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

conducted to M. d'Herblay.  Two soldiers, at a signal from a sergeant,
marched him between them, and escorted him.  Aramis was upon the quay.
The envoy presented himself before the bishop of Vannes.  The darkness
was almost absolute, notwithstanding the flambeaux borne at a small
distance by the soldiers who were following Aramis in his rounds.

"Well, Jonathan, from whom do you come?"

"Monseigneur, from those who captured me."

"Who captured you?"

"You know, monseigneur, we set out in search of our comrades?"

"Yes; and afterwards?"

"Well! monseigneur, within a short league we were captured by a _chasse
maree_ belonging to the king."

"Ah!" said Aramis.

"Of which king?" cried Porthos.

Jonathan started.

"Speak!" continued the bishop.

"We were captured, monseigneur, and joined to those who had been taken
yesterday morning."

"What was the cause of the mania for capturing you all?" said Porthos.

"Monsieur, to prevent us from telling you," replied Jonathan.

Porthos was again at a loss to comprehend.  "And they have released you
to-day?" asked he.

"That I might tell you they have captured us, monsieur."

"Trouble upon trouble," thought honest Porthos.

During this time Aramis was reflecting.

"Humph!" said he, "then I suppose it is a royal fleet blockading the

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Who commands it?"

"The captain of the king's musketeers."


"D'Artagnan!" exclaimed Porthos.

"I believe that is the name."

"And did he give you this letter?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Bring the torches nearer."

"It is his writing," said Porthos.

Aramis eagerly read the following lines:

"Order of the king to take Belle-Isle; or to put the garrison to the
sword, if they resist; order to make prisoners of all the men of the
garrison; signed, D'ARTAGNAN, who, the day before yesterday, arrested M.
Fouquet, for the purpose of his being sent to the Bastile."

Aramis turned pale, and crushed the paper in his hands.

"What is it?" asked Porthos.

"Nothing, my friend, nothing."

"Tell me, Jonathan?"


"Did you speak to M. d'Artagnan?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"What did he say to you?"

"That for ampler information, he would speak with monseigneur."


"On board his own vessel."

"On board his vessel!" and Porthos repeated, "On board his vessel!"

"M. le mousquetaire," continued Jonathan, "told me to take you both on
board my canoe, and bring you to him."

"Let us go at once," exclaimed Porthos.  "Dear D'Artagnan!"

But Aramis stopped him.  "Are you mad?" cried he.  "Who knows that it is
not a snare?"

"Of the other king's?" said Porthos, mysteriously.

"A snare, in fact!  That's what it is, my friend."

"Very possibly; what is to be done, then?  If D'Artagnan sends for us - "

"Who assures you that D'Artagnan sends for us?"

"Well, but - but his writing - "

"Writing is easily counterfeited.  This looks counterfeited - unsteady - "

"You are always right; but, in the meantime, we know nothing."

Aramis was silent.

"It is true," said the good Porthos, "we do not want to know anything."

"What shall I do?" asked Jonathan.

"You will return on board this captain's vessel."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"And will tell him that we beg he will himself come into the island."

"Ah!  I comprehend!" said Porthos.

"Yes, monseigneur," replied Jonathan; "but if the captain should refuse
to come to Belle-Isle?"

"If he refuses, as we have cannon, we will make use of them."

"What! against D'Artagnan?"

"If it is D'Artagnan, Porthos, he will come.  Go, Jonathan, go!"

"_Ma foi!_  I no longer comprehend anything," murmured Porthos.

"I will make you comprehend it all, my dear friend; the time for it has
come; sit down upon this gun-carriage, open your ears, and listen well to

"Oh! _pardieu!_  I will listen, no fear of that."

"May I depart, monseigneur?" cried Jonathan.

"Yes, begone, and bring back an answer.  Allow the canoe to pass, you men
there!"  And the canoe pushed off to regain the fleet.

Aramis took Porthos by the hand, and commenced his explanations.

Chapter XLIII:
Explanations by Aramis.

"What I have to say to you, friend Porthos, will probably surprise you,
but it may prove instructive."

"I like to be surprised," said Porthos, in a kindly tone; "do not spare
me, therefore, I beg.  I am hardened against emotions; don't fear, speak

"It is difficult, Porthos - difficult; for, in truth, I warn you a second
time, I have very strange things, very extraordinary things, to tell you."

"Oh! you speak so well, my friend, that I could listen to you for days
together.  Speak, then, I beg - and - stop, I have an idea: I will, to
make your task more easy, I will, to assist you in telling me such
things, question you."

"I shall be pleased at your doing so."

"What are we going to fight for, Aramis?"

