Gerard de Villefort, the Deputy Procureur du Roi (the King’s Deputy Prosecutor) of Marseille, France in Alexandre Dumas's historical adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo, fails to intercede on behalf of the recently arrested nineteen-year-old sailor Edmond Dantès in order to protect himself, his reputation, his position, and his political aspirations.
Dantès was arrested for espionage, for carrying a letter from Napoleon Bonaparte, exiled on the island of Elba, to Bonapartists in Paris who sought to overthrow King Louis XVIII and return Bonaparte to power. At first, Villefort believed Dantès's story that he had no idea what was in the letter and that he was simply fulfilling the dying wish of Captain Leclere, who died aboard the ship Pharaon on which Dantès was serving as captain’s mate.
However, when Villefort looked at the letter and saw that it was addressed to a Monsieur Noirtier,
Villefort could not have been more stupefied. He sank into his seat, and hastily turning over the packet, drew forth the fatal letter, at which he glanced with an expression of terror. … After reading the letter, Villefort covered his face with his hands. (Chap. 7, "The Examination")
The letter was addressed to Villefort's father, from whom Villefort was estranged because of their conflicting political philosophies. Villefort explained to Marquise de Saint-Méran earlier in the novel,
For my own part, I have laid aside even the name of my father, and altogether disown his political principles. He was—nay, probably may still be—a Bonapartist, and is called Noirtier; I, on the contrary, am a staunch royalist, and style myself de Villefort. (Chap. 6, "The Deputy Procureur du Roi")
After Villefort ascertained that Dantès was the only person who knew about the letter and to whom it was addressed, Villefort had Dantès sent to the Chateau d'If, a fortress prison on an uninhabited island approximately one mile off the coast of Marseilles, where Villefort expected Dantès to be imprisoned with Villefort’s secret until he died.