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Chapter 17
The Abbe's Chamber.

After having passed with tolerable ease through the
subterranean passage, which, however, did not admit of their
holding themselves erect, the two friends reached the
further end of the corridor, into which the abbe's cell
opened; from that point the passage became much narrower,
and barely permitted one to creep through on hands and
knees. The floor of the abbe's cell was paved, and it had
been by raising one of the stones in the most obscure corner
that Faria had to been able to commence the laborious task
of which Dantes had witnessed the completion.

As he entered the chamber of his friend, Dantes cast around
one eager and searching glance in quest of the expected
marvels, but nothing more than common met his view.

"It is well," said the abbe; "we have some hours before us
-- it is now just a quarter past twelve o'clock."
Instinctively Dantes turned round to observe by what watch
or clock the abbe had been able so accurately to specify the

"Look at this ray of light which enters by my window," said
the abbe, "and then observe the lines traced on the wall.
Well, by means of these lines, which are in accordance with
the double motion of the earth, and the ellipse it describes
round the sun, I am enabled to ascertain the precise hour
with more minuteness than if I possessed a watch; for that
might be broken or deranged in its movements, while the sun
and earth never vary in their appointed paths."

This last explanation was wholly lost upon Dantes, who had
always imagined, from seeing the sun rise from behind the
mountains and set in the Mediterranean, that it moved, and
not the earth. A double movement of the globe he inhabited,
and of which he could feel nothing, appeared to him
perfectly impossible. Each word that fell from his
companion's lips seemed fraught with the mysteries of
science, as worthy of digging out as the gold and diamonds
in the mines of Guzerat and Golconda, which he could just
recollect having visited during a voyage made in his
earliest youth.

"Come," said he to the abbe, "I am anxious to see your

The abbe smiled, and, proceeding to the disused fireplace,
raised, by the help of his chisel, a long stone, which had
doubtless been the hearth, beneath which was a cavity of
considerable depth, serving as a safe depository of the
articles mentioned to Dantes.

"What do you wish to see first?" asked the abbe.

"Oh, your great work on the monarchy of Italy!"

Faria then drew forth from his hiding-place three or four
rolls of linen, laid one over the other, like folds of
papyrus. These rolls consisted of slips of cloth about four
inches wide and eighteen long; they were all carefully
numbered and closely covered with writing, so legible that
Dantes could easily read it, as well as make out the sense
-- it being in Italian, a language he, as a Provencal,
perfectly understood.

"There," said he, "there is the work complete. I wrote the
word finis at the end of the sixty-eighth strip about a week
ago. I have torn up two of my shirts, and as many
handkerchiefs as I was master of, to complete the precious
pages. Should I ever get out of prison and find in all Italy
a printer courageous enough to publish what I have composed,
my literary reputation is forever secured."

"I see," answered Dantes. "Now let me behold the curious
pens with which you have written your work."

"Look!" said Faria, showing to the young man a slender stick
about six inches long, and much resembling the size of the
handle of a fine painting-brush, to the end of which was
tied, by a piece of thread, one of those cartilages of which
the abbe had before spoken to Dantes; it was pointed, and
divided at the nib like an ordinary pen. Dantes examined it
with intense admiration, then looked around to see the
instrument with which it had been shaped so correctly into

"Ah, yes," said Faria; "the penknife. That's my masterpiece.
I made it, as well as this larger knife, out of an old iron
candlestick." The penknife was sharp and keen as a razor; as
for the other knife, it would serve a double purpose, and
with it one could cut and thrust.

Dantes examined the various articles shown to him with the
same attention that he had bestowed on the curiosities and
strange tools exhibited in the shops at Marseilles as the
works of the savages in the South Seas from whence they had
been brought by the different trading vessels.

"As for the ink," said Faria, "I told you how I managed to
obtain that -- and I only just make it from time to time, as
I require it."

"One thing still puzzles me," observed Dantes, "and that is
how you managed to do all this by daylight?"

"I worked at night also," replied Faria.

"Night! -- why, for heaven's sake, are your eyes like cats',
that you can see to work in the dark?"

"Indeed they are not; but God his supplied man with the
intelligence that enables him to overcome the limitations of
natural conditions. I furnished myself with a light."

"You did? Pray tell me how."

"l separated the fat from the meat served to me, melted it,
and so made oil -- here is my lamp." So saying, the abbe
exhibited a sort of torch very similar to those used in
public illuminations.

"But light?"

"Here are two flints and a piece of burnt linen."

"And matches?"

"I pretended that I had a disorder of the skin, and asked
for a little sulphur, which was readily supplied." Dantes
laid the different things he had been looking at on the
table, and stood with his head drooping on his breast, as
though overwhelmed by the perseverance and strength of
Faria's mind.

