The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 43–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 43

France succeeds in pushing back the English, and the cardinal continues the siege. Intelligence is obtained regarding an alliance of five countries and further proof is found in papers left behind by the duke, which also compromises Mme. de Chevreuse, the queen's best friend, and thus the queen herself. The allies pose a particular threat to the cardinal who would lose power if they took over.

The three Musketeers have light orders and are allowed to drink at the Red Dovecot in the evenings. One night, they meet cloaked strangers in the road. The two groups gradually approach each other, and the face of one stranger is revealed: the cardinal.

Upon learning the Musketeers' identities, the cardinal asks them to guard him as he visits the Red Dovecot. They agree and tell him the story of their evening: they had quarreled with other patrons of the inn who threatened to break into the room of a beautiful young woman. The cardinal asks if they saw the woman. They say no. When they arrive, the innkeeper has emptied the place and the cardinal goes up the stairs alone.

Chapter 44

The Musketeers sit by the fire. Athos can hear through a broken stovepipe all that is said upstairs. The cardinal addresses "Milady" and the voice that responds startles Athos. All the Musketeers listen as the cardinal instructs Milady to go to London, find the duke, and tell him if he takes action against France, the cardinal will ruin the queen. Milady asks for proof. The cardinal lists the queen's indiscretions, the imprisonment of the duke's envoy who will talk under duress, and the compromising letter of Mme. de Chevreuse.

Milady asks what to do if the duke persists. The cardinal says to hope for an assassination, perhaps by a fanatic happy to become a martyr. The Puritans hate the duke and call him the Antichrist. If only some clever woman could incite a fanatic to kill him. Milady says she is that woman; she just needs a signed order saying in advance whatever she did, she did for the good of France.

The conversation moves on to Milady's enemies. First, she wants to know which convent hosts Mme. Bonacieux. Second, she wants revenge on d'Artagnan. The cardinal says he will send him to prison. Milady will ensure the duke's assassination in exchange for d'Artagnan's imprisonment.

Athos takes aside Porthos and Aramis to whisper that he is leaving, and to tell the cardinal he is acting as a lookout to ensure the road is safe. He rides off toward camp.

Chapter 45

The cardinal comes downstairs, learns Athos has already left as a scout, and departs with Porthos and Aramis.

Athos secretly circles back to the inn and waits in the hedges for the others to leave. He makes an excuse to the host and goes upstairs. He confronts Milady, saying do what you will to the duke, but do not touch d'Artagnan. Holding a pistol to her head, he demands the written order of the cardinal that would allow her to kill d'Artagnan. Milady hands it over, and Athos gallops off through fields to meet the cardinal just before reaching camp. The cardinal goes on his way to his quarters. The Musketeers send for d'Artagnan and return to their quarters.

Milady decides to bide her time and get revenge later. She continues on her mission to England.

Analysis

The duke is mobilizing an alliance of other countries, and the cardinal must escalate his plans in response. The cloaked figure on his way to some clandestine meeting turns out to be the cardinal himself, hiding his identity and skulking in the shadows instead of sending Rochefort. The Musketeers know this means something big is happening, and they agree to escort him. They tell him of their evening defending the honor and safety of a reportedly beautiful young woman staying at the Red Dovecot—the drunken patrons observe she has a man in her room and threaten to break in and accost her—but the Musketeers do not see her (or realize until later she is Milady). When they arrive, the Red Dovecot is empty by design and the cardinal heads upstairs—as if this is prearranged and not uncommon—to visit the beautiful woman. Is she his mistress? Is this a normal course of action for the cardinal? The Musketeers do not seem surprised by it, knowing of the cardinal's past affairs. Though it turns out not to be the case, the cardinal ascending the stairs in Chapter 43 could be any man having secured privacy for some time alone with a woman.

When the Musketeers listen in on the upstairs conversation through the stovepipe, only Athos recognizes the voice of his presumed-dead wife. (Aramis and Porthos do not know Milady personally. Porthos once pretended he knew her to make Mme. Coquenard jealous.) This trend of assumed identities or those presumed dead reappearing is a variation of the plot device of mistaken identities.

Athos is putting his own life in jeopardy to confront Milady and take her carte blanche. Milady will want to kill Athos because he killed her, or tried to. The mystery of how she survived being hanged by her husband is not addressed in this scene, or anywhere. Considering their history, when Athos confronts Milady and threatens her with a pistol, she takes him very seriously.

Milady is also surely surprised to see Athos, because she believes he is dead as well. He left behind his identity as the Comte de la Fere so completely that the man he once was no longer exists. Still, she is so dangerous—what will her reaction be? Athos is surely being added to her long revenge list, which she is now forced to defer as she resumes her trajectory toward England.

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