The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 397 of 400

Chapter 117. The Fifth of October.

It was about six o’clock in the evening; an opal-colored light, through which an autumnal sun shed its golden rays, descended on the blue ocean. The heat of the day had gradually decreased, and a light breeze arose, seeming like the respiration of nature on awakening from the burning siesta of the south. A delicious zephyr played along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and wafted from shore to shore the sweet perfume of plants, mingled with the fresh smell of the sea.

A light yacht, chaste and elegant in its form, was gliding amidst the first dews of night over the immense lake, extending from Gibraltar to the Dardanelles, and from Tunis to Venice. The vessel resembled a swan with its wings opened towards the wind, gliding on the water. It advanced swiftly and gracefully, leaving behind it a glittering stretch of foam. By degrees the sun disappeared behind the western horizon; but as though to prove the truth of the fanciful ideas in heathen mythology, its indiscreet rays reappeared on the summit of every wave, as if the god of fire had just sunk upon the bosom of Amphitrite, who in vain endeavored to hide her lover beneath her azure mantle. The yacht moved rapidly on, though there did not appear to be sufficient wind to ruffle the curls on the head of a young girl. Standing on the prow was a tall man, of a dark complexion, who saw with dilating eyes that they were approaching a dark mass of land in the shape of a cone, which rose from the midst of the waves like the hat of a Catalan. “Is that Monte Cristo?” asked the traveller, to whose orders the yacht was for the time submitted, in a melancholy voice.

“Yes, your excellency,” said the captain, “we have reached it.”

“We have reached it!” repeated the traveller in an accent of indescribable sadness. Then he added, in a low tone, “Yes; that is the haven.” And then he again plunged into a train of thought, the character of which was better revealed by a sad smile, than it would have been by tears. A few minutes afterwards a flash of light, which was extinguished instantly, was seen on the land, and the sound of firearms reached the yacht.

“Your excellency,” said the captain, “that was the land signal, will you answer yourself?”

“What signal?” The captain pointed towards the island, up the side of which ascended a volume of smoke, increasing as it rose. “Ah, yes,” he said, as if awaking from a dream. “Give it to me.”

The captain gave him a loaded carbine; the traveller slowly raised it, and fired in the air. Ten minutes afterwards, the sails were furled, and they cast anchor about a hundred fathoms from the little harbor. The gig was already lowered, and in it were four oarsmen and a coxswain. The traveller descended, and instead of sitting down at the stern of the boat, which had been decorated with a blue carpet for his accommodation, stood up with his arms crossed. The rowers waited, their oars half lifted out of the water, like birds drying their wings.

“Give way,” said the traveller. The eight oars fell into the sea simultaneously without splashing a drop of water, and the boat, yielding to the impulsion, glided forward. In an instant they found themselves in a little harbor, formed in a natural creek; the boat grounded on the fine sand.

“Will your excellency be so good as to mount the shoulders of two of our men, they will carry you ashore?” The young man answered this invitation with a gesture of indifference, and stepped out of the boat; the sea immediately rose to his waist. “Ah, your excellency,” murmured the pilot, “you should not have done so; our master will scold us for it.” The young man continued to advance, following the sailors, who chose a firm footing. Thirty strides brought them to dry land; the young man stamped on the ground to shake off the wet, and looked around for some one to show him his road, for it was quite dark. Just as he turned, a hand rested on his shoulder, and a voice which made him shudder exclaimed,—“Good-evening, Maximilian; you are punctual, thank you!”

“Ah, is it you, count?” said the young man, in an almost joyful accent, pressing Monte Cristo’s hand with both his own.

“Yes; you see I am as exact as you are. But you are dripping, my dear fellow; you must change your clothes, as Calypso said to Telemachus. Come, I have a habitation prepared for you in which you will soon forget fatigue and cold.” Monte Cristo perceived that the young man had turned around; indeed, Morrel saw with surprise that the men who had brought him had left without being paid, or uttering a word. Already the sound of their oars might be heard as they returned to the yacht.

“Oh, yes,” said the count, “you are looking for the sailors.”

“Yes, I paid them nothing, and yet they are gone.”

“Never mind that, Maximilian,” said Monte Cristo, smiling. “I have made an agreement with the navy, that the access to my island shall be free of all charge. I have made a bargain.” Morrel looked at the count with surprise. “Count,” he said, “you are not the same here as in Paris.”

“How so?”

“Here you laugh.” The count’s brow became clouded. “You are right to recall me to myself, Maximilian,” he said; “I was delighted to see you again, and forgot for the moment that all happiness is fleeting.”

“Oh, no, no, count,” cried Maximilian, seizing the count’s hands, “pray laugh; be happy, and prove to me, by your indifference, that life is endurable to sufferers. Oh, how charitable, kind, and good you are; you affect this gayety to inspire me with courage.”

“You are wrong, Morrel; I was really happy.”

“Then you forget me, so much the better.”

“How so?”

“Yes; for as the gladiator said to the emperor, when he entered the arena, ‘He who is about to die salutes you.'”

“Then you are not consoled?” asked the count, surprised.

“Oh,” exclaimed Morrel, with a glance full of bitter reproach, “do you think it possible that I could be?”

“Listen,” said the count. “Do you understand the meaning of my words? You cannot take me for a commonplace man, a mere rattle, emitting a vague and senseless noise. When I ask you if you are consoled, I speak to you as a man for whom the human heart has no secrets. Well, Morrel, let us both examine the depths of your heart. Do you still feel the same feverish impatience of grief which made you start like a wounded lion? Have you still that devouring thirst which can only be appeased in the grave? Are you still actuated by the regret which drags the living to the pursuit of death; or are you only suffering from the prostration of fatigue and the weariness of hope deferred? Has the loss of memory rendered it impossible for you to weep? Oh, my dear friend, if this be the case,—if you can no longer weep, if your frozen heart be dead, if you put all your trust in God, then, Maximilian, you are consoled—do not complain.”

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