eBooks Cube
 
Chapter 22
The Smugglers.

Dantes had not been a day on board before he had a very
clear idea of the men with whom his lot had been cast.
Without having been in the school of the Abbe Faria, the
worthy master of The Young Amelia (the name of the Genoese
tartan) knew a smattering of all the tongues spoken on the
shores of that large lake called the Mediterranean, from the
Arabic to the Provencal, and this, while it spared him
interpreters, persons always troublesome and frequently
indiscreet, gave him great facilities of communication,
either with the vessels he met at sea, with the small boats
sailing along the coast, or with the people without name,
country, or occupation, who are always seen on the quays of
seaports, and who live by hidden and mysterious means which
we must suppose to be a direct gift of providence, as they
have no visible means of support. It is fair to assume that
Dantes was on board a smuggler.

At first the captain had received Dantes on board with a
certain degree of distrust. He was very well known to the
customs officers of the coast; and as there was between
these worthies and himself a perpetual battle of wits, he
had at first thought that Dantes might be an emissary of
these industrious guardians of rights and duties, who
perhaps employed this ingenious means of learning some of
the secrets of his trade. But the skilful manner in which
Dantes had handled the lugger had entirely reassured him;
and then, when he saw the light plume of smoke floating
above the bastion of the Chateau d'If, and heard the distant
report, he was instantly struck with the idea that he had on
board his vessel one whose coming and going, like that of
kings, was accompanied with salutes of artillery. This made
him less uneasy, it must be owned, than if the new-comer had
proved to be a customs officer; but this supposition also
disappeared like the first, when he beheld the perfect
tranquillity of his recruit.

Edmond thus had the advantage of knowing what the owner was,
without the owner knowing who he was; and however the old
sailor and his crew tried to "pump" him, they extracted
nothing more from him; he gave accurate descriptions of
Naples and Malta, which he knew as well as Marseilles, and
held stoutly to his first story. Thus the Genoese, subtle as
he was, was duped by Edmond, in whose favor his mild
demeanor, his nautical skill, and his admirable
dissimulation, pleaded. Moreover, it is possible that the
Genoese was one of those shrewd persons who know nothing but
what they should know, and believe nothing but what they
should believe.

In this state of mutual understanding, they reached Leghorn.
Here Edmond was to undergo another trial; he was to find out
whether he could recognize himself, as he had not seen his
own face for fourteen years. He had preserved a tolerably
good remembrance of what the youth had been, and was now to
find out what the man had become. His comrades believed that
his vow was fulfilled. As he had twenty times touched at
Leghorn, he remembered a barber in St. Ferdinand Street; he
went there to have his beard and hair cut. The barber gazed
in amazement at this man with the long, thick and black hair
and beard, which gave his head the appearance of one of
Titian's portraits. At this period it was not the fashion to
wear so large a beard and hair so long; now a barber would
only be surprised if a man gifted with such advantages
should consent voluntarily to deprive himself of them. The
Leghorn barber said nothing and went to work.

When the operation was concluded, and Edmond felt that his
chin was completely smooth, and his hair reduced to its
usual length, he asked for a hand-glass. He was now, as we
have said, three-and-thirty years of age, and his fourteen
years' imprisonment had produced a great transformation in
his appearance. Dantes had entered the Chateau d'If with the
round, open, smiling face of a young and happy man, with
whom the early paths of life have been smooth. and who
anticipates a future corresponding with his past. This was
now all changed. The oval face was lengthened, his smiling
mouth had assumed the firm and marked lines which betoken
resolution; his eyebrows were arched beneath a brow furrowed
with thought; his eyes were full of melancholy, and from
their depths occasionally sparkled gloomy fires of
misanthropy and hatred; his complexion, so long kept from
the sun, had now that pale color which produces, when the
features are encircled with black hair, the aristocratic
beauty of the man of the north; the profound learning he had
acquired had besides diffused over his features a refined
intellectual expression; and he had also acquired, being
naturally of a goodly stature, that vigor which a frame
possesses which has so long concentrated all its force
within itself.

To the elegance of a nervous and slight form had succeeded
the solidity of a rounded and muscular figure. As to his
voice, prayers, sobs, and imprecations had changed it so
that at times it was of a singularly penetrating sweetness,
and at others rough and almost hoarse. Moreover, from being
so long in twilight or darkness, his eyes had acquired the
faculty of distinguishing objects in the night, common to
the hyena and the wolf. Edmond smiled when he beheld
himself: it was impossible that his best friend -- if,
indeed, he had any friend left -- could recognize him; he
could not recognize himself.

