List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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lied the first time I saw you," said he.

"Lied!" cried the young man, starting up on his couch, with such a tone
in his voice, and such a lightning in his eyes, that Aramis recoiled, in
spite of himself.

"I _should_ say," returned Aramis, bowing, "you concealed from me what
you knew of your infancy."

"A man's secrets are his own, monsieur," retorted the prisoner, "and not
at the mercy of the first chance-comer."

"True," said Aramis, bowing still lower than before, "'tis true; pardon
me, but to-day do I still occupy the place of a chance-comer?  I beseech
you to reply, monseigneur."

This title slightly disturbed the prisoner; but nevertheless he did not
appear astonished that it was given him.  "I do not know you, monsieur,"
said he.

"Oh, but if I dared, I would take your hand and kiss it!"

The young man seemed as if he were going to give Aramis his hand; but the
light which beamed in his eyes faded away, and he coldly and
distrustfully withdrew his hand again.  "Kiss the hand of a prisoner," he
said, shaking his head, "to what purpose?"

"Why did you tell me," said Aramis, "that you were happy here?  Why, that
you aspired to nothing?  Why, in a word, by thus speaking, do you prevent
me from being frank in my turn?"

The same light shone a third time in the young man's eyes, but died
ineffectually away as before.

"You distrust me," said Aramis.

"And why say you so, monsieur?"

"Oh, for a very simple reason; if you know what you ought to know, you
ought to mistrust everybody."

"Then do not be astonished that I am mistrustful, since you suspect me of
knowing what I do not know."

Aramis was struck with admiration at this energetic resistance.  "Oh,
monseigneur! you drive me to despair," said he, striking the armchair
with his fist.

"And, on my part, I do not comprehend you, monsieur."

"Well, then, try to understand me."  The prisoner looked fixedly at

"Sometimes it seems to me," said the latter, "that I have before me the
man whom I seek, and then - "

"And then your man disappears, - is it not so?" said the prisoner,
smiling.  "So much the better."

Aramis rose.  "Certainly," said he; "I have nothing further to say to a
man who mistrusts me as you do."

"And I, monsieur," said the prisoner, in the same tone, "have nothing to
say to a man who will not understand that a prisoner ought to be
mistrustful of everybody."

"Even of his old friends," said Aramis.  "Oh, monseigneur, you are _too_

"Of my old friends? - you one of my old friends, - you?"

"Do you no longer remember," said Aramis, "that you once saw, in the
village where your early years were spent - "

"Do you know the name of the village?" asked the prisoner.

"Noisy-le-Sec, monseigneur," answered Aramis, firmly.

"Go on," said the young man, with an immovable aspect.

"Stay, monseigneur," said Aramis; "if you are positively resolved to
carry on this game, let us break off.  I am here to tell you many things,
'tis true; but you must allow me to see that, on your side, you have a
desire to know them.  Before revealing the important matters I still
withhold, be assured I am in need of some encouragement, if not candor; a
little sympathy, if not confidence.  But you keep yourself intrenched in
a pretended which paralyzes me.  Oh, not for the reason you think; for,
ignorant as you may be, or indifferent as you feign to be, you are none
the less what you are, monseigneur, and there is nothing - nothing, mark
me! which can cause you not to be so."

"I promise you," replied the prisoner, "to hear you without impatience.
Only it appears to me that I have a right to repeat the question I have
already asked, 'Who _are_ you?'"

"Do you remember, fifteen or eighteen years ago, seeing at Noisy-le-Sec a
cavalier, accompanied by a lady in black silk, with flame-colored ribbons
in her hair?"

"Yes," said the young man; "I once asked the name of this cavalier, and
they told me that he called himself the Abbe d'Herblay.  I was astonished
that the abbe had so warlike an air, and they replied that there was
nothing singular in that, seeing that he was one of Louis XIII.'s

"Well," said Aramis, "that musketeer and abbe, afterwards bishop of
Vannes, is your confessor now."

"I know it; I recognized you."

"Then, monseigneur, if you know that, I must further add a fact of which
you are ignorant - that if the king were to know this evening of the
presence of this musketeer, this abbe, this bishop, this confessor,
_here_ - he, who has risked everything to visit you, to-morrow would
behold the steely glitter of the executioner's axe in a dungeon more
gloomy, more obscure than yours."

While listening to these words, delivered with emphasis, the young man
had raised himself on his couch, and was now gazing more and more eagerly
at Aramis.

