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Chapter 4 Hadgi-stavros
Dimitri descended to Athens; the monk went back to his bees; our new masters pushed us into the path which led to the camp of their king. Mrs. Simons rebelled and refused to stir a step. The brigands threatened to carry her in their arms; she declared that she would not let them carry her. But her daughter talked her into a more tractable frame of mind, telling that she would find the table spread and that she would be invited to breakfast by Hadgi-Stavros. Mary-Ann was more surprised than frightened. The followers who had come to arrest us, had acted with a certain courtesy; they had not searched us, and they had kept their hands from their prisoners. Instead of turning our pockets wrong side out, they had asked us to put down our money and valuables ourselves; they made no remark about the ladies’ ear-rings and they did not even ask them to take off their gloves. We were far, it seemed, from those highwaymen in Spain and Italy who cut off a finger to get a ring and who tear out an ear-ring to possess themselves of a diamond or pearl. All these misfortunes were reduced to the payment of a ransom; yet was it not probable that we might be delivered without it? How could one imagine that Hadgi-Stavros would be able to hold us with impunity, at five leagues from the capital, from the court, from the Greek army, from her Britannic Majesty’s battalion, at an English station. Thus reasoned Mary-Ann. As for me—I, involuntarily, thought of those two little daughters whom Mistra went to seek, and I was sad. I feared that Mrs. Simons, in her obstinate patriotism, only exposed her daughter to some great danger, and I promised myself that I would enlighten her as to her position. We walked in a narrow path, single file, separated from each other by our disagreeable companions. The journey seemed to me to be interminable, and I asked more than ten times, if we would not soon be there. The road was frightful; in the crevices of the bare rock an oak sapling struggled for life, or a thorny bush scratched our legs. The victorious bandits manifested no joy, and their triumphal march resembled a funeral parade. They silently smoked cigarettes as large as one’s finger.

They did not speak; one, only, now and then hummed a sort of tune. Those people are as lugubrious as a ruin.

About eleven o’clock, a fierce barking announced the neighborhood of the camp. Ten or a dozen enormous dogs rushed out and hurled themselves upon us, showing all their teeth. Our captors drove them back with stones, and after a quarter of an hour of hostilities, peace was declared. These inhospitable monsters were the advance sentinels of the King of the Mountains. They scent the soldiers as a contrabandist’s dog scents a custom-house officer. But that is not all, and their zeal is so great, that they, occasionally, devoured an inoffensive shepherd, a lost traveler, or even one of Hadgi-Stavros’ band. The King kept them, as the old Sultans kept their Janissaries, with the perpetual fear of falling a victim to them.

The King’s camp was a plateau of seven or eight hundred metres in extent. I searched everywhere for our captors’ tents. The brigands were not sybarites, and they slept under the sky on the 30th of April. I saw neither heaps of spoils nor a display of treasures, nothing which one would hope to find at the headquarters of a band of brigands. Hadgi-Stavros took upon himself the sale of the plunder; each man received his pay in silver and used it according to his fancy. Some put their money into commerce, others invested in mortgages on houses in Athens, while others bought land in their villages; no one squandered the proceeds of theft. Our arrival interrupted the morning meal of twenty-five or thirty men, who hastened to meet us, bread and cheese in hand. The Chief furnished his band with food: the men received, every day, a ration of bread, oil, wine, cheese, caviare, piment (wine mixed with honey and spices), bitter olives, and meat when their religion permitted. Gourmands who wish for mallows and other green food, can pick these dainties on the mountains. Brigands, as some other classes of people, rarely light a fire for their repasts; they eat their food cold, and their vegetables uncooked. I noticed that everyone was religiously observing the law of abstinence. We were on the eve of the celebration of the Ascension, and these good people, of whom the most innocent had at least the life of one man on his conscience, would not touch a mouthful of meat. Holding up two Englishwomen, at the point of a musket, seemed an insignificant sin; Mrs. Simons had very greatly sinned in eating the cold meat, the Wednesday before Ascension. The men who had escorted us, satisfied the curiosity of their comrades. They were overwhelmed with questions and they answered them all. They put down in a pile, the booty they had secured, and my silver watch scored yet another success, which added to my pride. Mary-Ann’s little gold watch was less noticed. In that first interview, public attention fell upon my watch, and it reflected a little on me. In the eyes of these simple men, the owner of such an imposing piece of silver could be no less than a lord.

The bandits’ curiosity was annoying, but not insolent. They did not treat us harshly. They knew that we were in their hands and that we would be exchanged, sooner or later, for a certain number of gold pieces; but they did not think that they ought to avail themselves of that circumstance to maltreat us, or show a lack of respect. Good sense, that imperishable spirit of the Greeks, told them that we represented a different race, and one, to a certain degree, superior. Victorious barbarians render a secret homage to a conquered civilized people. Many of these men saw for the first time, the European dress. These walked around us, as the inhabitants of the new world around Columbus’ Spaniards. They furtively felt my coat, to see of what material it was made. They would have been happy to have examined the articles of my clothing, one by one. Perhaps, even, they would have liked to break me in two or three pieces, in order to study the inner mechanism of a lord, but I am sure that they would have done it with profuse excuses, and not without asking pardon for the liberty.

Mrs. Simons soon lost patience; she did not like to be examined so closely by these cheese-eaters, who offered her no breakfast. No one likes to be made a spectacle of. The role of “living curiosity” very much displeased the good woman, although she had filled it advantageously in all countries of the globe. As for Mary-Ann, she was overcome with fatigue. A ride of six hours, hunger, emotion, surprise, had worn out this delicate creature. Imagine this young girl, brought up delicately, accustomed to walk on carpets, or upon the velvety turf of parks. Her shoes were already nearly off her feet, worn out by the roughness of the path, and the bushes had torn her dress. Only the evening before she had taken tea in the parlors of the English Legation, while looking over the beautiful albums belonging to Mr. Wyse. She now found herself transported into a frightful country, in the midst of a crowd of savages, and she had not the consolation of saying: “It is a dream!” because she was neither in bed, nor even seated, but standing, in great despair, on her two weary little feet.

