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Chapter 28

The Prison Register.

The day after that in which the scene we have just described
had taken place on the road between Bellegarde and
Beaucaire, a man of about thirty or two and thirty, dressed
in a bright blue frock coat, nankeen trousers, and a white
waistcoat, having the appearance and accent of an
Englishman, presented himself before the mayor of
Marseilles. "Sir," said he, "I am chief clerk of the house
of Thomson & French, of Rome. We are, and have been these
ten years, connected with the house of Morrel & Son, of
Marseilles. We have a hundred thousand francs or thereabouts
loaned on their securities, and we are a little uneasy at
reports that have reached us that the firm is on the brink
of ruin. I have come, therefore, express from Rome, to ask
you for information."

"Sir," replied the mayor. "I know very well that during the
last four or five years misfortune has seemed to pursue M.
Morrel. He has lost four or five vessels, and suffered by
three or four bankruptcies; but it is not for me, although I
am a creditor myself to the amount of ten thousand francs,
to give any information as to the state of his finances. Ask
of me, as mayor, what is my opinion of M. Morrel, and I
shall say that he is a man honorable to the last degree, and
who has up to this time fulfilled every engagement with
scrupulous punctuality. This is all I can say, sir; if you
wish to learn more, address yourself to M. de Boville, the
inspector of prisons, No. 15, Rue de Nouailles; he has, I
believe, two hundred thousand francs in Morrel's hands, and
if there be any grounds for apprehension, as this is a
greater amount than mine, you will most probably find him
better informed than myself."

The Englishman seemed to appreciate this extreme delicacy,
made his bow and went away, proceeding with a characteristic
British stride towards the street mentioned. M. de Boville
was in his private room, and the Englishman, on perceiving
him, made a gesture of surprise, which seemed to indicate
that it was not the first time he had been in his presence.
As to M. de Boville, he was in such a state of despair, that
it was evident all the faculties of his mind, absorbed in
the thought which occupied him at the moment, did not allow
either his memory or his imagination to stray to the past.
The Englishman, with the coolness of his nation, addressed
him in terms nearly similar to those with which he had
accosted the mayor of Marseilles. "Oh, sir," exclaimed M. de
Boville, "your fears are unfortunately but too well founded,
and you see before you a man in despair. I had two hundred
thousand francs placed in the hands of Morrel & Son; these
two hundred thousand francs were the dowry of my daughter,
who was to be married in a fortnight, and these two hundred
thousand francs were payable, half on the 15th of this
month, and the other half on the 15th of next month. I had
informed M. Morrel of my desire to have these payments
punctually, and he has been here within the last half-hour
to tell me that if his ship, the Pharaon, did not come into
port on the 15th, he would be wholly unable to make this

"But," said the Englishman, "this looks very much like a
suspension of payment."

"It looks more like bankruptcy!" exclaimed M. de Boville

The Englishman appeared to reflect a moment, and then said,
-- "From which it would appear, sir, that this credit
inspires you with considerable apprehension?"

"To tell you the truth, I consider it lost."

"Well, then, I will buy it of you!"


"Yes, I!"

"But at a tremendous discount, of course?"

"No, for two hundred thousand francs. Our house," added the
Englishman with a laugh, "does not do things in that way."

"And you will pay" --

"Ready money." And the Englishman drew from his pocket a
bundle of bank-notes, which might have been twice the sum M.
de Boville feared to lose. A ray of joy passed across M. de
Boville's countenance, yet he made an effort at
self-control, and said, -- "Sir, I ought to tell you that,
in all probability, you will not realize six per cent of
this sum."

"That's no affair of mine," replied the Englishman, "that is
the affair of the house of Thomson & French, in whose name I
act. They have, perhaps, some motive to serve in hastening
the ruin of a rival firm. But all I know, sir, is, that I am
ready to hand you over this sum in exchange for your
assignment of the debt. I only ask a brokerage."

"Of course, that is perfectly just," cried M. de Boville.
"The commission is usually one and a half; will you have two
-- three -- five per cent, or even more? Whatever you say."

"Sir," replied the Englishman, laughing, "I am like my
house, and do not do such things -- no, the commission I ask
is quite different."

"Name it, sir, I beg."

"You are the inspector of prisons?"

"I have been so these fourteen years."

"You keep the registers of entries and departures?"

"I do."

"To these registers there are added notes relative to the

"There are special reports on every prisoner."

"Well, sir, I was educated at home by a poor devil of an
abbe, who disappeared suddenly. I have since learned that he
was confined in the Chateau d'If, and I should like to learn
some particulars of his death."

"What was his name?"

"The Abbe Faria."

"Oh, I recollect him perfectly," cried M. de Boville; "he
was crazy."

"So they said."

"Oh, he was, decidedly."

"Very possibly; but what sort of madness was it?"

"He pretended to know of an immense treasure, and offered
vast sums to the government if they would liberate him."

"Poor devil! -- and he is dead?"

"Yes, sir, five or six months ago -- last February."

"You have a good memory, sir, to recollect dates so well."

"I recollect this, because the poor devil's death was
accompanied by a singular incident."

"May I ask what that was?" said the Englishman with an
expression of curiosity, which a close observer would have
been astonished at discovering in his phlegmatic

"Oh dear, yes, sir; the abbe's dungeon was forty or fifty
feet distant from that of one of Bonaparte's emissaries, --
one of those who had contributed the most to the return of
the usurper in 1815, -- a very resolute and very dangerous

"Indeed!" said the Englishman.

"Yes," replied M. de Boville; "I myself had occasion to see
this man in 1816 or 1817, and we could only go into his
dungeon with a file of soldiers. That man made a deep
impression on me; I shall never forget his countenance!" The
Englishman smiled imperceptibly.

