The following morning they woke up in each other's arms and smiled radiantly.
"Hi... my love!" Roland whispered.
"Hi, my sweet lover... Did you have a good sleep?"
"A splendid one. And you?"
"I'm feeling... I'm feeling... like a new person! Now I'm yours, and I'm happy."
"Yes, but I too am yours. And I would like, before we get up... I would like that this morning it's you who takes me. It was so with Hervé - he took me and I took him... Or to better say, he gave himself to me and I to him."
"Yes, I understand, it's true... it is not so much a question of taking but of giving, isn't it so? Physically it could seem the same, but it is really very different."
"Certainly, because it is love that pushes us more than desire."
"And you love me, don't you? Now you too are aware, aren't you?" the boy asked him with shining eyes.
"Yes, now I too am aware, my beloved one."
"I believe... I really believe... that it has been my Dad who made it so that we fell in love with each other. He was here, he is here and smiles on us, I am sure..."
"It's likely that you are right."
"You loved each other very much, didn't you?"
"Yes, so very much."
"This is why he called me Serge Roland..."
Both were happy, were feeling filled with love, were seeing life with new eyes. Even though in front of others the manifestation of their affection had to be restrained to those usual between step-father and step-son, they knew that now a new and wonderful bond had started between them.
They finally could move to the Abbott's Tower which had been renovated into a nice apartment on the first and second floor and guests rooms on the third one. On the ground floor, besides the colonnade, there was the stairway to the upper floors and a wide empty hall. The last floor, that was the belfry, had two arches on each side, but the bells were missing and it was now like a covered terrace, a belvedere. The tower was, like all the most ancient part of the complex, entirely built in stone and was in late-gothic style; but the interior, furnished with beautiful pieces brought from the villa, was modern and functional.
On the second floor was their room and the room of the twins, who were at this point ten years old. When they noticed that Serge was sleeping in the same room with Roland, they asked him the reason.
"But are you sleeping with Dad?" Michel asked.
"Yes." serenely answered Serge.
"And why? There are other rooms upstairs... wouldn't you have liked having your own room?" Jean-Marie asked.
"No, I like sleeping with Roland better."
"But in Dad's bedroom there is just one bed..." Michel pointed out.
"Of course, as I sleep with him."
"But... why?" Michel asked knitting his eyebrows, trying to understand.
"Listen, I have to explain to you something very important. But you have to swear to me that you will never talk about it with anybody, besides me or Roland."
"Sure, we swear!" the twins said, very seriously.
Thus Serge explained them how some people love people of the other sex, and some love people of their own sex, while others love indifferently people of both sexes. He then also explained to them the difference between having sex and making love, being in love. He then told them about their real father, Hervé, and how he loved both their Mum and Roland. And finally explained to them that he and Roland were in love, therefore they made love, hence they slept in the same bed. He then warned them that the majority of the people don't admit such things therefore he reminded them of the promise they swore to never talk about it with strangers.
The twins accepted all this with a great serenity.
Michel said, "It seems to me funny thinking that Roland, who is in a way our Dad, makes love with our brother..."
"But we know that our real Dad was Hervé and not Roland... moreover this is possibly why Serge always calls him Roland and not Dad..." Jean-Marie commented.
Finally, in September 1924 the Charterhouse opened. The Government entrusted to the Charterhouse twenty-six boys whose age was between six and seventeen years, who were settled in the first three renovated small houses. Meanwhile Roland managed to find five teachers, recruited through ads in the newspapers and tested by Roland and Serge. So the internal school for the boys also started, notwithstanding it didn't yet get the Education Ministry's recognition. They simply thought that they would send the boys to take their exams in the public school as external candidates.
The uniforms for the boys had also been made. They consisted of a light blue waist-length jacket with a starched collar, white trousers and spats, a black kepi with a coloured pompom and also a black short cape. The pompom was light blue for the boys between six and nine years of age, white for those between ten and fourteen and red for those from fifteen up. If and when they also had little children younger than five years, they would have a yellow pompom... but for the moment they didn't have any.
