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Chapter 8
The Chateau D'If.

The commissary of police, as he traversed the ante-chamber,
made a sign to two gendarmes, who placed themselves one on
Dantes' right and the other on his left. A door that
communicated with the Palais de Justice was opened, and they
went through a long range of gloomy corridors, whose
appearance might have made even the boldest shudder. The
Palais de Justice communicated with the prison, -- a sombre
edifice, that from its grated windows looks on the
clock-tower of the Accoules. After numberless windings,
Dantes saw a door with an iron wicket. The commissary took
up an iron mallet and knocked thrice, every blow seeming to
Dantes as if struck on his heart. The door opened, the two
gendarmes gently pushed him forward, and the door closed
with a loud sound behind him. The air he inhaled was no
longer pure, but thick and mephitic, -- he was in prison. He
was conducted to a tolerably neat chamber, but grated and
barred, and its appearance, therefore, did not greatly alarm
him; besides, the words of Villefort, who seemed to interest
himself so much, resounded still in his ears like a promise
of freedom. It was four o'clock when Dantes was placed in
this chamber. It was, as we have said, the 1st of March, and
the prisoner was soon buried in darkness. The obscurity
augmented the acuteness of his hearing; at the slightest
sound he rose and hastened to the door, convinced they were
about to liberate him, but the sound died away, and Dantes
sank again into his seat. At last, about ten o'clock, and
just as Dantes began to despair, steps were heard in the
corridor, a key turned in the lock, the bolts creaked, the
massy oaken door flew open, and a flood of light from two
torches pervaded the apartment. By the torchlight Dantes saw
the glittering sabres and carbines of four gendarmes. He had
advanced at first, but stopped at the sight of this display
of force.

"Are you come to fetch me?" asked he.

"Yes," replied a gendarme.

"By the orders of the deputy procureur?"

"I believe so." The conviction that they came from M. de
Villefort relieved all Dantes' apprehensions; he advanced
calmly, and placed himself in the centre of the escort. A
carriage waited at the door, the coachman was on the box,
and a police officer sat beside him.

"Is this carriage for me?" said Dantes.

"It is for you," replied a gendarme.

Dantes was about to speak; but feeling himself urged
forward, and having neither the power nor the intention to
resist, he mounted the steps, and was in an instant seated
inside between two gendarmes; the two others took their
places opposite, and the carriage rolled heavily over the
stones.

The prisoner glanced at the windows -- they were grated; he
had changed his prison for another that was conveying him he
knew not whither. Through the grating, however, Dantes saw
they were passing through the Rue Caisserie, and by the Rue
Saint-Laurent and the Rue Taramis, to the port. Soon he saw
the lights of La Consigne.

The carriage stopped, the officer descended, approached the
guardhouse, a dozen soldiers came out and formed themselves
in order; Dantes saw the reflection of their muskets by the
light of the lamps on the quay.

"Can all this force be summoned on my account?" thought he.

The officer opened the door, which was locked, and, without
speaking a word, answered Dantes' question; for he saw
between the ranks of the soldiers a passage formed from the
carriage to the port. The two gendarmes who were opposite to
him descended first, then he was ordered to alight and the
gendarmes on each side of him followed his example. They
advanced towards a boat, which a custom-house officer held
by a chain, near the quay.

The soldiers looked at Dantes with an air of stupid
curiosity. In an instant he was placed in the stern-sheets
of the boat, between the gendarmes, while the officer
stationed himself at the bow; a shove sent the boat adrift,
and four sturdy oarsmen impelled it rapidly towards the
Pilon. At a shout from the boat, the chain that closes the
mouth of the port was lowered and in a second they were, as
Dantes knew, in the Frioul and outside the inner harbor.

The prisoner's first feeling was of joy at again breathing
the pure air -- for air is freedom; but he soon sighed, for
he passed before La Reserve, where he had that morning been
so happy, and now through the open windows came the laughter
and revelry of a ball. Dantes folded his hands, raised his
eyes to heaven, and prayed fervently.

