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第23节 基督山小岛 【
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本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=307
文章摘要:基督山小岛 ,母国不吃亏采购部,小电器捆绑带马小跳。

凡是很长一段时间不走运的人,有时也会遇到意想不到的好运,唐太斯现在就是碰上了这种好运,他就要通过这个简单自然的方法达到他的目的了,可以不会引起任何人的怀疑登上那个小岛了。现在,距离他那朝思暮想的航行,只隔一夜了。

那一夜是唐太斯一生中最心神不宁的一夜,在夜间各种各样有利的和不利的可能性都在他脑子里交替出现。一合上眼,他就看见红衣主教斯帕达的那封遗书用火红的字写在墙上,略微打个盹儿,脑子里就会出现一些最荒诞古怪的梦境。

他梦见自己走进了岩洞,只见绿玉铺地,红玉筑墙,洞顶闪闪发光,挂满了金刚钻凝成的钟乳石。珍珠象凝聚在地下的水气那样一颗一颗的掉下来。爱德蒙心喜若狂,把那些光彩四射的宝石装满了几口袋,然后回到洞外,但在亮处,那些宝石都变成了平凡的石子。于是他想努力再走进这些神奇的洞窟,但道路却变蜿蜒曲折,化成了无数条小径,再也找不到进口了。他搜索枯肠,象阿拉伯渔夫回想那句神秘的魔法口诀可以开阿里巴巴的宝窟一样。但一切都没有用,宝藏消失了,他原想从护宝神的手上把宝藏偷走,现在宝藏却又回到了他们那儿去了。

白天终于来临了,而白天几乎也象夜晚一样令人心神不安。但在白天除了幻想以外,还给人带来了理智。在此之前,唐太斯脑子里的计划本来还是模糊不清的,现在慢慢的明确了下来。夜晚来临了,出航的准备都已作好了。这些准备工作使唐太斯得以掩饰他内心的焦急。他已逐渐在他的同伴中建立起了自己的威信,简直成了船上的指挥官。由于他的信念总是很明白,清楚,而且易于执行,所以他的同伴们很乐于服从他,而且执行得很迅速。

老船长并不干涉,放手让他去干。因为他也承认唐太斯确实比全体船员都高出一筹,甚至比他自己还高明。他觉得这个年轻人最适合做他的接班人,只可惜自己没有个女儿,以致无法用一个美满的婚姻来笼络住爱德蒙。到了晚上七点钟,一切都准备好了,七点十分他们已绕过了灯塔,塔上那时刚刚亮起灯光。海面上很平静,他们借着来自东南方向的一阵清新的和风在明亮的蓝空下航行,夜空上,上帝也点亮了他的指路明灯,而那每一盏灯都是一个世界。唐太斯让大伙儿都去休息,由他独自来把舵。马耳他人(他们这样称呼他)既然发了话,也就够了,大家就都心安理德地到他们的鸽子笼里去了。这也是常有的事。唐太斯虽然刚刚从孤独中挣脱出来,但有时却偏偏喜欢孤独,说到孤独,哪有比驾着一艘帆船,在朦胧的夜色里,无边的寂静中,苍天的俯视下,孤零零地漂浮在大海上的这种孤独更完美更富有诗意呢?

这一次,他的思想扰乱了孤独,幻想照亮了夜空,诺言打破了沉寂。当船长醒来的时候,船上的每一片帆都已扯了起来,鼓满了风,他们差不多正以每小时十海里的速度疾驶前进。基督山岛隐约地耸现在地平线上了。爱德蒙把船交给了船长来照看,自己则去躺在了吊床上。尽管昨天晚上一夜没合眼,现在却依旧一刻也不能合眼。两小时后,他又回到了甲板上,船已快要绕过厄尔巴岛了。他们现在正和马里西亚纳平行,还没到那平坦而荒芜的皮亚诺扎岛。基督山的山顶被火一样的太阳染成了血红色,衬托在蔚蓝色的天空上。唐太斯命令舵手把舵柄向左舷打,以便从皮亚诺扎的左边通过,这样就可以缩短两三海里的航程。傍晚五点钟时,小岛的面目已很清楚了,岛上的一切都历历在目,这是因为夕阳下,大气特别明亮透彻的缘故。

