Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 743

The Prisoner

For the second time, Aramis, ex-musketeer and current Bishop of Vannes, is in the Bastille. The prisoner asked for a confessor, and Aramis is here for that and another reason. The prisoner is allowed just enough freedom and access to the outside world to convince himself that he...

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The Prisoner

For the second time, Aramis, ex-musketeer and current Bishop of Vannes, is in the Bastille. The prisoner asked for a confessor, and Aramis is here for that and another reason. The prisoner is allowed just enough freedom and access to the outside world to convince himself that he is content; his face and voice combine “a martyr’s resignation with an atheist’s smile.” As his confessor, Aramis asks the young man what crime he committed to be placed here; the prisoner says he is not a criminal and scolds Aramis for not revealing why he is really here.

Aramis asks the prisoner if he desires more than he has or craves things beyond his station in life; the young man answers with assurance that he is content. After a silence, Aramis accuses the prisoner of concealing remembrances from his childhood because he does not trust his confessor. That is not surprising, according to Aramis, for if the prisoner knows what he ought to know, he should distrust everyone.

Finally both men speak a bit more plainly. Aramis says he is the musketeer, in the service of King Louis XIII, who used to accompany a lady wearing black silk to the place where the prisoner grew up. The prisoner remembers the woman in black silk. The young man also remembers a time when he was not a prisoner, though he has always lived a highly restricted life. Aramis begins to tell the young man some truths about his life. The prisoner has always thought both his parents are dead; however, his mother is still alive, though she is “dead for him.” He has a very powerful enemy, someone more powerful than his mother, who put him in the Bastille and had his nurse and tutor killed, something the prisoner has always suspected.

The prisoner was raised and tutored as a nobleman and therefore assumes he was not always meant to be locked away in prison. The unsuspecting boy was happy and diligent in his studies. He remembers his tutor and nurse growing frantic because “the queen’s latest letter” accidentally blew out of the window and down the well. The tutor was distraught because he would not be able to obey her instructions and, even worse, would not be able to send it back to her as she always demanded he do. When the distraught pair went to find a young boy to retrieve the letter, Philip (which is what they called the young man) retrieved the precious letter himself.

Though the letter tore in half, Philip was able to read the words written by Queen Anne of Austria, though the letter did not reveal much to him. The tutor and nurse discovered the truth because Philip got sick and told them everything in his delirium. Undoubtedly the pair had to tell the queen the truth; soon after, Philip was imprisoned and assumed the two faithful servants were killed.

It is Aramis’s turn to speak, and he asks the prisoner if he has ever seen himself in a mirror. The young man does not even know what a mirror is. Philip was taught only the history someone wanted him to know, read only certain books, and knows only selected events which have happened in France over the last twenty-four or so years of his life. Aramis begins his story.

King Louis XIII died young and lived his life fearing his lineage would die with him, for he and his wife were childless. Finally his wife, Anne of Austria, gave birth to a son. The prisoner turns pale and Aramis says the rest of this story is a secret few could tell: while the king and his kingdom were celebrating the birth of the prince, the queen delivered a second son. When the king learned of the second boy, his joy turned to bitterness, knowing the potential for strife this could cause; so he sent the second son away.

Aramis shows Philip his image in a mirror, and the young man knows he is doomed because he looks exactly like his brother King Louis XIV. Aramis has come to tell Philip that he wants to free him from prison and put him on the throne, in effect reversing the brothers’ positions. Philip is humbled at the thought, and Aramis is moved by the young man’s graciousness and nobility.  Aramis tells Philip not to leave the Bastille with anyone but him.

Chapter 2 Summary

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How Mouston Gained Weight Without Warning Porthos, and How This Spelled Trouble for the Worthy Nobleman

D’Artagnan and Porthos rarely see one another anymore. One (d’Artagnan) has been performing a tedious task for the king, and the other (Porthos, a baron) has been shopping for furniture for his various residences after acquiring a taste for luxury while he was in His Majesty’s service.

One morning the loyal d’Artagnan has a few spare moments and thinks of his friend Porthos; he is worried since he has not seen the baron for two weeks and goes to his town house. Porthos is sitting on his bed, half-naked and melancholy. Around him on the floor are strewn a collection of suits, all in “clashing colors” and full of fringe, braids, and embroideries.

Porthos does not see his friend enter the room, as his presence is blocked by Monsieur Mouston, a corpulent man who is now holding up one of his employer’s suits. Man and suit are sufficient to hide d’Artagnan. After hearing Porthos’s heavy sighs for a bit, d’Artagnan finally coughs discreetly to announce his presence.

Porthos is thrilled to see his friend and is sure d’Artagnan will be able to help him. Mouston steps out of the way and Porthos hugs his friend “with an affection that seems to gather new strength with each passing day.” When d’Artagnan asks Porthos why he is feeling so sad today, Porthos dramatically tells him everything. First, d’Artagnan wants to disentangle them both from all the fine clothes on the ground, but Porthos belittles the expensive fabrics and says he has no use for them. He is the only man in the country, says d’Artagnan, who could wear a new suit of clothes every day for the rest of his life without ever having to visit a tailor again; however, Porthos only shakes his head in despair.

D’Artagnan asks Porthos if his various estates and holdings are in trouble, but quite the opposite is true: everything is producing more and better than expected. Porthos is distraught because he has received an invitation to the king’s celebration at Vaux, but d’Artagnan reminds him that the king alienated more than a hundred courtiers by not inviting them and congratulates Porthos, saying it will be a magnificent celebration. Even though Porthos agrees with everything his friend says, he is still agitated and unhappy because he has absolutely nothing to wear.

Incredulous, d’Artagnan points to the more than fifty outfits lying on the floor, but Porthos dismisses them and explains the problem. Porthos has always had seven fashionable outfits ready so he could, at a moment’s notice be called to court and be well dressed. One thing Porthos has always hated doing, though, is getting fitted for clothing, feeling it too undignified for a nobleman such as he; so he devised a strategy to fatten the formerly slender Mouston until he grew to the same girth as his employer. Though Mouston is shorter than Porthos, for the past two years Mouston has been ordering fashionable clothing and serving as the stand-in for Porthos with the tailor. Unfortunately, Mouston grew eighteen inches in his waist during that time, so now the only fashionable clothes Porthos has are much too big for him and thus he has nothing at all to wear to the king’s party.

Porthos complains that he just got his invitation today and the party is in two days, and that is not enough time for a tailor to make him anything suitable. D’Artagnan says it can be done since Porthos will not leave for three days; it is Sunday, and the party is Wednesday. Porthos explains that Aramis delivered the invitation and told Porthos to arrive at Vaux twenty-four hours ahead of time, a piece of information d’Artagnan finds a bit puzzling.

Finally d’Artagnan tells Porthos to put on one of his oversized suits and he will take him to the king’s tailor (a man Porthos has never heard of before now). Though the tailor is no doubt busy, d’Artagnan assures his friend that the tailor will do a favor for him that he will not do for anyone else; however, Porthos will have to endure being measured just like the king does. Porthos readily agrees.

Chapter 3 Summary

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Who and What Master Jean Percerin Was

The king’s tailor, Master Jean Percerin, lives in a stately mansion and his family has been tailors to royalty for generations. He is an old man and is distressed at the fact that he has no son through which the family legacy will pass. Instead, Percerin has “trained several highly promising disciples” and lives grandly on his estate with a carriage and a pack of hounds by special authorization of the king.

Because of his great successes, Percerin, even though he is almost eighty years old, can afford to be selective about whom he chooses to design for; and he is capricious about which new clients he accepts. If someone has only recently been raised to nobility, for example, he is not likely to accept his patronage. He is a man of “wit and malice” who still measures a woman’s bodice with a “firm hand.” Percerin is, of course, the tailor for Monsieur Fouquet, the superintendent of finance; however, there is one man who refuses to seek out the tailor: Monsieur Colbert.

Porthos is distraught at having to submit himself to such an arrogant and uncivil man. If the tailor is disrespectful to him, Porthos is determined to make the tailor pay for it. Again d’Artagnan assures his friend that even if Porthos were not such an important person, Percerin would agree to dress him for the king’s party; however, Porthos is still reticent, explaining that perhaps he once sent Mouston to Percerin and the tailor refused to clothe him.

As d’Artagnan explains again that Percerin will take this job, their carriage is stopped behind a long line of carriages, all lined up waiting their turn to enter Percerin’s home. The two men get out and walk toward the house, bypassing all the waiting carriages. A lackey at the closed door is telling everyone there that Percerin is not receiving anyone at present. Those who are waiting say that the reason Percerin cannot see them is that he is working urgently to create five new outfits for the king.

With Porthos ahead of him, d’Artagnan pushes through the crowd and to the door; when he shouts “by order of the king,” the lackey promptly lets them enter. The room is full of unhappy noble clients and frenzied apprentices. One man sits in a corner watching it all, but when he spies d’Artagnan he pulls his hat over his eyes, hoping not to be seen. It is this gesture which causes the well trained musketeer captain to notice him, and he calls out to the man by name. The man, Moliere, shushes d’Artagnan as quickly as possible and says he does not want the others to know who he is.

Percerin allows Moliere to sit and observe people without being recognized, but d’Artagnan threatens to expose him to the entire room if he does not immediately announce them to the tailor. When the playwright hesitates, d’Artagnan says if Moliere refuses his request, he will not let Moliere observe the friend he has brought. Moliere peruses Porthos carefully and apparently likes what he sees, for he promptly stands up and walks into an adjoining room.

Chapter 4 Summary

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The Swatches

As Porthos and d’Artagnan wait for Moliere to return, the noise and confusion in the room slowly dissipate. Ten minutes later, the playwright returns and signals the two men, from behind a tapestry, to follow him. He takes them along a series of intricate corridors until they reach Percerin’s studio. The old tailor is working, sleeves rolled up; when he sees d’Artagnan, he stops and greets him civilly.

When he tells the captain of the guards that he is frightfully busy creating five suits, d’Artagnan says he knows they will be stunning. The tailor agrees but says they must first be created, and for that he needs time. Again d’Artagnan is somewhat dismissive and says that two days is plenty of time; Percerin is clearly not accustomed to being challenged in any way and says he will serve d’Artagnan’s friend—later on, when he has the time.

Porthos says the truth is that a man always has the time he wants. The tailor flushes scarlet and tells Porthos he is welcome to try elsewhere—until d’Artagnan mentions the name of Monsieur Fouquet. Immediately the old man’s tone becomes conciliatory, and he asks Porthos if he is “attached” to Fouquet. Porthos is indignant and explodes just as someone else enters the room. Moliere observes as d’Artagnan laughs, and Porthos unleashes his wrath on the hapless tailor.

In a calm voice, d’Artagnan simply tells Percerin he will make the baron an outfit in time for the king’s celebration because d’Artagnan is the one asking, and he dismisses every objection and protest the tailor makes. Nevertheless the tailor insists it cannot be done until another voice commands him. Immediately d’Artagnan recognizes the “gentle, silvery voice” of Aramis, Monsieur d’Herblay and Bishop of Vannes.

Aramis greets Porthos and d’Artagnan, and his gentle command proves to be more persuasive than d’Artagnan’s. The tailor reluctantly agrees to make a suit for Porthos and ungraciously tells the baron to go get his measurements taken. Porthos “blushes formidably,” and d’Artagnan quietly tells Moliere he must be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to study Porthos. Moliere does not need the advice and does not take his eyes from the Baron.

Moliere tells Porthos he can ensure that his measurements are taken without his ever being touched, something Porthos finds astounding. The playwright says he has developed a new method for people just like Porthos who find being measured invasive and offensive. Porthos is eager to see this new method, and the two men leave the room while d’Artagnan stays behind with Aramis and the tailor.  

It seems to annoy Aramis when d’Artagnan approaches him and asks if he, too, is going to get a suit made for the festivities at Vaux. Aramis says he will be attending but cannot afford such fine clothes on his salary, and d’Artagnan teases him about the poems he used to write. Aramis dismisses them as something silly from his past and says they should leave the tailor to his work. Though d’Artagnan is prepared to leave, it is clear that Aramis has some private business to conduct with Percerin.

Aramis insists he has no secrets which cannot be shared with d’Artagnan, but he has to think quickly to get what he wants without letting his friend figure out why he wants it. Aramis tells an elaborate story about a surprise Monsieur Fouquet wants to give the king at the celebration; however, it requires that the artist Aramis has brought with him must be allowed to draw the king’s five outfits precisely.

At first Percerin is outraged and then he laughs, but Aramis makes a convincing case with the help of d’Artagnan, who is intrigued with the proceedings and plays along with his friend. Aramis talks about a group of poets, the Epicureans, led by Fouquet, who want to participate in the surprise. Fouquet’s name invokes fear in the tailor but he is still unsure. Finally Aramis says Fouquet will have to tell the king that Percerin is the reason he could not make him a grand surprise, and that is enough for the tailor to acquiesce.

The artist, Monsieur Le Brun, begins to sketch the stunning outfits; but Aramis is unhappy that he is unable to copy the exact fabrics and colors in his drawing. Aramis convinces the dazed tailor to give him a swatch of fabric from each outfit. Aramis asks d’Artagnan if he agrees that this is a good plan; the only thing d’Artagnan agrees to is that he does not want to be part of whatever duplicity is afoot. 

Chapter 5 Summary

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Where Moliere Might Have Drawn His Inspiration for The Burgher As Aristocrat

D’Artagnan finds a radiant Porthos chatting with Moliere, and Moliere is looking at Porthos as if he not only has “never seen anything better, but who’s never seen anything as good.” Aramis goes straight to his old friend Porthos and holds out his hand with some trepidation, knowing it will be completely engulfed in the baron’s giant paw. After surviving the greeting, Aramis invites Moliere to accompany him to Saint-Mande and the playwright accepts. Porthos, unaware of Moliere’s true profession, is shocked that Aramis is on such familiar terms with a tailor’s apprentice. Though d’Artagnan does tell Porthos that Moliere is not who he seems to be, he does not tell Porthos who he really is. As Moliere takes his leave, Porthos tells him to be sure his new suit is ready on time.

When they are alone, d’Artagnan asks Porthos what happened during the measurement-taking which he usually detests. Porthos explains that Moliere managed to take his measurements without ever touching him. It is a new system, and Porthos is most satisfied with it.

First Moliere tried to find tailor’s dummy to match Porthos, but the biggest one was six inches too thin and two inches too short. Porthos keeps forgetting Moliere’s name, but he certainly likes his dignified approach to measuring his clients. Undaunted, Moliere positioned Porthos in front of a mirror, and at first the baron was not sure how a mirror was going to help get the task accomplished; however, Moliere gently explains that a good suit must be crafted so expertly that it never constrains the wearer, even during a sword fight.

Because of that, Moliere asked Porthos to pose in the classic “en garde position,” which the large man did with great aplomb. Once Porthos held that position as gracefully as possible, Moliere slowly and meticulously traced the musketeer’s outline onto the mirror, hoping Porthos would get tired but never revealing his ultimate plan. When Porthos finally admitted he was getting tired, Moliere brought in two young boys who held his arms up like people used to support the prophets’ arms in ancient days.

Of course, d’Artagnan asks if Porthos felt humiliated, but Porthos explains there is a “vast difference between being supported and being measured.” Each of the boys supported one arm; a third boy joined them and supported Porthos’s waist as he posed and Moliere traced his form on the mirror. In short, explains Porthos, the entire operation was conducted without his ever being touched—except, says an amused d’Artagnan, for the three boys supporting him while he posed.

Throughout this explanation, d’Artagnan is delighted at his friend’s naiveté and the playwright’s ability to capture the comedy in human behavior. In fact, d’Artagnan is convinced that he has just provided Moliere a windfall and expects to see something of this scene in one of the playwright’s comedies.

Porthos smiles, knowing he must have been the first person on whom Moliere ever tried this technique, based on the signals he saw the man exchange with the boys who were supporting Porthos. D’Artagnan agrees that Moliere is a most ingenious man and was particularly inspired today. When Porthos says he is certain Moliere will “make use of it eventually,” d’Artagnan says of course he will, as Moliere does the best job of dressing all nobility in the garments they deserve.

Chapter 6 Summary

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The Hive, the Bees, and the Honey

Aramis, the Bishop of Vannes, is not happy at having met d’Artagnan in Percerin’s studio; Moliere, on the other hand, is elated at having met such a character as Porthos.

All of the most recognized Epicureans in Paris are gathered to create his own part of the surprise Monsieur Fouquet intends to present King Louis XIV during the festivities at Vaux. Two men, Pellison and La Fontaine, are quarreling good-naturedly about whose verses and rhymes are better, and other poets join in the squabble.

Finally La Fontaine says he will only write prose from now on and will burn the last hundred lines he just composed. Unfortunately, they are in his head and therefore cannot be burned. La Fontaine sadly says that if he can not burn them, they will remain with him and “haunt him forever.” Just as he is bemoaning his fate, an unexpected person offers him a solution. Moliere suggests that he write the verses down and then burn them, and La Fontaine berates himself for his own stupidity and poor poetry skills.

Moliere tells the man he is not, as Pellison said, a “lowlife” and, as a nobleman, La Fontaine should not let the insult go unpunished. Moliere says he will challenge Pellison to a duel on La Fontaine’s behalf. La Fontaine says to do so only if Moliere feels he must do so, but before Moliere leaves La Fontaine says he needs some advice about rhyme. Moliere calls La Fontaine an “eternal scatterbrain,” for the man has already forgotten about Pellison’s insults and that Moliere asked him to write the prologue for his newest play—something Pellison is now writing because La Fontaine did not do it.

As the group works raucously together on rhymes and lines, it is evident that La Fontaine is forgetful, even failing to remember which of the other poets had insulted him. When Aramis walks in, all the hilarity comes to an abrupt halt, as if his pale, serious face had frightened away the Muses.

Aramis distributes the invitations to each of the poets on behalf of Monsieur Fouquet, the superintendent of finances who is too busy to deliver them in person; however, Fouquet would like them each to send bits of their writing to alleviate his nightly fatigue. At these words, each man sets to work: La Fontaine writes furiously, Pellison writes the prologue, Moliere writes fifty new verses (inspired by his time at Percerin’s), and Loret writes an article on the celebration.

Aramis gathers their work and, before leaving, reminds them that they will be leaving for the king’s celebration tomorrow evening. He and Moliere take a carriage ride and Aramis stops to visit the superintendent of finance. Fouquet is worried about all the money he is spending on the king’s celebration and asking about the millions that Aramis promised him. The bishop assures the nervous superintendent that he will have the money the day after the king enters Vaux, but Fouquet seems to doubt Aramis. It does seem unlikely that an ex-musketeer and bishop will actually be able to muster up that goodly sum.

When Aramis asks if he is nervous, Fouquet says at least he will fall from a high enough place that every bone in his body will break. Aramis tells Fouquet he will need to pay Le Brun, the painter, for a surprise he is creating on his behalf for the king. Now Aramis is going to Paris, but first he needs a lettre de cachet (an order under the king’s private seal) from the superintendent; Fouquet asks jokingly if Aramis wants to put someone in the Bastille. Aramis tells him it is quite the opposite: he wants to free a young man who has been imprisoned for almost ten years because he wrote a few Latin verses against the Jesuits.

Fouquet makes Aramis swear that the prisoner has done nothing more than that, which he does, before writing out the pardon for the boy. When he learns the boy’s name is Seldon, Fouquet says that is “too much” and says Aramis tolerates enough injustice that it is no wonder that people are often suspicious of him. He writes the pardon and hands the bishop ten vouchers for a thousand francs each to give to the boy’s impoverished mother—ten thousand francs more than Fouquet himself has.

Aramis, armed with the letter and the vouchers for Seldon’s mother, leaves for Paris with the impatient Moliere. 

Chapter 7 Summary

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Another Supper at the Bastille

It is seven o’clock in the evening according to the big clock at the Bastille, the famous clock which reminds the inmates regularly that time is passing, and it is time for the inmates to eat dinner.

It is also dinnertime for the warden, and tonight Baisemeaux has a guest: Aramis, the Bishop of Vannes. It is a different Aramis who sits at the warden’s table tonight. He is dressed more like a musketeer, wearing boots and sword, and he regales his host with confidences and stories. Much of his conversation tonight is “bordering on the risqué,” something the warden is accustomed to but not from the bishop.

Aramis asks the warden to send the servant away as he prefers an intimate dinner, and the warden suggests that Aramis reminds him so much of the late cardinal, a man he greatly admired. In fact, Baisemeaux suggests that Aramis is on the same path as the cardinal and has “wicked intentions” to become one himself. Aramis agrees that he has the most wicked intentions of anyone in society but does not “wish to be at loggerheads” with the Church tonight.

Now Aramis summons the servant back to open the window, though the warden prefers it to remain closed while he is eating to keep out all the noise from the patrols and couriers below them. Baisemeaux was once a musketeer and says he always liked d’Artagnan because he revealed his innermost thoughts when he was drunk. Aramis says he intends to get drunk tonight, as well, and he promises to be revelatory. The warden, thrilled at participating in the bishop’s deadly sin, does not notice that Aramis is listening intently to the sounds in the courtyard outside the window.

In the courtyard below, a noisy carriage draws Aramis’s attention, but the warden dismisses it and asks for more wine to be brought to the table. Baisemeaux tells the servant that the courier can leave his message at the registry and he will deal with it in the morning. Aramis warns the warden that a courier at this time of night is likely to bring something important, perhaps an order from a minister who is the spokesman of the king.

The warden says perhaps Aramis is right, but he is annoyed at his dinner being interrupted. Aramis reminds him that “something extraordinary must be afoot” and, even though the warden may be disgusted at the intrusion, he should never ignore the wishes of a king. Finally the warden agrees to do his duty and asks for the courier’s message to be sent to him, though he is derisive about the false urgency such messages usually contain and is certain this message will be no different.

Despite his friendly attitude, Aramis is watching everything carefully; when the warden reads the letter, Aramis pretends to drink so he can watch his host. The warden is disgusted at being interrupted with an order to release a prisoner at this time of night, but Aramis reminds him it is a kindness for the prisoner. Aramis is allowed to read the letter and reminds the warden that the letter says “Rush!” The warden sees no need to rush to dismiss a prisoner who has been in prison for ten years and tosses the letter aside disdainfully, saying he is not a slave.

Aramis assures the warden he will not be acting as a slave by setting the prisoner free; instead he will show himself to be an independent man demonstrating his kind heart. The warden concedes and says he will release the prisoner as commanded, but not until tomorrow morning. Resuming his role as a priest, Aramis pleads for the prisoner and says God will reward the warden for his generosity if he releases the man tonight as requested. Though their meal will grow cold, the warden agrees to release the prisoner.

When Baisemeaux turns toward the door to summon his servant, Aramis quickly replaces the letter on the table with a letter from his pocket. 

Chapter 8 Summary

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The General of the Order

The warden and his guest, Aramis, sit in silence while they wait for the servant to arrive. It is obvious that Baisemeaux is striving to find a reason not to release the prisoner at least until after dessert. Finally he says it is impossible to release the inmate because it is late and the man will have no place to go for the night. Aramis offer his carriage to take the man wherever he wants to go. Trapped into doing his duty, the warden tells his servant to release the prisoner Seldon.

Aramis gently corrects his host, saying the name on the letter was Martial; however, the warden is certain he has the right name. Finally they look at the letter and the warden is amazed that it does, indeed, say Marchiali. He distinctly remembers the other name, in big letters, and even recalls a blot of ink under it. Aramis simply tells Baisemeaux that he must follow the letter, in any case, and Marchiali must be released, blot or not. Aramis teases that if the warden also wishes to release Seldon, he will not oppose the act.

The bemused Baisemeaux continues to examine the letter, but Aramis remains calm, reminding himself that he must not lose his temper. He tries to distract his host, but the warden says he must question the courier to be sure about the letter, but Aramis reminds him that the letter was sealed and the courier could not know its contents. When the warden says he will write to the minister so he will not make a mistake, Aramis coolly says he admires the man’s respect for his superiors but asks why the warden has doubts about the letter.

When Baisemeaux says he has no way of knowing whether or not the signatures have been forged, Aramis asks whether the warden will obey the order of any superior. After the warden says of course he will, Aramis asks for a quill and a blank piece of paper. Suddenly Aramis’s friendly tone and affable manner turn “eerie and funereal,” and the entire room has lost its friendliness and now seems somehow threatening.

