The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 279 of 400

* Greek militiamen in the war for independence.—Ed.

“From where we stood I could see in the middle of the lake a large blank mass; it was the kiosk to which we were going. This kiosk appeared to me to be at a considerable distance, perhaps on account of the darkness of the night, which prevented any object from being more than partially discerned. We stepped into the boat. I remember well that the oars made no noise whatever in striking the water, and when I leaned over to ascertain the cause I saw that they were muffled with the sashes of our Palikares. * Besides the rowers, the boat contained only the women, my father, mother, Selim, and myself. The Palikares had remained on the shore of the lake, ready to cover our retreat; they were kneeling on the lowest of the marble steps, and in that manner intended making a rampart of the three others, in case of pursuit. Our bark flew before the wind. ‘Why does the boat go so fast?’ asked I of my mother.

“‘Silence, child! Hush, we are flying!’ I did not understand. Why should my father fly?—he, the all-powerful—he, before whom others were accustomed to fly—he, who had taken for his device, ‘They hate me; then they fear me!’ It was, indeed, a flight which my father was trying to effect. I have been told since that the garrison of the castle of Yanina, fatigued with long service”—

Here Haidee cast a significant glance at Monte Cristo, whose eyes had been riveted on her countenance during the whole course of her narrative. The young girl then continued, speaking slowly, like a person who is either inventing or suppressing some feature of the history which he is relating. “You were saying, signora,” said Albert, who was paying the most implicit attention to the recital, “that the garrison of Yanina, fatigued with long service”—

* A Turkish pasha in command of the troops of a province.— Ed.

“Had treated with the Serasker * Koorshid, who had been sent by the sultan to gain possession of the person of my father; it was then that Ali Tepelini—after having sent to the sultan a French officer in whom he reposed great confidence—resolved to retire to the asylum which he had long before prepared for himself, and which he called kataphygion, or the refuge.”

“And this officer,” asked Albert, “do you remember his name, signora?” Monte Cristo exchanged a rapid glance with the young girl, which was quite unperceived by Albert. “No,” said she, “I do not remember it just at this moment; but if it should occur to me presently, I will tell you.” Albert was on the point of pronouncing his father’s name, when Monte Cristo gently held up his finger in token of reproach; the young man recollected his promise, and was silent.

“It was towards this kiosk that we were rowing. A ground-floor, ornamented with arabesques, bathing its terraces in the water, and another floor, looking on the lake, was all which was visible to the eye. But beneath the ground-floor, stretching out into the island, was a large subterranean cavern, to which my mother, myself, and the women were conducted. In this place were together 60,000. pouches and 200 barrels; the pouches contained 25,000,000 of money in gold, and the barrels were filled with 30,000. pounds of gunpowder.

“Near the barrels stood Selim, my father’s favorite, whom I mentioned to you just now. He stood watch day and night with a lance provided with a lighted slowmatch in his hand, and he had orders to blow up everything—kiosk, guards, women, gold, and Ali Tepelini himself—at the first signal given by my father. I remember well that the slaves, convinced of the precarious tenure on which they held their lives, passed whole days and nights in praying, crying, and groaning. As for me, I can never forget the pale complexion and black eyes of the young soldier, and whenever the angel of death summons me to another world, I am quite sure I shall recognize Selim. I cannot tell you how long we remained in this state; at that period I did not even know what time meant. Sometimes, but very rarely, my father summoned me and my mother to the terrace of the palace; these were hours of recreation for me, as I never saw anything in the dismal cavern but the gloomy countenances of the slaves and Selim’s fiery lance. My father was endeavoring to pierce with his eager looks the remotest verge of the horizon, examining attentively every black speck which appeared on the lake, while my mother, reclining by his side, rested her head on his shoulder, and I played at his feet, admiring everything I saw with that unsophisticated innocence of childhood which throws a charm round objects insignificant in themselves, but which in its eyes are invested with the greatest importance. The heights of Pindus towered above us; the castle of Yanina rose white and angular from the blue waters of the lake, and the immense masses of black vegetation which, viewed in the distance, gave the idea of lichens clinging to the rocks, were in reality gigantic fir-trees and myrtles.

“One morning my father sent for us; my mother had been crying all the night, and was very wretched; we found the pasha calm, but paler than usual. ‘Take courage, Vasiliki,’ said he; ‘to-day arrives the firman of the master, and my fate will be decided. If my pardon be complete, we shall return triumphant to Yanina; if the news be inauspicious, we must fly this night.’—‘But supposing our enemy should not allow us to do so?’ said my mother. ‘Oh, make yourself easy on that head,’ said Ali, smiling; ‘Selim and his flaming lance will settle that matter. They would be glad to see me dead, but they would not like themselves to die with me.’

“My mother only answered by sighs to consolations which she knew did not come from my father’s heart. She prepared the iced water which he was in the habit of constantly drinking,—for since his sojourn at the kiosk he had been parched by the most violent fever,—after which she anointed his white beard with perfumed oil, and lighted his chibouque, which he sometimes smoked for hours together, quietly watching the wreaths of vapor that ascended in spiral clouds and gradually melted away in the surrounding atmosphere. Presently he made such a sudden movement that I was paralyzed with fear. Then, without taking his eyes from the object which had first attracted his attention, he asked for his telescope. My mother gave it him, and as she did so, looked whiter than the marble against which she leaned. I saw my father’s hand tremble. ‘A boat!—two!—three!’ murmured my, father;—‘four!’ He then arose, seizing his arms and priming his pistols. ‘Vasiliki,’ said he to my mother, trembling perceptibly, ‘the instant approaches which will decide everything. In the space of half an hour we shall know the emperor’s answer. Go into the cavern with Haidee.’—‘I will not quit you,’ said Vasiliki; ‘if you die, my lord, I will die with you.’—‘Go to Selim!’ cried my father. ‘Adieu, my lord,’ murmured my mother, determining quietly to await the approach of death. ‘Take away Vasiliki!’ said my father to his Palikares.

“As for me, I had been forgotten in the general confusion; I ran toward Ali Tepelini; he saw me hold out my arms to him, and he stooped down and pressed my forehead with his lips. Oh, how distinctly I remember that kiss!—it was the last he ever gave me, and I feel as if it were still warm on my forehead. On descending, we saw through the lattice-work several boats which were gradually becoming more distinct to our view. At first they appeared like black specks, and now they looked like birds skimming the surface of the waves. During this time, in the kiosk at my father’s feet, were seated twenty Palikares, concealed from view by an angle of the wall and watching with eager eyes the arrival of the boats. They were armed with their long guns inlaid with mother-of-pearl and silver, and cartridges in great numbers were lying scattered on the floor. My father looked at his watch, and paced up and down with a countenance expressive of the greatest anguish. This was the scene which presented itself to my view as I quitted my father after that last kiss. My mother and I traversed the gloomy passage leading to the cavern. Selim was still at his post, and smiled sadly on us as we entered. We fetched our cushions from the other end of the cavern, and sat down by Selim. In great dangers the devoted ones cling to each other; and, young as I was, I quite understood that some imminent danger was hanging over our heads.”

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