List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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sound of noisy and animated conversations ascended to the chamber in
which the comte was dreaming.  Athos did not stir from the place he
occupied; he scarcely turned his head towards the door to ascertain the
sooner what these noises could be.  A heavy step ascended the stairs; the
horse, which had recently galloped, departed slowly towards the stables.
Great hesitation appeared in the steps, which by degrees approached the
chamber.  A door was opened, and Athos, turning a little towards the part
of the room the noise came from, cried, in a weak voice:

"It is a courier from Africa, is it not?"

"No, monsieur le comte," replied a voice which made the father of Raoul
start upright in his bed.

"Grimaud!" murmured he.  And the sweat began to pour down his face.
Grimaud appeared in the doorway.  It was no longer the Grimaud we have
seen, still young with courage and devotion, when he jumped the first
into the boat destined to convey Raoul de Bragelonne to the vessels of
the royal fleet.  'Twas now a stern and pale old man, his clothes covered
with dust, and hair whitened by old age.  He trembled whilst leaning
against the door-frame, and was near falling on seeing, by the light of
the lamps, the countenance of his master.  These two men who had lived so
long together in a community of intelligence, and whose eyes, accustomed
to economize expressions, knew how to say so many things silently - these
two old friends, one as noble as the other in heart, if they were unequal
in fortune and birth, remained tongue-tied whilst looking at each other.
By the exchange of a single glance they had just read to the bottom of
each other's hearts.  The old servitor bore upon his countenance the
impression of a grief already old, the outward token of a grim
familiarity with woe.  He appeared to have no longer in use more than a
single version of his thoughts.  As formerly he was accustomed not to
speak much, he was now accustomed not to smile at all.  Athos read at a
glance all these shades upon the visage of his faithful servant, and in
the same tone he would have employed to speak to Raoul in his dream:

"Grimaud," said he, "Raoul is dead.  _Is it not so?_"

Behind Grimaud the other servants listened breathlessly, with their eyes
fixed upon the bed of their sick master.  They heard the terrible
question, and a heart-breaking silence followed.

"Yes," replied the old man, heaving the monosyllable from his chest with
a hoarse, broken sigh.

Then arose voices of lamentation, which groaned without measure, and
filled with regrets and prayers the chamber where the agonized father
sought with his eyes the portrait of his son.  This was for Athos like
the transition which led to his dream.  Without uttering a cry, without
shedding a tear, patient, mild, resigned as a martyr, he raised his eyes
towards Heaven, in order there to see again, rising above the mountain of
Gigelli, the beloved shade that was leaving him at the moment of
Grimaud's arrival.  Without doubt, while looking towards the heavens,
resuming his marvelous dream, he repassed by the same road by which the
vision, at once so terrible and sweet, had led him before; for after
having gently closed his eyes, he reopened them and began to smile: he
had just seen Raoul, who had smiled upon him.  With his hands joined upon
his breast, his face turned towards the window, bathed by the fresh air
of night, which brought upon its wings the aroma of the flowers and the
woods, Athos entered, never again to come out of it, into the
contemplation of that paradise which the living never see.  God willed,
no doubt, to open to this elect the treasures of eternal beatitude, at
this hour when other men tremble with the idea of being severely received
by the Lord, and cling to this life they know, in the dread of the other
life of which they get but merest glimpses by the dismal murky torch of
death.  Athos was spirit-guided by the pure serene soul of his son, which
aspired to be like the paternal soul.  Everything for this just man was
melody and perfume in the rough road souls take to return to the
celestial country.  After an hour of this ecstasy, Athos softly raised
his hands as white as wax; the smile did not quit his lips, and he
murmured low, so low as scarcely to be audible, these three words
addressed to God or to Raoul:


And his hands fell slowly, as though he himself had laid them on the bed.