Aramis writes, in the most formal terms, that as General of the Order he affirms that the letter the warden received is valid and must be followed immediately. Ignoring the “miserable state” of his friend, Aramis seals the letter and presents it to the warden. Baisemeaux is stunned to know that Aramis, the man he had been drinking and talking with so freely, is the General of the Order. Aramis assures him that he will be the warden’s “friend and protector” and the warden agrees to obey the order.

Soon, though, the warden realizes he will be worse off if the letter is forged and he releases a prisoner without an authentic royal order; Aramis senses his wavering and tells the warden to do the simplest thing—follow Bastille regulations. It will be a simple thing, for this prisoner came to prison with practically nothing, and Baisemeaux finally orders the man’s release.

When they hear the door to the dungeon open into the courtyard, Aramis sends Baisemeaux to retrieve the prisoner; the warden returns soon after with Marchiali behind him. Aramis has darkened the room, and now he stands in the shadows where he can see but not be seen. The warden reminds the young man that he must never reveal anything he has seen or heard while at the Bastille and pronounces that he is now free.

The prisoner looks around, searching for something or someone. Aramis steps out of the shadows and announces his willingness to do whatever the prisoner requests of him. Without hesitation, the prisoner locks arms with Aramis; the warden insists he will keep the letter Aramis wrote as proof, if needed, that Aramis was his accomplice in this act.

Once they are in the carriage, both men are still tense, fearful that they will not be allowed to pass by the numerous Bastille guards. When the final gate closes behind them, the horses break into a gallop and both men breathe more easily. The carriage races to a preordained checkpoint and the horses are changed; no orders are given and no signal is made.

When the carriage stops safely in the middle of the forest, Aramis tells the young prince that they can talk freely here, for the driver is deaf and mute. Before he begins, Aramis removes his guns, since he no longer needs them. 

Chapter 9 Summary

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The Tempter

Aramis addresses the former prisoner as his prince and says he is usually a man who can read others by the faces they wear; tonight, however, Aramis is unable to read the young man in the carriage and fears he will “have a hard time extracting a single sincere word” from him. He begs the young man to listen intently to every word he speaks for his own safety, for everything Aramis is about to say is as important to the prince as anything that has ever been said. The young man promises to listen without fear or judgment before burying himself even further into the corner of the carriage.

The carriage is as dark inside as it is outside when Aramis begins with a brief history of the reign of France. The king of France came to power despite a childhood as obscure and confined as Philip’s, but he lived publicly, in the presence of royalty, rather than in a place of confinement and captivity. Every embarrassment, misery, and humiliation was observed, and even his triumphs often felt like stains or blemishes. Because of that, he now harbors a grudge and does everything to “devour the money and subsistence of his subjects.” Aramis pauses to gather his thoughts and to ensure what he just said settles firmly into the mind of the former prisoner.

Aramis says that God does all things well and by design, which is why He allowed him (someone who is persevering, sharp, and earnest) to know the secret of Philip’s heritage and will accomplish a great work because of it. Aramis tells the prince that he is the leader of a “mysterious brotherhood” whose motto is “He is patient because He is eternal.” This statement causes the young man to stir, and Aramis continues.

Aramis is the ruler of a small, disinherited nation whose members are humble because they seldom enjoy the fruits of their unrecognized labor. Instead, they gather around a man and position him for greatness. Philip is such a man and Aramis can elevate him beyond anything he can imagine for himself. The prince says it is obvious that if such a religious group can raise a man up, it can also hurl him to the ground. Aramis quickly dismisses the notion and says Philip, once he is king, will be king forever. He accepts the prince’s thanks but says that once the young man is king, the two of them will “achieve things that people will talk about for centuries.”

Finally Aramis tells Philip plainly that he is the son of Louis XIII, twin brother to King Louis XIV and rightful heir to the throne. By keeping his younger brother imprisoned, the current king has ensured his reign as sole sovereign; however, because of that imprisonment, Philip now has a rightful claim to the throne. God has pre-ordained it so by giving Philip the exact features and build of his brother. No blood will be shed and Philip alone will decide the fate of his brother. Only the queen mother and Madame de Chevreuse know of Philip’s existence, and they will not recognize him if he does not give himself away to them. Philip reminds Aramis that the king is married; Aramis will have the marriage repudiated by Spain.

The imprisoned king will be less of a hindrance for Philip than Philip was for the king. The reigning king is haughty and impatient, and he has been puffed with pride by honors, power, and sovereignty; these traits have so weakened him that he will not live long once he is in prison. Philip shudders and says he will do the more humane thing and exile his brother.

Aramis says there is no danger, just surmountable obstacles. Philip is breathing heavily as an indication of the torment raging in his soul, and Aramis explains that he loves the prince with everything he has and therefore wants to give him a choice. Aramis describes an idyllic piece of land he knows which any man would be happy to own and live on peacefully for the rest of his days. He offers the young man enough money, without any questions or recriminations, to buy that land and offers him secret transportation to that place if that is what he chooses. He can live as a common man and not risk getting assassinated on the throne or being strangled in prison.

The prince asks for ten minutes outside the carriage where he can hear from God and make his decision. 

Chapter 10 Summary

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Crown and Tiara

Aramis watches Philip, in his first hours of freedom, take a few unsteady steps and then heave a sigh of joy. It must be intoxicating to think of living a peaceful life in the country, a life without stress, intrigue, or hardship. Aramis watches anxiously as Philip lapses into a deep meditation and asks God to reveal His wishes in this matter. Never has the Bishop of Vannes been so miserable. Though his soul is resolved, his plans may be thwarted because the lure of fresh air may prove too strong for the young prince.

After moments of agonizing, Philip bows his head and then his resolve begins to show on his face. He finally grabs Aramis’s hand and says they must go to “where they will find the crown of France.” When Aramis asks if he is sure, the young man looks at him with an expression that clearly says it is impossible for a man to go back on his word.

Philip assumes there is something Aramis hopes to gain from this drastic action and wants the older man to be frank with him. Aramis promises to tell him what he wants but not until after Philip is king. This will happen tomorrow night, and Philip is prepared. Aramis had sent him a book of excellent notes about everything Philip will need to know as king, and the young man faithfully and carefully memorized all the information.

Once Philip is king, Aramis will never question him; now, however, he must be sure Philip is prepared. He is. Philip knows the important people at court by the excellent drawings which accompanied the notes. He knows that his younger brother is married to Henriette but does not love her though the king flirts with her regularly. The king’s mistress is Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and Aramis notes that she truly loves the king and will therefore be hard to fool.

Philip knows all the habits of those closest to the king as well as all of the king’s ministers. Colbert is ugly but intelligent and is Monsieur Fouquet’s mortal enemy. Aramis assures Philip that Fouquet is no enemy, and Philip assumes correctly that Aramis will inevitably ask Philip to exile Fouquet. The person who will be least easy to fool is d’Artagnan, the captain of the guard and Aramis’s friend. D’Artagnan has been an indispensable aide to the king, and Aramis plans to tell him the truth in the proper time. If d’Artagnan discovers the truth before then, however, Philip and Aramis will undoubtedly be captured or killed, as the musketeer is a man of action.

Aramis asks Philip about one other person, the Count de la Fere and his son, Raoul, a young man all four of the musketeers consider to be their own. Philip knows Raoul is “dying of love” for Valliere, the woman the king stole from him and made his mistress, and promises to help Raoul win her back. Philip thinks perhaps Aramis, his only friend, should be appointed prime minister; however, Aramis says that would be too abrupt a transition. The king should name him cardinal first, something Philip vows to do within two months. Aramis wants Fouquet to keep his position and asks the king to pay the superintendent’s debts and solidify his finances; Aramis asks the king to eventually help him become pope. As pope, he assures the young man that he will never do anything against Philip’s interests and will remain loyal in all circumstances.

The plan is to kidnap the king in his bed: he will fall asleep a king and wake up a captive. After that, Philip will be king and from that moment will make his own decisions with Aramis to guide him. Philip offers his hand to strike the bargain, but Aramis kneels deferentially instead. On the day Philip wears the crown of France and Aramis wears the tiara of the pope, they will embrace. Philip asks Aramis to embrace him today as more than that, as his father. Aramis is moved, for he loves the boy; but the emotion quickly fades and they leave the forest.

Chapter 11 Summary

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The Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte was built by Fouquet in 1653 when there was little money in France; whatever was not taken by Mazarin was spent by Fouquet. He spent millions on this castle and gathered the most famous architect, landscape architect, and interior decorator in the country to work on the project. The immensity of the roofing alone is enough to require a fortune in maintenance.

It is a sumptuous place from the iron gates at the entrance to the pillared pavilions which lead to the grand edifice of the castle itself. Though it was built by a subject, the castle looks more like a royal building than many of the actual royal structures. The inside is grand in every way, but it is the gardens which speak most of the luxury of Vaux-le-Vicomte. The fountains are admired by all nobility, and the famous grotto’s beauty has been written about by countless poets.

Though it is only eight years old, the garden is full of every imaginable plant and tree which had been transplanted, roots and all, to decorate the park. These were easily obtained since Fouquet had also bought three nearby villages and their contents to enhance his own park.

This splendid place is on the verge of receiving the king, and all manner of activities are being planned. Some of Fouquet’s friends have brought actors, stages, sculptors, painters, and writers; many impromptu events are in store for the king and his guests. Fouquet arrived only this morning and is now walking the grounds and issuing his final orders.

Aramis has distributed all the guests throughout the castle, stationed guards at all the doors, and prepared everyone’s lodgings. All Fouquet has to do is make certain everything flows seamlessly. He checks the arrangement of fireworks and Moliere shows him the theater; he visits the chapel, salons, and galleries before he is exhausted. Aramis sees Fouquet and brings him to a large painting on which Le Brun laboriously works. It is a portrait of the king in his ceremonial suit which Percerin had, unwillingly, shown Aramis several days ago.

Standing in front of the painting, Fouquet admires the work and hugs Le Brun out of his excessive emotion. Suddenly the signal is given from the top of the castle: the king and his cortege have been spotted near the town of Melun and will arrive in an hour. Fouquet says he and the king do not particularly like one another, but now that the royal carriage is near he finds himself feeling the sacredness of having a king in his home. “He is almost dear” to Fouquet; if the young royal would let him, he believes he could even love the king.

Aramis will be staying in the Blue Chamber on the third floor, the room right above the king’s apartment. Aramis knows he will have to be quiet and has only brought one person with him. He tells Fouquet to stay fresh for the king’s arrival. Fouquet asks about Vallon. Vallon is lodged near Aramis and is getting dressed. Fouquet bows and walks on, like a commander who is visiting his outposts after he has been made aware of the enemy. 

Chapter 12 Summary

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The Wine of Melun

The king had not intended to anything more than drive through the town of Melun. He is a man who craves pleasure, and since he has done little more than glimpse his mistress today, he is anxious to get settled at Vaux and spend some time with her. The king had not reckoned on his captain of the musketeers or Monsieur Colbert.

The captain, d’Artagnan, is inconsolable at not being able to figure out why Aramis had wanted so badly to see the king’s outfit ahead of time; though he is certain his old friend is planning something, he is unable to imagine what it might be. He also knows Fouquet’s financial situation and is suspicious of this grand, expensive party being hosted by a financially ruined man. Fouquet has named Aramis master of ceremonies for the festivities and Aramis has been privy to all of Fouquet’s business; Aramis has also made several visits to Baisemeaux recently. 

In short, all of these strange actions have been haunting d’Artagnan for the past few weeks, and he knows Aramis is much more dangerous as a bishop without a sword than he was as a musketeer fully armed. All of these machinations point to something more than Aramis’s desire to overthrow Colbert. He considers talking to the minister of finance directly, but he remembers the musketeer oath—“All for one and one for all!”—and does not do it. In any case, d’Artagnan also hates Colbert.

While he considers talking to the king, d’Artagnan knows the king will not understand such shadowy suspicions; so he decides to confront Aramis directly the next time he sees him. He will catch Aramis unawares, put his hand on his friend’s heart, and Aramis will tell him everything—for surely there is something to tell. There must be.

In the meantime, d’Artagnan made preparations for this trip and ensured that everything essential was properly packed and staffed. Though the king is accompanied by a small entourage by royal standards, the entire cortege could be mistaken for a private army. Colbert is delighted at the sight of so many soldiers and tells the king he wishes there were even more so Fouquet would be even more honored; the king knows he wishes it because he wants Fouquet to spend even more money he cannot afford.

When the king arrives in Melun, he is presented with the keys to the city and an invitation to drink the famous local wine at the town hall. The king is upset at the delay and asks d’Artagnan privately who has caused this unwanted delay. D’Artagnan says it was Colbert’s doing. Colbert hears his name, and d’Artagnan insults him by repeating the king’s displeasure. Colbert claims the stop was solely for the king’s reputation in Melun, but he actually wants to create a hardship for Fouquet.

Because of the delay, it will be four hours before the king will be settled into the palace at Vaux. Unfortunately, as the procession finally leaves for Vaux, several problems emerge. According to protocol, the king cannot enter any non-royal building until the quartermaster and his garrisons have been positioned; however, this will make the delay even greater for the impatient king. The two queens are tired, and it is in their interests not to let the king spend time with his mistress tonight. All of these conflicts create an unhappy king. He asks his wife, and she defers to his wishes; he asks his mother, and she obviously wishes to go to the palace. Colbert reminds the king about the time it will take the military to get settled, and d’Artagnan suggests that the king trust Fouquet and enter his home without his militia, making the king look more noble and honorable.

The king joyfully seizes d’Artagnan’s advice and says they will “visit a friend, as friends.” As d’Artagnan rushes to keep up with his departing king, he tells himself he has to believe that Fouquet is an honorable man. At seven o’clock that evening, Fouquet, after a being notified and then waiting for half an hour, welcomes his king to his home and friends.

Chapter 13 Summary

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Nectar and Ambrosia

The king nods graciously and allows his host Fouquet to kiss his hand; then he waits inside the gate until the first of his carriages arrive an hour later. Madame Fouquet greets her guests, and suddenly light appears everywhere around them. It is a marvel which lasts until they all go inside, and it appears that night has turned to day in a magnificent, luxurious spectacle.

The lavish banquets, concerts, and shows soon cause the cheerful, happy king to become somber and irritable. He thinks about the luxury of his own palace and is aware that it is all the “trappings of royalty and not his personal property.” Fouquet has art objects and dishware handcrafted just for him, and he owns wines the king of France has never even heard of; each wine goblet is worth more than the entire royal wine cellar. Everything in the rest of the palace, every comfort and service, is of the same quality and has the same effect on the king. 

Queen Anne of Austria is haughty and disdainful of all she sees, crushing her host by scorning everything she is served. In contrast, the young queen, kind and curious, praises Fouquet with every new revelation presented to her. The king is even more humiliated when he hears Fouquet’s graciousness and strives to seem aloof and distant to hide his feelings. Though the king had explicitly requested that he be seated with everyone else, Fouquet ensures that the king is served separately and even serves the king himself.

It would be impossible to serve a better dinner than the one Fouquet served his guests that night, but even that was not sufficient to rouse the king from his sadness. He is sad because he knows he should be enjoying himself and because his courtiers are all showing their deference to Fouquet. While d’Artagnan eats and drinks heartily, he also makes plenty of useful observations.

After dinner the king wishes to take a stroll and meets his mistress along the way. He quietly tells her he loves her; the only others who hear him are d’Artagnan who is behind him and Fouquet who is in front of him. When the king finally asks to go to his room, “everyone is promptly on the move.” He is accompanied by musicians and finds his musketeers waiting for him outside his room. Finally d’Artagnan’s suspicions disappear. He has eaten well and is tired, and for one night he wants to participate in the royal festivities without worries. He praises Fouquet in his mind for allowing such a night.

The king is ushered into the Morpheus Chamber, the most spectacular room in the palace, and he shudders at the sight. On the cupola Le Brun has painted all the things which one might dream; the scenes are as “pleasurable in one part as they are sinister and horrifying in another part.” When Fouquet asks the king what is wrong, the pale monarch just says he is sleepy. He asks for Colbert because he wants to chat with several people, and Fouquet bows and leaves. 

Chapter 14 Summary

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For a Gascon and a Gascon and a Half

Once the king rode into Vaux, Aramis retires to his room for the night; d’Artagnan manages to discover his friend’s whereabouts and has himself announced. The Bishop of Vannes is in the Blue Chamber with Porthos and several Epicureans. Aramis embraces his friend and offers him the best chair. The Epicureans sense that d’Artagnan wants a private word with Aramis. Porthos, however, does not leave; he dozes after his huge meal. His snoring does not impede the men’s conversation.

D’Artagnan feels as if he should begin the conversation since he is the one who is “seeking a stringent commitment.” After a moment of small talk, d’Artagnan shares his observation that the real French king is not Louis XIV. Aramis is, of course, shocked until the musketeer continues by saying that the real king is Fouquet. Aramis is relieved. Both men agree that Colbert is not a nice man and neither of them wants to have to answer to him, but in a few months Fouquet will be out of a job (because he is broke) and Colbert will be in charge.

D’Artagnan asks why Fouquet is spending such a fortune on this celebration for the king; his voice is full of such kindness and goodwill that Aramis is fooled for a moment. Then d’Artagnan goes one step too far and asks why Aramis did not try to talk him out of it, and the bishop is once again suspicious. Fouquet is well aware that Colbert is campaigning for his dismissal as superintendent, and this is an opportunity for him to build some goodwill with the king. D’Artagnan is not convinced.

All the other expenses seem somewhat justified, but getting new wardrobes for the entire household seems excessive to d’Artagnan—like the surprise portrait of the king. D’Artagnan is hoping for a reaction from his friend, but Aramis smoothly answers that the portrait is a mere act of courtesy, Others may believe that, says d’Artagnan, but he does not and begs Aramis to tell him the truth about the painting.

D’Artagnan’s instincts tell him that Aramis is carrying out some kind of secret project, though he is unsure what it is. When Aramis denies any such plan, d’Artagnan claims that friendship is an empty word between them even though they have sworn to die for one another. There are three musketeers in the room, and they are a fine trio: one deceiving, one suspicious, and one sleeping.

Now d’Artagnan is frustrated and says Colbert is much too small a target for Aramis. He swears that if Aramis will confide his plans to him, he will either help or remain neutral. When he does not get a satisfying response, d’Artagnan knows Aramis is conspiring against the king, and nothing will convince him otherwise. Finally Aramis solemnly pledges that his only intentions toward the king are to revere him, all the while hoping d’Artagnan will not notice someone hiding in the alcove. D’Artagnan is reluctantly convinced and leaves, taking Porthos with him.

Philip immediately comes out of hiding, and Aramis assures him that as long as d’Artagnan sees nothing which contradicts Aramis’s oath, he will remain loyal to the death. The men look through a false window in the floor to the king’s chamber and are surprised to see Colbert with the king. The future king and the future pope listen to King Louis XIV, the “most difficult man in his kingdom,” ask Colbert where Fouquet gets all his riches.

When Colbert hands the king a letter, Aramis alerts Philip to listen carefully for his own benefit. The king immediately recognizes the handwriting as that of the former cardinal, Mazarin, and the document shows that Fouquet was given thirteen million francs which he has not yet accounted for in the public ledger. Colbert presses the point and suggests the king should accuse Fouquet publicly; when the king is hesitant to do so in Fouquet’s own house, Colbert reminds him that the “king’s home is everywhere”—especially in a home which has been paid for with his money.

As he watches, Philip says that if he were king, he would send Colbert away and do nothing until he thought about it overnight. Despite Colbert’s overeager presence, that is exactly what the king does and dismisses Colbert until morning. Though he is distraught, Colbert hides his agitation and leaves. The king calls his attendants in and Philip starts to turn away. Aramis tells him the king’s bedtime etiquette is the most important ritual for Philip to learn.

Chapter 15 Summary

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Colbert

The next day a grand festival is held for the king, a day full of walks, banquets, and performances. (Surprisingly, Porthos even recognizes Moliere acting on stage.) It is a dazzling day, full of surprises, and the king does nothing about the information Colbert gave him last night. He does, however, seem aloof and taciturn, and nothing around him rouses him to cheer. By noon he seems to display a bit more serenity, and it is likely he has decided what to do about Fouquet.

Aramis has been following every step and nuance of the king and is expecting something to happen. All day the king seems to be seeking out his mistress, Mademoiselle de la Valliere, as much as he tries to escape both Colbert and Fouquet. After an evening of playing cards (in which the king won, of course, and Fouquet conveniently lost a significant sum to the courtiers and military officers), the king demands the men go for a stroll.

Though he had avoided Colbert all day, the king has obviously planned to meet the man in the garden and they vanish together into the park. Before that, however, the king’s mistress sees her lover’s angry face and eyes, and she assumes his suppressed anger is aimed at “a specific person standing on the road of vengeance like an angel of mercy.” The poor girl has been separated from her king for enough time that she is distressed at what she sees and interprets the anger incorrectly. When the lovers are alone (Colbert is near but strives to allow them privacy), the king asks her why she is so upset; she tells him it is because he is so sad.

The king assures her that what he feels is humiliation because Fouquet has more of everything than he does but has gotten it by being a “disloyal servant” who has stolen directly from the king. When his mistress exhibits some disbelief, he accuses her of taking Fouquet’s side in the matter. She simply wonders if the king has been misinformed, knowing how accusations fly about the court.

The king calls Colbert over to them and asks the man to prove to Valliere that Fouquet is guilty. The king is so insistent, of course, because he is not fully convinced Fouquet is guilty. Something seems sinister about the accusations and proof, and he is counting on his lover’s pure heart to hear the evidence and discern the truth for him. If she agrees with what she hears, the king is resolved. Before Colbert can tell the story, the king calls for d’Artagnan so he can arrest Fouquet.

Valliere is appalled at the thought of arresting a man in his own home, especially when he is emptying his coffers for the king’s entertainment. She is not defending Fouquet as much as she is defending the king for the dishonor he is doing himself by issuing such an order. Colbert begins to speak, but she stops him with her “flaming eyes.” She loves the king and will deal with him honestly; Colbert claims to love the king, as well; but she claims that anyone who recommends that the king arrest Monsieur Fouquet in his own home dishonors the king.

Again Colbert tries to defend his action, but Valliere will have none of it. She believes Fouquet is guilty simply because the king has said so; however, Fouquet is sacred to the king because the king is his guest. Even if their host were the worst criminal, Fouquet lives in this home with his wife and it is inviolate. When she is silent, the king admires her willingness to stand up for her cause and Colbert knows he is a defeated foe.

Finally the king asks his mistress quietly why she will not let him arrest the scoundrel now, before he does any more harm. She reminds him that Fouquet can be captured any time, but even if he flees the king will be glorified for not having shamed himself by arresting the man here. As the king stoops to kiss her hand, Colbert knows his plans are doomed—until he remembers something.

Colbert rummages in his portfolio until he finds a yellowed piece of paper folded like a letter. It is obviously a precious thing to him, and he watches the couple with hateful eyes. When they see torches approaching, the girl is forced to leave quickly so she will not be seen. Colbert hurries her away and then claims that she dropped something, a white letter, as she ran off into the darkness. The king swiftly grabs the letter off the ground and crumples it just as the torches arrive. 

Chapter 16 Summary

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Jealousy

Because of the festivities and Valliere’s impassioned argument, the king suspends his decision to have Fouquet arrested. In fact, he feels a strange gratitude to the superintendent of finances for allowing the king to see his mistress’s generous heart and the magnitude of his love for her.

The fireworks have begun. Colbert stands twenty paces from the king and desperately tries to get his attention, but the king is distracted by the show and does not notice. As the king is about to offer his hand to Fouquet, he feels the document Valliere seemed to have dropped.  As the fireworks burst in the sky above him, the king reads what he imagines to be a love letter from his mistress.

As he reads, his anger grows to a terrible wrath; if anyone had examined the king’s heart at that moment he would have discovered a man “ravaged by the most sinister passions.” His rage and jealousy erase every other sentiment; his heart is twisted by grief and the pain is strong enough that he nearly calls to his guards for help.

