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Chapter 14


CHAPTER XIV.

"OH," said a student, " this game ought to quit. I feel like
thirty cents. We didn't come out here to be pursued about the
country by these Turks. Why don't they stop it ?"

Coleman was remarking: "Really, the only sensible thing to
do now is to have breakfast. There is no use in worrying
ourselves silly over this thing until we've got to."

They spread the blankets on the ground and sat about a
feast of bread, water cress and tinned beef. Coleman was the
real host, but he contrived to make the professor appear as that
honourable person. They ate, casting their eyes from time to
time at the distant mountain with its two shadows. People
began to fly down the road from Jannina, peasants hurriedly
driving little flocks, women and children on donkeys and little
horses which they clubbed unceasingly. One man rode at a
gallop, shrieking and flailing his arms in the air. They were all
Christian peasants of Turkey, but they were in flight now
because they did not wish to be at home if the Turk was going
to return and reap revenge for his mortification. The
Wainwright party looked at Coleman in abrupt questioning.

"Oh, it's all right," he said, easily. "They are always taking on
that way."

Suddenly the dragoman gave a shout and dashed up the
road to the scene of a melee where a little ratfaced groom was
vociferously defending three horses from some Greek officers,
who as vociferously were stating their right to requisition them.
Coleman ran after his dragoman. There was a sickening pow-wow,
but in the end Coleman, straight and easy in the saddle,
came cantering back on a superb open-mouthed snorting bay
horse. He did not mind if the half-wild animal plunged crazily. It
was part of his role. "They were trying to steal my horses," he
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."

Stephen Crane

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