The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 72–76 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 72

Instead of going to the ball, Villefort stays home to try to figure out who might want the secret of Auteuil revealed. He comes back again to Monte Cristo but can't determine a reason. His mother-in-law, the marchioness, arrives distraught: her husband had suddenly taken ill and died as they were traveling to Paris. Villefort brings Valentine and his wife home from the ball, and Valentine tries to comfort her grandmother. The next morning, the marchioness is ill with fever. She insists that the marriage between Valentine and Franz d'Epinay should take place as soon as possible because she knows she is going to die. She says that, in the night, she saw a ghost come into her room and that she heard it move the glass on her bedside table. She thinks it was her husband's ghost coming back to call her. She calls for a lawyer and finalizes her will. When the doctor arrives, Valentine tells him about her grandmother's feverish conviction that a ghost moved her glass in the night. Then Valentine goes for a walk in the garden.

Chapter 73

Maximilien Morrel has been waiting in the garden to tell Valentine that Franz has just arrived in Paris and the marriage contract is to be signed tomorrow. Maximilien persuades Valentine to agree to marry him and run away with him. They arrange to meet at the gate at a quarter-to-nine to make their escape. Maximilien arrives at the meeting place early, but by quarter-to-10 there is still no sign of Valentine. The house looks dark and quiet. Finally, he climbs over the wall into the Villeforts' garden. Villefort and Doctor D'Avrigny are talking nearby about the death of Madame de Saint-Méran.

The doctor believes Madame de Saint-Méran was poisoned by brucine or strychnine. Although Valentine is the beneficiary of her grandmother's will, Villefort refuses to believe she could be responsible. The other possibility is that the brucine the doctor prescribed for Monsieur Noirtier's paralysis was mistakenly given to Madame de Saint-Méran. Noirtier's dosage had been gradually increased so he could tolerate it, but the same dosage would have killed anyone else. The doctor wants to order an autopsy to determine the cause of death, but Villefort is concerned about how that might affect his reputation. The doctor relents and agrees not to pursue the matter, but he urges Villefort to be vigilant. They return to the house.

Maximilien, worried about Valentine, impulsively goes into the house. Hearing Valentine's sobs, he soon finds her, weeping beside her grandmother's body. She tells him that her grandmother's dying request was that the marriage be concluded quickly. Valentine takes Maximilien to meet Noirtier. She tells her grandfather that she loves Maximilien and wants to marry him. Then she goes back to sit with her grandmother while Maximilien stays and talks to Noirtier. He tells the old man about his family, his position, and how he and Valentine fell in love. Then he explains how they plan to elope. But Noirtier communicates to Maximilien that he has a better plan to derail the marriage. At Noirtier's insistence, Maximilien swears to wait for the old man to carry out his plan. Noirtier's servant guides Maximilien out to the garden, and he makes his way home.

Chapter 74

Two days later at the cemetery, after the funeral of Madame and Monsieur de Saint-Méran, Villefort asks Franz to return to the house with him. He wants to sign the marriage contract immediately. Franz and Valentine will have a civil ceremony in a week at the Saint-Mérans' estate. When Villefort tells Valentine his plan, she's shocked and tries to go to her grandfather, but Villefort insists that she come to the drawing room. Noirtier's servant, Barrois, notices these preparations. When everyone is assembled for the signing of the contract, Barrois appears in the room and announces that Noirtier wants to see Franz immediately. After Villefort voices strong objections, he, Franz, and Valentine go to Noirtier's room.

Chapter 75

At Noirtier's direction, Franz is asked to read a document that Valentine retrieves from a secret compartment in Noirtier's desk. The document recounts what happened on the day Franz's father, General Quesnel d'Epinay, was killed. Having once served under Napoleon, he was invited to a secret meeting of the Bonapartist Club in hopes that he'd join the cause against the monarchy. But he had just been made a baron by King Louis XVIII and refused to join with the Bonapartists. Before they allowed him to leave, the Bonapartists pressured him to swear an oath to keep their conspiracy a secret. But as he was led blindfolded away from the meeting place, the general insulted the president of the club, who then challenged him to a duel. The general was killed in the duel, and his body was put in the river. Three witnesses signed the document, refuting the rumors that the general was assassinated. When Franz finishes reading the document, he asks Noirtier to tell him the name of the man who killed his father, and Noirtier's response is "myself."

Chapter 76

Monte Cristo visits the Danglars' home and learns from Madame Danglars that her husband has lost even more money. She also says that Franz d'Epinay is no longer engaged to Valentine Villefort. Andrea Cavalcanti, also visiting the Danglars, is attempting to impress Eugénie. She ignores him and goes into the adjoining room to sing and play piano with Louise d'Armilly, her singing instructor. Monsieur Danglars takes Cavalcanti into the room to join in the music. Later, Albert de Morcerf arrives, and seems indifferent when he's told that Eugénie and Andrea are singing a duet in the study.

In an aside to Monte Cristo, Danglars compares Albert unfavorably with Andrea, hinting that he'd rather have Eugénie marry Cavalcanti because he's wealthy. In any case, he says Albert doesn't seem very interested in Eugénie. He asks Monte Cristo to speak to the Morcerfs about making a commitment to the marriage. Danglars tells him he has just received some shocking information from Greece regarding Fernand's activities in Janina.

Analysis

Madame Saint-Mérans's insistence in Chapter 72 on rushing the marriage to Franz is a blow to Valentine. She loves her grandmother, but she knows she can't tell her about Maximilien because he's from a family suspected to have Bonapartist sympathies, and the Saint-Mérans are staunch Royalists.

In Chapter 73, neither Dr. d'Avrigny nor Villefort considers that Madame de Villefort might be the poisoner. Perhaps they think that she has no motive, because her son, Edouard, wouldn't stand to inherit from the Saint-Mérans. But what if she's planning additional poisonings, targeting Valentine and then her husband?

Noirtier's document, which Franz reads aloud in Chapter 75, resolves Villefort's long-standing suspicion that his father had assassinated General Quesnel. In Chapter 58, Villefort suggested that the marriage of Valentine and Franz would allay suspicions about this matter. The fact that it wasn't an assassination but a duel may soften Franz's reaction.

In Chapter 76, Monte Cristo's plans for the Danglars seem to be working. Andrea Cavalcanti's attentions to Eugénie, Danglars's expressed admiration of the young man, and the shocking news he's received about the Comte de Morcerf's actions in Janina suggest that Eugénie will soon be engaged to Andrea Cavalcanti.

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