The Musketeers last huzzah!
The gardens of the Louvre, Queen Anne meets with the only four men she can truly trust - her Regency is about to end and she fears for the future of France in the hands of her feckless son, Louis.
A few days later the gallant four find quarters at the Auberge Debarry on the Marseilles Road - from whose upper windows they can snatch a glimpse of their distant objective
The Chateau D'If, once guardian of Marseilles, now guardian of a single prisoner.
Garrisoned by the Regiment Bethune its cannon-studded walls are unscaleable.
Resupplied only twice a year no other vessel may approach
Fed through a hatch and denied all human contact the lone prisoner is also trapped in a terrible device.
Isolated, forgotten and alone he is known only as - 'The Man in The Copper-Bottomed Underpants'.
No ship may approach, but a drifting cask goes unremarked - apart from the stray pot-shot from a bored sentry
But reconnaissance merely confirms what our heroes already know, that the grim fortress is impregnable. The only glimmer is that once a day the poor wretch is allowed out onto the nearest wall-walk - and even there must take his exercise in total isolation.
The musketeers return to the Auberge Debarry in search of consolation...
....Only to find themselves accosted by a man in a barrel !
Cyrano De Bergerac, famed and failed lover and adventurer. His latest project is to sail to the moon, he has even built his 'lune-boat' in the auberge barn , but has now run out of funds to train the geese to pull it. Meanwhile the inn-keeper has taken his clothes to make sure he doesn't 'fly off' before his bill is settled.
Intrigued despite themselves the musketeers accompany De Bergerac to the barn and come face-to-face with the answer to their prayers
Thus it is that a few days later the freighter La Jolie sweeps in towards the fortress' landing stage.
A warning shot is fired to no effect, so the guard is ordered out to repel boarders, only to be rapidly hustled back in as the true nature of the threat becomes clear.
La Jolie is carrying a cargo of 'seamstresses'.
returning from a clerical convention in Rome they have heard of the grim rock with its garrison of lonely, isolated men and have decided to swing by on the off chance that someone might need their nightshirt patched
Meanwhile De Bergerac's lune-boat slides unobserved down the north wind they have been waiting for
a ladder is lowered and the prisoner scrambles silently aboard
Unseen and unheard the lune-boat sweeps on into the clear blue yonder
Leaving the Regiment Bethune to start a brisk game of 'pass the blame' as the commandant interrogates the duty officer on the nature of his parentage