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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Hadgi-Stavros
By Edmond About (1828–1885)
 
From ‘The King of the Mountains’

THE CAMP of the King was a plateau, covering a surface of seven or eight hundred metres. I looked in vain for the tents of our conquerors. The brigands are not sybarites, and they sleep under the open sky on the 30th of April. I saw neither spoils heaped up nor treasures displayed, nor any of those things which one expects to find at the headquarters of a band of robbers. Hadgi-Stavros makes it his business to have the booty sold; every man receives his pay in money, and employs it as he chooses. Some make investments in commerce, others take mortgages on houses in Athens, others buy land in their villages; no one squanders the products of robbery. Our arrival interrupted the breakfast of twenty-five or thirty men, who flocked around us with their bread and cheese. The chief supports his soldiers; there is distributed to them every day one ration of bread, oil, wine, cheese, caviare, allspice, bitter olives, and meat when their religion permits it. The epicures who wish to eat mallows or other herbs are at liberty to gather delicacies in the mountains.  1
  The office of the King was as much like an office as the camp of the robbers was like a camp. Neither tables nor chairs nor movables of any sort were to be seen there. Hadgi-Stavros was seated cross-legged on a square carpet in the shade of a fir-tree. Four secretaries and two servants were grouped around him. A boy of sixteen or eighteen was occupied incessantly in filling, lighting, and cleaning the chibouk of his master. He carried in his belt a tobacco-pouch, embroidered with gold and fine mother-of-pearl, and a pair of silver pincers intended for taking up coals. Another servant passed the day in preparing cups of coffee, glasses of water, and sweetmeats to refresh the royal mouth. The secretaries, seated on the bare rock, wrote on their knees, with pens made of reeds. Each of them had at hand a long copper box containing reeds, penknife, and inkhorn. Some tin cylinders, like those in which our soldiers roll up their discharges, served as a depository for the archives. The paper was not of native manufacture, and for a good reason. Every leaf bore the word BATH in capital letters.  2
  The King was a fine old man, marvelously well preserved, straight, slim, supple as a spring, spruce and shining as a new sabre. His long white moustachios hung under his chin like two marble stalactites. The rest of his face was carefully shaved, the skull bare even to the occiput, where a long tress of white hair was rolled up under his hat. The expression of his features appeared to me calm and thoughtful. A pair of small, clear blue eyes and a square chin announced an indomitable will. His face was long, and the position of the wrinkles lengthened it still more. All the creases of the forehead were broken in the middle, and seemed to direct themselves toward the meeting of the eyebrows; two wide and deep furrows descended perpendicularly to the corners of the lips, as if the weight of the moustachios had drawn in the muscles of the face.  3
  I have seen a good many septuagenarians; I have even dissected one who would have reached a hundred years, if the diligence of Osnabrück had not passed over his body: but I do not remember to have observed a more green and robust old age than that of Hadgi-Stavros. He wore the dress of Tino and of all the islands of the Archipelago. His red cap formed a large crease at its base around his forehead. He had a vest of black cloth, faced with black silk, immense blue pantaloons which contained more than twenty metres of cotton cloth, and great boots of Russia leather, elastic and stout. The only rich thing in his costume was a scarf embroidered with gold and precious stones, which might be worth two or three thousand francs. It inclosed in its folds an embroidered cashmere purse, a Damascus sanjar in a silver sheath, a long pistol mounted in gold and rubies, and the appropriate baton.  4
  Quietly seated in the midst of his employees, Hadgi-Stavros moved only the ends of his fingers and his lips; the lips to dictate his correspondence, the fingers to count the beads in his chaplet. It was one of those beautiful chaplets of milky amber which do not serve to number prayers, but to amuse the solemn idleness of the Turk.  5
  He raised his head at our approach, guessed at a glance the occurrence which had brought us there, and said to us, with a gravity which had in it nothing ironical, “You are welcome! Be seated.”  6
  “Sir,” cried Mrs. Simons, “I am an Englishwoman, and—” He interrupted the discourse by making his tongue smack against the teeth of his upper jaw—superb teeth, indeed! “Presently,” said he: “I am occupied.” He understood only Greek, and Mrs. Simons knew only English; but the physiognomy of the King was so speaking that the good lady comprehended easily without the aid of an interpreter.  7
 
 
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