Summary and Analysis
On his way back to meet Athos, d'Artagnan ponders his situation. If he wounds the already-wounded Athos, he will look bad; yet if he himself is wounded by the already-wounded Athos, he will be doubly disgraced. He searches for a way out of the dilemma. Arriving on time for the duel, he finds that Athos's seconds have not arrived. Meanwhile, Athos's shoulder has begun to throb painfully, so d'Artagnan offers him some of his mother's miraculous salve. This generosity impresses Athos. Afterward, the seconds arrive: Porthos and Aramis. D'Artagnan registers great surprise when he learns that these gentlemen are known as "the three inseparables," or "the three musketeers." just as Athos and d'Artagnan have their swords in position for the duel, they are interrupted by five of the cardinal's guards and are ordered to yield to arrest because of the edict against dueling. D'Artagnan has to decide whether he will support the cardinal's men (after all, the cardinal is more powerful than the king) or whether he should side with the King's Musketeers. Immediately, he decides on the musketeers. During the encounter, the cardinal's guards are soundly defeated, and d'Artagnan is accepted into the close camaraderie of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
Prior to each of d'Artagnan's dueling encounters with the three musketeers, Dumas creates tension by making us guess how the hero will confront each of them and yet emerge with honor from each encounter. This question, of course, is ultimately obviated by the appearance of the cardinal's guards and by d'Artagnan's decision to fight on the side of the musketeers. His brilliant although unorthodox swordsmanship wins him the respect of the musketeers, and thus through a stroke of luck, d'Artagnan becomes, as it were, an unofficial "fourth musketeer." Not until later in the novel, however, will he become an official musketeer.