A band now surrounded us, which rendered our position intolerable. It was not a band of thieves; it was worse. The Greeks carry upon their persons a whole menagerie of little animals, agile, capricious, not seizable, who cling to them night and day, give them occupation even when asleep, and by their jumps and their stings, accelerate the action of the mind, and the circulation of the blood. The fleas of the brigands, of which I can show some specimens in my Entomological collection, are very much larger, stronger and more agile than their city cousins; the open country air possesses virtue so powerful! I soon perceived that they were not content with their lot, and that they found more to their taste, the fine skin of a young German than the tough hide of their masters. An emigrating army settled upon me. I felt, at first, an uneasy sensation around the ankles: it was the declaration of war. Two minutes later, an advance guard threw itself upon the calf of my right leg; it reached my knee. I was out-flanked, and all resistance became useless. If I had been alone, I might have been more successful in the combat.

I dared neither complain nor defend myself; I heroically hid my sorrows and did not raise my eyes.

At last, at the end of my patience, and determined to escape, by flight, from the pests, I demanded to be taken before the King. This recalled our guides to their duty. They asked the whereabouts of Hadgi-Stavros. The reply was that he was at work in his offices.

“At last,” said Mrs. Simons, “I can seat myself in an easy chair.”

She took my arm, offered hers to her daughter, and walked, with a deliberate step, in the direction in which the crowd conducted us. The offices were not far from the camp, and we reached them in five minutes.

The offices of the King resembled other offices, as the bandits’ camp was like to other camps. There were neither tables, chairs nor furniture of any sort. Hadgi-Stavros was seated, tailor-fashion, upon a square of carpet, under the shade of a fir tree. Four secretaries and two servants sat around him.

A young boy of sixteen or eighteen, was incessantly occupied in filling, lighting and cleaning his master’s chibouk. He wore at his belt a tobacco bag, embroidered with gold and fine pearls, and a pair of silver tongs, used for taking out coals. Another servant passed his days preparing cups of coffee, glasses of water and syrup, destined for the royal mouth.

The secretaries, seated on the bare rock, wrote with cut reeds, upon their knees. Each of them had a long copper box containing reeds, a knife and an inkstand. Some tin cylinders, like those in which soldiers keep their papers, served as a place of safety for their archives. The paper was not poor, for the reason that each sheet bore in capitals the word “Bath.”

The King was an old man, marvelously well-preserved, straight, thin, supple as a steel spring, clean and shining as a new sword. His long, white mustaches hung over the chin, like two marble stalactites. The rest of his face was scrupulously shaved, the cranium bare as far as the occiput, where a great mass of white hair flowed down from under his bonnet. The expression of his face was calm and reflective. A pair of small, clear blue eyes, and a square-cut chin denoted an inflexible will. His face was long, and the many long wrinkles added to its length. Every fold in his forehead seemed to break in the middle and diverge toward the meeting of his eyebrows; two wide and deep furrows descended to the corners of the lips, as if the weight of the mustaches dragged down the muscles of the face. I have seen a great number of septuagenarians, I have even dissected one who would have attained a hundred, if the diligence from Osnabruck had not passed over his body; but I never remembered having seen an old man fresher and more robust than Hadgi-Stavros.

He wore the dress of Tino and all the islands of the Archipelago. His red bonnet formed a large fold around his forehead. He wore a black vest, heavily embroidered with black silk, immense blue trousers which must have taken twenty metres of cotton stuff, and large boots of Russia leather, solid yet supple. The only richness about his costume, was a belt decked with gold and precious stones, worth two or three thousand francs. Thrust in it, was a purse of embroidered cashmere, a Damascus blade in a silver sheath, a long pistol, mounted with gold and rubies, and a ramrod, similarly decorated.

Immovable in the midst of his secretaries, the King moved only his lips and his fingers; his lips to dictate his letters, his fingers to tell off the beads of his rosary. It was one of those beautiful milk-white amber rosaries which serve, not only to mark the number of prayers, but to amuse the solemn idleness of the Turks.

He raised his head at our approach, divined, by a glance, what had brought us to him, and said, with a gravity, not at all ironical; “You are very welcome! Be seated.”

“Monsieur,” cried Mrs. Simons, “I am English, and——”

He interrupted the discourse: “All in good time,” he said; “I am occupied.” He spoke in Greek and Mrs. Simons understood only English, but the King’s face was so expressive, that the good woman easily comprehended what he meant without the aid of an interpreter. We sat down on the ground. Fifteen or twenty brigands crouched around us, and the King, who had no secrets to hide, dictated family letters as well as those pertaining to business. The leader of the band which had arrested us, went to him and whispered in his ear. He haughtily answered: “What of that? I am doing nothing wrong, and the whole world is welcome to hear me. Go, seat thyself; Thou, Spiro, write: it is to my daughter.”

After he had vigorously blown his nose, he dictated in a grave, yet sweet voice:

“My Dear Child:

“The preceptress of the school writes to me that thy health is much improved and that the severe cold with which thou wast troubled, has left thee with the cold winter weather. But she is not pleased with thy lack of application, and complains that thou hast done nothing with thy studies during the month of April. Mme. Mavros writes that thou hast become distrait, and that thou sittest with thy elbow on thy book, thy eyes looking at nothing, as if thou wert thinking of something else. I know that it is unnecessary to tell thee to work assiduously. Follow the example of my life. If I had taken it easy, as many do, I should never have reached the position which I occupy in society. I wish to have thee worthy of me, that is why I make great sacrifices for thy education. Thou knowest that I have never refused thee the masters nor the books for which thou hast asked; but my money must profit by it. The set of ‘Walter Scott,’ has arrived at Piraeus, also the ‘Robinson,’ and all the other English books thou hast said that thou didst wish to read; have our friends in the Rue d’Hèrmes get them from the Custom-House for thee. Thou wilt receive, at the same time, the bracelet which thou desirest, and that steel machine for puffing out thy skirts. If the piano from Vienna is not as good as thou toldest me, and it seems necessary that thou shouldst have another, thou shalt have it. I shall do one or two villages, after the sales of the harvest, and the Devil will be against me, if I cannot find enough money for a pretty piano. I think, as thou dost, that thou must learn music. Use thy Sundays in the way I have told thee, and profit by the kindness of our friends. Thou must learn to speak French, English, and above all, German. Because, thou art not to live forever in this ridiculous country, and I would rather see thee dead than married to a Greek. Daughter of a King, thou shouldst, by right, marry a Prince. I do not mean, a prince of smugglers, like all our Fanariot families, who pride themselves on their descent from Oriental emperors, and whom I would not have for servants; but a Prince, reigning and crowned. One can find some very good ones in Germany, and my fortune will enable me to choose one of them. If these Germans come to reign in this country, I do not see why thou canst not reign there, in thy turn. Make haste, then, to learn the language, and tell me in thy next letter of the progress thou hast made. My child, I embrace thee tenderly, and I send thee, with thy quarter’s allowance, my paternal blessing.”

