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Chapter 2 The Wanderer

Why then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open.

ANCIENT PISTOL

It was upon a delicious summer morning, before the sun had assumed its scorching power, and while the dews yet cooled and perfumed the air, that a youth, coming from the northeastward approached the ford of a small river, or rather a large brook, tributary to the Cher, near to the royal Castle of Plessis les Tours, whose dark and multiplied battlements rose in the background over the extensive forest with which they were surrounded. These woodlands comprised a noble chase, or royal park, fenced by an enclosure, termed, in the Latin of the middle ages, Plexitium, which gives the name of Plessis to so many villages in France. The castle and village of which we particularly speak, was called Plessis les Tours, to distinguish it from others, and was built about two miles to the southward of the fair town of that name, the capital of ancient Touraine, whose rich plain has been termed the Garden of France.

On the bank of the above mentioned brook, opposite to that which the traveller was approaching, two men, who appeared in deep conversation, seemed, from time to time, to watch his motions; for, as their station was much more elevated, they could remark him at considerable distance.

The age of the young traveller might be about nineteen, or betwixt that and twenty; and his face and person, which were very prepossessing, did not, however, belong to the country in which he was now a sojourner. His short gray cloak and hose were rather of Flemish than of French fashion, while the smart blue bonnet, with a single sprig of holly and an eagle's feather, was already recognized as the Scottish head gear. His dress was very neat, and arranged with the precision of a youth conscious of possessing a fine person. He had at his back a satchel, which seemed to contain a few necessaries, a hawking gauntlet on his left hand, though he carried no bird, and in his right a stout hunter's pole. Over his left shoulder hung an embroidered scarf which sustained a small pouch of scarlet velvet, such as was then used by fowlers of distinction to carry their hawks' food, and other matters belonging to that much admired sport. This was crossed by another shoulder belt, to which was hung a hunting knife, or couteau de chasse. Instead of the boots of the period, he wore buskins of half dressed deer's skin.

Although his form had not yet attained its full strength, he was tall and active, and the lightness of the step with which he advanced, showed that his pedestrian mode of travelling was pleasure rather than pain to him. His complexion was fair, in spite of a general shade of darker hue, with which the foreign sun, or perhaps constant exposure to the atmosphere in his own country, had, in some degree, embrowned it.

His features, without being quite regular, were frank, open, and pleasing. A half smile, which seemed to arise from a happy exuberance of animal spirits, showed now and then that his teeth were well set, and as pure as ivory; whilst his bright blue eye, with a corresponding gaiety, had an appropriate glance for every object which it encountered, expressing good humour, lightness of heart, and determined resolution.

He received and returned the salutation of the few travellers who frequented the road in those dangerous times with the action which suited each. The strolling spearman, half soldier, half brigand, measured the youth with his eye, as if balancing the prospect of booty with the chance of desperate resistance; and read such indications of the latter in the fearless glance of the passenger, that he changed his ruffian purpose for a surly "Good morrow, comrade," which the young Scot answered with as martial, though a less sullen tone. The wandering pilgrim, or the begging friar, answered his reverent greeting with a paternal benedicite (equivalent to the English expression, "Bless you."); and the dark eyed peasant girl looked after him for many a step after they had passed each other, and interchanged a laughing good morrow. In short, there was an attraction about his whole appearance not easily escaping attention, and which was derived from the combination of fearless frankness and good humour, with sprightly looks and a handsome face and person. It seemed, too, as if his whole demeanour bespoke one who was entering on life with no apprehension of the evils with which it is beset, and small means for struggling with its hardships, except a lively spirit and a courageous disposition; and it is with such tempers that youth most readily sympathizes, and for whom chiefly age and experience feel affectionate and pitying interest.

The youth whom we have described had been long visible to the two persons who loitered on the opposite side of the small river which divided him from the park and the castle; but as he descended the rugged bank to the water's edge, with the light step of a roe which visits the fountain, the younger of the two said to the other, "It is our man -- it is the Bohemian! If he attempts to cross the ford, he is a lost man -- the water is up, and the ford impassable."

"Let him make that discovery himself, gossip (an intimate friend or companion (obsolete))," said the elder personage; "it may, perchance, save a rope and break a proverb (refers to the old saw, 'Who is born to be hanged will never be drowned.')."

"I judge him by the blue cap," said the other, "for I cannot see his face. Hark, sir; he hallooes to know whether the water be deep."

