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Chapter 5 The Gendarmes
The King appeared to be little troubled. His eyebrows were, however, drawn a little nearer together than was usual, and the wrinkles on his forehead formed an acute angle between his eyes. He asked the courier:

“Where are they?”

“Near Castia.”

“How many companies?”

“One.”

“Whose?”

“I do not know.”

“Wait!”

A second messenger was seen running toward the King. Hadgi-Stavros cried out to him: “Is it Pericles’ company?”

“I do not know; I did not see their number.” A shot was heard at a distance. “Listen!” commanded the King, taking out his watch. The men were silent. Four shots followed, a minute apart. The last one was followed by a thundering detonation which resembled platoon-firing. The King, with a smile, put his watch back in his pocket.

“It is all right! Return the baggage to the storeroom, and serve me with wine of Aegina; it is Pericles’ company.”

He saw me just as he finished the sentence. He called to me, in a jeering tone:

“Come, Monsieur German, you are not de trop. It is well to rise early; one sees curious things. Your thirst has awakened you! Will you drink a glass of wine of Aegina with our brave gendarmes?”

Five minutes later three enormous goat-skin bottles were brought from some secret hiding place. A sentinel approached the King.

“Good news! They are Pericles’ men!”

A few of the bandits were in advance of the troops. The Corfuan, a fine talker, skipped along by the Captain’s side, his tongue running. A drum was heard; then a blue flag was seen, and sixty men, fully armed, marched in double file to the King’s Cabinet. I recognized M. Pericles, because I had admired him on the promenade at Athens. He was a young officer of thirty-five, dark, a coxcomb, admired by the ladies, the best waltzer at Court, and wearing his epaulets with grace. He put up his sword, ran to the King of the Mountains, who kissed him on the mouth, saying, “Good morning, godfather!”

“Good morning, little one,” the King replied, caressing his cheek with his hand. “Thou art well?”

“Yes. And thou?”

“As thou seest. And thy family?”

“My uncle, the Bishop, has a fever.”

“Bring him here, I will cure him. The Prefect of Police is better?”

“A little; he sends his kind regards; the Minister also.”

“What is new?”

“A ball at the Palace on the 15th. It is decided; the ‘Siècle’ publishes it!”

“Thou dancest, then, all the time? And what about the Bourse?”

“There is a general fall in stocks.”

“Good! hast thou letters for me?”

“Yes; here they are. Photini’s was not ready. She will send it by the post.”

“A glass of wine: ... Thy health, little one!”

“God bless thee, godfather! Who is this Frank who is listening to us?”

“Nothing! A German of no consequence. Thou hast not news for us?”

“The paymaster-general sends 20,000 francs to Argos. They will pass by the Sciromian Rocks to-morrow night.”

“I will be there. Will a large band be necessary?”

“Yes! the coffer is guarded by two companies.”

“Good or bad?”

“Detestable! Men who are dead shots.”

“I will take all my band. In my absence thou wilt guard our prisoners?”

“With pleasure. Apropos, I have the most rigid orders. Thy English prisoners have written to their Ambassador. They have called the entire army to their aid.”

“And it is I who furnished them the paper!”

“It is necessary, in consequence, that I write my report. I will recount a bloody battle.”

“We will write it out together.”

“Yes. This time, godfather, I must be the victor.”

“No!”

“Yes! I wish to be decorated.”

“Thou shalt be, some other time. What an insatiable! It is only a year since I made thee Captain.”

“But understand, dear godfather, that it is for thy interest to be conquered. When the world shall learn that thy band is dispersed, confidence will be restored, travelers will again pour into the country and thou wilt make thy fortune.”

“Yes, but if I am conquered the Bourse will send up stocks, and I am speculating on a fall.”

“That is another affair! At least, let me kill a dozen men!”

“So be it! That will harm no one. On my side I must kill ten.”

“How! One will see on our return that our company is full.”

“Not so! Thou shalt leave them here; I need recruits.”

“In that case, I recommend to thee little Spiro, my adjutant. He is a graduate of the military school, he has been well instructed and is intelligent. The poor boy gets only 78 francs a month, and his parents are not very well satisfied. If he remains in the army he will not become a sub-lieutenant under five or six years; the staffs are complete. But let him make himself remarked in thy troop; they will offer to bribe him, and he would have his nomination in six months.”

“Good for the little Spiro! Does he speak French?”

“Passably.”

“I will keep him, perhaps. If he does well for me, I will include him in the enterprise; he might be a stockholder. Thou wilt receive our account rendered for the year. I give 82 per cent.”

“Bravo! my eight shares will bring me more than my Captain’s pay. Ah! godfather, what career is mine?”

“What dost thou risk? Thou couldst be a brigand, but for thy mother’s notions. She has always pretended that thou hast lacked a vocation. To thy health! And to yours, M. German! I present to you my godson, Captain Pericles, a charming young man who knows many languages, and who will replace me during my absence. My dear Pericles, I present to thee Monsieur, who is a doctor and is valued at fifteen thousand francs. Canst thou believe that this tall doctor, all doctor as he is, has not yet found out how to pay his ransom through our English captives. The world has degenerated, little one: it was better in my day.”

Thereupon, he nimbly rose and hastened to give some orders for departure. Was it the pleasure of entering on a campaign, or the joy of seeing his godson? He seemed rejuvenated; he was twenty years younger, he laughed, he jested, he shook off his royal dignity. I would never have supposed that the only event capable of cheering a brigand would be the arrival of the gendarmerie. Sophocles, Vasile, the Corfuan and the other chiefs carried the King’s orders through the camp. Every one was soon ready to depart, owing to the morning’s activity. The young adjutant, Spiro, and the nine men chosen from among the gendarmes exchanged their uniforms for the picturesque dress of the bandits. This was a veritable lightning-change; the Minister of War, if he had been there, would have almost been unable to have told how it was done. The newly-made brigands seemed to feel no regret for their former employment. The only ones who murmured were those who remained under the old flag. Two or three veterans loudly complained that the selection had not been well made, and that no account had been taken of seniority. A few old soldiers vaunted their exploits and laid claim to having served the required time in brigandage. The Captain soothed them as best he could, and promised them that their turn should come.

