The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas [Pere]
Part 4 out of 31
"No; captivity has subdued me -- I have been here so long."
"So long? -- when were you arrested, then?" asked the
"The 28th of February, 1815, at half-past two in the
"To-day is the 30th of July, 1816, -- why it is but
"Only seventeen months," replied Dantes. "Oh, you do not
know what is seventeen months in prison! -- seventeen ages
rather, especially to a man who, like me, had arrived at the
summit of his ambition -- to a man, who, like me, was on the
point of marrying a woman he adored, who saw an honorable
career opened before him, and who loses all in an instant --
who sees his prospects destroyed, and is ignorant of the
fate of his affianced wife, and whether his aged father be
still living! Seventeen months captivity to a sailor
accustomed to the boundless ocean, is a worse punishment
than human crime ever merited. Have pity on me, then, and
ask for me, not intelligence, but a trial; not pardon, but a
verdict -- a trial, sir, I ask only for a trial; that,
surely, cannot be denied to one who is accused!"
"We shall see," said the inspector; then, turning to the
governor, "On my word, the poor devil touches me. You must
show me the proofs against him."
"Certainly; but you will find terrible charges."
"Monsieur," continued Dantes, "I know it is not in your
power to release me; but you can plead for me -- you can
have me tried -- and that is all I ask. Let me know my
crime, and the reason why I was condemned. Uncertainty is
worse than all."
"Go on with the lights," said the inspector.
"Monsieur," cried Dantes, "I can tell by your voice you are
touched with pity; tell me at least to hope."
"I cannot tell you that," replied the inspector; "I can only
promise to examine into your case."
"Oh, I am free -- then I am saved!"
"Who arrested you?"
"M. Villefort. See him, and hear what he says."
"M. Villefort is no longer at Marseilles; he is now at
"I am no longer surprised at my detention," murmured Dantes,
"since my only protector is removed."
"Had M. de Villefort any cause of personal dislike to you?"
"None; on the contrary, he was very kind to me."
"I can, then, rely on the notes he has left concerning you?"
"That is well; wait patiently, then." Dantes fell on his
knees, and prayed earnestly. The door closed; but this time
a fresh inmate was left with Dantes -- hope.
"Will you see the register at once," asked the governor, "or
proceed to the other cell?"
"Let us visit them all," said the inspector. "If I once went
up those stairs. I should never have the courage to come
"Ah, this one is not like the other, and his madness is less
affecting than this one's display of reason."
"What is his folly?"
"He fancies he possesses an immense treasure. The first year
he offered government a million of francs for his release;
the second, two; the third, three; and so on progressively.
He is now in his fifth year of captivity; he will ask to
speak to you in private, and offer you five millions."
"How curious! -- what is his name?"
"The Abbe Faria."
"No. 27," said the inspector.
"It is here; unlock the door, Antoine." The turnkey obeyed,
and the inspector gazed curiously into the chamber of the
In the centre of the cell, in a circle traced with a
fragment of plaster detached from the wall, sat a man whose
tattered garments scarcely covered him. He was drawing in
this circle geometrical lines, and seemed as much absorbed
in his problem as Archimedes was when the soldier of
Marcellus slew him.
He did not move at the sound of the door, and continued his
calculations until the flash of the torches lighted up with
an unwonted glare the sombre walls of his cell; then,
raising his head, he perceived with astonishment the number
of persons present. He hastily seized the coverlet of his
bed, and wrapped it round him.
"What is it you want?" said the inspector.
"I, monsieur," replied the abbe with an air of surprise --
"I want nothing."
"You do not understand," continued the inspector; "I am sent
here by government to visit the prison, and hear the
requests of the prisoners."
"Oh, that is different," cried the abbe; "and we shall
understand each other, I hope."
"There, now," whispered the governor, "it is just as I told
"Monsieur," continued the prisoner, "I am the Abbe Faria,
born at Rome. I was for twenty years Cardinal Spada's
secretary; I was arrested, why, I know not, toward the
beginning of the year 1811; since then I have demanded my
liberty from the Italian and French government."
"Why from the French government?"
"Because I was arrested at Piombino, and I presume that,
like Milan and Florence, Piombino has become the capital of
some French department."
"Ah," said the inspector, "you have not the latest news from
"My information dates from the day on which I was arrested,"
returned the Abbe Faria; "and as the emperor had created the
kingdom of Rome for his infant son, I presume that he has
realized the dream of Machiavelli and Caesar Borgia, which
was to make Italy a united kingdom."
"Monsieur," returned the inspector, "providence has changed
this gigantic plan you advocate so warmly."
"It is the only means of rendering Italy strong, happy, and
"Very possibly; only I am not come to discuss politics, but
to inquire if you have anything to ask or to complain of."
"The food is the same as in other prisons, -- that is, very
bad; the lodging is very unhealthful, but, on the whole,
passable for a dungeon; but it is not that which I wish to
speak of, but a secret I have to reveal of the greatest
"We are coming to the point," whispered the governor.
"It is for that reason I am delighted to see you," continued
the abbe, "although you have disturbed me in a most
important calculation, which, if it succeeded, would
possibly change Newton's system. Could you allow me a few
words in private."
"What did I tell you?" said the governor.
"You knew him," returned the inspector with a smile.
"What you ask is impossible, monsieur," continued he,
"But," said the abbe, "I would speak to you of a large sum,
amounting to five millions."
"The very sum you named," whispered the inspector in his
"However," continued Faria, seeing that the inspector was
about to depart, "it is not absolutely necessary for us to
be alone; the governor can be present."
"Unfortunately," said the governor, "I know beforehand what
you are about to say; it concerns your treasures, does it
not?" Faria fixed his eyes on him with an expression that
would have convinced any one else of his sanity.
"Of course," said he; "of what else should I speak?"
"Mr. Inspector," continued the governor, "I can tell you the
story as well as he, for it has been dinned in my ears for
the last four or five years."
"That proves," returned the abbe, "that you are like those
of Holy Writ, who having ears hear not, and having eyes see
"My dear sir, the government is rich and does not want your
treasures," replied the inspector; "keep them until you are
liberated." The abbe's eyes glistened; he seized the
"But what if I am not liberated," cried he, "and am detained
here until my death? this treasure will be lost. Had not
government better profit by it? I will offer six millions,
and I will content myself with the rest, if they will only
give me my liberty."
"On my word," said the inspector in a low tone, "had I not
been told beforehand that this man was mad, I should believe
what he says."
"I am not mad," replied Faria, with that acuteness of
hearing peculiar to prisoners. "The treasure I speak of
really exists, and I offer to sign an agreement with you, in
which I promise to lead you to the spot where you shall dig;
and if I deceive you, bring me here again, -- I ask no
The governor laughed. "Is the spot far from here?"
"A hundred leagues."
"It is not ill-planned," said the governor. "If all the
prisoners took it into their heads to travel a hundred
leagues, and their guardians consented to accompany them,
they would have a capital chance of escaping."
"The scheme is well known," said the inspector; "and the
abbe's plan has not even the merit of originality."
Then turning to Faria -- "I inquired if you are well fed?"
"Swear to me," replied Faria, "to free me if what I tell you
prove true, and I will stay here while you go to the spot."
"Are you well fed?" repeated the inspector.
"Monsieur, you run no risk, for, as I told you, I will stay
here; so there is no chance of my escaping."
"You do not reply to my question," replied the inspector
"Nor you to mine," cried the abbe. "You will not accept my
gold; I will keep it for myself. You refuse me my liberty;
God will give it me." And the abbe, casting away his
coverlet, resumed his place, and continued his calculations.
"What is he doing there?" said the inspector.
"Counting his treasures," replied the governor.
Faria replied to this sarcasm with a glance of profound
contempt. They went out. The turnkey closed the door behind
"He was wealthy once, perhaps?" said the inspector.
"Or dreamed he was, and awoke mad."
"After all," said the inspector, "if he had been rich, he
would not have been here." So the matter ended for the Abbe
Faria. He remained in his cell, and this visit only
increased the belief in his insanity.
Caligula or Nero, those treasure-seekers, those desirers of
the impossible, would have accorded to the poor wretch, in
exchange for his wealth, the liberty he so earnestly prayed
for. But the kings of modern times, restrained by the limits
of mere probability, have neither courage nor desire. They
fear the ear that hears their orders, and the eye that
scrutinizes their actions. Formerly they believed themselves
sprung from Jupiter, and shielded by their birth; but
nowadays they are not inviolable.
