Page:The Man in the Iron Mask.djvu/25

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"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