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  • 1847
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troops. He will receive me. I shall win his confidence, and take advantage of it, as soon as possible.”

But without going farther, D’Artagnan shook his head and interrupted himself. “No,” said he; “I should not dare to relate this to Athos; the way is therefore not honorable. I must use violence,” continued he, — “very certainly I must, but without compromising my loyalty. With forty men I will traverse the country as a partisan. But if I fall in with, not forty thousand English, as Planchet said, but purely and simply with four hundred, I shall be beaten. Supposing that among my forty warriors there should be found at least ten stupid ones — ten who will allow themselves to be killed one after the other, from mere folly? No; it is, in fact, impossible to find forty men to be depended upon — they do not exist. I must learn how to be contented with thirty. With ten men less I should have the right of avoiding any armed encounter, on account of the small number of my people; and if the encounter should take place, my chance is better with thirty men than forty. Besides, I should save five thousand francs; that is to say, the eighth of my capital; that is worth the trial. This being so, I should have thirty men. I shall divide them into three bands, — we will spread ourselves about over the country, with an injunction to reunite at a given moment; in this fashion, ten by ten, we should excite no suspicion — we should pass unperceived. Yes, yes, thirty — that is a magic number. There are three tens — three, that divine number! And then, truly, a company of thirty men, when all together, will look rather imposing. Ah! stupid wretch that I am!” continued D’Artagnan, “I want thirty horses. That is ruinous. Where the devil was my head when I forgot the horses? We cannot, however, think of striking such a blow without horses. Well, so be it, that sacrifice must be made; we can get the horses in the country — they are not bad, besides. But I forgot — peste! Three bands — that necessitates three leaders; there is the difficulty. Of the three commanders I have already one — that is myself; — yes, but the two others will of themselves cost almost as much money as all the rest of the troop. No; positively I must have but one lieutenant. In that ease, then, I should reduce my troop to twenty men. I know very well that twenty men is but very little; but since with thirty I was determined not to seek to come to blows, I should do so more carefully still with twenty. Twenty — that is a round number; that, besides, reduces the number of the horses by ten, which is a consideration; and then, with a good lieutenant — Mordioux! what things patience and calculation are! Was I not going to embark with forty men, and I have now reduced them to twenty for an equal success? Ten thousand livres saved at one stroke, and more safety; that is well! Now, then, let us see; we have nothing to do but to find this lieutenant — let him be found, then; and after — That is not so easy; he must be brave and good, a second myself. Yes, but a lieutenant must have my secret, and as that secret is worth a million, and I shall only pay my man a thousand livres, fifteen hundred at the most, my man will sell the secret to Monk. Mordioux! no lieutenant. Besides, this man, were he as mute as a disciple of Pythagoras, — this man would be sure to have in the troop some favourite soldier, whom he would make his sergeant, the sergeant would penetrate the secret of the lieutenant, in case the latter should be honest and unwilling to sell it. Then the sergeant, less honest and less ambitious, will give up the whole for fifty thousand livres. Come, come! that is impossible. The lieutenant is impossible. But then I must have no fractions; I cannot divide my troop into two, and act upon two points, at once, without another self, who — But what is the use of acting upon two points, as we have only one man to take? What can be the good of weakening a corps by placing the right here, and the left there? A single corps — Mordioux! a single one, and that commanded by D’Artagnan. Very well. But twenty men marching in one band are suspected by everybody; twenty horsemen must not be seen marching together, or a company will be detached against them and the password will be required; the which company, upon seeing them embarrassed to give it, would shoot M. d’Artagnan and his men like so many rabbits. I reduce myself then to ten men; in this fashion I shall act simply and with unity; I shall be forced to be prudent, which is half the success in an affair of the kind I am undertaking; a greater number might, perhaps, have drawn me into some folly. Ten horses are not many, either to buy or take. A capital idea; what tranquillity it infuses into my mind! no more suspicions — no passwords — no more dangers! Ten men, they are valets or clerks. Ten men, leading ten horses laden with merchandise of whatever kind, are tolerated, well received everywhere. Ten men travel on account of the house of Planchet & Co., of France — nothing can be said against that. These ten men, clothed like manufacturers, have a good cutlass or a good musket at their saddle-bow, and a good pistol in the holster. They never allow themselves to be uneasy, because they have no evil designs. They are, perhaps, in truth, a little disposed to be smugglers, but what harm is in that? Smuggling is not, like polygamy, a hanging offense. The worst that can happen to us is the confiscation of our merchandise. Our merchandise confiscated — fine affair that! Come, come! it is a superb plan. Ten men only — ten men, whom I will engage for my service; ten men who shall be as resolute as forty, who would cost me four times as much, and to whom, for greater security, I will never open my mouth as to my designs, and to whom I shall only say, `My friends, there is a blow to be struck.’ Things being after this fashion, Satan will be very malicious if he plays me one of his tricks. Fifteen thousand livres saved — that’s superb — out of twenty!”

Thus fortified by his laborious calculations, D’Artagnan stopped at this plan, and determined to change nothing in it. He had already on a list furnished by his inexhaustible memory, ten men illustrious amongst the seekers of adventures, ill-treated by fortune, and not on good terms with justice. Upon this D’Artagnan rose, and instantly set off on the search, telling Planchet not to expect him to breakfast, and perhaps not to dinner. A day and a half spent in rummaging amongst certain dens of Paris sufficed for his recruiting; and, without allowing his adventurers to communicate with each other, he had picked up and got together, in less than thirty hours, a charming collection of ill-looking faces, speaking a French less pure than the English they were about to attempt. These men were, for the most part, guards, whose merit D’Artagnan had had an opportunity of appreciating in various encounters, whom drunkenness, unlucky sword-thrusts, unexpected winnings at play, or the economical reforms of Mazarin, had forced to seek shade and solitude, those two great consolers of irritated and chafing spirits. They bore upon their countenances and in their vestments the traces of the heartaches they had undergone. Some had their visages scarred, — all had their clothes in rags. D’Artagnan comforted the most needy of these brotherly miseries by a prudent distribution of the crowns of the society; then, having taken care that these crowns should be employed in the physical improvement of the troop, he appointed a trysting place in the north of France, between Berghes and Saint Omer. Six days were allowed as the utmost term, and D’Artagnan was sufficiently acquainted with the good-will, the good-humor, and the relative probity of these illustrious recruits, to be certain that not one of them would fail in his appointment. These orders given, this rendezvous fixed, he went to bid farewell to Planchet, who asked news of his army. D’Artagnan did not think proper to inform him of the reduction he had made in his personnel. He feared that the confidence of his associate would be abated by such an avowal. Planchet was delighted to learn that the army was levied, and that he (Planchet) found himself a kind of half king, who from his throne-counter kept in pay a body of troops destined to make war against perfidious Albion, that enemy of all true French hearts. Planchet paid down in double louis, twenty thousand livres to D’Artagnan, on the part of himself (Planchet), and twenty thousand livres, still in double louis, in account with D’Artagnan. D’Artagnan placed each of the twenty thousand francs in a bag, and weighing a hag in each hand, — “This money is very embarrassing, my dear Planchet,” said he. “Do you know this weighs thirty pounds?”

“Bah! your horse will carry that like a feather.”

D’Artagnan shook his head. “Don’t tell me such things, Planchet: a horse overloaded with thirty pounds, in addition to the rider and his portmanteau, cannot cross a river so easily — cannot leap over a wall or ditch so lightly; and the horse failing, the horseman fails. It is true that you, Planchet, who have served in the infantry, may not be aware of all that.”

“Then what is to be done, monsieur?” said Planchet, greatly embarrassed.

“Listen to me,” said D’Artagnan. “I will pay my army on its return home. Keep my half of twenty thousand livres, which you can use during that time.”

“And my half?” said Planchet.

“I shall take that with me.”

“Your confidence does me honor,” said Planchet: “but supposing you should not return?”

