The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo
By Alexandre Dumas
This edition published by Scholar’s Publications Sdn. Bhd. (2005)
I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo in one sitting, within three hours. But don’t be awed, because I cheated, of course 😅. The copy that I read was an abridged version catered for school children (and yes, it had illustrations too)!
It was in year 1815 and Edmond Dantes, the First Mate for the merchant ship Pharaon was about to be promoted as captain after the previous one passed away from an illness. Another crew member by the name Danglars was disappointed by the appointment because he himself badly wanted to be made Pharaon’s captain.
Meanwhile around the same time, Edmond had planned for a wedding to his long-time lover Mercedes, and this had gained the envy of another man by the name Fernand. Fernand was Mercedes’s cousin and he wanted to marry her, too, but she only loved him as a relative. Mercedes had warned Fernand not to harm Edmond in any way or she would hate him forever. For that, Fernand did not do anything to Edmond despite hating that man who had won his cousin’s heart.
One night, Fernand encountered Danglars and when they discovered that they both hated the same man (Edmond), they plotted for Edmond’s downfall. Danglars knew that during the recent voyage, Edmond – who had captained the ship in place of the dead captain – has made an unplanned stop to meet the deposed French leader Napoleon. So Danglars believed they could accuse Edmond of planning to betray the current monarch, King Louis XVIII. That could send Edmond to jail and they did not need to expose themselves as the persons who had a hand in Edmond’s arrest. Danglars wrote a note with his wrong hand to avoid being identified while Fernand quietly send the letter to the King’s prosecutor.
Edmond did meet Napoleon on his journey back, but he did this on the orders of the previous captain who had died. He did not know what Napoleon wanted, but being an honest man, he just obeyed when Napoleon entrusted him to send a letter to another man in Paris.
Not long after Danglar’s letter reached the authorities, Edmond was picked up during the party to celebrate his engagement to Mercedes. Edmond had planned to marry her later on the same day, but apparently, that was not meant to be.
The good and honest Edmond was then questioned by an assistant prosecutor by the name of Villefort. Edmond was asked to show the letter he was supposed to send to Paris on behalf of Napoleon, and that had sealed his fate. The letter was actually addressed to Villefort’s estranged father, who was one of Napoleon’s men, and whom Villefort had cut ties with. Villefort did not even use his father’s surname, Noirtiers, to avoid being linked to the King’s traitor. The unsuspecting Edmond did not know this, but Villefort was determined to shut Edmond forever in case he would leak the name Noirtiers to the public. Villefort would not care less about what happened to his father, but he was afraid that he himself would lose his job and get public scorn if anyone knew he was Noirtiers’ son.
And so, Villefort unfairly charged Edmond as guilty of treason towards the King. Edmond was sentenced to a lifetime in prison without even getting a chance to defend himself.
Meanwhile, a neighbour of the Dantes’, Caderousse, had suspected Danglars and Fernand to have a role in the arrest of Edmond, for he was also there when the two had plotted against Edmond. But Danglars convinced Caderousse that he was drunk at the time and may have misunderstood everything. The foolish Caderousse had believed it (and he only realized it a many years later).
Edmond spent 14 years in jail, and during his later years in the prison he had befriended an old priest named Faria, who was imprisoned in a nearby cell. The two had dug secret tunnels so they could meet and have some company in the lonely dungeon.
In their conversations, they had discussed the cause of their imprisonment, and Edmond had suspected that Danglars must be behind it because only Danglars knew about his having Napoleon’s letter. But Edmond was dumbfounded about why Villefort would charge him guilty after all. Father Faria then revealed that Monsieur Noirtiers, for whom Napoleon’s letter was intended for, was actually Villefort’s father – thus Villefort’s desperate attempt to conceal the truth.
Now convinced that Danglars, Fernand and Villefort all played a role in his imprisonment, Edmond vowed to avenge all the years he had unfairly lost. Edmond and Father Faria had planned on escaping the prison together, but the latter later found himself dying and not able to escape. He wanted Edmond to escape alone and let him die in the cell.
Edmond had been good to Father Faria, so the latter had told Edmond that he actually owned a large fortune which he had inherited from his late father. Without an heir, Father Faria had thought of Edmond as his own son, and would want Edmond to inherit all his riches after he passed. Father Faria told Edmond that all his treasures were hidden on the Island of Monte Cristo, and he wanted Edmond to retrieve them when he managed to escape.
At last, Father Faria passed away and Edmond saw that the former man’s funeral would be his only way of escaping the dungeon. As prison guards prepare to bring the dead body out of the cell, Edmond laid himself on Father Faria’s prison bed while the dead man was brought to his own cell instead. The prison guards had not suspected that the dead prisoner had been switched, as they had wrapped the body in a winding cloth. And so they took Edmond as the corpse and brought him outside for burial. Apparently, dead prisoners would be thrown into the sea – and that was what Edmond had to face.
Edmond found himself drowning in the choppy sea, until he was rescued by a smuggler’s ship. As a former sailor, Edmond was very good at handling a ship and he was accepted into the smugglers’ circle. Edmond became a part of the smugglers for some time and even made a good friend among them, namely Jacopo.
One day, the smuggler ship docked at the uninhabited Island of Monte Cristo and Edmond took the opportunity to explore around while quietly looking for Father Faria’s treasure. When Edmond finally managed to locate the hidden treasure, he returned to the smugglers and announced that he wanted to leave the ship - without revealing why, of course. They reluctantly (and unsuspectingly) let him go his own way. Edmond also took Jacopo with him and made Jacopo his right-hand man.
After leaving the smugglers, Edmond returned to the Island of Monte Cristo to retrieve all the riches he had inherited from Father Faria. Edmond then settled in Paris and installed himself as The Count of Monte Cristo in order to carry out his revenge. With his new identity as an enigmatic nobleman, nobody suspected him to be the Edmond Dantes who had been accused of treachery some time ago. With help from Jacopo, The Count managed to identify the whereabouts of the people whom he was looking for.
The Count also learnt from the (unsuspecting) Caderousse that his father, Monsieur Dantes had passed away in grieve over Edmond, and that had made the Count even more determined to take his revenge. The Count then managed to get Caderousse’s confirmation that Danglars, Fernand and Villefort were all in cahoots in Edmond’s arrest.
Afterwards, Edmond – under the guise of The Count – had pretended to do business with Danglars and Villefort, but later manipulated the situation until both men lost all their savings. As a result, Villefort had gone mad while Danglars was left with only very little money and was banished from Paris.
Last but not least, The Count came face to face with Fernand – who had gotten to marry Mercedes after getting Edmond out of the way. Fernand and Mercedes now had a son together named Albert. Mercedes recognised Edmond at once and was very heartbroken to learn the truth. She had thought that Edmond would never return again and had not suspected Fernand of having a hand in Edmond’s imprisonment. Now that she knew everything, she and her son Albert - who had become an honourable young man, unlike his father - were determined to walk out on Fernand and return to live in her childhood home. Fernand eventually committed suicide for having earning the scorn of both his wife and his son.
His revenge now complete, the Count then left Paris and went on a long voyage across the seas on his yacht.