One of the peasants, an elderly and reasonable-looking man, comes up to me and asks me in Italian why I have killed the sheep.
"To eat it, my good fellow, but not before I have paid for it."
"But his holiness, the papa, might choose to charge one sequin for it."
"Here is one sequin."
The priest takes the money and goes away: war is over. The peasant tells me that he has served in the campaign of 1716, and that he was at the defence of Corfu. I compliment him, and ask him to find me a lodging and a man able to prepare my meals. He answers that he will procure me a whole house, that he will be my cook himself, but I must go up the hill. No matter! He calls two stout fellows, one takes my bag, the other shoulders my sheep, and forward! As we are walking along, I tell him,--
"My good man, I would like to have in my service twenty-four fellows like these under military discipline. I would give each man twenty gazzette a day, and you would have forty as my lieutenant."
"I will," says the old soldier, "raise for you this very day a body- guard of which you will be proud."
We reach a very convenient house, containing on the ground floor three rooms and a stable, which I immediately turned into a guard- room.
My lieutenant went to get what I wanted, and particularly a needlewoman to make me some shirts. In the course of the day I had furniture, bedding, kitchen utensils, a good dinner, twenty-four well-equipped soldiers, a super-annuated sempstress and several young girls to make my shirts. After supper, I found my position highly pleasant, being surrounded with some thirty persons who looked upon me as their sovereign, although they could not make out what had brought me to their island. The only thing which struck me as disagreeable was that the young girls could not speak Italian, and I did not know Greek enough to enable me to make love to them.
The next morning my lieutenant had the guard relieved, and I could not help bursting into a merry laugh. They were like a flock of sheep: all fine men, well-made and strong; but without uniform and without discipline the finest band is but a herd. However, they quickly learned how to present arms and to obey the orders of their officer. I caused three sentinels to be placed, one before the guardroom, one at my door, and the third where he could have a good view of the sea. This sentinel was to give me warning of the approach of any armed boat or vessel. For the first two or three days I considered all this as mere amusement, but, thinking that I might really want the men to repel force by force, I had some idea of making my army take an oath of allegiance. I did not do so, however, although my lieutenant assured me that I had only to express my wishes, for my generosity had captivated the love of all the islanders.
My sempstress, who had procured some young needlewomen to sew my shirts, had expected that I would fall in love with one and not with all, but my amorous zeal overstepped her hopes, and all the pretty ones had their turn; they were all well satisfied with me, and the sempstress was rewarded for her good offices. I was leading a delightful life, for my table was supplied with excellent dishes, juicy mutton, and snipe so delicious that I have never tasted their like except in St. Petersburg. I drank scopolo wine or the best muscatel of the Archipelago. My lieutenant was my only table companion. I never took a walk without him and two of my body-guard, in order to defend myself against the attacks of a few young men who had a spite against me because they fancied, not without some reason, that my needlewomen, their mistresses, had left them on my account. I often thought while I was rambling about the island, that without money I should have been unhappy, and that I was indebted to my gold for all the happiness I was enjoying; but it was right to suppose at the same time that, if I had not felt my purse pretty heavy, I would not have been likely to leave Corfu.
I had thus been playing the petty king with success for a week or ten days, when, towards ten o'clock at night I heard the sentinel's challenge. My lieutenant went out, and returned announcing that an honest-looking man, who spoke Italian, wished to see me on important business. I had him brought in, and, in the presence of my lieutenant, he told me in Italian:
"Next Sunday, the Papa Deldimopulo will fulminate against you the 'cataramonachia'. If you do not prevent him, a slow fever will send you into the next world in six weeks."
"I have never heard of such a drug."
"It is not a drug. It is a curse pronounced by a priest with the Host in his hands, and it is sure to be fulfilled."
"What reason can that priest have to murder me?"
"You disturb the peace and discipline of his parish. You have seduced several young girls, and now their lovers refuse to marry them."
I made him drink, and thanking him heartily, wished him good night. His warning struck me as deserving my attention, for, if I had no fear of the 'cataramonachia', in which I had not the slightest faith, I feared certain poisons which might be by far more efficient. I passed a very quiet night, but at day-break I got up, and without saying anything to my lieutenant, I went straight to the church where I found the priest, and addressed him in the following words, uttered in a tone likely to enforce conviction: