right. I don’t want to-“
To his surprise the professor waved at him to be silent as if he were a mere child. The old man’s face was set with the resolution of exactly what hewas going to say to Coke. He began in measured tone, speaking with feeling, but with no trace of anger.
” Mr. Coke, it has probably escaped your attention that Mr. Coleman, at what I consider a great deal of peril to himself, came out to rescue this party-you and others-and although he studiously disclaims all merit in his finding us and bringing us in, I do not regard it in that way, and I am surprised that any member of this party should conduct himself in this manner toward a man who has been most devotedly and generously at our service.” It was at this time that the professor raised himself and shook his finger at Coke, his voice now ringing with scorn. In such moments words came to him and formed themselves into sentences almost too rapidly for him to speak them. ” You are one of the most remarkable products of our civilisation which I have yet come upon. What do you mean, sir? Where are your senses? Do you think that all this pulling and pucking is manhood? I will tell you what I will do with you. I thought I brought out eight students to Greece, but when I find that I brought out, seven students and–er–an–ourang-outang–don’t get angry, sir–I don’t care for your anger–I say when I discover this I am naturally puzzled for a moment. I will leave you to the judgment of your peers. Young gentlemen! “
Of the seven heads of the forward carriage none had to be turned. All had been turned since the beginning of the talk. If the professor’s speech had been delivered in one of the class-rooms of Washurst they would have glowed with delight over the butchery of Coke, but they felt its portentous aspect. Butchery here in Greece thousands of miles from home presented to them more of the emphasis of downright death and destruction. The professor called out ” Young gentlemen, I have done all that I can do without using force, which, much to my regret, is impracticable. If you will persuade your fellow student to accompany you I think our consciences will be the better for not having left a weak minded brother alone among the by-paths.”
The valuable aggregation of intelligence and refine- ment which decorated the interior of the first carriage did not hesitate over answering this appeal. In fact, his fellow students had worried among themselves over Coke, and their desire to see him come out of his troubles in fair condition was intensified by the fact that they had lately concentrated much thought upon him. There was a somewhat comic pretense of speaking so that only Coke could hear. Their chorus was law sung. ” Oh, cheese it, Coke. Let up on your-self, you blind ass. Wait till you get to Athens and then go and act like a monkey. All this is no good-“
The advice which came from the carriage was all in one direction, and there was so much of it that the hum of voices sounded like a wind blowing through a forest.
Coke spun suddenly and said something to Nora Black. Nora laughed rather loudly, and then the two turned squarely and the Wainwright party contemplated what were surely at that time the two most insolent backs in the world.
The professor looked as if he might be going to have a fit. Mrs. Wainwright lifted her eyes toward heaven, and flinging out her trembling hands, cried: ” Oh, what an outrage. What an outrage! That minx-” The concensus of opinion in the first carriage was perfectly expressed by Peter Tounley, who with a deep drawn breath, said : ” Well, I’m damned! ” Marjory had moaned and lowered her head as from a sense of complete personal shame. Coleman lit his cigar and mounted his horse. ” Well, I suppose there is nothing for it but to be off, professor? ” His tone was full of regret, with sort of poetic regret. For a moment the professor looked at him blankly, and then gradually recovered part of his usual manner. ” Yes,” he said sadly, ” there is nothing for it but to go on.” At a word from the dragoman, the two impatient drivers spoke gutturally to their horses and the car- riages whirled out of Arta. Coleman, his dragoman and the groom trotted in the dust from the wheels of the Wainwright carriage. The correspondent always found his reflective faculties improved by the constant