Alexandre Dumas: The Man in the Iron Mask

62. The Death of D'Artagnan. (continued)

Transcriber's note: Jean-Paul Oliva was the actual general of the Jesuits from 1664-1681. - JB

Aramis had performed more than he had promised; it remained to be seen how the king, M. Colbert, and D'Artagnan would be faithful to each other. In the spring, as Colbert had predicted, the land army entered on its campaign. It preceded, in magnificent order, the court of Louis XIV., who, setting out on horseback, surrounded by carriages filled with ladies and courtiers, conducted the elite of his kingdom to this sanguinary fete. The officers of the army, it is true, had no other music save the artillery of the Dutch forts; but it was enough for a great number, who found in this war honor, advancement, fortune - or death.

M. d'Artagnan set out commanding a body of twelve thousand men, cavalry, and infantry, with which he was ordered to take the different places which form knots of that strategic network called La Frise. Never was an army conducted more gallantly to an expedition. The officers knew that their leader, prudent and skillful as he was brave, would not sacrifice a single man, nor yield an inch of ground without necessity. He had the old habits of war, to live upon the country, keeping his soldiers singing and the enemy weeping. The captain of the king's musketeers well knew his business. Never were opportunities better chosen, coups-de-main better supported, errors of the besieged more quickly taken advantage of.

The army commanded by D'Artagnan took twelve small places within a month. He was engaged in besieging the thirteenth, which had held out five days. D'Artagnan caused the trenches to be opened without appearing to suppose that these people would ever allow themselves to be taken. The pioneers and laborers were, in the army of this man, a body full of ideas and zeal, because their commander treated them like soldiers, knew how to render their work glorious, and never allowed them to be killed if he could help it. It should have been seen with what eagerness the marshy glebes of Holland were turned over. Those turf-heaps, mounds of potter's clay, melted at the word of the soldiers like butter in the frying-pans of Friesland housewives.

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