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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 70/309 -
"Saved," said the girl; "saved by the crew of the vessel that has just entered the harbor." Morrel raised his two hands to heaven with an expression of resignation and sublime gratitude. "Thanks, my God," said he, "at least thou strikest but me alone." A tear moistened the eye of the phlegmatic Englishman.
"Come in, come in," said Morrel, "for I presume you are all at the door."
Scarcely had he uttered those words than Madame Morrel entered weeping bitterly. Emmanuel followed her, and in the antechamber were visible the rough faces of seven or eight half-naked sailors. At the sight of these men the Englishman started and advanced a step; then restrained himself, and retired into the farthest and most obscure corner of the apartment. Madame Morrel sat down by her husband and took one of his hands in hers, Julie still lay with her head on his shoulder, Emmanuel stood in the centre of the chamber and seemed to form the link between Morrel's family and the sailors at the door.
"How did this happen?" said Morrel.
"Draw nearer, Penelon," said the young man, "and tell us all about it."
An old seaman, bronzed by the tropical sun, advanced, twirling the remains of a tarpaulin between his hands. "Good-day, M. Morrel," said he, as if he had just quitted Marseilles the previous evening, and had just returned from Aix or Toulon.
"Good-day, Penelon," returned Morrel, who could not refrain from smiling through his tears, "where is the captain?"
"The captain, M. Morrel, -- he has stayed behind sick at Palma; but please God, it won't be much, and you will see him in a few days all alive and hearty."
"Well, now tell your story, Penelon."
Penelon rolled his quid in his cheek, placed his hand before his mouth, turned his head, and sent a long jet of tobacco-juice into the antechamber, advanced his foot, balanced himself, and began, -- "You see, M. Morrel," said he, "we were somewhere between Cape Blanc and Cape Boyador, sailing with a fair breeze, south-south-west after a week's calm, when Captain Gaumard comes up to me -- I was at the helm I should tell you -- and says, `Penelon, what do you think of those clouds coming up over there?' I was just then looking at them myself. `What do I think, captain? Why I think that they are rising faster than they have any business to do, and that they would not be so black if they didn't mean mischief.' -- `That's my opinion too,' said the captain, `and I'll take precautions accordingly. We are carrying too much canvas. Avast, there, all hands! Take in the studding-sl's and stow the flying jib.' It was time; the squall was on us, and the vessel began to heel. `Ah,' said the captain, `we have still too much canvas set; all hands lower the mains'l!' Five minutes after, it was down; and we sailed under mizzen-tops'ls and to'gall'nt sails. `Well, Penelon,' said the captain, `what makes you shake your head?' `Why,' I says, `I still think you've got too much on.' `I think you're right,' answered he, `we shall have a gale.' `A gale? More than that, we shall have a tempest, or I don't know what's what.' You could see the wind coming like the dust at Montredon; luckily the captain understood his business. `Take in two reefs in the tops'ls,' cried the captain; `let go the bowlin's, haul the brace, lower the to'gall'nt sails, haul out the reef-tackles on the yards.'"
"That was not enough for those latitudes," said the Englishman; "I should have taken four reefs in the topsails and furled the spanker."
His firm, sonorous, and unexpected voice made every one start. Penelon put his hand over his eyes, and then stared at the man who thus criticized the manoeuvres of his captain. "We did better than that, sir," said the old sailor respectfully; "we put the helm up to run before the tempest; ten minutes after we struck our tops'ls and scudded under bare poles."
"The vessel was very old to risk that," said the Englishman.
"Eh, it was that that did the business; after pitching heavily for twelve hours we sprung a leak. `Penelon,' said the captain, `I think we are sinking, give me the helm, and go down into the hold.' I gave him the helm, and descended; there was already three feet of water. `All hands to the pumps!' I shouted; but it was too late, and it seemed the more we pumped the more came in. `Ah,' said I, after four hours' work, `since we are sinking, let us sink; we can die but once.' `That's the example you set, Penelon,' cries the captain; `very well, wait a minute.' He went into his cabin and came back with a brace of pistols. `I will blow the brains out of the first man who leaves the pump,' said he."
"Well done!" said the Englishman.
"There's nothing gives you so much courage as good reasons," continued the sailor; "and during that time the wind had abated, and the sea gone down, but the water kept rising; not much, only two inches an hour, but still it rose. Two inches an hour does not seem much, but in twelve hours that makes two feet, and three we had before, that makes five. `Come,' said the captain, `we have done all in our power, and M. Morrel will have nothing to reproach us with, we have tried to save the ship, let us now save ourselves. To the boats, my lads, as quick as you can.' Now," continued Penelon, "you see, M. Morrel, a sailor is attached to his ship, but still more to his life, so we did not wait to be told twice; the more so, that the ship was sinking under us, and seemed to say, `Get along -- save yourselves.' We soon launched the boat, and all eight of us got into it. The captain descended last, or rather, he did not descend, he would not quit the vessel; so I took him round the waist, and threw him into the boat, and then I jumped after him. It was time, for just as I jumped the deck burst with a noise like the broadside of a man-of-war. Ten minutes after she pitched forward, then the other way, spun round and round, and then good-by to the Pharaon. As for us, we were three days without anything to eat or drink, so that we began to think of drawing lots who should feed the rest, when we saw La Gironde; we made signals of distress, she perceived us, made for us, and took us all on board. There now, M. Morrel, that's the whole truth, on the honor of a sailor; is not it true, you fellows there?" A general murmur of approbation showed that the narrator had faithfully detailed their misfortunes and sufferings.
"Well, well," said M. Morrel, "I know there was no one in fault but destiny. It was the will of God that this should happen, blessed be his name. What wages are due to you?"
"Oh, don't let us talk of that, M. Morrel."
"Yes, but we will talk of it."
"Well, then, three months," said Penelon.
"Cocles, pay two hundred francs to each of these good fellows," said Morrel. "At another time," added be, "I should have said, Give them, besides, two hundred francs over as a present; but times are changed, and the little money that remains to me is not my own."
Penelon turned to his companions, and exchanged a few words with them.
"As for that, M. Morrel," said he, again turning his quid, "as for that" --
"As for what?"
"Well, we all say that fifty francs will be enough for us at present, and that we will wait for the rest."
"Thanks, my friends, thanks!" cried Morrel gratefully; "take it -- take it; and if you can find another employer, enter his service; you are free to do so." These last words produced a prodigious effect on the seaman. Penelon nearly swallowed his quid; fortunately he recovered. "What, M. Morrel!" said he in a low voice, "you send us away; you are then angry with us!"
"No, no," said M. Morrel, "I am not angry, quite the contrary, and I do not send you away; but I have no more ships, and therefore I do not want any sailors."
"No more ships!" returned Penelon; "well, then, you'll build some; we'll wait for you."
"I have no money to build ships with, Penelon," said the poor owner mournfully, "so I cannot accept your kind offer."
"No more money? Then you must not pay us; we can scud, like the Pharaon, under bare poles."
"Enough, enough!" cried Morrel, almost overpowered; "leave me, I pray you; we shall meet again in a happier time. Emmanuel, go with them, and see that my orders are executed."
"At least, we shall see each other again, M. Morrel?" asked Penelon.
"Yes; I hope so, at least. Now go." He made a sign to Cocles, who went first; the seamen followed him and Emmanuel brought up the rear. "Now," said the owner to his wife and daughter, "leave me; I wish to speak with this gentleman." And he glanced towards the clerk of Thomson & French, who had remained motionless in the corner during this scene, in which he had taken no part, except the few words we have
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