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Chapter 6 The Escape
In the midst of our adieux, there came to us a powerful odor of garlic which made me ill. It was the waiting-maid who had come to the ladies, to call upon their generosity. This creature had been more annoying than useful, and since the first two days, the ladies had dispensed with her services. Mrs. Simons regretted, however, not being able to do anything for her, and asked me to inform the King how she had been robbed of her money. Hadgi-Stavros seemed neither surprised nor scandalized. He simply shrugged his shoulders, and muttered: “That Pericles!—bad education—the city—the court—I ought to attend to that.” He added out loud: “Beg the ladies to not trouble themselves about anything. It is I who provided the servant and it is I who will pay her. Tell them, that if they need a little money to return to the city, my purse is at their disposal. I will have them escorted to the foot of the mountain, although they will run no kind of danger. The soldiers are less to be feared than one thinks. They will find breakfast, horses and a guide in the village of Castia: everything is provided and everything paid. Do you think that they will give me the pleasure of shaking hands with me, in token of reconciliation?”

Mrs. Simons was very reluctant, but her daughter resolutely held out her hand to the old Palikar. She said to him in English, with roguish pleasantry: “It is much honor that you do us, very interesting, sir, because at this moment we are the Clephtes, and you are the victim!”

The King replied with much confidence: “Thank you, Mademoiselle; you are too good!”

Mary-Ann’s pretty hand was colored like a piece of rosy satin which had been in a shop-window for three months. Believe, however, that I did not have to beg to kiss it. I then touched my lips to Mrs. Simons’ skinny hand. “Courage! Monsieur,” cried the old lady as she was going away. Mary-Ann said nothing; but she threw me a glance capable of rousing an army. Such looks are worth a proclamation!

When the last man of the escort had disappeared, Hadgi-Stavros took me to one side and said to me: “Eh, well! we have then made some mistake!”

“Alas! Yes, we were not clever.”

“This ransom is not paid. Will it be? I believe so. These English women seem to be friendly to you.”

“Be not uneasy: within three days I shall be far from Parnassus.”

“All right, so much the better. I have great need of money, as you know. Our bad luck on Monday will tax our income heavily. We must make up our personal and material losses.”

“You can complain with good grace. You have obtained a hundred thousand francs at one stroke!”

“No, ninety! the monk has already taken his tithe. Of that sum, which seems enormous to you, there will be only twenty thousand for me. Our expenses are considerable; there are heavy charges. What would be done if the company of stock-holders should decide to build a Hotel des Invalides, as has been talked of? There are always pensions to be paid to the widows and orphans of the band. Fever and bullets yearly relieve us of thirty men, and you can see where that places us. Our expenses would scarcely be met; I should have to pay money out of my own pocket, my dear sir!”

“Have you never happened to lose more than once?”

“Once, only. I had received fifty thousand francs on account, of the society. One of my secretaries, whom I afterward hung, fled to Thessaly with the sum. I had to make up the deficit: I was responsible. My share amounted to seven thousand francs; I lost, then, forty-three thousand. But the knave who stole from me paid dearly. I punished him according to the Persian mode. Before hanging him, his teeth were pulled, one after the other, and they were driven, with a mallet, into his cranium—for a good example, you understand. I am not wicked, but I suffer no one to put me in the wrong.”

It rejoiced my heart that the old Palikar, who was not wicked, should lose the eighty thousand francs of Mrs. Simons’ ransom, and that he would receive the news when my cranium and my teeth were not in his camp. He put his arm through mine, and said familiarly:

“How are you going to kill the time till your departure? These ladies are gone and the house will seem large. Do you wish to look at the Athenian papers? The monk brought some to me. I rarely read them. I know exactly the price the articles are worth, since I pay for them. Here you will find the Gazette officielle, l’Esperance, Pallicare, Caricature. Each one ought to speak of us. Poor readers! I leave you. If you find anything curious, tell me about it.”

L’Esperance, printed in French, and intended to fool Europe, devoted a long article to denying the latest news of brigandage. It cleverly joked the simple travelers who saw a thief in every ragged peasant, an armed band in every cloud of dust, and who asked pardon of the first thorn-bush on which their clothes were caught. This truth-telling sheet vaunted the security of the roads, celebrated the disinterestedness of the natives, exalted the quiet and seclusion which one was sure of finding on all the mountains in the kingdom.

The Pallicare, printed under the supervision of some of Hadgi-Stavros’ friends, contained an eloquent biography of its hero. It recounted that this Theseus of modern times, the only man in our century who had never been vanquished, had made a sortie in the direction of the Scironian Rock. Betrayed by the weakness of his companions, he had withdrawn with small loss. But seized with profound distaste for a degenerate profession, he had renounced, henceforth, the practice of brigandage, and had left Greece; he had exiled himself in Europe, where his fortune, gloriously acquired, would enable him to live like a prince. “And now,” added the Pallicare, “go, come, travel across the plain and in the mountain! Bankers and Merchants, Greeks, strangers, travelers, you have nothing to fear; the King of the Mountains wished, like Charles V., to abdicate at the height of his glory and power.”

The Gazette officielle read as follows:

“Sunday, 3d instant, at 5 o’clock in the evening, the military chest containing 20,000 francs, which a large company was guarding on its way to Argos, was attacked by the band of Hadgi-Stavros, known as the King of the Mountains! The brigands, to the number of three or four hundred, fell upon the soldiers with incredible ferocity. But the first two companies of the second battalion of the 4th Line, under the command of the brave Nicola[=i]dis, opposed them with a heroic resistance. The savage attacking party were repulsed at the point of the bayonet and left the field covered with the dead. Report has it that Hadgi-Stavros was seriously wounded. Our loss was insignificant.

“The same day, and the same hour, Her Majesty’s troops were victors in another skirmish, about ten leagues distant. It was at the summit of Parnassus, four furlongs from Castia, that the 2d Company of the 1st Battalion of gendarmes defeated Hadgi-Stavros’ band. There, according to the report of the brave Captain Pericles, the King of the Mountains was wounded. Unfortunately, this success was dearly bought. The brigands, protected by the rocks and shrubs, had killed or seriously wounded ten of the soldiers. A young officer, M. Spiro, graduate of the Erelpides School, died a heroic death on the field of battle. In the presence of such great misfortunes, it is no mean consolation that there, as everywhere, the law reigns.”

