List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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young man suddenly cried out, with a violence which betrayed the temper
of his blood, "We are speaking of friends; but how can _I_ have any
friends - I, whom no one knows; and have neither liberty, money, nor
influence, to gain any?"

"I fancy I had the honor to offer myself to your royal highness."

"Oh, do not style me so, monsieur; 'tis either treachery or cruelty.  Bid
me not think of aught beyond these prison-walls, which so grimly confine
me; let me again love, or, at least, submit to my slavery and my

"Monseigneur, monseigneur; if you again utter these desperate words - if,
after having received proof of your high birth, you still remain poor-
spirited in body and soul, I will comply with your desire, I will depart,
and renounce forever the service of a master, to whom so eagerly I came
to devote my assistance and my life!"

"Monsieur," cried the prince, "would it not have been better for you to
have reflected, before telling me all that you have done, that you have
broken my heart forever?"

"And so I desire to do, monseigneur."

"To talk to me about power, grandeur, eye, and to prate of thrones!  Is a
prison the fit place?  You wish to make me believe in splendor, and we
are lying lost in night; you boast of glory, and we are smothering our
words in the curtains of this miserable bed; you give me glimpses of
power absolute whilst I hear the footsteps of the every-watchful jailer
in the corridor - that step which, after all, makes you tremble more than
it does me.  To render me somewhat less incredulous, free me from the
Bastile; let me breathe the fresh air; give me my spurs and trusty sword,
then we shall begin to understand each other."

"It is precisely my intention to give you all this, monseigneur, and
more; only, do you desire it?"

"A word more," said the prince.  "I know there are guards in every
gallery, bolts to every door, cannon and soldiery at every barrier.  How
will you overcome the sentries - spike the guns?  How will you break
through the bolts and bars?"

"Monseigneur, - how did you get the note which announced my arrival to

"You can bribe a jailer for such a thing as a note."

"If we can corrupt one turnkey, we can corrupt ten."

"Well; I admit that it may be possible to release a poor captive from the
Bastile; possible so to conceal him that the king's people shall not
again ensnare him; possible, in some unknown retreat, to sustain the
unhappy wretch in some suitable manner."

"Monseigneur!" said Aramis, smiling.

"I admit that, whoever would do this much for me, would seem more than
mortal in my eyes; but as you tell me I am a prince, brother of the king,
how can you restore me the rank and power which my mother and my brother
have deprived me of?  And as, to effect this, I must pass a life of war
and hatred, how can you cause me to prevail in those combats - render me
invulnerable by my enemies?  Ah! monsieur, reflect on all this; place me,
to-morrow, in some dark cavern at a mountain's base; yield me the delight
of hearing in freedom sounds of the river, plain and valley, of beholding
in freedom the sun of the blue heavens, or the stormy sky, and it is
enough.  Promise me no more than this, for, indeed, more you cannot give,
and it would be a crime to deceive me, since you call yourself my friend."

Aramis waited in silence.  "Monseigneur," he resumed, after a moment's
reflection, "I admire the firm, sound sense which dictates your words; I
am happy to have discovered my monarch's mind."

"Again, again! oh, God! for mercy's sake," cried the prince, pressing his
icy hands upon his clammy brow, "do not play with me!  I have no need to
be a king to be the happiest of men."

"But I, monseigneur, wish you to be a king for the good of humanity."

"Ah!" said the prince, with fresh distrust inspired by the word; "ah!
with what, then, has humanity to reproach my brother?"

"I forgot to say, monseigneur, that if you would allow me to guide you,
and if you consent to become the most powerful monarch in Christendom,
you will have promoted the interests of all the friends whom I devote to
the success of your cause, and these friends are numerous."


"Less numerous than powerful, monseigneur."

"Explain yourself."

"It is impossible; I will explain, I swear before Heaven, on that day
that I see you sitting on the throne of France."

"But my brother?"

"You shall decree his fate.  Do you pity him?"

"Him, who leaves me to perish in a dungeon?  No, no.  For him I have no

"So much the better."