“That is possible, though not very probable. Then, Planchet, in case I should not return — give me a pen! I will make my will.” D’Artagnan took a pen and some paper, and wrote upon a plain sheet, — “I, D’Artagnan, possess twenty thousand livres, laid up cent by cent during thirty years that I have been in the service of his majesty the king of France. I leave five thousand to Athos, five thousand to Porthos and five thousand to Aramis, that they may give the said sums in my name and their own to my young friend Raoul, Vicomte de Bragelonne. I give the remaining five thousand to Planchet, that he may distribute the fifteen thousand with less regret among my friends. With which purpose I sign these presents. — D’Artagnan.

Planchet appeared very curious to know what D’Artagnan had written.

“Here,” said the musketeer, “read it”

On reading the last lines the tears came into Planchet’s eyes. “You think, then, that I would not have given the money without that? Then I will have none of your five thousand francs.”

D’Artagnan smiled. “Accept it, accept it, Planchet; and in that way you will only lose fifteen thousand francs instead of twenty thousand, and you will not be tempted to disregard the signature of your master and friend, by losing nothing at all.”

How well that dear Monsieur d’Artagnan knew the hearts of men and grocers! They who have pronounced Don Quixote mad because he rode out to the conquest of an empire with nobody but Sancho, his squire, and they who have pronounced Sancho mad because he accompanied his master in his attempt to conquer the said empire, — they certainly will have no hesitation in extending the same judgment to D’Artagnan and Planchet. And yet the first passed for one of the most subtle spirits among the astute spirits of the court of France. As to the second, he had acquired by good right the reputation of having one of the longest heads among the grocers of the Rue des Lombards; consequently of Paris, and consequently of France. Now, to consider these two men from the point of view from which you would consider other men, and the means by the aid of which they contemplated to restore a monarch to his throne, compared with other means, the shallowest brains of the country where brains are most shallow must have revolted against the presumptuous madness of the lieutenant and the stupidity of his associate. Fortunately, D’Artagnan was not a man to listen to the idle talk of those around him, or to the comments that were made on himself. He had adopted the motto, “Act well, and let people talk.” Planchet on his part, had adopted this, “Act and say nothing.” It resulted from this, that, according to the custom of all superior geniuses, these two men flattered themselves intra pectus, with being in the right against all who found fault with them.

As a beginning, D’Artagnan set out in the finest of possible weather, without a cloud in the heavens — without a cloud on his mind, joyous and strong, calm and decided, great in his resolution, and consequently carrying with him a tenfold dose of that potent fluid which the shocks of mind cause to spring from the nerves, and which procure for the human machine a force and an influence of which future ages will render, according to all probability, a more arithmetical account than we can possibly do at present. He was again, as in times past, on that same road of adventures which had led him to Boulogne, and which he was now traveling for the fourth time. It appeared to him that he could almost recognize the trace of his own steps upon the road, and that of his first upon the doors of the hostelries; — his memory, always active and present, brought back that youth which neither thirty years later his great heart nor his wrist of steel would have belied. What a rich nature was that of this man! He had all the passions, all the defects, all the weaknesses, and the spirit of contradiction familiar to his understanding changed all these imperfections into corresponding qualities. D’Artagnan, thanks to his ever active imagination, was afraid of a shadow; and ashamed of being afraid, he marched straight up to that shadow, and then became extravagant in his bravery if the danger proved to be real. Thus everything in him was emotion, and therefore enjoyment. He loved the society of others, but never became tired of his own; and more than once, if he could have been heard when he was alone, he might have been seen laughing at the jokes he related to himself or the tricks his imagination created just five minutes before ennui might have been looked for. D’Artagnan was not perhaps so gay this time as he would have been with the prospect of finding some good friends at Calais, instead of joining the ten scamps there; melancholy, however, did not visit him more than once a day, and it was about five visits that he received from that somber deity before he got sight of the sea at Boulogne, and then these visits were indeed but short. But when once D’Artagnan found himself near the field of action, all other feelings but that of confidence disappeared never to return. From Boulogne he followed the coast to Calais. Calais was the place of general rendezvous, and at Calais he had named to each of his recruits the hostelry of “Le Grand Monarque,” where living was not extravagant, where sailors messed, and where men of the sword, with sheath of leather, be it understood, found lodging, table, food, and all the comforts of life, for thirty sous per diem. D’Artagnan proposed to himself to take them by surprise in flagrante delicto of wandering life, and to judge by the first appearance if he could count on them as trusty companions.

He arrived at Calais at half past four in the afternoon.

CHAPTER 22

D’Artagnan travels for the House of Planchet and Company

The hostelry of “Le Grand Monarque” was situated in a little street parallel to the port without looking out upon the port itself. Some lanes cut — as steps cut the two parallels of the ladder — the two great straight lines of the port and the street. By these lanes passengers came suddenly from the port into the street, or from the street on to the port. D’Artagnan, arrived at the port, took one of these lanes, and came out in front of the hostelry of “Le Grand Monarque.” The moment was well chosen and might remind D’Artagnan of his start in life at the hostelry of the “Franc-Meunier” at Meung. Some sailors who had been playing at dice had started a quarrel, and were threatening each other furiously. The host, hostess, and two lads were watching with anxiety the circle of these angry gamblers, from the midst of which war seemed ready to break forth, bristling with knives and hatchets. The play, nevertheless, was continued. A stone bench was occupied by two men, who appeared thence to watch the door; four tables, placed at the back of the common chamber, were occupied by eight other individuals. Neither the men at the door, nor those at the tables, took any part in the play or the quarrel. D’Artagnan recognized his ten men in these cold, indifferent spectators. The quarrel went on increasing. Every passion has, like the sea, its tide which ascends and descends. Reaching the climax of passion, one sailor overturned the table and the money which was upon it. The table fell, and the money rolled about. In an instant all belonging to the hostelry threw themselves upon the stakes, and many a piece of silver was picked up by people who stole away whilst the sailors were scuffling with each other.

The two men on the bench and the eight at the tables, although they seemed perfect strangers to each other, these ten men alone, we say, appeared to have agreed to remain impassible amidst the cries of fury and the chinking of money. Two only contented themselves with pushing with their feet combatants who came under their table. Two others, rather than take part in this disturbance, buried their hands in their pockets; and another two jumped upon the table they occupied, as people do to avoid being submerged by overflowing water.

“Come, come,” said D’Artagnan to himself, not having lost one of the details we have related, “this is a very fair gathering — circumspect, calm, accustomed to disturbance, acquainted with blows! Peste! I have been lucky.”

All at once his attention was called to a particular part of the room. The two men who had pushed the strugglers with their feet were assailed with abuse by the sailors, who had become reconciled. One of them, half drunk with passion, and quite drunk with beer, came, in a menacing manner, to demand of the shorter of these two sages by what right he had touched with his foot creatures of the good God, who were not dogs. And whilst putting this question, in order to make it more direct, he applied his great fist to the nose of D’Artagnan’s recruit.

This man became pale, without its being to be discerned whether his pallor arose from anger or from fear; seeing which, the sailor concluded it was from fear, and raised his fist with the manifest intention of letting it fall upon the head of the stranger. But though the threatened man did not appear to move, he dealt the sailor such a severe blow in the stomach that he sent him rolling and howling to the other side of the room. At the same instant, rallied by the esprit de corps, all the comrades of the conquered man fell upon the conqueror.

The latter, with the same coolness of which he had given proof, without committing the imprudence of touching his weapons, took up a beer-pot with a pewter-lid, and knocked down two or three of his assailants; then, as he was about to yield to numbers, the seven other silent men at the tables, who had not stirred, perceived that their cause was at stake, and came to the rescue. At the same time, the two indifferent spectators at the door turned round with frowning brows, indicating their evident intention of taking the enemy in the rear, if the enemy did not cease their aggressions.

