Page:The Man in the Iron Mask.djvu/26

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12
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

in fencing. My preceptor was in his room on the first floor, just over me. Suddenly I heard him exclaim, and then he called: 'Perronnette! Perronnette!' It was my nurse whom he called."
"Yes, I know it," said Aramis. "Continue, monseigneur."
"Very likely she was in the garden, for my preceptor came hastily downstairs. I rose, anxious at seeing him anxious. He opened the garden-door, still crying out, "Perronnette! Perronnette!" The windows of the hall looked into the court; the shutters were closed; but through a chink in them I saw my tutor draw near a large well, which was almost directly under the windows of his study. He stooped over the brim, looked into the well, again cried out, and made wild and affrighted gestures. Where I was, I could not only see, but hear—and see and hear I did."
"Go on, I pray you," said Aramis.
"Dame Perronnette came running up, hearing the governor's cries. He went to meet her, took her by the arm, and drew her quickly toward the edge; after which, as they both bent over it together, 'Look, look,' cried he, 'what a misfortune!' "
" 'Calm yourself, calm yourself,' said Perronnette; 'what is the matter?'
" 'The letter!' he exclaimed; 'do you see that letter?'pointing to the bottom of the well.
" 'What letter?' she cried.
" 'The letter you see down there; the last letter from the queen.'
"At this word I trembled. My tutor—he who passed for my father, he who was continually recommending me modesty and humility—in correspondence with the queen.
" 'The queen's last letter!' cried Perronnette, without showing more astonishment than at seeing this letter at the bottom of the well; 'but how came it there?'
" 'A chance, Dame Perronnette—a singular chance. I was entering my room, and on opening the door, the window, too, being open, a puff of air came suddenly and carried off this paper—this letter of her majesty's; I darted after it, and gained the window just in time to see it flutter a moment in the breeze and disappear down the well.'
" 'Well,' said Dame Perronnette; 'and if the letter has fallen into the well 'tis all the same as if it was burned; as the queen burns all her letters every time she comes——'

"And so, you see, this lady who came every month was the queen," said the prisoner.