List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

energy to breathe after so terrible a shock.  D'Artagnan, leaning against
the wall, in front of Fouquet, with his hand to his brow, asked himself
the cause of such a wonderful prodigy.  He could not have said at once
why he doubted, but he knew assuredly that he had reason to doubt, and
that in this meeting of the two Louis XIV.s lay all the doubt and
difficulty that during late days had rendered the conduct of Aramis so
suspicious to the musketeer.  These ideas were, however, enveloped in a
haze, a veil of mystery.  The actors in this assembly seemed to swim in
the vapors of a confused waking.  Suddenly Louis XIV., more impatient and
more accustomed to command, ran to one of the shutters, which he opened,
tearing the curtains in his eagerness.  A flood of living light entered
the chamber, and made Philippe draw back to the alcove.  Louis seized
upon this movement with eagerness, and addressing himself to the queen:

"My mother," said he, "do you not acknowledge your son, since every one
here has forgotten his king!"  Anne of Austria started, and raised her
arms towards Heaven, without being able to articulate a single word.

"My mother," said Philippe, with a  calm voice, "do you not acknowledge
your son?"  And this time, in his turn, Louis drew back.

As to Anne of Austria, struck suddenly in head and heart with fell
remorse, she lost her equilibrium.  No one aiding her, for all were
petrified, she sank back in her fauteuil, breathing a weak, trembling
sigh.  Louis could not endure the spectacle and the affront.  He bounded
towards D'Artagnan, over whose brain a vertigo was stealing and who
staggered as he caught at the door for support.

"_A moi! mousquetaire!_" said he.  "Look us in the face and say which is
the paler, he or I!"

This cry roused D'Artagnan, and stirred in his heart the fibers of
obedience.  He shook his head, and, without more hesitation, he walked
straight up to Philippe, on whose shoulder he laid his hand, saying,
"Monsieur, you are my prisoner!"

Philippe did not raise his eyes towards Heaven, nor stir from the spot,
where he seemed nailed to the floor, his eye intently fixed upon the king
his brother.  He reproached him with a sublime silence for all
misfortunes past, all tortures to come.  Against this language of the
soul the king felt he had no power; he cast down his eyes, dragging away
precipitately his brother and sister, forgetting his mother, sitting
motionless within three paces of the son whom she left a second time to
be condemned to death.  Philippe approached Anne of Austria, and said to
her, in a soft and nobly agitated voice:

"If I were not your son, I should curse you, my mother, for having
rendered me so unhappy."

D'Artagnan felt a shudder pass through the marrow of his bones.  He bowed
respectfully to the young prince, and said as he bent, "Excuse me,
monseigneur, I am but a soldier, and my oaths are his who has just left
the chamber."

"Thank you, M. d'Artagnan....  What has become of M. d'Herblay?"

"M. d'Herblay is in safety, monseigneur," said a voice behind them; "and
no one, while I live and am free, shall cause a hair to fall from his

"Monsieur Fouquet!" said the prince, smiling sadly.

"Pardon me, monseigneur," said Fouquet, kneeling, "but he who is just
gone out from hence was my guest."

"Here are," murmured Philippe, with a  sigh, "brave friends and good
hearts.  They make me regret the world.  On, M. d'Artagnan, I follow you."

At the moment the captain of the musketeers was about to leave the room
with his prisoner, Colbert appeared, and, after remitting an order from
the king to D'Artagnan, retired.  D'Artagnan read the paper, and then
crushed it in his hand with rage.

"What is it?" asked the prince.

"Read, monseigneur," replied the musketeer.

Philippe read the following words, hastily traced by the hand of the king:

"M. d'Artagnan will conduct the prisoner to the Ile Sainte-Marguerite.
He will cover his face with an iron vizor, which the prisoner shall never
raise except at peril of his life."

"That is just," said Philippe, with resignation; "I am ready."

"Aramis was right," said Fouquet, in a low voice, to the musketeer, "this
one is every whit as much a king as the other."

"More so!" replied D'Artagnan.  "He wanted only you and me."

Chapter XXV:
In Which Porthos Thinks He Is Pursuing a Duchy.

Aramis and Porthos, having profited by the time granted them by Fouquet,
did honor to the French cavalry by their speed.  Porthos did not clearly
understand on what kind of mission he was forced to display so much
velocity; but as he saw Aramis spurring on furiously, he, Porthos,
spurred on in the same way.  They had soon, in this manner, placed twelve
leagues between them and Vaux; they were then obliged to change horses,
and organize a sort of post arrangement.  It was during a relay that
Porthos ventured to interrogate Aramis discreetly.

