The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 112 of 400

“They are Spanish smugglers,” said he; “they have with them two Corsican bandits.”

“And what are these Corsican bandits doing here with Spanish smugglers?”

“Alas,” returned the captain with an accent of the most profound pity, “we ought always to help one another. Very often the bandits are hard pressed by gendarmes or carbineers; well, they see a vessel, and good fellows like us on board, they come and demand hospitality of us; you can’t refuse help to a poor hunted devil; we receive them, and for greater security we stand out to sea. This costs us nothing, and saves the life, or at least the liberty, of a fellow-creature, who on the first occasion returns the service by pointing out some safe spot where we can land our goods without interruption.”

“Ah!” said Franz, “then you are a smuggler occasionally, Gaetano?”

“Your excellency, we must live somehow,” returned the other, smiling impenetrably.

“Then you know the men who are now on Monte Cristo?”

“Oh, yes, we sailors are like freemasons, and recognize each other by signs.”

“And do you think we have nothing to fear if we land?”

“Nothing at all; smugglers are not thieves.”

“But these two Corsican bandits?” said Franz, calculating the chances of peril.

“It is not their fault that they are bandits, but that of the authorities.”

“How so?”

“Because they are pursued for having made a stiff, as if it was not in a Corsican’s nature to revenge himself.”

“What do you mean by having made a stiff?—having assassinated a man?” said Franz, continuing his investigation.

“I mean that they have killed an enemy, which is a very different thing,” returned the captain.

“Well,” said the young man, “let us demand hospitality of these smugglers and bandits. Do you think they will grant it?”

“Without doubt.”

“How many are they?”

“Four, and the two bandits make six.”

“Just our number, so that if they prove troublesome, we shall be able to hold them in check; so, for the last time, steer to Monte Cristo.”

“Yes, but your excellency will permit us to take all due precautions.”

“By all means, be as wise as Nestor and as prudent as Ulysses; I do more than permit, I exhort you.”

“Silence, then!” said Gaetano.

Every one obeyed. For a man who, like Franz, viewed his position in its true light, it was a grave one. He was alone in the darkness with sailors whom he did not know, and who had no reason to be devoted to him; who knew that he had several thousand francs in his belt, and who had often examined his weapons,—which were very beautiful,—if not with envy, at least with curiosity. On the other hand, he was about to land, without any other escort than these men, on an island which had, indeed, a very religious name, but which did not seem to Franz likely to afford him much hospitality, thanks to the smugglers and bandits. The history of the scuttled vessels, which had appeared improbable during the day, seemed very probable at night; placed as he was between two possible sources of danger, he kept his eye on the crew, and his gun in his hand. The sailors had again hoisted sail, and the vessel was once more cleaving the waves. Through the darkness Franz, whose eyes were now more accustomed to it, could see the looming shore along which the boat was sailing, and then, as they rounded a rocky point, he saw the fire more brilliant than ever, and about it five or six persons seated. The blaze illumined the sea for a hundred paces around. Gaetano skirted the light, carefully keeping the boat in the shadow; then, when they were opposite the fire, he steered to the centre of the circle, singing a fishing song, of which his companions sung the chorus. At the first words of the song the men seated round the fire arose and approached the landing-place, their eyes fixed on the boat, evidently seeking to know who the new-comers were and what were their intentions. They soon appeared satisfied and returned (with the exception of one, who remained at the shore) to their fire, at which the carcass of a goat was roasting. When the boat was within twenty paces of the shore, the man on the beach, who carried a carbine, presented arms after the manner of a sentinel, and cried, “Who comes there?” in Sardinian. Franz coolly cocked both barrels. Gaetano then exchanged a few words with this man which the traveller did not understand, but which evidently concerned him. “Will your excellency give your name, or remain incognito?” asked the captain.

“My name must rest unknown,—merely say I am a Frenchman travelling for pleasure.” As soon as Gaetano had transmitted this answer, the sentinel gave an order to one of the men seated round the fire, who rose and disappeared among the rocks. Not a word was spoken, every one seemed occupied, Franz with his disembarkment, the sailors with their sails, the smugglers with their goat; but in the midst of all this carelessness it was evident that they mutually observed each other. The man who had disappeared returned suddenly on the opposite side to that by which he had left; he made a sign with his head to the sentinel, who, turning to the boat, said, “S’accommodi.” The Italian s’accommodi is untranslatable; it means at once, “Come, enter, you are welcome; make yourself at home; you are the master.” It is like that Turkish phrase of Moliere’s that so astonished the bourgeois gentleman by the number of things implied in its utterance. The sailors did not wait for a second invitation; four strokes of the oar brought them to land; Gaetano sprang to shore, exchanged a few words with the sentinel, then his comrades disembarked, and lastly came Franz. One of his guns was swung over his shoulder, Gaetano had the other, and a sailor held his rifle; his dress, half artist, half dandy, did not excite any suspicion, and, consequently, no disquietude. The boat was moored to the shore, and they advanced a few paces to find a comfortable bivouac; but, doubtless, the spot they chose did not suit the smuggler who filled the post of sentinel, for he cried out, “Not that way, if you please.”