"Nothing like experience in this world," answered the other, "let him try."

The young man, in the meanwhile, receiving no hint to the contrary, and taking the silence of those to whom he applied as an encouragement to proceed, entered the stream without farther hesitation than the delay necessary to take off his buskins. The elder person, at the same moment, hallooed to him to beware, adding, in a lower tone, to his companion, "Mortdieu -- gossip -- you have made another mistake -- this is not the Bohemian chatterer."

But the intimation to the youth came too late. He either did not hear or could not profit by it, being already in the deep stream. To one less alert and practised in the exercise of swimming, death had been certain, for the brook was both deep and strong.

"By Saint Anne! but he is a proper youth," said the elder man. "Run, gossip, and help your blunder, by giving him aid, if thou canst. He belongs to thine own troop -- if old saws speak truth, water will not drown him."

Indeed, the young traveller swam so strongly, and buffeted the waves so well, that, notwithstanding the strength of the current, he was carried but a little way down from the ordinary landing place.

By this time the younger of the two strangers was hurrying down to the shore to render assistance, while the other followed him at a graver pace, saying to himself as he approached, "I knew water would never drown that young fellow. -- By my halidome (originally something regarded as sacred, as a relic; formerly much used in solemn oaths), he is ashore, and grasps his pole! -- If I make not the more haste, he will beat my gossip for the only charitable action which I ever saw him perform, or attempt to perform, in the whole course of his life."

There was some reason to augur such a conclusion of the adventure, for the bonny Scot had already accosted the younger Samaritan, who was hastening to his assistance, with these ireful words: "Discourteous dog! why did you not answer when I called to know if the passage was fit to be attempted? May the foul fiend catch me, but I will teach you the respect due to strangers on the next occasion."

This was accompanied with that significant flourish with his pole which is called le moulinet, because the artist, holding it in the middle, brandishes the two ends in every direction like the sails of a windmill in motion. His opponent, seeing himself thus menaced, laid hand upon his sword, for he was one of those who on all occasions are more ready for action than for speech; but his more considerate comrade, who came up, commanded him to forbear, and, turning to the young man, accused him in turn of precipitation in plunging into the swollen ford, and of intemperate violence in quarrelling with a man who was hastening to his assistance.

The young man, on hearing himself thus reproved by a man of advanced age and respectable appearance, immediately lowered his weapon, and said he would be sorry if he had done them injustice; but, in reality, it appeared to him as if they had suffered him to put his life in peril for want of a word of timely warning, which could be the part neither of honest men nor of good Christians, far less of respectable burgesses, such as they seemed to be.

"Fair son," said the elder person, "you seem, from your accent and complexion, a stranger; and you should recollect your dialect is not so easily comprehended by us; as perhaps it may be uttered by you."

"Well, father," answered the youth, "I do not care much about the ducking I have had, and I will readily forgive your being partly the cause, provided you will direct me to some place where I can have my clothes dried; for it is my only suit, and I must keep it somewhat decent."

"For whom do you take us, fair son?" said the elder stranger, in answer to this question.

"For substantial burgesses, unquestionably," said the youth; "or -- hold; you, master, may be a money broker, or a corn merchant; and this man a butcher, or grazier."

"You have hit our capacities rarely," said the elder, smiling. "My business is indeed to trade in as much money as I can and my gossip's dealings are somewhat of kin to the butcher's. As to your accommodation we will try to serve you; but I must first know who you are, and whither you are going, for, in these times, the roads are filled with travellers on foot and horseback, who have anything in their head but honesty and the fear of God."

The young man cast another keen and penetrating glance on him who spoke, and on his silent companion, as if doubtful whether they, on their part, merited the confidence they demanded; and the result of his observation was as follows.

The eldest and most remarkable of these men in dress and appearance, resembled the merchant or shopkeeper of the period. His jerkin, hose, and cloak were of a dark uniform colour, but worn so threadbare that the acute young Scot conceived that the wearer must be either very rich or very poor, probably the former. The fashion of the dress was close and short, a kind of garment which was not then held decorous among gentry, or even the superior class of citizens, who generally wore loose gowns which descended below the middle of the leg.