"Hush!" replied the latter, "know only that our fortune depends on our

As if Porthos had still been the musketeer, without a sou or a _maille_
of 1626, he pushed forward.  That magic word "fortune" always means
something in the human ear.  It means _enough_ for those who have
nothing; it means _too much_ for those who have enough.

"I shall be made a duke!" said Porthos, aloud.  He was speaking to

"That is possible," replied Aramis, smiling after his own fashion, as
Porthos's horse passed him.  Aramis felt, notwithstanding, as though his
brain were on fire; the activity of the body had not yet succeeded in
subduing that of the mind.  All there is of raging passion, mental
toothache or mortal threat, raged, gnawed and grumbled in the thoughts of
the unhappy prelate.  His countenance exhibited visible traces of this
rude combat.  Free on the highway to abandon himself to every impression
of the moment, Aramis did not fail to swear at every start of his horse,
at every inequality in the road.  Pale, at times inundated with boiling
sweats, then again dry and icy, he flogged his horses till the blood
streamed from their sides.  Porthos, whose dominant fault was not
sensibility, groaned at this.  Thus traveled they on for eight long
hours, and then arrived at Orleans.  It was four o'clock in the
afternoon.  Aramis, on observing this, judged that nothing showed pursuit
to be a possibility.  It would be without example that a troop capable of
taking him and Porthos should be furnished with relays sufficient to
perform forty leagues in eight hours.  Thus, admitting pursuit, which was
not at all manifest, the fugitives were five hours in advance of their

Aramis thought that there might be no imprudence in taking a little rest,
but that to continue would make the matter more certain.  Twenty leagues
more, performed with the same rapidity, twenty more leagues devoured, and
no one, not even D'Artagnan, could overtake the enemies of the king.
Aramis felt obliged, therefore, to inflict upon Porthos the pain of
mounting on horseback again.  They rode on till seven o'clock in the
evening, and had only one post more between them and Blois.  But here a
diabolical accident alarmed Aramis greatly.  There were no horses at the
post.  The prelate asked himself by what infernal machination his enemies
had succeeded in depriving him of the means of going further, - he who
never recognized chance as a deity, who found a cause for every accident,
preferred believing that the refusal of the postmaster, at such an hour,
in such a country, was the consequence of an order emanating from above:
an order given with a view of stopping short the king-maker in the midst
of his flight.  But at the moment he was about to fly into a passion, so
as to procure either a horse or an explanation, he was struck with the
recollection that the Comte de la Fere lived in the neighborhood.

"I am not traveling," said he; "I do not want horses for a whole stage.
Find me two horses to go and pay a visit to a nobleman of my acquaintance
who resides near this place."

"What nobleman?" asked the postmaster.

"M. le Comte de la Fere."

"Oh!" replied the postmaster, uncovering with respect, "a very worthy
nobleman.  But, whatever may be my desire to make myself agreeable to
him, I cannot furnish you with horses, for all mine are engaged by M. le
Duc de Beaufort."

"Indeed!" said Aramis, much disappointed.

"Only," continued the postmaster, "if you will put up with a little
carriage I have, I will harness an old blind horse who has still his legs
left, and peradventure will draw you to the house of M. le Comte de la

"It is worth a louis," said Aramis.

"No, monsieur, such a ride is worth no more than a crown; that is what M.
Grimaud, the comte's intendant, always pays me when he makes use of that
carriage; and I should not wish the Comte de la Fere to have to reproach
me with having imposed on one of his friends."

"As you please," said Aramis, "particularly as regards disobliging the
Comte de la Fere; only I think I have a right to give you a louis for
your idea."

"Oh! doubtless," replied the postmaster with delight.  And he himself
harnessed the ancient horse to the creaking carriage.  In the meantime
Porthos was curious to behold.  He imagined he had discovered a clew to
the secret, and he felt pleased, because a visit to Athos, in the first
place, promised him much satisfaction, and, in the next, gave him the
hope of finding at the same time a good bed and good supper.  The master,
having got the carriage ready, ordered one of his men to drive the
strangers to La Fere.  Porthos took his seat by the side of Aramis,
whispering in his ear, "I understand."

"Aha!" said Aramis, "and what do you understand, my friend?"

"We are going, on the part of the king, to make some great proposal to

"Pooh!" said Aramis.

"You need tell me nothing about it," added the worthy Porthos,
endeavoring to reseat himself so as to avoid the jolting, "you need tell
me nothing, I shall guess."

"Well! do, my friend; guess away."

They arrived at Athos's dwelling about nine o'clock in the evening,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: