Dantes passed through all the stages of torture natural to prisoners i_uspense. He was sustained at first by that pride of conscious innocence whic_s the sequence to hope; then he began to doubt his own innocence, whic_ustified in some measure the governor's belief in his mental alienation; an_hen, relaxing his sentiment of pride, he addressed his supplications, not t_od, but to man. God is always the last resource. Unfortunates, who ought t_egin with God, do not have any hope in him till they have exhausted all othe_eans of deliverance.
Dantes asked to be removed from his present dungeon into another; for _hange, however disadvantageous, was still a change, and would afford him som_musement. He entreated to be allowed to walk about, to have fresh air, books, and writing materials. His requests were not granted, but he went on askin_ll the same. He accustomed himself to speaking to the new jailer, althoug_he latter was, if possible, more taciturn than the old one; but still, t_peak to a man, even though mute, was something. Dantes spoke for the sake o_earing his own voice; he had tried to speak when alone, but the sound of hi_oice terrified him. Often, before his captivity, Dantes' mind had revolted a_he idea of assemblages of prisoners, made up of thieves, vagabonds, an_urderers. He now wished to be amongst them, in order to see some other fac_esides that of his jailer; he sighed for the galleys, with the infamou_ostume, the chain, and the brand on the shoulder. The galley-slaves breathe_he fresh air of heaven, and saw each other. They were very happy. He besough_he jailer one day to let him have a companion, were it even the mad abbe.
The jailer, though rough and hardened by the constant sight of so muc_uffering, was yet a man. At the bottom of his heart he had often had _eeling of pity for this unhappy young man who suffered so; and he laid th_equest of number 34 before the governor; but the latter sapiently imagine_hat Dantes wished to conspire or attempt an escape, and refused his request.
Dantes had exhausted all human resources, and he then turned to God.
All the pious ideas that had been so long forgotten, returned; he recollecte_he prayers his mother had taught him, and discovered a new meaning in ever_ord; for in prosperity prayers seem but a mere medley of words, unti_isfortune comes and the unhappy sufferer first understands the meaning of th_ublime language in which he invokes the pity of heaven! He prayed, and praye_loud, no longer terrified at the sound of his own voice, for he fell into _ort of ecstasy. He laid every action of his life before the Almighty, proposed tasks to accomplish, and at the end of every prayer introduced th_ntreaty oftener addressed to man than to God: "Forgive us our trespasses a_e forgive them that trespass against us." Yet in spite of his earnes_rayers, Dantes remained a prisoner.
Then gloom settled heavily upon him. Dantes was a man of great simplicity o_hought, and without education; he could not, therefore, in the solitude o_is dungeon, traverse in mental vision the history of the ages, bring to lif_he nations that had perished, and rebuild the ancient cities so vast an_tupendous in the light of the imagination, and that pass before the ey_lowing with celestial colors in Martin's Babylonian pictures. He could not d_his, he whose past life was so short, whose present so melancholy, and hi_uture so doubtful. Nineteen years of light to reflect upon in eterna_arkness! No distraction could come to his aid; his energetic spirit, tha_ould have exalted in thus revisiting the past, was imprisoned like an eagl_n a cage. He clung to one idea — that of his happiness, destroyed, withou_pparent cause, by an unheard-of fatality; he considered and reconsidered thi_dea, devoured it (so to speak), as the implacable Ugolino devours the skul_f Archbishop Roger in the Inferno of Dante.
Rage supplanted religious fervor. Dantes uttered blasphemies that made hi_ailer recoil with horror, dashed himself furiously against the walls of hi_rison, wreaked his anger upon everything, and chiefly upon himself, so tha_he least thing, — a grain of sand, a straw, or a breath of air that annoye_im, led to paroxysms of fury. Then the letter that Villefort had showed t_im recurred to his mind, and every line gleamed forth in fiery letters on th_all like the mene tekel upharsin of Belshazzar. He told himself that it wa_he enmity of man, and not the vengeance of heaven, that had thus plunged hi_nto the deepest misery. He consigned his unknown persecutors to the mos_orrible tortures he could imagine, and found them all insufficient, becaus_fter torture came death, and after death, if not repose, at least the boon o_nconsciousness.
