100-ish Days of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo
June 1 – August 31, 2022
August 11, 2022, Chapters 91-94 (to be read August 10-12)
Next post: August 14, 2022, Chapters 95-99 (to be read August 13-16)
“One step farther into rest,—two, perhaps, into silence. No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin of projects so slowly carried out, so laboriously framed. Providence is now opposed to them, when I most thought it would be propitious. It is not God’s will that they should be accomplished. This burden, almost as heavy as a world, which I had raised, and I had thought to bear to the end, was too great for my strength, and I was compelled to lay it down in the middle of my career. Oh, shall I then, again become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of hope had rendered a believer in Providence?
“And all this—all this, because my heart, which I thought dead, was only sleeping; because it has awakened and has begun to beat again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotion excited in my breast by a woman’s voice.”
14 years of incarceration and 10 years of anticipation prepared Dantes for the moment when he becomes the hand of providence and retribution, falling justly on those who sinned against him and smiting them with the full conviction of righteousness… But Dantes is but human – and playing god is fraught with terrific consequences for mere mortals – as much as we may want to suppress our humanity – the heart cracks under strain and the reawakened soul begs for mercy… The meetings between Mercedes and Dantes and Albert and Monte Cristo are the most heart wrenching of the entire novel – all three characters emerge undone from this catastrophic clash… Monte Cristo’s resolve is shattered – he submits to a mother’s plea and is willing to sacrifice himself to Mercedes… Mercedes‘ existence is shattered through the realisation of the boundless treachery of her husband… Albert walks away from the father he idolised without saying a word… Fernand hides out in the shadows of his house purchased through so many betrayals – but is undone by that very first and most dreadful of betrayals – of the young and exuberant Edmond Dantes…
But Dantes is not through – Albert’s apology brings him back to the path of vengeance – since the innocent son is spared and the guilty father bears the full burden of the guilt…
“As for Monte Cristo, his head was bent down, his arms were powerless. Bowing under the weight of twenty-four years’ reminiscences, he thought not of Albert, of Beauchamp, of Château-Renaud, or of any of that group; but he thought of that courageous woman who had come to plead for her son’s life, to whom he had offered his, and who had now saved it by the revelation of a dreadful family secret, capable of destroying forever in that young man’s heart every feeling of filial piety.
“Providence still,” murmured he; “now only am I fully convinced of being the emissary of God!””
“And at the very moment when the wheels of that coach crossed the gateway a report was heard, and a thick smoke escaped through one of the panes of the window, which was broken by the explosion.”
And Monte Cristo seems to regain the cool and detached composure which allowed him to become to hand of vengeance and retribution – until… Maximilian is horror struck by the events unfolding in the Villefort home and is stunned by the count’s indifference:
“”You knew it?” cried Morrel, in such a paroxysm of terror that Monte Cristo started,—he whom the falling heavens would have found unmoved; “you knew it, and said nothing?”
“And what is it to me?” replied Monte Cristo, shrugging his shoulders; “do I know those people? and must I lose the one to save the other? Faith, no, for between the culprit and the victim I have no choice.”
“But I,” cried Morrel, groaning with sorrow, “I love her!”
“You love?—whom?” cried Monte Cristo, starting to his feet, and seizing the two hands which Morrel was raising towards heaven.
“I love most fondly—I love madly—I love as a man who would give his life-blood to spare her a tear—I love Valentine de Villefort, who is being murdered at this moment! Do you understand me? I love her; and I ask God and you how I can save her?”
Monte Cristo uttered a cry which those only can conceive who have heard the roar of a wounded lion. “Unhappy man,” cried he, wringing his hands in his turn; “you love Valentine,—that daughter of an accursed race!”
Never had Morrel witnessed such an expression—never had so terrible an eye flashed before his face—never had the genius of terror he had so often seen, either on the battle-field or in the murderous nights of Algeria, shaken around him more dreadful fire. He drew back terrified.”
What now?!?!?! Edmond is called upon yet again the exercise his humanity and rescue yet another child of his mortal enemy…
Dumas gives us another brief instance when the count allows himself to feel:
“Monte Cristo was beginning to think, what he had not for a long time dared to believe, that there were two Mercédès in the world, and he might yet be happy. His eye, elate with happiness, was reading eagerly the tearful gaze of Haydée, when suddenly the door opened.”
This barely formed feeling was interrupted by the arrival of Fernand… “Two Mercedes” now appear in the novel – both free and boundlessly devoted to Edmond… How can this be resolved?!?!?! Patience!!!
In the meantime – Monte Cristo dawns another disguise – and starts digging a passage into the home of Villefort…