A story from the untiring pen of Jules Verne has always been welcomed from a very wide circle of readers. No one that we ever knew has yet tired of 'the wward's ' works. He takes his characters through the wildest and most improbable (to say no more) incidents, and yet he describes everything as though it were not only probable, but actually true, and while we are deep in one of his stories we believe everything that we read. Captain Antifer's father had befriended an Egyptian prisoner at Jaﬁ, Ramylk l'asha, and many years after he received a mysterious document naming latitude 24 degrees 59 minutes north, and saying that the longitude would follow later. It never did; but Antifer succeeded in discovering it, and had a series ofmost exciting adventures in searching for the wealth which was to be found on the spot indicated. The story, which is thrillingly interesting from beginning to end, is lavishly illustrated.
Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Liczba stron: 480
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:
The Wonderful Adventures Of Captain Antifer
Jules Verne – A Biographical Primer
The Wonderful Adventures Of Captain Antifer
The Wonderful Adventures Of Captain Antifer, J. Verne
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Frontcover: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Angelique
Jules Verne (1828–1905), French author, was born at Nantes on the 8th of February 1828. After completing his studies at the Nantes lycée, he went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he wrote librettos for two operettas, and in 1850 his verse comedy, Les Pailles rompues, in which Alexandre Dumas fils had some share, was produced at the Gymnase. For some years his interests alternated between the theatre and the bourse, but some travellers’ stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent—the delineation, viz., of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of versimilitude. Something of the kind had been done before, after kindred methods, by Cyrano de Bergerac, by Swift and Defoe, and later by Mayne Reid. But in his own particular application of plausible scientific apparatus Verne undoubtedly struck out a department for himself in the wide literary genre of voyages imaginaires. His first success was obtained with Cinq semaines en ballon, which he wrote for Hetzel’s Magazin d’Éducation in 1862, and thenceforward, for a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his fantastic stories, illustrated generally by pictures of the most lurid and sensational description.The most successful of these romances include: Voyage au centre de la terre (1864); De la terre à la lune (1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1869); Les Anglais au pôle nord (1870); and Voyage autour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872.The adaptation of this last (produced with success at the Porte St Martin theatre on the 8th of November 1874) and of another excellent tale, Michael Strogoff (at the Châtelet, 1880), both dramas being written in conjunction with Adolphe d’Ennery, proved the most acceptable of Verne’s theatrical pieces. The novels were translated into the various European languages—and some even into Japanese and Arabic—and had an enormous success in England. But after 1877, when he published Hector Servadac, a romance of existence upon a comet, the writer’s invention began to show signs of fatigue (his kingdom had been invaded in different directions and at different times times by such writers as R. M. Ballantyne, Rider Haggard and H. G. Wells), and he even committed himself, somewhat unguardedly, to very gloomy predictions as to the future of the novel. Jules Verne’s own novels, however, will certainly long continue to delight readers by reason of their sparkling style, their picturesque verve—apparently inherited directly from Dumas—their amusing and good-natured national caricatures, and the ingenuity with which the love element is either subordinated or completely excluded. M. Verne, who was always extremely popular in society, divided his time for the most part between Paris, his home at Amiens and his yacht. He was a member of the Legion of Honour, and several of his romances were crowned by the French Academy, but he was never enrolled among its members. He died at Amiens on the 24th of March 1905. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the Transactions of the French Alpine Club, and wrote an Ascension du Mont Blanc for his brother’s collection of Voyages extraordinaires in 1874.
It is September 9th, 1831. The captain left his cabin at six o’clock. The sun is rising, or to speak more exactly, its light is illuminating the lower clouds in the east, for its disk is still below the horizon. A long luminous effluence plays over the surface of the sea, which is broken into gentle waves by the morning breeze.
After a calm night there is every promise of a fine day—one of those September days in which the temperate zone occasionally rejoices at the decline of the hot season.
The captain rests against the skylight on the poop, places the telescope to his right eye, and sweeps the horizon.
Lowering the telescope he approaches the man at the wheel—a grey-bearded, keen-sighted old man—who blinks as he looks at him.
“When did you come on duty?”
“At four o’clock, sir.”
The two men speak a language that no European would understand unless he had sailed in the Levant. It is a dialect of Turkish and Syriac.
“And you have sighted no ship since the morning?”
“Only one—a large three-master, which would have crossed us on the opposite tack, and I luffed a point so as to leave her as far off as possible.”
“You did well. And now?”
The captain looked searchingly round the horizon.
“Ready about,” he shouted loudly.
The men on watch ran to their stations. The helm was put down, the sheets were shortened in, the ship came up in the wind and went off on the opposite tack towards the north-west.
She was a brigantine of four hundred tons, a merchant vessel used as a yacht. The captain had under his orders a mate and fifteen men, whose jacket and cap and wide trousers and sea-boots were those of the mariners of Eastern Europe.
There was no name on the brigantine, either under the counter or at the bow. There was no flag. To avoid any salute the brigantine changed her course whenever the look-out reported a sail in sight.
Was she then a pirate—for pirates were not unknown in those days in these parts—which feared pursuit? No. A search for arms on board would have been in vain. And it was not with so small a crew that a vessel would run the risk of so dangerous a trade.
Was she a smuggler working along the coast or from one island to another? By no means. The keenest customhouse officer might have gone down into her hold, overhauled her cargo, dived into her packages, ransacked her cases, without discovering any dutiable merchandise. To tell the truth she had no cargo at all. She carried provisions for several years in her hold, and in the lazarette there were three oak casks, strongly hooped with iron; the rest was mere ballast, heavy ballast to enable her to carry so large a spread of canvas.