By dint of constantly dwelling on the idea that tranquillity was death, and i_unishment were the end in view other tortures than death must be invented, h_egan to reflect on suicide. Unhappy he, who, on the brink of misfortune, broods over ideas like these!
Before him is a dead sea that stretches in azure calm before the eye; but h_ho unwarily ventures within its embrace finds himself struggling with _onster that would drag him down to perdition. Once thus ensnared, unless th_rotecting hand of God snatch him thence, all is over, and his struggles bu_end to hasten his destruction. This state of mental anguish is, however, les_errible than the sufferings that precede or the punishment that possibly wil_ollow. There is a sort of consolation at the contemplation of the yawnin_byss, at the bottom of which lie darkness and obscurity.
Edmond found some solace in these ideas. All his sorrows, all his sufferings, with their train of gloomy spectres, fled from his cell when the angel o_eath seemed about to enter. Dantes reviewed his past life with composure, and, looking forward with terror to his future existence, chose that middl_ine that seemed to afford him a refuge.
"Sometimes," said he, "in my voyages, when I was a man and commanded othe_en, I have seen the heavens overcast, the sea rage and foam, the storm arise, and, like a monstrous bird, beating the two horizons with its wings. Then _elt that my vessel was a vain refuge, that trembled and shook before th_empest. Soon the fury of the waves and the sight of the sharp rocks announce_he approach of death, and death then terrified me, and I used all my skil_nd intelligence as a man and a sailor to struggle against the wrath of God.
But I did so because I was happy, because I had not courted death, because t_e cast upon a bed of rocks and seaweed seemed terrible, because I wa_nwilling that I, a creature made for the service of God, should serve fo_ood to the gulls and ravens. But now it is different; I have lost all tha_ound me to life, death smiles and invites me to repose; I die after my ow_anner, I die exhausted and broken-spirited, as I fall asleep when I hav_aced three thousand times round my cell."
No sooner had this idea taken possession of him than he became more composed, arranged his couch to the best of his power, ate little and slept less, an_ound existence almost supportable, because he felt that he could throw it of_t pleasure, like a worn-out garment. Two methods of self-destruction were a_is disposal. He could hang himself with his handkerchief to the window bars, or refuse food and die of starvation. But the first was repugnant to him.
Dantes had always entertained the greatest horror of pirates, who are hung u_o the yard-arm; he would not die by what seemed an infamous death. H_esolved to adopt the second, and began that day to carry out his resolve.
Nearly four years had passed away; at the end of the second he had ceased t_ark the lapse of time.
Dantes said, "I wish to die," and had chosen the manner of his death, an_earful of changing his mind, he had taken an oath to die. "When my mornin_nd evening meals are brought," thought he, "I will cast them out of th_indow, and they will think that I have eaten them."
He kept his word; twice a day he cast out, through the barred aperture, th_rovisions his jailer brought him — at first gayly, then with deliberation, and at last with regret. Nothing but the recollection of his oath gave hi_trength to proceed. Hunger made viands once repugnant, now acceptable; h_eld the plate in his hand for an hour at a time, and gazed thoughtfully a_he morsel of bad meat, of tainted fish, of black and mouldy bread. It was th_ast yearning for life contending with the resolution of despair; then hi_ungeon seemed less sombre, his prospects less desperate. He was still young — he was only four or five and twenty — he had nearly fifty years to live. Wha_nforseen events might not open his prison door, and restore him to liberty?
Then he raised to his lips the repast that, like a voluntary Tantalus, h_efused himself; but he thought of his oath, and he would not break it. H_ersisted until, at last, he had not sufficient strength to rise and cast hi_upper out of the loophole. The next morning he could not see or hear; th_ailer feared he was dangerously ill. Edmond hoped he was dying.
Thus the day passed away. Edmond felt a sort of stupor creeping over him whic_rought with it a feeling almost of content; the gnawing pain at his stomac_ad ceased; his thirst had abated; when he closed his eyes he saw myriads o_ights dancing before them like the will-o'-the-wisps that play about th_arshes. It was the twilight of that mysterious country called Death!
Suddenly, about nine o'clock in the evening, Edmond heard a hollow sound i_he wall against which he was lying.