The expression of this man's countenance was partly attractive and partly forbidding. His strong features, sunk cheeks, and hollow eyes had, nevertheless, an expression of shrewdness and humour congenial to the character of the young adventurer. But then, those same sunken eyes, from under the shroud of thick black eyebrows, had something in them that was at once commanding and sinister. Perhaps this effect was increased by the low fur cap, much depressed on the forehead, and adding to the shade from under which those eyes peered out; but it is certain that the young stranger had some difficulty to reconcile his looks with the meanness of his appearance in other respects. His cap, in particular, in which all men of any quality displayed either a brooch of gold or of silver, was ornamented with a paltry image of the Virgin, in lead, such as the poorer sort of pilgrims bring from Loretto (a city in Italy, containing the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary called the Santa Casa, reputed to have been brought there by angels.).

His comrade was a stout formed, middle sized man, more than ten years younger than his companion, with a down looking visage and a very ominous smile, when by chance he gave way to that impulse, which was never, except in reply to certain secret signs that seemed to pass between him and the elder stranger. This man was armed with a sword and dagger; and underneath his plain habit the Scotsman observed that he concealed a jazeran, or flexible shirt of linked mail, which, as being often worn by those, even of peaceful professions, who were called upon at that perilous period to be frequently abroad, confirmed the young man in his conjecture that the wearer was by profession a butcher, grazier, or something of that description, called upon to be much abroad. The young stranger, comprehending in one glance the result of the observation which has taken us some time to express, answered, after a moment's pause, "I am ignorant whom I may have the honour to address," making a slight reverence at the same time, "but I am indifferent who knows that I am a cadet of Scotland; and that I come to seek my fortune in France, or elsewhere, after the custom of my countrymen."

"Pasques dieu! and a gallant custom it is," said the elder stranger. "You seem a fine young springald, and at the right age to prosper, whether among men or women. What say you? I am a merchant, and want a lad to assist in my traffic; I suppose you are too much a gentleman to assist in such mechanical drudgery ?"

"Fair sir," said the youth, "if your offer be seriously made -- of which I have my doubts -- I am bound to thank you for it, and I thank you accordingly; but I fear I should be altogether unfit for your service."

"What!" said the senior, "I warrant thou knowest better how to draw the bow, than how to draw a bill of charges -- canst handle a broadsword better than a pen -- ha!"

"I am, master," answered the young Scot, "a braeman, and therefore, as we say, a bowman. But besides that, I have been in a convent, where the good fathers taught me to read and write, and even to cipher."

"Pasques dieu! that is too magnificent," said the merchant. "By our Lady of Embrun (a town in France containing a cathedral in which was a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, said to have been sculptured by St. Luke), thou art a prodigy, man!"

"Rest you merry, fair master," said the youth, who was not much pleased with his new acquaintance's jocularity, "I must go dry myself, instead of standing dripping here, answering questions."

The merchant only laughed louder as he spoke, and answered, "Pasques dieu! the proverb never fails -- fier comme un Ecossois (proud or haughty as a Scotchman) -- but come, youngster, you are of a country I have a regard for, having traded in Scotland in my time -- an honest poor set of folks they are; and, if you will come with us to the village, I will bestow on you a cup of burnt sack and a warm breakfast, to atone for your drenching. -- But tete bleau! what do you with a hunting glove on your hand? Know you not there is no hawking permitted in a royal chase?"

"I was taught that lesson," answered the youth, "by a rascally forester of the Duke of Burgundy. I did but fly the falcon I had brought with me from Scotland, and that I reckoned on for bringing me into some note, at a heron near Peronne, and the rascally schelm (rogue, rascal (obsolete or Scotch)) shot my bird with an arrow."

"What did you do?" said the merchant.

"Beat him," said the youngster, brandishing his staff, "as near to death as one Christian man should belabour another -- I wanted not to have his blood to answer for."

"Know you," said the burgess, "that had you fallen into the Duke of Burgundy's hands, he would have hung you up like a chestnut?"

"Ay, I am told he is as prompt as the King of France for that sort of work. But, as this happened near Peronne, I made a leap over the frontiers, and laughed at him. If he had not been so hasty, I might, perhaps, have taken service with him."

"He will have a heavy miss of such a paladin as you are, if the truce should break off," said the merchant, and threw a look at his own companion, who answered him with one of the downcast lowering smiles which gleamed along his countenance, enlivening it as a passing meteor enlivens a winter sky.

