List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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followed him, with each a lever in his hand - one being sufficient to
take care of the bark.  The dying rattle of the valiant gladiator guided
them amidst the ruins.  Aramis, animated, active and young as at twenty,
sprang towards the triple mass, and with his hands, delicate as those of
a woman, raised by a miracle of strength the corner-stone of this great
granite grave.  Then he caught a glimpse, through the darkness of that
charnel-house, of the still brilliant eye of his friend, to whom the
momentary lifting of the mass restored a momentary respiration.  The two
men came rushing up, grasped their iron levers, united their triple
strength, not merely to raise it, but sustain it.  All was useless.  They
gave way with cries of grief, and the rough voice of Porthos, seeing them
exhaust themselves in a useless struggle, murmured in an almost cheerful
tone those supreme words which came to his lips with the last
respiration, "Too heavy!"

After which his eyes darkened and closed, his face grew ashy pale, the
hands whitened, and the colossus sank quite down, breathing his last
sigh.  With him sank the rock, which, even in his dying agony he had
still held up.  The three men dropped the levers, which rolled upon the
tumulary stone.  Then, breathless, pale, his brow covered with sweat,
Aramis listened, his breast oppressed, his heart ready to break.

Nothing more.  The giant slept the eternal sleep, in the sepulcher which
God had built about him to his measure.

Chapter LI:
Porthos's Epitaph.

Aramis, silent and sad as ice, trembling like a timid child, arose
shivering from the stone.  A Christian does not walk on tombs.  But,
though capable of standing, he was not capable of walking.  It might be
said that something of dead Porthos had just died within him.  His
Bretons surrounded him; Aramis yielded to their kind exertions, and the
three sailors, lifting him up, carried him to the canoe.  Then, having
laid him down upon the bench near the rudder, they took to their oars,
preferring this to hoisting sail, which might betray them.

On all that leveled surface of the ancient grotto of Locmaria, one single
hillock attracted their eyes.  Aramis never removed his from it; and, at
a distance out in the sea, in proportion as the shore receded, that
menacing proud mass of rock seemed to draw itself up, as formerly Porthos
used to draw himself up, raising a smiling, yet invincible head towards
heaven, like that of his dear old honest valiant friend, the strongest of
the four, yet the first dead.  Strange destiny of these men of brass!
The most simple of heart allied to the most crafty; strength of body
guided by subtlety of mind; and in the decisive moment, when vigor alone
could save mind and body, a stone, a rock, a vile material weight,
triumphed over manly strength, and falling upon the body, drove out the

Worthy Porthos! born to help other men, always ready to sacrifice himself
for the safety of the weak, as if God had only given him strength for
that purpose; when dying he only thought he was carrying out the
conditions of his compact with Aramis, a compact, however, which Aramis
alone had drawn up, and which Porthos had only known to suffer by its
terrible solidarity.  Noble Porthos! of what good now are thy chateaux
overflowing with sumptuous furniture, forests overflowing with game,
lakes overflowing with fish, cellars overflowing with wealth!  Of what
service to thee now thy lackeys in brilliant liveries, and in the midst
of them Mousqueton, proud of the power delegated by thee!  Oh, noble
Porthos! careful heaper-up of treasure, was it worth while to labor to
sweeten and gild life, to come upon a desert shore, surrounded by the
cries of seagulls, and lay thyself, with broken bones, beneath a torpid
stone?  Was it worth while, in short, noble Porthos, to heap so much
gold, and not have even the distich of a poor poet engraven upon thy
monument?  Valiant Porthos!  he still, without doubt, sleeps, lost,
forgotten, beneath the rock the shepherds of the heath take for the
gigantic abode of a _dolmen_.  And so many twining branches, so many
mosses, bent by the bitter wind of ocean, so many lichens solder thy
sepulcher to earth, that no passers-by will imagine such a block of
granite could ever have been supported by the shoulders of one man.