"You have not seen all yet," continued Faria, "for I did not
think it wise to trust all my treasures in the same
hiding-place. Let us shut this one up." They put the stone
back in its place; the abbe sprinkled a little dust over it
to conceal the traces of its having been removed, rubbed his
foot well on it to make it assume the same appearance as the
other, and then, going towards his bed, he removed it from
the spot it stood in. Behind the head of the bed, and
concealed by a stone fitting in so closely as to defy all
suspicion, was a hollow space, and in this space a ladder of
cords between twenty-five and thirty feet in length. Dantes
closely and eagerly examined it; he found it firm, solid,
and compact enough to bear any weight.

"Who supplied you with the materials for making this
wonderful work?"

"I tore up several of my shirts, and ripped out the seams in
the sheets of my bed, during my three years' imprisonment at
Fenestrelle; and when I was removed to the Chateau d'If, I
managed to bring the ravellings with me, so that I have been
able to finish my work here."

"And was it not discovered that your sheets were unhemmed?"

"Oh, no, for when I had taken out the thread I required, I
hemmed the edges over again."

"With what?"

"With this needle," said the abbe, as, opening his ragged
vestments, he showed Dantes a long, sharp fish-bone, with a
small perforated eye for the thread, a small portion of
which still remained in it. "I once thought," continued
Faria, "of removing these iron bars, and letting myself down
from the window, which, as you see, is somewhat wider than
yours, although I should have enlarged it still more
preparatory to my flight; however, I discovered that I
should merely have dropped into a sort of inner court, and I
therefore renounced the project altogether as too full of
risk and danger. Nevertheless, I carefully preserved my
ladder against one of those unforeseen opportunities of
which I spoke just now, and which sudden chance frequently
brings about." While affecting to be deeply engaged in
examining the ladder, the mind of Dantes was, in fact,
busily occupied by the idea that a person so intelligent,
ingenious, and clear-sighted as the abbe might probably be
able to solve the dark mystery of his own misfortunes, where
he himself could see nothing.

"What are you thinking of?" asked the abbe smilingly,
imputing the deep abstraction in which his visitor was
plunged to the excess of his awe and wonder.

"I was reflecting, in the first place," replied Dantes,
"upon the enormous degree of intelligence and ability you
must have employed to reach the high perfection to which you
have attained. What would you not have accomplished if you
had been free?"

"Possibly nothing at all; the overflow of my brain would
probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a
thousand follies; misfortune is needed to bring to light the
treasures of the human intellect. Compression is needed to
explode gunpowder. Captivity has brought my mental faculties
to a focus; and you are well aware that from the collision
of clouds electricity is produced -- from electricity,
lightning, from lightning, illumination."

"No," replied Dantes. "I know nothing. Some of your words
are to me quite empty of meaning. You must be blessed indeed
to possess the knowledge you have."

The abbe smiled. "Well," said he, "but you had another
subject for your thoughts; did you not say so just now?"

"I did!"

"You have told me as yet but one of them -- let me hear the

"It was this, -- that while you had related to me all the
particulars of your past life, you were perfectly
unacquainted with mine."

"Your life, my young friend, has not been of sufficient
length to admit of your having passed through any very
important events."

"It has been long enough to inflict on me a great and
undeserved misfortune. I would fain fix the source of it on
man that I may no longer vent reproaches upon heaven."

"Then you profess ignorance of the crime with which you are

"I do, indeed; and this I swear by the two beings most dear
to me upon earth, -- my father and Mercedes."

"Come," said the abbe, closing his hiding-place, and pushing
the bed back to its original situation, "let me hear your

Dantes obeyed, and commenced what he called his history, but
which consisted only of the account of a voyage to India,
and two or three voyages to the Levant until he arrived at
the recital of his last cruise, with the death of Captain
Leclere, and the receipt of a packet to be delivered by
himself to the grand marshal; his interview with that
personage, and his receiving, in place of the packet
brought, a letter addressed to a Monsieur Noirtier -- his
arrival at Marseilles, and interview with his father -- his
affection for Mercedes, and their nuptual feast -- his
arrest and subsequent examination, his temporary detention
at the Palais de Justice, and his final imprisonment in the
Chateau d'If. From this point everything was a blank to
Dantes -- he knew nothing more, not even the length of time
he had been imprisoned. His recital finished, the abbe
reflected long and earnestly.

