In the end of the musketeers’ saga, dying D’Artagnan whispered: “Athos—Porthos, farewell till we meet again! Aramis, adieu forever!”
Then follows the final line of Alexander Dumas’ story: “Of the four valiant men whose history we have related, there now remained but one. Heaven had taken to itself three noble souls.”
In earlier editions, the last line reads, “Of the four valiant men whose history we have related, there now no longer remained but one single body; God had resumed the souls.” Dumas made the revision in later editions.
There is a mystery in D’Artagnan last words. We know that Aramis is still alive, but he is several years older than Gascon. If D’Artagnan has hope to meet his friends, who already passed away, behind the curtain which separates our world from “the other world”, why this “Adieu, forever!” to Aramis? I was intrigued with this farewell, and tried to invent some explanation in my novel “Three Musketeers Again”, but let us leave this mysterious theme for further discussion.
What is important – both editions refer to “four valiant men”, and nobody argues that, starting from the very beginning, there are Four of them, and D’Artagnan is Number One. He is the brain of this quartet, he is its’ soul. He is a leader.
Examples? They are numerous. Look at just one chapter nine.
“I always said that D’Artagnan had the longest head of the four,” said Athos, who, having uttered his opinion, to which D’Artagnan replied with a bow, immediately resumed his accustomed silence.
“You will leave D’Artagnan to act as he thinks proper,” said Athos. “He has, I repeat, the longest head of the four, and for my part I declare that I will obey him. Do as you think best, D’Artagnan.”
“Porthos,” said Aramis, “Athos has already told you that you are a simpleton, and I am quite of his opinion. D’Artagnan, you are a great man; and when you occupy Monsieur de Tréville’s place, I will come and ask your influence to secure me an abbey.”
So, why not “The Four Musketeers”?
Pundits will answer: Because D’Artagnan initially was not a musketeer and served in more modest company of Royal Guards.
But he was accepted to Royal Musketeers in the middle of the narration, before the siege of La Rochelle (and it is not critically important that Dumas forgot about this fact because he “enlisted” the Gascon again later, during above mentioned siege).
It looks like not a big deal, because in the end of story, D’Artagnan was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant of Musketeers, and Athos served under his command for the next few years, as Dumas told us in the Epilogue (Aramis and Porthos retired from the company, following their own life paths).
Still, “The Four Musketeers” looks like a perfectly valid title, and Dumas would be immediately and willingly excused by his numerous fans for this small inaccuracy.
I think that the answer is in Dumas’ intention to separate Gascon from the others. He made D’Artagnan his main hero, protagonist. He, actually, observe the surroundings using D’Artagnan’s eyes.
Starting from the very beginning of the novel, Dumas (and the reader) travel together with the young Gascon on his old horse, gifted by his father. Together we are looking around in suspicion that the weird color of this mount caused some mockery, feeling D’Artagnan rage and readiness to start a duel with any potential daring ironist from the street crowd. Together we travel to Paris nurturing ambitious plans to become a King’s Musketeer, dreaming of glory, dreaming of love…..Following D’Artagnan we met his nemesis – Rochefort, and his future arch-nemesis, la femme fatale Milady.
We watch the first fight of young Gascon in the town of Meung, and the first drops of blood he spilled, his first wounds. We see him dropped unconscious on the street in front of the hostel of The Jolly Miller. For now, we even don’t know about the very existence of some three brave musketeers, who later become his friends.
In the end of the novel D’Artagnan received the patent of The Lieutenant of Musketeers. In the end of the second novel “Twenty Years After” he became a Captain of Musketeers. In the end of the third and last novel “Ten Years Later”, he received the highest rank of Marshal of France from the king, for capturing another enemy fortress, while one of the last of the cannonballs form the side of defenders mortally wounded him. His last words were cited in the beginning.
Dumas not only started his story together with D’Artagnan, he ended it with him.
While reading “The Three Musketeers”, we constantly encounter the description of D’Artagnan feelings, emotions, thoughts…. We observe surroundings with his eyes.
“Now, we must have badly painted the character of our adventure-seeker, or our readers must have already perceived that D’Artagnan was not an ordinary man; therefore, while repeating to himself that his death was inevitable, he did not make up his mind to die quietly, as one less courageous and less restrained might have done in his place.” (Chapter V).
On the pages of the novel we will find numerous similar examples, reading D’Artagnan’s mind thanks to Dumas’ goodwill. But we will almost never read the minds of other three heroes.
They will be always a little bit distant, a little bit remote from us.
Why is it so?
Maybe, just maybe Dumas felt himself as D’Artagnan. And, maybe, just maybe, he put some of his dreams, wishes, and desires into his hero. Some more serious critics agree with me……