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68. Cromwell's House.
It was, in fact, Mordaunt whom D'Artagnan had followed, without knowing it. On entering the house he had taken off his mask and imitation beard, then, mounting a staircase, had opened a door, and in a room lighted by a single lamp found himself face to face with a man seated behind a desk.
This man was Cromwell.
Cromwell had two or three of these retreats in London, unknown except to the most intimate of his friends. Mordaunt was among these.
"It is you, Mordaunt," he said. "You are late."
"General, I wished to see the ceremony to the end, which delayed me."
"Ah! I scarcely thought you were so curious as that."
"I am always curious to see the downfall of your honor's enemies, and he was not among the least of them. But you, general, were you not at Whitehall?"
"No," said Cromwell.
There was a moment's silence.
"Have you had any account of it?"
"None. I have been here since the morning. I only know that there was a conspiracy to rescue the king."
"Ah, you knew that?" said Mordaunt.
"It matters little. Four men, disguised as workmen, were to get the king out of prison and take him to Greenwich, where a vessel was waiting."
"And knowing all that, your honor remained here, far from the city, tranquil and inactive."
"Tranquil, yes," replied Cromwell. "But who told you I was inactive?"
"But -- if the plot had succeeded?"
"I wished it to do so."
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