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Chapter 8 The Chateau D'If.

  • The commissary of police, as he traversed the ante-chamber, made a sign to tw_endarmes, who placed themselves one on Dantes' right and the other on hi_eft. A door that communicated with the Palais de Justice was opened, and the_ent through a long range of gloomy corridors, whose appearance might hav_ade even the boldest shudder. The Palais de Justice communicated with th_rison, — a sombre edifice, that from its grated windows looks on the clock- tower of the Accoules. After numberless windings, Dantes saw a door with a_ron wicket. The commissary took up an iron mallet and knocked thrice, ever_low seeming to Dantes as if struck on his heart. The door opened, the tw_endarmes gently pushed him forward, and the door closed with a loud soun_ehind him. The air he inhaled was no longer pure, but thick and mephitic, — he was in prison. He was conducted to a tolerably neat chamber, but grated an_arred, and its appearance, therefore, did not greatly alarm him; besides, th_ords of Villefort, who seemed to interest himself so much, resounded still i_is ears like a promise of freedom. It was four o'clock when Dantes was place_n this chamber. It was, as we have said, the 1st of March, and the prisone_as soon buried in darkness. The obscurity augmented the acuteness of hi_earing; at the slightest sound he rose and hastened to the door, convince_hey were about to liberate him, but the sound died away, and Dantes san_gain into his seat. At last, about ten o'clock, and just as Dantes began t_espair, steps were heard in the corridor, a key turned in the lock, the bolt_reaked, the massy oaken door flew open, and a flood of light from two torche_ervaded the apartment. By the torchlight Dantes saw the glittering sabres an_arbines of four gendarmes. He had advanced at first, but stopped at the sigh_f this display of force.
  • "Are you come to fetch me?" asked he.
  • "Yes," replied a gendarme.
  • "By the orders of the deputy procureur?"
  • "I believe so." The conviction that they came from M. de Villefort relieve_ll Dantes' apprehensions; he advanced calmly, and placed himself in th_entre of the escort. A carriage waited at the door, the coachman was on th_ox, and a police officer sat beside him.
  • "Is this carriage for me?" said Dantes.
  • "It is for you," replied a gendarme.
  • Dantes was about to speak; but feeling himself urged forward, and havin_either the power nor the intention to resist, he mounted the steps, and wa_n an instant seated inside between two gendarmes; the two others took thei_laces opposite, and the carriage rolled heavily over the stones.
  • The prisoner glanced at the windows — they were grated; he had changed hi_rison for another that was conveying him he knew not whither. Through th_rating, however, Dantes saw they were passing through the Rue Caisserie, an_y the Rue Saint-Laurent and the Rue Taramis, to the port. Soon he saw th_ights of La Consigne.
  • The carriage stopped, the officer descended, approached the guardhouse, _ozen soldiers came out and formed themselves in order; Dantes saw th_eflection of their muskets by the light of the lamps on the quay.
  • "Can all this force be summoned on my account?" thought he.
  • The officer opened the door, which was locked, and, without speaking a word, answered Dantes' question; for he saw between the ranks of the soldiers _assage formed from the carriage to the port. The two gendarmes who wer_pposite to him descended first, then he was ordered to alight and th_endarmes on each side of him followed his example. They advanced towards _oat, which a custom-house officer held by a chain, near the quay.
  • The soldiers looked at Dantes with an air of stupid curiosity. In an instan_e was placed in the stern-sheets of the boat, between the gendarmes, whil_he officer stationed himself at the bow; a shove sent the boat adrift, an_our sturdy oarsmen impelled it rapidly towards the Pilon. At a shout from th_oat, the chain that closes the mouth of the port was lowered and in a secon_hey were, as Dantes knew, in the Frioul and outside the inner harbor.
  • The prisoner's first feeling was of joy at again breathing the pure air — fo_ir is freedom; but he soon sighed, for he passed before La Reserve, where h_ad that morning been so happy, and now through the open windows came th_aughter and revelry of a ball. Dantes folded his hands, raised his eyes t_eaven, and prayed fervently.
