List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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the fate of one or the other, "Only," said Aramis, "there is D'Artagnan's

D'Artagnan did not return on board without profoundly analyzing the idea
he had discovered.  Now, we know that whatever D'Artagnan did examine,
according to custom, daylight was certain to illuminate.  As to the
officer, now grown mute again, he had full time for meditation.
Therefore, on putting his foot on board his vessel, moored within cannon-
shot of the island, the captain of the musketeers had already got
together all his means, offensive and defensive.

He immediately assembled his council, which consisted of the officers
serving under his orders.  These were eight in number; a chief of the
maritime forces; a major directing the artillery; an engineer, the
officer we are acquainted with, and four lieutenants.  Having assembled
them, D'Artagnan arose, took of his hat, and addressed them thus:

"Gentlemen, I have been to reconnoiter Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and I have found
in it a good and solid garrison; moreover, preparations are made for a
defense that may prove troublesome.  I therefore intend to send for two
of the principal officers of the place, that we may converse with them.
Having separated them from their troops and cannon, we shall be better
able to deal with them; particularly by reasoning with them.  Is not this
your opinion, gentlemen?"

The major of artillery rose.

"Monsieur," said he, with respect, but firmness, "I have heard you say
that the place is preparing to make a troublesome defense.  The place is
then, as you know, determined on rebellion?"

D'Artagnan was visibly put out by this reply; but he was not the man to
allow himself to be subdued by a trifle, and resumed:

"Monsieur," said he, "your reply is just.  But you are ignorant that
Belle-Isle is a fief of M. Fouquet's, and that former monarchs gave the
right to the seigneurs of Belle-Isle to arm their people."  The major
made a movement.  "Oh! do not interrupt me," continued D'Artagnan.  "You
are going to tell me that that right to arm themselves against the
English was not a right to arm themselves against their king.  But it is
not M. Fouquet, I suppose, who holds Belle-Isle at this moment, since I
arrested M. Fouquet the day before yesterday.  Now the inhabitants and
defenders of Belle-Isle know nothing of this arrest.  You would announce
it to them in vain.  It is a thing so unheard-of and extraordinary, so
unexpected, that they would not believe you.  A Breton serves his master,
and not his masters; he serves his master till he has seen him dead.  Now
the Bretons, as far as I know, have not seen the body of M. Fouquet.  It
is not, then, surprising they hold out against that which is neither M.
Fouquet nor his signature."

The major bowed in token of assent.

"That is why," continued D'Artagnan, "I propose to cause two of the
principal officers of the garrison to come on board my vessel.  They will
see you, gentlemen; they will see the forces we have at our disposal;
they will consequently know to what they have to trust, and the fate that
attends them, in case of rebellion.  We will affirm to them, upon our
honor, that M. Fouquet is a prisoner, and that all resistance can only be
prejudicial to them.  We will tell them that at the first cannon fired,
there will be no further hope of mercy from the king.  Then, or so at
least I trust, they will resist no longer.  They will yield up without
fighting, and we shall have a place given up to us in a friendly way
which it might cost prodigious efforts to subdue."

The officer who had followed D'Artagnan to Belle-Isle was preparing to
speak, but D'Artagnan interrupted him.

"Yes, I know what you are going to tell me, monsieur; I know that there
is an order of the king's to prevent all secret communications with the
defenders of Belle-Isle, and that is exactly why I do not offer to
communicate except in presence of my staff."

And D'Artagnan made an inclination of the head to his officers, who knew
him well enough to attach a certain value to the condescension.

The officers looked at each other as if to read each other's opinions in
their eyes, with the intention of evidently acting, should they agree,
according to the desire of D'Artagnan.  And already the latter saw with
joy that the result of their consent would be sending a bark to Porthos
and Aramis, when the king's officer drew from a pocket a folded paper,
which he placed in the hands of D'Artagnan.

This paper bore upon its superscription the number 1.

"What, more!" murmured the surprised captain.

"Read, monsieur," said the officer, with a courtesy that was not free
from sadness.

D'Artagnan, full of mistrust, unfolded the paper, and read these words:
"Prohibition to M. d'Artagnan to assemble any council whatever, or to
deliberate in any way before Belle-Isle be surrendered and the prisoners
shot.  Signed - LOUIS."

