Bonsoir mes amis et bienvenue sur le blog pour la sixième et dernière semaine du ‘Le Comte de Monte Cristo’.
For those unaware of the reason for my (frankly shoddy) French, I took part in Laura from Reading In Bed‘s 2018 summer readalong for Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. To catch up with previous weeks, check out my sign-up post, my week one update, my week two update, my week three update, my week four update, and my week five update which will bring you up to speed with summaries of the first hundred chapters of the book. You can also see how I did (or didn’t do) by checking out my reading progress spreadsheet and the Twitter thread, or check out the hashtag #TheFullMonte.
Now, I’m saying all this above but, guys, we’ve come to the end: this will be my final weekly update for The Full Monte readalong. And, yes, “this” “week’s” post is very belated. We’re also playing it loose with the term “week”; needless to say it took me longer than a week to actually finish the final section of The Count of Monte Cristo, mainly for really mundane and boring reasons. But you know what (mostly) wasn’t mundane and boring? The final section of this book, so let’s just dive right into the (final) summary…
- Last week(ish) we left Valentine ill and probably about to be poisoned but, have no fear, Monte Cristo was
spying onwatching her and tells her to fake being asleep so she can find out who visits her room in the night to slip poison into her drink… (can you handle the suspense?)
- Surprise surprise, it turns out the culprit is (not at all surprisingly) her step mother who has been poisoning everyone! I presume because Madame de Villefort wants the inheritance Valentine is in line for to go to her son Edouard instead. I mean, get it, you want the best for your kids but…
- Don’t worry though, the Count has a Plan™ to help Valentine and says not at all suspiciously:
“Tell, me, Monsieur: what must I do?”
“You must blindly follow my instructions and take what I tell you.” (1089)
Well that sounds completely legit and safe for everyone involved, doesn’t it?
- In the next scene, they find her dead (or seemingly dead) and all the servants abandon the house, presumably thinking it’s cursed since an awful lot of people have been poisoned there. Then Max Morrel arrives and goes in to find Villefort weeping at her bedside so, yep, things have gone to shit.
- “Villefort got up, almost ashamed at being discovered in this extremity of grief. The awful profession he had exercised for the past twenty-five years had made him more, or less, than a man.” (1097) Just… wow… dude.
- Anyway, Morrel is told to leave but he goes out of the room and brings Noirtier into the room by carrying him in his chair into Valentine’s bedroom.
- Madame Villefort, who has rushed out of the room not at all conspicuously when the doctor goes over to the glass that was poisoned, is worried he might discover it was her so she does the only thing left to do and conveniently faints in her room so she’s out of the way for the narrative now.
- Villefort seems to take it admirably that Max is/was Valentine’s secret fiancé which is something of a surprise.
- Meanwhile the coroner comes and yep she’s dead so the undertaker is called. They need a priest, and the nearest one will do, and oh how convenient that one has moved in next door – and the abbé busoni is already standing outside waiting to be called on, how efficient a service this random clergyman has!
- So the Villefort household has a dead daughter, meanwhile the Count has gone to the Danglars household to hear Eugenie has fled and is travelling elsewhere (that’s one way to phrase it). But, obviously, pretty quickly talk turns to money because it always does with Danglars.
- Danglars tells one of his creditors that Eugenie has “decided to set off with one of her friends, who is a nun. She’s gone to look for a convent of some very strict order in Italy or in Spain.” (1115)
- The creditor will come tomorrow for his money but Danglars is clearly packing up and burning papers and planning to run off into the night.
- Meanwhile, they have Valentine’s funeral and the Count stalks Max in the shadows and then follows him home because he looks like he’s gonna kill himself because she’s dead- Monte Cristo stops him from pulling a Romeo and Juliet. He has to elbow in the glass pane of his locked room door to get in and stop him from writing his suicide letter and then reveals himself as Dantes, the one who saved them by giving Julie the purse of money so many years ago. He makes Max promise to let him try to put it right and not kill himself. He tells Max he can move into Haydees room and live with him as a son, which is quite touching really, and I like that after bothering with setting up Albert and Franz and all these people it’s actually Max Morrel who’s really the Count’s son figure.
- Back at the Danglars household, Madame Danglars finds her husband gone and goes to the secret apartment where her and Debray meet to tell him and ‘ask his advice’ but he’s cold and factual and merely explains he has her share of the money they invested together ready for her and he advises her to lay low for a while and pretend to be poorer than she’s actually been left.
