Dantes, although stunned and almost suffocated, had sufficient presence o_ind to hold his breath, and as his right hand (prepared as he was for ever_hance) held his knife open, he rapidly ripped up the sack, extricated hi_rm, and then his body; but in spite of all his efforts to free himself fro_he shot, he felt it dragging him down still lower. He then bent his body, an_y a desperate effort severed the cord that bound his legs, at the moment whe_t seemed as if he were actually strangled. With a mighty leap he rose to th_urface of the sea, while the shot dragged down to the depths the sack tha_ad so nearly become his shroud.
Dantes waited only to get breath, and then dived, in order to avoid bein_een. When he arose a second time, he was fifty paces from where he had firs_unk. He saw overhead a black and tempestuous sky, across which the wind wa_riving clouds that occasionally suffered a twinkling star to appear; befor_im was the vast expanse of waters, sombre and terrible, whose waves foame_nd roared as if before the approach of a storm. Behind him, blacker than th_ea, blacker than the sky, rose phantom-like the vast stone structure, whos_rojecting crags seemed like arms extended to seize their prey, and on th_ighest rock was a torch lighting two figures. He fancied that these two form_ere looking at the sea; doubtless these strange grave-diggers had heard hi_ry. Dantes dived again, and remained a long time beneath the water. This wa_n easy feat to him, for he usually attracted a crowd of spectators in the ba_efore the lighthouse at Marseilles when he swam there, and was unanimousl_eclared to be the best swimmer in the port. When he came up again the ligh_ad disappeared.
He must now get his bearings. Ratonneau and Pomegue are the nearest islands o_ll those that surround the Chateau d'If, but Ratonneau and Pomegue ar_nhabited, as is also the islet of Daume. Tiboulen and Lemaire were therefor_he safest for Dantes' venture. The islands of Tiboulen and Lemaire are _eague from the Chateau d'If; Dantes, nevertheless, determined to make fo_hem. But how could he find his way in the darkness of the night? At thi_oment he saw the light of Planier, gleaming in front of him like a star. B_eaving this light on the right, he kept the Island of Tiboulen a little o_he left; by turning to the left, therefore, he would find it. But, as we hav_aid, it was at least a league from the Chateau d'If to this island. Often i_rison Faria had said to him, when he saw him idle and inactive, "Dantes, yo_ust not give way to this listlessness; you will be drowned if you seek t_scape, and your strength has not been properly exercised and prepared fo_xertion." These words rang in Dantes' ears, even beneath the waves; h_astened to cleave his way through them to see if he had not lost hi_trength. He found with pleasure that his captivity had taken away nothing o_is power, and that he was still master of that element on whose bosom he ha_o often sported as a boy.
Fear, that relentless pursuer, clogged Dantes' efforts. He listened for an_ound that might be audible, and every time that he rose to the top of a wav_e scanned the horizon, and strove to penetrate the darkness. He fancied tha_very wave behind him was a pursuing boat, and he redoubled his exertions, increasing rapidly his distance from the chateau, but exhausting his strength.
He swam on still, and already the terrible chateau had disappeared in th_arkness. He could not see it, but he felt its presence. An hour passed, during which Dantes, excited by the feeling of freedom, continued to cleav_he waves. "Let us see," said he, "I have swum above an hour, but as the win_s against me, that has retarded my speed; however, if I am not mistaken, _ust be close to Tiboulen. But what if I were mistaken?" A shudder passed ove_im. He sought to tread water, in order to rest himself; but the sea was to_iolent, and he felt that he could not make use of this means of recuperation.
"Well," said he, "I will swim on until I am worn out, or the cramp seizes me, and then I shall sink;" and he struck out with the energy of despair.
Suddenly the sky seemed to him to become still darker and more dense, an_eavy clouds seemed to sweep down towards him; at the same time he felt _harp pain in his knee. He fancied for a moment that he had been shot, an_istened for the report; but he heard nothing. Then he put out his hand, an_ncountered an obstacle and with another stroke knew that he had gained th_hore.
Before him rose a grotesque mass of rocks, that resembled nothing so much as _ast fire petrified at the moment of its most fervent combustion. It was th_sland of Tiboulen. Dantes rose, advanced a few steps, and, with a ferven_rayer of gratitude, stretched himself on the granite, which seemed to hi_ofter than down. Then, in spite of the wind and rain, he fell into the deep, sweet sleep of utter exhaustion. At the expiration of an hour Edmond wa_wakened by the roar of thunder. The tempest was let loose and beating th_tmosphere with its mighty wings; from time to time a flash of lightnin_tretched across the heavens like a fiery serpent, lighting up the clouds tha_olled on in vast chaotic waves.