But soon a problem arose - a teacher who went to one of the boys' houses to bring a book to one of the students, caught a boy of sixteen who was merrily screwing another of fourteen. The man, scandalised, enjoined the two boys to dress immediately and to wait in the house, then went hurriedly to see Roland to report the fact and to ask a punishment for the two boys.
Roland nodded and told him he would take measures. First of all he talked about it with Serge. He then summoned the five teachers.
"Well, professor Fontenoy, would you please tell us what exactly did you see?" Roland asked him in a quiet tone.
"Pupil Revlon and pupil Charrier were in an unbecoming pose." the man curtly said.
"Sorry, Monsieur Fontenoy, would you please be more precise? We are all adult men, we don't need to hide behind words, I presume."
"Revlon was buggering Charrier, this is what happened!" the teacher dryly said.
"With the term bugger do you intend they were having anal sex?" Roland insisted.
"What else?!" the man burst out.
"Did you ask them how that situation began?"
"Should I? What's the sense?"
"Of course there is a sense, Monsieur Fontenoy. The fact assumes a totally different aspect if the two boys were consenting or if one of them used violence, be it physical or emotional, on the other." Roland patiently explained.
"This is a futile question!" the teacher said.
"It could be futile for you, my dear professor, but not for me. That is true, as it's true, that our aim is to educate these boys; we have before all to understand how they got to do such a thing, why, which justifications they can give us. Only in this way can we effectively intervene in their education..."
"We have just to punish them, twenty lashes each then a period of segregation! This is the only sensible thing to do!" the man insisted.
Another of the teachers intervened, "In my opinion our dean is right. We shall anyway hear the boys before deciding on a punishment. A punishment is effective only when dictated by a sense of justice..."
Soon the discussion flared up. But Roland, with much patience and gentleness, gradually lead it where he wanted. And finally he put out the idea that Serge had suggested to him.
"Our problem is not only to educate these two boys, but also all of our boys. I therefore think that we should, in one way or another, involve in this problem all the boys of their age or older than them. They are... nine in all, if I'm not wrong. Therefore I propose that I, with two of you, will examine the two boys in question in the presence of the other seven who will act, in a way, like a jury. And that, after hearing what Revlon and Charrier have to say, this jury proposes to us how to solve this problem. We three adults, at the end, will make the final decision..."
So it was done. Roland chose from the five teachers the two who, during their discussion, seemed to him more reasonable. Then, without informing these two teachers, he sent Serge to talk with Revlon and Charrier to advise them to have trust and to be sincere. Then Serge talked also with the other seven boys, explaining to them how the "trial" would be carried out and what their role would be. He also invited these boys to be sincere saying what they really thought.
So the field was prepared, Roland prepared in the hall at the ground floor of the Abbott's Tower a wide table with three seats behind, two in front, one at the side for Serge who would act as secretary, and seven on the other side for the "jury".
First of all Roland started, "Boys, we are gathered here to evaluate what you all know happened and make a decision about it, the most possibly fair and balanced decision. But in order for it to be really fair, it's necessary that each of you speaks with total sincerity and, besides telling how the facts happened, opens his heart to us. I pray you all, therefore, to be totally honest and sincere, as we too will be. Now we will hear first Charrier, then Revlon, separately. Then, after a short discussion amongst us, we will hear them again, together. Is all clear up to now?"
Serge was writing all that was said. Everybody assented. Then Revlon was sent outside.
"Charrier, would you tell us how the situation went?" Roland asked with a smile.
"Monsieur Laforest, I..." the fourteen year old boy started, twisting his hands on his lap and looking at the floor, "I was in the bedroom and... and felt an urge... so then... I started to beat it..." he said and blushed.
One of the teachers asked, "Were you alone?"