The journal La Caricature contained a badly printed lithograph, in which I recognized, however, Captain Pericles and the King of the Mountains. The godson and godfather were holding each other in close embrace. Below this cartoon, the artist had written the following sentence:

“This Is How They Fought!”

“It seems,” I said to myself, “that I am not alone in their confidence, and that Pericles’ secret is an open secret.”

I folded up the papers, and while waiting the King’s return, I meditated upon the position in which Mrs. Simons had left me. Surely, it was fine to owe my freedom to no one but myself, and much braver to leave a prison by a feat of courage, than by a schoolboy’s trick. I could, in a day or two, become a hero of romance, and the object of admiration of all the young girls in Europe. No doubt Mary-Ann would adore me when she saw me safe and sound after so perilous an escape. I might make a misstep in that slippery path. What if I broke a leg or arm! Would Mary-Ann look with favor on a lame and crippled man? I must, moreover, expect to be guarded night and day. My plan, ingenious as it was, could be executed only after the death of my guard. To kill a man is no small affair, even for a doctor. It is nothing in words, especially when one speaks to the woman whom one loves. But, since Mary-Ann’s departure, I was no longer deranged. It seemed less easy to procure a weapon and to use it. A poniard thrust is a surgical operation which ought to make an honest man’s flesh creep. What do you say, Monsieur? I think that my future mother-in-law had treated her hoped-for son-in-law very contemptuously. It would not have cost her much to have sent me 15,000 francs ransom, taking them, later, out of Mary-Ann’s dowry. Fifteen thousand francs would have been of little value to me the day of my marriage. It seemed of much account in the condition in which I found myself, on the eve of murdering a man, and descending some hundreds of meters by a ladder without any rungs. I cursed Mrs. Simons as heartily as the generality of sons-in-law curse their mothers-in-law in all civilized lands. As I had maledictions to spare, I directed some of them against my friend John Harris, who had abandoned me to my lot. I said to myself, that if we could have exchanged places, that I would never have left him eight days without news.

I excused Lobster, who was very young; and Giacomo, who was not very intelligent, and also M. Mérinay, whose downright selfishness I fully understood. One easily pardons treason in such egotists, because one never counts on them. But Harris, who had risked his life to save an old negress in Boston! Was I not of as much account as a negress? I believed, in truth, without any aristocratic prejudices, that I was worth two or three times as much.

Hadgi-Stavros came to change the course of my thoughts by offering a means of escape more simple and less dangerous. It was only necessary to have legs, and, thank God! I was not lacking in that particular. The King surprised me just as I was yawning fearfully.

“Do you feel dull?” he asked. “It is the reading. I never can open a book without fear of dislocating my jaws. I am pleased to see that doctors cannot endure it any better than I. But why not employ the time you remain to better advantage? You came here to gather the mountain plants; your box has received nothing these eight days. Would you like to search for some, under guard of two men? I am too good a fellow for you to refuse this little favor. Each must pursue his course in this lower world. You collect plants; I, money. You can say to those who sent you here: ‘Here are plants gathered in Hadgi-Stavros’ Kingdom!’ If you find one which is beautiful and strange, and of which one has never heard in your country, you must give it my name, and call it the Queen of the Mountains!”

“But truly,” I thought, “if I was a league from here, with two brigands, would it not be possible to out-strip them? There was no doubt but that danger would give me double strength. He who runs best is he who has the most to gain! Why is the hare the swiftest of all animals? Because he is the most terrified!”

I accepted the King’s offer, and, on the spot, he placed two guards over me. He gave them no minute instructions. He simply said:

“Here is milord, worth 15,000 francs; if you lose him, you will have to bring him back or pay the sum.”

My attendants did not look like invalids; they had neither wounds, bruises, nor injury of any sort; their muscles were like steel, and it was not to be expected that they would be retarded by any constraint of their foot-gear, because they wore large moccasins, which left their heels bare. Passing them in review, I noticed, not without regret, two pistols as long as children’s guns. I, however, did not lose courage. By reason of keeping bad company, the whizzing of bullets had become familiar to me. I slung my box over my shoulder and started.

“Much pleasure to you!” cried the King.

“Adieu! Sire!”

“Not so, if you please; au revoir!”

I drew my companions in the direction of Athens; it was so much gained from the enemy. They made no resistance, and allowed me to go where I wished. These bandits, much better brought up than Pericles’ four guards, allowed me plenty of room. I did not feel, at each step, the point of their elbows in my ribs. They picked on the path green stuff for the evening meal. As for me, I appeared very eager in my work; I pulled up, on the right hand and on the left, tufts of grass of no account; I pretended to choose a sprig from the mass, and I placed it very carefully in the bottom of my box, taking care not to overload myself; it was enough of a burden that I carried. I had once known, at a horse race, of a jockey who was beaten because he carried a burden weighing five kilogrammes. My gaze seemed fixed upon the ground, but you can well believe that the interest was feigned. Under such circumstances one is not a botanist, one is a prisoner. Pellison would never have amused himself with spiders if he had had a file with which to saw his bars. I may have, perhaps, seen that day unknown plants which would have made a naturalist’s fortune; but I troubled myself no more about them than as if they had been common wall-flowers. I am sure that I passed near a fine specimen of the boryana variabilis! It would have weighed a half-pound with its roots. I did not even honor it with a look. I saw only two things: Athens in the distance, and the two brigands on either side. I secretly watched the rascals’ eyes, in the hope that something would distract their attention; but, whether they were right at hand or ten feet away, whether they were occupied in picking their salads or following the flight of the vultures, they kept an incessant watch on my movements.