Perhaps you may think that these three barrels contained powder or some other explosive?
Evidently not, for none of the indispensable precautions were taken in entering the store-room in which they were kept.
Besides, not one of the sailors could have given you any information on the subject—neither on the brigantine’s destination, nor on the motives which made her change her course whenever a ship appeared in sight, nor on the goings to and fro during the fifteen months she had been at sea, nor even on her position at the present moment, sometimes under full sail, sometimes under hardly any at all, sometimes on an inland sea, sometimes on a boundless ocean. During this inexplicable voyage what high lands had been sighted which the captain had immediately steered away from! What islands had been discovered, which the helm had at once been shifted to avoid! Looking at the log-book, you would have found the strangest changes of course which neither the caprices of the wind nor the appearances of the sky could possibly explain. That was a secret between the captain—a grizzly man of forty-six—and a personage of lofty mien, who at the moment appeared at the companion—
“Nothing?” he asked.
“Nothing, your Excellency,” was the reply.
A shrug of the shoulders betraying some annoyance terminated this conversation of four words. Then the personage went down the steps and regained his cabin. There he stretched himself on a couch and abandoned himself to a kind of torpor. He could not have been more motionless if sleep had taken possession of him, and yet he was not asleep. He seemed to be under the influence of some fixed idea.
He might be fifty years old. His tall stature, his powerful head, his abundant hair, with the grey showing in it, his large beard spreading over his chest, his black eyes with their keen glances, his proud but evidently gloomy physiognomy, the dignity of his bearing, indicated a man of noble birth. A large burnous braided at the sleeves fringed with many-coloured scales, enveloped him from shoulders to feet, and on his head he wore a greenish cap with a black tassel.
Two hours later his breakfast was brought in to him by a boy; it was laid on a rolling table fixed to the floor of the cabin, which was covered with a thick carpet diapered with raised flowers. He scarcely touched the dainty dishes, but devoted his chief attention to the hot and perfumed coffee, served in two small finely chased silver cups. Then a narghili was placed before him crowned with scented fumes, and with the amber mouthpiece between his lips he resumed his reverie amid the fragrant vapours of latakia.
Part of the day was thus passed, while the brigantine, gently cradled on the billows, continued her uncertain course over the sea.
About four o’clock his Excellency arose, took a few turns backwards and forwards, stopped before the light ports open to the breeze, looked away to the horizon, and stood before a sort of trap-door which was covered by a piece of carpet. This door swung open by pressing the foot on one of the angles, and disclosed the way down into the store-room beneath the cabin-floor.
There lay side by side the three casks we have spoken of. The distinguished personage stooped over the trap and remained in that attitude for some seconds, as if the sight of the casks had hypnotized him. Then he stood upright.
“No,” he murmured, “no hesitation! If I cannot find an unknown island where I can bury them in secret, it would be better to throw them into the sea!”
He shut down the trap-door and replaced the carpet; then he went to the companion stairs and mounted to the poop.
It was five o’clock in the afternoon. There was no change in the weather. The sky was dappled with white clouds. Barely heeling to the gentle breeze, the vessel glided along on the port tack, leaving a light lacework of foam to vanish in her wake.
His Excellency slowly looked round the clear horizon. Afar off, at a distance of from fourteen to fifteen miles, he could see moderately high land; but there was no sharp ridge to break the line of sea and sky.
The captain walking towards him was received by the inevitable—
Which provoked the inevitable reply,—
“Nothing, your Excellency.”
The personage remained silent for a few minutes. Then he went off and sat down on one of the seats, while the captain walked to windward; and in an excited way he worked about with the telescope.
“Captain?” he said at last.
“What does your Excellency desire?”
“To know where we are exactly.”
The captain took a large scale chart and opened it out on the deck.
“Here,” he answered, pointing with his pencil to where a line of latitude crossed a meridian.
“At what distance from that island to the east?”
“And from that land?”
“No one on board knows where we are just now?”
“No one, save you and I, your Excellency.”
“Not even on what sea we are?”
“We have been sailing so many different courses for so long that the best of seamen could not tell you.”
“Ah! Why has ill-fortune prevented us from reaching some island that has escaped the search of other navigators, or if not an island, an islet, or even a rock of which I alone should know the position? There would I bury this treasure, and in a voyage of a few days I could recover it, if ever the time came for me to return!”
And so saying he lapsed into silence. With a long look down over the taffrail into the water, which was so transparent that he could see quite eighty feet beneath him, he returned to the captain, and with a certain vehemence exclaimed,—
“I will throw my riches into the sea.”
“It will never give them up again, your Excellency.”
“Let them perish rather than fall into the hands of my enemies or those who are unworthy of them.”
“As you please.”
“If before to-night we have not discovered some unknown island, those three casks shall be thrown into the sea.”
“Ay, ay, your Excellency!” replied the captain, who at once gave orders to haul a little closer to windward.
His Excellency returned to the stern and, sitting down on the deck, resumed the dreamy state which was habitual to him.
