Monseigneur is greeting visitors in his private rooms in a grand hotel in Paris. He consumes chocolates as rapidly as he is swallowing France, by the accounts of his enemies. He prefers the opera to state affairs. His motto for general public affairs is to let things go their own way. With particular business affairs that involve either his power or his pockets, he believes everything should go his way. He believes the world was made specifically for him.
Embarrassments keep manifesting in both his public and private affairs. He has formed an alliance with the Farmer General. Public finances are handled by someone else, since he has no ability at handling them. His private finances are diminishing. For this reason, he took his sister from a convent before she took her final vows and married her off to a Farmer General, who was very rich but lacked a good family name. The Farmer General bears the contempt of his wife and brother-in-law. He is an honest plunderer who provides very well for his family.
Monseigneur is visited by all kinds of people who have one thing in common: all are in vocations in which they are ignorant in knowledge of or are ill-equipped in nature for them. The military officers know nothing of the military, the captains know nothing of ships, and the clergy are sensual and lead shockingly immoral lives.
The other sort who also pays their respects to the Monseigneur are frauds, like the doctors who charge incredible fees in diagnosing imaginary illnesses and concocting remedies for them. There are spies in Monseigneur’s company. Traveling on the fringe of the social circle are those who believe everything is going to Hell and are forming sects in response. However, these sects are accomplishing very little.
All these people, though, are very impressive in their appearances. They are exquisitely dressed, and if you didn’t look deeper—you would think everything is just fine.
A man that has been largely ignored tells the Monseigneur that he devotes Monseigneur to the devil and leaves. His carriage storms down the streets, nearly running people over. He takes pleasure in seeing them scatter. Suddenly, though, the carriage jolts and comes to a stop.
The Marquis comes out, asking why they have stopped. A child is dragged by its father out from under the feet of the horses. The child is dead. The Marquis chides the people on not taking care of themselves or their children. They are constantly underfoot. They could have harmed his horses. He takes out a purse and tells a bystander to give it to the father.
Mr. Defarge comes up and consoles the father. He tells him the child died instantly and without pain. Its life wouldn’t have been as happy. The Marquis tells Defarge to give the coins to the father and gets back into his carriage. A few seconds later, the coins are thrown at the window. He steps out of the carriage and demands who threw them. Nobody answers. He tells them that he would gladly exterminate all of them from the earth.
Defarge’s wife is the only one who will meet his eye. He ignores her. He orders the carriage to go on. Other carriages soon follow, all going to a party. The people watch them pass by.