爱德蒙非常热切地注视着那座山岩,山岩上正呈现着变化中的暮色,从最浅的粉红到最深的暗蓝,而热血不住地往他脸上涌,额头时而浮上阴云,他的眼前时而呈现一片薄雾。即使一个以全部家财作赌注拚死一博的赌徒,其所经验过的痛苦,恐怕也不会象爱德蒙这时徘徊在希望的边缘上所感到的那样剧烈。夜晚来了,到了十点钟他们抛锚停泊了。这次的约会还是少女阿梅丽号最先到达。唐太斯一向很能自制,但这次却再也压抑不住他的情感了。他第一个跳上岸,要是他胆敢冒险的话,他一定会象布鲁特斯那样“和大地接一个吻。”天很黑,但到了十一点钟,月亮从海上升了起来,把海面上染成了一片银色,然后,又一步步上升,把苍白色的光泻满了这座堪称皮隆[此山为希腊东北境内的高山,山中林木茂盛,景色秀丽,在希腊神话诗等文学记载中十分著名。]第二的岩石山。

少女阿梅丽号的船员都很熟悉这个小岛,这是他们常常歇脚的地方。唐太斯在去勒旺的航行中虽多次经过它,却从未上去过。于是他问雅格布:“我们今晚在哪儿过夜?”

“什么,当然是在船上了。”那水手回答道。

“在岩洞里不是更好吗?”

“什么岩洞?”

“咦,岛上的岩洞呀。”

“我不知道有什么岩洞,”雅格布说道。

唐太斯的额头上冒出了一阵冷汗。“什么!基督山岛上没有岩洞?”他问道。

“一个也没有。”

唐太斯顿时惊得连话都说不出来了。但他转念一想,这些洞窟大概是由于某种意外的事故而被填没了,或许是红衣主教斯帕达为了更加小心而故意填没了的。那么,问题的关键就在寻找到那个填没了的洞口了。晚上去找是没用的,所以唐太斯只能把一切探寻工作放到第二天再去进行了。而且,在半里外的海面外已发出了一个信号,少女阿梅丽号也发回了一个同样的信号,这表示交货的时间已经到了。那艘帆船还是等在外面,在观察回答的信号究竟对不对,不久,它就静悄悄地驶近了,只见白朦朦的一片,象是一个幽灵似的,在离岸一箭路以外抛了锚。

于是卸货的工作开始了。唐太斯一面干活,一面想,假如他把心里念念不忘的心思讲出来,则只要讲一个字就可以使所有这些人都高兴得大叫起来,但他丝毫没有泄漏这个宝贵的秘密,他怕自己已经说得太多了,他喋喋不休地提出些问题,东张西望的观察和显然若有所思的那种神态,说不定已引起了人们的怀疑。幸而,在当时,过去的痛苦的经历,帮了他的忙,那惨痛的往事在他的脸上映现出一种不可磨灭的哀伤,在这一重阴云之下,偶尔流露出的欢快的神情也只象是昙花一现而已。

没有人产生丝毫的怀疑。第二天,当唐太斯拿起一支猎枪,带了一点火药和弹丸,准备去打几只在岩石上跳来跳去的野山羊的时候,大家都以为他这么做只是因为他爱好打猎或喜欢一个人安静一下而已。可是,雅格布却坚持要跟他一起去,唐太斯也没反对,深怕一旦反对,就会引起怀疑,他们还没走出四分之一里路,就已射杀了一只小山羊,于是他请雅格布把它背回到他的伙伴们那儿去,请他们去把它一烧,烧好以后,鸣枪一声通知他。这只小山羊再加上一些干果和一瓶普尔西亚诺山的葡萄酒,就是一顿很丰盛的酒宴了。唐太斯继续向前走去,不时地向后看着,并四面察看。当他爬到一块岩石顶上时,看见他的同伴们已在他的脚下,他已比他们高出一千尺左右。雅格布已和他们在一起了,他们正在忙碌地准备着,把爱德蒙狩猎的成绩做成一顿好菜。

爱德蒙望了他们一会儿,脸上带着一个超群脱俗的人的那种悲哀而柔和的微笑。“两小时之后,”他说,“这些人就会每人分得五十个毕阿士特然后重新出发,冒着生命危险,再去挣上五十个毕阿士特。他们会带着一笔六百里弗的财富回家,然后带着象苏丹那样的骄傲,象印度富豪那样不可一世的神气,把这笔财富在某个城市里花得干干净净。现在,我的希望使我鄙视他们的财富,那笔钱在我看来似乎太不值一提了。但明天,或许幻想就会破灭,那时,我将不得不把这不值一提的财富当作至高无上的幸福。“噢,不!”他喊道,“不会发生这种事的。聪明的法利亚从来没算错过一件事,他不会单单在这件事上弄错的。而且,假如继续过这种贫穷卑贱的生活,倒还不如死了的好。”三个月之前,唐太斯除了自由以外原是别无所求的,现在,光有自由已不够了,他还渴望财富。这并不是唐太斯的错,而是上帝造成的,上帝限制了人的力量,却给了他无穷的欲望。

