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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    CHAPTER 14
    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
    any others?"

    "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
    dungeons."

    "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?"

    "Certainly."

    "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
    turnkey.

    "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
    hands.

    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
    liberty."

    "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
    inspector.

    "The 28th of February, 1815, at half-past two in the
    afternoon."

    "To-day is the 30th of July, 1816, -- why it is but
    seventeen months."

    "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
    Toulouse."

    "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?"

    "Entirely."

    "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
    down again."

    "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
    "mad abbe."

    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
    you."

    "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
    Italy?"

    "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
    independent."

    "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
    importance."

    "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,
    addressing Faria.

    "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
    turn.

    "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
    not."

    "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
    inspector's hand.

    "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
    more."

    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?"
    said he.

    "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
    impatiently.

    "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
    them.

    "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: --

    Edmond Dantes:

    Violent Bonapartist; took an active part in the return from
    Elba.

    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.
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