Death had been kind and mild to this noble creature.  It had spared him
the tortures of the agony, convulsions of the last departure; had opened
with an indulgent finger the gates of eternity to that noble soul.  God
had no doubt ordered it thus that the pious remembrance of this death
should remain in the hearts of those present, and in the memory of other
men - a death which caused to be loved the passage from this life to the
other by those whose existence upon this earth leads them not to dread
the last judgment.  Athos preserved, even in the eternal sleep, that
placid and sincere smile - an ornament which was to accompany him to the
tomb.  The quietude and calm of his fine features made his servants for a
long time doubt whether he had really quitted life.  The comte's people
wished to remove Grimaud, who, from a distance, devoured the face now
quickly growing marble-pale, and did not approach, from pious fear of
bringing to him the breath of death.  But Grimaud, fatigued as he was,
refused to leave the room.  He sat himself down upon the threshold,
watching his master with the vigilance of a sentinel, jealous to receive
either his first waking look or his last dying sigh.  The noises all were
quiet in the house - every one respected the slumber of their lord.  But
Grimaud, by anxiously listening, perceived that the comte no longer
breathed.  He raised himself with his hands leaning on the ground, looked
to see if there did not appear some motion in the body of his master.
Nothing!  Fear seized him; he rose completely up, and, at the very
moment, heard some one coming up the stairs.  A noise of spurs knocking
against a sword - a warlike sound familiar to his ears - stopped him as
he was going towards the bed of Athos.  A voice more sonorous than brass
or steel resounded within three paces of him.

"Athos!  Athos! my friend!" cried this voice, agitated even to tears.

"Monsieur le Chevalier d'Artagnan," faltered out Grimaud.

"Where is he?  Where is he?" continued the musketeer.  Grimaud seized his
arm in his bony fingers, and pointed to the bed, upon the sheets of which
the livid tints of death already showed.

A choked respiration, the opposite to a sharp cry, swelled the throat of
D'Artagnan.  He advanced on tip-toe, trembling, frightened at the noise
his feet made on the floor, his heart rent by a nameless agony.  He
placed his ear to the breast of Athos, his face to the comte's mouth.
Neither noise, nor breath!  D'Artagnan drew back.  Grimaud, who had
followed him with his eyes, and for whom each of his movements had been a
revelation, came timidly; seated himself at the foot of the bed, and
glued his lips to the sheet which was raised by the stiffened feet of his
master.  Then large drops began to flow from his red eyes.  This old man
in invincible despair, who wept, bent doubled without uttering a word,
presented the most touching spectacle that D'Artagnan, in a life so
filled with emotion, had ever met with.

The captain resumed standing in contemplation before that smiling dead
man, who seemed to have burnished his last thought, to give his best
friend, the man he had loved next to Raoul, a gracious welcome even
beyond life.  And for reply to that exalted flattery of hospitality,
D'Artagnan went and kissed Athos fervently on the brow, and with his
trembling fingers closed his eyes.  Then he seated himself by the pillow
without dread of that dead man, who had been so kind and affectionate to
him for five and thirty years.  He was feeding his soul with the
remembrances the noble visage of the comte brought to his mind in crowds
- some blooming and charming as that smile - some dark, dismal, and icy
as that visage with its eyes now closed to all eternity.

All at once the bitter flood which mounted from minute to minute invaded
his heart, and swelled his breast almost to bursting.  Incapable of
mastering his emotion, he arose, and tearing himself violently from the
chamber where he had just found dead him to whom he came to report the
news of the death of Porthos, he uttered sobs so heart-rending that the
servants, who seemed only to wait for an explosion of grief, answered to
it by their lugubrious clamors, and the dogs of the late comte by their
lamentable howlings.  Grimaud was the only one who did not lift up his
voice.  Even in the paroxysm of his grief he would not have dared to
profane the dead, or for the first time disturb the slumber of his
master.  Had not Athos always bidden him be dumb?

At daybreak D'Artagnan, who had wandered about the lower hall, biting his
fingers to stifle his sighs - D'Artagnan went up once more; and watching
the moments when Grimaud turned his head towards him, he made him a sign
to come to him, which the faithful servant obeyed without making more
noise than a shadow.  D'Artagnan went down again, followed by Grimaud;
and when he had gained the vestibule, taking the old man's hands,
"Grimaud," said he, "I have seen how the father died; now let me know
about the son."

Grimaud drew from his breast a large letter, upon the envelope of which
was traced the address of Athos.  He recognized the writing of M. de
Beaufort, broke the seal, and began to read, while walking about in the
first steel-chill rays of dawn, in the dark alley of old limes, marked by
the still visible footsteps of the comte who had just died.

Chapter LIX:
The Bulletin.

The Duc de Beaufort wrote to Athos.  The letter destined for the living
only reached the dead.  God had changed the address.

"MY DEAR COMTE," wrote the prince, in his large, school-boy's hand, - "a
great misfortune has struck us amidst a great triumph.  The king loses

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