这时,唐太斯正循着一条岩石夹道走着,这条小径是由一道激流冲成的,从各方面来看,这条路上大概从未有人走过,他觉得这一带一定有岩洞,就一步步向前走去。他现在是在顺着海滨走,一路走,一路极其注意地察看最细微的迹象,他自认为在某些岩石上可追踪到人工凿出的记号。

“时间”给一切有形的物体披上了一件外衣,那件外衣就是苔藓,还有一件外衣是把一切无形的事物包裹在了里面,而那件外衣就叫“健忘”,可是它对于这些记号却似乎还相当尊重。这些记号相当有规律,大概是故意留下来的,有几处已被覆盖化一丛丛鲜花盛开着的香桃木底下,或寄生的地衣底下。

所以爱德蒙必须拂开花枝或铲除苔藓方能看到在这个迷宫里给他指路的标记。这些痕迹重新燃起了他心中的希望。这难道不是红衣主教留下来,以备在横祸到来的时候,给他的侄子做路标的吗?但他却没有预料到他的侄子竟会和他同时在飞来横祸下毕命。假如一个人要想埋藏一宗宝藏,显然是喜欢选择这个孤僻的地方的。只是,这些泄露秘密的标记,除了最初创造它们的人以外,有没有引起过别人的注意呢?这个荒凉奇妙的小岛是否守着它那宝贵的秘密呢?

由于路面崎岖不平,爱德蒙的同伴们看不到他。当他追踪到离港口六十步远的地方时,记号中断了,记号中止的地方并不见有什么岩洞。只有一块圆形的大石头稳稳地立在那儿,似乎成了唯一的目标。爱德蒙心想,或许他到达的地方不是终点而是一个起点,所以他又转向,按原路追踪回去。

在这期间,他的同伴们已把饭准备好了,他们从一处泉水那儿弄了一点清水来,摆开干果和面包,烤那只羔羊。正当他们把那香气扑鼻的烤羊肉从铁叉上取下来的时候,他们看见爱德蒙象一只羚羊那样轻捷而大胆地在岩石上跳来跳去于是他们按刚才约定的信号,放了一枪。那猎手立刻改变了他的方向,迅速地向他们奔来。正当他们注视着他那敏捷的跳跃,惊奇于他的大胆时,突然只见爱德蒙脚下一滑,他们看到他在一块岩石的边缘上摇晃了一下,就不见了。他们立刻向他冲了过去,尽管爱德蒙在各方面都比他们高出一筹,他们却都很爱戴他,而第一个跑到那儿的是雅格布。

他发现爱德蒙直挺挺地躺地那儿,身上流着血,几乎已失去了知觉。他是从十二尺或十五尺高的地方滚下来的。他们往他嘴里倒了几滴朗姆西,这服药,以前曾对他很有效,这次也产生了和以前同样的效果。他睁开眼直叫膝盖痛得厉害,头觉得很重,腰也痛得厉害。他们想把抬到岸边去,由雅格布指挥着大伙抬他,可是他们一碰他,他就啊唷啊唷地叫个不停,说他动不了。

唐太斯看来不能和大伙儿一起用餐了,他坚持要他的同伴们回去,他们没有理由和他呆在这儿不吃东西。至于他自己,他说只要休息一会儿,当他们回来的时候,他大概可以好一点了。水手们也不必多劝,因为他们实在是饿了,烤山羊的味道又非常的香,而且水手们之间本来也不讲究什么客套的。

一小时以后,他们又回来了。爱德蒙所能做的也只是把自己向前拖了十几步,靠在一块长满苔藓的岩石上。

但是,唐太斯的疼痛非但没有减轻,反而似乎更加厉害了。老船长因为要把那批货运到皮埃蒙特和法国边境,在尼斯和弗雷儒斯之间卸货上岸,所以不得不在早上开船。他催促唐太斯站起来试试看,爱德蒙费了很大的劲,但他每作一次努力就倒回去一次,嘴里不住的呻吟,脸色苍白。

