The Man in the Iron Mask

Author: "Alexandre Dumas, père"  | Date: 1850

Chapter LXXIII: The Ancestors of Porthos

WHEN d’Artagnan had quitted Aramis and Porthos, the latter returned to the principal fort to converse with the greater liberty. Porthos, still thoughtful, was a constraint upon Aramis, whose mind had never felt itself more free.

"Dear Porthos," said he, suddenly, "I will explain d’Artagnan’s idea to you."

"What idea, Aramis?"

"An idea to which we shall owe our liberty within twelve hours."

"Ah, indeed!" said Porthos, much astonished; "let us hear it."

"Did you remark in the scene our friend had with the officer that certain orders restrained him with regard to us?"

"Yes, I did remark that."

"Well, d’Artagnan is going to give in his resignation to the King; and during the confusion which will result from his absence, we will get away,- or rather, you will get away, Porthos, if there is a possibility of flight only for one."

Here, Porthos shook his head, and replied, "We will escape together, Aramis, or we will remain here together."

"You are a generous heart," said Aramis; "but your melancholy uneasiness afflicts me."

"I am not uneasy," said Porthos.

"Then you are angry with me?"

"I am not angry with you."

"Then why, my friend, do you put on such a dismal countenance?"

"I will tell you: I am making my will"; and while saying these words, the good Porthos looked sadly in the face of Aramis.

"Your will!" cried the bishop. "What then! do you think yourself lost?"

"I feel fatigued; it is the first time, and there is a custom in our family."

"What is it, my friend?"

"My grandfather was a man twice as strong as I am."

"Indeed!" said Aramis; "then your grandfather must have been Samson himself."

"No,- his name was Antoine. Well, he was of about my age when, setting out one day for the chase, he felt his legs weak,- he who had never before known that infirmity."

"What was the meaning of that fatigue, my friend?"

"Nothing good, as you will see,- for having set out, complaining still of the weakness of his legs, he met a wild boar, which made head against him. He missed him with his arquebuse, and was ripped up by the beast, and died directly."

"There is no reason in that why you should alarm yourself, dear Porthos."

"Oh, you will see. My father was as strong again as I am. He was a rough soldier under Henry III and Henry IV; his name was not Antoine, but Gaspard,- the same as M. de Coligny’s. Always on horseback, he had never known what lassitude was. One evening, as he rose from table, his legs failed him."

"He had supped heartily, perhaps," said Aramis; "and that was why he staggered."

"Bah! A friend of M. de Bassompierre? nonsense! No, no; he was astonished at feeling this lassitude, and said to my mother, who laughed at him, ’Would not one believe I was going to meet with a wild boar, as the late M. du Vallon, my father, did?’"

"Well?" said Aramis.

"Well, braving this weakness, my father insisted upon going down into the garden, instead of going to bed. His foot slipped on the first stair; the staircase was steep; my father fell against a stone angle, in which an iron hinge was fixed. The hinge opened his temple, and he lay dead upon the spot."

Aramis raised his eyes to his friend. "These are two extraordinary circumstances," said he; "let us not infer that there may succeed a third. It is not becoming in a man of your strength to be superstitious, my brave Porthos. Besides, when were your legs seen to fail? Never have you been so firm, so superb; why, you could carry a house on your shoulders!"

"At this moment," said Porthos, "I feel myself pretty active; but at times I vacillate, I sink; and lately this phenomenon, as you call it, has occurred four times. I will not say that this frightens me, but it annoys me. Life is an agreeable thing. I have money, I have fine estates, I have horses that I love; I have also friends I love,- d’Artagnan, Athos, Raoul, and you."

The admirable Porthos did not even take the trouble to conceal from Aramis the rank he gave him in his friendship. Aramis pressed his hand. "We will still live many years," said he, "to preserve in the world specimens of rare men. Trust yourself to me, my friend; we have no reply from d’Artagnan,- that is a good sign. He must have given orders to get the vessels together and clear the seas. On my part, I have just issued directions that a boat should be rolled upon rollers to the mouth of the great cavern of Locmaria, which you know, where we have so often lain in wait for foxes."

"Yes, and which terminates at the little creek by a trench which we discovered the day that splendid fox escaped that way."

"Precisely. In case of misfortune, a boat is to be concealed for us in that cavern; indeed, it must be there by this time. We will wait for a favorable moment; and during the night, to sea!"

"That is a good idea; what shall we gain by it?"

"We shall gain by it that nobody knows that grotto, or rather its issue, except ourselves and two or three hunters of the island; we shall gain by it that if the island is occupied, the scouts, seeing no boat upon the shore, will never imagine we can escape, and will cease to watch."

"I understand."

"Well,- the legs?"

"Oh, excellent, just now."

"You see, then, plainly, that everything conspires to give us quietude and hope. D’Artagnan will clear the sea and give us liberty of action. No more royal fleet or descent to be dreaded. Vive Dieu! Porthos, we have still half a century of good adventures before us; and if I once touch Spanish ground, I swear to you," added the bishop, with a terrible energy, "that your brevet of duke is not remote as it now appears."

"We will live in hope," said Porthos, a little enlivened by the reviving warmth of his companion.

All at once a cry resounded in their ears: "To arms! to arms!"

This cry, repeated by a hundred voices, brought to the chamber where the two friends were conversing surprise to the one and uneasiness to the other. Aramis opened the window; he saw a crowd of people running with torches. Women were seeking places of safety; the armed men were hastening to their posts.

"The fleet! the fleet!" cried a soldier, who recognized Aramis.

"The fleet?" repeated the latter.

"Within half-cannon-shot," continued the soldier.

"To arms!" cried Aramis.

"To arms!" repeated Porthos, formidably. And both rushed forth towards the pier, to place themselves within the shelter of the batteries. Boats laden with soldiers were seen approaching; they took three directions for the purpose of landing at three points at once.

"What must be done?" said an officer of the guard.

"Stop them; and if they persist, fire!" said Aramis.

Five minutes after, the cannonade began. These were the shots that d’Artagnan had heard as he landed in France. But the boats were too near the pier to allow the cannon to aim correctly. They landed, and the combat began hand to hand.

"What’s the matter, Porthos?" said Aramis to his friend.

"Nothing! nothing!- only my legs. It is really incomprehensible; they will be better when we charge." In fact, Porthos and Aramis did charge with such vigor, they so thoroughly animated their men, that the Royalists re-embarked precipitately without gaining anything but the wounds they carried away.

"Eh! but, Porthos," cried Aramis, "we must have a prisoner, quick! quick!" Porthos bent over the stair of the pier, and seized by the nape of the neck one of the officers of the royal army who was waiting till all his people should be in the boat. The arm of the giant lifted up his prey, which served him as a buckler, as he recovered himself without a shot being fired at him.

"Here is a prisoner for you," said Porthos, coolly, to Aramis.

"Well!" cried the latter, laughing, "have you not calumniated your legs?"

"It was not with my legs I took him," said Porthos, sadly; "it was with my arms!"


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Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Chapter LXXIII: The Ancestors of Porthos," The Man in the Iron Mask Original Sources, accessed February 3, 2023,

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Chapter LXXIII: The Ancestors of Porthos." The Man in the Iron Mask, Original Sources. 3 Feb. 2023.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Chapter LXXIII: The Ancestors of Porthos' in The Man in the Iron Mask. Original Sources, retrieved 3 February 2023, from