"There is," said he, at the end of his meditations, "a
clever maxim, which bears upon what I was saying to you some
little while ago, and that is, that unless wicked ideas take
root in a naturally depraved mind, human nature, in a right
and wholesome state, revolts at crime. Still, from an
artificial civilization have originated wants, vices, and
false tastes, which occasionally become so powerful as to
stifle within us all good feelings, and ultimately to lead
us into guilt and wickedness. From this view of things,
then, comes the axiom that if you visit to discover the
author of any bad action, seek first to discover the person
to whom the perpetration of that bad action could be in any
way advantageous. Now, to apply it in your case, -- to whom
could your disappearance have been serviceable?"

"To no one, by heaven! I was a very insignificant person."

"Do not speak thus, for your reply evinces neither logic nor
philosophy; everything is relative, my dear young friend,
from the king who stands in the way of his successor, to the
employee who keeps his rival out of a place. Now, in the
event of the king's death, his successor inherits a crown,
-- when the employee dies, the supernumerary steps into his
shoes, and receives his salary of twelve thousand livres.
Well, these twelve thousand livres are his civil list, and
are as essential to him as the twelve millions of a king.
Every one, from the highest to the lowest degree, has his
place on the social ladder, and is beset by stormy passions
and conflicting interests, as in Descartes' theory of
pressure and impulsion. But these forces increase as we go
higher, so that we have a spiral which in defiance of reason
rests upon the apex and not on the base. Now let us return
to your particular world. You say you were on the point of
being made captain of the Pharaon?"


"And about to become the husband of a young and lovely


"Now, could any one have had any interest in preventing the
accomplishment of these two things? But let us first settle
the question as to its being the interest of any one to
hinder you from being captain of the Pharaon. What say you?"

"I cannot believe such was the case. I was generally liked
on board, and had the sailors possessed the right of
selecting a captain themselves, I feel convinced their
choice would have fallen on me. There was only one person
among the crew who had any feeling of ill-will towards me. I
had quarelled with him some time previously, and had even
challenged him to fight me; but he refused."

"Now we are getting on. And what was this man's name?"


"What rank did he hold on board?"

"He was supercargo."

"And had you been captain, should you have retained him in
his employment?"

"Not if the choice had remained with me, for I had
frequently observed inaccuracies in his accounts."

"Good again! Now then, tell me, was any person present
during your last conversation with Captain Leclere?"

"No; we were quite alone."

"Could your conversation have been overheard by any one?"

"It might, for the cabin door was open -- and -- stay; now I
recollect, -- Danglars himself passed by just as Captain
Leclere was giving me the packet for the grand marshal."

"That's better," cried the abbe; "now we are on the right
scent. Did you take anybody with you when you put into the
port of Elba?"


"Somebody there received your packet, and gave you a letter
in place of it, I think?"

"Yes; the grand marshal did."

"And what did you do with that letter?"

"Put it into my portfolio."

"You had your portfolio with you, then? Now, how could a
sailor find room in his pocket for a portfolio large enough
to contain an official letter?"

"You are right; it was left on board."

"Then it was not till your return to the ship that you put
the letter in the portfolio?"


"And what did you do with this same letter while returning
from Porto-Ferrajo to the vessel?"

"I carried it in my hand."

"So that when you went on board the Pharaon, everybody could
see that you held a letter in your hand?"


"Danglars, as well as the rest?"

"Danglars, as well as others."

"Now, listen to me, and try to recall every circumstance
attending your arrest. Do you recollect the words in which
the information against you was formulated?"

"Oh yes, I read it over three times, and the words sank
deeply into my memory."

"Repeat it to me."

Dantes paused a moment, then said, "This is it, word for
word: `The king's attorney is informed by a friend to the
throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantes, mate on board
the Pharaon, this day arrived from Smyrna, after having
touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been intrusted by
Murat with a packet for the usurper; again, by the usurper,
with a letter for the Bonapartist Club in Paris. This proof
of his guilt may be procured by his immediate arrest, as the
letter will be found either about his person, at his
father's residence, or in his cabin on board the Pharaon.'"
The abbe shrugged his shoulders. "The thing is clear as
day," said he; "and you must have had a very confiding
nature, as well as a good heart, not to have suspected the
origin of the whole affair."

"Do you really think so? Ah, that would indeed be infamous."

"How did Danglars usually write?"

"In a handsome, running hand."

"And how was the anonymous letter written?"

"Backhanded." Again the abbe smiled. "Disguised."

"It was very boldly written, if disguised."

"Stop a bit," said the abbe, taking up what he called his
pen, and, after dipping it into the ink, he wrote on a piece
of prepared linen, with his left hand, the first two or
three words of the accusation. Dantes drew back, and gazed
on the abbe with a sensation almost amounting to terror.

"How very astonishing!" cried he at length. "Why your
writing exactly resembles that of the accusation."

