Summary and Analysis
Chapters 68-72 - The Collapse of Danglars
As Monte Cristo and Maximilien leave Paris, the Count asks young Morrel if he regrets coming with him. Maximilien, of course, confesses his terrible and agonizing grief for Valentine, but Monte Cristo urges him to remember that, above all, the friends whom one loses to death are in our hearts forever — not in the earth. He asks Maximilien to give up his gloomy mood. The two men then make a sea journey that is characterized by one of the Count's passions — that is, speed. And even Maximilien allows himself to feel the intoxication of the wind in his hair.
After they have docked at Marseilles, Maximilien goes to the cemetery where his father is buried, and Monte Cristo goes to call on Mercedes, who is living in the house that Dantès' father once lived in. (Mercédès, we are told, found the money that Dantès buried twenty-four years before.) She is sitting in an arbor, weeping when the Count finds her. He tells her that Albert did the right thing when he joined the military service, that he will now become strong through adversity. Staying in Marseilles would only have made Albert bitter. Mercédès is profuse in her gratitude for all that Dantès has done, but he demurs; he was only an agent of God, he says, bringing disaster and suffering on the villains who were responsible for his captivity, his long years of imprisoned solitude, and his measureless sorrow. He is only a single part of a great design. He tells Mercédès that perhaps some day she will let him share his wealth with her, and she agrees to accept his generosity — but only with Albert's permission. Then she touches the Count's trembling hand and tells him au revoir (until we meet again) instead of goodbye. As she looks away toward the harbor, her eyes are not on the Count's slowly diminishing figure; instead, they are on a single, tiny ship far in the distance that carries her son away from her. Yet in her heart, a small voice murmurs, "Edmond! Edmond!"
Monte Cristo can think of only one thing; he may never see Mercedes again. Once, he was so cocksure and confident. Now he has doubts. Introspectively, he wonders if he was right to follow the trail of vengeance for ten years. But only briefly does he question his actions. He instantly delights in the beauty of the day, the sky, the boats, and the harbor. But again, the dark mood of memory envelops him as he recalls a certain ship in this very harbor, the ship that carried him away to the horrible prison of Chateau d'If.
The Count hires a nearby pleasure boat and has it take him to the old prison, which, since the July Revolution, has been used only as a curiosity of terror and punishment. It is empty now. A cold pallor sweeps through the Count as he steps ashore. He secures a guide and asks to be taken to his old cell. He is curious if there are any stories connected with this particular cell, and he is stunned to discover that he is filled with fear when he hears a complete stranger recount all of the details of the imprisonment of Edmond Dantès,"that dangerous man," and the details about the imprisonment of "a poor priest who went mad" (Faria). He listens in a cold sweat as his guide tells him about the secret passageway which the two men made, of Faria's illness and his death, and about Dantès' daring and ingenious escape from the supposedly inescapable Chateau d'If.
Monte Cristo asks to see the cell of this "poor, mad priest," and afterward, overcome with emotion, he tips the guide twenty-four gold francs (symbolically, one franc for every year since he was imprisoned). The guide is confused at such generosity, so he decides impulsively to show Monte Cristo "a sort of book written on scraps of cloth." This is the book that Farina painstakingly wrote, into which he poured all the treasures of his knowledge and wisdom. In it, Monte Cristo sees the phrase "'Thou shalt tear out the teeth of the dragon and trample the lions underfoot,' sayeth the Lord." This, then, is holy proof! This is a sign that stills Monte Cristo's questioning heart. Here, God justifies and demands vengeance! He impulsively buys the book made from scraps and strips of cloth, puts ten thousand francs in a wallet, and makes the guide promise not to open the wallet until after he has departed. Then he calls to a boatman and orders him to sail for Marseilles immediately. His victory is complete! He has no more doubts.
Monte Cristo meets Maximilien, still in the cemetery, and tells him to meet him on the Isle of Monte Cristo on the fifth of October. A yacht will be waiting to take him there. Then, if Maximilien is still convinced that he must commit suicide because of his unrelieved suffering for Valentine, the Count will give him permission to die. He will even help him. But for now, he must hope and live. Monte Cristo bids him farewell.