Dantes had not been deceived — he had reached the first of the two islands, which was, in fact, Tiboulen. He knew that it was barren and without shelter; but when the sea became more calm, he resolved to plunge into its waves again, and swim to Lemaire, equally arid, but larger, and consequently better adapte_or concealment.
An overhanging rock offered him a temporary shelter, and scarcely had h_vailed himself of it when the tempest burst forth in all its fury. Edmon_elt the trembling of the rock beneath which he lay; the waves, dashin_hemselves against it, wetted him with their spray. He was safely sheltered, and yet he felt dizzy in the midst of the warring of the elements and th_azzling brightness of the lightning. It seemed to him that the islan_rembled to its base, and that it would, like a vessel at anchor, brea_oorings, and bear him off into the centre of the storm. He then recollecte_hat he had not eaten or drunk for four-and-twenty hours. He extended hi_ands, and drank greedily of the rainwater that had lodged in a hollow of th_ock.
As he rose, a flash of lightning, that seemed to rive the remotest heights o_eaven, illumined the darkness. By its light, between the Island of Lemair_nd Cape Croiselle, a quarter of a league distant, Dantes saw a fishing-boa_riven rapidly like a spectre before the power of winds and waves. A secon_fter, he saw it again, approaching with frightful rapidity. Dantes cried a_he top of his voice to warn them of their danger, but they saw it themselves.
Another flash showed him four men clinging to the shattered mast and th_igging, while a fifth clung to the broken rudder.
The men he beheld saw him undoubtedly, for their cries were carried to hi_ars by the wind. Above the splintered mast a sail rent to tatters was waving; suddenly the ropes that still held it gave way, and it disappeared in th_arkness of the night like a vast sea-bird. At the same moment a violent cras_as heard, and cries of distress. Dantes from his rocky perch saw th_hattered vessel, and among the fragments the floating forms of the haples_ailors. Then all was dark again.
Dantes ran down the rocks at the risk of being himself dashed to pieces; h_istened, he groped about, but he heard and saw nothing — the cries ha_eased, and the tempest continued to rage. By degrees the wind abated, vas_ray clouds rolled towards the west, and the blue firmament appeared studde_ith bright stars. Soon a red streak became visible in the horizon, the wave_hitened, a light played over them, and gilded their foaming crests with gold.
It was day.
Dantes stood mute and motionless before this majestic spectacle, as if he no_eheld it for the first time; and indeed since his captivity in the Chatea_'If he had forgotten that such scenes were ever to be witnessed. He turne_owards the fortress, and looked at both sea and land. The gloomy buildin_ose from the bosom of the ocean with imposing majesty and seemed to dominat_he scene. It was about five o'clock. The sea continued to get calmer.
"In two or three hours," thought Dantes, "the turnkey will enter my chamber, find the body of my poor friend, recognize it, seek for me in vain, and giv_he alarm. Then the tunnel will be discovered; the men who cast me into th_ea and who must have heard the cry I uttered, will be questioned. Then boat_illed with armed soldiers will pursue the wretched fugitive. The cannon wil_arn every one to refuse shelter to a man wandering about naked and famished.
The police of Marseilles will be on the alert by land, whilst the governo_ursues me by sea. I am cold, I am hungry. I have lost even the knife tha_aved me. O my God, I have suffered enough surely! Have pity on me, and do fo_e what I am unable to do for myself."
As Dantes (his eyes turned in the direction of the Chateau d'If) uttered thi_rayer, he saw off the farther point of the Island of Pomegue a small vesse_ith lateen sail skimming the sea like a gull in search of prey; and with hi_ailor's eye he knew it to be a Genoese tartan. She was coming out o_arseilles harbor, and was standing out to sea rapidly, her sharp pro_leaving through the waves. "Oh," cried Edmond, "to think that in half an hou_ could join her, did I not fear being questioned, detected, and conveyed bac_o Marseilles! What can I do? What story can I invent? under pretext o_rading along the coast, these men, who are in reality smugglers, will prefe_elling me to doing a good action. I must wait. But I cannot —-I am starving.
In a few hours my strength will be utterly exhausted; besides, perhaps I hav_ot been missed at the fortress. I can pass as one of the sailors wrecked las_ight. My story will be accepted, for there is no one left to contradict me."
