While the German botanist, Hermann Schultz, was lodging with a Greek family in Athens, he learned of a notorious Greek bandit so powerful that the government could not destroy his band and so cruel that he had decapitated two young girls he had been holding for ransom. Hadgi-Stavros, the King of the Mountains, was greatly feared, but he was also greatly admired by many of his countrymen. John Harris, an American who was Hermann’s fellow lodger, snorted in disgust as the landlord recited with admiration all the exploits of the bandit. Harris was so indignant he was unaware that when he spoke Photini, a young Greek girl who came to the house in order to learn foreign languages from the lodgers, looked at him with love in her eyes.
The newspapers announced the defeat of Hadgi-Stavros and his brigands, and Hermann believed it safe to leave Athens in order to continue his botanical research. Unfamiliar with the territory, however, he lost his way. Finally he met the landlord’s son, Dmitri, who was acting as guide for two Englishwomen, Mrs. Simons and her daughter Mary Ann. Hermann joined their party. When Mrs. Simons, arrogant and querulous, demanded that they stop to eat, Dmitri told her they could find food at the next village. When they arrived there, however, the village was deserted; everyone had fled. Dmitri said they could stop at a monastery, only a ten-minute walk away. At the monastery, a monk told them that bandits were in the district, and he advised them to flee for their lives.
A few minutes later, the brigands appeared and surrounded them, despite Mrs. Simons’ indignant assertions that she was English. They were led to the hideout of the chief, where Hadgi-Stavros was sitting dictating letters to business firms, to clients, to his daughter who was away at school. When he was finished, he ordered food for the captives, and Mrs. Simons felt much better.
By clever questioning, Hadgi-Stavros learned that Mrs. Simons was extremely wealthy, and he ordered that she should be held for ransom. When Hermann protested that he was without money or influential friends, Hadgi-Stavros said that he could take Mrs. Simons’ note back to Athens, but when the bandit learned that Hermann was a scientist, a learned man, he decided to hold him for ransom as well.
Mrs. Simons insisted that she would pay nothing, that the soldiers would follow and rescue them. Hermann was discouraged, for he knew that the soldiers would do nothing of the kind. One day a troop of soldiers appeared, and the leader, Captain Pericles, was received with affection. While the bandits went off on a raid,...
(The entire section is 1071 words.)