Meanwhile, Monsieur Danglars is joyously making his escape from Paris. He secures five million francs from the firm of Thomson and French (Monte Cristo's firm), and note in this chapter who the employee is in the back room of the firm: It is Peppino, the handsome and tanned bandit whom Dantès secured a pardon for long ago. In addition, there is mention of Luigi Vampa, the bandit king who kidnapped Albert de Morcerf. Clearly, they are both a part of Monte Cristo's scheme to make Danglars (the former purser on the Pharaon) suffer for his part in unjustly imprisoning Edmond Dantès.
When Danglars finishes his banking transactions, a carriage is waiting for him, and he is whisked away from Rome just before nightfall; then the carriage halts and sets off again. Suddenly, Danglars realizes that he is being taken back to Rome. The carriage stops, and Danglars is ordered out. He is taken along a twisting route and into a cavern, half-open like an eyelid, and to a cell made from a hollowed-out rock. Obviously, his abductors do not mean to kill him, despite the fact that he recognizes the villainous Luigi Vampa among the bandits. He falls asleep that night confident that if he is ransomed, the sum will be paid.
In the morning, Danglars calls out for food, but, to his surprise, he learns that he must pay for it: 100,000 francs per meal. He tries to protest, and he tries to fast, but two weeks later, his cash flow is exhausted, and he is almost mad with hunger and frustration. What do they want from him? He thinks of death sometimes with longing; he is that miserable. Finally, when all of his money is gone, he begs Vampa for only the opportunity to live — here in these caves, if necessary. He wants only the opportunity to have enough to eat. He groans in pain, and then he hears a deep and solemn voice asking, "Do you repent?" The voice comes from a figure hidden in the shadows who is wearing a cloak. Danglars cries out that he does repent! Then Monte Cristo steps forth and forgives Danglars, but tells him that he, Monte Cristo, is not a Count. Instead, he is the man whom Danglars betrayed and dishonored years ago: He is Edmond Dantès.
Danglars gasps, cries out, and falls to the floor. When he recovers, he is free; he has been abandoned along the roadside. He bends down to drink from a brook and is stunned: His hair has turned white.
In these chapters, Monte Cristo begins to put his life into its proper perspective. He bids farewell to Paris, believing that "the spirit of God led me there, and He has led me out triumphant. He alone knows that I now leave without hatred or pride, but not without regret; he alone knows that I have not used the power which He entrusted to me either for myself or for vain causes. Now my work is completed, my mission accomplished. Farewell, Paris, Farewell!" Then he visits Mercédès and leaves her with peace and understanding between them and with the implication that he will constantly watch over the future fortune of her son, Albert de Morcerf. He then visits the infamous Chateau d'If and after generously tipping the guide, he is given the book that Abbé Faria wrote on strips of cloth. His delight at finally possessing the Abbe's manuscript is immeasurable.
Then Dumas returns our attention to Monte Cristo's revenge against Danglars. If we remember that Fernand (Count de Morcerf) loved his wife and son more than anything else, and that his ultimate punishment occurred when they denied him and left his house empty-handed, and if we remember that Villefort cherished his public image and ambition more than anything else, and that ultimately he was publicly ruined, then we must also remember that Danglars loves nothing so much as he loves money. Consequently, Monte Cristo arranges matters so that Danglars is constantly losing money, but even so, Danglars is able to leave France with over five million francs by embezzling and stealing from various sources, particularly from charity hospitals.
Danglars arrives in Rome, totally unaware that Monte Cristo has informed (1) the banking firm of Thomson and French; (2) Peppino, the person whom Monte Cristo saved earlier from execution; and (3) Luigi Vampa, the Italian bandit who specializes in kidnapping (earlier, he kidnapped Albert de Morcerf). Therefore, when Luigi Vampa kidnaps Danglars and forces him to pay for his food or else starve — 100,000 francs for one chicken — this demand for money crucifies Danglars more than would any physical pain. Finally, Monte Cristo reveals himself to Danglars: "I am the man you betrayed and dishonored, the man whose fiancée you prostituted, the man on whom you trod on the way to fortune, the man whose father you caused to die of hunger, the man you condemned to die of hunger but who now forgives you because he himself needs to be forgiven. I am Edmond Dantès."
This revelation is too much for Danglars, because when he is released with only a pittance of his fortune remaining, his hair has turned completely white. Now, the Count of Monte Cristo is finally revenged against all of his enemies.