As he spoke, Dantes looked toward the spot where the fishing-vessel had bee_recked, and started. The red cap of one of the sailors hung to a point of th_ock and some timbers that had formed part of the vessel's keel, floated a_he foot of the crag. In an instant Dantes' plan was formed. He swam to th_ap, placed it on his head, seized one of the timbers, and struck out so as t_ut across the course the vessel was taking.
"I am saved!" murmured he. And this conviction restored his strength.
He soon saw that the vessel, with the wind dead ahead, was tacking between th_hateau d'If and the tower of Planier. For an instant he feared lest, instea_f keeping in shore, she should stand out to sea; but he soon saw that sh_ould pass, like most vessels bound for Italy, between the islands of Jaro_nd Calaseraigne. However, the vessel and the swimmer insensibly neared on_nother, and in one of its tacks the tartan bore down within a quarter of _ile of him. He rose on the waves, making signs of distress; but no one o_oard saw him, and the vessel stood on another tack. Dantes would hav_houted, but he knew that the wind would drown his voice.
It was then he rejoiced at his precaution in taking the timber, for without i_e would have been unable, perhaps, to reach the vessel — certainly to retur_o shore, should he be unsuccessful in attracting attention.
Dantes, though almost sure as to what course the vessel would take, had ye_atched it anxiously until it tacked and stood towards him. Then he advanced; but before they could meet, the vessel again changed her course. By a violen_ffort he rose half out of the water, waving his cap, and uttering a lou_hout peculiar to sailers. This time he was both seen and heard, and th_artan instantly steered towards him. At the same time, he saw they were abou_o lower the boat.
An instant after, the boat, rowed by two men, advanced rapidly towards him.
Dantes let go of the timber, which he now thought to be useless, and swa_igorously to meet them. But he had reckoned too much upon his strength, an_hen he realized how serviceable the timber had been to him. His arms becam_tiff, his legs lost their flexibility, and he was almost breathless.
He shouted again. The two sailors redoubled their efforts, and one of the_ried in Italian, "Courage!"
The word reached his ear as a wave which he no longer had the strength t_urmount passed over his head. He rose again to the surface, struggled wit_he last desperate effort of a drowning man, uttered a third cry, and fel_imself sinking, as if the fatal cannon shot were again tied to his feet. Th_ater passed over his head, and the sky turned gray. A convulsive movemen_gain brought him to the surface. He felt himself seized by the hair, then h_aw and heard nothing. He had fainted.
When he opened his eyes Dantes found himself on the deck of the tartan. Hi_irst care was to see what course they were taking. They were rapidly leavin_he Chateau d'If behind. Dantes was so exhausted that the exclamation of jo_e uttered was mistaken for a sigh.
As we have said, he was lying on the deck. A sailor was rubbing his limbs wit_ woollen cloth; another, whom he recognized as the one who had cried out
"Courage!" held a gourd full of rum to his mouth; while the third, an ol_ailer, at once the pilot and captain, looked on with that egotistical pit_en feel for a misfortune that they have escaped yesterday, and which ma_vertake them to-morrow.
A few drops of the rum restored suspended animation, while the friction of hi_imbs restored their elasticity.
"Who are you?" said the pilot in bad French.
"I am," replied Dantes, in bad Italian, "a Maltese sailor. We were coming fro_yracuse laden with grain. The storm of last night overtook us at Cap_orgion, and we were wrecked on these rocks."
"Where do you come from?"
"From these rocks that I had the good luck to cling to while our captain an_he rest of the crew were all lost. I saw your vessel, and fearful of bein_eft to perish on the desolate island, I swam off on a piece of wreckage t_ry and intercept your course. You have saved my life, and I thank you,"
continued Dantes. "I was lost when one of your sailors caught hold of m_air."
"It was I," said a sailor of a frank and manly appearance; "and it was time, for you were sinking."
"Yes," returned Dantes, holding out his hand, "I thank you again."
"I almost hesitated, though," replied the sailor; "you looked more like _rigand than an honest man, with your beard six inches, and your hair a foo_ong." Dantes recollected that his hair and beard had not been cut all th_ime he was at the Chateau d'If.
"Yes," said he, "I made a vow, to our Lady of the Grotto not to cut my hair o_eard for ten years if I were saved in a moment of danger; but to-day the vo_xpires."
"Now what are we to do with you?" said the captain.
"Alas, anything you please. My captain is dead; I have barely escaped; but _m a good sailor. Leave me at the first port you make; I shall be sure to fin_mployment."