Aramis, still pale, still icy-cold, his heart upon his lips, looked, even
till, with the last ray of daylight, the shore faded on the horizon.  Not
a word escaped him, not a sigh rose from his deep breast.  The
superstitious Bretons looked upon him, trembling.  Such silence was not
that of a man, it was the silence of a statue.  In the meantime, with the
first gray lines that lighted up the heavens, the canoe hoisted its
little sail, which, swelling with the kisses of the breeze, and carrying
them rapidly from the coast, made bravest way towards Spain, across the
dreaded Gulf of Gascony, so rife with storms.  But scarcely half an hour
after the sail had been hoisted, the rowers became inactive, reclining on
their benches, and, making an eye-shade with their hands, pointed out to
each other a white spot which appeared on the horizon as motionless as a
gull rocked by the viewless respiration of the waves.  But that which
might have appeared motionless to ordinary eyes was moving at a quick
rate to the experienced eye of the sailor; that which appeared stationary
upon the ocean was cutting a rapid way through it.  For some time, seeing
the profound torpor in which their master was plunged, they did not dare
to rouse him, and satisfied themselves with exchanging their conjectures
in whispers.  Aramis, in fact, so vigilant, so active - Aramis, whose
eye, like that of the lynx, watched without ceasing, and saw better by
night than by day - Aramis seemed to sleep in this despair of soul.  An
hour passed thus, during which daylight gradually disappeared, but during
which also the sail in view gained so swiftly on the bark, that Goenne,
one of the three sailors, ventured to say aloud:

"Monseigneur, we are being chased!"

Aramis made no reply; the ship still gained upon them.  Then, of their
own accord, two of the sailors, by the direction of the patron Yves,
lowered the sail, in order that that single point upon the surface of the
waters should cease to be a guide to the eye of the enemy pursuing them.
On the part of the ship in sight, on the contrary, two more small sails
were run up at the extremities of the masts.  Unfortunately, it was the
time of the finest and longest days of the year, and the moon, in all her
brilliancy, succeeded inauspicious daylight.  The _balancelle_, which was
pursuing the little bark before the wind, had then still half an hour of
twilight, and a whole night almost as light as day.

"Monseigneur! monseigneur! we are lost!" said the captain.  "Look! they
see us plainly, though we have lowered sail."

"That is not to be wondered at," murmured one of the sailors, "since they
say that, by the aid of the devil, the Paris-folk have fabricated
instruments with which they see as well at a distance as near, by night
as well as by day."

Aramis took a telescope from the bottom of the boat, focussed it
silently, and passing it to the sailor, "Here," said he, "look!"  The
sailor hesitated.

"Don't be alarmed," said the bishop, "there is no sin in it; and if there
is any sin, I will take it on myself."

The sailor lifted the glass to his eye, and uttered a cry.  He believed
that the vessel, which appeared to be distant about cannon-shot, had at a
single bound cleared the whole distance.  But, on withdrawing the
instrument from his eye, he saw that, except the way which the
_balancelle_ had been able to make during that brief instant, it was
still at the same distance.

"So," murmured the sailor, "they can see us as we see them."

"They see us," said Aramis, and sank again into impassibility.

"What! - they see us!" said Yves.  "Impossible!"

"Well, captain, look yourself," said the sailor.  And he passed him the

"Monseigneur assures me that the devil has nothing to do with this?"
asked Yves.

Aramis shrugged his shoulders.

The skipper lifted the glass to his eye.  "Oh! monseigneur," said he, "it
is a miracle - there they are; it seems as if I were going to touch
them.  Twenty-five men at least!  Ah!  I see the captain forward.  He
holds a glass like this, and is looking at us.  Ah! he turns round, and
gives an order; they are rolling a piece of cannon forward - they are
loading it - pointing it.  _Misericorde!_ they are firing at us!"

And by a mechanical movement, the skipper put aside the telescope, and
the pursuing ship, relegated to the horizon, appeared again in its true
aspect.  The vessel was still at the distance of nearly a league, but
the maneuver sighted thus was not less real.  A light cloud of smoke
appeared beneath the sails, more blue than they, and spreading like a
flower opening; then, at about a mile from the little canoe, they saw the
ball take the crown off two or three waves, dig a white furrow in the
sea, and disappear at the end of it, as inoffensive as the stone with
which, in play, a boy makes ducks and drakes.  It was at once a menace
and a warning.

"What is to be done?" asked the patron.

"They will sink us!" said Goenne, "give us absolution, monseigneur!"  And
the sailors fell on their knees before him.

"You forget that they can see you," said he.

"That is true!" said the sailors, ashamed of their weakness.  "Give us
your orders, monseigneur, we are prepared to die for you."

"Let us wait," said Aramis.

"How - let us wait?"

"Yes; do you not see, as you just now said, that if we endeavor to fly,
they will sink us?"

"But, perhaps," the patron ventured to say, "perhaps under cover of
night, we could escape them."

"Oh!" said Aramis, "they have, no doubt, Greek fire with which to lighten
their own course and ours likewise."

At the same moment, as if the vessel was responsive to the appeal of
Aramis, a second cloud of smoke mounted slowly to the heavens, and from
the bosom of that cloud sparkled an arrow of flame, which described a

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