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

favored by a splendid moon.  This cheerful light rejoiced Porthos beyond
expression; but Aramis appeared annoyed by it in an equal degree.  He
could not help showing something of this to Porthos, who replied - "Ay!
ay!  I guess how it is! the mission is a secret one."

These were his last words in the carriage.  The driver interrupted him by
saying, "Gentlemen, we have arrived."

Porthos and his companion alighted before the gate of the little chateau,
where we are about to meet again our old acquaintances Athos and
Bragelonne, the latter of whom had disappeared since the discovery of the
infidelity of La Valliere.  If there be one saying truer than another, it
is this: great griefs contain within themselves the germ of consolation.
This painful wound, inflicted upon Raoul, had drawn him nearer to his
father again; and God knows how sweet were the consolations which flowed
from the eloquent mouth and generous heart of Athos.  The wound was not
cicatrized, but Athos, by dint of conversing with his son and mixing a
little more of his life with that of the young man, had brought him to
understand that this pang of a first infidelity is necessary to every
human existence; and that no one has loved without encountering it.
Raoul listened, again and again, but never understood.  Nothing replaces
in the deeply afflicted heart the remembrance and thought of the beloved
object.  Raoul then replied to the reasoning of his father:

"Monsieur, all that you tell me is true; I believe that no one has
suffered in the affections of the heart so much as you have; but you are
a man too great by reason of intelligence, and too severely tried by
adverse fortune not to allow for the weakness of the soldier who suffers
for the first time.  I am paying a tribute that will not be paid a second
time; permit me to plunge myself so deeply in my grief that I may forget
myself in it, that I may drown even my reason in it."

"Raoul!  Raoul!"

"Listen, monsieur.  Never shall I accustom myself to the idea that
Louise, the chastest and most innocent of women, has been able to so
basely deceive a man so honest and so true a lover as myself.  Never can
I persuade myself that I see that sweet and noble mask change into a
hypocritical lascivious face.  Louise lost!  Louise infamous!  Ah!
monseigneur, that idea is much more cruel to me than Raoul abandoned 
Raoul unhappy!"

Athos then employed the heroic remedy.  He defended Louise against Raoul,
and justified her perfidy by her love.  "A woman who would have yielded
to a king because he is a king," said he, "would deserve to be styled
infamous; but Louise loves Louis.  Young, both, they have forgotten, he
his rank, she her vows.  Love absolves everything, Raoul.  The two young
people love each other with sincerity."

And when he had dealt this severe poniard-thrust, Athos, with a sigh, saw
Raoul bound away beneath the rankling wound, and fly to the thickest
recesses of the wood, or the solitude of his chamber, whence, an hour
after, he would return, pale, trembling, but subdued.  Then, coming up to
Athos with a smile, he would kiss his hand, like the dog who, having been
beaten, caresses a respected master, to redeem his fault.  Raoul redeemed
nothing but his weakness, and only confessed his grief.  Thus passed away
the days that followed that scene in which Athos had so violently shaken
the indomitable pride of the king.  Never, when conversing with his son,
did he make any allusion to that scene; never did he give him the details
of that vigorous lecture, which might, perhaps, have consoled the young
man, by showing him his rival humbled.  Athos did not wish that the
offended lover should forget the respect due to his king.  And when
Bragelonne, ardent, angry, and melancholy, spoke with contempt of royal
words, of the equivocal faith which certain madmen draw from promises
that emanate from thrones, when, passing over two centuries, with that
rapidity of a bird that traverses a narrow strait to go from one
continent to the other, Raoul ventured to predict the time in which kings
would be esteemed as less than other men, Athos said to him, in his
serene, persuasive voice, "You are right, Raoul; all that you say will
happen; kings will lose their privileges, as stars which have survived
their aeons lose their splendor.  But when that moment comes, Raoul, we
shall be dead.  And remember well what I say to you.  In this world, all,
men, women, and kings, must live for the present.  We can only live for
the future for God."

This was the manner in which Athos and Raoul were, as usual, conversing,
and walking backwards and forwards in the long alley of limes in the
park, when the bell which served to announce to the comte either the hour
of dinner or the arrival of a visitor, was rung; and, without attaching
any importance to it, he turned towards the house with his son; and at
the end of the alley they found themselves in the presence of Aramis and
Porthos.


Chapter XXVI:
The Last Adieux.

Raoul uttered a cry, and affectionately embraced Porthos.  Aramis and
Athos embraced like old men; and this embrace itself being a question for
Aramis, he immediately said, "My friend, we have not long to remain with
you."

