eBooks Cube
Chapter 31
Italy: Sinbad the Sailor.

Towards the beginning of the year 1838, two young men
belonging to the first society of Paris, the Vicomte Albert
de Morcerf and the Baron Franz d'Epinay, were at Florence.
They had agreed to see the Carnival at Rome that year, and
that Franz, who for the last three or four years had
inhabited Italy, should act as cicerone to Albert. As it is
no inconsiderable affair to spend the Carnival at Rome,
especially when you have no great desire to sleep on the
Piazza del Popolo, or the Campo Vaccino, they wrote to
Signor Pastrini, the proprietor of the Hotel de Londres,
Piazza di Spagna, to reserve comfortable apartments for
them. Signor Pastrini replied that he had only two rooms and
a parlor on the third floor, which he offered at the low
charge of a louis per diem. They accepted his offer; but
wishing to make the best use of the time that was left,
Albert started for Naples. As for Franz, he remained at
Florence, and after having passed a few days in exploring
the paradise of the Cascine, and spending two or three
evenings at the houses of the Florentine nobility, he took a
fancy into his head (having already visited Corsica, the
cradle of Bonaparte) to visit Elba, the waiting-place of

One evening he cast off the painter of a sailboat from the
iron ring that secured it to the dock at Leghorn, wrapped
himself in his coat and lay down, and said to the crew, --
"To the Island of Elba!" The boat shot out of the harbor
like a bird and the next morning Franz disembarked at
Porto-Ferrajo. He traversed the island, after having
followed the traces which the footsteps of the giant have
left, and re-embarked for Marciana. Two hours after he again
landed at Pianosa, where he was assured that red partridges
abounded. The sport was bad; Franz only succeeded in killing
a few partridges, and, like every unsuccessful sportsman, he
returned to the boat very much out of temper. "Ah, if your
excellency chose," said the captain, "you might have capital


"Do you see that island?" continued the captain, pointing to
a conical pile rising from the indigo sea.

"Well, what is this island?"

"The Island of Monte Cristo."

"But I have no permission to shoot over this island."

"Your excellency does not require a permit, for the island
is uninhabited."

"Ah, indeed!" said the young man. "A desert island in the
midst of the Mediterranean must be a curiosity."

"It is very natural; this island is a mass of rocks, and
does not contain an acre of land capable of cultivation."

"To whom does this island belong?"

"To Tuscany."

"What game shall I find there!"

"Thousands of wild goats."

"Who live upon the stones, I suppose," said Franz with an
incredulous smile.

"No, but by browsing the shrubs and trees that grow out of
the crevices of the rocks."

"Where can I sleep?"

"On shore in the grottos, or on board in your cloak;
besides, if your excellency pleases, we can leave as soon as
you like -- we can sail as well by night as by day, and if
the wind drops we can use our oars."

As Franz had sufficient time, and his apartments at Rome
were not yet available, he accepted the proposition. Upon
his answer in the affirmative, the sailors exchanged a few
words together in a low tone. "Well," asked he, "what now?
Is there any difficulty in the way?"

"No." replied the captain, "but we must warn your excellency
that the island is an infected port."

"What do you mean?"

"Monte Cristo although uninhabited, yet serves occasionally
as a refuge for the smugglers and pirates who come from
Corsica, Sardinia, and Africa, and if it becomes known that
we have been there, we shall have to perform quarantine for
six days on our return to Leghorn."

"The deuce! That puts a different face on the matter. Six
days! Why, that's as long as the Almighty took to make the
world! Too long a wait -- too long."

"But who will say your excellency has been to Monte Cristo?"

"Oh, I shall not," cried Franz.

"Nor I, nor I," chorused the sailors.

"Then steer for Monte Cristo."

The captain gave his orders, the helm was put up, and the
boat was soon sailing in the direction of the island. Franz
waited until all was in order, and when the sail was filled,
and the four sailors had taken their places -- three
forward, and one at the helm -- he resumed the conversation.
"Gaetano," said he to the captain, "you tell me Monte Cristo
serves as a refuge for pirates, who are, it seems to me, a
very different kind of game from the goats."

