As the war rages on, more and more countries begin to ally themselves with England over France. This is a bad look for the cardinal who is blamed for such results. In fact, it is rumored that the cardinal’s many political enemies regularly try to assassinate him. Nonetheless, he often goes out alone at night without worrying about such matters.
France refused to ally themselves with other European countries throughout the late 16th and early 17th centuries, meaning they had few allies they could count on in their war with the English. In essence, everything that Dumas communicates here about the cardinal’s position is historically accurate.
One evening, the three musketeers are returning from a nearby inn, and they hear horses coming in their direction. Eventually, they spot two riders and demand to know their identities. The riders refuse to offer up their names, but their aura makes Athos think that he is in the presence of an important figure. Eventually, Athos realizes he is speaking to none other than the cardinal himself.
Despite their rivalry with the cardinal while in Paris, the musketeers know they must respect him and his men during wartime for the good of the country. Nevertheless, it is odd that he would be traveling with so little company at night and the musketeers are right to be suspicious.
Because the cardinal is traveling with only a single guard, he asks the musketeers to escort him to the inn they recently came from. Partially out of a sense of duty and partially out of curiosity, the musketeers agree to escort the cardinal to the inn. There, the cardinal is planning to meet a visitor—a woman—although he does not give a name. When the cardinal arrives, he is told that his visitor is waiting for him in a room upstairs.
Here, the musketeers sense an opportunity to get information that they would not otherwise be privy to. Additionally, the cardinal does not seem to recognize them as d’Artagnan’s friends, meaning that they do not stand out in his eyes.