Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/182

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148

PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

“I wanna fight,” remarked the gob as he held shakily to the back of a chair.

“Sure! It does you credit, too, ol’ settler. But sit down now and have one. You'll get lots of chances later on.”

They ordered three ouzos. The weeping landlord brought them more from fear than because he wanted their business. He was tempted to rush to the door and summon the police; the only thing that deterred him was a conviction the three would beat him up before the asty-phylax could reach the spot. He sniffled while serving the drinks, but when he discerned the size of the tip that Hardtack left on the table his lamentations ceased and be began to display an interest in the proceedings.

“‘Here come them soldiers now,” exclaimed Wally, but the running feet he heard turned out to belong to five members of the American debating team.

"We got into a blind alley and had to beat it back,” they said.

“Just in time,’’ responded Hardtack, cordially. ‘‘Garcon, apportez another bunch of ouzos. And pronto, bitte! Get me?"

They sat down with groans of thankfulness, some of them on the verge of collapse. Not a man there but showed the marks of battle. Three of them were fearful sights; Hardtack looked as though he might have cheered for Judge Gary at an I. W. W. meeting.

“I suppose they’ll grab us,” said a gob. “But meanwhile, here goes!” And he tossed off the milky aromatic liquid at a gulp.

The soldiers did not pursue, however. The Greeks have learned that they’ll always get the worst of any international complications with the great powers, so the officer in command discreetly sent word to the respective naval commanders to dispatch patrols ashore, for God’s sake.

Silence reigned in the coffee shop whilst the gobs got back their breath and nursed their wounds. After a while one of them inquired, ‘‘Say, what’re you guys doing here, anyhow?”

“‘We was on our way to see the Metrolopus,” answered Hardtack.

A moan burst from an A. B. who was sitting forward on a stool, his head between his hands. He glanced up wearily