So many loathsome animals inhabited the prison, that their noise did not, i_eneral, awake him; but whether abstinence had quickened his faculties, o_hether the noise was really louder than usual, Edmond raised his head an_istened. It was a continual scratching, as if made by a huge claw, a powerfu_ooth, or some iron instrument attacking the stones.
Although weakened, the young man's brain instantly responded to the idea tha_aunts all prisoners — liberty! It seemed to him that heaven had at lengt_aken pity on him, and had sent this noise to warn him on the very brink o_he abyss. Perhaps one of those beloved ones he had so often thought of wa_hinking of him, and striving to diminish the distance that separated them.
No, no, doubtless he was deceived, and it was but one of those dreams tha_orerun death!
Edmond still heard the sound. It lasted nearly three hours; he then heard _oise of something falling, and all was silent.
Some hours afterwards it began again, nearer and more distinct. Edmond wa_ntensely interested. Suddenly the jailer entered.
For a week since he had resolved to die, and during the four days that he ha_een carrying out his purpose, Edmond had not spoken to the attendant, had no_nswered him when he inquired what was the matter with him, and turned hi_ace to the wall when he looked too curiously at him; but now the jailer migh_ear the noise and put an end to it, and so destroy a ray of something lik_ope that soothed his last moments.
The jailer brought him his breakfast. Dantes raised himself up and began t_alk about everything; about the bad quality of the food, about the coldnes_f his dungeon, grumbling and complaining, in order to have an excuse fo_peaking louder, and wearying the patience of his jailer, who out of kindnes_f heart had brought broth and white bread for his prisoner.
Fortunately, he fancied that Dantes was delirious; and placing the food on th_ickety table, he withdrew. Edmond listened, and the sound became more an_ore distinct.
"There can be no doubt about it," thought he; "it is some prisoner who i_triving to obtain his freedom. Oh, if I were only there to help him!"
Suddenly another idea took possession of his mind, so used to misfortune, tha_t was scarcely capable of hope — the idea that the noise was made by workme_he governor had ordered to repair the neighboring dungeon.
It was easy to ascertain this; but how could he risk the question? It was eas_o call his jailer's attention to the noise, and watch his countenance as h_istened; but might he not by this means destroy hopes far more important tha_he short-lived satisfaction of his own curiosity? Unfortunately, Edmond'_rain was still so feeble that he could not bend his thoughts to anything i_articular.
He saw but one means of restoring lucidity and clearness to his judgment. H_urned his eyes towards the soup which the jailer had brought, rose, staggere_owards it, raised the vessel to his lips, and drank off the contents with _eeling of indescribable pleasure. He had often heard that shipwrecked person_ad died through having eagerly devoured too much food. Edmond replaced on th_able the bread he was about to devour, and returned to his couch — he did no_ish to die. He soon felt that his ideas became again collected — he coul_hink, and strengthen his thoughts by reasoning. Then he said to himself, "_ust put this to the test, but without compromising anybody. If it is _orkman, I need but knock against the wall, and he will cease to work, i_rder to find out who is knocking, and why he does so; but as his occupatio_s sanctioned by the governor, he will soon resume it. If, on the contrary, i_s a prisoner, the noise I make will alarm him, he will cease, and not begi_gain until he thinks every one is asleep."
Edmond rose again, but this time his legs did not tremble, and his sight wa_lear; he went to a corner of his dungeon, detached a stone, and with i_nocked against the wall where the sound came. He struck thrice. At the firs_low the sound ceased, as if by magic.
Edmond listened intently; an hour passed, two hours passed, and no sound wa_eard from the wall — all was silent there.
Full of hope, Edmond swallowed a few mouthfuls of bread and water, and, thank_o the vigor of his constitution, found himself well-nigh recovered.
The day passed away in utter silence — night came without recurrence of th_oise.
"It is a prisoner," said Edmond joyfully. The night passed in perfect silence.
Edmond did not close his eyes.
In the morning the jailer brought him fresh provisions — he had alread_evoured those of the previous day; he ate these listening anxiously for th_ound, walking round and round his cell, shaking the iron bars of th_oophole, restoring vigor and agility to his limbs by exercise, and s_reparing himself for his future destiny. At intervals he listened to learn i_he noise had not begun again, and grew impatient at the prudence of th_risoner, who did not guess he had been disturbed by a captive as anxious fo_iberty as himself.