It has always been against the policy of despotic
governments to suffer the victims of their persecutions to
reappear. As the Inquisition rarely allowed its victims to
be seen with their limbs distorted and their flesh lacerated
by torture, so madness is always concealed in its cell, from
whence, should it depart, it is conveyed to some gloomy
hospital, where the doctor has no thought for man or mind in
the mutilated being the jailer delivers to him. The very
madness of the Abbe Faria, gone mad in prison, condemned him
to perpetual captivity.
The inspector kept his word with Dantes; he examined the
register, and found the following note concerning him: --
Violent Bonapartist; took an active part in the return from
The greatest watchfulness and care to be exercised.
This note was in a different hand from the rest, which
showed that it had been added since his confinement. The
inspector could not contend against this accusation; he
simply wrote, -- "Nothing to be done."
This visit had infused new vigor into Dantes; he had, till
then, forgotten the date; but now, with a fragment of
plaster, he wrote the date, 30th July, 1816, and made a mark
every day, in order not to lose his reckoning again. Days
and weeks passed away, then months -- Dantes still waited;
he at first expected to be freed in a fortnight. This
fortnight expired, he decided that the inspector would do
nothing until his return to Paris, and that he would not
reach there until his circuit was finished, he therefore
fixed three months; three months passed away, then six more.
Finally ten months and a half had gone by and no favorable
change had taken place, and Dantes began to fancy the
inspector's visit but a dream, an illusion of the brain.
At the expiration of a year the governor was transferred; he
had obtained charge of the fortress at Ham. He took with him
several of his subordinates, and amongst them Dantes'
jailer. A new governor arrived; it would have been too
tedious to acquire the names of the prisoners; he learned
their numbers instead. This horrible place contained fifty
cells; their inhabitants were designated by the numbers of
their cell, and the unhappy young man was no longer called
Edmond Dantes -- he was now number 34.
Number 34 and Number 27.
Dantes passed through all the stages of torture natural to
prisoners in suspense. He was sustained at first by that
pride of conscious innocence which is the sequence to hope;
then he began to doubt his own innocence, which justified in
some measure the governor's belief in his mental alienation;
and then, relaxing his sentiment of pride, he addressed his
supplications, not to God, but to man. God is always the
last resource. Unfortunates, who ought to begin with God, do
not have any hope in him till they have exhausted all other
means of deliverance.
Dantes asked to be removed from his present dungeon into
another; for a change, however disadvantageous, was still a
change, and would afford him some amusement. He entreated to
be allowed to walk about, to have fresh air, books, and
writing materials. His requests were not granted, but he
went on asking all the same. He accustomed himself to
speaking to the new jailer, although the latter was, if
possible, more taciturn than the old one; but still, to
speak to a man, even though mute, was something. Dantes
spoke for the sake of hearing his own voice; he had tried to
speak when alone, but the sound of his voice terrified him.
Often, before his captivity, Dantes' mind had revolted at
the idea of assemblages of prisoners, made up of thieves,
vagabonds, and murderers. He now wished to be amongst them,
in order to see some other face besides that of his jailer;
he sighed for the galleys, with the infamous costume, the
chain, and the brand on the shoulder. The galley-slaves
breathed the fresh air of heaven, and saw each other. They
were very happy. He besought the jailer one day to let him
have a companion, were it even the mad abbe.
The jailer, though rough and hardened by the constant sight
of so much suffering, was yet a man. At the bottom of his
heart he had often had a feeling of pity for this unhappy
young man who suffered so; and he laid the request of number
34 before the governor; but the latter sapiently imagined
that Dantes wished to conspire or attempt an escape, and
refused his request. Dantes had exhausted all human
resources, and he then turned to God.
All the pious ideas that had been so long forgotten,
returned; he recollected the prayers his mother had taught
him, and discovered a new meaning in every word; for in
prosperity prayers seem but a mere medley of words, until
misfortune comes and the unhappy sufferer first understands
the meaning of the sublime language in which he invokes the
pity of heaven! He prayed, and prayed aloud, no longer
terrified at the sound of his own voice, for he fell into a
sort of ecstasy. He laid every action of his life before the
Almighty, proposed tasks to accomplish, and at the end of
every prayer introduced the entreaty oftener addressed to
man than to God: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
them that trespass against us." Yet in spite of his earnest
prayers, Dantes remained a prisoner.
Then gloom settled heavily upon him. Dantes was a man of
great simplicity of thought, and without education; he could
not, therefore, in the solitude of his dungeon, traverse in
mental vision the history of the ages, bring to life the
nations that had perished, and rebuild the ancient cities so
vast and stupendous in the light of the imagination, and
that pass before the eye glowing with celestial colors in
Martin's Babylonian pictures. He could not do this, he whose
past life was so short, whose present so melancholy, and his
future so doubtful. Nineteen years of light to reflect upon
in eternal darkness! No distraction could come to his aid;
his energetic spirit, that would have exalted in thus
revisiting the past, was imprisoned like an eagle in a cage.
He clung to one idea -- that of his happiness, destroyed,
without apparent cause, by an unheard-of fatality; he
considered and reconsidered this idea, devoured it (so to
speak), as the implacable Ugolino devours the skull of
Archbishop Roger in the Inferno of Dante.
Rage supplanted religious fervor. Dantes uttered blasphemies
that made his jailer recoil with horror, dashed himself
furiously against the walls of his prison, wreaked his anger
upon everything, and chiefly upon himself, so that the least
thing, -- a grain of sand, a straw, or a breath of air that
annoyed him, led to paroxysms of fury. Then the letter that
Villefort had showed to him recurred to his mind, and every
line gleamed forth in fiery letters on the wall like the
mene tekel upharsin of Belshazzar. He told himself that it
was the enmity of man, and not the vengeance of heaven, that
had thus plunged him into the deepest misery. He consigned
his unknown persecutors to the most horrible tortures he
could imagine, and found them all insufficient, because
after torture came death, and after death, if not repose, at
least the boon of unconsciousness.
By dint of constantly dwelling on the idea that tranquillity
was death, and if punishment were the end in view other
tortures than death must be invented, he began to reflect on
suicide. Unhappy he, who, on the brink of misfortune, broods
over ideas like these!
Before him is a dead sea that stretches in azure calm before
the eye; but he who unwarily ventures within its embrace
finds himself struggling with a monster that would drag him
down to perdition. Once thus ensnared, unless the protecting
hand of God snatch him thence, all is over, and his
struggles but tend to hasten his destruction. This state of
mental anguish is, however, less terrible than the
sufferings that precede or the punishment that possibly will
follow. There is a sort of consolation at the contemplation
of the yawning abyss, at the bottom of which lie darkness
Edmond found some solace in these ideas. All his sorrows,
all his sufferings, with their train of gloomy spectres,
fled from his cell when the angel of death seemed about to
enter. Dantes reviewed his past life with composure, and,
looking forward with terror to his future existence, chose
that middle line that seemed to afford him a refuge.
"Sometimes," said he, "in my voyages, when I was a man and
commanded other men, I have seen the heavens overcast, the
sea rage and foam, the storm arise, and, like a monstrous
bird, beating the two horizons with its wings. Then I felt
that my vessel was a vain refuge, that trembled and shook
before the tempest. Soon the fury of the waves and the sight
of the sharp rocks announced the approach of death, and
death then terrified me, and I used all my skill and
intelligence as a man and a sailor to struggle against the
wrath of God. But I did so because I was happy, because I
had not courted death, because to be cast upon a bed of
rocks and seaweed seemed terrible, because I was unwilling
that I, a creature made for the service of God, should serve
for food to the gulls and ravens. But now it is different; I
have lost all that bound me to life, death smiles and
invites me to repose; I die after my own manner, I die
exhausted and broken-spirited, as I fall asleep when I have
paced three thousand times round my cell."
No sooner had this idea taken possession of him than he
became more composed, arranged his couch to the best of his
power, ate little and slept less, and found existence almost
supportable, because he felt that he could throw it off at
pleasure, like a worn-out garment. Two methods of
self-destruction were at his disposal. He could hang himself
with his handkerchief to the window bars, or refuse food and
die of starvation. But the first was repugnant to him.
Dantes had always entertained the greatest horror of
pirates, who are hung up to the yard-arm; he would not die
by what seemed an infamous death. He resolved to adopt the
second, and began that day to carry out his resolve. Nearly
four years had passed away; at the end of the second he had
ceased to mark the lapse of time.