The letter is one which Fouquet once wrote when he tried to win the heart of Mademoiselle de la Valliere. Though he sees the king’s face, Fouquet is unaware that he is the cause of this distress; however, Colbert is “delighted at the gathering storm.” Fouquet asks his king what is wrong, and the king makes a “violent effort” to answer that nothing is the matter. The king abruptly leaves the festivities and walks toward the castle.

Fouquet assumes that the king has had a quarrel with his mistress and is angry at the world because his lover is sulking; this thought is enough to reassure Fouquet that he has done nothing to offend his king. Though his blood is seething, the king is able to disguise his hatred and jealousy with a royal smile as he tells his host that he will hear from the king soon; immediately after that the king sends for d’Artagnan.

When Fouquet kisses the king’s hand, the king shudders but allows the gesture. Five minutes later, d’Artagnan arrives in the king’s bedroom while Aramis and Philip watch and listen attentively from above. The king demands to know if d’Artagnan has enough men here to arrest Fouquet. The captain of the guard is horrified at the idea, but the king insists. As d’Artagnan prepares to leave the room, he asks the king for a written order to make the arrest. Of course the king demands to know why his word alone is not enough, and d’Artagnan calmly says that if a king speaks in anger, his word may change once the anger has dissipated. The king can see that there is more to this request and demands to know what the musketeer is thinking.

D’Artagnan says the written order will serve as evidence that, once the king regrets his rash decision, it is wrong for a king to lose his temper. The king’s father and grandfather both lost their tempers, it is true, but they only did so in the privacy of their home; anyone who tells the king that his home is everywhere is a sycophant (d’Artagnan suspects it was Colbert). It is not true, and a king must rise above his personal rages. Fouquet has nearly bankrupted himself to entertain and please the king, but if his arrest is truly what the king wants, d’Artagnan will do it. It is what the king wants.

D’Artagnan will not need an army to do the deed, and as he gets ready to leave again, the king stops him and says he does not want the arrest to be done in public. It will be much more difficult to separate the host from his guests than to take him captive in a crowd. The king finally asks d’Artagnan to guard Fouquet until tomorrow, when he will make his final decision. Now he wants to be left utterly alone.

Soon the king is raging at himself about the scoundrel Fouquet who not only stole his money but bought the loyalty of everyone who surrounds the king—including his mistress. Now the king understands why Valliere defended Fouquet so vehemently. Fouquet has tainted or ruined everything for the king and is now his mortal enemy. Tomorrow Fouquet will finally have to admit that the king is greater than he. Exhausted, the king falls into bed and sleeps. 

Chapter 17 Summary

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Lese-Majeste

The young king is asleep from the exhaustion of his anger within fifteen minutes. In his dreams, the king imagines he sees figures coming to life from the dome above him. One of the figures looks like him, only the eyes are saddened with pity. Soon the paintings and velvet curtains around him begin to fade, replaced with somber gray walls. His bed has been dragged into a place with icy, black air, like the bottom of a well, and the king struggles to wake himself out of this horrible dream.

Now the king realizes that he is already awake and this is not a dream. Armed men in masks flank his bed and there is a dim red light illuminating the bizarre scene. When he jumps out of bed and asks the lantern-holder what kind of a joke this is, the man shouts that this is no joke. When the king asks for whom the man is working, the man shouts that it does not matter and the king is now their prisoner.

More impatient than intimidated, the king tries to figure out where he is. He is in an underground passage and he is to follow his captors. He refuses. The king is “terrified of violence” so, when one of the gigantic guards reaches an enormous hand toward him, he acquiesces and begins walking. After a long, circuitous walk, they arrive at a door. He asks again what the men have planned for the king of France, but the lantern-holder tells him to try to forget that phrase.

One masked guard and the prisoner get into a waiting carriage and the door is locked behind them. The carriage drives through the night until it arrives at the warden’s courtyard of the Bastille. The driver shouts for the warden to be wakened, and ten minutes later Baisemeaux arrives. The prisoner and his guard alight from the carriage and another guard walks up the steps to greet the warden. It is Aramis, and he calmly explains that the release order from several evenings ago was, indeed, incorrect.

The warden is terrified, but Aramis assures him that the ministry caught the error and Aramis now has an order to free Seldon, instead. When Aramis shows the warden the order, Baisemeaux insists this is the exact order he received that night, marked with an identifying ink blot. Now he needs an order to reincarcerate the released prisoner, Marchiali. The bishop asks the warden to bring him the release order for Marchiali; when the warden produces it, Aramis rips it up and throws it into the fire. It is a simple fix, but the warden is in mortal terror until Aramis assures him that he has brought Marchiali back to the Bastille.

When the warden asks how he recaptured Marchiali, Aramis whispers that the man, who resembles the king, tried to pretend he was the king as soon as he was freed. It would be best if the warden tried to hide the poor man’s insanity by restricting his communication with others. The prisoner’s outrageous actions so enraged the king that he has ordered that the prisoner not be allowed to speak to anyone but Aramis, and anyone who allows such communication will be sentenced to death. The relieved warden understands perfectly.

The masked Porthos has been guarding the prisoner by keeping a musketoon at his throat, and the warden soon comes to take the king to the cell in which Philip had been imprisoned for the last six years. The former king is exhausted and does not say a word. After Baisemeaux locks the door, he tells Aramis that while the prisoner does look like the king, the resemblance is not as strong as Aramis claims.

Before the warden goes to retrieve the prisoner Seldon, Aramis reminds him that no one is to enter Marchiali’s cell without an order from the king. Back at the carriage, Aramis and Porthos agree they have served their king and saved their country. The carriage crosses the Bastille drawbridge which is then drawn up securely behind them.

Chapter 18 Summary

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A Night in the Bastille

Suffering is given by God according to a man’s strength, and the weak generally suffer more than the strong. The young king wonders if this is what death is: his bed being dropped through the floor of his bedroom and then true horrors such as the “dethronement, incarceration, and degradation of a once omnipotent monarch.” He wonders if this is hell and whether this torture will last for an eternity. So convinced is he that he is dead that the former king does not even look around, trying to avoid seeing something even worse.

The young prisoner comes to the conclusion that God cannot punish him because he has done nothing wrong. Suddenly he hears a rustling and discovers it is a “monstrous rat nibbling on a remnant of stale bread while fixing curious and intelligent eyes on the new lodger.” The prisoner is disgusted and looks around for a bell to summon someone and realizes that he is alive—and a prisoner in the Bastille.

He is convinced that Fouquet is behind his imprisonment, and the superintendent had undoubtedly not acted alone. Now he remembers the voice of one of his guards; it was Aramis. Colbert was right not to trust Aramis, but the former king wonders what Fouquet wants, since it is unlikely he will be able to assume the throne. The king thinks perhaps his young brother, the Duke of Orleans, has conspired against him and begins to worry about his mother and his mistress. He convinces himself that Valliere has been locked up just as he has and they will be separated forever.

At that thought, the young prisoner begins to yell for the warden but no one responds, not even when he bangs a chair against the massive wooden door of his cell. Twenty such attempts are no more successful than the first. This so angers him that he batters the door until he is sweating, but the only sounds he hears are the muffled cries from other inmates. These sounds cause the former king to stop and listen, reflecting that the voices he hears are those who were once his victims but are now his companions. After robbing them of their freedom, now he is robbing them of their sleep.

In his anger, the former king redoubles his efforts for the next hour until a fist pounds on the door and a voice tells him to stop the noise. When the guard does not answer his questions, the prisoner rages, and his furious fit lasts for an hour. When his strength is gone, he realizes the futility of such actions in a fortified prison such as the Bastille. He is disheveled and his clothes are ripped and torn; he has to allow his heart to calm down or it will explode.

For his entire life, he has lived only for himself, unthinking about the suffering of those who had been unjustly deprived of freedom. He wonders if this is God’s punishment for the tortures he had, as king, inflicted on so many. While others might use this opportunity to turn to God, the former king does not ask God for forgiveness because he knows this is a punishment he deserves.

When the turnkey brings him a basket of food, he notices the broken chair and says the prisoner used to be quite well behaved but his insanity might get him moved to a worse cell. The prisoner demands to see the warden, but the turnkey warns him that the warden is only likely to move him to the dungeon. Seeing the look in the prisoner’s eye, the turnkey removes the knife from the food basket before closing the heavy door behind him.

The prisoner is more miserable than ever, and two hours later he has become a raving lunatic, shrieking insanely and trying to tear up everything in his cell. Meanwhile the warden remains unmoved, knowing the Bastille will win any battle the prisoner wages with it. All he hopes is that Marchiali will go crazy enough to hang himself, and he suspects such a demise would be satisfying for Aramis as well. It might even be kinder to the prisoner, a good deed, in fact, to “very gently put him out of his misery.”

Chapter 19 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 784

Monsieur Fouquet’s Shadow

When d’Artagnan leaves the king’s chamber, he knows he will be delivering Fouquet to his death, since the king hates him; however, Fouquet has proved himself, by this celebration, to be a man of honor and this task plagues d’Artagnan’s conscience.

He considers telling Fouquet the king’s intentions, but that would make him a traitor and treason is a capital offense in military law. He considers three reasons why Fouquet may be out of favor with the king: Colbert does not like Fouquet, Fouquet once dared to love Valliere, and the king loves Colbert and Valliere. D’Artagnan will wait and conduct himself like a “man of breeding.”

Fouquet is exhausted by the party and the weight of his debt, and he is sleeping soundly when d’Artagnan appears at his room. D’Artagnan, though he is seen everywhere, is an imposing presence whenever he appears. He is like thunder and lightning: “everyone is familiar with them, yet their appearance is astonishing.” A sleepy Fouquet invites the musketeer in and wonders why he has come. After much questioning (and several hints that he would like to go back to bed), Fouquet asks if d’Artagnan is satisfied with his room.

The musketeer says he is not and would like to share Fouquet’s room. The superintendent knows d’Artagnan has been with the king and assumes this request comes from him. Fouquet asks d’Artagnan plainly if he is here to arrest him; d’Artagnan insists he is only here to keep watch. Fouquet demands to know what he has done to be arrested; d’Artagnan says he is not going to arrest Fouquet—tonight.

Fouquet wants to talk to Aramis, but d’Artagnan has orders not to let the man speak with anyone. Suddenly the superintendent of finances is ashamed because d’Artagnan has never asked anything of him and knows d’Artagnan is the proper person to arrest him. Touched by the man’s nobility, d’Artagnan asks Fouquet to swear on his honor that he will not leave his room so he can bring Aramis to him.

It will take d’Artagnan ten minutes to get to Aramis’s room and back, and another five minutes to wake his soundly sleeping friend. Fouquet gives his word that he will not leave and is thankful for the musketeer’s trust. As soon as d’Artagnan is gone, Fouquet burns all the documents he gathers from secret hiding places in his room before collapsing in exhaustion.

D’Artagnan expected that Fouquet would still be here, and he expected that the man would take advantage of the opportunity to burn any incriminating documents. The smell of smoke tells him that is what happened and the two men understand each other. Aramis hears exactly what he wants to hear, and he either chose not to answer when d’Artagnan called him or he was not in his room. Fouquet is dismayed, though he knows it is not likely Aramis can do anything to help him.

Fouquet wonders what can be done with all his magnificence if he himself is no longer magnificent. If he is ruined, Vaux will die. No one in the country could buy the castle for the forty million francs it is worth, so he now offers to give it to d’Artagnan if he wants it. When d’Artagnan suggests he give it to the king, Fouquet says the king will simply take it if he chooses and Fouquet would rather see it destroyed. Even now he would “reduce his castle to ashes.”

Then Fouquet remembers that Vaux belongs more to the artists and craftsmen who created it and bemoans the fact that he does not even own his own home. D’Artagnan commends Fouquet and tells him if he is ruined, he must “take it in stride.” Fouquet will be remembered more for how he ends his life than how he lived it.

Fouquet asks d’Artagnan to be his shadow rather than his guard and talk with him about his circumstances, but d’Artagnan knows nothing of his affairs and is not interested in knowing about them. If he were guarding anyone else, d’Artagnan would not have given the man any consideration or allowed him time to get his affairs in order. He begs Fouquet to sleep, or pretend to sleep; d’Artagnan will sleep soundly, though he has an uncanny ability to hear secret doors being opened or a door handle turning.

Fouquet commends the musketeer as the most honorable man he has ever known, and both men settle in to wait until dawn. Nothing disturbs their peace.

Chapter 20 Summary

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Morning

While the former king is despairing in his prison cell, Philip finds himself in front of the royal bed which had reappeared after delivering the prisoner to the underground tunnels. Now, for the first time, Philip allows his emotions to overtake him until he stares at the empty, rumpled bed where his brother had just been lying. Philip wonders if his “destiny will be more appalling than his captivity was sorrowful.”

He forces himself to adopt Aramis’s philosophy that action must always be one step higher than thought. If Louis XIV had not had him imprisoned, Philip would be entitled to all of these royal trappings, and he convinces himself to be ruthless with the usurper who cared nothing for Philip’s sufferings. Though he lies in bed and is troubled by every sound, he looks forward to his first test so he can judge his own resolution in the face of danger. Unfortunately for his resolve, nothing happens.

Toward morning, a shadow enters the room, and Philip has been expecting him. Aramis assures him everything went as planned: the exercise was a complete victory. Philip is worried that the prisoner will talk, but Aramis will ensure that he is exiled soon, so far away that “human strength and a human lifetime would not be enough to help him return.” The men’s eyes “lock in cold intelligence.”

Today Monsieur du Vallon will be presented to Philip and will confidentially congratulate him regarding the “danger the usurper inflicted” on Philip. Porthos should be rewarded with a dukedom, says the king, and Aramis laughs at the farsightedness of the new king. He knows Philip is probably worried that Porthos may be a “troublesome witness” and therefore intends to kill him with joy by making him a duke, ensuring that the secret dies with him.

Aramis reminds the king that it is now daylight and he (or rather his brother) told d’Artagnan that he would decide Fouquet’s fate at daylight. They hear footsteps in the vestibule and the young king is ready to attack his first obstacle. Aramis, however, says d’Artagnan knows nothing and has seen nothing. If, however, d’Artagnan is the first to visit the king this morning he is likely to sense that something has happened and feel the need to do something about it.

Though d’Artagnan is exhausted from a sleepless night, at the first light of dawn, he smooths his uniform as if preparing for inspection. He is going to leave Fouquet, who gave his word that he would stay, and visit the king to discover his wishes regarding Fouquet. D’Artagnan is superstitious and explains that every time he finds his sword in a certain position, certain things happen. Sometimes they are auspicious events, but sometimes they are events that bode ill for someone close to him. With some trepidation, Fouquet asks about his sword’s position this morning; d’Artagnan says that his sword tells him that there will be an arrest today—but it will not be Fouquet who is arrested. As d’Artagnan leaves his room, Fouquet asks for one last favor; he would like to talk to Aramis, and the musketeer promises to deliver him.

Now d’Artagnan knocks on the king’s door and is shocked when Aramis appears. He is surprised because just the night before, the king was incensed with Aramis almost as much as with Fouquet. Aramis says the king wishes d’Artagnan to announce that the king is fatigued and is resting after an exhausting night. It is a powerful thing to be the spokesman of the king from the king’s own bedroom, and d’Artagnan’s amazement is written on his face.

The bishop says the king also wishes to restrict admittance to his chamber this morning to only those who have special permission, as the king wishes to rest. Now d’Artagnan is suspicious and says the king asked him to come here this morning. From behind Aramis, the king says, “Later; later.” His voice shocks d’Artagnan and he is stupefied. The bishop then hands his friend an order which releases Fouquet. Now d’Artagnan knows that Aramis is in a most powerful, favored position with the king and why he sounds so confident when issuing orders on the king’s behalf.

It is just enough information to confound d’Artagnan. As he is leaving, Aramis says he will accompany him to see Fouquet, and Aramis asks if d’Artagnan understands now. Though he says he does, d’Artagnan does not understand at all. He has his orders, however, and he leads the way to Fouquet. 

Chapter 21 Summary

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The King’s Friend

Fouquet waits fearfully, dismissing servants and friends who come to his door and masking his concern for his impending doom. When he sees d’Artagnan with Aramis, he is overjoyed. The bishop is silent and d’Artagnan is overwhelmed by this morning’s turn of events.

D’Artagnan says he has brought Fouquet’s release, something for which he can thank the bishop, as he is the one who changed the king’s mind. Fouquet is more humiliated by this exceptional act of service than he is grateful for the pardon. Now d’Artagnan asks Aramis a favor, and the bishop calmly says he will do anything his friend wishes. D’Artagnan wants to know how, when Aramis and the king have not ever exchanged more than a few words, he has now become the royal favorite.

Aramis says he has seen the king more than a hundred times, but it was always in secret. D’Artagnan reddens at this revelation but Aramis turns calmly to an equally surprised Fouquet and says the king wants the superintendent to know that he is Fouquet’s friend now more than ever and is deeply moved by the amazing celebration in his honor. When Aramis then bows reverentially, Fouquet is speechless. D’Artagnan can see the two men need some privacy to speak and knows he should leave, but his curiosity keeps him there until Aramis gently reminds him of another duty he should be performing.

Once they are alone, Fouquet asks his friend for an explanation. Aramis explains what Fouquet does not know: the king had him arrested for stealing thirteen million dollars (which Mazarin stole from Fouquet) and for writing a love letter to Valliere. Clearly Fouquet is an eternal enemy to the king. Fouquet, of course, asks why the king pardoned him; the enigmatic Aramis says the king gave no such order and Fouquet can remain superintendent of finances as long as he wants.

Finally Aramis reveals the secret of the king’s twin to the confused Fouquet. One prince became king and the other was raised in darkness and isolation, first in the country and then in a prison cell at the Bastille. Both sons were legitimate heirs to the throne when they were born, and one brother usurped the rights of the other by taking a full heritage when he was only entitled to half. Fouquet assumes Aramis blackmailed the king into pardoning him, but the agitated Aramis continues his story.

The brother in prison is “incontestably superior to his brother,” and if France had him for a leader it would be blessed. Fouquet thinks Aramis is asking him to be part of the plot to exchange the brothers, and Aramis does not correct him. Fouquet thinks aloud until Aramis finally tells him the man in the royal chamber is the prisoner and dares him to see if he can distinguish the difference.

Fouquet is incredulous and distraught that such an execrable crime has been committed in his home, claiming that Aramis has dishonored him by this act. Fouquet claims he would rather die than allow Aramis to perpetrate this dishonorable fraud. Aramis thinks the man has gone crazy, especially when Fouquet grabs a sword. When Aramis reaches inside his clothing for a weapon, Fouquet throws down the sword and begs Aramis to kill him in the name of their friendship. The musketeer remains motionless and silent.

He has a moment of hope until Fouquet shatters his heart by telling him he has four hours to leave Vaux and get out of France. Aramis can go to Belle-Ile, one of his estates; Fouquet will grant him asylum there and, as long as the superintendent lives, Aramis will be safe. Fouquet says this is the only thing that will save his honor and Aramis’s life. Aramis withdraws his hand from his shirt and it is bloody from his nails scourging his chest, “as if to punish his flesh for giving birth to so many plans that are vainer, crazier, more ephemeral than a human life.”

Fouquet feels horror and pity yet opens his arms to his friend, but Aramis rejects him. Fouquet leaves immediately in his carriage. Aramis wonders if he should take Porthos or the king with him; he decides to leave Philip’s future to fate and take Porthos with him to keep him from suffering when the truth is known. As they hurriedly prepare to leave, d’Artagnan sees them and is surprised. Aramis says they are being sent on a mission, but to Aramis it looks like an escape.

Chapter 22 Summary

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How Orders Were Respected in the Bastille

Fouquet’s carriage is racing to Paris and Fouquet himself is horrified at what Aramis has just confided in him; in fact, he wonders whether it had all been a dream. When the carriage stops for fresh horses, Fouquet issues several sealed orders addressed to d’Artagnan and the other loyal corps leaders. If he is taken prisoner, he at least will have done the honorable thing. The orders will not be opened until he returns a free man and they will therefore never be unsealed; if, however, he is delayed, he will have helped himself and the king by the orders.

Finally he reaches the Bastille, but nothing he says gains him admission and no one will disturb the warden for such a trifling matter. Even worse, no one believes Fouquet is who he says he is: the superintendent is still at Faux for the king’s celebration and, even if he were in Paris, he would not be awake so early. The desperate Fouquet jumps out of the carriage and rushes through the gate.

A scuffle ensues until finally someone recognizes Fouquet and orders the guards to let him go. Finally someone gets the warden who also recognizes the superintendent and believes the Bastille must be under attack. Baisemeaux drops his sword and apologizes to Fouquet, but the superintendent apologizes to the guards, giving them some money and promising to commend them to the king. Now he wants a private word with the warden.

Fouquet assumes Baisemeaux was an accomplice in Aramis’s crime; however, the only crime the warden can think of is the mix-up with Marchiali and Seldon and he trembles at the prospect of being caught. He offers to take Fouquet to Marchiali, and Fouquet discerns that the warden is unaware of the great fraud which has been perpetrated on France. A few pointed questions later and Fouquet has grasped the intricacies of Aramis’s plan.

Baisemeaux offers to let the superintendent take the prisoner named Marchiali because he has been raging all morning; in fact, the warden was just going to write the bishop about him.  Fouquet readily agrees to take the prisoner and asks to go see him. All the warden needs is a warrant signed by the king, something Fouquet does not have. The irritated superintendent demands to see the warrant which imprisoned Marchiali, and Baisemeaux shows him the orders to imprison Seldon.

Now the warden denies that anyone took Marchiali out of the prison and returned him, despite Fouquet’s intense scrutiny. He also denies that Aramis was allowed into a cell without an order from the king and says Fouquet will have to prove any such charges. Finally Fouquet tells the warden that Aramis has been ousted; though Baisemeaux is surprised, he maintains his position:  if Fouquet wants to visit a prisoner, he must have an order from the king.

Now Fouquet is outraged and threatens to bring ten thousand men and thirty cannon , batter down the gates of the Bastille, and hang the warden. He gives Baisemeaux ten minutes to ponder, but the warden remains silent. Fouquet furiously writes an order to summon troops to march against the Bastille in the service of the king; when this does not move the warden, he continues writing. Baisemeaux finally reacts when Fouquet writes that the warden is an accomplice in a crime against the king, and he takes the superintendent to the prisoner.

As the men make their way to the cell, they hear Marchiali’s horrible cries and curses. Fouquet recognizes the desperate cries of the king and grabs the keys, dismissing the warden as he unlocks the cell.

Once he is certain the warden has actually left, Fouquet puts the first key in the first lock. Inside, the lunatic cries of the king grow louder as he screams that he is the king and Fouquet is the one who brought him here. He screams for help to fight the villain Fouquet, and the words break the superintendent’s heart. The horrendous banging begins again as Fouquet finds the right key and enters the room as the desperate king bellows “Kill Fouquet!”

Chapter 23 Summary

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The King’s Gratitude

Fouquet and the imprisoned king suddenly come face-to-face, both men halting when they recognize the other and emitting cries of dismay. The king asks if Fouquet has come to “finish him off,” and the superintendent mutters to himself that the king is in “such a state.”

The king is a mess. His garments are tattered and soaked in sweat and blood seeps from his chest and arms. He is haggard and foaming at the mouth, and his hair is bristling. “Louis XIV is the epitome of despair, hunger, and terror in a single figure.” Fouquet is so moved that he opens his arms and moves toward the king, his eyes filled with tears at what he sees. The king raises the leg of a chair with which he had been pounding and threatens Fouquet not to come any closer.

Fouquet drops to his knees as a respectful servant; this action causes the king to drop his weapon and Fouquet is allowed to embrace the prisoner’s knees. Now the king is ashamed: of his physical condition, of his lunacy, of the protection Fouquet so freely offers. The superintendent does not sense the truth that the king will never forgive him for seeing him in this awful, weak condition.

When it becomes clear that the king still believes his superintendent of finances is the one who had him imprisoned, Fouquet outlines the details of Aramis’s plot. The king is struck more by the danger he is in than by the secret of his twin brother. Now, though, the king is adamant that the story about a twin is a lie; the only brother he has is younger, and this lie is part of a conspiracy to keep the king locked in the Bastille.  Fouquet is able to reason with him, noting that those who completed this act must have been certain no one would be able to tell there was a new king.

