This month, the topic for Heidi's Inkling Explorations series is "A scene involving a disguise in book or film."
I've decided to share one of my favorite moments of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It's kind of long, and it comes from very close to the end of the book. If you don't know the story, I'll just tell you that a young man named Edmond Dantes is falsely imprisoned at the beginning of it, and escapes prison to wreak fantastical vengeance on the people who conspired to imprison him. He uses a hidden treasure to transform himself into the wealthy, mysterious Count of Monte Cristo and sets about his dark work. Here, at the end of the book, he confronts one of them, a Monsieur de Villefort, and reveals his true identity. In fact, he has to shed two disguises to do so.
When Villefort entered, Noirtier seemed to be listening, attentively and as affectionately as his paralysis allowed, to Abbe Busoni, who was as calm and emotionless as ever.
Seeing the abbe, Villefort put his hand to his forehead. The past returned to him like one of those waves which in its rage raises more foam than any of its fellows. He recalled the visit that he had paid to the abbe the day after the dinner in Auteuil and the visit that the abbe had paid him on the day of Valentine's death.
"Are you here, Monsieur!" he said. "And do you never appear except in the company of Death?"
Busoni rose to his feet. Seeing the look on the lawyer's face and the fierce light burning in his eyes, he realized, or thought he realized, that the events at the assizes had taken place. He knew nothing of the rest.
"I came to pray over the body of your daughter," Busoni replied.
"And today? Why are you here today?"
"I have come to tell you that you have paid your debt to me and that from now on I shall pray God that He will be satisfied, as I am."
"That voice!" Villefort cried, shrinking back with a horrified look on his face. "It is not Abbe Busoni's!"
The abbe tore off his tonsured wig and shook his head, so that his long black hair fell freely across his shoulders, framing his masculine features.
"That is the face of Monte Cristo!" Villefort exclaimed, looking aghast.
"Not quite, Monsieur. Look harder, and further back."
"That voice! That voice! Where did I hear it for the first time?"
"You heard it first in Marseille, twenty-three years ago, on the day of your wedding to Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran. Look in your files."
"You are not Busoni? You are not Monte Cristo? You are that hidden enemy, deadly and implacable! I did something to harm you, something in Marseille! Oh, woe is me!"
"Yes, you are right, you are absolutely right," the count said, crossing his arms over his broad chest. "Think! Think!"
"But what did I do to you?" Villefort cried, his mind already hovering on the borderline between reason and madness, in that mist which is no longer a dream but not yet wakefulness. "What did I do to you? Tell me! Speak!"
"You condemned me to a slow and frightful death, you killed my father, and you deprived me of love at the same time as you deprived me of freedom, and of fortune as well as love!"
"Who are you? Then who are you?"
"I am the spectre of an unfortunate man whom you locked up in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If. When this spectre finally emerged from its tomb, God put on it the mask of the Count of Monte Cristo and showered it with diamonds and gold so that you should not recognize it until today."
"Ah! I recognize you, I do recognize you!" the crown prosecutor said. "You are..."
"I am Edmond Dantes!"
Oooooh, I get such delicious shivers from that final line. The Count of Monte Cristo is my second-favorite book of all time, and I'm starting to feel like I'm due for a reread. Or at least to watch one of the two movie versions I love, the Richard Chamberlain or the Jim Caviezel.