"Yes, your excellency, and it is true."

"I knew there were smugglers, but I thought that since the
capture of Algiers, and the destruction of the regency,
pirates existed only in the romances of Cooper and Captain

"Your excellency is mistaken; there are pirates, like the
bandits who were believed to have been exterminated by Pope
Leo XII., and who yet, every day, rob travellers at the
gates of Rome. Has not your excellency heard that the French
charge d'affaires was robbed six months ago within five
hundred paces of Velletri?"

"Oh, yes, I heard that."

"Well, then, if, like us, your excellency lived at Leghorn,
you would hear, from time to time, that a little merchant
vessel, or an English yacht that was expected at Bastia, at
Porto-Ferrajo, or at Civita Vecchia, has not arrived; no one
knows what has become of it, but, doubtless, it has struck
on a rock and foundered. Now this rock it has met has been a
long and narrow boat, manned by six or eight men, who have
surprised and plundered it, some dark and stormy night, near
some desert and gloomy island, as bandits plunder a carriage
in the recesses of a forest."

"But," asked Franz, who lay wrapped in his cloak at the
bottom of the boat, "why do not those who have been
plundered complain to the French, Sardinian, or Tuscan

"Why?" said Gaetano with a smile.

"Yes, why?"

"Because, in the first place, they transfer from the vessel
to their own boat whatever they think worth taking, then
they bind the crew hand and foot, they attach to every one's
neck a four and twenty pound ball, a large hole is chopped
in the vessel's bottom, and then they leave her. At the end
of ten minutes the vessel begins to roll heavily and settle
down. First one gun'l goes under, then the other. Then they
lift and sink again, and both go under at once. All at once
there's a noise like a cannon -- that's the air blowing up
the deck. Soon the water rushes out of the scupper-holes
like a whale spouting, the vessel gives a last groan, spins
round and round, and disappears, forming a vast whirlpool in
the ocean, and then all is over, so that in five minutes
nothing but the eye of God can see the vessel where she lies
at the bottom of the sea. Do you understand now," said the
captain, "why no complaints are made to the government, and
why the vessel never reaches port?"

It is probable that if Gaetano had related this previous to
proposing the expedition, Franz would have hesitated, but
now that they had started, he thought it would be cowardly
to draw back. He was one of those men who do not rashly
court danger, but if danger presents itself, combat it with
the most unalterable coolness. Calm and resolute, he treated
any peril as he would an adversary in a duel, -- calculated
its probable method of approach; retreated, if at all, as a
point of strategy and not from cowardice; was quick to see
an opening for attack, and won victory at a single thrust.
"Bah!" said he, "I have travelled through Sicily and
Calabria -- I have sailed two months in the Archipelago, and
yet I never saw even the shadow of a bandit or a pirate."

"I did not tell your excellency this to deter you from your
project," replied Gaetano, "but you questioned me, and I
have answered; that's all."

"Yes, and your conversation is most interesting; and as I
wish to enjoy it as long as possible, steer for Monte

The wind blew strongly, the boat made six or seven knots an
hour, and they were rapidly reaching the end of their
voyage. As they drew near the island seemed to lift from the
sea, and the air was so clear that they could already
distinguish the rocks heaped on one another, like cannon
balls in an arsenal, with green bushes and trees growing in
the crevices. As for the sailors, although they appeared
perfectly tranquil yet it was evident that they were on the
alert, and that they carefully watched the glassy surface
over which they were sailing, and on which a few
fishing-boats, with their white sails, were alone visible.
They were within fifteen miles of Monte Cristo when the sun
began to set behind Corsica, whose mountains appeared
against the sky, showing their rugged peaks in bold relief;
this mass of rock, like the giant Adamastor, rose dead
ahead, a formidable barrier, and intercepting the light that
gilded its massive peaks so that the voyagers were in
shadow. Little by little the shadow rose higher and seemed
to drive before it the last rays of the expiring day; at
last the reflection rested on the summit of the mountain,
where it paused an instant, like the fiery crest of a
volcano, then gloom gradually covered the summit as it had
covered the base, and the island now only appeared to be a
gray mountain that grew continually darker; half an hour
after, the night was quite dark.

