CHAPTER15 NUMBER 34 ANDNUMBER 27
Chapter 15 Number 34 And Number 27
antes 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 and
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
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
own manner, I die exhausted and broken-spirited, as I fall
asleep when I have paced three thousand times round my
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
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 silent.
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 there.
Full of hope, Edmond swallowed a few mouthfuls of bread
and water, and, thanks to the vigor of his constitution, found
CHAPTER15 NUMBER 34 ANDNUMBER 27
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 himself.
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
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
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
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
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
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
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
"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
"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 pieces!"
"You have done well to speak to me, and ask for my
assistance, for I was about to form another plan, and leave
CHAPTER15 NUMBER 34 ANDNUMBER 27
you; but your age reassures me. I will not forget you. Wait."
"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.
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Chapter 16 A Learned Italian
eizing 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
"You removed this stone very carelessly; but I suppose you
had no tools to aid you."
"Why," exclaimed Dantes, with astonishment, "do you
"I made myself some; and with the exception of a file, I have
all that are necessary, -- a chisel, pincers, and lever."
"Oh, how I should like to see these products of your industry
"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
"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
"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."
CHAPTER16 A LEARNEDITALIAN
"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
"Say not so; you can console and support me by the strength
of your own powerful mind. Pray let me know who you
The stranger smiled a melancholy smile. "Then listen," said
he. "l 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
"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 head.
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 not
"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 unfortunately failed?"
"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
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
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 search of!"
Faria started: "Have you, indeed?" cried he, raising his head
with quick anxiety; "pray, let me know what it is you have
"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
"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
"Is it possible," said he, "that where your liberty is at stake
you can allow any such scruple to deter you from obtaining
"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 formation" --
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 the heart.
"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 encourage you."
"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
"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
CHAPTER16 A LEARNEDITALIAN
work I speak of is called `A Treatise on the Possibility of a
General Monarchy in Italy,' and will make one large quarto
"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
"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, Shakspeare,
Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most
"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 myself."
"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
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 blood."
"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 by Dantes.
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