During his first six years in prison, Dantès initially turns to God, immersing himself in prayer. As he contemplates his bad luck, his despair increasingly turns to wrath. Dantès does not yet know that envious men are responsible for his unfortunate imprisonment. He is so sick with grief and hopelessness that he finally decides to kill himself by means of starvation. Just when he feels that he is about to die, however, he hears a scratching sound coming from the other side of his cell.
When the jailer comes to give him his dinner, Dantès cleverly places his dish in a spot where the jailer will be sure to step on it. The dish shatters and the jailer leaves the entire pot for Dantès. Dantès is thus able to use the handle of the pot to begin scraping at the wall from his side. After hours of scraping he hears the voice of his neighbor. Later, they break through, and his neighbor emerges through the hole in the wall.
Dantès’s neighbor tells him that his name is Abbé Faria and that he has been imprisoned for his political beliefs, as he is an agitator for a unified Italy. Dantès realizes that Abbé Faria is the mad priest that the jailer once mentioned. Dantès is overjoyed to have a companion. The abbé is less happy to see Dantès, however, as he had mistakenly believed he had been digging a tunnel to freedom.
[I]t has installed a new passion in your heart—that of vengeance.
Faria, rather than being insane, proves to be a brilliant and resourceful man. He has managed to fashion paper, ink, pens, a knife, a needle, a lamp, and various other necessities while imprisoned, and has used these to write a political treatise and dig the fifty-foot tunnel that connects his cell to Dantès’s. When Dantès tells Faria his life story, Faria quickly discerns that Dantès has been framed by Danglars and Fernand. Faria is aware of the connection between Villefort and Noirtier, so he is able to explain that part of the mystery. Stunned by the discovery, Dantès turns his thoughts toward revenge.
Over the course of the next two years, the well-educated abbé teaches Dantès everything he knows. Dantès has a wonderful memory and a quick mind, and he is able to advance quickly in the study of mathematics, philosophy, history, and several languages. Faria develops another plot to escape, and the two men plan meticulously. Days before they are going to put the plan into action, however, Faria suffers a fit. His right arm and leg become paralyzed, leaving him unable to attempt escape. Dantès declares that he will not leave either, swearing to remain with Faria so long as the old man lives.
The next day, Faria begins to talk about a hidden treasure, and Dantès becomes worried, thinking that his friend is insane after all. Faria convinces Dantès that the treasure truly exists by telling him the story behind it. The treasure once belonged to the Spada family, the wealthiest family in Italy. In the fifteenth century, Caesar Spada hid the treasure on the uninhabited island of Monte Cristo, hoping to keep it out of the hands of a murderous, thieving pope. Due to a mishap, however, the location of the treasure remained a secret even from the family.