The narrator turns to a conversation between Villefort, Heloise, and the old man Noirtier, who is confined to a wheelchair inside their home. Villefort and his wife inform Villefort’s father that Valentine, his beloved granddaughter, is to be married to Franz. Villefort acknowledges what the reader as yet does not know: that Franz’s mother died during childbirth, and that his father was murdered in 1815. Noirtier seems to have a distinct issue with Valentine marrying Franz, though he is not able to articulate it to his son and daughter-in-law, because he cannot speak—he can only nod and blink to indicate his meaning.
In a novel filled with violence, the murder of Franz’s father seems to be a rather unimportant, if tragic, piece of information. But as the novel continues, it will be revealed that Franz’s father’s demise is of great importance, and can actually be of use to Valentine in her suit to marry Maximilien instead of Franz. Thus Franz, for all his attachment to the idea of Valentine, might be undone by a family crime, just as the history of other family crimes has haunted other characters in the novel.
Valentine comes in, fresh from her conversation with Maximilien, and Villefort and Heloise leave the room. Valentine realizes that Noirtier is deeply upset at the thought of her marrying Franz, and she realizes that Noirtier wishes to express why. She figures out, through use of a dictionary, that Noirtier (pointing out the word with a nod) wants to consult a notary, and so Valentine dispatches Barrois, Noirtier’s servant, to do just this, despite Villefort’s opposition.
Although it is difficult to believe that Noirtier is capable of being understood using this dictionary method, it nevertheless establishes how close he is to Valentine, who often interprets for him. It also makes the nature of Noirtier’s revelations all the more dramatic, because they take longer to convey to the reader.