List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

dominate the whole.  Musketeers at the wings, with their forked sticks
and their muskets on their shoulders; pikemen in the center, with their
lances, fourteen feet in length, marched gayly towards the transports,
which carried them in detail to the ships.  The regiments of Picardy,
Navarre, Normandy, and Royal Vaisseau, followed after.  M. de Beaufort
had known well how to select his troops.  He himself was seen closing the
march with his staff - it would take a full hour before he could reach
the sea.  Raoul with Athos turned his steps slowly towards the beach, in
order to take his place when the prince embarked.  Grimaud, boiling with
the ardor of a young man, superintended the embarkation of Raoul's
baggage in the admiral's vessel.  Athos, with his arm passed through that
of the son he was about to lose, absorbed in melancholy meditation, was
deaf to every noise around him.  An officer came quickly towards them to
inform Raoul that M. de Beaufort was anxious to have him by his side.

"Have the kindness to tell the prince," said Raoul, "that I request he
will allow me this hour to enjoy the company of my father."

"No, no," said Athos, "an aide-de-camp ought not thus to quit his
general.  Please to tell the prince, monsieur, that the vicomte will join
him immediately."  The officer set off at a gallop.

"Whether we part here or part there," added the comte, "it is no less a
separation."  He carefully brushed the dust from his son's coat, and
passed his hand over his hair as they walked along.  "But, Raoul," said
he, "you want money.  M. de Beaufort's train will be splendid, and I am
certain it will be agreeable to you to purchase horses and arms, which
are very dear things in Africa.  Now, as you are not actually in the
service of the king or M. de Beaufort, and are simply a volunteer, you
must not reckon upon either pay or largesse.  But I should not like you
to want for anything at Gigelli.  Here are two hundred pistoles; if you
would please me, Raoul, spend them."

Raoul pressed the hand of his father, and, at the turning of a street,
they saw M. de Beaufort, mounted on a magnificent white _genet_, which
responded by graceful curvets to the applause of the women of the city.
The duke called Raoul, and held out his hand to the comte.  He spoke to
him for some time, with such a kindly expression that the heart of the
poor father even felt a little comforted.  It was, however, evident to
both father and son that their walk amounted to nothing less than a
punishment.  There was a terrible moment - that at which, on quitting the
sands of the shore, the soldiers and sailors exchanged the last kisses
with their families and friends; a supreme moment, in which,
notwithstanding the clearness of the heavens, the warmth of the sun, of
the perfumes of the air, and the rich life that was circulating in their
veins, everything appeared black, everything bitter, everything created
doubts of Providence, nay, at the most, of God.  It was customary for the
admiral and his suite to embark last; the cannon waited to announce, with
its formidable voice, that the leader had placed his foot on board his
vessel.  Athos, forgetful of both the admiral and the fleet, and of his
own dignity as a strong man, opened his arms to his son, and pressed him
convulsively to his heart.

"Accompany us on board," said the duke, very much affected; "you will
gain a good half-hour."

"No," said Athos, "my farewell has been spoken, I do not wish to voice a

"Then, vicomte, embark - embark quickly!" added the prince, wishing to
spare the tears of these two men, whose hearts were bursting.  And
paternally, tenderly, very much as Porthos might have done, he took Raoul
in his arms and placed him in the boat, the oars of which, at a signal,
immediately were dipped in the waves.  He himself, forgetful of ceremony,
jumped into his boat, and pushed it off with a vigorous foot.  "Adieu!"
cried Raoul.

Athos replied only by a sign, but he felt something burning on his hand:
it was the respectful kiss of Grimaud - the last farewell of the faithful
dog.  This kiss given, Grimaud jumped from the step of the mole upon the
stem of a two-oared yawl, which had just been taken in tow by a _chaland_
served by twelve galley-oars.  Athos seated himself on the mole, stunned,
deaf, abandoned.  Every instant took from him one of the features, one of
the shades of the pale face of his son.  With his arms hanging down, his
eyes fixed, his mouth open, he remained confounded with Raoul - in one
same look, in one same thought, in one same stupor.  The sea, by degrees,
carried away boats and faces to that distance at which men become nothing
but points, - loves, nothing but remembrances.  Athos saw his son ascend
the ladder of the admiral's ship, he saw him lean upon the rail of the
deck, and place himself in such a manner as to be always an object in the
eye of his father.  In vain the cannon thundered, in vain from the ship
sounded the long and lordly tumult, responded to by immense acclamations
from the shore; in vain did the noise deafen the ear of the father, the
smoke obscured the cherished object of his aspirations.  Raoul appeared
to him to the last moment; and the imperceptible atom, passing from black
to pale, from pale to white, from white to nothing, disappeared for Athos
- disappeared very long after, to all the eyes of the spectators, had
disappeared both gallant ships and swelling sails.  Towards midday, when
the sun devoured space, and scarcely the tops of the masts dominated the
incandescent limit of the sea, Athos perceived a soft aerial shadow rise,
and vanish as soon as seen.  This was the smoke of a cannon, which M. de
Beaufort ordered to be fired as a last salute to the coast of France.
The point was buried in its turn beneath the sky, and Athos returned with
slow and painful step to his deserted hostelry.