"Yes, sir, I was alone... So, then, I was... beating it... when Gilbert... Revlon I mean... came in... and asked me if I was enjoying it... I told him I did and he said he too liked doing it... beating it. And he asked me if I was game doing it together... I mean he to me and I to him... and I told him I was game and he sat on my bed near me and opened his trousers... and we beat each other... He then asked me if I knew there was another way to... to... that it was possible to do something else and I asked him what... so he asked me if I wanted to give it a try and I told him yes... he so kneeled before me and... and instead of with his hand... he did it with... with his mouth. He then asked me if I wanted to do the same to him..."
"Did he force you to do it?" the other professor asked.
"No, he just asked me if I wanted. I told him yes, and did it to him... then, after a while he asked me if I liked it and I said yes... he then told me there was even another way... that possibly I would like even more and I asked him how... and he told me that it was... that he wanted to put his thing also... also... also in my backside..."
"He wanted? You mean you had to do as he pleased?"
"No, not really... he told me that he liked it and that possibly I would like it too and asked me if I wanted to try. So I told him I wanted to try and... and he told me to take off my trousers and... and to stand up near the bed and lean my hands on the bed... and then he came to my back... and he put his spit there and... and he pushed it inside... and... and he moved back and forth... until Monsieur Fontenoy came and he told us... he told us we are two perverted pigs... that we deserved to be flogged for that filthy thing we were doing and ordered us to dress and shut us in two different rooms..."
"Did Revlon... force you in a way or another?"
"No, sir, he didn't."
"And... did he hurt you?" the other teacher asked.
"No, he didn't hurt me."
"And tell me, sincerely... did you like it?" Roland then asked.
The boy blushed to the tip of his ears, then with almost imperceptible voice said, "Yes... much more than doing those things alone... Gilbert told me I would like it... I'm sorry..."
"Why are you sorry, Charrier?" Roland asked.
"Because I... I don't want to be a perverted pig..." the boy said, starting to cry, "I didn't think I was doing a filthy thing... Gilbert is my friend, and I am not a bad boy... and he is not a bad boy..." now the boy's body was shaken with sobs.
"Calm... calm down, boy." Roland gently said to him.
"If you have to flog us, Monsieur, flog me, please, because it's me who told him yes... and if I was not beating it, possibly he wouldn't even think to do it... But don't flog Gilbert, please..."
They sent out Charrier and called back Revlon. They asked him too to tell how the situation happened. Revlon seemed more self-confident.
"Before they sent me here I was in an orphanage in Orléans... I stayed there for four years. And there we boys were screwing almost every day, amongst us boys... and the overseers saw it and just smiled... and they chose the older amongst us and screwed them... Well not all of them, just a couple or three, I think, but the other overseers knew it and never said a word. But we boys, when we screwed amongst us boys, we liked it, because we were all friends... but when one of the overseers chose one of us, we were just... it was just for their amusement, they didn't give a shit for us. And Charrier is my friend, this is why I asked him... Screwing is just screwing, one can say, but screwing when forced or screwing for friendship are two totally different things I swear. I am fond of Charrier, I didn't do it only for my pleasure... I mean, of course I like doing it, but I wanted him to enjoy it too. I really don't think I am a filthy pig... Those overseers were really filthy pigs. And if now you want to skin me alive... anyway it's you who have the upper hand, don't you? Who are we? Just orphans, boys that nobody wants, that scrounge for a living, that it would have been better if we were dead, right?" he said all in a breath, his face reddened from the passion of his speech, and suddenly became silent and lowered his eyes.
Roland then said, "You said that Charrier is your friend..."
"Of course he is. He and I we have nobody else, we have only each other."
"Therefore... you are fond of him?" Roland asked him with gentleness.
"Of Charrier? No, I'm not fond of him, but much more. I would like him to be my brother, even though possibly two brothers don't screw with each other, I don't know. But I... he... I wanted just make him feel how much I like being with him, that's it! Yes, sure, the pleasure... but the pleasure is rather bigger when you know you have a real friend than just having a screw. He was seeking pleasure alone... I told him that in pairs and for friendship is way better, as it is really way better! He at once said me yes and this also was a pleasure, because he didn't refuse me, did he?"