- Not to worry, in case we still had any illusions, Debray is quickly confirmed as an absolutely unfeeling douchebag of the highest order: ‘ “I have one million sixty thousand francs left,” he said. “What a pity Mademoiselle de Villefort is dead! There’s a woman who would have suited me in every respect; I should have married her.” ‘ (1136)
- In the same building as Debray and Mme Danglars’ apartment is Mercedes and Albert – what are the chances?!? (Quite high, in this book). It’s literally just like when criminal Benedetto/Cavalcanti and the runaway Eugenie were in same hotel, except with less lesbians.
- Mercedes and Albert discuss fact they don’t have much money and what they’ll do. Albert settles it all and sorts out for Mercedes to go to Marseille whilst he signs up for the army (?) the navy (?) SOMETHING and will go to Africa with them.
- Bertuccio pays Benedetto aka Cavalcanti a visit in the prison where he’s described as a dandy of sorts because of course he is, even in prison. That prison sounds a lot less traumatising than Chateau d’If to be honest.
- Villefort finally confronts his wife and asks her where the poison she uses is kept. She understands that he means she should use it on herself as he doesn’t want to have to sentence her to die on the scaffold and so ruin the family and its (good-ish) name. She begs him for mercy but he says his job is to serve out justice and punishment so if she doesn’t take the poison herself by the time he gets back, he’ll put her on trial himself. YES Villefort, finally. This is possibly the only time I’ve ever been on his side tbh, and I don’t expect it to last but I’m cherishing the moment whilst it does.
- In other Villefort news, the assizes are here and the whole gang is there, naturally. Villefort starts his questioning and, when Benedetto gives his birth date and place of birth, suddenly the Crown Prosecutor starts to sweat. Ohhhhh wait, they’re not gonna use this entire trial as a way to out Villefort’s affair are they??? Dayum.
- They did. And it was THE BEST, it’s like an episode of Jeremy Kyle.
- Cavalcanti/Benedetoo is quite sassy for someone on trial though – when asked his profession he says: “Firstly, I was a counterfeiter… Then I took up the profession of their and quite recently I have become a murderer.” (1169)
- So, after this whole trial blows up, Villefort rushes home and goes to tell his wife the truth BUT the door’s locked and when he kicks it down, she says “it’s done” ominously and then keels over and is dead. Omfg things are finally happening in this book!
- And she did not… she did not kill the son too???!?? She did. This book, man.
- Villefort, as you can imagine, is somewhat distressed and he goes to Noirtier’s room. Guess who he finds there? The Abbé Busoni who then does a ta-dah act and reveals himself as the Count of Monte Cristo and then Dantes. I’ve waited 1000 pages for this shit.
- Being quite understandably traumatised by the day’s events, Villefort forcibly drags Dantes downstairs to make him face the bodies of Villefort’s wife and child:
‘ “… there! Look! Are you fully avenged?” Monte Cristo paled at this terrible spectacle. He realized that he had exceeded the limits of vengeance, he realized that he could no longer say: “God is for me and with me.” ‘ (1181)
- Needless to say, when he realises maybe he’s went too far, Dantes tries to revive the innocent little child but to no avail so he’s pretty much like “ok I’m out” and leaves Paris. Him and Max head to Marseille because, you know, cyclical narrative and all that jazz. When they get to the docks they see a woman waving off her son on a boat – it’s Albert and Mercedes who could have predicted this turn of events.
- True to form, though, Dantes/Monte Cristo is ever tactful towards Morrel:
‘ “Dear friend,” he said. “Don’t you have something to do in town?”
“I must go and weep on my fathers grave,” Morrel replied softly.
“Very well. Go, and wait for me there. I shall join you.”
“Are you leaving me?”
“Yes. I too have a pious duty to perform.” ‘ (1189)
I’m guessing this alleged “duty” involves following Mercedes so I doubt it’s going to be particularly pious.
- The narrative is clearly less sleazy than I apparently am, though, because Dantes and Mercedes just chat (finally) and she’s all “I don’t deserve anything because I was a coward before when all you did was love me and now all I want is for my son to be happy, don’t be nice to me Edmond”. Everyone is so dramatic it’s catching now. DON’T BE NICE TO BE, DON’T EVEN LOOK AT ME!
- “Having reached the summit of his vengeance by the slow and torturous route that he had followed, he had looked over the far side of the mountain and into the abyss of doubt.” (1195)
You’re telling me it’s been fucking slow and torturous, it’s been 1000+ pages to get to this point.
- After clearing things up with Mercedes, Dantes goes back to the streets he walked down when he was arrested and follows the route right back to the prison where the concierge takes him on a little tour. It all proves to be a bit much for Dantes… as it would be. But he has something of a Moment there which is important for his narrative journey, I’m sure. Idk I’m just not sure I’d revisit the prison where I was kept for that long, even if I was now rich and successful.
