The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 31 of 400

The boat continued her voyage. They had passed the Tete de Morte, were now off the Anse du Pharo, and about to double the battery. This manoeuvre was incomprehensible 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 were forbidden to reply; and so he remained silent.

The most vague and wild thoughts passed through his mind. The boat they were in could not make a long voyage; there was no vessel at anchor outside the harbor; he thought, perhaps, they were going to leave him on some distant point. He was not bound, nor had they made any attempt to handcuff him; this seemed a good augury. Besides, had not the deputy, who had been so kind to him, 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 the fatal 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, and were now opposite the Point des Catalans. It seemed to the prisoner that he could distinguish a feminine form on the beach, for it was there Mercedes dwelt. How was it that a presentiment did not warn Mercedes that her lover was within 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 cry could be heard by her. But pride restrained him and he did not utter it. What would 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 the prisoner thought only of Mercedes. An intervening elevation of land hid the light. Dantes turned and perceived that they had got out to sea. While he had been absorbed in thought, they had shipped their oars and hoisted sail; the boat was now moving with the wind.

In spite of his repugnance to address the guards, Dantes turned to the nearest gendarme, and taking his hand,—

“Comrade,” said he, “I adjure you, as a Christian and a soldier, to tell me where we are going. I am Captain Dantes, a loyal Frenchman, though accused of treason; tell me where you are conducting me, and I promise you on my honor I will submit to my fate.”

The gendarme looked irresolutely at his companion, who returned for answer a sign that said, “I see no great harm in telling him now,” and the gendarme replied,—

“You are a native of Marseilles, and a sailor, and yet you do not know where you 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, in half 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 within a hundred yards of him the black and frowning rock on which stands the Chateau d’If. This gloomy fortress, which has for more than three hundred years furnished food for so many wild legends, seemed to Dantes like a scaffold to a malefactor.

“The Chateau d’If?” cried he, “what are we going there for?” The gendarme smiled.

“I am not going there to be imprisoned,” said Dantes; “it is only used for political prisoners. I have committed no crime. Are there any magistrates or judges at the Chateau d’If?”

“There are only,” said the gendarme, “a governor, a garrison, turnkeys, and good thick walls. Come, come, do not look so astonished, or you will make me think you are laughing at me in return for my good nature.” Dantes pressed the gendarme’s hand as though he would crush it.

“You think, then,” said he, “that I am taken to the Chateau d’If to be imprisoned 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 I know we are taking you to the Chateau d’If. But what are you doing? Help, comrades, help!”

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