On the 24th of February, 1810, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Gard_ignalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.
As usual, a pilot put off immediately, and rounding the Chateau d'If, got o_oard the vessel between Cape Morgion and Rion island.
Immediately, and according to custom, the ramparts of Fort Saint-Jean wer_overed with spectators; it is always an event at Marseilles for a ship t_ome into port, especially when this ship, like the Pharaon, has been built, rigged, and laden at the old Phocee docks, and belongs to an owner of th_ity.
The ship drew on and had safely passed the strait, which some volcanic shoc_as made between the Calasareigne and Jaros islands; had doubled Pomegue, an_pproached the harbor under topsails, jib, and spanker, but so slowly an_edately that the idlers, with that instinct which is the forerunner of evil, asked one another what misfortune could have happened on board. However, thos_xperienced in navigation saw plainly that if any accident had occurred, i_as not to the vessel herself, for she bore down with all the evidence o_eing skilfully handled, the anchor a-cockbill, the jib-boom guys alread_ased off, and standing by the side of the pilot, who was steering the Pharao_owards the narrow entrance of the inner port, was a young man, who, wit_ctivity and vigilant eye, watched every motion of the ship, and repeated eac_irection of the pilot.
The vague disquietude which prevailed among the spectators had so muc_ffected one of the crowd that he did not await the arrival of the vessel i_arbor, but jumping into a small skiff, desired to be pulled alongside th_haraon, which he reached as she rounded into La Reserve basin.
When the young man on board saw this person approach, he left his station b_he pilot, and, hat in hand, leaned over the ship's bulwarks.
He was a fine, tall, slim young fellow of eighteen or twenty, with black eyes, and hair as dark as a raven's wing; and his whole appearance bespoke tha_almness and resolution peculiar to men accustomed from their cradle t_ontend with danger.
"Ah, is it you, Dantes?" cried the man in the skiff. "What's the matter? an_hy have you such an air of sadness aboard?"
"A great misfortune, M. Morrel," replied the young man, — "a great misfortune, for me especially! Off Civita Vecchia we lost our brave Captain Leclere."
"And the cargo?" inquired the owner, eagerly.
"Is all safe, M. Morrel; and I think you will be satisfied on that head. Bu_oor Captain Leclere — "
"What happened to him?" asked the owner, with an air of considerabl_esignation. "What happened to the worthy captain?"
"Fell into the sea?"
"No, sir, he died of brain-fever in dreadful agony." Then turning to the crew, he said, "Bear a hand there, to take in sail!"
All hands obeyed, and at once the eight or ten seamen who composed the crew, sprang to their respective stations at the spanker brails and outhaul, topsai_heets and halyards, the jib downhaul, and the topsail clewlines an_untlines. The young sailor gave a look to see that his orders were promptl_nd accurately obeyed, and then turned again to the owner.
"And how did this misfortune occur?" inquired the latter, resuming th_nterrupted conversation.
"Alas, sir, in the most unexpected manner. After a long talk with the harbor- master, Captain Leclere left Naples greatly disturbed in mind. In twenty-fou_ours he was attacked by a fever, and died three days afterwards. We performe_he usual burial service, and he is at his rest, sewn up in his hammock with _hirty-six pound shot at his head and his heels, off El Giglio island. W_ring to his widow his sword and cross of honor. It was worth while, truly,"
added the young man with a melancholy smile, "to make war against the Englis_or ten years, and to die in his bed at last, like everybody else."
"Why, you see, Edmond," replied the owner, who appeared more comforted a_very moment, "we are all mortal, and the old must make way for the young. I_ot, why, there would be no promotion; and since you assure me that the cargo — "
"Is all safe and sound, M. Morrel, take my word for it; and I advise you no_o take 25,000 francs for the profits of the voyage."
Then, as they were just passing the Round Tower, the young man shouted: "Stan_y there to lower the topsails and jib; brail up the spanker!"
The order was executed as promptly as it would have been on board a man-of- war.
"Let go — and clue up!" At this last command all the sails were lowered, an_he vessel moved almost imperceptibly onwards.
"Now, if you will come on board, M. Morrel," said Dantes, observing th_wner's impatience, "here is your supercargo, M. Danglars, coming out of hi_abin, who will furnish you with every particular. As for me, I must loo_fter the anchoring, and dress the ship in mourning."
The owner did not wait for a second invitation. He seized a rope which Dante_lung to him, and with an activity that would have done credit to a sailor, climbed up the side of the ship, while the young man, going to his task, lef_he conversation to Danglars, who now came towards the owner. He was a man o_wenty-five or twenty-six years of age, of unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors, insolent to his subordinates; and this, i_ddition to his position as responsible agent on board, which is alway_bnoxious to the sailors, made him as much disliked by the crew as Edmon_antes was beloved by them.
"Well, M. Morrel," said Danglars, "you have heard of the misfortune that ha_efallen us?"
"Yes — yes: poor Captain Leclere! He was a brave and an honest man."
"And a first-rate seaman, one who had seen long and honorable service, a_ecame a man charged with the interests of a house so important as that o_orrel & Son," replied Danglars.
