All the morning of April thirtieth Curtis saw nothing of Panayota. She was gone into the fields and upon the hillsides with the other women and the children of the village to gather flowers for the May-day festival. Late in the afternoon the whole town set out for Hepta-Miloi, or Seven-Mills, the place in the mountains where, year after year, they were accustomed to hold this innocent and beautiful celebration, one of the most fragrant and lovely of all the inheritances from the days of the aesthetic old gods. Laughing, singing, shouting merry sallies and replies, the procession scrambled up the stony, winding street of the village, laden with baskets and gayly colored bags filled with provisions. Everybody, too, carried flowers—flowers in baskets, in aprons, in the hands. There were donkeys and dogs innumerable. Some of the donkeys carried tables strapped to their backs, with the four legs sticking up into the air, and giving the impression that, if one of the animals should keel a somerset into a ravine, he would be sure to light upon one or the other of his two sets of feet. Upon others of these nodding, shambling little animals rode such of the villagers as could not make so arduous a journey on foot: a picturesque old man in holiday costume, resplendent in bright, new fez, ruffled shirt and gaudy sash; here and there an old woman who had made the same journey every year for the last forty years; and several strings of small children, four and five on a donkey’s backbone, like monkeys on a limb or kidneys on a spit. The demarch, in accordance with the dignity of his office, rode at the head of the procession, side by side, when the road was not too narrow, with Papa-Maleko, whose animal was nearly covered by his flowing black robe, and who held an umbrella over his tall hat. Lindbohm had refused the luxury of a mount and strode sturdily along with his hand upon Curtis’ saddle. Up and up they climbed beyond the last plumed outposts of olive groves into the kingdom of the pines. At times they walked by the side of a deep chasm at whose bottom swirled, darted and leapt a stream of molten silver or of ink, according as it flashed in the setting sun or crept beneath the shadow of dank ferns or deep green trees. At such times Curtis’ moth-eaten, blue-gray beast walked upon the ticklish, imminent edge of destruction, loosening rocks and bits of earth that went scurrying into the waters far below. Entreaty, threats, blows upon the side of the head with the rope that did service as a bridle, were of no effect to make him walk elsewhere.
“Look here, Lindbohm,” cried Curtis, “I’ve told you my address. If I plunge down yonder giddy height, write to my governor, will you? And don’t trouble to pick up the pieces.”
“What’s the matter?” shouted the demarch, looking back.
“This donkey will surely fall with me.”
“Bah! Let him have his head. He knows his business. No donkey ever falls.”
“What if he does? Cannot a stork fly?” asked a black-eyed, roguish maiden, who possibly thought that the American could learn good Greek from more than one pair of lips. This sally evoked such an inordinate peal of good-natured laughter that Curtis was unable to think of an appropriate reply, and contented himself with pulling a rose from the basket hanging at his saddle and throwing it at the saucy girl.
In the purple twilight they came in sight of the first of the seven mills. A tall, slanting barrel of masonry received the water that turned the stone wheel that lay upon its face in a small building covered with reddish brown tiles. The miller and his wife, dusty as moths, came out to greet the merry throng that poured into his little plateau with much shouting and singing and strumming of guitars. Two or three shock-headed youngsters peeped from behind the building, and a girl, probably three years old, clothed only in a flour sack that reached to the middle of her stomach, ran, like a frightened chicken, to cover in the folds of her mother’s dress. The child was glowing with health and beautiful as an infant Dionysus from the broken arm of a Hermes carved by Praxiteles himself. And now they were come into a region of rank, water-loving trees, great ferns and streams of water that slipped smoothly and silently through square sluices of white masonry. The mills were close together. At the fourth in number they stopped and found that brave preparation had already been made. The plateau before the mill-house was here larger than ordinary and in its midst grew a wide-spreading oak from a lower branch of which hung a powerful lamp, protected from the wind by a glass cage. At the foot of a shielding wall of rock, several lambs were fragrantly roasting upon long wooden spits, and by each an old man squatted, so intent upon turning the carcass that he scarcely looked up to welcome the gay and noisy villagers.
“How go the lambs, Barba Yanne?”
“Is it tender, think you, Barba Spiro?”
“Are they nearly done, Kosta? Holy Virgin, what an appetite I’ve got!”
With a perfect babble of such exclamations, mingled with much laughter, and many shouted orders and directions, Ambellaki took possession of the place where it had elected to outwear the night with song and feasting and to welcome the First of May. The tables were unstrapped from the backs of the donkeys and set in line. Cloths were spread and candles were lighted in candlesticks surmounted by protecting glass globes. Chairs were taken down from others of the donkeys, and two or three long benches were produced by the miller. A dozen pairs of strong hands were extended to Curtis and he was assisted from the back of his wilful beast to a comfortable seat.
“Whew! I’m glad to get down from there,” he exclaimed to Lindbohm. “I think I’ll stay here till my foot gets well and walk back. Looks jolly, doesn’t it? And how good those lambs smell! I believe I could eat one all by myself.”
Plates, bottles containing oil floating upon vinegar, decanters of wine, great piles of crisp salad, loaves of brown bread, sardellas arranged upon plates like the spokes of a wheel, tiny snow drifts of country cheese—began to appear upon the table. Lindbohm entered into the spirit of the occasion with genial enthusiasm. Although he could not speak a word of Greek, he blundered everywhere, eager to assist. He lifted the children from the donkeys, pulled plates and provisions from the baskets, and washed the long tender lettuce at a place where the water leapt from one conduit to another. All this time the old men were patiently turning the lambs. Every now and then one of them would dip half a lemon into a plate of melted butter and rub it over the brown, sizzling flesh. Beneath each of the lambs was a shallow bed of ashes. The coals that glowed there were not visible, for, in roasting meat à la palikari, the best effects are obtained if it be slowly done. The proper roasting of a lamb is a matter of supreme importance. Reputations are won thereby in a single day, and as easily lost. The meat must be done clear through, evenly and just to a turn—not one turn of the spit too many nor too few; it must be so tender that it is just ready to drop from the bone, and have that delicious flavor which is imparted from the coals of the fragrant wild thyme, but it must not taste smoky. Verily a great art this, and the old men who sat squat at the cranks of the spits had no time for social distractions. Everything was ready now except the lambs, and a great silence fell upon the company. One young fellow, who offered to lay a small wager that Barba Yanne would be the first man ready, was sternly rebuked by the priest:
“Silence! do you not know that this is the critical moment, and you may spoil everything by distracting their attention?”
So they waited for a seeming eternity, sniffing the delicious aroma and watching the appetizing contest with hungry eyes. At last the young man of the wager broke the spell by crying:
“Na! I should have won.” For Barba Yanne was indeed rising slowly to his feet, painfully straightening out the hinges of his aged knees.