Now the king orders all the troops in Paris to be assembled, something Fouquet has already ordered on the king’s behalf. The king intends to storm Vaux, but Fouquet tells him he is reasonably sure the leaders of the plan, the head of which is Aramis, the Bishop of Vannes, have left Vaux. The king is immediately suspicious of everyone connected to Aramis and the giant Porthos, but Fouquet encourages him not to go too far.

When the king growls that he will kill every one of the conspirators, Fouquet is distraught and reminds the king that this action would bring scandal to the throne and justice can be had by other means. Finally Fouquet tells the king he is free to kill his own brother, as that is a matter between him and his mother; however, Fouquet asks one favor of the king in exchange for liberating him and saving his life. He asks that the king spare the lives of Aramis and Porthos. These men are not assassins; if they were, they could have killed the king and ensured that his face would be unrecognizable and would therefore be absolved of any guilt.

Instead of feeling grateful, the king feels “cruelly humiliated.” His heart is filled with venom and nothing can sway him. He even suggests that Fouquet can just leave him here to rot or go insane in prison. This is too much for Fouquet to bear, and he reminds the king that if he had wanted a new king he would not be here now.

The king is not willing to pardon or forgive Aramis and Porthos, knowing Fouquet might just walk away and leave him here in this cell. Fouquet apologizes for asking the favor and the king forgives him, but the superintendent does not capitulate and asks again for his friends’ pardon. The king says they will not be forgiven as long as he lives and they are never to be mentioned again.

Fouquet explains that since Aramis gave him the opportunity to do a great service for his king by revealing the truth, Fouquet gave him fast horses, a four-hour lead, and asylum at his own estate, Belle-Ile. The king says he will send his musketeers to reclaim the estate which Fouquet once gave the king, but Fouquet is resolved that no one will touch his castle. Livid, the king lets the matter rest.

As the two men leave the cell, Baisemeaux is agape at watching Marchiali leave the prison once again and tears out what little hair he has left. Fouquet hands him a release document which says, “Seen and approved, Louis.” 

Chapter 24 Summary

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The False King

The usurper king is playing his role perfectly. Aramis has not returned, but Philip assumes he will not be gone for long and proceeds, anxious to test his “bravery and good fortune” without help. He knows Anne of Austria will appear. If this will be a weakness for him, Philip does not want Aramis to see it.

He receives visitors, relying on his memory and Aramis’s notes to recognize them. First to arrive is Anne of Austria who is led in by her younger son; Philip smiles but shivers when he sees his mother. She is a beautiful woman whom Louis XIV loves, so Philip vows to do the same rather than resent or punish her.

Philip looks at his younger brother with nothing but affection, as he is an innocent, and is determined to be a good brother to the young man who wants nothing from him but money to pursue his pleasures. His sister-in-law, Henriette, is beautiful, but Philip sees a certain coldness in her eyes which will help him keep a distance from her. The only visitor Philip fears is Louis XIV’s wife, but she does not appear. When Philip speaks for the first time, the queen immediately notices the slight difference between Philip’s voice and that of Louis XIV and stares hard at her son as he says he does not wish to hear negative comments about Fouquet. When his mother continues to provoke him, Philip says any “purveyors of secrets and mysteries” will be expelled from the kingdom.

It is a dramatic statement and has dramatic effects. Anne of Austria nearly faints and is supported by her younger son who suggests the king is treating his mother cruelly. Philip explains that someone attempted to blackmail Fouquet; when that failed, Colbert bought the secret for a mere hundred thousand crowns. Philip refuses to allow such people to “counteract the Lord’s designs,” and this disturbs his mother profoundly. Seeing her distress, Philip tenderly takes her hand and kisses it; though it rankles his heart, it is an act of forgiveness for the eight years of suffering she caused him.

Philip is nervous because Aramis still has not come, and d’Artagnan is shocked when the king asks him to find Aramis. When he remembers Aramis and Porthos said their mission was secret, d’Artagnan assumes the king is using him to help guard the secret.

While everything seems to be going well, Philip is concerned that Aramis has not appeared. Then something happens which changes everything. Like an apparition, Louis XIV walks through the door.

The queen mother wails, the younger brother is confused, and the twin brothers face one another with clenched fists, each ready to do battle with the other. Even their clothes are coincidentally matching, but still Anne of Austria does not recognize the truth of the situation. Louis XIV had not expected his presence to be doubted; “as the living sun,” he had assumed everyone would immediately recognize his superiority to the impostor.

Fouquet, amazed at the spectacle, now sees that Philip is as royal as the king and knows he has made a mistake. D’Artagnan is stunned at the sight and is sure this is the center of all his suspicions.

Suddenly Louis opens a curtain, flooding the room with light and dispelling the aura of unreality. Louis asks his mother to recognize him and Philip does the same. Struck by remorse, the queen collapses. The king cannot bear the affront and demands that d’Artagnan recognize him as Louis XIV. His shout revives the musketeer who immediately takes Philip prisoner. Philip never takes his eyes from his brother’s, his silence reproaching Louis for all the torments of Philip’s past.  The king is “powerless against this language of the soul” and he leaves the room.

Philip’s mother could save him now, but she lets him “be condemned to death a second time.” Philip speaks a quiet word to his mother: if he were not her son, he would curse her for making him so unhappy. This moves d’Artagnan and he asks Philip’s forgiveness for carrying out his sworn duty. Philip thanks him and asks again for Aramis. Fouquet says Aramis is safe and will remain so as long as Fouquet is alive.

Both d’Artagnan and Fouquet recognize that Philip is a true noble. As the musketeer is about to leave with the prisoner, Colbert enters with an order from the king; Philip is to be taken to the Iles Sainte-Margeurite and his face will be covered with an iron visor which he cannot remove under pain of death. D’Artagnan is outraged but Philip sighs and says it is just.

Fouquet and d’Artagnan know that Philip is more of a king than Louis. 

Chapter 25 Summary

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Porthos Believes He Is Pursuing a Dukedom

Porthos and Aramis are racing away from Vaux, taking advantage of the four-hour start Fouquet gave them. Though Porthos does not understand the mission they are on, he keeps pace with Aramis. Eventually they have to stop to change horses. When Porthos discreetly questions Aramis, all the bishop says is that their fates depend on how fast they ride. As if he were still the penniless musketeer of 1626, Porthos charges ahead, assuming good things are to come. In fact, he anticipates being made a duke and spurs his horse to ride even faster.

Mentally, Aramis is suffering from the brutal mental combat he has fought, and this physical ride is difficult for him. Nevertheless, the pair arrives in Orleans in eight hours, and Aramis can think of no way anyone could possibly reach them now. Though they might actually have time to rest, he decides they should keep going. An unhappy Porthos follows him, and they make good time until they reach their final relay post at Blois; however, the post has no horses and Aramis assumes the king has ordered it.

Suddenly Aramis remembers that an old friend and former musketeer, the Count de la Fere, lives nearby and asks for horses to take them to the count. All the postmaster has is a small carriage hitched to an old, blind horse, and Aramis is delighted. Porthos is overjoyed both at the prospect of a dukedom and a visit to Athos and, equally important, a good meal and a good bed.

As they ride to see the count, Porthos whispers that he knows the secret: the king has sent them to Athos to offer their friend an important project. Aramis dismisses the idea, but Porthos is certain he is right. They arrive at the count’s chateau by moonlight and they expect to see Athos and his son Raoul de Bragelonne, both of whom disappeared from court after Mademoiselle de la Valliere became the king’s mistress and broke Raoul’s heart.

The only positive thing to result from this heartbreak was that it drew father and son closer together. The kind-hearted Athos tried to help his son see that experiencing grief and infidelity is a necessary part of human existence, that loving often comes with adversity. It was Raoul’s first such experience, though, and he claimed the right to drown in his sorrow. He refused to believe that the kind-hearted Valliere could give herself to the lascivious Louis XIV, so Athos was forced to defend the girl, assuring his son that she must love the king or she would not yield to him. Clearly they love one another, and “love absolves everything.” This was a heavy blow for Raoul, but he eventually subdued his emotions and thanked his father.

This is how Athos spent his first days after he violently agitated the king’s unyielding pride, though Athos never referred to the incident when he spoke with his son. He did not want Raoul to forget his respect for the king. Meanwhile, Raoul continually denigrated royal statements and deprecated others’ faith in the throne, even predicted there would be a time when kings would “seem less than other men.” Athos calmly agrees but says that time will be long after they are both gone; so they must learn, like all men, to live in the present.

This is the subject Athos and Raoul are discussing as they walk near their house. When they hear the bell which usually announces a meal or a visitor, they turn and head back to the house, mostly out of habit. They find Aramis and Porthos waiting for them.

Chapter 26 Summary

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The Final Farewells

Raoul embraces Porthos with great joy as Aramis and Athos embrace more tentatively. Aramis says they will not be staying for long; Porthos says they will stay just long enough for him to tell them about his good news. He whispers to Raoul that the king is making him a duke, but Porthos has always had a loud voice and Athos also hears the news. The entire episode makes Aramis wince, for he knows the truth of this journey.

He takes Athos aside and tells his friend he is “prostrate with grief.” In a few words, he tells Athos that he has conspired against the king, his plot failed, and now the king is probably hunting for him. Athos is stunned and asks about Porthos and his dukedom. The thing Aramis most regrets is dragging Porthos into his scheme. Porthos committed to Aramis wholeheartedly without knowing anything about the scheme, and now he is as compromised and doomed as Aramis.

After Aramis tells Athos the entire story, the count agrees that it was both a grand idea and a grand mistake. What Aramis and Porthos did was a crime and Fouquet is an honest man, so Aramis ought to have expected this outcome. Aramis knows he has been a fool, but now he must take Porthos with him because he is certain the king would never believe Porthos is innocent. He would lose his life because of Aramis’s mistake, so he will take Porthos with him into exile in England or Spain. If Porthos goes into exile, the king will take everything the baron owns, says Athos. Aramis is confident he has enough influence to get Porthos back into the king’s good graces in a short time.

Noting that Athos and Raoul are both discontent and have grievances with the king, Aramis invites the two men to join them. He assures Athos that within a month there will be a war between Spain and France because of Philip, and Louis XIV will not want to fight for that cause. The result will be that Aramis and Porthos will be made Spanish grandees and Athos will be granted a duchy in France (Athos is already a Spanish grandee). Athos is not interested. He would much rather have a reason to resent the king, and with this plan he would be indebted to the king. Though he would gain material possessions, Athos would lose part of his soul with this plan.

Aramis asks Athos for absolution for the crime he has committed (which Athos readily gives, assuming his friend’s motives were pure) and for his two best horses so they can get quickly to their next relay post. Athos grants him the horses and agrees that, given the circumstances, this is the best plan for Porthos. Fouquet, too, may prove to be a loyal ally, for he is nearly as compromised as Aramis.

Aramis is confident that they will be safe at Belle-Ile. No one will attack if he is defending it, and no one will attack without Fouquet’s order. The king is powerful and cunning, though, and Aramis must be wary. As the two visitors turn to leave, Athos has the strange urge to hug Porthos again; at that moment, Porthos turns around and walks toward Athos with his arms outstretched. It is an embrace reminiscent of their more youthful days together. Aramis also turns around and embraces Athos; the count watches as his fellow musketeers ride off like two phantoms hovering over the ground and then vanish.

Walking back to the house, Athos tells Raoul he has a heavy heart, fearing he will not see those two men again. His son feels the same thing. Neither man speaks, their hearts heavy, until they hear the sound of horses and men outside. It is the Duke of Beaufort who has come, with his men, for a friendly visit. 

Chapter 27 Summary

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The Duke de Beaufort

Raoul prepares to leave the room so his father and the duke can speak, but the duke asks him to stay. The prince has said many kind things about Raoul, and now Beaufort asks Athos if he will give permission for Raoul to serve with him.

The duke explains that he has come to say his farewell because the king is sending him to Africa to conquer the Arabs. It is an odd thing (and the duke knows it) to think about such a Parisian man moving to such a foreign place. Athos scarcely believes it, but it is true. The duke has been restored to the king’s favor, and he has accepted this honor not for glory but because he is going to die sometime and this will ensure that people talk about him.

The duke asks Raoul to bring him wine; when the boy leaves the room, the duke asks what plans Athos has for his son. Athos explains that Raoul is still heartbroken over Valliere and holds a great bitterness against the king. The young man is exceptional and would make a good soldier, but Athos wants to keep Raoul here with him as long as he wants to stay. Raoul is all Athos has. The king appoints all Marshals of France, and he is certain Raoul would never accept anything from the king.

The men cease their conversation when Raoul and Grimaud enter with the wine. After the duke greets Grimaud, he notices there is only one glass. Athos says he will only drink if he is invited to do so, as a good host should do with all superiors. The duke suggests they should both drink from the same goblet, as brothers. After they drink, the duke offers the goblet to Raoul and says when the young man drinks from the duke’s goblet he is to wish for anything and the duke will make sure it comes true.

Raoul drinks quickly and, eyes “blazing with somber fire,” he smiles at the duke—a smile that frightens Athos. The duke casually asks Raoul what he wished for, but Raoul is serious and asks if the duke promises to make his wish come true. He does, and Raoul tells him he wants to accompany the duke to Africa. Athos is unable to hide his agitation and tells Raoul that it seems like a wish to leave him, an accusation Raoul vehemently denies.

The “hotheaded duke” says Raoul will only “rot with grief” if he stays here. War is destruction, and those who fight lose one thing—their lives—but gain everything. It is clear that Raoul is most interested in losing his memories, and Athos struggles with some deep emotions before he swallows his anguish and appears serene and impassive once again.  He says Raoul may do as he wishes, and it is decided: Raoul will join the duke.

Raoul says he will not be serving the king, but the duke insists that though he will serve on the duke’s ships, Raoul will be serving the king. Athos hopes this obstacle will keep his son from leaving, but Raoul says he has decided. He will be honored to serve on the duke’s vessels, but it is God he will ultimately be serving, not the king. He plans to take the vows to become a Knight of Malta.

Everyone in the room is shocked and dismayed, but they see the resolution on Raoul’s face and know there will be no dissuading him from this “fateful path.” The duke is leaving in two days and asks Raoul to come to Paris to give him his final answer.

Once Athos and his son are alone, the silence between them is full of awful emotion, though they are men who keep their feelings locked tightly in their hearts. Athos finally rises and Raoul hugs him and explains he was prepared to kill himself but knew Athos would see that as cowardly. Raoul knows that if he does not go away he will soon die of pain and love. If Athos cannot send him away quickly, he will die here like a coward because he does not have the strength to resist.

Athos asks his son directly if he is planning to get himself killed in Africa. Raoul says nothing for several seconds then exclaims that he is dedicating his life to God’s service and only asks one thing in return—to preserve his life for the sake of his father, the only tie Raoul has to this world. God will give him the strength to remember that nothing must come before that. Athos hugs his son tenderly and tells Raoul he is a man of honor and he is now free to go.

Chapter 28 Summary

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Preparations for Departure

During the next two days, Athos sets his grief aside and focuses his energy on equipping Raoul for his new venture. Grimaud gathers the equipment while Athos and Raoul leave for Paris the day after the duke’s visit. Everything and everyone in Paris are an excruciating reminder to Raoul of the pain he suffered here, and as they near the city Raoul feels as if he is about to die.

When he asks for Monsieur de Guiche, he is told to look for him at the Luxembourg Palace. When he arrives, people are enjoying all manner of fun, and the joyful spirit of the place only serves to depress Raoul even further. While he waits to be announced to de Guiche, he unavoidably meets one of Valliere’s friends and does his best to avoid talking to her, having vowed never to associate anything connected to the woman he still so desperately loves.

Suddenly that resolve vanishes and he sits with the young lady, Mademoiselle de Montalais, in her private room to talk. She thinks Raoul resents her for being part of the plot which caused Valliere to break off her relationship with him, but he says there was no break because Valliere never loved him. Montalais protests, saying Valliere did love him, though “not madly,” and he should have awakened her to even more love if he wanted to keep her. She sees that the bitterness he feels is now etched on his face, and she notes that Raoul has obviously become one more enemy for Valliere. Everyone at court hates the king’s mistress, but Raoul says she has chosen the lover against whom no one can prevail.

Suddenly the king’s sister-in-law appears through a secret door and everyone is embarrassed. Montalais introduces Raoul and tries to invent an excuse why the princess is here, but everyone is a bit bewildered. Raoul senses he is intruding and goes to leave when another secret door opens and de Guiche emerges with a look of great joy on his face. No one speaks for a time; then Raoul greets his friend and promises to keep this secret. He tells the illicit couple to love each other and be happy.

The princess is still nervous, but Raoul quietly reassures her that he is leaving and will soon be a continent away from here. This brings her great joy, but de Guiche is worried for his friend’s safety and hugs him. The ladies slip away and the men are able to talk candidly.

Raoul tells his friend that he is going to die in Africa within the year, and when he is dead he will experience a better life than he has lived on earth for the past year. When de Guiche tries to object, Raoul interrupts to give him some advice. It is a wonderful thing to be loved, he says, and because of that de Guiche can sleep peacefully and thank God for every minute he lives. He will not have to spend torturous nights or have a tormented heart. It is a gift to be loved, and Raoul tells his friend how he can be loved forever.

People are plotting against the king’s mistress (it is still too painful for Raoul to speak Valliere’s name) and Raoul asks de Guiche to defend her wherever and whenever it is possible, just as Raoul would have done. One day, when he has rendered the girl some great service and she thanks him, de Guiche is to tell her that he did it at the request of Monsieur de Bragelonne, the man she wounded so terribly.

De Guiche swears to do what Raoul asks and the two men plan to spend a few hours together before Raoul leaves. Now Raoul is going to meet his father at Planchet’s where they hope to find d’Artagnan. Raoul wants to embrace the musketeer before he leaves, as he is a fine man who has cared for Raoul. As the two men embrace, Raoul is the one who looks most happy.

Chapter 29 Summary

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Planchet’s Inventory

While Raoul visits his friend de Guiche, Athos goes to Planchet, d’Artagnan’s former servant, to see if he can locate his fellow musketeer. The grocer’s store is in the midst of an inventory, and busy people fill the place. When he sees customers being impatiently shown the door, Athos knows he is likely to be in the way, as well, and asks to see Monsieur Planchet. The boy he asks carelessly says Planchet is packing his trunks because he is going on a trip.

When Athos asks someone to announce that the Count de La Fere would like to speak with Planchet, a boy quickly obeys. Just then Raoul arrives and Planchet hurries over to join them. Noticing his son’s sad mood, Athos grabs Raoul’s hands and notices they have caught the grocer at a bad time, as his arms are covered in white powder. He warns his guests not to touch him, since he has been making supplies for the rats and is covered with arsenic.

Planchet says he is taking inventory so he can sell his business to one of his sons; he is tired of the city and wants to be a farmer, as he once was. He has already bought a small cottage and some acreage. Athos suggests they go somewhere more private to talk and suggests perhaps they should go upstairs to the grocer’s apartments. When Planchet hesitates, Athos assumes it is because he is embarrassed of the “mediocre hospitality” the grocer has to offer. The count leads the way up the stairs to show that he does not mind the accommodations, but Raoul steps nimbly ahead of his father and is the first to enter the upstairs room.

As soon as the door opens, three loud sounds reverberate. The first is a woman’s scream, the second is an exclamation of surprise from Raoul before he shuts the door, and the third is a cry of fear from Planchet.  The grocer tries to explain that the woman is his wife who was getting dressed; her name is Truchen and she is undoubtedly dressed by now. The men all understand that Truchen is not his wife. When the men prepare to leave, Planchet insists they must at least sit down in his home.

After Truchen curtsies and leaves them, Planchet rhapsodizes about Truchen and how she has brought luck to his business. All he needs are heirs, Athos tells him, and he knows Planchet will have them, especially since the boy buying his business is actually Truchen’s cousin and no relation to him at all. Athos can already see that there will be children and that the woman will be bored in the country, so he changes the subject and asks where he can find d’Artagnan.

Planchet says the musketeer has disappeared and Athos is dumbstruck, for he knows what that means: d’Artagnan is either on a mission or “embroiled in some affair or another.” Athos asks if Planchet knew d’Artagnan has sailed to England, and the shopkeeper speaks without thinking and says he speculated as much. Planchet says nothing more until Athos strikes a blow at the man’s pride and the grocer shows them the map. As they leave, Planchet and his “wife” drive away in their carriage.

Chapter 30 Summary

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The Duke de Beaufort’s Inventory

After discussing d’Artagnan with Planchet the grocer and knowing Planchet is leaving Paris to retire, Athos and Raoul realize this is their last goodbye to Paris and the life they once had here. “The father had exhausted the entire past century with glory, and the son had exhausted the entire new age with misery.” Clearly neither man has anything to ask or tell his contemporaries, so all that remains is to visit the Duke de Beaufort and arrange the conditions for Raoul’s departure and service.

The duke has magnificent lodgings in Paris and lives an extravagant lifestyle; however, no one (including the duke himself) knows how he pays for such opulence. No one denies such nobility credit out of respect and devotion, but mostly they give him credit because they are convinced they will one day be repaid.

When they arrive, the mansion is as bustling as Planchet’s store was; the duke is distributing his valuable possessions to his friends and creditors. He owes two million pounds and is repaying his debts with jewelry, silverware, weapons, and furniture. His creditors all take less than they are owed because these items belonged to a descendant of Henry IV, and all of them feel obligated to turn around and lend the duke even more money. The joyful duke has always charmed his way out of his debts while at the same time renewing them.  He knows he will need money, and this is the only way he knows to get it.

Now he is giving away everything, and his creditors swarm his palace like pillagers, all telling themselves that the king is sending the duke to Africa simply to restore the royal coffers. Mines, precious stones, and everything the rich pirates have stolen from Christendom—these things will amount to uncounted millions for both the duke and the king. The duke’s carelessness about his precious belongings is reflected in the ravagers.

The men find the duke rather drunk and satiated from a huge feast, and when he sees Athos and Raoul he immediately calls them over to him. They pick their way through the chaos and the duke offers them wine before handing Raoul his orders, confident that he would accept the offer. Raoul will leave two weeks ahead of the duke. The orders give Raoul the right to visit and explore the coastal island, making as many raids in the duke’s name as the young man wishes. The duke assumes Raoul will need to spend a lot of money and offers him a large sum in vouchers, but Athos tells the duke he should keep the money because waging war takes both money and weapons.

The duke dismisses the point, reminding Athos that he intends to make a lot of noise and create a lot of fire, and then he will vanish. While it is a pleasant, even humorous idea to the duke, neither Athos nor Raoul is amused. Athos predicts that the duke will soon be broke and the sober Raoul is the one who will have new cash to offer him.

Athos reminds the duke that he must not be disappointed if Raoul is unable to accomplish everything the duke has asked him to do. Under the best circumstances, an experienced admiral would need a year to provision a fleet, rally a flotilla, and enlist military manpower; however, the duke has given the inexperienced Raoul only two weeks to complete those tasks. If the young man fails, the duke must not be surprised. Beaumont is confident Raoul will succeed because Athos will be helping him for most of those two weeks, perhaps even after Toulon.

After they leave the duke, Athos has to scold Raoul for being so unmindful of his own welfare and says they are wasting their time if Raoul is going off to war with the intention of dying. Now that he has accepted this position, Raoul has the responsibility for more than just himself. He must see not only to his men’s physical needs but their spiritual needs. If he goes to die, he must do so with honor and with a benefit for France.

Raoul is comforted by his father’s rebuke, as it reminds him that someone loves him. The two men discuss the duke’s outrageous behavior and summarize the man with one word: vanity. They leave on their journey less obedient to their destiny than their will.

Chapter 31 Summary

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The Silver Plate

The journey across France goes smoothly for Athos and his son. It takes them two weeks to reach Toulon and they have not found d’Artagnan; though people have seen a man of his description, it is clear that d’Artagnan does not want to be known. Raoul is in despair, for he yearns to tell his steadfast friend farewell. From experience, Athos knows this is exactly the way d’Artagnan behaves when he is on a serious mission for himself or for the king.

