“You think, then, that I have secrets,” said Monk, without changing the half cheerful expression of his countenance. “Why, monsieur, what secret can you expect to find in the hollow head of a soldier? But it is getting late, and our torch is almost out; let us call our man.”
“Hola!” cried Monk in French, approaching the stairs; “hola! fisherman!”
The fisherman, benumbed by the cold night air, replied in a hoarse voice, asking what they wanted of him.
“Go to the post,” said Monk, “and order a sergeant, in the name of General Monk, to come here immediately.”
This was a commission easily performed; for the sergeant, uneasy at the general’s being in that desolate abbey, had drawn nearer by degrees, and was not much further off than the fisherman. The general’s order was therefore heard by him, and he hastened to obey it.
“Get a horse and two men,” said Monk.
“A horse and two men?” repeated the sergeant.
“Yes,” replied Monk. “Have you got any means of getting a horse with a pack-saddle or two panniers?”
“No doubt, at a hundred paces off, in the Scottish camp.”
“What shall I do with the horse, general.”
The sergeant descended the three steps which separated him from Monk, and came into the vault.
“You see,” said Monk, “that gentleman yonder?”
“And you see these two casks?”
“They are two casks, one containing powder, and the other balls; I wish these casks to be transported to the little hamlet at the mouth of the river, and which I intend to occupy to-morrow with two hundred muskets. You understand that the commission is a secret one, for it is a movement that may decide the fate of the battle.”
“Oh, general!” murmured the sergeant.
“Mind, then! Let these casks be fastened on to the horse, and let them be escorted by two men and you to the residence of this gentleman, who is my friend. But take care that nobody knows it.”
“I would go by the marsh if I knew the road,” said the sergeant.
“I know one myself,” said Athos; “it is not wide, but it is solid, having been made upon piles; and with care we shall get over safely enough.”
“Do everything this gentleman shall order you to do.”
“Oh! oh! the casks are heavy,” said the sergeant, trying to lift one.
“They weigh four hundred pounds each, if they contain what they ought to contain, do they not, monsieur.”
“Thereabouts,” said Athos.
The sergeant went in search of the two men and the horse. Monk, left alone with Athos, affected to speak to him on nothing but indifferent subjects while examining the vault in a cursory manner. Then, hearing the horse’s steps, —
“I leave you with your men, monsieur,” said he, “and return to the camp. You are perfectly safe.”