Mrs. Simons leaned toward me and whispered: “Is he dictating our sentence to his brigands?”

I replied: “No, Madame; he is writing to his daughter.”

“Concerning our capture?”

“Concerning a piano, a crinoline, and Walter Scott.”

“That takes a long time. Will he invite us to breakfast?”

“There comes a servant with refreshments.”

The King’s coffee-bearer came to us, bringing three cups of coffee, a box of rahat-loukoum, and a pot of preserves. Mrs. Simons and her daughter rejected the beverage with disgust, because it was made like Turkish coffee, and was like thickened milk. I emptied my cup like a veritable gourmand of the Orient. The pot of sweets was a rose sorbet, and received only a small share of our attention, as we were forced to eat it with one spoon. Delicate eaters are unfortunate when in this country of primitive simplicity. But the rahat-loukoum, cut in pieces, pleased the palates of the ladies, without shocking too much, their ordinary tastes. They took in their beautiful fingers that perfumed jellied paste, and emptied the box, while the King dictated the following letter:

“Messrs. Barley and Company,

“31 Cavendish Square,

“London.

“I see by your honored letter of the 5th of April and the current account which accompanies it, that I have, at the present time, 22,750 livres sterling, to my credit. Please place these funds, half in English three per cents, half in shares of the company, before the coupons are cut. Sell my shares of the Royal Britannic Bank; it is an institution in which I have no longer any confidence. Take for me, in exchange, all in Bank of London. If you can get 15,000 livres for my house in the Strand (it was valued at that in 1852), you may buy for me, in the Vieille-Montagne, an equal amount. Send to the firm, Rhalli Brothers, 100 guineas; it is my subscription for the Hellenic School at Liverpool. I have seriously pondered the proposition which you have done me the honor to submit to me, and, after many reflections, I have decided to persist in my line of conduct and transact business strictly on a cash basis. Purchases in future are of a speculative character, which ought to prevent any good father of a family from dealing in them. I am assured that you would not expose my capital to danger, and would use it with a prudence which has always characterized your house; but even where the benefit of which you write, seems sure, I experience, I must confess it, a certain repugnance to leaving to my heirs a fortune augmented by gambling. Accept, etc.,

“Hadgi-Stavros,

“Proprietor.”

“Is it about us?” Mary-Ann whispered.

“Not yet, Mademoiselle, His Majesty is investing in stocks.”

“In stocks! Here? I thought that was only done at home.”

“Is Monsieur, your father, associated with a banking establishment?”

“Yes; with the firm of Barley & Co.”

“Are there two bankers of the same name in London?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

“Have you ever heard that the firm transacted business with the Orient?”

“Certainly, all over the world.”

“And do you live in Cavendish Square?”

“No, the offices are there. Our house is in Piccadilly.”

“Thank you, Mademoiselle. Allow me to listen to the next. This old man’s correspondence is very interesting.”

The King dictated, without stopping, a long report of the shares of his band. This curious document was addressed to M. Georges Micrommati, Officer of Ordinance, at the Palaces, that he might read it in the General Assembly to those interested.

“Account rendered of the operations of the National Company by the King of the Mountains.

Receipts and Expenditures, 1855-56.

Camp of the King, April 30, ‘56.

Sirs:

The agent whom you have honored with your confidence, to-day, for the fourteenth time, submits for your approval the report of the year’s transactions. Since the day when the constitutional act of our society was signed in the office of Master Tsappas, Royal Notary of Athens, never has our enterprise encountered more obstacles, never has the progress of our labors been embarrassed by more serious difficulties. It is in the presence of a strange occupation, under the eyes of two armies, if not hostile, at least ill-disposed, that the regular practice of an eminently national institution must be carried on. Piraeus is occupied by the military; the Turkish frontier is watched with a zealousness without precedent in history, and this restricts our activity to a very narrow circle, and confines our zeal to impassable limits. Within these narrow boundaries, our resources are still more reduced by the general penury, the scarcity of money, and the small crops. The olive trees have not yielded as they promised; the cereal harvests have been small, and the vines are not yet rid of the o?dium. In these circumstances it has been difficult to profit by the tolerance of the authorities and the kindness of a friendly government. Our enterprise is so identified with the interests of the country, that it can flourish only in the general prosperity, and so repulse the counterstrokes of all public calamities; for from those who have nothing, one can take nothing, or little of anything.

The strangers traveling in this country, whose curiosity is so useful to the kingdom and to us, have become rare. English tourists, who, formerly, composed an important branch of our revenue, are totally lacking. Two young Americans, stopped upon the road to Pentelicus, lost us their ransom. The French and English papers had inspired them with a spirit of defiance, and they escaped from our hands, at a time when their capture would have been most useful.

And now, gentlemen, this is our record, a report of our society which has resisted the fatal crisis better than agriculture, industries and commerce. Your funds, confided to my keeping, have been made profitable, not as much so as I could wish, but better than any one could hope for. I will say no more; I leave the figures to speak for themselves. Arithmetic is more eloquent than Demosthenes.

The society capital, limited at first to the modest sum of 50,000 francs, has increased to 120,000 by three successive issuings of bonds of 500 francs.

Our gross receipts, from May 1, 1855, to April 30, 1856, are 261,482 francs.

