Bertuccio begins his long and sordid tale. He notes that, after the end of the 100 Days, a lawlessness reigned in the south of France and his older brother was killed because he was a suspected Bonapartist. Seeking justice, Bertuccio went to speak to Villefort, who was at that point the crown prosecutor for that region. Expecting Villefort to help him avenge the murder of his brother by finding the guilty parties, Bertuccio is shocked by Villefort’s indifference; he realizes that, as a Royalist, Villefort simply wants as many dead Corsican Bonapartists as possible.
Bertuccio begins another one of the embedded narratives in the text, in which a character replaces the narrator as a primary storyteller. In this instance, Bertuccio’s story is somewhat plausible for him to remember, although it is very long – for after all, he was the person who witnessed and committed the acts he describes. It is not surprising to learn here that Villefort has done everything he can to protect his own job in the face of revolutionary upheaval.
At this moment, before leaving Villefort’s office, Bertuccio swears a Corsican blood oath against him, saying that he will track Villefort down and kill him. Bertuccio leaves and lives a life in the gray-market economy, working as a smuggler and bringing home enough money to support Assunta, his dead brother’s widow. Bertuccio also begins tracking Villefort, who has moved to a different post in Paris, and who is hiding out—because of fear of the vendetta—at the house of his father-in-law, the house in Auteuil.
Bertuccio claims that, because he is a Corsican, his oath of revenge is binding. Thus, he thinks he must kill Villefort by any means necessary, or otherwise the death of his brother will not be avenged. For Bertuccio, vengeance is a social contract he does not feel he himself has willingly entered into. Rather, revenge has been foisted upon him by the conventions of Corsican society.
Bertuccio tracks him there, and realizes that Villefort has been conducting an affair at the house—the woman, unnamed, is pregnant, and after several weeks she gives birth. Bertuccio sees a man he believes to be Villefort, cloaked in black, walk into the garden of the house at Auteuil and bury a small child in a casket. Bertuccio rushes at the man, “killing” him with a dagger, and he digs up the tiny casket. When he finds that the boy is still alive—he breathes life into his lungs—he drops him off at a nursery outside Paris and goes back to Assunta in Corsica.
It is perhaps hard for the reader to imagine that Villefort has engaged in this kind of villainy. And indeed, other features of this part of the story are also hard to believe – perhaps none more than the idea that Bertuccio was able to physically save a child who was buried alive. But despite all this, the pathos of the section is real. Bertuccio really does think that he has avenged his brother’s death by enacting a vendetta on Villefort. And he believes he has saved a child in the process, one who was innocent of any wrongdoing.
After many months, Assunta goes to Paris and finds the boy, using a piece of the fancy shroud in which he was buried to verify his identity. Bertuccio is relieved that the child can live with them, because he feels that the child’s life assuages the guilt Bertuccio feels in killing his father. They name the child (Villefort’s illegitimate son with the unnamed woman) Benedetto, after Bertuccio’s dead brother.
Although Bertuccio believes that his vendetta was justified, he still feels guilt for killing the father of a child now in his care. This is perhaps the novel’s most complex explication of grief and guilt. On the one hand, revenge was necessary for Bertuccio to do his duty to his brother. On the other, Bertuccio is now responsible for a son who will grow up without a father.
Benedetto grows up with red hair, and he’s a rogue—committed to a life of crime and malign intelligence. After years of putting up with Benedetto’s antics, Bertuccio arranges for his adopted son to work as an apprentice on a sailing ship in the hopes of calming the child’s hot blood. Then, during a smuggling mission in which the gendarmes are called in, Bertuccio finds safe harbor at an inn in Beaucaire. He hides out, with the permission of the innkeeper, in a small hutch. It turns out that this is the very same inn where the Abbe—revealed to be Abbe Busoni, also known as the Count of Monte Cristo—met with Caderousse (who is, of course, the inn’s manager along with his wife, La Carconte).
Of all the coincidences in the novel, this is one of the hardest to believe. Bertuccio has somehow managed to place himself in prime position to have overseen the events that take place between Caderousse, La Carconte, and the jeweler who has come to appraise their diamond. If Bertuccio were not in the house, there would be no living character other than Caderousse who had witnessed these events. Thus Bertuccio’s presence allows the reader access to the morbid scene at the hotel through the eyes of a character who is himself hiding there.
It turns out that Bertuccio hid in the hutch just after the Abbe Busoni left the house. He therefore recounts to Monte Cristo the scene just following the Abbe’s departure, all the way back in 1829 (about 7 to 8 years before the current narration). According to Bertuccio, after Monte Cristo’s departure, the jeweler offers Caderousse and La Carconte 45,000 francs for the diamond that the Abbe has given them. Initially the pair is reluctant to part with it for less than 50,000 francs, but the jeweler, a tough businessman, argues that, if they want to sell to someone else, the authorities might ask questions about this Abbe, or it might even turn out that the diamond is a fake. The jeweler has brought 45,000 francs with him, and the pair cannot turn down the sight of all that money. They take the jeweler’s offer, though they are angry with him, and he leaves into a howling storm with the diamond in his pocket.
Bertuccio’s story contains another narrative nested inside it, and the story of Caderousse’s greed and his wife’s immorality is still jarring in a novel filled with violence and intrigue. At this point, that drama is only hinted at, but the narrator does a masterful job increasing the suspense throughout the jeweler’s visit, culminating in the man’s exit into the howling storm. The reader is acquainted with Caderousse, of course, and does not trust that the man will do the right thing. Instead, it seems that Caderousse is always easily tempted to do precisely the wrong thing, the immoral and criminal thing, should the circumstances allow it – and should someone be present to convince him.
Before he is to go, however, Caderousse and La Carconte both insist that the jeweler stay in the inn for the night. Although their purposes are not stated plainly, it seems that, at least for La Carconte, the pair might be able to snatch back the diamond from the jeweler while he is asleep. At any rate, after a bit of time elapses, La Carconte’s dreams come true—the jeweler returns with the diamond, saying the storm is too violent outside, and that he will need to stay overnight at the inn in Beaucaire.
La Carconte is one of the novel’s more one-dimensionally immoral figures. She seems to care only about herself, and is greedy beyond measure. She is willing to harm other people to make sure the family maintains its wealth, or adds to it, and she is brutal to her husband, who, in this case, she works to convince to turn against the jeweler.