The sun was sinking rapidly. At this time of year, a fortnight before the equinox, it would set but a few degrees from the west. That is to say in exactly the direction the captain was looking. Was there in this direction any high promontory on the shore of the continent or on some island? Impossible, for the chart showed no island within a radius of from fifteen to twenty miles, and this on a sea well known to navigators. Was this then a solitary rock, a reef rising but a few yards above the surface of the waves, which would serve as the spot which up to then his Excellency had sought in vain as a deposit for his treasure. There was nothing answering to it on the very careful charts of this portion of the sea. An island with the breakers around it, girdled with mist and spray, was not likely to have escaped a sailor’s notice. The charts should have shown its true position; and according to the chart he had, the captain could declare that there was not even a reef marked anywhere within sight.
“It is an illusion!” he thought, when he had again brought his telescope to bear on the suspected spot, although he picked it up immediately.
In fact there was nothing so indistinct within the telescope’s field of view.
At this moment—a few minutes after six—the solar disk was just on the horizon, and “hissing at the touch of the sea,” if we believe what the Iberians used to say. At his setting, as at his rising, refraction still showed his position when he was below the horizon. The luminous rays obliquely projected on the surface of the waves extended as in a long diameter from west to east. The last ripples like rays of fire gleamed beneath the dying breeze. This light suddenly went out as the upper edge of the disk touched the line of water, and shot forth its green ray. The hull of the brigantine became dark while the upper canvas shone purple in the last of the light.
As the shades of twilight began to fall a voice was heard from the bows,—
“What is the matter?” asked the captain.
“Land on the starboard bow!”
Land, and in the direction the captain had been watching the misty outline a few minutes before. He had not been mistaken then.
At the shout of the look-out the men on watch had rushed to the bulwarks and were looking away to the west. The captain, with his telescope slung behind him, grasped the main shrouds, and slowly mounted the ratlines to reach the crosstrees and there sit astride on them; with his glass at his eye he looked at the land in sight.
The look-out was not mistaken. Six or seven miles away was a small island, its lineaments standing out black against the sky. You would have said it was a reef of moderate height, crowned with a cloud of sulphurous vapour. Fifty years later a sailor would have said it was the smoke of a large steamer passing in the offing; but in 1831 no one imagined that the ocean would one day be ploughed by these monsters of navigation.
The captain had little time to look at it or think about it. The island was almost immediately hidden behind the evening mist. No matter, he had seen it, and seen it well. There was no doubt of that.
The captain descended to the poop, and the distinguished personage, whom this incident had awakened from his reverie, made a sign for him to approach.
“Yes, your Excellency.”
“Land in sight?”
“An islet at least.”
“At what distance?”
“About six miles to the westward.”
“And the chart shows nothing in that direction?”
“You are sure about that?”
“It must be an unknown island, then?”
“I think so.”
“Is that possible?”
“Yes, your Excellency, if the islet be of recent formation.”
“I am inclined to think so, for it appeared to me to be wrapped in vapour. In these parts the plutonic forces are often in action, and manifest themselves by submarine upheavals.”
“I hope what you say is true. I could not wish for anything better than that one of these masses should suddenly rise from the sea! It does not belong to anybody—”
“Or rather, your Excellency, it belongs to the first occupant.”
“That would be to me, then?”
“Yes, to you.”
“Steer straight for that island.”
“Straight, but carefully,” replied the captain. “Our brigantine would be in danger of being dashed to pieces if the reefs extend far out. I propose to wait for daylight, to make out the position, and then land on the islet.”
This was only acting like a seaman. It would never do to risk a ship in shoals that were unknown. In approaching an unknown coast, the night must be avoided and the lead used.
His Excellency went back to his cabin; if he slept at all the cabin-boy would have no occasion to call him at dawn; he would be on deck before sunrise.
The captain would not leave his post, but preferred to watch through the night, which slowly passed. The horizon became more and more obscure. Overhead the clouds became invisible as the diffused light left them. About one o’clock the breeze increased slightly. Only sufficient sail was set to keep the vessel under the control of her helm.
The firmament became lighted by the early constellations. In the north Polaris gazed gently with a motionless eye, while Arcturus shone brightly to continue the curve of the Great Bear. On the other side of the pole Cassiopeia traced her sparkling W. Below, Capella appeared where she had appeared the day before and would appear on the morrow, allowing for the four minutes of advance with which her sidereal day begins. On the surface of the sea reigned that inexplicable torpor due to the fall of the night.
The captain, resting on his elbow in the bow, never moved from the windlass against which he leant. Motionless, he thought only of the spot he could see through the gloom. He doubted still, and the darkness made the doubts more serious. Was he the sport of an illusion? Was this really a new islet risen from the sea? Yes, certainly. He knew these parts; he had been here a hundred times before. He had fixed his position within a mile, and eight or ten leagues were between him and the nearest land. But if he was not mistaken, if in this spot an island had risen from the sea, would it not be already taken possession of? Had not some navigator hoisted his flag on it? Was there no gleam of a fire indicating that the place was inhabited? It was possible that this mass of rocks had been here for some weeks; and how could it have escaped a sailor’s notice?
Hence the captain’s uneasiness and his impatience for the daylight. He saw nothing to indicate the islet’s position, not even the reflection of the vapours which seemed to envelop it, and which might have thrown a fuliginous hue on the darkness. Everywhere the air and the water were mingled in the same obscurity.
The hours rolled by. The circumpolar constellations had described a quarter circle around the axis of the firmament. About four o’clock the sky began to brighten in the east-north-east, and a few clouds came into view overhead. Two hours and more were still to run before the sun rose, but in such a light an experienced mariner could find the reported island, if it existed.
At this moment the distinguished personage came on deck and approached the captain.
“Well, this islet?” he asked.
“There it is, your Excellency,” replied the captain, pointing to a heap of rocks less than two miles away.
