Chapter 103: Valentine
The next morning, Valentine appears to be dead. Madame de Villefort is the first one to enter Valentine’s room. She throws the remaining liquid from the cup into the fire, then cleans out the cup. Yet when she returns later, once the rest of the household has been notified of Valentine’s death, the glass is mysteriously filled again. The doctor immediately detects the poison in it. Madame de Villefort faints.
Chapter 104: Maximilian
Maximilian, unable to control himself in his grief, enters Valentine’s room, disturbing Villefort as he kneels by his daughter’s bed. Villefort, not knowing who Maximilian is, orders him to leave. Maximilian leaves, but then returns, carrying Noirtier in his wheelchair. Maximilian declares his love for Valentine, and Villefort extends his sympathy to him, bound by their common grief. Maximilian demands that Valentine’s murder be avenged. Noirtier signals that he knows who the murderer is and asks to be left alone with his son. When the others are called back in, Villefort and Noirtier ask them to keep the crime secret for the time being. The priest from next door, Abbé Busoni, is then called in to pray over the body. Alone with Noirtier, Monte Cristo explains what is really taking place.
Chapter 105: Danglars’s Signature
Monte Cristo visits Danglars and sees that Danglars is making out five checks, each worth one million francs. Monte Cristo asks to have the checks. Though the money is intended for the hospital, Danglars reluctantly agrees, refusing to admit that he no longer has enough capital to make such large loans. As Monte Cristo leaves, the Commissioner of Hospitals arrives. He is astounded to learn that his five million francs have just been given to a single individual. Danglars promises that he will have the money for the hospital tomorrow. He has no real intention of paying, however, and plans to run away that very night in an attempt to escape his creditors.
Chapter 106: The Cemetery of Père-la-Chaise
At Valentine’s funeral, Monte Cristo keeps careful watch over Maximilian. He follows Maximilian back to Julie and Emmanuel’s house. There, Maximilian confesses that he is planning to kill himself. In an attempt to stop him, Monte Cristo reveals that he is really Edmond Dantès, the man who saved Monsieur Morrel from ruin. Overcome, Maximilian calls out to Julie and Emmanuel and tells them Monte Cristo’s role in their lives. Monte Cristo stops Maximilian, however, before he can reveal Monte Cristo’s true identity. Alone with Maximilian again, Monte Cristo plays upon his gratitude to extract a promise: for one month Maximilian will remain alive and never stray from Monte Cristo’s side. If Maximilian is still unhappy at the end of this month, Monte Cristo will help him to commit suicide.
Chapter 107: The Division
The day after Danglars leaves, Madame Danglars rushes to Lucien Debray in a panic. She shows him the letter Danglars has left explaining his reason for running away. He has written that a series of strange events has left him bankrupt and unable to repay the debt to the hospital. Madame Danglars waits expectantly for some kind word from her lover, but he speaks to her merely as a business partner, handing over half the profits that they have made together using their illegal tricks to speculate with Danglars’s fortune. It is clear that Debray wants no more to do with Madame Danglars now that she cannot provide him with access to Danglars’s unlimited capital.
In another room in the same hotel where this scene is taking place, Albert and Mercédès plan out their future. Albert tells his mother that he has enlisted in the army. He gives her the check he has received upon joining and tells her to use part of it to travel to Marseilles, where the rest of her small savings is located. On their way out of the hotel they encounter Lucien Debray, who is struck by the contrast between Mercédès’s and Madame Danglars’s reactions to misfortune. Later the next day, Monte Cristo secretly watches as Albert puts his mother into a coach bound for Marseilles. He swears that he will restore these two innocent people to happiness.
Chapter 108: The Lions’ Den
Bertuccio visits Benedetto in prison. Benedetto still expects to be saved by his powerful protector, the Count of Monte Cristo. He believes that Monte Cristo is his true father, a suggestion that disgusts Bertuccio. Bertuccio tells Benedetto that he is here to reveal the true identity of Benedetto’s father, but they are interrupted before he is able to do so. He promises that he will return the following day.
Analysis: Chapters 103–108
Villefort’s and Danglars’s persistent vices lead them to suffer more severe punishments than they might otherwise face. Danglars’s excessive greed motivates him to force his daughter into a marriage she does not want. He thereby loses both his daughter, as Eugénie justifiably flees a family that forces her to settle down against her will, and his dignity, suffering the public humiliation of nearly having an ex-convict for a son-in-law. Though Danglars would be financially ruined and utterly devastated even without these added blows, they certainly make his pain that much greater. Similarly, it is Villefort’s excessive ambition that leads to the demise of his in-laws, his wife, his son, and—he thinks—his beloved daughter, Valentine. Villefort knows that a murderer is loose in his household, but he is also aware that, as a public prosecutor, widespread awareness of this murderer’s existence could do his career and reputation great harm. Fearing the loss of dignity and the possible loss of his own power, he refuses to let an investigation take place until it is too late. In their reactions to Monte Cristo’s schemes, we see that Danglars and Villefort are complicit in their respective downfalls, which underscores just how fully the men deserve their punishment. They have neither repented nor improved as they have aged.
Just as Eugénie and Valentine act as foils for each other, accentuating each other’s characteristics, Madame Danglars and Mercédès also cut a striking contrast. There are obvious similarities between their situations, as both are now husbandless and publicly humiliated. Yet their attitudes could not be more different. Though Madame Danglars has actually played a large part in her husband’s ruin, she feels as if she has been treated unfairly by fate. On the other hand, Mercédès, who has had no part in her husband’s ruin, does not wallow in self-pity, although she does have a right to feel that fate has treated her unfairly. Rather than feel victimized, Mercédès feels that she has more wealth and luxury than she deserves. Despite her innocence, she ultimately abandons her vast fortune out of commitment to her personal honor. Lucien Debray notes this contrast between Madame Danglars and Mercédès, reflecting that “the same house had contained two women, one of whom, justly dishonored, had left it poor with 1,500,000 francs under her cloak, while the other, unjustly stricken, but sublime in her misfortune, was yet rich with a few deniers.” Though Debray astutely notices the contrast, his focus is a bit off: what really differentiates the two women is not how rich they consider themselves, but how they react to their lowered status.
The contrast between Mercédès’s graceful reaction and Madame Danglars’s resentful reaction illustrates with an idea prominent in The Count of Monte Cristo: the importance of attitude in determining happiness or satisfaction. In objective terms, Madame Danglars is in a much better position than Mercédès: she is still enormously wealthy—as she has been siphoning money from her husband’s fortune for years—and will be able to return to her old life in Parisian society in a matter of years. In addition, since Madame Danglars has no fondness for her husband, his loss is not particularly painful for her. Mercédès, on the other hand, is impoverished and will never be able to resume the comfortable life she once led. Additionally, though she is horrified by her husband’s bad deeds, she has loved him and feels his loss acutely. Yet, while Madame Danglars endlessly bemoans her relatively benign circumstances, Mercédès does not lament her far worse fortune. She accepts the events of her life stoically and even considers them her just punishment for disloyalty to Dantès. In this respect, Madame Danglars is a parallel to Caderousse, making the worst of any situation, while Mercédès, like Emmanuel and Julie, exhibits the ability to overcome adversity with courage and acceptance.