domingo, 5 de junio de 2011

THE ISLAND OF MONTE CRISTO Chapter 1

THE ISLAND OF MONTE CRISTO
by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Chapter 1. Marseilles--The Arrival.

On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame
de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.
As usual, a pilot put off immediately, and rounding the
Chateau d'If, got on board the vessel between Cape Morgion
and Rion island.
Immediately, and according to custom, the ramparts of Fort
Saint-Jean were covered with spectators; it is always an
event at Marseilles for a ship to come into port, especially
when this ship, like the Pharaon, has been built, rigged, and laden at the old Phocee docks, and belongs to an owner of the city.
The ship drew on and had safely passed the strait, which
some volcanic shock has made between the Calasareigne and
Jaros islands; had doubled Pomegue, and approached the
harbor under topsails, jib, and spanker, but so slowly and
sedately that the idlers, with that instinct which is the
forerunner of evil, asked one another what misfortune could
have happened on board. However, those experienced in
navigation saw plainly that if any accident had occurred, it
was not to the vessel herself, for she bore down with all the
evidence of being skilfully handled, the anchor a-cockbill, the jib-boom guys already eased off, and standing by the side of the pilot, who was steering the Pharaon towards the narrow entrance of the inner port, was a young man, who, with activity and vigilant eye, watched every motion of the ship, and repeated each direction of the pilot.
The vague disquietude which prevailed among the spectators had so much affected one of the crowd that he did not await the arrival of the vessel in harbor, but jumping into a small skiff, desired to be pulled alongside the Pharaon, which he
reached as she rounded into La Reserve basin.
When the young man on board saw this person approach, he
left his station by the pilot, and, hat in hand, leaned over the ship's bulwarks.
He was a fine, tall, slim young fellow of eighteen or twenty,
with black eyes, and hair as dark as a raven's wing; and his
whole appearance bespoke that calmness and resolution
peculiar to men accustomed from their cradle to contend with danger.
"Ah, is it you, Dantes?" cried the man in the skiff. "What's
the matter? and why have you such an air of sadness
aboard?"
"A great misfortune, M. Morrel," replied the young man,--"a great misfortune, for me especially! Off Civita Vecchia we lost our brave Captain Leclere."
"And the cargo?" inquired the owner, eagerly.
"Is all safe, M. Morrel; and I think you will be satisfied on
that head. But poor Captain Leclere--"
"What happened to him?" asked the owner, with an air of
considerable resignation. "What happened to the worthy
captain?"
"He died."
"Fell into the sea?"
"No, sir, he died of brain-fever in dreadful agony." Then
turning to the crew, he said, "Bear a hand there, to take in
sail!"
All hands obeyed, and at once the eight or ten seamen who
composed the crew, sprang to their respective stations at the
spanker brails and outhaul, topsail sheets and halyards, the jib downhaul, and the topsail clewlines and buntlines. The young sailor gave a look to see that his orders were promptly and accurately obeyed, and then turned again to the owner.
"And how did this misfortune occur?" inquired the latter,
resuming the interrupted conversation.
"Alas, sir, in the most unexpected manner. After a long talk with the harbor-master, Captain Leclere left Naples greatly disturbed in mind. In twenty-four hours he was attacked by a fever, and died three days afterwards. We performed the usual burial service, and he is at his rest, sewn up in his hammock with a thirty-six pound shot at his head and his heels, off El Giglio island. We bring to his widow his sword and cross of honor. It was worth while, truly," added the young man with a melancholy smile, "to make war against the English for ten years, and to die in his bed at last, like everybody else."
"Why, you see, Edmond," replied the owner, who appeared more comforted at every moment, "we are all mortal, and the old must make way for the young. If not, why, there would be no promotion; and since you assure me that the cargo--"
"Is all safe and sound, M. Morrel, yes, and I advise you not to take 25,000 francs for the profits of the voyage."
