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- The Companions of Jehu - 32/133 -
"Well," resumed Roland, laughing, "you are right, my dear friend, and, on my word, you know me as if we had been college chums. Well, what idea do you suppose has been cavorting through my brain all night? It is that of getting a glimpse of these gentlemen of Jehu near at hand."
"Ah, yes, I understand. As you failed to get yourself killed by M. de Barjols, you want to try your chance of being killed by M. Morgan."
"Or any other, my dear Sir John," replied the young officer calmly; "for I assure you that I have nothing in particular against M. Morgan; quite the contrary, though my first impulse when he came into the room and made his little speech--don't you call it a speech--?"
Sir John nodded affirmatively.
"Though my first thought," resumed Roland, "was to spring at his throat and strangle him with one hand, and to tear off his mask with the other."
"Now that I know you, my dear Roland, I do indeed wonder how you refrained from putting such a fine project into execution."
"It was not my fault, I swear! I was just on the point of it when my companion stopped me."
"So there are people who can restrain you?"
"Not many, but he can."
"And now you regret it?"
"Honestly, no! This brave stage-robber did the business with such swaggering bravado that I admired him. I love brave men instinctively. Had I not killed M. de Barjols I should have liked to be his friend. It is true I could not tell how brave he was until I had killed him. But let us talk of something else; that duel is one of my painful thoughts. But why did I come up? It was certainly not to talk of the Companions of Jehu, nor of M. Laurent's exploits--Ah! I came to ask how you would like to spend your time. I'll cut myself in quarters to amuse you, my dear guest, but there are two disadvantages against me: this region, which is not very amusing, and your nationality, which is not easily amused."
"I have already told you, Roland," replied Lord Tanlay, offering his hand to the young man, "that I consider the Château des Noires-Fontaines a paradise."
"Agreed; but still in the fear that you may find your paradise monotonous, I shall do my best to entertain you. Are you fond of archeology--Westminster and Canterbury? We have a marvel here, the church of Brou; a wonder of sculptured lace by Colonban. There is a legend about it which I will tell you some evening when you cannot sleep. You will see there the tombs of Marguerite de Bourbon, Philippe le Bel, and Marguerite of Austria. I will puzzle you with the problem of her motto: 'Fortune, infortune, fort'une,' which I claim to have solved by a Latinized version: 'Fortuna, in fortuna, forti una.' Are you fond of fishing, my dear friend? There's the Reissouse at your feet, and close at hand a collection of hooks and lines belonging to Edouard, and nets belonging to Michel; as for the fish, they, you know, are the last thing one thinks about. Are you fond of hunting? The forest of Seillon is not a hundred yards off. Hunting to hounds you will have perforce to renounce, but we have good shooting. In the days of my old bogies, the Chartreuse monks, the woods swarmed with wild boars, hares and foxes. No one hunts there now, because it belongs to the government; and the government at present is nobody. In my capacity as General Bonaparte's aide-de-camp I'll fill the vacancy, and we'll see who dares meddle with me, if, after chasing the Austrians on the Adige and the Mamelukes on the Nile, I hunt the boars and deer and the hares and foxes on the Reissouse. One day of archeology, one day of fishing, and one of hunting, that's three already. You see, my dear fellow, we have only fifteen or sixteen left to worry about."
"My dear Roland," said Sir John sadly, and without replying to the young officer's wordy sally, "won't you ever tell me about this fever which sears you, this sorrow which undermines you?"
"Ah!" said Roland, with his harsh, doleful laugh. "I have never been gayer than I am this morning; it's your liver, my lord, that is out of order and makes you see everything black."
"Some day I hope to be really your friend," replied Sir John seriously; "then you will confide in me, and I shall help you to bear your burden."
"And half my aneurism!--Are you hungry, my lord?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I hear Edouard on the stairs, coming up to tell us that breakfast is ready."
As Roland spoke, the door opened and the boy burst out: "Big brother Roland, mother and sister Amélie are waiting breakfast for Sir John and you."
Then catching the Englishman's right hand, he carefully examined the first joint of the thumb and forefinger.
"What are you looking at, my little friend?" asked Sir John.
"I was looking to see if you had any ink on your fingers."
"And if I had ink on my fingers, what would it mean?"
"That you had written to England, and sent for my pistols and sword."
"No, I have not yet written," said Sir John; "but I will to-day."
"You hear, big brother Roland? I'm to have my sword and my pistols in a fortnight!"
And the boy, full of delight, offered his firm rosy cheek to Sir John, who kissed it as tenderly as a father would have done. Then they went to the dining-room where Madame de Montrevel and Amélie were awaiting them.
That same day Roland put into execution part of his plans for his guest's amusement. He took Sir John to see the church of Brou.
Those who have seen the charming little chapel of Brou know that it is known as one of the hundred marvels of the Renaissance; those who have not seen it must have often heard it said. Roland, who had counted on doing the honors of this historic gem to Sir John, and who had not seen it for the last seven or eight years, was much disappointed when, on arriving in front of the building, he found the niches of the saints empty and the carved figures of the portal decapitated.
He asked for the sexton; people laughed in his face. There was no longer a sexton. He inquired to whom he should go for the keys. They replied that the captain of the gendarmerie had them. The captain was not far off, for the cloister adjoining the church had been converted into a barrack.
Roland went up to the captain's room and made himself known as Bonaparte's aide-de-camp. The captain, with the placid obedience of a subaltern to his superior officer, gave him the keys and followed behind him. Sir John was waiting before the porch, admiring, in spite of the mutilation to which they had been subjected, the admirable details of the frontal.
Roland opened the door and started back in astonishment. The church was literally stuffed with hay like a cannon charged to the muzzle.
"What does this mean?" he asked the captain of the gendarmerie.
"A precaution taken by the municipality."
"A precaution taken by the municipality?"
"To save the church. They were going to demolish it; but the mayor issued a decree declaring that, in expiation of the false worship for which it had served, it should be used to store fodder."
Roland burst out laughing, and, turning to Sir John, he said: "My dear Sir John, the church was well worth seeing, but I think what this gentleman has just told us is no less curious. You can always find--at Strasburg, Cologne, or Milan--churches or cathedrals to equal the chapel of Brou; but where will you find an administration idiotic enough to destroy such a masterpiece, and a mayor clever enough to turn it into a barn? A thousand thanks, captain. Here are your keys."
"As I was saying at Avignon, the first time I had the pleasure of seeing you, my dear Roland," replied Sir John, "the French are a most amusing people."
"This time, my lord, you are too polite," replied Roland. "Idiotic is the word. Listen. I can understand the political cataclysms which have convulsed society for the last thousand years; I can understand the communes, the pastorals, the Jacquerie, the maillotins, the Saint Bartholomew, the League, the Fronde, the dragonnades, the Revolution; I can understand the 14th of July, the 5th and 6th of October, the 20th of June, the 10th of August, the 2d and 3d of September, the 21st of January, the 31st of May, the 30th of October, and the 9th Thermidor; I can understand the egregious torch of civil wars, which inflames instead of soothing the blood; I can understand the tidal wave of revolution, sweeping on with its flux, that nothing can arrest, and its reflux, which carries with it the ruins of the institution which it has
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