Hadgi-Stavros, before departing, gave all his keys to his representative. He showed him the grotto where the wine was kept, in the cave in which was the flour, the cheese packed in a crevice, and the trunk of a tree in which was kept the coffee. He instructed him in every precaution which was to be taken to prevent our escape and to keep possession of so splendid a sum. The handsome Pericles smilingly replied: “What dost thou fear? I am a stockholder.”

At seven o’clock in the morning the King put himself at the head of his band, and the men marched forth in single file. They marched toward the north, keeping their backs to the Sciromian Rocks. They made a long detour, by a path which was easy, to the bottom of the ravine which was below our camping place. The bandits sang at the top of their voices while wading through the brook formed by the waters of the cascade as they fell into the ravine. The war-song was a story of Hadgi-Stavros’ youth, consisting of four verses:

“The Clephte aux yeux noirs descend dans les plaines;

Sonfusil doré——”

“You ought to know it; the little Athenian lads sing nothing else on the way to Catechism.”

Mrs. Simons, who slept near her daughter, and who was always dreaming of the gendarmes, jumped up and ran to the window, that is to say, the cascade. She was cruelly disappointed in seeing enemies, when she expected to find saviors. She recognized the King, the Corfuan, and several others. What was the most astonishing thing to her was the formidable appearance and numbers of this morning expedition. She counted sixty men following Hadgi-Stavros. “Sixty,” she thought; “there only remains twenty, then, to guard us?” The idea of escape, which she had scorned the night before, now presented itself to her with some favor. In the midst of these reflections she saw the rear-guard appear, and which she had not counted. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty men! Then there was no one left in the camp! “We are free! Mary-Ann,” she cried. The men still filed past. The band itself consisted of eighty men; ninety marched by; a dozen dogs came behind, but she took no trouble to count them.

Mary-Ann arose at her mother’s call and came quickly from the tent.

“Free!” cried Mrs. Simons. “They have all left, What did I say? all! Even a larger number has gone than was here. Let us hasten away, my daughter!”

She hurried to the top of the staircase and saw the King’s camp occupied by the soldiers. The Greek flag floated triumphantly at the summit of the pine tree. Hadgi-Stavros’ place was occupied by M. Pericles. Mrs. Simons threw herself into his arms in such a transport that he had hard work to free himself from her embrace.

“Angel of God!” she said to him, “the brigands have gone.”

The Captain replied in English: “Yes, Madame.”

“You have put them to flight?”

“It is true, Madame, that but for us they would still be here.”

“Excellent young man! The battle must have been terrible!”

“Not so! a battle without tears. I had only to say a word.”

“And we are free?”

“Assuredly!”

“We may return to Athens?”

“When it pleases you.”

“Oh, well! let us depart at once.”

“Impossible, for the moment.”

“What would we do here?”

“Our duty to our conquerors; we will guard the battle ground.”

“Mary-Ann, give thy hand to Monsieur.”

The young English girl obeyed.

“Monsieur,” said Mrs. Simons, “it is God who sends you here. We had lost all hope. Our only protector was a young German of the middle class, a savant who gathers herbs and who wished to save us by the most preposterous means. At last, you have come! I was sure that we would be delivered by the gendarmerie. Is it not so, Mary-Ann?”

“Yes, Mamma.”

“Know, Monsieur, that these bandits are the vilest of men. They began by taking everything from us.”

“All?” asked the Captain.

“All, except my watch, which I took the precaution to hide.”

“You did well, Madame. And they kept all that they took from you?”

“No, they returned three hundred francs, a silver traveling case and my daughter’s watch.”

“These things are still in your possession?”

“Certainly.”

“They did not take from you your rings and your ear-rings?”

“No, Monsieur le Capitaine.”

“Will you be good enough to give them to me?”

“Give you what?”

“Your rings, your ear-rings, the silver traveling case, two watches and the sum of three hundred francs.”

Mrs. Simons cried out: “What! Monsieur, you would take from us the articles the bandits returned to us?”

The Captain replied with dignity: “Madame, I must do my duty.”

“Your duty is to despoil us?”

“My duty is to collect all the articles for necessary conviction in the trial of Hadgi-Stavros.”

“He will then be tried?”

“Since we have taken him.”

“It seems to me that our jewels and our money would serve nothing, and that you have sufficient testimony to hang him. First of all, he captured two Englishwomen; what more is necessary?”

“It is necessary, Madame, that the forms of justice be observed.”

“But, dear sir, among the articles which you demand there are some which I prize highly.”

“The more reason, Madame, to confide them to my care.”

“But if I had no watch I should never——”

“Madame, it will always give me pleasure to tell you the hour.”

Mary-Ann observed in her turn that it was disagreeable to her to be obliged to give up her ear-rings.

“Mademoiselle,” the gallant Captain replied, “you are beautiful enough not to need jewels. You can do better without gems than your gems can do without you.”

“You are very good, Monsieur, but my silver dressing case or necessaire is an indispensable article. What one calls a necessaire is a thing with which one cannot dispense.”

“You are a thousand times right, Mademoiselle. So I beg of you not to insist upon that point. Do not add to the regret with which I have already legally despoiled two so distinguished persons. Alas! Mademoiselle, we military men, we are the slaves of orders, instruments of the law, men of duty. Deign to accept my arm, I will do myself the honor of conducting you to your tent. There, we will proceed to the inventory, if you will be good enough to permit it.”

