The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 68–71 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 68

That same day, Albert returns home with his mother from their trip to the seaside. He visits Monte Cristo to invite him to a ball at his parents' home. He says his mother really wants to talk to him and that he was their only topic of discussion during their seaside stay. Albert expresses his dread of being married to Eugénie Danglers, and is somewhat relieved when Monte Cristo hints that Danglars might prefer to marry Eugénie to someone else.

Chapter 69

A few days later, Villefort, pursuing his investigation of Monte Cristo's background, learns that the count is known well by Lord Wilmore, a rich foreigner, and Abbé Busoni, a Sicilian priest. Both happen to be in Paris at the moment. Villefort visits the abbé (Monte Cristo in disguise), who says that the count is the son of a rich Maltese ship owner named Zaccone. His only enemy, says the abbé, is Lord Wilmore. Asked why the count bought the house in Auteuil, the abbé replies that the count planned to turn it into an asylum for lunatics, modeled after one in Palermo.

Villefort then goes to see Lord Wilmore and asks about the count. Wilmore (again, Monte Cristo in disguise) describes Zaccone as a young man who fought for India against the English, was captured, escaped, and had many adventures. While fighting with the Greeks against the Turks, Zaccone discovered a silver mine in Greece from which he made his fortune. He says the count is a skilled chemist and physicist, and has come to France to develop a new form of telegraph and to speculate on the railroads. He tells Villefort that the count bought the house in Auteuil because he thinks a spring of mineral water is on the site and he wants to open a spa there. Villefort returns home feeling reassured that the count doesn't seem to be plotting against him.

Chapter 70

At the Morcerf's ball on Saturday night, the Count of Monte Cristo is the main topic of conversation and the center of attention. Madame de Morcerf observes, with some concern, that the count doesn't take anything to eat or drink, even when Albert tries to persuade him. She directs that the doors to the garden be opened and asks Monte Cristo to give her his arm and accompany her into the garden.

Chapter 71

Madame de Morcerf takes the count to the greenhouse, where she plucks a bunch of grapes and offers it to him. He refuses, and she offers him a peach, which he also refuses. Hurt, she mentions the Arab belief that those who share bread and salt under the same roof will have eternal friendship. He replies that they are not in Arabia but in France, where there is no eternal friendship. Grasping his arm and looking deep into his eyes, she asks if they aren't friends. His response is formal and distant. They continue to walk, and Madame de Morcerf asks if he is happy and if he has ever married. He tells her he was once about to be married to a girl he loved, but the war separated him from her, and when he returned she was married. He says he has forgiven her for hurting him, but not those who separated them. They are interrupted by Albert, who says that Monsieur de Villefort has just come to take his wife and daughter home because Valentine's grandfather, Monsieur de Saint-Méran, has died on the way to Paris.

Analysis

In Chapter 69, Dumas uses an interesting technique to describe Villefort's interviews of Abbé Busoni and Lord Wilmore. The author doesn't name Villefort as the investigator. Instead, Dumas says "a man ... went and knocked on the door"; then, "the stranger" climbed the staircase, and "the visitor" asked questions. Dumas doesn't identify the investigator as Villefort until the end of the chapter, adding elements of drama and mystery to otherwise straightforward events. It creates another layer of mystery in a novel full of them.

The count seems to enjoy indulging in some grim humor in some of the answers to Villefort's questions, particularly when he says Monte Cristo plans to turn the house at Auteuil into a lunatic asylum. The statement seems innocent enough now, but foreshadows the madness that Villefort eventually falls prey to.

In Chapter 71, Mercédès knows that the count is Edmond Dantès, and he must realize that she knows, but he maintains the pretense. He tells Mercédès that he's forgiven the girl he loved for hurting him, but she suspects that his refusal to eat anything she offers him signals, as it does in Arabia, that he feels he's in the house of an enemy.

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