Expenses as follows:
Tithes paid to churches and monasteries     26,148
Interest on capital of the legal tax of 10 per cent per 100     12,000
    ———
    38,148

Report.
Pay and board for 80 men at 650 francs per capita     52,000
Material, arms, etc.     7,056
Repairing the road to Thebes, which had become impassable and where there were no travelers to hold up     2,540
Expense of watching the highways     5,835
Rent for office     3
Subsidizing some journalists     11,900
Rewards to various employes of the judicial and administrative orders     18,000
    ———
Total     135,482

If this sum is deducted from the gross receipts, there are left, net 126,000

According to the statutes, the above is apportioned as follows:
Reserve funds in the Bank of Athens     6,000
Share belonging to Agent     40,000
Share-holders’ part
333 francs, 33 c. per share.     80,000

Add to the 333 francs, 33 c., 50 francs interest and 25 francs in reserve funds, and you will have a total of 408 francs, 33 c. per share. Your money is then drawing nearly 82 per cent.

Such are the results, gentlemen, of the last campaign. Judge what the future will be, when our country and our operations shall be free from the foreign power which presses so heavily.”

The King dictated this without consulting any notes, without hesitating about a figure and without stopping to choose words. I would never have believed that an old man of his age could have possessed so remarkable a memory. He appended his seal to the three letters; it was his way of signing. He read easily, but he had never found time to learn to write. Charlemagne and Alfred the Great were, it is said, in the same predicament.

While the Under-Secretaries of State were transcribing the letters for the day in order to place them in the archives, he gave audience to subaltern officers who had returned with their detachments, from the day’s duty. Each man seated himself in front of him, saluted him by laying his right hand on his heart and making his report in a few words. I swear to you that Saint-Louis, under his oak, inspired no greater reverence among the people of Vincennes.

The first who presented himself was a small man, with a bad face; a fine sample for the Court of Assizes. It was an islander from Corfu, persecuted as an incendiary: he had been well brought up, and his talents had advanced him. But his chief and his soldiers held him in no great esteem. He was suspected of keeping for his own profit a part of the spoils. Now the King was unreasonable on the subject of probity. When he found a man in fault, he ignominiously thrust him out and ironically said to him: “Go and make a magistrate of thyself!”

Hadgi-Stavros asked the man from Corfu: “What hast thou done?”

“I have just come, with my fifteen men, from the ravine of Cirondelles, upon the road to Thebes. I met a detachment of soldiers; twenty-five men.”

“Where are their guns?”

“I left them. They were percussion muskets, which would not serve us on account of lack of caps.”

“Good! Then?”

“It was market-day; I stopped the passers-by.”

“How many?”

“One hundred and forty-two persons.”

“And thou hast brought——?”

“About a thousand francs,” naming the sum.

“Seven francs per head! It is small!”

“It is good. They were peasants.”

“They had not, then, sold their goods?”

“Some had sold, others bought.”

The man opened a heavy sack which he carried under his arm; he spread out the contents before the secretaries, who began to count the amount. The receipts were from thirty to forty Mexican piastres, some handfuls of Austrian zwanzigs and an enormous quantity of copper coins. Some crumpled papers were among the money. They were bank notes of ten francs each.

“Thou hast no jewels?” asked the King.

“No!”

“Were there no women, then?”

“I found nothing worth bringing away.”

“What is that on thy finger?”

“A ring.”

“Gold?”

“Or copper; I do not know which.”

“Where didst thou get it?”

“I bought it two months ago.”

“If thou hadst bought it, thou wouldst know whether it was gold or copper. Give it to me.”

The man took it off with bad grace. The ring was immediately locked up in a small coffer full of jewels.

“I pardon thee!” said the King, “because of thy bad education. The people of thy country disgrace theft by mixing knavery with it. If I had only Ionians in my band, I would be obliged to place turnstiles in the roads as they do at the Exposition in London, so that I might count the visitors and the money. The next!”

He, who came forward now, was a tall young man, well-proportioned, and with a most pleasing face. His round eyes beamed forth rectitude and good-nature. His lips, half-opened with a pleasant smile, showed a magnificent set of teeth; I was greatly taken with him, and I said to myself that if he had been led astray by evil associations, he must surely return, some day, to the right path. My face must have pleased him, for he saluted me very politely, before seating himself in front of the King.

Hadgi-Stavros said to him: “What hast thou done, Vasile?”

“I reached Pigadia, yesterday evening, with my six men; it is the village of the Senator Zimbellis.”

“Well!”

“Zimbellis was absent, as usual; but his relatives, his farmers, and his tenants were all at home, and in bed.”

“Well!”

“I entered an inn; I awakened the landlord; I bought twenty-five bundles of straw, and for payment I killed him.”

“Well!”

“We carried the straw to the houses, and spread it around; the houses are of wood or osier, and we set fire to seven places at once. The matches were good; the wind from the north; everything went.”

“Well!”

“We retired quietly to the wells. The whole village awakened and rushed out, shouting. The men came running with their leather buckets to get water. We drowned four whom we did not know; the others escaped.”

“Well!”

“We returned to the village. There was no one, only an infant forgotten by his parents, and who cried like a little raven fallen from its nest. I threw him into a burning house, and he cried no more.”

“Well!”

“Then we took fire-brands, and placed them around the olive trees. The thing was well-executed. We then started for the camp; we supped and slept about half-way here, and we arrived at nine o’clock, in prime condition without even a burn.”

“Good! The Senator Zimbellis will not discourse against us again! The next!”

Vasile withdrew, saluting me as he passed, as politely as the first time; but I did not return his bow.

He was soon replaced by the great devil who had taken us. By a singular caprice of chance, the first author of the drama in which I was called to play a part, was named Sophocles. At the moment when he began his report, I felt the blood congeal in my veins. I supplicated Mrs. Simons not to risk an imprudent word. She replied, that she was English, and that she knew how to behave herself. The King asked us to be silent, and allow the man to speak.

He first spread out the booty which he had taken from us; then he drew from his belt forty Austrian ducats, which made a sum of four hundred and seventy francs, at the rate of 11 francs-15c.

“The ducats,” he said, “came from the village of Castia; the rest was taken from these nobles. Thou didst tell me to scour the boundaries, I began with the village.”

“Thou hast not done well,” replied the King. “The people of Castia are our neighbors, they must not be molested. How can we live in safety, if we have enemies at our door? Moreover, they were brave people who have given us aid when occasion demanded.”

