THE PLAIN SISTER
From “Tales from the AEgean.” Translated
by L.E. Opdycke. Published by
A.C. McClurg & Co.
Copyright, 1894, by A.C. McClurg & Co.
Mr. Plateas, professor of Greek in the Gymnasium of Syra, was returning from his regular afternoon walk.
He used to take this walk along the Vaporia, but since they had begun to build a carriage road to Chroussa—at the other end of the island—he bent his steps in that direction, instead of pacing four times up and down the only promenade in Syra. He followed the road-building with great interest, and went farther and farther from week to week. His learned colleagues said he would finally get to Chroussa,—when the road was finished; but at this time—that is, in 1850—the Conservative party in the town regarded the expense as useless and too heavy for the resources of the commune, and so the work had been stopped for some months.
The road was completed as far as the stony valley of Mana, and here the professor’s daily walk ended. To look at him nobody would have suspected that he had to care for his health; but his growing stoutness gave him no little anxiety, and led him to take this exercise. Perhaps his short stature made him look stouter than he really was; yet it could not be denied that his neck emerged with difficulty from the folds of his neck-cloth, or that his close-shaven, brick-red cheeks stood out rather too conspicuously on each side of his thick moustache. The professor had passed his fortieth year. True, he still preserved his elasticity, and his short legs carried their burden easily; but it was noticed that when he had a companion on his walks, he always contrived to have his interlocutor do the talking going up hill, and took his own turn coming down or on the level ground.
If he had thus far failed to lessen his rotundity, he had at least stopped its growth,—a fact of which he made sure once a month by weighing himself on the scales of the Custom House, where a friend of his held the post of weigher. His physician had also recommended sea-bathing. Most of his friends—both doctors and laymen—protested against this advice; but the professor was immovable when once he had made up his mind or bestowed his confidence; he stood firm against the remonstrance and banter of those who regarded sea-bathing as a tonic, and consequently fattening. He continued his baths for two seasons, and would have kept on for the rest of his life, if a dreadful accident had not given him such a fear of the sea, that he would have risked doubling his circumference rather than expose himself again to the danger from which he had been saved only through the strength and courage of Mr. Liakos, a judge of the civil court. But for him, Mr. Plateas would have been drowned, and this history unwritten.