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The King Of the Mountians

EDMUND ABOUT

内容Americans are never deformed nor mean-looking, and do you know why? Because they are not bound in the swaddling-clothes of a narrow civilization. Their minds and their bodies develop at will; their schoolroom is the open air; their master, exercise; their nurse, liberty.

I never cared especially for M. Mérinay; I looked at Giacomo Fondi with the indifferent curiosity with which one gazes at foreign animals; the little Lobster inspired me with luke-warm interest; but I conceived a warm affection for Harris. His frank face, his simple manners, his sternness which was not without sweetness, his hasty yet chivalrous temper, the oddities of his humor, the enthusiasm of his sentiments, appealed to me more strongly as I was neither enthusiastic nor hasty. We admire in others what we lack ourselves. Giacomo wore white clothes because he was black; I adore Americans because I am a German. As for the Greeks, I knew little of them even after four months' sojourn in their country. Nothing is easier than living in Athens without coming in contact with the natives. I did not go to a café; I did not read the Pandore, nor the Minerve; nor any other paper of the country; I did not go to the theater, because I have a sensitive ear and a false note hurts me more cruelly than a blow; I lived with my hosts, my herbarium, and with John Harris. I could have presented myself at the Palace, thanks to my diplomatic pass-port and my official title. I had sent my card to the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies, and I could count upon an invitation to the first Court Ball. I kept in reserve for this occasion, a beautiful red coat, embroidered with silver, which my Aunt Rosenthaler had given to me the night before my departure. It was her husband's uniform; he was an assistant in a Scientific Institute, and prepared the specimens. My good aunt, a woman of great sense, knew that a uniform was well received in all countries, above all if it was red. My elder brother had remarked that I was larger than my uncle, as the sleeves were too short; but Papa quickly replied, that only the silver embroidery would catch the eye, and that princesses would not examine the uniform closely.

Unfortunately, the Court was not dancing that season. The winter pleasures were the flowering of almond, peach, and lemon trees. There was a vague report of a ball to be given the 15th of May; it made a stir in the city, as a few semi-official journals took it up; but there was nothing positively known about it.

My studies kept pace with my pleasures, slowly. I knew, by heart, the Botanical Gardens of Athens; they were neither very beautiful nor very full; it was a subject soon mastered. The Royal Gardens offered far more to study: an intelligent Frenchman had collected for it all the riches of the vegetable kingdom, from the palms of the West Indies to the saxifrage of the North. I passed whole days there studying M. Barraud's collections. The garden is public only at certain hours; but I spoke Greek to the guards, and for love of the Greek, they permitted me to enter. M. Barraud did not seem to weary of my company; he took me everywhere for the pleasure of discussing Botany and speaking French. In his absence, I hunted up the head gardener and questioned him in German: it is well to be polyglot.

I searched for plants every day in the surrounding country, but never as far from the city as I should like to have gone; there were many brigands around Athens. I am not a coward, the following story will prove it to you, but I love my life. It is a present which I received from my parents; I wish to preserve it as long as possible, in remembrance of my father and mother. In the month of April, 1856, it was dangerous to go far from the city: it was even imprudent to live outside. I did not venture upon the slopes of Lycabettus without thinking of poor Mme. Daraud who was robbed in broad daylight. The hills of Daphne recalled to me the capture of two French officers.

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