“他跌断肋骨了,”船长低声说,“没关系,他是个好伙伴,我们绝不能丢下他不管。我们设法来把他抬到船上去吧。”可唐太斯却说他情愿死在那儿,也不愿意受因最轻微的搬动而引起的痛苦。

“好吧,”船长说,“只好听天由命了,我们不能让人说闲话,说我们抛弃了象你这样的一个好伙伴。我们等到晚上再走。”

虽然谁也没反对这句话,但水手们都大为惊异,船长纪律极严,他们从来没见过他放弃一笔交易或迟延一次既定的行期,这次可是破天荒头一遭。唐太斯不同意为了他而做出这种破坏常例的举动。“不,不,”他对船长说。“是我太笨了,这是我行动笨拙应得的惩罚。给我留下一点饼干,一支枪,一点火药和子弹,这样我就可以打些小山羊或在需要的时候自卫,再留下一把鹤嘴锄,要是你们回来得晚了些,我可以给自己搭一间小茅屋。”

“但你会饿死的呀。”船长说。

“我情愿饿死,”爱德蒙回答,“也不愿动一下,就疼得难以忍受。船长转过身去看了看他的帆船,它正停泊在小港湾里,一部分帆已扯了起来,差不多一上去就可以出海了。”

“我们该怎么办呢,马耳他人?”船长问。“我们既不能让你这样留在这儿,可我们也不能再等下去了。”

“去吧,你们走吧!”唐太斯大声说道。

“我们至少要离开一个星期,”船长说,“然后还绕道来这儿来接你。”

“何必呢,”唐太斯说,“要是两三天之内你们碰到了什么渔船,叫他们到这儿来接我好了。我愿意付二十五个毕阿士特,算是带我回里窝那的船费。要是碰不到,你们回来的时候再来接我。”

船长摇了摇头。

“这样吧,波尔狄船长,这件事有一个办法可以解决,”雅格布说:“你们去吧,我留在这儿照顾他。”

“你情愿放弃你的那份红利而来留下陪我吗?”爱德蒙问道。

“是的,”雅格布说,“而且决不后悔。”

“你是一个好人,是一个好心肠的伙伴,”爱德蒙说道。“你这样一片好心,上天会报答你的,但是我不需要任何人来陪我。我只要休息一两天就会好的,我希望能在岩石缝里找到一种最妙的跌伤草药。”他的嘴角上掠过一个奇妙的微笑。他亲热地紧紧的握住雅格布的手。但什么也不能动摇他的决心,他要留下来,而且独自一个人留下来。

这些走私贩子只得给了他所要求的那些东西,然后便和他分别了,他们频频回头望他,每次回头都恋恋不舍表示道别。爱德蒙只挥手致意,仿佛他身体的其它部位都已不能动了似的。然后,当他们都走远了看不见了的时候,他微笑着说,“真是不可思议,想不到在这种人里边我们倒找到了真诚的友爱和帮助。现在,他小心地挪动身子,爬到一块可以俯视海面的岩石顶上,从那个地方,他看到那艘独桅船做好了一切出航的准备,收起了锚,象一只振翅待飞的水鸟似的优雅地晃了晃就出发了。一小时之后,它完全消失在视线以外了,至少,那受伤的人从他所在的地方再也看不到它了。于是,唐太斯一跃而起,简直比生长在这座荒山的香桃木和灌木丛中的小山羊更轻巧灵便,他一手握枪,一手拿鹤嘴锄,向记号尽头的那块岩石快步走去。“现在,”他想起了法利亚讲给他听的阿拉伯渔夫的故事,于是大声叫道,“现在芝麻开门吧!” 

THUS, AT LENGTH, by one of the unexpected strokes of fortune which sometimes befall those who have for a long time been the victims of an evil destiny, Dantès was about to secure the opportunity he wished for, by simple and natural means, and land on the island without incurring any suspicion. One night more and he would be on his way.