I lost not one word of this conversation, and I kept silent to the end; but when I saw this rascal of an officer offer his arm to Mary-Ann in order to politely plunder her, I became enraged, and I marched up to him to tell him what I thought of him. He must have read in my eyes the exordium of my discourse, because he threw a menacing look at me, left the ladies at the staircase of their chamber, placed a sentinel there, and returned to me, saying:

“Between us two!”

He drew me, without adding a word, to the rear of the King’s cabinet. There, he seated himself before me, looked me straight in the eyes, and said:

“Monsieur, you understand English?”

I confessed my knowledge. He added:

“You know Greek, also?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Then, you are too learned. Do you understand my godfather, who amuses himself recounting our affairs before you? That is of no importance to him; he has nothing to hide; he is King, he is responsible to no one but himself. As for me, what the devil! put yourself in my place. My position is delicate, and I have many affairs to manage. I am not rich; I have only my pay, the esteem of my chiefs, and the friendship of the brigands. A traveler’s indiscretion might cost me my promotions.”

“And you count on the fact that I will keep your infamies secret?”

“When I count on anything, Monsieur, my confidence is rarely misplaced. I do not know that you will leave these mountains alive, and yet your ransom may never be paid. If my godfather would cut off your head, I should be satisfied you would not talk. If, on the contrary, you should return to Athens, I counsel you, as a friend, to keep silent about what you have seen. Imitate the discretion of the late Madame la Duchesse de Plaisance, who was taken captive by Bibichi and who died ten years later without having related to any one the details of her captivity. Do you know a proverb which runs: “The tongue cuts off the head?” Meditate seriously upon it, and do not put yourself in a place to exactly verify it.”

“The menace——”

“I do not menace you, Monsieur, I am a man too well brought up to resort to threats, I warn you! If you should gossip, it is not I who would avenge myself. All the men in my company adore their Captain. They are even more warmly interested in my interests than I am myself; they would be pitiless, to my great regret, to any indiscreet person who had caused me any trouble.”

“What do you fear, if you have so many accomplices?”

“I fear nothing from the Greeks, and, in ordinary times, I should insist less strongly on my orders. We have, among our chiefs, some fanatics who think that we ought to treat bandits like Turks; but I have also found some who are on the right side, in case it came to an internecine struggle. The misfortune is that the diplomats would interfere, and the presence of a stranger would, without doubt, injure my cause. If any misfortune happens to me through you, do you see, Monsieur, to what you would be exposed? One cannot take four steps in the kingdom without meeting a gendarme. The road from Athens to Piraeus is under the vigilance of these quarrelsome persons, and accidents frequently occur.”

“It is well, Monsieur; I will reflect upon it.”

“And will keep the secret?”

“You have nothing to ask of me and I have nothing to promise. You have advised me of the danger of being indiscreet. I accept the advice and I will refrain from speaking of it.”

“When you return to Germany, you may tell whatever you please. Speak, write, publish; it is of no importance. The works published against us do no harm to any one, unless, perhaps, to their authors. You are free to relate the adventure. If you paint, faithfully, what you have seen the good people of Europe will accuse you of traducing an illustrious and oppressed people. Our friends, and we have many among men of sixty, will tax you with levity, caprice, and even of ingratitude. They will recall that you have been the guest of Hadgi-Stavros and mine; they will reproach you with having broken the holy laws of hospitality. But the most pleasing thing of the whole will be, that no one will believe you. The public will place no confidence in seeming lies. Try to persuade the cockneys of Paris, of London, of Berlin, that you have seen a Captain of the standing army, embraced by a chief of banditti. A company of choice troops acting as guards to Hadgi-Stavros’ prisoners, in order to give him the opportunity of capturing the army coffers! The highest State functionaries founding a stock company for the purpose of plundering travelers! As well tell them that the mice of Attica have formed an alliance with the cats, and that our sheep take their food from the wolves’ mouths! Do you know what protects us against the displeasure of Europe? It is the improbability of our civilization. Happily for the kingdom, everything which will be written against us will be too unnatural to be believed. I can cite to you a little book, which is not in praise of us, although it is accurate from beginning to end. It has been read, somewhat, everywhere; in Paris they found it curious, but I know of only one city where it seemed true! Athens! I do not prevent you from adding a second volume, but wait until away; if not, there possibly might be a drop of blood on the last page.”

“But,” I answered, “if I should commit an indiscretion before my departure, how could you know that I was to blame?”

“You, alone, are in my secret. The Englishwomen are persuaded that I have delivered them from Hadgi-Stavros. I charge myself with keeping up the delusion until the King’s return. It will be for only two days, three at the most. We are forty kilometres from the Scironian Rocks; our friend will reach there in the night. They will make the attack to-morrow evening, and conquerors or conquered, they will be here Monday morning. We can prove to the prisoners that the brigands surprised us. While my godfather is absent, I will protect you against yourself by keeping you away from these ladies. I will borrow your tent. You ought to see, Monsieur, that I have a more delicate skin than this worthy Hadgi-Stavros, and that I ought not to expose my complexion to the changes of temperature! What would be said, on the 15th, at the Court Ball if I presented myself brown as a peasant? I must, moreover, give those poor captives the benefit of my society; it is my duty as their liberator. As for you, you will sleep here in the midst of my soldiers. Permit me to give an order, which concerns you. Ianni! Brigadier Ianni! I confide Monsieur to thy care! Place around him four guards, who will watch him night and day, accompany him everywhere, fully armed. Thou wilt relieve them every two hours. Forward!”

He saluted me with ironical politeness, and humming a tune, descended Mrs. Simons’ staircase. The sentinel shouldered arms.

