Believing D'Artagnan occupied at Fontainebleau and Porthos safely tucked away at Paris, Aramis holds a funeral for the dead Franciscan - but in fact, Aramis is wrong in both suppositions. D'Artagnan has left Fontainebleau, bored to tears by the fetes, retrieved Porthos, and is visiting the country-house of Planchet, his old lackey. This house happens to be right next door to the graveyard, and upon observing Aramis at this funeral, and his subsequent meeting with a mysterious hooded lady, D'Artagnan, suspicions aroused, resolves to make a little trouble for the bishop. He presents Porthos to the king at the same time as Fouquet presents Aramis, thereby surprising the wily prelate. Aramis's professions of affection and innocence do only a little to allay D'Artagnan's concerns, and he continues to regard Aramis's actions with a curious and wary eye. Meanwhile, much to his delight, Porthos is invited to dine with the king as a result of his presentation, and with D'Artagnan's guidance, manages to behave in such a manner as to procure the king's marked favor.
The mysterious woman turns out to be the Duchesse de Chevreuse, a notorious schemer and former friend of Anne of Austria. She comes bearing more bad news for Fouquet, who is already in trouble, as the king has invited himself to a fetes at Vaux, Fouquet's magnificent mansion, that will surely bankrupt the poor superintendent. The Duchesse has letters from Mazarin that prove that Fouquet has received thirteen million francs from the royal coffers, and she wishes to sell these letters to Aramis. Aramis refuses, and the letters are instead sold to Colbert. Fouquet, meanwhile, discovers that the receipt that proves his innocence in the affair has been stolen from him. Even worse, Fouquet, desperate for money, is forced to sell the parliamentary position that renders him untouchable by any court proceedings. As part of her deal with Colbert, though, Chevreuse also obtains a secret audience with the queen- mother, where the two discuss a shocking secret - Louis XIV has a twin brother, long believed, however, to be dead.
Meanwhile, in other quarters, De Wardes, Raoul's inveterate enemy, has returned from Calais, barely recovered from his wounds, and no sooner does he return than he begins again to insult people, particularly La Valliere, and this time the comte de Guiche is the one to challenge him. The duel leaves De Guiche horribly wounded, but enables Madame to use her influence to destroy De Wardes's standing at court. The fetes, however, come to an end, and the court returns to Paris. The king has been more than obvious about his affections for Louise, and Madame, the queen-mother, and the queen join forces to destroy her. She is dishonorably discharged from court, and in despair, she flees to the convent at Chaillot. Along the way, though, she runs into D'Artagnan, who manages to get word back to the king of what has taken place. By literally begging Madame in tears, Louis manages to secure Louise's return to court - but Madame still places every obstacle possible before the lovers. They have to resort to building a secret staircase and meeting in the apartments of M. de Saint-Aignan, where Louis has a painter create a portrait of Louise. But Madame recalls Raoul from London and shows him these proofs of Louise's infidelity. Raoul, crushed, challenges Saint-Aignan to a duel, which the king prevents, and Athos, furious, breaks his sword before the king. The king has D'Artagnan arrest Athos, and at the Bastile they encounter Aramis, who is paying Baisemeaux another visit. Raoul learns of Athos's arrest, and with Porthos in tow, they effect a daring rescue, surprising the carriage containing D'Artagnan and Athos as they leave the Bastile. Although quite impressive, the intrepid raid is in vain, as D'Artagnan has already secured Athos's pardon from the king. Instead, everybody switches modes of transport; D'Artagnan and Porthos take the horses back to Paris, and Athos and Raoul take the carriage back to La Fere, where they intend to reside permanently, as the king is now their sworn enemy, Raoul cannot bear to see Louise, and they have no more dealings in Paris.
Aramis, left alone with Baisemeaux, inquires the governor of the prison about his loyalties, in particular to the Jesuits. The bishop reveals that he is a confessor of the society, and invokes their regulations in order to obtain access to this mysterious prisoner who bears such a striking resemblance to Louis XIV...
This was another excellent story of the Musketeers. Although this story features more of Raoul and Louise than it does of the Musketeers, it remains exciting an dfull of plot twists. It is hard to believe Raoul could be treated the way he was and yet despite his pain he remains honorable. I found this story even better than the Vicomte de Bragelonne.
It was breath taking like Dumas's other works, the story was written with his effortless flow of words and brillient remarks and slight comical references when the characters are interacting, finishing the book off superbly!
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