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46. THE BASTION SAINT-GERVAIS

On arriving at the lodgings of his three friends, d'Artagnan
found them assembled in the same chamber. Athos was
meditating; Porthos was twisting his mustache; Aramis was
saying his prayers in a charming little Book of Hours, bound
in blue velvet.

"Pardieu, gentlemen," said he. "I hope what you have to
tell me is worth the trouble, or else, I warn you, I will
not pardon you for making me come here instead of getting a
little rest after a night spent in taking and dismantling a
bastion. Ah, why were you not there, gentlemen? It was
warm work."

"We were in a place where it was not very cold," replied
Porthos, giving his mustache a twist which was peculiar to
him.

"Hush!" said Athos.

"Oh, oh!" said d'Artagnan, comprehending the slight frown of
the Musketeer. "It appears there is something fresh
aboard."

"Aramis," said Athos, "you went to breakfast the day before
yesterday at the inn of the Parpaillot, I believe?"

"Yes."

"How did you fare?"

"For my part, I ate but little. The day before yesterday
was a fish day, and they had nothing but meat."

"What," said Athos, "no fish at a seaport?"

"They say," said Aramis, resuming his pious reading, "that
the dyke which the cardinal is making drives them all out
into the open sea."

"But that is not quite what I mean to ask you, Aramis,"
replied Athos. "I want to know if you were left alone, and
nobody interrupted
you."

"Why, I think there were not many intruders. Yes, Athos, I
know what you mean: we shall do very well at the
Parpaillot."

"Let us go to the Parpaillot, then, for here the walls are
like sheets of paper."

D'Artagnan, who was accustomed to his friend's manner of
acting, and who perceived immediately, by a word, a gesture,
or a sign from him, that the circumstances were serious,
took Athos's arm, and went out without saying anything.
Porthos followed, chatting with Aramis.

On their way they met Grimaud. Athos made him a sign to
come with them. Grimaud, according to custom, obeyed in
silence; the poor lad had nearly come to the pass of
forgetting how to speak.

They arrived at the drinking room of the Parpaillot. It was
seven o'clock in the morning, and daylight began to appear.
The three friends ordered breakfast, and went into a room in
which the host said they would not be disturbed.

Unfortunately, the hour was badly chosen for a private
conference. The morning drum had just been beaten; everyone
shook off the drowsiness of night, and to dispel the humid
morning air, came to take a drop at the inn. Dragoons,
Swiss, Guardsmen, Musketeers, light-horsemen, succeeded one
another with a rapidity which might answer the purpose of
the host very well, but agreed badly with the views of the
four friends. Thus they applied very curtly to the
salutations, healths, and jokes of their companions.

"I see how it will be," said Athos: "we shall get into some
pretty quarrel or other, and we have no need of one just
now. D'Artagnan, tell us what sort of a night you have had,
and we will describe ours afterward."

"Ah, yes," said a light-horseman, with a glass of brandy in
his hand, which he sipped slowly. "I hear you gentlemen of
the Guards have been in the trenches tonight, and that you
did not get much the best of the Rochellais."

D'Artagnan looked at Athos to know if he ought to reply to
this intruder who thus mixed unmasked in their conversation.

"Well," said Athos, "don't you hear Monsieur de Busigny, who
does you the honor to ask you a question? Relate what has
passed during the night, since these gentlemen desire to
know it."

"Have you not taken a bastion?" said a Swiss, who was
drinking rum out of beer glass.

"Yes, monsieur," said d'Artagnan, bowing, "we have had that
honor. We even have, as you may have heard, introduced a
barrel of powder under one of the angles, which in blowing
up made a very pretty breach. Without reckoning that as the
bastion was not built yesterday all the rest of the building
was badly shaken."

"And what bastion is it?" asked a dragoon, with his saber
run through a goose which he was taking to be cooked.

"The bastion St. Gervais," replied d'Artagnan, "from behind
which the Rochellais annoyed our workmen."