From that instant there began for me a purgatory of which the human mind can have little conception. Everyone knows or guesses what a prison would be; but try to imagine a living and moving prison, the four walls of which come and go, recede and approach, turn and return, rubbing hands, scratching, blowing noses, shaking, floundering about, and obstinately fixing eight great black eyes upon the prisoner. I tried to walk; my prison of eight feet regulated the step to mine. I went toward the front of the camp; the two men who preceded me stopped short, I bumped into them. This incident explained to me an inscription which I had often seen, without understanding it, in the neighborhood of camps: “Limit of Garrison” I turned around; my four walls turned like the scenes in a theater where a change of view is required. At last, tired of this way of promenading, I sat down. My prison seated itself around me; I resembled an intoxicated man who sees his house turn. I closed my eyes; the measured step of the sentinels wearied my brain. At least, I thought if these four soldiers would but speak to me! I spoke to them in Greek; it was a seductive agent which had never failed me with sentinels. It was clear loss of time. The walls had, possibly, ears, but the use of the voice was denied them; no one spoke under arms; I attempted bribery. I drew from my pocket the money which Hadgi-Stavros had returned and which the Captain had forgotten to take from me. I distributed it to the four cardinal points of my lodge. The somber and frowning walls changed to a smiling front, and my prison was illumined as with a ray of sunlight. But five minutes later the Brigadier relieved the guards; it was just two hours that I had been a prisoner! The day seemed long! the night, eternal! The Captain had already taken possession of my tent and my bed, and the rock which served me for a resting place was not as soft as feather. A fine penetrating rain cruelly convinced me that a roof was a fine invention; and that thatches rendered a true service to society. If at times, in spite of my unpleasant surroundings, I dropped off to sleep, I was almost always awakened by the Brigadier Ianni, who ordered a change of guards. Finally, what shall I say? At night and in dreams I saw Mary-Ann and her respectable mother in the hands of their liberator. Ah! Monsieur, how I began to render justice to the good old King of the Mountains! How I retracted all the maledictions which I had hurled against him! How I regretted his kind and paternal government! How I sighed for his return! How warmly did I breathe his name in my prayers! “My God!” I cried with fervor, “give the victory to thy servant, Hadgi-Stavros! Make every soldier in the kingdom fall beneath his hand! Bring to his hands the coffer, and even to the last écus of that infernal army! And let the bandits return, that we may be delivered from the hands of the soldiers!”

As I finished this prayer, a well-sustained fire was heard in the midst of the camp. This occurred many times during the day and following night. It was only a trick of M. Pericles. In order the better to deceive Mrs. Simons and to persuade her that he was defending her against an army of bandits, he had ordered that volleys should be fired from time to time.

This pretty conceit came near costing him dear. When the brigands arrived in camp, at dawn, on Monday morning, they believed that a fight was going on with a true enemy, and they began to fire some balls, which, unfortunately, touched no one.

I had never seen a defeated army when I assisted at the return of the King of the Mountains. The sight had, for me, all the novelty of a first experience. Heaven had listened unfavorably to my prayers. The Greek soldiers had defended themselves with so much ardor that the engagement was prolonged till night. Formed in a square around the two mules which carried the treasure, they had, at first, returned a regular fire upon Hadgi-Stavros’ sharp-shooters. The old Palikar, despairing of killing one by one, a hundred and twenty men who would not give an inch, attacked them with bare blades. His men assured us that he had performed marvels, and the blood with which he was covered testified to it. But the bayonet had had the last word; in other words, had won the day. The troops had killed forty brigands, of which one was a dog. A regulation bullet had arrested the advancement of young Spiro, that young officer with so brilliant a future. I saw march in sixty men, overcome with fatigue, dusty, bloody, bruised, and wounded. Sophocles had been shot in the shoulder; the men were carrying him. The Corfuan and a few others had been left on the road, some with the shepherds, some in a village, and others on the bare rocks beside the path.

The band was sad and discouraged. Sophocles howled with grief. I heard some murmurs against the King’s imprudence, who had exposed the lives of his men for a miserable sum, instead of peaceably plundering rich and careless travelers.

The strongest, the freshest, the most content, the gayest of the lot was the King. His face expressed the proud satisfaction of a duty accomplished. He recognized me at once in the midst of my four men, and cordially held out his hand to me. “Dear prisoner,” he said, “you see a badly treated King. Those dogs of soldiers would not give up the treasure. It was their money; my trip to the Scironian Rocks brought me nothing, and I have lost forty men, without counting some wounded who cannot live. But no matter! I am well beaten. There were too many of those rascals for us, and they had bayonets. Without which——. Come! this day has rejuvenated me. I have proved to myself that I still have blood in my veins!”

And he hummed the first verse of his favorite song: “Un Clephte aux yeux, noirs——” He added: “By Jupiter (as Lord Byron said), I would not for twenty thousand francs have remained quietly at home since Saturday. That can still be put into my history. It can be said that, at more than sixty years of age, I fought with bare sabre in the midst of bayonets; that I killed three or four soldiers with my own hand, and that I marched ten leagues in the mountains in order to return in time to take my cup of coffee. Cafedgi, my child, do thy duty! I have done mine. But where the devil is Pericles?”

The charming Captain was still resting in his tent. Ianni hurried away to bring him forth, half asleep, his mustache uncurled, his head carefully tied up in a handkerchief. I know of nothing which will so thoroughly awaken a man as a glass of cold water or bad news. When M. Pericles learned that the little Spiro and two other soldiers had been left behind, it was truly another defeat. He pulled off his handkerchief, and but for the respect he had for his person he would have torn his hair.

“This will do for me,” he cried. “How explain their presence among you? and in bandit dress, too! They will be recognized! The others are masters of the battle ground. Shall I say that they deserted in order to join you? That you made them prisoners? The question will be asked why I said nothing about it. I have waited for thy coming to make my final report. I wrote last evening that I had thee almost surrounded on Parnassus, and that all our men were admirable. Holy Virgin! I shall not dare to show myself Sunday at Patissia! What will be said the 15th at the Court Ball? The whole diplomatic corps will talk me over. They will convene the council. Will I yet be invited?”

