the indefinable affection of the friend. It
was evident that Aramis had asked himself this question:
— “Why is D’Artagnan with Porthos,
and what does he want at Vannes?” Aramis comprehended
all that was passing in the mind of D’Artagnan,
on turning his look upon him again, and seeing that
he had not lowered his eyes. He knew the acuteness
and intelligence of his friend; he feared to let him
divine the secret of his blush and his astonishment.
He was still the same Aramis, always having a secret
to conceal. Therefore, to put an end to his
look of an inquisitor, which it was necessary to get
rid of at all events, as, at any price, a general extinguishes
a battery which annoys him, Aramis stretched forth
his beautiful white hand, upon which sparkled the
amethyst of the pastoral ring; he cut the air with
sign of the cross, and poured out his benediction upon
his two friends. Perhaps thoughtful and absent,
D’Artagnan, impious in spite of himself, might
not have bent beneath this holy benediction; but Porthos
saw his distraction, and laying his friendly hand
upon the back of his companion, he crushed him down
towards the earth. D’Artagnan was forced
to give way; indeed, he was little short of being
flat on the ground. In the meantime Aramis had
passed. D’Artagnan, like Antaeus, had only
touched the ground, and he turned towards Porthos,
almost angry. But there was no mistaking the
intention of the brave Hercules; it was a feeling of
religious propriety that had influenced him.
Besides, speech with Porthos, instead of disguising
his thought, always completed it.
“It is very polite of him,” said he, “to
have given his benediction to us alone. Decidedly,
he is a holy man, and a brave man.” Less
convinced than Porthos, D’Artagnan made no reply.
“Observe my friend,” continued Porthos,
“he has seen us; and, instead of continuing
to walk on at the simple pace of the procession, as
he did just now, — see, what a hurry he is in;
do you see how the cortege is increasing its
speed? He is eager to join us and embrace us,
is that dear Aramis.”
“That is true,” replied D’Artagnan,
aloud. — Then to himself: — “It
is equally true he has seen me, the fox, and will
have time to prepare himself to receive me.”
But the procession had passed; the road was free.
D’Artagnan and Porthos walked straight up to
the episcopal palace, which was surrounded by a numerous
crowd anxious to see the prelate return. D’Artagnan
remarked that this crowd was composed principally
of citizens and military men. He recognized in
the nature of these partisans the address of his friend.
Aramis was not the man to seek for a useless popularity.
He cared very little for being beloved by people
who could be of no service to him. Women, children,
and old men, that is to say, the cortege of
ordinary pastors; was not the cortege for him.