An idea came to me to give them serious occupation. We were in a narrow path, which evidently led towards Athens. I saw at my left a beautiful bunch of broom which grew on the top of a rock. I pretended to be eager to secure it as a treasure. I made five or six attempts to scale the precipitous bowlder on which it blossomed. I seemed so determined to reach it that one of my guards offered himself as a short ladder. This was not exactly what I had counted on. I felt obliged to accept his services, but, in climbing upon his shoulders, I hurt him so cruelly with my hob-nailed shoes, that he groaned with agony and let me drop to the ground. His comrade, who was interested in the process of the enterprise, said to him: “Wait! I will mount instead of milord, I have no nails in my shoes.” No sooner said than done; he sprang up, seized it by the stalk, shook it, pulled it, tore it up by the root and cried out. I was already running away, without looking behind. Their stupefaction gave me a good ten seconds’ advantage. But they lost no time in accusing each other, for I soon heard them following me. I redoubled my efforts; the path was a good one, even, smooth, made for me. We descended a steep declivity. I ran desperately, my arms pressed to my sides, without noticing the stones which rolled under my heels, or looking to see where I put my feet. I fairly flew over the path; rocks and bushes on either side seemed to be running in the opposite direction; I was light-footed, I was supple, my body weighed little; I had wings. But the four foot-falls wearied my ears. Suddenly, they ceased; I heard nothing more. Had they become weary of following me? A little cloud of dust rose ten steps ahead of me. A little further on, a white spot suddenly appeared on a gray rock. I heard two detonations at the same instant. The brigands had discharged their pistols! I was not hit, and I still sped on. The pursuit began again; I heard the breathless voices calling to me: “Stop! Stop!” I did not stop. I lost the path, but I still ran on, not knowing where I was going. A ditch as wide as a river presented itself; but I was flying too fast to measure distances. I jumped, I was saved!—my suspenders broke!—I was lost!

You laugh! I would like to see you run without suspenders, holding in both hands the band of your trousers! Five minutes afterward, I was again a captive. The men hand-cuffed me, fettered my legs, and drove me with switches to Hadgi-Stavros’ camp.

The King treated me as a bankrupt who had carried away 15,000 francs. “Monsieur,” he said to me, “I had a better opinion of you. I thought I knew honest men! your face deceived me. I would never have believed that you were capable of doing wrong, above all, after the way in which I have treated you. Do not be astonished if I, henceforth, use severe measures; you have forced me to do so. You will remain in your chamber until further orders. One of my officers will remain with you under your tent. This is only a precaution. In case of a repetition of the offense, it is punishment which will be given you. Vasile, it is to thee I commit Monsieur.”

Vasile saluted me with his usual courtesy.

“Ah! wretch!” I thought, “it is thou who throwest infants into the fire! It is thou who wouldst have embraced Mary-Ann; it is thou who wouldst have stabbed me on Ascension Day. Oh, well! I prefer to settle with thee rather than with another!”

I will not relate to you the details of the three days I passed in my tent with Vasile. The scamp gave me a dose of disgust which I do not wish to share with anyone. He did not wish me any ill; he even had a certain sympathy for me. I believe that if I had been his own prisoner, that he would have released me without ransom. My face had pleased him at first sight. I recalled to him a younger brother who had been condemned to death and hanged. But these friendly overtures wearied me a hundred times more than bad treatment. He did not wait until sunrise to say “good-morning” to me; at night-fall, he never missed a long list of successes which he wished me. He aroused me, in my deepest sleep, to ascertain if I was well covered. At table, he gave me good service; at dessert he begged of me to listen to some stories which he wished to relate. And always that hand was before me ready to shake mine. I fiercely opposed his advances. It seemed to me unnecessary to include a roaster of infants in my list of friends, and I had no desire to press the hand of a man whom I had condemned to death. My conscience permitted me to kill him; was it not a case of legitimate defense? but I did have scruples about killing him treacherously, and I ought, at least, to put him on his guard by hostile and menacing attitude. While repulsing his advances, his kindness, and repelling his polite attentions, I carefully watched for a chance to escape; but his friendship, more vigilant than hate, did not lose sight of me for an instant. When I hung over the cascade in order to impress upon my mind the unequal places in the bank, Vasile would draw me from my contemplation with maternal solicitude: “Take care!” he would say to me, pulling me back by the feet! “if thou shouldst fall by some unhappy chance, I should reproach myself all my life.” When, at night, I stealthily tried to rise, he jumped from his bed, asking if I needed anything. Never was there a more watchful rascal. He turned around me like a squirrel in a cage.

What, above everything, made me despair, was the confidence he had in me. I expressed, one day, a desire to examine his arms. He placed his dagger in my hand. It was Russian blade, of inlaid steel, from the famous sword factory of Toula. I drew it from its sheath, I tried the point with my finger, I turned it toward his breast, choosing the place between the fourth and fifth ribs. “Do not press on it, thou mightest kill me!” Truly, by pressing on it a little, I could have given him his just desserts, but something stayed my hand. It is to be regretted that honest men recoil from killing assassins, when the latter feel no compunctions about killing honest people. I put the weapon back into its case. Vasile held out his pistol to me, but I refused it, and I told him that my curiosity was satisfied. He cocked it, he made me look at the priming, he placed it on his head, and said to me: “See! thou art no longer guarded!”

No longer guarded! eh! parbleu! that was exactly what I wished. But the occasion was too good a one, and the traitor paralyzed me. If I had killed him at such a moment, I would not have felt equal to enduring his last look. Much better to give the blow in the night. Unfortunately, instead of hiding his arms, he placed them ostensibly between his bed and mine.

At last, I conceived a plan for escaping, without awakening him or killing him. The idea flashed across my mind, Sunday, the 11th day of May, at 6 o’clock. I had noticed, on Ascension Day, that Vasile loved to drink, and that it took but little wine to intoxicate him. I invited him to dine with me. This exhibition of friendship mounted to his brain; the wine of Aegina did the rest! Hadgi-Stavros, who had not honored me with a visit since I had lost his esteem, still acted as a generous host. My table was better served than his own. I could have drunk a goat-skin of wine or a cask of rhaki. Vasile, admitted to his share of these luxuries, began the repast with touching humility. He kept three feet from the table, like a peasant invited to his master’s house. Little by little, the wine lessened the distance. At eight o’clock, my guardian explained his character to me. At nine, stutteringly related to me the adventures of his youth, and a series of exploits which would have made a Criminal Examining Magistrate’s hair stand on end. At ten, he became philanthropic; this heart of tempered steel was dissolving in the rhaki, like Cleopatra’s pearl in the vinegar. He swore to me that he became a bandit because of his love for humanity; that he would make his fortune in ten years, would found a hospital with his savings, and then retire to a monastery on Mount Athos. He promised that he would not forget me in his prayers. I took advantage of his good intentions in order to make him drink an enormous cup of rhaki. I might have offered him boiling pitch; he was too much my friend to refuse me. Soon, he lost his voice; his head swung from the right to the left, from the left to the right, with the regularity of a pendulum; he held out his hand to me; it alighted on the remains of the roast, this he shook cordially, fell over on his back, and slept the sleep of the Egyptian Sphinx, which the French cannons have never awakened.

