List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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rays of all the crowns in Christendom.  Such is the man you have beside
you, monseigneur.  It is to tell you that he has drawn you from the abyss
for a great purpose, to raise you above the powers of the earth - above
himself." (1)

The prince lightly touched Aramis's arm.  "You speak to me," he said, "of
that religious order whose chief you are.  For me, the result of your
words is, that the day you desire to hurl down the man you shall have
raised, the event will be accomplished; and that you will keep under your
hand your creation of yesterday."

"Undeceive yourself, monseigneur," replied the bishop.  "I should not
take the trouble to play this terrible game with your royal highness, if
I had not a double interest in gaining it.  The day you are elevated, you
are elevated forever; you will overturn the footstool, as you rise, and
will send it rolling so far, that not even the sight of it will ever
again recall to you its right to simple gratitude."

"Oh, monsieur!"

"Your movement, monseigneur, arises from an excellent disposition.  I
thank you.  Be well assured, I aspire to more than gratitude!  I am
convinced that, when arrived at the summit, you will judge me still more
worthy to be your friend; and then, monseigneur, we two will do such
great deeds, that ages hereafter shall long speak of them."

"Tell me plainly, monsieur - tell me without disguise - what I am to-day,
and what you aim at my being to-morrow."

"You are the son of King Louis XIII., brother of Louis XIV., natural and
legitimate heir to the throne of France.  In keeping you near him, as
Monsieur has been kept - Monsieur, your younger brother - the king
reserved to himself the right of being legitimate sovereign.  The doctors
only could dispute his legitimacy.  But the doctors always prefer the
king who is to the king who is not.  Providence has willed that you
should be persecuted; this persecution to-day consecrates you king of
France.  You had, then, a right to reign, seeing that it is disputed; you
had a right to be proclaimed seeing that you have been concealed; and you
possess royal blood, since no one has dared to shed yours, as that of
your servants has been shed.  Now see, then, what this Providence, which
you have so often accused of having in every way thwarted you, has done
for you.  It has given you the features, figure, age, and voice of your
brother; and the very causes of your persecution are about to become
those of your triumphant restoration.  To-morrow, after to-morrow - from
the very first, regal phantom, living shade of Louis XIV., you will sit
upon his throne, whence the will of Heaven, confided in execution to the
arm of man, will have hurled him, without hope of return."

"I understand," said the prince, "my brother's blood will not be shed,

"You will be sole arbiter of his fate."

"The secret of which they made an evil use against me?"

"You will employ it against him.  What did he do to conceal it?  He
concealed you.  Living image of himself, you will defeat the conspiracy
of Mazarin and Anne of Austria.  You, my prince, will have the same
interest in concealing him, who will, as a prisoner, resemble you, as you
will resemble him as a king."

"I fall back on what I was saying to you.  Who will guard him?"

"Who guarded _you?_"

"You know this secret - you have made use of it with regard to myself.
Who else knows it?"

"The queen-mother and Madame de Chevreuse."

"What will they do?"

"Nothing, if you choose."

"How is that?"

"How can they recognize you, if you act in such a manner that no one can
recognize you?"

"'Tis true; but there are grave difficulties."

"State them, prince."

"My brother is married; I cannot take my brother's wife."

"I will cause Spain to consent to a divorce; it is in the interest of
your new policy; it is human morality.  All that is really noble and
really useful in this world will find its account therein."

"The imprisoned king will speak."

"To whom do you think he will speak - to the walls?"

"You mean, by walls, the men in whom you put confidence."

"If need be, yes.  And besides, your royal highness - "


"I was going to say, that the designs of Providence do not stop on such a
fair road.  Every scheme of this caliber is completed by its results,
like a geometrical calculation.  The king, in prison, will not be for you
the cause of embarrassment that you have been for the king enthroned.
His soul is naturally proud and impatient; it is, moreover, disarmed and
enfeebled, by being accustomed to honors, and by the license of supreme
power.  The same Providence which has willed that the concluding step in
the geometrical calculation I have had the honor of describing to your
royal highness should be your ascension to the throne, and the
destruction of him who is hurtful to you, has also determined that the
conquered one shall soon end both his own and your sufferings.
Therefore, his soul and body have been adapted for but a brief agony.
Put into prison as a private individual, left alone with your doubts,
deprived of everything, you have exhibited the most sublime, enduring
principle of life in withstanding all this.  But your brother, a captive,
forgotten, and in bonds, will not long endure the calamity; and Heaven
will resume his soul at the appointed time - that is to say, soon."