The night was one of feverish distraction, and in its progress visions good and evil passed through Dantès' mind. If he closed his eyes, he saw Cardinal Spada's letter written on the wall in characters of flame--if he slept for a moment the wildest dreams haunted his brain. He ascended into grottos paved with emeralds, with panels of rubies, and the roof glowing with diamond stalactites. Pearls fell drop by drop, as subterranean waters filter in their caves. Edmond, amazed, wonderstruck, filled his pockets with the radiant gems and then returned to daylight, when be discovered that his prizes had all changed into common pebbles. He then endeavored to re-enter the marvellous grottos, but they had suddenly receded, and now the path became a labyrinth, and then the entrance vanished, and in vain did he tax his memory for the magic and mysterious word which opened the splendid caverns of Ali Baba to the Arabian fisherman. All was useless, the treasure disappeared, and had again reverted to the genii from whom for a moment he had hoped to carry it off. The day came at length, and was almost as feverish as the night had been, but it brought reason to the aid of imagination, and Dantès was then enabled to arrange a plan which had hitherto been vague and unsettled in his brain. Night came, and with it the preparation for departure, and these preparations served to conceal Dantès' agitation. He had by degrees assumed such authority over his companions that he was almost like a commander on board; and as his orders were always clear, distinct, and easy of execution, his comrades obeyed him with celerity and pleasure.

The old patron did not interfere, for he too had recognized the superiority of Dantès over the crew and himself. He saw in the young man his natural successor, and regretted that he had not a daughter, that he might have bound Edmond to him by a more secure alliance. At seven o'clock in the evening all was ready, and at ten minutes past seven they doubled the lighthouse just as the beacon was kindled. The sea was calm, and, with a fresh breeze from the south-east, they sailed beneath a bright blue sky, in which God also lighted up in turn his beacon lights, each of which is a world. Dantès told them that all hands might turn in, and he would take the helm. When the Maltese (for so they called Dantès) had said this, it was sufficient, and all went to their bunks contentedly. This frequently happened. Dantès, cast from solitude into the world, frequently experienced an imperious desire for solitude; and what solitude is more complete, or more poetical, then that of a ship floating in isolation on the sea during the obscurity of the night, in the silence of immensity, and under the eye of heaven?

Now this solitude was peopled with his thoughts, the night lighted up by his illusions, and the silence animated by his anticipations. When the patron awoke, the vessel was hurrying on with every sail set, and every sail full with the breeze. They were making nearly ten knots an hour. The Island of Monte Cristo loomed large in the horizon. Edmond resigned the lugger to the master's care, and went and lay down in his hammock; but, in spite of a sleepless night, he could not close his eyes for a moment. Two hours afterwards he came on deck, as the boat was about to double the Island of Elba. They were just abreast of Mareciana, and beyond the flat but verdant Island of La Pianosa. The peak of Monte Cristo reddened by the burning sun, was seen against the azure sky. Dantès ordered the helmsman to put down his helm, in order to leave La Pianosa to starboard, as he knew that he should shorten his course by two or three knots. About five o'clock in the evening the island was distinct, and everything on it was plainly perceptible, owing to that clearness of the atmosphere peculiar to the light which the rays of the sun cast at its setting.

Edmond gazed very earnestly at the mass of rocks which gave out all the variety of twilight colors, from the brightest pink to the deepest blue; and from time to time his cheeks flushed, his brow darkened, and a mist passed over his eyes. Never did gamester, whose whole fortune is staked on one cast of the die, experience the anguish which Edmond felt in his paroxysms of hope. Night came, and at ten o'clock they anchored. The Young Amelia was first at the rendezvous. In spite of his usual command over himself, Dantès could not restrain his impetuosity. He was the first to jump on shore; and had he dared, he would, like Lucius Brutus, have "kissed his mother earth." It was dark, but at eleven o'clock the moon rose in the midst of the ocean, whose every wave she silvered, and then, "ascending high," played in floods of pale light on the rocky hills of this second Pelion.

The island was familiar to the crew of The Young Amelia,--it was one of her regular haunts. As to Dantès, he had passed it on his voyage to and from the Levant, but never touched at it. He questioned Jacopo. "Where shall we pass the night?" he inquired.

"Why, on board the tartan," replied the sailor.

"Should we not do better in the grottos?"

"What grottos?"

"Why, the grottos--caves of the island."

"I do not know of any grottos," replied Jacopo. The cold sweat sprang forth on Dantès' brow.

"What, are there no grottos at Monte Cristo?" he asked.

"None."

For a moment Dantès was speechless; then he remembered that these caves might have been filled up by some accident, or even stopped up, for the sake of greater security, by Cardinal Spada. The point was, then, to discover the hidden entrance. It was useless to search at night, and Dantès therefore delayed all investigation until the morning. Besides, a signal made half a league out at sea, and to which The Young Amelia replied by a similar signal, indicated that the moment for business had come. The boat that now arrived, assured by the answering signal that all was well, soon came in sight, white and silent as a phantom, and cast anchor within a cable's length of shore.

