The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
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Edmond Dantès, an innocent young sailor, falls into despair when he is arrested on a false charge of treason and thrown into prison without a trial. He learns of his friends' betrayal from the Abbé Faria, an equally innocent prisoner, and plots his revenge following a daring, if nightmarish escape from the Chateau d'If. After becoming a wealthy man, he assumes the guise of the urbane Count of Monte-Cristo and begins to entrap his enemies one by one. However, a chilling realization finally dawns - that he is also harming those he loves. 1. HAPPINESS DASHED. Edmond Dantès returns to Marseilles in 1815 as the new captain of the Pharaon. On shore, Monsieur Morrel, the ship's owner, is informed by Danglars, the ship's mate, that Dantès has taken a package to Napoleon, exiled in Elba. Dantès visits his father, in debt to Caderousse, a neighbour, before hastening to see Mercedes, his fiancée. At her village, she rebuffs Fernand, her fellow Catalan, but embraces Dantès. Later Fernand joins Caderousse and Danglars, who plot to eliminate Dantès. The engaged couple host a pre-wedding feast which ends in Dantès' arrest. 2. ROUGH JUSTICE. At the Palais de Justice, Villefort, a prosecutor, is struck by the similarity of his and Dantès' situation, being himself about to marry. He realizes that Dantès is a political innocent and decides to free him. However, he discovers the existence of an incriminating letter addressed to Noirtier, his father, which Dantès is carrying. Stunned, Villefort orders his immediate incarceration in the island prison of Chateau d'If. Years pass by as Dantès remains isolated in a dungeon. In the world outside Villefort climbs the legal ladder, Mercédès is grief-stricken but marries Fernand, and old Dantès dies. Six years later, Dantès hears another prisoner and starts to dig towards him. The Abbé Faria, a reputedly mad inmate, finally breaks through into his cell. 3. A LEARNED ITALIAN. Faria listens to Dantès' story and helps him to understand how and why he has been 'set up'. Dantès is now determined on vengeance. Eight years pass while the prisoners dig an escape tunnel. However, Faria collapses and, as he dies, he bequeaths to Dantès buried treasure. When the grave-diggers come for Faria's body, Dantès takes his place in the shroud and escapes. 4. THE COUNT APPEARS. Dantès retrieves the treasure from the island of Monte-Cristo and assumes the guise of a count. In Venice he rescues Albert de Morcerf, Fernand's and Mercedes' son. Later arriving in Paris, the Count is introduced to Maximilian Morrel, the son of his former ship-owner, whom he at once befriends. However, when he meets Mercedes, now Madame de Morcerf, she faints. Monte-Cristo buys a house in Auteuil, once owned by the Marquis de Saint-Méran, Villefort's father-in-law. Bertuccio, the Count's servant, grows pale, however, because he believes it was here that he killed Villefort. Visiting Baron Danglars, Monte-Cristo impresses him with his wealth and obtains a six-million-franc loan. 5. SNARING THE GUILTY. Monte-Cristo's servant saves Madame de Villefort and her son, Eduard, from disaster. The Count then fascinates her with his knowledge of poisons. Noirtier, now paralysed, gestures to Valentine, Villefort's daughter by his first marriage, that he disapproves of her proposed marriage to Franz d'Epinay; she too dislikes it. Calling later, the Count finds the Villeforts incensed because Noirtier has changed his will to prevent the marriage. The Count holds a dinner party, where Bertuccio is amazed to find Villefort still alive. 6. THE NOOSE TIGHTENS. Monte-Cristo invites his pests to visit one of his rooms, but Villefort and Madame Danglars turn pale, for it brings back memories of past crimes. Monte-Cristo drags the two of them into the garden where he relates the discovery of a baby's skeleton, alarming them afresh. In another room Danglars meets the Cavalcantis, supposed Italian aristocrats, and is persuaded to lend them money. Villefort returns home and discovers that his parents-in-law have been poisoned. At their funeral, Noirtier reveals to Franz d'Epinay that he killed his father, thus wrecking his engagement to Valentine. Next, the name of Morcerf is ruined by allegations of past treachery. Attempting to clear his father, Albert challenges Monte-Cristo to a duel. 7. REVELATIONS. Mercédès pleads for the Count to spare her son - she has recognized him as Dantès. Albeit apologizes and, later receives a letter from Monte-Cristo bequeathing money to him and his mother. Calling on the Count, Fernand discovers his true identity, and commits suicide. Valentine now falls dangerously ill from poison. Maximilian tells Monte-Cristo that he loves Valentine and, awakened to the harm of his vengeance, the Count secretly saves her. However, believing her to be dead, Maximilian threatens suicide. The marriage of Danglars' daughter Eugenie to Count Cavalcanti is halted by the police who arrest the bridegroom as a criminal. During his trial, the accused reveals that he is Villefort's illegitimate son. 8. FINAL RECKONINGS. Disgraced, Villefort rushes home to find his wife and son poisoned. Monte-Cristo leaves Paris after supervising the kidnap of Danglars who is fleeing with stolen money. The Count then joins Maximilian on the island of Monte-Cristo, where the young man still insists on poisoning himself. However, Valentine appears as he loses consciousness and they are later reunited. Haydée, Monte-Cristo's slave, refuses her freedom and they sail away together