Albert returns from his trip to the country with his mother, Mercedes, and visits with the Count to invite him to a ball he’s planning on throwing in the next few days. For this, Albert has two reasons: first, because he wishes very much to arrange a marriage between Eugenie Danglars and Andrea Cavalcanti (which Baron Danglars also wants); and second, because Mercedes has mentioned she wants to speak more intimately with the Count. At this second piece of information, the Count shudders but tries to maintain his composure.
It is not exactly clear to the reader at this stage why the Count is unwilling to meet with Mercedes face-to-face. It can be intuited that the Count is simply avoiding Mercedes because the thought of their interaction is too great for his heart to bear. Or, it could be that the Count understands that his desire for revenge against Fernand will indirectly harm Mercedes and Albert, and there is nothing he can do about this.
Albert argues that Eugenie would make a wonderful mistress but a terrible wife, and so he feels that it’s best if she does marry Andrea. The Count, after some cajoling, says that he will in fact go to the ball because Mercedes requests his attendance.
Albert feels that he has been freed of a social obligation to Eugenie, allowing Danglars to continue to push for Eugenie’s marriage to Andrea.