“But it will be necessary to pick, dig, and remove the earth, and split stones; you don’t intend doing this work yourself, monsieur, do you?”
“General, there is no picking or digging required. The treasure is buried in the sepulchral vault of the convent, under a stone in which is fixed a large iron ring, and under which there are four steps leading down. The two casks are there, placed end to end, covered with a coat of plaster in the form of a bier. There is, besides, an inscription, which will enable me to recognize the stone; and as I am not willing, in an affair of delicacy and confidence, to keep the secret from your honor, here is the inscription: — ’Hic jacet venerabilis, Petrus Gulielmus Scott, Canon Honorab. Conventus Novi Castelli. Obiit quarta et decima Feb. ann. Dom. MCCVIII. Requiescat in pace.’”
Monk did not lose a single word. He was astonished either at the marvelous duplicity of this man and the superior style in which he played his part, or at the good loyal faith with which he presented his request, in a situation in which concerning a million of money, risked against the blow from a dagger, amidst an army that would have looked upon the theft as a restitution.
“Very well,” said he; “I shall accompany you; and the adventure appears to me so wonderful, that I shall carry the torch myself.” And saying these words, he girded on a short sword, placed a pistol in his belt, disclosing in this movement, which opened his doublet a little, the fine rings of a coat of mail, destined to protect him from the first dagger-thrust of an assassin. After which he took a Scottish dirk in his left hand, and then turning to Athos, “Are you ready, monsieur?” said he.
Athos, as if in opposition to what Monk had done, unfastened his poniard, which he placed upon the table; unhooked his sword-belt, which he laid close to his poniard; and, without affectation, opening his doublet as if to look for his handkerchief, showed beneath his fine cambric shirt his naked breast, without weapons either offensive or defensive.
“This is truly a singular man,” said Monk; “he is without any arms; he has an ambuscade placed somewhere yonder.”
“General,” said he, as if he had divined Monk’s thought, “you wish we should be alone; that is very right, but a great captain ought never to expose himself with temerity. It is night, the passage of the marsh may present dangers; be accompanied.”
“You are right,” replied he, calling Digby. The aid-de-camp appeared. “Fifty men with swords and muskets,” said he, looking at Athos.
“That is too few if there is danger, too many if there is not.”
“I will go alone,” said Monk; “I want nobody. Come, monsieur.”