Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/180

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business. Twice they manfully dived into the mêlée again, although the first time Hardtack had to let go of an advantageous hold on his man’s throat. On the second occasion, the bluejacket courteously removed his fingers from Hardtack’s hair.

The clangour of the battle reverberated over the city. Spectators in the street were bawling for the town guard; women shrieked; a fire-engine siren in the neighbourhood added to the deafening tumult; the debate below stairs never flagged. Now the affirmatives had the edge, then the negatives won the upper hand. Gradually the uproar subsided to grimmer sounds—short, savage snarls, a moan or two, the gasp of men at the last ounce of effort.

And then the asty-phylax—the town guard—the police—they arrived. They came at a run, scattering the proletariat. At the entrance they stopped. They listened. They hesitated. Then they held a conference. The Citizens. urged them to get busy. Forming in phalanx, they advanced resolutely to the steps; by sheer weight of numbers they would overwhelm the rioters.

Their cautious approach quickened to a rush. Down they went into the cabaret. The mob raised frenzied cheers. But it was a bit crowded inside, and Epaminondas Papadopoulos came out. He came out without touching the steps, and probably lighted the fires of another revolution by landing in the middle of a couple of spectators from Crete.

Then Phocion Polymenakos, the Spartan, rocketed into view. A bluejacket had hit Phocion a swat that came near to landing him in Plutarch’s Lives. One by one they emerged hurriedly, as though they were not wanted down there. Within two minutes the entire body of asty-phylax was out in the street and ready for another conference.

“Here come the soldiers!” rose the cry.

Sure enough, the stirring notes of a bugle soared clear and high above the hubbub. Followed the tread of marching feet—clump, clump, clumpety-clump. The crowd took one earful and tarried not. They have had experience of the military in street troubles in Athens, and they broke and scattered.

Perhaps the sudden hush outside carried foreboding to the warriors locked in straining embrace. Or it may be that