The Count of Monte-Cristo. pg. 95
The gendarme scratched his ear and 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."
"And you cannot guess?"
"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 will merely spare me ages of uncertainty. I ask you as it you were my friend. You see I cannot escape, even if I intended."
"Unless you are blind, or have never seen 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 Château d'If.
This strange mass, this prison around which such deep terror reigns, this fortress that for three hundred years has filled Marseilles with its gloomy traditions, appearing thus suddenly to Dantes, who was not thinking about it, seemed to him what the scaffold seems to the condemned prisoner.
"The Château d'If?" cried he, "what are we going there for?" The gendarme smiled.
"I am not going there to he imprisoned," said Dantes; "it is only used for political prisoners. I have committed no crime. Are there any magistrates or judges at the Château d'If?"
"There are only," said the gendarme, "a governor, a garrison, turn-keys, 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 conducted to the château to be imprisoned there?"
"It is probable; but there is no occasion to squeeze so hard."
"Without any further formality?"
"All the formalities have been gone through."
The Count of Monte-Cristo pg. 96
"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 Château d'If. But what are you doing? — Help! comrades, help! "
By a rapid movement, which the gendarme's practiced eye had perceived, Dantes sprang forward to precipitate himself into the sea; but four vigorous arms seized him as his feet quitted the flooring of the boat. He fell back, foaming with rage.
"Good!" said the gendarme, placing his knee on his chest; "this is the way you keep your word as a sailor! Believe soft-spoken gentlemen again! Hark ye, my friend, I have disobeyed my first order, but I will not disobey the second; and if you move, I lodge a bullet in your brain."
And he leveled his carbine at Dantes, who felt the muzzle touch his head.
For a moment the idea of struggling crossed his mind, and of thus ending the unexpected evil that had overtaken him. But just because it was unexpected, he believed it would not last long, and he bethought him of Villefort's promise; and, besides, death in a boat from the hand of a gendarme seemed too repulsive. He remained motionless, but gnashing his teeth with fury.
At this moment a violent shock made the bark tremble. One of the sailors leaped on the rock which the bow had just touched, a cord creaked as it ran through a pulley, and Dantes guessed they were at the end of the voyage and mooring the boat.
His guardians, taking hold of his arms and collar, forced him to rise and land, and dragged him toward the steps that lead to the gate of the fortress, whilst the exempt followed, armed with a carbine and bayonet.
Dantes made no resistance; he was dazed and tottering like a drunken man; he saw soldiers who stationed themselves on the sides; he felt himself forced up fresh stairs; he perceived he passed through a door, and the door closed behind him; but all this as mechanically as through a mist, nothing distinctly. He did not even see the sea, that terror of prisoners who regard its expanse with the awful feeling that they cannot cross it.
They halted for a minute, during which he strove to collect his thoughts. He looked around: he was in a square court surrounded by four high walls; he heard the measured tread of sentinels, and as they passed before the light reflected on the walls from two or three lamps in the interior of the fortress, he saw the barrels of their muskets shine.
They waited upward of ten minutes. Certain Dantes could not
The Count of Monte Cristo pg. 97
escape, the gendarmes released him. They seemed awaiting orders.
The orders arrived.
"Where is the prisoner?" said a voice.
"Here," replied the gendarmes.
"Let him follow me; I am going to conduct him to his room."
"Go!" said the gendarmes, pushing Dantes. The prisoner followed his conductor, who led him into a room almost under ground, whose bare and reeking walls seemed as though impregnated with tears. A lamp placed on a stool, its wick floating in stinking fat, illumined the apartment faintly, and showed Dantes the features of his conductor, an under-jailer, ill-clothed, and of sullen appearance.
"Here is your chamber for to-night," said he. “It is late, and Monsieur le Gouverneur is asleep. To-morrow perhaps, when he awakes and has examined the orders concerning you, he may change you. In the mean time there are bread, water, and fresh straw; and that is all a prisoner can wish for. Good-night."
And before Dantes could open his mouth, before he had noticed where the jailer placed his bread, or where the water was, before he had glanced toward the corner where the straw was, the jailer disappeared, taking with him the lamp, whose dull rays showed him the dripping walls of his prison.
Dantes was alone in darkness and in silence, mute as the vault above him, and cold as the shadows that fell on his burning forehead. With the first dawn of day the jailer returned, with orders to leave Dantes where he was. He found the prisoner in the same position, as if fixed there by an iron hand, his eyes swollen with weeping. He had passed the night standing, and without sleep. The jailer advanced; Dantes appeared 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 the chamber.
Dantes followed him with his eyes, and stretched forth his hands toward the open door; but the door closed All his emotion then burst forth, tears streamed from his swollen lids in rivulets: he cast himself on the ground, praying, recalling all his past life, and asking himself what crime he had committed that he, still so young, was thus punished.
Alexandre Dumas was a writer in 19th Century France. His works have been translated into many languages, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. His most famous works include The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. You can find out more about him here.
At this point in the story the protagonist, Edmond Dantes, has been arrested for a crime he did not commit.
He is being transported in a small rowboat to parts unknown...
An armed police officer in France and other French-speaking countries. (Pronounced ZHändärm)
Another word for the gallows.
Photograph of Marseilles Harbor, circa 1880.
At the time the story is set, France was ruled by King Louis XVIII following the first Bonapartist revolution. The hero, Dantes, is accused of being a Bonapartist spy.
The equivalent of a prison warden.
M. is an abbreviation of Monsieur, a title or form of address used of or to a French-speaking man, corresponding to Mr. or sir.
Gérard de Villefort is a young prosecutor who interviewed Dantes following his arrest, and made certain promises to Dantes about his freedom.
Dantes was a talented sailor, on his way to being promoted to captain before his arrest. This illustration is of Edmond Dantes in his uniform from the book.
A short rifle or musket used by cavalry.
To think on reflection or come to think.
A view of the modern day courtyard of the Château d'If.
The lantern the author is describing was likely a tallow burning lantern. Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, and can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container.
Clearly Dantes' imprisonment is unjust, as he has not had a fair trial. The author of this textbook on the justice system (Foundations of Democracy, Center for Civic Education, 1995) uses Dantes' situation as an example.
One of the cells in the Château d'If, which has been named after Edmond Dantes.
Dantes is 20 years old at this point in the story. By the time he leaves the Château d'If he will be 34.