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2
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

the door behind him. For an instant he remained standing, listening whether Baisemeaux and the turnkey had retired; but as soon as he was assured by the sound of their dying footsteps that they had left the tower, he put the lantern on the table and gazed around. On a bed of green serge, similar in all respects to the other beds in the Bastile, save that it was newer, and under curtains half-drawn, reposed a young man, to whom we have already once before introduced Aramis. According to custom, the prisoner was without a light. At the hour of curfew he was bound to extinguish his lamp, and we perceive how much he was favored in being allowed to keep it burning, even till then. Near the bed a large leather armchair, with twisted legs, sustained his clothes. A little table—without pens, books, paper, or ink — stood neglected in sadness near the window; while several plates, still unemptied, showed that the prisoner had scarcely touched his recent repast. Aramis saw that the young man was stretched upon his bed, his face half-concealed by his arms. The arrival of a visitor did not cause any change of position; either he was waiting in expectation or was asleep. Aramis lighted the candle from the lantern, pushed back the armchair, and approached the bed with an evident mixture of interest and respect. The young man raised his head.
"What is it?" said he.
"Have you not desired a confessor?" replied Aramis.
"Yes."
"Because you are ill?"
"Yes."
"Very ill?"
The young man gave Aramis a piercing glance, and answered:
"I thank you." After a moment's silence, "I have seen you before," he continued.
Aramis bowed.
Doubtless, the scrutiny the prisoner had just made of the cold, crafty, and imperious character stamped upon the features of the bishop of Vannes was little reassuring to one in his situation, for he added:
"I am better."
"And then?" said Aramis.
"Why, then, being better, I have no longer the same need of a confessor, I think."
"Not even of the haircloth, which the note you found in

your bread informed you of?"