The Count has a philosophical discussion with Villefort, who pays a rare visit—as the narrator notes, Villefort maintains a haughtiness and reserve that are famous in Parisian society. Villefort expects the Count to receive Villefort’s thanks for saving Heloise’s and Edouard’s life warmly. But the Count replies with cutting disdain, the same as he has used with Morcerf and Danglars. The Count insists that, while other men might be afraid of Villefort as an engine of the law, the Count has no country and knows the laws of all lands. The Count is also convinced, he says, that “an eye for an eye” is the best and most just punishment there can be.
For Villefort, the Count’s aggression is hard to understand. Villefort is accustomed to other people kowtowing to his authority, respecting the position he has in Parisian society. But the Count appears not to respect Villefort at all. He thinks, in fact, that Villefort is uneducated, slow on the uptake, and less adroit in philosophical musings than he is. Although Villefort is offended by the Count’s tone, he seems also to be fascinated by a man who would so baldly defy his authority.
Before Villefort leaves, the Count says that he believes everyone at court and everyone in Parisian society has something on his or her conscience that can be used against the person, when the time is right. Villefort seems to shudder at this implication, and the Count offers no further explanation for it, but when Villefort leaves, he is grateful to be out of the Count’s house – and the Count says to himself that Villefort’s visit has prompted in him the surge of a great deal of vengeful “poison.”
This is another instance of dramatic irony, which has become one of the primary authorial tools Dumas uses at this point in the novel. Of course, the reader knows that Villefort is responsible for putting the Count in prison, and for burying a child he has fathered out of wedlock. But Villefort does not know that the Count knows this, thus creating an asymmetry of information in the novel.