Then, as they were just passing the Round Tower, the young man shouted: "Stand by there to lower the topsails and jib; brail up the spanker!"
The order was executed as promptly as it would have been on board a man-of-war.
"Let go--and clue up!" At this last command all the sails were lowered, and the vessel moved almost imperceptibly onwards.
"Now, if you will come on board, M. Morrel," said Dantes,
observing the owner's impatience, "here is your supercargo, M. Danglars, coming out of his cabin, who will furnish you with every particular. As for me, I must look after the anchoring, and dress the ship in mourning."
The owner did not wait for a second invitation. He seized a
rope which Dantes flung to him, and with an activity that
would have done credit to a sailor, climbed up the side of the ship, while the young man, going to his task, left the
conversation to Danglars, who now came towards the owner.
He was a man of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, of
unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors,
insolent to his subordinates; and this, in addition to his
position as responsible agent on board, which is always
obnoxious to the sailors, made him as much disliked by the
crew as Edmond Dantes was beloved by them.
"Well, M. Morrel," said Danglars, "you have heard of the misfortune that has befallen us?"
"Yes--yes: poor Captain Leclere! He was a brave and an
honest man."
"And a first-rate seaman, one who had seen long and
honorable service, as became a man charged with the
interests of a house so important as that of Morrel & Son,"
replied Danglars.
"But," replied the owner, glancing after Dantes, who was watching the anchoring of his vessel, "it seems to me that a sailor needs not be so old as you say, Danglars, to
understand his business, for our friend Edmond seems to
understand it thoroughly, and not to require instruction from
any one."
"Yes," said Danglars, darting at Edmond a look gleaming with hate. "Yes, he is young, and youth is invariably selfconfident.
Scarcely was the captain's breath out of his body when he assumed the command without consulting any one, and he caused us to lose a day and a half at the Island of Elba, instead of making for Marseilles direct."
"As to taking command of the vessel," replied Morrel, "that
was his duty as captain's mate; as to losing a day and a half
off the Island of Elba, he was wrong, unless the vessel
needed repairs."
"The vessel was in as good condition as I am, and as, I hope you are, M. Morrel, and this day and a half was lost from pure whim, for the pleasure of going ashore, and nothing else."
"Dantes," said the shipowner, turning towards the young
man, "come this way!"
"In a moment, sir," answered Dantes, "and I'm with you."
Then calling to the crew, he said--"Let go!"
The anchor was instantly dropped, and the chain ran rattling through the port-hole. Dantes continued at his post in spite of the presence of the pilot, until this manoeuvre was
completed, and then he added, "Half-mast the colors, and
square the yards!"
"You see," said Danglars, "he fancies himself captain already, upon my word."
"And so, in fact, he is," said the owner.
"Except your signature and your partner's, M. Morrel."
"And why should he not have this?" asked the owner; "he is
young, it is true, but he seems to me a thorough seaman,
and of full experience."
A cloud passed over Danglars' brow. "Your pardon, M.
Morrel," said Dantes, approaching, "the vessel now rides at anchor, and I am at your service. You hailed me, I think?"
Danglars retreated a step or two. "I wished to inquire why
you stopped at the Island of Elba?"
"I do not know, sir; it was to fulfil the last instructions of
Captain Leclere, who, when dying, gave me a packet for
Marshal Bertrand."
"Then did you see him, Edmond?" "Who?"
"The marshal." "Yes."
Morrel looked around him, and then, drawing Dantes on one
side, he said suddenly and very softly--"And how is the
emperor?"
"Very well, as far as I could judge from the sight of him."
"You actually saw the emperor, then?"
"He entered the marshal's apartment while I was there."
"And you spoke to him?"
"Why, it was he who spoke to me, sir," said Dantes, with a
smile.
"And what did he say to you?"
"First he asked me questions about the vessel, the time she
left Marseilles, the course she had taken, and what was her
cargo. I believe, if she had not been laden, and if I had been
her master, he would have bought her. But I told him I was only mate, and that she belonged to the firm of Morrel & Son.