The young Scot suddenly stopped, pulled his bonnet over his right eyebrow, as one that would not be ridiculed, and said firmly, "My masters, and especially you, sir, the elder, and who should be the wiser, you will find, I presume, no sound or safe jesting at my expense. I do not altogether like the tone of your conversation. I can take a jest with any man, and a rebuke, too, from my elder, and say thank you, sir, if I know it to be deserved; but I do not like being borne in hand as if I were a child, when, God wot, I find myself man enough to belabour you both, if you provoke me too far."

The eldest man seemed like to choke with laughter at the lad's demeanour -- his companion's hand stole to his sword hilt, which the youth observing, dealt him a blow across the wrist, which made him incapable of grasping it, while his companion's mirth was only increased by the incident.

"Hold, hold," he cried, "most doughty Scot, even for thine own dear country's sake, and you, gossip, forbear your menacing look. Pasques-dieu! let us be just traders, and set off the wetting against the knock on the wrist, which was given with so much grace and alacrity. -- And hark ye, my young friend," he said to the young man, with a grave sternness which, in spite of all the youth could do, damped and overawed him, "no more violence. I am no fit object for it, and my gossip, as you may see, has had enough of it. Let me know your name."

"I can answer a civil question civilly," said the youth; "and will pay fitting respect to your age, if you do not urge my patience with mockery. Since I have been here in France and Flanders, men have called me, in their fantasy, the Varlet with the Velvet Pouch, because of this hawk purse which I carry by my side; but my true name, when at home, is Quentin Durward."

"Durward!" said the querist; "is it a gentleman's name?"

"By fifteen descents in our family," said the young man; "and that makes me reluctant to follow any other trade than arms."

"A true Scot! Plenty of blood, plenty of pride, and right great scarcity of ducats, I warrant thee. -- Well, gossip," he said to his companion, "go before us, and tell them to have some breakfast ready yonder at the Mulberry grove; for this youth will do as much honour to it as a starved mouse to a housewife's cheese. And for the Bohemian -- hark in thy ear."

His comrade answered by a gloomy but intelligent smile, and set forward at a round pace, while the elder man continued, addressing young Durward, "You and I will walk leisurely forward together, and we may take a mass at Saint Hubert's Chapel in our way through the forest; for it is not good to think of our fleshly before our spiritual wants."

(This silvan saint . . . was passionately fond of the chase, and used to neglect attendance on divine worship for this amusement. While he was once engaged in this pastime, a stag appeared before him, having a crucifix bound betwixt his horns, and he heard a voice which menaced him with eternal punishment if he did not repent of his sins. He retired from the world and took orders. . . Hubert afterwards became Bishop of Maestrecht and Liege. S.)

Durward, as a good Catholic, had nothing to object against this proposal, although he might probably have been desirous, in the first place; to have dried his clothes and refreshed himself. Meanwhile, they soon lost sight of their downward looking companion, but continued to follow the same path which he had taken, until it led them into a wood of tall trees, mixed with thickets and brushwood, traversed by long avenues, through which were seen, as through a vista, the deer trotting in little herds with a degree of security which argued their consciousness of being completely protected.

"You asked me if I were a good bowman," said the young Scot. "Give me a bow and a brace of shafts, and you shall have a piece of venison in a moment."

"Pasques dieu! my young friend," said his companion, "take care of that; my gossip yonder hath a special eye to the deer; they are under his charge, and he is a strict keeper."

"He hath more the air of a butcher than of a gay forester," answered Durward. "I cannot think yon hang dog look of his belongs to any one who knows the gentle rules of woodcraft."

"Ah, my young friend," answered his companion, "my gossip hath somewhat an ugly favour to look upon at the first; but those who become acquainted with him never are known to complain of him."

Quentin Durward found something singularly and disagreeably significant in the tone with which this was spoken; and, looking suddenly at the speaker, thought he saw in his countenance, in the slight smile that curled his upper lip, and the accompanying twinkle of his keen dark eye, something to justify his unpleasing surprise. "I have heard of robbers," he thought to himself, "and of wily cheats and cutthroats -- what if yonder fellow be a murderer, and this old rascal his decoy duck! I will be on my guard -- they will get little by me but good Scottish knocks."