Dantes said, "I wish to die," and had chosen the manner of
his death, and fearful of changing his mind, he had taken an
oath to die. "When my morning and evening meals are
brought," thought he, "I will cast them out of the window,
and they will think that I have eaten them."
He kept his word; twice a day he cast out, through the
barred aperture, the provisions his jailer brought him -- at
first gayly, then with deliberation, and at last with
regret. Nothing but the recollection of his oath gave him
strength to proceed. Hunger made viands once repugnant, now
acceptable; he held the plate in his hand for an hour at a
time, and gazed thoughtfully at the morsel of bad meat, of
tainted fish, of black and mouldy bread. It was the last
yearning for life contending with the resolution of despair;
then his dungeon seemed less sombre, his prospects less
desperate. He was still young -- he was only four or five
and twenty -- he had nearly fifty years to live. What
unforseen events might not open his prison door, and restore
him to liberty? Then he raised to his lips the repast that,
like a voluntary Tantalus, he refused himself; but he
thought of his oath, and he would not break it. He persisted
until, at last, he had not sufficient strength to rise and
cast his supper out of the loophole. The next morning he
could not see or hear; the jailer feared he was dangerously
ill. Edmond hoped he was dying.
Thus the day passed away. Edmond felt a sort of stupor
creeping over him which brought with it a feeling almost of
content; the gnawing pain at his stomach had ceased; his
thirst had abated; when he closed his eyes he saw myriads of
lights dancing before them like the will-o'-the-wisps that
play about the marshes. It was the twilight of that
mysterious country called Death!
Suddenly, about nine o'clock in the evening, Edmond heard a
hollow sound in the wall against which he was lying.
So many loathsome animals inhabited the prison, that their
noise did not, in general, awake him; but whether abstinence
had quickened his faculties, or whether the noise was really
louder than usual, Edmond raised his head and listened. It
was a continual scratching, as if made by a huge claw, a
powerful tooth, or some iron instrument attacking the
Although weakened, the young man's brain instantly responded
to the idea that haunts all prisoners -- liberty! It seemed
to him that heaven had at length taken pity on him, and had
sent this noise to warn him on the very brink of the abyss.
Perhaps one of those beloved ones he had so often thought of
was thinking of him, and striving to diminish the distance
that separated them.
No, no, doubtless he was deceived, and it was but one of
those dreams that forerun death!
Edmond still heard the sound. It lasted nearly three hours;
he then heard a noise of something falling, and all was
Some hours afterwards it began again, nearer and more
distinct. Edmond was intensely interested. Suddenly the
For a week since he had resolved to die, and during the four
days that he had been carrying out his purpose, Edmond had
not spoken to the attendant, had not answered him when he
inquired what was the matter with him, and turned his face
to the wall when he looked too curiously at him; but now the
jailer might hear the noise and put an end to it, and so
destroy a ray of something like hope that soothed his last
The jailer brought him his breakfast. Dantes raised himself
up and began to talk about everything; about the bad quality
of the food, about the coldness of his dungeon, grumbling
and complaining, in order to have an excuse for speaking
louder, and wearying the patience of his jailer, who out of
kindness of heart had brought broth and white bread for his
Fortunately, he fancied that Dantes was delirious; and
placing the food on the rickety table, he withdrew. Edmond
listened, and the sound became more and more distinct.
"There can be no doubt about it," thought he; "it is some
prisoner who is striving to obtain his freedom. Oh, if I
were only there to help him!" Suddenly another idea took
possession of his mind, so used to misfortune, that it was
scarcely capable of hope -- the idea that the noise was made
by workmen the governor had ordered to repair the
It was easy to ascertain this; but how could he risk the
question? It was easy to call his jailer's attention to the
noise, and watch his countenance as he listened; but might
he not by this means destroy hopes far more important than
the short-lived satisfaction of his own curiosity?
Unfortunately, Edmond's brain was still so feeble that he
could not bend his thoughts to anything in particular.
He saw but one means of restoring lucidity and clearness to
his judgment. He turned his eyes towards the soup which the
jailer had brought, rose, staggered towards it, raised the
vessel to his lips, and drank off the contents with a
feeling of indescribable pleasure. He had often heard that
shipwrecked persons had died through having eagerly devoured
too much food. Edmond replaced on the table the bread he was
about to devour, and returned to his couch -- he did not
wish to die. He soon felt that his ideas became again
collected -- he could think, and strengthen his thoughts by
reasoning. Then he said to himself, "I must put this to the
test, but without compromising anybody. If it is a workman,
I need but knock against the wall, and he will cease to
work, in order to find out who is knocking, and why he does
so; but as his occupation is sanctioned by the governor, he
will soon resume it. If, on the contrary, it is a prisoner,
the noise I make will alarm him, he will cease, and not
begin again until he thinks every one is asleep."
Edmond rose again, but this time his legs did not tremble,
and his sight was clear; he went to a corner of his dungeon,
detached a stone, and with it knocked against the wall where
the sound came. He struck thrice. At the first blow the
sound ceased, as if by magic.
Edmond listened intently; an hour passed, two hours passed,
and no sound was heard from the wall -- all was silent
Full of hope, Edmond swallowed a few mouthfuls of bread and
water, and, thanks to the vigor of his constitution, found
himself well-nigh recovered.
The day passed away in utter silence -- night came without
recurrence of the noise.
"It is a prisoner," said Edmond joyfully. The night passed
in perfect silence. Edmond did not close his eyes.
In the morning the jailer brought him fresh provisions -- he
had already devoured those of the previous day; he ate these
listening anxiously for the sound, walking round and round
his cell, shaking the iron bars of the loophole, restoring
vigor and agility to his limbs by exercise, and so preparing
himself for his future destiny. At intervals he listened to
learn if the noise had not begun again, and grew impatient
at the prudence of the prisoner, who did not guess he had
been disturbed by a captive as anxious for liberty as
Three days passed -- seventy-two long tedious hours which he
counted off by minutes!
At length one evening, as the jailer was visiting him for
the last time that night, Dantes, with his ear for the
hundredth time at the wall, fancied he heard an almost
imperceptible movement among the stones. He moved away,
walked up and down his cell to collect his thoughts, and
then went back and listened.
The matter was no longer doubtful. Something was at work on
the other side of the wall; the prisoner had discovered the
danger, and had substituted a lever for a chisel.
Encouraged by this discovery, Edmond determined to assist
the indefatigable laborer. He began by moving his bed, and
looked around for anything with which he could pierce the
wall, penetrate the moist cement, and displace a stone.
He saw nothing, he had no knife or sharp instrument, the
window grating was of iron, but he had too often assured
himself of its solidity. All his furniture consisted of a
bed, a chair, a table, a pail, and a jug. The bed had iron
clamps, but they were screwed to the wood, and it would have
required a screw-driver to take them off. The table and
chair had nothing, the pail had once possessed a handle, but
that had been removed.
Dantes had but one resource, which was to break the jug, and
with one of the sharp fragments attack the wall. He let the
jug fall on the floor, and it broke in pieces.
Dantes concealed two or three of the sharpest fragments in
his bed, leaving the rest on the floor. The breaking of his
jug was too natural an accident to excite suspicion. Edmond
had all the night to work in, but in the darkness he could
not do much, and he soon felt that he was working against
something very hard; he pushed back his bed, and waited for
All night he heard the subterranean workman, who continued
to mine his way. Day came, the jailer entered. Dantes told
him that the jug had fallen from his hands while he was
drinking, and the jailer went grumblingly to fetch another,
without giving himself the trouble to remove the fragments
of the broken one. He returned speedily, advised the
prisoner to be more careful, and departed.
Dantes heard joyfully the key grate in the lock; he listened
until the sound of steps died away, and then, hastily
displacing his bed, saw by the faint light that penetrated
into his cell, that he had labored uselessly the previous
evening in attacking the stone instead of removing the
plaster that surrounded it.
The damp had rendered it friable, and Dantes was able to
break it off -- in small morsels, it is true, but at the end
of half an hour he had scraped off a handful; a
mathematician might have calculated that in two years,
supposing that the rock was not encountered, a passage
twenty feet long and two feet broad, might be formed.
The prisoner reproached himself with not having thus
employed the hours he had passed in vain hopes, prayer, and
despondency. During the six years that he had been
imprisoned, what might he not have accomplished?
In three days he had succeeded, with the utmost precaution,
in removing the cement, and exposing the stone-work. The
wall was built of rough stones, among which, to give
strength to the structure, blocks of hewn stone were at
intervals imbedded. It was one of these he had uncovered,
and which he must remove from its socket.
