The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 26–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 26

Dantès, disguised as Abbé Busoni, arrives at the dilapidated inn run by Caderousse and his ailing wife, La Carconte (as Caderousse calls her after her home village). He tells Caderousse that he was at the deathbed of Edmond Dantès, who died in prison without ever learning why he had been imprisoned. The abbé says Dantès asked him to find out the truth. He says Dantès was given a valuable diamond ring as a token of friendship by a rich Englishman who was imprisoned with him for a time. On his deathbed, Dantès asked the abbé to sell the ring and divide the money among those who had loved him—his father, Mercédès, Caderousse, Danglars, and Fernand. Hearing that the money would be divided up among Edmond's friends, La Carconte says that they were traitors, not friends, but still she warns Caderousse not to tell what he knows about them. She implies that they are now powerful enough to take revenge. Caderousse waffles, but finally greed conquers his reluctance and he decides to tell the abbé the whole story.

Chapter 27

Before he begins his story, Caderousse asks for a promise that no one will know it came from him, because those who figure in the story are rich and powerful and could destroy him. Caderousse begins by describing the grief of Old Dantès after his son's arrest. Mercédès wanted him to go home with her so she could care for him, but he refused. He became more isolated, refusing to see Morrel or Mercédès. He sold his belongings and refused to eat, finally dying of starvation.

Caderousse describes how, the day before the wedding, Danglars, consumed by ambition, wrote the letter condemning Dantès. Fernand, who was in love with Mercédès, sent the letter. Caderousse admits he was there but was so drunk he believed that the letter was a joke. After the arrest when he wanted to speak out, Danglars convinced Caderousse that he could be implicated too. Caderousse says that after Bonaparte returned as emperor, Monsieur Morrel tried so many times to have Dantès freed that Morrel was persecuted by the monarchy when Bonaparte lost power. Morrel had tried to help Old Dantès, too, leaving for him a large red purse with money to pay the old man's debts. Caderousse still has the purse, he says. Morrel is still alive, but he's on the brink of financial ruin, having lost five ships in the past two years. Only the Pharaon, Dantès's old ship, remains, and if it too is lost, Morrel will be destroyed. Morrel has a daughter (who hopes to marry the man she loves) and a son (who is a lieutenant in the army). Danglars, he says, became an accounts clerk for a Spanish banker, made a fortune by getting a contract to supply the French army during the war in Spain, and then multiplied that fortune through investments. After his first wife died, he remarried and was made a baron. Fernand was called to active duty in the army just before Bonaparte returned. He deserted with his general and went over to the English. When Bonaparte lost power, he and the general returned and were promoted. He was later awarded the Legion of Honour and was given the title of count, becoming known as Comte de Morcerf. Later he served in Greece as general-instructor to Ali Pasha, who left Fernand a large amount of money before he was killed. Fernand now has a mansion in Paris.

Mercédès, after waiting 18 months, became convinced that Dantès was dead and finally agreed to marry Fernand, who was then a lieutenant. Fernand was worried that Dantès would return, and he moved away with Mercédès. As her wealth increased, Mercédès acquired an education. She and Fernand had a son, Albert. Caderousse doesn't know what became of Villefort, except that he left Marseille shortly after his marriage. The abbé says it's obvious that Caderousse was Edmond's only real friend, and he gives Caderousse the ring, worth 50,000 francs. In return, he asks for the red silk purse that Morrel had given to Old Dantès.

Chapter 28

The day after visiting Caderousse, Dantès, disguised as an Englishman, goes to see the mayor of Marseille. He says he is head clerk of the House of Thomson and French of Rome, which has had dealings with the firm of Morrel and Son for many years. He's been sent to obtain information about the firm. The mayor confirms that Morrel has had some difficulties, but says he's always met his debts and is very honest. At the mayor's suggestion, the Englishman goes to see Monsieur de Boville, inspector of prisons, who has invested 200,000 francs in Morrel's firm. Boville says Morrel has just told him that if the Pharaon does not arrive with its cargo intact, he won't be able to make the two payments he owes Boville—one on the 15th of this month and another on the 15th of the next month. Boville is astonished and relieved when the Englishman offers to buy Morrel's debt for cash, at full price. As a brokerage fee, he asks that he be allowed to see Abbé Faría's prison records. He claims that he was brought up by the abbé when he was a child and would like to know about his imprisonment and death. Boville recalls the abbé's fixation on his treasure, and he tells the story of the dangerous Bonapartist, Edmond Dantès, who tunneled through to the abbé's cell and was drowned when he tried to escape in the abbé's shroud. Then Boville reads his newspaper while the Englishman (Dantès) looks through the prison records. He locates those of Edmond Dantès and pockets the denunciation letter. He notes that Villefort described him as a "fanatical Bonapartist" who played an important role in Bonaparte's return from Elba. This explains why the inspector who had promised to look into the case had decided not to have it reviewed.

