The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 55 of 400

“Who talks of God and despair at the same time?” said a voice that seemed to come from beneath the earth, and, deadened by the distance, sounded hollow and sepulchral in the young man’s ears. Edmond’s hair stood on end, and he rose to his knees.

“Ah,” said he, “I hear a human voice.” Edmond had not heard any one speak save his jailer for four or five years; and a jailer is no man to a prisoner—he is a living door, a barrier of flesh and blood adding strength to restraints of oak and iron.

“In the name of heaven,” cried Dantes, “speak again, though the sound of your voice 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?”

“A Frenchman.”

“Your name?”

“Edmond Dantes.”

“Your profession?”

“A sailor.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Since the 28th of February, 1815.”

“Your crime?”

“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?”

“Since 1811.”

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 your excavation?”

“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?”

“A corridor.”

“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 are mining 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 been safe.”

“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 until you 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 laugh resounding from the depths.

“Oh, I am a Christian,” cried Dantes, guessing instinctively that this man meant to abandon him. “I swear to you by him who died for us that naught shall induce me to breathe one syllable to my jailers; but I conjure you do not abandon me. If you do, I swear to you, for I have got to the end of my strength, that I will dash my brains out against the wall, and you will have my 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. All I do know is, that I was just nineteen when I was arrested, the 28th of February, 1815.”

“Not quite twenty-six!” murmured the voice; “at that age he cannot be a traitor.”

“Oh, no, no,” cried Dantes. “I swear to you again, rather than betray you, I would allow myself to be hacked in pieces!”

“You have done well to speak to me, and ask for my assistance, for I was about to form another plan, and leave you; but your age reassures me. I will not forget you. Wait.”

“How long?”

“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 to you. We will escape, and if we cannot escape we will talk; you of those whom you 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 are old, I will be your son. I have a father who is seventy if he yet lives; I only love him and a young girl called Mercedes. My father has not yet forgotten me, I am sure, but God alone knows if she loves me still; I shall love 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 his sincerity; Dantes rose, dispersed the fragments with the same precaution as before, and pushed his bed back against the wall. He then gave himself up to his happiness. He would no longer be alone. He was, perhaps, about to regain his liberty; at the worst, he would have a companion, and captivity that is shared is but half captivity. Plaints made in common are almost prayers, and prayers 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 his bed, pressing his hand on his heart. At the slightest noise he bounded towards the door. Once or twice the thought crossed his mind that he might be separated from this unknown, whom he loved already; and then his mind was made up—when the jailer moved his bed and stooped to examine the opening, he would kill him with his water jug. He would be condemned to die, but he was about to die of grief and despair when this miraculous noise recalled him to life.

The jailer came in the evening. Dantes was on his bed. It seemed to him that thus he better guarded the unfinished opening. Doubtless there was a strange expression 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 betray him. The jailer went away shaking his head. Night came; Dantes hoped that his neighbor would profit by the silence to address him, but he was mistaken. The next morning, however, just as he removed his bed from the wall, he heard three 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 have twelve 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 back smartly, while a mass of stones and earth disappeared in a hole that opened beneath the aperture he himself had formed. Then from the bottom of this passage, the depth of which it was impossible to measure, he saw appear, first the head, then the shoulders, and lastly the body of a man, who sprang lightly into his cell.

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