The chapter opens at the Morcerf home on the Rue de Helder, in Albert’s sumptuous private accommodations in a bachelor’s apartment behind the main house. Albert receives an invitation from a Mme Danglars, to which he is slow to respond. After describing Albert’s rich habitation at length, the narrator turns to a group of Albert’s friends. These friends are to visit Albert for breakfast that day, though they do not yet know that they will also be meeting the Count of Monte Cristo. Arriving in turn are Lucien Debray, a diplomat; M. Beauchamp, a journalist; M. Chateau-Renaud, a soldier; and M. Morrel, called Maximilien, who once saved Chateau-Renaud’s life in a battle with the Turks. It is revealed, during the course of the men’s jaunty and playful conversation, that M. Danglars—still an influential banker and a baron—is also a member of the lower house of parliament.
The narrator spends a great deal of time describing Albert’s home, and indeed this shows just how pampered and insulated his life is. He lives on his parents’ estate in a house separate from them, and is able to see them whenever he likes. He has no occupation, but is instead a man of leisure. The men he fraternizes with are also noblemen, people of French high society – but they have occupations, as listed in this section. In fact, it appears that Albert’s role in the group is to be funny and witty, which he is in large measure, and to seek out a companion with whom to live. At this moment, he awaits the Count with great eagerness, having prepared for his arrival for weeks.
Albert says that Chateau-Renaud is not the only person whose life is indebted to someone else’s. At this, he announces to the group that the Count of Monte Cristo, his friend from Rome, will be joining them for breakfast. Albert tells the story of being captured by Vampa and his bandits in Rome, and refers to Franz’s story about the magical cave on Monte Cristo, an island about which M. Morrel claims to have heard. Albert also mentions that Countess G, among others, compares the Count to a vampire. His friends laugh at this collection of fantastical anecdotes about the Count, just as the Count himself arrives, almost exactly on time at 10:30 that morning, as promised.
This reference to indebtedness is an important one, for Albert genuinely believes – and has every reason to believe – that the Count has saved his life out of entirely charitable purposes. Albert was not willing to listen to Franz when Franz told his friend that he did not trust the Count’s motivations. For Albert, the Count is a fascinating man, unlike any other he’s ever seen – and he’s a man who helped him out during a time of need. As demonstrated later, this loyalty will come in marked contrast, to Fernand’s treachery while serving as a soldier overseas.
The Count recognizes M. Morrel but betrays only the slightest hint of blushing at the young man’s name, and Morrel does not recognize him. After hearing Albert speak so glowingly of him in front of his other friends, the Count remarks aloud, strangely, that Albert is a “noble man,” and “so much the better!” The group seems besotted with the Count’s eastern-style dress and lack of acquaintance with French manners, and at this the whole group goes into a different part of Albert’s house to have their breakfast together.
Two interesting points are made in this brief section. First, the Count’s “foreignness” is described – his “eastern” manner of dressing, and his ways that do not always gibe with those of French high society. Second, it’s confirmed that the Count’s identity has been sufficiently concealed by his new manner of dress, and by the changes in his face that have rendered him unnoticeable to those who once knew him as Dantes.