Chapter XXXIV:
Among Women.

D'Artagnan had not been able to hide his feelings from his friends so
much as he would have wished.  The stoical soldier, the impassive man-at-
arms, overcome by fear and sad presentiments, had yielded, for a few
moments, to human weakness.  When, therefore, he had silenced his heart
and calmed the agitation of his nerves, turning towards his lackey, a
silent servant, always listening, in order to obey the more promptly:

"Rabaud," said he, "mind, we must travel thirty leagues a day."

"At your pleasure, captain," replied Rabaud.

And from that moment, D'Artagnan, accommodating his action to the pace of
the horse, like a true centaur, gave up his thoughts to nothing - that is
to say, to everything.  He asked himself why the king had sent for him
back; why the Iron Mask had thrown the silver plate at the feet of
Raoul.  As to the first subject, the reply was negative; he knew right
well that the king's calling him was from necessity.  He still further
knew that Louis XIV. must experience an imperious desire for a private
conversation with one whom the possession of such a secret placed on a
level with the highest powers of the kingdom.  But as to saying exactly
what the king's wish was, D'Artagnan found himself completely at a loss.
The musketeer had no doubts, either, upon the reason which had urged the
unfortunate Philippe to reveal his character and birth.  Philippe, buried
forever beneath a mask of steel, exiled to a country where the men seemed
little more than slaves of the elements; Philippe, deprived even of the
society of D'Artagnan, who had loaded him with honors and delicate
attentions, had nothing more to see than odious specters in this world,
and, despair beginning to devour him, he poured himself forth in
complaints, in the belief that his revelations would raise up some
avenger for him.  The manner in which the musketeer had been near killing
his two best friends, the destiny which had so strangely brought Athos to
participate in the great state secret, the farewell of Raoul, the
obscurity of the future which threatened to end in a melancholy death;
all this threw D'Artagnan incessantly back on lamentable predictions and
forebodings, which the rapidity of his pace did not dissipate, as it used
formerly to do.  D'Artagnan passed from these considerations to the
remembrance of the proscribed Porthos and Aramis.  He saw them both,
fugitives, tracked, ruined - laborious architects of fortunes they had
lost; and as the king called for his man of execution in hours of
vengeance and malice, D'Artagnan trembled at the very idea of receiving
some commission that would make his very soul bleed.  Sometimes,
ascending hills, when the winded horse breathed hard from his red
nostrils, and heaved his flanks, the captain, left to more freedom of
thought, reflected on the prodigious genius of Aramis, a genius of acumen
and intrigue, a match to which the Fronde and the civil war had produced
but twice.  Soldier, priest, diplomatist; gallant, avaricious, cunning;
Aramis had never taken the good things of this life except as stepping-
stones to rise to giddier ends.  Generous in spirit, if not lofty in
heart, he never did ill but for the sake of shining even yet more
brilliantly.  Towards the end of his career, at the moment of reaching
the goal, like the patrician Fuscus, he had made a false step upon a
plank, and had fallen into the sea.  But Porthos, good, harmless
Porthos!  To see Porthos hungry, to see Mousqueton without gold lace,
imprisoned, perhaps; to see Pierrefonds, Bracieux, razed to the very
stones, dishonored even to the timber, - these were so many poignant
griefs for D'Artagnan, and every time that one of these griefs struck
him, he bounded like a horse at the sting of a gadfly beneath the vaults
of foliage where he has sought shady shelter from the burning sun.  Never
was the man of spirit subjected to _ennui_, if his body was exposed to
fatigue; never did the man of healthy body fail to find life light, if he
had something to engage his mind.  D'Artagnan, riding fast, thinking as
constantly, alighted from his horse in Pairs, fresh and tender in his
muscles as the athlete preparing for the gymnasium.  The king did not

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: