D'Artagnan, abridge them for once, I beg; I thirst for speech with you." "Well, D'Artagnan, I promise you that within an hour and a half - " "An hour and a half of devotions! Ah! my friend, be as reasonable with me as you can. Let me have the best bargain possible." Aramis began to laugh. "Still agreeable, still young, still gay," said he. "You have come into my diocese to set me quarreling with grace." "Bah!" "And you know well that I was never able to resist your seductions; you will cost me my salvation, D'Artagnan." D'Artagnan bit his lips. "Well," said he, "I will take the sin on my own head, favor me with one simple Christian sign of the cross, favor me with one prayer, and we will part." "Hush!" said Aramis, "we are already no longer alone, I hear strangers coming up." "Well, dismiss them." "Impossible; I made an appointment with them yesterday; it is the principal of the college of the Jesuits, and the superior of the Dominicans." "Your staff? Well, so be it." "What are you going to do?" "I will go and wake Porthos, and remain in his company till you have finished the conference." Aramis did not stir, his brow remained unbent, he betrayed himself by no gesture or word; "Go," said he, as D'Artagnan advanced to the door. "_A propos_, do you know where Porthos sleeps?" "No, but I will inquire." "Take the corridor, and open the second door on the left." "Thank you! _au revoir_." And D'Artagnan departed in the direction pointed out by Aramis. Ten minutes had not passed away when he came back. He found Aramis seated between the superior of the Dominicans and the principal of the college of the Jesuits, exactly in the same situation as he had found him formerly in the auberge at Crevecœur. This company did not at all terrify the musketeer. "What is it?" said Aramis, quietly. "You have apparently something to say to me, my friend." "It is," replied D'Artagnan, fixing his eyes upon Aramis, "it is that Porthos is not in his apartment." "Indeed," said Aramis calmly; "are you sure?" "_Pardieu!_ I came from his chamber." "Where can he be, then?" "That is what I am asking _you_." "And have you not inquired?" "Yes, I have." "And what answer did you get?" "That Porthos, often walking out in a morning, without saying anything, had probably gone out." "What did you do, then?" "I went to the stables," replied D'Artagnan, carelessly. "What to do?" "To see if Porthos had departed on horseback." "And?" interrogated the bishop. "Well, there is a horse missing, stall No. 3, Goliath." All this dialogue, it may be easily understood, was not exempt from a certain affectation on the part of the musketeer, and a perfect complaisance on the part of Aramis. "Oh! I guess how it is," said Aramis, after having considered for a moment, "Porthos is gone out to give us a surprise." "A surprise?" "Yes; the canal which goes from Vannes to the sea abounds in teal and snipes; that is Porthos's favorite sport, and he will bring us back a dozen for breakfast." "Do you think so?" said D'Artagnan. "I am sure of it. Where else can he be? I would lay a wager he took a gun with him." "Well, that is possible," said D'Artagnan. "Do one thing, my friend. Get on horseback, and join him." "You are right," said D'Artagnan, "I will." "Shall I go with you?" "No, thank you; Porthos is a rather remarkable man: I will inquire as I go along." "Will you take an arquebus?" "Thank you." "Order what horse you like to be saddled." "The one I rode yesterday, on coming from Belle-Isle." "So be it: use the horse as your own." Aramis rang, and gave orders to have the horse M. d'Artagnan had chosen saddled. D'Artagnan followed the servant charged with the execution of this order. When arrived at the door, the servant drew on one side to allow M. d'Artagnan to pass; and at that moment he caught the eye of his master. A knitting of the brow gave the intelligent spy to understand that all should be given to D'Artagnan he wished. D'Artagnan got into the saddle, and Aramis heard the steps of his horse on the pavement. An instant after, the servant returned. "Well?" asked the bishop. "Monseigneur, he has followed the course of the canal, and is going towards the sea," said the servant. "Very well!" said Aramis. In fact, D'Artagnan, dismissing all suspicion, hastened towards the ocean, constantly hoping to see in the _Landes_, or on the beach, the colossal profile of Porthos. He persisted in fancying he could trace a horse's steps in every puddle. Sometimes he imagined he heard the report of a gun. This illusion lasted three hours; during two of which he went forward in search of his friend - in the last he returned to the house. "We must have crossed," said he, "and I shall find them waiting for me at table." D'Artagnan was mistaken. He no more found Porthos at the palace than he had found him on the sea-shore. Aramis was waiting for him at the top of the stairs, looking very much concerned. "Did my people not find