The boat continued her voyage. They had passed the Tete de
Morte, were now off the Anse du Pharo, and about to double
the battery. This manoeuvre was incomprehensible to Dantes.

"Whither are you taking me?" asked he.

"You will soon know."

"But still" --

"We are forbidden to give you any explanation." Dantes,
trained in discipline, knew that nothing would be more
absurd than to question subordinates, who were forbidden to
reply; and so he remained silent.

The most vague and wild thoughts passed through his mind.
The boat they were in could not make a long voyage; there
was no vessel at anchor outside the harbor; he thought,
perhaps, they were going to leave him on some distant point.
He was not bound, nor had they made any attempt to handcuff
him; this seemed a good augury. Besides, had not the deputy,
who had been so kind to him, told him that provided he did
not pronounce the dreaded name of Noirtier, he had nothing
to apprehend? Had not Villefort in his presence destroyed
the fatal letter, the only proof against him?

He waited silently, striving to pierce through the darkness.

They had left the Ile Ratonneau, where the lighthouse stood,
on the right, and were now opposite the Point des Catalans.
It seemed to the prisoner that he could distinguish a
feminine form on the beach, for it was there Mercedes dwelt.
How was it that a presentiment did not warn Mercedes that
her lover was within three hundred yards of her?

One light alone was visible; and Dantes saw that it came
from Mercedes' chamber. Mercedes was the only one awake in
the whole settlement. A loud cry could be heard by her. But
pride restrained him and he did not utter it. What would his
guards think if they heard him shout like a madman?

He remained silent, his eyes fixed upon the light; the boat
went on, but the prisoner thought only of Mercedes. An
intervening elevation of land hid the light. Dantes turned
and perceived that they had got out to sea. While he had
been absorbed in thought, they had shipped their oars and
hoisted sail; the boat was now moving with the wind.

In spite of his repugnance to address the guards, Dantes
turned to the nearest gendarme, and taking his hand, --

"Comrade," said he, "I adjure you, as a Christian and a
soldier, to tell me where we are going. I am Captain Dantes,
a loyal Frenchman, thought accused of treason; tell me where
you are conducting me, and I promise you on my honor I will
submit to my fate."

The gendarme looked irresolutely at his companion, who
returned for answer a sign that said, "I see no great harm
in telling him now," and the gendarme replied, --

"You are a native of Marseilles, and a sailor, and yet you
do not know where you are going?"

"On my honor, I have no idea."

"Have you no idea whatever?"

"None at all."

"That is impossible."

"I swear to you it is true. Tell me, I entreat."

"But my orders."

"Your orders do not forbid your telling me what I must know
in ten minutes, in half an hour, or an hour. You see I
cannot escape, even if I intended."

"Unless you are blind, or have never been outside the
harbor, you must know."

"I do not."

"Look round you then." Dantes rose and looked forward, when
he saw rise within a hundred yards of him the black and
frowning rock on which stands the Chateau d'If. This gloomy
fortress, which has for more than three hundred years
furnished food for so many wild legends, seemed to Dantes
like a scaffold to a malefactor.

"The Chateau d'If?" cried he, "what are we going there for?"
The gendarme smiled.

"I am not going there to be imprisoned," said Dantes; "it is
only used for political prisoners. I have committed no
crime. Are there any magistrates or judges at the Chateau
d'If?"

"There are only," said the gendarme, "a governor, a
garrison, turnkeys, and good thick walls. Come, come, do not
look so astonished, or you will make me think you are
laughing at me in return for my good nature." Dantes pressed
the gendarme's hand as though he would crush it.

"You think, then," said he, "that I am taken to the Chateau
d'If to be imprisoned there?"

"It is probable; but there is no occasion to squeeze so
hard."

"Without any inquiry, without any formality?"

"All the formalities have been gone through; the inquiry is
already made."

"And so, in spite of M. de Villefort's promises?"