Fortunately, the mariners were used to these latitudes, and
knew every rock in the Tuscan Archipelago; for in the midst
of this obscurity Franz was not without uneasiness --
Corsica had long since disappeared, and Monte Cristo itself
was invisible; but the sailors seemed, like the lynx, to see
in the dark, and the pilot who steered did not evince the
slightest hesitation. An hour had passed since the sun had
set, when Franz fancied he saw, at a quarter of a mile to
the left, a dark mass, but he could not precisely make out
what it was, and fearing to excite the mirth of the sailors
by mistaking a floating cloud for land, he remained silent;
suddenly a great light appeared on the strand; land might
resemble a cloud, but the fire was not a meteor. "What is
this light?" asked he.

"Hush!" said the captain; "it is a fire."

"But you told me the island was uninhabited?"

"l said there were no fixed habitations on it, but I said
also that it served sometimes as a harbor for smugglers."

"And for pirates?"

"And for pirates," returned Gaetano, repeating Franz's
words. "It is for that reason I have given orders to pass
the island, for, as you see, the fire is behind us."

"But this fire?" continued Franz. "It seems to me rather
reassuring than otherwise; men who did not wish to be seen
would not light a fire."

"Oh, that goes for nothing," said Gaetano. "If you can guess
the position of the island in the darkness, you will see
that the fire cannot be seen from the side or from Pianosa,
but only from the sea."

"You think, then, this fire indicates the presence of
unpleasant neighbors?"

"That is what we must find out," returned Gaetano, fixing
his eyes on this terrestrial star.

"How can you find out?"

"You shall see." Gaetano consulted with his companions, and
after five minutes' discussion a manoeuvre was executed
which caused the vessel to tack about, they returned the way
they had come, and in a few minutes the fire disappeared,
hidden by an elevation of the land. The pilot again changed
the course of the boat, which rapidly approached the island,
and was soon within fifty paces of it. Gaetano lowered the
sail, and the boat came to rest. All this was done in
silence, and from the moment that their course was changed
not a word was spoken.

Gaetano, who had proposed the expedition, had taken all the
responsibility on himself; the four sailors fixed their eyes
on him, while they got out their oars and held themselves in
readiness to row away, which, thanks to the darkness, would
not be difficult. As for Franz, he examined his arms with
the utmost coolness; he had two double-barrelled guns and a
rifle; he loaded them, looked at the priming, and waited
quietly. During this time the captain had thrown off his
vest and shirt, and secured his trousers round his waist;
his feet were naked, so he had no shoes and stockings to
take off; after these preparations he placed his finger on
his lips, and lowering himself noiselessly into the sea,
swam towards the shore with such precaution that it was
impossible to hear the slightest sound; he could only be
traced by the phosphorescent line in his wake. This track
soon disappeared; it was evident that he had touched the
shore. Every one on board remained motionless for half an
hour, when the same luminous track was again observed, and
the swimmer was soon on board. "Well?" exclaimed Franz and
the sailors in unison.

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

"And what are these Corsican bandits doing here with Spanish

"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,

"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

"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

"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

"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

"Well," observed Franz, "this chief is very polite, and I
see no objection -- the more so as I bring my share of the

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"I did not say that the owner was a smuggler," replied the

"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

"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."

"Decidedly," muttered Franz, "this is an Arabian Nights'

