Summary and Analysis
Chapter 73 - Epilogue
October has finally come. It is evening. A light yacht is sailing toward a small island, and a tall, dark young man asks if the island ahead of them is the Isle of Monte Cristo. It is, and a shot suddenly flashes loudly from the island. The young man answers it with a shot from his carbine, and ten minutes later, the yacht is anchored, and the young man, Maximilien Morrel, wades ashore, where he is greeted by Monte Cristo.
Maximilien tells the Count that he has come "to die in the arms of a friend who will smile at me during my last moments of life." He fears that his sister, Julie, would burst into tears and that his brother-in-law would snatch his gun away. Clearly, Maximilien is still so morose over Valentine's death that he doesn't want to go on living. In his own words, he has "come to the end of the road," and he can go no further. He checks his watch; he has three more hours to live.
"Come," says the Count, and leads Maximilien to a grotto, which magically becomes a deeply carpeted, underground palace. An odor of sweet, exotic perfume envelops them, while around them, marble statues hold baskets of flowers and fruit. Monte Cristo proposes that the two of them spend Maximilien's last hours "like the ancient Romans."
"No regrets?" he asks Maximilien. "Not even about leaving me?" A tear glistens in Maximilien's eye. Monte Cristo asks him if he isn't afraid of losing his soul, and Maximilien answers that his soul is no longer his own, meaning that it belongs to Valentine. Monte Cristo says that he has long regarded him as a son, but that he hoped for a son who would enjoy life as few people ever could because of untold wealth. "You can have anything you want," he tells Maximilien, "Only live!"
But Maximilien is coldly resolute. Only a miracle will save him. Therefore, Monte Cristo goes to a cabinet and takes out a small silver box, in which there is a still smaller golden box, which contains a substance that the Count offers to Maximilien on a spoon. "This is what you asked for, and this is what I promised you," he says. Then he takes a second spoon for himself and dips into the golden box, saying wearily that he too is tired of life.
Maximilien cries out that if the Count were to kill himself it would be a crime, for the Count has faith and hope. Then he quickly bids Monte Cristo farewell, promising to tell Valentine how very good and generous the Count has been to him. He swallows the mysterious substance, and the room suddenly seems to dim, the marble statues become gauzy, and the incense becomes only a whisper. Maximilien thanks Monte Cristo one last time, then he falls lifelessly to the floor. His eyes flicker, and he seems to see a hazy image of Valentine. Is this heaven? Is this death? No sound comes from Maximilien's lips, but his soul cries out to Valentine, and she rushes to him.
"He is calling you," Monte Cristo tells Valentine. "You and Maximilien must never leave one another again. Now I give you back to one another, and may God bless you, and despite all of my acts of vengeance, may He take into account these two lives that I have saved!"
Monte Cristo turns to Haydée and tells her that he is entrusting her future to Valentine and Maximilien; but Haydée says that she will die without Monte Cristo. She loves him as she loves life and as she loves God; Monte Cristo is the "finest, the kindest, and the greatest man on this earth!" The Count realizes now that God is, as it were, offering Haydée to him so that he can be happy. He puts his arm around Haydée's waist and leaves, just as Maximilien awakens and is reunited with Valentine.
Next morning at dawn, Jacopo gives Maximilien a note from Monte Cristo. In it, Monte Cristo tells
Maximilien that in life, there is neither happiness nor unhappiness. One can only compare one with the other, and one must have suffered terrible despair if one is ever to know ultimate bliss. Both Maximilien and Valentine have known the depths of unhappiness; therefore, they will now know bliss. Monte Cristo asks them both to be happy and to do two things in order to ensure happiness for them: wait and hope.
On the far horizon, where a hard blue line separates the sky from the Mediterranean, a tiny white sail can be seen. Maximilien bids farewell to Monte Cristo, "my father!," and Valentine bids farewell to Haydée, "my sister!" Then she turns to Maximilien and reminds him that perhaps one day they may see them again — if they only wait and hope, the two words containing all of human wisdom.
Almost every nineteenth-century novel of this period had a final chapter that brought the story to a very neat ending, tidying up all the loose narrative strands. In this final chapter, Monte Cristo puts his beloved young friend Maximilien to a final test to see whether or not his suicide intent is superficial or whether there is indeed the deep love that he suspects. He has held Maximilien in suspense concerning the supposed death of Valentine because "there is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss." Since Monte Cristo himself felt ultimate despair, we must happily conclude that with his realization of his love for Haydée and Haydée's love for him, that he has at last found "ultimate bliss."