D'Artagnan repressed the quiver of impatience that ran through his whole
body, and with a gracious smile:

"That is well, monsieur," said he; "the king's orders shall be complied

Chapter XLIV:
Result of the Ideas of the King, and the Ideas of D'Artagnan.

The blow was direct.  It was severe, mortal.  D'Artagnan, furious at
having been anticipated by an idea of the king's, did not despair,
however, even yet; and reflecting upon the idea he had brought back from
Belle-Isle, he elicited therefrom novel means of safety for his friends.

"Gentlemen," said he, suddenly, "since the king has charged some other
than myself with his secret orders, it must be because I no longer
possess his confidence, and I should really be unworthy of it if I had
the courage to hold a command subject to so many injurious suspicions.
Therefore I will go immediately and carry my resignation to the king.  I
tender it before you all, enjoining you all to fall back with me upon the
coast of France, in such a way as not to compromise the safety of the
forces his majesty has confided to me.  For this purpose, return all to
your posts; within an hour, we shall have the ebb of the tide.  To your
posts, gentlemen!  I suppose," added he, on seeing that all prepared to
obey him, except the surveillant officer, "you have no orders to object,
this time?"

And D'Artagnan almost triumphed while speaking these words.  This plan
would prove the safety of his friends.  The blockade once raised, they
might embark immediately, and set sail for England or Spain, without fear
of being molested.  Whilst they were making their escape, D'Artagnan
would return to the king; would justify his return by the indignation
which the mistrust of Colbert had raised in him; he would be sent back
with full powers, and he would take Belle-Isle; that is to say, the cage,
after the birds had flown.  But to this plan the officer opposed a
further order of the king's.  It was thus conceived:

"From the moment M. d'Artagnan shall have manifested the desire of giving
in his resignation, he shall no longer be reckoned leader of the
expedition, and every officer placed under his orders shall be held to no
longer obey him.  Moreover, the said Monsieur d'Artagnan, having lost
that quality of leader of the army sent against Belle-Isle, shall set out
immediately for France, accompanied by the officer who will have remitted
the message to him, and who will consider him a prisoner for whom he is

Brave and careless as he was, D'Artagnan turned pale.  Everything had
been calculated with a depth of precognition which, for the first time in
thirty years, recalled to him the solid foresight and inflexible logic of
the great cardinal.  He leaned his head on his hand, thoughtful, scarcely
breathing.  "If I were to put this order in my pocket," thought he, "who
would know it, what would prevent my doing it?  Before the king had had
time to be informed, I should have saved those poor fellows yonder.  Let
us exercise some small audacity!  My head is not one of those the
executioner strikes off for disobedience.  We will disobey!"  But at the
moment he was about to adopt this plan, he saw the officers around him
reading similar orders, which the passive agent of the thoughts of that
infernal Colbert had distributed to them.  This contingency of his
disobedience had been foreseen - as all the rest had been.

"Monsieur," said the officer, coming up to him, "I await your good
pleasure to depart."

"I am ready, monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, grinding his teeth.

The officer immediately ordered a canoe to receive M. d'Artagnan and
himself.  At sight of this he became almost distraught with rage.

"How," stammered he, "will you carry on the directions of the different

"When you are gone, monsieur," replied the commander of the fleet, "it is
to me the command of the whole is committed."

"Then, monsieur," rejoined Colbert's man, addressing the new leader, "it
is for you that this last order remitted to me is intended.  Let us see
your powers."

"Here they are," said the officer, exhibiting the royal signature.

"Here are your instructions," replied the officer, placing the folded
paper in his hands; and turning round towards D'Artagnan, "Come,
monsieur," said he, in an agitated voice (such despair did he behold in
that man of iron), "do me the favor to depart at once."

"Immediately!" articulated D'Artagnan, feebly, subdued, crushed by
implacable impossibility.

And he painfully subsided into the little boat, which started, favored by
wind and tide, for the coast of France.  The king's guards embarked with
him.  The musketeer still preserved the hope of reaching Nantes quickly,
and of pleading the cause of his friends eloquently enough to incline the
king to mercy.  The bark flew like a swallow.  D'Artagnan distinctly saw
the land of France profiled in black against the white clouds of night.

"Ah! monsieur," said he, in a low voice, to the officer to whom, for an
hour, he had ceased speaking, "what would I give to know the instructions
for the new commander!  They are all pacific, are they not? and - "

He did not finish; the thunder of a distant cannon rolled athwart the

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