While he was thus reflecting, they came to a glade, where the large forest trees were more widely separated from each other, and where the ground beneath, cleared of underwood and bushes, was clothed with a carpet of the softest and most lovely verdure, which, screened from the scorching heat of the sun, was here more beautifully tender than it is usually to be seen in France. The trees in this secluded spot were chiefly beeches and elms of huge magnitude, which rose like great hills of leaves into the air. Amidst these magnificent sons of the earth there peeped out, in the most open spot of the glade, a lowly chapel, near which trickled a small rivulet. Its architecture was of the rudest and most simple kind; and there was a very small lodge beside it, for the accommodation of a hermit or solitary priest, who remained there for regularly discharging the duty of the altar. In a small niche over the arched doorway stood a stone image of Saint Hubert, with the bugle horn around his neck, and a leash of greyhounds at his feet. The situation of the chapel in the midst of a park or chase, so richly stocked with game, made the dedication to the Sainted Huntsman peculiarly appropriate.

Towards this little devotional structure the old man directed his steps, followed by young Durward; and, as they approached, the priest, dressed in his sacerdotal garments, made his appearance in the act of proceeding from his cell to the chapel, for the discharge, doubtless, of his holy office. Durward bowed his body reverently to the priest, as the respect due to his sacred office demanded; whilst his companion, with an appearance of still more deep devotion, kneeled on one knee to receive the holy man's blessing, and then followed him into church, with a step and manner expressive of the most heartfelt contrition and humility.

The inside of the chapel was adorned in a manner adapted to the occupation of the patron saint while on earth. The richest furs of such animals as are made the objects of the chase in different countries supplied the place of tapestry and hangings around the altar and elsewhere, and the characteristic emblazonments of bugles, bows, quivers, and other emblems of hunting, surrounded the walls, and were mingled with the heads of deer, wolves, and other animals considered beasts of sport. The whole adornments took an appropriate and silvan character; and the mass itself, being considerably shortened, proved to be of that sort which is called a hunting mass, because in use before the noble and powerful, who, while assisting at the solemnity, are usually impatient to commence their favourite sport.

Yet, during this brief ceremony, Durward's companion seemed to pay the most rigid and scrupulous attention; while Durward, not quite so much occupied with religious thoughts, could not forbear blaming himself in his own mind for having entertained suspicions derogatory to the character of so good and so humble a man. Far from now holding him as a companion and accomplice of robbers, he had much to do to forbear regarding him as a saint-like personage.

When mass was ended, they retired together from the chapel, and the elder said to his young comrade, "It is but a short walk from hence to the village -- you may now break your fast with an unprejudiced conscience -- follow me."

Turning to the right, and proceeding along a path which seemed gradually to ascend, he recommended to his companion by no means to quit the track, but, on the contrary, to keep the middle of it as nearly as he could. Durward could not help asking the cause of this precaution.

"You are now near the Court, young man," answered his guide; "and, Pasques-dieu! there is some difference betwixt walking in this region and on your own heathy hills. Every yard of this ground, excepting the path which we now occupy, is rendered dangerous, and well nigh impracticable, by snares and traps, armed with scythe blades, which shred off the unwary passenger's limb as sheerly as a hedge bill lops a hawthorn sprig -- and calthrops that would pierce your foot through, and pitfalls deep enough to bury you in them for ever; for you are now within the precincts of the royal demesne, and we shall presently see the front of the Chateau."

"Were I the King of France," said the young man, "I would not take so much trouble with traps and gins, but would try instead to govern so well that no man should dare to come near my dwelling with a bad intent; and for those who came there in peace and goodwill, why, the more of them the merrier we should be."

His companion looked round affecting an alarmed gaze, and said, "Hush, hush, Sir Varlet with the Velvet Pouch! for I forgot to tell you, that one great danger of these precincts is, that the very leaves of the trees are like so many ears, which carry all which is spoken to the King's own cabinet."

"I care little for that," answered Quentin Durward; "I bear a Scottish tongue in my head, bold enough to speak my mind to King Louis's face, God bless him -- and for the ears you talk of, if I could see them growing on a human head, I would crop them out of it with my wood knife."