“Oh! I took nothing from the charcoal burners. They disappeared into the woods, without giving me time to speak to them. But the padre had the gout; I found him at home.”

“What didst thou say to him?”

“I asked him for his money; he insisted that he had none. I shut him up in a sack with his cat; and I do not know what the cat did, but he began to cry out that his treasure was behind the house, under a huge stone.”

“Thou wert wrong. The padre will incite all the village against us.”

“Oh! no! In leaving him, I forgot to open the sack, and the cat ought to have fixed him by this time.”

“All in good time:——But listen to me well, all of you: I do not wish anyone to trouble our neighbors. Thou mayst retire.”

Our examination now began. Hadgi-Stavros, instead of having us come to him, gravely rose, came and seated himself on the ground in front of us. This mark of deference to us seemed a favorable augury. Mrs. Simons prepared to question him herself. As for me, perceiving too well what she was capable of saying, and knowing the intemperance of her tongue, I offered my services to the King, as interpreter. He thanked me coldly, and called the Corfuan, who knew English.

“Madame,” the King said to Mrs. Simons, “you seem to be in great anger. Have you any complaints to make of the men who brought you here?”

“It is a horror!” she cried. “Your rascals have arrested, dragged me through the dirt, despoiled me, worn me out, and starved me.”

“Will you accept my excuses? I am forced to employ men without education. Believe me, my dear Madame, it is not by my orders they have acted thus. You are English?”

“An Englishwoman from London.”

“I have been to London; I know and esteem the English. I know that they have good appetites, and you noticed that I was moved to offer you refreshments. I know that ladies of your country do not like to run over rocks, and I regret that you were not allowed to walk your own gait. I know that people of your nation carry, while traveling, only such things as are necessary, and I have not yet pardoned Sophocles for having robbed you, above all, if you are a person of distinction.”

“I belong to the best society of London!”

“Deign to take back your money. You are rich?”

“Assuredly.”

“This traveling-case is yours, is it not?”

“It is my daughter’s .”

“Take, also, all that belongs to your daughter. You are very rich?”

“Very rich.”

“Do these things belong to Monsieur, your son?”

“Monsieur is not my son; he is a German. Since I am English how could I have a German son?”

“That is true. Have you twenty thousand francs income?”

“More.”

“A carpet for these ladies! Are you rich enough to have thirty thousand francs income?”

“We have more than that.”

“Sophocles is a villain whom I shall chastise. Logothète, tell them to prepare dinner for these ladies. May it be possible, Madame, that you are a millionaire?”

“I am that.”

“And I—I am annoyed at the way in which you have been treated. You have, without doubt, fine friends in Athens?”

“I know the English Minister.”

“Oh! Madame! You also know some merchants, some bankers?”

“My brother, who is at Athens, knows many bankers in the city.”

“I am delighted. Sophocles, come here. Ask pardon of these ladies.”

Sophocles muttered some words between his teeth, I know not what excuses. The King replied:

“These ladies are Englishwomen of distinction; they are worth a million or more; they have been received by the English Ambassador; their brother, who is in Athens, knows all the bankers in the city.”

“That is right!” cried Mrs. Simons. The King continued:

“Thou shouldst have treated these ladies with all the regard due their fortune.”

“Good!” Mrs. Simons cried.

“Have conducted them here carefully.”

“For what purpose?” murmured Mary-Ann.

“And abstained from touching their baggage. When one has the honor of meeting, in the mountains, two persons of the rank of these ladies, one should salute them with respect, one should bring them to the camp with deference, one should guard them circumspectly, and one should offer them politely every necessary thing in life, until their brother or their ambassador sends us a ransom of a hundred thousand francs.”

Poor Mrs. Simons! dear Mary-Ann! Neither expected this termination. As for me, I was not surprised. I knew with what a crafty knave we had to do. I took up the word, and I said to him fiercely: “Thou canst keep what thy men have taken from me, because it is all that thou wilt get from me. I am poor, my father has nothing, my brothers often eat dry bread. I know neither bankers nor ambassadors, and if thou keepest me with the hope of a ransom, thou wilt reap no reward. I swear it to thee!”

A murmur of incredulity was heard, but the King appeared to believe me.

“If that is true,” he said to me, “I will not keep you. I will send you back to the city. Madame will give you a letter for Monsieur, her brother, and you may even leave to-day. If, however, you need to remain a day or two in the mountains, I will offer my hospitality to you; because I suppose that you have not come as far as this, with this large box, in order to look over the country.”

This little speech gave me a profound feeling of relief. I looked around with satisfaction. The King, his secretaries, and his soldiers seemed less terrible; the surrounding rocks more picturesque, since I viewed them with the eye of a guest and not as a prisoner. The desire I had experienced to see Athens suddenly subsided, and I decided to pass two or three days in the mountains. I felt that my counsels would not be useless to Mary-Ann’s mother. The good woman was in a state of excitement which might urge her to do something rash. If, perchance, she determined to refuse to pay the ransom! Before England could come to her aid, she would have ample time to draw dire calamity upon her charming head. I must not leave her until I had an opportunity to relate the history of Mistra’s little daughters. Shall I say more? You know my passion for botany. The flora of Parnassus is very enticing at the end of April. One can find in the mountains five or six plants as rare as they are celebrated. One especially: Boryana variabilis, discovered and named by M. Bory de Saint-Vincent. Should I leave such a lacuna and present my herbarium to the Museum of Hamburg, without the boryana variabilis?

I replied to the King: “I accept thy hospitality, but on one condition.”

“What is it?”

“That thou wilt return my box.”

“Oh well! so be it: and the condition?”

“That is it.”

“Will you tell me of what use it is to you?”

“To hold the plants which I pick.”

“And why do you search for plants? To sell them?”

“Nonsense! I am not a merchant, I am a savant.”

He held out his hand to me and said with visible joy: “I am charmed. Science is a beautiful thing. Our ancestors were wise men. Our grandchildren will be, perhaps. As for us, time is lacking. Savants are much esteemed in your country?”

“Greatly.”

“One gives them rank?”

“Sometimes.”

“One pays them well?”

“Enough!”

“One attaches a little ribbon to their coat?”