Dantes strove to do this with his nails, but they were too
weak. The fragments of the jug broke, and after an hour of
useless toil, he paused.
Was he to be thus stopped at the beginning, and was he to
wait inactive until his fellow workman had completed his
task? Suddenly an idea occurred to him -- he smiled, and the
perspiration dried on his forehead.
The jailer always brought Dantes' soup in an iron saucepan;
this saucepan contained soup for both prisoners, for Dantes
had noticed that it was either quite full, or half empty,
according as the turnkey gave it to him or to his companion
The handle of this saucepan was of iron; Dantes would have
given ten years of his life in exchange for it.
The jailer was accustomed to pour the contents of the
saucepan into Dantes' plate, and Dantes, after eating his
soup with a wooden spoon, washed the plate, which thus
served for every day. Now when evening came Dantes put his
plate on the ground near the door; the jailer, as he
entered, stepped on it and broke it.
This time he could not blame Dantes. He was wrong to leave
it there, but the jailer was wrong not to have looked before
The jailer, therefore, only grumbled. Then he looked about
for something to pour the soup into; Dantes' entire dinner
service consisted of one plate -- there was no alternative.
"Leave the saucepan," said Dantes; "you can take it away
when you bring me my breakfast." This advice was to the
jailer's taste, as it spared him the necessity of making
another trip. He left the saucepan.
Dantes was beside himself with joy. He rapidly devoured his
food, and after waiting an hour, lest the jailer should
change his mind and return, he removed his bed, took the
handle of the saucepan, inserted the point between the hewn
stone and rough stones of the wall, and employed it as a
lever. A slight oscillation showed Dantes that all went
well. At the end of an hour the stone was extricated from
the wall, leaving a cavity a foot and a half in diameter.
Dantes carefully collected the plaster, carried it into the
corner of his cell, and covered it with earth. Then, wishing
to make the best use of his time while he had the means of
labor, he continued to work without ceasing. At the dawn of
day he replaced the stone, pushed his bed against the wall,
and lay down. The breakfast consisted of a piece of bread;
the jailer entered and placed the bread on the table.
"Well, don't you intend to bring me another plate?" said
"No," replied the turnkey; "you destroy everything. First
you break your jug, then you make me break your plate; if
all the prisoners followed your example, the government
would be ruined. I shall leave you the saucepan, and pour
your soup into that. So for the future I hope you will not
be so destructive."
Dantes raised his eyes to heaven and clasped his hands
beneath the coverlet. He felt more gratitude for the
possession of this piece of iron than he had ever felt for
anything. He had noticed, however, that the prisoner on the
other side had ceased to labor; no matter, this was a
greater reason for proceeding -- if his neighbor would not
come to him, he would go to his neighbor. All day he toiled
on untiringly, and by the evening he had succeeded in
extracting ten handfuls of plaster and fragments of stone.
When the hour for his jailer's visit arrived, Dantes
straightened the handle of the saucepan as well as he could,
and placed it in its accustomed place. The turnkey poured
his ration of soup into it, together with the fish -- for
thrice a week the prisoners were deprived of meat. This
would have been a method of reckoning time, had not Dantes
long ceased to do so. Having poured out the soup, the
turnkey retired. Dantes wished to ascertain whether his
neighbor had really ceased to work. He listened -- all was
silent, as it had been for the last three days. Dantes
sighed; it was evident that his neighbor distrusted him.
However, he toiled on all the night without being
discouraged; but after two or three hours he encountered an
obstacle. The iron made no impression, but met with a smooth
surface; Dantes touched it, and found that it was a beam.
This beam crossed, or rather blocked up, the hole Dantes had
made; it was necessary, therefore, to dig above or under it.
The unhappy young man had not thought of this. "O my God, my
God!" murmured he, "I have so earnestly prayed to you, that
I hoped my prayers had been heard. After having deprived me
of my liberty, after having deprived me of death, after
having recalled me to existence, my God, have pity on me,
and do not let me die in despair!"
"Who talks of God and despair at the same time?" said a
voice that seemed to come from beneath the earth, and,
deadened by the distance, sounded hollow and sepulchral in
the young man's ears. Edmond's hair stood on end, and he
rose to his knees.
"Ah," said he, "I hear a human voice." Edmond had not heard
any one speak save his jailer for four or five years; and a
jailer is no man to a prisoner -- he is a living door, a
barrier of flesh and blood adding strength to restraints of
oak and iron.
"In the name of heaven," cried Dantes, "speak again, though
the sound of your voice terrifies me. Who are you?"
"Who are you?" said the voice.
"An unhappy prisoner," replied Dantes, who made no
hesitation in answering.
"Of what country?"
"How long have you been here?"
"Since the 28th of February, 1815."
"I am innocent."
"But of what are you accused?"
"Of having conspired to aid the emperor's return."
"What! For the emperor's return? -- the emperor is no longer
on the throne, then?"
"He abdicated at Fontainebleau in 1814, and was sent to the
Island of Elba. But how long have you been here that you are
ignorant of all this?"
Dantes shuddered; this man had been four years longer than
himself in prison.
"Do not dig any more," said the voice; "only tell me how
high up is your excavation?"
"On a level with the floor."
"How is it concealed?"
"Behind my bed."
"Has your bed been moved since you have been a prisoner?"
"What does your chamber open on?"
"And the corridor?"
"On a court."
"Alas!" murmured the voice.
"Oh, what is the matter?" cried Dantes.
"I have made a mistake owing to an error in my plans. I took
the wrong angle, and have come out fifteen feet from where I
intended. I took the wall you are mining for the outer wall
of the fortress."
"But then you would be close to the sea?"
"That is what I hoped."
"And supposing you had succeeded?"
"I should have thrown myself into the sea, gained one of the
islands near here -- the Isle de Daume or the Isle de
Tiboulen -- and then I should have been safe."
"Could you have swum so far?"
"Heaven would have given me strength; but now all is lost."
"Yes; stop up your excavation carefully, do not work any
more, and wait until you hear from me."
"Tell me, at least, who you are?"
"I am -- I am No. 27."
"You mistrust me, then," said Dantes. Edmond fancied he
heard a bitter laugh resounding from the depths.
"Oh, I am a Christian," cried Dantes, guessing instinctively
that this man meant to abandon him. "I swear to you by him
who died for us that naught shall induce me to breathe one
syllable to my jailers; but I conjure you do not abandon me.
If you do, I swear to you, for I have got to the end of my
strength, that I will dash my brains out against the wall,
and you will have my death to reproach yourself with."
"How old are you? Your voice is that of a young man."
"I do not know my age, for I have not counted the years I
have been here. All I do know is, that I was just nineteen
when I was arrested, the 28th of February, 1815."
"Not quite twenty-six!" murmured the voice; "at that age he
cannot be a traitor."
"Oh, no, no," cried Dantes. "I swear to you again, rather
than betray you, I would allow myself to be hacked in
"You have done well to speak to me, and ask for my
assistance, for I was about to form another plan, and leave
you; but your age reassures me. I will not forget you.
"I must calculate our chances; I will give you the signal."
"But you will not leave me; you will come to me, or you will
let me come to you. We will escape, and if we cannot escape
we will talk; you of those whom you love, and I of those
whom I love. You must love somebody?"
"No, I am alone in the world."
"Then you will love me. If you are young, I will be your
comrade; if you are old, I will be your son. I have a father
who is seventy if he yet lives; I only love him and a young
girl called Mercedes. My father has not yet forgotten me, I
am sure, but God alone knows if she loves me still; I shall
love you as I loved my father."
"It is well," returned the voice; "to-morrow."
These few words were uttered with an accent that left no
doubt of his sincerity; Dantes rose, dispersed the fragments
with the same precaution as before, and pushed his bed back
against the wall. He then gave himself up to his happiness.
He would no longer be alone. He was, perhaps, about to
regain his liberty; at the worst, he would have a companion,
and captivity that is shared is but half captivity. Plaints
made in common are almost prayers, and prayers where two or
three are gathered together invoke the mercy of heaven.
All day Dantes walked up and down his cell. He sat down
occasionally on his bed, pressing his hand on his heart. At
the slightest noise he bounded towards the door. Once or
twice the thought crossed his mind that he might be
separated from this unknown, whom he loved already; and then
his mind was made up -- when the jailer moved his bed and
stooped to examine the opening, he would kill him with his
water jug. He would be condemned to die, but he was about to
die of grief and despair when this miraculous noise recalled
him to life.