The host, his helpers, and two watchmen who were passing, and who from curiosity had penetrated too far into the room, were mixed up in the tumult and showered with blows. The Parisians hit like Cyclops, with an ensemble and a tactic delightful to behold. At length, obliged to beat a retreat before superior numbers, they formed an intrenchment behind the large table, which they raised by main force; whilst the two others, arming themselves each with a trestle, and using it like a great sledge-hammer, knocked down at a blow eight sailors upon whose heads they had brought their monstrous catapult in play. The floor was already strewn with wounded, and the room filled with cries and dust, when D’Artagnan, satisfied with the test, advanced, sword in hand, and striking with the pommel every head that came in his way, he uttered a vigorous hola! which put an instantaneous end to the conflict. A great backflood directly took place from the center to the sides of the room, so that D’Artagnan found himself isolated and dominator.

“What is all this about?” then demanded he of the assembly, with the majestic tone of Neptune pronouncing the Quos ego.

At the very instant, at the first sound of his voice, to carry on the Virgilian metaphor, D’Artagnan’s recruits, recognizing each his sovereign lord, discontinued their plank-fighting and trestle blows. On their side, the sailors, seeing that long naked sword, that martial air, and the agile arm which came to the rescue of their enemies, in the person of a man who seemed accustomed to command, the sailors picked up their wounded and their pitchers. The Parisians wiped their brows, and viewed their leader with respect. D’Artagnan was loaded with thanks by the host of “Le Grand Monarque.” He received them like a man who knows that nothing is being offered that does not belong to him, and then said he would go and walk upon the port till supper was ready. Immediately each of the recruits, who understood the summons, took his hat, brushed the dust off his clothes, and followed D’Artagnan. But D’Artagnan whilst walking and observing, took care not to stop; he directed his course towards the downs, and the ten men — surprised at finding themselves going in the track of each other, uneasy at seeing on their right, on their left, and behind them, companions upon whom they had not reckoned — followed him, casting furtive glances at each other. It was not till he had arrived at the hollow part of the deepest down that D’Artagnan, smiling to see them outdone, turned towards them, making a friendly sign with his hand.

“Eh! come, come, gentlemen,” said he, “let us not devour each other; you are made to live together, to understand each other in all respects, and not to devour one another.”

Instantly all hesitation ceased; the men breathed as if they had been taken out of a coffin, and examined each other complacently. After this examination they turned their eyes towards their leader, who had long been acquainted with the art of speaking to men of that class, and who improvised the following little speech, pronounced with an energy truly Gascon:

“Gentlemen, you all know who I am. I have engaged you from knowing you to be brave, and willing to associate you with me in a glorious enterprise. Imagine that in laboring for me you labor for the king. I only warn you that if you allow anything of this supposition to appear, I shall be forced to crack your skulls immediately, in the manner most convenient to me. You are not ignorant, gentlemen, that state secrets are like a mortal poison: as long as that poison is in its box and the box is closed, it is not injurious; out of the box, it kills. Now draw near and you shall know as much of this secret as I am able to tell you.” All drew close to him with an expression of curiosity. “Approach,” continued D’Artagnan, “and let not the bird which passes over our heads, the rabbit which sports on the downs, the fish which bounds from the waters, hear us. Our business is to learn and to report to monsieur le surintendant of the finances to what extent English smuggling is injurious to the French merchants. I shall enter every place, and see everything. We are poor Picard fishermen, thrown upon the coast by a storm. It is certain that we must sell fish, neither more nor less, like true fishermen. Only people might guess who we are, and might molest us; it is therefore necessary that we should be in a condition to defend ourselves. And this is why I have selected men of spirit and courage. We shall lead a steady life, and not incur much danger; seeing that we have behind us a powerful protector, thanks to whom no embarrassment is possible. One thing alone puzzles me; but I hope that after a short explanation, you will relieve me from that difficulty. The thing which puzzles me is taking with me a crew of stupid fishermen, which crew will annoy me immensely, whilst if, by chance, there were among you any who have seen the sea —- “

“Oh! don’t let that trouble you,” said one of the recruits; “I was a prisoner among the pirates of Tunis three years, and can maneuver a boat like an admiral.”

“See,” said D’Artagnan, “what an admirable thing chance is!” D’Artagnan pronounced these words with an indefinable tone of feigned bonhomie, for he knew very well that the victim of pirates was an old corsair, and had engaged him in consequence of that knowledge. But D’Artagnan never said more than there was need to say, in order to leave people in doubt. He paid himself with the explanation, and welcomed the effect, without appearing to be preoccupied with the cause.

“And I,” said a second, “I, by chance, had an uncle who directed the works of the port of La Rochelle. When quite a child, I played about the boats, and I know how to handle an oar or a sail as well as the best Ponantais sailor.” The latter did not lie much more than the first, for he had rowed on board his majesty’s galleys six years, at Ciotat. Two others were more frank: they confessed honestly that they had served on board a vessel as soldiers on punishment, and did not blush for it. D’Artagnan found himself, then, the leader of ten men of war and four sailors, having at once a land army and a sea force, which would have earned the pride of Planchet to its height, if Planchet had known the details.

Nothing was now left but arranging the general orders, and D’Artagnan gave them with precision. He enjoined his men to be ready to set out for the Hague, some following the coast which leads to Breskens, others the road to Antwerp. The rendezvous was given, by calculating each day’s march, a fortnight from that time upon the chief place at the Hague. D’Artagnan recommended his men to go in couples, as they liked best, from sympathy. He himself selected from among those with the least disreputable look, two guards whom he had formerly known, and whose only faults were being drunkards and gamblers. These men had not entirely lost all ideas of civilization, and under proper garments their hearts would beat again. D’Artagnan, not to create any jealousy with the others, made the rest go forward. He kept his two selected ones, clothed them from his own wardrobe, and set out with them.

It was to these two, whom he seemed to honor with an absolute confidence, that D’Artagnan imparted a false secret, destined to secure the success of the expedition. He confessed to them that the object was not to learn to what extent the French merchants were injured by English smuggling, but to learn how far French smuggling could annoy English trade. These men appeared convinced; they were effectively so. D’Artagnan was quite sure that at the first debauch when thoroughly drunk, one of the two would divulge the secret to the whole band. His game appeared infallible.

A fortnight after all we have said had taken place at Calais, the whole troop assembled at the Hague.

Then D’Artagnan perceived that all his men, with remarkable intelligence, had already travestied themselves into sailors, more or less ill-treated by the sea. D’Artagnan left them to sleep in a den in Newkerke street, whilst he lodged comfortably upon the Grand Canal. He learned that the king of England had come back to his old ally, William II. of Nassau, stadtholder of Holland. He learned also that the refusal of Louis XIV. had a little cooled the protection afforded him up to that time, and in consequence he had gone to reside in a little village house at Scheveningen, situated in the downs, on the sea-shore, about a league from the Hague.

There, it was said, the unfortunate banished king consoled himself in his exile, by looking, with the melancholy peculiar to the princes of his race, at that immense North Sea, which separated him from his England, as it had formerly separated Mary Stuart from France. There behind the trees of the beautiful wood of Scheveningen on the fine sand upon which grows the golden broom of the down, Charles II. vegetated as it did, more unfortunate, for he had life and thought, and he hoped and despaired by turns.

D’Artagnan went once as far as Scheveningen, in order to be certain that all was true that was said of the king. He beheld Charles II., pensive and alone, coming out of a little door opening into the wood, and walking on the beach in the setting sun, without even attracting the attention of the fishermen, who, on their return in the evening, drew, like the ancient mariners of the Archipelago, their barks up upon the sand of the shore.

D’Artagnan recognized the king; he saw him fix his melancholy look upon the immense extent of the waters, and absorb upon his pale countenance the red rays of the sun already cut by the black line of the horizon. Then Charles returned to his isolated abode, always alone, slow and sad, amusing himself with making the friable and moving sand creak beneath his feet.

That very evening D’Artagnan hired for a thousand livres a fishing-boat worth four thousand. He paid a thousand livres down, and deposited the three thousand with a Burgomaster, after which he brought on board without their being seen, the ten men who formed his land army; and with the rising tide, at three o’clock in the morning, he got into the open sea, maneuvering ostensibly with the four others, and depending upon the science of his galley slave as upon that of the first pilot of the port.