"Do you know the Mediterranean?"
"I have sailed over it since my childhood."
"You know the best harbors?"
"There are few ports that I could not enter or leave with a bandage over m_yes."
"I say, captain," said the sailor who had cried "Courage!" to Dantes, "if wha_e says is true, what hinders his staying with us?"
"If he says true," said the captain doubtingly. "But in his present conditio_e will promise anything, and take his chance of keeping it afterwards."
"I will do more than I promise," said Dantes.
"We shall see," returned the other, smiling.
"Where are you going?" asked Dantes.
"Then why, instead of tacking so frequently, do you not sail nearer the wind?"
"Because we should run straight on to the Island of Rion."
"You shall pass it by twenty fathoms."
"Take the helm, and let us see what you know." The young man took the helm, felt to see if the vessel answered the rudder promptly and seeing that, without being a first-rate sailer, she yet was tolerably obedient, —
"To the sheets," said he. The four seamen, who composed the crew, obeyed, while the pilot looked on. "Haul taut." — They obeyed.
"Belay." This order was also executed; and the vessel passed, as Dantes ha_redicted, twenty fathoms to windward.
"Bravo!" said the captain.
"Bravo!" repeated the sailors. And they all looked with astonishment at thi_an whose eye now disclosed an intelligence and his body a vigor they had no_hought him capable of showing.
"You see," said Dantes, quitting the helm, "I shall be of some use to you, a_east during the voyage. If you do not want me at Leghorn, you can leave m_here, and I will pay you out of the first wages I get, for my food and th_lothes you lend me."
"Ah," said the captain, "we can agree very well, if you are reasonable."
"Give me what you give the others, and it will be all right," returned Dantes.
"That's not fair," said the seaman who had saved Dantes; "for you know mor_han we do."
"What is that to you, Jacopo?" returned the Captain. "Every one is free to as_hat he pleases."
"That's true," replied Jacopo; "I only make a remark."
"Well, you would do much better to find him a jacket and a pair of trousers, if you have them."
"No," said Jacopo; "but I have a shirt and a pair of trousers."
"That is all I want," interrupted Dantes. Jacopo dived into the hold and soo_eturned with what Edmond wanted.
"Now, then, do you wish for anything else?" said the patron.
"A piece of bread and another glass of the capital rum I tasted, for I hav_ot eaten or drunk for a long time." He had not tasted food for forty hours. _iece of bread was brought, and Jacopo offered him the gourd.
"Larboard your helm," cried the captain to the steersman. Dantes glanced tha_ay as he lifted the gourd to his mouth; then paused with hand in mid-air.
"Hollo! what's the matter at the Chateau d'If?" said the captain.
A small white cloud, which had attracted Dantes' attention, crowned the summi_f the bastion of the Chateau d'If. At the same moment the faint report of _un was heard. The sailors looked at one another.
"What is this?" asked the captain.
"A prisoner has escaped from the Chateau d'If, and they are firing the alar_un," replied Dantes. The captain glanced at him, but he had lifted the rum t_is lips and was drinking it with so much composure, that suspicions, if th_aptain had any, died away.
"At any rate," murmured he, "if it be, so much the better, for I have made _are acquisition." Under pretence of being fatigued, Dantes asked to take th_elm; the steersman, glad to be relieved, looked at the captain, and th_atter by a sign indicated that he might abandon it to his new comrade. Dante_ould thus keep his eyes on Marseilles.
"What is the day of the month?" asked he of Jacopo, who sat down beside him.
"The 28th of February."
"In what year?"
"In what year — you ask me in what year?"
"Yes," replied the young man, "I ask you in what year!"
"You have forgotten then?"
"I got such a fright last night," replied Dantes, smiling, "that I have almos_ost my memory. I ask you what year is it?"
"The year 1829," returned Jacopo. It was fourteen years day for day sinc_antes' arrest. He was nineteen when he entered the Chateau d'If; he wa_hirty-three when he escaped. A sorrowful smile passed over his face; he aske_imself what had become of Mercedes, who must believe him dead. Then his eye_ighted up with hatred as he thought of the three men who had caused him s_ong and wretched a captivity. He renewed against Danglars, Fernand, an_illefort the oath of implacable vengeance he had made in his dungeon. Thi_ath was no longer a vain menace; for the fastest sailer in the Mediterranea_ould have been unable to overtake the little tartan, that with every stitc_f canvas set was flying before the wind to Leghorn.