List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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prejudicial to us in the very least."

Aramis was silent; and his vague glances, luminous as that of an
albatross, hovered for a long time over the sea, interrogating space,
seeking to pierce the very horizon.

"With all that, Aramis," continued Porthos, who adhered to his idea, and
that the more closely from the bishop having apparently endorsed it, -
"with all that, you give me no explanation about what can have happened
to these unfortunate boats.  I am assailed by cries and complaints
whichever way I go.  The children cry to see the desolation of the women,
as if I could restore the absent husbands and fathers.  What do you
suppose, my friend, and how ought I to answer them?"

"Think all you like, my good Porthos, and say nothing."

This reply did not satisfy Porthos at all.  He turned away grumbling
something in ill-humor.  Aramis stopped the valiant musketeer.  "Do you
remember," said he, in a melancholy tone, kneading the two hands of the
giant between his own with affectionate cordiality, "do you remember, my
friend, that in the glorious days of youth - do you remember, Porthos,
when we were all strong and valiant - we, and the other two - if we had
then had an inclination to return to France, do you think this sheet of
salt water would have stopped us?"

"Oh!" said Porthos; "but six leagues."

"If you had seen me get astride of a plank, would you have remained on
land, Porthos?"

"No, _pardieu!_  No, Aramis.  But, nowadays, what sort of a plank should
we want, my friend!  I, in particular."  And the Seigneur de Bracieux
cast a profound glance over his colossal rotundity with a loud laugh.
"And do you mean seriously to say you are not tired of Belle-Isle a
little, and that you would not prefer the comforts of your dwelling - of
your episcopal palace, at Vannes?  Come, confess."

"No," replied Aramis, without daring to look at Porthos.

"Let us stay where we are, then," said his friend, with a sigh, which, in
spite of the efforts he made to restrain it, escaped his echoing breast.
"Let us remain! - let us remain!  And yet," added he, "and yet, if we
seriously wished, but that decidedly - if we had a fixed idea, one firmly
taken, to return to France, and there were not boats - "

"Have you remarked another thing, my friend - that is, since the
disappearance of our barks, during the last two days' absence of
fishermen, not a single small boat has landed on the shores of the isle?"

"Yes, certainly! you are right.  I, too, have remarked it, and the
observation was the more naturally made, for, before the last two fatal
days, barks and shallops were as plentiful as shrimps."

"I must inquire," said Aramis, suddenly, and with great agitation.  "And
then, if we had a raft constructed - "

"But there are some canoes, my friend; shall I board one?"

"A canoe! - a canoe!  Can you think of such a thing, Porthos?  A canoe to
be upset in.  No, no," said the bishop of Vannes; "it is not our trade to
ride upon the waves.  We will wait, we will wait."

And Aramis continued walking about with increased agitation.  Porthos,
who grew tired of following all the feverish movements of his friend -
Porthos, who in his faith and calmness understood nothing of the sort of
exasperation which was betrayed by his companion's continual convulsive
starts - Porthos stopped him.  "Let us sit down upon this rock," said
he.  "Place yourself there, close to me, Aramis, and I conjure you, for
the last time, to explain to me in a manner I can comprehend - explain to
me what we are doing here."

"Porthos," said Aramis, much embarrassed.

"I know that the false king wished to dethrone the true king.  That is a
fact, that I understand.  Well - "

"Yes?" said Aramis.

"I know that the false king formed the project of selling Belle-Isle to
the English.  I understand that, too."


"I know that we engineers and captains came and threw ourselves into
Belle-Isle to take direction of the works, and the command of ten
companies levied and paid by M. Fouquet, or rather the ten companies of
his son-in-law.  All that is plain."

Aramis rose in a state of great impatience.  He might be said to be a
lion importuned by a gnat.  Porthos held him by the arm.  "But what I
cannot understand, what, in spite of all the efforts of my mind, and all
my reflections, I cannot comprehend, and never shall comprehend, is, that
instead of sending us troops, instead of sending us reinforcements of
men, munitions, provisions, they leave us without boats, they leave Belle-
Isle without arrivals, without help; it is that instead of establishing
with us a correspondence, whether by signals, or written or verbal
communications, all relations with the shore are intercepted.  Tell me,
Aramis, answer me, or rather, before answering me, will you allow me to
tell you what I have thought?  Will you hear what my idea is, the plan I
have conceived?"

The bishop raised his head.  "Well!  Aramis," continued Porthos, "I have
dreamed, I have imagined that an event has taken place in France.  I
dreamt of M. Fouquet all the night, of lifeless fish, of broken eggs, of
chambers badly furnished, meanly kept.  Villainous dreams, my dear
D'Herblay; very unlucky, such dreams!"

