List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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D'Artagnan allowed the ill-humor of the one and the regret of the other
to pass, and continued to advance.  They could already catch glimpses of
the huntsmen at the issue of the wood, the feathers of the outriders
passing like shooting stars across the clearings, and the white horses
skirting the bosky thickets looking like illuminated apparitions.

"But," resumed D'Artagnan, "will the sport last long?  Pray, give us a
good swift bird, for I am very tired.  Is it a heron or a swan?"

"Both, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the falconer; "but you need not be
alarmed; the king is not much of a sportsman; he does not take the field
on his own account, he only wishes to amuse the ladies."

The words "to amuse the ladies" were so strongly accented they set
D'Artagnan thinking.

"Ah!" said he, looking keenly at the falconer.

The keeper of the harriers smiled, no doubt with a view of making it up
with the musketeer.

"Oh! you may safely laugh," said D'Artagnan; "I know nothing of current
news; I only arrived yesterday, after a month's absence.  I left the
court mourning the death of the queen-mother.  The king was not willing
to take any amusement after receiving the last sigh of Anne of Austria;
but everything comes to an end in this world.  Well! then he is no longer
sad?  So much the better." (8)

"And everything begins as well as ends," said the keeper with a coarse

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, a second time, - he burned to know, but dignity
would not allow him to interrogate people below him, - "there is
something beginning, then, it seems?"

The keeper gave him a significant wink; but D'Artagnan was unwilling to
learn anything from this man.

"Shall we see the king early?" asked he of the falconer.

"At seven o'clock, monsieur, I shall fly the birds."

"Who comes with the king?  How is Madame?  How is the queen?"

"Better, monsieur."

"Has she been ill, then?"

"Monsieur, since the last chagrin she suffered, her majesty has been

"What chagrin?  You need not fancy your news is old.  I have but just

"It appears that the queen, a little neglected since the death of her
mother-in-law, complained to the king, who answered her, - 'Do I not
sleep at home every night, madame?  What more do you expect?'"

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, - "poor woman!  She must heartily hate
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Oh, no! not Mademoiselle de la Valliere," replied the falconer.

"Who then - "  The blast of a hunting-horn interrupted this
conversation.  It summoned the dogs and the hawks.  The falconer and his
companions set off immediately, leaving D'Artagnan alone in the midst of
the suspended sentence.  The king appeared at a distance, surrounded by
ladies and horsemen.  All the troop advanced in beautiful order, at a
foot's pace, the horns of various sorts animating the dogs and horses.
There was an animation in the scene, a mirage of light, of which nothing
now can give an idea, unless it be the fictitious splendor of a theatric
spectacle.  D'Artagnan, with an eye a little, just a little, dimmed by
age, distinguished behind the group three carriages.  The first was
intended for the queen; it was empty.  D'Artagnan, who did not see
Mademoiselle de la Valliere by the king's side, on looking about for her,
saw her in the second carriage.  She was alone with two of her women, who
seemed as dull as their mistress.  On the left hand of the king, upon a
high-spirited horse, restrained by a bold and skillful hand, shone a lady
of most dazzling beauty.  The king smiled upon her, and she smiled upon
the king.  Loud laughter followed every word she uttered.

"I must know that woman," thought the musketeer; "who can she be?"  And
he stooped towards his friend, the falconer, to whom he addressed the
question he had put to himself.

The falconer was about to reply, when the king, perceiving D'Artagnan,
"Ah, comte!" said he, "you are amongst us once more then!  Why have I not
seen you?"

"Sire," replied the captain, "because your majesty was asleep when I
arrived, and not awake when I resumed my duties this morning."

"Still the same," said Louis, in a loud voice, denoting satisfaction.
"Take some rest, comte; I command you to do so.  You will dine with me to-

A murmur of admiration surrounded D'Artagnan like a caress.  Every one
was eager to salute him.  Dining with the king was an honor his majesty
was not so prodigal of as Henry IV. had been.  The king passed a few
steps in advance, and D'Artagnan found himself in the midst of a fresh
group, among whom shone Colbert.

"Good-day, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the minister, with marked
affability, "have you had a pleasant journey?"

"Yes, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, bowing to the neck of his horse.

"I heard the king invite you to his table for this evening," continued
the minister; "you will meet an old friend there."

"An old friend of mine?" asked D'Artagnan, plunging painfully into the
dark waves of the past, which had swallowed up for him so many
friendships and so many hatreds.

"M. le Duc d'Almeda, who is arrived this morning from Spain."

