Chapter 44 Summary
The three Musketeers wait for the Cardinal. Porthos and Aramis start a game of dice while Athos paces the room. Whenever he passes the stovepipe, he hears the murmurs of the conversation that is taking place in the lady’s room upstairs. On one such occasion, he hears the name Milady and freezes in place, realizing that the lady upstairs is his former wife and d’Artagnan’s enemy. The other two Musketeers join him at the stovepipe, and they eavesdrop on an important conversation between the Cardinal and his spy.
The Duke of Buckingham’s army has been forced to retreat temporarily from La Rochelle, and the Cardinal wants him to stay away. The Cardinal tells Milady to go to London and threaten to reveal detailed information about the affair between Buckingham and the Queen. If England rejoins the battle at La Rochelle, the Cardinal will ruin the Queen's reputation forever.
Milady rapidly memorizes the Cardinal's message, including a list of details meant to convince Buckingham that the threat is real. Then she asks what will happen if Buckingham refuses to back off. After some hesitation, the Cardinal suggests that "a lucky accident" may eliminate the problem. When Milady presses for details, he says:
Well! we need but find some beautiful and clever young woman who has personal reasons to take revenge on the Duke.
In the conversation that follows, it becomes clear that Milady herself has loved and been betrayed by Buckingham, and that she is willing to hire an assassin to kill him if necessary. This seems to satisfy the Cardinal, who helps her make plans to set out for England the following morning.
Milady is still desperate to kill d'Artagnan. She insists that if she is going to take such huge risks for the Cardinal, then he must help her recapture Madame Bonacieux, who has been rescued by the Queen and placed in safety in a convent somewhere. Milady also demands that the Cardinal help her take revenge on d'Artagnan, whom she calls "a scoundrel." The Cardinal agrees to help and asks for a pen.
At this point, Athos pulls his friends into the opposite corner of their little room and tells them quietly that he needs to leave. They ask what to tell the Cardinal, who ordered them to wait, so Athos makes up a story about going out to scout for danger on the road back to camp. The other two agree to tell this lie, and Athos goes outside. He mounts his horse, checks his pistols, and draws his sword. Then he rides away, looking like a man who fully expects to meet danger on the road.