'Ah, yes,' he said, 'I know them. The Morrels have been
shipowners from father to son; and there was a Morrel who
served in the same regiment with me when I was in garrison at Valence.'"
"Pardieu, and that is true!" cried the owner, so greatly
delighted that he danced from one foot to the other. "And
that was Policar Morrel, my uncle, who was afterwards a
captain. Dantes, you must tell my uncle that the emperor
remembered him, and you will see it will bring tears into that
old soldier's eyes. Come, come," continued he, patting
Edmond's shoulder kindly, "you did very right, Dantes, to
follow Captain Leclere's instructions, and touch at Elba,
although if it were known that you had conveyed a packet to
the marshal, and had conversed with the emperor, it might bring you into trouble."
"How could that bring me into trouble, sir?" asked Dantes;
"for I did not even know of what I was the bearer; and the
emperor merely made such inquiries as he would of the first comer. But, pardon me, here are the health officers and the customs inspectors coming alongside." And the young man went to the gangway. As he departed, Danglars approached,
and said,--
"Well, it appears that he has given you satisfactory reasons
for his landing at Porto-Ferrajo?"
"Yes, most satisfactory, my dear Danglars."
"Well, so much the better," said the supercargo; "for it is not pleasant to think that a comrade has not done his duty."
"Dantes has done his," replied the owner, "and that is not
saying much. It was Captain Leclere who gave orders for this delay."
"Talking of Captain Leclere, has not Dantes given you a letter
from him?"
"To me?--no--was there one?"
"I believe that, besides the packet, Captain Leclere confided a letter to his care."
"Of what packet are you speaking, Danglars?"
"Why, that which Dantes left at Porto-Ferrajo."
"How do you know he had a packet to leave at Porto-
Ferrajo?"
Danglars turned very red.
"I was passing close to the door of the captain's cabin, which was half open, and I saw him give the packet and letter to Dantes."
"He did not speak to me of it," replied the shipowner; "but if
there be any letter he will give it to me."
Danglars reflected for a moment. "Then, M. Morrel, I beg of you," said he, "not to say a word to Dantes on the subject. I may have been mistaken."
At this moment the young man returned; Danglars withdrew
again.
"Well, my dear Dantes, are you now free?" inquired the owner.
"Yes, sir."
"You have not been long detained."
"No. I gave the custom-house officers a copy of our bill of
lading; and as to the other papers, they sent a man off with the pilot, to whom I gave them."
"Then you have nothing more to do here?"
"No--everything is all right now."
"Then you can come and dine with me?"
"I really must ask you to excuse me, M. Morrel. My first visit is due to my father, though I am not the less grateful for the honor you have done me."
"Right, Dantes, quite right. I always knew you were a good
son."
"And," inquired Dantes, with some hesitation, "do you know
how my father is?"
"Well, I believe, my dear Edmond, though I have not seen him lately."
"Yes, he likes to keep himself shut up in his little room."
"That proves, at least, that he has wanted for nothing during
your absence."
Dantes smiled. "My father is proud, sir, and if he had not a
meal left, I doubt if he would have asked anything from
anyone, except from Heaven."
"Well, then, after this first visit has been made we shall count
on you."
"I must again excuse myself, M. Morrel, for after this first
visit has been paid I have another which I am most anxious to pay."
"True, Dantes, I forgot that there was at the Catalans some one who expects you no less impatiently than your father-- the lovely Mercedes."
Dantes blushed.
"Ah, ha," said the shipowner, "I am not in the least surprised, for she has been to me three times, inquiring if there were any news of the Pharaon. Peste, Edmond, you have a very handsome mistress!"
"She is not my mistress," replied the young sailor, gravely;
"she is my betrothed."
"Sometimes one and the same thing," said Morrel, with a
smile.
