"What is that?" asked Aramis.
"The leave of absence Monsieur has asked for," replied the lackey.
"For me! I have asked for no leave of absence."
"Hold your tongue and take it!" said d'Artagnan. "And you, my friend, there is a demipistole for your trouble; you will tell Monsieur de Treville that Monsieur Aramis is very much obliged to him. Go."
The lackey bowed to the ground and departed.
"What does all this mean?" asked Aramis.
"Pack up all you want for a journey of a fortnight, and follow me."
"But I cannot leave Paris just now without knowing — "
"What is become of her? I suppose you mean — " continued d'Artagnan.
"Become of whom?" replied Aramis.
"The woman who was here — the woman with the embroidered handkerchief."
"Who told you there was a woman here?" replied Aramis, becoming as pale as death.
"I saw her."
"And you know who she is?"
"I believe I can guess, at least."
"Listen!" said Aramis. "Since you appear to know so many things, can you tell me what is become of that woman?"
"I presume that she has returned to Tours."
"To Tours? Yes, that may be. You evidently know her. But why did she return to Tours without telling me anything?"
"Because she was in fear of being arrested."
"Why has she not written to me, then?"
"Because she was afraid of compromising you."
"d'Artagnan, you restore me to life!" cried Aramis. "I fancied myself despised, betrayed. I was so delighted to see her again! I could not have believed she would risk her liberty for me, and yet for what other cause could she have returned to Paris?"
"For the cause which today takes us to England."
"And what is this cause?" demanded Aramis.
"Oh, you'll know it someday, Aramis; but at present I must imitate the discretion of 'the doctor's niece.'"
Aramis smiled, as he remembered the tale he had told his friends on a certain evening. "Well, then, since she has left Paris, and you are sure of it, d'Artagnan, nothing prevents me, and I am ready to follow you. You say we are going — "
"To see Athos now, and if you will come thither, I beg you to make haste, for we have lost much time already. A PROPOS, inform Bazin."
"Will Bazin go with us?" asked Aramis.
"Perhaps so. At all events, it is best that he should follow us to Athos's."
Aramis called Bazin, and, after having ordered him to join them at Athos's residence, said "Let us go then," at the same time taking his cloak, sword, and three pistols, opening uselessly two or three drawers to see if he could not find stray coin. When well assured this search was superfluous, he followed d'Artagnan, wondering to himself how this young Guardsman should know so well who the lady was to whom he had given hospitality, and that he should know better than himself what had become of her.
Only as they went out Aramis placed his hand upon the arm of d'Artagnan, and looking at him earnestly, "You have not spoken of this lady?" said he.
"To nobody in the world."
"Not even to Athos or Porthos?"
"I have not breathed a syllable to them."
Tranquil on this important point, Aramis continued his way with d'Artagnan, and both soon arrived at Athos's dwelling. They found him holding his leave of absence in one hand, and M. de Treville's note in the other.
"Can you explain to me what signify this leave of absence and this letter, which I have just received?" said the astonished Athos.
My dear Athos,
I wish, as your health absolutely requires it, that you should rest for a fortnight. Go, then, and take the waters of Forges, or any that may be more agreeable to you, and recuperate yourself as quickly as possible.
"Well, this leave of absence and that letter mean that you must follow me, Athos."
"To the waters of Forges?"
"There or elsewhere."
"In the king's service?"
"Either the king's or the queen's. Are we not their Majesties' servants?"
At that moment Porthos entered. "PARDIEU!" said he, "here is a strange thing! Since when, I wonder, in the Musketeers, did they grant men leave of absence without their asking for it?"
"Since," said d'Artagnan, "they have friends who ask it for them."
"Ah, ah!" said Porthos, "it appears there's something fresh here."
"Yes, we are going — " said Aramis.
"To what country?" demanded Porthos.
"My faith! I don't know much about it," said Athos. "Ask d'Artagnan."
"To London, gentlemen," said d'Artagnan.
"To London!" cried Porthos; "and what the devil are we going to do in London?"
"That is what I am not at liberty to tell you, gentlemen; you must trust to me."
"But in order to go to London," added Porthos, "money is needed, and I have none."
"Nor I," said Aramis.
"Nor I," said Athos.
"I have," replied d'Artagnan, pulling out his treasure from his pocket, and placing it on the table. "There are in this bag three hundred pistoles. Let each take seventy-five; that is enough to take us to London and back. Besides, make yourselves easy; we shall not all arrive at London."
"Because, in all probability, some one of us will be left on the road."
"Is this, then, a campaign upon which we are now entering?"
"One of a most dangerous kind, I give you notice."
"Ah! But if we do risk being killed," said Porthos, "at least I should like to know what for."
"You would be all the wiser," said Athos.
"And yet," said Aramis, "I am somewhat of Porthos's opinion."
"Is the king accustomed to give you such reasons? No. He says to you jauntily, 'Gentlemen, there is fighting going on in Gascony or in Flanders; go and fight,' and you go there. Why? You need give yourselves no more uneasiness about this."