I had not an instant to lose; the minutes were golden. I took his pistol, which I threw to the bottom of the ravine. I seized his dagger, and was going to throw that down also, when the thought came to me that it would be useful in cutting up the turf. My watch showed eleven o’clock. I extinguished the two torches of resinous wood which had lighted our table; the light might attract the King’s attention. It was a beautiful night. No moon at all, but the sky was studded with stars; it was just the kind of night for my purpose. The turf, cut in long strips, came up like cloth. I had a sufficient quantity at the end of an hour. As I carried them to the spring, I stumbled against Vasile. He raised himself, heavily, and through habit, asked me if I needed anything. I let fall my burden and seated myself near the drunken man, and begged him to drink one more cup to my health. “Yes!” he mumbled, “I am thirsty.” I filled for him the copper cup for the last time. He drank half of it; spilled the remainder over his face and neck, attempted to get up, fell over on his face, with his arms extended, and moved no more. I ran to my dike, and novice as I was, the brook was solidly dammed up in forty-five minutes; it was a quarter of one o’clock. To the noise of the cascade succeeded a profound silence. Fear seized me. I reflected that the King probably slept lightly, like most old people, and that the unusual silence would probably awake him. In the tumult of thoughts which filled my mind, I remembered a scene in the Barbier de Seville, where Bartholo was awakened when he ceased to hear a piano. I glided under the trees to the staircase, and looked toward the King’s cabinet. He was sleeping peacefully beside his pipe-bearer. I crept stealthily along within twenty feet of his tree, I listened; all were asleep. I went back to my dam, passing through a puddle of icy water, which was already up to my ankles, flung myself down and looked over the abyss. The side of the mountain had gradually become polished. There were, here and there, cavities in which water had formed in pools. I had taken accurate note; these places were where I could put my feet. I returned to my tent, took my box which was suspended over my bed, and slung it over my shoulders. In passing the place where we had dined, I picked up a part of a loaf, and a piece of meat which the water had not yet wet. I put these provisions in my box for my breakfast next morning. The dam still held well, the wind ought to have dried my path; it was nearly two o’clock. I wished, in case of an encounter with any one, to take Vasile’s dagger, but it was under the water and I could lose no time searching for it. I took off my shoes, I tied them together, and hung them on the strap of my box. At last, after thinking of everything, throwing a last look at my earthworks, giving a thought to my family at home, and sending a kiss in the direction of Athens and Mary-Ann, I threw one leg over the edge, I seized with both hands a tree which hung over the abyss, and I started out, trusting to God to help me.

It was rough work, harder than I had supposed when looking down. The rock, not entirely dry, gave me a feeling of clammy cold, like the contact of a serpent. I had not calculated distances accurately, and the points of support were farther apart than I had hoped. Twice I took a wrong course in moving to the left. I had to return, a work of incredible difficulty. Hope abandoned me often, but not my will. My foot slipped; I mistook a shadow for a projection, and I fell fifteen or twenty feet, clinging with my hands and body to the side of the mountain, without finding a place to stop myself. A root of a fig-tree caught me by the cuff of my coat-sleeve, you can see the marks here. A little further on, a bird, hidden in a little hole, on the mountain side, flew out between my legs so suddenly, and frightened me so, that I almost fell head first. I advanced with feet and hands, especially with my hands. My arms seemed broken, and I heard the tendons creak like the cords of a harp. My nails were so cruelly torn that they ceased to pain me. Perhaps, if I had been able to measure the distance still before me, I would have felt renewed strength; but when I turned my head, I became so dizzy that I abandoned the attempt. To sustain my courage, I talked to myself; I spoke out loud between my clenched teeth. I said: “One more step for my father! yet another for Mary-Ann! still one more for the confusion of the brigands and the rage of Hadgi-Stavros!”

My feet at last rested on a broad ledge. It seemed to me that the soil had changed color. I bent my knees, I seated myself, I turned my head. I was only ten feet from the brook. I had reached the red rocks. The smooth stone, full of hollows, in which the water still stood, allowed me to take breath and rest a little. I drew out my watch; it was only half past two. I would have believed that my journey had taken three nights. I examined my arms and legs, to ascertain if I still possessed them all; in this kind of an expedition one never knows what will happen. I had had good luck; I had suffered some contusions and the skin was rubbed off in two or three places. The worst sufferer was my paletot. I looked up, not to thank Heaven, but to assure myself that nothing had moved in my camping place. I heard only the drops of water filtering through my dam. All was well; I was reassured; I knew where to find Athens; adieu to the King of the Mountains!

I was about to leap to the bottom of the ravine, when a whitish form jumped up before me, and I heard the most furious barking which had ever awakened morning echoes. Alas! Monsieur, the enemies of man roamed at all hours around the camp, and one of them had scented me. I cannot describe the fury and hate which possessed me at meeting him; one does not detest to this degree an irrational being. I would have much preferred to find myself face to face with a wolf, with a tiger, or a white bear, noble beasts, who would have eaten me without saying anything, but who would not have denounced me. Ferocious beasts hunt for themselves; but to think of this horrible dog who was about to devour me, with a great uproar, in order to serve Hadgi-Stavros! I overwhelmed him with insults; I hurled the most odious names at him; do the best I could yet he spoke louder than I. I changed my tune, I tried the effect of kind words, I spoke to him sweetly in Greek, in the tongue of his fathers; he gave but one response to all my advances, and the response awoke the mountain echoes. A thought struck me! I was silent; he ceased barking. I stretched myself out among the pools of water; he crouched at the foot of the rock with low growls. I pretended to sleep; he slept. I glided, inch by inch, toward the brook; he was up with a bound, and I had only time to regain my platform. My hat remained in the hands of the enemy, or rather, in the teeth of the enemy. An instant afterward, it was no more than a pulp, a chewed up mass, a rag of a hat! Poor hat! I pitied it! I put myself in its place. If I could have escaped, less a few mouthfuls, I would not have considered the matter a great while, I would have made allowances for the dog’s share. But these monsters are not satisfied with killing people, they eat them!

