List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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thankfully prevented by Raoul's timely and tactful intervention.  After
the marriage, though, Monsieur Philip becomes horribly jealous of
Buckingham, and has him exiled.  Before leaving, however, the duke fights a
duel with M. de Wardes at Calais.  De Wardes is a malicious and spiteful man,
the sworn enemy of D'Artagnan, and, by the same token, that of Athos, Aramis,
Porthos, and Raoul as well.  Both men are seriously wounded, and the duke is
taken back to England to recover.  Raoul's friend, the Comte de Guiche, is the
next to succumb to Henrietta's charms, and Monsieur obtains his exile as well,
though De Guiche soon effects a reconciliation.  But then the king's eye falls
on Madame Henrietta during the comte's absence, and this time Monsieur's
jealousy has no recourse.  Anne of Austria intervenes, and the king and his
sister-in-law decide to pick a young lady with whom the king can pretend to be
in love, the better to mask their own affair.  They unfortunately select
Louise de la Valliere, Raoul's fiancee.  While the court is in residence at
Fontainebleau, the king unwitting overhears Louise confessing her love for him
while chatting with her friends beneath the royal oak, and the king promptly
forgets his affection for Madame.  That same night, Henrietta overhears, at
the same oak, De Guiche confessing his love for her to Raoul.  The two embark
on their own affair.  A few days later, during a rainstorm, Louis and Louise
are trapped alone together, and the whole court begins to talk of the scandal
while their love affair blossoms.  Aware of Louise's attachment, the king
arranges for Raoul to be sent to England for an indefinite period.

Meanwhile, the struggle for power continues between Fouquet and Colbert.
Although the Belle-Isle plot backfired, Colbert prompts the king to ask
Fouquet for more and more money, and without his two friends to raise it for
him, Fouquet is sorely pressed.  The situation gets so bad that his new
mistress, Madame de Belliere, must resort to selling all her jewels and her
gold and silver plate.  Aramis, while this is going on, has grown friendly
with the governor of the Bastile, M. de Baisemeaux, a fact that Baisemeaux
unwittingly reveals to D'Artagnan while inquiring of him as to Aramis's
whereabouts.  This further arouses the suspicions of the musketeer, who was
made to look ridiculous by Aramis.  He had ridden overnight at an insane pace,
but arrived a few minutes after Fouquet had already presented Belle-Isle to
the king.  Aramis learns from the governor the location of a mysterious
prisoner, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Louis XIV - in fact, the two
are identical.  He uses the existence of this secret to persuade a dying
Franciscan monk, the general of the society of the Jesuits, to name him,
Aramis, the new general of the order.  On Aramis's advice, hoping to use
Louise's influence with the king to counteract Colbert's influence, Fouquet
also writes a love letter to La Valliere, unfortunately undated.  It never
reaches its destination, however, as the servant ordered to deliver it turns
out to be an agent of Colbert's.

Louise de la Valliere (Etext 2710): 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
_fete_ 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...

And so Baisemeaux is conducting Aramis to the prisoner as the final section of
The Vicomte de Bragelonne and this final story of the D'Artagnan Romances
opens.  I have written a "Cast of Historical Characters," Etext 2760, that
will enable curious readers to compare personages in the novel with their
historical counterparts.  Also of interest may be an essay Dumas wrote on the
possible identity of the real Man in the Iron Mask, which is Etext 2751.

John Bursey
August, 2000

The Man in the Iron Mask
by Alexandre Dumas

Chapter I:
The Prisoner.

Since Aramis's singular transformation into a confessor of the order,
Baisemeaux was no longer the same man.  Up to that period, the place
which Aramis had held in the worthy governor's estimation was that of a
prelate whom he respected and a friend to whom he owed a debt of
gratitude; but now he felt himself an inferior, and that Aramis was his
master.  He himself lighted a lantern, summoned a turnkey, and said,
returning to Aramis, "I am at your orders, monseigneur."  Aramis merely
nodded his head, as much as to say, "Very good"; and signed to him with
his hand to lead the way.  Baisemeaux advanced, and Aramis followed him.
It was a calm and lovely starlit night; the steps of three men resounded
on the flags of the terraces, and the clinking of the keys hanging from
the jailer's girdle made itself heard up to the stories of the towers, as
if to remind the prisoners that the liberty of earth was a luxury beyond
their reach.  It might have been said that the alteration effected in
Baisemeaux extended even to the prisoners.  The turnkey, the same who, on
Aramis's first arrival had shown himself so inquisitive and curious, was
now not only silent, but impassible.  He held his head down, and seemed
afraid to keep his ears open.  In this wise they reached the basement of
the Bertaudiere, the two first stories of which were mounted silently and
somewhat slowly; for Baisemeaux, though far from disobeying, was far from
exhibiting any eagerness to obey.  On arriving at the door, Baisemeaux
showed a disposition to enter the prisoner's chamber; but Aramis,
stopping him on the threshold, said, "The rules do not allow the governor
to hear the prisoner's confession."

Baisemeaux bowed, and made way for Aramis, who took the lantern and
entered; and then signed to them to close the door behind him.  For an

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