One of the teachers asked, "As a punishment, would you rather get twenty cane strokes, or that we send Charrier away?"
The boy widened his eyes, "A hundred cane strokes, two hundred rather!" he said with force.
"And... will you do it again with him?" the other teacher asked.
"If this causes him to be punished, no. But if no one saw us... I would do it again, with him, sure! Why shouldn't I?"
"And why would you do it again?" Roland asked.
"Because.... Because it is good! He who says it is filthy, that one is filthy... No, I had better not to say that, sorry... But at this point I have said it. Because it is not enough to tell somebody he is important to you... Words, we say so many words... but if you tell him with... with the facts, then it becomes clear, doesn't it?"
"Do you mean that you are in love with Charrier?" one of the teachers asked.
The boy raised his eyes suddenly and looked at him astounded, "I don't know. But if being in love makes you do such things, then yes, I am in love."
"One can do such things just to amuse himself, not for love..."
"Yes, of course, like the overseers did with us, because they didn't give a shit for us, they just cared to give pleasure to their cocks... to them we were just a hole to fill, weren't we? But to me Charrier is not just a hole to fill, no sir!"
"Do you know that what you were doing is not allowed, neither by the state nor by the church laws?" one of the teachers asked him.
"No, I only know that everybody spits on those who do it, then they do it too. But the law that you say, what did they do for us? The priests and the great bosses of France didn't they bless the war that killed both my parents? Charrier and I, we didn't kill anybody. We didn't steal anything... No... what do the laws have to do with this? If the law has to punish somebody, why not punish the overseers who screw us against our will? At least, Charrier and I did it out of our will, didn't we?"
"But, tell me... it was you who wanted to have Charrier... if he wanted to have you, what would you have told him?" one of the teachers asked.
The boy again looked at him astounded, "He is my friend, isn't he? If he asks me, of course I will tell him yes!"
"All right, thank you Revlon. Would you please go out for some time, now?" Roland asked.
The boy stood up and went out. Then Roland addressed the seven boys of the jury.
"Now, one at a time, I would like you to give us your opinions about this situation, and also if and what we should ask the two boys when we summon them again."
"I... what Revlon says is true, Also in Charleroi orphanage where I was... there was some of everything. There were those who did it out of friendship, to feel less lonely, for affection... and those who, also amongst us boys, did it just out of selfishness..."
"Moreover, at a certain age... one cannot certainly be like a cloistered nun, can he? The urge is there, and how! And if we didn't, if amongst us... Yes, at our orphanage in Cluzot there were the priests and they said that we had to be chaste and pure... yes! Chaste and pure as they were! I agree that one cannot do just as he pleases, no, but when he doesn't harm anybody, not even himself, well... why should it be prohibited?"
"There should be rules, I say, but a rule that cannot be obeyed is just a foolish rule. So, it would be better if you chain us and hang us on the wall, so at least we cannot do anything but what you decide!"
"I say that if you don't punish Revlon and Charrier, Fontenoy... I mean professor Fontenoy, will be really pissed off and might even report us..."
"But Monsieur Laforest said he wants justice... would it be fair to punish somebody only because... because it would be convenient to do so?"
"No, but you know how law is, don't you? We don't have our own laws... and anyway, would they let us have them? So then, what can we do? I think that these two boys... and any of us could have been in their place... but... I, rather than being sent back where I was before, I would prefer that Monsieur Laforest punishes me severely but let me stay here... Yes I would like that better, if there isn't any other possibility."
"But they teach us how to walk, to eat, to go to the loo, to dress and to undress, to read and write and a lot of other things, but nobody ever teaches us these kinds of things, so then we teach them to each other amongst us boys... and possibly we also do wrong things, who knows..."
"Don't do this, don't do that... If I feel hungry they say - look, there is this or that to eat... But if I'm horny, they never tell me what I can do... Yes, the priest told us you can take an icy bath... but afterwards you are horny like before, if not even more. And then you possibly meet somebody on the street, possibly even a priest, who says to you the right words, who charms you, takes you to his home and fucks you until he satisfies his lust and possibly afterwards they treat you like a whore!"