  • The boat continued her voyage. They had passed the Tete de Morte, were now of_he Anse du Pharo, and about to double the battery. This manoeuvre wa_ncomprehensible to Dantes.
  • "Whither are you taking me?" asked he.
  • "You will soon know."
  • "But still" —
  • "We are forbidden to give you any explanation." Dantes, trained in discipline, knew that nothing would be more absurd than to question subordinates, who wer_orbidden to reply; and so he remained silent.
  • The most vague and wild thoughts passed through his mind. The boat they wer_n could not make a long voyage; there was no vessel at anchor outside th_arbor; he thought, perhaps, they were going to leave him on some distan_oint. He was not bound, nor had they made any attempt to handcuff him; thi_eemed a good augury. Besides, had not the deputy, who had been so kind t_im, told him that provided he did not pronounce the dreaded name of Noirtier, he had nothing to apprehend? Had not Villefort in his presence destroyed th_atal letter, the only proof against him?
  • He waited silently, striving to pierce through the darkness.
  • They had left the Ile Ratonneau, where the lighthouse stood, on the right, an_ere now opposite the Point des Catalans. It seemed to the prisoner that h_ould distinguish a feminine form on the beach, for it was there Mercede_welt. How was it that a presentiment did not warn Mercedes that her lover wa_ithin three hundred yards of her?
  • One light alone was visible; and Dantes saw that it came from Mercedes'
  • chamber. Mercedes was the only one awake in the whole settlement. A loud cr_ould be heard by her. But pride restrained him and he did not utter it. Wha_ould his guards think if they heard him shout like a madman?
  • He remained silent, his eyes fixed upon the light; the boat went on, but th_risoner thought only of Mercedes. An intervening elevation of land hid th_ight. Dantes turned and perceived that they had got out to sea. While he ha_een absorbed in thought, they had shipped their oars and hoisted sail; th_oat was now moving with the wind.
  • In spite of his repugnance to address the guards, Dantes turned to the neares_endarme, and taking his hand, —
  • "Comrade," said he, "I adjure you, as a Christian and a soldier, to tell m_here we are going. I am Captain Dantes, a loyal Frenchman, thought accused o_reason; tell me where you are conducting me, and I promise you on my honor _ill submit to my fate."
  • The gendarme looked irresolutely at his companion, who returned for answer _ign that said, "I see no great harm in telling him now," and the gendarm_eplied, —
  • "You are a native of Marseilles, and a sailor, and yet you do not know wher_ou are going?"
  • "On my honor, I have no idea."
  • "Have you no idea whatever?"
  • "None at all."
  • "That is impossible."
  • "I swear to you it is true. Tell me, I entreat."
  • "But my orders."
  • "Your orders do not forbid your telling me what I must know in ten minutes, i_alf an hour, or an hour. You see I cannot escape, even if I intended."
  • "Unless you are blind, or have never been outside the harbor, you must know."
  • "I do not."
  • "Look round you then." Dantes rose and looked forward, when he saw rise withi_ hundred yards of him the black and frowning rock on which stands the Chatea_'If. This gloomy fortress, which has for more than three hundred year_urnished food for so many wild legends, seemed to Dantes like a scaffold to _alefactor.
  • "The Chateau d'If?" cried he, "what are we going there for?" The gendarm_miled.
  • "I am not going there to be imprisoned," said Dantes; "it is only used fo_olitical prisoners. I have committed no crime. Are there any magistrates o_udges at the Chateau d'If?"
  • "There are only," said the gendarme, "a governor, a garrison, turnkeys, an_ood thick walls. Come, come, do not look so astonished, or you will make m_hink you are laughing at me in return for my good nature." Dantes pressed th_endarme's hand as though he would crush it.
  • "You think, then," said he, "that I am taken to the Chateau d'If to b_mprisoned there?"
  • "It is probable; but there is no occasion to squeeze so hard."
  • "Without any inquiry, without any formality?"
  • "All the formalities have been gone through; the inquiry is already made."
  • "And so, in spite of M. de Villefort's promises?"
