“That is true,” said Monk.
Athos seized the lever.
“Shall I help you?” said Monk.
“Thank you, my lord; but I am not willing that your honor should lend your hand to a work of which, perhaps, you would not take the responsibility if you knew the probable consequences of it.”
Monk raised his head.
“What do you mean by that, monsieur?”
“I mean — but that man — "
“Stop,” said Monk; “I perceive what you are afraid of. I shall make a trial.” Monk turned towards the fisherman, the whole of whose profile was thrown upon the wall.
“Come here, friend!” said he in English, and in a tone of command.
The fisherman did not stir.
“That is well,” continued he: “he does not know English. Speak to me, then, in English, if you please, monsieur.”
“My lord,” replied Athos, “I have frequently seen men in certain circumstances have sufficient command over themselves not to reply to a question put to them in a language they understood. The fisherman is perhaps more learned than we believe him to be. Send him away, my lord, I beg you.”
“Decidedly,” said Monk, “he wishes to have me alone in this vault. Never mind, we shall go through with it; one man is as good as another man; and we are alone. My friend,” said Monk to the fisherman, “go back up the stairs we have just descended, and watch that nobody comes to disturb us.” The fisherman made a sign of obedience. “Leave your torch,” said Monk; “it would betray your presence, and might procure you a musket-ball.”
The fisherman appeared to appreciate the counsel; he laid down the light, and disappeared under the vault of the stairs. Monk took up the torch, and brought it to the foot of the column.
“Ah, ah!” said he; “money, then, is concealed under this tomb?”
“Yes, my lord; and in five minutes you will no longer doubt it.”
At the same time Athos struck a violent blow upon the plaster, which split, presenting a chink for the point of the lever. Athos introduced the bar into this crack, and soon large pieces of plaster yielded, rising up like rounded slabs. Then the Comte de la Fere seized the stones and threw them away with a force that hands so delicate as his might not have been supposed capable of having.
“My lord,” said Athos, “this is plainly the masonry of which I told your honor.”
“Yes; but I do not yet see the casks,” said Monk.
“If I had a dagger,” said Athos, looking round him, “you should soon see them, monsieur. Unfortunately, I left mine in your tent.”
“I would willingly offer you mine,” said Monk, “but the blade is too thin for such work.”
Athos appeared to look around him for a thing of some kind that might serve as a substitute for the weapon he desired. Monk did not lose one of the movements of his hands, or one of the expressions of his eyes. “Why do you not ask the fisherman for his cutlass?” said Monk; “he has a cutlass.”