Thursday, September 13, 2007

The end of our journey

It was around six in the evening, and light the colour of opal, pierced by the golden rays of the autumn sun, spread over a bluish sea.

The heat of the day had gradually expired and one was starting to feel that light breeze which seems like the breath of nature awaking after the burning midday siesta: that delicious breath that cools the Mediterranean coast and carries the scent of trees from shore to shore, mingled with the acrid scent of the sea.

Over the huge lake that extends from Gibraltar to the Dardanelles and from Tunis to Venice, a light yacht, cleanly and elegantly shaped, was slipping through the first mists of evening. Its movement was that of a swan opening its wings to the wind and appearing to glide across the water. At once swift and graceful, it advanced, leaving behind a phosphorescent wake.

Bit by bit, the sun, whose last rays we were describing, fell below the western horizon; but, as though confirming the brilliant fantasies of mythology, its prying flames reappeared at the crest of every wave as if to reveal that the god of fire had just hidden his face in the bosom of Amphitrite, who tried in vain to hide her lover in the folds of her azure robe.

Though there was apparently not enough wind to lift the ringlets on a girl's head, the yacht was travelling fast. Standing in its bow, a tall, bronzed man was staring wide-eyed at the dark, conical mass of land rising from the midst of the waves like a Catalan hat.

"Is that Monte Cristo?" asked the traveller, who appeared to be in command of the yacht, in a grave and melancholy voice.

"Yes, Excellency, " said the master. "We are just reaching the end of our journey."

"The end of our journey" the traveller muttered, with an indefinable note of dejection. Then he added under his breath: "Yes, this is port." And he relapsed into thoughts that expressed themselves in a smile sadder than tears.


— from The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.

I know that smile.

This book has everything: Sailors! Napoleonic sympathizers! Corsicans! Assassins! A purloined letter! An island fortress prison! Hidden treasure! Hashish dreams! A suspicion of vampires! Family secrets! Italian masquerades! Bandits! Illicit love affairs! A long-lost son! Traitors! An oriental princess sold into slavery! Shame and dishonour! Optical telegraphs! Cross-dressing lesbians! Opera! A challenge to a duel! Gunplay! Poison! Courtroom drama! Really a lot of poison! Vengeance! Justice! And love!

(Not necessarily in that order.)

Oh, I hope I didn't just ruin it for anyone.

Although, I do think the Count goes too far in the end, with Maximilien. "You must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live." That was a bit much.

But really great book! Way better than television!
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