“Let us land there.”
“As you wish.”
The reader will hardly be astonished at Mehemet Ali entering on the scene at the beginning of this chapter. Whatever may have been the importance of the illustrious Pasha in the history of the Levant, he must inevitably have appeared in this story on account of the unpleasant experiences the owner of the brigantine had had with the founder of modern Egypt.
At this epoch Mehemet Ali had not begun, with the army of his son Ibrahim, the conquest of Palestine and Syria, which belonged to Sultan Mahmoud, the sovereign of Turkey in Europe and Turkey in Asia. On the contrary, the Sultan and the Pasha were good friends, the Pasha having helped the Sultan successfully to reduce the Morea and overcome the attempt at independence of the little kingdom of Greece.
For some years Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim remained quietly in their pachalik. But undoubtedly this state of vassalage, which made them mere subjects of the Porte, lay heavy on their ambition, and they were only waiting an opportunity for breaking the bonds which had existed for centuries.
There then lived in Egypt a personage whose fortune, accumulated for many generations, made him one of the most important men in the country. He lived at Cairo, his name was Kamylk Pasha, and he it was whom the captain of the brigantine addressed as Excellency.
He was an educated man, well versed in the mathematical sciences, and in their practical or even fanciful application. But above all things, he was steeped deep in Orientalism, and an Ottoman at heart although an Egyptian by birth. Having persuaded himself that the resistance to the attempts of Western Europe to reduce the people of the Levant to subjection would be more stubborn under Sultan Mahmoud than under Mehemet Ali, he had thrown himself heart and soul into the contest. Born in 1780 of a family of soldiers, he was scarcely twenty years of age when he had joined the army of Djezzar, where he soon attained by his courage the title and rank of Pasha. In 1799 he many times risked his liberty, his fortune, and his life in fighting against the French under Bonaparte. At the battle of El-Arish he was made prisoner with the Turks, and would have been set at liberty if he had signed an undertaking not to bear arms again against the French. But resolved to struggle to the end, and reckoning on an unlikely change of fortune, obstinate in his deeds as he was in his ideas, he refused to give his parole. He succeeded in escaping, and became more energetic than ever in the various encounters which distinguished the conflict of the two races.
At the surrender of Jaffa on the 6th of March, he was among those given up under the capitulation on condition that their lives were saved. When these prisoners—to the number of four thousand, for the most part Albanians or Arnauts—were brought before Bonaparte, the conqueror was much disturbed at the capture, fearing that these redoubtable soldiers would go to reinforce the Pasha’s garrison at Acre. And even in those days showing that he was one of those conquerors who stick at nothing, he gave orders that the prisoners should be shot.
This time there was no offer as to the prisoners of El-Arish, to set them at liberty on condition of their not serving again. No, they were condemned to die. They fell on the beach, and those whom the bullets had not struck, believing that mercy had been shown them, were shot down as they ran along the shore.
It was not in this place nor in this way that Kamylk Pasha was to perish. He met with some men—Frenchmen be it said to their honour—who were disgusted at this frightful massacre, necessitated perhaps by the exigencies of war. These brave fellows managed to save several of the prisoners. One of them, a merchant seaman, was prowling at night round the reefs on which several of the victims were lying, when he found Kamylk, seriously wounded. He carried him away to a place of safety, took care of him and restored him to health. Would Kamylk ever forget such a service? No. How he rewarded it, it is the object of this curious story to tell.
Briefly then, Kamylk Pasha was on his feet again in three months.
Bonaparte’s campaign had ended in the failure before Acre. Under the command of Abdallah, Pasha of Damascus, the Turkish army had crossed the Jordan on the 4th of April, and the British fleet under Sidney Smith was cruising off the coast of Syria. Bonaparte had hurried up Kleber’s division with Junot, and had himself taken the command, and routed the Turks at the battle of Mount Tabor, but he was too late when he returned to threaten Acre. A reinforcement had arrived, the plague appeared, and on the 20th of May he decided to raise the siege.
Kamylk thought he might venture to return to Syria. To return to Egypt, which was much disturbed at the time, would have been the height of imprudence. It was better to wait, and Kamylk waited for five years. Thanks to his wealth, he was able to live in easy circumstances in the provinces beyond the reach of Egyptian covetousness. These years were marked by the entry on the scene of a mere son of an aga, whose bravery had been remarkable at the battle of Aboukir in 1799. Mehemet Ali already enjoyed such influence that he was able to persuade the Mamelukes to revolt against the governor Khosrew Pasha, to excite them against their chief, to depose Khourschid, Khosrew’s successor, and finally in 1806 to proclaim himself Viceroy, with the consent of the Sublime Porte.
Two years before, Djezzar the protector of Kamylk Pasha had died. Finding himself alone, he thought there would be no danger in his returning to Cairo.
He was then twenty-seven, and new inheritances had made him one of the richest men in Egypt. Having no wish to marry, being of a very uncommunicative nature, preferring a retired life, he had retained a strong liking for the profession of arms; and until an opportunity came for him to exercise his skill, he would find an outlet for the activity so natural to his age in long and distant voyages.
But if Kamylk Pasha was not to have any direct heir for his enormous fortune, were there not collaterals ready to receive it?
A certain Mourad, born in 1786, six years younger than he was, was his cousin. Differing in their political opinions, they never saw each other, although they both lived at Cairo. Kamylk was devoted to the Turkish interest, and as we have seen had proved his devotion to the cause. Mourad opposed the Ottoman influence by his words and actions, and became the most ardent adviser of Mehemet Ali in his enterprises against Sultan Mahmoud.