“Praise God!” shouted a chorus of voices.
“Do you not see that it is ready?” asked Barba Yanne reproachfully.
“O, yes!” exclaimed the demarch, “we must take it up. If it stays one instant over time on the fire the delicate flavor will be ruined.”
Half a dozen men sprang towards the fire, but Lindbohm, comprehending the action, was before them all. Lifting the lamb by one end of the spit, he advanced towards the tables, and looked inquiringly about.
“What shall I do with it?” he asked Michali. “There is no plate big enough, and if I lay it on the table it will spoil the cloth.”
Shouts of laughter greeted the Swede’s evident perplexity, and even the bare teeth of the spitted animal seemed grinning at him in derision.
“But you do not put it on the table,” cried Michali running to his assistance. “You stick the sharp end of the spit in the ground and stand it up by the side of the tree. So—that’s right. Head up.”
The demarch now approached Lindbohm and laughingly offered him a Cretan knife and a huge fork.
“He wants you to carve,” explained Michali. “It is a great honor.”
“No! no!” cried the Swede, pushing the demarch playfully back. “I do not know how. Besides, I am too weak from hunger. Moreover, I haven’t the time.” And he seated himself resolutely at the table. The demarch therefore carved, and piled the meat upon plates which the girls held for him. Before he had finished, Barba Spiro brought his lamb and solemnly stuck it up by its partly carved mate.
“Shall I cut up this one, too?” asked Kyr’ Nikolaki; he had finished with number one. “Or shall we eat what we have first?”
“We will begin on this one,” said the priest, “and I will carve the second.” After a playful struggle he dispossessed the mayor of the knife and fork and led him to the head of the table. Then the good priest reverently bent his head and made the sign of the cross, and all of his flock followed his example. Even Lindbohm and Curtis, watching carefully, did as the others. And now the feast was on in earnest, silently at first, till the sharpest pangs of hunger were appeased, with song and laughter later in its course. The three guests and the older members of the community sat at the table. The others and the children found seats upon the ground, in the doorway of the mill-house, on the water troughs. Conversation began in full-mouthed remarks as to the quality of the lamb.
“This is marvellous!”
“A miracle. Done just to a turn. Neither too much nor too little.”
“Bravo, Barba Yanne,” said the mayor, in judicial tones, raising his glass meanwhile.
“Barba Yanne! Barba Yanne!” shouted the entire board, and there was a great clinking of glasses. The old man swelled and flushed with pleasure.
“I ought to know how to roast a lamb,” he said. “I have done it this thirty years.”
A girl brought the head of Barba Spiro’s lamb and laid it before the demarch, who plucked out one of the eyes with a fork and passed the morsel to Curtis, who took it and looked inquiringly at Michali.
“What am I to do with it?” he asked.
“Eat it. It is the most delicate tid-bit of the whole lamb—sweet, juicy, delicious.”
“I’ve no doubt it’s juicy,” replied Curtis, “but I couldn’t eat it to save my life. It looks as though it could see. Excuse me, Kyr’ Demarche,” he continued in Greek, “I do not care for the eye. If you will give me a little more of the meat, please—” and he passed his plate.
“Not like the eye!” shouted everybody in astonishment. Lindbohm took the succulent morsel from Curtis’ hand, and swallowed it with a loud sipping sound, as though it were an oyster.
“Kalo! kalo!” he exclaimed, smacking his lips.
And so the feast wore on. When it was not possible for anybody to eat another mouthful, Turkish coffee was prepared over the miller’s foufous, two or three little portable stoves, circular and made of sheet iron; and cigarettes were lighted. Under the soothing influence of the mild Cretan tobacco silence fell again, disturbed only by the soft splashing of waters. Through a rift in the branches of the giant oak Curtis could see the bright, silver bow of the new moon, and, far below, a glittering star, like the tip of an arrow shot athwart the night. The girls were tumbling the flowers into a pile beneath the lamp: bright red geraniums, clusters of the fragrant heliotrope, April roses, small, red and very sweet; aromatic basil, myrtle with its bridal green. Then they sat down about the heap and began to weave garlands, using the myrtle as a background for the pied coloring of the blossoms. A nightingale sang somewhere among the trees behind the old mill, the waters never ceased to murmur and gurgle in the moonlight, and a faint breeze from the far sea brought a message of cherry trees in bloom. A young man sitting on the ground with his back against the tree played a few chords upon a guitar, and sang, with much feeling, one line of a couplet:
“My little angel, sugar sweet, angelic honey maiden”—
That he was not improvising was evident from the fact that all the Greeks present joined him in the second line:
“Oh sweeter than cold water is, that angels drink in Eden!”
For several moments he strummed the strings softly and then sang:
“If I should die at last of love, my grave with basil
and again came the response,
“And when you water it perchance you’ll weep for
your poor lover!”
The words even in Greek did not mean much, but they sounded very beautiful to those simple peasants, for they were associated with many such scenes as this; they carried the memories of some back to childhood, of others perhaps to their wedding day. They made Panayota think of the little cottage among the Sphakiote mountains, and of her mother singing as she paddled the white clothes at the brook. The words contained the untranslatable spirit of poetry, the power to move the heart by association rather than by their meaning.
Some one proposed a dance; one by one the sturdy mountaineers took their places in a line and soon, hands linked, they were bounding beneath the flickering lamp in the wild Pyrrhic. Loud calls were made for different members of the company, famous as leaders, and these led the line in turn, vying with one another in difficulty of steps executed. When Lindbohm arose from his seat and took his place at the tail of the line, he was welcomed with shouts of “Bravo! bravo!” He had observed the simpler steps of the minor performers carefully, and acquitted himself with so much credit, that the girls, their hands full of flowers and half-finished wreaths, arose and came forward, clapping their palms and shrieking with delight. And when the handkerchief was handed to him and he was motioned to the head of the line, he did not refuse, but leapt into the air, whirled about under the arm of his nearest neighbor, snapped his fingers in time to the music and cut other terpsichorean pranks, to everybody’s intense delight.
But dancing is hard work, and even youth will tire. The last capable leader had done his part, and even the girls, with much laughter and many feminine shrieks and protests, had been pulled to their feet and given a turn, when Michali was asked to tell again the story of the shipwreck, as many there present had only heard it at second hand. He complied, and his vivid and picturesque narrative held his audience in rapt attention. When he had finished many were fairly carried away with excitement, and a loud-voiced and indignant clamor arose concerning the state of Crete, the action of the powers and matters of like import.
“Silence! silence!” cried the mayor, rising to his feet and hammering on the table. “These are not matters for the May festival. Our village, moreover, is in no danger from the Turks. We have always dwelt quietly and peacefully behind our mountains, making our cheese, harming no one, suffering no harm. However that may be, this is not a suitable occasion to discuss war and politics.”
