Noirtier speaks to his astonished son, who does not force him to leave. Noirtier seems to understand that Villefort has thrown in his lot with the Royalist cause, whereas Noirtier is convinced, as he tells it, that Napoleon’s return from Elba will result in his return to the throne as Emperor. Noirtier tells his son that, in politics, there are no ethics, only rules—that, for example, the murder of a general (which crime has been attributed to the Bonapartist club centered at Noirtier’s apartment near the Rue Saint-Jacques) was not really a murder, but the “removal of an obstacle” for that group, since they feared the general was returning to the Royalist side.
Noirtier’s speech here is an important moment in the text. Noirtier appears to be saying that, although politics is often confused with moral behavior, it is, for him, simply a matter of power – of getting people to do things for one reason or another. Noirtier believes that politics is effective when “obstacles” are removed, regardless of whether this removal requires people to be injured or killed. Of course, although Villefort pretends to be offended by this principle, he himself has just engaged in ruthless behavior, insuring that an innocent man has been condemned to prison for life.
Villefort himself is torn between feelings of loyalty to his father and loyalty to his own career, which demands that he meet with his father only in secret and work with the police to hunt down the rebel cell of which his father is a part. Villefort tells Noirtier that, by burning the letter from Dantes, he has saved Noirtier’s life. Noirtier, for his part, is convinced that Napoleon’s return to power will force him to have to pardon Villefort for his Royalist sympathies. When Villefort tells his father that people are looking for a man with his clothing and whiskers, his father produces a change of clothes, shaves, and bids his son farewell, walking past the gendarmes who might otherwise have arrested him.
Noirtier’s behavior is very similar to Villefort’s, even though the two men are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. And Noirtier and Villefort both agree that these political factions are, essentially, teams in the greater game of politics. They do not, as Noirtier says above, necessarily line up with right and wrong. One group is in power, then another group is in power – and people must do what they can to protect themselves and whatever influence they have managed to collect.
Villefort is amazed at his father’s smoothness, even as he worries about his own career, about the Saint-Merans, and about the chaos that is now engulfing France. Destroying or hiding his father’s remaining clothing in the room, Villefort rides in his carriage swiftly back to Marseille, where he hears that Napoleon is making his way to Paris and that it seems his return is gaining momentum among the populace. Villefort keeps in mind the esteem and honor the king has accorded him only recently.
Villefort has more than a grudging respect for his father, even though he does everything he can to publicly separate himself from the man. For Noirtier is fearless – he moves smoothly outside in a change of costume, even though guards are nearby, and he is not concerned that he is supporting a violent uprising of a government that is, in essence, trying to kill him at every opportunity. But despite this respect, Villefort known he must continue to hide the fact that he even knows of his own father’s whereabouts.