The jailer came in the evening. Dantes was on his bed. It
seemed to him that thus he better guarded the unfinished
opening. Doubtless there was a strange expression in his
eyes, for the jailer said, "Come, are you going mad again?"
Dantes did not answer; he feared that the emotion of his
voice would betray him. The jailer went away shaking his
head. Night came; Dantes hoped that his neighbor would
profit by the silence to address him, but he was mistaken.
The next morning, however, just as he removed his bed from
the wall, he heard three knocks; he threw himself on his
"Is it you?" said he; "I am here."
"Is your jailer gone?"
"Yes," said Dantes; "he will not return until the evening;
so that we have twelve hours before us."
"I can work, then?" said the voice.
"Oh, yes, yes; this instant, I entreat you."
In a moment that part of the floor on which Dantes was
resting his two hands, as he knelt with his head in the
opening, suddenly gave way; he drew back smartly, while a
mass of stones and earth disappeared in a hole that opened
beneath the aperture he himself had formed. Then from the
bottom of this passage, the depth of which it was impossible
to measure, he saw appear, first the head, then the
shoulders, and lastly the body of a man, who sprang lightly
into his cell.
A Learned Italian.
Seizing in his arms the friend so long and ardently desired,
Dantes almost carried him towards the window, in order to
obtain a better view of his features by the aid of the
imperfect light that struggled through the grating.
He was a man of small stature, with hair blanched rather by
suffering and sorrow than by age. He had a deep-set,
penetrating eye, almost buried beneath the thick gray
eyebrow, and a long (and still black) beard reaching down to
his breast. His thin face, deeply furrowed by care, and the
bold outline of his strongly marked features, betokened a
man more accustomed to exercise his mental faculties than
his physical strength. Large drops of perspiration were now
standing on his brow, while the garments that hung about him
were so ragged that one could only guess at the pattern upon
which they had originally been fashioned.
The stranger might have numbered sixty or sixty-five years;
but a certain briskness and appearance of vigor in his
movements made it probable that he was aged more from
captivity than the course of time. He received the
enthusiastic greeting of his young acquaintance with evident
pleasure, as though his chilled affections were rekindled
and invigorated by his contact with one so warm and ardent.
He thanked him with grateful cordiality for his kindly
welcome, although he must at that moment have been suffering
bitterly to find another dungeon where he had fondly
reckoned on discovering a means of regaining his liberty.
"Let us first see," said he, "whether it is possible to
remove the traces of my entrance here -- our future
tranquillity depends upon our jailers being entirely
ignorant of it." Advancing to the opening, he stooped and
raised the stone easily in spite of its weight; then,
fitting it into its place, he said, --
"You removed this stone very carelessly; but I suppose you
had no tools to aid you."
"Why," exclaimed Dantes, with astonishment, "do you possess
"I made myself some; and with the exception of a file, I
have all that are necessary, -- a chisel, pincers, and
"Oh, how I should like to see these products of your
industry and patience."
"Well, in the first place, here is my chisel." So saying, he
displayed a sharp strong blade, with a handle made of
"And with what did you contrive to make that?" inquired
"With one of the clamps of my bedstead; and this very tool
has sufficed me to hollow out the road by which I came
hither, a distance of about fifty feet."
"Fifty feet!" responded Dantes, almost terrified.
"Do not speak so loud, young man -- don't speak so loud. It
frequently occurs in a state prison like this, that persons
are stationed outside the doors of the cells purposely to
overhear the conversation of the prisoners."
"But they believe I am shut up alone here."
"That makes no difference."
"And you say that you dug your way a distance of fifty feet
to get here?"
"I do; that is about the distance that separates your
chamber from mine; only, unfortunately, I did not curve
aright; for want of the necessary geometrical instruments to
calculate my scale of proportion, instead of taking an
ellipsis of forty feet, I made it fifty. I expected, as I
told you, to reach the outer wall, pierce through it, and
throw myself into the sea; I have, however, kept along the
corridor on which your chamber opens, instead of going
beneath it. My labor is all in vain, for I find that the
corridor looks into a courtyard filled with soldiers."
"That's true," said Dantes; "but the corridor you speak of
only bounds one side of my cell; there are three others --
do you know anything of their situation?"
"This one is built against the solid rock, and it would take
ten experienced miners, duly furnished with the requisite
tools, as many years to perforate it. This adjoins the lower
part of the governor's apartments, and were we to work our
way through, we should only get into some lock-up cellars,
where we must necessarily be recaptured. The fourth and last
side of your cell faces on -- faces on -- stop a minute, now
where does it face?"
The wall of which he spoke was the one in which was fixed
the loophole by which light was admitted to the chamber.
This loophole, which gradually diminished in size as it
approached the outside, to an opening through which a child
could not have passed, was, for better security, furnished
with three iron bars, so as to quiet all apprehensions even
in the mind of the most suspicious jailer as to the
possibility of a prisoner's escape. As the stranger asked
the question, he dragged the table beneath the window.
"Climb up," said he to Dantes. The young man obeyed, mounted
on the table, and, divining the wishes of his companion,
placed his back securely against the wall and held out both
hands. The stranger, whom as yet Dantes knew only by the
number of his cell, sprang up with an agility by no means to
be expected in a person of his years, and, light and steady
on his feet as a cat or a lizard, climbed from the table to
the outstretched hands of Dantes, and from them to his
shoulders; then, bending double, for the ceiling of the
dungeon prevented him from holding himself erect, he managed
to slip his head between the upper bars of the window, so as
to be able to command a perfect view from top to bottom.
An instant afterwards he hastily drew back his head, saying,
"I thought so!" and sliding from the shoulders of Dantes as
dextrously as he had ascended, he nimbly leaped from the
table to the ground.
"What was it that you thought?" asked the young man
anxiously, in his turn descending from the table.
The elder prisoner pondered the matter. "Yes," said he at
length, "it is so. This side of your chamber looks out upon
a kind of open gallery, where patrols are continually
passing, and sentries keep watch day and night."
"Are you quite sure of that?"
"Certain. I saw the soldier's shape and the top of his
musket; that made me draw in my head so quickly, for I was
fearful he might also see me."
"Well?" inquired Dantes.
"You perceive then the utter impossibility of escaping
through your dungeon?"
"Then," pursued the young man eagerly --
"Then," answered the elder prisoner, "the will of God be
done!" and as the old man slowly pronounced those words, an
air of profound resignation spread itself over his careworn
countenance. Dantes gazed on the man who could thus
philosophically resign hopes so long and ardently nourished
with an astonishment mingled with admiration.
"Tell me, I entreat of you, who and what you are?" said he
at length; "never have I met with so remarkable a person as
"Willingly," answered the stranger; "if, indeed, you feel
any curiosity respecting one, now, alas, powerless to aid
you in any way."
"Say not so; you can console and support me by the strength
of your own powerful mind. Pray let me know who you really
The stranger smiled a melancholy smile. "Then listen," said
he. "I am the Abbe Faria, and have been imprisoned as you
know in this Chateau d'If since the year 1811; previously to
which I had been confined for three years in the fortress of
Fenestrelle. In the year 1811 I was transferred to Piedmont
in France. It was at this period I learned that the destiny
which seemed subservient to every wish formed by Napoleon,
had bestowed on him a son, named king of Rome even in his
cradle. I was very far then from expecting the change you
have just informed me of; namely, that four years
afterwards, this colossus of power would be overthrown. Then
who reigns in France at this moment -- Napoleon II.?"
"No, Louis XVIII."
"The brother of Louis XVII.! How inscrutable are the ways of
providence -- for what great and mysterious purpose has it
pleased heaven to abase the man once so elevated, and raise
up him who was so abased?"
Dantes' whole attention was riveted on a man who could thus
forget his own misfortunes while occupying himself with the
destinies of others.
"Yes, yes," continued he, "'Twill be the same as it was in
England. After Charles I., Cromwell; after Cromwell, Charles
II., and then James II., and then some son-in-law or
relation, some Prince of Orange, a stadtholder who becomes a
king. Then new concessions to the people, then a
constitution, then liberty. Ah, my friend!" said the abbe,
turning towards Dantes, and surveying him with the kindling
gaze of a prophet, "you are young, you will see all this
come to pass."
"Probably, if ever I get out of prison!"
"True," replied Faria, "we are prisoners; but I forget this
sometimes, and there are even moments when my mental vision
transports me beyond these walls, and I fancy myself at
"But wherefore are you here?"
