Pointing to D'Artagnan with his hand, and addressing the two ecclesiastics.
" Give God praise, monsieur," replied they, bowing.
" I have not failed to do so, your reverences," replied the young man, returning their salutation.
" You arrive very apropos, D'Artagnan," said Aramis, "and by taking part in our discussion, may assist us with your intelligence. M. Ic Principal of Amiens, M. le Curd of Montdidier, and I, are arguing upon certain theological questions, with which we have been much interested ; I shall be delighted to have your opinion."
" The opinion of the man of the sword can have very little weight," replied D'Artagnan, who began to get 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 le 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 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 a rttelle, 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 from it, " now, as you have heard, D'Artagnan, M. le Principal is desirous that my thesis should be dogmatic, whilst 1, for my part, would rather it should be ideal. This is the reason why M. le 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 developments :— ' Utraque manus in benedicendo chricis inferioribus nccessaria est.'"
D'Artagnan, whose erudition we are well acquainted with, evinced no more interest on hearing this quotation, than he had of that of M. dc TreVille, in allusion to the presents he fancied he had received from the Duke of Buckingham.
" Which means," resumed Aramis, that he might perfectly understand the matter ; "' 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 was 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 ! promts acimirabile ! " 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, facilius natans, in a subject of my own choice, which would be to these hard theological questions what morals are to metaphysics in philosophy."
D'Artagnan began to be tired, and so did the curt.
" See what an exordium !" cried the Jesuit
" Exordium," repeated the curt, for the sake of saying something. " Quemadmodum inter caloruin iminensilatem."
Aramis cast a glance upon D'Artagnan, to see what effect all this produced ; and found his friend gaping enough to split his jaws.
" Let us speak French, worthy father," said he to the Jesuit, " M. D'Artagnan will enjoy our conversation the more."
" Yes," replied D'Artagnan ; " I am fatigued with riding, and all this Latin confuses me."
" Certainly," replied the Jesuit, a little thrown out, whilst the curt greatly delighted, turned upon D'Artagnan a look full of gratitude : " well, let us see what is to be derived from this gloss."
" Moses, the servant of God—he was but a servant, please to understand ! Moses blessed with the hands ; he held out both his arms, whilst the Hebrews beat their enemies, and then he blessed them with his two hands. Besides, what does the gospel say : ' Imponite manus,' and not 'manum .•" place the hands and not the hand."
" Place the hands," repeated the curt, with the proper gesture.
" St. Peter, on the contrary, of whom the popes are the successors," continued the Jesuit: " ' Porrige digitos ' present the fingers. Do you see that, now ?'
" Certes," replied Aramis, in a pleased tone, " but the thing is subtle."
" The fingers !" resumed the Jesuit, " St. Peter blessed with the fingers. The pope, therefore, blesses with the fingers. And with how many fingers does he bless ? With three fingers, to be sure, one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost."
All crossed themselves ; D'Artagnan thought it was proper to follow this example.
" The pope is the successor of St. Peter, and represents the three divine powers ; the rest, ordines infcriores, of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, bless in the name of the holy archangels and angels. The most humble clerks, such as our deacons and sacristans, bless with goitpillons (brushes for sprinkling holy water), which resemble an infinite number of blessing fingers. There is the subject simplified. Argumentum omni denudatum ornamento. I could make of that subject two volumes of the size of this " and, in his enthusiasm, he struck a St. Chrysostom in folio, which made the table bend beneath its weight