"Not with us, sir," replied Dantes.
"Well, well, my dear Edmond," continued the owner, "don't let
me detain you. You have managed my affairs so well that I ought to allow you all the time you require for your own. Do you want any money?"
"No, sir; I have all my pay to take--nearly three months'
wages."
"You are a careful fellow, Edmond."
"Say I have a poor father, sir."
"Yes, yes, I know how good a son you are, so now hasten
away to see your father. I have a son too, and I should be
very wroth with those who detained him from me after a
three months' voyage."
"Then I have your leave, sir?"
"Yes, if you have nothing more to say to me." "Nothing."
"Captain Leclere did not, before he died, give you a letter for me?"
"He was unable to write, sir. But that reminds me that I must ask your leave of absence for some days."
"To get married?"
"Yes, first, and then to go to Paris."
"Very good; have what time you require, Dantes. It will take quite six weeks to unload the cargo, and we cannot get you ready for sea until three months after that; only be back
again in three months, for the Pharaon," added the owner,
patting the young sailor on the back, "cannot sail without her
captain."
"Without her captain!" cried Dantes, his eyes sparkling with
animation; "pray mind what you say, for you are touching on the most secret wishes of my heart. Is it really your intention to make me captain of the Pharaon?"
"If I were sole owner we'd shake hands on it now, my dear Dantes, and call it settled; but I have a partner, and you
know the Italian proverb--Chi ha compagno ha padrone--'He
who has a partner has a master.' But the thing is at least half done, as you have one out of two votes. Rely on me to procure you the other; I will do my best."
"Ah, M. Morrel," exclaimed the young seaman, with tears in
his eyes, and grasping the owner's hand, "M. Morrel, I thank you in the name of my father and of Mercedes."
"That's all right, Edmond. There's a providence that watches over the deserving. Go to your father: go and see Mercedes, and afterwards come to me."
"Shall I row you ashore?"
"No, thank you; I shall remain and look over the accounts
with Danglars. Have you been satisfied with him this
voyage?"
"That is according to the sense you attach to the question,
sir. Do you mean is he a good comrade? No, for I think he
never liked me since the day when I was silly enough, after a little quarrel we had, to propose to him to stop for ten
minutes at the island of Monte Cristo to settle the dispute--a
proposition which I was wrong to suggest, and he quite right
to refuse. If you mean as responsible agent when you ask me the question, I believe there is nothing to say against him, and that you will be content with the way in which he has performed his duty."
"But tell me, Dantes, if you had command of the Pharaon
should you be glad to see Danglars remain?"
"Captain or mate, M. Morrel, I shall always have the greatest
respect for those who possess the owners' confidence."
"That's right, that's right, Dantes! I see you are a thoroughly good fellow, and will detain you no longer. Go, for I see how impatient you are."
"Then I have leave?"
"Go, I tell you."
"May I have the use of your skiff?"
"Certainly."
"Then, for the present, M. Morrel, farewell, and a thousand thanks!"
"I hope soon to see you again, my dear Edmond. Good luck to
you."
The young sailor jumped into the skiff, and sat down in the
stern sheets, with the order that he be put ashore at La
Canebiere. The two oarsmen bent to their work, and the little boat glided away as rapidly as possible in the midst of the thousand vessels which choke up the narrow way which leads between the two rows of ships from the mouth of the harbor to the Quai d'Orleans.
The shipowner, smiling, followed him with his eyes until he saw him spring out on the quay and disappear in the midst of the throng, which from five o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night, swarms in the famous street of La Canebiere,--a street of which the modern Phocaeans are so proud that they say with all the gravity in the world, and with that accent which gives so much character to what is said, "If Paris had La Canebiere, Paris would be a second Marseilles."
On turning round the owner saw Danglars behind him,
apparently awaiting orders, but in reality also watching the
young sailor,--but there was a great difference in the
expression of the two men who thus followed the movements
of Edmond Dantes.

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