Chapter 20 The Cemetery of the Chateau D'If
THE BED, at full length, and faintly illuminated by the pale light that
came from the window, lay a sack of canvas, and under its rude folds was
stretched a long and stiffened form; it was Faria's last winding-sheet,--a
winding-sheet which, as the turnkey said, cost so little. Everything was
in readiness. A barrier had been placed between Dantès
and his old friend. No longer could Edmond look into those wide-open eyes
which had seemed to be penetrating the mysteries of death; no longer could
he clasp the hand which had done so much to make his existence blessed.
Faria, the beneficent and cheerful companion, with whom he was accustomed
to live so intimately, no longer breathed. He seated himself on the edge
of that terrible bed, and fell into melancholy and gloomy revery.
was alone again--again condemned to silence--again face to face with
nothingness! Alone!--never again to see the face, never again to hear the
voice of the only human being who united him to earth! Was not Faria's
fate the better, after all--to solve the problem of life at its source,
even at the risk of horrible suffering? The idea of suicide, which his
friend had driven away and kept away by his cheerful presence, now hovered
like a phantom over the abbé's dead body.
I could die," he said, "I should go where he goes, and should
assuredly find him again. But how to die? It is very easy," he went
on with a smile; "I will remain here, rush on the first person that
opens the door, strangle him, and then they will guillotine me." But
excessive grief is like a storm at sea, where the frail bark is tossed
from the depths to the top of the wave. Dantès
recoiled from the idea of so infamous a death, and passed suddenly from
despair to an ardent desire for life and liberty.
oh, no," he exclaimed--"not die now, after having lived and
suffered so long and so much! Die? yes, had I died years ago; but now to
die would be, indeed, to give way to the sarcasm of destiny. No, I want to
live; I shall struggle to the very last; I will yet win back the happiness
of which I have been deprived. Before I die I must not forget that I have
my executioners to punish, and perhaps, too, who knows, some friends to
reward. Yet they will forget me here, and I shall die in my dungeon like
Faria." As he said this, he became silent and gazed straight before
him like one overwhelmed with a strange and amazing thought. Suddenly he
arose, lifted his hand to his brow as if his brain wore giddy, paced twice
or thrice round the dungeon, and then paused abruptly by the bed.
God!" he muttered, "whence comes this thought? Is it from thee?
Since none but the dead pass freely from this dungeon, let me take the
place of the dead!" Without giving himself time to reconsider his
decision, and, indeed, that he might not allow his thoughts to be
distracted from his desperate resolution, he bent over the appalling
shroud, opened it with the knife which Faria had made, drew the corpse
from the sack, and bore it along the tunnel to his own chamber, laid it on
his couch, tied around its head the rag he wore at night around his own,
covered it with his counterpane, once again kissed the ice-cold brow, and
tried vainly to close the resisting eyes, which glared horribly, turned
the head towards the wall, so that the jailer might, when he brought the
evening meal, believe that he was asleep, as was his frequent custom;
entered the tunnel again, drew the bed against the wall, returned to the
other cell, took from the hiding-place the needle and thread, flung off
his rags, that they might feel only naked flesh beneath the coarse canvas,
and getting inside the sack, placed himself in the posture in which the
dead body had been laid, and sewed up the mouth of the sack from the
would have been discovered by the beating of his heart, if by any
mischance the jailers had entered at that moment. Dantès might have waited until the evening visit was
over, but he was afraid that the governor would change his mind, and order
the dead body to be removed earlier. In that case his last hope would have
been destroyed. Now his plans were fully made, and this is what he
intended to do. If while he was being carried out the grave-diggers should
discover that they were bearing a live instead of a dead body, Dantès did not intend to give them time to recognize him,
but with a sudden cut of the knife, he meant to open the sack from top to
bottom, and, profiting by their alarm, escape; if they tried to catch him,
he would use his knife to better purpose.
they took him to the cemetery and laid him in a grave, he would allow
himself to be covered with earth, and then, as it was night, the
grave-diggers could scarcely have turned their backs before he would have
worked his way through the yielding soil and escaped. He hoped that the
weight of earth would not be so great that he could not overcome it. If he
was detected in this and the earth proved too heavy, he would be stifled,
and then--so much the better, all would be over. Dantès
had not eaten since the preceding evening, but he had not thought of
hunger, nor did he think of it now. His situation was too precarious to
allow him even time to reflect on any thought but one.