“True! true!” shouted his faithful constituency.
“I am to blame,” said Michali, “for the manner in which I told the story. I will, therefore, make amends by singing a song, quite suitable, I think, to the occasion. Spiro, play me the accompaniment.”
After the applause had died, revived, and died away several times like flames that are brought to life by vagrant gusts of wind, Spiro, the owner of the guitar, offered to sing.
“Mind that it’s perfectly proper for the ears of the ladies,” cautioned Papa-Maleko, as the young man seated himself in a chair and prepared to play.
“He has a fine voice,” said Curtis in Greek, when Spiro had finished.
“O, Spiro is one of our most famous singers,” replied the demarch. “And now, Kyr’ Yanne, it’s your turn.”
“He means you,” said Michali in English. “Yanne is the Greek for John. He means to be very friendly, to show that you are one of us.”
“I will sing you,” replied Curtis, without the least hesitation, “a Greek song that I have myself written,” and turning to Michali, “I can’t quite explain that in Greek: it is an American college song that I have translated into Greek. I have read it over two or three times to Panayota and she says she understands it. Indeed, she has changed it a little.” And he sang in a baritone voice of indifferent timbre, but with great spirit, the following words to the tune of “The Man Who Drinks His Whiskey Clear”:
“Tell them,” said Lindbohm to Michali, “that I cannot sing in Greek, but that I desire to do my share and, with their permission, I will sing a little song in my own language, appropriate, I assure you, to the occasion.” Michali translated and there was no doubt as to the reception of the proposition. Lindbohm had not gone farther than the first line before smothered “Ahs!” of admiration were heard. He was a singer. His voice was mellow, pleading, tender, rich. The song was evidently something pathetic, for it brought tears to the eyes of the impressionable Greeks. The last, deep, vibrating note died upon a couch of silence. A long interval ensued, for to the Cretans it seemed profane to reward such beautiful sound with a rude clatter of hands. At length Panayota rose from her place, and walking straight up to Lindbohm, laid a wreath of red roses and myrtle upon his brow.
They packed the mules and started home long before daylight. The procession wound down a rocky path and into the gray town in the silver dawn, with a chill breeze blowing from the sea, and one great, white star glowing in the heavens like a drop of dew. The wreaths had been threaded upon the roasting-spits, and the girls, two and two, carried them. Before sunrise a fresh wreath was hanging over the door of every house in Ambellaki.
“Hello!” cried Lindbohm, “what’s the hubbub?”
It was the morning of the second of May. Curtis and his two friends were sitting in the mayor’s café, drinking muddy black coffee, served in tiny cups.
Noisy voices, as of an increasing and excited throng, were audible. Michali, the mayor and the Swede rushed to the door, but were almost immediately swept back on the crest of an angry human wave. Two or three tall young shepherds, with long crooks in their left hands and with hairy cloaks thrown over their shoulders, were flinging their fists in the air and shouting hoarsely. Papa-Maleko, fully as tall as they, and looming above them by the height of his priest’s hat, was flourishing angrily a bit of letter paper, and evidently attempting to out-yell them. His head was thrown back and his great black beard, jerked by his rapidly moving chin, twitched and danced upon his breast. Every moment more men, women and children crowded into the café, until it became thronged to suffocation. Curtis seized the little table that stood before him firmly with both hands and pulled it over his lame foot.
The demarch, clambering upon a bench, shouted and gesticulated, evidently for order. His efforts, at first unavailing, at last resulted in partial quiet, and he began to speak. He finished and stepped down. Then one of the shepherds jumped upon the improvised platform. He was no orator, but with few and hesitating words, told his story. It was evidently a case where facts were eloquent, for his voice was soon drowned in an inextinguishable roar, in the midst of which Papa-Maleko sprang upon another bench and commenced to speak, still shaking the bit of paper. Silence again fell. Curtis could understand scarcely anything. Each of the speakers talked so rapidly that the words seemed all joined together into one word of interminable length. He only knew that he was listening to an outburst of wild, crude eloquence—the eloquence of passion—the exultation of righteous indignation. When the priest had finished he tore the paper into little bits, and threw them into the air with thumbs and fingers extended like the ribs of a fan, the Greek gesture of a curse.
“Na!” he cried.
In the moment of silence, of evident perplexity, which followed, Curtis arose, and, seizing Michali firmly by the shoulder, pulled him nearer.
“What in heaven’s name is all this?” he asked.
“Bad, very bad,” replied the Cretan. “Kostakes Effendi, with two hundred and fifty men, has two villages destroyed on other side of mountain, and kill many people. He write letter and say we send him Panayota, the priest’s daughter, for his harem, he go ‘way. If no, he come through the pass, burn, kill.”
Curtis sank upon the seat and stared dumbly at the broad back of the villager just before him. It expanded into the front of a whitewashed cottage, with a laughing Greek girl standing beneath a porch of vines. She had soft brown hair, large chestnut eyes and a low, broad forehead. As he looked, a frightened expression crept into the eyes, and she turned them upon him appealingly.
“By God, they shan’t have her!” he cried aloud, smiting the table with his fist. Rising without thinking of his foot, he began to shout the situation excitedly into Lindbohm’s ear. The latter listened with apparent stolidity, but, making a thrust with the imaginary sword, punched the broad back viciously with his fist.
Another of the shepherds mounted the bench. Papa-Maleko surged through the crowd and shook his fist at the speaker. This last orator was about forty years of age, sturdy and florid. He had small, keen eyes and a conciliatory manner.
“What does he say?” asked Lindbohm of Michali.
“He say, send the girl. We have but little ammunition, few guns. Kostakes Effendi have plenty men, plenty guns. Better one suffer than all. Kostakes, he say is no genuine Turk anyway. His mother was a Greek—he probably marry the girl.”
Then an unexpected thing happened. The orator was having a visible effect on a portion of his audience. He was dispersing the patriotic exaltation of the weaker minded, and was causing even the boldest to feel the hopelessness of their condition. At this critical moment the Swede, who had grown deathly pale, gave way to frenzy. He threw the listening throng to right and left as easily as though he were walking through a field of tall wheat. Reaching the bench of the astonished orator, he kicked it from under him. The Cretan sprang to his feet and drew his knife. Lindbohm seized the uplifted wrist and twisted it until the weapon fell to the floor. Then he savagely hustled the orator through the crowd, too astonished to interfere, to the door, the entire throng surging into the open air after him. Curtis forgot his foot, but was sharply reminded of it, by putting it on the floor in his eagerness to follow. When he finally reached the door, Lindbohm was bounding merrily after the escaping coward, beating him over the back with his own staff. Some of the Cretans were laughing and others were shouting “Bravo!”