"Our mates' only fault is to have been caught in the act... if nobody saw them..."
"But a thing has to be right or wrong independently if you are seen or not..."
"If Monsieur Laforest called us here it is because he cares about what we have to say, and... and we have to find a solution, I think. Otherwise he would have just punished them, full stop next line, right? So we absolutely have to think about it and to find a solution, because the problem, to be sincere, is not just Charrier and Revlon, the problem is us all... or at least I know I am."
"But now anyway we have to decide about Charrier and Revlon..."
"I say that we have to hear them and ask them what punishment they think they deserve. So Monsieur Fontenoy can put his heart to rest."
"But I, if they asked me, I would say that I don't deserve any punishment! Not for that, surely. If I broke a glass, or stole something, then yes, but for what they did..."
"Very good, boys, thank you. I think that all you said will give us much to ponder. Now we will hear Revlon and Charrier again, then we will take a decision. Whatever it will be... we will try to do what is fair, I promise." Roland said.
In agreement with Revlon and Charrier and with the seven boys of the jury, it was decided that as a punishment the two boys had to do cleanup duties and more hours of studies for two weeks, renouncing all their free time. Fontenoy grumbled that it was too mild a punishment... Roland, in great secret, made sure that Fontenoy received a very good work offer elsewhere, and so he had to leave the Charterhouse. With the help of the two teachers who sided with him in the trial, and who showed to be intelligent and understanding people, he looked for two more teachers, ready to work in the Charterhouse notwithstanding the low wage.
Then Roland asked Serge to organise the boys so that on one side they faced the problem of the education on sexuality and love, and on the other hand they started to give themselves some rules. The adults would be at their disposal as consultants... Roland decided, with the agreement of the teachers, that even if the boys gave themselves rules they judged to be wrong, they had to let them be, and the first time that a wrong rule caused a problem, they would ask them to revise it to make it better.
So gradually the idea came out to organise the boys in small communities with a system of internal democracy, even considering their different age and maturity. Special courses of education on sexuality and affection were organised. There they explored the aspects of sex, desire, and love. It was explained about attraction to the other sex, to one's own sex and to both. And the boys were carefully prepared to be aware that outside the Charterhouse were in force very different rules and laws, a much different mentality, to which they had to be prepared once they left the Charterhouse.
Each of the little houses would host no more than twenty boys, possibly all of different ages, and would form a "family" whose older member, an eighteen year old boy, would be the family-head, and gradually the other older boys would be responsible for the four age groups. Every five family-heads will elect a mayor and all the mayors will elect a President who, in his turn, will choose his Ministers, each of which will assist one of the adults in the management of the Charterhouse. The president had to assist the dean, that is Roland.
Moreover in 1931 three important decisions were taken.
The first one was the institution of an internal currency and bank - the boys would receive a salary, in part proportional to their age, in part to the work they carried on for the community, and in part proportional to their school results. Their savings would be converted into francs when they reached nineteen years of age and had to leave the Charterhouse - so they at least would begin their external life without having to start from zero.
The second decision, voted almost unanimously by all the boys, was that all the physical education activities carried on in the ex-church, where there was a basketball court, a handball court, a tennis court, the pool and also vaulting horses, the wall bars, rings, balance beams, hurdles and so on, would be performed in total nakedness. The adult coaches had the choice to be also naked or to wear swimming trunks.
The third decision the boys took was that before puberty the boys could play with their genitals if in company of same age boys, but without touching each other. After puberty they could also have sex between them, but only if both were totally consenting, only in couples and in private, and that only the younger one could ask for that of an older one and not vice versa. No kind of psychological or physical pressure was allowed.
Roland was very happy with the way the boys were making decisions and organising themselves, and the atmosphere in the Charterhouse was increasingly happy and even joyous, even though there reigned a remarkable auto-discipline. The boys, when made responsible, were reacting in a really positive way. The newcomers were welcomed and "indoctrinated" by their companions, with wonderful results. The "families" had a high degree of solidarity, the boys were helping each other in their studies, and they really took care of each other.
