List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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guns pointed, if I have had the signal of alarm sounded, if I have called
every man to his post upon the ramparts, those good ramparts of Belle-
Isle which you have so well fortified, it was not for nothing.  Wait to
judge; or rather, no, do not wait - "

"What can I do?"

"If I knew, my friend, I would have told you."

"But there is one thing much more simple than defending ourselves: - a
boat, and away for France - where -"

"My dear friend," said Aramis, smiling with a  strong shade of sadness,
"do not let us reason like children; let us be men in council and in
execution. - But, hark!  I hear a hail for landing at the port.
Attention, Porthos, serious attention!"

"It is D'Artagnan, no doubt," said Porthos, in a voice of thunder,
approaching the parapet.

"Yes, it is I," replied the captain of the musketeers, running lightly up
the steps of the mole, and gaining rapidly the little esplanade on which
his two friends waited for him.  As soon as he came towards them, Porthos
and Aramis observed an officer who followed D'Artagnan, treading
apparently in his very steps.  The captain stopped upon the stairs of the
mole, when half-way up.  His companions imitated him.

"Make your men draw back," cried D'Artagnan to Porthos and Aramis; "let
them retire out of hearing."  This order, given by Porthos, was executed
immediately.  Then D'Artagnan, turning towards him who followed him:

"Monsieur," said he, "we are no longer on board the king's fleet, where,
in virtue of your order, you spoke so arrogantly to me, just now."

"Monsieur," replied the officer, "I did not speak arrogantly to you; I
simply, but rigorously, obeyed instructions.  I was commanded to follow
you.  I follow you.  I am directed not to allow you to communicate with
any one without taking cognizance of what you do; I am in duty bound,
accordingly, to overhear your conversations."

D'Artagnan trembled with rage, and Porthos and Aramis, who heard this
dialogue, trembled likewise, but with uneasiness and fear.  D'Artagnan,
biting his mustache with that vivacity which denoted in him exasperation,
closely to be followed by an explosion, approached the officer.

"Monsieur," said he, in a low voice, so much the more impressive, that,
affecting calm, it threatened tempest - "monsieur, when I sent a canoe
hither, you wished to know what I wrote to the defenders of Belle-Isle.
You produced an order to that effect; and, in my turn, I instantly showed
you the note I had written.  When the skipper of the boat sent by me
returned, when I received the reply of these two gentlemen" (and he
pointed to Aramis and Porthos), "you heard every word of what the
messenger said.  All that was plainly in your orders, all that was well
executed, very punctually, was it not?"

"Yes, monsieur," stammered the officer; "yes, without doubt, but - "

"Monsieur," continued D'Artagnan, growing warm - "monsieur, when I
manifested the intention of quitting my vessel to cross to Belle-Isle,
you demanded to accompany me; I did not hesitate; I brought you with me.
You are now at Belle-Isle, are you not?"

"Yes, monsieur; but - "

"But - the question no longer is of M. Colbert, who has given you that
order, or of whomsoever in the world you are following the instructions;
the question now is of a man who is a clog upon M. d'Artagnan, and who is
alone with M. d'Artagnan upon steps whose feet are bathed by thirty feet
of salt water; a bad position for that man, a bad position, monsieur!  I
warn you."

"But, monsieur, if I am a restraint upon you," said the officer, timidly,
and almost faintly, "it is my duty which - "

"Monsieur, you have had the misfortune, either you or those that sent
you, to insult me.  It is done.  I cannot seek redress from those who
employ you, - they are unknown to me, or are at too great a distance.
But you are under my hand, and I swear that if you make one step behind
me when I raise my feet to go up to those gentlemen, I swear to you by my
name, I will cleave your head in two with my sword, and pitch you into
the water.  Oh! it will happen! it will happen!  I have only been six
times angry in my life, monsieur, and all five preceding times _I killed
my man_."

The officer did not stir; he became pale under this terrible threat, but
replied with simplicity, "Monsieur, you are wrong in acting against my

Porthos and Aramis, mute and trembling at the top of the parapet, cried
to the musketeer, "Good D'Artagnan, take care!"

D'Artagnan made them a sign to keep silence, raised his foot with ominous
calmness to mount the stair, and turned round, sword in hand, to see if
the officer followed him.  The officer made a sign of the cross and
stepped up.  Porthos and Aramis, who knew their D'Artagnan, uttered a
cry, and rushed down to prevent the blow they thought they already
heard.  But D'Artagnan passed his sword into his left hand, -

"Monsieur," said he to the officer, in an agitated voice, "you are a
brave man.  You will all the better comprehend what I am going to say to
you now."