"I do not know what M. de Villefort promised you," said the
gendarme, "but I know we are taking you to the Chateau d'If.
But what are you doing? Help, comrades, help!"

By a rapid movement, which the gendarme's practiced eye had
perceived, Dantes sprang forward to precipitate himself into
the sea; but four vigorous arms seized him as his feet
quitted the bottom of the boat. He fell back cursing with
rage.

"Good!" said the gendarme, placing his knee on his chest;
"believe soft-spoken gentlemen again! Harkye, my friend, I
have disobeyed my first order, but I will not disobey the
second; and if you move, I will blow your brains out." And
he levelled his carbine at Dantes, who felt the muzzle
against his temple.

For a moment the idea of struggling crossed his mind, and of
so ending the unexpected evil that had overtaken him. But he
bethought him of M. de Villefort's promise; and, besides,
death in a boat from the hand of a gendarme seemed too
terrible. He remained motionless, but gnashing his teeth and
wringing his hands with fury.

At this moment the boat came to a landing with a violent
shock. One of the sailors leaped on shore, a cord creaked as
it ran through a pulley, and Dantes guessed they were at the
end of the voyage, and that they were mooring the boat.

His guards, taking him by the arms and coat-collar, forced
him to rise, and dragged him towards the steps that lead to
the gate of the fortress, while the police officer carrying
a musket with fixed bayonet followed behind.

Dantes made no resistance; he was like a man in a dream: he
saw soldiers drawn up on the embankment; he knew vaguely
that he was ascending a flight of steps; he was conscious
that he passed through a door, and that the door closed
behind him; but all this indistinctly as through a mist. He
did not even see the ocean, that terrible barrier against
freedom, which the prisoners look upon with utter despair.

They halted for a minute, during which he strove to collect
his thoughts. He looked around; he was in a court surrounded
by high walls; he heard the measured tread of sentinels, and
as they passed before the light he saw the barrels of their
muskets shine.

They waited upwards of ten minutes. Certain Dantes could not
escape, the gendarmes released him. They seemed awaiting
orders. The orders came.

"Where is the prisoner?" said a voice.

"Here," replied the gendarmes.

"Let him follow me; I will take him to his cell."

"Go!" said the gendarmes, thrusting Dantes forward.

The prisoner followed his guide, who led him into a room
almost under ground, whose bare and reeking walls seemed as
though impregnated with tears; a lamp placed on a stool
illumined the apartment faintly, and showed Dantes the
features of his conductor, an under-jailer, ill-clothed, and
of sullen appearance.

"Here is your chamber for to-night," said he. "It is late,
and the governor is asleep. To-morrow, perhaps, he may
change you. In the meantime there is bread, water, and fresh
straw; and that is all a prisoner can wish for. Goodnight."
And before Dantes could open his mouth -- before he had
noticed where the jailer placed his bread or the water --
before he had glanced towards the corner where the straw
was, the jailer disappeared, taking with him the lamp and
closing the door, leaving stamped upon the prisoner's mind
the dim reflection of the dripping walls of his dungeon.

Dantes was alone in darkness and in silence -- cold as the
shadows that he felt breathe on his burning forehead. With
the first dawn of day the jailer returned, with orders to
leave Dantes where he was. He found the prisoner in the same
position, as if fixed there, his eyes swollen with weeping.
He had passed the night standing, and without sleep. The
jailer advanced; Dantes appeared not to perceive him. He
touched him on the shoulder. Edmond started.

"Have you not slept?" said the jailer.

"I do not know," replied Dantes. The jailer stared.

"Are you hungry?" continued he.

"I do not know."

"Do you wish for anything?"

"I wish to see the governor." The jailer shrugged his
shoulders and left the chamber.

Dantes followed him with his eyes, and stretched forth his
hands towards the open door; but the door closed. All his
emotion then burst forth; he cast himself on the ground,
weeping bitterly, and asking himself what crime he had
committed that he was thus punished.