“Occasionally!”

“Is it true that cities dispute as to which they belong?”

“It is true in Germany!”

“And one looks upon their death as a public calamity?”

“Assuredly!”

“What you tell me gives me great pleasure. Then you have no complaints to make of your fellow-citizens?”

“Very much to the contrary. It is through their liberality that I was enabled to come to Greece.”

“You travel at their expense?”

“Yes.”

“You are well-educated?”

“I am a doctor.”

“It is the highest grade in science?”

“No.”

“And how many doctors are there in the city in which you live?”

“I do not know exactly, but not as many doctors in Hamburg, as generals in Athens.”

“Oh! oh! I would not deprive your country of a man so rare. You shall return to Hamburg, Monsieur, doctor; what would they say down below if they knew that you were a prisoner up here in the mountains?”

“They would say that it was a misfortune.”

“Good! Rather than lose such a man as you, the city of Hamburg would sacrifice fifteen thousand francs. Take back your box, haste away, search, gather plants, and follow your studies. Why not put that silver watch back in your pocket? It is yours, and I respect savants too much to rob them. But your country is rich enough to pay for her glory. Happy young man! You recognize, to-day, how much the title of doctor adds to your personal value. I would not have demanded a centime of ransom, if you had been as ignorant as I am.”

The King listened neither to my objections, nor to Mrs. Simons’ expostulations. He closed the interview, and pointed out to us the dining hall. Mrs. Simons descended to the place, all the while protesting that although she would eat her breakfast, yet she would never pay the bill. Mary-Ann seemed more depressed; but such is the mobility of youth, that she cried out with joy when she saw the place where our meal was spread. It was a little corner of green, sheltered by gray rocks. Beautiful grass formed the carpet; some clumps of privet and laurels served as hangings and hid the rocky walls. A beautiful blue arch was above our heads; birds flew back and forth in the azure vault. In a corner of our dining-hall, a limpid stream, clear as crystal, silently swept along in its course, spreading over its banks, and falling in a silvery sheet down the side of the mountain. From this side, the view illimitably extended to the sides of the Pentelicus, the great white pile which overhangs Athens; across the sad-colored olive groves; the dusty plain; the gray sides of Hymettus, rounded like an old man’s spine; and that beautiful Saronic Gulf, so blue that one might say that a strip had fallen from the sky. Assuredly, Mrs. Simons had not a mind turned to admiration, and yet, she confessed that the price for such a beautiful sight would be very high in London or Paris.

The table was laid with heroic simplicity. Brown bread, baked in a field oven, smoked upon the sod and gave out a most appetizing odor. The clotted milk quivered in a huge wooden bowl. The large olives and green piments, were laid on roughly cut pieces of wood. A shaggy goat-skin bottle spread out its large sides next to a red copper cup, roughly chiseled. An ewe’s -milk cheese reposed upon the cloth which had pressed it, and which still bore its imprint. Five or six appetizing lettuces promised us a delicious salad, but there were no condiments with which to dress them. The King had placed his traveling plate at our disposal, consisting of spoons cut out with a knife, and we had, as a surfeit of luxury, our five fingers, for forks. They had not been tolerant enough to serve us with meat, but the yellow tobacco of Almyros promised me an admirable digester.

One of the King’s officers served us. It was the hideous Corfuan, the man of the gold ring, who knew English. He cut the bread with his poniard and distributed it freely, praying us not to lack for anything. Mrs. Simons, without losing one stroke of her teeth, said to him in a haughty tone: “Monsieur, does your master seriously believe that we shall pay a ransom of a hundred thousand francs?”

“He is sure of it!”

“It is because he does not know the English nation.”

“He knows it well, Madame, and I also. At Corfu, I have associated with many distinguished Englishmen! judges!”

“I wish you joy of it! but tell this Stavros to arm himself with patience, because he will wait a long time for the hundred thousand francs, which he has promised himself.”

“He told me to tell you that he would wait for them until the 15th of May, at noon, precisely.”

“And if we have not paid it the 15th of May, at noon?”

“He will regret that he will be obliged to cut off your head, as well as Mademoiselle’s .”

Mary-Ann dropped the bread which she was carrying to her mouth. “Give me a little wine,” she said. The bandit handed to her a cup full; but scarcely had it touched her lips, before she cried out with fear. The poor child imagined that the wine was poisoned. I reassured her by emptying the cup at one draught. “Fear nothing,” I said to her; “it is the resin.”

“What resin?”

“Wine would not keep in these goat-skins if a certain amount of resin was not added, to prevent it from spoiling. The mixture is not very agreeable, but you may drink it without fear.”

Despite my example, Mary-Ann and her mother made the bandit bring water. The man ran to the brook and was back in an instant. “You understand, Mesdames,” he smilingly said, “that the King would not be foolish enough to poison such valuable people as you are.” He added, turning to me: “You, M. le docteur, I have orders to tell you that you have thirty days to pursue your studies and pay the sum. I will furnish you all with writing materials.”

“Thanks,” Mrs. Simons said. “We will think of it in eight days, if we are not delivered before.”

“And by whom, Madame?”

“By England.”

“Is it far?”

“Or by the police.”

“For your sake, I hope you may have that luck. In the meantime, I will do anything in my power for you.”

“I wish first for a bed-chamber.”

“We have near here a grotto, which is called Les Etables. You would not like it; the sheep were kept there during the winter, and the odor still remains. I will get two tents from the shepherds below and you can camp here—until the arrival—of the gendarmes!”

“I wish for a waiting-maid.”

“Nothing is easier. Our men will go down to the plain, and stop the first peasant-woman who passes,—if, however, the gendarmerie will permit!”

“I must have clothes, dresses, linen, toilet appurtenances, soap, a mirror, combs, scents, a tapestry frame, a——”

“A good many things, Madame, and in order to get them all, we would be forced to go to Athens. But one will do the best. Count on me and count not too much on your soldiers.”

“May God pity us!” Mary-Ann said.

A vigorous echo replied: “Kyrie Eleison!” (Lord, have mercy upon us.) It was the good old man who came to visit us, and who sang while traveling about in order to keep in practice. He saluted us cordially, placed upon the grass a vessel full of honey, and seated himself near us. “Take and eat,” he said. “My bees offer you a dessert.”