Gaetano faltered an excuse, and advanced to the opposite side, while two sailors kindled torches at the fire to light them on their way. They advanced about thirty paces, and then stopped at a small esplanade surrounded with rocks, in which seats had been cut, not unlike sentry-boxes. Around in the crevices of the rocks grew a few dwarf oaks and thick bushes of myrtles. Franz lowered a torch, and saw by the mass of cinders that had accumulated that he was not the first to discover this retreat, which was, doubtless, one of the halting-places of the wandering visitors of Monte Cristo. As for his suspicions, once on terra firma, once that he had seen the indifferent, if not friendly, appearance of his hosts, his anxiety had quite disappeared, or rather, at sight of the goat, had turned to appetite. He mentioned this to Gaetano, who replied that nothing could be more easy than to prepare a supper when they had in their boat, bread, wine, half a dozen partridges, and a good fire to roast them by. “Besides,” added he, “if the smell of their roast meat tempts you, I will go and offer them two of our birds for a slice.”

“You are a born diplomat,” returned Franz; “go and try.”

Meanwhile the sailors had collected dried sticks and branches with which they made a fire. Franz waited impatiently, inhaling the aroma of the roasted meat, when the captain returned with a mysterious air.

“Well,” said Franz, “anything new?—do they refuse?”

“On the contrary,” returned Gaetano, “the chief, who was told you were a young Frenchman, invites you to sup with him.”

“Well,” observed Franz, “this chief is very polite, and I see no objection—the more so as I bring my share of the supper.”

“Oh, it is not that; he has plenty, and to spare, for supper; but he makes one condition, and rather a peculiar one, before he will receive you at his house.”

“His house? Has he built one here, then?”

“No; but he has a very comfortable one all the same, so they say.”

“You know this chief, then?”

“I have heard talk of him.”

“Favorably or otherwise?”


“The deuce!—and what is this condition?”

“That you are blindfolded, and do not take off the bandage until he himself bids you.” Franz looked at Gaetano, to see, if possible, what he thought of this proposal. “Ah,” replied he, guessing Franz’s thought, “I know this is a serious matter.”

“What should you do in my place?”

“I, who have nothing to lose,—I should go.”

“You would accept?”

“Yes, were it only out of curiosity.”

“There is something very peculiar about this chief, then?”

“Listen,” said Gaetano, lowering his voice, “I do not know if what they say is true”—he stopped to see if any one was near.

“What do they say?”

“That this chief inhabits a cavern to which the Pitti Palace is nothing.”

“What nonsense!” said Franz, reseating himself.

“It is no nonsense; it is quite true. Cama, the pilot of the Saint Ferdinand, went in once, and he came back amazed, vowing that such treasures were only to be heard of in fairy tales.”

“Do you know,” observed Franz, “that with such stories you make me think of Ali Baba’s enchanted cavern?”

“I tell you what I have been told.”

“Then you advise me to accept?”

“Oh, I don’t say that; your excellency will do as you please; I should be sorry to advise you in the matter.” Franz pondered the matter for a few moments, concluded that a man so rich could not have any intention of plundering him of what little he had, and seeing only the prospect of a good supper, accepted. Gaetano departed with the reply. Franz was prudent, and wished to learn all he possibly could concerning his host. He turned towards the sailor, who, during this dialogue, had sat gravely plucking the partridges with the air of a man proud of his office, and asked him how these men had landed, as no vessel of any kind was visible.

“Never mind that,” returned the sailor, “I know their vessel.”

“Is it a very beautiful vessel?”

“I would not wish for a better to sail round the world.”

“Of what burden is she?”

“About a hundred tons; but she is built to stand any weather. She is what the English call a yacht.”

“Where was she built?”

“I know not; but my own opinion is she is a Genoese.”

“And how did a leader of smugglers,” continued Franz, “venture to build a vessel designed for such a purpose at Genoa?”

“I did not say that the owner was a smuggler,” replied the sailor.

“No; but Gaetano did, I thought.”

“Gaetano had only seen the vessel from a distance, he had not then spoken to any one.”

“And if this person be not a smuggler, who is he?”

“A wealthy signor, who travels for his pleasure.”

“Come,” thought Franz, “he is still more mysterious, since the two accounts do not agree.”

“What is his name?”

“If you ask him he says Sinbad the Sailor; but I doubt if it be his real name.”

“Sinbad the Sailor?”


“And where does he reside?”

“On the sea.”

“What country does he come from?”

“I do not know.”

“Have you ever seen him?”


“What sort of a man is he?”

“Your excellency will judge for yourself.”

“Where will he receive me?”

“No doubt in the subterranean palace Gaetano told you of.”

“Have you never had the curiosity, when you have landed and found this island deserted, to seek for this enchanted palace?”

“Oh, yes, more than once, but always in vain; we examined the grotto all over, but we never could find the slightest trace of any opening; they say that the door is not opened by a key, but a magic word.”

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