MONSIEUR DUMAS AND HIS BEASTS 133
to promise. Besides, I should like, before consuming so many rabbits, to know where they come from.'
' You shall know that this very night, if you don't mind coming out with me.'
' Ah! Michel, I have told you before that you are a poacher! '
' Oh, sir, as to that, I am as innocent as a baby — and, as I was saying, if you will only come out with me tonight —'
' Must I go far, Michel? '
' Not a hundred yards, sir.'
' At what o'clock?'
' Just at the moment when you hear Portugo's first bark.'
' Very well, Michel, I will be with you.'
I had nearly forgotten this promise, and was writing as usual, when Michel came into my study. It was about eleven o'clock, and a fine moonlight night.
' Hallo !' said I, ' Portugo hasn't barked yet, has he ? '
' No, but I was just thinking that if you waited for that, you would miss seeing something curious.'
' What should I miss, Michel? '
' The council of war which is held between Pritchard and Portugo.'
I followed Michel, and sure enough, among the fourteen dogs, which were mostly sleeping in different attitudes, Portugo and Pritchard were sitting up, and seemed to be gravely debating some important question. When the debate was ended, they separated; Portugo went out at the gate to the high road, turned the corner, and disappeared, while Pritchard began deliberately, as if he had plenty of time before him, to follow the little path which led up to a stone quarry. We followed Pritchard, who took no notice of us, though he evidently knew we were there. He went up to the top of the quarry, examined and smelt about over the ground with great care, and when he had found a scent and assured himself that it was fresh, he