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11
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

"Why?"
"I will tell you."
At this moment the young man, supporting himself on his two elbows, drew close to Aramis' face, with such an expression of dignity, of self-command, and of defiance even, that the bishop felt the electricity of enthusiasm strike in devouring flashes from that sacred heart of his into his brain of adamant.
"Speak, monseigneur. I have already told you that by conversing with you I endanger my life. Little value as it has, I implore you to accept it as the ransom of your own."
"Well," resumed the young man, "this is why I suspected that they killed my nurse and my preceptor."
"Whom you used to call your father?"
"Yes; whom I called my father, but whose son I well knew I was not."
"Who caused you to suppose so?"
"For the same reason that you, monsieur, are too respectful for a friend, he was also too respectful for a father."
"I, however," said Aramis, "have no intention to disguise myself."
The young man nodded assent, and continued:
"Undoubtedly, I was not destined to perpetual seclusion," said the prisoner; "and that which makes me believe so, above all, now, is the care that was taken to render me as accomplished a cavalier as possible. The gentleman attached to my person taught me everything he knew himself—mathematics, a little geometry, astronomy, fencing, and riding. Every morning I went through military exercises, and practiced on horseback. Well, one morning, during summer, it being very hot, I went to sleep in the hall. Nothing up to that period, except the respect paid me, had enlightened me, or even roused my suspicions. I lived as children, as birds, as plants, as the air and the sun do. I had just turned my fifteenth year——"
"This, then, is eight years ago?"
"Yes, nearly; but I have ceased to reckon time."
"Excuse me; but what did your tutor tell you to encourage you to work?"

"He used to say that a man was bound to make for himself, in the world, that fortune which Heaven had refused him at his birth. He added, that, being a poor, obscure orphan, I had no one but myself to look to; and that nobody either did, or ever would, take any interest in me. I was then in the hall I have spoken of, asleep from fatigue