The Companions of Jehu
18. The Trial
The next day Roland, who had been unable to sleep till about two in the morning,
woke about seven. Collecting his scattered wits, he recalled what had passed
between Sir John and himself the night before, and was astonished that the
Englishman had not wakened him. He dressed hastily and went to Sir John's
room at the risk of rousing him from his first sleep.
He knocked at the door. Sir John made no answer. Roland knocked again,
louder this time. The same silence. This time some uneasiness mingled with
Roland's curiosity. The key was on the outside; the young officer opened the
door, and cast a rapid glance around the room. Sir John was not there; he had
not returned. The bed was undisturbed. What had happened?
There was not an instant to lose, and we may be sure that, with that rapidity of
decision we know in Roland, he lost not an instant. He rushed to his room,
finished dressing, put his hunting knife into his belt, slung his rifle over his
shoulder and went out. No one was yet awake except the chambermaid. Roland
met her on the stairs.
"Tell Madame de Montrevel," said he, "that I have gone into the forest of Seillon
with my gun. She must not worry if Sir John and I are not on time for breakfast."
Then he darted rapidly away. Ten minutes later he reached the window where he
had left Sir John the night before. He listened, not a sound came from within; the
huntsman's ear could detect the morning woodland sounds, but no others.
Roland climbed through the window with his customary agility, and rushed
through the choir into the sacristy.
One look sufficed to show him that not only the choir but the entire chapel was
empty. Had the spectres led the Englishman along the reverse of the way he had
come himself? Possibly. Roland passed rapidly behind the altar, into the vaults,
where he found the gate open. He entered the subterranean cemetery. Darkness
hid its depths. He called Sir John three times. No one answered.
He reached the second gate; it was open like the first. He entered the vaulted
passage; only, as it would be impossible to use his gun in such darkness, he
slung it over his shoulder and drew out his hunting-knife. Feeling his way, he
continued to advance without meeting anybody, but the further he went the
deeper became the darkness, which indicated that the stone in the cistern was
closed. He reached the steps, and mounted them until his head touched the
revolving stone; then he made an effort, and the block turned. Roland saw
daylight and leaped into the cistern. The door into the orchard stood open.
Roland passed through it, crossed that portion of the orchard which lay between
the cistern and the corridor at the other end of which he had fired upon the
phantom. He passed along the corridor and entered the refectory. The refectory
Again, as in the funereal passageway, Roland called three times. The wondering
echo, which seemed to have forgotten the tones of the human voice, answered
stammering. It was improbable that Sir John had come this way; it was
necessary to go back. Roland retraced his steps, and found himself in the choir