Page:The Man in the Iron Mask.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
3
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

The young man started; but before he had either assented or denied Aramis continued:
"Not even of the ecclesiastic from whom you were to hear an important revelation?"
"If it be so," said the young man, sinking again on his pillow, "it is different; I listen."
Aramis then looked at him more closely, and was struck with the easy majesty of his mien, one which can never be acquired unless Heaven has implanted it in the blood or heart.
"Sit down, monsieur," said the prisoner. Aramis bowed, and obeyed.
"How does the Bastile agree with you?" asked the bishop.
"Very well."
"You do not suffer?"
"No."
"You have nothing to regret?"
"Nothing."
"Not even your liberty?"
"What do you call liberty, monsieur?" asked the prisoner, with the tone of a man who is preparing for a struggle.
"I call liberty the flowers, the air, light, the stars, the happiness of going whithersoever the nervous limbs of twenty years of age may wish to carry you."
The young man smiled, whether in resignation or contempt it was difficult to tell.
"Look," said he, "I have in that Japanese vase two roses gathered yesterday evening in the bud from the governor's garden; this morning they have blown and spread their vermilion chalice beneath my gaze; with every opening petal they unfold the treasures of their perfume, filling my chamber with a fragrance that embalms it. Look, now, on these two roses; even among roses these are beautiful, and the rose is the most beautiful of flowers. Why, then, do you bid me desire other flowers when I possess the loveliest of all?"
Aramis gazed at the young man in surprise.
"If flowers constitute liberty," sadly resumed the captive, "I am free, for I possess them."
"But the air!" cried Aramis; "air so necessary to life!"
"Well, monsieur," returned the prisoner, "draw near to the window; it is open. Between heaven and earth the wind whirls on its storms of hail and lightning, wafts its warm mists, or breathes in gentle breezes. It caresses my face. When mounted on the back of this armchair, with