This Mourad, the only relative of Kamylk Pasha, as poor as the other was rich, could not depend on his cousin’s fortune unless a reconciliation took place. This was not likely. On the contrary, animosity, violent hate even, had made the abyss deeper between the only two members of this family.
Eighteen years elapsed, from 1806 to 1824, during which the reign of Mehemet Ali was untroubled by foreign war. He had however to struggle against the increasing influence and formidable agitation of the Mamelukes, his accomplices, to whom he owed his throne. A general massacre throughout Egypt in 1811 delivered him from this troublesome militia. Thenceforth long years of tranquillity were assured to the subjects of the Viceroy, whose relations with the Divan continued excellent—in appearance at least, for the Sultan distrusted his vassal, and not without reason.
Kamylk was often the mark of Mourad’s ill-will. Mourad, taking advantage of the testimonies of sympathy he received from the Viceroy, was continually inciting his master against the rich Egyptian. He reminded him that he was a partisan of Mahmoud, a friend of the Turks, and that he had shed his blood for them. According to his account he was a dangerous personage, a man to be watched—perhaps a spy. This enormous fortune in one man’s hand was a danger. In short he said all he could to awaken the greed of a potentate without principle and without scruple.
Kamylk would have taken no notice of this. At Cairo he lived alone, and it would have been difficult to devise a plot to catch him. When he left Egypt it was on a long voyage. Then, on a ship that belonged to him, commanded by Captain Zo—five years his junior, and entirely devoted to him—he cruised on the seas of Asia, Africa and Europe, his life without an object, and marked by a haughty indifference to humanity.
We may even ask if he had forgotten the sailor to whom he owed his escape from the fusillades of Bonaparte? Certainly not. Such services he did not forget. But had these services received their reward? That was not likely. Would it enter the thoughts of Kamylk Pasha to recognize them later on, waiting an opportunity of doing so until one of his maritime expeditions took him into French waters? Who could tell?
In process of time the rich Egyptian could not hide from himself that he was narrowly watched during his stay in Cairo. Several journeys he wished to undertake, were forbidden by order of the Viceroy. Owing to the incessant suggestions of his cousin, his liberty was in danger.
In 1823, Mourad, at the age of thirty-seven, married, in a way that did not promise to improve his position in the world. He had espoused a young fellah, almost a slave. There is no room for astonishment then that he continued the tortuous proceedings by which he hoped to ruin Kamylk, by means of the influence he possessed with Mehemet Ali and his son Ibrahim.
Egypt, however, was about to begin a period of military activity in which its arms were to have brilliant success. In 1824, Greece was against Mahmoud, who called on his vassal to aid him in putting down the rebellion. Ibrahim, at the head of a hundred and twenty sail, started for the Morea, and landed there.
The opportunity had come for Kamylk to have an object in life; to venture in the perilous enterprizes which for twenty years he had abandoned, and with all the more ardour as it was to maintain the rights of the Porte, menaced by the rising in the Peloponnesus. He would have joined Ibrahim’s army; he was refused. He would have served as an officer in the Sultan’s troops; he was again refused. Was this not in consequence of the ill-omened influence of those whose interest it was not to lose sight of their millionaire relative?
The struggle of the Greeks for independence was to end in the victory of that heroic nation. After three years, during which they were inhumanly treated by Ibrahim’s troops, the combined action of the allied fleets destroyed the Ottoman navy at the battle of Navarino in 1827, and obliged the Viceroy to recall his vessels and army to Egypt. Ibrahim then returned to Cairo, followed by Mourad, who had been through the Peloponnesian campaign.
From that day Kamylk’s position grew worse. Mourad’s hatred became all the more violent in 1829 owing to his having a son born of his marriage with the young fellah. His family was increasing and not his fortune. Evidently his cousin’s fortune must find its way into his hands. The Viceroy would not refuse to sanction this spoliation. Such readiness to oblige is not unknown in Egypt nor in other less oriental civilized countries.
Saouk, it may be as well to remember, was the name of Mourad’s child.
Under these circumstances, Kamylk saw that there was only one thing to do; to get his fortune together, the greater part of it being in diamonds and precious stones, and depart with it out of Egypt. This he did with as much prudence as ability, thanks to the assistance of some foreigners at Alexandria, in whom the Egyptian did not hesitate to trust. His confidence was well placed, and the operation was accomplished in the utmost secrecy. Who were these foreigners, to what nation did they belong? Kamylk Pasha alone knew.
Three casks of double staves hooped with iron, similar to those in which Spanish wines are put, sufficed to contain all his wealth. They were secretly placed on board a Neapolitan speronare, and their owner, accompanied by Captain Zo, went with them as a passenger, not without escaping many dangers, for he had been followed from Cairo to Alexandria, and kept under observation all the time he was in that town.
Five days afterwards the speronare landed him at Latakia, and thence he gained Aleppo, which he had chosen for his new residence. Now he was in Syria, what had he to fear from Mourad under the protection of his old general, Abdallah, now Pasha of Acre? Would Mehemet Ali, however daring he might be, venture to seize him in a province over which the Sublime Porte extended its all-powerful jurisdiction?
And yet this was possible.
In fact, this very year, 1830, Mehemet Ali broke off his relations with the Sultan. To break the bond of vassalage which attached him to Mahmoud, to add Syria to his Egyptian possessions, perhaps to become sovereign of the Ottoman empire, were ideas not too high for the Viceroy’s ambition. The pretext was not difficult to find.
