Summary and Analysis
Chapters 22-26 - Caderousse's Villainy
In Paris, three months later, Albert impatiently awaits the arrival of Monte Cristo for a luncheon party. The first guest to arrive is Lucien Debray, the tall, blond Secretary to the Minister of the Interior (we discover later that he is Danglars' wife's lover). Among the other guests is Captain Maximilien Morrel, a tall, dark, and broad-chested young man who is the only son of Monsieur Morrel, the owner of the lost Pharaon, which Monte Cristo financially "resurrected" and thereby saved Morrel's shipping firm. Young Morrel, it is revealed, once saved a nobleman's life in Constantinople, and because Morrel's father's life was once "miraculously" saved, Maximilien tries to do "some heroic action" every year.
Albert then tells his guests about his own "miraculous" rescue by the Count of Monte Cristo. One of the guests says that no such "Count" exists; he knows all of Europe's nobility, and he has never heard of the Count nor of the island of Monte Cristo. But, at the very stroke of ten-thirty, Monte Cristo is announced.
Over lunch, Monte Cristo impresses them all with his pillbox, fashioned out of a magnificent, hollowed-out emerald; then he tells them of his daring adventures with Luigi Vampa, the bandit king, and mentions that his steward, Bertuccio, was once a bandit and that he, Monte Cristo, was influential enough to save the life of the handsome Peppino, Vampa's bandit-liaison. In turn, Albert tells Monte Cristo about his fiancée, Eugénie Danglars (the daughter of the purser on the Pharaon, that Dantès was once to have commanded). The young men enjoy the story and are so impressed by Albert's guest that they plead to be allowed to help Monte Cristo secure a lodging, but the Count tells them that he already has a Paris address — 30 Champs Elysées (Paris' most famous boulevard). They are all stunned at such costly originality, and thus, they beg to introduce him to a Parisian mistress of their choice. But Monte Cristo says that he has already chosen a mistress; she is his "slave," whom he bought in Constantinople, and who speaks nothing but modern Greek. Clearly, Monte Cristo is one of the most extraordinary men whom any of the young Parisian noblemen have ever known.
After the others have gone, Albert shows Monte Cristo around his apartment, pointing out an oil portrait of his mother dressed as a Catalan fisherwoman. Monte Cristo admires the portrait (it is a stunning likeness of the beautiful and beloved Mercédès, who is, we will learn, Albert's mother; Albert's father is Fernand, who "bought" his title of Count de Morcerf as soon as he was rich enough to afford it). Later, in the salon of Albert's parents, Monte Cristo meets Mercédès and his old rival, Fernand. Fernand apparently does not recognize the immensely wealthy and distinguished Monte Cristo, whom he knew years ago as Edmond Dantès (we discover later that Mercédès recognized Dantès immediately). Both of the Morcerfs are deeply grateful to Monte Cristo for saving Albert's life, but Mercédès is obviously stunned when she first sees Monte Cristo. She explains her unusual behavior as only that of any mother who suddenly meets the man who has saved her son's life. Monte Cristo, however, is even paler than Mercédès, and he soon excuses himself, explaining that he has yet to see his new house in Paris. After he leaves, Mercédès questions her son: Does Monte Cristo like Albert? Is Albert fond of Monte Cristo? Albert defends Monte Cristo with great fervor, not noticing that his mother is deeply absorbed in her own thoughts, her eyes closed.
When Monte Cristo returns to his city residence, he prepares to sign the necessary papers to buy his "country house," and we discover that instead of its being outside of Paris, it is in Paris, in the suburb of Auteuil, opposite the Bois de Boulogne, an enormous park within the city environs of Paris. (This house will be the scene of one of Monte Cristo's most startling "revelations.")
Bertuccio, Monte Cristo's steward, is clearly but unexplainably upset when he hears the word "Auteuil"; later, he crosses himself fearfully when he learns that he will have to live in the house with Monte Cristo. The Count questions Bertuccio about his unnatural fear of the country house, and we learn that:
- The house formerly belonged to Saint-Méran, the father of the woman who was Villefort's first wife. She died, but Villefort continued to make mysterious visits to this house, where he kept a young lady. Bertuccio went to the house, hoping to murder Villefort, the public prosecutor, because Villefort refused to find the murderer of Bertuccio's brother.
