The chapter opens with the Baron Danglars stopping by Monte Cristo’s Paris home. He has found out that Monte Cristo has requested to open a line of unlimited credit at Danglars’ bank, supported by a letter from the Roman firm of Thomson and French. The Count observes that the Baron Danglars, in his coupe, is driving beautiful horses—at least as beautiful as the others the Count has purchased for his private use. Danglars returns to his home, pulled by his beautiful horses. The Count then asks that Bertuccio buy the Baron’s horses from him, for double the cost that the Baron is reported to have paid for them, and Bertuccio does this – the horses are transferred from Danglars’s house to the Count’s that day. The Count uses these horses to drive to Danglars’ home the next day. On this visit, the Count insults him first by insinuating that Danglars’ Baron title has been recently created, and that, perhaps, his bank does not have enough money to cover the kinds of withdrawals that the Count of Monte Cristo might require.
Not every part of the Count’s strategy of revenge is grand and noble. In this case, the Count wants to point out a several things, and uses the occasion of the Baron Danglars’ horses to do so. First, the Count wants to show that, despite his great wealth, Danglars can be understood to be cheap, always hoping to secure extra money. Thus the Count dupes Danglars into selling him his wife’s own special horses. Then, the Count, in giving the horses back, shows just how much money he has, and how chivalrous he can be, doing a good turn for a woman who has just been “wronged” by her husband, since he sold her horses out from under her. The Count’s vengeance, then, consists in large acts and small ones, something like social annoyances that remind proud, insecure characters like Danglars of their flaws and weaknesses.
The Count takes out letters demonstrating that two other banks, including the Rothschilds’ firm, have also offered him unlimited lines of credit, at which point Danglars is so impressed he agrees to work with the Count. However, he wonders aloud how the Count could have acquired one of the largest fortunes in Europe without Danglars knowing it. The Count replies that the money was caught in a family trust for generations and was only recently made available for withdrawals. Danglars seems satisfied with this explanation. Danglars invites the Count to come into another room in the house to meet his wife, the Baroness Danglars.
Danglars’s question is a perceptive one. It does seem hard to imagine that a man as wealthy as the Count, who can draw essentially infinitely on the great banks of Europe, could have that much money with so little being known about it. But despite these reservations, Danglars is willing to accept the Count as a customer. This is in part because Parisian banking of the time, and perhaps all banking, was and is based in part on trust and cultural prestige. Danglars wants to be known as a major banker in Paris, and so he must have as a client one of the wealthiest men in Europe.