Gradually Roland was also able to shape a teachers' corps which was extremely open-minded and positive, generous and available, thanks to the fact that, when they needed a new teacher, it was the old teachers who looked for the right person amongst their friends and proposed him to Roland. Above all, all the adults totally shared the general lines of the system of life in the Charterhouse and participated in it with intelligent enthusiasm.
Another useful initiative, both for the boys and for the Charterhouse economy, was the idea to start a set of "productions" of items to sell outside. The first one to be started was the herbalist's shop, which had characterized the ancient community of the monks; so the boys, under the guide of an expert botanist, learned how to recognise, gather and treat the herbs, making with them liqueurs, herbal teas, creams, infusions and so on.
Then they opened also a ceramics studio, then one for leather items... so soon they could open a shop downtown and the business started to work. Up at the Charterhouse, also, they opened an internal shop for the boys, a bazaar where were sold many items that the boys could buy only using the internal currency, the "écu", divided in centimes.
1937 came. The Charterhouse now hosted eighty-three boys who lived in six houses, and the teachers and instructors were seventeen in total. Meanwhile Roland's three boys were growing up. Serge, always totally in love with Roland, a love fully returned, was now twenty-nine years old; he graduated and came back to the Charterhouse as a teacher. Michel and Jean-Marie, who were twenty-three years old, met two girls downtown and married them on the same day. They were now living in the valley, some ten kilometres away from the Charterhouse, in two adjoining apartments. Michel and his wife were managing the shop selling the products of the Charterhouse. Jean-Marie, instead, became a very good technician and had his own workshop.
The period when Serge had to quit the Charterhouse to get his university diploma had been difficult for both the lovers, who anyway did their best to take advantage of all the opportunities to spend at least some time together. But they both understood how important it was for Serge to get a good formal education, to work to the best advantage of the Charterhouse boys, therefore they both accepted the years of separation, as they knew that what can't be cured must be endured.
But black clouds were thickening for the second time above Europe and the world. Germany, under the lead of Hitler, rearmed and was laying more and more territorial claims. Hearts were troubled and Roland, remembering the previous war, was every day reading the newspapers with increasing worry, foreseeing the worst.
Unhappily Roland did foresee rightly - the war burst out. Against any hope, German troops rapidly invaded France and also the Charterhouse underwent the consequences. In fact German headquarters decided to place a transmitting antenna at the back of the Charterhouse for its communications, and the operational centre was put in the Charterhouse complex.
On one side there was a kind of respect towards the orphanage, but the Germans, besides building behind the pilgrims' hall and the boys' shop two long two-story prefabricated sheds, one containing their kitchens and the soldiers' mess, the other the listening and transmission rooms, they also bricked up all the colonnades on the church square to make dorms for the soldiers. The major of the German army, moreover, requisitioned the octagonal Saint Bruno chapel, transforming it into his own residence.
The boys decided that the physical education in the church had to be performed wearing shorts and T-shirt. Roland and the major had a long meeting to fix the limits both for the boys and for the soldiers. The major was of aristocratic origins, a man of deep culture, who appreciated the work carried on at the Charterhouse and who showed to be rather well disposed towards the institution. Practically the Germans were confined along the south-east strip, next to the cliff, and used as access to their area the gate between the pilgrims' hall, where were the classrooms and the teachers' lodgings, and the boys' bazaar.
They decided that the little lake near the chapel would be used on alternate days by the boys and by the soldiers. The major asked also the use of the sports equipment in the former church, and it was decided that the soldiers would use them on Saturdays and Sundays. In exchange, the major decided he would provide for half of the needed food for the boys.
Moreover the major gathered all his men and informed them that anyone who in any way harassed the boys or the Charterhouse personnel would be severely punished.