- At the house, Bertuccio saw Villefort come out with a spade and bury a small box. Bertuccio stabbed Villefort and uncovered the box. Thinking that it might contain money, he found, instead, a newborn baby boy. He took the child to his sister-in-law, and he remembers that the baby's swaddling clothes were marked with a crown and the initials H and N.
- The years passed, and when the boy was eleven, Bertuccio feared that he was becoming irredeemably perverse. Then one night, Bertuccio was almost arrested by customs officers, but was able to escape and flee to an inn run by a clever scoundrel, Caderousse. Bertuccio spied Caderousse bargaining with a jeweler, trying to get as much money as possible for a magnificent diamond that Caderousse and his wife swore was a gift from a sailor named Edmond Dantès.
- The jeweler finally gave Caderousse forty-five thousand francs and hurried away amidst a violent thunderstorm. He returned, soaked to the skin, and asked for a bed. The Caderousses fed him, and later in the night, Bertuccio heard a pistol shot and a terrible shriek. He got up and saw Caderousse covered with blood and clutching the diamond; he disappeared into the darkness. Upstairs, Bertuccio found the corpse of Madame Caderousse, as well as that of the jeweler, a kitchen knife plunged in his chest. Immediately, Bertuccio was arrested by the customs officers who followed him.
- Five days before Bertuccio's trial, Abbé Busoni came to prison and vouched for the truth of Bertuccio's story about the diamond. Meanwhile, Caderousse was arrested, confessed everything, and was sentenced to hard labor for life. Bertuccio was released and sought out Monte Cristo, as the Abbé told him to do. He has been Monte Cristo's trusted steward ever since Bertuccio's story finally finished, Monte Cristo and his steward return to Paris.
Dantès' plans for revenge have begun. He has spun a web of deception and has already caught Fernand, his old rival for Mercédès, and, in addition, he has found Mercédès, and he has ferreted out Danglars, as well as Monsieur Morrel's son, Maximilien — and he has also cornered Villefort, who did not die when Bertuccio stabbed him. (Villefort, remember, named Dantès as a traitor to the state and signed Dantès' indictment; Danglars wrote the initial letter condemning Dantès,and Fernand mailed the letter. Because of these men, Dantès almost died during his fourteen years in prison.) Now, Dantès (as the awesome Monte Cristo) will create more "coincidences" so that he can ingratiate himself to certain other people and make them all feel "deeply obligated" to him.
First, Monte Cristo begins his revenge on Danglars and his wife. Danglars presents his wife with two handsome, dappled grey horses which are supposedly the finest horses in Paris. Monte Cristo sees the horses, admires them, and orders his steward to buy them. Bertuccio obeys, and then Monte Cristo goes to visit Danglars, where the two men discuss finances. Monte Cristo convinces him to open a checking account for him so that he can draw instant cash up to six million francs. Danglars finally agrees, although reluctantly, with a pale and nervous smile. Monte Cristo then meets Danglars' wife and discovers that she is being entertained by young Debray, whom Monte Cristo met earlier at Albert's luncheon. Debray glances out the window and sees Madame Danglars' prize horses harnessed to Monte Cristo's carriage.
Madame Danglars is furious with her husband for selling the horses, and Monte Cristo feigns ignorance of the whole affair. Later, Monte Cristo sends a note of profuse apology to Madame Danglars and returns her horses with a gift of large, awesome, flashing diamonds in each of their silver rosettes.
Next, Viliefort's wife, Héloise, borrows these fabulous horses from Madame Danglars, and Monte Cristo arranges to have the horses "run away." Then, "by accident," Monte Cristo's mute Nubian servant, Ali, is able to stop the horses dramatically in front of Monte Cristo's house, and the Count is able to administer a few drops of a potent liquid (the same that Abbé Faria used in prison) to rally the faint young Villefort child, Edouard. Héloise is absolutely bewitched by Monte Cristo, and she says that she is in his debt forever because of his "goodness and generosity."