Three days passed — seventy-two long tedious hours which he counted off b_inutes!
At length one evening, as the jailer was visiting him for the last time tha_ight, Dantes, with his ear for the hundredth time at the wall, fancied h_eard an almost imperceptible movement among the stones. He moved away, walke_p and down his cell to collect his thoughts, and then went back and listened.
The matter was no longer doubtful. Something was at work on the other side o_he wall; the prisoner had discovered the danger, and had substituted a leve_or a chisel.
Encouraged by this discovery, Edmond determined to assist the indefatigabl_aborer. He began by moving his bed, and looked around for anything with whic_e could pierce the wall, penetrate the moist cement, and displace a stone.
He saw nothing, he had no knife or sharp instrument, the window grating was o_ron, but he had too often assured himself of its solidity. All his furnitur_onsisted of a bed, a chair, a table, a pail, and a jug. The bed had iro_lamps, but they were screwed to the wood, and it would have required a screw- driver to take them off. The table and chair had nothing, the pail had onc_ossessed a handle, but that had been removed.
Dantes had but one resource, which was to break the jug, and with one of th_harp fragments attack the wall. He let the jug fall on the floor, and i_roke in pieces.
Dantes concealed two or three of the sharpest fragments in his bed, leavin_he rest on the floor. The breaking of his jug was too natural an accident t_xcite suspicion. Edmond had all the night to work in, but in the darkness h_ould not do much, and he soon felt that he was working against something ver_ard; he pushed back his bed, and waited for day.
All night he heard the subterranean workman, who continued to mine his way.
Day came, the jailer entered. Dantes told him that the jug had fallen from hi_ands while he was drinking, and the jailer went grumblingly to fetch another, without giving himself the trouble to remove the fragments of the broken one.
He returned speedily, advised the prisoner to be more careful, and departed.
Dantes heard joyfully the key grate in the lock; he listened until the soun_f steps died away, and then, hastily displacing his bed, saw by the fain_ight that penetrated into his cell, that he had labored uselessly th_revious evening in attacking the stone instead of removing the plaster tha_urrounded it.
The damp had rendered it friable, and Dantes was able to break it off — i_mall morsels, it is true, but at the end of half an hour he had scraped off _andful; a mathematician might have calculated that in two years, supposin_hat the rock was not encountered, a passage twenty feet long and two fee_road, might be formed.
The prisoner reproached himself with not having thus employed the hours he ha_assed in vain hopes, prayer, and despondency. During the six years that h_ad been imprisoned, what might he not have accomplished?
In three days he had succeeded, with the utmost precaution, in removing th_ement, and exposing the stone-work. The wall was built of rough stones, amon_hich, to give strength to the structure, blocks of hewn stone were a_ntervals imbedded. It was one of these he had uncovered, and which he mus_emove from its socket.
Dantes strove to do this with his nails, but they were too weak. The fragment_f the jug broke, and after an hour of useless toil, he paused.
Was he to be thus stopped at the beginning, and was he to wait inactive unti_is fellow workman had completed his task? Suddenly an idea occurred to him — he smiled, and the perspiration dried on his forehead.
The jailer always brought Dantes' soup in an iron saucepan; this saucepa_ontained soup for both prisoners, for Dantes had noticed that it was eithe_uite full, or half empty, according as the turnkey gave it to him or to hi_ompanion first.
The handle of this saucepan was of iron; Dantes would have given ten years o_is life in exchange for it.
The jailer was accustomed to pour the contents of the saucepan into Dantes'
plate, and Dantes, after eating his soup with a wooden spoon, washed th_late, which thus served for every day. Now when evening came Dantes put hi_late on the ground near the door; the jailer, as he entered, stepped on i_nd broke it.
This time he could not blame Dantes. He was wrong to leave it there, but th_ailer was wrong not to have looked before him.
The jailer, therefore, only grumbled. Then he looked about for something t_our the soup into; Dantes' entire dinner service consisted of one plate — there was no alternative.
"Leave the saucepan," said Dantes; "you can take it away when you bring me m_reakfast." This advice was to the jailer's taste, as it spared him th_ecessity of making another trip. He left the saucepan.
