Man in the Iron Mask part one
THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Alexandre Dumas (pere)
Chapter I: Two Old Friends
WHILE EVERY ONE AT court was busy with his own affairs, a man mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Greve, in the house which we once saw besieged by d’Artagnan on the occasion of a riot. The principal entrance of this house was in the Place Baudoyer. The house was tolerably large, surrounded by gardens, enclosed in the Rue St. Jean by the shops of tool-makers, which protected it from prying looks; and was walled in by a triple rampart of stone, noise, and verdure, like an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin.
The man to whom we have just alluded walked along with a firm step, although he was no longer in his early prime. His dark cloak and long sword outlined beneath the cloak plainly revealed a man seeking adventures; and judging from his curling mustaches, his fine and smooth skin, as seen under his sombrero, the gallantry of his adventures was unquestionable. In fact, hardly had the cavalier entered the house, when the clock of St. Gervais struck eight; and ten minutes afterwards a lady, followed by an armed servant, approached and knocked at the same door, which an old woman immediately opened for her. The lady raised her veil as she entered; though no longer a beauty, she was still a woman; she was no longer young, yet she was sprightly and of an imposing carriage. She concealed, beneath a rich toilet of exquisite taste, an age which Ninon de l’Enclos alone could have smiled at with impunity. Hardly had she reached the vestibule, when the cavalier, whose features we have only roughly sketched, advanced towards her, holding out his hand.
“Good-day, my dear Duchess,” he said.
“How do you do, my dear Aramis?” replied the duchess.
He led her to an elegantly furnished apartment, on whose high windows were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sun, which filtered through the dark crests of some adjoining firs. They sat down side by side. Neither of them thought of asking for additional light in the room, and they buried themselves thus in the shadow, as if they had wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness.
“Chevalier,” said the duchess, “you have never given me a single sign of life since our interview at Fontainebleau; and I confess that your presence there on the day of the Franciscan’s death, and your initiation in certain secrets, caused me the liveliest astonishment I ever experienced in my whole life.”
“I can explain my presence there to you, as well as my initiation,” said Aramis.
“But let us, first of all,” replied the duchess, quickly, “talk a little of ourselves, for our friendship is by no means of recent date.”
“Yes, Madame; and if Heaven wills it, we shall continue to be friends,- I will not say for a long time, but forever.”
“That is quite certain, Chevalier, and my visit is a proof of it.”
“Our interests, Madame the Duchess, are no longer the same that they used to be,” said Aramis, smiling without reserve in the dim light, which could not show that his smile was less agreeable and less bright than formerly.
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