The Companions of Jehu HTML version

5. Roland
The return was silent and mournful; it seemed that with the hopes of death
Roland's gayety had disappeared.
The catastrophe of which he had been the author played perhaps a part in his
taciturnity. But let us hasten to say that in battle, and more especially during the
last campaign against the Arabs, Roland had been too frequently obliged to jump
his horse over the bodies of his victims to be so deeply impressed by the death
of an unknown man.
His sadness was, due to some other cause; probably that which he confided to
Sir John. Disappointment over his own lost chance of death, rather than that
other's decease, occasioned this regret.
On their return to the Hotel du Palais-Royal, Sir John mounted to his room with
his pistols, the sight of which might have excited something like remorse in
Roland's breast. Then he rejoined the young officer and returned the three letters
which had been intrusted to him.
He found Roland leaning pensively on a table. Without saying a word the
Englishman laid the three letters before him. The young man cast his eyes over
the addresses, took the one destined for his mother, unsealed it and read it over.
As he read, great tears rolled down his cheeks. Sir John gazed wonderingly at
this new phase of Roland's character. He had thought everything possible to this
many-sided nature except those tears which fell silently from his eyes.
Shaking his head and paying not the least attention to Sir John's presence,
Roland murmured:
"Poor mother! she would have wept. Perhaps it is better so. Mothers were not
made to weep for their children!"
He tore up the letters he had written to his mother, his sister, and General
Bonaparte, mechanically burning the fragments with the utmost care. Then
ringing for the chambermaid, he asked:
"When must my letters be in the post?"
"Half-past six," replied she. "You have only a few minutes more."
"Just wait then."
And taking a pen he wrote:
My DEAR GENERAL--It is as I told you; I am living and he is dead. You must
admit that this seems like a wager. Devotion to death.
Your Paladin
Then he sealed the letter, addressed it to General Bonaparte, Rue de la Victoire,
Paris, and handed it to the chambermaid, bidding her lose no time in posting it.
Then only did he seem to notice Sir John, and held out his hand to him.
"You have just rendered me a great service, my lord," he said. "One of those
services which bind men for all eternity. I am already your friend; will you do me
the honor to become mine?"
Sir John pressed the hand that Roland offered him.