Fellahs, ill-treated by the agents of Mehemet Ali, had sought refuge in Syria, under Abdallah’s protection. The Viceroy demanded the extradition of these peasants. The Pasha of Acre refused. Mehemet Ali requested the Sultan’s permission to reduce Abdallah by force of arms. Mahmoud replied at first that the fellahs being Turkish subjects he had no intention of handing them over to the Viceroy of Egypt. But a little time after, desirous of securing the aid of Mehemet Ali, or at least his neutrality, at the outbreak of the revolt of the Pasha of Scutari, he gave the required permission.
Several events—among others, the appearance of the cholera in the ports of the Levant—delayed the departure of Ibrahim at the head of thirty-two thousand men and twenty-two ships of war. Kamylk had time to think of the danger to him of a landing of Egyptians in Syria.
He was then fifty-one, and fifty-one years of a life troubled as his had been brings a man almost to the threshold of old age. Wearied, discouraged, his illusions dispelled, longing only for the rest he had hoped to find in this quiet town of Aleppo, here had events again turned against him.
Was it prudent for him to remain at Aleppo, while Ibrahim was preparing to invade Syria? Admittedly his business was only with the Pasha of Acre, but after he had turned out Abdallah, would the Viceroy halt his victorious army? Would his ambition be satisfied with a mere chastisement of the guilty? Would he not take advantage of the opportunity to attempt the conquest of this Syria, which had been the constant object of his desires? And after Acre, would not Damascus, and Sidon, and Aleppo, be threatened by the soldiers of Ibrahim? It was at least to be feared so.
Kamylk Pasha took a final resolution this time. They did not want him, but the fortune coveted by Mourad, and of this his relative would deprive him at the cost of handing over the greater part to the Viceroy. Well, he would make away with this fortune, and hide it in some secret place where no one would discover it. Then he would see how matters turned out. Later on, if Kamylk decided to leave these oriental countries, to which he was so much attached, or if Syria became safe enough for him to live there in security, he could bring back his treasure from its hiding-place.
Captain Zo approved Kamylk’s plans, and offered to carry them out in such a way that the secret would never be discovered. A brigantine was bought. A crew was formed of sailors having no bond between them, not even the bond of nationality. The casks were put on board without anyone suspecting what they contained. On the 13th April, the vessel on which Kamylk embarked as a passenger at the port of Latakia, put to sea.
His object, as we know, was to discover an island, the position of which should only be known to himself and the captain. It was therefore necessary for the crew to be so mystified, that they could not guess the direction followed by the brigantine. For fifteen months Captain Zo acted with this object in view, and changed his course in every possible way. Did he come out of the Mediterranean, and if he did, did he go back into it? Did he not cross the other seas of the old continent? Was he even in Europe when he sighted this unknown island? Certain it is that the brigantine had been in very different climates one after the other, in very different zones, and that the best sailor on board could not say where they actually were. Provisioned for several years, they had never touched land but when they wanted water, and the watering places were only known to Captain Zo.
The voyage was long. Kamylk had grown so hopeless of discovering his island, that he was about to throw his diamonds into the sea, when the unexpected at last appeared.
Such were the events relating to the history of Egypt and Syria, which it was necessary to mention. They will not trouble us again. Our story will have a more romantic voyage than this grave beginning might lead the reader to expect. But it had to rest on a solid basis, and this the Author has given it, or at least he has attempted to do so.
Captain Zo gave his orders to the man at the helm, and reduced the canvas till it was but just enough to keep steerage way on the vessel. A gentle morning breeze was blowing from the north-east. The brigantine neared the island under jib, fore-topsail and mainsail, the other sails being furled. If the sea rose she would find shelter at the very foot of the island.
While Kamylk rested on his elbows on the poop, the captain took up his position forward, and acted as a prudent mariner does when approaching a coast of whose bearings his charts give no indications.
There was the danger in fact. Under these calm waters it is difficult to recognize where the rocks may be almost at the water level. There was nothing to show the channel to be followed. The vicinity was apparently very open. There was no appearance of a reef. The boatswain who was working the lead found no sudden shoaling of the sea.
The islet was seen from about a mile off at this hour. The sun was lighting it up obliquely from east to west after clearing it of the mists with which it had been bathed at daybreak.
It was an islet, and nothing but an islet, which no State would have claimed as a possession, for it would not have been worth while. Speaking generally, it was a plateau measuring some six hundred yards round an irregular oval, about three hundred yards in length, and from a hundred and twenty to a hundred and sixty wide. It was not an agglomeration of rocks, heaped up in disorder one on the other in seeming defiance of the laws of equilibrium, but was evidently caused by a quiet and slow uprising of the earth’s crust. The edges were not cut up into creeks or indentations. It did not resemble one of those shells in which capricious Nature revels in a thousand fancies, but rather had the regularity of the upper valve of an oyster or the carapace of a turtle. This carapace rose towards the centre in such a way that its highest point was a hundred and fifty feet above the level of the sea.
Were there any trees on its surface? Not one. Any traces of vegetation? None. Any vestiges of exploration? Nowhere. The islet then had never been inhabited—there was no doubt about that—and it could not be. Considering that its bearings had never been noted, and its utter barrenness, his Excellency could not have wished for a better as a secret deposit for the treasure he was about to confide to the interior of the earth.
“It would seem as though Nature had made it expressly,” said Captain Zo.