Raoul begins his job of gathering ships for a flotilla. One fisherman explains that he has just put his boat in dry dock for repairs after ferrying an aristocrat who was in a dreadful hurry. Athos asks for details, assuming the man is lying to avoid having his vessel commandeered. Six nights ago, a man rented the fisherman’s boat for a visit to the island of Saint-Honorat. After agreeing on the price, the man insisted on bringing with him a large coach which was going to cause many difficulties. When the fisherman tried to back out of the agreement, the passenger gave the man a “long, harsh, nasty caning.” The owner of the boat made an appeal to the local boat guild, but the gentleman produced a document which caused the guild to scold the boat owner and force him to fulfill the contract.

On the journey, the passenger insisted on changing his destination to Sainte-Margeurite. When the fisherman resisted, the man grabbed the captain by the collar; just as a battle was about to begin, the door to the carriage opened and a phantom figure, wearing a black cap and a black mask, emerged and threatened the men with his fist. The fisherman thinks it must have been a devil, for the passenger joyfully thanked the man for intervening. Out of fear, the captain and his mate jumped into the sea and swam the last seven or eight hundred feet from shore.

That is when the ship drifted into the sands of Sainte-Margeurite. When they swam back to the boat, the coach and both men were gone, proof to the fisherman that the man in black was, indeed, the devil. Raoul exempts the boatman from service.

Athos suggests they should go to Sainte-Margeurite and Raoul agrees; something about the man’s story does not seem truthful. Athos says the nobleman could have been d’Artagnan, and the men sail for the island that day. The island is lush and beautiful—and uninhabited. It has a small cove for arriving vessels  and is under the governor’s protection. Because he gets a share of the smugglers’ booty, the governor is content with just an eight-man garrison to defend the turreted fortress; the dozen cannons are moldy with disuse, but the garden produces an abundance.

Athos and Raoul walk around the garden for a long time, searching for someone who can take them to the governor. Athos sees a soldier take a basket into one of the turrets and emerge without the basket a moment later; he presumes the soldier took dinner to someone in the fortress. Suddenly someone calls to him. Athos looks up and someone throws something at him. Raoul picks up the silver plate, and the hand which had tossed it waves at them. On the back of the plate a message is etched with a knife: “I am the brother of the French king—a prisoner today, a madman tomorrow.”

The plate drops from Athos’s hands as Raoul ponders the message. Suddenly someone shoots at them from above, narrowly missing them. Soldiers are about to charge them and Raoul and Athos prepare to fight for their lives until they hear a familiar voice calling them and the muskets in front of them drop. It is d’Artagnan, and he is glad he recognized them.

D’Artagnan grabs the plate and pales when he reads the message; when he sees the governor approaching, he urgently tells Athos and Porthos they must pretend they cannot read. He would die for them, but he cannot spare them from a life in prison if they do not pretend that they do not understand French.

D’Artagnan introduces them as Spanish captains he met last year and then wipes away the message on the plate with several blows from his sword so the governor cannot read it. Athos and Raoul remain silent but the governor is suspicious of them nevertheless and asks them to go to the fort. D’Artagnan would rather the two men were anywhere but here but invites them, in Spanish, to the fortress. They accept. The eight soldiers return to their leisure after the unexpected but short-lived adventure.

Chapter 32 Summary

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Captive and Jailers

As the governor prepares for his guests, d’Artagnan hurriedly explains that he has accompanied a prisoner the king does not want anyone to see. When he saw the prisoner throw something out of the window and saw Raoul pick it up, he assumed there was an illicit communication happening. Thankfully d’Artagnan was the first to pick up a musket but was the last to aim it, which saved their lives.

Athos says it would have been an honor to die at the hands of d’Artagnan, “the king’s noblest and most loyal defender.” Though d’Artagnan suggests the plate was nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic, Athos believes it and convinces his friend that he knows the prisoner is a prince because he talked to Aramis. The musketeer is dumbfounded.

Athos explains he saw the fugitive Aramis after the “mortifying setback” at Vaux, and Aramis told Athos enough that he believes the etching on the plate. Dejected, d’Artagnan drops his head in sorrow that what should be a secret is not, and it is his fellow musketeer who knows it. Athos reminds him that he has faithfully kept many secrets, but d’Artagnan has a terrible foreboding that anyone connected to this secret will die a horrible death.

The “harsh and suspicious” governor returns and tries to expose the two visitors as imposters but does not succeed. His name is Saint-Mars and he is in charge of the prisoner, though d’Artagnan fears he may have to stay here forever. The king sent him here because he was afraid someone would not guard the prisoner as well, but the king regrets his absence because he fears no one will serve him as thoroughly as d’Artagnan does. It is a terrible predicament for the musketeer.

In answer to the governor’s questions, d’Artagnan says the Spanish captains are here to hunt and will be leaving tomorrow. When the Frenchmen are alone, d’Artagnan asks why his friends are here, and Athos says they are here to say goodbye. Raoul, meanwhile, is sitting mournfully and looking at the sea. D’Artagnan can see Raoul has not recovered from the devastation. Athos says it was a lethal blow, but d’Artagnan assures his friend that Raoul has stamina and will recover. Athos explains that he has to let Raoul leave because he wants to go; he will not go with Raoul because he does not want to see him die. Athos is strong for any crisis, but for this he has no courage.

D’Artagnan tells Raoul that Valliere did not love him as much as she loved the king and Raoul must reconcile that in his heart. The best thing Raoul can do is to go to Paris and see her for what she is, close up and through jealous eyes; if he does, he will stop loving her. That convinces Raoul to go away and never see Valliere again, for he wants to love her forever. The young man hands d’Artagnan a letter he wrote last night and asks him to read it.

The letter is for Valliere, and he explains that she did nothing wrong by not loving him. Her error was letting him believe she did, and that error will cost him his life. He forgives her but does not forgive himself; he will die knowing she is content. He is glad to sacrifice himself for her happiness. D’Artagnan likes the letter except for the one thing it does not say: Raoul’s heart still burns with an “insane love” for her. Raoul rips up the letter and simply writes that he loves her but, as a punishment for his cowardice in not telling her in person, he will die. Raoul asks d’Artagnan to give her the letter when he is, in fact, dead.

A sea squall is beginning, and the men see a boat approaching the bay. They also see the carriage d’Artagnan dumped into the sea when he landed with the prisoner. Athos recommends that d’Artagnan burn it so the myth of a devil will not be replaced with the reality of a mortal prisoner. D’Artagnan agrees.

They hide when they see the governor escorting the prisoner from the chapel. Philip is dressed in black and he wears a visor and helmet of polished steel. The prisoner stops for a moment to “contemplate the infinite horizon” and savor the smell of the impending storm. Saint-Mars snaps at him to hurry, and d’Artagnan calls to the governor in a terrible voice before emerging from the shadows. He reminds the man that his orders are to show the prisoner respect. In a voice which “moves Raoul to the core of his being,” Philip says he should be called “Accursed.”

Chapter 33 Summary

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Promises

A ship has arrived with an important dispatch for d’Artagnan; the king assumes the prisoner is settled and commands d’Artagnan to return to Paris immediately and meet him at his Louvre castle. The musketeer is overjoyed but Athos is not. The captain of the guard invites Athos to travel with him since Raoul is leaving, but Athos will not be separated from his son until Raoul leaves France. The three men leave the island together after d’Artagnan ordered the carriage to be burned.

D’Artagnan sees how miserable his friends look and offers to ask the king if he can take a hundred musketeers, including Athos, to fight with Raoul in Africa. Raoul commends his father to d’Artagnan’s care and, by watching over Athos, he will “hold both their souls in his hand.” Athos will not hurry home, despite his friend’s urging, so d’Artagnan hugs Raoul and tells both men goodbye before he begins his journey to Paris.

The two men sadly walk back to their lodgings but suddenly hear a sound through the fog behind them. It is d’Artagnan and he is galloping toward them. He jumps from his horse and envelops both men in a very long, silent embrace without emitting the heavy sigh which is nearly bursting his chest. As quickly as he came, d’Artagnan rides away again.

The next day, everything the duke had commissioned Raoul to do has been done. The flotilla has set sail for Toulon. Athos and his son have only a few remaining moments together. The blustering duke is everywhere, checking equipment and horses like the true soldier he used to be rather than the vain, shallow aristocrat he has been. After complimenting Raoul, the admiral orders that they will set sail at dawn.

Athos and Raoul decline the duke’s invitation to dinner and spend the evening together. In the moonlight, Athos gathers his thoughts and courage before sharing his heart with his son. D’Artagnan has been a good friend to Athos for many years, and Athos regrets that Raoul has not had the pleasure of leaning on such a friend. Athos and the other three musketeers have missed out on some worldly delights, but they have confronted and defeated misfortune together. Raoul has sought a life of seclusion which has both made him happy and drained his strength.

Raoul insists that he has had such a friendship: the one he shares with Athos. His father denies being a true friend because he allowed Raoul to believe that life only has one face, not teaching Raoul that in addition to seriousness there is joy. Raoul tells his father he always believed in the strength of constancy and vigilance; it was one fall, love, which “exhausted his courage for the rest of his life.”

When Raoul returns, Athos promises, they will be more carefree and lavish; he will give Raoul the capital of his estates and hopes Raoul will one day give him grandchildren. He warns Raoul not to take too many risks, reminding him that a war with Arabs is full of snares, ambushes, and carnage. At the same time, he is not to avoid fighting when necessary. Raoul will write to his father and Athos says they will each have a piece of the other’s soul while they are separated. They can no longer contain themselves and embrace with all their strength.

Grimaud appears and cannot believe Athos is really going to send Raoul off alone without anyone to remind him of everything he loves. Athos wants Grimaud to go, though he is unprepared; Raoul insists that Grimaud is too old. Grimaud looks into both men’s eyes to determine whose will is stronger, and he says he will go.

There is great fanfare as the duke and his men are about to embark. Athos and Raoul feel as if they are being led to an execution. Raoul must leave, and Athos finally cries convulsively as he embraces his son. The duke is moved and asks Athos to come with them, but he will not. Finally the duke gently removes Raoul from his father’s arms and puts him in the boat. The duke jumps in next, followed by Grimaud who gently kisses his master’s hand in farewell.

From the shore, Athos watches as Raoul reaches a rail on the ship where his father can see him. Chaos and celebration surround him, but Athos only sees his son. He watches for hours, until the masts of the ship are vanishing dots on the horizon. He sees a small puff of smoke as the Duke shoots a cannon, saluting the French coast for the last time. Athos “struggles back to his lodgings.”

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Among Women

When d’Artagnan told Athos and Raoul goodbye, he was unable to contain his emotions. For those few moments, the stoic musketeer had succumbed to his foreboding fear out of his human weakness. Now he quiets his heart and calms his unsteady nerves and rides furiously to Paris.

As he rides, he ponders why the king has summoned him and why Philip threw the silver plate at Raoul. D’Artagnan has no idea what the king might want, but he knows it must be important. It is likely Louis XIV feels compelled to have a conversation with someone who knows and understands—and will safeguard—his dreadful secret. This knowledge makes d’Artagnan one of the most powerful people in the kingdom, but now he is not able to discern the wishes of his king.

He is sure why Philip had revealed his identity to a stranger. When he and d’Artagnan traveled, the musketeer treated his prisoner honorably and well; once he got to the fortress, Philip was deprived of d’Artagnan’s companionship and his despair made him desperate to seek an avenger.

When d’Artagnan considers that he almost killed his friends, that in a twist of fate Athos knows about Philip, and that Raoul is prepared to die, he again feels “dire forebodings.” Those feelings do not dissipate, as they usually did, when he gallops at such a pace.

He also thinks about his two friends, Aramis and Porthos, who are now defeated fugitives. It frightens d’Artagnan to think that the king may give him an order which will “make his heart bleed.” Aramis is a gallant genius, a diplomat, a bishop, a soldier, and a priest; however, he is also greedy and cunning. Aramis took a false step and deserves his fate. But Porthos has been dishonored through his trust in another, and d’Artagnan’s heart breaks in agony for this friend.

Aramis arrives in Paris, but the king had not expected him so soon and is on a hunting trip. Instead of chasing after him as he would have done before, d’Artagnan refreshes himself and then spends the next five hours assessing the mood of the royal residence. He learns many things: the king has been gloomy for the past two weeks, the queen mother is seriously ill, the king’s younger brother has committed himself to prayer, de Guiche is away, Colbert is radiant, and Fouquet is ill but no doctor can find a physical cause.

Louis XIV has been most solicitous of Fouquet, according to those living in the castle, and never lets the man out of his sight; however, the superintendent of finance is fading despite the sunshine of the king’s smile. Mademoiselle de la Valliere is now indispensable to the king; when he does not take her hunting he spends his time writing her volumes of prose; meanwhile, the deer and pheasants have practically taken over the French court. D’Artagnan, remembering his conversation with Raoul, determines to seek out Valliere. He is confident that he will be able to glean something positive to write to Raoul, the young man he loves like a son.

When he arrives, Valliere is surrounded by women of the court. D’Artagnan is popular with and admired, so when he enters the room he is plied with questions. He tells them he was with the duke, along with Raoul and others, when they embarked for Algiers. Valliere turns pale at the name, and one cruel young lady talks pointedly about Raoul and why he might have left the country.  She knows she is embarrassing the king’s mistress but she continues anyway. She claims that when a woman who breaks a man’s heart, she is responsible for what he does afterwards. When d’Artagnan says the same thing to Valliere in private, the girl is lacerated by the comment and runs away.

The king is pleased to see d’Artagnan but wonders where Valliere has gone. Privately, the king asks about the journey with the prisoner; d’Artagnan explains that when they were on a boat, Philip fought to save d’Artagnan’s life rather than try to escape. The king is not interested in such news and orders d’Artagnan to go prepare his castle in Nantes, near Belle-Ile. He can take a hundred musketeers but he must post a guard at the doors of each of his advisors, including Fouquet. D’Artagnan is to meet the Duke de Gevres there, but d’Artagnan must be sure to arrive at the castle before Gevres.

D’Artagnan is leaving when a clerk runs after him with a voucher for two hundred pistols, drawn on Fouquet’s account, of course. He goes to collect the money from Fouquet.

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The Last Supper

Fouquet is hosting a farewell party for his friends when D’Artagnan arrives with the voucher the king gave him. He is met by Pellison who takes him to superintendent of finances. Fouquet is hosting a farewell banquet, surrounded by all of his friends, the Epicureans, and his wife. They are all fearful when they see the musketeer, but when d’Artagnan says he here only to cash in the king’s voucher everyone but Fouquet smiles. The superintendent is still gloomy, knowing his arrest is imminent.

Fouquet has been rather ill since the king’s visit at Vaux, and d’Artagnan suggests Fouquet is undoubtedly suffering the ill effects of hosting such spectacular royal festivities. Only d’Artagnan and Fouquet know the “terrible secret” which is causing the superintendent’s distress.

Once he has gotten the money and is about to leave, Fouquet orders some wine for his guest. He insists they share a toast to the king’s health “no matter what happens,” and d’Artagnan toasts Fouquet’s health “no matter what occurs.” After d’Artagnan leaves, Fouquet explains to his guests that this is a farewell dinner, like the Lord’s Last Supper.   

The Epicureans immediately suggest that Fouquet should flee to Switzerland, but one sane voice reminds them that such a move would make the superintendent look guilty. Fouquet knows he has a powerful enemy and no weapons with which to fight. When his guests tell him to go to Belle-Ile, he tells them he will go in due time but to have patience. He has been summoned to the king’s estates, but the plan is that he will bring his meager funds (seven hundred thousand pounds) to Nantes with him and leave for his own estate from there.

Just as everyone agrees that this is a smart, workable plan, a royal messenger arrives. His presence causes a hush to fall over the gathering. Fouquet, sick and sweating, steps into his study to read the message from the king. His guests hear him say “very well” to the courier, but his voice is broken and his guests are worried. When he finally reappears, the superintendent looks like a ghost with a note clutched in his damp hand. Pellison reads the letter to the crowd: it is an order for Fouquet to give the king seven hundred thousand pounds to fund his trip to Nantes. The king also wishes Fouquet good health.

Now Fouquet has nothing. In a moment, the superintendent’s servant return, breathless, from escorting the money to the palace. He tells the gathering that he saw the musketeers mounting their horses, and the group panics. Everyone throws whatever valuables they have into a hat so Fouquet will not be destitute. The Epicureans place the ailing and distraught superintendent and his wife (who has fainted) into his coach.

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Monsieur Colbert’s Coach

The musketeers are on their way to Nantes as precursors for the king; d’Artagnan leaves, too, and will arrive before the others. As he rides, the captain of the musketeers sees something which captures his attention: Colbert is leaving his house and getting into a coach containing two hooded female passengers. D’Artagnan wants to know who they are, so he rides past the carriage so closely that he actually brushes up against it with his boot.

This shakes the carriage and he hears the women scream. Their hoods are thrown back and d’Artagnan recognizes the women as Madame Vanel and the Duchess de Chevreuse, though he rides swiftly enough that they do not recognize the musketeer. The older woman has certainly lowered her standards if she is in a carriage with Colbert’s mistress, Vanel.

The carriage drops Vanel off at her husband’s home, and Chevreuse chats incessantly with Colbert. She tells Colbert what a wonderful minister he is and how limited Fouquet’s future looks. Once Colbert is named superintendent of finances, she promises to rally support for him and wonders what role Colbert will give to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. As she talks, she reveals all manner of secrets, and Colbert realizes she “holds today’s Colbert in her hands just as she had held yesterday’s Fouquet.”

When Colbert asks why the duchess hates Fouquet so much, she is bitter. While Colbert simply disagrees with Fouquet’s way of doing things, Chevreuse truly hates the superintendent. She outlines the plan by which all the financial troubles of the country will be blamed on Fouquet and he will be disgraced. Colbert seems puzzled, and she asks why Colbert bothered to buy the blackmail information on Fouquet from her if he did not intend to ruin the superintendent with it.

Colbert is stunned that the unscrupulous duchess has the nerve to reproach him for buying the information from her. He admits he is having trouble gaining the loyalty of the king because some who influence the king are close to Fouquet—including Valliere. Colbert believes the queen mother is also a champion for the superintendent, as she stopped the king from arresting Fouquet in his own home. The duchess assures Colbert things have changed now that Anne of Austria knows that Fouquet is aware of her “terrible secret.”

Another person the old queen hates is Monsieur d’Herblay, for Aramis also knows the secret. In fact, she has ordered that Aramis be “pursued relentlessly.” She knows Aramis is at Belle-Ile, Fouquet’s estate, but the former musketeer is not likely to be caught so easily. When he is, though, he will be summarily arrested and probably hanged. This is so distasteful to Colbert that the duchess is aware that Colbert has gained the higher moral ground. He refuses to get involved in a matter which involves the arrest of a bishop, but Chevreuse’s hatred is palpable. She is convinced Aramis will take refuge somewhere in Europe with the help of his own private kingdom.

Colbert begins turns his allegiance to the queen mother and assures the duchess that Aramis will be captured and locked away in the depths of the Bastille. He assumes Aramis is a spy or a secret ambassador, but the duchess identifies the treasonous Aramis as the general of the Jesuits. Now Colbert is determined to assist in the capture of the bishop for the good of the kingdom, though Chevreuse warns him that Aramis is one of the four invincible musketeers and a formidable foe.

After Colbert assures her that he will see to it that Aramis is permanently imprisoned, the duchess orders the carriage to return to Paris. Though she was once a supporter of the musketeers, Chevreuse is now one of Aramis’s most terrible enemies. 

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The Two Lighters

D’Artagnan and Fouquet have both left and are in a great hurry; one is on the king’s business and the other is attempting to escape imprisonment with some help from his friends. Everyone in Fouquet’s carriage is nervous every time a vehicle approaches the coach, for Louis XIV is an experienced hunter who is not likely to let such valuable prey escape. The farther they get, though, the less fear they have, and soon the superintendent is beyond the easy reach of any pursuers. Fouquet has convinced himself that the king will be happy to see Fouquet in Nantes and that his haste in getting there will testify to his enthusiasm to serve the king.

At Orleans, Fouquet, his wife, and his servant Gourville exchange their carriage for an eight-oared lighter. The boat will take them to Nantes more comfortably and quickly than a carriage, and when the captain realizes that his passenger is the superintendent of finances he ensures that the trip is expedited.

Fouquet hopes he is the first to arrive at Nantes and can garner support among the nobles; he hopes to avoid, or at least delay, his arrest. Gourville reassures him that they will have time to discover his enemies’ intentions, and if necessary they will leave immediately for Bell-Ile.

Suddenly they spot the distant mast of a huge lighter following them. The captain is astonished at how quickly it is moving, and soon it becomes clear that it is a twelve-oared vessel and it is “moving like a hurricane.” It is not the king’s vessel, and at first Gourville tells the captain it is a friend who is trying to outrace them so they must not allow the other ship to catch up to them. Fouquet says they should stop completely, instead, so the pursuer will overtake and then pass them.

At first it seems as if the plan will work, but suddenly the other ships (the men can now see there are two of them) also stop. Gourville studies the nearest vessel and recognizes Colbert, just as the minister recognizes him before leaving the deck. Disturbed, Fouquet wants to steer nearer Colbert’s lighter, but Gourville says the vessel is full of armed men and suggests they double their time to show their zeal to obey the king’s orders. Fouquet agrees, and the other ships follow. “The race lasts all day, but the distance between the two vessels neither grows nor shrinks.”

That evening, Fouquet tests the other vessels’ intentions and orders his ship to veer toward shore, as if he were going ashore. Colbert’s ship does the same. A friend of Fouquet’s happens to be walking along the shoreline with some horses as they approach. Colbert assumes that Fouquet is disembarking and will now escape by land. Satisfied that he now knows his pursuer’s intentions, Fouquet reboards his lighter and the race begins again.

Fouquet is certain only one of them—he or Fouquet—will arrive in Nantes, though Gourville insists that nothing is certain. Fouquet must appear before the king and use his eloquence and business acumen as “the sword and shield that will help him defend himself and even to emerge as the victor.”

When he disembarks, Fouquet turns to Colbert and graciously bows. This draws the attention of a large crowd which gathers to see this unusual spectacle. He approaches Colbert with utter confidence and acts surprised that it was Colbert on the other vessel, assuming that such a luxury as a twelve-oared lighter would be reserved for the queen mother or the king himself. Colbert blushes and Fouquet reminds him that, despite Colbert’s advantage, Fouquet still arrived first.

Colbert explains that he only arrived last because he stopped when Fouquet stopped—out of respect for the superintendent, of course. Fouquet takes a carriage to the town hall, escorted by the large crowd which has been anticipating the arrival of the court. While Fouquet rests, struck again by his illness, Gourville makes secret arrangements for their journey to Bell-Ile. The only thing which will stop the plan is chance, the “great disrupter of human plans.”

That night, the rumor in the city is that the king will be arriving within twelve hours. In the meantime, the crowd is pleased to see the musketeers, led by d’Artagnan, who are already at the castle. That evening, d’Artagnan respectfully presents himself to Fouquet. Even though the superintendent is quite ill, he is eager to receive him. 

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Friendly Advice

Fouquet is in bed, trying to muster his strength despite his illness and his circumstances; however, he greets d’Artagnan with affability and even happiness. When the musketeer suggests the superintendent needs to get a good night’s sleep, Fouquet says he will not be able to do that since d’Artagnan is undoubtedly here to carry out the wishes of the king.

D’Artagnan assures him that the day he comes on the orders of the king, he will pull his sword, according to protocol, and immediately arrest him in the name of the king. There will be no suspense; however, even the description causes Fouquet to tremble. D’Artagnan is certain things are not that dire yet and is sure the king still loves the superintendent of finances, but Fouquet is not convinced and asks about Colbert.

It is true that Colbert hates Fouquet, but the musketeer suggests that “the squirrel can stave off the adder without much effort.” Fouquet thanks d’Artagnan for being a man with such heart and intelligence, something he had never known before now. Though the men have known one another for ten years, neither has appreciated, or even noticed, the other as they should have—until this moment, when Fouquet is about to fall. If he does fall, Fouquet will always regret not having made d’Artagnan a friend or enriching him for his loyalty.