  • "I do not know what M. de Villefort promised you," said the gendarme, "but _now we are taking you to the Chateau d'If. But what are you doing? Help, comrades, help!"
  • By a rapid movement, which the gendarme's practiced eye had perceived, Dante_prang forward to precipitate himself into the sea; but four vigorous arm_eized him as his feet quitted the bottom of the boat. He fell back cursin_ith rage.
  • "Good!" said the gendarme, placing his knee on his chest; "believe soft-spoke_entlemen again! Harkye, my friend, I have disobeyed my first order, but _ill not disobey the second; and if you move, I will blow your brains out."
  • And he levelled his carbine at Dantes, who felt the muzzle against his temple.
  • For a moment the idea of struggling crossed his mind, and of so ending th_nexpected evil that had overtaken him. But he bethought him of M. d_illefort's promise; and, besides, death in a boat from the hand of a gendarm_eemed too terrible. He remained motionless, but gnashing his teeth an_ringing his hands with fury.
  • At this moment the boat came to a landing with a violent shock. One of th_ailors leaped on shore, a cord creaked as it ran through a pulley, and Dante_uessed they were at the end of the voyage, and that they were mooring th_oat.
  • His guards, taking him by the arms and coat-collar, forced him to rise, an_ragged him towards the steps that lead to the gate of the fortress, while th_olice officer carrying a musket with fixed bayonet followed behind.
  • Dantes made no resistance; he was like a man in a dream: he saw soldiers draw_p on the embankment; he knew vaguely that he was ascending a flight of steps; he was conscious that he passed through a door, and that the door close_ehind him; but all this indistinctly as through a mist. He did not even se_he ocean, that terrible barrier against freedom, which the prisoners loo_pon with utter despair.
  • They halted for a minute, during which he strove to collect his thoughts. H_ooked around; he was in a court surrounded by high walls; he heard th_easured tread of sentinels, and as they passed before the light he saw th_arrels of their muskets shine.
  • They waited upwards of ten minutes. Certain Dantes could not escape, th_endarmes released him. They seemed awaiting orders. The orders came.
  • "Where is the prisoner?" said a voice.
  • "Here," replied the gendarmes.
  • "Let him follow me; I will take him to his cell."
  • "Go!" said the gendarmes, thrusting Dantes forward.
  • The prisoner followed his guide, who led him into a room almost under ground, whose bare and reeking walls seemed as though impregnated with tears; a lam_laced on a stool illumined the apartment faintly, and showed Dantes th_eatures of his conductor, an under-jailer, ill-clothed, and of sulle_ppearance.
  • "Here is your chamber for to-night," said he. "It is late, and the governor i_sleep. To-morrow, perhaps, he may change you. In the meantime there is bread, water, and fresh straw; and that is all a prisoner can wish for. Goodnight."
  • And before Dantes could open his mouth — before he had noticed where th_ailer placed his bread or the water — before he had glanced towards th_orner where the straw was, the jailer disappeared, taking with him the lam_nd closing the door, leaving stamped upon the prisoner's mind the di_eflection of the dripping walls of his dungeon.
  • Dantes was alone in darkness and in silence — cold as the shadows that he fel_reathe on his burning forehead. With the first dawn of day the jaile_eturned, with orders to leave Dantes where he was. He found the prisoner i_he same position, as if fixed there, his eyes swollen with weeping. He ha_assed the night standing, and without sleep. The jailer advanced; Dante_ppeared not to perceive him. He touched him on the shoulder. Edmond started.
  • "Have you not slept?" said the jailer.
  • "I do not know," replied Dantes. The jailer stared.
  • "Are you hungry?" continued he.
  • "I do not know."
  • "Do you wish for anything?"
  • "I wish to see the governor." The jailer shrugged his shoulders and left th_hamber.
  • Dantes followed him with his eyes, and stretched forth his hands towards th_pen door; but the door closed. All his emotion then burst forth; he cas_imself on the ground, weeping bitterly, and asking himself what crime he ha_ommitted that he was thus punished.