"But," replied the owner, glancing after Dantes, who was watching th_nchoring of his vessel, "it seems to me that a sailor needs not be so old a_ou say, Danglars, to understand his business, for our friend Edmond seems t_nderstand it thoroughly, and not to require instruction from any one."
"Yes," said Danglars, darting at Edmond a look gleaming with hate. "Yes, he i_oung, and youth is invariably self-confident. Scarcely was the captain'_reath out of his body when he assumed the command without consulting any one, and he caused us to lose a day and a half at the Island of Elba, instead o_aking for Marseilles direct."
"As to taking command of the vessel," replied Morrel, "that was his duty a_aptain's mate; as to losing a day and a half off the Island of Elba, he wa_rong, unless the vessel needed repairs."
"The vessel was in as good condition as I am, and as, I hope you are, M.
Morrel, and this day and a half was lost from pure whim, for the pleasure o_oing ashore, and nothing else."
"Dantes," said the shipowner, turning towards the young man, "come this way!"
"In a moment, sir," answered Dantes, "and I'm with you." Then calling to th_rew, he said — "Let go!"
The anchor was instantly dropped, and the chain ran rattling through the port- hole. Dantes continued at his post in spite of the presence of the pilot, until this manoeuvre was completed, and then he added, "Half-mast the colors, and square the yards!"
"You see," said Danglars, "he fancies himself captain already, upon my word."
"And so, in fact, he is," said the owner.
"Except your signature and your partner's, M. Morrel."
"And why should he not have this?" asked the owner; "he is young, it is true, but he seems to me a thorough seaman, and of full experience."
A cloud passed over Danglars' brow. "Your pardon, M. Morrel," said Dantes, approaching, "the vessel now rides at anchor, and I am at your service. Yo_ailed me, I think?"
Danglars retreated a step or two. "I wished to inquire why you stopped at th_sland of Elba?"
"I do not know, sir; it was to fulfil the last instructions of Captai_eclere, who, when dying, gave me a packet for Marshal Bertrand."
"Then did you see him, Edmond?"
Morrel looked around him, and then, drawing Dantes on one side, he sai_uddenly — "And how is the emperor?"
"Very well, as far as I could judge from the sight of him."
"You saw the emperor, then?"
"He entered the marshal's apartment while I was there."
"And you spoke to him?"
"Why, it was he who spoke to me, sir," said Dantes, with a smile.
"And what did he say to you?"
"Asked me questions about the vessel, the time she left Marseilles, the cours_he had taken, and what was her cargo. I believe, if she had not been laden, and I had been her master, he would have bought her. But I told him I was onl_ate, and that she belonged to the firm of Morrel & Son. `Ah, yes,' he said, `I know them. The Morrels have been shipowners from father to son; and ther_as a Morrel who served in the same regiment with me when I was in garrison a_alence.'"
"Pardieu, and that is true!" cried the owner, greatly delighted. "And that wa_olicar Morrel, my uncle, who was afterwards a captain. Dantes, you must tel_y uncle that the emperor remembered him, and you will see it will bring tear_nto the old soldier's eyes. Come, come," continued he, patting Edmond'_houlder kindly, "you did very right, Dantes, to follow Captain Leclere'_nstructions, and touch at Elba, although if it were known that you ha_onveyed a packet to the marshal, and had conversed with the emperor, it migh_ring you into trouble."
"How could that bring me into trouble, sir?" asked Dantes; "for I did not eve_now of what I was the bearer; and the emperor merely made such inquiries a_e would of the first comer. But, pardon me, here are the health officers an_he customs inspectors coming alongside." And the young man went to th_angway. As he departed, Danglars approached, and said, —
"Well, it appears that he has given you satisfactory reasons for his landin_t Porto-Ferrajo?"
"Yes, most satisfactory, my dear Danglars."
"Well, so much the better," said the supercargo; "for it is not pleasant t_hink that a comrade has not done his duty."
"Dantes has done his," replied the owner, "and that is not saying much. It wa_aptain Leclere who gave orders for this delay."
"Talking of Captain Leclere, has not Dantes given you a letter from him?"
"To me? — no — was there one?"
"I believe that, besides the packet, Captain Leclere confided a letter to hi_are."
"Of what packet are you speaking, Danglars?"
"Why, that which Dantes left at Porto-Ferrajo."
"How do you know he had a packet to leave at Porto-Ferrajo?"
Danglars turned very red.
"I was passing close to the door of the captain's cabin, which was half open, and I saw him give the packet and letter to Dantes."
"He did not speak to me of it," replied the shipowner; "but if there be an_etter he will give it to me."
Danglars reflected for a moment. "Then, M. Morrel, I beg of you," said he,
"not to say a word to Dantes on the subject. I may have been mistaken."
At this moment the young man returned; Danglars withdrew.
"Well, my dear Dantes, are you now free?" inquired the owner.
"You have not been long detained."
"No. I gave the custom-house officers a copy of our bill of lading; and as t_he other papers, they sent a man off with the pilot, to whom I gave them."
"Then you have nothing more to do here?"
"No — everything is all right now."
"Then you can come and dine with me?"
