List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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when their muskets are empty."  And, suiting the action to the word,
Raoul was springing forward, followed by Athos, when a well-known voice
resounded behind them, "Athos!  Raoul!"

"D'Artagnan!" replied the two gentlemen.

"Recover arms!  _Mordioux!_" cried the captain to the soldiers.  "I was
sure I could not be mistaken!"

"What is the meaning of this?" asked Athos.  "What! were we to be shot
without warning?"

"It was I who was going to shoot you, and if the governor missed you, I
should not have missed you, my dear friends.  How fortunate it is that I
am accustomed to take a long aim, instead of firing at the instant I
raise my weapon!  I thought I recognized you.  Ah! my dear friends, how
fortunate!"  And D'Artagnan wiped his brow, for he had run fast, and
emotion with him was not feigned.

"How!" said Athos.  "And is the gentleman who fired at us the governor of
the fortress?"

"In person."

"And why did he fire at us?  What have we done to him?"

"_Pardieu!_  You received what the prisoner threw to you?"

"That is true."

"That plate - the prisoner has written something on it, has he not?"


"Good heavens!  I was afraid he had."

And D'Artagnan, with all the marks of mortal disquietude, seized the
plate, to read the inscription.  When he had read it, a fearful pallor
spread across his countenance.  "Oh! good heavens!" repeated he.
"Silence! - Here is the governor."

"And what will he do to us?  Is it our fault?"

"It is true, then?" said Athos, in a subdued voice.  "It is true?"

"Silence!  I tell you - silence!  If he only believes you can read; if he
only suspects you have understood; I love you, my dear friends, I would
willingly be killed for you, but - "

"But - " said Athos and Raoul.

"But I could not save you from perpetual imprisonment if I saved you from
death.  Silence, then!  Silence again!"

The governor came up, having crossed the ditch upon a plank bridge.

"Well!" said he to D'Artagnan, "what stops us?"

"You are Spaniards - you do not understand a word of French," said the
captain, eagerly, to his friends in a low voice.

"Well!" replied he, addressing the governor, "I was right; these
gentlemen are two Spanish captains with whom I was acquainted at Ypres,
last year; they don't know a word of French."

"Ah!" said the governor, sharply.  "And yet they were trying to read the
inscription on the plate."

D'Artagnan took it out of his hands, effacing the characters with the
point of his sword.

"How!" cried the governor, "what are you doing?  I cannot read them now!"

"It is a state secret," replied D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and as you know
that, according to the king's orders, it is under the penalty of death
any one should penetrate it, I will, if you like, allow you to read it,
and have you shot immediately afterwards."

During this apostrophe - half serious, half ironical - Athos and Raoul
preserved the coolest, most unconcerned silence.

"But, is it possible," said the governor, "that these gentlemen do not
comprehend at least some words?"

"Suppose they do!  If they do understand a few spoken words, it does not
follow that they should understand what is written.  They cannot even
read Spanish.  A noble Spaniard, remember, ought never to know how to

The governor was obliged to be satisfied with these explanations, but he
was still tenacious.  "Invite these gentlemen to come to the fortress,"
said he.

"That I will willingly do.  I was about to propose it to you."  The fact
is, the captain had quite another idea, and would have wished his friends
a hundred leagues off.  But he was obliged to make the best of it.  He
addressed the two gentlemen in Spanish, giving them a polite invitation,
which they accepted.  They all turned towards the entrance of the fort,
and, the incident being at an end, the eight soldiers returned to their
delightful leisure, for a moment disturbed by this unexpected adventure.

Chapter XXXII:
Captive and Jailers.

When they had entered the fort, and whilst the governor was making some
preparations for the reception of his guests, "Come," said Athos, "let us
have a word of explanation whilst we are alone."

"It is simply this," replied the musketeer.  "I have conducted hither a
prisoner, who the king commands shall not be seen.  You came here, he has
thrown something to you through the lattice of his window; I was at
dinner with the governor, I saw the object thrown, and I saw Raoul pick
it up.  It does not take long to understand this.  I understood it, and I
thought you in intelligence with my prisoner.  And then - "

"And then - you commanded us to be shot."

"_Ma foi!_  I admit it; but, if I was the first to seize a musket,
fortunately, I was the last to take aim at you."

"If you had killed me, D'Artagnan, I should have had the good fortune to
die for the royal house of France, and it would be an honor to die by
your hand - you, its noblest and most loyal defender."

"What the devil, Athos, do you mean by the royal house?" stammered
D'Artagnan.  "You don't mean that you, a well-informed and sensible man,
can place any faith in the nonsense written by an idiot?"