“He will go to join the Turks,” said Michali to Curtis.
“That’s where he ought to be,” replied the American.
The peaceful village was transformed into a scene of tumult. An invisible thundercloud seemed hovering in the clear sky. The frightened children and the timid women, running about the streets, reminded Curtis of the sudden motherward flurry of chickens, at the shadow of the swooping hawk. He was left alone in the deserted inn. He dragged a bench to the open door and sat down. Those rapid preparations for defense were going on which suggest themselves instinctively to people bred and reared in a land of strife. A group of sturdy mountaineers soon collected on the square, wearing well-filled cartridge belts and carrying Gras rifles. The throng grew, and every new arrival was greeted affectionately by his first name, “Bravo, Kyr’ Yanne!” or “Bravo, Kyr’ George!” The demarch formed the nucleus of the group, the red marks under his eyes blushing like new cut slashes.
A rapid jingling of bells, and the sound as of animals running, were heard, and a sentinel goat appeared on the edge of a distant rock. He cast an agitated glance back over his wethers, and slid down, his four hoofs together, his back humped into a semicircle, his bucolic beard thrust outward. Others appeared and slid over, as though borne on the crest of a torrent. Then two tall shepherds were sketched for an instant on a background of mountains and sky, swinging their crooked staves. But they, too, were caught by the invisible torrent and swept into the town. Boys were dispatched into the surrounding hills, and within an hour the streets were filled with bleating flocks. The group of armed men grew to fifty. Lindbohm and Michali had both been provided with guns. The Swede had been induced to discard the straw hat as too conspicuous a mark, and to bind a dark handkerchief about his head. Curtis felt himself one of them, and yet knew that he was not.
“If I had a gun, I might get up there among the rocks and do something,” he muttered. “I can shoot just as well if I am lame, if I could only get into position. Pshaw! What’s the matter with me? This isn’t my fight. I’m a non-combatant, I am.”
The priest came down, leading Panayota by the hand and carrying a cross. The girl was white, even to the lips, but there was a proud smile on her face and her eyes were shining. She wore a short Cretan knife in her belt. Papa-Maleko held aloft the cross and solemnly blessed the waiting warriors, after which he presented the sacred symbol to the lips of each in turn. Lindbohm strode over to Panayota and pulling the handkerchief from his head, bowed low, with his hand upon his heart.
“Before they get you,” he said, “they must yust take us all.”
Curtis shouted “That’s right!” but was not aware of the fact until the little army turned and looked at him inquiringly.
“I’ll make a fool of myself here yet,” he said, sinking back on the bench.
Michali translated Lindbohm’s speech and a great shout of “Bravo! bravo!” went up.
Lindbohm was in his element.
“There was,” he understood, “no way for the enemy to get in from the land side except through the pass. They might approach with difficulty from the seashore, but there was only one place where they could land. Men were watching that, and a smoke by day or a fire by night would warn the villagers. Very good. Fifty men might defend this pass against two hundred and fifty, but they must lose no men and must make every shot count. How much ammunition had they?”
“Not much. Only their belts full, and possibly as much again, curses on the English!”
“Very well. We must use it the more carefully. We must not get excited. Kostakes Effendi cannot possibly reach the ravine before nightfall—can he get through without a guide?”
“No,” replied the demarch, “impossible.”
Panayota spoke. She said only two words, and she said them quietly, though distinctly, but they fell like a thunderclap.
This was the name of the cowardly shepherd whom Lindbohm had driven from the town.
“Is there any way to build fires so as to light up narrow places in the ravine?”
There were two or three such places where bonfires could be located that would make the pass as light as day. People standing behind the rocks in positions of comparative safety could easily feed the flames by tossing wood into them.
“Send out the boys and girls then to prepare these fires and to pile up brushwood enough behind the rocks to keep them burning all night,” commanded the Swede. “Build one fire at the mouth of the pass—” but here he was interrupted by a chorus of protest. “Let the Turks get into the pass and then we will kill them,” cried his listeners.
“Very well, but see that they don’t get through.”
Papa-Maleko had a suggestion to make. The Sphakiotes often got the Turks into narrow defiles and rolled stones down upon their heads. There were half a dozen precipitous places in the gorge where this could be effectively done.
“Capital idea,” assented Lindbohm. “Let some more women go to those places and pile up heaps of the biggest stones they can carry.” Lindbohm suggested that the men, who now numbered sixty, should take their places near the mouth of the defile. In a few brief words he also laid the foundation of an effective commissariat. The mayor’s brother, too old a man to fight, was instructed to superintend the sending of food twice a day, in case the siege should be protracted, and above all, water, which could not be found up among the rocks. Women and boys were to act as carriers.
A messenger was sent to Korakes, an insurgent chief, who, with three hundred men, had established his headquarters near the village of Alikiano.
“We might be able to hold out for a week,” said Lindbohm to Curtis, “and Korakes will surely come to our aid. At any rate, we must yust take our chances.”
Curtis was left alone in the priest’s house. Papa-Maleko had gone up the ravine.
“If one of my boys were wounded,” he said, “and I were not there to comfort him, God might forgive me, but I should never forgive myself.”
The day passed very peacefully. Curtis sat in the door of the parsonage, with his bandaged foot upon a stool. The children, usually so noisy in the streets, were quiet, and the gossips were either gone or were talking in whispers. A woman sat in a doorway opposite holding her babe, that squealed and shouted with delight at the familiarity of a pet kid. The mother smiled sadly, and then clasped the child to her bosom, smothering it with affection. The sudden purple twilight of the orient fell, and a light breeze flew up from the sea, beating the blossoms from the cherry and pear trees and scattering their faint, delicious perfume. The purple changed to black and the nightingales began to sing. The flocks had gone to sleep. The antiphonous bleating and the jangle of the bells were swallowed up in the darkness that was silence, save where now and then a little lamb cried softly to its mother across the meadows of dreamland or a bell tinkled musically. There was a purring of many waters.
“By Jove, war’s a queer thing,” mused Curtis. “It’s hate and lust and bigotry. It’s a big fiendish lie, and all the time a thousand voices are preaching truth and love. Here am I, sitting among the nightingales, the cherry blossoms and the dreaming sheep, and a mile from here all the men of the vicinity are trying to cut one another’s throats. And I suppose I’d be with ’em if it wasn’t for this blamed foot. These Cretans are plucky fellows. By George, I glory in their sand! Had they been a lot of cowards they would have given up the girl—but they wouldn’t have got her while I could hold a gun! Why, she’s a natural queen! She’d grace any man’s fireside, she would. What beautiful eyes she has! what a mouth! what a carriage, and spirit, too! Talk about your ancient epics and your ancient heroines! Why, here’s the Trojan war right over again, or the spirit of it. We aren’t shy on men and women these days; we’re shy on Homers. And that girl, that Panayota, she’s as pure as snow. She’d knife herself in a minute before she’d allow herself to fall into the hands of the Turks. Whatever else the boys do, I hope they’ll pink that Kostakes chap. I’d like to pot him myself.”
