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|The Adventures of Gerard||Arthur Conan Doyle|
How The Brigadier Captured Saragossa
|Page 3 of 16||
"May I ask, sir," said I to the major, "at what hour the regiment is paraded?"
"I trust, Captain Gerard, that you do not mean to alter our hours," said he, and again there was a burst of laughter, which died away as I looked slowly round the circle.
"What hour is the assembly?" I asked, sharply, of Captain Pelletan.
Some mocking answer was on his tongue, but my glance kept it there. "The assembly is at six," he answered.
"I thank you," said I. I then counted the company and found that I had to do with fourteen officers, two of whom appeared to be boys fresh from St. Cyr. I could not condescend to take any notice of their indiscretion.
There remained the major, four captains, and seven lieutenants.
"Gentlemen," I continued, looking from one to the other of them, "I should feel myself unworthy of this famous regiment if I did not ask you for satisfaction for the rudeness with which you have greeted me, and I should hold you to be unworthy of it if on any pretext you refused to grant it."
"You will have no difficulty upon that score," said the major. "I am prepared to waive my rank and to give you every satisfaction in the name of the Hussars of Conflans."
"I thank you," I answered. "I feel, however, that I have some claim upon these other gentlemen who laughed at my expense."
"Whom would you fight, then?" asked Captain Pelletan.
"All of you," I answered.
They looked in surprise from one to the other. Then they drew off to the other end of the room, and I heard the buzz of their whispers. They were laughing. Evidently they still thought that they had to do with some empty braggart. Then they returned.
"Your request is unusual," said Major Olivier, "but it will be granted. How do you propose to conduct such a duel? The terms lie with you."
"Sabres," said I. "And I will take you in order of seniority, beginning with you, Major Olivier, at five o'clock. I will thus be able to devote five minutes to each before the assembly is blown. I must, however, beg you to have the courtesy to name the place of meeting, since I am still ignorant of the locality."
They were impressed by my cold and practical manner.
Already the smile had died away from their lips.
Olivier's face was no longer mocking, but it was dark and stern.
"There is a small open space behind the horse lines," said he. "We have held a few affairs of honour there and it has done very well. We shall be there, Captain Gerard, at the hour you name."
I was in the act of bowing to thank them for their acceptance when the door of the mess-room was flung open and the colonel hurried into the room, with an agitated face.
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|The Adventures of Gerard
Arthur Conan Doyle
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