Villefort is at home when his family returns from the ball with the news that his former father in law, M. de Saint-Meran, has died of a stroke after taking his “normally prescribed” pills while en route to Paris with his wife. The couple had come to visit the Villeforts to bring about the marriage of Franz and Valentine, and Valentine, as ever, is as reluctant to carry out the wedding as Villefort is determined to make it final.
The reader might remember Mme de Villefort’s demonstrated interest in poisons, which she discussed with the Count many chapters earlier. The death here is also reminiscent of Noirtier’s stroke, which occurred many years previously under mysterious circumstances.
Mme de Saint Meran becomes ill with nervous exhaustion after delivering the news of her husband’s demise, and the family sends for a doctor to care for her. Mme de Saint Meran tells Valentine that she must marry Franz immediately, since he is of high birth and a suitable companion for her, and that her own family money, and that of Saint Meran, will pass directly to Valentine after Mme de Saint Meran’s death. In a swoon, Valentine goes outside into the garden, where she hears Maximilien Morrel behind his garden wall in the alfalfa field.
The idea that the Saint-Merans want to encourage Valentine to marry Franz, and as quickly as possible, is deeply upsetting to Valentine. This causes her to alert her beloved Maximilien, and it kicks into gear one of the most important plots of the end of the novel – the desperate attempt of Maximilien Morrel and Valentine de Villefort to elope together. As of right now, however, it seems that this dream might be impossible.