"His excellency waits for you," said a voice, which he
recognized as that of the sentinel. He was accompanied by
two of the yacht's crew. Franz drew his handkerchief from
his pocket, and presented it to the man who had spoken to
him. Without uttering a word, they bandaged his eyes with a
care that showed their apprehensions of his committing some
indiscretion. Afterwards he was made to promise that he
would not make the least attempt to raise the bandage. He
promised. Then his two guides took his arms, and he went on,
guided by them, and preceded by the sentinel. After going
about thirty paces, he smelt the appetizing odor of the kid
that was roasting, and knew thus that he was passing the
bivouac; they then led him on about fifty paces farther,
evidently advancing towards that part of the shore where
they would not allow Gaetano to go -- a refusal he could now
comprehend. Presently, by a change in the atmosphere, he
knew that they were entering a cave; after going on for a
few seconds more he heard a crackling, and it seemed to him
as though the atmosphere again changed, and became balmy and
perfumed. At length his feet touched on a thick and soft
carpet, and his guides let go their hold of him. There was a
moment's silence, and then a voice, in excellent French,
although, with a foreign accent, said, "Welcome, sir. I beg
you will remove your bandage." It may be supposed, then,
Franz did not wait for a repetition of this permission, but
took off the handkerchief, and found himself in the presence
of a man from thirty-eight to forty years of age, dressed in
a Tunisian costume -- that is to say, a red cap with a long
blue silk tassel, a vest of black cloth embroidered with
gold, pantaloons of deep red, large and full gaiters of the
same color, embroidered with gold like the vest, and yellow
slippers; he had a splendid cashmere round his waist, and a
small sharp and crooked cangiar was passed through his
girdle. Although of a paleness that was almost livid, this
man had a remarkably handsome face; his eyes were
penetrating and sparkling; his nose, quite straight, and
projecting direct from the brow, was of the pure Greek type,
while his teeth, as white as pearls, were set off to
admiration by the black mustache that encircled them.

His pallor was so peculiar, that it seemed to pertain to one
who had been long entombed, and who was incapable of
resuming the healthy glow and hue of life. He was not
particularly tall, but extremely well made, and, like the
men of the south, had small hands and feet. But what
astonished Franz, who had treated Gaetano's description as a
fable, was the splendor of the apartment in which he found
himself. The entire chamber was lined with crimson brocade,
worked with flowers of gold. In a recess was a kind of
divan, surmounted with a stand of Arabian swords in silver
scabbards, and the handles resplendent with gems; from the
ceiling hung a lamp of Venetian glass, of beautiful shape
and color, while the feet rested on a Turkey carpet, in
which they sunk to the instep; tapestry hung before the door
by which Franz had entered, and also in front of another
door, leading into a second apartment which seemed to be
brilliantly illuminated. The host gave Franz time to recover
from his surprise, and, moreover, returned look for look,
not even taking his eyes off him. "Sir," he said, after a
pause, "a thousand excuses for the precaution taken in your
introduction hither; but as, during the greater portion of
the year, this island is deserted, if the secret of this
abode were discovered. I should doubtless, find on my return
my temporary retirement in a state of great disorder, which
would be exceedingly annoying, not for the loss it
occasioned me, but because I should not have the certainty I
now possess of separating myself from all the rest of
mankind at pleasure. Let me now endeavor to make you forget
this temporary unpleasantness, and offer you what no doubt
you did not expect to find here -- that is to say, a
tolerable supper and pretty comfortable beds."

"Ma foi, my dear sir," replied Franz, "make no apologies. I
have always observed that they bandage people's eyes who
penetrate enchanted palaces, for instance, those of Raoul in
the `Huguenots,' and really I have nothing to complain of,
for what I see makes me think of the wonders of the `Arabian

"Alas, I may say with Lucullus, if I could have anticipated
the honor of your visit, I would have prepared for it. But
such as is my hermitage, it is at your disposal; such as is
my supper, it is yours to share, if you will. Ali, is the
supper ready?" At this moment the tapestry moved aside, and
a Nubian, black as ebony, and dressed in a plain white
tunic, made a sign to his master that all was prepared in
the dining-room. "Now," said the unknown to Franz, "I do not
know if you are of my opinion, but I think nothing is more
annoying than to remain two or three hours together without
knowing by name or appellation how to address one another.
Pray observe, that I too much respect the laws of
hospitality to ask your name or title. I only request you to
give me one by which I may have the pleasure of addressing
you. As for myself, that I may put you at your ease, I tell
you that I am generally called `Sinbad the Sailor.'"