"Ah!" said the comte.

"Only time to tell you of my good fortune," interrupted Porthos.

"Ah!" said Raoul.

Athos looked silently at Aramis, whose somber air had already appeared to
him very little in harmony with the good news Porthos hinted.

"What is the good fortune that has happened to you?  Let us hear it,"
said Raoul, with a smile.

"The king has made me a duke," said the worthy Porthos, with an air of
mystery, in the ear of the young man, "a duke by _brevet_."

But the _asides_ of Porthos were always loud enough to be heard by
everybody.  His murmurs were in the diapason of ordinary roaring.  Athos
heard him, and uttered an exclamation which made Aramis start.  The
latter took Athos by the arm, and, after having asked Porthos's
permission to say a word to his friend in private, "My dear Athos," he
began, "you see me overwhelmed with grief and trouble."

"With grief and trouble, my dear friend?" cried the comte; "oh, what?"

"In two words.  I have conspired against the king; that conspiracy has
failed, and, at this moment, I am doubtless pursued."

"You are pursued! - a conspiracy!  Eh! my friend, what do you tell me?"

"The saddest truth.  I am entirely ruined."

"Well, but Porthos - this title of duke - what does all that mean?"

"That is the subject of my severest pain; that is the deepest of my
wounds.  I have, believing in infallible success, drawn Porthos into my
conspiracy.  He threw himself into it, as you know he would do, with all
his strength, without knowing what he was about; and now he is as much
compromised as myself - as completely ruined as I am."

"Good God!"  And Athos turned towards Porthos, who was smiling
complacently.

"I must make you acquainted with the whole.  Listen to me," continued
Aramis; and he related the history as we know it.  Athos, during the
recital, several times felt the sweat break from his forehead.  "It was a
great idea," said he, "but a great error."

"For which I am punished, Athos."

"Therefore, I will not tell you my entire thought."

"Tell it, nevertheless."

"It is a crime."

"A capital crime; I know it is.  _Lese majeste_."

"Porthos! poor Porthos!"

"What would you advise me to do?  Success, as I have told you, was
certain."

"M. Fouquet is an honest man."

"And I a fool for having so ill-judged him," said Aramis.  "Oh, the
wisdom of man!  Oh, millstone that grinds the world! and which is one day
stopped by a grain of sand which has fallen, no one knows how, between
its wheels."

"Say by a diamond, Aramis.  But the thing is done.  How do you think of
acting?"

"I am taking away Porthos.  The king will never believe that that worthy
man has acted innocently.  He never can believe that Porthos has thought
he was serving the king, whilst acting as he has done.  His head would
pay my fault.  It shall not, must not, be so."

"You are taking him away, whither?"

"To Belle-Isle, at first.  That is an impregnable place of refuge.  Then,
I have the sea, and a vessel to pass over into England, where I have many
relations."

"You? in England?"

"Yes, or else in Spain, where I have still more."

"But, our excellent Porthos! you ruin him, for the king will confiscate
all his property."

"All is provided for.  I know how, when once in Spain, to reconcile
myself with Louis XIV., and restore Porthos to favor."

"You have credit, seemingly, Aramis!" said Athos, with a discreet air.

"Much; and at the service of my friends."

These words were accompanied by a warm pressure of the hand.

"Thank you," replied the comte.

"And while we are on this head," said Aramis, "you also are a malcontent;
you also, Raoul, have griefs to lay to the king.  Follow our example;
pass over into Belle-Isle.  Then we shall see, I guarantee upon my honor,
that in a month there will be war between France and Spain on the subject
of this son of Louis XIII., who is an Infante likewise, and whom France
detains inhumanly.  Now, as Louis XIV. would have no inclination for a
war on that subject, I will answer for an arrangement, the result of
which must bring greatness to Porthos and to me, and a duchy in France to
you, who are already a grandee of Spain.  Will you join us?"

"No; for my part I prefer having something to reproach the king with; it
is a pride natural to my race to pretend to a superiority over royal
races.  Doing what you propose, I should become the obliged of the king;
I should certainly be the gainer on that ground, but I should be a loser
in my conscience. - No, thank you!"

"Then give me two things, Athos, - your absolution."

"Oh!  I give it you if you really wished to avenge the weak and oppressed
against the oppressor."

"That is sufficient for me," said Aramis, with a  blush which was lost in
the obscurity of the night.  "And now, give me your two best horses to
gain the second post, as I have been refused any under the pretext of the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com