List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"It is the mildest term that I can find," pursued the king.  "My idea was
to take and punish rebels; was I bound to inquire whether these rebels
were your friends or not?"

"But I was," replied D'Artagnan.  "It was a cruelty on your majesty's
part to send me to capture my friends and lead them to your gibbets."

"It was a trial I had to make, monsieur, of pretended servants, who eat
my bread and _should_ defend my person.  The trial has succeeded ill,
Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"For one bad servant your majesty loses," said the musketeer, with
bitterness, "there are ten who, on that same day, go through a like
ordeal.  Listen to me, sire; I am not accustomed to that service.  Mine
is a rebel sword when I am required to do ill.  It was ill to send me in
pursuit of two men whose lives M. Fouquet, your majesty's preserver,
implored you to save.  Still further, these men were my friends.  They
did not attack your majesty, they succumbed to your blind anger.
Besides, why were they not allowed to escape?  What crime had they
committed?  I admit you may contest with me the right of judging their
conduct.  But why suspect me before the action?  Why surround me with
spies?  Why disgrace me before the army?  Why me, in whom till now you
showed the most entire confidence - who for thirty years have been
attached to your person, and have given you a thousand proofs of my
devotion - for it must be said, now that I am accused - why reduce me to
see three thousand of the king's soldiers march in battle against two

"One would say you have forgotten what these men have done to me!" said
the king, in a hollow voice, "and that it was no merit of theirs I was
not lost."

"Sire, one would imagine you forget that I was there."

"Enough, Monsieur d'Artagnan, enough of these dominating interests which
arise to keep the sun itself from my interests.  I am founding a state in
which there shall be but one master, as I promised you; the moment is at
hand for me to keep my promise.  You wish to be, according to your tastes
or private friendships, free to destroy my plans and save my enemies?  I
will thwart you or will drop you - seek a more compliant master.  I know
full well that another king would not conduct himself as I do, and would
allow himself to be dominated by you, at the risk of sending you some day
to keep company with M. Fouquet and the rest; but I have an excellent
memory, and for me, services are sacred titles to gratitude, to
impunity.  You shall only have this lesson, Monsieur d'Artagnan, as the
punishment of your want of discipline, and I will not imitate my
predecessors in anger, not having imitated them in favor.  And, then,
other reasons make me act mildly towards you; in the first place, because
you are a man of sense, a man of excellent sense, a man of heart, and
that you will be a capital servant to him who shall have mastered you;
secondly, because you will cease to have any motives for
insubordination.  Your friends are now destroyed or ruined by me.  These
supports on which your capricious mind instinctively relied I have caused
to disappear.  At this moment, my soldiers have taken or killed the
rebels of Belle-Isle."

D'Artagnan became pale.  "Taken or killed!" cried he.  "Oh! sire, if you
thought what you tell, if you were sure you were telling me the truth, I
should forget all that is just, all that is magnanimous in your words, to
call you a barbarous king, and an unnatural man.  But I pardon you these
words," said he, smiling with pride; "I pardon them to a young prince who
does not know, who cannot comprehend what such men as M. d'Herblay, M. du
Vallon, and myself are.  Taken or killed!  Ah!  Ah! sire! tell me, if the
news is true, how much has it cost you in men and money.  We will then
reckon if the game has been worth the stakes."

As he spoke thus, the king went up to him in great anger, and said,
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, your replies are those of a rebel!  Tell me, if you
please, who is king of France?  Do you know any other?"

"Sire," replied the captain of the musketeers, coldly, "I very well
remember that one morning at Vaux you addressed that question to many
people who did not answer to it, whilst I, on my part, did answer to it.
If I recognized my king on that day, when the thing was not easy, I think
it would be useless to ask the question of me now, when your majesty and
I are alone."

At these words Louis cast down his eyes.  It appeared to him that the
shade of the unfortunate Philippe passed between D'Artagnan and himself,
to evoke the remembrance of that terrible adventure.  Almost at the same
moment an officer entered and placed a dispatch in the hands of the king,
who, in his turn, changed color, while reading it.

"Monsieur," said he, "what I learn here you would know later; it is
better I should tell you, and that you should learn it from the mouth of
your king.  A battle has taken place at Belle-Isle."

"Is it possible?" said D'Artagnan, with a calm air, though his heart was
beating fast enough to choke him.  "Well, sire?"

"Well, monsieur - and I have lost a hundred and ten men."