"I really must ask you to excuse me, M. Morrel. My first visit is due to m_ather, though I am not the less grateful for the honor you have done me."
"Right, Dantes, quite right. I always knew you were a good son."
"And," inquired Dantes, with some hesitation, "do you know how my father is?"
"Well, I believe, my dear Edmond, though I have not seen him lately."
"Yes, he likes to keep himself shut up in his little room."
"That proves, at least, that he has wanted for nothing during your absence."
Dantes smiled. "My father is proud, sir, and if he had not a meal left, _oubt if he would have asked anything from anyone, except from Heaven."
"Well, then, after this first visit has been made we shall count on you."
"I must again excuse myself, M. Morrel, for after this first visit has bee_aid I have another which I am most anxious to pay."
"True, Dantes, I forgot that there was at the Catalans some one who expect_ou no less impatiently than your father — the lovely Mercedes."
"Ah, ha," said the shipowner, "I am not in the least surprised, for she ha_een to me three times, inquiring if there were any news of the Pharaon.
Peste, Edmond, you have a very handsome mistress!"
"She is not my mistress," replied the young sailor, gravely; "she is m_etrothed."
"Sometimes one and the same thing," said Morrel, with a smile.
"Not with us, sir," replied Dantes.
"Well, well, my dear Edmond," continued the owner, "don't let me detain you.
You have managed my affairs so well that I ought to allow you all the time yo_equire for your own. Do you want any money?"
"No, sir; I have all my pay to take — nearly three months' wages."
"You are a careful fellow, Edmond."
"Say I have a poor father, sir."
"Yes, yes, I know how good a son you are, so now hasten away to see you_ather. I have a son too, and I should be very wroth with those who detaine_im from me after a three months' voyage."
"Then I have your leave, sir?"
"Yes, if you have nothing more to say to me."
"Captain Leclere did not, before he died, give you a letter for me?"
"He was unable to write, sir. But that reminds me that I must ask your leav_f absence for some days."
"To get married?"
"Yes, first, and then to go to Paris."
"Very good; have what time you require, Dantes. It will take quite six week_o unload the cargo, and we cannot get you ready for sea until three month_fter that; only be back again in three months, for the Pharaon," added th_wner, patting the young sailor on the back, "cannot sail without he_aptain."
"Without her captain!" cried Dantes, his eyes sparkling with animation; "pra_ind what you say, for you are touching on the most secret wishes of my heart.
Is it really your intention to make me captain of the Pharaon?"
"If I were sole owner we'd shake hands on it now, my dear Dantes, and call i_ettled; but I have a partner, and you know the Italian proverb — Chi h_ompagno ha padrone — `He who has a partner has a master.' But the thing is a_east half done, as you have one out of two votes. Rely on me to procure yo_he other; I will do my best."
"Ah, M. Morrel," exclaimed the young seaman, with tears in his eyes, an_rasping the owner's hand, "M. Morrel, I thank you in the name of my fathe_nd of Mercedes."
"That's all right, Edmond. There's a providence that watches over th_eserving. Go to your father: go and see Mercedes, and afterwards come to me."
"Shall I row you ashore?"
"No, thank you; I shall remain and look over the accounts with Danglars. Hav_ou been satisfied with him this voyage?"
"That is according to the sense you attach to the question, sir. Do you mea_s he a good comrade? No, for I think he never liked me since the day when _as silly enough, after a little quarrel we had, to propose to him to stop fo_en minutes at the island of Monte Cristo to settle the dispute — _roposition which I was wrong to suggest, and he quite right to refuse. If yo_ean as responsible agent when you ask me the question, I believe there i_othing to say against him, and that you will be content with the way in whic_e has performed his duty."
"But tell me, Dantes, if you had command of the Pharaon should you be glad t_ee Danglars remain?"
"Captain or mate, M. Morrel, I shall always have the greatest respect fo_hose who possess the owners' confidence."
"That's right, that's right, Dantes! I see you are a thoroughly good fellow, and will detain you no longer. Go, for I see how impatient you are."
"Then I have leave?"
"Go, I tell you."
"May I have the use of your skiff?"
"Then, for the present, M. Morrel, farewell, and a thousand thanks!"
"I hope soon to see you again, my dear Edmond. Good luck to you."
The young sailor jumped into the skiff, and sat down in the stern sheets, wit_he order that he be put ashore at La Canebiere. The two oarsmen bent to thei_ork, and the little boat glided away as rapidly as possible in the midst o_he thousand vessels which choke up the narrow way which leads between the tw_ows of ships from the mouth of the harbor to the Quai d'Orleans.
The shipowner, smiling, followed him with his eyes until he saw him spring ou_n the quay and disappear in the midst of the throng, which from five o'cloc_n the morning until nine o'clock at night, swarms in the famous street of L_anebiere, — a street of which the modern Phocaeans are so proud that they sa_ith all the gravity in the world, and with that accent which gives so muc_haracter to what is said, "If Paris had La Canebiere, Paris would be a secon_arseilles." On turning round the owner saw Danglars behind him, apparentl_waiting orders, but in reality also watching the young sailor, — but ther_as a great difference in the expression of the two men who thus followed th_ovements of Edmond Dantes.