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10
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

"She is dead for you."
"But, then, she lives for others, does she not?"
"Yes."
"And I—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; a peril from which he freed himself, by causing the nurse and preceptor to disappear," answered Aramis quietly.
"Disappear!" cried the prisoner—"but how did they disappear?"
"In the surest possible way," answered Aramis—"they are dead."
The young man turned visibly pale, and passed his hand tremblingly over his face.
"From poison?" he asked.
"From poison."
The prisoner reflected a moment.
"My enemy must, indeed, have been very cruel, op 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.
"How?"

"I suspected it."