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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Defense of the Bastion Saint-Gervais
By Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)
 
From ‘The Three Musketeers’

WHEN D’Artagnan arrived, he found his three friends all together. Athos was thinking deeply, Porthos was twirling his mustache, and Aramis was reading his prayers out of a beautiful little book bound in blue velvet.  1
  “My faith, gentlemen!” exclaimed he, “I hope that what you have to tell me is very important, or I shall owe you a grudge for dragging me here, out of my bed, after a whole night passed in taking and dismantling a bastion! Ah, it is a thousand pities you were not there! It was warm work!”  2
  “We were somewhere else, where it was not very cold either,” replied Porthos, giving his mustache another twist….  3
  “Aramis,” said Athos, “didn’t you breakfast the other day at Parpaillot’s?”  4
  “Yes.”  5
  “Were you comfortable there?”  6
  “No, I did not like it at all. It was a fast day, and they had nothing but meat.”  7
  “What, no fish to be had in a seaport town?”  8
  “They say,” replied Aramis, taking up his book, “that they have all taken to the deep sea, since the Cardinal built that dike.”  9
  “That is not what I was asking,” replied Athos. “Were you quite free and at your ease, or did any one pay attention to you?”  10
  “Oh, nobody paid any attention to me. And if that is your object, Athos, Parpaillot’s will suit us very well.”  11
  “Let us go at once then,” said Athos, “for these walls are like paper.”  12
  On the way they met Grimaud [the valet of Athos], whom Athos beckoned silently to follow them. Grimaud, according to his custom, obeyed without a word. The poor fellow had almost forgotten how to speak!  13
  It did not take them long to reach Parpaillot’s, but unluckily the hour was ill chosen for a private conference. The réveille had just been sounded, and the sleepy soldiers were all pouring into the inn. This state of matters delighted the landlord, but was hardly so agreeable to the four friends, who merely nodded sulkily at the salutations of the crowd.  14
  “If we are not careful,” said Athos, rousing himself, “we shall find ourselves landed in some quarrel, which would be highly inconvenient at this moment. D’Artagnan, tell us about your night’s work, and then we will tell you about ours.”  15
  “Ah yes,” said a light-horse soldier, who was slowly sipping a glass of brandy, “you were down at the trenches last night, I think, and I believe you had a brush with the Rochellois.”  16
  D’Artagnan looked at Athos, to see if he ought to answer or not.  17
  “My dear fellow,” replied Athos, “I don’t think you are aware that M. De Busigny did you the honor to address you! Since these gentlemen are interested in last night’s affair, tell them about it.”  18
  “Is it true that you captured a bastion?” asked a Swiss, who had filled his beer up with rum.  19
  “Yes, monsieur,” replied D’Artagnan, “we had that honor. We also introduced a barrel of powder into a corner, which in exploding opened a really beautiful breach; and as the bastion was not built yesterday, the whole building was severely shaken.”  20
  “What bastion was it?” said a dragoon, who was holding a goose on the point of his sword, and cooking it at the fire.  21
  “The Bastion Saint-Gervais,” replied D’Artagnan; “the Rochellois behind it were always annoying our men.”  22
  “And there was a good deal of sharp-shooting?”  23
  “A good deal. We lost five men, and the Rochellois eight or ten.”  24
  “But this morning,” went on the light-horseman, “they will probably send down some pioneers to rebuild the bastion.”  25
  “Yes, probably,” answered D’Artagnan.  26
  “Gentlemen,” broke in Athos, “I want to propose a bet.”  27
  “What bet?” asked the light-horseman.  28
  “I bet you, M. De Busigny, that I and my three friends Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan, will breakfast in the Bastion Saint-Gervais, and will hold it an hour by the clock, against all comers.”  29
  Porthos and Aramis looked at each other. They were beginning to understand what Athos had in his head.  30
  “But,” objected D’Artagnan, leaning over to whisper to Athos, “we shall be killed without a chance of escape.”  31
  “We shall be killed a great deal more certainly if we don’t go,” replied Athos.  32
  “Ah!” ejaculated Porthos, twirling his mustache, “that is a grand bet.”  33
  “I take it,” said M. De Busigny; “let us fix the stakes.”  34
  “That is easily done,” replied Athos. “We are four and you are four. The loser shall give the whole eight a dinner.”  35
  “Very well, let us agree to that,” said M. De Busigny and the dragoon.  36
  “Your breakfast is ready, gentlemen,” broke in the landlord at this instant.  37
  “Then bring it here,” answered Athos.  38
  The landlord obeyed, and Athos, making a sign to Grimaud, pointed out a large basket standing in a corner, which he was to fill with wine and food.  39
  “But where are you going to eat it?” asked the landlord.  40
  “What does that matter to you as long as you are paid?” replied Athos, throwing two pistoles on the table. Then, turning to M. De Busigny, he observed:—  41
  “Will you have the kindness, monsieur, to set your watch by mine, or let me set mine by yours?”  42