"If you ask me many such questions as that - if you would render my task
the easier by interrupting my revelations thus, Porthos, you will not
help me at all.  So far, on the contrary, that is the very Gordian knot.
But, my friend, with a man like you, good, generous, and devoted, the
confession must be bravely made.  I have deceived you, my worthy friend."

"You have deceived me!"

"Good Heavens! yes."

"Was it for my good, Aramis?"

"I thought so, Porthos; I thought so sincerely, my friend."

"Then," said the honest seigneur of Bracieux, "you have rendered me a
service, and I thank you for it; for if you had not deceived me, I might
have deceived myself.  In what, then, have you deceived me, tell me?"

"In that I was serving the usurper against whom Louis XIV., at this
moment, is directing his efforts."

"The usurper!" said Porthos, scratching his head.  "That is - well, I do
not quite clearly comprehend!"

"He is one of the two kings who are contending fro the crown of France."

"Very well!  Then you were serving him who is not Louis XIV.?"

"You have hit the matter in one word."

"It follows that - "

"It follows that we are rebels, my poor friend."

"The devil! the devil!" cried Porthos, much disappointed.

"Oh! but, dear Porthos, be calm, we shall still find means of getting out
of the affair, trust me."

"It is not that which makes me uneasy," replied Porthos; "that which
alone touches me is that ugly word _rebels_."

"Ah! but - "

"And so, according to this, the duchy that was promised me - "

"It was the usurper that was to give it to you."

"And that is not the same thing, Aramis," said Porthos, majestically.

"My friend, if it had only depended upon me, you should have become a

Porthos began to bite his nails in a melancholy way.

"That is where you have been wrong," continued he, "in deceiving me; for
that promised duchy I reckoned upon.  Oh!  I reckoned upon it seriously,
knowing you to be a man of your word, Aramis."

"Poor Porthos! pardon me, I implore you!"

"So, then," continued Porthos, without replying to the bishop's prayer,
"so then, it  seems, I have quite fallen out with Louis XIV.?"

"Oh!  I will settle all that, my good friend, I will settle all that.  I
will take it on myself alone!"


"No, no, Porthos, I conjure you, let me act.  No false generosity!  No
inopportune devotedness!  You knew nothing of my projects.  You have done
nothing of yourself.  With me it is different.  I alone am the author of
this plot.  I stood in need of my inseparable companion; I called upon
you, and you came to me in remembrance of our ancient device, 'All for
one, one for all.'  My crime is that I was an egotist."

"Now, that is a word I like," said Porthos; "and seeing that you have
acted entirely for yourself, it is impossible for me to blame you.  It is

And upon this sublime reflection, Porthos pressed his friend's hand

In presence of this ingenuous greatness of soul, Aramis felt his own
littleness.  It was the second time he had been compelled to bend before
real superiority of heart, which is more imposing than brilliancy of
mind.  He replied by a mute and energetic pressure to the endearment of
his friend.

"Now," said Porthos, "that we have come to an explanation, now that I am
perfectly aware of our situation with respect to Louis XIV., I think, my
friend, it is time to make me comprehend the political intrigue of which
we are the victims - for I plainly see there is a political intrigue at
the bottom of all this."

"D'Artagnan, my good Porthos, D'Artagnan is coming, and will detail it to
you in all its circumstances; but, excuse me, I am deeply grieved, I am
bowed down with mental anguish, and I have need of all my presence of
mind, all my powers of reflection, to extricate you from the false
position in which I have so imprudently involved you; but nothing can be
more clear, nothing more plain, than your position, henceforth.  The king
Louis XIV. has no longer now but one enemy: that enemy is myself, myself
alone.  I have made you a prisoner, you have followed me, to-day I
liberate you, you fly back to your prince.  You can perceive, Porthos,
there is not one difficulty in all this."

"Do you think so?" said Porthos.

"I am quite sure of it."

"Then why," said the admirable good sense of Porthos, "then why, if we
are in such an easy position, why, my friend, do we prepare cannon,
muskets, and engines of all sorts?  It seems to me it would be much more
simple to say to Captain d'Artagnan: 'My dear friend, we have been
mistaken; that error is to be repaired; open the door to us, let us pass
through, and we will say good-bye.'"

"Ah! that!" said Aramis, shaking his head.

"Why do you say 'that'?  Do you not approve of my plan, my friend?"

"I see a difficulty in it."

"What is it?"

"The hypothesis that D'Artagnan may come with orders which will oblige us
to defend ourselves."

"What! defend ourselves against D'Artagnan?  Folly!  Against the good

Aramis once more replied by shaking his head.

"Porthos," at length said he, "if I have had the matches lighted and the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: