The Three Musketeers – Day 95 of 227

But d’Artagnan took very little heed of the eloquent discourse of M. Bazin; and as he had no desire to support a polemic discussion with his friend’s valet, he simply moved him out of the way with one hand, and with the other turned the handle of the door of Number Five. The door opened, and d’Artagnan went into the chamber.

Aramis, in a black gown, his head enveloped in a sort of round flat cap, not much unlike a calotte, was seated before an oblong table, covered with rolls of paper and enormous volumes in folio. At his right hand was placed the superior of the Jesuits, and on his left the curate of Montdidier. The curtains were half drawn, and only admitted the mysterious light calculated for beatific reveries. All the mundane objects that generally strike the eye on entering the room of a young man, particularly when that young man is a Musketeer, had disappeared as if by enchantment; and for fear, no doubt, that the sight of them might bring his master back to ideas of this world, Bazin had laid his hands upon sword, pistols, plumed hat, and embroideries and laces of all kinds and sorts. In their stead d’Artagnan thought he perceived in an obscure corner a discipline cord suspended from a nail in the wall.

At the noise made by d’Artagnan in entering, Aramis lifted up his head, and beheld his friend; but to the great astonishment of the young man, the sight of him did not produce much effect upon the Musketeer, so completely was his mind detached from the things of this world.

“Good day, dear d’Artagnan,” said Aramis; “believe me, I am glad to see you.”

“So am I delighted to see you,” said d’Artagnan, “although I am not yet sure that it is Aramis I am speaking to.”

“To himself, my friend, to himself! But what makes you doubt it?”

“I was afraid I had made a mistake in the chamber, and that I had found my way into the apartment of some churchman. Then another error seized me on seeing you in company with these gentlemen—I was afraid you were dangerously ill.”

The two men in black, who guessed d’Artagnan’s meaning, darted at him a glance which might have been thought threatening; but d’Artagnan took no heed of it.

“I disturb you, perhaps, my dear Aramis,” continued d’Artagnan, “for by what I see, I am led to believe that you are confessing to these gentlemen.”

Aramis colored imperceptibly. “You disturb me? Oh, quite the contrary, dear friend, I swear; and as a proof of what I say, permit me to declare I am rejoiced to see you safe and sound.”

“Ah, he’ll come round,” thought d’Artagnan; “that’s not bad!”

“This gentleman, who is my friend, has just escaped from a serious danger,” continued Aramis, with unction, pointing to d’Artagnan with his hand, and addressing the two ecclesiastics.

“Praise God, monsieur,” replied they, bowing together.

“I have not failed to do so, your Reverences,” replied the young man, returning their salutation.

“You arrive in good time, dear d’Artagnan,” said Aramis, “and by taking part in our discussion may assist us with your intelligence. Monsieur the Principal of Amiens, Monsieur the Curate of Montdidier, and I are arguing certain theological questions in which we have been much interested; I shall be delighted to have your opinion.”

“The opinion of a swordsman can have very little weight,” replied d’Artagnan, who began to be uneasy at the turn things were taking, “and you had better be satisfied, believe me, with the knowledge of these gentlemen.”

The two men in black bowed in their turn.

“On the contrary,” replied Aramis, “your opinion will be very valuable. The question is this: Monsieur the Principal thinks that my thesis ought to be dogmatic and didactic.”

“Your thesis! Are you then making a thesis?”

“Without doubt,” replied the Jesuit. “In the examination which precedes ordination, a thesis is always a requisite.”

“Ordination!” cried d’Artagnan, who could not believe what the hostess and Bazin had successively told him; and he gazed, half stupefied, upon the three persons before him.

“Now,” continued Aramis, taking the same graceful position in his easy chair that he would have assumed in bed, and complacently examining his hand, which was as white and plump as that of a woman, and which he held in the air to cause the blood to descend, “now, as you have heard, d’Artagnan, Monsieur the Principal is desirous that my thesis should be dogmatic, while I, for my part, would rather it should be ideal. This is the reason why Monsieur the Principal has proposed to me the following subject, which has not yet been treated upon, and in which I perceive there is matter for magnificent elaboration-‘utraque manus in benedicendo clericis inferioribus necessaria est.'”

D’Artagnan, whose erudition we are well acquainted with, evinced no more interest on hearing this quotation than he had at that of M. de Treville in allusion to the gifts he pretended that d’Artagnan had received from the Duke of Buckingham.

“Which means,” resumed Aramis, that he might perfectly understand, “‘The two hands are indispensable for priests of the inferior orders, when they bestow the benediction.'”

“An admirable subject!” cried the Jesuit.

“Admirable and dogmatic!” repeated the curate, who, about as strong as d’Artagnan with respect to Latin, carefully watched the Jesuit in order to keep step with him, and repeated his words like an echo.

As to d’Artagnan, he remained perfectly insensible to the enthusiasm of the two men in black.

“Yes, admirable! Prorsus admirabile!” continued Aramis; “but which requires a profound study of both the Scriptures and the Fathers. Now, I have confessed to these learned ecclesiastics, and that in all humility, that the duties of mounting guard and the service of the king have caused me to neglect study a little. I should find myself, therefore, more at my ease, facilus natans, in a subject of my own choice, which would be to these hard theological questions what morals are to metaphysics in philosophy.”

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