CHAPTER 23

In which the Author, very unwillingly, is forced to write a Little History

While kings and men were thus occupied with England, which governed itself quite alone, and which, it must be said in its praise, had never been so badly governed, a man upon whom God had fixed his eye, and placed his finger, a man predestined to write his name in brilliant letters upon the page of history, was pursuing in the face of the world a work full of mystery and audacity. He went on, and no one knew whither he meant to go, although not only England, but France, and Europe, watched him marching with a firm step and head held high. All that was known of this man we are about to tell.

Monk had just declared himself in favor of the liberty of the Rump Parliament, a parliament which General Lambert, imitating Cromwell, whose lieutenant he had been, had just blocked up so closely, in order to bring it to his will, that no member, during all the blockade, was able to go out, and only one, Peter Wentworth, had been able to get in.

Lambert and Monk — everything was summed up in these two men; the first representing military despotism, the second pure republicanism. These men were the two sole political representatives of that revolution in which Charles I. had first lost his crown, and afterwards his head. As regarded Lambert, he did not dissemble his views; he sought to establish a military government, and to be himself the head of that government.

Monk, a rigid republican, some said, wished to maintain the Rump Parliament, that visible though degenerated representative of the republic. Monk, artful and ambitious, said others, wished simply to make of this parliament, which he affected to protect, a solid step by which to mount the throne which Cromwell had left empty, but upon which he had never dared to take his seat.

Thus Lambert by persecuting the parliament, and Monk by declaring for it, had mutually proclaimed themselves enemies of each other. Monk and Lambert, therefore, had at first thought of creating an army each for himself: Monk in Scotland, where were the Presbyterians and the royalists, that is to say, the malcontents; Lambert in London, where was found, as is always the case, the strongest opposition to the existing power which it had beneath its eyes.

Monk had pacified Scotland, he had there formed for himself an army, and found an asylum. The one watched the other. Monk knew that the day was not yet come, the day marked by the Lord for a great change; his sword, therefore, appeared glued to the sheath. Inexpugnable, in his wild and mountainous Scotland, an absolute general, king of an army of eleven thousand old soldiers, whom he had more than once led on to victory; as well informed, nay, even better, of the affairs of London, than Lambert, who held garrison in the city, — such was the position of Monk, when, at a hundred leagues from London, he declared himself for the parliament. Lambert, on the contrary, as we have said, lived in the capital. That was the center of all his operations, and he there collected around him all his friends, and all the people of the lower class, eternally inclined to cherish the enemies of constituted power.

It was then in London that Lambert learnt the support that, from the frontiers of Scotland, Monk lent to the parliament. He judged there was no time to be lost, and that the Tweed was not so far distant from the Thames that an army could not march from one river to the other, particularly when it was well commanded. He knew, besides, that as fast as the soldiers of Monk penetrated into England, they would form on their route that ball of snow, the emblem of the globe of fortune, which is for the ambitious nothing but a step growing unceasingly higher to conduct him to his object. He got together, therefore, his army, formidable at the same time for its composition and its numbers, and hastened to meet Monk, who, on his part, like a prudent navigator sailing amidst rocks, advanced by very short marches, listening to the reports and scenting the air which came from London.

The two armies came in sight of each other near Newcastle, Lambert, arriving first, encamped in the city itself. Monk, always circumspect, stopped where he was, and placed his general quarters at Coldstream, on the Tweed. The sight of Lambert spread joy through Monk’s army, whilst, on the contrary, the sight of Monk threw disorder into Lambert’s army. It might have been thought that these intrepid warriors, who had made such a noise in the streets of London, had set out with the hopes of meeting no one, and that now seeing that they had met an army, and that that army hoisted before them not only a standard, but still further, a cause and a principle, — it might have been believed, we say, that these intrepid warriors had begun to reflect, that they were less good republicans than the soldiers of Monk, since the latter supported the parliament; whilst Lambert supported nothing, not even himself.

As to Monk, if he had had to reflect, or if he did reflect, it must have been after a sad fashion, for history relates — and that modest dame, it is well known, never lies — history relates, that the day of his arrival at Coldstream search was made in vain throughout the place for a single sheep.

If Monk had commanded an English army, that was enough to have brought about a general desertion. But it is not with the Scotch as it is with the English, to whom that fluid flesh which is called blood is a paramount necessity; the Scotch, a poor and sober race, live upon a little barley crushed between two stones, diluted with the water of the fountain, and cooked upon another stone, heated.

The Scotch, their distribution of barley being made, cared very little whether there was or was not any meat in Coldstream. Monk, little accustomed to barley-cakes, was hungry, and his staff, at least as hungry as himself, looked with anxiety right and left, to know what was being prepared for supper.

Monk ordered search to be made; his scouts had on arriving in the place found it deserted and the cupboards empty; upon butchers and bakers it was of no use depending in Coldstream. The smallest morsel of bread, then, could not be found for the general’s table.

As accounts succeeded each other, all equally unsatisfactory, Monk, seeing terror and discouragement upon every face, declared that he was not hungry; besides they should eat on the morrow, since Lambert was there probably with the intention of giving battle, and consequently would give up his provisions, if he were forced from Newcastle, or forever to relieve Monk’s soldiers from hunger if he conquered.

This consolation was only efficacious upon a very small number; but of what importance was it to Monk? for Monk was very absolute, under the appearance of the most perfect mildness. Every one, therefore, was obliged to be satisfied, or at least to appear so. Monk quite as hungry as his people, but affecting perfect indifference for the absent mutton, cut a fragment of tobacco, half an inch long, from the carotte of a sergeant who formed part of his suite, and began to masticate the said fragment, assuring his lieutenants that hunger was a chimera, and that, besides, people were never hungry when they had anything to chew.

This joke satisfied some of those who had resisted Monk’s first deduction drawn from the neighborhood of Lambert’s army; the number of the dissentients diminished greatly; the guard took their posts, the patrols began, and the general continued his frugal repast beneath his open tent.

Between his camp and that of the enemy stood an old abbey, of which, at the present day, there only remain some ruins, but which then was in existence, and was called Newcastle Abbey. It was built upon a vast site, independent at once of the plain and of the river, because it was almost a marsh fed by springs and kept up by rains. Nevertheless, in the midst of these pools of water, covered with long grass, rushes, and reeds, were seen solid spots of ground, formerly used as the kitchen-garden, the park, the pleasure-gardens, and other dependencies of the abbey, looking like one of those great sea-spiders, whose body is round, whilst the claws go diverging round from this circumference.

The kitchen-garden, one of the longest claws of the abbey, extended to Monk’s camp. Unfortunately it was, as we have said, early in June, and the kitchen-garden, being abandoned, offered no resources.

Monk had ordered this spot to be guarded, as most subject to surprises. The fires of the enemy’s general were plainly to be perceived on the other side of the abbey. But between these fires and the abbey extended the Tweed, unfolding its luminous scales beneath the thick shade of tall green oaks. Monk was perfectly well acquainted with this position, Newcastle and its environs having already more than once been his headquarters. He knew that by day his enemy might without doubt throw a few scouts into these ruins and promote a skirmish, but that by night he would take care to abstain from such a risk. He felt himself, therefore, in security.

Thus his soldiers saw him, after what he boastingly called his supper — that is to say, after the exercise of mastication reported by us at the commencement of this chapter — like Napoleon on the eve of Austerlitz, seated asleep in his rush chair, half beneath the light of his lamp, half beneath the reflection of the moon, commencing its ascent in the heavens, which denoted that it was nearly half past nine in the evening. All at once Monk was roused from his half sleep, fictitious perhaps, by a troop of soldiers, who came with joyous cries, and kicked the poles of his tent with a humming noise as if on purpose to wake him. There was no need of so much noise; the general opened his eyes quickly.

“Well, my children, what is going on now?” asked the general.

“General!” replied several voices at once, “General! you shall have some supper.”

“I have had my supper, gentlemen,” replied he, quietly, “and was comfortably digesting it, as you see. But come in, and tell me what brings you hither.”

“Good news, general.”

“Bah! Has Lambert sent us word that he will fight to-morrow?”

“No, but we have just captured a fishing-boat conveying fish to Newcastle.”

