The Companions of Jehu
12. Provincial Pleasures
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