The master of The Young Amelia, who was very desirous of
retaining amongst his crew a man of Edmond's value, had
offered to advance him funds out of his future profits,
which Edmond had accepted. His next care on leaving the
barber's who had achieved his first metamorphosis was to
enter a shop and buy a complete sailor's suit -- a garb, as
we all know, very simple, and consisting of white trousers,
a striped shirt, and a cap. It was in this costume, and
bringing back to Jacopo the shirt and trousers he had lent
him, that Edmond reappeared before the captain of the
lugger, who had made him tell his story over and over again
before he could believe him, or recognize in the neat and
trim sailor the man with thick and matted beard, hair
tangled with seaweed, and body soaking in seabrine, whom he
had picked up naked and nearly drowned. Attracted by his
prepossessing appearance, he renewed his offers of an
engagement to Dantes; but Dantes, who had his own projects,
would not agree for a longer time than three months.

The Young Amelia had a very active crew, very obedient to
their captain, who lost as little time as possible. He had
scarcely been a week at Leghorn before the hold of his
vessel was filled with printed muslins, contraband cottons,
English powder, and tobacco on which the excise had
forgotten to put its mark. The master was to get all this
out of Leghorn free of duties, and land it on the shores of
Corsica, where certain speculators undertook to forward the
cargo to France. They sailed; Edmond was again cleaving the
azure sea which had been the first horizon of his youth, and
which he had so often dreamed of in prison. He left Gorgone
on his right and La Pianosa on his left, and went towards
the country of Paoli and Napoleon. The next morning going on
deck, as he always did at an early hour, the patron found
Dantes leaning against the bulwarks gazing with intense
earnestness at a pile of granite rocks, which the rising sun
tinged with rosy light. It was the Island of Monte Cristo.
The Young Amelia left it three-quarters of a league to the
larboard, and kept on for Corsica.

Dantes thought, as they passed so closely to the island
whose name was so interesting to him, that he had only to
leap into the sea and in half an hour be at the promised
land. But then what could he do without instruments to
discover his treasure, without arms to defend himself?
Besides, what would the sailors say? What would the patron
think? He must wait.

Fortunately, Dantes had learned how to wait; he had waited
fourteen years for his liberty, and now he was free he could
wait at least six months or a year for wealth. Would he not
have accepted liberty without riches if it had been offered
to him? Besides, were not those riches chimerical? --
offspring of the brain of the poor Abbe Faria, had they not
died with him? It is true, the letter of the Cardinal Spada
was singularly circumstantial, and Dantes repeated it to
himself, from one end to the other, for he had not forgotten
a word.

Evening came, and Edmond saw the island tinged with the
shades of twilight, and then disappear in the darkness from
all eyes but his own, for he, with vision accustomed to the
gloom of a prison, continued to behold it last of all, for
he remained alone upon deck. The next morn broke off the
coast of Aleria; all day they coasted, and in the evening
saw fires lighted on land; the position of these was no
doubt a signal for landing, for a ship's lantern was hung up
at the mast-head instead of the streamer, and they came to
within a gunshot of the shore. Dantes noticed that the
captain of The Young Amelia had, as he neared the land,
mounted two small culverins, which, without making much
noise, can throw a four ounce ball a thousand paces or so.

But on this occasion the precaution was superfluous, and
everything proceeded with the utmost smoothness and
politeness. Four shallops came off with very little noise
alongside the lugger, which, no doubt, in acknowledgement of
the compliment, lowered her own shallop into the sea, and
the five boats worked so well that by two o'clock in the
morning all the cargo was out of The Young Amelia and on
terra firma. The same night, such a man of regularity was
the patron of The Young Amelia, the profits were divided,
and each man had a hundred Tuscan livres, or about eighty
francs. But the voyage was not ended. They turned the
bowsprit towards Sardinia, where they intended to take in a
cargo, which was to replace what had been discharged. The
second operation was as successful as the first, The Young
Amelia was in luck. This new cargo was destined for the
coast of the Duchy of Lucca, and consisted almost entirely
of Havana cigars, sherry, and Malaga wines.

There they had a bit of a skirmish in getting rid of the
duties; the excise was, in truth, the everlasting enemy of
the patron of The Young Amelia. A customs officer was laid
low, and two sailors wounded; Dantes was one of the latter,
a ball having touched him in the left shoulder. Dantes was
almost glad of this affray, and almost pleased at being
wounded, for they were rude lessons which taught him with
what eye he could view danger, and with what endurance he
could bear suffering. He had contemplated danger with a
smile, and when wounded had exclaimed with the great
philosopher, "Pain, thou art not an evil." He had, moreover.
looked upon the customs officer wounded to death, and,
whether from heat of blood produced by the encounter, or the
chill of human sentiment, this sight had made but slight
impression upon him. Dantes was on the way he desired to
follow, and was moving towards the end he wished to achieve;
his heart was in a fair way of petrifying in his bosom.
Jacopo, seeing him fall, had believed him killed, and
rushing towards him raised him up, and then attended to him
with all the kindness of a devoted comrade.