The day passed thus; he scarcely tasted food, but walked
round and round the cell like a wild beast in its cage. One
thought in particular tormented him: namely, that during his
journey hither he had sat so still, whereas he might, a
dozen times, have plunged into the sea, and, thanks to his
powers of swimming, for which he was famous, have gained the
shore, concealed himself until the arrival of a Genoese or
Spanish vessel, escaped to Spain or Italy, where Mercedes
and his father could have joined him. He had no fears as to
how he should live -- good seamen are welcome everywhere. He
spoke Italian like a Tuscan, and Spanish like a Castilian;
he would have been free, and happy with Mercedes and his
father, whereas he was now confined in the Chateau d'If,
that impregnable fortress, ignorant of the future destiny of
his father and Mercedes; and all this because he had trusted
to Villefort's promise. The thought was maddening, and
Dantes threw himself furiously down on his straw. The next
morning at the same hour, the jailer came again.

"Well," said the jailer, "are you more reasonable to-day?"
Dantes made no reply.

"Come, cheer up; is there anything that I can do for you?"

"I wish to see the governor."

"I have already told you it was impossible."

"Why so?"

"Because it is against prison rules, and prisoners must not
even ask for it."

"What is allowed, then?"

"Better fare, if you pay for it, books, and leave to walk
about."

"I do not want books, I am satisfied with my food, and do
not care to walk about; but I wish to see the governor."

"If you worry me by repeating the same thing, I will not
bring you any more to eat."

"Well, then," said Edmond, "if you do not, I shall die of
hunger -- that is all."

The jailer saw by his tone he would be happy to die; and as
every prisoner is worth ten sous a day to his jailer, he
replied in a more subdued tone.

"What you ask is impossible; but if you are very well
behaved you will be allowed to walk about, and some day you
will meet the governor, and if he chooses to reply, that is
his affair."

"But," asked Dantes, "how long shall I have to wait?"

"Ah, a month -- six months -- a year."

"It is too long a time. I wish to see him at once."

"Ah," said the jailer, "do not always brood over what is
impossible, or you will be mad in a fortnight."

"You think so?"

"Yes; we have an instance here; it was by always offering a
million of francs to the governor for his liberty that an
abbe became mad, who was in this chamber before you."

"How long has he left it?"

"Two years."

"Was he liberated, then?"

"No; he was put in a dungeon."

"Listen!" said Dantes. "I am not an abbe, I am not mad;
perhaps I shall be, but at present, unfortunately, I am not.
I will make you another offer."

"What is that?"

"I do not offer you a million, because I have it not; but I
will give you a hundred crowns if, the first time you go to
Marseilles, you will seek out a young girl named Mercedes,
at the Catalans, and give her two lines from me."

"If I took them, and were detected, I should lose my place,
which is worth two thousand francs a year; so that I should
be a great fool to run such a risk for three hundred."

"Well," said Dantes, "mark this; if you refuse at least to
tell Mercedes I am here, I will some day hide myself behind
the door, and when you enter I will dash out your brains
with this stool."

"Threats!" cried the jailer, retreating and putting himself
on the defensive; "you are certainly going mad. The abbe
began like you, and in three days you will be like him, mad
enough to tie up; but, fortunately, there are dungeons
here." Dantes whirled the stool round his head.

"All right, all right," said the jailer; "all right, since
you will have it so. I will send word to the governor."

"Very well," returned Dantes, dropping the stool and sitting
on it as if he were in reality mad. The jailer went out, and
returned in an instant with a corporal and four soldiers.

"By the governor's orders," said he, "conduct the prisoner
to the tier beneath."

"To the dungeon, then," said the corporal.

"Yes; we must put the madman with the madmen." The soldiers
seized Dantes, who followed passively.

He descended fifteen steps, and the door of a dungeon was
opened, and he was thrust in. The door closed, and Dantes
advanced with outstretched hands until he touched the wall;
he then sat down in the corner until his eyes became
accustomed to the darkness. The jailer was right; Dantes
wanted but little of being utterly mad.



The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction
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