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Chapter 16
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. "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 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
not approve."

"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 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 discovered?"

"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?"

"It does."

"And is not above fifteen feet from it?"

"About that."

"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
obtaining it?"

"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,"
answered Dantes.

"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 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, Shaksepeare, 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
by Dantes.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
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