Dantes was beside himself with joy. He rapidly devoured his food, and afte_aiting an hour, lest the jailer should change his mind and return, he remove_is bed, took the handle of the saucepan, inserted the point between the hew_tone and rough stones of the wall, and employed it as a lever. A sligh_scillation showed Dantes that all went well. At the end of an hour the ston_as extricated from the wall, leaving a cavity a foot and a half in diameter.
Dantes carefully collected the plaster, carried it into the corner of hi_ell, and covered it with earth. Then, wishing to make the best use of hi_ime while he had the means of labor, he continued to work without ceasing. A_he dawn of day he replaced the stone, pushed his bed against the wall, an_ay down. The breakfast consisted of a piece of bread; the jailer entered an_laced the bread on the table.
"Well, don't you intend to bring me another plate?" said Dantes.
"No," replied the turnkey; "you destroy everything. First you break your jug, then you make me break your plate; if all the prisoners followed your example, the government would be ruined. I shall leave you the saucepan, and pour you_oup into that. So for the future I hope you will not be so destructive."
Dantes raised his eyes to heaven and clasped his hands beneath the coverlet.
He felt more gratitude for the possession of this piece of iron than he ha_ver felt for anything. He had noticed, however, that the prisoner on th_ther side had ceased to labor; no matter, this was a greater reason fo_roceeding — if his neighbor would not come to him, he would go to hi_eighbor. All day he toiled on untiringly, and by the evening he had succeede_n extracting ten handfuls of plaster and fragments of stone. When the hou_or his jailer's visit arrived, Dantes straightened the handle of the saucepa_s well as he could, and placed it in its accustomed place. The turnkey poure_is ration of soup into it, together with the fish — for thrice a week th_risoners were deprived of meat. This would have been a method of reckonin_ime, had not Dantes long ceased to do so. Having poured out the soup, th_urnkey retired. Dantes wished to ascertain whether his neighbor had reall_eased to work. He listened — all was silent, as it had been for the las_hree days. Dantes sighed; it was evident that his neighbor distrusted him.
However, he toiled on all the night without being discouraged; but after tw_r three hours he encountered an obstacle. The iron made no impression, bu_et with a smooth surface; Dantes touched it, and found that it was a beam.
This beam crossed, or rather blocked up, the hole Dantes had made; it wa_ecessary, therefore, to dig above or under it. The unhappy young man had no_hought of this. "O my God, my God!" murmured he, "I have so earnestly praye_o you, that I hoped my prayers had been heard. After having deprived me of m_iberty, after having deprived me of death, after having recalled me t_xistence, my God, have pity on me, and do not let me die in despair!"
"Who talks of God and despair at the same time?" said a voice that seemed t_ome from beneath the earth, and, deadened by the distance, sounded hollow an_epulchral in the young man's ears. Edmond's hair stood on end, and he rose t_is knees.
"Ah," said he, "I hear a human voice." Edmond had not heard any one speak sav_is jailer for four or five years; and a jailer is no man to a prisoner — h_s a living door, a barrier of flesh and blood adding strength to restraint_f oak and iron.
"In the name of heaven," cried Dantes, "speak again, though the sound of you_oice terrifies me. Who are you?"
"Who are you?" said the voice.
"An unhappy prisoner," replied Dantes, who made no hesitation in answering.
"Of what country?"
"How long have you been here?"
"Since the 28th of February, 1815."
"I am innocent."
"But of what are you accused?"
"Of having conspired to aid the emperor's return."
"What! For the emperor's return? — the emperor is no longer on the throne, then?"
"He abdicated at Fontainebleau in 1814, and was sent to the Island of Elba.
But how long have you been here that you are ignorant of all this?"
Dantes shuddered; this man had been four years longer than himself in prison.
"Do not dig any more," said the voice; "only tell me how high up is you_xcavation?"
"On a level with the floor."
"How is it concealed?"
"Behind my bed."
"Has your bed been moved since you have been a prisoner?"
"What does your chamber open on?"
"And the corridor?"
"On a court."
"Alas!" murmured the voice.
"Oh, what is the matter?" cried Dantes.
"I have made a mistake owing to an error in my plans. I took the wrong angle, and have come out fifteen feet from where I intended. I took the wall you ar_ining for the outer wall of the fortress."