I was convinced that he was hungry; that if I could find enough to surfeit him, he might possibly bite me, but he would not devour me. I had some provisions, I would sacrifice them; my only regret was that I did not have a hundred times more. I threw a piece of bread to him; he swallowed it in one mouthful; imagine a pebble which falls into a well. As I looked piteously at the small portion which still remained, I saw, in the bottom of the box, a white package, which gave me a new idea. It was a small amount of arsenic, used in my zoological preparations. I used it in stuffing birds, but no law prevented me from putting a few grains into the body of a dog. My speaker, with sharpened appetite, demanded more: “Wait,” I said to him, “I am going to give thee a morsel of my own making!” The package contained about 35 grammes of a pretty powder, white and shining. I turned five or six into a small pool of water, and I put the remainder in my pocket. I carefully diluted a portion for the animal; I waited until the acid was well dissolved; I dipped into the solution a piece of bread, which soaked it all up, like a sponge. The dog sprang upon it with a good appetite and swallowed it at once.

Why was not I provided with a little strychnine, or some other good poison more fearful than arsenic? It was after three o’clock, and the results of my experiment were not instantaneous. About half after three, the dog began to howl with all his strength. I had not gained much; barking and howling, cries of fury, or of agony, were all to the same purpose—that is—the awakening of Hadgi-Stavros. Soon the animal fell into frightful convulsions; he foamed at the mouth; he was seized with nausea, he made violent effort to throw off the poison. It was a sweet sight to me, and I enjoyed it; the death of the enemy was my only way of escape, and death was vanquishing him. I hoped that, conquered by the poison, he would permit me to leave; but he raged against me, he opened his foam-flecked and bloody jaws, as if to reproach me with my presents, and to tell me that he would not die without vengeance. I threw my handkerchief to him; he tore it as savagely as my hat. The sky began to lighten. I became convinced that I had committed a useless murder. An hour later, the brigands would be upon me. I looked up to that horrid place which I had left without expecting to return to it, and to which the dog’s endurance was forcing me. A volume of water suddenly poured over the rock and threw me, face down. The icy water, filled with huge pieces of turf, stones, fragments of rock rolled over me. The dam had broken, and the whole body of water poured over my head. A trembling seized me! I became chilled, my blood congealed! I looked toward the dog; he was still at the foot of my rock, struggling with death, with the current, with anything, jaws open and eyes turned towards me. This must end. I took off my box, clutched it by the straps, and pounded that hideous head with such fury that the enemy left me the field of battle. The torrent seized him, rolled him over two or three times, and carried him, I know not where.

I jumped into the water; it was up to my waist; I clung to the rocks; I went with the current; I was over the bank; I shook myself, I cried: “Hurrah for Mary-Ann!”

Four brigands rose out of the earth! they caught me by the collar, saying: “Here thou art, assassin! Come! we will take thee back! the King will be happy! Vasile will be avenged!”

It appeared, that without knowing it, I had drowned my friend, Vasile.

At that time, Monsieur, I had never killed a man; Vasile was my first. I have fought others since, to defend myself and to save my life; but Vasile is the only one who has caused me any remorse, although his end was, probably, the result of a very innocent imprudence. You know that it is only the first step! No murderer, discovered by the police, surrounded with soldiers and led to the scene of his crime, hung his head more humbly than I. I dared not raise my eyes to the good people who had arrested me; I did not feel equal to encountering the eyes of these reprobates; I trembled; I presented a guilty appearance; I knew that I must appear before my judge, and be placed before my victim. How could I confront the King’s frown, after what I had done? How could I see, without dying of shame, the inanimate body of the unfortunate Vasile? My knees shook; I would have fallen but for the kicks I received from those following me.

I crossed the deserted camp, the King’s cabinet, occupied by some of the wounded, and I descended, or, rather, I fell to the bottom of the staircase to my chamber. The waters had receded, leaving traces of mud everywhere. A small pool of water still remained where I had raised the dam. The bandits, the King, and the monk, stood in a circle, about a dark and muddy object, the sight of which made my hair stand on end: it was Vasile! Heaven preserve you, Monsieur, from the sight of a corpse of your own making! The water and the mud, rushing over him, had deposited on him a hideous layer. Have you ever seen a great fly which had been caught, three or four days before, in a large spider-web? The artisan of the web, not being able to rid himself of his visitor, had enveloped him in a tangle of gray threads, and changed him to an unformed and unrecognizable mass. Such was Vasile a few hours after he had dined with me. I found him ten feet from the path where I had bidden him farewell. I do not know whether the brigands had laid him there, or whether he had thrown himself there, in his convulsions of agony; I am inclined to believe, however, that death had come to him gently. Full of wine as I had left him, he must have succumbed, without a struggle, to some cerebral congestion.

A menacing murmur, which was a bad augury, greeted my arrival. Hadgi-Stavros, with pale and contracted brow, walked up to me, seized me by the left wrist, and dragged me so violently that he dislocated my arm. He threw me into the middle of the circle with such force, that I almost fell on my victim; I instantly recoiled.

“Look!” he cried in thundering tones, “look at what you have done! rejoice in your work; gaze upon your crime! Wretch! but where would you have stopped? Who would have said, the day I received you here, that I had opened my door to an assassin?”

I stammered some excuses; I tried to show the judge that I was guilty only of imprudence. I warmly accused myself of having intoxicated my guardian in order to escape his watchfulness, and to flee without hindrance from my prison; but I defended myself from the crime of assassinating him. Was it my fault if the rise of waters drowned him an hour after my departure? The proof that I had wished him no evil, was that I had not stabbed him when he was dead drunk, and that I had his weapons at hand. They could wash the body and see that he was not wounded.

“At least,” the King replied, “confess that your act was very selfish and very culpable! When your life was not threatened, when you were held here for only a small sum, you fled through avarice; you thought only of saving a few écus, and you did not trouble yourself about this poor unfortunate whom you left to die! You never thought of me! that you were going to deprive me of a valuable officer! And what moment did you choose to betray us? The day on which all kinds of troubles assailed us; when I had sustained a defeat; when I had lost my best soldiers; when Sophocles was wounded; when the Corfuan was dying; when the little Spiro, upon whom I relied, was killed; when all my men were weary and discouraged; it was then you had the heart to relieve me of Vasile! Have you, then, no humane sentiments? Would it not have been a hundred times better to have paid your ransom honestly, as became a good prisoner, than to have it said you sacrificed a life for 15,000 francs?”