"Was that affair hot?"

"Yes, moderately so. We lost five men, and the Rochellais
eight or ten."

"Balzempleu!" said the Swiss, who, notwithstanding the
admirable collection of oaths possessed by the German
language, had acquired a habit of swearing in French.

"But it is probable," said the light-horseman, "that they
will send pioneers this morning to repair the bastion."

"Yes, that's probable," said d'Artagnan.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "a wager!"

"Ah, wooi, a vager!" cried the Swiss.

"What is it?" said the light-horseman.

"Stop a bit," said the dragoon, placing his saber like a
spit upon the two large iron dogs which held the firebrands
in the chimney, "stop a bit, I am in it. You cursed host! a
dripping pan immediately, that I may not lose a drop of the
fat of this estimable bird."

"You was right," said the Swiss; "goose grease is kood with
basdry."

"There!" said the dragoon. "Now for the wager! We listen, Monsieur Athos."

"Yes, the wager!" said the light-horseman.

"Well, Monsieur de Busigny, I will bet you," said Athos,
"that my three companions, Messieurs Porthos, Aramis, and
d'Artagnan, and myself, will go and breakfast in the bastion
St. Gervais, and we will remain there an hour, by the watch,
whatever the enemy may do to dislodge us."

Porthos and Aramis looked at each other; they began to
comprehend.

"But," said d'Artagnan, in the ear of Athos, "you are going
to get us all killed without mercy."

"We are much more likely to be killed," said Athos, "if we
do not go."

"My faith, gentlemen," said Porthos, turning round upon his
chair and twisting his mustache, "that's a fair bet, I
hope."

"I take it," said M. de Busigny; "so let us fix the stake."

"You are four gentlemen," said Athos, "and we are four; an
unlimited dinner for eight. Will that do?"

"Capitally," replied M. de Busigny.

"Perfectly," said the dragoon.

"That shoots me," said the Swiss.

The fourth auditor, who during all this conversation had
played a mute part, made a sign of the head in proof that he
acquiesced in the proposition.

"The breakfast for these gentlemen is ready," said the host.

"Well, bring it," said Athos.

The host obeyed. Athos called Grimaud, pointed to a large
basket which lay in a corner, and made a sign to him to wrap
the viands up in the napkins.

Grimaud understood that it was to be a breakfast on the
grass, took the basket, packed up the viands, added the
bottles, and then took the basket on his arm.

"But where are you going to eat my breakfast?" asked the
host.

"What matter, if you are paid for it?" said Athos, and he
threw two pistoles majestically on the table.

"Shall I give you the change, my officer?" said the host.

"No, only add two bottles of champagne, and the difference
will be for the napkins."

The host had not quite so good a bargain as he at first
hoped for, but he made amends by slipping in two bottles of
Anjou wine instead of two bottles of champagne.

"Monsieur de Busigny," said Athos, "will you be so kind as
to set your watch with mine, or permit me to regulate mine
by yours?"

"Which you please, monsieur!" said the light-horseman,
drawing from his fob a very handsome watch, studded with
diamonds; "half past seven."

"Thirty-five minutes after seven," said Athos, "by which you
perceive I am five minutes faster than you."

And bowing to all the astonished persons present, the young
men took the road to the bastion St. Gervais, followed by
Grimaud, who carried the basket, ignorant of where he was
going but in the passive obedience which Athos had taught
him not even thinking of asking.

As long as they were within the circle of the camp, the four
friends did not exchange one word; besides, they were
followed by the curious, who, hearing of the wager, were
anxious to know how they would come out of it. But when
once they passed the line of circumvallation and found
themselves in the open plain, d'Artagnan, who was completely
ignorant of what was going forward, thought it was time to
demand an explanation.

"And now, my dear Athos," said he, "do me the kindness to
tell me where we are going?"

"Why, you see plainly enough we are going to the bastion."

"But what are we going to do there?"

"You know well that we go to breakfast there."