“And you have done very wrong, my friends. These gentlemen from London are delicate, must have their first course; you will put them sadly out of humor this evening, and to-morrow they will be pitiless. It would really be in good taste to send back to Lambert both his fish and his fishermen, unless —- ” and the general reflected an instant.

“Tell me,” continued he, “what are these fishermen, if you please?”

“Some Picard seamen who were fishing on the coasts of France or Holland, and who have been thrown upon ours by a gale of wind.”

“Do any among them speak our language?”

“The leader spoke some few words of English.”

The mistrust of the general was awakened in proportion as fresh information reached him. “That is well,” said he. “I wish to see these men, bring them to me.”

An officer immediately went to fetch them.

“How many are there of them?” continued Monk; “and what is their vessel?”

“There are ten or twelve of them, general, and they were aboard of a kind of chasse-maree, as it is called — Dutch-built, apparently.”

“And you say they were carrying fish to Lambert’s camp?”

“Yes, general, and they seem to have had good luck in their fishing.”

“Humph! we shall see that,” said Monk.

At this moment the officer returned, bringing the leader of the fishermen with him. He was a man from fifty to fifty-five years old, but good-looking for his age. He was of middle height, and wore a justaucorps of coarse wool, a cap pulled down over his eyes, a cutlass hung from his belt, and he walked with the hesitation peculiar to sailors, who, never knowing, thanks to the movement of the vessel, whether their foot will be placed upon the plank or upon nothing, give to every one of their steps a fall as firm as if they were driving a pile. Monk, with an acute and penetrating look, examined the fisherman for some time, while the latter smiled, with that smile half cunning, half silly, peculiar to French peasants.

“Do you speak English?” asked Monk, in excellent French.

“Ah! but badly, my lord,” replied the fisherman.

This reply was made much more with the lively and sharp accentuation of the people beyond the Loire, than with the slightly-drawling accent of the countries of the west and north of France.

“But you do speak it?” persisted Monk, in order to examine his accent once more.

“Eh! we men of the sea,” replied the fisherman, “speak a little of all languages.”

“Then you are a sea fisherman?”

“I am at present, my lord — a fisherman, and a famous fisherman too. I have taken a barbel that weighs at least thirty pounds, and more than fifty mullets; I have also some little whitings that will fry beautifully.”

“You appear to me to have fished more frequently in the Gulf of Gascony than in the Channel,” said Monk, smiling.

“Well, I am from the south; but does that prevent me from being a good fisherman, my lord?”

“Oh! not at all; I shall buy your fish. And now speak frankly; for whom did you destine them?”

“My lord, I will conceal nothing from you. I was going to Newcastle, following the coast, when a party of horsemen who were passing along in an opposite direction made a sign to my bark to turn back to your honor’s camp, under penalty of a discharge of musketry. As I was not armed for fighting,” added the fisherman, smiling, “I was forced to submit.”

“And why did you go to Lambert’s camp in preference to mine?”

“My lord, I will be frank; will your lordship permit me?”

“Yes, and even if need be shall command you to be so.”

“Well, my lord, I was going to M. Lambert’s camp because those gentlemen from the city pay well — whilst your Scotchmen, Puritans, Presbyterians, Covenanters, or whatever you choose to call them, eat but little, and pay for nothing.”

Monk shrugged his shoulders, without, however, being able to refrain from smiling at the same time. “How is it that, being from the south, you come to fish on our coasts?”

“Because I have been fool enough to marry in Picardy.”

“Yes; but even Picardy is not England.”

“My lord, man shoves his boat into the sea, but God and the wind do the rest, and drive the boat where they please.”

“You had, then, no intention of landing on our coasts?”

“Never.”

“And what route were you steering?”

“We were returning from Ostend, where some mackerel had already been seen, when a sharp wind from the south drove us from our course; then, seeing that it was useless to struggle against it, we let it drive us. It then became necessary, not to lose our fish, which were good, to go and sell them at the nearest English port, and that was Newcastle. We were told the opportunity was good, as there was an increase of population in the camp, an increase of population in the city; both, we were told, were full of gentlemen, very rich and very hungry. So we steered our course towards Newcastle.”

“And your companions, where are they?”

“Oh, my companions have remained on board; they are sailors without the least instruction.”

“Whilst you —- ” said Monk.

“Who, I?” said the patron, laughing; “I have sailed about with my father, and I know what is called a sou, a crown, a pistole, a louis, and a double louis, in all the languages of Europe; my crew, therefore, listen to me as they would to an oracle, and obey me as if I were an admiral.”

“Then it was you who preferred M. Lambert as the best customer?”

“Yes, certainly. And, to be frank, my lord, was I wrong?”

“You will see that by and by.”

“At all events, my lord, if there is a fault, the fault is mine; and my comrades should not be dealt hardly with on that account.”

“This is decidedly an intelligent, sharp fellow,” thought Monk. Then, after a few minutes, silence employed in scrutinizing the fisherman, — “You come from Ostend, did you not say?” asked the general.

“Yes, my lord, in a straight line.”

“You have then heard of the affairs of the day; for I have no doubt that both in France and Holland they excite interest. What is he doing who calls himself king of England?”

“Oh, my lord!” cried the fisherman, with loud and expansive frankness, “that is a lucky question, and you could not put it to anybody better than to me, for in truth I can make you a famous reply. Imagine, my lord, that when putting into Ostend to sell the few mackerel we had caught, I saw the ex-king walking on the downs waiting for his horses, which were to take him to the Hague. He is a rather tall, pale man, with black hair, and somewhat hard-featured. He looks ill, and I don’t think the air of Holland agrees with him.”

Monk followed with the greatest attention the rapid, heightened, and diffuse conversation of the fisherman, in a language which was not his own, but which, as we have said, he spoke with great facility. The fisherman on his part, employed sometimes a French word, sometimes an English word, and sometimes a word which appeared not to belong to any language, but was, in truth, pure Gascon. Fortunately his eyes spoke for him, and that so eloquently, that it was possible to lose a word from his mouth, but not a single intention from his eyes. The general appeared more and more satisfied with his examination. “You must have heard that this ex-king, as you call him, was going to the Hague for some purpose?”

“Oh, yes,” said the fisherman, “I heard that.”

“And what was his purpose?”

“Always the same,” said the fisherman. “Must he not always entertain the fixed idea of returning to England?”

“That is true,” said Monk, pensively.

“Without reckoning,” added the fisherman, “that the stadtholder — you know, my lord, William II.?”

“Well?”

“He will assist him with all his power.”

“Ah! did you hear that said?”

“No, but I think so.”

“You are quite a politician, apparently,” said Monk.

“Why, we sailors, my lord, who are accustomed to study the water and the air — that is to say, the two most changeable things in the world — are seldom deceived as to the rest.”

“Now, then,” said Monk, changing the conversation, “I am told you are going to provision us.”

“I shall do my best, my lord.”

“How much do you ask for your fish in the first place?”

“Not such a fool as to name a price, my lord.”

“Why not?”

“Because my fish is yours.”

“By what right?”

“By that of the strongest.”

“But my intention is to pay you for it.”

“That is very generous of you, my lord.”

“And the worth of it —- “

“My lord, I fix no price.”

“What do you ask, then?”

“I only ask to be permitted to go away.”

“Where? — to General Lambert’s camp?”

“I!” cried the fisherman; “what should I go to Newcastle for, now I have no longer any fish?”

“At all events, listen to me.”

“I do, my lord.”

“I shall give you some advice.”

“How, my lord! — pay me and give me good advice likewise! You overwhelm me, my lord.”

Monk looked more earnestly than ever at the fisherman, about whom he still appeared to entertain some suspicion. “Yes, I shall pay you, and give you a piece of advice, for the two things are connected. If you return, then, to General Lambert —- “

The fisherman made a movement of his head and shoulders, which signified, “If he persists in it, I won’t contradict him.”