"And I," replied Franz, "will tell you, as I only require
his wonderful lamp to make me precisely like Aladdin, that I
see no reason why at this moment I should not be called
Aladdin. That will keep us from going away from the East
whither I am tempted to think I have been conveyed by some
good genius."

"Well, then, Signor Aladdin," replied the singular
amphitryon, "you heard our repast announced, will you now
take the trouble to enter the dining-room, your humble
servant going first to show the way?" At these words, moving
aside the tapestry, Sinbad preceded his guest. Franz now
looked upon another scene of enchantment; the table was
splendidly covered, and once convinced of this important
point he cast his eyes around him. The dining-room was
scarcely less striking than the room he had just left; it
was entirely of marble, with antique bas-reliefs of
priceless value; and at the four corners of this apartment,
which was oblong, were four magnificent statues, having
baskets in their hands. These baskets contained four
pyramids of most splendid fruit; there were Sicily
pine-apples, pomegranates from Malaga, oranges from the
Balearic Isles, peaches from France, and dates from Tunis.
The supper consisted of a roast pheasant garnished with
Corsican blackbirds; a boar's ham with jelly, a quarter of a
kid with tartar sauce, a glorious turbot, and a gigantic
lobster. Between these large dishes were smaller ones
containing various dainties. The dishes were of silver, and
the plates of Japanese china.

Franz rubbed his eyes in order to assure himself that this
was not a dream. Ali alone was present to wait at table, and
acquitted himself so admirably, that the guest complimented
his host thereupon. "Yes," replied he, while he did the
honors of the supper with much ease and grace -- "yes, he is
a poor devil who is much devoted to me, and does all he can
to prove it. He remembers that I saved his life, and as he
has a regard for his head, he feels some gratitude towards
me for having kept it on his shoulders." Ali approached his
master, took his hand, and kissed it.

"Would it be impertinent, Signor Sinbad," said Franz, "to
ask you the particulars of this kindness?"

"Oh, they are simple enough," replied the host. "It seems
the fellow had been caught wandering nearer to the harem of
the Bey of Tunis than etiquette permits to one of his color,
and he was condemned by the bey to have his tongue cut out,
and his hand and head cut off; the tongue the first day, the
hand the second, and the head the third. I always had a
desire to have a mute in my service, so learning the day his
tongue was cut out, I went to the bey, and proposed to give
him for Ali a splendid double-barreled gun which I knew he
was very desirous of having. He hesitated a moment, he was
so very desirous to complete the poor devil's punishment.
But when I added to the gun an English cutlass with which I
had shivered his highness's yataghan to pieces, the bey
yielded, and agreed to forgive the hand and head, but on
condition that the poor fellow never again set foot in
Tunis. This was a useless clause in the bargain, for
whenever the coward sees the first glimpse of the shores of
Africa, he runs down below, and can only be induced to
appear again when we are out of sight of that quarter of the

Franz remained a moment silent and pensive, hardly knowing
what to think of the half-kindness, half-cruelty, with which
his host related the brief narrative. "And like the
celebrated sailor whose name you have assumed," he said, by
way of changing the conversation, "you pass your life in

"Yes. I made a vow at a time when I little thought I should
ever be able to accomplish it," said the unknown with a
singular smile; "and I made some others also which I hope I
may fulfil in due season." Although Sinbad pronounced these
words with much calmness, his eyes gave forth gleams of
extraordinary ferocity.

"You have suffered a great deal, sir?" said Franz

Sinbad started and looked fixedly at him, as he replied,
"What makes you suppose so?"

"Everything," answered Franz, -- "your voice, your look,
your pallid complexion, and even the life you lead."

"I? -- I live the happiest life possible, the real life of a
pasha. I am king of all creation. I am pleased with one
place, and stay there; I get tired of it, and leave it; I am
free as a bird and have wings like one; my attendants obey
my slightest wish. Sometimes I amuse myself by delivering
some bandit or criminal from the bonds of the law. Then I
have my mode of dispensing justice, silent and sure, without
respite or appeal, which condemns or pardons, and which no
one sees. Ah, if you had tasted my life, you would not
desire any other, and would never return to the world unless
you had some great project to accomplish there."