"Simply because that accusation had been written with the
left hand; and I have noticed that" --


"That while the writing of different persons done with the
right hand varies, that performed with the left hand is
invariably uniform."

"You have evidently seen and observed everything."

"Let us proceed."

"Oh, yes, yes!"

"Now as regards the second question."

"I am listening."

"Was there any person whose interest it was to prevent your
marriage with Mercedes?"

"Yes; a young man who loved her."

"And his name was" --


"That is a Spanish name, I think?"

"He was a Catalan."

"You imagine him capable of writing the letter?"

"Oh, no; he would more likely have got rid of me by sticking
a knife into me."

"That is in strict accordance with the Spanish character; an
assassination they will unhesitatingly commit, but an act of
cowardice, never."

"Besides," said Dantes, "the various circumstances mentioned
in the letter were wholly unknown to him."

"You had never spoken of them yourself to any one?"

"To no one."

"Not even to your mistress?"

"No, not even to my betrothed."

"Then it is Danglars."

"I feel quite sure of it now."

"Wait a little. Pray, was Danglars acquainted with Fernand?"

"No -- yes, he was. Now I recollect" --


"To have seen them both sitting at table together under an
arbor at Pere Pamphile's the evening before the day fixed
for my wedding. They were in earnest conversation. Danglars
was joking in a friendly way, but Fernand looked pale and

"Were they alone?"

"There was a third person with them whom I knew perfectly
well, and who had, in all probability made their
acquaintance; he was a tailor named Caderousse, but he was
very drunk. Stay! -- stay! -- How strange that it should not
have occurred to me before! Now I remember quite well, that
on the table round which they were sitting were pens, ink,
and paper. Oh, the heartless, treacherous scoundrels!"
exclaimed Dantes, pressing his hand to his throbbing brows.

"Is there anything else I can assist you in discovering,
besides the villany of your friends?" inquired the abbe with
a laugh.

"Yes, yes," replied Dantes eagerly; "I would beg of you, who
see so completely to the depths of things, and to whom the
greatest mystery seems but an easy riddle, to explain to me
how it was that I underwent no second examination, was never
brought to trial, and, above all, was condemned without ever
having had sentence passed on me?"

"That is altogether a different and more serious matter,"
responded the abbe. "The ways of justice are frequently too
dark and mysterious to be easily penetrated. All we have
hitherto done in the matter has been child's play. If you
wish me to enter upon the more difficult part of the
business, you must assist me by the most minute information
on every point."

"Pray ask me whatever questions you please; for, in good
truth, you see more clearly into my life than I do myself."

"In the first place, then, who examined you, -- the king's
attorney, his deputy, or a magistrate?"

"The deputy."

"Was he young or old?"

"About six or seven and twenty years of age, I should say."

"So," answered the abbe. "Old enough to be ambitions, but
too young to be corrupt. And how did he treat you?"

"With more of mildness than severity."

"Did you tell him your whole story?"

"I did."

"And did his conduct change at all in the course of your

"He did appear much disturbed when he read the letter that
had brought me into this scrape. He seemed quite overcome by
my misfortune."

"By your misfortune?"


"Then you feel quite sure that it was your misfortune he

"He gave me one great proof of his sympathy, at any rate."

"And that?"

"He burnt the sole evidence that could at all have
criminated me."

"What? the accusation?"

"No; the letter."

"Are you sure?"

"I saw it done."

"That alters the case. This man might, after all, be a
greater scoundrel than you have thought possible."

"Upon my word," said Dantes, "you make me shudder. Is the
world filled with tigers and crocodiles?"

"Yes; and remember that two-legged tigers and crocodiles are
more dangerous than the others."

"Never mind; let us go on."

"With all my heart! You tell me he burned the letter?"

"He did; saying at the same time, `You see I thus destroy
the only proof existing against you.'"

"This action is somewhat too sublime to be natural."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it. To whom was this letter addressed?"

"To M. Noirtier, No. 13 Coq-Heron, Paris."

"Now can you conceive of any interest that your heroic
deputy could possibly have had in the destruction of that

"Why, it is not altogether impossible he might have had, for
he made me promise several times never to speak of that
letter to any one, assuring me he so advised me for my own
interest; and, more than this, he insisted on my taking a
solemn oath never to utter the name mentioned in the

"Noirtier!" repeated the abbe; "Noirtier! -- I knew a person
of that name at the court of the Queen of Etruria, -- a
Noirtier, who had been a Girondin during the Revolution!
What was your deputy called?"

"De Villefort!" The abbe burst into a fit of laughter, while
Dantes gazed on him in utter astonishment.

"What ails you?" said he at length.

"Do you see that ray of sunlight?"