“Do not cross the marsh,” continued Monk: “you will have money in your pocket, and there are in the marsh some Scotch ambuscaders I have placed there. Those people are very intractable; they understand but very little of the language which you speak, although it appears to me to be composed of three languages. They might take from you what I had given you, and, on your return to your country, you would not fail to say that General Monk has two hands, the one Scotch, and the other English; and that he takes back with the Scotch hand what he has given with the English hand.”

“Oh! general, I shall go where you like, be sure of that,” said the fisherman, with a fear too expressive not to be exaggerated. “I only wish to remain here, if you will allow me to remain.”

“I readily believe you,” said Monk, with an imperceptible smile, “but I cannot, nevertheless, keep you in my tent.”

“I have no such wish, my lord, and desire only that your lordship should point out where you will have me posted. Do not trouble yourself about us — with us a night soon passes away.”

“You shall be conducted to your bark.”

“As your lordship pleases. Only, if your lordship would allow me to be taken back by a carpenter, I should be extremely grateful.”

“Why so?”

“Because the gentlemen of your army, in dragging my boat up the river with a cable pulled by their horses, have battered it a little upon the rocks of the shore, so that I have at least two feet of water in my hold, my lord.”

“The greater reason why you should watch your boat, I think.”

“My lord, I am quite at your orders,” said the fisherman; “I shall empty my baskets where you wish; then you will pay me, if you please to do so; and you will send me away, if it appears right to you. You see I am very easily managed and pleased, my lord.”

“Come, come, you are a very good sort of a fellow,” said Monk, whose scrutinizing glance had not been able to find a single shade in the clear eye of the fisherman. “Holloa, Digby!” An aide-de-camp appeared. “You will conduct this good fellow and his companions to the little tents of the canteens, in front of the marshes, so that they will be near their bark, and yet will not sleep on board to-night. What is the matter, Spithead?”

Spithead was the sergeant from whom Monk had borrowed a piece of tobacco for his supper. Spithead, having entered the general’s tent without being sent for, had drawn this question from Monk.

“My lord,” said he, “a French gentleman has just presented himself at the outposts and wishes to speak to your honor.”

All this was said, be it understood, in English; but notwithstanding, it produced a slight emotion in the fisherman, which Monk, occupied with his sergeant, did not remark.

“Who is the gentleman?” asked Monk.

“My lord,” replied Spithead, “he told it me, but those devils of French names are so difficult to pronounce for a Scotch throat, that I could not retain it. I believe, however, from what the guards say, that it is the same gentleman who presented himself yesterday at the halt, and whom your honor would not receive.”

“That is true; I was holding a council of officers.”

“Will your honor give any orders respecting this gentleman?”

“Yes, let him be brought here.”

“Must we take any precautions?”

“Such as what?”

“Binding his eyes, for instance.”

“To what purpose? He can only see what I desire should be seen; that is to say, that I have around me eleven thousand brave men, who ask no better than to have their throats cut in honor of the parliament of Scotland and England.”

“And this man, my lord?” said Spithead, pointing to the fisherman, who, during this conversation, had remained standing and motionless, like a man who sees but does not understand.

“Ah, that is true,” said Monk. Then turning towards the fisherman, — “I shall see you again, my brave fellow,” said he; “I have selected a lodging for you. Digby, take him to it. Fear nothing: your money shall be sent to you presently.”

“Thank you, my lord,” said the fisherman, and after having bowed, he left the tent, accompanied by Digby. Before he had gone a hundred paces he found his companions, who were whispering with a volubility which did not appear exempt from uneasiness, but he made them a sign which seemed to reassure them. “Hola, you fellows!” said the patron, “come this way. His lordship, General Monk, has the generosity to pay us for our fish, and the goodness to give us hospitality for to-night.”

The fishermen gathered round their leader, and, conducted by Digby, the little troop proceeded towards the canteens, the post, as may be remembered, which had been assigned them. As they went along in the dark, the fishermen passed close to the guards who were conducting the French gentleman to General Monk. This gentleman was on horseback, and enveloped in a large cloak, which prevented the patron from seeing him, however great his curiosity might be. As to the gentleman, ignorant that he was elbowing compatriots, he did not pay any attention to the little troop.

The aid-de-camp settled his guests in a tolerably comfortable tent, from which was dislodged an Irish canteen woman, who went, with her six children, to sleep where she could. A large fire was burning in front of this tent, and threw its purple light over the grassy pools of the marsh, rippled by a fresh breeze. The arrangements made, the aid-de-camp wished the fishermen good-night, calling to their notice that they might see from the door of the tent the masts of their bark, which was tossing gently on the Tweed, a proof that it had not yet sunk. The sight of this appeared to delight the leader of the fishermen infinitely.

CHAPTER 24

The Treasure

The French gentleman whom Spithead had announced to Monk, and who, closely wrapped in his cloak, had passed by the fishermen who left the general’s tent five minutes before he entered it, — the French gentleman went through the various posts without even casting his eyes around him, for fear of appearing indiscreet. As the order had been given, he was conducted to the tent of the general. The gentleman was left alone in the sort of ante-chamber in front of the principal body of the tent, where he awaited Monk, who only delayed till he had heard the report of his people, and observed through the opening of the canvas the countenance of the person who solicited an audience.

Without doubt, the report of those who had accompanied the French gentleman established the discretion with which he had behaved, for the first impression the stranger received of the welcome made him by the general was more favorable than he could have expected at such a moment, and on the part of so suspicious a man. Nevertheless, according to his custom, when Monk found himself in the presence of a stranger, he fixed upon him his penetrating eyes, which scrutiny, the stranger, on his part, sustained without embarrassment or notice. At the end of a few seconds, the general made a gesture with his hand and head in sign of attention.

“My lord,” said the gentleman, in excellent English. “I have requested an interview with your honor, for an affair of importance.”

“Monsieur,” replied Monk, in French, “you speak our language well for a son of the continent. I ask your pardon — for doubtless the question is indiscreet — do you speak French with the same purity?”

“There is nothing surprising, my lord, in my speaking English tolerably; I resided for some time in England in my youth, and since then I have made two voyages to this country.” These words were spoken in French, and with a purity of accent that bespoke not only a Frenchman, but a Frenchman from the vicinity of Tours.

“And what part of England have you resided in, monsieur?”

“In my youth, London, my lord, then, about 1635, I made a pleasure trip to Scotland; and lastly, in 1648, I lived for some time at Newcastle, particularly in the convent, the gardens of which are now occupied by your army.”

“Excuse me, monsieur, but you must comprehend that these questions are necessary on my part — do you not?”

“It would astonish me, my lord, if they were not asked.”

“Now, then, monsieur, what can I do to serve you? What do you wish?”

“This, my lord; — but, in the first place, are we alone?”

“Perfectly so, monsieur, except, of course, the post which guards us.” So saying, Monk pulled open the canvas with his hand, and pointed to the soldier placed at ten paces from the tent, and who, at the first call could have rendered assistance in a second.

“In that case my lord,” said the gentleman, in as calm a tone as if he had been for a length of time in habits of intimacy with his interlocutor, I have made up my mind to address myself to you, because I believe you to be an honest man. Indeed, the communication I am about to make to you will prove to you the esteem in which I hold you.”

Monk, astonished at this language, which established between him and the French gentleman equality at least, raised his piercing eye to the stranger’s face, and with a sensible irony conveyed by the inflection of his voice alone, for not a muscle of his face moved, — “I thank you, monsieur,” said he; “but, in the first place, to whom have I the honor of speaking?”

“I sent you my name by your sergeant, my lord.”

“Excuse him, monsieur, he is a Scotchman, — he could not retain it.”

“I am called the Comte de la Fere, monsieur,” said Athos, bowing.

“The Comte de la Fere?” said Monk, endeavoring to recollect the name. “Pardon me, monsieur, but this appears to be the first time I have ever heard that name. Do you fill any post at the court of France?”

“None; I am a simple gentleman.”

“What dignity?”

“King Charles I. made me a knight of the Garter, and Queen Anne of Austria has given me the cordon of the Holy Ghost. These are my only dignities.”

“The Garter! the Holy Ghost! Are you a knight of those two orders, monsieur?”

“Yes.”

