Chapter 1 Summary

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

The Prisoner

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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...

(The entire section contains 42525 words.)

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