"I do believe in it."

"With so much the more reason, my dear chevalier, from your having orders
to kill all those who do believe in it," said Raoul.

"That is because," replied the captain of the musketeers - "because every
calumny, however absurd it may be, has the almost certain chance of
becoming popular."

"No, D'Artagnan," replied Athos, promptly; "but because the king is not
willing that the secret of his family should transpire among the people,
and cover with shame the executioners of the son of Louis XIII."

"Do not talk in such a childish manner, Athos, or I shall begin to think
you have lost your senses.  Besides, explain to me how it is possible
Louis XIII. should have a son in the Isle of Sainte-Marguerite."

"A son whom you have brought hither masked, in a fishing-boat," said
Athos.  "Why not?"

D'Artagnan was brought to a pause.

"Oh!" said he; "whence do you know that a fishing-boat - ?"

"Brought you to Sainte-Marguerite's with the carriage containing the
prisoner - with a prisoner whom you styled monseigneur.  Oh!  I am
acquainted with all that," resumed the comte.  D'Artagnan bit his

"If it were true," said he, "that I had brought hither in a boat and with
a carriage a masked prisoner, nothing proves that this prisoner must be a
prince - a prince of the house of France."

"Ask Aramis such riddles," replied Athos, coolly.

"Aramis," cried the musketeer, quite at a stand.  "Have you seen Aramis?"

"After his discomfiture at Vaux, yes; I have seen Aramis, a fugitive,
pursued, bewildered, ruined; and Aramis has told me enough to make me
believe in the complaints this unfortunate young prince cut upon the
bottom of the plate."

D'Artagnan's head sunk on his breast in some confusion.  "This is the
way," said he, "in which God turns to nothing that which men call
wisdom!  A fine secret must that be of which twelve or fifteen persons
hold the tattered fragments!  Athos, cursed be the chance which has
brought you face to face with me in this affair! for now - "

"Well," said Athos, with his customary mild severity, "is your secret
lost because I know it?  Consult your memory, my friend.  Have I not
borne secrets heavier than this?"

"You have never borne one so dangerous," replied D'Artagnan, in a tone of
sadness.  "I have something like a sinister idea that all who are
concerned with this secret will die, and die unhappily."

"The will of God be done!" said Athos, "but here is your governor."

D'Artagnan and his friends immediately resumed their parts.  The
governor, suspicious and hard, behaved towards D'Artagnan with a
politeness almost amounting to obsequiousness.  With respect to the
travelers, he contented himself with offering good cheer, and never
taking his eye from them.  Athos and Raoul observed that he often tried
to embarrass them by sudden attacks, or to catch them off their guard;
but neither the one nor the other gave him the least advantage.  What
D'Artagnan had said was probable, if the governor did not believe it to
be quite true.  They rose from the table to repose awhile.

"What is this man's name?  I don't like the looks of him," said Athos to
D'Artagnan in Spanish.

"De Saint-Mars," replied the captain.

"He is, then, I suppose, the prince's jailer?"

"Eh! how can I tell?  I may be kept at Sainte-Marguerite forever."

"Oh! no, not you!"

"My friend, I am in the situation of a man who finds a treasure in the
midst of a desert.  He would like to carry it away, but he cannot; he
would like to leave it, but he dares not.  The king will not dare to
recall me, for no one else would serve him as faithfully as I do; he
regrets not having me near him, from being aware that no one would be of
so much service near his person as myself.  But it will happen as it may
please God."

"But," observed Raoul, "your not being certain proves that your situation
here is provisional, and you will return to Paris?"

"Ask these gentlemen," interrupted the governor, "what was their purpose
in coming to Saint-Marguerite?"

"They came from learning there was a convent of Benedictines at Sainte-
Honnorat which is considered curious; and from being told there was
excellent shooting in the island."

"That is quite at their service, as well as yours," replied Saint-Mars.

D'Artagnan politely thanked him.

"When will they depart?" added the governor.

"To-morrow," replied D'Artagnan.

M. de Saint-Mars went to make his rounds, and left D'Artagnan alone with
the pretended Spaniards.

"Oh!" exclaimed the musketeer, "here is a life and a society that suits
me very little.  I command this man, and he bores me, _mordioux!_  Come,
let us have a shot or two at the rabbits; the walk will be beautiful, and
not fatiguing.  The whole island is but a league and a half in length,
with the breadth of a league; a real park.  Let us try to amuse

"As you please, D'Artagnan; not for the sake of amusing ourselves, but to

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