The Two Prisoners.
A year after Louis XVIII.'s restoration, a visit was made by
the inspector-general of prisons. Dantes in his cell heard
the noise of preparation, -- sounds that at the depth where
he lay would have been inaudible to any but the ear of a
prisoner, who could hear the plash of the drop of water that
every hour fell from the roof of his dungeon. He guessed
something uncommon was passing among the living; but he had
so long ceased to have any intercourse with the world, that
he looked upon himself as dead.
The inspector visited, one after another, the cells and
dungeons of several of the prisoners, whose good behavior or
stupidity recommended them to the clemency of the
government. He inquired how they were fed, and if they had
any request to make. The universal response was, that the
fare was detestable, and that they wanted to be set free.
The inspector asked if they had anything else to ask for.
They shook their heads. What could they desire beyond their
liberty? The inspector turned smilingly to the governor.
"I do not know what reason government can assign for these
useless visits; when you see one prisoner, you see all, --
always the same thing, -- ill fed and innocent. Are there
"Yes; the dangerous and mad prisoners are in the dungeons."
"Let us visit them," said the inspector with an air of
fatigue. "We must play the farce to the end. Let us see the
"Let us first send for two soldiers," said the governor.
"The prisoners sometimes, through mere uneasiness of life,
and in order to be sentenced to death, commit acts of
useless violence, and you might fall a victim."
"Take all needful precautions," replied the inspector.
Two soldiers were accordingly sent for, and the inspector
descended a stairway, so foul, so humid, so dark, as to be
loathsome to sight, smell, and respiration.
"Oh," cried the inspector, "who can live here?"
"A most dangerous conspirator, a man we are ordered to keep
the most strict watch over, as he is daring and resolute."
"He is alone?"
"How long his he been there?"
"Nearly a year."
"Was he placed here when he first arrived?"
"No; not until he attempted to kill the turnkey, who took
his food to him."
"To kill the turnkey?"
"Yes, the very one who is lighting us. Is it not true,
Antoine?" asked the governor.
"True enough; he wanted to kill me!" returned the turnkey.
"He must be mad," said the inspector.
"He is worse than that, -- he is a devil!" returned the
"Shall I complain of him?" demanded the inspector.
"Oh, no; it is useless. Besides, he is almost mad now, and
in another year he will be quite so."
"So much the better for him, -- he will suffer less," said
the inspector. He was, as this remark shows, a man full of
philanthropy, and in every way fit for his office.
"You are right, sir," replied the governor; "and this remark
proves that you have deeply considered the subject. Now we
have in a dungeon about twenty feet distant, and to which
you descend by another stair, an abbe, formerly leader of a
party in Italy, who has been here since 1811, and in 1813 he
went mad, and the change is astonishing. He used to weep, he
now laughs; he grew thin, he now grows fat. You had better
see him, for his madness is amusing."
"I will see them both," returned the inspector; "I must
conscientiously perform my duty." This was the inspector's
first visit; he wished to display his authority.
"Let us visit this one first," added he.
"By all means," replied the governor, and he signed to the
turnkey to open the door. At the sound of the key turning in
the lock, and the creaking of the hinges, Dantes, who was
crouched in a corner of the dungeon, whence he could see the
ray of light that came through a narrow iron grating above,
raised his head. Seeing a stranger, escorted by two turnkeys
holding torches and accompanied by two soldiers, and to whom
the governor spoke bareheaded, Dantes, who guessed the
truth, and that the moment to address himself to the
superior authorities was come, sprang forward with clasped
The soldiers interposed their bayonets, for they thought
that he was about to attack the inspector, and the latter
recoiled two or three steps. Dantes saw that he was looked
upon as dangerous. Then, infusing all the humility he
possessed into his eyes and voice, he addressed the
inspector, and sought to inspire him with pity.
The inspector listened attentively; then, turning to the
governor, observed, "He will become religious -- he is
already more gentle; he is afraid, and retreated before the
bayonets -- madmen are not afraid of anything; I made some
curious observations on this at Charenton." Then, turning to
the prisoner, "What is it you want?" said he.
"I want to know what crime I have committed -- to be tried;
and if I am guilty, to be shot; if innocent, to be set at
"Are you well fed?" said the inspector.
"I believe so; I don't know; it's of no consequence. What
matters really, not only to me, but to officers of justice
and the king, is that an innocent man should languish in
prison, the victim of an infamous denunciation, to die here
cursing his executioners."
"You are very humble to-day," remarked the governor; "you
are not so always; the other day, for instance, when you
tried to kill the turnkey."
"It is true, sir, and I beg his pardon, for he his always
been very good to me, but I was mad."
"And you are not so any longer?"
"No; captivity his 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.