The Companions of Jehu HTML version

11. Château Des Noires-Fontaines
The Château of Noires-Fontaines, whither we have just conducted two of the
principal characters of our story, stood in one of the most charming spots of the
valley, where the city of Bourg is built. The park, of five or six acres, covered with
venerable oaks, was inclosed on three sides by freestone walls, one of which
opened in front through a handsome gate of wrought-iron, fashioned in the style
of Louis XV.; the fourth side was bounded by the little river called the Reissouse,
a pretty stream that takes its rise at Journaud, among the foothills of the Jura,
and flowing gently from south to north, joins the Saône at the bridge of Fleurville,
opposite Pont-de-Vaux, the birthplace of Joubert, who, a month before the period
of which we are writing, was killed at the fatal battle of Novi.
Beyond the Reissouse, and along its banks, lay, to the right and left of the
Château des Noires-Fontaines, the village of Montagnac and Saint-Just,
dominated further on by that of Ceyzeriat. Behind this latter hamlet stretched the
graceful outlines of the hills of the Jura, above the summits of which could be
distinguished the blue crests of the mountains of Bugey, which seemed to be
standing on tiptoe in order to peer curiously over their younger sisters' shoulder
at what was passing in the valley of the Ain.
It was in full view of this ravishing landscape that Sir John awoke. For the first
time in his life, perhaps, the morose and taciturn Englishman smiled at nature.
He fancied himself in one of those beautiful valleys of Thessaly celebrated by
Virgil, beside the sweet slopes of Lignon sung by Urfé, whose birthplace, in spite
of what the biographers say, was falling into ruins not three miles from the
Château des Noires-Fontaines. He was roused by three light raps at his door. It
was Roland who came to see how he had passed the night. He found him radiant
as the sun playing among the already yellow leaves of the chestnuts and the
"Oh! oh! Sir John," cried Roland, "permit me to congratulate you. I expected to
find you as gloomy as the poor monks of the Chartreuse, with their long white
robes, who used to frighten me so much in my childhood; though, to tell the truth,
I was never easily frightened. Instead of that I find you in the midst of this dreary
October, as smiling as a morn of May."
"My dear Roland," replied Sir John, "I am an orphan; I lost my mother at my birth
and my father when I was twelve years old. At an age when children are usually
sent to school, I was master of a fortune producing a million a year; but I was
alone in the world, with no one whom I loved or who loved me. The tender joys of
family life are completely unknown to me. From twelve to eighteen I went to
Cambridge, but my taciturn and perhaps haughty character isolated me from my
fellows. At eighteen I began to travel. You who scour the world under the shadow
of your flag; that is to say, the shadow of your country, and are stirred by the thrill
of battle, and the pride of glory, cannot imagine what a lamentable thing it is to
roam through cities, provinces, nations, and kingdoms simply to visit a church
here, a castle there; to rise at four in the morning at the summons of a pitiless
guide, to see the sun rise from Rigi or Etna; to pass like a phantom, already
dead, through the world of living shades called men; to know not where to rest; to