The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 52–57 | Summary



Chapter 52

Milady blames d'Artagnan: fortune, freedom, and even her very life are threatened because of him. Only he knew all the details about her—he must have conveyed them to Lord de Winter. She vows revenge but first she must escape, and not by brute strength. She regains her composure, styles her hair, and sizes up the men guarding her.

When the soldiers bring dinner, Milady pretends to faint. Felton sends for Lord de Winter and sits with his back to her. She "wakes" and tries to engage him. Lord de Winter arrives with smelling salts, calling it correctly as the first of her ploys. Felton did not fall for it; he is incorruptible. The men leave. Milady lunges for the knife on her dinner tray. Lord de Winter pops back in to show Felton she would have killed them all if he had given her a real knife, as Felton suggested. Milady sees an opening—Felton does have some pity in him, if he had lobbied for her to have a real knife. She eats dinner and sleeps with a smile.

Chapter 53

Milady smiles in her sleep, dreaming of d'Artagnan's execution. When she wakes, a woman is brought to keep her company. Milady complains of fever and sleeplessness, but rejects the idea of a doctor. Felton wants to send for Lord de Winter, but she screams no. Felton steps into the room, and Milady bursts into tears. Felton and the woman leave. Milady rejoices under the covers—those few steps show Felton is the way to freedom.

When the breakfast table is cleared, Felton returns. He gives Milady a book for her Catholic Mass during her confinement. She observes the disdain in his look and speech and puts it together with his appearance and demeanor: Felton is a Puritan. She adjusts instantly and denounces Catholicism, speaking of suffering for her true faith.

When dinner is brought in, Milady is making a production of reciting Puritan prayers as if in a state of religious ecstasy. Felton orders that she is not to be disturbed.

Felton does not return when dinner is cleared because he wants to be careful not to see her too often. She later sings Puritan prayers in a harmonious and strong voice. The guard yells at Milady to stop, but Felton scolds the guard. Felton thinks he hears an angel, and when he goes in the room, he thinks she looks like an angel. He babbles about disturbing others, and Milady can see he is weakening. He runs out of the room. The guard comments to Felton that he finds Milady's voice beautiful.

Chapter 54

Milady plans to captivate Felton with her voice. As for Lord de Winter, she will provoke him just enough to show Felton that his threats and violence contrast with her puritanical resignation.

Lord de Winter enters and tells Milady England will soon be rid of her. Milady prays. When Lord de Winter exits, she sees Felton outside the door. Milady prays louder. Felton enters and says he would pray for her if she were a martyr.

Milady tells Felton Lord de Winter plans to submit her to a disgrace worse than prison or death. She acts incredulous when Felton says he does not know these plans. She knows Puritans consider the duke to be the devil, and she alludes to vengeance against the duke for interrogating her. If only Felton would give her a knife—not to use on others—it would save her honor. To kill herself?

Later, Milady reflects that if Lord de Winter hands her a knife, she will be exposed as a fake when she does not kill herself.

That evening, Lord de Winter enters with Milady's passport and the terms of her exile. It must be carried to the duke, signed, and returned. Four days, then she will be gone. Nothing about the knife; at least Felton did not betray her secret.

After dinner, Milady kneels and prays. Footsteps approach, so she sings the prayers again, unsure if Felton is outside. When Milady finishes, she hears a sigh and footsteps leading away.

Chapter 55

Felton interrupts Milady standing on a chair, pretending to prepare to hang herself. She jumps down and he grabs the homemade rope. They argue: he cannot let her kill herself when it is his job to guard her. She says a man of faith would not turn her over to her soul-killing enemies. Felton does not believe she is in any danger from Lord de Winter. Maybe she will not lose her life, she says, but she will lose her honor. Milady mentions the duke again, and Felton refers to a dream telling him to strike and save England. Milady's triumphant look startles Felton into recalling the warnings of Lord de Winter and her ploys when she first arrived. Seeing his hesitation, Milady resumes the "let-me-die" speeches. Felton only offers her pity, provided she can convince him she is a victim. Just as she is about to confide her dishonor, Lord de Winter enters, worried about Felton being gone so long. Milady makes Felton tell Lord de Winter she wants a knife to kill herself. Lord de Winter tells Felton to stay strong, they will be rid of her in a few days. The men exit the room.

An hour later, Felton dismisses the sentinel and enters. He says Lord de Winter told him about Milady the demon and he will return after 12, hoping she can convince him she is not. Felton makes Milady promise that she will not kill herself before then. Felton leaves joyous.