"Revenge, for instance!" observed Franz.

The unknown fixed on the young man one of those looks which
penetrate into the depth of the heart and thoughts. "And why
revenge?" he asked.

"Because," replied Franz, "you seem to me like a man who,
persecuted by society, has a fearful account to settle with

"Ah," responded Sinbad, laughing with his singular laugh
which displayed his white and sharp teeth. "You have not
guessed rightly. Such as you see me I am, a sort of
philosopher, and one day perhaps I shall go to Paris to
rival Monsieur Appert, and the little man in the blue

"And will that be the first time you ever took that

"Yes; it will. I must seem to you by no means curious, but I
assure you that it is not my fault I have delayed it so long
-- it will happen one day or the other."

"And do you propose to make this journey very shortly?"

"I do not know; it depends on circumstances which depend on
certain arrangements."

"I should like to be there at the time you come, and I will
endeavor to repay you, as far as lies in my power, for your
liberal hospitality displayed to me at Monte Cristo."

"I should avail myself of your offer with pleasure," replied
the host, "but, unfortunately, if I go there, it will be, in
all probability, incognito."

The supper appeared to have been supplied solely for Franz,
for the unknown scarcely touched one or two dishes of the
splendid banquet to which his guest did ample justice. Then
Ali brought on the dessert, or rather took the baskets from
the hands of the statues and placed them on the table.
Between the two baskets he placed a small silver cup with a
silver cover. The care with which Ali placed this cup on the
table roused Franz's curiosity. He raised the cover and saw
a kind of greenish paste, something like preserved angelica,
but which was perfectly unknown to him. He replaced the lid,
as ignorant of what the cup contained as he was before he
had looked at it, and then casting his eyes towards his host
he saw him smile at his disappointment. "You cannot guess,"
said he, "what there is in that small vase, can you?"

"No, I really cannot."

"Well, then, that green preserve is nothing less than the
ambrosia which Hebe served at the table of Jupiter."

"But," replied Franz, "this ambrosia, no doubt, in passing
through mortal hands has lost its heavenly appellation and
assumed a human name; in vulgar phrase, what may you term
this composition, for which, to tell the truth, I do not
feel any particular desire?"

"Ah, thus it is that our material origin is revealed," cried
Sinbad; "we frequently pass so near to happiness without
seeing, without regarding it, or if we do see and regard it,
yet without recognizing it. Are you a man for the
substantials, and is gold your god? taste this, and the
mines of Peru, Guzerat, and Golconda are opened to you. Are
you a man of imagination -- a poet? taste this, and the
boundaries of possibility disappear; the fields of infinite
space open to you, you advance free in heart, free in mind,
into the boundless realms of unfettered revery. Are you
ambitious, and do you seek after the greatnesses of the
earth? taste this, and in an hour you will be a king, not a
king of a petty kingdom hidden in some corner of Europe like
France, Spain, or England, but king of the world, king of
the universe, king of creation; without bowing at the feet
of Satan, you will be king and master of all the kingdoms of
the earth. Is it not tempting what I offer you, and is it
not an easy thing, since it is only to do thus? look!" At
these words he uncovered the small cup which contained the
substance so lauded, took a teaspoonful of the magic
sweetmeat, raised it to his lips, and swallowed it slowly
with his eyes half shut and his head bent backwards. Franz
did not disturb him whilst he absorbed his favorite
sweetmeat, but when he had finished, he inquired, -- "What,
then, is this precious stuff?"

"Did you ever hear," he replied, "of the Old Man of the
Mountain, who attempted to assassinate Philip Augustus?"

"Of course I have."

"Well, you know he reigned over a rich valley which was
overhung by the mountain whence he derived his picturesque
name. In this valley were magnificent gardens planted by
Hassen-ben-Sabah, and in these gardens isolated pavilions.
Into these pavilions he admitted the elect, and there, says
Marco Polo, gave them to eat a certain herb, which
transported them to Paradise, in the midst of ever-blooming
shrubs, ever-ripe fruit, and ever-lovely virgins. What these
happy persons took for reality was but a dream; but it was a
dream so soft, so voluptuous, so enthralling, that they sold
themselves body and soul to him who gave it to them, and
obedient to his orders as to those of a deity, struck down
the designated victim, died in torture without a murmur,
believing that the death they underwent was but a quick
transition to that life of delights of which the holy herb,
now before you had given them a slight foretaste."