"The Duc d'Almeda?" said D'Artagnan, reflecting in vain.

"Here!" cried an old man, white as snow, sitting bent in his carriage,
which he caused to be thrown open to make room for the musketeer.

"_Aramis!_" cried D'Artagnan, struck with profound amazement.  And he
felt, inert as it was, the thin arm of the old nobleman hanging round his

Colbert, after having observed them in silence for a few moments, urged
his horse forward, and left the two old friends together.

"And so," said the musketeer, taking Aramis's arm, "you, the exile, the
rebel, are again in France?"

"Ah! and I shall dine with you at the king's table," said Aramis,
smiling.  "Yes, will you not ask yourself what is the use of fidelity in
this world?  Stop! let us allow poor La Valliere's carriage to pass.
Look, how uneasy she is!  How her eyes, dim with tears, follow the king,
who is riding on horseback yonder!"

"With whom?"

"With Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, now Madame de Montespan," replied

"She is jealous.  Is she then deserted?"

"Not quite yet, but it will not be long before she _is_." (9)

They chatted together, while following the sport, and Aramis's coachman
drove them so cleverly that they arrived at the instant when the falcon,
attacking the bird, beat him down, and fell upon him.  The king alighted;
Madame de Montespan followed his example.  They were in front of an
isolated chapel, concealed by huge trees, already despoiled of their
leaves by the first cutting winds of autumn.  Behind this chapel was an
inclosure, closed by a latticed gate.  The falcon had beaten down his
prey in the inclosure belonging to this little chapel, and the king was
desirous of going in to take the first feather, according to custom.  The
_cortege_ formed a circle round the building and the hedges, too small to
receive so many.  D'Artagnan held back Aramis by the arm, as he was
about, like the rest, to alight from his carriage, and in a hoarse,
broken voice, "Do you know, Aramis," said he, "whither chance has
conducted us?"

"No," replied the duke.

"Here repose men that we knew well," said D'Artagnan, greatly agitated.

Aramis, without divining anything, and with a trembling step, penetrated
into the chapel by a little door which D'Artagnan opened for him.  "Where
are they buried?" said he.

"There, in the inclosure.  There is a cross, you see, beneath yon little
cypress.  The tree of grief is planted over their tomb; don't go to it;
the king is going that way; the heron has fallen just there."

Aramis stopped, and concealed himself in the shade.  They then saw,
without being seen, the pale face of La Valliere, who, neglected in her
carriage, at first looked on, with a melancholy heart, from the door, and
then, carried away by jealousy, advanced into the chapel, whence, leaning
against a pillar, she contemplated the king smiling and making signs to
Madame de Montespan to approach, as there was nothing to be afraid of.
Madame de Montespan complied; she took the hand the king held out to her,
and he, plucking out the first feather from the heron, which the falconer
had strangled, placed it in his beautiful companion's hat.  She, smiling
in her turn, kissed the hand tenderly which made her this present.  The
king grew scarlet with vanity and pleasure; he looked at Madame de
Montespan with all the fire of new love.

"What will you give me in exchange?" said he.

She broke off a little branch of cypress and offered it to the king, who
looked intoxicated with hope.

"Humph!" said Aramis to D'Artagnan; "the present is but a sad one, for
that cypress shades a tomb."

"Yes, and the tomb is that of Raoul de Bragelonne," said D'Artagnan
aloud; "of Raoul, who sleeps under that cross with his father."

A groan resounded - they saw a woman fall fainting to the ground.
Mademoiselle de la Valliere had seen all, heard all.

"Poor woman!" muttered D'Artagnan, as he helped the attendants to carry
back to her carriage the lonely lady whose lot henceforth in life was

That evening D'Artagnan was seated at the king's table, near M. Colbert
and M. le Duc d'Almeda.  The king was very gay.  He paid a thousand
little attentions to the queen, a thousand kindnesses to Madame, seated
at his left hand, and very sad.  It might have been supposed that time of
calm when the king was wont to watch his mother's eyes for the approval
or disapproval of what he had just done.

Of mistresses there was no question at this dinner.  The king addressed
Aramis two or three times, calling him M. l'ambassadeur, which increased
the surprise already felt by D'Artagnan at seeing his friend the rebel so
marvelously well received at court.

The king, on rising from table, gave his hand to the queen, and made a
sign to Colbert, whose eye was on his master's face.  Colbert took
D'Artagnan and Aramis on one side.  The king began to chat with his
sister, whilst Monsieur, very uneasy, entertained the queen with a
preoccupied air, without ceasing to watch his wife and brother from the

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