"And you say, sir," he interposed, "that the two dungeons"

"Were separated by a distance of fifty feet; but it appears
that this Edmond Dantes" --

"This dangerous man's name was" --

"Edmond Dantes. It appears, sir, that this Edmond Dantes had
procured tools, or made them, for they found a tunnel
through which the prisoners held communication with one

"This tunnel was dug, no doubt, with an intention of

"No doubt; but unfortunately for the prisoners, the Abbe
Faria had an attack of catalepsy, and died."

"That must have cut short the projects of escape."

"For the dead man, yes," replied M. de Boville, "but not for
the survivor; on the contrary, this Dantes saw a means of
accelerating his escape. He, no doubt, thought that
prisoners who died in the Chateau d'If were interred in an
ordinary burial-ground, and he conveyed the dead man into
his own cell, took his place in the sack in which they had
sewed up the corpse, and awaited the moment of interment."

"It was a bold step, and one that showed some courage,"
remarked the Englishman.

"As I have already told you, sir, he was a very dangerous
man; and, fortunately, by his own act disembarrassed the
government of the fears it had on his account."

"How was that?"

"How? Do you not comprehend?"


"The Chateau d'If has no cemetery, and they simply throw the
dead into the sea, after fastening a thirty-six pound
cannon-ball to their feet."

"Well," observed the Englishman as if he were slow of

"Well, they fastened a thirty-six pound ball to his feet,
and threw him into the sea."

"Really!" exclaimed the Englishman.

"Yes, sir," continued the inspector of prisons. "You may
imagine the amazement of the fugitive when he found himself
flung headlong over the rocks! I should like to have seen
his face at that moment."

"That would have been difficult."

"No matter," replied De Boville, in supreme good-humor at
the certainty of recovering his two hundred thousand francs,
-- "no matter, I can fancy it." And he shouted with

"So can I," said the Englishman, and he laughed too; but he
laughed as the English do, "at the end of his teeth."

"And so," continued the Englishman who first gained his
composure, "he was drowned?"


"So that the governor got rid of the dangerous and the crazy
prisoner at the same time?"


"But some official document was drawn up as to this affair,
I suppose?" inquired the Englishman.

"Yes, yes, the mortuary deposition. You understand, Dantes'
relations, if he had any, might have some interest in
knowing if he were dead or alive."

"So that now, if there were anything to inherit from him,
they may do so with easy conscience. He is dead, and no
mistake about it."

"Oh, yes; and they may have the fact attested whenever they

"So be it," said the Englishman. "But to return to these

"True, this story has diverted our attention from them.
Excuse me."

"Excuse you for what? For the story? By no means; it really
seems to me very curious."

"Yes, indeed. So, sir, you wish to see all relating to the
poor abbe, who really was gentleness itself."

"Yes, you will much oblige me."

"Go into my study here, and I will show it to you." And they
both entered M. de Boville's study. Everything was here
arranged in perfect order; each register had its number,
each file of papers its place. The inspector begged the
Englishman to seat himself in an arm-chair, and placed
before him the register and documents relative to the
Chateau d'If, giving him all the time he desired for the
examination, while De Boville seated himself in a corner,
and began to read his newspaper. The Englishman easily found
the entries relative to the Abbe Faria; but it seemed that
the history which the inspector had related interested him
greatly, for after having perused the first documents he
turned over the leaves until he reached the deposition
respecting Edmond Dantes. There he found everything arranged
in due order, -- the accusation, examination, Morrel's
petition, M. de Villefort's marginal notes. He folded up the
accusation quietly, and put it as quietly in his pocket;
read the examination, and saw that the name of Noirtier was
not mentioned in it; perused, too, the application dated
10th April, 1815, in which Morrel, by the deputy procureur's
advice, exaggerated with the best intentions (for Napoleon
was then on the throne) the services Dantes had rendered to
the imperial cause -- services which Villefort's
certificates rendered indispensable. Then he saw through the
whole thing. This petition to Napoleon, kept back by
Villefort, had become, under the second restoration, a
terrible weapon against him in the hands of the king's
attorney. He was no longer astonished when he searched on to
find in the register this note, placed in a bracket against
his name: --

Edmond Dantes.

An inveterate Bonapartist; took an active part in the return
from the Island of Elba.

To be kept in strict solitary confinement, and to be closely
watched and guarded.

Beneath these lines was written in another hand: "See note
above -- nothing can be done." He compared the writing in
the bracket with the writing of the certificate placed
beneath Morrel's petition, and discovered that the note in
the bracket was the some writing as the certificate -- that
is to say, was in Villefort's handwriting. As to the note
which accompanied this, the Englishman understood that it
might have been added by some inspector who had taken a
momentary interest in Dantes' situation, but who had, from
the remarks we have quoted, found it impossible to give any
effect to the interest he had felt.

As we have said, the inspector, from discretion, and that he
might not disturb the Abbe Faria's pupil in his researches,
had seated himself in a corner, and was reading Le Drapeau
Blanc. He did not see the Englishman fold up and place in
his pocket the accusation written by Danglars under the
arbor of La Reserve, and which had the postmark,
"Marseilles, 27th Feb., delivery 6 o'clock, P.M." But it
must be said that if he had seen it, he attached so little
importance to this scrap of paper, and so much importance to
his two hundred thousand francs, that he would not have
opposed whatever the Englishman might do, however irregular
it might be.

"Thanks," said the latter, closing the register with a slam,
"I have all I want; now it is for me to perform my promise.
Give me a simple assignment of your debt; acknowledge
therein the receipt of the cash, and I will hand you over
the money." He rose, gave his seat to M. de Boville, who
took it without ceremony, and quickly drew up the required
assignment, while the Englishman counted out the bank-notes
on the other side of the desk.

Alexandre Dumas pere