"I do."

"Well, the whole thing is more clear to me than that sunbeam
is to you. Poor fellow! poor young man! And you tell me this
magistrate expressed great sympathy and commiseration for

"He did."

"And the worthy man destroyed your compromising letter?"


"And then made you swear never to utter the name of


"Why, you poor short-sighted simpleton, can you not guess
who this Noirtier was, whose very name he was so careful to
keep concealed? Noirtier was his father."

Had a thunderbolt fallen at the feet of Dantes, or hell
opened its yawning gulf before him, he could not have been
more completely transfixed with horror than he was at the
sound of these unexpected words. Starting up, he clasped his
hands around his head as though to prevent his very brain
from bursting, and exclaimed, "His father! his father!"

"Yes, his father," replied the abbe; "his right name was
Noirtier de Villefort." At this instant a bright light shot
through the mind of Dantes, and cleared up all that had been
dark and obscure before. The change that had come over
Villefort during the examination, the destruction of the
letter, the exacted promise, the almost supplicating tones
of the magistrate, who seemed rather to implore mercy than
to pronounce punishment, -- all returned with a stunning
force to his memory. He cried out, and staggered against the
wall like a drunken man, then he hurried to the opening that
led from the abbe's cell to his own, and said, "I must be
alone, to think over all this."

When he regained his dungeon, he threw himself on his bed,
where the turnkey found him in the evening visit, sitting
with fixed gaze and contracted features, dumb and motionless
as a statue. During these hours of profound meditation,
which to him had seemed only minutes, he had formed a
fearful resolution, and bound himself to its fulfilment by a
solemn oath.

Dantes was at length roused from his revery by the voice of
Faria, who, having also been visited by his jailer, had come
to invite his fellow-sufferer to share his supper. The
reputation of being out of his mind, though harmlessly and
even amusingly so, had procured for the abbe unusual
privileges. He was supplied with bread of a finer, whiter
quality than the usual prison fare, and even regaled each
Sunday with a small quantity of wine. Now this was a Sunday,
and the abbe had come to ask his young companion to share
the luxuries with him. Dantes followed; his features were no
longer contracted, and now wore their usual expression, but
there was that in his whole appearance that bespoke one who
had come to a fixed and desperate resolve. Faria bent on him
his penetrating eye: "I regret now," said he, "having helped
you in your late inquiries, or having given you the
information I did."

"Why so?" inquired Dantes.

"Because it has instilled a new passion in your heart --
that of vengeance."

Dantes smiled. "Let us talk of something else," said he.

Again the abbe looked at him, then mournfully shook his
head; but in accordance with Dantes' request, he began to
speak of other matters. The elder prisoner was one of those
persons whose conversation, like that of all who have
experienced many trials, contained many useful and important
hints as well as sound information; but it was never
egotistical, for the unfortunate man never alluded to his
own sorrows. Dantes listened with admiring attention to all
he said; some of his remarks corresponded with what he
already knew, or applied to the sort of knowledge his
nautical life had enabled him to acquire. A part of the good
abbe's words, however, were wholly incomprehensible to him;
but, like the aurora which guides the navigator in northern
latitudes, opened new vistas to the inquiring mind of the
listener, and gave fantastic glimpses of new horizons,
enabling him justly to estimate the delight an intellectual
mind would have in following one so richly gifted as Faria
along the heights of truth, where he was so much at home.

"You must teach me a small part of what you know," said
Dantes, "if only to prevent your growing weary of me. I can
well believe that so learned a person as yourself would
prefer absolute solitude to being tormented with the company
of one as ignorant and uninformed as myself. If you will
only agree to my request, I promise you never to mention
another word about escaping." The abbe smiled. "Alas, my
boy," said he, "human knowledge is confined within very
narrow limits; and when I have taught you mathematics,
physics, history, and the three or four modern languages
with which I am acquainted, you will know as much as I do
myself. Now, it will scarcely require two years for me to
communicate to you the stock of learning I possess."

"Two years!" exclaimed Dantes; "do you really believe I can
acquire all these things in so short a time?"

"Not their application, certainly, but their principles you
may; to learn is not to know; there are the learners and the
learned. Memory makes the one, philosophy the other."

"But cannot one learn philosophy?"

"Philosophy cannot be taught; it is the application of the
sciences to truth; it is like the golden cloud in which the
Messiah went up into heaven."

"Well, then," said Dantes, "What shall you teach me first? I
am in a hurry to begin. I want to learn."