"Speak, Monsieur d'Artagnan, speak," replied the officer.

"These gentlemen we have just seen, and against whom you have orders, are
my friends."

"I know they are, monsieur."

"You can understand whether or not I ought to act towards them as your
instructions prescribe."

"I understand your reserve."

"Very well; permit me, then, to converse with them without a witness."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan, if I yield to your request, if I do that which you
beg me, I break my word; but if I do not do it, I disoblige you.  I
prefer the one dilemma to the other.  Converse with your friends, and do
not despise me, monsieur, for doing this for _your_ sake, whom I esteem
and honor; do not despise me for committing for you, and you alone, an
unworthy act."  D'Artagnan, much agitated, threw his arm round the neck
of the young man, and then went up to his friends.  The officer,
enveloped in his cloak, sat down on the damp, weed-covered steps.

"Well!" said D'Artagnan to his friends, "such is my position, judge for
yourselves."  All three embraced as in the glorious days of their youth.

"What is the meaning of all these preparations?" said Porthos.

"You ought to have a suspicion of what they signify," said D'Artagnan.

"Not any, I assure you, my dear captain; for, in fact, I have done
nothing, no more has Aramis," the worthy baron hastened to say.

D'Artagnan darted a reproachful look at the prelate, which penetrated
that hardened heart.

"Dear Porthos!" cried the bishop of Vannes.

"You see what is being done against you," said D'Artagnan; "interception
of all boats coming to or going from Belle-Isle.  Your means of transport
seized.  If you had endeavored to fly, you would have fallen into the
hands of the cruisers that plow the sea in all directions, on the watch
for you.  The king wants you to be taken, and he will take you."
D'Artagnan tore at his gray mustache.  Aramis grew somber, Porthos angry.

"My idea was this," continued D'Artagnan: "to make you both come on
board, to keep you near me, and restore you your liberty.  But now, who
can say, when I return to my ship, I may not find a superior; that I may
not find secret orders which will take from me my command, and give it to
another, who will dispose of me and you without hope of help?"

"We must remain at Belle-Isle," said Aramis, resolutely; "and I assure
you, for my part, I will not surrender easily."  Porthos said nothing.
D'Artagnan remarked the silence of his friend.

"I have another trial to make of this officer, of this brave fellow who
accompanies me, and whose courageous resistance makes me very happy; for
it denotes an honest man, who, though an enemy, is a thousand times
better than a complaisant coward.  Let us try to learn from him what his
instructions are, and what his orders permit or forbid."

"Let us try," said Aramis.

D'Artagnan went to the parapet, leaned over towards the steps of the
mole, and called the officer, who immediately came up.  "Monsieur," said
D'Artagnan, after having exchanged the cordial courtesies natural between
gentlemen who know and appreciate each other, "monsieur, if I wished to
take away these gentlemen from here, what would you do?"

"I should not oppose it, monsieur; but having direct explicit orders to
put them under guard, I should detain them."

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan.

"That's all over," said Aramis, gloomily.  Porthos did not stir.

"But still take Porthos," said the bishop of Vannes.  "He can prove to
the king, and I will help him do so, and you too, Monsieur d'Artagnan,
that he had nothing to do with this affair."

"Hum!" said D'Artagnan.  "Will you come?  Will you follow me, Porthos?
The king is merciful."

"I want time for reflection," said Porthos.

"You will remain here, then?"

"Until fresh orders," said Aramis, with vivacity.

"Until we have an idea," resumed D'Artagnan; "and I now believe that will
not be long, for I have one already."

"Let us say adieu, then," said Aramis; "but in truth, my good Porthos,
you ought to go."

"No," said the latter, laconically.

"As you please," replied Aramis, a little wounded in his susceptibilities
at the morose tone of his companion.  "Only I am reassured by the promise
of an idea from D'Artagnan, an idea I fancy I have divined."

"Let us see," said the musketeer, placing his ear near Aramis's mouth.
The latter spoke several words rapidly, to which D'Artagnan replied,
"That is it, precisely."

"Infallible!" cried Aramis.

"During the first emotion this resolution will cause, take care of
yourself, Aramis."

"Oh! don't be afraid."

"Now, monsieur," said D'Artagnan to the officer, "thanks, a thousand
thanks!  You have made yourself three friends for life."

"Yes," added Aramis.  Porthos alone said nothing, but merely bowed.

D'Artagnan, having tenderly embraced his two old friends, left Belle-Isle
with the inseparable companion with whom M. Colbert had saddled him.
Thus, with the exception of the explanation with which the worthy Porthos
had been willing to be satisfied, nothing had changed in appearance in

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