Noirtier is met in the room by Franz, Villefort, and Valentine. Noirtier urges Valentine towards a secret drawer where, with the help of the servant Barrois, she finds a copy of a manuscript. Noirtier indicates that he wants Franz to read it aloud. The document is a set of minutes from a Bonapartist club meeting and aftermath in 1815—a meeting referenced many chapters ago, when Villefort and his father met in Paris just after Villefort’s successful audience with Louis XVIII.
The reader might recall that, in Chapter 12, Villefort and Noirtier met after Villefort had journeyed to Paris for an audience with the king. Noirtier then had told his son that, during a meeting at the Bonapartist club, something terrible had to happen to a man they believed to have been a spy. At the time, Villefort had no idea who this man was.
Franz reads aloud that his own father, a man of questioned sympathies who had been infiltrating Bonapartist events on the part of the crown, is revealed to be—or thought to be—a spy at one of these meetings. Franz’s father nobly refuses to cave to the Bonapartist side and defends himself as a Royalist. He is followed after the meeting, stabbed, and then dumped into the Seine. After reading aloud these minutes, which shake him to the core, Franz asks who could have done such a thing to his father, at which point Noirtier indicates that he himself, a famed Bonapartist at the time, was the murderer. Franz is shocked, and Villefort leaps out of the room in anguish at this revelation.
Now Villefort recognizes that this man, this purported turncoat, was none other than Franz’s father, the Baron d’Epinay, killed by Noirtier in defense of the Bonapartist cause. This demonstrates the shrewdness of Noirtier’s mind, despite his current condition – and the iron-clad devotion he had to the Bonapartist cause, even to the extent of murdering those he thought had crossed him. Villefort understands that this information will be the end of any possible union between Franz and Valentine, and will be much to the family’s public discredit.