Mercedes visits the Count that evening, and all of a sudden, in a burst of emotion, she becomes the first character to announce that the Count is indeed Edmond Dantes. She calls him Edmond, announces that she still loves him, that she has dreamed of him for years, and that her life has been one of complete sorrow since the day of his imprisonment. She asks why Dantes wishes to bring vengeance on Albert, and the Count explains, through tears and anguish, that he vowed revenge on Fernand, and that this revenge will be visited “on the children as far as three or four generations.”
This is one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel, and the emotional climax of the Count’s time in Paris. Mercedes has finally admitted to what the reader has suspected all along: that she understands the Count to have been Dantes. The Count, for his part, is allowed the fullest description of his desire for revenge in this section, explaining just how emotionally resonant this revenge will be for him after his years in prison.
The Count goes on to tell Mercedes that Fernand is one of the men responsible for his false imprisonment, and he shows her the piece of paper he ripped out of the book of the inspector of prisons years ago, demonstrating the vile plot that landed him in Chateau D’If. Mercedes begs the Count to exact his revenge, but to do it on the right party—on Fernand, and on her even, for not being strong enough to wait for him. But she asks that he spare Albert. Although the Count is at first unwavering, he finally says that, out of love for Mercedes, he will spare Albert.
Mercedes raises an important point, one that begins to clarify for the Count the limits of his vengeance. For it is in fact true that Albert has done nothing but be friends with the Count. He has shown him around Paris, and has not sought to inquire about the Count’s family, the origins of his money, or his reasons for wanting to come to the capital. The Count has been blind all along to the fact that Albert truly is an innocent party.
At this Mercedes thanks him, telling him that this act of grace reminds her of the Edmond Dantes she used to know. She leaves quickly, and the Count, for the first time in the novel, has been frustrated in the careful arrangement of his plans, his every move designed to result in punishment for those parties connected to his false imprisonment. He regrets that his love for Mercedes has gotten in the way of his desire to kill Albert, and he vows that instead he must die, since it would be his shame not to achieve revenge in the manner he’d intended.
This is an emotional turning-point for the Count. His desire for perfect vengeance has run up against his desire to protect the memory of his love for Mercedes, and the life of the woman Mercedes has become. He concedes that Mercedes is correct, that Albert truly is innocent, and that he would be wrong to harm an innocent person in order to wound his criminal father. Thus, as with Old and Young Morrel before him, the Count feels his only choice is to take his own life.