Chapter 29

The scene shifts to the house of Morrel. The sad, deserted office is very different from what it was like in its busy, prosperous heyday. Among the few employees left are Emmanuel Herbault, who hopes, against his family's wishes, to marry Morrel's daughter Julie, and the old one-eyed cashier, Coclés. Morrel had resorted to selling his wife's jewelry and the household silver to pay the company's debts, but the payment to Boville on the 15th of the month is looming. They will be able to make the payment only when the Pharaon returns to port—and the ship is more than a month late.

The day after visiting Boville, the Thomson and French agent arrives at Morrel and Son. The Englishman (Dantès) says that he has bought Morrel's debts. As they talk, the crew of the Pharaon arrives at the door with the news that the ship sank in a storm but the crew was rescued. Morrel accepts the misfortune as God's will. He tells the crew they'll be paid in full, but they'll need to find other employment because he has no more ships and no money to build more. The loyal crew offers to take partial pay, but Morrel insists on full pay. When the crew leaves, the Englishman offers to postpone for three months the due date for the debt that Morrel owes his firm. Morrel promises that he will make the payment on September 5, saying to himself, "Or I shall be dead." As the Englishman leaves, he encounters Julie on the stairs. He tells her that one day she'll receive unusual instructions from Sinbad the Sailor that she must carry out precisely, no matter how strange they seem. Outside, the Englishman sees Penelon, one of Morrel's sailors, and he tells the old sailor that they "must talk."

Chapter 30

In the next two months, Morrel manages to pay his creditors' bills, but he knows he won't be able to pay the bill that's due to Thomson and French on September 5. At the end of August, Morrel goes to Paris to ask for a loan from Danglars. Morrel had recommended that Danglars go to work for the Spanish banker, setting him on the path to becoming a millionaire, so he hoped Danglars would return the favor. But Danglars refuses to make the loan. Morrel returns home to his wife and daughter, who fear that he might commit suicide to avoid the dishonor of bankruptcy.

On the morning of September 5, Morrel's son Maximilien arrives home from the army, having received an alarming letter from his mother and sister. A letter arrives for Julie from Sinbad the Sailor, instructing her to go to a certain apartment where she is to take a red silk purse from the mantelpiece and give it to her father before 11 o'clock. Maximilien speaks with his father, and Morrel convinces his son that death is better than shame. Maximilian agrees to leave the army to take care of his mother and sister after Morrel's death. Morrel sends his son away and sits at his desk, with loaded pistols ready. As the clock is about to strike 11, when the Englishman is due to arrive, he puts the gun to his mouth. The office door opens and Julie enters, waving the red silk purse and shouting "Saved!" Inside the purse is the bill for the debt, which is marked as paid, and also a huge diamond, with the note "Julie's dowry." She explains the letter from Sinbad the Sailor. Then Emmanuel bursts into the room to announce that the Pharaon is coming into port. On deck are the Captain and Master Penelon; the ship is carrying the cargo the original ship was carrying when it was lost in the storm. As the townspeople turn out to cheer the arrival and congratulate Morrel, Dantès sails out of the harbor on his yacht. Looking back at Marseille, he says, "Farewell, goodness, humanity, gratitude. ... I have taken the place of Providence to reward the good; now let the avenging God make way for me to punish the wrongdoer!"

Analysis

Since his escape from prison, Dantès has become a more mysterious, inscrutable character. The reader isn't let in on his plans, thoughts, or feelings. He begins to take on an almost superhuman aura.

In Chapter 26, Dantès, in disguise, asks Caderousse for information about Dantès's enemies, but Abbé Faría has already figured out who they are. Confirmation of Faría's conclusions will be useful, but it's more likely that Dantès's primary goal is to find out where the conspirators are in the present. Caderousse's story in Chapter 27 catches the reader up with the major characters after a gap of 14 years. Caderousse, as the conspirator who is guilty (more by omission than commission), has little reason to lie about what happened. Aware of the man's greed, Dantès comes prepared with the diamond ring as an incentive.

Dantès accomplishes two goals when he visits Monsieur Boville in Chapter 28. First, he purchases Morrel's debt from Boville; second, he pockets the denunciation letter that Danglars wrote. While the reader can infer that Dantès intends to save Morrel from bankruptcy, his motivation for taking the denunciation letter is unclear. Does he plan to use it in some way? Does he want to use it to validate his vengeance? Does he simply want to possess the document that led to his false imprisonment? The narrator, though omniscient, does not reveal the details of Dantès's plans. This choice builds the suspense in the subsequent chapters; what unfolds is a revelation to the reader.

Dantès is intent on disguising his identity, so he can't simply pay Morrel's debts outright because that would raise questions. Instead, he extends the due date and leaves the red purse to be picked up well after he has left Marseille. But why did he leave poor Morrel to suffer so long before sending the letter from Sinbad? A delay of a few minutes more would have resulted in tragedy. The seemingly all-powerful count is taking chances with other individuals' lives. One day, that behavior might result in tragedy.

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