The days that followed dispelled the illusion, but the name clung to him. I think he liked it, and emphasized the resemblance. He let his hair grow long, sunk his head between his shoulders, was quick and imperious in his speech.
Then came the war. Belgium devastated, France invaded. Randolph was fired at once.
“I’m going over.”
“But, my dear fellow—”
“There’s our debt to Lafayette.”
With his mind made up there was no moving him. The rest of us held back. Our imaginations did not grasp at once the world’s need of us.
But Randolph saw himself a Henry of Navarre—white plumes; a Richard of the Lion Heart—crusades and red crosses; a Cyrano without the nose—“These be cadets of Gascony—”
“You see, MacDonald,” he said, flaming, “we Randolphs have always done it.”
“Fought. There’s been a Randolph in every war over here, and before that in a long line of battles—”
He told me a great deal about the ancient Randolphs, and the way they had fought on caparisoned steeds with lances.
“War to-day is different,” I warned him. “Not so pictorial.”
But I knew even then that he would make it pictorial. He would wear his khaki like chain armor.
He gave us a farewell feast in his room. It was the season for young squirrels, and he made us a Brunswick stew. It was the best thing I had ever tasted, with red peppers in it and onions, and he served it with an old silver ladle which he had brought from home.
While we ate he talked of war, of why men should fight—“for your own honor and your country’s.”
There were pacifists among us and they challenged him. He flung them off; their protests died before his passion.
“We are men, not varlets!”
Nobody laughed at him. It showed his power over us that none of us laughed. We simply sat there and listened while he told us what he thought of us.
At last one who was braver than the rest cried out: “Go to it, Bonaparte!”
In a sudden flashing change Randolph hunched his shoulders, set his slouched hat sidewise low on his brows, wrapped the couch-cover like a cloak about him. His glance swept the room. There was no anger in it, just a sort of triumphant mockery as he gave the famous speech to Berthier.
“They send us a challenge in which our honor is at stake—a thing a Frenchman has never refused—and since a beautiful queen wishes to be a witness to the combat, let us be courteous, and in order not to keep her waiting, let us march without sleeping as far as Saxony—!”
I can’t tell you of the effect it had on us. We were gripped by the throats, and the room was so still that we heard ourselves breathe. Four of the fellows left next day with Randolph. I think he might have taken us all if we had not been advised and held back by the protests of our professors, who spoke of war with abhorrence.