A beam of joy and pride shone in the eyes of D'Artagnan.  "And the
rebels?" said he.

"The rebels have fled," said the king.

D'Artagnan could not restrain a cry of triumph.  "Only," added the king,
"I have a fleet which closely blockades Belle-Isle, and I am certain not
a bark can escape."

"So that," said the musketeer, brought back to his dismal idea, "if these
two gentlemen are taken - "

"They will be hanged," said the king, quietly.

"And do they know it?" replied D'Artagnan, repressing his trembling.

"They know it, because you must have told them yourself; and all the
country knows it."

"Then, sire, they will never be taken alive, I will answer for that."

"Ah!" said the king, negligently, and taking up his letter again.  "Very
well, they will be dead, then, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and that will come to
the same thing, since I should only take them to have them hanged."

D'Artagnan wiped the sweat which flowed from his brow.

"I have told you," pursued Louis XIV., "that I would one day be an
affectionate, generous, and constant master.  You are now the only man of
former times worthy of my anger or my friendship.  I will not spare you
either sentiment, according to your conduct.  Could you serve a king,
Monsieur d'Artagnan, who should have a hundred kings, his equals, in the
kingdom?  Could I, tell me, do with such weak instruments the great
things I meditate?  Did you ever see an artist effect great works with an
unworthy tool?  Far from us, monsieur, the old leaven of feudal abuse!
The Fronde, which threatened to ruin monarchy, has emancipated it.  I am
master at home, Captain d'Artagnan, and I shall have servants who,
lacking, perhaps, your genius, will carry devotion and obedience to the
verge of heroism.  Of what consequence, I ask you, of what consequence is
it that God has given no sense to arms and legs?  It is to the head he
has given genius, and the head, you know, the rest obey.  I am the head."

D'Artagnan started.  Louis XIV. continued as if he had seen nothing,
although this emotion had not by any means escaped him.  "Now, let us
conclude between us two the bargain I promised to make with you one day
when you found me in a very strange predicament at Blois.  Do me justice,
monsieur, when you admit I do not make any one pay for the tears of shame
that I then shed.  Look around you; lofty heads have bowed.  Bow yours,
or choose such exile as will suit you.  Perhaps, when reflecting upon it,
you will find your king has a generous heart, who reckons sufficiently
upon your loyalty to allow you to leave him dissatisfied, when you
possess a great state secret.  You are a brave man; I know you to be so.
Why have you judged me prematurely?  Judge me from this day forward,
D'Artagnan, and be as severe as you please."

D'Artagnan remained bewildered, mute, undecided for the first time in his
life.  At last he had found an adversary worthy of him.  This was no
longer trick, it was calculation; no longer violence, but strength; no
longer passion, but will; no longer boasting, but council.  This young
man who had brought down a Fouquet, and could do without a D'Artagnan,
deranged the somewhat headstrong calculations of the musketeer.

"Come, let us see what stops you?" said the king, kindly.  "You have
given in your resignation; shall I refuse to accept it?  I admit that it
may be hard for such an old captain to recover lost good-humor."

"Oh!" replied D'Artagnan, in a melancholy tone, "that is not my most
serious care.  I hesitate to take back my resignation because I am old in
comparison with you, and have habits difficult to abandon.  Henceforward,
you must have courtiers who know how to amuse you - madmen who will get
themselves killed to carry out what you call your great works.  Great
they will be, I feel - but, if by chance I should not think them so?  I
have seen war, sire, I have seen peace; I have served Richelieu and
Mazarin; I have been scorched with your father, at the fire of Rochelle;
riddled with sword-thrusts like a sieve, having grown a new skin ten
times, as serpents do.  After affronts and injustices, I have a command
which was formerly something, because it gave the bearer the right of
speaking as he liked to his king.  But your captain of the musketeers
will henceforward be an officer guarding the outer doors.  Truly, sire,
if that is to be my employment from this time, seize the opportunity of
our being on good terms, to take it from me.  Do not imagine that I bear
malice; no, you have tamed me, as you say; but it must be confessed that
in taming me you have lowered me; by bowing me you have convicted me of
weakness.  If you knew how well it suits me to carry my head high, and
what a pitiful mien I shall have while scenting the dust of your
carpets!  Oh! sire, I regret sincerely, and you will regret as I do, the
old days when the king of France saw in every vestibule those insolent
gentlemen, lean, always swearing - cross-grained mastiffs, who could bite

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