Slowly the brigantine approached it, gradually reducing sail as she did so. When she was within a cable’s length of the shore, the order was given to let go the anchor. The anchor dropped from the cathead, and dragging the chain after it through the hawse-hole, struck ground at twenty-eight fathoms.
The slope of the shore was thus very sudden, on this side at all events. A ship could come close up without risk of grounding, although it would be safer for her to remain at a distance.
As the brigantine swung to her anchor, the boatswain furled the last sail, and Captain Zo mounted the poop.
“Shall I man the large boat, your Excellency?”
“No, the yawl. I would rather we two went alone.”
A minute afterwards the captain, with two light oars in his hands, was seated in the bow of the yawl, the Pasha being in the stern. In a few moments the boat had reached the shore, where landing was easy. The grapnel was firmly fixed in a crack of the rock, and his Excellency took possession of the islet.
No flag was run up; no gun was fired.
It was not a State taking possession of it, but an individual, who landed with the intention of leaving it in a few hours.
Kamylk and Captain Zo remarked, to begin with, that the flanks of the island had no sandy base to rest on, but rose direct from the sea at an inclination of from fifty to sixty degrees. Hence, doubtless, its formation was due to an elevation of the bed of the sea.
They commenced their explorations by going round the islet, walking over a sort of crystallized quartz, bare of all footprints. Nowhere did the shore appear to be worn by the action of the waves. On the dry and crystallized surface the only liquid was water, left in crevices and depressions here and there by the last rains. There was not a trace of vegetation, not even a lichen or a marine moss, or any of those hardy plants sturdy enough to thrive among the rocks, where the wind may have scattered their germs. There were no mollusks, either living or dead, an anomaly truly inexplicable. Here and there were a few traces of birds, which could be accounted for by the presence of a few gulls, the sole representatives of animal life in its vicinity.
When the circuit of the islet was completed, Kamylk and the captain walked towards the rounded elevation in the centre. Nowhere was there a trace of a recent visitor otherwise; everywhere there was the same crystalline freedom from spot or stain.
When his Excellency and the captain reached the centre of the carapace they were about a hundred and fifty feet above the sea. Sitting down, they carefully looked round the horizon.
Over the vast surface of waves reflecting the solar rays, there was no sign of land. The islet thus belonged to no group of cyclades, no archipelago, however small. Captain Zo, telescope in hand, searched in vain for a sail in sight. The sea was deserted, and the brigantine ran no risk of being seen during the few hours she would remain at her moorings.
“You are certain of our position on this 9th of September?” asked the Pasha.
“I am certain, your Excellency, and to leave no doubt I will take the position again.”
“That is important. But how do you account for this islet not appearing on the chart?”
“Because in my opinion it is of very recent formation. In any case it ought to be all the better for you that it is not on the chart, and that we are sure of finding it when you wish to return—”
“Yes; when these troublous times are over. What does it matter if these millions remain buried among these rocks for long, long years. Will they not be safer here than in my house at Aleppo? It is not here that the Viceroy or his son Ibrahim, or that rascally Mourad, would come to steal them! Leave this fortune to Mourad? I would rather leave it at the bottom of the sea!”
“That would be a pity,” said Captain Zo; “the sea never gives back what you entrust to its depths. It is lucky that we found this islet. It at least will guard your riches, and faithfully restore them.”
“Come,” said Kamylk Pasha, rising, “we must be quick at what we are about; and it would be better if our ship were not seen.”
“I am ready.”
“No one on board knows where we are?”
“No one, your Excellency.”
“Not even in what sea of the Old or New World! We have been sailing the ocean for fifteen months, and in fifteen months a ship can travel great distances between the continents without her whereabouts being known.”
The Pasha and the captain returned to the yawl.
As they embarked the captain said—“When we have finished our work here, is it the intention of your Excellency to steer straight for Syria?”
“That is not my intention. Before I return to Aleppo, I will wait until the soldiers of Ibrahim have evacuated the province, and the country recovered its tranquillity under Mahmoud.”
“You do not think that it will ever form part of the possessions of the Viceroy?”
“No! by the Prophet, no!” exclaimed Kamylk, firing up at the suggestion. “For a period, of which I hope to see the end, Syria may possibly be annexed to the domains of Mehemet Ali, for the ways of Allah are inscrutable. But that it should not return eventually to the rule of the Sultan, Allah would never permit!”
“Where is your Excellency going to reside when you leave these seas?”
“Nowhere. When my riches are safe among the rocks of this island, there they will remain. We will continue to cruise about the world as we have done during the many years we have been together.”
“As you please.”
And a few minutes afterwards the Pasha and his companion had returned on board.
About nine o’clock the captain took a first observation of the sun with a view of obtaining his longitude, that is to say the time of the place, an observation which would be completed at noon when the sun passed the meridian, and when he would obtain his latitude. He brought out his sextant and took the altitude, and, as he had promised the Pasha, he fixed the position as accurately as possible.
Meanwhile he had given orders for the boat to be prepared. His men had to take with them the three casks from the lazarette, as well as the tools, picks and shovels, and the cement necessary for the burial of the treasure.
Before ten o’clock everything was ready. Six sailors under the boatswain’s orders occupied the boat. They had no suspicions of what the casks contained, nor why they were going to bury them. It was none of their business, and they did not trouble about it in the least. They were sailors, accustomed to obey, mere machines as it were, working without asking the why and the wherefore.
Kamylk and the captain took their seats in the stern, and reached the island in a few strokes of the oars.