“To the council?” asked the bandit.

“No; to the Court Ball!”

“Dancer! Go!”

“My God! my God! who knows what will be done? If the only trouble was about these Englishwomen, I would not worry myself. I would confess everything to the Minister of War. These English! That was enough! But to lend my soldiers to attack the army box! To send Spiro into the engagement! They will point the finger at me; I shall never dance again!”

Who was it who rubbed his hands in glee during this monologue? It was the son of my father, surrounded by his four soldiers!

Hadgi-Stavros, quietly seated, enjoyed his coffee in little sips. He said to his godson: “Thou seemest much troubled! Remain with us. I assure thee a minimum of ten thousand francs a year, and I will enroll thy men. We will take our revenge together.”

The offer was alluring. Two days before it would have received much approval. And even now it caused a faint smile among the soldiers, none from the Captain. The soldiers said nothing; they looked at their old comrades; they eyed Sophocles’ wound; they thought of the deaths of the night before, and they turned wistful faces toward Athens, as if they could inhale the, to them, sweet odor of the barracks.

As for M. Pericles, he replied with visible embarrassment:

“I thank thee, but I would need to reflect. My habits are those of a city; I am delicate in health; the winters are rigorous in the mountains; I have already taken cold. My absence would be noticed at all assemblies; I would be searched for everywhere; fine marriages are often proposed to me. Moreover, the trouble is not so great as we believe it. Who knows whether the three unfortunates will be recognized? Will news of the event arrive before we do? I will go at once to the Ministry; I will find out how matters stand. No one will come to contradict me, since the two companies have kept on their march to Argos.... Decidedly, I must be there; I must face the music. Care for the wounded.... Adieu!”

He made a sign to his drummer.

Hadgi-Stavros rose, came and placed himself in front of me with his godson, whom he dominated by a head, and said to me: “Monsieur, behold a Greek of to-day! I! I am a Greek of former days! And the papers pretend that we have progressed!”

At the roll of the drum the walls of my prison fell away like the ramparts of Jericho! Two minutes afterward I was before Mary-Ann’s tent. Mother and daughter hastily arose. Mrs. Simons perceived me first, and cried out to me:

“Oh, well! are we to start?”

“Alas! Madame, we are not there.”

“Where are we then? The Captain gave us word for this morning.”

“How did you find the Captain?”

“Gallant, elegant, charming! A little too much the slave of discipline; it was his only fault.”

“Coxcomb and scamp, coward and bully, liar and thief; those are his true names, and I will prove it to you.”

“Come, Monsieur; what have the soldiers done to you?”

“What have they done to me, Madame? Deign to come with me only to the top of the staircase.”

Mrs. Simons arrived there just in time to see the soldiers defile past, the drummer at the head, the bandits again installed in their places, the Captain and the King mouth to mouth, giving the last good-bye kiss. The surprise was a little too much. I had not been sufficiently considerate of the good woman, and I was punished for it, because she fainted dead away and nearly broke my arms as I caught her. I carried her to the brook; Mary-Ann rubbed and slapped her hands; I threw a handful of water in her face. But I believe that it was fury which revived her.

“Miserable wretch!” she cried.

“He has plundered you, is it not true? Stole your watches, your money?”

“I do not regret my jewels; he may keep them! But I would give ten thousand francs to get back the handshakes I have given him. I am English, and I do not clasp hands with every one!” This regret of Mrs. Simons drew from me a heavy sigh. She let fall upon me all the weight of her anger. “It is your fault,” she said. “Could you not have warned me? It was only necessary to tell me that the brigands were saints in comparison!”

“But, Madame, I advised you that you must put no faith in the soldiers.”

“You told me so; but you said it softly, slowly, coldly. Could I believe you? Could I divine that this man was only Stavros’ jailer? That he remained here to give the bandits time to get back? That he frightened us with imaginary dangers? That he claimed to have been besieged in order to have us admire him? That he simulated the night attacks to make it appear that he was defending us? I see all now, but tell us if you have nothing to say?”

“My God! Madame, I told all I knew; I did what I could!”

“But, German, who are you? In your place an Englishman would have sacrificed his life for us, and I would have given him my daughter’s hand!”

Wild poppies are very scarlet, but I was more than that when I heard Mrs. Simons’ speech. I was so troubled that I dared not raise my eyes, nor respond; neither did I ask the good woman what she meant by her words. Because, in a word, why should a person as harsh as she had shown herself to be, use such language before her daughter and before me? By what door had this idea of marriage entered her mind? Was Mrs. Simons truly a woman to award her daughter, as an honest recompense, to the first liberator? There were no signs of it. Was it not rather a cruel irony addressed to my most secret thoughts?

When I examined myself I ascertained, with legitimate pride, the innocent warmth of all my sentiments. I render this justice to myself, that the fire of passion had not raised a degree the temperature of my heart. At each instant of the day, in order to test myself, I occupied myself with thinking of Mary-Ann. I built castles in Spain, of which she was the mistress. I planned romances, of which she was the heroine and I the hero. I thought of the most absurd things. I imagined events as improbable as the history of the Princess Ypsoff and Lieutenant Reynauld. I even went so far as to see the pretty English girl seated at my right on the back seat of a post-chaise, with her beautiful arm around my long neck. All these flattering suppositions, which should have agitated deeply a soul less philosophical than mine, did not disturb my serenity. I did not experience the alternatives of fear and hope which are the symptoms of love. Never, no, never, have I felt those great convulsions of the heart which are recorded in romances. Then I did not love Mary-Ann. I was a man without reproach. I could walk with uplifted head. But Mrs. Simons, who had not read my thoughts, was perfectly capable of deceiving herself as to the nature of my devotion. Who knows whether she did not suspect me of being in love with her daughter; whether she had not misinterpreted my trouble and my timidity; whether she had not let slip the word marriage, in order to force me to betray myself. My pride revolted against so unjust a suspicion, and I replied in a firm tone, without looking her in the face:

“Madame, if I was sufficiently fortunate to rescue you from here, I swear to you that it would not be in order to marry your daughter.”