Despite d’Artagnan’s support, Fouquet is still obsessed by Colbert, and the worry is making him as sick as his ague. After Fouquet explains the race with the ships, d’Artagnan agrees that “it bodes ill” for the superintendent. Fouquet is certain the king ordered him here to isolate him from his friends and then take over Belle-Ile. D’Artagnan asks where Aramis is. While it is true the king has not spoken anything specifically against Fouquet to d’Artagnan, he wanted a brigade of musketeers to be here, in a place which is perfectly calm and where any show of force seems unnecessary. A brigade, ninety-six horsemen, is the same number of men used to arrest other important people.

Fouquet listens intently and wonders what other “insignificant” orders the king gave the musketeer. D’Artagnan is to say nothing to Monsieur de Gasvres (Fouquet’s friend), to man each post with a musketeer, to guard every lodging on the estate, and to keep any horse or boat from leaving Nantes without a letter of safe conduct signed by the king—but the king did not mention anything about Fouquet specifically. When Fouquet reacts, d’Artagnan laughs and says that the safe-conduct order only applies after the king arrives, so of course it does not apply to Fouquet. The musketeer is only telling Fouquet these things because he wants to prove that none of the king’s orders are directed specifically at the superintendent.

Fouquet is distracted by his own thoughts, so d’Artagnan has to repeat each of the orders in a way that the distracted man will understand: if a man with a “troubled conscience” wants to leave, he would have the perfect opportunity to leave unobstructed, either by land or by water, and d’Artagnan would even be obliged to lend such a man his horses if asked. If Fouquet has anything to ask d’Artagnan, the musketeer is at his service and only asks one thing in return. D’Artagnan asks Fouquet to tell Porthos and Aramis hello for him if he does, by any chance, travel to Belle-Ile—which Fouquet has the perfect right to do immediately, even without getting himself dressed.

With those words, d’Artagnan leaves and Fouquet immediately calls for his horses and ship. No one responds at first, and then Gourville arrives with the awful news that the king and his troops have arrived eight hours earlier than anticipated.

In the city a celebration begins, but the dismayed superintendent reluctantly dresses in his ceremonial garments. He watches the king dismount as he arrives at the castle and whisper something to d’Artagnan. Once the king heads inside, the musketeer walks slowly toward Fouquet’s house. His journey is slow as he stops to chat with his musketeers, as if he is determined not deliver the king’s message too quickly.

Fouquet opens his window, and d’Artagnan is forced to deliver the message that the king wants to see the superintendent at the castle. Regrettably, neither d’Artagnan nor Fouquet has free choice any more. The king’s strict orders govern them both now. Fouquet “heaves a final sigh” and d’Artagnan escorts him to the castle. 

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How King Louis XIV Played His Little Part

As Fouquet prepares to enter the king’s castle, someone slips from the crowd and hands the superintendent a letter. D’Artagnan tries to prevent the exchange but it is too late; Fouquet is already reading the missive. His face grows pale and reveals a “vague terror” before tucking the letter into his portfolio and continuing his walk toward the king’s apartments.

As d’Artagnan follows Fouquet up the stairs, he looks out the windows and sees the man who delivered the letter; the man looks around and signals others who then disappear into nearby streets. Louis XIV tells the musketeer that he will see Fouquet in ten minutes. Immediately after d’Artagnan leaves to give Fouquet the message, he is recalled to the king’s chambers and asked whether the superintendent of finances had been astonished at this summons. D’Artagnan says no and is dismissed.

Meanwhile Fouquet is rereading the letter from his faithful servant, Gourville, telling him that people are plotting against him and he should not return to his house; however, there is a white horse waiting for him behind the esplanade. Fouquet tears the letter into tiny bits which blow away in the wind before he bravely enters the king’s private rooms.

The king tells Fouquet that the Estates will be convening tomorrow and wonders if he has prepared a speech. The man is surprised but says he will be ready; then he asks the king why he did not inform Fouquet of the proceedings when they were in Paris. The king claims it was because Fouquet was sick, but the emboldened superintendent claims that he has been defamed to the king by someone, and Fouquet wants an opportunity to defend himself.

The king insists he is not accusing Fouquet of anything but will not reveal anything about the meeting tomorrow; it will be a short meeting and then there will be no more business discussed for the next two weeks. The only advice Louis XIV gives the superintendent is to get a good night’s rest since he has been sick. This solicitous treatment makes Fouquet suspicious but he realizes he must not show his fear. The king, on the other hand, now wonders if Fouquet has heard something about tomorrow’s proceedings.

Fouquet is inspired to ask the king to be excused from tomorrow’s proceedings since he is sick, and his wish is granted. When he asks the king if he will come to Belle-Ile, his home, the king reminds Fouquet that he gave the estate to the king. Fouquet agrees and chides the king for not coming to see his acquisition. Louis XIV finally agrees to come tomorrow, catching Fouquet off guard and says that is too soon for the proper preparations to be made.

They agree to wait and see what tomorrow brings, and Fouquet is heartsick because his attempts to clear his name have failed. The king sees that Fouquet is clearly weak and suffering, so he asks d’Artagnan to escort the superintendent back to his lodgings. Fouquet resists, knowing people will assume he has been arrested if he is seen walking with the captain of the guard. Now it is the king’s turn to look sick, suffering from the guilt of what he intends to do to the superintendent. Fouquet says he would prefer to walk home with his servant, Gourville, and the king allows it.

Outside the castle, Fouquet gloats that he will be saved and the disloyal king will only see Belle-Ile when Fouquet is no longer there. In his chamber, the king orders d’Artagnan to follow Fouquet, arrest him in the name of the king, and lock him up in a coach where he can talk to no one or toss notes out the windows to passersby. When d’Artagnan protests that a man must be allowed fresh air, the king says a coach with an iron lattice has been prepared—and it is waiting in the courtyard below them.

The king trusts d’Artagnan, and the musketeer explains that there was a time when he tried to help Fouquet, who is a good man, escape because he had no direct orders or knowledge of the king’s plan; however, Fouquet refused and now his life is in the hands of fate. D’Artagnan now has his orders from the king and he will see that they are carried out once he has the letter. After he salutes the king and leaves, d’Artagnan sees Gourville walking happily toward Fouquet’s rooms. 

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The White Horse and the Black Horse

Gourville seems happy and that surprises d’Artagnan because Fouquet is in great danger. He wonders what plan Gourville has made for Fouquet and takes a moment to look at his surroundings. His eyes are attracted by a “moving dot that is gaining ground” away from the castle, and he assumes it is a runaway horse to be moving so quickly. He can see now that it is a white horse with a rider.

As d’Artagnan descends the stairs he sees bits of paper and discovers they are the note Fouquet received; when he examines them more closely he sees the words “white horse” and realizes that Fouquet is the rider he had just seen. Fouquet will arrive at his boat within an hour and has a thirty-minute lead; however, d’Artagnan will ride along a more direct route and hopes to catch him. He orders the carriage with the iron lattice window to wait in a small grove outside the town.

Fouquet does not suspect that anyone is following him, and the musketeer stifles his favorable feelings for the superintendent, “surprised by how ferocious and almost bloodthirsty” he has become. He worries that Fouquet may have traded the white horse for an even faster mount and berates himself for being fooled by a servant, afraid that others might think d’Artagnan was paid to let Fouquet escape.

Suddenly he sees the flash of a white horse and knows all is not lost; instantly he recovers his serenity. Now that he knows he can catch the man, d’Artagnan slows a bit and thinks strategically. Soon he surprises Fouquet and is now riding his black horse just a hundred paces behind him; however, d’Artagnan is stunned to see how strong the white horse is and how skilled his rider is and fears Fouquet may yet escape.

Finally d’Artagnan calls out to Fouquet, saying he is under arrest and must stop in the name of the king—or be shot. Fouquet does not stop, shouting that he would rather die than stop. Determined to take Fouquet alive, d’Artagnan spurs his horse to a nearly impossible pace, but still the white horse and his rider are miraculously gaining ground. Now the musketeer begs Fouquet to stop, but to no avail.

In a desperate effort, d’Artagnan lunges at Fouquet and is able to grab the man’s leg. Neither man is armed, as their weapons had encumbered them. Fouquet agrees to be d’Artagnan’s prisoner and offers his arm to the winded musketeer right before d’Artagnan collapses on him.  D’Artagnan commends Fouquet as being nobler than the king. Fouquet says his only fault was not having d’Artagnan as his friend before now.

The men have no way to return to Nantes other than to walk, as the horses are ruined for riding. The men trudge the four leagues to the forest where the carriage and escort are waiting. It is a “sinister tableau” and suddenly d’Artagnan is ashamed of his king. Fouquet says such a carriage was “not thought up by a decent man” and wonders why the bars are necessary; d’Artagnan explains that he will not be able to sneak letters or notes out the window—but he can still talk if he wishes. After a moment of deliberation, the superintendent asks d’Artagnan to remember just one word and deliver it to whomever he indicates. He agrees, and Fouquet softly gives him the word: "Saint-Mande.” It is to be spoken to either Madame de Belliere or Pellison. D’Artagnan says he will do it.

The carriage rolls across Nantes and on to Angers.

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In Which the Squirrel Falls, In Which the Adder Flies

The king paces impatiently from his room to the terrace until a furious d’Artagnan enters the room and asks the king who gave the order for his musketeers to ransack Fouquet’s house. The king denies giving any such orders, and d’Artagnan reflects before attacking Colbert for overstepping his authority. After he points out that Colbert was too stupid to guess that the king ordered that Fouquet should be arrested, d’Artagnan is adamant that his guards are not to be used on the whim or fancy of an underling such as Colbert.

Not only did Colbert order the carriage with the iron bars to be made, he also had his people carry off Fouquet’s furniture under the pretense of confiscating the superintendent’s documents. D’Artagnan is outraged, as the musketeers are to do the bidding of the king, not Colbert. Colbert is also outraged; however, he will not take vengeance because of his respect for the king. The musketeer reminds Colbert that he has committed crimes which have far overreached his authority and disrespected the king and therefore deserves to be punished. Colbert claims all he did was in the best interest of the king.

It is a fiery exchange, and the king does not know whose side he should take in this matter. D’Artagnan realizes the king is going to have to choose sides and quietly bows and leaves. The king, realizing that Colbert has nothing new to say and wanting to hear the details of Fouquet’s arrest, recalls d’Artagnan and Colbert is compelled to exit. Colbert passes the musketeer and “leaves with death in his soul.

D’Artagnan tells the young king about Fouquet’s escape and eventual generous submission to arrest. The description of Fouquet’s graciousness once his arrest was inevitable causes the king great agitation, but d’Artagnan shares his conclusion that Fouquet must be a truly noble man. Despite that, the musketeer carried out his orders and Fouquet is in the carriage with the iron bars—guarded with the clumsiest guard d’Artagnan could find so Fouquet might flee.

The king is shocked, but d’Artagnan insists that Fouquet has been friends to both of them and is not their enemy. D’Artagnan reminds the king that if Fouquet had not rescued him from the Bastille, d’Artagnan is the only other man who would have come to the king’s rescue. After thoughtful consideration of this truth, the king calls Colbert back into the room and insists the men make peace. He announces that Colbert is a “middling servant in subaltern positions, but he’ll be a great man” if the king promotes him. D’Artagnan is appalled, knowing this will only create a “winged serpent,” but the change in Colbert’s face almost convinces the musketeer (who is expert at reading such things) that he has been wrong about Colbert.

Colbert insist that the only reason he has been so fiercely opposed Fouquet and others is to prepare a grander and more secure reign for the king. Colbert explains that he wants to administer the nation’s finances alone because he has grand plans for the king’s gold. Under his administration, he will “make France the greatest country in the world and the richest.” In doing that, he will make himself great and powerful as well.

Colbert reminds d’Artagnan that the king holds a personal grudge against Fouquet, and he is proven correct when the king summons them and orders d’Artagnan to give Saint-Aignan  twenty musketeers to guard Fouquet as they take him to the Bastille. In addition, the duke may only speak to Fouquet when a musketeer is present and anyone who tries to speak to the prisoner must be immediately killed. The duke leaves to execute this order and the king orders d’Artagnan to go and take immediate possession of the fief of Belle-Ile-en-Mer.

D’Artagnan is to take as many troops as he needs, in case he meets resistance from the musketeers there, something the king has seen before. The musketeer is not to return until he has the keys to the fortress. Colbert tells d’Artagnan privately that he will be surprised if the musketeer succeeds at this mission, as it is “not easy for a man like him to find success by climbing over a friend’s corpse.”

Fifteen minutes later, d’Artagnan receives a written order to blow up Belle-Ile in case of resistance; the law is clear for all inhabitants and refugees, and none are to be allowed to escape. D’Artagnan knows that if he does his job, he will be made a marshal of France, but it will cost him the lives of two friends; however, those two friends are too smart to be easy prey. Despite that, d’Artagnan is determined to carry out the king’s orders and leaves immediately. 

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Belle-Ile-en-Mer

At the far end of the pier at Belle-Ile, Athos and Porthos look east, engaged in a spirited conversation, before continuing their stroll. The two outlaws have taken refuge at Belle-Ile since Aramis’s plan to replace the king failed.

Porthos is convinced it is no accident that all the fishing boats in the area vanished two days ago, even though the weather has been clear. Aramis agrees but is furious when Porthos announces he sent the only two remaining boats to find the others. While Aramis knows they are now doomed, Porthos is still unaware of the danger they are in because of the foiled plot.

Porthos would prefer to be in France, though he is glad to be here with Aramis, ready to fight “the usurper”—the mission which Aramis gave Porthos as an excuse for being here. Porthos is concerned about the families of the missing fishermen and wonders what he is supposed to tell them about their missing sons, fathers, and husbands. Aramis has no answer for his friend.

Aramis mournfully and affectionately reminds the valiant Porthos of their youthful days when they were strong and fearless in the face of any danger. They were ready to fight and they were loyal to one another.

No watercraft of any kind has come to Belle-Ile in the past few days, either, though there are usually dozens of boats and launches arriving here. With a growing sense of fear and agitation, Aramis ponders how they can make their escape from the island if needed. Porthos remains unaware of Aramis’s agitation and asks his friend again to explain why they are at Belle-Ile.

Porthos says he understands that the false king wanted to dethrone the real king, that the false king wanted to sell Belle-Ile to the British, and that he and Aramis have taken charge of the ten companies of Fouquet’s men. What he does not understand is why the real king has not sent them reinforcements, ammunition, and supplies to help fight the usurper. Instead, they are here with no communication and no boats. Before Aramis speaks, Porthos shares his theory: he thinks something terrible has happened in France.

Suddenly the men see an entire fleet of ships approaching the island; one old fisherman recognizes that the incoming ships are part of the royal fleet. Porthos is overjoyed at the news, but Aramis is dismayed and tells Porthos to sound the alarm which will call all the soldiers to man their posts.

Porthos gawks at his friend in disbelief, but he goes to sound the alarm. Once the troops and all defense preparations are in place, Porthos quietly begs Aramis to tell him what is happening. Aramis dejectedly says that Porthos will know soon enough and asks if Porthos knows to which of the two kings these ships belong. This is an eye-opening thought to Porthos, and he begins to understand why his friend is dismayed. Porthos goes to supervise the men, but Aramis stays and watches the ships approach.

The first ship moors after nightfall and is within cannon-shot; it is clear to the onlookers that there is some kind of agitation on board the vessel. The ship’s captain is a local man who says that all the local fishermen have been kidnapped to keep Aramis and Porthos from learning of the royal fleet’s arrival. He nervously comes ashore to deliver a letter from d’Artagnan to Aramis.

D’Artagnan’s letter is succinct: the king’s orders are to take Belle-Ile, by force if necessary, and take everyone from the fortress prisoner. He signed the letter “d’Artagnan, who arrested Monsieur Fouquet two days ago to send him to the Bastille.”

Aramis now knows all is lost. D’Artagnan has invited Aramis and Porthos to join him on the ship; Porthos is eager to go but Aramis fears it is a trap. After some reflection, Aramis tells the messenger that he would like d’Artagnan to come to the island. Once the messenger leaves, Aramis knows the time has come to tell Porthos the truth.

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Aramis’s Explanation

Aramis needs to tell Porthos the truth about why they are at Belle-Ile and warns his friend that it is a strange story. Because Porthos is such a good and devoted man, Aramis is heartbroken at having to explain that he has been deceiving Porthos, though he thought it was in his friend’s best interest.

When Aramis tells Porthos that their service to the usurper king has made them rebels, Porthos is disappointed—because he will not become a duke as he was promised. Aramis asks his forgiveness and says he would make Porthos a prince if he could. He takes full blame and responsibility for the entire plan; he was the architect and Porthos was just a victim of his “inopportune devotion.” Aramis needed his “inseparable companion” and Porthos willingly came, as Aramis knew he would. Porthos unselfishly forgives Aramis, and the bishop is humbled by Porthos’s “superiority of heart.”

Aramis releases Porthos from his devotion and insists that Porthos must claim that Aramis has “imprudently entangled” him in this political intrigue. Aramis is the king’s only enemy now. Porthos wants it to be as simple as admitting to a mistake, but he knows things have gone too far since Belle-Ile is now fortified to fight. Suddenly d’Artagnan appears and the three musketeers want to talk in private; unfortunately, the officer Colbert ordered to accompany d’Artagnan has strict orders not to allow d’Artagnan to speak with anyone alone and refuses to leave.

D’Artagnan is angry. Aramis and Porthos are afraid. D’Artagnan displays his temper and warns the officer that the last five men on whom he unleashed his temper are now dead; however, the frightened officer does not waver. D’Artagnan then asks the officer to allow him to speak to his friends in privately. The officer says he will be breaking his oath if he does so and offending d’Artagnan if he does not; he would prefer to stay true to his honor and will not leave d’Artagnan alone. D’Artagnan is moved and hugs the officer before walking over to his friends and embracing them. “All three are locked in one another’s arms as in the glorious days of their youth.”

D’Artagnan explains that the king is determined to have Aramis and Porthos and will do whatever he must to get them. D’Artagnan’s plan was to get them on board his ship and then set them free, but he is afraid they may trick him and take over his ship with secret orders. Aramis assures him that they will stay on Belle-Ile and will not be captured without a fight. Realizing Aramis is serious, d’Artagnan pauses and then decides to see what the honorable officer’s orders permit or prohibit. (He much prefers a loyal and courageous man as an enemy, for he is “worth a thousand times more than an obliging coward.”)

After making courteous introductions, d’Artagnan asks what the officer would do if d’Artagnan took his two friends from here. The officer only has orders to guard them, not stop them, so that is what he would do. Aramis tells d’Artagnan to take Porthos and go. Porthos will be able to prove to the king that he had nothing to do with the failed scheme. Though d’Artagnan harrumphs, he asks Porthos if that is what he wishes to do; the noble Porthos says he must think about it. Aramis will stay on Belle-Ile until there are new orders—or until they have a new plan. Aramis whispers a new plan to d’Artagnan, who seems to think it is infallible.

D’Artagnan goes back to the ship and gathers the eight officers who serve under him, including the young officer who has been shadowing him. He tells them he has examined Bell-Ile’s fortifications and has decided to invite the two senior officers (Aramis and Porthos) to come aboard and parley, as they seem determined to defend the fortress. The men on the ship can make it clear that there will be no winning this battle and no mercy from the king once the battle begins. D’Artagnan is hopeful he can acquire the fortress, as the king ordered, but without bloodshed.

Just as d’Artagnan thinks his plan will prevail, one of the officers produces a sealed letter from the king. It states that d’Artagnan is prohibited from assembling any council or engaging in any deliberations before Belle-Ile surrenders. D’Artagnan has no choice but to graciously agree to the king’s orders.

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The Results of the King’s Plans and D’Artagnan’s Plans

The king’s order is clear: d’Artagnan may not assemble a council or have any deliberations before Belle-Ile is taken. It is upsetting to d’Artagnan that the king had anticipated his plans, but he is still not dismayed. He considers the idea which Aramis had whispered to him, and he proposes a new plan to his assembled officers.

He tells them that since the king has sent secret orders through someone else, d’Artagnan clearly does not have the entire faith and trust of the king. He will, therefore, go immediately to the king to offer his resignation in person. D’Artagnan resigns, in the presence of his officers, and tells them they must return to France quickly, before the tide ebbs, in order to avoid compromising the armed forces with which His Majesty has entrusted d’Artagnan.

As all but one officer begins to obey his orders, d’Artagnan senses his triumph and is certain his plan will save his friends. Once this ship leaves, Aramis and Porthos will be free to sail unchallenged to Spain or England. In the meantime, d’Artagnan will be able to appear before the king and express his indignation at the distrust being fomented by Colbert. Then the king will send d’Artagnan back to Belle-Ile and the fortress would be captured—but Aramis and Porthos would not.

Confident that nothing can go wrong, d’Artagnan tells the remaining officer that he assumes there is no secret order to countermand this action. Unfortunately for the musketeer, there is another secret royal order which says that if d’Artagnan resigns, he is to be removed as leader of this expedition and no other officer is to obey him. In addition, d’Artagnan is to leave immediately for France as the prisoner of the officer who delivered this order.

Usually d’Artagnan has a stalwart heart, but this causes him to blanch. He has been outmaneuvered in a way he has not experienced for years, and this calculation and foresight rather frighten him. He considers putting the order in his pocket, confident he would not be found out; however, he looks around to see that similar orders have just been distributed to the rest of the officers. Colbert had anticipated disobedience as much as any other action.

The officer tells the musketeer that he is ready to leave and orders a dinghy to be brought. An enraged d’Artagnan demands to know what the course of action will be once he has left; now that d’Artagnan is relieved of his command, one of the officers is in charge of the fleet. The officer (Colbert’s man) then hands the new commander one final royal order. Deeply moved by the despair he sees on d’Artagnan’s face, the officer asks the musketeer, his former commander, to leave with him now.

The vanquished d’Artagnan slides down to the smaller vessel and they immediately embark for France. The ship moves quickly and, after an hour, d’Artagnan the prisoner finally speaks. He says he would give anything to know what the new commander’s instructions are, hoping the orders are peaceful. In the distance, a volley of cannonballs boom across the waves. The officer confirms the obvious: Belle-Ile is being fired upon.

The dinghy lands on French soil.

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Porthos’s Forebears

After d’Artagnan leaves Aramis and Porthos, the two men return to the fortress to speak privately. Porthos is still thinking and brooding, which annoys Aramis because his mind has never been freer. Aramis breaks the silence and explains d’Artagnan’s plan to Porthos, a plan which will ensure their freedom within twelve hours.

Aramis reminds Porthos that d’Artagnan was annoyed by the orders of the officer who accompanied him and explains that their friend will use this as an excuse to resign. In the confusion caused by d’Artagnan’s absence, Porthos will be able to escape by boat—but there is only room for one man.

Porthos is adamant that they will escape together or not at all. Aramis can see that something is distressing his friend and asks why he is upset; Porthos says he is feeling somber because he is drawing up his will. Though he does not feel doomed, he does “feel tired,” and Porthos explains a family tradition.

His grandfather was twice as strong as Porthos; when he was the same age as Porthos is now, he went hunting, complained of weakness in his legs, got gored by a wild boar, and died instantly. Porthos’s father also had twice his strength and was a stalwart soldier to several kings. One evening after dinner his legs also failed him; he went to the garden, lost feeling in his legs, slipped on a step, tore his temple on a piece of iron, and died immediately.

Aramis dismisses both incidents as coincidences and assures Porthos he does not to be worried about his own imminent death. It is ridiculous for such a strong man to be superstitious and there is no chance that his sturdy legs will ever buckle under him. Porthos agrees that at this moment he feels strong; however, just a moment ago he staggered and collapsed—and it has happened again four more times. Though Porthos is not frightened, he would not like this to be his end. His life is wonderful because he has possessions and friends he loves. When he lists his friends (d’Artagnan, Athos, Raoul, and Aramis), the admirable Porthos does “not even take the trouble to conceal Aramis’s rank in that hierarchy.

Aramis shakes his friend’s hand and assures Porthos that they still have many years left. It is good news that they have not heard anything from d’Artagnan; he must have given the order for all the ships to clear the harbor. Aramis has ordered a boat to be made ready in a hidden grotto, and it will be waiting for them in an emergency. At the right moment, they will set sail by night. This method of escape will gain them some time, as no one will know they have left.

