The narrator continues in his story of the financial dissolution of the firm of Morrel and Co. Although Thomson and French are owed about 300,000 francs by Morrel, he has outstanding debts with a number of other creditors who demand, over the course of the summer, that Morrel pay up the amounts he owes. That he is able to do this at all causes astonishment in Marseille, as nearly everyone believes that Morrel’s firm must be bankrupt. But in fact, the stay of payment that the envoy allowed enables the firm to pay with borrowed money some of the other accumulated debts, allowing Morrel to save face until the final bills draw due in September.
Before telling Julie Morrel that a man named Sinbad the Sailor will deliver a message in September, the envoy Lord Wilmore agrees to allow Morrel to modify his repayment schedule, thus making life easier for him over the summer, before the remainder of the bill is due. What’s most important in this section is the “face-saving” Morrel is allowed by this extension of his credit. For, as Morrel describes it, nothing is more essential in business than the maintenance of one’s reputation.
The crew of the Pharaon has largely disappeared after collecting wages from Morrel, although no one seems to know exactly where they’ve gone to. Morrel spots Penelon around Marseille and wonders at his new sailors’ gear. He assumes that Penelon, like the others, must have signed on with a new ship, although no one has any idea who the owner of this ship might be. And no one has heard, since June, from the envoy of Thomson and French, who has disappeared as quickly as he arrived in Marseille.
It slowly becomes clear that very little in Dantes’ post-prison plotting happens by accident. Of course, some events seem to have no discernible cause, as when the sailors of the Pharaon are suddenly nowhere to be found. But as will be revealed later on, Dantes has a plan in mind for these sailors, one that will aid them and Old Morrel, once the time is right.
It occurs to Morrel to ask Danglars, whose fortune is so vast, to guarantee another set of loans for the firm to help it to pay its debts and finance new ships. But Morrel learns that this loan has been flatly refused by Danglars, and so Morrel, his daughter Julie, his wife, Cocles, and Emmanuel come to believe that the firm really is doomed. By Sept. the 5th, they think, Morrel will be forced to declare bankruptcy, the first time in his life he will not be able to pay the debts drawn up in his name. Julie writes to Maximilien, her brother who is serving in the army, to tell him to return home, since the family is in the direst financial straits they have ever seen.
Although Danglars once worked for Morrel in his capacity as the ship’s cargo regulator, he now finds himself in a position of power as the manager of a significant bank in Paris. And it is notable that Danglars feels absolutely no loyalty to his former boss. Instead, Danglars considers Morrel a bad investment because others do not believe that Morrel can cover his debts in a timely fashion. Danglars’ primarily loyalty is not to someone he once knew (and to whom he owed much), but to his own profits.
Maximilien rushes home, arriving just before the fifth of September. The family is terrified about their finances, and terrified, too, at the behavior of M. Morrel, who at this point seems entirely calm, cool, and detached. On Sept. 5th, Julie receives from a strange Roman emissary a letter from Sinbad the Sailor—just as the envoy of Thomson and French had told her she would. In this letter, Sinbad writes that Julie is to go to the apartment once occupied by Dantes’ father, take from the mantle there a purse with money, and return with it to the house of Morrel that same day. Julie rushes off to do this, wondering all the while who this mysterious Sinbad could be.
There are two overlapping strands of foreshadowing here. Morrel’s behavior scares his son, who worries that his father is planning some form of violence against himself. And Julie, not sure what this Sinbad the Sailor could have intended for her, seems to hold out some hope that, whatever it is, it will help her father. Thus the narrator (and Dumas) construct a kind of dramatic tension in the overlap of these desperate and exciting plotlines – until they soon converge at Morrel’s office.
As Julie and Emmanuel go off to see after this letter, Maximilien goes into his father’s study, where he hears from his father that, when the bills come due at 11 am that morning, the family will be forced to go into bankruptcy. Maximilien sees that, instead of doing this, his father will commit suicide as a means of preserving his honor. Maximilien is horrified, initially, at the thought, but Morrel convinces his son that his own death will preserve the family’s honor and keep Morrel from having to admit to a bill he cannot pay. Furthermore, it will allow Maximilien to live and perhaps to regain the family’s fortunes. Maximilien understands this, and he and his father hug bitterly.
It seems at first that the plot threads have resolved in bitter, rather than happy, fashion. Morrel believes that it is the right thing to do to kill himself if he is unable to satisfy his creditors. And his son, though deeply horrified by the thought of his father’s death, nevertheless recognizes that this is customary, according to the business code of honor in practice at that time. What is perhaps most notable in this scene is the speed with which Maximilien agrees to his father’s drastic decision, believing it to be for the ultimate good of the family.
Just before 11 am, however, Julie bursts into the office where Morrel has been waiting with his pistols. Julie announces that, in the apartment of Old Dantes, she has found (in the same bag Morrel once filled with some money to pay for Old Dantes’ funeral) a bill paid for the entire sum Morrel owed to Thomson and French, thus cancelling the debt. There is also an enormous diamond in the pouch, with a note saying that this is for “Julie’s dowry” to marry Emmanuel.
Morrel’s unhappy resolution has been reached too quickly, and mercifully there is deliverance: Julie arrives with an enormous amount of money and a jewel from this very same Sinbad the Sailor. Thus, in more dramatic fashion than with Caderousse at the inn, Dantes arranges for the “rescue” and reward of Morrel and his family, whom he believes entirely deserving of wealth and good fortune. Dantes has given a gift to a deserving man.
The family is flabbergasted, and this is only compounded when Emmanuel, who has been separated from Julie, rushes into the room, where the Morrels and Cocles have all gathered, to say that reports are in from the port, that the Pharaon has returned with its customary crew. Morrel says that this cannot be possible, but the family goes out to the port to find the captain of the Pharaon, Penelon, and other crew members, all of whom survived the shipwreck of the previous vessel, manning in the port a new Pharaon, paid for with mysterious funds. Morrel can’t believe his eyes, and nor can anyone else in the assembled scene – but he has been saved, his firm’s debts all paid, and with a new ship to prompt further profits.
The mystery of the vanished sailors is now revealed and solved. The sailors have been chartered for a new vessel, a new Pharaon, which will allow Morrel to continue his work. For, as above, it was not sufficient for Morrel’s debts to be lifted; he also needed a different ship on which he could load goods and engage in trade. The presence of a new Pharaon does indeed make it seem that a miracle has occurred, that the prayers of the entire Morrel family have been answered by some kind of angel.
At this, a mysterious figure—Sinbad the Sailor—calls to Jacopo, his first mate, and pulls silently out of the port at Marseille, saying that at least part of his mission is done; he has rewarded the “good,” those who supported him in his times of utmost turmoil. Now, Sinbad says to himself, he will set out to punish the others who stole his life, his social position, his love, and fourteen years of happiness away from him. At this dramatic juncture, the chapter ends.
This is an important pivot in the novel. If the book were divided into sections, this would be the end of a significant one – for Dantes now sets his sights on those who have harmed him, rather than those who have helped him or (in Dantes’ estimation) have at least some good in their hearts. As great as his gifts to Morrel have been, Dantes’s punishments for Villefort, et al, will be terrifying, long-pondered, and devastating.