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