The first thing to be done was to choose a suitable spot for the excavation; not too near the shore, within reach of the waves on stormy days, nor too high up to be subject to the risks of a landslip. A suitable place was found at the base of a steep rock on one of the south-eastern capes of the islet.
At the captain’s orders, the men landed the casks and tools, and began the attack on the ground at this spot.
It was heavy work. As the pieces of crystallized quartz were chipped out they were carefully put into position, so as to be used for filling in the hole where the casks were buried. No less than two hours were spent in digging a hole some five or six feet wide and long.
Kamylk remained at a distance, pensive and sad. Perhaps he was pondering if it would be better for him to sleep for ever by the side of his treasure? And where else could he have found a safer shelter from the injustice and perfidy of man?
When the casks were lowered into the excavation, the Pasha took a last look at them. Then it was that the captain imagined from the Pasha’s behaviour that he was about to countermand the order, renounce his intentions, and return to sea with his wealth. But no! With a gesture the command was given to continue the work. The captain steadied the casks together with lumps of quartz, and covered them with hydraulic cement, so that they became one solid mass, as compact as the rock of the islet itself. Then the outer pieces were put back in their places, and cemented, so as to fill up the cavity to the level of the soil. When the rain and storm had swept the surface for a little it would be impossible to discover the place where the treasure was buried.
It was necessary, however, that some mark should be made—an ineffaceable mark—in order that some day the seeker might find it. On the vertical face of the rock which rose behind the excavation the boatswain carved out with a chisel a monogram of the two K’s of the name of Kamylk, placed back to back, which was the Egyptian’s usual signature.
There was no need to prolong the stay on the islet. The treasure was safe in its grave. Who would discover it here? who would carry it off from its unknown resting place? Here it was secure, and if Kamylk and the captain took the secret to their graves with them, the end of the world might come without anybody finding where the millions were hid.
The boatswain ordered the men into the boat, while his Excellency and the captain remained on a rock by the shore. A few minutes afterwards the boat came to fetch them, and brought them on board the brigantine, which had remained at anchor.
It was a quarter to twelve. The weather was magnificent. There was not a cloud in the sky. In a quarter of an hour the sun would have reached the meridian. The captain went in search of his sextant, and prepared to take his meridian altitude. When he had taken it, he found from it the latitude, and then with the longitude, obtained by calculating the horary angle after the nine o’clock observation, he obtained the position of the islet within half a mile or less.
He had finished this, and was preparing to go on deck, when his cabin door opened.
“Have you got your position?” he asked.
“Yes, your Excellency.”
“Give it to me.”
The captain held out the sheet of paper on which was the working.
Kamylk looked it through attentively, as if he would fix the position of the islet in his memory.
“You will keep this paper,” he said. “And as to the log-book you have been keeping for the last fifteen months in which you have recorded our course—”
“No one will ever have that, your Excellency.”
“To be quite certain of that, destroy it at once.”
“As you please.”
The captain took the book in which were registered the directions taken by the brigantine during her lengthy cruise on so many different seas; and he tore out the leaves and burnt them in the flame of a lantern.
Some hours were spent at anchor. About five o’clock clouds began to appear on the western horizon; and through their narrow intervals the setting sun shot his streams of rays, which strewed the sea with scales of gold.
The captain shook his head, like a sailor whom the appearance of the weather did not please.
“Your Excellency,” he said, “there is a strong breeze in those heavy clouds, perhaps a storm to-night! This islet affords no shelter, and before it is too dark, I should like to get a dozen miles to windward.”
“And there is nothing to keep us here!” said the Pasha.
“We will go, then.”
“For the last time there is no need for you to verify your observations for latitude or longitude?”
“No, your Excellency; I am as sure of my position as I am of being my mother’s child.”
“Get under way, then.”
The preparations did not take long. The anchor left the ground, and was hauled up to the cathead; the sails were set, and the vessel headed north-west.
Kamylk watched the unknown islet as they left it until it disappeared in the shades of the night. But the rich Egyptian could find it again when he pleased, and with it the treasure he had buried in it, a treasure worth four millions sterling in gold, and diamonds, and precious stones.
Every Saturday about eight o’clock in the evening Captain Antifer would smoke his pipe—a regular furnace, very short in the stem—and plunge into a blue rage, from which he would emerge quite red, an hour afterwards, when he had relieved himself at the expense of his neighbour and friend Gildas Tregomain. And what caused this rage? Simply his not being able to find what he wanted on one of the maps in an old atlas!
“Confound this latitude!” he would exclaim. “If it even ran through the furnace of Beelzebub, I should have to follow it from one end to the other!”
And until he put this plan into execution Captain Antifer dug his nails into the said latitude, and punctured it with pencil-points and compass-prods, until it was as full of holes as a coffee-strainer.
The latitude which brought down Antifer’s objurgations was written at the end of a piece of parchment which was almost as yellow as an old Spanish flag:
Twenty-four degrees fifty-nine minutes north.
Above this, in a corner of the parchment, were these words in red ink—“Let my boy never forget this.”
And Captain Antifer would exclaim:
“Never fear, my good old father, I have not forgotten it, nor will I ever forget it. But may the three patron saints of my baptism bless me if I know what use it can ever be!”
Tysiące ebooków i audiobooków
Ich liczba ciągle rośnie, a Ty masz gwarancję niezmiennej ceny.
Napisali o nas:
Nowy sposób na e-księgarnię
Czytelnicy nie wierzą
Legimi idzie na całość
Projekt Legimi wielkim wydarzeniem
Spotify for ebooks