List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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parabola like a rainbow, and fell into the sea, where it continued to
burn, illuminating a space of a quarter of a league in diameter.

The Bretons looked at each other in terror.  "You see plainly," said
Aramis, "it will be better to wait for them."

The oars dropped from the hands of the sailors, and the bark, ceasing to
make way, rocked motionless upon the summits of the waves.  Night came
on, but still the ship drew nearer.  It might be imagined it redoubled
its speed with darkness.  From time to time, as a vulture rears its head
out of its nest, the formidable Greek fire darted from its sides, and
cast its flame upon the ocean like an incandescent snowfall.  At last it
came within musket-shot.  All the men were on deck, arms in hand; the
cannoniers were at their guns, the matches burning.  It might be thought
they were about to board a frigate and to fight a crew superior in number
to their own, not to attempt the capture of a canoe manned by four people.

"Surrender!" cried the commander of the _balancelle_, with the aid of his

The sailors looked at Aramis.  Aramis made a sign with his head.  Yves
waved a white cloth at the end of a gaff.  This was like striking their
flag.  The pursuer came on like a race-horse.  It launched a fresh Greek
fire, which fell within twenty paces of the little canoe, and threw a
light upon them as white as sunshine.

"At the first sign of resistance," cried the commander of the
_balancelle_, "fire!"  The soldiers brought their muskets to the present.

"Did we not say we surrendered?" said Yves.

"Alive, alive, captain!" cried one excited soldier, "they must be taken

"Well, yes - living," said the captain.  Then turning towards the
Bretons, "Your lives are safe, my friends!" cried he, "all but the
Chevalier d'Herblay."

Aramis stared imperceptibly.  For an instant his eye was fixed upon the
depths of the ocean, illumined by the last flashes of the Greek fire,
which ran along the sides of the waves, played on the crests like plumes,
and rendered still darker and more terrible the gulfs they covered.

"Do you hear, monseigneur?" said the sailors.


"What are your orders?"


"But you, monseigneur?"

Aramis leaned still more forward, and dipped the ends of his long white
fingers in the green limpid waters of the sea, to which he turned with
smiles as to a friend.

"Accept!" repeated he.

"We accept," repeated the sailors; "but what security have we?"

"The word of a gentleman," said the officer.  "By my rank and by my name
I swear that all except M. le Chevalier d'Herblay shall have their lives
spared.  I am lieutenant of the king's frigate the 'Pomona,' and my name
is Louis Constant de Pressigny."

With a rapid gesture, Aramis - already bent over the side of the bark
towards the sea - drew himself up, and with a flashing eye, and a smile
upon his lips, "Throw out the ladder, messieurs," said he, as if the
command had belonged to him.  He was obeyed.  When Aramis, seizing the
rope ladder, walked straight up to the commander, with a firm step,
looked at him earnestly, made a sign to him with his hand, a mysterious
and unknown sign at sight of which the officer turned pale, trembled, and
bowed his head, the sailors were profoundly astonished.  Without a word
Aramis then raised his hand to the eyes of the commander and showed him
the collet of a ring he wore on the ring-finger of his left hand.  And
while making this sign Aramis, draped in cold and haughty majesty, had
the air of an emperor giving his hand to be kissed.  The commandant, who
for a moment had raised his head, bowed a second time with marks of the
most profound respect.  Then stretching his hand out, in his turn,
towards the poop, that is to say, towards his own cabin, he drew back to
allow Aramis to go first.  The three Bretons, who had come on board after
their bishop, looked at each other, stupefied.  The crew were awed to
silence.  Five minutes after, the commander called the second lieutenant,
who returned immediately, ordering the head to be put towards Corunna.
Whilst this order was being executed, Aramis reappeared upon the deck,
and took a seat near the _bastingage_.  Night had fallen; the moon had
not yet risen, yet Aramis looked incessantly towards Belle-Isle.  Yves
then approached the captain, who had returned to take his post in the
stern, and said, in a low and humble voice, "What course are we to
follow, captain?"

"We take what course monseigneur pleases," replied the officer.

Aramis passed the night leaning upon the _bastingage_.  Yves, on
approaching him next morning, remarked that "the night must have been a
very damp one, for the wood on which the bishop's head had rested was
soaked with dew."  Who knows? - that dew was, it may be, the first tears
that had ever fallen from the eyes of Aramis!

What epitaph would have been worth that, good Porthos?

Chapter LII:
M. de Gesvres's Round.

