Major Cavalcanti, an older and somewhat confused man, arrives at the Count’s home and is brought inside by Baptistin the servant. Cavalcanti speaks to the Count but is not quite sure of what is going on—he says that, in Italy, he was put in touch with a man named Abbe Busoni who claimed to have knowledge of the Major’s son, long believed to have been lost to him. This Abbe Busoni has sent the Major to the Count in Paris, so that the Count can put him in touch with his long-lost son.
This feature of the Count’s plot has not yet been explained, and so the reader remains a bit confused as to who the Major is, and why he has been introduced at this stage of the novel. It is a feature of the text that, as soon as one part of the Count’s plot seems to come into focus, another feature emerges. This demonstrates just how far in advance the Count has been planning his vengeance, and how complex this plan can be.
The Major admits that his wife, a woman named Olivia, is no longer alive, and that he mourns her every day. He says, too, that their marriage was not strictly legal, but that the Abbe Busoni has been able to find paperwork that, post facto, makes the marriage official, despite Olivia’s death. This makes Andrea, the Major’s son, no longer “illegitimate” and therefore able to inherit the family’s fortune. The Count says that, while the Major takes a moment to compose himself, he will ask Baptistin to go into the next room and fetch Andrea so that the two might be reunited after so many years apart.
It becomes clear that the Count is willing to fudge the rules of parentage to make it seem that the Major’s son, whom he has not seen in a very long time, is in fact his legitimate heir. Again, it is not clear why the Count would be so invested in something like this, but the reader must simply trust that the narrator is leading us along on another winding part of the Count’s revenge plot – the importance of which will be revealed in due time.