“Ah! that is true,” said Athos; “for he cut the tree down with it.” And he advanced towards the stairs.
“Friend,” said he to the fisherman, “throw me down your cutlass, if you please; I want it.”
The noise of the falling weapon sounded on the steps.
“Take it,” said Monk; “it is a solid instrument, as I have seen, and a strong hand might make good use of it.”
Athos appeared only to give to the words of Monk the natural and simple sense under which they were to be heard and understood. Nor did he remark, or at least appear to remark, that when he returned with the weapon, Monk drew back, placing his left hand on the stock of his pistol; in the right he already held his dirk. He went to work then, turning his back to Monk, placing his life in his hands, without possible defense. He then struck, during several seconds, so skillfully and sharply upon the intermediary plaster, that it separated into two parts, and Monk was able to discern two barrels placed end to end, and which their weight maintained motionless in their chalky envelope.
“My lord,” said Athos, “you see that my presentiments have not been disappointed.”
“Yes, monsieur,” said Monk, “and I have good reason to believe you are satisfied; are you not?”
“Doubtless I am; the loss of this money would have been inexpressibly great to me: but I was certain that God, who protects the good cause, would not have permitted this gold, which should procure its triumph, to be diverted to baser purposes.
“You are, upon my honor, as mysterious in your words as in your actions, monsieur,” said Monk. “Just now as I did not perfectly understand you when you said that you were not willing to throw upon me the responsibility of the work we were accomplishing.”
“I had reason to say so, my lord.”
“And now you speak to me of the good cause. What do you mean by the words ‘the good cause?’ We are defending at this moment, in England, five or six causes, which does not prevent every one from considering his own not only as the good cause, but as the best. What is yours, monsieur? Speak boldly, that we may see if, upon this point, to which you appear to attach a great importance, we are of the same opinion.”
Athos fixed upon Monk one of those penetrating looks which seemed to convey to him to whom they are directed a challenge to conceal a single one of his thoughts; then, taking off his hat, he began in a solemn voice, while his interlocutor, with one hand upon his visage, allowed that long and nervous hand to compress his mustache and beard, while his vague and melancholy eye wandered about the recesses of the vaults.