"Everything," said the abbe. And that very evening the
prisoners sketched a plan of education, to be entered upon
the following day. Dantes possessed a prodigious memory,
combined with an astonishing quickness and readiness of
conception; the mathematical turn of his mind rendered him
apt at all kinds of calculation, while his naturally
poetical feelings threw a light and pleasing veil over the
dry reality of arithmetical computation, or the rigid
severity of geometry. He already knew Italian, and had also
picked up a little of the Romaic dialect during voyages to
the East; and by the aid of these two languages he easily
comprehended the construction of all the others, so that at
the end of six mouths he began to speak Spanish, English,
and German. In strict accordance with the promise made to
the abbe, Dantes spoke no more of escape. Perhaps the
delight his studies afforded him left no room for such
thoughts; perhaps the recollection that he had pledged his
word (on which his sense of honor was keen) kept him from
referring in any way to the possibilities of flight. Days,
even months, passed by unheeded in one rapid and instructive
course. At the end of a year Dantes was a new man. Dantes
observed, however, that Faria, in spite of the relief his
society afforded, daily grew sadder; one thought seemed
incessantly to harass and distract his mind. Sometimes he
would fall into long reveries, sigh heavily and
involuntarily, then suddenly rise, and, with folded arms,
begin pacing the confined space of his dungeon. One day he
stopped all at once, and exclaimed, "Ah, if there were no

"There shall not be one a minute longer than you please,"
said Dantes, who had followed the working of his thoughts as
accurately as though his brain were enclosed in crystal so
clear as to display its minutest operations.

"I have already told you," answered the abbe, "that I loathe
the idea of shedding blood."

"And yet the murder, if you choose to call it so, would be
simply a measure of self-preservation."

"No matter! I could never agree to it."

"Still, you have thought of it?"

"Incessantly, alas!" cried the abbe.

"And you have discovered a means of regaining our freedom,
have you not?" asked Dantes eagerly.

"I have; if it were only possible to place a deaf and blind
sentinel in the gallery beyond us."

"He shall be both blind and deaf," replied the young man,
with an air of determination that made his companion

"No, no," cried the abbe; "impossible!" Dantes endeavored to
renew the subject; the abbe shook his head in token of
disapproval, and refused to make any further response. Three
months passed away.

"Are you strong?" the abbe asked one day of Dantes. The
young man, in reply, took up the chisel, bent it into the
form of a horseshoe, and then as readily straightened it.

"And will you engage not to do any harm to the sentry,
except as a last resort?"

"I promise on my honor."

"Then," said the abbe, "we may hope to put our design into

"And how long shall we be in accomplishing the necessary

"At least a year."

"And shall we begin at once?"

"At once."

"We have lost a year to no purpose!" cried Dantes.

"Do you consider the last twelve months to have been
wasted?" asked the abbe.

"Forgive me!" cried Edmond, blushing deeply.

"Tut, tut!" answered the abbe, "man is but man after all,
and you are about the best specimen of the genus I have ever
known. Come, let me show you my plan." The abbe then showed
Dantes the sketch he had made for their escape. It consisted
of a plan of his own cell and that of Dantes, with the
passage which united them. In this passage he proposed to
drive a level as they do in mines; this level would bring
the two prisoners immediately beneath the gallery where the
sentry kept watch; once there, a large excavation would be
made, and one of the flag-stones with which the gallery was
paved be so completely loosened that at the desired moment
it would give way beneath the feet of the soldier, who,
stunned by his fall, would be immediately bound and gagged
by Dantes before he had power to offer any resistance. The
prisoners were then to make their way through one of the
gallery windows, and to let themselves down from the outer
walls by means of the abbe's ladder of cords. Dantes' eyes
sparkled with joy, and he rubbed his hands with delight at
the idea of a plan so simple, yet apparently so certain to

That very day the miners began their labors, with a vigor
and alacrity proportionate to their long rest from fatigue
and their hopes of ultimate success. Nothing interrupted the
progress of the work except the necessity that each was
under of returning to his cell in anticipation of the
turnkey's visits. They had learned to distinguish the almost
imperceptible sound of his footsteps as he descended towards
their dungeons, and happily, never failed of being prepared
for his coming. The fresh earth excavated during their
present work, and which would have entirely blocked up the
old passage, was thrown, by degrees and with the utmost
precaution, out of the window in either Faria's or Dantes'
cell, the rubbish being first pulverized so finely that the
night wind carried it far away without permitting the
smallest trace to remain. More than a year had been consumed
in this undertaking, the only tools for which had been a
chisel, a knife, and a wooden lever; Faria still continuing
to instruct Dantes by conversing with him, sometimes in one
language, sometimes in another; at others, relating to him
the history of nations and great men who from time to time
have risen to fame and trodden the path of glory.