"Porthos, what is that yonder?" interrupted Aramis, rising suddenly, and
pointing out to his friend a black spot upon the empurpled line of the

"A bark!" said Porthos; "yes, it is a bark!  Ah! we shall have some news
at last."

"There are two!" cried the bishop, on discovering another mast; "two!
three! four!"

"Five!" said Porthos, in his turn.  "Six! seven!  Ah! _mon Dieu! mon
Dieu!_ it is a fleet!"

"Our boats returning, probably," said Aramis, very uneasily, in spite of
the assurance he affected.

"They are very large for fishing-boats," observed Porthos, "and do you
not remark, my friend, that they come from the Loire?"

"They come from the Loire - yes - "

"And look! everybody here sees them as well as ourselves; look, women and
children are beginning to crowd the jetty."

An old fisherman passed.  "Are those our barks, yonder?" asked Aramis.

The old man looked steadily into the eye of the horizon.

"No, monseigneur," replied he, "they are lighter boars, boats in the
king's service."

"Boats in the royal service?" replied Aramis, starting.  "How do you know
that?" said he.

"By the flag."

"But," said Porthos, "the boat is scarcely visible; how the devil, my
friend, can you distinguish the flag?"

"I see there is one," replied the old man; "our boats, trade lighters, do
not carry any.  That sort of craft is generally used for transport of

"Ah!" groaned Aramis.

"_Vivat!_" cried Porthos, "they are sending us reinforcements, don't you
think they are, Aramis?"


"Unless it is the English coming."

"By the Loire?  That would have an evil look, Porthos; for they must have
come through Paris!"

"You are right; they are reinforcements, decidedly, or provisions."

Aramis leaned his head upon his hands, and made no reply.  Then, all at
once, - "Porthos," said he, "have the alarm sounded."

"The alarm! do you imagine such a thing?"

"Yes, and let the cannoniers mount their batteries, the artillerymen be
at their pieces, and be particularly watchful of the coast batteries."

Porthos opened his eyes to their widest extent.  He looked attentively at
his friend, to convince himself he was in his proper senses.

"_I_ will do it, my dear Porthos," continued Aramis, in his blandest
tone; "I will go and have these orders executed myself, if you do not go,
my friend."

"Well!  I will - instantly!" said Porthos, who went to execute the
orders, casting all the while looks behind him, to see if the bishop of
Vannes were not deceived; and if, on recovering more rational ideas, he
would not recall him.  The alarm was sounded, trumpets brayed, drums
rolled; the great bronze bell swung in horror from its lofty belfry.  The
dikes and moles were quickly filled with the curious and soldiers;
matches sparkled in the hands of the artillerymen, placed behind the
large cannon bedded in their stone carriages.  When every man was at his
post, when all the preparations for defense were made: "Permit me,
Aramis, to try to comprehend," whispered Porthos, timidly, in Aramis's

"My dear friend, you will comprehend but too soon," murmured M.
d'Herblay, in reply to this question of his lieutenant.

"The fleet which is coming yonder, with sails unfurled, straight towards
the port of Belle-Isle, is a royal fleet, is it not?"

"But as there are two kings in France, Porthos, to which of these two
kings does this fleet belong?"

"Oh! you open my eyes," replied the giant, stunned by the insinuation.

And Porthos, whose eyes this reply of his friend's had at last opened, or
rather thickened the bandage which covered his sight, went with his best
speed to the batteries to overlook his people, and exhort every one to do
his duty.  In the meantime, Aramis, with his eye fixed on the horizon,
saw the ships continually drawing nearer.  The people and the soldiers,
perched on the summits of the rocks, could distinguish the masts, then
the lower sails, and at last the hulls of the lighters, bearing at the
masthead the royal flag of France.  It was night when one of these
vessels, which had created such a sensation among the inhabitants of
Belle-Isle, dropped anchor within cannon shot of the place.  It was soon
seen, notwithstanding the darkness, that some sort of agitation reigned
on board the vessel, from the side of which a skiff was lowered, of which
the three rowers, bending to their oars, took the direction of the port,
and in a few instants struck land at the foot of the fort.  The commander
jumped ashore.  He had a letter in his hand, which he waved in the air,
and seemed to wish to communicate with somebody.  This man was soon
recognized by several soldiers as one of the pilots of the island.  He
was the captain of one of the two barks retained by Aramis, but which
Porthos, in his anxiety with regard to the fate of the fishermen who had
disappeared, had sent in search of the missing boats.  He asked to be

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