Then the landing began. Dantès reflected, as he worked, on the shout of joy which, with a single word, he could evoke from all these men, if he gave utterance to the one unchanging thought that pervaded his heart; but, far from disclosing this precious secret, he almost feared that he had already said too much, and by his restlessness and continual questions, his minute observations and evident pre-occupation, aroused suspicions. Fortunately, as regarded this circumstance at least, his painful past gave to his countenance an indelible sadness, and the glimmerings of gayety seen beneath this cloud were indeed but transitory.

No one had the slightest suspicion; and when next day, taking a fowling-piece, powder, and shot, Dantès declared his intention to go and kill some of the wild goats that were seen springing from rock to rock, his wish was construed into a love of sport, or a desire for solitude. However, Jacopo insisted on following him, and Dantès did not oppose this, fearing if he did so that he might incur distrust. Scarcely, however, had they gone a quarter of a league when, having killed a kid, he begged Jacopo to take it to his comrades, and request them to cook it, and when ready to let him know by firing a gun. This and some dried fruits and a flask of Monte Pulciano, was the bill of fare. Dantès went on, looking from time to time behind and around about him. Having reached the summit of a rock, he saw, a thousand feet beneath him, his companions, whom Jacopo had rejoined, and who were all busy preparing the repast which Edmond's skill as a marksman had augmented with a capital dish.

Edmond looked at them for a moment with the sad and gentle smile of a man superior to his fellows. "In two hours' time," said he, "these persons will depart richer by fifty piastres each, to go and risk their lives again by endeavoring to gain fifty more; then they will return with a fortune of six hundred francs, and waste this treasure in some city with the pride of sultans and the insolence of nabobs. At this moment hope makes me despise their riches, which seem to me contemptible. Yet perchance to-morrow deception will so act on me, that I shall, on compulsion, consider such a contemptible possession as the utmost happiness. Oh, no!" exclaimed Edmond, "that will not be. The wise, unerring Faria could not be mistaken in this one thing. Besides, it were better to die than to continue to lead this low and wretched life." Thus Dantès, who but three months before had no desire but liberty had now not liberty enough, and panted for wealth. The cause was not in Dantès, but in providence, who, while limiting the power of man, has filled him with boundless desires.

Meanwhile, by a cleft between two walls of rock, following a path worn by a torrent, and which, in all human probability, human foot had never before trod, Dantès approached the spot where he supposed the grottos must have existed. Keeping along the shore, and examining the smallest object with serious attention, he thought he could trace, on certain rocks, marks made by the hand of man.

Time, which encrusts all physical substances with its mossy mantle, as it invests all things of the mind with forgetfulness, seemed to have respected these signs, which apparently had been made with some degree of regularity, and probably with a definite purpose. Occasionally the marks were hidden under tufts of myrtle, which spread into large bushes laden with blossoms, or beneath parasitical lichen. So Edmond had to separate the branches or brush away the moss to know where the guide-marks were. The sight of marks renewed Edmond fondest hopes. Might it not have been the cardinal himself who had first traced them, in order that they might serve as a guide for his nephew in the event of a catastrophe, which he could not foresee would have been so complete. This solitary place was precisely suited to the requirements of a man desirous of burying treasure. Only, might not these betraying marks have attracted other eyes than those for whom they were made? and had the dark and wondrous island indeed faithfully guarded its precious secret?

It seemed, however, to Edmond, who was hidden from his comrades by the inequalities of the ground, that at sixty paces from the harbor the marks ceased; nor did they terminate at any grotto. A large round rock, placed solidly on its base, was the only spot to which they seemed to lead. Edmond concluded that perhaps instead of having reached the end of the route he had only explored its beginning, and he therefore turned round and retraced his steps.

Meanwhile his comrades had prepared the repast, had got some water from a spring, spread out the fruit and bread, and cooked the kid. Just at the moment when they were taking the dainty animal from the spit, they saw Edmond springing with the boldness of a chamois from rock to rock, and they fired the signal agreed upon. The sportsman instantly changed his direction, and ran quickly towards them. But even while they watched his daring progress, Edmond's foot slipped, and they saw him stagger on the edge of a rock and disappear. They all rushed towards him, for all loved Edmond in spite of his superiority; yet Jacopo reached him first.