The abbe was a man of the world, and had, moreover, mixed in
the first society of the day; he wore an air of melancholy
dignity which Dantes, thanks to the imitative powers
bestowed on him by nature, easily acquired, as well as that
outward polish and politeness he had before been wanting in,
and which is seldom possessed except by those who have been
placed in constant intercourse with persons of high birth
and breeding. At the end of fifteen months the level was
finished, and the excavation completed beneath the gallery,
and the two workmen could distinctly hear the measured tread
of the sentinel as he paced to and fro over their heads.

Compelled, as they were, to await a night sufficiently dark
to favor their flight, they were obliged to defer their
final attempt till that auspicious moment should arrive;
their greatest dread now was lest the stone through which
the sentry was doomed to fall should give way before its
right time, and this they had in some measure provided
against by propping it up with a small beam which they had
discovered in the walls through which they had worked their
way. Dantes was occupied in arranging this piece of wood
when he heard Faria, who had remained in Edmond's cell for
the purpose of cutting a peg to secure their rope-ladder,
call to him in a tone indicative of great suffering. Dantes
hastened to his dungeon, where he found him standing in the
middle of the room, pale as death, his forehead streaming
with perspiration, and his hands clinched tightly together.

"Gracious heavens!" exclaimed Dantes, "what is the matter?
what has happened?"

"Quick! quick!" returned the abbe, "listen to what I have to
say." Dantes looked in fear and wonder at the livid
countenance of Faria, whose eyes, already dull and sunken,
were surrounded by purple circles, while his lips were white
as those of a corpse, and his very hair seemed to stand on

"Tell me, I beseech you, what ails you?" cried Dantes,
letting his chisel fall to the floor.

"Alas," faltered out the abbe, "all is over with me. I am
seized with a terrible, perhaps mortal illness; I can feel
that the paroxysm is fast approaching. I had a similar
attack the year previous to my imprisonment. This malady
admits but of one remedy; I will tell you what that is. Go
into my cell as quickly as you can; draw out one of the feet
that support the bed; you will find it has been hollowed out
for the purpose of containing a small phial you will see
there half-filled with a red-looking fluid. Bring it to me
-- or rather -- no, no! -- I may be found here, therefore
help me back to my room while I have the strength to drag
myself along. Who knows what may happen, or how long the
attack may last?"

In spite of the magnitude of the misfortune which thus
suddenly frustrated his hopes, Dantes did not lose his
presence of mind, but descended into the passage, dragging
his unfortunate companion with him; then, half-carrying,
half-supporting him, he managed to reach the abbe's chamber,
when he immediately laid the sufferer on his bed.

"Thanks," said the poor abbe, shivering as though his veins
were filled with ice. "I am about to be seized with a fit of
catalepsy; when it comes to its height I shall probably lie
still and motionless as though dead, uttering neither sigh
nor groan. On the other hand, the symptoms may be much more
violent, and cause me to fall into fearful convulsions, foam
at the mouth, and cry out loudly. Take care my cries are not
heard, for if they are it is more than probable I should be
removed to another part of the prison, and we be separated
forever. When I become quite motionless, cold, and rigid as
a corpse, then, and not before, -- be careful about this, --
force open my teeth with the knife, pour from eight to ten
drops of the liquor contained in the phial down my throat,
and I may perhaps revive."

"Perhaps!" exclaimed Dantes in grief-stricken tones.

"Help! help!" cried the abbe, "I -- I -- die -- I" --

So sudden and violent was the fit that the unfortunate
prisoner was unable to complete the sentence; a violent
convulsion shook his whole frame, his eyes started from
their sockets, his mouth was drawn on one side, his cheeks
became purple, he struggled, foamed, dashed himself about,
and uttered the most dreadful cries, which, however, Dantes
prevented from being heard by covering his head with the
blanket. The fit lasted two hours; then, more helpless than
an infant, and colder and paler than marble, more crushed
and broken than a reed trampled under foot, he fell back,
doubled up in one last convulsion, and became as rigid as a

Edmond waited till life seemed extinct in the body of his
friend, then, taking up the knife, he with difficulty forced
open the closely fixed jaws, carefully administered the
appointed number of drops, and anxiously awaited the result.
An hour passed away and the old man gave no sign of
returning animation. Dantes began to fear he had delayed too
long ere he administered the remedy, and, thrusting his
hands into his hair, continued gazing on the lifeless
features of his friend. At length a slight color tinged the
livid cheeks, consciousness returned to the dull, open
eyeballs, a faint sigh issued from the lips, and the
sufferer made a feeble effort to move.