At this point in Aramis's gloomy analysis, a bird of night uttered from
the depths of the forest that prolonged and plaintive cry which makes
every creature tremble.

"I will exile the deposed king," said Philippe, shuddering; "'twill be
more human."

"The king's good pleasure will decide the point," said Aramis.  "But has
the problem been well put?  Have I brought out of the solution according
to the wishes or the foresight of your royal highness?"

"Yes, monsieur, yes; you have forgotten nothing - except, indeed, two

"The first?"

"Let us speak of it at once, with the same frankness we have already
conversed in.  Let us speak of the causes which may bring about the ruin
of all the hopes we have conceived.  Let us speak of the risks we are

"They would be immense, infinite, terrific, insurmountable, if, as I have
said, all things did not concur to render them of absolutely no account.
There is no danger either for you or for me, if the constancy and
intrepidity of your royal highness are equal to that perfection of
resemblance to your brother which nature has bestowed upon you.  I repeat
it, there are no dangers, only obstacles; a word, indeed, which I find in
all languages, but have always ill-understood, and, were I king, would
have obliterated as useless and absurd."

"Yes, indeed, monsieur; there is a very serious obstacle, an
insurmountable danger, which you are forgetting."

"Ah!" said Aramis.

"There is conscience, which cries aloud; remorse, that never dies."

"True, true," said the bishop; "there is a weakness of heart of which you
remind me.  You are right, too, for that, indeed, is an immense
obstacle.  The horse afraid of the ditch, leaps into the middle of it,
and is killed!  The man who trembling crosses his sword with that of
another leaves loopholes whereby his enemy has him in his power."

"Have you a brother?" said the young man to Aramis.

"I am alone in the world," said the latter, with a hard, dry voice.

"But, surely, there is some one in the world whom you love?" added

"No one! - Yes, I love you."

The young man sank into so profound a silence, that the mere sound of his
respiration seemed like a roaring tumult for Aramis.  "Monseigneur," he
resumed, "I have not said all I had to say to your royal highness; I have
not offered you all the salutary counsels and useful resources which I
have at my disposal.  It is useless to flash bright visions before the
eyes of one who seeks and loves darkness: useless, too, is it to let the
magnificence of the cannon's roar make itself heard in the ears of one
who loves repose and the quiet of the country.  Monseigneur, I have your
happiness spread out before me in my thoughts; listen to my words;
precious they indeed are, in their import and their sense, for you who
look with such tender regard upon the bright heavens, the verdant
meadows, the pure air.  I know a country instinct with delights of every
kind, an unknown paradise, a secluded corner of the world - where alone,
unfettered and unknown, in the thick covert of the woods, amidst flowers,
and streams of rippling water, you will forget all the misery that human
folly has so recently allotted you.  Oh! listen to me, my prince.  I do
not jest.  I have a heart, and mind, and soul, and can read your own, -
aye, even to its depths.  I will not take you unready for your task, in
order to cast you into the crucible of my own desires, of my caprice, or
my ambition.  Let it be all or nothing.  You are chilled and galled, sick
at heart, overcome by excess of the emotions which but one hour's liberty
has produced in you.  For me, that is a certain and unmistakable sign
that you do not wish to continue at liberty.  Would you prefer a more
humble life, a life more suited to your strength?  Heaven is my witness,
that I wish your happiness to be the result of the trial to which I have
exposed you."

"Speak, speak," said the prince, with a vivacity which did not escape

"I know," resumed the prelate, "in the Bas-Poitou, a canton, of which no
one in France suspects the existence.  Twenty leagues of country is
immense, is it not?  Twenty leagues, monseigneur, all covered with water
and herbage, and reeds of the most luxuriant nature; the whole studded
with islands covered with woods of the densest foliage.  These large
marshes, covered with reeds as with a thick mantle, sleep silently and
calmly beneath the sun's soft and genial rays.  A few fishermen with
their families indolently pass their lives away there, with their great
living-rafts of poplar and alder, the flooring formed of reeds, and the
roof woven out of thick rushes.  These barks, these floating-houses, are
wafted to and fro by the changing winds.  Whenever they touch a bank, it

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