Planchet had followed the road; like Athos, he had discovered the stains of blood; like Athos, he had noted the spot where the horses had halted. But he had gone farther than Athos — for at the village of Festubert, while drinking at an inn, he had learned without needing to ask a question that the evening before, at half-past eight, a wounded man who accompanied a lady traveling in a post-chaise had been obliged to stop, unable to go further. The accident was set down to the account of robbers, who had stopped the chaise in the wood. The man remained in the village; the woman had had a relay of horses, and continued her journey.
Planchet went in search of the postillion who had driven her, and found him. He had taken the lady as far as Fromelles; and from Fromelles she had set out for Armentieres. Planchet took the crossroad, and by seven o'clock in the morning he was at Armentieres.
There was but one tavern, the Post. Planchet went and presented himself as a lackey out of a place, who was in search of a situation. He had not chatted ten minutes with the people of the tavern before he learned that a woman had come there alone about eleven o'clock the night before, had engaged a chamber, had sent for the master of the hotel, and told him she desired to remain some time in the neighborhood.
Planchet had no need to learn more. He hastened to the rendezvous, found the lackeys at their posts, placed them as sentinels at all the outlets of the hotel, and came to find Athos, who had just received this information when his friends returned.
All their countenances were melancholy and gloomy, even the mild countenance of Aramis.
"What is to be done?" asked d'Artagnan.
"To wait!" replied Athos.
Each retired to his own apartment.
At eight o'clock in the evening Athos ordered the horses to be saddled, and Lord de Winter and his friends notified that they must prepare for the expedition.
In an instant all five were ready. Each examined his arms, and put them in order. Athos came down last, and found d'Artagnan already on horseback, and growing impatient.
"Patience!" cried Athos; "one of our party is still wanting."
The four horsemen looked round them with astonishment, for they sought vainly in their minds to know who this other person could be.
At this moment Planchet brought out Athos's house; the Musketeer leaped lightly into the saddle.
"Wait for me," cried he, "I will soon be back," and he set off at a gallop.
In a quarter of an hour he returned, accompanied by a tall man, masked, and wrapped in a large red cloak.
Lord de Winter and the three Musketeers looked at one another inquiringly. Neither could give the others any information, for all were ignorant who this man could be; nevertheless, they felt convinced that all was as it should be, as it was done by the order of Athos.
At nine o'clock, guided by Planchet, the little cavalcade set out, taking the route the carriage had taken.
It was a melancholy sight — that of these six men, traveling in silence, each plunged in his own thoughts, sad as despair, gloomy as chastisement.