He found Edmond lying prone, bleeding, and almost senseless. He had rolled down a declivity of twelve or fifteen feet. They poured a little rum down his throat, and this remedy which had before been so beneficial to him, produced the same effect as formerly. Edmond opened his eyes, complained of great pain in his knee, a feeling of heaviness in his head, and severe pains in his loins. They wished to carry him to the shore; but when they touched him, although under Jacopo's directions, he declared, with heavy groans, that he could not bear to be moved.

It may be supposed that Dantès did not now think of his dinner, but he insisted that his comrades, who had not his reasons for fasting, should have their meal. As for himself, he declared that he had only need of a little rest, and that when they returned he should be easier. The sailors did not require much urging. They were hungry, and the smell of the roasted kid was very savory, and your tars are not very ceremonious. An hour afterwards they returned. All that Edmond had been able to do was to drag himself about a dozen paces forward to lean against a moss-grown rock.

But, instead of growing easier, Dantès' pains appeared to increase in violence. The old patron, who was obliged to sail in the morning in order to land his cargo on the frontiers of Piedmont and France, between Nice and Frejus, urged Dantès to try and rise. Edmond made great exertions in order to comply; but at each effort he fell back, moaning and turning pale.

"He has broken his ribs," said the commander, in a low voice. "No matter; he is an excellent fellow, and we must not leave him. We will try and carry him on board the tartan." Dantès declared, however, that he would rather die where he was than undergo the agony which the slightest movement cost him. "Well," said the patron, "let what may happen, it shall never be said that we deserted a good comrade like you. We will not go till evening." This very much astonished the sailors, although, not one opposed it. The patron was so strict that this was the first time they had ever seen him give up an enterprise, or even delay in its execution. Dantès would not allow that any such infraction of regular and proper rules should be made in his favor. "No, no," he said to the patron, "I was awkward, and it is just that I pay the penalty of my clumsiness. Leave me a small supply of biscuit, a gun, powder, and balls, to kill the kids or defend myself at need, and a pickaxe, that I may build a shelter if you delay in coming back for me."

"But you'll die of hunger," said the patron.

"I would rather do so," was Edmond reply, "than suffer the inexpressible agonies which the slightest movement causes me." The patron turned towards his vessel, which was rolling on the swell in the little harbor, and, with sails partly set, would be ready for sea when her toilet should be completed.

"What are we to do, Maltese?" asked the captain. "We cannot leave you here so, and yet we cannot stay."

"Go, go!" exclaimed Dantès.

"We shall be absent at least a week," said the patron, "and then we must run out of our course to come here and take you up again."

"Why," said Dantès, "if in two or three days you hail any fishing-boat, desire them to come here to me. I will pay twenty-five piastres for my passage back to Leghorn. If you do not come across one, return for me." The patron shook his head.

"Listen, Captain Baldi; there's one way of settling this," said Jacopo. "Do you go, and I will stay and take care of the wounded man."

"And give up your share of the venture," said Edmond, "to remain with me?"

"Yes," said Jacopo, "and without any hesitation."

"You are a good fellow and a kind-hearted messmate," replied Edmond, "and heaven will recompense you for your generous intentions; but I do not wish any one to stay with me. A day or two of rest will set me up, and I hope I shall find among the rocks certain herbs most excellent for bruises."

A peculiar smile passed over Dantès' lips; he squeezed Jacopo's hand warmly, but nothing could shake his determination to remain--and remain alone. The smugglers left with Edmond what he had requested and set sail, but not without turning about several times, and each time making signs of a cordial farewell, to which Edmond replied with his hand only, as if he could not move the rest of his body. Then, when they had disappeared, he said with a smile:

"'Tis strange that it should be among such men that we find proofs of friendship and devotion."

Then he dragged himself cautiously to the top of a rock, from which he had a full view of the sea, and thence he saw the tartan complete her preparations for sailing, weigh anchor, and, balancing herself as gracefully as a water-fowl ere it takes to the wing, set sail. At the end of an hour she was completely out of sight; at least, it was impossible for the wounded man to see her any longer from the spot where he was.

Then Dantès rose more agile and light than the kid among the myrtles and shrubs of these wild rocks, took his gun in one hand, his pickaxe in the other, and hastened towards the rock on which the marks he had noted terminated.

"And now," he exclaimed, remembering the tale of the Arabian fisherman, which Faria had related to him, "now, open sesame!"
 



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