In this brief chapter, the narrator reviews the activities of the various characters on the night that Dantes is being shipped to the Chateau D’If. Villefort goes back to the Saint-Merans, where he meets privately with the Marquis and convinces him that he has “urgent news” for the king. He asks Saint-Meran to arrange for him to have a private audience with Louis XVIII “post-haste.” This is a way, it is hinted, of demonstrating that Villefort has just snuffed out a possible rebellion by imprisoning Dantes.
Villefort is presented as a shrewd and manipulating person in these early stages of the novel. He is not content with having thrown Dantes in prison – he also wants others to believe that a revolution in France is really in the offing, and that Napoleon does indeed plan to return to France from his (first) exile at Elba. But of course, Villefort doesn’t actually know this to be the case. Instead, he wants to make it seem this way so that his imprisoning Dantes becomes a necessary act to protect the French state.
Mercedes waits outside the door of Villefort’s home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man, but he brushes her aside, telling her that her beloved is a “traitor” to the country and that Dantes’ case is out of his hands. In private, Villefort has a crisis of conscience: he wonders if he can really imprison an innocent man in order to hide his own father’s real collusion with the Bonapartists. The narrator notes that, if Mercedes had returned to Villefort and asked again, he might have caved and released Dantes; but this does not occur, and Villefort finds his resolve and continues with his machinations.
Here, the narrator allows us access to Villefort’s thoughts – and we learn that, deep down, he does indeed have a conscience and feel guilty for what he’s done to Dantes and those who love Dantes, including Mercedes. At some points in the novel, the narrator is able to convey the innermost thoughts of certain characters, like Villefort here – this is known as “narratorial omniscience,” and is demonstrated elsewhere in the text, most often with Dantes’ thoughts.
Morrel, the narrator says, still believes that Dantes is innocent, but because the rumor is out that Dantes is a Bonapartist sympathizer, no one is willing to risk their own imprisonment to help him. Mercedes, the narrator remarks, is back in her hut with Fernand in a state of near-swoon, and Fernand is using this opportunity to tend to her, although Mercedes thinks only of Dantes. Caderousse drinks himself into a stupor at the thought that the plan, of which he was at least a partial member, has resulted in Dantes’ imprisonment for high crimes. Danglars appears happy at the thought that he has “taken out” a rival for the captaincy of the Pharaon. And Old Dantes sits in his room, unable to eat or move, thinking of his son.
The narrator explains a fundamental difference between Danglars’ and Caderousse’s mental states, and their characters. Danglars appears not be haunted by what he’s done – even though he has condemned an innocent man. This, whereas Caderousse is barely able to function, and must instead get drunk, knowing that he has harmed someone he had no reason harming. These responses to feelings of guilt will later become important when the Count comes to Paris to avenge those who have committed crimes against him.