The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 281 of 400

“‘It is well,’ said he, kissing it; ‘it is my master’s ring!’ And throwing the match on the ground, he trampled on it and extinguished it. The messenger uttered a cry of joy and clapped his hands. At this signal four soldiers of the Serasker Koorshid suddenly appeared, and Selim fell, pierced by five blows. Each man had stabbed him separately, and, intoxicated by their crime, though still pale with fear, they sought all over the cavern to discover if there was any fear of fire, after which they amused themselves by rolling on the bags of gold. At this moment my mother seized me in her arms, and hurrying noiselessly along numerous turnings and windings known only to ourselves, she arrived at a private staircase of the kiosk, where was a scene of frightful tumult and confusion. The lower rooms were entirely filled with Koorshid’s troops; that is to say, with our enemies. Just as my mother was on the point of pushing open a small door, we heard the voice of the pasha sounding in a loud and threatening tone. My mother applied her eye to the crack between the boards; I luckily found a small opening which afforded me a view of the apartment and what was passing within. ‘What do you want?’ said my father to some people who were holding a paper inscribed with characters of gold. ‘What we want,’ replied one, ‘is to communicate to you the will of his highness. Do you see this firman?’—‘I do,’ said my father. ‘Well, read it; he demands your head.’

“My father answered with a loud laugh, which was more frightful than even threats would have been, and he had not ceased when two reports of a pistol were heard; he had fired them himself, and had killed two men. The Palikares, who were prostrated at my father’s feet, now sprang up and fired, and the room was filled with fire and smoke. At the same instant the firing began on the other side, and the balls penetrated the boards all round us. Oh, how noble did the grand vizier my father look at that moment, in the midst of the flying bullets, his scimitar in his hand, and his face blackened with the powder of his enemies! and how he terrified them, even then, and made them fly before him! ‘Selim, Selim!’ cried he, ‘guardian of the fire, do your duty!’—‘Selim is dead,’ replied a voice which seemed to come from the depths of the earth, ‘and you are lost, Ali!’ At the same moment an explosion was heard, and the flooring of the room in which my father was sitting was suddenly torn up and shivered to atoms—the troops were firing from underneath. Three or four Palikares fell with their bodies literally ploughed with wounds.

“My father howled aloud, plunged his fingers into the holes which the balls had made, and tore up one of the planks entire. But immediately through this opening twenty more shots were fired, and the flame, rushing up like fire from the crater of a volcano, soon reached the tapestry, which it quickly devoured. In the midst of all this frightful tumult and these terrific cries, two reports, fearfully distinct, followed by two shrieks more heartrending than all, froze me with terror. These two shots had mortally wounded my father, and it was he who had given utterance to these frightful cries. However, he remained standing, clinging to a window. My mother tried to force the door, that she might go and die with him, but it was fastened on the inside. All around him were lying the Palikares, writhing in convulsive agonies, while two or three who were only slightly wounded were trying to escape by springing from the windows. At this crisis the whole flooring suddenly gave way, my father fell on one knee, and at the same moment twenty hands were thrust forth, armed with sabres, pistols, and poniards—twenty blows were instantaneously directed against one man, and my father disappeared in a whirlwind of fire and smoke kindled by these demons, and which seemed like hell itself opening beneath his feet. I felt myself fall to the ground, my mother had fainted.”

Haidee’s arms fell by her side, and she uttered a deep groan, at the same time looking towards the count as if to ask if he were satisfied with her obedience to his commands. Monte Cristo arose and approached her, took her hand, and said to her in Romaic, “Calm yourself, my dear child, and take courage in remembering that there is a God who will punish traitors.”

“It is a frightful story, count,” said Albert, terrified at the paleness of Haidee’s countenance, “and I reproach myself now for having been so cruel and thoughtless in my request.”

“Oh, it is nothing,” said Monte Cristo. Then, patting the young girl on the head, he continued, “Haidee is very courageous, and she sometimes even finds consolation in the recital of her misfortunes.”

“Because, my lord,” said Haidee eagerly, “my miseries recall to me the remembrance of your goodness.”

Albert looked at her with curiosity, for she had not yet related what he most desired to know,—how she had become the slave of the count. Haidee saw at a glance the same expression pervading the countenances of her two auditors; she exclaimed, ‘When my mother recovered her senses we were before the serasker. ‘Kill,’ said she, ‘but spare the honor of the widow of Ali.’—‘It is not to me to whom you must address yourself,’ said Koorshid.

“‘To whom, then?’—‘To your new master.’

“‘Who and where is he?’—‘He is here.’

“And Koorshid pointed out one who had more than any contributed to the death of my father,” said Haidee, in a tone of chastened anger. “Then,” said Albert, “you became the property of this man?”

“No,” replied Haidee, “he did not dare to keep us, so we were sold to some slave-merchants who were going to Constantinople. We traversed Greece, and arrived half dead at the imperial gates. They were surrounded by a crowd of people, who opened a way for us to pass, when suddenly my mother, having looked closely at an object which was attracting their attention, uttered a piercing cry and fell to the ground, pointing as she did so to a head which was placed over the gates, and beneath which were inscribed these words:

“‘This is the head of Ali Tepelini Pasha of Yanina.’ I cried bitterly, and tried to raise my mother from the earth, but she was dead! I was taken to the slave-market, and was purchased by a rich Armenian. He caused me to be instructed, gave me masters, and when I was thirteen years of age he sold me to the Sultan Mahmood.”

“Of whom I bought her,” said Monte Cristo, “as I told you, Albert, with the emerald which formed a match to the one I had made into a box for the purpose of holding my hashish pills.”

“Oh, you are good, you are great, my lord!” said Haidee, kissing the count’s hand, “and I am very fortunate in belonging to such a master!” Albert remained quite bewildered with all that he had seen and heard. “Come, finish your cup of coffee,” said Monte Cristo; “the history is ended.”

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