"Then," cried Franz, "it is hashish! I know that -- by name
at least."

"That is it precisely, Signor Aladdin; it is hashish -- the
purest and most unadulterated hashish of Alexandria, -- the
hashish of Abou-Gor, the celebrated maker, the only man, the
man to whom there should be built a palace, inscribed with
these words, `A grateful world to the dealer in happiness.'"

"Do you know," said Franz, "I have a very great inclination
to judge for myself of the truth or exaggeration of your

"Judge for yourself, Signor Aladdin -- judge, but do not
confine yourself to one trial. Like everything else, we must
habituate the senses to a fresh impression, gentle or
violent, sad or joyous. There is a struggle in nature
against this divine substance, -- in nature which is not
made for joy and clings to pain. Nature subdued must yield
in the combat, the dream must succeed to reality, and then
the dream reigns supreme, then the dream becomes life, and
life becomes the dream. But what changes occur! It is only
by comparing the pains of actual being with the joys of the
assumed existence, that you would desire to live no longer,
but to dream thus forever. When you return to this mundane
sphere from your visionary world, you would seem to leave a
Neapolitan spring for a Lapland winter -- to quit paradise
for earth -- heaven for hell! Taste the hashish, guest of
mine -- taste the hashish."

Franz's only reply was to take a teaspoonful of the
marvellous preparation, about as much in quantity as his
host had eaten, and lift it to his mouth. "Diable!" he said,
after having swallowed the divine preserve. "I do not know
if the result will be as agreeable as you describe, but the
thing does not appear to me as palatable as you say."

"Because your palate his not yet been attuned to the
sublimity of the substances it flavors. Tell me, the first
time you tasted oysters, tea, porter, truffles, and sundry
other dainties which you now adore, did you like them? Could
you comprehend how the Romans stuffed their pheasants with
assafoetida, and the Chinese eat swallows' nests? Eh? no!
Well, it is the same with hashish; only eat for a week, and
nothing in the world will seem to you to equal the delicacy
of its flavor, which now appears to you flat and
distasteful. Let us now go into the adjoining chamber, which
is your apartment, and Ali will bring us coffee and pipes."
They both arose, and while he who called himself Sinbad --
and whom we have occasionally named so, that we might, like
his guest, have some title by which to distinguish him --
gave some orders to the servant, Franz entered still another
apartment. It was simply yet richly furnished. It was round,
and a large divan completely encircled it. Divan, walls,
ceiling, floor, were all covered with magnificent skins as
soft and downy as the richest carpets; there were
heavy-maned lion-skins from Atlas, striped tiger-skins from
Bengal; panther-skins from the Cape, spotted beautifully,
like those that appeared to Dante; bear-skins from Siberia,
fox-skins from Norway, and so on; and all these skins were
strewn in profusion one on the other, so that it seemed like
walking over the most mossy turf, or reclining on the most
luxurious bed. Both laid themselves down on the divan;
chibouques with jasmine tubes and amber mouthpieces were
within reach, and all prepared so that there was no need to
smoke the same pipe twice. Each of them took one, which Ali
lighted and then retired to prepare the coffee. There was a
moment's silence, during which Sinbad gave himself up to
thoughts that seemed to occupy him incessantly, even in the
midst of his conversation; and Franz abandoned himself to
that mute revery, into which we always sink when smoking
excellent tobacco, which seems to remove with its fume all
the troubles of the mind, and to give the smoker in exchange
all the visions of the soul. Ali brought in the coffee. "How
do you take it?" inquired the unknown; "in the French or
Turkish style, strong or weak, sugar or none, cool or
boiling? As you please; it is ready in all ways."

"I will take it in the Turkish style," replied Franz.

