The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 10–13 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

The scene shifts to the Tuileries Palace, the king's residence in Paris. Villefort speaks to Monsieur de Blacas, one of the king's advisers, about a threat to the king from the Bonapartists. Blacas takes this news to the king, but Dandré, the minister of police, assures the king there is no threat. To appease Blacas, the king asks Dandré to bring him the latest report on Napoleon, who is being detained on Elba. Blacas reports that Villefort has come from Marseille with a warning. Knowing that Villefort's father is Noirtier, a supporter of Napoleon, the king suddenly takes the warning seriously. Villefort is ambitious, the king tells Blacas, "to make his way, Villefort will sacrifice everything, even his father." Villefort is brought to the king and tells him that Napoleon has prepared three ships and is conspiring to overthrow the king. It's likely he's already escaped Elba. As his source, Villefort cites his interrogation of Dantès. The king asserts that his throne is secure. At that moment the minister of police returns, in an agitated state.

Chapter 11

The minister of police has learned that Napoleon has left Elba, landed in France, and is advancing toward Paris. The king bemoans the fact that his intelligence operation had been unable to detect the plot against him. The minister of police then reports on the case of General Quesnel, who seems to have been murdered after he was seen leaving a Bonapartist club. The king gives orders that the assassin be found and severely punished, and Villefort is startled when he hears the description of the suspected assassin. The king asks Villefort if he is staying with his father while in Paris, but then remembers that they are estranged because Noirtier is a Bonaparte supporter. Before Villefort leaves, the king presents him with the cross of the Legion of Honour. Back at his hotel, Villefort receives a surprise visit from his father. With his black hair, black eyes, black eyebrows, and his long blue coat with the decoration of the Legion of Honour, Noirtier's appearance exactly fits the description of General Quesnel's assassin.

Chapter 12

Villefort tells his father that General Quesnel's body was found in the river after he was seen visiting the club of which Noirtier is the vice president. Villefort also tells Noirtier about the letter Dantès had that was addressed to him. Noirtier explains that General Quesnel had been invited to the club because he was thought to be sympathetic to Bonaparte. However, after learning about Bonaparte's landing in France, Quesnel said he was a Royalist and would not join their cause. He was made to swear that he wouldn't reveal anything about the club and was allowed to leave freely. Noirtier disputes the idea that Quesnel was murdered.

Father and son argue about whether Bonaparte will succeed in overthrowing the king. After Villefort tells his father that the police have his description, Noirtier shaves off his side whiskers and dresses in his son's clothes. Before he leaves, he warns his son that Bonaparte is very likely to regain power, so Villefort would do well to either warn the king or go back to Marseille and downplay his trip to Paris in order to cover himself with the Bonapartists. Villefort leaves immediately for Marseille.

Chapter 13

Noirtier's prediction about Bonaparte's return proves correct, and the monarchy falls. Villefort, protected by his father under the new Napoleonic regime, maintains his position as deputy Crown Prosecutor. Villefort's marriage is postponed because if Napoleon stays in power he'll need to find a match that doesn't have Royalist ties. Morrel visits Villefort to press the case for releasing Dantès. After faking ignorance of the case, Villefort lies about where Dantès was sent and assures Morrel that, in due course, Bonaparte's justice system will release Dantès. Morrel suggests that to speed things up, perhaps the judgment against Dantès can be reversed. Villefort tells him there was no judgment and there are no detention orders because "it is sometimes in the interest of governments to make a person disappear without trace." Villefort helps Morrel prepare a petition that he promises to send along with his recommendation. When Morrel leaves, Villefort sets the petition aside. He can't risk having an inquiry into Dantès because the monarchy might be restored. Sure enough, after 100 days, Napoleon suffers his last defeat at Waterloo, King Louis XVIII regains the throne, and Morrel can no longer expect help from the justice system. Villefort takes the post of Crown Prosecutor in Toulouse and marries his Royalist fiancée. Dantès remains in prison.

When Napoleon regains power, Danglars fears the return of Dantès and leaves Marseille for a job as accounts clerk in Madrid. Fernand, who also fears the return of Dantès, is conscripted into the army and goes off to fight. Mercédès relies on religion to help her deal with her sorrow over Dantès's disappearance. Caderousse is also called up by the army and is sent to guard the coast. Old Dantès dies in the arms of Mercédès just a few months after his son's arrest. Morrel pays for his funeral and takes care of Edmond's father's debts. At the end of this chapter, Dumas sums up for the reader the situation of each of the main characters. Five months after the arrest of Dantès, only Mercédès is still in Marseille. How long will she wait for him to return?

Analysis

Once again, Dumas makes use of the political tensions surrounding the Napoleonic era as the backdrop to his story. Napoleon's brief return from exile to power in 1815 threw France into upheaval and forced political leaders and office holders to choose sides. This is the dilemma Villefort faces. If the Royalists return to power, it will look bad for him if he has freed the supposed Bonapartist, so he pretends to be helpful to Morrel. Villefort gives Morrel false hope so that he'll stop trying to investigate what happened to Dantès.

Dumas was employed for a while as a secretary by Louis-Philippe, the duc d'Orléans, and thus understood the intrigues of the court. That insight is evident in the actions of de Blacas in this scene. He doesn't immediately bring Villefort to the king because he wants to get the credit for the information. When the king doesn't take his warning seriously, he's forced to bring in Villefort, who now stands to benefit from the king's gratitude.

The king reveals in his conversation with Blacas that he understands Villefort's character very well. His observation that Villefort will sacrifice anyone for his career, "even his father," shows the strength of the prosecutor's ambition. There is some situational irony here, of course. As much as Villefort tries to distance himself from his father and as much as he disagrees with his father's Bonapartist leanings, he does help the man disguise himself and elude possible arrest. Readers wonder what he would do if forced to make a choice without the opportunity to hide his involvement with his father.

Morrel again demonstrates his goodness and his faith in Dantès's innocence in these chapters. He presses his case with Villefort, hoping to win the young man's release, and comes to the aid of Old Dantès. His benevolence toward a man unrelated to him contrasts with Villefort's more self-interested protection of his father, which is really self-protection.

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