“And on what occasions have such favors been bestowed upon you?”

“For services rendered to their majesties.”

Monk looked with astonishment at this man, who appeared to him so simple and so great at the same time. Then, as if he had renounced endeavoring to penetrate this mystery of a simplicity and grandeur upon which the stranger did not seem disposed to give him any other information than that which he had already received, — “Did you present yourself yesterday at our advanced posts?”

“And was sent back? Yes, my lord.”

“Many officers, monsieur, would permit no one to enter their camp, particularly on the eve of a probable battle. But I differ from my colleagues, and like to leave nothing behind me. Every advice is good to me; all danger is sent to me by God, and I weigh it in my hand with the energy He has given me. So, yesterday, you were only sent back on account of the council I was holding. To-day I am at liberty, — speak.”

“My lord, you have done much better in receiving me, for what I have to say has nothing to do with the battle you are about to fight with General Lambert, or with your camp; and the proof is, that I turned away my head that I might not see your men, and closed my eyes that I might not count your tents. No, I come to speak to you, my lord, on my own account.”

“Speak, then, monsieur,” said Monk.

“Just now ” continued Athos, “I had the honor of telling your lordship that for a long time I lived in Newcastle; it was in the time of Charles I., and when the king was given up to Cromwell by the Scots.”

“I know,” said Monk, coldly.

“I had at that time a large sum in gold, and on the eve of the battle, from a presentiment perhaps of the turn which things would take on the morrow, I concealed it in the principal vault of the convent of Newcastle, in the tower whose summit you now see silvered by the moonbeams. My treasure has then remained interred there, and I have come to entreat your honor to permit me to withdraw it before, perhaps, the battle turning that way, a mine or some other war engine has destroyed the building and scattered my gold, or rendered it so apparent that the soldiers will take possession of it.”

Monk was well acquainted with mankind, he saw in the physiognomy of this gentleman all the energy, all the reason, all the circumspection possible, he could therefore only attribute to a magnanimous confidence the revelation the Frenchman had made him, and he showed himself profoundly touched by it.

“Monsieur,” said he, “you have augured well of me. But is the sum worth the trouble to which you expose yourself? Do you even believe that it can be in the place where you left it?”

“It is there, monsieur, I do not doubt.”

“That is a reply to one question; but to the other. I asked you if the sum was so large as to warrant your exposing yourself thus.”

“It is really large; yes, my lord, for it is a million I inclosed in two barrels.”

“A million!” cried Monk, at whom this time, in turn, Athos looked earnestly and long. Monk perceived this, and his mistrust returned.

“Here is a man,” said he, “who is laying a snare for me. So you wish to withdraw this money, monsieur,” replied he, “as I understand?”

“If you please, my lord.”

“To-day?”

“This very evening, and that on account of the circumstances I have named.”

“But, monsieur,” objected Monk, “General Lambert is as near the abbey where you have to act as I am. Why, then, have you not addressed yourself to him?”

“Because, my lord, when one acts in important matters, it is best to consult one’s instinct before everything. Well, General Lambert does not inspire me with so much confidence as you do.”

“Be it so, monsieur. I shall assist you in recovering your money, if, however, it can still be there; for that is far from likely. Since 1648 twelve years have rolled away, and many events have taken place.” Monk dwelt upon this point to see if the French gentleman would seize the evasions that were open to him, but Athos did not hesitate.

“I assure you, my lord,” he said firmly, “that my conviction is, that the two barrels have neither changed place nor master.” This reply had removed one suspicion from the mind of Monk, but it had suggested another. Without doubt this Frenchman was some emissary sent to entice into error the protector of the parliament; the gold was nothing but a lure; and by the help of this lure they thought to excite the cupidity of the general. This gold might not exist. It was Monk’s business, then, to seize the Frenchman in the act of falsehood and trick, and to draw from the false step itself in which his enemies wished to entrap him, a triumph for his renown. When Monk was determined how to act, —

“Monsieur,” said he to Athos, “without doubt you will do me the honor to share my supper this evening?”

“Yes, my lord,” replied Athos, bowing, “for you do me an honor of which I feel myself worthy, by the inclination which drew me towards you.”

“It is so much the more gracious on your part to accept my invitation with such frankness, as my cooks are but few and inexperienced, and my providers have returned this evening empty-handed; so that if it had not been for a fisherman of your nation who strayed into our camp, General Monk would have gone to bed without his supper to-day; I have, then, some fresh fish to offer you, as the vendor assures me.”

“My lord, it is principally for the sake of having the honor to pass another hour with you.”

After this exchange of civilities, during which Monk had lost nothing of his circumspection, the supper, or what was to serve for one, had been laid upon a deal table. Monk invited the Comte de la Fere to be seated at this table, and took his place opposite to him. A single dish of boiled fish, set before the two illustrious guests, was more tempting to hungry stomachs than to delicate palates.

Whilst supping, that is, while eating the fish, washed down with bad ale, Monk got Athos to relate to him the last events of the Fronde, the reconciliation of M. de Conde with the king, and the probable marriage of the infanta of Spain; but he avoided, as Athos himself avoided it, all allusion to the political interests which united, or rather which disunited at this time, England, France and Holland.

Monk, in this conversation, convinced himself of one thing, which he must have remarked after the first words exchanged: that was, that he had to deal with a man of high distinction. He could not be an assassin, and it was repugnant to Monk to believe him to be a spy, but there was sufficient finesse and at the same time firmness in Athos to lead Monk to fancy he was a conspirator. When they had quitted table, “You still believe in your treasure, then, monsieur?” asked Monk.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Quite seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“And you think you can find the place again where it was buried?”

“At the first inspection.”

“Well, monsieur, from curiosity I shall accompany you. And it is so much the more necessary that I should accompany you, that you would find great difficulties in passing through the camp without me or one of my lieutenants.”

“General, I would not suffer you to inconvenience yourself if I did not, in fact, stand in need of your company; but as I recognize that this company is not only honorable, but necessary, I accept it.”

“Do you desire we should take any people with us?” asked Monk.

“General, I believe that would be useless, if you yourself do not see the necessity for it. Two men and a horse will suffice to transport the two casks on board the felucca which brought me hither.”

“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 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 Scotch dirk in his left hand, and then turning to Athos, “Are you ready, monsieur?” said he.

“I am.”

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.”

CHAPTER 25

The March

Athos and Monk passed over, in going from the camp towards the Tweed, that part of the ground which Digby had traversed with the fishermen coming from the Tweed to the camp. The aspect of this place, the aspect of the changes man had wrought in it, was of a nature to produce a great effect upon a lively and delicate imagination like that of Athos. Athos looked at nothing but these desolate spots; Monk looked at nothing but Athos — at Athos, who, with his eyes sometimes directed towards heaven, and sometimes towards the earth, sought, thought, and sighed.

Digby, whom the last orders of the general, and particularly the accent with which he had given them, had at first a little excited, followed the pair at about twenty paces, but the general having turned round as if astonished to find his orders had not been obeyed, the aid-de-camp perceived his indiscretion and returned to his tent.

He supposed that the general wished to make, incognito, one of those reviews of vigilance which every experienced captain never fails to make on the eve of a decisive engagement: he explained to himself the presence of Athos in this case as an inferior explains all that is mysterious on the part of his leader. Athos might be, and, indeed, in the eyes of Digby, must be, a spy, whose information was to enlighten the general.

At the end of a walk of about ten minutes among the tents and posts, which were closer together near the headquarters, Monk entered upon a little causeway which diverged into three branches. That on the left led to the river, that in the middle to Newcastle Abbey on the marsh, that on the right crossed the first lines of Monk’s camp, that is to say, the lines nearest to Lambert’s army. Beyond the river was an advanced post belonging to Monk’s army, which watched the enemy; it was composed of one hundred and fifty Scots. They had swum across the Tweed, and, in case of attack, were to recross it in the same manner, giving the alarm; but as there was no post at that spot, and as Lambert’s soldiers were not so prompt at taking to the water as Monk’s were, the latter appeared not to have much uneasiness on that side. On this side of the river, at about five hundred paces from the old abbey, the fishermen had taken up their abode amidst a crowd of small tents raised by the soldiers of the neighboring clans, who had with them their wives and children. All this confusion, seen by the moon’s light, presented a striking coup d’oeil; the half shadow enlarged every detail, and the light, that flatterer which only attaches itself to the polished side of things, courted upon each rusty musket the point still left intact, and upon every rag of canvas the whitest and least sullied part.

