Summary and Analysis
Part 3: Chapters 34-38
Next day, d'Artagnan visits the three musketeers in Athos's apartment and finds them all in vastly different moods. Mousqueton arrives and tells Porthos to return home for a very important matter. Then Bazin comes in and tells Aramis that there is a beggar from Tours waiting to talk to him (Tours, remember, is the town where Aramis's beloved Madame de Chevreuse lives in exile). Both Porthos and Aramis leave immediately. Alone with Athos, d'Artagnan tells him about the romantic escapades with Milady.
Meanwhile, Aramis arrives home, and the beggar gives him a letter which says, "It is the will of fate that we should still be separated for some time, but the wonderful and happy days of youth are not lost beyond recall." Madame de Chevreuse has sent money by the beggar, who is really a Spanish nobleman in disguise. Thus, Aramis now has enough money to buy first-rate musketeer equipment, and he also has enough money to buy his friends a splendid dinner.
Athos, however, still refuses to leave his apartment; he says that he will have his dinner sent up. D'Artagnan on his way to see Porthos, notices Porthos's servant leading an old nag and a disreputable mule. D'Artagnan recognizes the nag as the one which his father gave him, the one which he sold for three ecus. He is told that Porthos's mistress' husband is responsible for the insult and that Porthos is sending the animals back to be tied to the Coquenards' front door.
Later, Porthos confronts Madame Coquenard, and using his most disdainful, lordly, and aristocratic manner, he orders her to meet him later, letting her know the utter contempt he has for such a disgraceful horse. Madame Coquenard promises to make amends if Porthos will come to her house when her husband is gone. Porthos now feels certain that she will soon open her secret treasure chest and he will have a chance to view all of its fabulous contents.
Early in the evening, d'Artagnan visits Milady and immediately notices that she is impatient; he knows that she is anxious for him to be gone so that she can (she thinks) receive Count de Wardes. D'Artagnan leaves and goes to Kitty's room, where he waits for the hour assigned for Count de Wardes' visit. The only way he can console Kitty is to keep reminding her that he is acting solely out of his desire for revenge. Later, he hears Milady wildly delirious with happiness, instructing Kitty to make sure that all of the lights are out when the count arrives.
When it is dark within, d'Artagnan enters Milady's room. She presses his hand and asks for a token of love from him tomorrow. As proof of her own love for him tonight, she gives him a magnificent sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds, a ring that she suggests is a relief to be rid of. He then hears her refer to himself, d'Artagnan, as "that Gascon monster"; she vows to revenge herself against him. When d'Artagnan hears himself referred to with such derogatory names, he realizes the hate and contempt that she has for him; yet this woman has an "incredible power" over him. He hates and adores her at the same time.
Next morning, wearing the sapphire ring, dArtagnan visits Athos. Athos examines the ring and turns pale. He is certain that he recognizes the ring; it is exactly like the one which once belonged to his family, the ring which he gave to his wife during a night of love. Finding a unique scratch on one of the stone's facets, Athos is certain that it is the same ring. Yet it is a mystery how Milady, Lady de Winter, happened to have this ring.
When d'Artagnan arrives home, Kitty is waiting for him with a note to de Wardes; Milady is asking de Wardes to come back sooner than he said he would. D'Artagnan begins plotting his revenge. He writes a note to Milady, stating that he ("de Wardes") is involved with other mistresses and that she (Milady) will have to wait her "turn." He signs the note, "Count de Wardes." When Milady reads the note, she vows revenge against de Wardes.
For two days, d'Artagnan stays away from Milady; on the third day, Milady sends Kitty with a note asking d'Artagnan to call. That night, he goes to her house and instantly he notices that her face seems ravaged with torment. Even though he knows that she is a wicked woman who casts evil, hypnotic spells on men, d'Artagnan finds himself once again under her spell. He believed that his love for her was extinguished, but now he knows that it was only smoldering. Now he feels as if he would risk damnation for her smile. Milady, knowing that he loves her, asks if he will do something for her, and d'Artagnan promises that he will do anything for her.
Milady says that she has an enemy ("a mortal enemy") — but just as she is about to speak the enemy's name, d'Artagnan speaks it for her. When she inquires how he knows the man's name, he lies to her. He says that de Wardes was bragging about his seductive success with Milady and showing everyone the ring that she gave him. This revelation incenses Milady, but since d'Artagnan is going to kill de Wardes in a duel, she promises d'Artagnan sexual satisfaction that evening at eleven.
Milady's kisses are as cold as stone, but d'Artagnan is nonetheless passionately and blindly in love with her. His youth, his pride, his vanity, and his mad passion make him believe that Milady loves him. Later, after they have made love for two hours, Milady wants to discuss her revenge against de Wardes. At this point, d'Artagnan reveals that it was he and not de Wardes who made love to her in the dark last week, and that it is he who has the valuable ring.
