The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 64–66 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 64

Athos instructs the servants to take different routes to Armentieres. Assuming one finds Milady, three will guard her while another reports to Athos.

Athos sets out at 10 p.m. and asks directions from passersby who each recoil with terror. Athos finds the house and speaks to a tall man about a service he wishes to obtain, but the man is horrified. Athos shows him a paper containing a signature and seal; the man bows in consent. The narrator does not reveal the man's identity, nor the content of the conversation or the writing.

The next afternoon, the four friends and Lord de Winter attend the burial of Mme. Bonacieux at the convent. Athos slips out to follow Milady's tracks through the garden and the woods to the road. Spots of blood dot the road, indicating someone was wounded. Footprints reveal where Milady stepped into the carriage.

Athos returns to the hotel. Planchet is waiting. Planchet had gone beyond the blood on the road. In Festubert he learned a woman with an injured man had arrived, but she went on without him. Planchet then traveled to Armentieres where a woman had arrived in the town's only inn, the Post. The other three servants guard the Post.

At 8 p.m. the men prepare to depart. Athos says to wait for him, rides off, and returns with a tall, masked man in a red cloak. Lord de Winter and the three Musketeers are unaware of who this man is, but they trust Athos has a plan. They all ride off on the road the carriage had taken.

Chapter 65

A storm threatens as the riders proceed. The red-cloaked man is silent. They find Milady in a house near the ferry. Athos smashes through the window. Milady runs for the door, but d'Artagnan blocks it. Porthos, Aramis, Lord de Winter, and the man in the red cloak enter. A trial begins—Milady may justify her behavior if she can.

D'Artagnan accuses her of poisoning Mme. Bonacieux, attempting to poison him with wine, which resulted in the death of Brisemont, and urging him to murder the Comte de Wardes.

Lord de Winter accuses Milady of causing the duke's assassination—everyone exclaims "The Duke of Buckingham assassinated!"—that also led to Felton's death. Plus, the brother of Lord de Winter had died suddenly of a mysterious disease, another murder attributed to Milady.

Athos is next. He says he married Milady in good faith to discover she was branded. She responds there was never a trial. The man in the red cloak removes his mask. Milady recognizes him and screams. He is the executioner of Lille.

The executioner tells the story of Milady's past. Milady had been a nun. She ran away with a priest, but they needed money. The priest stole church vessels and sold them. The priest was sentenced to 10 years and branded by the executioner, his brother. Knowing she was to blame, the executioner found Milady and branded her, too. The priest escaped prison—the executioner was then held in his place. The couple fled to the countryside where they posed as a curate and his sister. The lord of the estate married the sister, devastating the priest. The priest freed his brother by turning himself in, and then hanged himself.

Athos asks each judge what penalty they seek for Milady. They each reply "The punishment of death." Milady shrieks and begs. Athos pronounces her sentence. She will die. Resigning herself to her fate, Milady rises and walks out.

Chapter 66

The moon is setting red. Milady tries to bribe and then threaten the servants holding her. The executioner binds her hands and feet. She threatens, insults, and bargains with her captors. D'Artagnan holds his ears.

Athos pardons her for ruining his life, his honor, and his afterlife.

Lord de Winter pardons her for the deaths of his brother, the duke, and Felton, as well as for attempts on his own life.

D'Artagnan asks her pardon for his cruel Comte de Wardes trick and pardons her for the death of Mme. Bonacieux.

Athos pays the executioner to show they are judges. The executioner throws the money in the river to say he is simply fulfilling his debt.

The executioner and Milady cross on the ferry. She unties her feet during the crossing and tries to run when they reach shore. She falls in the mud on her knees. The executioner raises his curved sword and brings it down swiftly. He ties up the body and the head in his red cloak, takes it halfway across in the boat, and drops it in the river.

Furlough is over. The Musketeers head back to Paris.

Analysis

Athos goes on a mysterious errand. The identity of the man he is searching for is left to the reader's imagination. Is there a stigma about knowing an executioner, or going to his house? Are people simply afraid of him because his job makes him scary? Or does the scandal of the executioner's brother—a fallen priest turned criminal, or the suicide aspect—repel his neighbors? A fall from grace is one of the ultimate forms of dishonor, although the priest does the honorable thing by turning himself in to free his brother, thus reclaiming a small part of what was lost.

These chapters prepare the reader for bloodshed with the symbolism of the color red: the executioner's red house, his red cloak, the red moon, and even the drops of blood on the road, which lead to Milady.

The importance of offering money to the executioner is a symbolic gesture showing he is hired to perform the role of executioner, and those individuals paying have the authority, though symbolic, to complete this execution. The executioner, likewise, makes a gesture of throwing the money overboard, saying, in essence, this is not a regular day on the job—he would do it for free. The executioner himself wants Milady dead.

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