Because of the German occupation, a representative of the Hebrew community contacted Roland in secret, asking him if he would host some of their children who had lost their families, mopped up by the Germans. Roland summoned all the teachers and the family-heads of the boys - they decided to accept them, writing on the admission registry fake names, to avoid that they could be singled out as Hebrews. So they received twenty-one of them.
One day the major went to knock at the door of the Abbot's Tower. Serge went to open it.
"Is monsieur the dean in?" the major asked in his almost perfect French although with a strong German accent.
"Yes, he is upstairs in his office."
"Would you please announce me?"
"Certainly... follow me."
Serge knocked at Roland's office door to make him understand he was not alone.
"Major von Schwerin." Serge announced.
"Show him in, Serge." Roland said to make Serge understand he had to stay inside with them. "Offer a seat to the major, Serge." he then added.
"Good morning, dean Laforest."
"Good morning to you. May I help you with something?"
"Well, I noticed that in recent days the number of your boys increased remarkably..."
"Of course, major, it's the result of the war - each war has as a consequence an increase in the number of orphans, as you know..."
"Yes it is true, unhappily it is as you say... I also noticed, anyway, that some of the new boys you received have racial features, how to say, not really Aryan..."
"We never check the racial features of our orphans, major. To us they all are equal, be they handsome or ugly, clever of dumb... We just try to do our best to help them to grow up..."
"Yes, I had means to appreciate your work for the boys... really praiseworthy. But as you surely know... there are laws we are asked to abide by. Laws that your Government passed, even though on our request."
"Laws that require you to inform the competent authorities about all persons of Hebraic race."
"Yes, I was informed about this law. None of our boys has a name and more than that a family name denouncing a Hebrew origin, from what I know. Except perhaps a few Davids... But also amongst you Germans, from what I know, you have a few Davids... Am I wrong?"
"I see... I am certain that if I asked you to show me all your registries, your documents... what you just said would be confirmed, dean Laforest..."
"Surely so... but if you want me to prove it..."
"No, no, I believe you... And by the way, in these times of war... a poor orphan abandoned or wandering in the streets... very seldom has on him documents, isn't it so?"
"Exactly so, major. At times they are not even able to give their address, assuming the house they were living in is still standing."
"Yes, yes, as I thought. Simply, as I was telling you, the racial features of some of those boys could give the impression... I wouldn't like that some of my subordinates, out of an excess of zeal, could possibly be grossly mistaken and so... Therefore I strongly advise you to... to keep those boys out of the sight of my men, you do understand don't you?"
"Of course, major. I feel grateful for your valuable suggestion."
"Very well, very well. Would you please honour me, you and your son, by being my guests for supper, this evening?"
"With real pleasure, major. Thank you. We have been lucky having you as the commander here at the Charterhouse..."
"A soldier has to do his duty, has to obey his orders. An officer has to act with intelligence and correctness. A man has to be faithful to his moral values... This I was taught and this is what I conform to, monsieur dean... as I know that you too are doing with real devotion." the officer said, standing up with a light smile on his lips and, saying goodbye to Roland, went out.
Serge saw him to the ground floor, to the door.
Here the major turned back briefly and said, "Your step-father is a very clever man, you are lucky to have found a father like him."
"You are perfectly right, major. I totally agree." Serge answered.
The major did a military salute and at a fast pace went to the gate from where he could go up to his residence.
Serge went immediately back to the first floor.
"Do you trust him, Roland?"
"I think we can trust him. Do you have some doubts?"
"No... but you know... Germans are anyway our enemies... they killed my father... it is not so easy to forget that."
"In a war, who can be said to be without sin? At least the major, besides trying to be a good soldier and a good officer, is also trying to be a good man and this, mainly in war time, is something greatly positive."
"You, Roland, you always forgive everybody..."
"Don't forget the prayer you were taught when a child - forgive us as much as we are able to forgive others. The words are not exactly these, but the deep meaning is. Who is not able to forgive others, my dear Serge, doesn't deserve forgiveness from God. And each of us, however much he tries to act in the best of ways, always has many things for which he needs forgiveness."