Dantes returns to the Abbe’s cell the next day, and Faria begins to tell him of a treasure, the location of which only the Abbe knows, and which he wishes to give Dantes. Dantes, who has heard about this treasure, in jest, from the jailers and guards of the Chateau D’If, worries that Faria has truly lost his mind. For Dantes has never really believed these rumors to be true, and during their many months of working and conversation, the two have never talked about this money. The Abbe shows Dantes an indecipherable scrap of paper, which appears to have been torn in half. The Abbe argues that these are the directions to the treasure, but Dantes worries, inwardly, that Faria has completely lost his mind. Nonetheless Dantes agrees to return the next day to hear more about the Abbe’s story of the treasure.
The Abbe has, in effect, two treasures he can give to Dantes. The first is the storehouse of his own knowledge, built up during years in Italy – and the Abbe has effectively shared this knowledge with Dantes while in prison. But the Abbe also possesses a different, and more literal, form of wealth. Dantes, for his part, has not wanted to believe the rumors of the Abbe and his supposed “treasure,” because he, like the guards, thinks that such a treasure is impossible. But much like the endless riches of his own mind, the Abbe’s treasures on Monte Cristo are quite real.
The Abbe tells Dantes a long story about the history of this treasure. As a younger man, the Abbe worked for a dispossessed nobleman by the name of Spada, whose family money, from the House of Spada, was legendary in all of Italy. In an annal the Abbe recites from memory, he tells of how, during the Italian Renaissance, the pope and his nephew, Cesare Borgia, plotted to steal away the enormous family wealth of the Spada family by hosting Spada and his heir for dinner and poisoning both. But the pope and Borgia realize, once they get their hands on Spada’s will, that it has been written in some kind of code. Rather than leaving his money to his heir, Spada has bequeathed only his breviary, or religious text, and a few other documents.
This is one of several long digressions in the novel. Here, the narrator’s voice appears to join with the voice of the Abbe – just as, later on, the narrator will tell a long tale about the life-history of the bandit Luigi Vampa. In these cases, it becomes especially pronounced that the narrator is a third-person omniscient one – meaning that he has access to the thoughts of all the major characters, and can move between their consciousnesses. The Abbe’s story also sets an example of treachery that is paralleled by other characters later on.
The Abbe continues with his story, saying that he himself managed the affairs of the last remaining member of the Spada family, after whose death the Abbe was given control over the family’s estate. This did not include wealth, but it did grant him access to archival records which, the Abbe believed, might lead to more information on the possible location of the Spada’s wealth of centuries past, which the Abbe became convinced no one had managed to find.
Just as Dantes has learned an enormous amount about the world from the Abbe, the Abbe has learned much of this information from his interaction with the house of Spada. Thus the novel presents different examples of men who are “self-made” – who rise not because of family wealth but because of inherent virtues, like intelligence and a capability for hard work.
The Abbe finishes his story by noting that, as he was moving the last Count of Spada’s items away from Rome, he by chance came upon the breviary again, and in disgust he ripped out a page and threw it into the fire. A miracle took place: the page revealed itself to have been written on with a kind of invisible ink. This is the page of which Abbe showed Dantes a fragment earlier in his cell. The Abbe notes that the fire had consumed some, but not all, the writing, and the Abbe, in his cleverness, was able to piece together the rest. The page of the breviary notes that the Spada family has hidden its treasure on the island of Monte Cristo, in the Mediterranean; that this treasure is of enormous size, over 13 million francs in modern French money; and the partial letter also provides directions, once on the island, for how to access the wealth.
This is perhaps the most notable image of a novel filled with memorable scenes – the idea of the vast buried treasure at Monte Cristo. Although The Count of Monte Cristo is not the only novel to take a buried treasure as its central conceit, it is one of the most broadly recognizable (Treasure Island is perhaps its only peer in this regard). In the Abbe’s telling, the treasure on Monte Cristo is available for the taking for anyone who possesses the knowledge and adventurous spirit necessary to travel there and follow the directions on the scrap of paper. The Abbe believes that Dantes is just the man for this job, and so he shares this information with him as he would with his own son, were he to have one.
Dantes is flabbergasted by this news and begins to believe that the Abbe might in fact be telling the truth. The Abbe says that, if they had escaped before his second stroke, he would have led Dantes himself to Monte Cristo and they could have split the treasure. But now, since he has had no children and because Dantes is like a son to him, he makes Dantes his sole heir, meaning that the young man will inherit the entire fortune at Monte Cristo should he be able to escape the Chateau D’If. Overcome with excitement and emotion, Dantes embraces the Abbe as the chapter ends.
At every point in their interactions thus far, Dantes has trusted that the Abbe is a man of his word – that he does not lie or exaggerate, despite the wonders of his jail cell and the seemingly infinite wonders of the Abbe’s mind. Yet Dantes here requires more convincing than in any other scene – in part because the Abbe’s story is so fantastical, and in part because the presence of this fortune would allow Dantes to actually deliver the revenge he has begun to plan.