As the time wore on, Curtis found himself leaning forward in the darkness, listening for the sound of distant shots. He wondered if the Turks would attack that night and if he could hear the shots if they did.
He went to the door and called to an old man who was talking in a low tone, but excitedly, to the woman across the way. The babe had been put to bed. They both came running, and he asked them, framing his sentence with much care:
“Has the fighting begun? Can the guns be heard from here?”
They replied in concert, volubly and at great length. Then they held a conference and withdrew.
“That’s the trouble with a foreign tongue,” mused Curtis. “You can talk to them all right, but they talk so fast that you can’t understand what they say to you. Now, I said it correctly,” and he repeated the sentence.
After about half an hour the old man returned, bringing some bread, cheese, halva and a glass of dark wine. Curtis repeated the Greek word for “thank you” half a dozen times, and then fell upon the food voraciously. “The more I see of these people, the better I like them,” he muttered. “Now, I call that thoughtful of the old man.”
After he had finished eating he tried his foot, bearing his weight on it until he could endure the pain no longer.
“I believe it’s better,” he soliloquized, and then cried inconsequentially:
“By Jove! I wonder if that old blockhead thought I was asking for something to eat? Panayota would have understood me in a minute. Why, she and I get along all right together in Greek. But then, I mustn’t judge the rest of these people by her.”
He wound up his watch at ten o’clock, and lay down upon the divan.
“There’s going to be no fight to-night,” he muttered. “And, at any rate, it wouldn’t be my fight if there was.”
He fell asleep, and dreamed of Panayota, gigantic in size, standing on a cliff by a wan, heaving sea. She was hurling jagged pieces of rock down at a line of ant-like Turks, crawling far below. The wind was blowing her hair straight out from her forehead, and he could only see her mouth and chin, but he knew it was Panayota. He ran to help her, when the demarch seized him to hold him back. He awoke, and found that an old man was shaking his arm and crying excitedly in Greek, “Fire! fire!”
Curtis’ first thought was that the house was burning. He put his hand on the old man’s shoulder and jumped over to the door. Half a dozen people were standing in the moonlight, pointing toward the hills. Two women, one holding a very young babe in her arms, were crossing themselves hysterically and calling on the name of the Virgin. An old man of eighty, whom Curtis had frequently seen bent nearly double and walking with a cane, now stood erect, fingering the trigger of a rifle. A stripling of twelve was shaking his fist toward a red eye of flame that glowed among the rocks, high up and far away.
That was one of Lindbohm’s bonfires, sure enough. Perhaps a battle was going on at that moment.
“Mother of God, save my man!” cried the woman with the baby. “Save him, save him!”
“Mother of God, save my boy, my cypress tree, my Petro!” groaned the old man.
“Curse the Turks! May their fathers roast in hell!” shrieked the lad. “Give me a gun, I’m old enough to shoot.”
For three hours they stood watching the fire, as though they could actually see what was taking place there. At times they stood silent for many minutes together, listening, listening for the sound of guns; but they could hear nothing. At last a shout was heard in the distance:
“What is it? What is it?” the watchers asked, hoarsely, looking at one another with pale faces.
Again “Oo-hoo! Oo-hoo!” nearer.
At last footsteps were heard, as of one running and stumbling among loose rocks, and at length little Spiro Kaphtakes staggered up to the group and stood panting before them. His trousers were torn, and blood was flowing from his legs. The women and the old man stared at him open-mouthed for a long minute, and then, pouncing upon him, began to shake him.
“What is it? what news?”
“Is my Petro safe?”
“How goes it with my Yanne?”
Others ran up out of dark alleys and from the doorways of distant houses, and soon twenty or more surrounded the poor boy, gesticulating, screaming. They could not wait for him to get his breath. His tongue lolled out like that of a Chinese idol, and he swallowed the air instead of breathing, rolling his eyes about helplessly the while. At length, with a supreme effort, he gasped:
The woman with the babe reeled as though the earth were slipping from beneath her-feet. A neighbor caught the child and the mother fell limply to the ground. Then, while friends dashed water upon her face and rubbed her hands, the boy talked rapidly, shrilly, flinging his arms about with loose-elbowed gestures. The woman opened her eyes and two of the men helped her to her feet. She tottered for a moment, disheveling her hair with despairing hands and whispering hoarsely:
“Yanne! Yanne! What shall I do? What shall I do?”
But suddenly the brave woman-soul asserted itself and her frail body straightened, tense, defiant, ready for any effort. Clasping the babe to her breast she kissed it tenderly many times. Holding it for a moment at arm’s length, she looked at it hungrily, and then turned her eyes away. A neighbor took the child.
“Come!” said the mother, and she ran lightly up the ravine, followed by the boy. The babe bleated “Mama! mama!” like a frightened lamb, but the woman did not look back. Hopping two or three steps from the doorway, Curtis seized a woman by the arm.
“Killed?” he asked in Greek.
Unfortunately, everybody understood, and all commenced talking at once.
“I don’t understand,” shouted Curtis. “Silence! Killed? killed?”
“Silence!” cried the old man with the musket, raising his right hand in a commanding gesture above the heads of the too-willing talkers.
“No,” he replied to Curtis, slowly and distinctly, “not killed. Badly wounded.”
“Thanks,” replied the American. “Thanks, thanks, I understand.”
Just before sunrise Michali, with his leg broken, was brought in on a donkey.
They laid the wounded Cretan on the lounge in the parsonage. He was pale as death from loss of blood, and kept snapping at his under lip with his teeth, but he did not groan.
“We are a pair of storks now,” he said, smiling at Curtis, and then he fainted away. Curtis cut the trouser from the wounded leg. A ball had struck the shin.
“It’s not badly splintered, old man,” said the American, as Michali opened his eyes again. “I don’t know anything about surgery, but I should think the proper thing would be to wash it, support it with some splints and bind it up tight. Shall I try it?”
“What you need?” asked Michali.
“Some warm water, two or three straight sticks and a piece of cloth that I can tear up into strips.”
The wounded man called for the necessary articles and they were soon brought. Curtis washed the blood away carefully.
The end of a piece of bone pushed against the skin from beneath and made a sharp protuberance.
“I’m awfully sorry, old man, but I’ve got to hurt you—like the devil, I’m afraid.”
“All right, my friend,” replied Michali, “only do not be long.”