"But then you would be close to the sea?"
"That is what I hoped."
"And supposing you had succeeded?"
"I should have thrown myself into the sea, gained one of the islands near here — the Isle de Daume or the Isle de Tiboulen — and then I should have bee_afe."
"Could you have swum so far?"
"Heaven would have given me strength; but now all is lost."
"Yes; stop up your excavation carefully, do not work any more, and wait unti_ou hear from me."
"Tell me, at least, who you are?"
"I am — I am No. 27."
"You mistrust me, then," said Dantes. Edmond fancied he heard a bitter laug_esounding from the depths.
"Oh, I am a Christian," cried Dantes, guessing instinctively that this ma_eant to abandon him. "I swear to you by him who died for us that naught shal_nduce me to breathe one syllable to my jailers; but I conjure you do no_bandon me. If you do, I swear to you, for I have got to the end of m_trength, that I will dash my brains out against the wall, and you will hav_y death to reproach yourself with."
"How old are you? Your voice is that of a young man."
"I do not know my age, for I have not counted the years I have been here. Al_ do know is, that I was just nineteen when I was arrested, the 28th o_ebruary, 1815."
"Not quite twenty-six!" murmured the voice; "at that age he cannot be _raitor."
"Oh, no, no," cried Dantes. "I swear to you again, rather than betray you, _ould allow myself to be hacked in pieces!"
"You have done well to speak to me, and ask for my assistance, for I was abou_o form another plan, and leave you; but your age reassures me. I will no_orget you. Wait."
"I must calculate our chances; I will give you the signal."
"But you will not leave me; you will come to me, or you will let me come t_ou. We will escape, and if we cannot escape we will talk; you of those who_ou love, and I of those whom I love. You must love somebody?"
"No, I am alone in the world."
"Then you will love me. If you are young, I will be your comrade; if you ar_ld, I will be your son. I have a father who is seventy if he yet lives; _nly love him and a young girl called Mercedes. My father has not ye_orgotten me, I am sure, but God alone knows if she loves me still; I shal_ove you as I loved my father."
"It is well," returned the voice; "to-morrow."
These few words were uttered with an accent that left no doubt of hi_incerity; Dantes rose, dispersed the fragments with the same precaution a_efore, and pushed his bed back against the wall. He then gave himself up t_is happiness. He would no longer be alone. He was, perhaps, about to regai_is liberty; at the worst, he would have a companion, and captivity that i_hared is but half captivity. Plaints made in common are almost prayers, an_rayers where two or three are gathered together invoke the mercy of heaven.
All day Dantes walked up and down his cell. He sat down occasionally on hi_ed, pressing his hand on his heart. At the slightest noise he bounded toward_he door. Once or twice the thought crossed his mind that he might b_eparated from this unknown, whom he loved already; and then his mind was mad_p — when the jailer moved his bed and stooped to examine the opening, h_ould kill him with his water jug. He would be condemned to die, but he wa_bout to die of grief and despair when this miraculous noise recalled him t_ife.
The jailer came in the evening. Dantes was on his bed. It seemed to him tha_hus he better guarded the unfinished opening. Doubtless there was a strang_xpression in his eyes, for the jailer said, "Come, are you going mad again?"
Dantes did not answer; he feared that the emotion of his voice would betra_im. The jailer went away shaking his head. Night came; Dantes hoped that hi_eighbor would profit by the silence to address him, but he was mistaken. Th_ext morning, however, just as he removed his bed from the wall, he hear_hree knocks; he threw himself on his knees.
"Is it you?" said he; "I am here."
"Is your jailer gone?"
"Yes," said Dantes; "he will not return until the evening; so that we hav_welve hours before us."
"I can work, then?" said the voice.
"Oh, yes, yes; this instant, I entreat you."
In a moment that part of the floor on which Dantes was resting his two hands, as he knelt with his head in the opening, suddenly gave way; he drew bac_martly, while a mass of stones and earth disappeared in a hole that opene_eneath the aperture he himself had formed. Then from the bottom of thi_assage, the depth of which it was impossible to measure, he saw appear, firs_he head, then the shoulders, and lastly the body of a man, who sprang lightl_nto his cell.