Suddenly Porthos’s legs feel quite strong, knowing they will not have to worry about an attack by the royal fleet or a lengthy occupation. Aramis swears that they will have fifty more years of adventures and, if he reaches Spanish soil, Aramis will make Porthos a duke. This cheers Porthos up just a bit, but suddenly they hear a cry. It is a call to arms, shouted by a hundred voices at once, and it shocks the two musketeers. Aramis sees a mob of people carrying torches; the women are searching for safety as the men assume their posts.

One of the soldiers shouts to Aramis that the fleet is halfway within cannon range, and Aramis calls everyone to arms. Porthos formidably repeats the order as the two friends dash toward the pier. Boatloads of soldiers are approaching the island and will land in three different places. Aramis yells at the men to capture the soldiers and shoot them if they must.

Five minutes later the cannon fire begins, the same sound d’Artagnan hears as he is reaching the mainland of France. The boats are too close to the pier for their aim to be accurate, so the hand-to-hand battle begins as the soldiers land. Suddenly Aramis notices that something is wrong with Porthos; his legs seem to be weakening, but Porthos assures Aramis he will recover once the battle begins.

The two musketeers lead the charge with such ferocity that the invaders do not fight but simply run back to their vessels with their wounded. Aramis yells at Porthos to hurry and take one of the soldiers as a prisoner. Porthos exerts his great strength to grab an officer by the back of his neck, using the man to shield his own body so no one fires at him. Porthos is dismayed that he caught the prisoner with his arms, not his legs.

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Biscarrat’s Son

The Bretons of the island are proud of their victory, but Aramis does not encourage them. After everyone has gone home, he tells Porthos that the king will be furious at such resistance and these brave men are likely to be “decimated or burned alive” once the island is taken. Porthos is discouraged because they have accomplished nothing useful, though they do have a prisoner.

They ply the officer with food and drink, and he tells them every detail about d’Artagnan’s resignation and departure. After d’Artagnan left, the new commander ordered a surprise attack on Belle-Ile. Aramis and Porthos know they have no one on their side and exchange a look of brave despair. Aramis asks what will become of any Belle-Ile officers, and the prisoner says they are to be killed and any survivors hanged.

Both men are furious. Aramis says he is too light for the gibbet. Porthos says he is too heavy. The prisoner is certain the two men will get to choose the manner of their own deaths. After drinking more wine, the officer asks a question; he wonders if Aramis and Porthos are two of the king’s former musketeers. The officer, Georges de Biscarrat, reveals that his father was also a soldier; the musketeers remember him as being a superior swordsman for whom they have the greatest respect.

As the men all shake hands, Aramis gives Porthos a look which implies that this is a man of honor who might help them. Aramis appeals to the officer’s sense of honor, and Biscarrat says Aramis and Porthos will not suffer the fate he described before he knew who they were. Now that he knows them, he can help them avoid that terrible fate. Because they will be killed if they are found, they must not be found. He can say nothing more directly or he will be “flouting his orders.”

Suddenly they hear the sounds of cannon and muskets again, and Aramis realizes his worst fear has been realized: the first attack was only a feint so soldiers could land on other spots on the island for a surprise attack. Though both men admit they are doomed, they also know they have not yet been caught or hanged. Porthos calmly gets his pistols and sword as terrified soldiers appear and beg for advice and help.

Aramis faces them by torchlight and tells them that their protector and friend, Fouquet, has been arrested by the king and thrown into the Bastille. When the men cry for vengeance, Aramis assures them they will sacrifice themselves for nothing and wants them to lay down their weapons and go peacefully back to their homes to avoid a massacre. He finally has to order them in Fouquet’s name and the name of God, and they obey.

Biscarrat reminds Aramis that he has saved everyone on the island but himself and Porthos, but the bishop courteously tells the officer he is free to leave. Aramis wants Biscarrat to tell his commander about the islanders’ surrender, perhaps earning some mercy for all of them. Porthos is furious that Aramis is almost begging for mercy, but he stays silent when Aramis gives him a warning smack on the elbow.

Though he is surprised to hear the word mercy from the proud musketeer, Biscarrat asks what the two men intend to do. Aramis says they will wait here; he believes no one will kill a bishop or an aristocrat. Biscarrat thinks that may be true. He gallops away on the horse Aramis provides for him, leaving the two musketeers alone. They plan to go to the hidden cove, the Grotto of Locmaria, and escape by boat. 

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The Grotto of Locmaria

Aramis and Porthos, laden with money and weapons, expend all their remaining energy to reach the hidden Grotto of Locmaria sometime after midnight. Along the way, they pass many inhabitants trying to flee the island. Porthos asks about the three servants which Aramis said would be here, and Aramis tells him they must be waiting in the cavern. As Porthos is about to enter the grotto, Aramis asks if he can go in first, as he knows the proper signal for the waiting men. Porthos graciously allows Aramis to enter first, and soon the three men show themselves to Aramis.

Aramis sends the men to the mouth of the cave with orders to bring Porthos—carrying him if his legs happen to give out on him. This is not necessary and Porthos soon joins Aramis and the three men in the farthest chamber of the dark grotto. Aramis begins to check the boat and supplies; the powder kegs and musket charges have been safely stored on board. It is a well built ship, easy to handle, and it is provisioned with food, water, and weapons. Aramis is satisfied with the vessel.

The men begin to plan their escape route and are just starting to place the rollers under the boat when they hear the distant baying of dogs. It is a pack of hunting hounds on the trail of a fox, something which seems quite peculiar to Aramis for this time of night. The dogs get closer, causing the men to get distracted from their task. Soon they hear the “hoarse sigh of a terrified creature” as it enters the dark grotto.

It is a fox, and Aramis realizes they will soon be discovered; it takes Porthos longer to realize it, but when he does he hangs his head in despair. The men hide and try to see who the hunters are. The men think it is a local man who will not harm any of them; however, Aramis knows it is the king’s soldiers and is frightened. The other men are terrified at the implications.

Suddenly the dogs enter the cave and Aramis says they have only one slim chance to escape. In order to avoid being discovered, they must not allow the dogs to leave or the men to enter the cavern. It is awful work, but the men kill the dogs and are now ready to face the sixteen well armed soldiers, if necessary. The men in the cave arm themselves and make a plan: they will shoot the first eight guards quickly, before the others even suspect anything, and then kill the remaining eight guards with their knives.

Porthos asks about Biscarrat, and Aramis thinks for a moment before answering. Finally he says that Biscarrat must be killed first because he can identify them. 

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The Grotto

Though Aramis had formulated a reasonable plan, things do not happen as expected. Biscarrat, riding a superior horse, is the first to reach the grotto and realize that the hounds and fox have disappeared within the dark cave. The terrified guard does not proceed down the dark underground trail until the others arrive, and all of them are puzzled. Each master calls his dog by name, but there is only silence. Wondering if this is an enchanted grotto, Biscarrat dismounts and enters the darkness. He tells his men that if he does not return within ten minutes, “something extraordinary is afoot” and they are all to come search for him together.

The men readily agree, never thinking Biscarrat is in any danger, and wait on their horses at the entrance of the cave. Biscarrat walks directly into the muzzle of Porthos’s musket; when one of the men attempts to kill the guard, Porthos stops him. If Biscarrat makes any noise at all, however, he will be killed like the dogs. Biscarrat recognizes the musketeers and is dismayed that they are not back at the fort. He was unable to gain any grace for the musketeers, and the order to kill them stands.

Out of respect for Biscarrat’s father, Aramis tells the guard he can still leave the grotto if he swears not to tell his companions what he has seen. Biscarrat promises and adds that he will do all he can to keep the others out of the cavern. When he hears the soldiers shouting for him, Biscarrat responds and Aramis releases him. The voices are getting nearer and he dashes to his friends, trying to keep them from coming any further into the cave. Aramis and Porthos wait and listen.

The men think Biscarrat looks pale and they begin teasing him for being so frightened; he collects himself and tells them he was simply overwhelmed with the cold. He does not answer their questions satisfactorily, and the men push past him and enter the grotto. Biscarrat begs them not to go in and tries to stop them, but his efforts are in vain. The mob rushes forward but Biscarrat stays behind because Aramis and Porthos would see him as a liar and a traitor.

Four men are murdered before the men run back out of the grotto, and they accuse Biscarrat of causing those deaths. They ask who the murderers are, but Biscarrat remains silent. One of his men charges toward him but dies from his wounds before he can kill Biscarrat. Feeling deep guilt and remorse, Biscarrat rushes into the cave and the other eleven men follow him; however, they are attacked again and five more men are killed. All but Biscarrat back out of the cave again, wondering who the demons in the cave are. Biscarrat waits calmly on a rock.

Outside, the men realize that Biscarrat must know the attackers and call him to come tell him who their enemy is, but there is no answer. Seventy or eighty soldiers, reinforcements, arrive; the men rush to explain what has happened and ask for help. Now Biscarrat appears at the entrance of the grotto and says he is here to speak on behalf of the men in the cave: the two men are prepared to “defend themselves to the death unless they’re granted a decent compromise.” It is stunning to the men that just two men have killed ten royal guards, but the messenger explains that these are no ordinary men. They are musketeers, and they are prepared to defend Belle-Ile on behalf of Fouquet.

This news causes incredulous murmuring among the soldiers, and they are both frightened and excited to fight against two of the “oldest heroes of the army.” Anyone who wields a sword knows the four musketeers and venerates them above all others. Biscarrat assures the captain that these two men and their few servants are a formidable foe; they will fight until surrender is imminent, and then they will kill themselves.

The captain cannot do anything but defend the honor or the king’s guard and leads his men into the dark cave. He is certain they will lose a few men, but he is confident that the rebels will be captured since there is no other exit and two men cannot eradicate eighty men. Biscarrat asks permission to march at the head of the first corps, which he does, but refuses to arm himself. He is not going to kill; he is going to be killed. 

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A Homeric Chant

In the Grotto of Locmaria, Aramis and Porthos had hoped to escape on a boat through the small underground exit; however, the arrival of a fox and some dogs has forced them to remain hidden. The boat will be a tight fit through the cave’s hidden opening, but Aramis determines to make the effort to escape. It is a plan fraught with danger, since there are more soldiers coming and the escapees will be exposed once the boat reaches the sea.

Aramis orders the men to move the boat on its rollers until it reaches the large rock blocking the hidden back exit; then, with tremendous effort, they push the rock away so the boat is now free. Only a few dozen yards more and the boat will be in the water, and Aramis is watching intently for the approaching soldiers as the others move the boat. It is almost light, and Aramis sees that reinforcements have arrived and they will not be able to escape.

Porthos takes the news calmly and asks what they should do; if they fight, it is likely the two musketeers, as well as the other three men, will be killed. Aramis tells his friend that none of them will be killed if Porthos does exactly what Aramis tells him. The three Britons must keep rolling the boat to the sea, and Porthos says he will hide behind a pillar with an iron bar and kill the first group of soldiers. Aramis appreciates his friend’s willingness to fight but suggests that they need a way to kill many soldiers at once.

When the first group of twenty-five soldiers arrives, Porthos waits for Aramis’s signal and then reluctantly kills Biscarrat, who is leading them. Porthos silently but unenthusiastically obeys Aramis and kills all of the men who were following the noble Biscarrat. The second wave of soldiers is lead by the captain who is bearing a torch. As he advances, he sees the horrifying carnage everywhere around him. Just as he sees a gigantic hand reach out from behind a pillar, the captain drops the torch and the cave is once again dark. Porthos kills the captain, but the men catch a glimpse of the captain’s horrified face just before the torch is extinguished.

The men instinctively fire their weapons, and for an instant the cavern is filled with streaks of light. Now the cave is deathly silent—except for the sound of the third brigade of soldiers entering the grotto. 

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The Death of a Titan

Porthos, whose eyes have adjusted to the darkness of the cavern, watches for a signal from Aramis. Instead, Aramis touches his arm quietly and leads Porthos to the next chamber of the grotto and shows him a nearly eighty-pound keg of powder with a fuse attached to it. Aramis is going to light the fuse, and Porthos is going to “hurl the barrel into the throng of their enemies.” Porthos is anxious for Aramis to light the fuse, but Aramis knows they must wait until all the soldiers are together. Aramis will go help the Britons put the boat to sea and then wait for Porthos on the beach.

Again Porthos demands that Aramis light the fuse, and Aramis asks if Porthos understands the plan. The giant man cannot suppress a laugh as he tells Aramis that he always understands orders. Aramis hands Porthos the burning tinder and hurries out of the grotto toward the boat on the beach.

The brave Porthos lights the fuse and it offers him a moment of light, “a brief but wonderful spectacle for this pale and bleeding giant, his face lit up by the fuse that is burning in the darkness.” Now the soldiers see him and the barrel, and they realize what is about to happen. The men are already terrified by what they have seen and now they are horrified at their likely fate. Some try to run but are blocked by their comrades; some try to shoot but their muskets are empty; some fall to their knees or shout promises to free Porthos if he spares their lives.

One of the officers of the third brigade gathers eight men and orders them to fire at Porthos, but they are so frightened that their aim is not true and they miss him. They then hear a burst of laughter just as Porthos releases the powder keg. It flies for thirty paces before it crashes into a group of soldiers. One of them throws himself onto the barrel, hoping to pull the fuse from the barrel; however, it is a “useless sacrifice” and the keg explodes.

The explosion is magnificent and chaos ensues. One man has created an unthinkable amount of devastation. After he tosses the barrel, Porthos turns and runs toward the daylight and the waiting boat. He can see the boat, the water, and his friend; only six more strides and he will reach the exit of the grotto. Three strides after that will bring him to the boat. Suddenly his knees buckle and Porthos knows it is his turn to carry on the family tradition begun by his grandfather and carried on by his father.

Aramis does not understand why Porthos has stopped, but he yells at his friend to hurry. Despite a “supreme effort,” Porthos can no longer move though all of the men at the boat shouting at him to hurry. “As if in a nightmare,” Porthos flounders until time runs out and another explosion booms inside the grotto. The force of the blast is strong enough to make the sea recoil, and the water sweeps the boat away.

The “dreadful shock” of the imploding cave seems to give Porthos renewed strength and he is able to stand in the midst of the crumbling rocks. With his enormous strength, he is able, for a time, to keep the massive chunks of debris from crushing him, weight that would have smashed ten men. Porthos collapses without calling for help; instead, as he falls, he shouts words of hope and encouragement to Aramis because Porthos still thinks he might escape his doom.

Aramis sees that his friend is slowly sinking under the weight of the rock until it encloses Porthos in a “coffin of broken stones.” Aramis jumps from the boat and rushes toward him; he even succeeds in miraculously lifting one corner of the “immense granite sepulcher.” Two of the other men rush from the boat to help, but there is nothing they can do to save Porthos. Aramis sees his friend’s “still-shining eyes” for a moment and hears his last words: “Too heavy!” Porthos’s eyes close for the last time and he emits a final sigh.

Chapter 51 Summary

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Porthos’s Epitaph

Aramis rises from Porthos’s tomb, “shivering like a fearful child” and unable to walk on his own. It is as if something in him died along with Porthos. The two Bretons embrace him and carry him to the boat before rowing full speed without sails, afraid to attract too much attention.

On the beach behind them, the men see the now-flattened ancient Grotto of Locmaria and one lone hill. It seems to represent Porthos, the fallen giant who was the strongest of them all and the first of the four musketeers to die. Porthos was as noble as he was strong, always willing to sacrifice himself for the weak. Even in death he only wanted to do what his friend Aramis asked of him, not knowing Aramis was the cause of all their troubles. Aramis silently watches the beach fade into the distance until the sun sets on the sight.

As dawn breaks, the men raise the sails and the boat makes its way bravely to Spain. A half hour later, the exhausted rowers spy a small white dot on the horizon. They do not risk rousing Aramis from his “profound torpor” for an hour as they worry and the usually vigilant Aramis “sleeps in the despair of his soul.” Finally one of the sailors speaks their worry aloud, but Aramis does not respond.

The enemy boat gains on them and the men lower their sails so they will not be such an easy target for the approaching ship. In response, the enemy boat raises two more sails and increases its speed. Finally Aramis rouses himself and hands one of the sailors a telescope. The enemy ship is even nearer than they feared and Aramis lapses again into a stupor.

There are twenty-five soldiers on the ship, and the captain now delivers an order. His men begin aiming a cannon at the fleeing ship, though there is still too much distance between the two vessels for an effective shot. The captain orders the cannon to be shot as a warning, and the Bretons beg Aramis for absolution before their impending deaths. Aramis tells the men they should not try to flee; it will be better for them all if they simply wait for the ship to reach them.

It is nearly night and the ship is quickly approaching; finally the pursuing vessel is within musket-shot. All the soldiers are on deck, weapons ready and looking like they are prepared to fight a grand battle. Through a megaphone, the captain shouts at the fleeing men to surrender. The Bretons look at Aramis; he nods and one of the men raises a white flag of surrender.

The captain announces that the Bretons are safe, but Monsieur d’Herblay is not. This pronouncement makes Aramis shiver and for a moment he stares into the depths of the ocean. When his men ask for their orders, Aramis tells them to accept the captain’s terms. When the captain gives his word that the others will be safe, Aramis finally rises and tells his men to throw out the ladder.

Aramis climbs confidently into the enemy ship, and the soldiers are surprised to see him walk firmly and directly toward the captain. Aramis stares intently at the man and then makes an “enigmatic and unfamiliar gesture.” The captain immediately pales, trembles, and bows his head. Silently, the bishop raises his hand to the captain’s eyes and shows him a ring he wears on his left ring finger. In this moment, Aramis “looked like an emperor holding out his hand to be kissed.”

The captain raises his head for a moment and then bows again in deep respect before pointing Aramis toward the captain’s own room and stepping aside to let the bishop pass. Everyone is stupefied at the exchange. Five minutes later the captain gives the order to steer the ship toward Corunna. Aramis comes to the deck and sits down by the railing. Though it is night and the moon has not yet emerged, Aramis keeps his gaze fixed on Belle-Ile.

One of the men quietly asks the officer what course they are sailing; they are sailing the course that the bishop requested. Aramis spends the night at the railing. One of the men sees the wood on which the bishop’s head had been resting and remarks that it must have been a damp night since the railing is wet.

These may have been the first and only tears Aramis has ever shed, a fitting epitaph for the noble Porthos. 

Chapter 52 Summary

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The Duke de Gesvres’s Rounds

D’Artagnan is not used to opposition such as he has just faced. He arrives in Nantes and is irritated; this irritation translates into an “impetuous attack” which few men could withstand or resist. He heads straight to the castle and demands to speak to the king. It is early and the musketeer is stopped by Monsieur de Gesvres who “politely recommends” that d’Artagnan speak more softly so he will not wake the king, who was up all night.

D’Artagnan returns two hours later and is told that the king is eating breakfast and does not want to talk while he is eating. Used to being received by the king whenever and wherever he wishes, d’Artagnan is told that the king has “restructured his household” here in Nantes. The angry musketeer says he will wait in the hallway, but he is not allowed to do so.

He goes outside to calm down and thinks about the obvious fact that the king does not want to see him. Aramis and Porthos are certainly in danger, but d’Artagnan is hopeful that they are still alive. Though d’Artagnan would not suffer the king’s affront on his own behalf, he is willing to do so for his friends. Now he intends to go see Colbert and try to intimidate him; however, he is told that Colbert is with the king and the king will be receiving no one for the rest of the day.

As incensed d’Artagnan tells the guard it has become obvious that if the captain of the guard, who has always entered freely into the presence of the king, is being denied access, either the king is dead or d’Artagnan is in disgrace. In either case, the king no longer needs d’Artagnan and he sends the king his resignation. The guard is shocked and warns his former captain to be careful, but when d’Artagnan insists, the guard delivers the message. D’Artagnan paces in the hallways as he waits for a response.

The reply is simple: “the king said that it was fine.” Thrilled to be free, a civilian once again, d’Artagnan shakes the guard’s hand, races to gather his meager belongings from his chamber, and sends for his horses. He wants to ride hard toward Belle-Ile yet that night. Just as he is putting his foot in the stirrup, d’Artagnan sees Gesvres and another dozen men on horseback but pretends not to notice them and mounts his horse.

The duke calls out to him and jovially explains that he is here on behalf of the king; d’Artagnan asks if Gesvres is here to arrest him. The duke assures him he is only here to bring d’Artagnan to the king, but d’Artagnan knows better. Prisoners are always placed between the first six and the last six men so that is where the musketeer prepares to ride; however, Gesvres invites d’Artagnan to ride in back with him. The musketeer wonders what the king wants with him. The duke says the king is furious, but d’Artagnan says that if he is has gone to the trouble of getting furious, he will also go to the trouble of calming down. Soon d’Artagnan imagines he will be keeping his friend Fouquet company in the Bastille, and Gesvres warns d’Artagnan to remain calm in the presence of the king.

D’Artagnan has heard that the duke would like to merge his guards with d’Artagnan’s musketeers and offers to do so now, since the duke is a decent man. For many reasons, the duke does not accept the offer; the most compelling reason is that if he eventually became captain of the guard, he is certain the musketeers would “accidentally” shoot him out of loyalty to d’Artagnan.

It is clear that Gesvres is arresting the former captain of the guard when he brings d’Artagnan to the castle and stands guard behind him. Inside his chamber, the king is speaking to Colbert; outside the main gate, musketeers are picketing at the news of their leader’s arrest. There is unrest in the castle and the duke is worried as musketeers mingle with guards and fill the stairways and courtyards. None of this worries d’Artagnan until suddenly all activity stops. The king has ordered the troops to desist because they are bothering him—and they do. D’Artagnan knows it is over for him, as today’s musketeers are not what he and his friends once were. D’Artagnan is announced to the king.

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King Louis XIV

The king ignores d’Artagnan’s arrival. It is a game the musketeer understands and he waits patiently in the background until the king acknowledges him. When the king asks what d’Artagnan wishes to discuss with him, the former captain of the guard says he has nothing to say and is only here because he has been arrested. The king does not contradict him.

When the king finally asks d’Artagnan what he was supposed to do at Belle-Ile, d’Artagnan is thrilled that he will be able to reveal Colbert’s grab for power and explains that he was disappointed that he was forced to obey so many orders. The king claims he only sent two, so d’Artagnan gets to express his dismay at having to follow the orders of five or six lower-ranked officers. He came here for an explanation but was not allowed to speak with the king; that is why d’Artagnan wishes to resign.

The king, stung by the unspoken scolding, accuses d’Artagnan of siding with Aramis and Porthos and claims a man who serves his friends is not serving his master. D’Artagnan does understand this, which is why he offered his resignation. D’Artagnan claims that it was cruel of the king to send d’Artagnan to capture his friends so they could be hung; the king claims it was a test of loyalty, a test d’Artagnan failed. The musketeer explains that he is a “rebellious swordsman” when he is ordered to commit an injustice. For thirty years he has been a loyal servant of the king and was given the king’s full confidence in return; d’Artagnan wonders what he has done to be reduced to watching three thousand royal soldiers wage war on two men.

The king agrees to be lenient with d’Artagnan since he is generally a good man and his friends have undoubtedly been captured or killed by now. Horrified that Aramis and Porthos might be dead, d’Artagnan forgives the king for not understanding such noble men as the old musketeers. An outraged Louis demands to know if d’Artagnan understands that he is the only king of France; the musketeer reminds him that, when faced with a choice one morning in Vaux, he chose the true king over an imposter. The king lowers his eyes.

A messenger brings word that more than a hundred royal soldiers lost their lives in a battle at Belle-Ile and the rebels have fled. D’Artagnan is filled with hope for his friends until the king says he has a sea blockade in place and the men will certainly be caught and then hanged. He assures the king that Aramis and Porthos will not allow themselves to be taken alive.

The king gives a speech in which he proclaims that he is “the master in his palace” and expects unquestioning devotion and obedience from everyone around him so he can accomplish his “great works.” Only the head of the body must possess genius, and Louis is the head. He offers d’Artagnan a choice: bow his head to the king like everyone else has, or “choose the exile which suits him best.” He believes d’Artagnan is a decent man and can choose to judge the king differently from this day forward.

