The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 39–40 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 39

The four friends meet at Athos's apartment. Planchet brings d'Artagnan two letters. One letter from a lady says go to the road of Chaillot and look in the carriage but do not react. It is unsigned, but d'Artagnan believes he recognizes the handwriting. The other, from the captain of the cardinal's guards, says to come to the cardinal's palace.

The three Musketeers plan to accompany d'Artagnan on his back-to-back meetings—even planning to rally several other Musketeers for the visit to the cardinal—so they all assemble in their new equipment. Aramis, having found himself with three horses, sells d'Artagnan one.

D'Artagnan and the Musketeers ride out to the road of Chaillot, and a carriage speeds by with a woman's face in the window. D'Artagnan believes it is Mme. Bonacieux, as he expected, but the light is fading. Is it a trap?

D'Artagnan and the Musketeers head over to the cardinal's palace where the 12 Musketeers they had invited for backup are waiting. D'Artagnan alone is shown into the library where a man is writing poetry. He realizes it is the cardinal.

Chapter 40

The cardinal knows all about d'Artagnan: family tree, Meung, meeting Treville, plans to be a Musketeer, fetching the duke from Windsor, and the ring the queen gave him. Impressed with d'Artagnan's obedience and bravery, the cardinal has plans for him: he offers d'Artagnan an officer's commission, including a company of his own after the war.

When d'Artagnan does not jump at the offer, the cardinal mentions protection from all those complaining about him. D'Artagnan deflects again by saying all his friends are Musketeers and his enemies are in the cardinal's guard—his defection would not be well received by either group.

The cardinal demands to know if d'Artagnan is holding out for a better offer. D'Artagnan takes the tack that he is not worthy. The cardinal is vexed, but he says good luck and be careful, though he will not be protecting d'Artagnan behind the scenes anymore—if anything bad happens, remember, he tried to help. D'Artagnan begins to sense some looming threat.

The next day, all prepare to depart for the war and distract themselves with revelry that night. In the morning, the Musketeers of Treville and the Guards of Dessessart go to the king's palace for review. Porthos takes a momentary detour to show off to Mme. Coquenard. M. Coquenard consoles himself that the campaign is likely to be deadly.

The Guards of Dessessart are marching out of Paris. D'Artagnan does not notice Milady pointing him out to two "ill-looking men" who then follow him.

Analysis

D'Artagnan follows the directions in the unsigned letter to look inside the carriage and not react. The face in the window is likely Mme. Bonacieux, but he does not know why she is there, and why he was summoned. It has no context. The glimpse of her serves to keep her in the story: she is not dead, and she still loves d'Artagnan. He cannot give up on his quest to save Mme. Bonacieux. Eventually, it comes to light she was rescued from prison on this day. This story line of the hero's love interest disappearing, reappearing, and eluding him echoes Candide's adventure-filled search for his beloved Cunégonde in Voltaire's famously controversial 1759 classic Candide, with which Dumas was certainly familiar.

The second letter: the cardinal offers d'Artagnan a chance to sell out, to leave behind his friends and his dream of being a Musketeer in exchange for rank, money, and power. When that does not work, the cardinal resorts to veiled threats, saying he will not protect him anymore. Perhaps the looming threat foreshadowed by the cardinal has to do with the "ill-looking men" or assassins Milady sends.

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