D'Artagnan has never seen such violent hatred in a woman as that which erupts within Milady. She attacks him and during a struggle, her negligee is torn, revealing a fleur-de-lis, the mark of a convicted criminal, indelibly branded on one of her smooth white shoulders. Milady has only one thought: "Now he knew her secret, her terrible secret that no one else knew." Knowing that d'Artagnan must be killed, Milady attacks the half-naked youth with a knife. d'Artagnan is terror-stricken at Milady's face, now contorted by hatred, fury, and revenge; her lips are blood-red and her pupils are horribly dilated. Suddenly Kitty opens the door and d'Artagnan is able to escape — after quickly slipping into women's clothes.
Despite the fact that d'Artagnan is wearing a woman's dress, he goes immediately to Athos's house, where he tells Athos that Milady has a fleur-de-lis branded on one of her shoulders — just like Athos' late wife, the woman whom Athos believes he hanged. Comparing notes, the two men realize that Milady and Athos's wife are the same person. Athos knows how evil and dangerous Milady can be, and he warns d'Artagnan.
They send Grimaud to ask Planchet to bring clothing for d'Artagnan, and meanwhile, d'Artagnan tries to give Athos the diamond and sapphire ring which rightfully belongs to him. Athos, however, will not take back his mother's ring because it has been sullied by Milady. He can't bring himself to sell it, so he asks d'Artagnan to pawn it so that they can split the money. D'Artagnan tries to refuse his half of the money, but Athos tells him that he must accept half of the money or he, Athos, will throw the ring in the river. Hearing this threat, d'Artagnan agrees to take it.
Kitty enters, begging for help. By now, Milady is sure to know that Kitty is d'Artagnan's accomplice, and Kitty is convinced that her life is in danger. D'Artagnan recalls Aramis's friend in Tours and asks him to write a letter to this noble woman, asking her to protect Kitty. Aramis agrees and hands Kitty a sealed letter for the mysterious lady in Tours.
The ring is pawned, and they buy equipment for Athos; Athos, however, realizes that he never wants to see the ring again, so he tells d'Artagnan to go back and get two hundred more ecus for the ring and sell it outright. Now Athos has his equipment — and money to spare.
These chapters include some of the most exciting intrigues in the entire novel. They are compellingly narrated, demonstrating Dumas's genius as a storyteller.
Chapter 34 is constructed like an interlude, showing how Aramis receives a mysterious letter delivered by a beggar who demands that Aramis show proof of identification. It turns out that the beggar is really a Spanish nobleman. Remember that the queen (Anne of Austria) is Spanish and that her closest friend, Madame de Chevreuse, has been exiled to Tours; since the Spanish noblemen are enemies of France, we must assume that the beggar is also a close friend of the queen and Madame de Chevreuse. Aramis is ecstatic over the letter and declares his love for her. Once again, love and intrigue are inextricably intertwined in this novel.
Meanwhile, love has also entangled the usually placid Porthos. He has "used" love to threaten his mistress who, in her miserliness, tried to give Porthos an ugly nag, the one that belonged to d'Artagnan when he first came to Paris. Finally, however, her infatuation, devotion, and love for Porthos makes her relent and, through the power of love, both Aramis and Porthos obtain their military equipment, even though the means are quite different.
D'Artagnan's entanglement with love is also comic — even if his life is at stake. Before de Wardes is due to rendezvous with Milady, she insists that all of the lights be out. This might seem like an amateurish way for Dumas to have d'Artagnan accomplish his deception; but ultimately, Dumas is creating this scene exactly as a shrewd woman might prepare for a rendezvous. Milady wants the room darkened so that her lover will not be able to see that she has a fleur-de-lis branded on one of her shoulders; she musn't allow anyone to know that she is a branded, convicted criminal. Only later, when Milady and d'Artagnan make love until daylight and he accidentally tears her gown, is her dreadful secret exposed. Furiously, she vows to kill d'Artagnan — primarily so that she can protect her dreadful secret. Most men would not be so obsessed with such a wicked woman, but d'Artagnan is entrapped in a typical love/hate dichotomy wherein he is so strongly attracted to Milady's physical beauty that he cannot face the reality of her corruption. He is a very young man, and he wants Milady to love him for himself. He is sure that he is more handsome than de Wardes — he has a better body, he is stronger, prouder, and he is a better swordsman. In his youth and vanity, d'Artagnan cannot believe that Milady would really prefer someone else.
In Chapter 35, when Athos realizes that the sapphire ring with the diamond facets is the same one that he gave to his late wife (don't forget that he thinks he hanged her), he can surmise only that either she sold the ring or that, somehow, Milady gained possession of it. At this point, it does not occur to him that Milady is his wife. It is only after d'Artagnan describes her and the fleur-de-lis branded on her shoulder that Athos realizes that this evil, wicked woman is the same evil woman whom he cast aside long ago.