I shook hands with him; Mrs. Simons and Mary-Ann turned away in disgust. They obstinately refused to see him in any other light than as an accomplice of the brigands. The poor, good man knew no malice. He knew only how to chant his prayers, to care for his bees, to sell his goods, to collect the revenues of the convent, and to live at peace with the whole world. His intelligence was limited; his science, nothing; his conduct as innocent as that of a well-regulated machine. I do not believe that he was able to clearly distinguish good from bad, and to see any difference between a thief and an honest man. His wisdom consisted in making four meals a day, and of never getting more than half-seas over. He was, moreover, one of the best monks of his order.

I did full justice to the present he had brought us. This half-wild honey resembled the kind which we eat in France, as the flesh of a roe resembles lamb’s meat. One would have said that the bees had distilled in an invisible alembic all the perfumes of the mountains. I forgot, in eating my bread spread with the honey, that I had only a month in which to find fifteen thousand francs, or die.

The monk, in his turn, asked permission to refresh himself a little, and without waiting for a reply, took the cup and turned out a bumper. He drank, successively, to each of us. Five or six brigands, drawn by curiosity, glided into the nook. He spoke to each by name, and drank to each, in a spirit of justice. It was not long before I cursed his presence. An hour after his arrival, half the band was seated in a circle around our viands. In the absence of the King, who was taking a siesta in his office, the brigands came, one by one, to cultivate our acquaintance. One offered his services, another brought us something, still a third introduced himself without pretext and without embarrassment, as a man who felt himself at home. The more familiar besought me to relate our history; the more timid held back at first but insensibly drew nearer. Some, having satisfied themselves with looking at us, threw themselves down, without courtesy for the ladies’ presence, and immediately began to snore. And the fleas, always flying about, and the presence of their original master rendering them so bold that I surprised two or three of them on the back of my hand. Impossible to dispute their right to a grazing ground, I was no more a man, but a common pasture. At this moment, I would have given three of the most beautiful plants in my herbarium for a quarter of an hour of solitude.

Mrs. Simons and her daughter were too discreet to impart to me their views, but they proved, by some involuntary starts, that we were of a community of ideas. I even surprised a look between them which seemed to say: “The gendarmes will deliver us from the thieves, but who can deliver us from these fleas.” This mute complaint awoke in my heart a chivalrous sentiment. I resolutely rose and said:

“Go away, all of you; the King has sent us here to live quietly until the arrival of our ransoms. The rent is so high that we have a right to remain alone. Are you not ashamed to crowd around a table, like parasitical dogs? You have no business here. We have no use for you; we do not want you here. Do you believe that we can escape? How? By the cascade? Or past the King’s cabinet? Leave us then in peace. Corfuan, drive them away, and I will help you, if you wish.”

I added action to the word. I shoved along the loiterers, I awakened the sleepers, I shook the monk, I forced the Corfuan to aid me, and soon the troop of brigands, a troop armed with poniards and pistols, gave up to us the place, with lamb-like meekness, although kicking, taking short steps, resisting with the shoulders and twisting the head, in the fashion of school-boys who have to be pushed into the schoolroom, when recreation is over.

At last we were alone with the Corfuan. I said to Mistress Simons: “Madame, this is our house. Will you be kind enough to separate the apartment into two divisions? I must have a little corner for my tent. Behind those trees, I shall not be badly off, and all the rest is yours, if that pleases you. You will have the brook at hand.”

My offers were accepted with sufficiently bad grace. These ladies would have liked to keep all and let me go to sleep with the thieves. It is true that British conventions might have gained something by this separation, but I would have lost sight of Mary-Ann. And, moreover, I had decided to sleep far from the fleas. The Corfuan approved of my proposition, which rendered his watch less difficult. He had orders to guard us night and day. It was necessary that he should sleep near my tent, but I exacted the condition of a distance of six English feet between us.

The treaty concluded, I established myself in a corner to give chase to my domestic game. But I had scarcely begun, before the curious bandits appeared under pretext of bringing our tents.

Mrs. Simons fairly screamed when she saw that her house was composed of a simple strip of heavy felt, pleated in the middle, fastened to the earth at the two ends, and opened to the wind on two sides. The Corfuan swore that we should be lodged like princes, save in case of rain or a strong wind. The entire band began to drive in stakes, to fix our beds and to bring bed-covers. Each bed was composed of a rug with a covering made of goat-skin. At six o’clock, the King came to assure himself, with his own eyes, that we lacked nothing. Mrs. Simons, more incensed than ever, replied that she lacked everything. I formally asked for the exclusion of all useless visitors. The King established severe regulations, such as we had never followed. Discipline is a French word hard to translate in Greek. The King and his subjects retired at seven o’clock, and we were to be served then with supper. Four torches of resinous wood lighted the table. Their red and smoky light strangely colored Miss Simons’ pale face. Her eyes seemed to flash, become dim, and rekindle again, like a revolving beacon-light. Her voice, weakened by fatigue, took on, at intervals, a discordant tone. In listening to her, my mind seemed to wander in a supernatural world, and I remembered some very fantastic tales which I had once read. A nightingale sang, and I believed I saw its silvery song pouring from Mary-Ann’s lips. The day had been a hard one for all, and even I, who had given substantial proof of my appetite, soon recognized the fact that I was famished only for sleep. I said good-night to the ladies and retired to my tent. In an instant, I forgot nightingale, danger, ransom, stings; I closed my eyes and I slept.

A fearful discharge of musketry awoke me with a start. I jumped up so quickly that I struck my head against the poles of my tent. At the same moment, I heard two feminine voices crying: “We are saved! The gendarmes!” I saw two or three indistinct forms rush by in the night. In my joy, in my trouble, I embraced the first shadow which passed my tent—it was the Corfuan.

“Halt!” he cried, “where are you running, if you please?”

“Dog of a thief!” I replied, “I am going to see if the gendarmes will soon finish shooting your comrades.”