Monk arrived then with Athos, crossing this spot, illumined with a double light, the silver splendor of the moon, and the red blaze of the fires at the meeting of the three causeways; there he stopped, and addressing his companion, — “Monsieur,” said he, “do you know your road?”

“General, if I am not mistaken, the middle causeway leads straight to the abbey.”

“That is right; but we shall want lights to guide us in the vaults.” Monk turned round.

“Ah! I thought Digby was following us!” said he. “So much the better; he will procure us what we want.”

“Yes, general, there is a man yonder who has been walking behind us for some time.”

“Digby!” cried Monk. “Digby! come here, if you please.”

But, instead of obeying, the shadow made a motion of surprise, and, retreating instead of advancing, it bent down and disappeared along the jetty on the left, directing its course towards the lodging of the fishermen.

“It appears not to be Digby,” said Monk.

Both had followed the shadow which had vanished. But it was not so rare a thing for a man to be wandering about at eleven o’clock at night, in a camp in which are reposing ten or eleven thousand men, as to give Monk and Athos any alarm at his disappearance.

“As it is so,” said Monk, “and we must have a light, a lantern, a torch, or something by which we may see where to set our feet, let us seek this light.”

“General, the first soldier we meet will light us.”

“No,” said Monk, in order to discover if there were not any connivance between the Comte de la Fere and the fisherman. “No, I should prefer one of these French sailors who came this evening to sell me their fish. They leave to-morrow, and the secret will be better kept by them; whereas, if a report should be spread in the Scotch army, that treasures are to be found in the abbey of Newcastle, my Highlanders will believe there is a million concealed beneath every slab, and they will not leave stone upon stone in the building.”

“Do as you think best, general,” replied Athos in a natural tone of voice, making evident that soldier or fisherman was the same to him, and that he had no preference.

Monk approached the causeway behind which had disappeared the person he had taken for Digby, and met a patrol who, making the tour of the tents, was going towards headquarters; he was stopped with his companion, gave the password, and went on. A soldier, roused by the noise, unrolled his plaid, and looked up to see what was going forward. “Ask him,” said Monk to Athos, “where the fishermen are; if I were to speak to him, he would know me.”

Athos went up to the soldier, who pointed out the tent to him; immediately Monk and Athos turned towards it. It appeared to the general that at the moment they came up, a shadow like that they had already seen glided into this tent; but on drawing nearer he perceived he must have been mistaken, for all of them were asleep pele mele, and nothing was seen but arms and legs joined, crossed, and mixed. Athos, fearing lest he should be suspected of connivance with some of his compatriots, remained outside the tent.

“Hola!” said Monk, in French, “wake up here.” Two or three of the sleepers got up.

“I want a man to light me,” continued Monk.

“Your honor may depend upon us,” said a voice which made Athos start. “Where do you wish us to go?”

“You shall see. A light! come, quickly!”

“Yes, your honor. Does it please your honor that I should accompany you?”

“You or another, it is of very little consequence, provided I have a light.”

“It is strange!” thought Athos, “what a singular voice that man has!”

“Some fire, you fellows!” cried the fisherman; “come, make haste!”

Then addressing his companion nearest to him in a low voice: — “Get a light, Menneville,” said he, “and hold yourself ready for anything.”

One of the fishermen struck light from a stone, set fire to some tinder, and by the aid of a match lit a lantern. The light immediately spread all over the tent.

“Are you ready, monsieur?” said Monk to Athos, who had turned away, not to expose his face to the light.

“Yes, general,” replied he.

“Ah! the French gentleman!” said the leader of the fishermen to himself. “Peste! I have a great mind to charge you with the commission, Menneville; he may know me. Light! light!” This dialogue was pronounced at the back of the tent, and in so low a voice that Monk could not hear a syllable of it; he was, besides, talking with Athos. Menneville got himself ready in the meantime, or rather received the orders of his leader.

“Well?” said Monk.

“I am ready, general,” said the fisherman.

Monk, Athos, and the fisherman left the tent.

“It is impossible!” thought Athos. “What dream could put that into my head?”

“Go forward; follow the middle causeway, and stretch out your legs,” said Monk to the fisherman.

They were not twenty paces on their way when the same shadow that had appeared to enter the tent came out of it again, crawled along as far as the piles, and, protected by that sort of parapet placed along the causeway, carefully observed the march of the general. All three disappeared in the night haze. They were walking towards Newcastle, the white stones of which appeared to them like sepulchres. After standing for a few seconds under the porch, they penetrated into the interior. The door had been broken open by hatchets. A post of four men slept in safety in a corner, so certain were they that the attack would not take place on that side.

“Will not these men be in your way?” said Monk to Athos.

“On the contrary, monsieur, they will assist in rolling out the barrels, if your honor will permit them.”

“You are right.”

The post, though fast asleep, roused up at the first steps of the three visitors amongst the briars and grass that invaded the porch. Monk gave the password, and penetrated into the interior of the convent, preceded by the light. He walked last, watching the least movement of Athos, his naked dirk in his sleeve, and ready to plunge it into the back of the gentleman at the first suspicious gesture he should see him make. But Athos, with a firm and sure step, crossed the chambers and courts.

Not a door, not a window was left in this building. The doors had been burnt, some on the spot, and the charcoal of them was still jagged with the action of the fire, which had gone out of itself, powerless, no doubt, to get to the heart of those massive joints of oak fastened together with iron nails. As to the windows, all the panes having been broken, night birds, alarmed by the torch, flew away through their holes. At the same time, gigantic bats began to trace their vast, silent circles around the intruders, whilst the light of the torch made their shadows tremble on the high stone walls. Monk concluded there could be no man in the convent, since wild beasts and birds were there still, and fled away at his approach.

After having passed the rubbish, and torn away more than one branch of ivy that had made itself a guardian of the solitude, Athos arrived at the vaults situated beneath the great hall, but the entrance of which was from the chapel. There he stopped. “Here we are, general,” said he.

“This, then, is the slab?”

“Yes.”

“Ay, and here is the ring — but the ring is sealed into the stone.”

“We must have a lever.”

“That’s a thing very easy to find.”

Whilst looking round them, Athos and Monk perceived a little ash of about three inches in diameter, which had shot up in an angle of the wall, reaching a window, concealed by its branches.

“Have you a knife?” said Monk to the fisherman.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Cut down this tree; then.”

The fisherman obeyed, but not without notching his cutlass. When the ash was cut and fashioned into the shape of a lever, the three men penetrated into the vault.

“Stop where you are,” said Monk to the fisherman. “We are going to dig up some powder; your light may be dangerous.”

The man drew back in a sort of terror, and faithfully kept to the post assigned him, whilst Monk and Athos turned behind a column at the foot of which, penetrating through a crack, was a moonbeam, reflected exactly on the stone which the Comte de la Fere had come so far in search.

“This is it,” said Athos, pointing out to the general the Latin inscription.

“Yes,” said Monk.

Then, as if still willing to leave the Frenchman one means of evasion, —

“Do you not observe that this vault has already been broken into,” continued he, “and that several statues have been knocked down?”

“My lord, you have, without doubt, heard that the religious respect of your Scots loves to confide to the statues of the dead the valuable objects they have possessed during their lives. Therefore, the soldiers had reason to think that under the pedestals of the statues which ornament most of these tombs, a treasure was hidden. They have consequently broken down pedestal and statue: but the tomb of the venerable canon, with which we have to do, is not distinguished by any monument. It is simple, therefore it has been protected by the superstitious fear which your Puritans have always had of sacrilege. Not a morsel of the masonry of this tomb has been chipped off.”

“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.”

“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 only appeared 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