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8
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

"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 conceal, 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 ignorance 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 he called himself the Abbé d'Herblay. I vas astonished that the abbé had so warlike an air, and they replied that there was nothing singular in that, seeing that he was one of Louis XIII. 's musketeers."
"Well," said Aramis, "that musketeer and abbé, afterward 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 abbé, this bishop, this confessor, here—he, who has risked everything to visit you, would to-morrow see glitter the executioner's ax at the bottom of a dungeon more gloomy and more obscure than yours."
While hearing these words, delivered with emphasis, the young man had raised himself on his couch, and gazed more and more eagerly at Aramis.

The result of his scrutiny was that he appeared to derive some confidence from it.