“Eh! Zounds! You have killed people, and for less!”

He replied with dignity: “That is my business; it is not yours. I am a brigand, and you are a doctor. I am Greek, and you are German.”

To that, I had nothing to reply. I felt convinced from the trembling of every fiber of my heart, that I had neither been born nor brought up to the profession of killing men. The King, angry at my silence, raised his voice, and said:

“Do you know, miserable young man, who was the excellent man of whose death you are guilty? He was a descendant of those heroic brigands of Souli who fought fierce battles for their religion, and against Ali de Tebelen, Pasha of Janina. For four generations, all of his ancestors have either been hung or decapitated; not one has died in his bed. Only six years ago, his own brother perished in Epirus, having been condemned to death; he had killed a Mohammedan. Devotion and courage are hereditary in that family. Never did Vasile forget his religious duties. He gave to the churches; he gave to the poor. At Easter, he always lighted a larger taper than any one else. He would have killed himself rather than violate the law of abstinence, or eat meat on a fast-day. He economized in order to retire to a convent on Mount Athos. Did you know it?”

I humbly confessed that I did know it.

“Do you know that he was the most steadfast of all my band? I do not wish to detract from the personal merit of those who are listening to me, but Vasile possessed a blind devotion, a fearless obedience, a true zeal under all circumstances. No labor was too great for his courage; no occupation too repugnant for his fidelity. He would have killed every one in the kingdom if I had ordered him to do so. He would have torn out his best friend’s eye, if I had given him a sign with my little finger. And you have killed him! Poor Vasile! when I shall have a village to burn, a miser to torture, a woman to cut in pieces, an infant to burn alive, who will replace thee?”

All the brigands, electrified by this funeral oration, cried in one voice. “We! We!” Some held out their arms to the King, others unsheathed their daggers; the most zealous leveled their pistols at me. Hadgi-Stavros checked their enthusiasm: he stepped in front of me to shield me, and went on with his discourse in these words:

“Be consoled, Vasile, thou shalt not rest without vengeance. If I listened only to my grief, I would offer to thy manes thy murderer’s head; but it is worth 15,000 francs, and that thought restrains me. Thou, thyself, if thou couldst speak, as formerly in our councils, thou wouldst beg me to spare him; thou wouldst refuse so costly a vengeance. It is not proper, in the circumstances in which thy death has left us, to do foolish things, and to throw money away.”

He stopped a moment; I drew a deep breath.

“But,” the King went on, “I will know how to reconcile interest with justice. I will chastise the guilty one without risking the capital. His punishment shall be the most beautiful ornament of funeral obsequies; and, from above, from the homes of the Palikars, to which thy spirit has gone, thou shalt contemplate, with joy, an expiatory punishment, which shall not cost us a sou!”

This peroration aroused the audience. I was the only one not charmed. I puzzled my brain trying to imagine what the King had in store for me, and I felt so little assured, that my teeth chattered. Surely, I ought to esteem myself happy to save my life, and the preservation of my head seemed no mean advantage; but I knew the inventive imagination of these Greeks of the highway. Hadgi-Stavros, without putting me to death, could inflict such chastisement as would make me hate life. The old rascal refused to inform me as to what punishment he had in store for me. He pitied my agony so little, that he compelled me to assist in the funeral ceremonies of his lieutenant.

The body was stripped of its garments, carried to the brook, and bathed. Vasile’s features were changed but little; his mouth, half-open, still bore the silly smile of the drunkard; his open eyes preserved a stupid look. His limbs had not lost their suppleness; the rigor mortis does not come, for a long time, to those who die by accident.

The King’s coffee-bearer and pipe-bearer proceeded to dress the dead. The King bore the expenses as heir. Vasile had no relatives, and all his property reverted to the King. They clothed the body in a fine shirt, a shirt of beautiful percale, and a vest embroidered with silver. They covered his wet locks with a bonnet which was nearly new. They put leggins of red silk on the legs which would never run again. Slippers of Russia leather were slipped on his feet. In all his life, poor Vasile had never been so clean nor so gorgeous. They touched his lips with carmine; they whitened and rouged his face as if he was a young actor about to step on the stage. During the whole operation, the bandit orchestra executed a lugubrious air, which you must have heard in the streets of Athens. I congratulate myself that I did not die in Greece, because the music is abominable, and I never could have consoled myself, if I had been buried to that air.

Four brigands began to dig a grave in the middle of the chamber, upon the place where Mrs. Simons’ tent stood, and on the spot where Mary-Ann had slept. Two others ran to the store-house to find wax-tapers, which they distributed. I was given one with all the others. The monk intoned the service for the dead. Hadgi-Stavros made the responses in firm tones which went to the depths of my soul. There was a light breeze, and the wax from my taper fell upon my hand in a burning shower; but that, alas! was a small thing in comparison with what awaited me. I would have willingly endured that trouble, if the ceremony could never have been finished.

It was finished at last. When the last oration had been delivered, the King solemnly approached the bier on which the body lay, and kissed Vasile’s lips. The bandits, one by one, followed his example. I shivered at the thought that my turn was coming. I tried to hide behind two who had already performed their duty, but they saw me and said: “It is your turn! Start then! You certainly owe him that!”

Was this, at last, the expiation which awaited me? A just man would have been satisfied, at least. I swear to you, Monsieur, that it is no child’s play to kiss the lips of a corpse, above all, when one can reproach one’s self with being the instrument of his death. I walked toward the bier, I looked at the face whose eyes seemed to laugh at my embarrassment. I bent my head, I slightly touched the lips. A humorous brigand applied his hand to the nape of my neck. My mouth struck the cold lips! I felt the icy teeth, and seized with horror, I raised my head, carrying away with me I know not what terror of death, which seizes me at this moment! Women are very fortunate, they have the resource of fainting!

They then lowered the body into the earth, they threw in a handful of flowers, a loaf of bread, an apple, and a little wine. This latter was the thing of which he had the least need. The grave was quickly filled, more quickly than I wished. A brigand observed that they must get two sticks for a cross. Hadgi-Stavros replied: “Be quiet! we will put up milord’s sticks.” I leave it to you to think whether my heart beat tumultuously. What sticks? What was there in common between sticks and me?