“And why, then?” she asked, in a tone of pique. “Is it because my daughter is not good enough for one to marry? I find you agreeable, truly! Is she not pretty enough, or of a good enough family? Have I brought her up improperly? Is she not a good match? To marry Miss Simons, my dear sir! it is a beautiful dream! and most difficult to be gratified!”

“Alas! Madame,” I replied, “you have seriously misunderstood me. I confess that Mademoiselle is perfect, and, if her presence did not make me timid, I would tell you what passionate admiration she inspired in me the first day. It is precisely for that reason that I have not the impertinence to think that any chance could raise me to her level!”

I hoped that my humility would touch this dreadful mother. But her anger was not in the least appeased.

“Why?” she cried. “Why are you not worthy of my daughter? Answer me, then!”

“But, Madame, I have neither fortune nor position.”

“A fine affair! no position! You would have one, Monsieur, if you married my daughter. To be my son-in-law, is not that a position? You have no fortune! Have we ever asked money of you? Have we not enough for ourselves, for you, and for many others? Moreover, the man who would rescue us from here, would he not receive a present of a hundred thousand francs? It is a small sum, I confess, but it is something. Will you say that a hundred thousand francs is a miserable sum? Then, why are you not worthy to marry my daughter?”

“Madame, I am not——”

“Come! What is it you are not? You are not English?”

“Oh! by no means!”

“Eh! well! you cannot believe that we are foolish enough to make a crime of your birth? Eh! Monsieur, I know very well that it is not permitted to all the world to be English! The entire earth cannot be English—at least, not for many years. But one may be an honest man and a learned man without having really been born in England.”

“As for integrity, Madame, it is a virtue which we transmit from father to son. As for intelligence, I have just enough to be a doctor. But, unfortunately, I have no illusions in regard to my physical defects, and——”

“You wish to say that you are ugly? No, Monsieur, you are not ugly. You have an intelligent face. Mary-Ann, is not Monsieur’s face intelligent?”

“Yes, mamma!” Mary-Ann replied. If she blushed as she answered her mother saw it better than I, for my eyes were fixed obstinately on the ground.

“Monsieur,” added Mrs. Simons, “were you ten times uglier, you would not then be as ugly as my late husband. And, more than that, I beg you to believe that I was as pretty as my daughter the day I gave him my hand. What have you to say to that?”

“Nothing, Madame, except that you confuse me, and that it will not be my fault if you are not on the road to Athens to-morrow.”

“What do you count on doing? This time try to find a means less ridiculous than that the other day!”

“I hope to satisfy you if you will listen to me to the end.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Without interrupting me?”

“I will not interrupt you. Have I ever interrupted you?”

“Yes!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“When?”

“Always! Madame, Hadgi-Stavros has all his funds invested in the firm of Barley & Company.”

“With our firm?”

“No. 31 Cavendish Square, London. Last Wednesday he dictated, in our presence, a business letter to Mr. Barley.”

“And you never told me before?”

“You would never give me the opportunity.”

“But this is monstrous! Your conduct is inexplicable! We could have been at liberty six days ago! I will go straight to him; I will tell him our relations——”

“And he will demand of you two or three hundred thousand francs! Believe me, Madame, the best way is to say nothing to him. Pay your ransom; make him give you a receipt, and in fifteen days send to him a statement, with the following note: ‘Item, 100,000 francs paid, personally, by Mrs. Simons, our partner, as per receipt!’ In this way you will get back your money, without the aid of the soldiers. Is it clear?”

I raised my eyes and saw the pretty smile which broke over Mary-Ann’s face as she saw through the plot. Mrs. Simons angrily shrugged her shoulders, and seemed moved only by ill-humor.

“Truly,” she said to me, “you are a wonderful man! You proposed to us an acrobatic escape when we had such simple means at our command! And you have known it since Wednesday morning! I will never pardon you for not having told me the first day.”

“But, Madame, will you not remember that I begged you to write to Monsieur, your brother, to send you a hundred and fifteen thousand francs?”

“Why a hundred and fifteen?”

“I mean to say a hundred thousand.”

“No! a hundred and fifteen. That is right! Are you sure that this Stavros will not keep us here when he has received the money?”

“I will answer for it. The bandits are the only Greeks who never break their word. Do you not understand that if it happened once that they kept prisoners after having received the ransom, no one would ever pay one again?”

“That is true! But what a queer German you are, not to have spoken sooner.”

“You always cut me short.”

“You ought to have spoken even then!”

“But, Madame——”

“Silence! Lead me to this detestable Stavros.”

The King was breakfasting on roast turtles, seated with his unwounded officers under his tree of justice. He had made his toilet; he had washed the blood from his hands and changed his clothes. He was discussing, with his men, the most expeditious means of filling the vacancies made by death in his ranks. Vasile, who was from Javina, offered to find thirty men in Epinus, where the watchfulness of the Turkish authorities had put more than a thousand bandits in retreat. A Laconian wished that they might get for ready money the little band belonging to Spartiate Pavlos, who had improved the province of Mague, in the neighborhood of Calamato. The King, always imbued with English ideas, thought of forced recruiting, and of pressing into service the Attic shepherds. This plan seemed to him to possess superior advantages, as it would require no outlay of funds and he would obtain the herds into the bargain.