“No, only a minute. Here, lie on your back. That’s right. Now take hold of the sides of the lounge and hang on tight. That’ll help you. I know it from having teeth filled. Now, tell this old man to take hold of your ankle so, with both hands, and pull, slowly, carefully, till I say ‘stop,’ and not to commence pulling till I say ‘now.’ You’d better explain—your Greek is some better than mine.”
“Does he understand?”
Curtis put his hand about the broken shin in such a way that he could push the fragment of bone into place.
“This can’t be wrong,” he reflected. “At any rate, there’s nothing else to do.”
Looking at the old man he nodded.
“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” gurgled Michali, as though the words were being pulled from his throat with a hook. There was so much agony in them, they meant so much more than the screams of a weaker person would have meant, that the amateur surgeon felt sick at his stomach and it cost him a tremendous effort to see through a sort of blindness that settled like a cloud before his eyes. But the two ends of the bone came together and he resolutely pushed the splinter into place.
Still holding the leg tightly he looked at Michali. Great drops of sweat were standing on the Cretan’s face and his underlip was bleeding, but he smiled bravely.
“All over,” said Curtis. “Now for the sticks and the strips.”
Fortunately for the success of the operation the boy who had led the mule was outside, giving an account of the progress of the battle. He proved a greater attraction even than the broken leg. Curtis, finding himself alone with his patient, shut and locked the door.
“Does it hurt you very much, old man?” he asked. “I suppose the proper thing now would be to give you something to put you to sleep. Don’t you think you could sleep a little while anyway?”
“No, no, I cannot sleep. It hurts me some, but not much—not too much.”
Curtis sat quietly for some time in the semi-darkness of the room, listening to the chatter of the boy outside, punctuated by the excited exclamations of the listeners. He glanced at the drawn face of Michali, which had a ghastly hue in the wan light. The wounded man’s eyes were open, but he made no sound.
“He’s a plucky beggar,” thought Curtis. “I wonder if it would do him any harm to talk? I say, Michali,” he asked aloud, “how is it going? What are they doing up there?”
“They tried to come through about eleven o’clock—but how can I tell you, since you do not the ravine know? It begins wide on the other side—a deep, steep valley, with many pine trees, and paths along the sides. Near the top of the mountain the ravine becomes narrow, between walls of rock, what you call it?—perpendicular. If the Turk ever gets over the summit we are lost. Very well—that devil Ampates! Lindbohm should have killed him!”
“Why, what did he do?”
“Without him the Turk never could have found the best path. Well, we have men on all the paths with dogs—good dogs, hear half a mile, bark—O, like the devil! We stay high up, most of us, where ravine is narrow, so not to scatter out too much. We hide behind the rocks on both sides of the ravine, on the other side the mountain. We listen and listen, O, how we listen! Nothing. The wind in the pine trees. For hours we listen. My ears get very wide awake. I think I hear the wind among the stars. Then, all at once, we sit up very straight, holding our guns ready. ‘Boo! boo! woo!’ It is old Spire’s dog, down below. We sit very still. Perhaps the dog made a mistake. Perhaps he bark at the moon. But no. ‘Bang!’ goes old Spiro’s gun. Then we know. That was the signal—Ah, mother of God!”
No Greek can talk without violent gesticulations, that frequently bring all the muscles of his body into play. Michali forgot the leg in his excitement, and gave a little jump that wrenched it slightly.
“Never mind, old man. Don’t talk any more—you’d better lie quiet,” said Curtis. “You drove ’em back, did you?”
“Twenty men went down to the mouth of the pass. We stayed back the narrow part to guard, high up, behind the rocks. Pretty soon they commence shooting and yelling. It was moonlight there, you see, but dark like—like—”
“Like a pocket,” suggested Curtis.
“Like a pocket in the ravine, where we were. They keep shooting—’biff, bang, biff, bang’—then all at once—’r-r-r-r-r!’ more than a hundred guns at once. ‘That’s the Turks,’ said Lindbohm. ‘By damn! they must not get through. Michali, twenty men must come down with me, twenty stay here.’ I pick out twenty, and down we go, and hide. Then the women light the fire. Whoof! the light jumps up and slashes open the ravine. There they come, there come the Turks, running, running. The boys keep shooting from above, ‘ping! ping!’ but they not hit much, straight down so. One, two, three drop, but the rest keep coming. We lay our rifles across the rocks and take aim. Lindbohm, he keep saying, very low, ‘Not yet, not yet, steady, boys, steady—'”
“Steady, boys, steady!” cried Curtis; “that’s old Lindbohm—yes, yes?”
“My God! I think the Turks get right on top of us, when ‘bang!’ Lindbohm shoot right by my ear and blow a hole through a Turk. Then we all shoot, shoot, shoot, but every time one Turk die, two new ones come around the corner. And I think they get through, but the women pry off big piece of rock. O, most as big as this house, and it kill two Turks. Then the Turks turn and run—”
“Hurrah!” sobbed Curtis.
“Hurrah!” echoed Michali. “We killed thirty-four damned Turks!”
“How many men did you lose?” asked Curtis.
“One, shoot through the head. He high up and fall down into the ravine. Turks laugh very loud. Another here, through the stomach. He die pretty soon—he with us. His name Yanne. And me, I get this little wound in the leg. How they hit my leg, I don’t know.”
As they were talking the church bell began to ring.
“Hello! What’s that for?” asked Curtis.
Michali shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows?” he replied.
Curtis hopped to the door, unlocked it and looked out. The church stood across the road on the top of a big, flat rock. Though small, it boasted a Byzantine dome. The bell hung in a frame erected over the porch, and the rope was tied about a wooden pillar, to prevent its being blown out of reach by the wind.
“Why, it’s Papa-Maleko himself,” cried the American.
The priest gave the rope two or three more decisive jerks, and then, leaving the end dangling, started for the house. His stately black robe was rent down the front, and the wind blew the pieces out behind, exposing his voluminous Cretan breeches and his yellow boots. His long hair had writhed loose from its fastenings and had fallen down his back. It was beautiful and reminded Curtis of Panayota. His tall hat was battered at the side, so that the roof looked as though it were slipping off. He spoke a few words to Michali, and then, opening the trunk studded with brass nails, he took out and donned his sacerdotal vestments, a sleeveless cloak with a cross in the middle of the back and a richly embroidered stole. Running his fingers through his long, glossy hair and shaking it out as a lion shakes his mane, he strode back to the little church, into which the people were already excitedly pouring.
“It looks bad,” said Michali; “he is about to ask for God’s help.”
“I’m going across,” said Curtis.
“Can you walk so far?” asked Michali.
“O, yes; with this crutch I can get over there all right.”