That evening, Villefort visits Monte Cristo to thank him for saving his wife and his son. The two men talk, and Monte Cristo reveals that he has made a study of all men in all countries on all continents. He knows all their virtues, all their vices, and all their weaknesses. He tells Villefort that men are, at heart, "ugly creatures." Unlike other men, however, Monte Cristo belongs to no country, nor is he identifiable as being a certain "kind" of man. He is extraordinary. He fears no one because he is able to determine immediately whether a man is sufficiently advantageous enough to be useful to him. All men, he says, have committed "either errors or crimes," and long ago, Monte Cristo set himself up as Providence, as it were, to "reward and punish." Arrogantly, Villefort remarks that while Madame de Villefort may see herself as merely the Count's "eternal friend," he — that is, Villefort — wants Monte Cristo to recognize that he is "not an ordinary man. Not at all."
Six months later, and after many years of preparation in which the Count of Monte Cristo seems to know every detail about his enemies, we are now presented with his first direct meeting with his enemies, and we learn the various methods which he will use to get each one of them either obligated to him or involved with him in some financial way. Thus, we can assume again that, as he himself announced, the reason for his so-called "rescue" of Albert de Morcerf was so that he would be able to meet intimately with Albert's father, Count de Morcerf, alias Fernand Mondego, his old rival for Mercédès.
At the breakfast (brunch by today's standards) that Albert has arranged for the Count, Maximilien Morrel unexpectedly is there and, moreover, the Count learns that Maximilien's sister, Julie, has been happily married for nine years; therefore, we know that the Count would now be around forty-one or forty-two years old, and we may assume that during these intervening years, Monte Cristo has spent his time investing his money, increasing his knowledge of his enemies, and establishing his power in the world at large. It is particularly ironic that the Count is described at the breakfast party as being the "savior" of young Albert, and that Maximilien is there as the "savior" of another of the guests. This will allow the Count to become friends with Morrel and, ultimately, become his protector.
Among the young group, the Count is quite outspoken. He explains that his steward, Bertuccio, was probably once a smuggler who is now obligated to him; that his valet is a mute Nubian whose life he once saved; that his mistress is a woman he bought out of slavery; and that the people who kidnapped Albert Morcerf are people for whom he once performed acts requiring gratitude — for example, he kept Luigi Vampa from being captured by the Italian police, and it was he who saved Peppino's life during the carnival in Rome.
After the party, Albert introduces the Count to his parents, who acknowledge their deep indebtedness to him for having saved their son's life. Monte Cristo's old acquaintance Fernand (Count de Morcerf) does not recognize him, of course, but we are made aware that Mercédès does indeed recognize the Count as her fiancé of long ago, Edmond Dantès, but she will keep his secret until much later in the novel, only to reveal it to her son to keep him from dueling with the Count.
In the history that Bertuccio relates of his own life and experiences, we must remember that the Count of Monte Cristo has already heard all of these experiences; unknowingly, Bertuccio confessed them to the Count when Monte Cristo was disguised as the Abbé Busoni. Consequently, the Count has already heard Bertuccio's story and has arranged to buy the house which Bertuccio talks about. Monte Cristo wants to test Bertuccios veracity and insure that Bertuccio will always be totally and completely loyal to him.
Through Bertuccio's story, we learn of the almost total depravity of Caderousse and of the baseness of Benedetto, the son of the present Madame Danglars (the mysterious "lady" at Auteuil) and Villefort. By the end of this section, Monte Cristo has also involved himself with Danglars — by means of letters of investment — to the tune of six million francs — and he has rescued Madame de Villefort and her son,
Edouard, from the runaway carriage which the Count caused to be a runaway carriage so that he could rescue it. Thus, he has deeply obligated the Villefort family to him.
When Villefort himself comes to express his appreciation to the Count for having saved the lives of his wife and their son, the Count is once again able to express his views concerning rewards and punishments. The Count maintains that if he were, like Christ, offered anything in the world which he could choose, he would reply: "I have always heard of Providence, yet I have never seen it or anything resembling it, which makes me think it does not exist. I want to be Providence, for the greatest, the most beautiful and the most sublime thing I know of in this world is to reward and punish."
At the end of this section, then, Monte Cristo has not encountered quite all of his enemies, but he has made those whom he has encountered extremely obligated to him in one way or another, and he will continue to follow his philosophy of slowly avenging himself.