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."
"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?"
"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.