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Chapter 8 The Court Ball
Thursday, May 15, at six o’clock in the evening, John Harris, in full uniform, took me to Christodule’s house. The pastry-cook and his wife gave me a warm reception, not without many sighs on account of the King of the Mountains. As for me, I embraced them heartily. I was happy in being alive, and I saw only friends on all sides. My feet were cured; my hair trimmed, my stomach full. Dimitri assured me that Mrs. Simons, her daughter, and her brother were invited to the Court Ball, and that the laundress had taken a dress to the Hotel des Etrangers. I enjoyed, in advance, Mary-Ann’s surprise and joy. Christodule offered me a glass of Santorin wine. In this glorious beverage I thought to drink to liberty, riches, happiness. I mounted the staircase to my room, but before retiring I knocked at M. Mérinay’s door. He received me in the midst of a medley of books and papers. “Dear sir, you see a man overwhelmed with work,” he said. “I found, above the village of Castia, an antique inscription, which deprived me of the pleasure of fighting for you, and which for six days has puzzled me. It is absolutely unknown, I assure you of that. No one has seen it; I have the honor of discovering it; I intend to give it my name. The stone is a small monument of shelly limestone, 35 centimetres in height by 22, and set, by chance, on the edge of the path. The characters are of the finest period of art and cut to perfection. Here is the inscription as I copied it in my note-book:

“S. T. X. X. I. I.

“M. D. C. C. C. L. I.

“If I can translate it my fortune is made. I shall be made member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-lettres of Pont-Audemer! But the task is a long and difficult one. Antiquity guards its secrets with jealous care. I greatly fear that I have come across a monument relative to the Eleusinian mysteries. In that case there may perhaps be two interpretations to discover; the one the vulgar or demontique; the other the sacred or hieratique. You must give me your advice.”

I replied: “My advice is that of an ignorant man. I think that you have discovered a mile-stone such as one often sees on long roads, and that the inscription which has given you so much trouble can, without doubt, be translated thus:

“Stade, 22, 1851. Good evening, my dear M. Mérinay; I am going to write to my father and then put on my red uniform.”

My letter to my parent was an ode, a hymn, a chant of happiness. The exuberant joy which filled my heart overflowed upon the paper. I invited the family to my wedding, not forgetting good Aunt Rosenthaler. I implored my father to sell his inn at once; I ordered that Frantz and Jean Nicolas should leave the service; I advised my other brothers to change their business. I took everything upon myself; I assumed the responsibility of the future of the whole family. Without losing a moment I sealed the letter and sent it by special messenger to Piraeus, to catch the German-Lloyd steamer, which sailed Friday morning at 6 o’clock. “In this way,” I said to myself, “they will rejoice in my happiness almost as soon as I shall.”

At a quarter to nine sharp I entered the Palace with John Harris. Neither Lobster, M. Mérinay nor Giacomo were invited. My three-cornered hat was a little rusty, but by candlelight this little defect was not noticeable. My sword was seven or eight centimetres too short; but what of that? Courage is not measured by the length of a sword, and I had without vanity the right to pass for a hero. The red coat was tight-fitting; it pinched me under the arms, and the trimming on the cuffs was quite a distance from my hands; but the embroidery showed to advantage, as papa had prophesied.

The ballroom, decorated with taste and brilliantly lighted, was divided into two sections. On one side behind the throne for the King and Queen were the fauteuils reserved for the ladies; on the other were chairs for the ugly sex. With one glance I swept the space occupied by the ladies. Mary-Ann had not yet arrived.

At nine o’clock I saw enter the King and Queen, followed by the Grand Mistress, the Marshal of the Palace, the aides-de-camp, the Ladies of Honor, and the orderly officers, among whom I recognized M. George-Micrommatis. The King was magnificently dressed in Palikar uniform, and the Queen was resplendent with exquisite elegancies which could come only from Paris. The gorgeousness of the toilets and the glitter of the national costumes made me almost forget Mary-Ann. I fixed my eyes on the door and waited.

The members of the Diplomatic Corps and the most distinguished guests were ranged in a circle around the King and Queen, who conversed pleasantly with those near them for a half hour or so. I was on the outside row with John Harris. An officer, standing in front of us, stepped back suddenly with his whole weight upon my foot and the pain drew from me an exclamation. He turned his head and I recognized Captain Pericles, freshly decorated with the Ordre du Sauveur. He made excuses and asked for news. I could not refrain from informing him that my health did not concern him. Harris, who knew my history entirely, politely said to the captain: “Is it not M. Pericles to whom I have the honor of speaking?”


“I am charmed! Will you be good enough to accompany me, for a moment, into the card-room? It is still empty and we will be alone.”

“At your orders, Monsieur.”

M. Pericles, pale as a soldier who is leaving a hospital, smilingly followed us. Arrived, he faced John Harris and said to him: “Monsieur, I await your pleasure.”

In reply Harris tore off his cross with its new ribbon, and put it in his pocket, saying: “There, Monsieur, that is all I have to say to you!”

“Monsieur!” cried the captain, stepping back.

“No noise, Monsieur, I pray you. If you care for this toy you can send two of your friends for it to Mr. John Harris, Commander of The Fancy.”

“Monsieur,” Pericles replied, “I do not know by what right you take from me a cross which is worth fifteen francs, and which I shall be obliged to replace at my own expense.”

“Do not let that trouble you, Monsieur; here is an English sovereign, with the head of the Queen of England on it; fifteen francs for the cross, ten for the ribbon. If there is anything left, I beg of you to drink to my health.”

“Monsieur,” said the officer, pocketing the piece, “I have only to thank you.” He saluted without another word, but his eyes promised nothing pleasant.

“My dear Hermann,” Harris said to me, “it will be prudent for you to leave this country as soon as possible with your future bride. This gendarme has the air of a polished brigand. As for me, I shall remain here eight days in order to give him time to demand satisfaction. After that I shall obey the orders which I have received to go to the Sea of Japan.”

“I am sorry that your ardor has carried you so far. I do not wish to leave Greece without a specimen or two of the Boryana variabilis. I have an incomplete one without the roots in my tin box which I forgot when we left the camp.”

“Leave a sketch of your plant with Lobster or Giacomo. They will make a pilgrimage into the mountains for your sake. But for God’s sake! make haste to get to a place of safety!”

In the meantime my happiness had not arrived at the ball, and I tired my eyes starin............
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