"Because in 1807 I dreamed of the very plan Napoleon tried
to realize in 1811; because, like Machiavelli, I desired to
alter the political face of Italy, and instead of allowing
it to be split up into a quantity of petty principalities,
each held by some weak or tyrannical ruler, I sought to form
one large, compact, and powerful empire; and, lastly,
because I fancied I had found my Caesar Borgia in a crowned
simpleton, who feigned to enter into my views only to betray
me. It was the plan of Alexander VI. and Clement VII., but
it will never succeed now, for they attempted it
fruitlessly, and Napoleon was unable to complete his work.
Italy seems fated to misfortune." And the old man bowed his
Dantes could not understand a man risking his life for such
matters. Napoleon certainly he knew something of, inasmuch
as he had seen and spoken with him; but of Clement VII. and
Alexander VI. he knew nothing.
"Are you not," he asked, "the priest who here in the Chateau
d'If is generally thought to be -- ill?"
"Mad, you mean, don't you?"
"I did not like to say so," answered Dantes, smiling.
"Well, then," resumed Faria with a bitter smile, "let me
answer your question in full, by acknowledging that I am the
poor mad prisoner of the Chateau d'If, for many years
permitted to amuse the different visitors with what is said
to be my insanity; and, in all probability, I should be
promoted to the honor of making sport for the children, if
such innocent beings could be found in an abode devoted like
this to suffering and despair."
Dantes remained for a short time mute and motionless; at
length he said, -- "Then you abandon all hope of escape?"
"I perceive its utter impossibility; and I consider it
impious to attempt that which the Almighty evidently does
"Nay, be not discouraged. Would it not be expecting too much
to hope to succeed at your first attempt? Why not try to
find an opening in another direction from that which has so
"Alas, it shows how little notion you can have of all it has
cost me to effect a purpose so unexpectedly frustrated, that
you talk of beginning over again. In the first place, I was
four years making the tools I possess, and have been two
years scraping and digging out earth, hard as granite
itself; then what toil and fatigue has it not been to remove
huge stones I should once have deemed impossible to loosen.
Whole days have I passed in these Titanic efforts,
considering my labor well repaid if, by night-time I had
contrived to carry away a square inch of this hard-bound
cement, changed by ages into a substance unyielding as the
stones themselves; then to conceal the mass of earth and
rubbish I dug up, I was compelled to break through a
staircase, and throw the fruits of my labor into the hollow
part of it; but the well is now so completely choked up,
that I scarcely think it would be possible to add another
handful of dust without leading to discovery. Consider also
that I fully believed I had accomplished the end and aim of
my undertaking, for which I had so exactly husbanded my
strength as to make it just hold out to the termination of
my enterprise; and now, at the moment when I reckoned upon
success, my hopes are forever dashed from me. No, I repeat
again, that nothing shall induce me to renew attempts
evidently at variance with the Almighty's pleasure."
Dantes held down his head, that the other might not see how
joy at the thought of having a companion outweighed the
sympathy he felt for the failure of the abbe's plans.
The abbe sank upon Edmond's bed, while Edmond himself
remained standing. Escape had never once occurred to him.
There are, indeed, some things which appear so impossible
that the mind does not dwell on them for an instant. To
undermine the ground for fifty feet -- to devote three years
to a labor which, if successful, would conduct you to a
precipice overhanging the sea -- to plunge into the waves
from the height of fifty, sixty, perhaps a hundred feet, at
the risk of being dashed to pieces against the rocks, should
you have been fortunate enough to have escaped the fire of
the sentinels; and even, supposing all these perils past,
then to have to swim for your life a distance of at least
three miles ere you could reach the shore -- were
difficulties so startling and formidable that Dantes had
never even dreamed of such a scheme, resigning himself
rather to death. But the sight of an old man clinging to
life with so desperate a courage, gave a fresh turn to his
ideas, and inspired him with new courage. Another, older and
less strong than he, had attempted what he had not had
sufficient resolution to undertake, and had failed only
because of an error in calculation. This same person, with
almost incredible patience and perseverance, had contrived
to provide himself with tools requisite for so unparalleled
an attempt. Another had done all this; why, then, was it
impossible to Dantes? Faria had dug his way through fifty
feet, Dantes would dig a hundred; Faria, at the age of
fifty, had devoted three years to the task; he, who was but
half as old, would sacrifice six; Faria, a priest and
savant, had not shrunk from the idea of risking his life by
trying to swim a distance of three miles to one of the
islands -- Daume, Rattonneau, or Lemaire; should a hardy
sailer, an experienced diver, like himself, shrink from a
similar task; should he, who had so often for mere
amusement's sake plunged to the bottom of the sea to fetch
up the bright coral branch, hesitate to entertain the same
project? He could do it in an hour, and how many times had
he, for pure pastime, continued in the water for more than
twice as long! At once Dantes resolved to follow the brave
example of his energetic companion, and to remember that
what has once been done may be done again.
After continuing some time in profound meditation, the young
man suddenly exclaimed, "I have found what you were in
Faria started: "Have you, indeed?" cried he, raising his
head with quick anxiety; "pray, let me know what it is you
"The corridor through which you have bored your way from the
cell you occupy here, extends in the same direction as the
outer gallery, does it not?"
"And is not above fifteen feet from it?"
"Well, then, I will tell you what we must do. We must pierce
through the corridor by forming a side opening about the
middle, as it were the top part of a cross. This time you
will lay your plans more accurately; we shall get out into
the gallery you have described; kill the sentinel who guards
it, and make our escape. All we require to insure success is
courage, and that you possess, and strength, which I am not
deficient in; as for patience, you have abundantly proved
yours -- you shall now see me prove mine."
"One instant, my dear friend," replied the abbe; "it is
clear you do not understand the nature of the courage with
which I am endowed, and what use I intend making of my
strength. As for patience, I consider that I have abundantly
exercised that in beginning every morning the task of the
night before, and every night renewing the task of the day.
But then, young man (and I pray of you to give me your full
attention), then I thought I could not be doing anything
displeasing to the Almighty in trying to set an innocent
being at liberty -- one who had committed no offence, and
merited not condemnation."
"And have your notions changed?" asked Dantes with much
surprise; "do you think yourself more guilty in making the
attempt since you have encountered me?"
"No; neither do I wish to incur guilt. Hitherto I have
fancied myself merely waging war against circumstances, not
men. I have thought it no sin to bore through a wall, or
destroy a staircase; but I cannot so easily persuade myself
to pierce a heart or take away a life." A slight movement of
surprise escaped Dantes.
"Is it possible," said he, "that where your liberty is at
stake you can allow any such scruple to deter you from
"Tell me," replied Faria, "what has hindered you from
knocking down your jailer with a piece of wood torn from
your bedstead, dressing yourself in his clothes, and
endeavoring to escape?"
"Simply the fact that the idea never occurred to me,"
"Because," said the old man, "the natural repugnance to the
commission of such a crime prevented you from thinking of
it; and so it ever is because in simple and allowable things
our natural instincts keep us from deviating from the strict
line of duty. The tiger, whose nature teaches him to delight
in shedding blood, needs but the sense of smell to show him
when his prey is within his reach, and by following this
instinct he is enabled to measure the leap necessary to
permit him to spring on his victim; but man, on the
contrary, loathes the idea of blood -- it is not alone that
the laws of social life inspire him with a shrinking dread
of taking life; his natural construction and physiological
Dantes was confused and silent at this explanation of the
thoughts which had unconsciously been working in his mind,
or rather soul; for there are two distinct sorts of ideas,
those that proceed from the head and those that emanate from
"Since my imprisonment," said Faria, "I have thought over
all the most celebrated cases of escape on record. They have
rarely been successful. Those that have been crowned with
full success have been long meditated upon, and carefully
arranged; such, for instance, as the escape of the Duc de
Beaufort from the Chateau de Vincennes, that of the Abbe
Dubuquoi from For l'Eveque; of Latude from the Bastille.
Then there are those for which chance sometimes affords
opportunity, and those are the best of all. Let us,
therefore, wait patiently for some favorable moment, and
when it presents itself, profit by it."
"Ah," said Dantes, "you might well endure the tedious delay;
you were constantly employed in the task you set yourself,
and when weary with toil, you had your hopes to refresh and
"I assure you," replied the old man, "I did not turn to that
source for recreation or support."
"What did you do then?"
"I wrote or studied."
"Were you then permitted the use of pens, ink, and paper?"
"Oh, no," answered the abbe; "I had none but what I made for
"You made paper, pens and ink?"
Dantes gazed with admiration, but he had some difficulty in
believing. Faria saw this.
