1807 In Trieste lives a thirty-two-year-old widow, Mrs. Alberti, with her young sister Antonia, a girl who is fragile, sad and thoughtful.
In this troubled time, when “the laws have not yet entered into force,” and justice is often idle, a gang of robbers calling themselves “brothers of the common good” is in the vicinity of the city. They are headed by a certain Jean Sbogar, endowed with rumors of enormous growth and “terrifying appearance.” No one knows where he came from, but everyone agrees that he and his people are “ruthless and ruthless.”
Sisters often walk in a grove where local peasants are usually going to sing and dance. During one of the walks, they hear a song about Jean Sbogar. The villain’s name makes them tremble. Returning at dusk home, they meet a young man singing the song that they just heard. Sisters are filled with vague premonitions.
Once, on a walk, Antonia, moistened by the heat, sits
down to relax under a tree and falls asleep. Awakened, she sees two men beside him. A young stranger tells the companion about his passionate and lofty love for Antony. Attracted by the noise, Mrs. Alberti appears, and, like ghosts, the unknowns disappear. Mrs. Alberti fears that any of Jean Sbogar’s henchmen will fall in love with his sister. At the mention of the terrible robber Antonia is confused.
Antonia rarely leaves the house. Only sometimes she goes to the shore of the bay to admire the Duino castle, which rises on the cliff, where, according to rumors, there lives a gang of Jean Sbogar. Once in the twilight, she notices how two unknown people board a boat and sail to the side of the castle. It seems to her that the voice of one of them belongs to a mysterious stranger who confessed his love for her. An inexplicable fear creeps into Antonia’s soul.
Unexpectedly, the sisters have to go to Venice, and both are happily set off. In an unfamiliar city, Antonia hopes to get rid of his troubling thoughts.
On the way, the sisters are asked to bring a young monk from the Armenian monastery.
They agree, and a young man in a monastic vestments is put in a carriage. A hat with large fields hides his face, however Mrs. Alberti has time to notice that his hands are “white and tender, like a girl”.
When the sisters pass by the castle of Duino, they are attacked by bandits. Suddenly the young monk jumps out of the carriage, disperses the bandits and, having ordered the frightened coachman to go further, disappears. Antonia finds rich writing in this incident for her gloomy “dreamy reflections.”
Arriving in Venice, both women immediately hear a story about a certain Lothario – a young man who is respected by all the inhabitants of the city, from the last beggar to an influential official and a stiff aristocrat. Mysterious Aotario, endowed with many outstanding talents, does not lead friends with anyone, helps a lot of the poor and rarely happens in the same house twice. Nobody knows where he comes from, nor what is the origin of his truly fabulous wealth. Above him are not in power not only laws, but also love.
At one of the receptions, Mrs. Alberti and Antonia meet the famous Lothario. Antonia is extraordinarily excited. Lothario, who has a “fascination with the extraordinary”, shows interest in Anthony. When he is asked to sing, he sings a song about Jan Sbogar. Anthony seems that she had already heard that voice somewhere.
Lothario makes a deep impression on Antony. Gradually, communication with him becomes a need for her, and, not yet admit to herself, she falls in love with this mysterious, always sad, but imperious youth. Despite the mystery surrounding Lothario, Mrs. Alberti considers him worthy of the hand of her sister and contributes to their rapprochement.
Once in the living room of Mrs. Alberti we are talking about Jean Sbogar. A certain venerable old man once knew him. Originally from a noble family, in childhood this robber had a gentle and noble soul, and only the circumstances of life forced him to step on the path of crime. Having renounced his father’s name, he became known as Jean Sbogar. Aotario also fervently advocates the rebel bandit. Antonia listens to him as if spellbound.
Lothario admits Antony in love. Antonia answers him in kind. Shocked, Lothario leaves the city, leaving Antony with a letter saying that she is not worthy of her love.
Antonia understands that in the past Lothario there is some terrible secret hidden. She finds Litorio’s note-book, where he writes with indignation about the injustice prevailing in the world.
Wanting to dispel the sorrow of her sister, Mrs. Alberti takes her home. On the way they are attacked by the robbers of Jean Sbogar, they grab Antony and bring him to the castle of Duino. Ataman, a young man whose face is hidden by a mask, grants her freedom. Not wanting to leave alone, the girl is looking for her sister everywhere. Having seen in the chapel of the castle the coffin with the body of Mrs. Alberti, she is going crazy. Ataman, without removing the mask, takes care of Antonia.
But the robbers were seized and sentenced to death. Unfortunate Antony is placed in a monastery, where reason gradually returns to her.
But Jean Sbogar is not found, and the authorities decide to show the captured robbers Anthony – in the hope that she identifies the ataman, since she is the only one whom he spared. Among the prisoners Antonia notices Lothario. “Lothario!” she shouts. “I’m Jean Sbogar!” – answers the robber, and Antonia’s heart is torn. Jean Sbogar goes to the execution.