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Chapter 13


CHAPTER XIII.

COLEMAN suddenly found himself looking upon his pallid
dragoman. He saw that he had been asleep crouched at the foot
of the tree. Without any exchange of speech at all he knew
there had been alarming noises. Then shots sounded from
nearby. Some were from rifles aimed in that direction and some
were from rifles opposed to them. This was distinguishable to
the experienced man, but all that Coleman knew was that the
conditions of danger were now triplicated. Unconsciously he
stretched his hands in supplication over his charges. "Don't
move! Don't move! And keep close to the ground!" All heeded
him but Marjory. She still sat straight. He himself was on his
feet, but he now knew the sound of bullets, and he knew that
no bullets had spun through the trees. He could not see her
distinctly, but it was known to him in some way that she was
mutinous. He leaned toward her and spoke as harshly as
possible. "Marjory, get down! " She wavered for a moment as if
resolved to defy him. As he turned again to peer in the direction
of the firing it went through his mind that she must love him
very much indeed. He was assured of it.
It must have been some small outpour between nervous
pickets and eager hillsmen, for it ended in a moment. The party
waited  in abasement for what seemed to them a time, and the
blue dawn began, to laggardly shift the night as they waited.
The dawn itself seemed prodigiously long in arriving at
anything like discernible landscape. When this was
consummated, Coleman, in somewhat the manner of the father
of a church, dealt bits of chocolate out to the others. He had
already taken the precaution to confer with the dragoman, so he
said : " Well, come ahead. We'll make a try for it." They arose at
his bidding and followed him to the road. It was the same broad,
white road, only that the white was in the dawning something
like the grey of a veil. It took some courage to venture upon this
thoroughfare, but Coleman stepped out-after looking quickly in
both directions. The party tramped to where the horses had
been left, and there they were found without change of a rope.
Coleman rejoiced to see that his dragoman now followed him in
the way of a good lieutenant. They both dashed in among the
trees and had the horses out into the road in a twinkle. When
Coleman turned to direct that utterly subservient, group he
knew that his face was drawn from hardship and anxiety, but he
saw everywhere the same style of face with the exception of the
face of Marjory, who looked simply of lovely marble. He    
noted with a curious satisfaction, as if the thing was a tribute to
himself, that his macintosh was over the professor's shoulder,
that Marjory and her mother were each carrying a blanket, and
that, the corps of students had dutifully brought all the traps
which his dragoman had forgotten. It was grand.

He addressed them to say: " Now, approaching outposts is
very dangerous business at this time in the morning. So my
man, who can talk both Greek and Turkish, will go ahead forty
yards, and I will follow somewhere between him and you. Try
not to crowd forward."

He directed the ladies upon their horses and placed the
professor upon the little grey nag. Then they took up their line
of march. The dragoman had looked somewhat dubiously upon
this plan of having him go forty yards in advance, but he had
the utmost confidence in this new Coleman, whom yesterday he
had not known. Besides, he himself was a very gallant man
indeed, and it befitted him to take the post of danger before the
eyes of all these foreigners. In his new position he was as
proud and unreasonable as a rooster. He was continually
turning his head to scowl back at them, when only the clank of
hoofs was sounding. An impenetrable mist lay on the valley
and the hill-tops were shrouded. As for the people, they were
like mice. Coleman paid no attention to the Wainwright party,
but walked steadily along near the dragoman.

Perhaps the whole thing was a trifle absurd, but to a great
percentage, of the party it was terrible. For instance, those
eight boys, fresh from a school, could in no wise gauge the
dimensions. And if this was true of the students, it was more
distinctly true of Marjory and her mother. As for the professor,
he seemed Weighted to the earth by his love and his
responsibility.

Suddenly the dragoman wheeled and made demoniac signs.
Coleman half-turned to survey the main body, and then paid
his attention swiftly to the front. The white road sped to the top
of a hill where it seemed to make a rotund swing into oblivion.
The top of the curve was framed in foliage, and therein was a
horseman. He had his carbine slanted on his thigh, and his
bridle-reins taut. Upon sight of them he immediately wheeled
and galloped down the other slope and vanished.

The dragoman was throwing wild gestures into the air. As
Coleman looked back at the Wainwright party he saw plainly
that to an ordinary eye they might easily appear as a strong
advance of troops. The peculiar light would emphasize such
theory. The dragoman ran to him jubilantly, but he contained
now a form of intelligence which caused him to whisper; " That
was one Greek. That was one Greek-what do you call--sentree? "

Coleman addressed the others. He said: "It's all right. Come
ahead. That was a Greek picket. There is only one trouble now,
and that is to approach them easy-do you see-easy."

