In Chapter 89 of The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count returns home from the opera where Albert de Morcerf has challenged him to a duel because the charges of betraying Ali Tebelin, ally of France, are brought against the Count de Morcerf, formerly known as Ferdnand, one of the betrayers of Edmund Dantes. Thus, in his loyalty to the name of his father, Albert has condemned himself to death as Monte Cristo tells Maxmillian Morrel at the opera that he will kill Albert on the morrow since God is on his side.
However, having had a servant follow her son, Mercedes learns of the duel and secretly visits the Count at his house. When she enters, Mercedes calls him "Edmund," shocking the count with the knowledge that she has known all along his true identity. When she begs Dantes to spare the life of her son, he replies with the words from the Bible that the sins of the father will fall upon the children to the third or fourth generation. So, he asks Mercedes,
"Since God himself dictated those words to his prophet, why should I seek to make myself better than God?"
Whereupon Mercedes invokes the memory of their love, telling him that for ten years she prayed for him, and then she heard that he had tried to escape, but had struck the rocks and died when the jailers threw the sack they believed contained a dead prisoner. Mercedes begs Edmund to spare the life of her son for the sake of his innocence and for the sake of their young love. When Dantes asks her,
"...have you seen the woman you loved giving her hand to your rival, while you were perishing at the bottom of a dungeon?"
"No, but I have seen him whom I loved on the point of murdering my son."
When she speaks these words with such despair and anguish, Edmund Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, cannot himself hold in a cry of unrestrained love: "The lion was daunted; the avenger was conquered." He, then, promises to spare Albert's life, a promise that commits his life to an end. At first, Mercedes does not understand his heroic sacrifice, but after Monte Cristo explains that the duel will still take place and Albert must kill him if he spares the son's life. Further, he tells the mother, "Mercedes, you could not imagine what I lose in sacrificing my life at this moment." For, the hope for revenge which kept him alive for fourteen years in prison has now been abandoned. Looking at him in both atonishment and gratitude, Mercedes declares her deep appreciation and love. She then departs, and Edmund Dantes, the former prisoner of the Chateau d'If, the Count of Monte Cristo, who has altered his plan of revenge, raises his head and declares,
"What a fool I was,...not to tear my heart out on the day when I resolved to avenge myself!"
He cannot avenge himself against Ferdinand by making the son pay for "the sins of the father" because his love for Mercedes is stronger than his long desire for revenge.