In the conclusion, the brave friends slay an evil dragon (in this case, an evil-yet-hot woman named Milady) and settle down to enjoy the fruits of their success. It’s your basic happy ending.
Then there’s the Epilogue. D’Artagnan makes friends with the man whom he thought was his worst enemy, which is also a feel-good way to end things. But then, in the very last paragraph, we end with Monsieur Bonacieux. This is – to put it mildly – strange. Monsieur Bonacieux is an anti-hero. He’s old, cowardly, and not exactly the brightest crayon in the box. The last paragraph of the novel tells us that Monsieur Bonacieux does not go looking for his wife, and instead one day appeals to the Cardinal, who claims he will provide for Bonacieux. The man is never seen again. His neighbors believe Bonacieux is living large in a fancy castle, but we think he probably wound up swimming with the fishes. Either way, we have to ask, what’s Dumas doing?
Our take on the ending is that it reinforces the culture of The Three Musketeers, namely, that everyone has a certain place on the social ladder, and within that place, courage, honor, and intelligence are prized above all. Bonacieux occupies a low rung on the social ladder, and possesses neither courage, honor, nor intelligence. As such, it is highly inappropriate for him to approach the Cardinal, and we assume he is dealt with accordingly. By juxtaposing Bonacieux’s actions with Rochefort and D’Artagnan’s interactions after their duel, Dumas shows us what ideal gentlemen look like. Rochefort and D’Artagnan were once enemies, but being considered the enemy of a man carried its own cachet: it meant you were a respected equal. If you were good enough to compete with Michael Jordan at basketball, you’re pretty awesome.