Interrupted in the midst of his deliberations, Hadgi-Stavros gave his prisoners a cool reception. He did not offer even a glass of water to Mrs. Simons, and she had not yet breakfasted; she fully realized the omission of this courtesy. I took upon myself the part of speaker, and, in the Corfuan’s absence, the King was forced to accept my services as intermediary. I said to him that after the disaster of the evening before he would be glad to learn Mrs. Simons’ decision; that she would pay, with the briefest delay possible, her ransom and mine; that the funds would be turned over the next day, either to a banker in Athens, or to some other place which he would designate, in exchange for his receipt.

“I am much pleased,” he said, “that these ladies have renounced the idea of calling the Greek army to their aid. Tell them that, for the second time, anything necessary for writing will be furnished them; but that they must not abuse my confidence! That they must not draw the soldiers here! At the sight of the very first soldier who appears on the mountain, I will cut off their heads. I swear it by the Virgin of the Megaspilion, who was carved by Saint Luke’s own hand.”

“Do not doubt! I give my word for these ladies and myself. Where do you wish to have the sum left?”

“At the National Bank of Greece. It is the only one which has not yet gone into bankruptcy.”

“Have you a safe man to carry the letter?”

“I have the good old man! I will send to the convent for him. What time is it? Nine o’clock in the morning. The reverend gentleman has not yet drunk enough to become tipsy.”

“The monk will do. When Mrs. Simons’ brother has turned over the sum and taken your receipt, the monk will bring you the news.”

“What receipt? Why a receipt? I have never given any. When you are at liberty you will readily see that you have paid me what you owe me.”

“I think that a man like you ought to transact business according to European methods. In a good administration——”

“I transact business in my own way, and I am too old to change my methods!”

“As you please! I ask it in the interest of Mrs. Simons. She is guardian of her minor daughter, and she must render account of her whole fortune.”

“But that will arrange itself! I care for my interests as she does for hers. When she pays for her daughter is it a great misfortune? I have never regretted what I have disbursed for Photini. Here is the paper, the ink and the reeds. Be good enough to watch the composition of the letter. It concerns your head, too!”

I rose, abashed, and followed the ladies, who saw my confusion without knowing the cause. But a sudden inspiration made me suddenly retrace my steps. I said to the King: “Decidedly, you were right to refuse the receipt, and I was wrong in asking for it. You are wiser than I; youth is imprudent.”

“What do you say?”

“You are right, I tell you. It is necessary to wait. Who knows if you will not experience a second defeat more terrible than the first. You are not as strong as at twenty years of age; you may fall a captive to the soldiers.”

“I?”

“They will try you as a common malefactor; the magistrates will no longer fear you. In such circumstances a receipt for a hundred and fifteen thousand francs would be overwhelming proof. Give no weapons of justice to be turned against you. Perhaps Mrs. Simons or her heirs would join in a criminal suit to recover what had been taken from them. Never sign a receipt!”

He replied in thundering tones: “I will sign it! and two rather than one! I will sign all; as many as need signing. I will sign them always for anyone! Ah! the soldiers imagine that they will manage me easily, because once, chance, and their larger force gave them the advantage! I fall, living, into their hands, I, whose arm is proof against fatigue, and whose head is proof against bullets! I seat myself on a bench, before a judge, like a peasant who has stolen cabbages! Young man, you do not yet know Hadgi-Stavros! It would be easier to pluck up Parnassus and place it upon the summit of Taygète, than to tear me from my mountains, and place me on a court bench! Write for me, in Greek, Madame Simons’ name! Good! Yours also!”

“It is not necessary, and——”

“Write! You know my name, and I am sure that you will not forget it. I wish to have yours, to hold as a souvenir.”

I wrote my name as best I could in the harmonious language of Plato. The King’s lieutenants applauded his firmness without understanding that it would cost him a hundred and fifteen thousand francs. I hurried with a light heart and much pleased with myself to Mrs. Simons’ tent. I told her that her money had had a narrow escape, and she deigned to smile on learning that I had pretended to be deceived in order to rob our robbers. A half hour afterward she submitted for my approval the following letter:

“My Dear Brother:—The gendarmes whom you sent to our rescue were treacherous, and fled ignominiously. I advise you to see that they are hung. They will need a gallows a hundred feet high for their Captain Pericles. I shall complain of him, especially, in the dispatch which I intend to send to Lord Palmerston, and I shall consecrate to him a portion of the letter which I shall write to the editor of the “Times,” as soon as you have set us free. It is useless to hope anything from the local authorities. All the natives are leagued against us, and the day after our departure the Greeks will gather in some corner of the kingdom to divide what they have taken from us. Fortunately, they will have little. I have learned from a young German, whom I took at first for a spy, and who is a very honest man, that this Stavros, called Hadgi-Stavros, has funds placed with our firm. I beg you to verify the fact, and if it is true, let nothing prevent you from paying the ransom which is demanded. Turn over to the Bank of Greece 115,000 francs (4600 sterling) for a regular receipt, sealed with this Stavros’ seal. The amount will be charged to his account. Our health is good, although life in the mountains may not be comfortable. It is monstrous that two English women, citizens of the greatest kingdom in the world, should be compelled to eat their roast without mustard and without pickles and to drink pure water like any fish.

“Hoping that you will not delay in arranging for our return to our accustomed habits, I am, my dear brother, very sincerely yours,

“Rebecca Simons.”

I carried, to the King, the good woman’s letter. He took it with defiance, and examined it so sharply that I trembled lest he should understand it. I was, however, very sure that he knew no English. But this devil of a man, inspired me with superstitious terror, and I believed him capable of performing miracles. He seemed satisfied only when he reached the figures 4600 livres sterling. He saw, at once, that he was not to be troubled with the gendarmes. The letter was placed, with other papers, in a tin cylinder. They brought forward the good old man, who had drunk just enough wine to limber up his legs, and the King gave the box to him, with very explicit instructions. He departed, and my heart kept pace with him to the end of his journey. Horace did not follow with a more tender look the ship which bore Virgil away.