D’Artagnan is stunned and wavers in his resolution for the first time ever, realizing that the king is a worthy adversary, strong-willed and determined. He defeated Fouquet and can reign without d’Artagnan. The king prompts him to make his choice by offering to refuse d’Artagnan’s resignation.

D’Artagnan knows he cannot be the kind of courtier the king wants, someone who will amuse him and sacrifice his life for what the king thinks are “great works” but which d’Artagnan does not. If the former captain of the guard will be reduced to an officer guarding a lower door of the castle, d’Artagnan suggests they part on friendly terms now. The king has defeated d’Artagnan, but by dominating him he has lessened him. And yet, d’Artagnan is a man who has given his life to the service of the king; if the king asks him to polish the floors he should be glad to do it. He has done harder things, and he will do this if the king is content.

Louis XIV thanks his old friend and servant and tells him he will find the first opportunity to send him abroad to obtain his field marshal’s baton. D’Artagnan again asks mercy for his friends, and this time the king grants it if d’Artagnan will answer for them. The musketeer has until tomorrow, when the king returns to Paris, to try to save them.

Chapter 54 Summary

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Monsieur Fouquet’s Friends

The king returns to Paris, accompanied by d’Artagnan who has gathered all the information he could about his friends at Belle-Ile. He does not know that Porthos is buried in the collapsed Grotto of Locmaria, but he does know that his two faithful and noble friends fought with three Bretons and held their own against an entire army. D’Artagnan saw the gory corpses and knows a ship was pursued and caught before the royal vessel raced away. This is all he knows for certain; the rest he can only conjecture. He wonders why the ship carrying his friends has not yet appeared. This is the news d’Artagnan reports to the king, now heading to Paris followed by his entire court.

The king, feeling more affable since he has become more powerful, rides the entire way at the side of his mistress, Mademoiselle de la Valliere. Everyone else is eager to distract the queen and the king’s mother from their abandonment. The past is something everyone would be content to leave behind, but that is not to be.

One morning d’Artagnan sadly reports that his friend Porthos died in the battle at Belle-Ile. The king already knew this information but saw no need to hurt d’Artagnan with the news in case it sounded too much like gloating. The king also knows Aramis took a ship, but he wanted d’Artagnan to learn these things for himself so he would be convinced that the king respects his loyal friends.

Both men learned of these things through identical letters written by Aramis from Bayonne. Though the king could have Aramis banished from Spanish soil and brought back to France, he chooses not to do so; however, d’Artagnan is sure the king’s less noble advisors will convince him to punish Aramis. The king says it was Colbert, in fact, who recommended such gentle treatment for Aramis. D’Artagnan is dumbfounded.

The king has good news for the musketeer; he wants to keep his word and will soon make d’Artagnan a rich man. In the meantime, d’Artagnan asks the king to listen to the request of Fouquet’s friends who seem to be in mourning. Reluctantly, the king agrees to see them. Monsieur Gourville, Monsieur Pellison, and Monsieur Jean de La Fontaine enter the chamber with a “profound hush.” D’Artagnan guides them to the king, and Pellison steps forward to speak as the other two men begin to sob.

The king waits impassively and patiently for Pellison to compose himself before finally saying that he is not moved by the men’s tears. He does not believe Fouquet is remorseful and has no intention of relieving his sentence. Pellison assures the king that they all concur with his wishes and ask only on behalf of Fouquet’s wife and family. They have been abandoned by everyone, and Madame Fouquet does nothing but weep in her forsaken and poverty-stricken state.

Though he tries desperately not to show it, the king is moved and grants the men their request to loan the poor woman two thousand pistoles they have collected from Fouquet’s friends without suffering his displeasure. He is merciful to the innocent and sends the men away to help their friend’s family.

When the king is alone with d’Artagnan, the musketeer commends Louis for his merciful and just decision. The king smiles and gives the musketeer permission to go and put Porthos’s affairs in order. 

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Porthos’s Will

All of Pierrefonds, Porthos’s estate, is in deep mourning for its lost master. Neighbors and friends are now gathering and are met by Mousqueton. The faithful valet has lost a significant amount of weight in the past few days of mourning, and his face is now “flabby with grief.” Each new visitor prompts Mousqueton to fresh tears, and it is a pitiful sight to see the man squeeze his throat to “keep from blubbering.”

Today the will is going to be read, and the neighbors and friends are here out of curiosity more than greed, knowing Porthos has no relatives. At noon everyone is seated and the doors to the great hall are shut as Porthos’s attorney unrolls the will. Just as the reading is about to begin, d’Artagnan bursts into the room, causing a murmur among the crowd and shocking Mousqueton out of his reverie of grief. Mousqueton recognizes his former employers’ friend and immediately howls with grief as he grabs d’Artagnan’s knees.

After hugging the grief-stricken man, d’Artagnan nobly greets the other visitors before sitting at the far end of the hall with the grieving Mousqueton next to him. Now the attorney, moved like the others in the room, begins to read the will. After a sincere proclamation of his Christian faith, Porthos asks his enemies to forgive him any wrong he may have done them. D’Artagnan is filled with pride for his fallen friend and silently calculates the scope and breadth of those who could be counted an enemy of Porthos.

The will is a detailed list of all Porthos’s possessions; the list is long and varied, and each horse is even listed by name. The crowd looks surreptitiously at the grieving Mousqueton, presumably because they think he is the likely beneficiary of his rich and generous employer. When he gets to the end of the list, the attorney catches his breath and hesitates for just a moment before continuing to read. Porthos leaves everything he owns to Raoul-Auguste-Jules de Bragelonne, son of Athos and a young man worthy of succeeding his father and his father’s friends.

Suddenly there is a crash as d’Artagnan’s sword falls to the ground. Everyone looks at the musketeer and they see a large tear fall from the noble soldier’s eye. The crowd murmurs but grows silent when d’Artagnan’s “flaming eyes” command them to silence. The attorney continues reading the conditions for Raul’s inheritance. He must give d’Artagnan anything he wishes, give Aramis a good pension in case he has to live in exile, and support all of Porthos’s servants. To Mousqueton, Porthos gives every article of his clothing, forty-seven suits which Porthos is certain his valet will wear “out of love and memory” for his employer. Finally, Porthos bequeaths Mousqueton to Raoul as long as he treats the loyal servant in a way that will ensure Mousqueton is happy every day for the rest of his life.

Upon hearing these words, Mousqueton is visibly shaken, as if he wants to get out but does not know the way. D’Artagnan sends him to gather his things and promises to take the valet to Athos. The attorney finishes his reading and the visitors leave; d’Artagnan commends his friend’s wisdom in allotting his possessions only among the “worthiest and most needful.” Porthos knows d’Artagnan would never ask Raoul for anything, setting an example of restraint for Aramis who might be inclined to demand too much. Even his use of the word exile is the “gentlest and most exquisite critique” of Aramis’s conduct—the very conduct which got Porthos killed. There was no mention at all of Athos, and Porthos probably assumed Raoul would give most of the inheritance to his father. Porthos captured all of these nuances in the most respectful, insightful, and noble way.

D’Artagnan hears a groan above him and instantly seeks out the grieving Mousqueton. He arrives at Porthos’s chamber and discovers all forty-seven suits in a heap on the floor where the valet lies, his face buried in the pile and his body covered with some of the clothing. When the musketeer tries to console him, he discovers that Mousqueton is dead, just as a dog that loses his master goes to die on his garments. 

Chapter 56 Summary

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Athos’s Old Age

The four musketeers, who had once been united with “seemingly indissoluble bonds,” are now forever separated. Athos, alone after Raoul went to fight, has slowly been losing his will to live. Old age, which had been kept at bay by the presence of his son, is now Athos’s constant companion. His body is aging and his inconsolable grief has stolen all his joy. Though Athos had always been a youthful man even at the age of seventy, he has become an old man within a week of Raoul’s leaving.

With Raoul gone, Athos has no reason to exercise his body and mind as he always has; he rarely leaves his bed but he neither sleeps nor reads. Instead, Athos allows his soul and mind to escape his body and focus on Raoul or God. For the past few days, the noble count has not spoken a word, and he has spent his hours writing or “leafing through parchments.”

Athos writes letters to Aramis and D’Artagnan, but of course there is no reply as neither man is at his home. Now he does not leave his bed at all and refuses all food, though he never complains and usually has a ready smile for his servants. His servants are concerned enough to send for a doctor but have to hide the physician where he can see the patient without being seen because they know Athos would not be pleased.

Athos is a noble hero for everyone in the province, a “sacred survivor of the old French glories.” The doctor cannot bear to see everyone grieving for Athos, so he scrutinizes his patient carefully and sees that Athos is suffering from a fever that feeds on itself and is centered somewhere in his heart, an agony which is “both cause and effect of a perilous situation.” Athos may not yet belong to God, but it is certain he no longer belongs to the earth.

Finally the doctor reveals his presence to Athos and asks forgiveness for saying the truth: the count is sick and yet refuses treatment. Athos assures the physician that he is not trying to kill himself; the doctor assures Athos that his death is imminent. Athos insists he is has never felt better in his life, but he misses his son terribly. As long as Raoul lives, Athos will live. What he is doing now is waiting and preparing, ready to respond to whichever calls to him first: Raoul or God, life or death.

The doctor has seen this before, knows he can offer no remedy for this condition, and leaves. One night Athos dreams and a sad Raoul tells him that he is mourning the death of their friend Porthos. At dawn the next morning, Athos receives a letter from Spain in which Aramis explains that Porthos is dead. In a burst of energy, Athos thanks his son for keeping his promise to send him a warning if he is in trouble. Athos faints from weakness.

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Athos’s Vision

After Athos recovers from his faint and his supernatural dream, he dresses and requests a horse. The count is determined to get to Blois. The letter from Aramis moved the tenderhearted Athos to want to visit Belle-Ile and pay his respects to Porthos’s final resting place, as well, and he hopes d’Artagnan will accompany him on this sad pilgrimage.

His servants are delighted that Athos is showing such signs of invigoration and hope his melancholy has dissipated. Unfortunately, Athos is too feeble to walk even to his stable and he asks to be taken to a spot in the sun where he spends an hour recovering his spirits and fortifying his body. Finally he is able to ride but needs help mounting his horse.

Before he has even traveled a hundred paces, Athos begins to tremble. His valet begs him to stop because Athos has turned quite pale, but Athos will not be deterred and intends to finish his journey. Suddenly his horse stops, though, and Athos feels as if he is going to fall off his horse. The servants at the house can also see that their master is too feeble to travel and rush to help him.

After Athos takes several steps toward the house, he feels better; and again he wants to set off on his journey. As soon as he begins to ride, however, the same thing happens. Finally Athos realizes he is supposed to stay home; his servants take him to his bed and Athos reminds then that he is expecting a letters from Africa today. His sleep is troubled and anxious; to onlookers, Athos appears to be suffering tortuously as he dreams.

When it is clear that the courier has no letter for him, Athos despairs that he will have to wait another agonizing week before a letter might arrive. That night Athos displays a devastating fever, and the doctor bleeds him twice. By midnight the fever has left his brain and the relieved doctor declares that Athos has been saved.

“Now a bizarre, indefinable mental state” begins for Athos. His mind, now free of his body, focuses on his beloved Raoul. Athos sees the fields of Africa where the Duke de Beaufort must have landed with his army. Suddenly a strange flame begins to destroy everything in its path; though Athos can hear cries, moans, and sighs, he cannot discern any human figures. When the flames have cleared from the decimated village, a long hush ensues and Athos senses that whatever he is seeing is not finished.

A pale moon rises over a calm sea, and the once-empty field is now “bristling with corpses.” A shudder pulses through Athos as he recognizes the blue-and-white uniforms and sees the grotesque corpses, animal and human, the carnage of a horrific battle—including the carcass of the duke’s white horse. Athos is no longer feverish as he begins to search through the corpses looking for his son. Each of the corpses seems to turn respectfully as the count approaches, making his “funereal inspection” easier. Athos is surprised that he has not found a single survivor, but he continues his search until he is exhausted and tries to find a soldier who can take him to the duke’s tent so he can rest.

As Athos looks out in all directions, he sees a figure in white slowly advancing toward him.  He does not speak or stir, but he does want to open his arms because he now recognizes the figure as his son, Raoul. The figure puts a finger to his lips and withdraws, signaling Athos to remain silent. The count follows his son, “painfully trudging through bushes and heather, rocks and ditches.” Raoul is moving effortlessly and does not even seem to be touching the ground.

Soon the count is drained and has to stop. Raoul signals his father forward, and Athos continues, propelled only by his love for his son. At the top of the plateau, Raoul stands black against the pale moon. Athos extends his hands toward his son and Raoul does the same to his father. Suddenly Raoul starts to float upward, drifting into the heavens, still smiling and still gesturing.

A frightened Athos cries out; below him he sees the destroyed camp and the corpses of a decimated royal army. Athos raises his head and sees Raoul, gesturing still and “inviting his father to rise with him.”

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The Angel of Death

A loud noise outside his house abruptly breaks the spell of his “marvelous vision,” and Athos hears a galloping horse and a “clamorous and animated conversation” being conducted below his room. The count does not move and barely even tries to identify the sounds. When someone does enter the room, Athos feebly asks if it is a messenger from Africa. It is not a messenger; it is Grimaud.

No longer the devoted man who had hopped into the boat which carried Raoul away, Grimaud is now an old man, stern and pale and disheveled. He trembles against the doorframe before he sees his master’s face and nearly collapses. The two men are old friends who have learned to speak wordlessly with their eyes. One look reveals the depths of their shattered hearts. Grimaud’s face is marked with grief and Athos reads the details by looking at him. Finally Athos asks the loyal Grimaud if Raoul is dead. In a hoarse sigh which seems ripped from his chest, Grimaud answers yes.

The household staff begins lamenting, but Athos looks around for a portrait of his son. In this moment, without a tear and with the resignation of a martyr, Athos transitions back to his dream and looks up to find Raoul. He half-closes his eyes, and when he opens them again he sees his son smiling back at him.

Death for the gentle Athos is a peaceful transition, and he is guided by Raoul’s “pure and tranquil soul.” His passing is so peaceful that, for a long time, his servants assume Athos is just sleeping peacefully. Grimaud, however, knows that his master is gone. Just as Grimaud begins to mourn, d’Artagnan comes rushing up the stairs asking to see his old friend. The servant points to Athos and d’Artagnan confirms the tragic death. Grimaud now sits at the foot of the bed and weeps for Athos. The sight is heartbreaking to d’Artagnan, for Grimaud was the closest friend Athos had after Raoul.

D’Artagnan kisses Athos’s forehead and closes the count’s eyes with trembling fingers before sitting on the bed and letting thirty-five years of memories wash over him. Suddenly he cannot contain the grief welling up inside him and rushes out of the room. The heartbreaking sounds of his grief cause the servants to wait for an inevitable “explosion of pain.” Even the dogs begin to lament. Only Grimaud does not raise his voice in grief, in case it would disturb his master’s eternal sleep.

At dawn, d’Artagnan runs back up the stairs and motions Grimaud to join him. The faithful servant noiselessly obeys and the two men go downstairs. The musketeer asks Grimaud how Raoul died, and the servant produces a letter from the Duke de Beaufort which d’Artagnan starts to read. 

Chapter 59 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 674

Bulletin

The Duke de Beaufort wrote a letter to Athos, but it arrived too late. He writes that Raoul died a glorious death and offers the count his greatest condolences. The letter is accompanied by a report written by one of the duke’s secretaries. Though he is a soldier used to death, d’Artagnan finds it difficult to read a report with Raoul’s name in it.

The report says the battle begins in the morning and the troops begin to march, but Raoul has orders to stay with the duke. The enemy cannons suddenly turn their fire on the duke and several men near him are killed. The battle is not going well, so the duke decides to turn the moored frigates so they can fire regularly against the enemy cannons. Raoul is the first to volunteer to convey this order to the ship’s captains, but the duke refuses because he loves Raoul. This turns out to be a wise decision, as the sergeant who does carry the message is shot and killed just as he reaches the seashore.

The duke tells Raoul he just saved his life, and Raoul sadly replies that it is true; if he had been the messenger, he would now be “fast asleep” on the beach. The duke is shocked that Raoul seems to yearn for death, but the duke promised Athos that he would keep Raoul safe and he intends to keep his word.

The battle continues and soon the Arabs are charging the Duke’s headquarters. Everyone, including the duke and Raoul, draws their swords and the battle ensues. Raoul does not leave his commander’s side and fights fearlessly until the duke finally has to order him to stop. Though he heard the command, Raoul does not stop and the others are shocked by his disobedience. The duke finally shouts at Raoul to stop in the name of his father; however, Raoul only turns around, inexpressible grief on his face, before he continues to fight.

The duke then tells his men to kill Raoul’s horse, but it would have been too dangerous for any of them to try. Finally a sharpshooter manages to hit the horse, but the horse becomes even more frantic instead of collapsing as they had all hoped. In the midst of a smoky battle, the watchers near the duke lose sight of Raoul; but when the smoke clears they see him standing tall in the midst of the enemy. He walks a few more paces and both regiments applaud his bravery.

In the next smoke-filled volley, Raoul falls and the Arabs scramble to recover his body so they can cut off his head or carry away his corpse. The duke has been watching and leads a charge to keep the enemy from escaping with Raoul’s “noble body.” A ferocious battle for Raoul’s body results in more than one hundred and sixty Arab deaths, and a Norman lieutenant finally escapes with his fallen comrade. The massacre lasts for two hours; the royal army is victorious and the Arabs abandon their positions.

When they finally have time to attend to him, the soldiers discover that Raoul is severely wounded but still breathing. Two surgeons predict that he will survive, but another says three of his eight wounds are fatal. Because Raoul is young and resilient, however, he will live if he remains motionless. If anyone moves him at all, Raoul will die.

Later that evening a soldier discovers Raoul lying in a pool of his own blood, and everyone assumes he had suffered some kind of convulsion before falling off the bed. When they turn him over, they see his right hand, clutching a blond curl, clutched over his heart.

D’Artagnan stops reading after that and knows Raoul committed suicide. Athos and his son kept their promise to one another, and now d’Artagnan hopes the two of them will be reunited and happy. Already people are coming to express their grief and prepare for a funeral.  

Chapter 60 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 656

The Final Canto of the Epic

All the aristocrats in the area are gathering for the funeral for Athos and his son. D’Artagnan is there but he refuses to speak with anyone, and only Grimaud is allowed near him. The musketeer writes the king and asks for permission to extend his furlough.

Grimaud silently beckons d’Artagnan to follow him, and the servant leads him to the two open caskets. Athos is in one, and d’Artagnan is surprised to see Raoul’s body in the other. It is a striking sight to see father and son so close together yet unable to touch one another. Grimaud shows d’Artagnan Raoul’s battle wounds but will not explain how Raoul’s body got here. That is when d’Artagnan remembers the letter and reads the final paragraph: the duke orders Raoul’s body to be embalmed and makes arrangements for Grimaud to bring the boy home to his father.

D’Artagnan will attend the funeral but will no longer weep because Raoul chose death, finding it preferable to life. Athos chose the burial site years ago, a small enclosure next to the chapel on the edge of his property. After the service, d’Artagnan stays until he realizes it is nearly night and goes to “say his final farewell to his friends in the double grave.” He sees a woman there praying and crying. Several times he hears the “cry of a shattered heart” and a plea for forgiveness. The woman nearly faints in her prayers and laments.

Touched by the woman’s love for his friends, d’Artagnan approaches her and discovers it is Mademoiselle de la Valliere. He is pitiless when he tells her that she is the one who sent these two men to their graves. She tries to speak, but d’Artagnan continues; he tells Valliere that he has told the king exactly what he just told her. She knows she is the one responsible for Raoul’s death, and she came here as soon as she heard the news so she could beg for his father’s forgiveness. Valliere did not know that Athos was also dead, and now she has two crimes for which she must pay.

D’Artagnan tells her what Raoul told him before he left for Africa: if she was tempted away by pride and flirtation, he forgives her even as he scorns her; if she succumbed to love, he forgives her but swears that no one else would ever have loved her as he did. Valliere knows that she is destined never to love without remorse now, and all her joy has been buried here today. She could not prevent herself from loving the king, but she knows she will be punished for it. One of the king’s officers approaches her (he does not see d’Artagnan) and tells her the king is “being devoured by jealousy and anxiety.”

After Valliere dismisses the officer, d’Artagnan mocks her claim of unhappiness, but she assures the musketeer that he will regret that sentiment one day. She will have suffered so deeply in her life that d’Artagnan will lament for her suffering. Her happiness with the king is costing her dearly and will cost her even more before her life is over. She asks Raoul’s forgiveness one last time. They are both doomed to die of love; he has gone first and she will follow. Valliere would have given her life for Raoul, though she could not give him her love.

Then she is gone and d’Artagnan is left to ponder about his own death and what is left after youth, love, friendship, glory, strength, and wealth are gone. As he prepares to leave, he tells himself he must “keep marching.” When it is d’Artagnan’s time to die, God will reveal it to him. D’Artagnan heads back to Paris alone. 

Epilogue Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 717

Epilogue

Four years later, the captain of the king’s greyhounds and the governor of the king’s falcons are riding; d’Artagnan, named a count four years ago, is behind them. He still rides like a cadet, but the last four years have aged him twelve years. D’Artagnan rides up to join the two officers who greet him with respectful bows. Unfortunately, the king now uses his musketeers more than his birds.

D’Artagnan has just returned from visiting Fouquet who is in another prison and does not understand that his life was spared and this is a good place for him to be. They are going to meet the king for a hunting party, and the falconer assures d’Artagnan that the hunt will not take long, as the king is more interested in entertaining the ladies. D’Artagnan has been gone a month; when he left, the court was still in mourning for Anne of Austria.

The king and his entourage appear; riding on the king’s left is a “startlingly beautiful woman” who is smiling at the king. The king greets d’Artagnan and invites the musketeer to dine with him tonight. Colbert is among the group and he tells d’Artagnan that one of his old friends will also be at the king’s dinner—the Duke of Alameda. D’Artagnan is mystified until the old duke presents himself; it is the aged Aramis.

The two old friends see Valliere looking jealously at the king and the woman who will soon be his new mistress. The men chat during the hunt until they reach a small, isolated chapel; d’Artagnan explains that Athos and Raoul are buried here, and the men pay their respects to their dead friends. In the chapel, they witness the king flirting with Madame de Montespan, and a rather disgusted d’Artagnan announces that they are standing nearly on top of Raoul’s grave. Behind them, Valliere faints. She had seen and heard everything, and d’Artagnan knows she is about to begin a life of extreme suffering.

At dinner that night, the king is solicitous to everyone, including his wife, his sister-in-law, and Aramis; Montespan is not present. The two older men have a surprisingly pleasant conversation with Colbert, and the king notices that his sister-in-law has been weeping. She tells him privately that she is grieving that Guiche (her lover) has been exiled by the king at the request of her husband. In fact, she has considered speaking to her brother, King Charles II of England, and asking him to assure Louis XIV that Chevalier de Lorraine (her husband’s best friend) is actually her “mortal enemy.” Henriette and the king come to an agreement that Guiche will be reinstated and Lorraine will be exiled; in return, she will help him foster a “political friendship” with her brother and England. After some discussion, it is decided that Henriette will travel to England as long as her husband consents. The king immediately approaches his brother and tells him Lorraine must leave France and Henriette must go to England. His brother is shocked and furious but cannot argue.

Colbert asks Aramis if he can ensure that Spain will remain neutral if France wages war with Holland; d’Artagnan claims that even a maritime war would require a great land army unless England supports France. Colbert reveals that France now has thirty-five vessels and two thousand cannon: even more will be acquired by the end of the year. D’Artagnan is stunned as Colbert explains all the munitions and supplies he has been secretly amassing for this impending war. Aramis says that if England helps France, he will guarantee Spain’s neutrality.

Colbert offers d’Artagnan the opportunity to lead this battle and thereby earn his field marshal’s baton; Colbert admires the musketeer when d’Artagnan declares that he is willing to die for His majesty.

The next day Aramis is leaving to negotiate Spain’s neutrality and hugs d’Artagnan goodbye, saying he is old, dead, and faded and may never see d’Artagnan again. D’Artagnan says the diplomat is likely to outlive the military man who must die with honor. They embrace once more, and two hours later each man goes his own way. 

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