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Greenmantle

13. I Move in Good Society
I walked out of that house next morning with Blenkiron's arm in mine, a different being
from the friendless creature who had looked vainly the day before for sanctuary. To
begin with, I was splendidly dressed. I had a navy-blue suit with square padded
shoulders, a neat black bow-tie, shoes with a hump at the toe, and a brown bowler.
Over that I wore a greatcoat lined with wolf fur. I had a smart malacca cane, and one of
Blenkiron's cigars in my mouth. Peter had been made to trim his beard, and, dressed in
unassuming pepper-and-salt, looked with his docile eyes and quiet voice a very
respectable servant. Old Blenkiron had done the job in style, for, if you'll believe it, he
had brought the clothes all the way from London. I realized now why he and Sandy had
been fossicking in my wardrobe. Peter's suit had been of Sandy's procuring, and it was
not the fit of mine. I had no difficulty about the accent. Any man brought up in the
colonies can get his tongue round American, and I flattered myself I made a very fair
shape at the lingo of the Middle West.
The wind had gone to the south and the snow was melting fast. There was a blue sky
above Asia, and away to the north masses of white cloud drifting over the Black Sea.
What had seemed the day before the dingiest of cities now took on a strange beauty,
the beauty of unexpected horizons and tongues of grey water winding below cypress-
studded shores. A man's temper has a lot to do with his appreciation of scenery. I felt a
free man once more, and could use my eyes.
That street was a jumble of every nationality on earth. There were Turkish regulars in
their queer conical khaki helmets, and wild-looking levies who had no kin with Europe.
There were squads of Germans in flat forage-caps, staring vacantly at novel sights, and
quick to salute any officer on the side-walk. Turks in closed carriages passed, and Turks
on good Arab horses, and Turks who looked as if they had come out of the Ark. But it
was the rabble that caught the eye - very wild, pinched, miserable rabble. I never in my
life saw such swarms of beggars, and you walked down that street to the
accompaniment of entreaties for alms in all the tongues of the Tower of Babel.
Blenkiron and I behaved as if we were interested tourists. We would stop and laugh at
one fellow and give a penny to a second, passing comments in high-pitched Western
voices.
We went into a cafe and had a cup of coffee. A beggar came in and asked alms.
Hitherto Blenkiron's purse had been closed, but now he took out some small nickels and
planked five down on the table. The man cried down blessings and picked up three.
Blenkiron very swiftly swept the other two into his pocket.
That seemed to me queer, and I remarked that I had never before seen a beggar who
gave change. Blenkiron said nothing, and presently we moved on and came to the
harbour-side.
 
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