His obedient charges came forward at his word. When they
arrived at the top of this rise they saw nothing. Coleman was
very uncertain. He was not sure that this picket had not carried
with him a general alarm, and in that case there would soon
occur a certain amount of shooting. However, as far as he
understood the business, there was no way but forward.
Inasmuch as he did not indicate to the Wainwright party that he
wished them to do differently, they followed on doggedly after
him and the dragoman. He knew now that the dragoman's heart
had for the tenth time turned to dog-biscuit, so he kept abreast
of him. And soon together they walked into a cavalry outpost,
commanded by no less a person than the dashing young
captain, who came laughing out to meet them.

Suddenly losing all colour of war, the condition was now
such as might occur in a drawing room. Coleman felt the
importance of establishing highly conventional relations
between the captain and the Wainwright party. To compass
this he first seized his dragoman, and the dragoman,
enlightened immediately, spun a series of lies which must have
led the captain to believe that the entire heart of the American
republic had been taken out of that western continent and
transported to Greece. Coleman was proud of the captain, The
latter immediately went and bowed in the manner of the French
school and asked everybody to have a cup of coffee, although
acceptation would have proved his ruin and disgrace. Coleman
refused in the name of courtesy. He called his party forward,
and now they proceeded merely as one crowd. Marjory had
dismounted in the meantime.

The moment was come. Coleman felt it. The first rush was
from the students. Immediately he was buried in a thrashing
mob of them. "Good boy! Good boy! Great man! Oh, isn't he a
peach? How did he do it? He came in strong at the finish ! Good
boy, Coleman!" Through this mist of glowing youthful
congratulatioin he saw the professor standing at the outskirts
with direct formal thanks already moving on his lips, while near
him his wife wept joyfully. Marjory was evidently enduring
some inscrutable emotion.

After all, it did penetrate his mind that it was indecent to
accept all this wild gratitude, but there was built within him no
intention of positively declaring himself lacking in all credit, or
at least, lacking in all credit in the way their praises defined it.
In truth he had assisted them, but he had been at the time
largely engaged in assisting himself, and their coming had been
more of a boon to his loneliness than an addition to his care.
However, he soon had no difficulty in
making his conscience appropriate every line in these hymns
sung in his honour. The students, curiously wise of men,
thought his conduct quite perfect. " Oh, say, come off ! " he
protested. " Why, I didn't do anything. You fellows are crazy.
You would have gotten in all right by yourselves. Don't act like
asses-"

As soon as the professor had opportunity he came to
Coleman. He was a changed little man, and his extraordinary
bewilderment showed in his face. It was the disillusion and
amazement of a stubborn mind that had gone implacably in its
one direction and found in the end that the direction was all
wrong, and that really a certain mental machine had not been
infallible. Coleman remembered what the American minister in
Athens had described of his protests against the starting of the
professor's party on this journey, and of the complete refusal of
the professor to recognise any value in the advice. And here
now was the consequent defeat. It was mirrored in the
professor's astonished eyes. Coleman went directly to his dazed
old teacher. " Well, you're out of it now, professor," he said
warmly. " I congratulate you on your escape, sir." The
professor looked at him, helpless to express himself, but the
correspondent was at that time suddenly enveloped in the
hysterical gratitude of Mrs. Wainwright, who hurled herself
upon him with extravagant manifestations. Coleman played his
part with skill. To both the professor and Mrs. Wainwright his
manner was a combination of modestly filial affection and a
pretentious disavowal of his having done anything at all. It
seemed to charm everybody but Marjory. It irritated him to see
that she was apparently incapable of acknowledging that he was a
grand man.

He was actually compelled to go to her and offer
congratulations upon her escape, as he had congratulated the
professor.
If his manner to her parents had been filial, his manner to her
was parental. " Well, Marjory," he said kindly, "you have been
in considerable danger. I suppose you're glad to be through
with it." She at that time made no reply, but by her casual turn
he knew that he was expected to walk along by her side. The
others knew it, too, and the rest of the party left them free to
walk side by side in the rear.

" This is a beautiful country here-abouts if one gets a good
chance to see it," he remarked. Then he added: "But I suppose
you had a view of it when you were going out to Nikopolis? "

She answered in muffled tones. "Yes, we thought it very
beautiful."

Did you note those streams from the mountains " That
seemed to me the purest water I'd ever seen, but I bet it would
make one ill to drink it. There is, you know, a prominent
German chemist who has almost proven
that really pure water is practical poison to the human
stomach."

"Yes ? " she said.

There was a period of silence, during which he was perfectly
comfortable because he knew that she was ill at ease. If the
silence was awkward, she was suffering from it. As for himself,
he had no inclination to break it. His position was, as far as the
entire Wainwright party was concerned, a place where he could
afford to wait. She turned to him at last. "Of course, I know
how much you have done for us, and I want you to feel that we
all appreciate it deeply-deeply." There was discernible to the ear
a certain note of desperation.

