Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 12


CHAPTER XII.

A CHANGE flashed over Coleman as if it had come from an
electric storage. He had known the professor long, but he had
never before heard a quaver in his voice, and it was this little
quaver that seemed to impel him to supreme disregard of the
dangers which he looked upon as being the final dangers. His
own voice had not quavered.

When he spoke, he spoke in a low tone, it was the voice of
the master of the situation. He could hear his dupes fluttering
there in the darkness. " Yes," he said, " I speak English. There
is some danger. Stay where you are and make no noise." He
was as cool as an iced drink. To be sure the circumstances had
in no wise changed as to his personal danger, but beyond the
important fact that there were now others to endure it with him,
he seemed able to forget it in a strange, unauthorized sense of
victory. It came from the professor's quavers.

Meanwhile he had forgotten the dragoman, but he recalled
him in time to bid him wait. Then, as well concealed as a monk
hiding in his cowl, he tip-toed back into a group of people who
knew him intimately.

He discerned two women mounted on little horses and about
them were dim men. He could hear them breathing hard. " It is
all right" he began smoothly. "You only need to be very careful---"

Suddenly out of the blackness projected a half
phosphorescent face. It was the face of the little professor. He
stammered. " We-we-do you really speak English? " Coleman in
his feeling of superb triumph could almost have laughed. His
nerves were as steady as hemp, but he was in haste and his
haste allowed him to administer rebuke to his old professor.

" Didn't you hear me ? " he hissed through his tightening lips.
" They are fighting just ahead of us on the road and if you want
to save yourselves don't waste time."

Another face loomed faintly like a mask painted in dark grey.
It belonged to Coke, and it was a mask figured in profound
stupefaction. The lips opened and tensely breathed out the
name: " Coleman." Instantly the correspondent felt about him
that kind of a tumult which tries to suppress itself. He knew that
it was the most theatric moment of his life. He glanced quickly
toward the two figures on horseback. He believed that one was
making foolish gesticulation while the other sat rigid and silent.
This latter one he knew to be Marjory. He was content that she
did not move. Only a woman who was glad he had come but did
not care for him would have moved. This applied directly to
what he thought he knew of Marjory's nature.

There was confusion among the students, but Coleman
suppressed it as in such situation might a centurion. " S-s-steady! "
He seized the arm of the professor and drew him
forcibly close. " The condition is this," he whispered rapidly.
"We are in a fix with this fight on up the road. I was sent after
you, but I can't get you into the Greek lines to-night. Mrs.Wainwright
and Marjory must dismount and I and
my man will take the horses on and hide them. All
the rest of you must go up about a hundred feet into
the woods and hide. When I come back, I'll hail you
and you answer low." The professor was like pulp in
his grasp. He choked out the word "Coleman" in
agony and wonder, but he obeyed with a palpable
gratitude. Coleman sprang to the side of the shadowy
figure of Marjory. " Come," he said authoritatively.
She laid in his palm a little icy cold hand and dropped
from her horse. He had an impulse to cling to the
small fingers, but he loosened them immediately, im-
parting to his manner, as well as the darkness per-
mitted him, a kind of casual politeness as if he were
too intent upon the business in hand.   He bunched
the crowd and pushed them into the wood. Then he
and the dragoman took the horses a hundred yards
onward and tethered them. No one would care if
they were stolen; the great point was to get them
where their noise would have no power of revealing the whole
party. There had been no further firing.

After he had tied the little grey horse to a tree he
unroped his luggage and carried the most of it back
to the point where the others had left the road. He
called out cautiously and received a sibilant answer.
He and the dragoman bunted among the trees until
they came to where a forlorn company was seated
awaiting them lifting their faces like frogs out of a
pond. His first question did not give them any
assurance. He said at once: "Are any of you
armed?" Unanimously they lowly breathed: "No."
He searched them out one by one and finally sank
down by the professor. He kept sort of a hypnotic
handcuff upon the dragoman, because he foresaw that
this man was really going to be the key to the best
means of escape. To a large neutral party wandering
between hostile lines there was technically no danger,
but actually there was a great deal. Both armies had
too many irregulars, lawless hillsmen come out to
fight in their own way, and if they were encountered
in the dead of night on such hazardous ground the
Greek hillsmen with their white cross on a blue field
would be precisely as dangerous as the blood-hungry
Albanians. Coleman knew that the rational way was
to reach the Greek lines, and he had no intention of
reaching the Greek lines without a tongue, and the
only tongue was in the mouth of the dragoman. He
was correct in thinking that the professor's deep knowledge of
the ancient language would give him small clue to the speech
of the modern Greek.

As he settled himself by the professor the band of students,
eight in number pushed their faces close.

