Franz wakes up on the cusp of the cave, feeling the warm air of the island of Monte Cristo. He remembers, slowly, the night before: his meeting with the mysterious Sinbad the Sailor; his sumptuous meal in the Sailor’s cave, to which he was taken under cover of blindfold; and the dreams following from his consumption of hashish. But Franz is not sure whether these things happened, or are merely very powerful illusions conjured somehow by the magic of the island. He heads out to the beach, where he encounters Gaetano and some of the other smugglers. They insist that Sinbad is real, that he has left Monte Cristo to go about some business in Malaga, and that Sinbad wishes Franz the best and thanks him for his time spent on the island.
The aftermath of the night on Monte Cristo foreshadows some important elements that will crop up in the remainder of the novel. Franz is unsure whether his interactions with the Count have been real, and indeed other characters will wonder the same thing: if the Count is a real person, or some sort of mythic and legendary character, as though drawn from a work of fiction. Similarly, the Count escapes without Franz being aware of how he does so; this, too, the Count will perform again and again in France, when he seems able to slip into and out of scenes without other characters noticing.
Franz tries twice to find the entrance to Sinbad’s magical cave, but he cannot. Gaetano tells Franz that he, too, tried to find this entrance before, but he has given up, as all the other smugglers and sailors who pass through the island have: the cave is impregnable. Franz hunts for another day on Monte Cristo, and then heads back to the mainland of Italy with Gaetano, wondering if he will see Sinbad again. He heads to Rome to meet back up with Albert de Morcerf.
It is telling that Franz wishes to return to the cave to confirm with his eyes what he believes he’s experienced: a world of sumptuous, vaguely-Eastern wonders. But that world is closed to him, as Gaetano reports and Franz finds out for himself. The cave is only open to visitors when the Count/Sinbad is present – otherwise, it’s not even visible to the outside world.
Franz is somewhat frustrated at the “swelling crowds” of Roman Carnival; as he and Albert get settled in their two rooms of the hotel, they realize that it will be exceedingly difficult to get a barouche (a carriage) for Carnival, as prices in the city have skyrocketed owing to the tourist traffic. Pastrini, the manager of the hotel, says he will do what he can to help them, but both Albert and Franz (and the narrator, too), treat Pastrini with a kind of knowing frustration; they believe that he is merely another Italian small-time businessman, attempting to make an extra lira or two off wealthy noblemen. As the chapter ends, Albert falls asleep dreaming of his adventures during Roman Carnival.
The narrator pulls a deft switch here from the fantasy world of Monte Cristo to the very real, but still carnival-suffused, world of Rome. On Monte Cristo, it’s only Franz and Sinbad, engaged in a kind of mutual reverie; in Rome, everyone seems ready to partake of a mass party for the sake of that party, with costumes and decorations galore. The ensuing chapters, set during the Roman carnival, develop some of the ideas of the encounter in the Monte Cristo cave, including appearance’s relationship to reality, and the different kinds of identities and stories one can assume and pass on.