you, my dear D'Artagnan?" cried he, as soon as he caught sight of the musketeer. "No; did you send any one after me?" "I am deeply concerned, my friend, deeply, to have induced you to make such a useless search; but, about seven o'clock, the almoner of Saint- Patern came here. He had met Du Vallon, who was going away, and who, being unwilling to disturb anybody at the palace, had charged him to tell me that, fearing M. Getard would play him some ill turn in his absence, he was going to take advantage of the morning tide to make a tour of Belle-Isle." "But tell me, Goliath has not crossed the four leagues of sea, I should think." "There are full six," said Aramis. "That makes it less probable still." "Therefore, my friend," said Aramis, with one of his blandest smiles, "Goliath is in the stable, well pleased, I will answer for it, that Porthos is no longer on his back." In fact, the horse had been brought back from the relay by the direction of the prelate, from whom no detail escaped. D'Artagnan appeared as well satisfied with as possible with the explanation. He entered upon a part of dissimulation which agreed perfectly with the suspicions that arose more strongly in his mind. He breakfasted between the Jesuit and Aramis, having the Dominican in front of him, and smiling particularly at the Dominican, whose jolly, fat face pleased him much. The repast was long and sumptuous; excellent Spanish wine, fine Morbihan oysters, exquisite fish from the mouth of the Loire, enormous prawns from Paimboeuf, and delicious game from the moors, constituted the principal part of it. D'Artagnan ate much, and drank but little. Aramis drank nothing, unless it was water. After the repast, - "You offered me an arquebus," said D'Artagnan. "I did." "Lend it me, then." "Are you going shooting?" "Whilst waiting for Porthos, it is the best thing I can do, I think." "Take which you like from the trophy." "Will you not come with me?" "I would with great pleasure; but, alas! my friend, sporting is forbidden to bishops." "Ah!" said D'Artagnan, "I did not know that." "Besides," continued Aramis, "I shall be busy till mid-day." "I shall go alone, then?" said D'Artagnan. "I am sorry to say you must; but come back to dinner." "_Pardieu!_ the eating at your house is too good to make me think of not coming back." And thereupon D'Artagnan quitted his host, bowed to the guests, and took his arquebus; but instead of shooting, went straight to the little port of Vannes. He looked in vain to observe if anybody saw him; he could discern neither thing nor person. He engaged a little fishing boat for twenty-five livres, and set off at half-past eleven, convinced that he had not been followed; and that was true, he had not been followed; only a Jesuit brother, placed in the top of the steeple of his church, had not, since the morning, by the help of an excellent glass, lost sight of one of his steps. At three quarters past eleven, Aramis was informed that D'Artagnan was sailing towards Belle-Isle. The voyage was rapid; a good north north-east wind drove him towards the isle. As he approached, his eyes were constantly fixed upon the coast. He looked to see if, upon the shore or upon the fortifications the brilliant dress and vast stature of Porthos should stand out against a slightly clouded sky; but his search was in vain. He landed without having seen anything; and learnt from the first soldier interrogated by him, that M. du Vallon had not yet returned from Vannes. Then, without losing an instant, D'Artagnan ordered his little bark to put its head towards Sarzeau. We know that the wind changes with the different hours of the day. The breeze had veered from the north north-east to the south-east; the wind, then, was almost as good for the return to Sarzeau, as it had been for the voyage to Belle-Isle. In three hours D'Artagnan had touched the continent; two hours more sufficed for his ride to Vannes. In spite of the rapidity of his passage, what D'Artagnan endured of impatience and anger during that short passage, the deck alone of the vessel, upon which he stamped backwards and forwards for three hours, could testify. He made but one bound from the quay whereon he landed to the episcopal palace. He thought to terrify Aramis by the promptitude of his return; he wished to reproach him with his duplicity, and yet with reserve; but with sufficient spirit, nevertheless, to make him feel all the consequences of it, and force from him a part of his secret. He hoped, in short - thanks to that heat of expression which is to _secrets_ what the charge with the bayonet is to redoubts - to bring the mysterious Aramis to some manifestation or other. But he found, in the vestibule of the palace, the _valet de chambre_, who closed his passage, while smiling upon him with a stupid air. "Monseigneur?" cried D'Artagnan, endeavoring to put him aside with his hand. Moved for an instant the valet resumed his station.