Chapter 40: The Guests
On the day that Monte Cristo is supposed to arrive at Albert’s house, Albert invites several friends for breakfast. Among those eagerly awaiting Monte Cristo’s arrival are Lucien Debray, the secretary to the minister of the interior, and Beauchamp, a journalist.
Chapter 41: The Breakfast
Two more guests arrive: the Baron of Château-Renaud, a diplomat, and Maximilian Morrel, who is now a captain in the French army. We learn that Maximilian once saved Château-Renaud’s life in Constantinople, on the anniversary of the day Maximilian’s father was miraculously saved from ruin, a day Maximilian always observes by trying to accomplish some heroic act.
Monte Cristo arrives in Paris and travels straight to Albert’s house. Monte Cristo enchants all the guests, but he alone seems taken with Maximilian. Monte Cristo regales everyone with the story of how he once captured Luigi Vampa and his bandits and then let them go on the condition that they never harm either himself or his friends.
Chapter 42: The Presentation
When the guests have left, Albert shows Monte Cristo around his house. Monte Cristo exhibits a deep knowledge of all subjects scientific, humanistic, and artistic. Albert shows Monte Cristo a portrait of his mother, painted in the costume of a Catalan fisherwoman and looking mournfully out at the sea. He explains that he keeps the portrait in his house because his father hates it.
Albert then presents Monte Cristo to his mother and father. Fernand, who is now a senator, does not recognize Monte Cristo as Dantès and is easily charmed by him. Mercédès recognizes Dantès instantly, and she is terrified. She vaguely warns Albert to beware of his new friend.
Chapter 43: Monsieur Bertuccio
After taking leave of the Morcerf family, Monte Cristo purchases a summerhouse in Auteuil. The previous owner was the Marquis of Saint-Méran, whose daughter married Villefort and died soon after.
Chapter 44: The House at Auteuil
Monte Cristo goes to visit his new summerhouse. While he explores the grounds, his steward, Bertuccio, becomes frantic. When Monte Cristo presses him for an explanation of his agitation, Bertuccio unfolds a complex story.
Chapter 45: The Vendetta
Bertuccio explains that years ago, his brother, who had been a soldier in Napoleon’s army, was murdered by royalist assassins in the city of Nîmes. Seeking justice, Bertuccio visited the public prosecutor of Nîmes, who at the time was Gérard de Villefort. Villefort, a royalist, was unsympathetic to Bertuccio’s story and coolly turned him away. Bertuccio swore revenge on the public prosecutor.
Terrified for his life, Villefort transferred to Versailles, but Bertuccio followed him there. Bertuccio soon discovered that Villefort often came to visit the summerhouse in Auteuil, where he kept his mistress, a widowed baroness. One night, Bertuccio lay in wait for Villefort in the small garden behind the house and stabbed him, leaving him for dead. Villefort had just finished burying a box when Bertuccio pounced on him and grabbed the box, thinking that it contained a treasure. Instead, he found a baby, which had been smothered but started breathing after being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Following a seven- or eight-month stay in the hospital, Bertuccio took the baby home with him and raised it with the help of his widowed sister-in-law.
The baby, whom Bertuccio and his sister-in-law named Benedetto, almost immediately showed signs of cruelty. As an older boy, he disappeared and was never heard from again. In the meantime, Bertuccio was away smuggling goods into France. On the run from the authorities, he ducked into a loft behind Caderousse’s inn. While hiding in the loft behind Caderousse’s inn, Bertuccio watched a terrible scene unfold. Caderousse and his wife had invited a jeweler to buy the diamond that the Abbé Busoni had just given them. After handing over forty-five thousand francs, the jeweler planned to return home, but a storm convinced him to spend the night at the inn.
Chapter 46: The Rain of Blood
Bertuccio continues his story: seizing the chance to double his profit, Caderousse murdered both the jeweler and his own wife, then fled with the money and the diamond.
Arriving at the scene, the police arrested Bertuccio for the crime. Bertuccio remembered that Caderousse claimed to have received the diamond from a man named Abbé Busoni, so the authorities put out a search for the priest in order to clear Bertuccio of the crime. When Busoni turned up, he visited Bertuccio in prison. Bertuccio told the abbé his entire story, and Busoni suggested that should Bertuccio ever get out of prison, he should contact the Count of Monte Cristo, who would hire him as a steward. Soon thereafter, Caderousse turned up and confessed to the crime. Bertuccio was released and went to work for the Count of Monte Cristo, while Caderousse was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor. Then, at the age of eleven, while Bertuccio was away on business, Benedetto tortured his adopted mother for a small amount of money and ended up killing her.
Analysis: Chapters 40–46
Dumas’s roots as a playwright are apparent throughout The Count of Monte Cristo, perhaps most obviously in this section. Rather than merely present Bertuccio’s history through a narrator, Dumas gives Bertuccio a long monologue. This monologue gives Bertuccio the opportunity to reveal all that we need to know about his life and his connection to other major characters, namely Villefort and Caderousse. The context of the monologue is, admittedly, very forced: we know that Monte Cristo and Abbé Busoni are the same person, so we are aware that Monte Cristo already knows all the information he is forcing Bertuccio to reveal. The fact that Dumas resorts to such an awkward setup demonstrates the strength of his commitment to tell the story through dialogue. In fact, there is hardly a plot development or piece of internal history in the entire novel that does not unfold through dialogue. It is by means of the dialogue over breakfast in Chapters 40 and 41, for instance, that we learn about Maximilian’s bravery and Monte Cristo’s true connection to Luigi Vampa. Likewise, it is during the course of the conversation between Albert and Mercédès that we learn that Mercédès does in fact recognize Monte Cristo as Dantès. This heavy reliance on dialogue makes Dumas’s novels seem like an extension of his dramatic work.
The unexpected appearance of Maximilian Morrel at Albert’s house in Chapter 40 is a crucial plot twist. This twist prevents The Count of Monte Cristo from being merely a catalogue of rewards straightforwardly followed by punishments. For ten years Monte Cristo has been preparing himself to feel and act upon nothing but hatred and vengeance. The appearance of Maximilian calls up a set of different emotions for which Monte Cristo is not prepared. He is suddenly filled with gratitude and warmth—two sentiments that he has prepared to leave behind. Maximilian’s presence complicates Monte Cristo’s attempts to divide his life neatly into years devoted to rewarding and years spent punishing. As we later see, all such contact with the Morrel family throws Monte Cristo into uncertainty and discomfort. By inserting the Morrel family into this portion of the novel, Dumas forces Monte Cristo to grapple with unforeseen difficulty, which makes the story line more interesting.
The portrait of Mercédès looking mournfully out to sea hints that she has never forgotten, or ceased to love, Dantès. Her costume, that of a Catalan fisherwoman, symbolically connects Mercédès to Dantès, who was a sailor during the period when the two were engaged. As we learn in a later chapter, Mercédès has spent years under the mistaken impression that Dantès died at sea when he was thrown from the rocks in Abbé Faria’s shroud. In her sad gaze toward the sea, then, she is focused on what she believes to be Dantès’s grave. Even Fernand is obviously aware that the portrait signifies Mercédès’s enduring feelings for Dantès, since he has it banished from his house. Mercédès’s ability to recognize Dantès even through the changes of time and hardship also indicates the depth of her feeling for him. She has remained so thoroughly connected to him in her thoughts that she is immediately able to see through his new exterior. Mercédès’s ability to recognize Dantès confirms what the portrait suggests: despite her marriage to Fernand, she has always remained loyal to Dantès in her heart.