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5
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

"Say, rather, at the end of everything," answered the prisoner firmly.
"Be it so," said Aramis; "but let us return to our starting-point."
"I desire nothing better," returned the young man.
"I am your confessor."
"Yes."
"Well, then, you ought, as a penitent, to tell me the truth."
"All that I wish is to tell it you."
"Every prisoner has committed some crime for which he has been imprisoned. What crime, then, have you committed?"
"You asked me the same question the first time you saw me," returned the prisoner.
"And then, as now, you evaded giving me an answer."
"And what reason have you for thinking that I shall now reply to you?"
"Because this time I am your confessor."
"Then, if you wish me to tell what crime I have com- mitted, explain to me in what a crime consists. For as my conscience does not accuse me, I aver that I am not a criminal."
"We are often criminals in the sight of the great of the earth, not alone for having ourselves committed crimes, but because we know that crimes have been committed."
The prisoner manifested the deepest attention.
"Yes, I understand you," he said, after a pause; "yes, you are right, monsieur; it is very possible that in that light I am a criminal in the eyes of the great of the earth."
"Ah! then you know something," said Aramis, who thought he had pierced not merely through a defect in, but through the joints of the harness.
"No, I am not aware of anything," replied the young man; "but sometimes I think—and I say to myself——"
"What do you say to yourself?"
"That if I were to think any further I should either go mad or I should divine a great deal."
"And then—and then?" said Aramis impatiently.
"Then I leave off."
"You leave off?"
"Yes; my head becomes confused, and my ideas melancholy; I feel ennui overtaking me; I wish——"
"What?"

"I don't know; but I do not like to give myself up to