Dantes is so excited about the impending visit to Monte Cristo that he can’t sleep the night before and has dreams that the entire fortune vanishes before his eyes as he attempts to secure it. The Jeune-Amelie rapidly approaches Monte Cristo, and Dantes takes the helm overnight, asking the rest of the crew for solitude in steering the vessel. The next day, Dantes’ heart is nearly bursting with excitement, and he is shocked to learn from his fellow sailors that there are no caves on the island, since he had assumed the treasure would be hidden in one. But he nevertheless collects himself, takes a gun to go hunting on the island (to survey it), and is followed along by Jacopo, his trusty companion on board.
This passage gives a rare window into Dantes’ psyche. We can presume that Dantes has greatly anticipated his visit to Monte Cristo, but his inability to sleep the night before his arrival on the island also provides an insight into his mind – into the enormous fear, anxiety, joy, and misgiving that now surround the name of Monte Cristo. For many chapters after this, the reader will have very little insight into the operation of Dantes’ thoughts, but for this brief instance, the narrator is able to convey them to us.
Dantes shoots and kills a wild goat and tells Jacopo to take it back to the other men, now assembled on the shores of Monte Cristo, to cook it for later. Dantes then walks along the path into the center of the island, laid out with the faintest of scratches in rocks, and believes he is in fact coming close to the location of the treasure. But when he reaches the spot from which, he believes, he can begin following the Cardinal Spada’s directions (which he has memorized from the Abbe’s paper), he finds no clear entrance, only a very heavy rock sitting atop a base of stone and earth. Dantes decides to retrace his steps to make sure he has taken the correct route.
Dantes has long been aware that the treasure of the island of Monte Cristo will not be easily accessible, but he’s not sure exactly how difficult it will be to retrieve, if indeed it’s there at all. Here, he realizes that an enormous amount of care has been put into the physical preservation of the island and of the space in which the treasure is supposedly stored. Dantes wants to simply rip open the cave by whatever means necessary, but again marshals the patience necessary to conceal his actions.
The narrator shifts to the perspective of the Monte Cristo smugglers, who see Dantes jumping from rock to rock, headed back toward them. Dantes, from their perspective, falls off one of the rocks and appears to be gravely injured. Jacopo runs to him and carries him back, and Dantes claims he has hurt his leg and his head, that he cannot take any food, and that he worries that his condition will only become graver as time goes on. The sailors are terrified that their beloved friend might perish on Monte Cristo.
Because of this narrative trick, it is unclear for some time whether or not Dantes has actually injured himself. Certainly the smugglers seem convinced of his efforts, although it is hard for the reader to believe that, after all this preparation, Dantes might simply tumble off the face of the cliff before he is able to reach the treasure. The ambiguity remains for several paragraphs.
Dantes tells the sailors and the ship’s captain, who is named Captain Baldi, that he wishes to remain alone on Monte Cristo to nurse his wounds. He argues that his wounds are too severe to allow him to be moved, and that the Jeune-Amelie can either return for him in a week, or, if it spots another vessel venturing toward Monte Cristo, it can divert it to help Dantes after a space of two or three days. Jacopo offers to give up his share of the smugglers’ profit, on the Turkish rugs they’ve stored at Monte Cristo temporarily, in order to stay with Dantes and nurse him back to health. Dantes is moved that Jacopo would make this sacrifice for him, and he will remember it going forward, but he asks to be kept absolutely alone on the island. When the Jeune-Amelie departs, Dantes hops up—having only pretended that he had broken his back and leg—and sets off to find the Abbe’s treasure.
As readers might have guessed, Dantes is not really hurt, and has instead orchestrated this fall so as to appear injured – and thus, unable to leave the island. Finally, Dantes has achieved what he’s longed for – time alone on Monte Cristo, with sufficient space and daylight to put into effect the instructions the Abbe has given him. This is a small instance of Dantes’ willingness to play the long game, to trick those around him after careful planning. Here, the trickery lasts only the space of a few hours. But by the time Dantes has become the Count of Monte Cristo, some of these ruses and disguises will be used for years on end.