The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 42–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 42

The count arrives at the elegant townhouse that he is renting in Paris and asks his steward, Bertuccio, if his calling cards have been printed. Bertuccio replies that they have and that the first one has been sent to the home of Baron Danglars. The count then meets with a notary and finalizes the purchase of a country house in Auteuil, on the outskirts of Paris. Afterward, alone, the count opens a locked wallet, or notebook, that he wears around his neck. He checks the address of his new house against a page in his notes and is satisfied that he's bought the right house. Bertuccio becomes very nervous and uncomfortable when he hears the address of this house. He becomes even more uncomfortable when the count orders Bertuccio to come with him to inspect it.

Chapter 43

After a 20-minute carriage ride, the count and Bertuccio arrive at the house in Auteuil at nightfall. The concierge who has been taking care of the house tells the count that the house has been abandoned for five years. The previous owner was the Marquis de Saint-Méran, whose daughter married Monsieur de Villefort, the king's prosecutor, but who died 21 years ago. The count dismisses the concierge and asks Bertuccio, who has become quite agitated, to use a lantern from the carriage to show him around the house. When they reach the garden, the count asks Bertuccio to explain why he is so upset. The count mentions that Abbé Busoni had recommended Bertuccio to the count as a reliable employee. Bertuccio finally admits that he had carried out an act of revenge at the house. Afterward, he confessed part of the tale to Abbé Busoni. On threat of being dismissed from the count's service, he agrees to tell the whole story.

Chapter 44

Bertuccio's story begins in 1815, when his brother was murdered by bandits when returning home from serving in the army. Bertuccio says he went to Villefort to seek justice and to ask for a pension for his brother's widow. Because his brother fought under Bonaparte, Villefort refused to pursue the matter, and Bertuccio declared a vendetta against him. Bertuccio stalked the prosecutor for months and learned he was visiting the house at Auteuil, which was rented by a young, pregnant widow. Late one night, seeing Villefort bury a small box in the garden, Bertuccio attacked him with his dagger. When Villefort fell, Bertuccio dug up the box, thinking it was money. Instead he found a newborn baby, which he revived. He took the baby to an orphanage, keeping part of the monogrammed sheet in which it had been wrapped. He went back to smuggling and helped to support his sister-in-law, Assunta. About six months later, Assunta took her half of the monogrammed sheet to the orphanage, claiming that the baby boy was her own, and took him home. The boy, Benedetto, turned into a thief and a rogue by the time he was 12 years old.

Then one of Bertuccio's smuggling expeditions went wrong, and he was pursued by the police and the customs men. He decided to hide out in a shed attached to the wall of the inn run by none other than Caderousse, who had long been an ally of the smugglers. Through the wall of the inn, Bertuccio observed Caderousse and his wife, La Carconte, negotiating with a jeweler over the sale of a diamond ring they had been given. After the jeweler bought the ring and left, La Carconte hinted to her husband that if they had killed the jeweler, they'd have both the ring and the money. The storm got worse and the jeweler returned, asking to stay the night until the storm let up.

Chapter 45

The jeweler went to the upstairs bedroom to sleep; Bertuccio, hiding, fell asleep. He was awakened by a pistol shot and a crash on the stairs. He heard cries, moans, and felt warm rain dripping through the stairway onto his head. Then Caderousse came down the stairs. He gathered up the cash from the jeweler, grabbed a few shirts, secured the diamond in a red handkerchief around his neck, and dashed out the door. Bertuccio, thinking the jeweler might still be alive, went into the house. He found La Carconte dead on the stairs, shot through the throat, and the jeweler stabbed to death. Bertuccio ran downstairs and was seized by the police and the customs men who had been pursuing him. Covered in La Carconte's blood, which had dripped on him through the stairs, Bertuccio was assumed to be the assassin. Bertuccio asked the police to locate Abbé Busoni to verify his story about the diamond. The abbé confirmed the story, and Bertuccio was moved to confess to him what he did in Auteuil. Eventually, Caderousse was arrested and sentenced to the galleys for life, and Bertuccio was set free. The abbé then sent him to the count with a recommendation for employment. Before going to the count, Bertuccio checked on his sister-in-law and discovered that Benedetto, with two friends, had tortured and murdered her and stolen her money; Benedetto had disappeared. Bertuccio concludes that this was punishment for the crime he had committed against Villefort. The count tells Bertuccio that Villefort deserved punishment and that Benedetto "will ... serve the purpose of some divine vengeance, then be punished in his turn." Bertuccio's real crime, he says, was in not returning the child to its mother.

The count returns with Bertuccio to his Paris house, where he gives orders to his staff about the decor and furnishings. He makes sure that Haydée's suite is comfortable, and soon after that the young woman arrives and is shown to her suite. The count retires to his own wing of the house.

Analysis

The notebook the count consults after buying the house at Auteuil indicates that the count's plan for vengeance isn't just something he's improvising as he goes along. He seems to have a detailed master plan, and the notes suggest that he's gathered a great deal of research into everyone around him. He pretends he bought the house at Auteuil on a whim and that he doesn't understand why Bertuccio is so upset. When he persuades Bertuccio to tell his story, it's very likely that he already knows it. This sense of his methodical, thorough planning continues to build a picture of the count as an extraordinary man. The preparation also underscores his patience; he is a far cry from the impetuous young Dantès who was near going mad with anger at the injustice he had suffered. The count, to the contrary, is an implacable force.

With the details revealed in these chapters, Dumas creates suspense by holding back information from the reader. Who was the woman who gave birth at the house at Auteuil? How will owning the house help the count achieve vengeance?

The story Bertuccio tells provides more insights into the corruption and venality of French society. First, his efforts to achieve justice for his brother's family is thwarted by Villefort for political reasons. Justice once again proves a myth in France. Villefort, meanwhile, the dispenser of justice, is guilty of attempted infanticide. Moral corruption extends to the lower reaches of society as well. The disreputable Caderousse and his wife double-cross the jeweler, and then the husband turns around and murders his wife. Greed is more powerful than honest business, or even the bonds of love. Benedetto's robbery and murder of his mother is yet another example. Bertuccio himself shows far more nobility, making an effort to care for his brother's widow and provide for the rescued infant. He, like Jacopo, may be a criminal, but he shows more human kindness and morality than higher-born, ostensibly upright members of society.

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