  • The day passed thus; he scarcely tasted food, but walked round and round th_ell like a wild beast in its cage. One thought in particular tormented him: namely, that during his journey hither he had sat so still, whereas he might, a dozen times, have plunged into the sea, and, thanks to his powers o_wimming, for which he was famous, have gained the shore, concealed himsel_ntil the arrival of a Genoese or Spanish vessel, escaped to Spain or Italy, where Mercedes and his father could have joined him. He had no fears as to ho_e should live — good seamen are welcome everywhere. He spoke Italian like _uscan, and Spanish like a Castilian; he would have been free, and happy wit_ercedes and his father, whereas he was now confined in the Chateau d'If, tha_mpregnable fortress, ignorant of the future destiny of his father an_ercedes; and all this because he had trusted to Villefort's promise. Th_hought was maddening, and Dantes threw himself furiously down on his straw.
  • The next morning at the same hour, the jailer came again.
  • "Well," said the jailer, "are you more reasonable to-day?" Dantes made n_eply.
  • "Come, cheer up; is there anything that I can do for you?"
  • "I wish to see the governor."
  • "I have already told you it was impossible."
  • "Why so?"
  • "Because it is against prison rules, and prisoners must not even ask for it."
  • "What is allowed, then?"
  • "Better fare, if you pay for it, books, and leave to walk about."
  • "I do not want books, I am satisfied with my food, and do not care to wal_bout; but I wish to see the governor."
  • "If you worry me by repeating the same thing, I will not bring you any more t_at."
  • "Well, then," said Edmond, "if you do not, I shall die of hunger — that i_ll."
  • The jailer saw by his tone he would be happy to die; and as every prisoner i_orth ten sous a day to his jailer, he replied in a more subdued tone.
  • "What you ask is impossible; but if you are very well behaved you will b_llowed to walk about, and some day you will meet the governor, and if h_hooses to reply, that is his affair."
  • "But," asked Dantes, "how long shall I have to wait?"
  • "Ah, a month — six months — a year."
  • "It is too long a time. I wish to see him at once."
  • "Ah," said the jailer, "do not always brood over what is impossible, or yo_ill be mad in a fortnight."
  • "You think so?"
  • "Yes; we have an instance here; it was by always offering a million of franc_o the governor for his liberty that an abbe became mad, who was in thi_hamber before you."
  • "How long has he left it?"
  • "Two years."
  • "Was he liberated, then?"
  • "No; he was put in a dungeon."
  • "Listen!" said Dantes. "I am not an abbe, I am not mad; perhaps I shall be, but at present, unfortunately, I am not. I will make you another offer."
  • "What is that?"
  • "I do not offer you a million, because I have it not; but I will give you _undred crowns if, the first time you go to Marseilles, you will seek out _oung girl named Mercedes, at the Catalans, and give her two lines from me."
  • "If I took them, and were detected, I should lose my place, which is worth tw_housand francs a year; so that I should be a great fool to run such a ris_or three hundred."
  • "Well," said Dantes, "mark this; if you refuse at least to tell Mercedes I a_ere, I will some day hide myself behind the door, and when you enter I wil_ash out your brains with this stool."
  • "Threats!" cried the jailer, retreating and putting himself on the defensive;
  • "you are certainly going mad. The abbe began like you, and in three days yo_ill be like him, mad enough to tie up; but, fortunately, there are dungeon_ere." Dantes whirled the stool round his head.
  • "All right, all right," said the jailer; "all right, since you will have i_o. I will send word to the governor."
  • "Very well," returned Dantes, dropping the stool and sitting on it as if h_ere in reality mad. The jailer went out, and returned in an instant with _orporal and four soldiers.
  • "By the governor's orders," said he, "conduct the prisoner to the tie_eneath."
  • "To the dungeon, then," said the corporal.
  • "Yes; we must put the madman with the madmen." The soldiers seized Dantes, wh_ollowed passively.
  • He descended fifteen steps, and the door of a dungeon was opened, and he wa_hrust in. The door closed, and Dantes advanced with outstretched hands unti_e touched the wall; he then sat down in the corner until his eyes becam_ccustomed to the darkness. The jailer was right; Dantes wanted but little o_eing utterly mad.