Though the church was crowded, there was absolute, solemn silence. These simple people believed that they were in the very presence of God. Kindly hands seized Curtis and assisted him into one of the high-backed, narrow seats ranged along the walls. Two tall candles threw a flickering light on a crude St. George and the Dragon, of mammoth size, painted on the screen. Every new comer kissed the face of a florid virgin that looked up out of a gaudy frame, reposing on the slanting top of a tall stand near the door. Numerous eikons in gilded frames hung about the wall, and a silent throng of forgotten saints, painted on the dome above, peered dimly down upon the worshippers. The windows were narrow, but enough sunlight straggled in to give a ghostly look to the candles, lighted here and there. Papa-Maleko’s voice was musical and tender. He commenced chanting in a low, pleading tone, but as the glorious words of the litany gradually took possession of his soul, the melodious, full-voweled Greek syllables rolled more and more confidently from his tongue. The poor, frightened mothers and children of his flock raised their faces and sniffed the wholesome incense that now pervaded the building. The spirit of the scene carried Curtis away. He was awed and mysteriously refreshed, as one who, in a noisome cavern, feels the cool, sweet air blowing upon him from the darkness. He found himself beating the arm of his seat and chanting inaudibly, again and again, the sublime words, “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.”
“Ah, yes, God will protect us! He is our very present help in time of trouble.”
And now, Papa-Maleko is blessing his flock, one by one. Down the aisle he passes, holding a little cross to the eager lips, speaking words of comfort.
“Courage, courage, my children,” he says; “when God is with us who can be against us? Christ is fighting for us and the Holy Virgin and all the saints. Courage, courage.”
They seized his hand and kissed it. Women sobbed in an exaltation of faith. Mothers pressed the cross to the lips and foreheads of their wondering babes.
“The Virgin is our helper,” they said.
“Christ and the Virgin be with you,” responded the priest.
So he stood, his left hand lifted in blessing, his right extending the cross; stately in his flowing robes, calm in the dignity of his exalted message.
“Have courage, my children,” he repeated, smiling benignly. “It came to me there in the mountains, like a voice from God. ‘Ye are Christians; why do ye not call upon the God of hosts?'”
In an instant the whole congregation had turned and were looking towards the door. There stood a tall shepherd with a rifle in his hand. His face was blackened with powder and he seemed covered with blood.
“What is it? what is it?” shrieked a dozen voices.
“There is a terrible fight. Loukas and Spiro are killed—”
The words of the priest rang out clear and strong:
“Our God is a very present help—courage, my children!”
“My left arm is broken. The Turks got on top of the hill, where the girls were, but the girls all jumped off, laughing. All killed, Paraskeve, Elene, Maria—”
The speaker’s voice was drowned in a pandemonium of shrieks and sobs.
But again the priest was heard, reverently, distinctly, firmly, like the voice of Christ calming the waters.
“They are with Christ in paradise. Still I say unto you, courage. Since God is with us who shall stand against us?”
“Panayota was with them, but her dress caught in a thorn bush, and before she could tear herself loose the Turks had her.”
Every eye in the church was riveted upon the priest. The cross rattled to the floor, and his arm dropped to his side. His lips were white and there was a terrible look in the large brown eyes.
“Panayota! Panayota!” he called hoarsely. His voice sounded far away now. Suddenly he tore off his sacred vestments and flung them in a heap on the floor. Striding to the wounded shepherd, he snatched the gun from his hand. Looking from the window, Curtis saw him running toward the hills, his long hair streaming on the wind. The flock poured out after him and the American was sitting in the deserted house of God, gazing at a pile of sacred robes and muttering stupidly:
“Hark!” said Curtis, who was sitting in the door of the parsonage. “What’s that?”
“I didn’t hear anything,” replied Michali.
“I did. I believe it was a gun. It was a faint throb in the air. There it goes again. There they go!”
No mistake was possible this time.
“They’re coming through,” said Michali, rising upon his elbow. “The Turks will be here pretty quick, now, I think.”
“Hello,” cried Curtis, “there comes the demarch. There he goes into that house. Now he comes out—there he goes into another—what’s up, I wonder? Here he comes!”
Kyr’ Nikolaki looked in at the door. His face was flabby with fatigue and his under lids had drooped perceptibly, enlarging the red pits beneath his eyes into semicircles.
“What is it? what is it?” asked Curtis, who had not clearly understood the few hurried words addressed by the demarch to Michali.
“They’re nearly out of cartridges. They can’t hold the pass over an hour longer. They’re going to send the flocks and the women and children down to the sea. The village owns a lot of caiques there. Then the men will retreat last, fighting, shooting all the time.”
“But what are you quarreling about?”
“O, nothing. Nothing at all.”
It did not take the Ambellakians long to pack up. The most treasured belongings were thrown into blankets, which were rolled into bundles, and then, away for the ravine and the sea!
A mother dashed by the house with a babe under her left arm and a bundle over her right shoulder. Another dragged two frightened children along the stony street, clutching tight a tiny wrist with each hand. An aged couple doddered by, the man with feeble and palsied hand striving to support the woman, who clung to a frame containing two bridal wreaths. From amid the faded orange blossoms smiled the youthful eyes of a shy mountain girl and a stout pallikari—man’s work lasts so much better than man himself.
The confusion grew to frenzy. A parrot-like chatter and screaming of women filled the air. A florid housewife stumbled and wheezed down the street, carrying a pair of long-handled coffee stew pans. She did not know what they were, but had seized them through force of habit. Another bore a cheap chromo, representing skin-clad hunters thrusting spears into a number of colossal polar bears. She fell and jabbed her knee through the picture, but picked up the frame and ran on with that. Scrips, or bags of pied and brightly-colored wool, of which two or more are to be found in every Cretan peasant’s house, were hanging from the arms and shoulders of many of the fugitives.
At a burst of firing, seemingly more distinct and nearer than anything that had preceded it, an old woman stopped, and fumblingly extracted a silver mounted eikon from her scrip. After kissing it and making the sign of the cross several times, she replaced it, and hurried on again. A babe was laughing and clutching with glee at the disheveled locks of its fleeing mother. A girl of six hugged to imminent suffocation a shapeless and wrinkled pup.
The demarch came in again, accompanied by Lindbohm and a stalwart mountaineer. The Swede had a gun in his left hand. In the grime of his powder-blackened face his eyes looked unnaturally blue. But they were no longer childlike. It was rather the blue of an angry sea.
“Panayota’s taken,” he said to Curtis.
“I know it.”
“There’s nothing to be done now except to rally the men and rescue her.” The Swede did not talk like a man in despair. He seemed, on the contrary, exalted by a great resolve.