The King made a sign to his pipe-bearer, who ran to the office and came back with two long laurel poles. Hadgi-Stavros took the funeral bier and laid it upon the grave. He pressed it down hard into the freshly turned earth, and he raised it up at one end, while the other lay in the soil, and he smilingly said to me: “It is for you that I am working! Take off your shoes, if you please!”

He must have read in my eyes a question full of agony and terror, for he replied to the demand which I dared not address to him:

“I am not wicked, and I have always detested useless severity. That is why I wish to inflict on you a chastisement which will be of use to us, inasmuch as it will dispense with any future watchfulness over you. You have had for several days a craze to escape. I hope, that when you have received twenty blows of the stick upon the soles of your feet, you will no longer need to be watched, and your love for traveling will cease for some time. I know what the punishment is; the Turks treated me to a dose of it in my youth, and I know, by experience, that one does not die of it. One suffers much from it; you will cry out, I warn you of it. Vasile will hear from the depths of his tomb, and he will be pleased with us.”

At this announcement, my first thought was to use my legs while I still had the freedom to do so. But you must believe that my will was very weak, for it was impossible to put one foot before the other. Hadgi-Stavros raised me from the ground as lightly as we pick up an insect in our path. I felt myself bound down and unshod, before a thought, leaving my brain, had time to act upon any of my members. I knew neither upon what they supported my feet, nor how they kept them from falling at the first stroke of the stick. I saw the two sticks lifted in the air, the one to the right, the other to the left; I closed my eyes and waited. I certainly did not wait the tenth part of a second, and yet, so short a time was sufficient to send a tender thought to my father, a kiss to Mary-Ann, and more than a hundred imprecations to be divided between Mrs. Simons and John Harris.

I did not become unconscious for an instant; it is a weakness which I never possessed, I have told you so. There was, also, nothing to lose. The first blow was so terrific that I believed that those which followed could amount to little. It took me in the middle of the soles, under that small, elastic arch, just in front of the heel, which supports the body. It was not the foot that hurt me most that time; but I believed that the bones of my poor legs were breaking in pieces. The second blow struck lower, just under the heels; it gave me a shock, profound, violent, which made my whole vertebral column quiver, and filled my brain with a frightful tumult that almost split my cranium. The third was given directly on the toes and produced an acute and stinging sensation, which shot all over my body and made me believe, for an instant, that the stick had hit me on the end of the nose. It was at this moment that the blood flowed for the first time. The blows succeeded each other in the same order and in the same places, at equal intervals. I had enough courage to keep silent during the first two; I cried out at the third; I howled at the fourth; I groaned at the fifth, and those which followed. At the tenth, the flesh itself could suffer no more; I was silent. But the prostration of my physical force diminished, in no wise, the clearness of my perceptions. I could not have raised my eyelids, and yet the lightest sounds reached my ears. I lost no word of what was said around me. It was an observation which I shall remember later, if I practice medicine. Doctors do not hesitate to condemn a sick man, four feet from his bed, without thinking that perhaps the poor devil can hear them. I heard a young brigand say to the King: “He is dead. What good to weary two men without profit to any one?” Hadgi-Stavros replied: “Fear nothing. I received sixty, one after another, and two days afterward I danced the Romanique.”

“How didst thou do that?”

“I used the pomade of the Italian renegade, Ludgi-Bey—Where were we? How many blows?”

“Seventeen.”

“Three more, my children; and lay on the last ones hard.”

The stick had done its work well. The last blows fell upon a bloody but insentient mass of flesh. Pain had nearly paralyzed me!

They raised me from the stretcher; they unbound the cords; they swathed my feet with compresses dipped in fresh water, and, as I had the thirst of the wounded, they gave me a large cup of wine. Anger returned with my strength. I do not know whether you have ever been bastinadoed, but I know nothing more humiliating than physical chastisement. In order to become the sovereign of the whole world, I would not, for an instant, be the slave of a vile stick. Born in the nineteenth century, understanding the use of steam and electricity, possessing a good share of the secrets of nature, knowing thoroughly all that science has invented for the well-being and security of man, knowing also how to cure fevers, how to prevent taking small-pox, and then, not to be able to defend one’s self against a blow from a stick. It is a little too much, surely! If I had been a soldier and had submitted to corporal punishment, I should certainly have killed my chiefs!

When I felt myself seated on the slimy ground, my feet paralyzed with pain, my hand useless; when I saw around me the men who had beaten me, the ones who had struck me and those who had seen me punished; anger, shame, a feeling of outraged dignity, of justice violated, of intelligence brutalized, swept through my enfeebled body in a wave of hate, of revolt, and of vengeance. I forgot everything, prudence, interest, discretion, the future, and I gave free vent to the thoughts which stifled me; a torrent of abuse poured from my lips, while an overflow of bile mounted to my eyes. Surely, I am no orator, and my solitary studies have given me no exercise in the use of words, but indignation, which has made some poets, lent me, for a quarter of an hour, the savage eloquence of those prisoners who rendered up their souls with insults and who breathed their last sighs in the face of the Roman conquerors. Everything which can outrage a man in his pride, in his affections, and in his dearest sentiments I said to the King of the Mountains. I put him in the rank with unclean animals, and I denied him even the name of man. I insulted him through his mother, his wife, his daughter, and all of his posterity. I would like to repeat to you, verbatim, all that I made him listen to, but words are wanting to-day, as I am not angry. I invented terms which are not found in the dictionary, but which were understood, however, for the audience of outcasts howled under my words like a pack of hounds under the lash of whippers-in. But although I kept watch of the old Palikar, eagerly scanning the muscles of his face, and searching for the slightest trace of a frown, I could discern not the slightest sign of emotion. Hadgi-Stavros’ face was like that of a marble statue. He replied to all insults with a contemptuous silence. His attitude exasperated me to madness. I was certainly insane for a moment. A red cloud like blood passed before my eyes. I rose suddenly on my wounded feet. I saw a pistol thrust in the waist-band of one of the brigands, I pulled it out, I aimed it at the King, I drew the trigger, and fell back murmuring, “I am avenged!”

