List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"Sire!" stammered Colbert, confused with pleasure and fear.

"I always understood why," murmured D'Artagnan in the king's ear; "he was

"Precisely, and his jealousy confined his wings."

"He will henceforward be a winged-serpent," grumbled the musketeer, with
a remnant of hatred against his recent adversary.

But Colbert, approaching him, offered to his eyes a physiognomy so
different from that which he had been accustomed to see him wear; he
appeared so good, so mild, so easy; his eyes took the expression of an
intelligence so noble, that D'Artagnan, a connoisseur in physiognomies,
was moved, and almost changed in his convictions.  Colbert pressed his

"That which the king has just told you, monsieur, proves how well his
majesty is acquainted with men.  The inveterate opposition I have
displayed, up to this day, against abuses and not against men, proves
that I had it in view to prepare for my king a glorious reign, for my
country a great blessing.  I have many ideas, M. d'Artagnan.  You will
see them expand in the sun of public peace; and if I have not the good
fortune to conquer the friendship of honest men, I am at least certain,
monsieur, that I shall obtain their esteem.  For their admiration,
monsieur, I would give my life."

This change, this sudden elevation, this mute approbation of the king,
gave the musketeer matter for profound reflection.  He bowed civilly to
Colbert, who did not take his eyes off him.  The king, when he saw they
were reconciled, dismissed them.  They left the room together.  As soon
as they were out of the cabinet, the new minister, stopping the captain,

"Is it possible, M. d'Artagnan, that with such an eye as yours, you did
not, at the first glance, at the first impression, discover what sort of
man I am?"

"Monsieur Colbert," replied the musketeer, "a ray of the sun in our eyes
prevents us from seeing the most vivid flame.  The man in power radiates,
you know; and since you are there, why should you continue to persecute
him who had just fallen into disgrace, and fallen from such a height?"

"I, monsieur!" said Colbert; "oh, monsieur!  I would never persecute
him.  I wished to administer the finances and to administer them alone,
because I am ambitious, and, above all, because I have the most entire
confidence in my own merit; because I know that all the gold of this
country will ebb and flow beneath my eyes, and I love to look at the
king's gold; because, if I live thirty years, in thirty years not a
_denir_ of it will remain in my hands; because, with that gold, I will
build granaries, castles, cities, and harbors; because I will create a
marine, I will equip navies that shall waft the name of France to the
most distant people; because I will create libraries and academies;
because I will make France the first country in the world, and the
wealthiest.  These are the motives for my animosity against M. Fouquet,
who prevented my acting.  And then, when I shall be great and strong,
when France is great and strong, in my turn, then, will I cry, 'Mercy'!"

"Mercy, did you say? then ask his liberty of the king.  The king is only
crushing him on _your_ account."

Colbert again raised his head.  "Monsieur," said he, "you know that is
not so, and that the king has his own personal animosity against M.
Fouquet; it is not for me to teach you that."

"But the king will grow tired; he will forget."

"The king never forgets, M. d'Artagnan.  Hark! the king calls.  He is
going to issue an order.  I have not influenced him, have I?  Listen."

The king, in fact, was calling his secretaries.  "Monsieur d'Artagnan,"
said he.

"I am here, sire."

"Give twenty of your musketeers to M. de Saint-Aignan, to form a guard
for M. Fouquet."

D'Artagnan and Colbert exchanged looks.  "And from Angers," continued the
king, "they will conduct the prisoner to the Bastile, in Paris."

"You were right," said the captain to the minister.

"Saint-Aignan," continued the king, "you will have any one shot who shall
attempt to speak privately with M. Fouquet, during the journey."

"But myself, sire," said the duke.

"You, monsieur, you will only speak to him in the presence of the
musketeers."  The duke bowed and departed to execute his commission.

D'Artagnan was about to retire likewise; but the king stopped him.

"Monsieur," said he, "you will go immediately, and take possession of the
isle and fief of Belle-Ile-en-Mer."

"Yes, sire.  Alone?"

"You will take a sufficient number of troops to prevent delay, in case
the place should be contumacious."

A murmur of courtly incredulity rose from the group of courtiers.  "That
shall be done," said D'Artagnan.

"I saw the place in my infancy," resumed the king, "and I do not wish to
see it again.  You have heard me?  Go, monsieur, and do not return
without the keys."

Colbert went up to D'Artagnan.  "A commission which, if you carry it out
well," said he, "will be worth a marechal's baton to you."

"Why do you employ the words, 'if you carry it out well'?"

"Because it is difficult."