The result of his scrutiny was that he appeared to derive some confidence
from it.  "Yes," he murmured, "I remember perfectly.  The woman of whom
you speak came once with you, and twice afterwards with another."  He

"With another, who came to see you every month - is it not so,


"Do you know who this lady was?"

The light seemed ready to flash from the prisoner's eyes.  "I am aware
that she was one of the ladies of the court," he said.

"You remember that lady well, do you not?"

"Oh, my recollection can hardly be very confused on this head, " said the
young prisoner.  "I saw that lady once with a gentleman about forty-five
years old.  I saw her once with you, and with the lady dressed in black.
I have seen her twice since then with the same person.  These four
people, with my master, and old Perronnette, my jailer, and the governor
of the prison, are the only persons with whom I have ever spoken, and,
indeed, almost the only persons I have ever seen."

"Then you were in prison?"

"If I am a prisoner here, then I was comparatively free, although in a
very narrow sense - a house I never quitted, a garden surrounded with
walls I could not climb, these constituted my residence, but you know it,
as you have been there.  In a word, being accustomed to live within these
bounds, I never cared to leave them.  And so you will understand,
monsieur, that having never seen anything of the world, I have nothing
left to care for; and therefore, if you relate anything, you will be
obliged to explain each item to me as you go along."

"And I will do so," said Aramis, bowing; "for it is my duty, monseigneur."

"Well, then, begin by telling me who was my tutor."

"A worthy and, above all, an honorable gentleman, monseigneur; fit guide
for both body and soul.  Had you ever any reason to complain of him?"

"Oh, no; quite the contrary.  But this gentleman of yours often used to
tell me that my father and mother were dead.  Did he deceive me, or did
he speak the truth?"

"He was compelled to comply with the orders given him."

"Then he lied?"

"In one respect.  Your father is dead."

"And my mother?"

"She is dead _for you_."

"But then she lives for others, does she not?"


"And I - and I, then" (the young man looked sharply at Aramis) "am
compelled to live in the obscurity of a prison?"

"Alas!  I fear so."

"And that because my presence in the world would lead to the revelation
of a great secret?"

"Certainly, a very great secret."

"My enemy must indeed be powerful, to be able to shut up in the Bastile a
child such as I then was."

"He is."

"More powerful than my mother, then?"

"And why do you ask that?"

"Because my mother would have taken my part."

Aramis hesitated.  "Yes, monseigneur; more powerful than your mother."

"Seeing, then, that my nurse and preceptor were carried off, and that I,
also, was separated from them - either they were, or I am, very dangerous
to my enemy?"

"Yes; but you are alluding to a peril from which he freed himself, by
causing the nurse and preceptor to disappear," answered Aramis, quietly.

"Disappear!" cried the prisoner, "how did they disappear?"

"In a very sure way," answered Aramis - "they are dead."

The young man turned pale, and passed his hand tremblingly over his
face.  "Poison?" he asked.


The prisoner reflected a moment.  "My enemy must indeed have been very
cruel, or hard beset by necessity, to assassinate those two innocent
people, my sole support; for the worthy gentleman and the poor nurse had
never harmed a living being."

"In your family, monseigneur, necessity is stern.  And so it is necessity
which compels me, to my great regret, to tell you that this gentleman and
the unhappy lady have been assassinated."

"Oh, you tell me nothing I am not aware of," said the prisoner, knitting
his brows.


"I suspected it."


"I will tell you."

At this moment the young man, supporting himself on his two elbows, drew
close to Aramis's face, with such an expression of dignity, of self-
command and of defiance even, that the bishop felt the electricity of
enthusiasm strike in devouring flashes from that great heart of his, into
his brain of adamant.

"Speak, monseigneur.  I have already told you that by conversing with you
I endanger my life.  Little value as it has, I implore you to accept it
as the ransom of your own."

"Well," resumed the young man, "this is why I suspected they had killed
my nurse and my preceptor - "

"Whom you used to call your father?"

"Yes; whom I called my father, but whose son I well knew I was not."

"Who caused you to suppose so?"

"Just as you, monsieur, are too respectful for a friend, he was also too
respectful for a father."

"I, however," said Aramis, "have no intention to disguise myself."

The young man nodded assent and continued: "Undoubtedly, I was not
destined to perpetual seclusion," said the prisoner; "and that which
makes me believe so, above all, now, is the care that was taken to render
me as accomplished a cavalier as possible.  The gentleman attached to my
person taught me everything he knew himself - mathematics, a little
geometry, astronomy, fencing and riding.  Every morning I went through

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