The narrator summarizes the whirlwind of events taking place between Napoleon’s return to the Tuileries and his eventual defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, known as the Hundred Days. When Napoleon ascends to the throne again, and after Louis XVIII has fled with his Royalists, Morrel believes that he can once again plead his case to Villefort. Morrel is emboldened because he himself has Bonapartist sympathies, though muted, and Villefort has somehow managed to hang on to his position in the government under Napoleon. Indeed, Villefort has adapted so well, he has become head crown prosecutor, since the prior head has been fired. Yet Villefort also senses that he should only appear to throw his support behind Napoleon, since he predicts, correctly, that Bonaparte will soon be defeated, finally, and that a Second Restoration will bring Louis XVIII back into power.
The narrator describes Villefort’s position during the Hundred Days as a placeholder for the positions of many officials during this time. There is so much turmoil in French politics between the original Restoration, the Hundred Days, and the Second Restoration that many political figures believe the best thing to do is simply to sit tight and wait for events to settle. Villefort is cunning enough to remain in power even when Napoleon returns, and perhaps more cunning still to recognize that this final Hundred Days is nothing more than a blip in history – such that the country will return to Royalist stability soon enough.
Morrel meets with Villefort in his office, and Villefort pretends not to have remembered the imprisonment of the man named Dantes, even though Villefort knows all too well that Dantes is in the Chateau D’If, a dungeon from which there is no hope of return. No document links Dantes to that prison, and when Morrel asks to see any proof of where Dantes is, Villefort, pretending to be kind, says that prisoners get lost all the time; that Bonaparte cannot be expected to free all his sympathizers at once; and that he will write to the Minster of Justice, right then and there, to demand the Dantes case be reopened.
It is one more sign of Villefort’s dastardly cunning that he pretends not to even know who Dantes is here. Of course, the idea of Dantes’ imprisonment – because it is linked to his own father’s radicalism – is all-too-present for Villefort, and Villefort has staked his entire career on making it seem that Dantes really was a violent radical. Thus, in another instance of dramatic irony, the reader knows what Morrel does not.
Morrel is overjoyed to hear this. Villefort does indeed write a letter before Morrel, saying that Dantes was one of Bonaparte’s greatest and most influential supporters, and that, as a loyal subject to the Emperor, he should be looked for in any of France’s prisons and freed immediately. Morrel leaves the office happy, but Villefort keeps this letter as “proof” that Dantes was a Bonapartist—this will be useful when, inevitably, Louis XVIII returns to power. Thus, his defeat of Dantes will be total and irrevocable.
In another cunning move, Villefort has now assembled a piece of paper that can pin Dantes explicitly to Bonaparte. It is important to note here that Dantes has never been part of any political faction whatsoever – that, indeed, Dantes had no politics at all when he was serving as a ship’s mate. Dantes’s only concern while a sailor was caring for his father and marrying Mercedes. Yet in Villefort’s narrative he has constructed, Dantes is a central actor in the insurgency that brings about the Hundred Days.
And indeed, Bonaparte does fall—the narrator passes over Waterloo in a sentence. Villefort maintains his post in the Royalist government, professing that he only did what he had to do to keep the government moving during the horrors of Napoleon’s return to rule. His marriage to Renee is allowed to commence, as the Saint-Merans, Royalists to the core, are allowed back into society. Danglars, afraid during the Hundred Days that Dantes would return, asks Morrel to be shipped to Spain. Fernand signs up for Napoleon’s army at Waterloo, and when he leaves Mercedes, she tells him that he must not die, since she depends upon him for help—although their relationship is still friendly and not romantic. Once Louis XVIII is restored, Dantes’ father, convinced there is no hope at all for Dantes, dies. Mercedes and Morrel take care of his funeral and final expenses.
One striking feature of this novel is the speed with which certain events come and go. Here, one of the most important battles in the history of Europe – Waterloo, where Napoleon is finally defeated – is given far, far less notice than even the most trivial social matters later on in the novel. The narrator and Dumas do not mean to suggest that Waterloo was not important, however; instead, they show how the narrative of the novel unfolds against a backdrop of important historical events – a primary drama foregrounded atop the drama of history.