This world was not then so good as Doctor Pangloss believed
it, neither was it so wicked as Dantes thought it, since
this man, who had nothing to expect from his comrade but the
inheritance of his share of the prize-money, manifested so
much sorrow when he saw him fall. Fortunately, as we have
said, Edmond was only wounded, and with certain herbs
gathered at certain seasons, and sold to the smugglers by
the old Sardinian women, the wound soon closed. Edmond then
resolved to try Jacopo, and offered him in return for his
attention a share of his prize-money, but Jacopo refused it
indignantly.

As a result of the sympathetic devotion which Jacopo had
from the first bestowed on Edmond, the latter was moved to a
certain degree of affection. But this sufficed for Jacopo,
who instinctively felt that Edmond had a right to
superiority of position -- a superiority which Edmond had
concealed from all others. And from this time the kindness
which Edmond showed him was enough for the brave seaman.

Then in the long days on board ship, when the vessel,
gliding on with security over the azure sea, required no
care but the hand of the helmsman, thanks to the favorable
winds that swelled her sails, Edmond, with a chart in his
hand, became the instructor of Jacopo, as the poor Abbe
Faria had been his tutor. He pointed out to him the bearings
of the coast, explained to him the variations of the
compass, and taught him to read in that vast book opened
over our heads which they call heaven, and where God writes
in azure with letters of diamonds. And when Jacopo inquired
of him, "What is the use of teaching all these things to a
poor sailor like me?" Edmond replied, "Who knows? You may
one day be the captain of a vessel. Your fellow-countryman,
Bonaparte, became emperor." We had forgotten to say that
Jacopo was a Corsican.

Two months and a half elapsed in these trips, and Edmond had
become as skilful a coaster as he had been a hardy seaman;
he had formed an acquaintance with all the smugglers on the
coast, and learned all the Masonic signs by which these half
pirates recognize each other. He had passed and re-passed
his Island of Monte Cristo twenty times, but not once had he
found an opportunity of landing there. He then formed a
resolution. As soon as his engagement with the patron of The
Young Amelia ended, he would hire a small vessel on his own
account -- for in his several voyages he had amassed a
hundred piastres -- and under some pretext land at the
Island of Monte Cristo. Then he would be free to make his
researches, not perhaps entirely at liberty, for he would be
doubtless watched by those who accompanied him. But in this
world we must risk something. Prison had made Edmond
prudent, and he was desirous of running no risk whatever.
But in vain did he rack his imagination; fertile as it was,
he could not devise any plan for reaching the island without
companionship.

Dantes was tossed about on these doubts and wishes, when the
patron, who had great confidence in him, and was very
desirous of retaining him in his service, took him by the
arm one evening and led him to a tavern on the Via del'
Oglio, where the leading smugglers of Leghorn used to
congregate and discuss affairs connected with their trade.
Already Dantes had visited this maritime Bourse two or three
times, and seeing all these hardy free-traders, who supplied
the whole coast for nearly two hundred leagues in extent, he
had asked himself what power might not that man attain who
should give the impulse of his will to all these contrary
and diverging minds. This time it was a great matter that
was under discussion, connected with a vessel laden with
Turkey carpets, stuffs of the Levant, and cashmeres. It was
necessary to find some neutral ground on which an exchange
could be made, and then to try and land these goods on the
coast of France. If the venture was successful the profit
would be enormous, there would be a gain of fifty or sixty
piastres each for the crew.

The patron of The Young Amelia proposed as a place of
landing the Island of Monte Cristo, which being completely
deserted, and having neither soldiers nor revenue officers,
seemed to have been placed in the midst of the ocean since
the time of the heathen Olympus by Mercury, the god of
merchants and robbers, classes of mankind which we in modern
times have separated if not made distinct, but which
antiquity appears to have included in the same category. At
the mention of Monte Cristo Dantes started with joy; he rose
to conceal his emotion, and took a turn around the smoky
tavern, where all the languages of the known world were
jumbled in a lingua franca. When he again joined the two
persons who had been discussing the matter, it had been
decided that they should touch at Monte Cristo and set out
on the following night. Edmond, being consulted, was of
opinion that the island afforded every possible security,
and that great enterprises to be well done should be done
quickly. Nothing then was altered in the plan, and orders
were given to get under weigh next night, and, wind and
weather permitting, to make the neutral island by the
following day.



The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site