Maximilien returns to the wall by the alfalfa field to speak to Valentine, who has been visiting with Eugenie Danglars. Valentine reveals that Eugenie does not wish to marry Albert because she wants to remain a free woman, able to live her own life—she aspires to become a painter. Valentine has also spoken to Eugenie, she informs Maximilien, about how she does not wish to marry Franz, and that she is in love with another man. This causes Maximilien’s heart to swoon.
The plot of the novel develops along two parallel lines here. Eugenie does not want Albert – because it will be revealed, later, that she does not wish to be connected to any man, but rather to a woman. And Valentine does not wish to marry Franz, one of the eligible bachelors to which the reader was introduced during the earlier chapters in Rome.
Valentine also reveals that her stepmother, Heloise, is opposed to the idea of Valentine marrying anyone, because Valentine stands to inherit a large sum of money from her deceased mother, and this money would revert to Heloise and Edouard if, for example, Valentine were to enter a convent, as she once considered doing. Maximilien wonders aloud if perhaps “a friend” he has recently made, the Count of Monte Cristo, might be able to persuade Heloise to let Valentine marry—but Valentine confesses that she is confused by, and perhaps a bit scared of, the Count, who seems to have such increasing sway in Paris, and indeed with her own stepmother. Valentine says that she is anxious to go into a convent because she loves Maximilien, and her grandfather, Noirtier, is still laid up with the aftereffects of a stroke.
Valentine introduces what will become one of the most important plot points of the latter half of the text. Valentine’s romance with Maximilien is undercut by social and familial pressures encouraging her to marry Franz. Heloise, her stepmother, wants some of the money Valentine will gain when she is independent, and so within the Villefort family, as here described, there is the pressure of financial and social reward. Joined with the previously revealed information about Heloise’s interest in poisoning, this will foreshadow some of the most central events of the closing chapters.