It was the King himself who raised me. I looked at him with an astonishment as great as if I had seen him walking out of hell. He seemed not at all moved, and smiled as tranquilly as an immortal. And moreover, Monsieur, I had not missed him. My ball had touched his forehead, a little above the left eyebrow; a trace of blood testified to it. Possibly the pistol was badly loaded, or the powder poor, or it may be, that the ball had glanced across the bone, but whatever it was, my bullet had made only an abrasion.

The invulnerable monster seated me carefully on the ground, leaned toward me, pulled my ear and said: “Why do you attempt the impossible, young man? I warned you that I had a head that was bullet-proof, and you know that I never lie. Were you not told that Ibrahim had seven Egyptians shoot at me and that he was unsuccessful? I hope that you do not pretend to be more powerful than seven Egyptians? But do you know that you have a nimble hand for a Northern man? Peste! if my mother, of whom you spoke lightly a few moments ago, had not endowed me with strength, I would now be a dead man. Another, in my place, would have died without having time to say, ‘Thank you!’ As for me, such things rejuvenate me. It recalls my best days. At your age, I exposed my life four times a day, and I only digested the better for it. Come, I will pardon you your hasty action. But as all my subjects are not proof against bullets, and that you may commit no new imprudence, I shall apply to your hands the same treatment as your feet received. Nothing prevents us from punishing you immediately; I will wait, however, until to-morrow, in the interests of your health. You see the stick is a blunt weapon which kills no one; you have yourself proved that one bastinadoed man is worth two. To-morrow’s ceremony will occupy you. Prisoners do not know how to pass the time. It was idleness which gave you bad counsels. Rest easy, moreover; as soon as your ransom arrives, I will cure your wounds. I still have some of Ludgi-Bey’s balm. There will be no signs of them at the end of two days, and you can dance at the ball at the Palace, without telling your partners that they are leaning on the arm of a cavalier who has been beaten.”

I am not a Greek, and the insults wounded me as grievously as the blows. I shook my fist in the old rascal’s face, and cried out with all my strength:

“No, wretch! my ransom will never be paid! No! I have not asked anyone for the money! Thou wilt get from me only my head, which will serve thee nothing. Take it quickly if it seems good to thee. It will do me a favor and thyself also. Thou wilt spare me two weeks of torture, and the disgust of looking at thee, which is the most of all. Thou wilt save my board for fifteen days. Do not miss it, it is the only benefit that thou wilt reap from me!”

He smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and replied: “Ta! ta! ta! ta! Thus it is with young people! Extremists in everything! They throw the helve after the hatchet. If I listened to you, I would regret it before eight hours had passed, and so would you. The Englishwomen will pay, I am sure of it. I know women yet, although I have lived in retirement for a long time. What would be said if I killed you to-day, and your ransom arrived to-morrow? The story would go out that I had broken my word, and my prisoners would allow themselves to be killed like sheep, without asking a centime of their parents. It would spoil the trade.”

“Ah! thou believest that the Englishwomen will pay thee, my clever fellow? Yes, they will pay thee as thou meritest!”

“You are very good.”

“Their ransom will cost thee 80,000 francs, dost thou hear? Eighty thousand francs out of thy pocket!”

“Do not say such things. One would think that the blows of the stick had turned your brain.”

“I tell thee the truth. Dost thou recall the name of thy prisoners?”

“No, but I have it in writing.”

“I will jog thy memory. The lady called herself Mrs. Simons.”

“Well!”

“Partner of the firm of Barley in London.”

“My banker?”

“Precisely.”

“How doest thou know my banker’s name?”

“Because thou didst dictate before me.”

“What matter, after all? They cannot escape; they are not Greeks, they are English; the courts—I will make complaint!”

“And thou wouldst lose. They have a receipt!”

“That is so. But by what mischance did I give them a receipt?”

“Because I advised thee to do it, poor man!”

“Wretch! dog wrongly baptized! heretic of hell! thou hast ruined me! thou hast betrayed me! Thou hast robbed me! eighty thousand francs! I am responsible! If they were the bankers of the company, I would lose only my share. But they hold only my capital; I shall lose it all. Art thou very sure that she is a partner of the firm of Barley?”

“As I am sure of dying to-day.”

“No! thou shalt not die till to-morrow. Thou hast not suffered enough. We will make thee pay for those 80,000 francs. What punishment can we invent? Eighty thousand francs! Eighty thousand deaths would be little. What have I done to this traitor who has robbed me! Peuh! Child’s play, a pleasantry! He has not howled two hours! I must invent something better. But may be there are two firms of the same name?”

“Cavendish Square, No. 31.”

“Yes, it is the same. Fool! why didst thou not warn me instead of betraying me? I would have asked double the sum. They would have paid it; they have the means. I would not have given the receipt; I will never give another. No! no! it is the last time! Received a hundred thousand francs of Mrs. Simons! What a foolish sentence! Was it really I who dictated that? But I reflect now; I did not sign it. Yes, but my seal is equal to a signature! There are twenty letters in my name. Why didst thou demand this receipt? What do you expect from those ladies? Fifteen thousand francs for thy ransom? Selfishness, everywhere! Thou shouldst have confided in me; I would have let thee go without the ransom; I would even have paid thee. If thou art poor, as thou sayest thou art, thou shouldst know how good money is. Thou thinkest only of a sum of 80,000 francs? Dost thou know what a heap that would make in a room? How many pieces of gold? How much money one could make in business with 80,000 francs? It is a calamity! Thou hast robbed me of a fortune! Thou hast robbed my daughter, the only being I love in the world. It is for her that I work. But, if thou knowest my affairs, thou knowest that I scour the mountains for a whole year to gain 40,000 francs. Thou hast plundered me of two years’ income; it is as if I had slept for two years!”

I had then found the tender chord. The old Palikar was touched to the heart. I knew that there was a heavy score against me, and I expected no mercy, and moreover, I experienced an intense joy in seeing that impassable mask torn asunder and that stony face wrung with emotion. I rejoiced to see in his wrinkled face, the convulsive movements of passion, as the ship-wrecked boat lost in a raging sea, admires, afar off, the wave which is to engulf it. I was like the thinking reed, which the brutal universe crushes into a shapeless mass, and which consoles itself in dying with the lofty thought of its superiority. I said to myself, with pride: “I shall die by torture, but I am the master of my master, and the executioner of my execution!”
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