Chapter 56

Felton visits after midnight, telling the guard he has orders to watch the suicidal prisoner. Milady is pleased he lies. She wants the knife. Felton says he changed his mind—no knife. Milady says she will not talk to a man who does not keep his word. He takes out a knife, she inspects it, and it is laid on the table. Milady makes up a story of religious persecution—failing to subdue her soul, her persecutors defiled her body. Milady's water had been drugged. She woke trapped in a room with no doors. Eventually, her persecutor appeared and said he had dishonored her during the night. Now it was done, he said, she would accept him. She grabbed a knife and pointed it at herself, but he left.

The next day, Milady drank only half her water, but the man prevailed.

The next day, Milady ate and drank nothing, pretended to sleep, her hand grasping the knife under the pillow. She stabbed at him, but he wore chain mail. He said she could go, but when Milady said she would tell everybody, he made her stay. Milady said she would starve.

The man returned in a few days when Milady was losing strength and tried to get her to swear an oath of secrecy. He threatened Milady with "extraordinary means" to secure her silence or destroy her credibility.

Milady pauses to observe Felton becoming weak from the effects of the fiction, and it is not even finished.

Chapter 57

Milady continues her fiction, ignoring Felton's repeated requests for the name of her persecutor.

The persecutor had brought another masked man who branded Milady with the fleur-de-lis, the brand of France instead of England, so she could not prove she had ever been put on trial.

Milady tells Felton she is her late husband's heir, but she could not access her fortune from France. Milady claims the duke told Lord de Winter she was guilty of prostitution and had her branded. Lord de Winter believed it easily because it suits his ambition to get the fortune for himself. Her falsehood complete, Milady begs for the knife so she can end her dishonor.

Felton swears he will avenge Milady. She says to stay away from her, she only causes grief. He cries out they will live and die together.

The guard knocks, having heard Felton cry out, and the sergeant arrives. Lord de Winter soon appears, amused to see Milady conducting the last act of her performance. She grabs the knife. Lord de Winter calls her bluff. Milady stabs herself but, the narrator tells us, precisely so the blade deflects off the metal of her corset. We know it is a flesh wound, nothing fatal, but Felton does not. He sees blood soaking her torn gown and believes she has killed herself.

Lord de Winter says "demons do not die so easily" and orders Felton to leave the room. Felton takes the knife. The neighbor woman is called in and the doctor summoned.


Milady knows d'Artagnan is responsible for Lord de Winter's knowledge about her intentions and her fleur-de-lis, so revenge is on her mind. In addition to the theme of revenge, the theme of illusion versus reality is demonstrated by what Lord de Winter calls Milady's playacting. She primps and then pretends to faint; Felton is not impressed. Milady is an expert in masks and fakes identities, but this act does not succeed. She must be patient and read Felton's character to figure out what playacting she must perform to win him over.

Milady soon realizes Felton is a Puritan, meaning he adheres to a strict moral code according to his faith. The Puritans, as a group, wanted to purify the Church of England of any vestiges of the Catholic Church. When Felton looks a little disgusted by the Catholic book he hands Milady, she puts it together with his upright and plainspoken manner, and then quickly designs a new identity and strategy. First, she denounces Catholicism and claims Puritanism as her true faith, throwing in a little persecution for added sympathy. Next, she must show she has a direct and personal relationship with God, which she does by praying dramatically, and later singing the prayers loudly and beautifully, convincing Felton the Holy Spirit is shining through her. Felton starts to perceive her as a martyr, a saint, and an angel. Milady knows Puritans think the duke is the personification of evil, so she starts laying the groundwork for his assassination, only alluding to revenge and killing herself to stop the shame, not mentioning killing him herself. She tailors the illusion to become what is most irresistible to the Puritan.

Finally, Milady gets a knife from Felton, the price of which is a story. She must persuade him she is not a demon, but a victim. Milady constructs a colossal lie—an illusion within the illusion she is already creating—about the duke holding her prisoner and drugging her for nightly visitations. She turns the symbol of her evil, the fleur-de-lis, into a badge of honor, saying the duke branded her when she refused to keep silent about his crime. Felton is totally hooked by the illusion of the story, Milady's beauty, and her religious faith. The route to seduction is complete except for one thing: Lord de Winter, firmly grounded in reality, calls her bluff regarding the knife. When the moment comes, Milady does not flinch but makes a good show of stabbing herself. As always, it is just a show. The blood is real, but the suicide is an illusion.

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