The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 59 of 400

Dantes was confused and silent at this explanation of the thoughts which had unconsciously been working in his mind, or rather soul; for there are two distinct sorts of ideas, those that proceed from the head and those that emanate from the heart.

“Since my imprisonment,” said Faria, “I have thought over all the most celebrated cases of escape on record. They have rarely been successful. Those that have been crowned with full success have been long meditated upon, and carefully arranged; such, for instance, as the escape of the Duc de Beaufort from the Chateau de Vincennes, that of the Abbe Dubuquoi from For l’Eveque; of Latude from the Bastille. Then there are those for which chance sometimes affords opportunity, and those are the best of all. Let us, therefore, wait patiently for some favorable moment, and when it presents itself, profit by it.”

“Ah,” said Dantes, “you might well endure the tedious delay; you were constantly employed in the task you set yourself, and when weary with toil, you had your hopes to refresh and encourage you.”

“I assure you,” replied the old man, “I did not turn to that source for recreation or support.”

“What did you do then?”

“I wrote or studied.”

“Were you then permitted the use of pens, ink, and paper?”

“Oh, no,” answered the abbe; “I had none but what I made for myself.”

“You made paper, pens and ink?”


Dantes gazed with admiration, but he had some difficulty in believing. Faria saw this.

“When you pay me a visit in my cell, my young friend,” said he, “I will show you an entire work, the fruits of the thoughts and reflections of my whole life; many of them meditated over in the shades of the Colosseum at Rome, at the foot of St. Mark’s column at Venice, and on the borders of the Arno at Florence, little imagining at the time that they would be arranged in order within the walls of the Chateau d’If. The work I speak of is called ‘A Treatise on the Possibility of a General Monarchy in Italy,’ and will make one large quarto volume.”

“And on what have you written all this?”

“On two of my shirts. I invented a preparation that makes linen as smooth and as easy to write on as parchment.”

“You are, then, a chemist?”

“Somewhat; I know Lavoisier, and was the intimate friend of Cabanis.”

“But for such a work you must have needed books—had you any?”

“I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library at Rome; but after reading them over many times, I found out that with one hundred and fifty well-chosen books a man possesses, if not a complete summary of all human knowledge, at least all that a man need really know. I devoted three years of my life to reading and studying these one hundred and fifty volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that since I have been in prison, a very slight effort of memory has enabled me to recall their contents as readily as though the pages were open before me. I could recite you the whole of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Strada, Jornandes, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most important.”

“You are, doubtless, acquainted with a variety of languages, so as to have been able to read all these?”

“Yes, I speak five of the modern tongues—that is to say, German, French, Italian, English, and Spanish; by the aid of ancient Greek I learned modern Greek—I don’t speak it so well as I could wish, but I am still trying to improve myself.”

“Improve yourself!” repeated Dantes; “why, how can you manage to do so?”

“Why, I made a vocabulary of the words I knew; turned, returned, and arranged them, so as to enable me to express my thoughts through their medium. I know nearly one thousand words, which is all that is absolutely necessary, although I believe there are nearly one hundred thousand in the dictionaries. I cannot hope to be very fluent, but I certainly should have no difficulty in explaining my wants and wishes; and that would be quite as much as I should ever require.”

Stronger grew the wonder of Dantes, who almost fancied he had to do with one gifted with supernatural powers; still hoping to find some imperfection which might bring him down to a level with human beings, he added, “Then if you were not furnished with pens, how did you manage to write the work you speak of?”

“I made myself some excellent ones, which would be universally preferred to all others if once known. You are aware what huge whitings are served to us on maigre days. Well, I selected the cartilages of the heads of these fishes, and you can scarcely imagine the delight with which I welcomed the arrival of each Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, as affording me the means of increasing my stock of pens; for I will freely confess that my historical labors have been my greatest solace and relief. While retracing the past, I forget the present; and traversing at will the path of history I cease to remember that I am myself a prisoner.”

“But the ink,” said Dantes; “of what did you make your ink?”

“There was formerly a fireplace in my dungeon,” replied Faria, “but it was closed up long ere I became an occupant of this prison. Still, it must have been many years in use, for it was thickly covered with a coating of soot; this soot I dissolved in a portion of the wine brought to me every Sunday, and I assure you a better ink cannot be desired. For very important notes, for which closer attention is required, I pricked one of my fingers, and wrote with my own blood.”

“And when,” asked Dantes, “may I see all this?”

“Whenever you please,” replied the abbe.

“Oh, then let it be directly!” exclaimed the young man.

“Follow me, then,” said the abbe, as he re-entered the subterranean passage, in which he soon disappeared, followed by Dantes.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)