first risk that Dantès
ran was, that the jailer, when he brought him his supper at seven o'clock,
might perceive the change that had been made; fortunately, twenty times at
least, from misanthropy or fatigue, Dantès had received his jailer in bed, and then the man
placed his bread and soup on the table, and went away without saying a
word. This time the jailer might not be as silent as usual, but speak to
Dantès, and seeing that he received no
reply, go to the bed, and thus discover all.
seven o'clock came, Dantès'
agony really began. His hand placed upon his heart was unable to redress
its throbbings, while, with the other he wiped the perspiration from his
temples. From time to time chills ran through his whole body, and clutched
his heart in a grasp of ice. Then he thought he was going to die. Yet the
hours passed on without any unusual disturbance, and Dantès knew that he had escaped the first peril. It was a
good augury. At length, about the hour the governor had appointed,
footsteps were heard on the stairs. Edmond felt that the moment had
arrived, summoned up all his courage, held his breath, and would have been
happy if at the same time he could have repressed the throbbing of his
veins. The footsteps--they were double--paused at the door--and Dantès guessed that the two grave-diggers had come to
seek him--this idea was soon converted into certainty, when he heard the
noise they made in putting down the hand-bier. The door opened, and a dim
light reached Dantès'
eyes through the coarse sack that covered him; he saw two shadows approach
his bed, a third remaining at the door with a torch in its hand. The two
men, approaching the ends of the bed, took the sack by its extremities.
heavy though for an old and thin man," said one, as he raised the
say every year adds half a pound to the weight of the bones," said
another, lifting the feet.
you tied the knot?" inquired the first speaker.
would be the use of carrying so much more weight?" was the reply,
"I can do that when we get there."
you're right," replied the companion.
the knot for?" thought Dantès.
deposited the supposed corpse on the bier. Edmond stiffened himself in
order to play the part of a dead man, and then the party, lighted by the
man with the torch, who went first, ascended the stairs. Suddenly he felt
the fresh and sharp night air, and Dantès
knew that the mistral was blowing. It was a sensation in which pleasure
and pain were strangely mingled. The bearers went on for twenty paces,
then stopped, putting the bier down on the ground. One of them went away,
and Dantès heard his shoes striking on the
am I?" he asked himself.
he is by no means a light load!" said the other bearer, sitting on
the edge of the hand-barrow. Dantès'
first impulse was to escape, but fortunately he did not attempt it.
us a light," said the other bearer, "or I shall never find what
I am looking for." The man with the torch complied, although not
asked in the most polite terms.
can he be looking for?" thought Edmond. "The spade,
perhaps." An exclamation of satisfaction indicated that the
grave-digger had found the object of his search. "Here it is at
last," he said, "not without some trouble though."
was the answer, "but it has lost nothing by waiting."
he said this, the man came towards Edmond, who heard a heavy metallic
substance laid down beside him, and at the same moment a cord was fastened
round his feet with sudden and painful violence.
have you tied the knot?" inquired the grave-digger, who was looking
and pretty tight too, I can tell you," was the answer.
on, then." And the bier was lifted once more, and they proceeded.
advanced fifty paces farther, and then stopped to open a door, then went
forward again. The noise of the waves dashing against the rocks on which
the Chateau is built, reached Dantès'
ear distinctly as they went forward.
weather!" observed one of the bearers; "not a pleasant night for
a dip in the sea."
yes, the abbé
runs a chance of being wet," said the other; and then there was a
burst of brutal laughter. Dantès
did not comprehend the jest, but his hair stood erect on his head.
here we are at last," said one of them. "A little farther--a
little farther," said the other. "You know very well that the
last was stopped on his way, dashed on the rocks, and the governor told us
next day that we were careless fellows."
ascended five or six more steps, and then Dantès felt that they took him, one by the head and the
other by the heels, and swung him to and fro. "One!" said the
grave-diggers, "two! three!" And at the same instant Dantès felt himself flung into the air
like a wounded bird, falling, falling, with a rapidity that made his blood
curdle. Although drawn downwards by the heavy weight which hastened his
rapid descent, it seemed to him as if the fall lasted for a century.
last, with a horrible splash, he darted like an arrow into the ice-cold
water, and as he did so he uttered a shrill cry, stifled in a moment by
his immersion beneath the waves.
Dantès had been flung into the sea,
and was dragged into its depths by a thirty-six pound shot tied to his
feet. The sea is the cemetery of the Chateau d'If.