As soon as the King saw the affair in train to be completed, he became very genial. He ordered for us a veritable feast; he distributed double rations of wine to his men; he went himself to look after the wounded, and with his own hands extracted the ball from Sophocles’ shoulder. Orders were given the bandits to treat us with the respect due our money.

The breakfast which I ate, without spectators, with the ladies was one of the happiest repasts I ever remember. All my evils were then ended; I should be free after two days of this sweet captivity. Perhaps even, on leaving Hadgi-Stavros, an adorable slavery!... I felt that I was a poet like Gessner. I ate as heartily as Mrs. Simons, and I assuredly drank with more appetite. I gulped down the white wine of Aegina, as formerly the wine of Santorin. I drank to Mary-Ann’s health, to her mother’s, to my good parents’ and to that of Princess Ypsoff. Mrs. Simons wished to hear the history of that noble stranger, and by my faith, I did not keep it secret. Good examples are never too well known. Mary-Ann gave charming attention to my recital. She thought that the Princess had done well, and that a woman ought to take her happiness wherever she found it. Proverbs are the wisdom of nations, and sometimes their success. I was cast upon the wind of prosperity, and I felt myself borne toward, I know not what terrestrial paradise. Oh, Mary-Ann! the sailors who traverse the ocean have never had for guides two stars like your eyes!

I was seated before her. Passing the wing of a fowl to her, I leaned so near her that I saw my image reflected in her eyes. I found I looked well, Monsieur, for the first time in my life! The frame set off the picture so well. A strange thought seized me. I felt that I had surprised, in this incident, a decree of destiny. It seemed to me that the beautiful Mary-Ann carried in the depths of her heart the image which I had discovered in her eyes.

All this was not love, I know it well, I wish neither to accuse myself, nor to appropriate to myself a sentiment which I have never felt; but it was a firm friendship, and which would suffice, I thought, for a man about to enter the wedded state. No turbulent emotion stirred my heart, but I felt it melting slowly like a piece of wax in the warmth of a genial sun.

Under the influence of this reasonable ecstasy, I related to Mary-Ann and her mother the history of my life. I described to them the paternal mansion, the great kitchen where we all ate together; the copper sauce-pans hanging on the wall according to size; the strings of hams and sausages which hung in the inside of the chimney; our modest, and often hard life: the future of each of my brothers; Henri ought to succeed papa; Frederic was learning the tailor’s trade; Frantz and Jean-Nicholas had had positions since they were eighteen; the one as corporal, the other, as quarter-master sergeant. I told them of studies, my examinations, the little successes which I had enjoyed at the University, the beautiful future of professor to which I could lay claim, with three thousand francs income, at least. I do not know to what point my recital interested them, but I took great pleasure in it, and I stopped to drink from time to time.

Mrs. Simons did not speak to me again about our discussion on marriage, and I was very happy. It is better not to say a word, than to talk in the air when we know ourselves so little. The day passed for me, like an hour; I mean as an hour of pleasure. The next day seemed long to Mrs. Simons; as for me, I would have liked to stop the sun in its course. I instructed Mary-Ann in the first principles of botany. Ah! Monsieur, the world does not know all the tender and delicate sentiments one can express in a lesson in botany.

At last, on Wednesday morning, the monk appeared on the horizon. He was a worthy man, taken altogether, this little monk! He had risen before dawn in order to bring us liberty in his pocket. He brought to the King a letter from the president of the bank, and to Mrs. Simons a letter from her brother. Hadgi-Stavros said to Mrs. Simons: “You are free, Madame, and you may take Mademoiselle, your daughter, away. I hope that you will not take away from our rocks too unpleasant memories. We have offered you all that we have; if the bed and the table have not been worthy of you, it is the fault of circumstances. I had this morning an angry fit, which I pray you to forget; one must pardon a conquered general. If I dared to offer a little present to Mademoiselle, I would beg her to accept an antique ring which could be made to fit her finger. It does not come from any plunder we have taken; I bought it of a merchant of Nauplie. Mademoiselle will show this jewel in England, in relating her visit to the King of the Mountains.”

I faithfully translated this little speech, and I slipped the King’s ring on Mary-Ann’s finger, myself.

“And I,” I asked of Hadgi-Stavros, “shall I carry away nothing by which to remember you?”

“You, dear sir? But you remain! Your ransom is not paid!”

I turned toward Mrs. Simons, who held out to me the following letter:

“Dear Sister:

Verification made, I have given the 4000. liv. sterl. for the receipt. I have not advanced the other 600, because the receipt was not in your name, and it would be impossible to recover it. I am, while waiting your dear presence,

Always yours,

“Edward Sharper.”

I had overdone my instructions to Hadgi-Stavros; to be quite business-like, he believed that he ought to send two receipts!

Mrs. Simons said to me in a low tone: “You seem to be in great trouble! What good will it do to make such faces? Show that you are a man, and leave that grievance for a whipped cur. The best part is done, since we are saved, my daughter and I, without its costing us anything. As for you, I am not uneasy about you; you know how to save yourself. Your first plan, which was not feasible for two ladies, will be an admirable one for you alone. Come, what day may we expect a visit from you?”

I thanked her cordially. She offered such a fine opportunity for me to show off my personal qualities and to raise myself in Mary-Ann’s esteem. “Yes, Madame, count on me! I will leave here a man of spirit, and much better if I run a little danger. I am glad that my ransom has not been paid, and I thank Monsieur, your brother, for what he has done for me. You will see if a German does not know how to extricate himself from difficulties. Yes, I will soon bring you my own messages!”

“Once out of here, do not fail to present yourself at our hotel.”

“Oh! Madame!”

“And now beg this Stavros to give us an escort of five or six brigands.”

“In God’s name why?”

“To protect us from the gendarmes!”
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