"He might have himself come to this prison, have taken me by the hand,
and have said, 'My brother, Heaven created us to love, not to contend
with one another.  I come to you.  A barbarous prejudice has condemned
you to pass your days in obscurity, far from mankind, deprived of every
joy.  I will make you sit down beside me; I will buckle round your waist
our father's sword.  Will you take advantage of this reconciliation to
put down or restrain me?  Will you employ that sword to spill my blood?'
'Oh! never,' I would have replied to him, 'I look on you as my preserver,
I will respect you as my master.  You give me far more than Heaven
bestowed; for through you I possess liberty and the privilege of loving
and being loved in this world.'"

"And you would have kept your word, monseigneur?"

"On my life!  While now - now that I have guilty ones to punish - "

"In what manner, monseigneur?"

"What do you say as to the resemblance that Heaven has given me to my

"I say that there was in that likeness a providential instruction which
the king ought to have heeded; I say that your mother committed a crime in
rendering those different in happiness and fortune whom nature created so
startlingly alike, of her own flesh, and I conclude that the object of
punishment should be only to restore the equilibrium."

"By which you mean - "

"That if I restore you to your place on your brother's throne, he shall
take yours in prison."

"Alas! there's such infinity of suffering in prison, especially it would
be so for one who has drunk so deeply of the cup of enjoyment."

"Your royal highness will always be free to act as you may desire; and if
it seems good to you, after punishment, you will have it in your power to

"Good.  And now, are you aware of one thing, monsieur?"

"Tell me, my prince."

"It is that I will hear nothing further from you till I am clear of the

"I was going to say to your highness that I should only have the pleasure
of seeing you once again."

"And when?"

"The day when my prince leaves these gloomy walls."

"Heavens! how will you give me notice of it?"

"By myself coming to fetch you."


"My prince, do not leave this chamber save with me, or if in my absence
you are compelled to do so, remember that I am not concerned in it."

"And so I am not to speak a word of this to any one whatever, save to

"Save only to me."  Aramis bowed very low.  The prince offered his hand.

"Monsieur," he said, in a tone that issued from his heart, "one word
more, my last.  If you have sought me for my destruction; if you are only
a tool in the hands of my enemies; if from our conference, in which you
have sounded the depths of my mind, anything worse than captivity result,
that is to say, if death befall me, still receive my blessing, for you
will have ended my troubles and given me repose from the tormenting fever
that has preyed on me for eight long, weary years."

"Monseigneur, wait the results ere you judge me," said Aramis.

"I say that, in such a case, I bless and forgive you.  If, on the other
hand, you are come to restore me to that position in the sunshine of
fortune and glory to which I was destined by Heaven; if by your means I
am enabled to live in the memory of man, and confer luster on my race by
deeds of valor, or by solid benefits bestowed upon my people; if, from my
present depths of sorrow, aided by your generous hand, I raise myself to
the very height of honor, then to you, whom I thank with blessings, to
you will I offer half my power and my glory: though you would still be
but partly recompensed, and your share must always remain incomplete,
since I could not divide with you the happiness received at your hands."

"Monseigneur," replied Aramis, moved by the pallor and excitement of the
young man, "the nobleness of your heart fills me with joy and
admiration.  It is not you who will have to thank me, but rather the
nation whom you will render happy, the posterity whose name you will make
glorious.  Yes; I shall indeed have bestowed upon you more than life, I
shall have given you immortality."

The prince offered his hand to Aramis, who sank upon his knee and kissed

"It is the first act of homage paid to our future king," said he.  "When
I see you again, I shall say, 'Good day, sire.'"

"Till then," said the young man, pressing his wan and wasted fingers over
his heart, - "till then, no more dreams, no more strain on my life - my
heart would break!  Oh, monsieur, how small is my prison - how low the
window - how narrow are the doors!  To think that so much pride,
splendor, and happiness, should be able to enter in and to remain here!"

"Your royal highness makes me proud," said Aramis, "since you infer it is
I who brought all this."  And he rapped immediately on the door.  The
jailer came to open it with Baisemeaux, who, devoured by fear and
uneasiness, was beginning, in spite of himself, to listen at the door.
Happily, neither of the speakers had forgotten to smother his voice, even
in the most passionate outbreaks.

"What a confessor!" said the governor, forcing a laugh; "who would
believe that a compulsory recluse, a man as though in the very jaws of
death, could have committed crimes so numerous, and so long to tell of?"

Aramis made no reply.  He was eager to leave the Bastile, where the
secret which overwhelmed him seemed to double the weight of the walls.
As soon as they reached Baisemeaux's quarters, "Let us proceed to

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