He did not see any reason for speaking. There were thirty
seconds of deep silence in which he felt that all were bending to
hearken to his words of counsel The professor huskily broke
the stillness. Well *  * * what are we to do now? "

Coleman was decisive, indeed absolute. "We'll stay here until
daylight unless you care to get shot."

" All right," answered the professor. He turned and made a
useless remark to his flock. " Stay here."

Coleman asked civilly, " Have you had anything to eat?
Have you got anything to wrap around you ? "

" We have absolutely nothing," answered the professor. "
Our servants ran away and * * and then we left everything
behind us * * and I've never been in such a position in my life."

Coleman moved softly in the darkness and unbuckled some
of his traps. On his knee he broke the hard cakes of bread and
with his fingers he broke the little tablets of chocolate. These
he distributed to his people. And at this time he felt fully the
appreciation of the conduct of the eight American college
students They had not yet said a word-with the
exception of the bewildered exclamation from Coke. They all
knew him well. In any circumstance of life which as far as he
truly believed, they had yet encountered, they would have
been privileged to accost him in every form of their remarkable
vocabulary. They were as new to this game as, would have
been eight newly-caught Apache Indians if such were set to
run the elevators in the Tract Society Building. He could see
their eyes gazing at him anxiously and he could hear their deep-
drawn breaths. But they said no word. He knew that they were
looking upon him as their leader, almost as their saviour, and he
knew also that they were going to follow him without a murmur
in the conviction that he knew ten-fold more than they knew. It
occurred to him that his position was ludicrously false, but,
anyhow, he was glad. Surely it would be a very easy thing to
lead them to safety in the morning and he foresaw the credit
which would come to him. He concluded that it was beneath his
dignity as preserver to vouchsafe them many words. His
business was to be the cold, masterful, enigmatic man. It might
be said that these reflections were only half-thoughts in his
mind. Meanwhile a section of his intellect was flying hither and
thither, speculating upon the Circassian cavalry and the
Albanian guerillas and even the Greek outposts.

He unbuckled his blanket roll and taking one blanket placed
it about the shoulders of the shadow which was
Mrs.Wainwright. The shadow protested incoherently,. hut he
muttered "Oh that's all right." Then he took his other blanket
and went to the shadow which was
Marjory. It was something like putting a wrap about the
shoulders of a statue. He was base enough to linger in the
hopes that he could detect some slight trembling but as far as
lie knew she was of stone. His macintosh he folded around the
body of the professor amid quite senile protest, so senile that
the professor seemed suddenly proven to him as an old, old man, a fact
which had never occurred to Washurst or her children. Then he went
to the dragoman and pre-empted half of his blankets, The
dragoman grunted but Coleman  It would not do to have this dragoman
develop a luxurious temperament when eight American college
students were, without speech, shivering in the cold night.

Coleman really begun to ruminate upon his glory, but he
found that he could not do this well without Smoking, so he
crept away some distance from this fireless, encampment, and
bending his face to the ground at the foot of a tree he struck a
match and lit a cigar. His retun to the others would have been
somewhat in the manner of coolness as displayed on the stage
if he had not been prevented by the  necessity of making no
noise. He saw regarding him as before the dimly visible eyes of
the eight students and Marjory and her father and mother.
Then he whispered the conventional words. " Go to sleep if you can.
You'll need your strength in the morning. I and this man here will keep
watch." Three of the college students of course crawled up to
him and each said: " I'll keep watch, old man."
" No. We'll keep watch. You people try to sleep."

He deemed that it might be better to yield the dragoman his
blanket, and So he got up and leaned against a tree, holding his
hand to cover the brilliant point of his cigar. He knew perfectly
well that none of them could sleep. But he stood there
somewhat like a sentry without the attitude, but with all the
effect of responsibility.

He had no doubt but what escape to civilisation would be
easy, but anyhow his heroism should be preserved. He was the
rescuer. His thoughts of Marjory were somewhat in a puzzle.
The meeting had placed him in such a position that he had
expected a lot of condescension on his own part. Instead she
had exhibited about as much recognition of him as would a
stone fountain on his grandfather's place in Connecticut. This
in his opinion was not the way to greet the knight who had
come to the rescue of his lady. He had not expected it so to
happen. In fact from Athens to this place he had engaged
himself with imagery of possible meetings. He was vexed,
certainly, but, far beyond that, he knew a deeper adminiration
for this girl. To him she represented the sex, and so the
sex as embodied in her seemed a mystery to be feared. He
wondered if safety came on the morrow he would not surrender
to this feminine invulnerability. She had not done anything that
he had expected of her and so inasmuch as he loved her he
loved her more. It was bewitching. He half considered himself a
fool. But at any rate he thought resentfully she should be
thankful to him for having rendered her a great service.
However, when he came to consider this proposition he knew
that on a basis of absolute manly endeavour he had rendered
her little or no service.

The night was long.

Stephen Crane

Sorry, no summary available yet.