"When you pay me a visit in my cell, my young friend," said
he, "I will show you an entire work, the fruits of the
thoughts and reflections of my whole life; many of them
meditated over in the shades of the Coloseum at Rome, at the
foot of St. Mark's column at Venice, and on the borders of
the Arno at Florence, little imagining at the time that they
would be arranged in order within the walls of the Chateau
d'If. The work I speak of is called `A Treatise on the
Possibility of a General Monarchy in Italy,' and will make
one large quarto volume."
"And on what have you written all this?"
"On two of my shirts. I invented a preparation that makes
linen as smooth and as easy to write on as parchment."
"You are, then, a chemist?"
"Somewhat; I know Lavoisier, and was the intimate friend of
"But for such a work you must have needed books -- had you
"I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library at Rome;
but after reading them over many times, I found out that
with one hundred and fifty well-chosen books a man
possesses, if not a complete summary of all human knowledge,
at least all that a man need really know. I devoted three
years of my life to reading and studying these one hundred
and fifty volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that
since I have been in prison, a very slight effort of memory
has enabled me to recall their contents as readily as though
the pages were open before me. I could recite you the whole
of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Tacitus,
Strada, Jornandes, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza,
Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most important."
"You are, doubtless, acquainted with a variety of languages,
so as to have been able to read all these?"
"Yes, I speak five of the modern tongues -- that is to say,
German, French, Italian, English, and Spanish; by the aid of
ancient Greek I learned modern Greek -- I don't speak it so
well as I could wish, but I am still trying to improve
"Improve yourself!" repeated Dantes; "why, how can you
manage to do so?"
"Why, I made a vocabulary of the words I knew; turned,
returned, and arranged them, so as to enable me to express
my thoughts through their medium. I know nearly one thousand
words, which is all that is absolutely necessary, although I
believe there are nearly one hundred thousand in the
dictionaries. I cannot hope to be very fluent, but I
certainly should have no difficulty in explaining my wants
and wishes; and that would be quite as much as I should ever
Stronger grew the wonder of Dantes, who almost fancied he
had to do with one gifted with supernatural powers; still
hoping to find some imperfection which might bring him down
to a level with human beings, he added, "Then if you were
not furnished with pens, how did you manage to write the
work you speak of?"
"I made myself some excellent ones, which would be
universally preferred to all others if once known. You are
aware what huge whitings are served to us on maigre days.
Well, I selected the cartilages of the heads of these
fishes, and you can scarcely imagine the delight with which
I welcomed the arrival of each Wednesday, Friday, and
Saturday, as affording me the means of increasing my stock
of pens; for I will freely confess that my historical labors
have been my greatest solace and relief. While retracing the
past, I forget the present; and traversing at will the path
of history I cease to remember that I am myself a prisoner."
"But the ink," said Dantes; "of what did you make your ink?"
"There was formerly a fireplace in my dungeon," replied
Faria, "but it was closed up long ere I became an occupant
of this prison. Still, it must have been many years in use,
for it was thickly covered with a coating of soot; this soot
I dissolved in a portion of the wine brought to me every
Sunday, and I assure you a better ink cannot be desired. For
very important notes, for which closer attention is
required, I pricked one of my fingers, and wrote with my own
"And when," asked Dantes, "may I see all this?"
"Whenever you please," replied the abbe.
"Oh, then let it be directly!" exclaimed the young man.
"Follow me, then," said the abbe, as he re-entered the
subterranean passage, in which he soon disappeared, followed
The Abbe's Chamber.
After having passed with tolerable ease through the
subterranean passage, which, however, did not admit of their
holding themselves erect, the two friends reached the
further end of the corridor, into which the abbe's cell
opened; from that point the passage became much narrower,
and barely permitted one to creep through on hands and
knees. The floor of the abbe's cell was paved, and it had
been by raising one of the stones in the most obscure corner
that Faria had to been able to commence the laborious task
of which Dantes had witnessed the completion.
As he entered the chamber of his friend, Dantes cast around
one eager and searching glance in quest of the expected
marvels, but nothing more than common met his view.
"It is well," said the abbe; "we have some hours before us
-- it is now just a quarter past twelve o'clock."
Instinctively Dantes turned round to observe by what watch
or clock the abbe had been able so accurately to specify the
"Look at this ray of light which enters by my window," said
the abbe, "and then observe the lines traced on the wall.
Well, by means of these lines, which are in accordance with
the double motion of the earth, and the ellipse it describes
round the sun, I am enabled to ascertain the precise hour
with more minuteness than if I possessed a watch; for that
might be broken or deranged in its movements, while the sun
and earth never vary in their appointed paths."
This last explanation was wholly lost upon Dantes, who had
always imagined, from seeing the sun rise from behind the
mountains and set in the Mediterranean, that it moved, and
not the earth. A double movement of the globe he inhabited,
and of which he could feel nothing, appeared to him
perfectly impossible. Each word that fell from his
companion's lips seemed fraught with the mysteries of
science, as worthy of digging out as the gold and diamonds
in the mines of Guzerat and Golconda, which he could just
recollect having visited during a voyage made in his
"Come," said he to the abbe, "I am anxious to see your
The abbe smiled, and, proceeding to the disused fireplace,
raised, by the help of his chisel, a long stone, which had
doubtless been the hearth, beneath which was a cavity of
considerable depth, serving as a safe depository of the
articles mentioned to Dantes.
"What do you wish to see first?" asked the abbe.
"Oh, your great work on the monarchy of Italy!"
Faria then drew forth from his hiding-place three or four
rolls of linen, laid one over the other, like folds of
papyrus. These rolls consisted of slips of cloth about four
inches wide and eighteen long; they were all carefully
numbered and closely covered with writing, so legible that
Dantes could easily read it, as well as make out the sense
-- it being in Italian, a language he, as a Provencal,
"There," said he, "there is the work complete. I wrote the
word finis at the end of the sixty-eighth strip about a week
ago. I have torn up two of my shirts, and as many
handkerchiefs as I was master of, to complete the precious
pages. Should I ever get out of prison and find in all Italy
a printer courageous enough to publish what I have composed,
my literary reputation is forever secured."
"I see," answered Dantes. "Now let me behold the curious
pens with which you have written your work."
"Look!" said Faria, showing to the young man a slender stick
about six inches long, and much resembling the size of the
handle of a fine painting-brush, to the end of which was
tied, by a piece of thread, one of those cartilages of which
the abbe had before spoken to Dantes; it was pointed, and
divided at the nib like an ordinary pen. Dantes examined it
with intense admiration, then looked around to see the
instrument with which it had been shaped so correctly into
"Ah, yes," said Faria; "the penknife. That's my masterpiece.
I made it, as well as this larger knife, out of an old iron
candlestick." The penknife was sharp and keen as a razor; as
for the other knife, it would serve a double purpose, and
with it one could cut and thrust.
Dantes examined the various articles shown to him with the
same attention that he had bestowed on the curiosities and
strange tools exhibited in the shops at Marseilles as the
works of the savages in the South Seas from whence they had
been brought by the different trading vessels.
"As for the ink," said Faria, "I told you how I managed to
obtain that -- and I only just make it from time to time, as
I require it."
"One thing still puzzles me," observed Dantes, "and that is
how you managed to do all this by daylight?"
"I worked at night also," replied Faria.
"Night! -- why, for heaven's sake, are your eyes like cats',
that you can see to work in the dark?"
"Indeed they are not; but God his supplied man with the
intelligence that enables him to overcome the limitations of
natural conditions. I furnished myself with a light."
"You did? Pray tell me how."
"I separated the fat from the meat served to me, melted it,
and so made oil -- here is my lamp." So saying, the abbe
exhibited a sort of torch very similar to those used in
"Here are two flints and a piece of burnt linen."
"I pretended that I had a disorder of the skin, and asked
for a little sulphur, which was readily supplied." Dantes
laid the different things he had been looking at on the
table, and stood with his head drooping on his breast, as
though overwhelmed by the perseverance and strength of
"You have not seen all yet," continued Faria, "for I did not
think it wise to trust all my treasures in the same
hiding-place. Let us shut this one up." They put the stone
back in its place; the abbe sprinkled a little dust over it
to conceal the traces of its having been removed, rubbed his
foot well on it to make it assume the same appearance as the
other, and then, going towards his bed, he removed it from
the spot it stood in. Behind the head of the bed, and
concealed by a stone fitting in so closely as to defy all
suspicion, was a hollow space, and in this space a ladder of
cords between twenty-five and thirty feet in length. Dantes
closely and eagerly examined it; he found it firm, solid,
and compact enough to bear any weight.