- After stopping by the prison, Dantes is very contemplative and when he meets up with Max, he puts his arm around the despairing young man and is all “you think your life’s shit but there was a man who also pinned all his hopes and dreams on a woman and he ended up in the deepest darkest dungeon for 14 years and then he found God and he eventually got tranquillity despite his love being married to one of his tormentors whilst he was in prison.” Um… tbh I’m not sure that’s as inspiring a pep talk as he thought it was. But, either way, the Count makes Max promise to meet him on the island of Monte Cristo on 5th October and says that, if he still despairs, he will help him kill himself and end it all.
- Meanwhile in Rome, Danglars arrives and withdraws money from Thomson and French and then heads off for Venice by carriage. But the carriage is dark and he’s sleepy and then he notices people riding alongside it and oh no he’s been captured by the Roman bandits. Who could have foreseen this happening when we had a parallel Roman bandits section earlier in the narrative, wow what an altogether unforeseeable set of circumstances!
- Despite being, you know, captured by bandits, Danglars seems remarkably calm and starts pondering what his ransom amount will be. See, always the money with this one.
- The bandits are just taunting him because his guards keep changing and each time they happen to be eating food he smells and then reminds him of his hunger. And then they’re like you can have chicken, bring chicken, and that’ll be 5000000 Louis please sir. Danglars is like haha very funny my man just let me eat but then they say no and take it away from him. So, Danglars demands to see their leader and Vampa (obviously it’s Luigi Vampa) speaks to him and tells him his ransom is 5000000 francs, all the money he has basically. Danglars says no so Vampa shrugs and says it’s fine because he’ll get there eventually because he needs to eat and will give away his fortune bit by bit as he “buys” his food and drink from them whilst he’s their captive.
- As predicted, Danglars is starving and begs Vampa to be allowed to be left free as he’s suffering. Vampa points outs that there are those that have suffered more… cue…
- … Monte Cristo shows up in the shadows being dramatic af:
‘ “Do you at least repent?” asked a dark and solemn voice which made the hair stand up on Danglars’ head. His weakened eyes tried to make out things in the darkness, and behind the bandit he saw a man wrapped in a cloak and half hidden by the shadow of a stone pillar.” (1129)
- Once Danglars repents Monte Cristo does his “it is I!” dramatic revealing schtick and says he’s Dantes and was wronged by Danglars but now he is his guest and tells Vampa to set him free once he’s had his fill. And then off he swishes into the night, I presume, he seems the dramatic sort to exit stage right with a swish of his long cape.
- It’s 5th October now and, as arranged, Max goes to the island of Monte Criso where he’s greeted in the grotto by the main man himself who vows he will keep his promise. Then he does what he does best – he feeds his guest hash and let’s him trip balls for a while. Whilst Max is busy tripping, the Count lets Valentine in, and she rushes to Max’s side. Obviously, Max thinks the Count has given him poison to help him kill himself and he believes he’s dead and seeing heaven since she’s there.
- Meanwhile Haydeé is also revealed alongside Valentine, as she travelled to the island with her before. Haydeé confesses her love to the Count and he doesn’t seem all that unwilling to just roll with it… even if it’s a bit weird and there’s still that whole father-daughter vibe, but sure whatever, Dumas is trying to give people hopeful endings I guess, let’s just go with it…
- All good trips must come to an end, so Max comes to and Valentine makes him realise he’s still alive – yay! They walk out of the cave to find the captain of the yacht waiting with a letter for them from Monte Cristo, who has already sailed away with Haydeé. The letter tells them to take his fortune and do good and be happy, the letter (and the book) ends with this sentiment:
“until the day when God deigns to unveil the future to mankind, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: ‘wait’ and ‘hope’.” (1243)
What a philosophical end to a novel which otherwise seems to advocate the road of scheming and plotting to get revenge rather than just waiting and hoping.
Well, that’s it, it’s done. It’s finally finished. For real. There’s no more chapters, no more update posts, no more gifs to be inserted needlessly. It’s been a journey, hasn’t it? For all its ups and downs, I’ve enjoyed the ride overall, and though I won’t give the book anything more than a pretty middle-of-the-road rating, I am still glad I read it and took the time to document that process through these posts. Thanks as ever go to Laura for organising this readalong, and for encouraging me to continue reading, even when I wanted to give up. For now, if I could give you one overriding take-away of this entire story it would probably be this gif to be honest:
PS – Stay tuned for a more calm and collected review of the book at some point in the near future.