Mrs. Simons and her daughter, guided by my voice, came up to us. The man said to us:

“The gendarmes will not travel to-day. It is the Ascension and the 1st of May, a double fête-day. The noise which you have heard is the signal for rejoicing. It is after midnight, almost morning; our companions go to drink wine, eat meat, dance the Romaique and burn powder. If you wish to see this beautiful sight, it will give me pleasure to take you to it. I can guard you more agreeably around the roast than at the fountain here.”

“You lie!” cried Mrs. Simons, “it is the gendarmes!”

“Let us go and see,” added Mary-Ann.

I followed them. The tumult was so great that one could not have slept if one had wished. Our guide led us through the King’s cabinet, and we climbed to the bandit camp which was all ablaze with light. Whole pine trees, placed at intervals, were used as torches. Five or six groups, seated around a huge fire, watched the lambs roasting on spits. In the midst of the crowd, a line of dancers wound slowly around in serpentine fashion, to the measures of most frightful music. Occasional volleys of musketry were heard. Once, it came quite near us and I felt the whizzing of a ball, close to my ear. I begged the ladies to hasten forward, hoping that, near the King, we would be farther from danger. The King, seated on his everlasting carpet, presided with due solemnity over the diversions of his people. Around him were goat-skin bottles; the sheep were cut up and each man took a leg or shoulder and carried it about in his hands. The orchestra was composed of a rude tambourine, and a shrill flageolet. The dancers had taken off their shoes, in order to be more agile. They flounced and jumped all over the spot and came near cracking their bones, sometimes. From time to time, they left the dance, drank a cup of wine, ate a piece of meat, discharged a gun, and then returned to the dance. All these men, except the King, drank, ate, hurled themselves about and jumped; I saw not one of them even smile.

Hadgi-Stavros courteously excused himself for having awakened us.

“It is not I who am to blame, it is the custom. If the first of May passed without a discharge of musketry, these worthy people would not believe that Spring had come. I have here only simple people, brought up in the country and attached to ancient customs. I have done the best for their education that I could do, but I shall die before they become civilized. Men cannot be made over in a day like silver forks and spoons. Even I, such as you see me, have found pleasure in these gross sports; I have eaten and drunk and danced like the others. I have never known European civilization; why should I take the trouble to travel so late in life? I would give much to be young and only fifty, again. I have ideas of reform which will never be executed; I see myself, like Alexander, without an heir worthy of me. I dream of a new organization of brigandage, without disorder, without turbulence, and without noise. But I have no one to second me. I ought to have the exact census of all the inhabitants of the kingdom, with an approximate statement of their wealth, personal and real. As for the strangers who land on our shores, an agent established at each port would learn and send to me their names, their itinerary, and, as nearly as possible, their fortune. In this way, I would know what each one could give me; and I would not make the mistake of asking too little or too much. I would establish on each road a post, with proper clerks, well brought-up and well educated; because, for what good, to frighten clients with disgusting behavior or a surly mien? I have seen, in France and in England, thieves, elegant to excess; and did they not certainly succeed better because of it?

“I would demand of all my subordinates, exquisite manners, above all, from those whose business it was to accost people. I would have for prisoners of distinction like you, comfortable quarters in the open air, with fine gardens. And do not think that they would cost the occupants more dearly; to the contrary! If all those who traveled in this country were, necessarily, to fall into my hands, I could tax the passers-by for a very insignificant sum. So that each nation and each traveler would give me only a fourth per cent on their principals, I would gain upon the quantity. Then brigandage would only be a tax on the circulation; a just tax, because it would be proportional; a normal tax, because it had always been collected since ancient times. We could simplify it, if necessary, by yearly subscriptions. In consideration of a sum, once paid, one could obtain safe conduct for the natives, and an indorsed pass-port for travelers. You say that according to the terms of the Constitution no tax could be imposed without the vote of the Chambers. Ah! Monsieur, if I only had time! I would buy the whole Senate; I would nominate a Chamber of Deputies, friendly to me! A law would be passed, in a trice! One could create, if necessary, a Ministry of the Highway. That might cost me two or three millions, at first; but in four years I could square myself—, and I could keep the roads in order, into the bargain!”

He sighed heavily, then he said: “You see with what freedom I have spoken to you. It is an old habit, of which I can never break myself. I have lived, always, in the open air and in the sunlight. Our profession would be shameful if exercised clandestinely. I hide nothing about myself, but I fear no one. When you read in the papers, that search is being made for me, say without hesitation that it is a parliamentary fiction; it is always known where I am. I fear neither Ministers, the Army, nor the Tribunals. The Ministers know that by a gesture I can change a Cabinet. The Army is on my side; it furnishes me with recruits, when I need them. I receive from it, soldiers; I return, officers. As for Messieurs, the Judges, they know my opinion of them. I do not esteem them, but I pity them. Poor, and badly recompensed, one cannot expect them to be honest. I have fed some, and clothed others; I have hung very few in my life; I am, then, the benefactor of the magistracy.”

He pointed out to me with a magnificent gesture, the sky, the sea, the country: “All that,” said he, “is mine! Every breathing thing in the kingdom submits to me through fear, friendship or admiration. I have made many weep, and there is not one mother who would wish to have a son like Hadgi-Stavros. A day will come, when doctors, like you, will write my history, and when the isles of the Archipelago will dispute the honor of my birthplace. My portrait will hang on the walls of the houses, to keep company with the sacred images in the niches. At that time, my daughter’s grandchildren will be reigning princes, who will speak with pride of their ancestor, the King of the Mountains!”

Perhaps you will laugh at my German simplicity; but this strange discourse moved me profoundly. I admired, in spite of myself, this grandeur in crime. I had not, until then, ever met a majestic rascal. This devil of a man, who might cut off my head at the end of a month, almost inspired me with respect. His grand face, as if carved from marble, serene in the midst of the orgies, seemed to me like an inflexible mask of destiny. I could not restrain myself from saying: “Yes, you are, truly, a King!”

He smilingly answered:

“In truth, then, I have flatterers even among my enemies. Do not defend yourself; I can read faces, and you have looked at me since morning, as if you would like to hang me.”

“Since you have asked me to be frank, I confess that I have been angry. You have asked me a most unreasonable ransom. That you can take a hundred thousand francs from these ladies, who have them, is a very natural thing, and what might be expected of you; but that you should exact fif
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