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We start this chapter with some background on M. de Tréville.
He embodies the classic story of a self-made man: he was once a small town boy with big dreams who showed up in the big city with barely a nickel in his pocket... and worked his way up to being one of the country’s head honchos.
Not only is Tréville good with a sword, he is also capable of immense loyalty. Both qualities endear him to the King (that would be King Louis XIII).
When the King sets up his own private army of Musketeers, he picks Tréville as the commander.
As soon as the Cardinal sees that the King has got an army of soldiers carrying fancy swords, he gets jealous and wants one too. The King and the Cardinal settle down to a competition to determine France’s best swordsmen. (It went along the lines of, "No, I want him! I saw him first!" "Yes, but I’m the King. I always get to win.") Not being able to actually fight each other, the Cardinal and the King also have polite conversations meant for the sole purpose of bragging about their fighting men.
The King’s Musketeers are a loud, rowdy, and drunken bunch; they listen only to Tréville, whom they adore.
Basically, Tréville is the man.
If you were a man in 17th century France, you’d want to meet (be received by) either the Cardinal or the King. If that fails, however, you would want to meet Tréville. His hotel is crammed non-stop with men trying to meet him, and fifty to sixty Musketeers that do nothing but hang out and look imposing.
Into this melée, D’Artagnan shows up. He’s a small-town boy, remember, so he’s intimidated (but tries really hard to look calm), and ends up just feeling ridiculous.
Making his way through Tréville’s hotel the way a new kid makes his way through a cafeteria at lunchtime, D’Artagnan finally makes it to a stairwell.
He stops. A man on the top step is dueling three men on a lower step.
D’Artagnan believes for a moment that the swords are blunt, but then realizes that the Musketeers are using real equipment.
Inside one of the rooms (more specifically, the room before the room where you get to talk to the Man), men are gossiping about all the latest happenings at court. (You know, who’s sleeping with whom, who’s being corrupt—the usual gossip.)
Finally a servant notices D’Artagnan and asks him what’s up. D’Artagnan tells him that he would like to speak with M. de Tréville. The servant goes off and D’Artagnan finally takes his time to actually look around.
He spies a group of Musketeers with a really tall, arrogant guy at the center. He’s dressed uncommonly well in a blue shirt, a gold baldric (read: fancy belt, kind of the 17th century equivalent of a shoulder holster, except, for a sword instead of a gun), and a red velvet cloak. The man looks good, but he’s complaining about having a cold, (which is the real reason he’s twirling his cloak around).
Then the man talks about how his cloak is ridiculous, but a) it’s fashionable and b) he needs some way of spending his inheritance.
One of the other Musketeers says: "No way, Porthos—you got that from your sugar mama."
Porthos defends himself as the other Musketeers start questioning him. Finally, Porthos turns to some other guy, calls him "Aramis," and asks him to back him up.
Aramis is short and stout (like a teapot!), with an honest face and slow manner of speaking. He backs Porthos up, which dispels all the naysayers.
Conversation turns to the latest court scandal. Basically, the Cardinal is a terrible man who kills people on trumped-up charges.
In the course of the conversation, Porthos tells Aramis that it’s a pity he (Aramis) never followed his first calling to become a priest.
Aramis replies that he will become a priest someday; he is continuing his theological studies. He also tells Porthos that he (Porthos) is vain.
The two of them start fighting, but are interrupted when a servant flings open a door and tells D’Artagnan that Tréville is ready to see him.
Everyone shuts up as D’Artagnan walks over, pleased to have avoided seeing the fight.