" Oh, not at all," he said generously. " Not at all. I didn't do
anything. It was quite an accident. Don't let that trouble you
for a moment."

"Well, of course you would say that," she said more
steadily. " But I-we-we know how good and how-brave it was
in you to come for us, and I--we must never forget it."

As a matter of fact," replied Coleman, with an appearance
of ingenuous candor, " I was sent out here by the Eclipse to
find you people, and of course I worked rather hard to reach
you, but the final meeting was purely accidental and does not
redound to my credit in the least."

As he had anticipated, Marjory shot him a little glance of
disbelief. " Of course you would say that," she repeated with
gloomy but flattering conviction.

" Oh, if I had been a great hero," he said smiling, "no doubt
I would have kept up this same manner which now sets so well
upon me, but I am telling you the truth when I say that I had no
part in your rescue at all."

She became slightly indignant. " Oh, if you care to tell us
constantly that you were of no service to us, I don't see what
we can do but continue to declare that you were."

Suddenly he felt vulgar. He spoke to her this time with real
meaning. " I beg of 'you never to mention it again. That will be
the best way."

But to this she would not accede. "No, we will often want to
speak of it."

He replied "How do you like Greece? Don't you think that
some of these ruins are rather out of shape in the popular
mind? Now, for my part, I would rather look at a good strong
finish at a horserace than to see ten thousand Parthenons in a
bunch."

She was immediately in the position of defending him from
himself. "You would rather see no such thing. You shouldn't
talk in that utterly trivial way. I like the Parthenon, of course,
but I can't think of it now because my head. is too full of my
escape from where I was so-so frightened."

Coleman grinned. " Were you really frightened?"

" Naturally," she answered. " I suppose I was more
frightened for mother and father, but I was frightened enough
for myself. It was not-not a nice thing."

"No, it wasn't," said Coleman. "I could hardly believe my
senses, when the minister at Athens told me that, you all had
ventured into such a trap, and there is no doubt but what you
can be glad that you are well out of it."

She seemed to have some struggle with herself and then
she deliberately said: "Thanks to you."

Coleman embarked on what he intended to make a series of
high-minded protests. " Not at all-" but at that moment the
dragoman whirled back from the van-guard with a great
collection of the difficulties which had been gathering upon
him. Coleman was obliged to resign Marjory and again take up
the active leadership. He disposed of the dragoman's
difficulties mainly by declaring that they were not difficulties at
all. He had learned that this was the way to deal with dragomen.
The fog had already lifted from the valley and, as they
passed along the wooded mountain-side the fragrance of
leaves and earth came to them. Ahead, along the hooded road,
they could see the blue clad figures of Greek infantrymen.
Finally they passed an encampment of a battalion whose line
was at a right angle to the highway. A hundred yards in advance was the
bridge across the Louros river. And there a battery of artillery
was encamped. The dragoman became involved in all sorts of
discussions with other Greeks, but Coleman stuck to his elbow
and stifled all aimless oration. The Wainwright party waited for
them in the rear in an observant but patient group.

Across a plain, the hills directly behind Arta loomed up
showing the straight yellow scar of a modern entrenchment. To
the north of Arta were some grey mountains with a dimly
marked road winding to the summit. On one side of this road
were two shadows. It took a moment for the eye to find these
shadows, but when this was accomplished it was plain that
they were men. The captain of the battery explained to the
dragoman that he did not know that they were not also Turks.
In which case the road to Arta was a dangerous path. It was no
good news to Coleman. He waited a moment in order to gain
composure and then walked back to the Wainwright party.
They must have known at once from his peculiar gravity that all
was not well. Five of the students and the professor
immediately asked: "What is it?"

He had at first some old-fashioned idea of concealing the ill
tidings from the ladies, but he perceived what flagrant nonsense
this would be in circumstances in which all were fairly likely to
incur equal dangers, and at any rate he did not see his way clear
to allow their imagination to run riot over a situation which might not
turn out to be too bad. He said slowly: " You see those
mountains over there? Well, troops have been seen there and
the captain of this battery thinks they are Turks. If they are
Turks the road to Arta is distinctly-er-unsafe."

This new blow first affected the Wainwright party as being
too much to endure. " They thought they had gone through
enough. This was a general sentiment. Afterward the emotion
took colour according to the individual character. One student
laughed and said: " Well, I see our finish."

Another student piped out: " How do they know they are
Turks? What makes them think they are Turks "

Another student expressed himself with a sigh. "This is a
long way from the Bowery."

The professor said nothing but looked annihilated; Mrs.
Wainwright wept profoundly; Marjory looked expectantly
toward Coleman.

As for the correspondent he was adamantine and reliable
and stern, for he had not the slightest idea that those men on
the distant hill were Turks at all.


Stephen Crane

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