  “Certainly, monsieur,” said the light-horseman, drawing out a beautiful watch incrusted with diamonds; “half-past seven.”  43
  “Five-and-twenty minutes to eight. So I am five minutes faster than you;” and bowing to the rest of the company, the four young men took the road to the Bastion Saint-Gervais, followed by Grimaud carrying the basket. He had not the faintest idea where they were going, or what they were to do, but Athos had given his orders, and he always obeyed without questioning.  44
  As long as they were within the camp, the four friends remained silent; but once they had passed the wall of circumvallation, D’Artagnan, who was completely in the dark, thought it was time to ask for an explanation.  45
  “And now, my dear Athos,” said he, “will you be good enough to tell me where we are bound for?”  46
  “Why, for the bastion, of course.”  47
  “And what are we to do when we get there?”  48
  “I told you before. We are going to breakfast.”  49
  “But why didn’t we do that at Parpaillot’s?”  50
  “Because we had some important matters to discuss, and it was impossible to talk for five minutes at that inn, with all those people coming and going, and perpetually bowing and speaking to you. Here at least,” continued Athos, pointing to the bastion, “we shall not be interrupted.”  51
  “It seems to me,” said D’Artagnan, with the caution which was as much his characteristic as his foolhardy courage, “it seems to me that we might have found some secluded place among the sand-hills on the sea-shore.”  52
  “Oh, somebody would have seen, and in a quarter of an hour spies would have informed the Cardinal that we were holding council.”  53
  “Yes,” said Aramis. “Athos is right. Animadvertuntur in desertis.”  54
  “A desert would have done very well,” replied Porthos; “but first we should have to find it.”  55
  “There is no desert where a bird cannot fly overhead, or a fish jump out of the water, or a rabbit run out of his hole; and bird, fish, and rabbit have all become spies of the Cardinal. Much better to go on with our adventure, which we cannot now give up without dishonor. We have made a bet, and a bet on the spur of the moment; a bet of which I defy any one to guess the true meaning. To win it, we must hold the bastion for an hour. Either they will attack us, or they won’t. If we are left unmolested, we shall have plenty of time to talk without any one overhearing us, for I will answer for the walls of this bastion having no ears. If they try to dislodge us, we can talk all the same, and in defending our position shall cover ourselves with glory. You see that from every point of view we have the whip hand.”  56
  “Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “but most certainly we shall attract some stray bullet.”  57
  “My good fellow,” remarked Athos, “do you really think that the enemy’s bullets are those we have most cause to fear?”  58
  “But surely, if we were embarking on such an expedition, we ought to have brought our muskets?”  59
  “Porthos, you are a goose! What would be the good of burdening ourselves with anything so useless?”  60
  “I should hardly think that a heavy musket, a dozen cartridges, and a powder flask would be useless when one is in the presence of an enemy.”  61
  “Dear me!” said Athos, “didn’t you hear what D’Artagnan was saying?”  62
  “What did D’Artagnan say?” asked Porthos.  63
  “He said that during last night’s attack eight or ten Frenchmen were killed, and as many Rochellois.”  64
  “Well?”  65
  “Well, hasn’t everybody been too busy ever since to think of stripping the dead bodies?”  66
  “What then?”  67
  “What then? Why, we shall find their muskets, their flasks, and their cartridges, all waiting for us; and instead of four muskets and twelve charges, there will be fifteen pieces and a hundred bullets.”  68
  “O Athos,” exclaimed Aramis, “you are a great man!”  69
  Porthos nodded approval; only D’Artagnan did not seem to be convinced; and Grimaud appeared to have his doubts, for seeing they were still making for the bastion (which up to that moment he had declined to believe), he plucked his master by the coat.  70
  “Where are we going?” he asked by a sign.  71
  Athos pointed out the bastion.  72
  “But,” objected Grimaud, speaking always in pantomime, “we shall leave our bodies there.”  73
  Athos raised his hands and eyes to heaven. Grimaud placed his basket on the ground and sat down, shaking his head.  74
  Athos took a pistol from his belt, looked to see if it was well primed, cocked it, and approached the barrel to Grimaud’s ear. Grimaud was on his legs again, as if by magic. Athos then signed to him to take up the basket and go on.  75
  Grimaud obeyed.  76
  When they reached the bastion, the four friends turned round and beheld over three hundred soldiers assembled at the gate of the camp; M. De Busigny, the dragoon, the Swiss, and their silent companion forming a group apart.  77
  Athos removed his hat, put it on the edge of his sword, and waved it in the air.  78
  The spectators returned his salute and gave a great hurrah, which penetrated to their ears even at that distance. Then all four disappeared inside the bastion, where Grimaud had preceded them.  79
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
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