D'Artagnan was little used to resistance like that he had just
experienced.  He returned, profoundly irritated, to Nantes.  Irritation,
with this vigorous man, usually vented itself in impetuous attack, which
few people, hitherto, were they king, were they giants, had been able to
resist.  Trembling with rage, he went straight to the castle, and asked
an audience with the king.  It might be about seven o'clock in the
morning, and, since his arrival at Nantes, the king had been an early
riser.  But on arriving at the corridor with which we are acquainted,
D'Artagnan found M. de Gesvres, who stopped him politely, telling him not
to speak too loud and disturb the king.  "Is the king asleep?" said
D'Artagnan.  "Well, I will let him sleep.  But about what o'clock do you
suppose he will rise?"

"Oh! in about two hours; his majesty has been up all night."

D'Artagnan took his hat again, bowed to M. de Gesvres, and returned to
his own apartments.  He came back at half-past nine, and was told that
the king was at breakfast.  "That will just suit me," said D'Artagnan.
"I will talk to the king while he is eating."

M. de Brienne reminded D'Artagnan that the king would not see any one at

"But," said D'Artagnan, looking askant at Brienne, "you do not know,
perhaps, monsieur, that I have the privilege of _entree_ anywhere - and
at any hour."

Brienne took the captain's hand kindly, and said, "Not at Nantes, dear
Monsieur d'Artagnan.  The king, in this journey, has changed everything."

D'Artagnan, a little softened, asked about what o'clock the king would
have finished his breakfast.

"We don't know."

"Eh? - don't know!  What does that mean?  You don't know how much time
the king devotes to eating?  It is generally an hour; and, if we admit
that the air of the Loire gives an additional appetite, we will extend it
to an hour and a half; that is enough, I think.  I will wait where I am."

"Oh! dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, the order of the day is not to allow any
person to remain in this corridor; I am on guard for that particular

D'Artagnan felt his anger mounting to his brain a second time.  He went
out quickly, for fear of complicating the affair by a display of
premature ill-humor.  As soon as he was out he began to reflect.  "The
king," said he, "will not receive me, that is evident.  The young man is
angry; he is afraid, beforehand, of the words that I may speak to him.
Yes; but in the meantime Belle-Isle is besieged, and my two friends by
now probably taken or killed.  Poor Porthos!  As to Master Aramis, he is
always full of resources, and I am easy on his account.  But, no, no;
Porthos is not yet an invalid, nor is Aramis in his dotage.  The one with
his arm, the other with his imagination, will find work for his majesty's
soldiers.  Who knows if these brave men may not get up for the
edification of his most Christian majesty a little bastion of Saint-
Gervais!  I don't despair of it.  They have cannon and a garrison.  And
yet," continued D'Artagnan, "I don't know whether it would not be better
to stop the combat.  For myself alone I will not put up with either surly
looks or insults from the king; but for my friends I must put up with
everything.  Shall I go to M. Colbert?  Now, there is a man I must
acquire the habit of terrifying.  I will go to M. Colbert."  And
D'Artagnan set forward bravely to find M. Colbert, but was informed that
he was working with the king, at the castle of Nantes.  "Good!" cried he,
"the times have come again in which I measured my steps from De Treville
to the cardinal, from the cardinal to the queen, from the queen to Louis
XIII.  Truly is it said that men, in growing old, become children again!
- To the castle, then!"  He returned thither.  M. de Lyonne was coming
out.  He gave D'Artagnan both hands, but told him that the king had been
busy all the preceding evening and all night, and that orders had been
given that no one should be admitted.  "Not even the captain who takes
the order?" cried D'Artagnan.  "I think that is rather too strong."

"Not even he," said M. de Lyonne.

"Since that is the case," replied D'Artagnan, wounded to the heart;
"since the captain of the musketeers, who has always entered the king's
chamber, is no longer allowed to enter it, his cabinet, or his _salle-a-
manger_, either the king is dead, or his captain is in disgrace.  Do me
the favor, then, M. de Lyonne, who are in favor, to return and tell the
king, plainly, I send him my resignation."

"D'Artagnan, beware of what you are doing!"

"For friendship's sake, go!" and he pushed him gently towards the cabinet.

"Well, I will go," said Lyonne.

D'Artagnan waited, walking about the corridor in no enviable mood.
Lyonne returned.

"Well, what did the king say?" exclaimed D'Artagnan.

"He simply answered, ''Tis well,'" replied Lyonne.

"That it was well!" said the captain, with an explosion.  "That is to
say, that he accepts it?  Good!  Now, then, I am free!  I am only a plain
citizen, M. de Lyonne.  I have the pleasure of bidding you good-bye!
Farewell, castle, corridor, ante-chamber! a _bourgeois_, about to breathe

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