"Ah! in what respect?"

"You have friends in Belle-Isle, Monsieur d'Artagnan; and it is not an
easy thing for men like you to march over the bodies of their friends to
obtain success."

D'Artagnan hung his head in deepest thought, whilst Colbert returned to
the king.  A quarter of an hour after, the captain received the written
order from the king, to blow up the fortress of Belle-Isle, in case of
resistance, with power of life and death over all the inhabitants or
refugees, and an injunction not to allow one to escape.

"Colbert was right," thought D'Artagnan; "for me the baton of a marechal
of France will cost the lives of my two friends.  Only they seem to
forget that my friends are not more stupid than the birds, and that they
will not wait for the hand of the fowler to extend over their wings.  I
will show them that hand so plainly, that they will have quite time
enough to see it.  Poor Porthos!  Poor Aramis!  No; my fortune should
shall not cost your wings a feather."

Having thus determined, D'Artagnan assembled the royal army, embarked it
at Paimboeuf, and set sail, without the loss of an unnecessary minute.

Chapter XLII:

At the extremity of the mole, against which the furious sea beats at the
evening tide, two men, holding each other by the arm, were conversing in
an animated and expansive tone, without the possibility of any other
human being hearing their words, borne away, as they were, one by one, by
the gusts of wind, with the white foam swept from the crests of the
waves.  The sun had just gone down in the vast sheet of the crimsoned
ocean, like a gigantic crucible.  From time to time, one of these men,
turning towards the east, cast an anxious, inquiring look over the sea.
The other, interrogating the features of his companion, seemed to seek
for information in his looks.  Then, both silent, busied with dismal
thoughts, they resumed their walk.  Every one has already perceived that
these two men were our proscribed heroes, Porthos and Aramis, who had
taken refuge in Belle-Isle, since the ruin of their hopes, since the
discomfiture of the colossal schemes of M. d'Herblay.

"If is of no use your saying anything to the contrary, my dear Aramis,"
repeated Porthos, inhaling vigorously the salt breeze with which he
charged his massive chest, "It is of no use, Aramis.  The disappearance
of all the fishing-boats that went out two days ago is not an ordinary
circumstance.  There has been no storm at sea; the weather has been
constantly calm, not even the lightest gale; and even if we had had a
tempest, all our boats would not have foundered.  I repeat, it is
strange.  This complete disappearance astonishes me, I tell you."

"True," murmured Aramis.  "You are right, friend Porthos; it is true,
there is something strange in it."

"And further," added Porthos, whose ideas the assent of the bishop of
Vannes seemed to enlarge; "and, further, do you not observe that if the
boats have perished, not a single plank has washed ashore?"

"I have remarked it as well as yourself."

"And do you not think it strange that the two only boats we had left in
the whole island, and which I sent in search of the others - "

Aramis here interrupted his companion by a cry, and by so sudden a
movement, that Porthos stopped as if he were stupefied.  "What do you
say, Porthos?  What! - You have sent the two boats - "

"In search of the others!  Yes, to be sure I have," replied Porthos,

"Unhappy man!  What have you done?  Then we are indeed lost," cried the

"Lost! - what did you say?" exclaimed the terrified Porthos.  "How lost,
Aramis?  How are we lost?"

Aramis bit his lips.  "Nothing! nothing!  Your pardon, I meant to say - "


"That if we were inclined - if we took a fancy to make an excursion by
sea, we could not."

"Very good! and why should that vex you?  A precious pleasure, _ma foi!_
For my part, I don't regret it at all.  What I regret is certainly not
the more or less amusement we can find at Belle-Isle: what I regret,
Aramis, is Pierrefonds; Bracieux; le Vallon; beautiful France!  Here, we
are not in France, my dear friend; we are - I know not where.  Oh!  I
tell you, in full sincerity of soul, and your affection will excuse my
frankness, but I declare to you I am not happy at Belle-Isle.  No; in
good truth, I am not happy!"

Aramis breathed a long, but stifled sigh.  "Dear friend," replied he:
"that is why it is so sad a thing you have sent the two boats we had left
in search of the boats which disappeared two days ago.  If you had not
sent them away, we would have departed."

"'Departed!'  And the orders, Aramis?"

"What orders?"

"_Parbleu!_  Why, the orders you have been constantly, in and out of
season, repeating to me - that we were to hold Belle-Isle against the
usurper.  You know very well!"

"That is true!" murmured Aramis again.

"You see, then, plainly, my friend, that we could not depart; and that
the sending away of the boats in search of the others cannot prove

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