"He is saved! he is saved!" cried Dantes in a paroxysm of

The sick man was not yet able to speak, but he pointed with
evident anxiety towards the door. Dantes listened, and
plainly distinguished the approaching steps of the jailer.
It was therefore near seven o'clock; but Edmond's anxiety
had put all thoughts of time out of his head. The young man
sprang to the entrance, darted through it, carefully drawing
the stone over the opening, and hurried to his cell. He had
scarcely done so before the door opened, and the jailer saw
the prisoner seated as usual on the side of his bed. Almost
before the key had turned in the lock, and before the
departing steps of the jailer had died away in the long
corridor he had to traverse, Dantes, whose restless anxiety
concerning his friend left him no desire to touch the food
brought him, hurried back to the abbe's chamber, and raising
the stone by pressing his head against it, was soon beside
the sick man's couch. Faria had now fully regained his
consciousness, but he still lay helpless and exhausted.

"I did not expect to see you again," said he feebly, to

"And why not?" asked the young man. "Did you fancy yourself

"No, I had no such idea; but, knowing that all was ready for
flight, I thought you might have made your escape." The deep
glow of indignation suffused the cheeks of Dantes.

"Without you? Did you really think me capable of that?"

"At least," said the abbe, "I now see how wrong such an
opinion would have been. Alas, alas! I am fearfully
exhausted and debilitated by this attack."

"Be of good cheer," replied Dantes; "your strength will
return." And as he spoke he seated himself near the bed
beside Faria, and took his hands. The abbe shook his head.

"The last attack I had," said he, "lasted but half an hour,
and after it I was hungry, and got up without help; now I
can move neither my right arm nor leg, and my head seems
uncomfortable, which shows that there has been a suffusion
of blood on the brain. The third attack will either carry me
off, or leave me paralyzed for life."

"No, no," cried Dantes; "you are mistaken -- you will not
die! And your third attack (if, indeed, you should have
another) will find you at liberty. We shall save you another
time, as we have done this, only with a better chance of
success, because we shall be able to command every requisite

"My good Edmond," answered the abbe, "be not deceived. The
attack which has just passed away, condemns me forever to
the walls of a prison. None can fly from a dungeon who
cannot walk."

"Well, we will wait, -- a week, a month, two months, if need
be, -- and meanwhile your strength will return. Everything
is in readiness for our flight, and we can select any time
we choose. As soon as you feel able to swim we will go."

"I shall never swim again," replied Faria. "This arm is
paralyzed; not for a time, but forever. Lift it, and judge
if I am mistaken." The young man raised the arm, which fell
back by its own weight, perfectly inanimate and helpless. A
sigh escaped him.

"You are convinced now, Edmond, are you not?" asked the
abbe. "Depend upon it, I know what I say. Since the first
attack I experienced of this malady, I have continually
reflected on it. Indeed, I expected it, for it is a family
inheritance; both my father and grandfather died of it in a
third attack. The physician who prepared for me the remedy I
have twice successfully taken, was no other than the
celebrated Cabanis, and he predicted a similar end for me."

"The physician may be mistaken!" exclaimed Dantes. "And as
for your poor arm, what difference will that make? I can
take you on my shoulders, and swim for both of us."

"My son," said the abbe, "you, who are a sailor and a
swimmer, must know as well as I do that a man so loaded
would sink before he had done fifty strokes. Cease, then, to
allow yourself to be duped by vain hopes, that even your own
excellent heart refuses to believe in. Here I shall remain
till the hour of my deliverance arrives, and that, in all
human probability, will be the hour of my death. As for you,
who are young and active, delay not on my account, but fly
-- go-I give you back your promise."

"It is well," said Dantes. "Then I shall also remain." Then,
rising and extending his hand with an air of solemnity over
the old man's head, he slowly added, "By the blood of Christ
I swear never to leave you while you live."

Faria gazed fondly on his noble-minded, single-hearted,
high-principled young friend, and read in his countenance
ample confirmation of the sincerity of his devotion and the
loyalty of his purpose.

"Thanks," murmured the invalid, extending one hand. "I
accept. You may one of these days reap the reward of your
disinterested devotion. But as I cannot, and you will not,
quit this place, it becomes necessary to fill up the
excavation beneath the soldier's gallery; he might, by
chance, hear the hollow sound of his footsteps, and call the
attention of his officer to the circumstance. That would
bring about a discovery which would inevitably lead to our
being separated. Go, then, and set about this work, in
which, unhappily, I can offer you no assistance; keep at it
all night, if necessary, and do not return here to-morrow
till after the jailer his visited me. I shall have something
of the greatest importance to communicate to you."

Dantes took the hand of the abbe in his, and affectionately
pressed it. Faria smiled encouragingly on him, and the young
man retired to his task, in the spirit of obedience and
respect which he had sworn to show towards his aged friend.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
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