“We will get together and fall upon Kostakes like a thunderbolt. We’ll not let him go far. And if he harms a hair of her head—” He doubled his ponderous fist and shook it. Then he whirled about briskly and gazed at Michali.
“We’ll take you somehow,” he said. “We’ll be as careful as we can. They’ll kill you if you stay here.”
“I not go,” replied Michali. “I have said it to the demarch. Take two strong men to carry me. They better be fighting. Leave a gun with me. When they find me I will kill two, three Turks. Ha! By God, I surprise them! So I die!”
“Come, no more of this foolishness,” said Lindbohm. “I take him on my back, and the shepherd here take you,” turning to Curtis.
But Curtis had been thinking very fast, and the bright image of his beautiful and high-spirited hostess in the hands of the Turks had sharpened his wits to an extraordinary degree.
“Look here, Lindbohm,” he said, speaking very rapidly, “I’ll stay here and look out for Panayota. They won’t kill me, I’m a non-combatant, and the Turks won’t be so apt to abuse the girl when there’s a foreigner amongst them. Help me to the wine cave. I’ll hide there till the right moment and then I’ll give myself up.”
“I would not have asked it,” he said, “but it is the brave thing to do. Ah, tell the officer you’re a newspaper correspondent. That’s the safest thing.”
The firing had ceased entirely for several minutes. Now rapid footsteps were heard. Looking toward the door Curtis saw a Cretan shepherd fling by. He was running low to the ground, carrying his gun horizontally, like a man hunting—or being hunted. Another and another passed.
“We have five minutes now,” said Lindbohm, holding out his arms to Michali. “They have given up the pass. Come! Must I take you, or will you come on my back?”
“I come,” replied Michali, “to the wine cave.”
Lindbohm kneeled by the divan and Michali put his arms about his neck. The Swede arose, wrenching from the Cretan’s throat a groan that ended in a low, sharp shriek.
Lindbohm strode from the door, followed by the demarch and the shepherd, the last mentioned carrying Curtis.
Five or six shots, followed by a persistent fusillade, were heard.
“Now I think they come through,” muttered Lindbohm, breaking into a run. Michali was breathing in tremulous, faint groans between set teeth. Then, mercifully, he fainted, and remained unconscious until the Swede, panting with exertion, bounded through the arbor into the dim café.
The demarch ran to his wine barrels, and, pulling an empty one around parallel with the wall, smashed in its end with the butt of a musket, using the weapon as though it were a battering ram. Michali was shoved into the barrel as tenderly as possible and the broken pieces were laid in beside him. Then they pushed the tun back into place, with the open end against the wall.
“And you?” said Lindbohm, turning to Curtis, who was sitting upon the table where the shepherd had dropped him.
“Save yourselves!” cried the American, pointing to the door. A shepherd, standing behind the platane tree, was aiming at something above him. He fired, and jerking the empty shell from his smoking piece, reloaded. Three Cretans darted to the rear of the café, trailing blue ropes of smoke from the muzzles of their guns. The man behind the tree started after them, but stopped at a crash of musketry and dropped his gun with a “ching” among the rocks. His legs broke at the knees as though some one had playfully jabbed them from behind. As he instinctively threw forward his arms to save himself from falling, his elbows collapsed and his hands fell flopping at the wrist, like penguin’s wings. He was dead before his body reached the ground.
Lindbohm snatched his musket from the table and ran from the café, followed by the demarch and the shepherd. Curtis slipped into a corner, behind the huge oil crock. The sound of the firing continued, but no one came into the café. Ten minutes, twenty minutes passed. They seemed hours to the American. Occasionally he heard a sput, sput against the outside of the soft wall. Once a “ftha,” like the hissing of a cat, was followed by a humming sound, as a bullet, slightly flattened by the sand, sang in through the open door.
It did not occur to him that these things were dangerous.
“I must see what they are doing,” he said. “It’s a good fight! It’s a good fight!”
He slid around the smooth, cool crock and leaned out from his hiding place. He could see nothing but a strip of the open door and a huge vine, sturdy as the trunk of a tree. He jumped back just in time to save himself. The café was poured full of Turks, bringing Panayota and her father. An officer, young, slender and very handsome, dropped into a chair and laid his unsheathed sword before him on the table. The soldiers fell respectfully back, leaving the girl and the priest standing facing the officer. Ampates slunk in the background with Panayota’s Cretan knife in his hand. It was he who had led the way to the women, by a round-about path.
A long conversation ensued, in which Kostakes spoke with insinuating sweetness, smiling continually and occasionally twirling the ends of his small, dark mustache. His intentions with reference to Panayota were honorable, he said. The priest began his reply in a pleading tone but ended with a fiery denunciation. Once or twice a soldier stepped threateningly towards him, but Kostakes waved the would-be murderer back with a slight gesture or an almost imperceptible movement of the head. Panayota was magnificent. She seemed at no moment to have any doubt of herself. She stood erect, pale, calm, contemptuous, until near the end of the interview when, with an incredibly quick movement, she snatched the sword from the table, and, turning the hilt towards her father, threw back her head and closed her eyes. The officer with a loud cry sprang to his feet, tipping over the table, and a soldier knocked the weapon harmlessly into the air. All the Turks in the room leaped upon Papa-Maleko, who fought like a cornered cat, wounding one, two, three of his assailants. The Turks did not dare shoot, for fear of killing their officer or the girl. Curtis came from his hiding place, crying hoarsely in English:
“Panayota! For God’s sake! For God’s sake! Panayota!” and then “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! You’ll kill Panayota!”
But it was no part of Kostakes’ plan to kill Panayota’s father in her presence. A Turk, cooler than the rest, reaching over the heads of his comrades, dropped the butt of a rifle on the man’s skull and he sank to the ground. Panayota fell on her knees beside him, fumbling in his hair and sobbing, “Papa! papa!”
The heart has a little vocabulary of its own, which it has spoken from the beginning of the world, the same for all peoples, unchanged in the confusion of tongues. Curtis was not noticed in the tumult until he had forced his way into the officer’s very presence, where he stood, shaking his fist and shouting, still in his own tongue:
“This is a shame! Do you hear me? You’re a scurvy blackguard to treat a girl in that way. If I had you alone about five minutes I’d show you what I think of you!”
Two or three soldiers sprang forward, and a petty officer half drew his sword, but Kostakes, astonished at hearing a language which he did not understand, but which he surmised to be either German or English, motioned them back.
“Qui êtes vous, Monsieur, et que faites vous ici?” he asked in the French which he had learned at the high school at Canea.
“Je suis Américan, correspondant du—du— New York Age,” replied Curtis.
“Ah, charmé! charmé! Comment dites vous en Anglais? Welcome. Je suis Kostakes, Capitaine de Cavalerie, à votre service!”