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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 17
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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
    hour.

    "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
    treasures."

    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
    form.

    "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
    other."

    "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
    charged?"

    "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
    story."

    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?"

    "Yes."

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

    "Yes."

    "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?"

    "Danglars."

    "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?"

    "Nobody."

    "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?"

    "No."

    "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?"

    "Yes."

    "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" --

    "What?"

    "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" --

    "Fernand."

    "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" --

    "What?"

    "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
    agitated."

    "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
    examination?"

    "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?"

    "Yes."

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

    "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
    letter?"

    "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
    address."

    "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
    you?"

    "He did."

    "And the worthy man destroyed your compromising letter?"

    "Yes."

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

    "Yes."

    "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
    sentinel!"

    "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
    shudder.

    "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
    execution."

    "And how long shall we be in accomplishing the necessary
    work?"

    "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
    succeed.

    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
    end.

    "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 containted 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
    corpse.

    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
    delight.

    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
    Dantes.

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

    "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
    assistance."

    "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.
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    Chapter 17
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