"But why did we not breakfast at the Parpaillot?"

"Because we have very important matters to communicate to
one another, and it was impossible to talk five minutes in
that inn without being annoyed by all those importunate
fellows, who keep coming in, saluting you, and addressing
you. Here at least," said Athos, pointing to the bastion,
"they will not come and disturb us."

"It appears to me," said d'Artagnan, with that prudence
which allied itself in him so naturally with excessive
bravery, "that we could have found some retired place on the
downs or the seashore."

"Where we should have been seen all four conferring
together, so that at the end of a quarter of an hour the
cardinal would have been informed by his spies that we were
holding a council."

"Yes," said Aramis, "Athos is right: ANIMADVERTUNTUR IN
DESERTIS."

"A desert would not have been amiss," said Porthos; "but it
behooved us to find it."

"There is no desert where a bird cannot pass over one's
head, where a fish cannot leap out of the water, where a
rabbit cannot come out of its burrow, and I believe that
bird, fish, and rabbit each becomes a spy of the cardinal.
Better, then, pursue our enterprise; from which, besides, we
cannot retreat without shame. We have made a wager--a wager
which could not have been foreseen, and of which I defy
anyone to divine the true cause. We are going, in order to
win it, to remain an hour in the bastion. Either we shall
be attacked, or not. If we are not, we shall have all the
time to talk, and nobody will hear us--for I guarantee the
walls of the bastion have no ears; if we are, we will talk
of our affairs just the same. Moreover, in defending
ourselves, we shall cover ourselves with glory. You see
that everything is to our advantage."

"Yes," said d'Artagnan; "but we shall indubitably attract a
ball."

"Well, my dear," replied Athos, "you know well that the
balls most to be dreaded are not from the enemy."

"But for such an expedition we surely ought to have brought
our muskets."

"You are stupid, friend Porthos. Why should we load
ourselves with a useless burden?"

"I don't find a good musket, twelve cartridges, and a powder
flask very useless in the face of an enemy."

"Well," replied Athos, "have you not heard what d'Artagnan
said?"

"What did he say?" demanded Porthos.

"d'Artagnan said that in the attack of last night eight or
ten Frenchmen were killed, and as many Rochellais."

"What then?"

"The bodies were not plundered, were they? It appears the
conquerors had something else to do."

"Well?"

"Well, we shall find their muskets, their cartridges, and
their flasks; and instead of four musketoons and twelve
balls, we shall have fifteen guns and a hundred charges to
fire."

"Oh, Athos!" said Aramis, "truly you are a great man."

Porthos nodded in sign of agreement. D'Artagnan alone did
not seem convinced.

Grimaud no doubt shared the misgivings of the young man, for
seeing that they continued to advance toward the
bastion--something he had till then doubted--he pulled his
master by the skirt of his coat.

"Where are we going?" asked he, by a gesture.

Athos pointed to the bastion.

"But," said Grimaud, in the same silent dialect, "we shall
leave our skins there."

Athos raised his eyes and his finger toward heaven.

Grimaud put his basket on the ground and sat down with a
shake of the head.

Athos took a pistol from his belt, looked to see if it was
properly primed, cocked it, and placed the muzzle close to
Grimaud's ear.

Grimaud was on his legs again as if by a spring. Athos then
made him a sign to take up his basket and to walk on first.
Grimaud obeyed. All that Grimaud gained by this momentary
pantomime was to pass from the rear guard to the vanguard.

Arrived at the bastion, the four friends turned round.

More than three hundred soldiers of all kinds were assembled
at the gate of the camp; and in a separate group might be
distinguished M. de Busigny, the dragoon, the Swiss, and the
fourth bettor.

Athos took off his hat, placed it on the end of his sword,
and waved it in the air.

All the spectators returned him his salute, accompanying
this courtesy with a loud hurrah which was audible to the
four; after which all four disappeared in the bastion,
whither Grimaud had preceded them.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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