"And you are right," said his host; "it shows you have a
tendency for an Oriental life. Ah, those Orientals; they are
the only men who know how to live. As for me," he added,
with one of those singular smiles which did not escape the
young man, "when I have completed my affairs in Paris, I
shall go and die in the East; and should you wish to see me
again, you must seek me at Cairo, Bagdad, or Ispahan."

"Ma foi," said Franz, "it would be the easiest thing in the
world; for I feel eagle's wings springing out at my
shoulders, and with those wings I could make a tour of the
world in four and twenty hours."

"Ah, yes, the hashish is beginning its work. Well, unfurl
your wings, and fly into superhuman regions; fear nothing,
there is a watch over you; and if your wings, like those of
Icarus, melt before the sun, we are here to ease your fall."
He then said something in Arabic to Ali, who made a sign of
obedience and withdrew, but not to any distance. As to Franz
a strange transformation had taken place in him. All the
bodily fatigue of the day, all the preoccupation of mind
which the events of the evening had brought on, disappeared
as they do at the first approach of sleep, when we are still
sufficiently conscious to be aware of the coming of slumber.
His body seemed to acquire an airy lightness, his perception
brightened in a remarkable manner, his senses seemed to
redouble their power, the horizon continued to expand; but
it was not the gloomy horizon of vague alarms, and which he
had seen before he slept, but a blue, transparent, unbounded
horizon, with all the blue of the ocean, all the spangles of
the sun, all the perfumes of the summer breeze; then, in the
midst of the songs of his sailors, -- songs so clear and
sonorous, that they would have made a divine harmony had
their notes been taken down, -- he saw the Island of Monte
Cristo, no longer as a threatening rock in the midst of the
waves, but as an oasis in the desert; then, as his boat drew
nearer, the songs became louder, for an enchanting and
mysterious harmony rose to heaven, as if some Loreley had
decreed to attract a soul thither, or Amphion, the
enchanter, intended there to build a city.

At length the boat touched the shore, but without effort,
without shock, as lips touch lips; and he entered the grotto
amidst continued strains of most delicious melody. He
descended, or rather seemed to descend, several steps,
inhaling the fresh and balmy air, like that which may be
supposed to reign around the grotto of Circe, formed from
such perfumes as set the mind a dreaming, and such fires as
burn the very senses; and he saw again all he had seen
before his sleep, from Sinbad, his singular host, to Ali,
the mute attendant; then all seemed to fade away and become
confused before his eyes, like the last shadows of the magic
lantern before it is extinguished, and he was again in the
chamber of statues, lighted only by one of those pale and
antique lamps which watch in the dead of the night over the
sleep of pleasure. They were the same statues, rich in form,
in attraction. and poesy, with eyes of fascination, smiles
of love, and bright and flowing hair. They were Phryne,
Cleopatra, Messalina, those three celebrated courtesans.
Then among them glided like a pure ray, like a Christian
angel in the midst of Olympus, one of those chaste figures,
those calm shadows, those soft visions, which seemed to veil
its virgin brow before these marble wantons. Then the three
statues advanced towards him with looks of love, and
approached the couch on which he was reposing, their feet
hidden in their long white tunics, their throats bare, hair
flowing like waves, and assuming attitudes which the gods
could not resist, but which saints withstood, and looks
inflexible and ardent like those with which the serpent
charms the bird; and then he gave way before looks that held
him in a torturing grasp and delighted his senses as with a
voluptuous kiss. It seemed to Franz that he closed his eyes,
and in a last look about him saw the vision of modesty
completely veiled; and then followed a dream of passion like
that promised by the Prophet to the elect. Lips of stone
turned to flame, breasts of ice became like heated lava, so
that to Franz, yielding for the first time to the sway of
the drug, love was a sorrow and voluptuousness a torture, as
burning mouths were pressed to his thirsty lips, and he was
held in cool serpent-like embraces. The more he strove
against this unhallowed passion the more his senses yielded
to its thrall, and at length, weary of a struggle that taxed
his very soul, he gave way and sank back breathless and
exhausted beneath the kisses of these marble goddesses, and
the enchantment of his marvellous dream.

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