A new character, an envoy from the English firm of Thomson and French, arrives in Marseille dressed as a banker, not long after the events of the previous chapter. This envoy comes first to the mayor of Marseille, asking after the financial situation of M. Morrel, in whose company, the envoy claims, Thomson and French has invested a good deal of money. The mayor replies that, although Morrel does seem indeed to be in financial straits, he is also a trustworthy man, as trustworthy as the mayor has ever seen—Thomson and French can count on him to pay whatever he can, and on time. The mayor also directs the envoy to the inspector of prisons in Marseille, who also has a good deal of money invested in Morrel’s shipping firm.
This envoy from Thomson and French, though never named explicitly, appears to be essentially the same disguise as Lord Wilmore, the English banker. Thus Dantes’ disguises, seen so far, seem to fall into schematically important professions in 1800s France. He is the Abbe, a religious official, when he wishes to determine certain things about men’s fates and histories, as with Caderousse. He is Lord Wilmore when he wishes to engage in banking matters. He is Sinbad the Sailor, introduced in a few scenes, when he lives his extravagant, Eastern-inspired life on the high seas and in the cave of Monte Cristo. And he is the Count in Rome and Paris, when he begins exacting his revenge.
This inspector, a M. de Boville, meets with the envoy of Thomson and French later that day. As the envoy appears already to know, de Boville has invested 200,000 francs in the Morrel company, and fears that this debt will never be repaid, that the firm will go under before Morrel can return on his investments. With no prompting, the envoy says that, on behalf of his firm, he is willing to buy all 200,00 francs of this debt from de Boville, with no commission, no fees, and no strings attached. De Boville is shocked and agrees to this arrangement, although he assumes that the envoy will have a condition, which he does. The envoy asks, instead of money, for information on the Abbe Faria, who died six months before in the Chateau D’If.
Here, discussions of debt are seen from the side of bankers, whereas earlier in the text they were introduced on the part of debtors themselves, namely Old Morrel and Caderousse. For men like Boville and the agent of Thomson and French, debts are items like anything else – things that can be bought and sold and managed. For people like Caderousse and Old Morrel, however, debts are prison sentences, things that shackle them, force them to work, and cause them significant distress.
De Boville, it is revealed, was the very same inspector of prisons who visited Dantes and Faria in 1817 and who promised to look up Dantes’ case, finding only Villefort’s note that Dantes was a committed Bonapartist and a danger to the Second Restoration. De Boville, not knowing who this envoy might be, says that he will never forget Dantes’ face (and at this the envoy smiles), and that Faria was a madman who happened to share a cell wall with this dangerous fellow.
Boville’s rise in the novel from prison official to head bureaucrat in the Second Restoration mimics the rise of other characters within the governmental system of France, especially Villefort. Some men, Dumas seems to argue, are capable of playing the game of government posts, pledging allegiance to whomever seems poised to take over the reins of power. Villefort, and to a lesser extent Boville, are successful at convincing the government that they are loyal to its rulers – whoever they happen to be.
De Boville reports that, after Faria died, the dangerous Dantes must have had himself sewn into the man’s shroud, as was discovered later by the jailers. But de Boville is convinced that, when the guards threw the “body” into the sea, the man inside the shroud must have drowned, as no one, de Boville believes, could have survived such a fall into the water with a weight tied around his feet. The envoy seems satisfied by this official response. In the register, Dantes is believed to be dead, and there is no mention of Faria’s treasure, which is thought to be merely the ravings of a long-confined lunatic.
This is more dramatic irony, for of course Dantes is happy to hear that people like Boville – people in positions of power – believe it to have been impossible to escape from the death-shroud with a weight tied to one’s feet. That Dantes did in fact escape in this way, against all odds, makes his life seem all the more fantastical. And indeed this idea will remain in the text: that somehow the normal rules of life or physics or economics don’t apply to the Count of Monte Cristo, a figure drawn as if from a myth or a legend.
As part of his “payment” for buying the 200,000 francs of debt, the envoy is able, at de Boville’s leave, to peruse the official prison registers for the Abbe Faria and (although de Boville doesn’t notice this) for Dantes’ case as well. The “envoy” thus sees the original note that Danglars wrote, with his left hand, along with Villefort’s letter, written on Morrel’s urging during the 100 Days, that Dantes really was an ardent supporter of Napoleon. Without de Boville noting anything, the envoy places Danglars’ original false condemnation in his pocket, then goes over to de Boville, thanking him for his time and drawing up a check for 200,000 francs.
Dantes gains firsthand proof of what he’s believed since his time in prison: that Danglars was the prime mover of a plot that grew to include Fernand, Caderousse, and Villefort. This letter, written with the left hand, is exactly as the Abbe Faria predicted, thus proving too how powerful the Abbe’s intelligence and powers of deduction really were. Dantes has thus experienced two different examples of the Abbe’s incredible foresight – the other, of course, being the reality of the treasure at Monte Cristo.