Page:Ninety-three.djvu/229

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225
NINETY-THREE.

The tower beside it was fierce.

It rose above this coquettish building in all its gloomy haughtiness. From the platform, the bridge could be destroyed.

The two edifices, one rude, the other elegant, clashed rather than complimented each other. The two styles were not harmonious; although it seems as if two semicircles ought to be similar, nothing resembles a Roman semicircle less than a classic archivault. This tower, suited to the forest, was a strange neighbor to this bridge worthy of Versailles. Imagine Alain Barbe-Torte giving his arm to Louis XIV. The combination was terrible. A strange ferocity resulted from the union of these two majesties.

From a military point of view, the bridge, we must insist, almost betrayed the tower. It adorned it and disarmed it; in gaining ornamentation it had lost strength. The bridge placed it on a footing with the table-land. Although still impregnable on the side of the forest, it was now vulnerable on the side of the plain. Once it commanded the table-land, now it was commanded by the table-land. An enemy established there, would quickly become master of the bridge. The library and the granary were to the advantage of the besieger, and against the fortress. A library and a granary are alike in this respect, that books and straw are both combustible. It is all the same to a besieger, making use of fire, whether he burns Homer or a bundle of hay, provided it burns. The French proved this to the Germans when they burned the library at Heidelberg, and the Germans proved it to the French when they burned the library at Strasburg. Adding this bridge to la Tourgue was strategically a mistake; but in the seventeenth century, under Colbert and Louvois, the Gauvain princes, as well as the princes of Rohan and the princes of la Trémoille, believed that they would never be besieged again.

However, the builders of the bridge had taken some precautions. First, they had taken the possibility of fire into account; under the three windows on the side next the water they had hung crosswise, to hooks which could still be seen a half century ago, a strong ladder for escape, as long as the height of the first two stories of the bridge, a height greater than three ordinary stories. Second,