"Who supplied you with the materials for making this
"I tore up several of my shirts, and ripped out the seams in
the sheets of my bed, during my three years' imprisonment at
Fenestrelle; and when I was removed to the Chateau d'If, I
managed to bring the ravellings with me, so that I have been
able to finish my work here."
"And was it not discovered that your sheets were unhemmed?"
"Oh, no, for when I had taken out the thread I required, I
hemmed the edges over again."
"With this needle," said the abbe, as, opening his ragged
vestments, he showed Dantes a long, sharp fish-bone, with a
small perforated eye for the thread, a small portion of
which still remained in it. "I once thought," continued
Faria, "of removing these iron bars, and letting myself down
from the window, which, as you see, is somewhat wider than
yours, although I should have enlarged it still more
preparatory to my flight; however, I discovered that I
should merely have dropped into a sort of inner court, and I
therefore renounced the project altogether as too full of
risk and danger. Nevertheless, I carefully preserved my
ladder against one of those unforeseen opportunities of
which I spoke just now, and which sudden chance frequently
brings about." While affecting to be deeply engaged in
examining the ladder, the mind of Dantes was, in fact,
busily occupied by the idea that a person so intelligent,
ingenious, and clear-sighted as the abbe might probably be
able to solve the dark mystery of his own misfortunes, where
he himself could see nothing.
"What are you thinking of?" asked the abbe smilingly,
imputing the deep abstraction in which his visitor was
plunged to the excess of his awe and wonder.
"I was reflecting, in the first place," replied Dantes,
"upon the enormous degree of intelligence and ability you
must have employed to reach the high perfection to which you
have attained. What would you not have accomplished if you
had been free?"
"Possibly nothing at all; the overflow of my brain would
probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a
thousand follies; misfortune is needed to bring to light the
treasures of the human intellect. Compression is needed to
explode gunpowder. Captivity has brought my mental faculties
to a focus; and you are well aware that from the collision
of clouds electricity is produced -- from electricity,
lightning, from lightning, illumination."
"No," replied Dantes. "I know nothing. Some of your words
are to me quite empty of meaning. You must be blessed indeed
to possess the knowledge you have."
The abbe smiled. "Well," said he, "but you had another
subject for your thoughts; did you not say so just now?"
"You have told me as yet but one of them -- let me hear the
"It was this, -- that while you had related to me all the
particulars of your past life, you were perfectly
unacquainted with mine."
"Your life, my young friend, has not been of sufficient
length to admit of your having passed through any very
"It has been long enough to inflict on me a great and
undeserved misfortune. I would fain fix the source of it on
man that I may no longer vent reproaches upon heaven."
"Then you profess ignorance of the crime with which you are
"I do, indeed; and this I swear by the two beings most dear
to me upon earth, -- my father and Mercedes."
"Come," said the abbe, closing his hiding-place, and pushing
the bed back to its original situation, "let me hear your
Dantes obeyed, and commenced what he called his history, but
which consisted only of the account of a voyage to India,
and two or three voyages to the Levant until he arrived at
the recital of his last cruise, with the death of Captain
Leclere, and the receipt of a packet to be delivered by
himself to the grand marshal; his interview with that
personage, and his receiving, in place of the packet
brought, a letter addressed to a Monsieur Noirtier -- his
arrival at Marseilles, and interview with his father -- his
affection for Mercedes, and their nuptual feast -- his
arrest and subsequent examination, his temporary detention
at the Palais de Justice, and his final imprisonment in the
Chateau d'If. From this point everything was a blank to
Dantes -- he knew nothing more, not even the length of time
he had been imprisoned. His recital finished, the abbe
reflected long and earnestly.
"There is," said he, at the end of his meditations, "a
clever maxim, which bears upon what I was saying to you some
little while ago, and that is, that unless wicked ideas take
root in a naturally depraved mind, human nature, in a right
and wholesome state, revolts at crime. Still, from an
artificial civilization have originated wants, vices, and
false tastes, which occasionally become so powerful as to
stifle within us all good feelings, and ultimately to lead
us into guilt and wickedness. From this view of things,
then, comes the axiom that if you visit to discover the
author of any bad action, seek first to discover the person
to whom the perpetration of that bad action could be in any
way advantageous. Now, to apply it in your case, -- to whom
could your disappearance have been serviceable?"
"To no one, by heaven! I was a very insignificant person."
"Do not speak thus, for your reply evinces neither logic nor
philosophy; everything is relative, my dear young friend,
from the king who stands in the way of his successor, to the
employee who keeps his rival out of a place. Now, in the
event of the king's death, his successor inherits a crown,
-- when the employee dies, the supernumerary steps into his
shoes, and receives his salary of twelve thousand livres.
Well, these twelve thousand livres are his civil list, and
are as essential to him as the twelve millions of a king.
Every one, from the highest to the lowest degree, has his
place on the social ladder, and is beset by stormy passions
and conflicting interests, as in Descartes' theory of
pressure and impulsion. But these forces increase as we go
higher, so that we have a spiral which in defiance of reason
rests upon the apex and not on the base. Now let us return
to your particular world. You say you were on the point of
being made captain of the Pharaon?"
"And about to become the husband of a young and lovely
"Now, could any one have had any interest in preventing the
accomplishment of these two things? But let us first settle
the question as to its being the interest of any one to
hinder you from being captain of the Pharaon. What say you?"
"I cannot believe such was the case. I was generally liked
on board, and had the sailors possessed the right of
selecting a captain themselves, I feel convinced their
choice would have fallen on me. There was only one person
among the crew who had any feeling of ill-will towards me. I
had quarelled with him some time previously, and had even
challenged him to fight me; but he refused."
"Now we are getting on. And what was this man's name?"
"What rank did he hold on board?"
"He was supercargo."
"And had you been captain, should you have retained him in
"Not if the choice had remained with me, for I had
frequently observed inaccuracies in his accounts."
"Good again! Now then, tell me, was any person present
during your last conversation with Captain Leclere?"
"No; we were quite alone."
"Could your conversation have been overheard by any one?"
"It might, for the cabin door was open -- and -- stay; now I
recollect, -- Danglars himself passed by just as Captain
Leclere was giving me the packet for the grand marshal."
"That's better," cried the abbe; "now we are on the right
scent. Did you take anybody with you when you put into the
port of Elba?"
"Somebody there received your packet, and gave you a letter
in place of it, I think?"
"Yes; the grand marshal did."
"And what did you do with that letter?"
"Put it into my portfolio."
"You had your portfolio with you, then? Now, how could a
sailor find room in his pocket for a portfolio large enough
to contain an official letter?"
"You are right; it was left on board."
"Then it was not till your return to the ship that you put
the letter in the portfolio?"
"And what did you do with this same letter while returning
from Porto-Ferrajo to the vessel?"
"I carried it in my hand."
"So that when you went on board the Pharaon, everybody could
see that you held a letter in your hand?"
"Danglars, as well as the rest?"
"Danglars, as well as others."
"Now, listen to me, and try to recall every circumstance
attending your arrest. Do you recollect the words in which
the information against you was formulated?"
"Oh yes, I read it over three times, and the words sank
deeply into my memory."
"Repeat it to me."
Dantes paused a moment, then said, "This is it, word for
word: `The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the
throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantes, mate on board
the Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having
touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been intrusted by
Murat with a packet for the usurper; again, by the usurper,
with a letter for the Bonapartist Club in Paris. This proof
of his guilt may be procured by his immediate arrest, as the
letter will be found either about his person, at his
father's residence, or in his cabin on board the Pharaon.'"
The abbe shrugged his shoulders. "The thing is clear as
day," said he; "and you must have had a very confiding
nature, as well as a good heart, not to have suspected the
origin of the whole affair."
"Do you really think so? Ah, that would indeed be infamous."
"How did Danglars usually write?"
"In a handsome, running hand."
"And how was the anonymous letter written?"
"Backhanded." Again the abbe smiled. "Disguised."
"It was very boldly written, if disguised."
"Stop a bit," said the abbe, taking up what he called his
pen, and, after dipping it into the ink, he wrote on a piece
of prepared linen, with his left hand, the first two or
three words of the accusation. Dantes drew back, and gazed
on the abbe with a sensation almost amounting to terror.
"How very astonishing!" cried he at length. "Why your
writing exactly resembles that of the accusation."
"Simply because that accusation had been written with the
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