世界像是我将用剑劈开的牡蛎。

皮斯托乐旗官

这是一个怡人的夏日清晨,太阳还没有发出灼热的光芒,露水使空气仍保持着凉爽和清香。一个从东北方向来的青年人正向普莱西·勒·图尔皇宫附近的一条小河的渡口走去。这条小河,或更恰当地说是大溪,是注入谢尔河的一条支流。皇宫阴森绵延的城谍背景似地耸立着,它们周围围绕着大片的森林。森林里有一个高雅的狩猎场或御花园,用中世纪的拉丁文称之为普莱克西蒂阿姆的围墙隔开。法国的许多村庄名叫普莱西,盖源于此。我们特别提到的这个城堡和村庄,为了便于区分开,就叫做普莱西·勒·图尔。它修筑在与之同名的美丽城市——古老的都兰的首府西南约两英里的地方,都兰富饶的平原一直被称之为法兰西的花园。

旅客正朝溪流的岸边走去。在对岸有两个人,看去正在深谈,似乎不时地注视着他的行动,因为他们所在的地势要高得多,可以老远就看见他。

年轻的旅客大约十九岁,或者介乎十九岁和二十岁之间。他的面孔和身材都很惹人喜欢,不过并不属于他目前正逗留的这个国家。他那短的灰色披风和裤子都更像弗兰德式,不是法国式的,而那漂亮的蓝色无边帽,插有一支冬青和一根老鹰的羽毛,可以认出是苏格兰的头饰。他的衣着整洁,穿戴得体,表现出一个意识到自己外貌出众的年轻人的精心考究。

他背着一个行囊,里面似乎装着一些生活必需品;左手戴着一只放鹰手套,但没有携带老鹰,右手则握着一根坚实的猎人棒。他的左肩上披挂着一条绣花肩巾,上面系着一个红色天鹅绒做的小包,这是有身份的打鸟者用来装老鹰食物和这一受人羡慕的游戏的其他用品的。与之相交的是另一条肩带,上面挂着一把猎刀。他脚上穿的是半成品的鹿皮半统靴,而不是当时人们穿的普通皮靴。

虽然他的身体还没有完全发育成熟,但已显得高大、活跃。他走路时轻捷的步履说明徒步旅行对他说来是一种乐趣而不是痛苦。他的面色白皙,虽然经受着异国阳光的灼晒。只不过由于经常暴露在苏格兰的野外空气中,使它略带点较深的色调,呈现出几分棕褐色而已。

他的五官虽不十分端正,却显得坦诚、开朗和讨人喜欢。也许是充沛的精力使他流露出半点微笑,这使他常露出那整齐的、象牙般洁净的牙齿。他那淡蓝色的眼睛相应地带有一种快活的表情,对碰到的每一样东西都投以恰当的目光,表现出良好的兴致、轻松的心情和坚定的决心。

他的举止投合众人,包括在那不太平的世道经常过往的少数旅客。半兵半匪的流动长矛手打量着这位年轻人,仿佛在权衡获得劫掠物的前景以及碰到拼死反抗的可能性,而在这旅客的无畏目光中看到后一种可能性更大时,便改变他的险恶意图,而不高兴地说一句:“伙计,你好。”年轻的苏格兰人便以同样充满尚武精神,但不那么愠怒的口吻回答他一句。飘泊的香客或乞讨的托钵僧似慈父般的祝福回答他那充满敬意的问候。黑眼睛的农家姑娘从他身旁走过之后,隔了好多步还回过头来望望他,并笑着互相问好。总之,他整个的外表具有一种很难避开别人注视的吸引力,而这种吸引力是来自无所畏惧的坦率和好脾气,以及奕奕的神采、英俊的面貌和健美的身段。他整个的举止也似乎说明他是一个刚走上人生舞台,而对困扰人生的邪恶无所畏惧的人,同时也是一个除了活泼的精神和勇敢的性格以外,没有多少金钱手段来与人生的艰难困苦进行搏斗的人。这样的性格很容易使年轻人产生同情和好感,而使年老有经验的人感到疼爱和怜惜。

我们刚描绘过的这个年轻人,虽然与花园和城堡之间隔着一条小河,但在河的对岸闲荡着的那两个人早就看见他走来了。当他以一只走向泉边饮水的麋鹿般的轻捷步伐走下崎岖的河岸,来到水边的时候,较年轻的对年长的说道:“他就是我们等的那个人——波希米亚人!如果他打算涉过渡口,他就完蛋了——水已经上涨,渡口没法过!”

“让他自己发现这个吧,伙计,”年长的说道,“也许这样倒可以节省一条绳子,并戳穿一个预言。”

“我是根据那顶蓝帽子来判断的,”另一个说道,“因为我看不清他的脸——你听,大人,他喊着在打招呼,问水深不深。”

“在这个世界上,没有什么能与经验相比。”另一个回答道,“让他试试吧。”

这时那年轻人由于没有得到不能过河的暗示,便把对方的沉默认为是默许,在稍事停留后,便脱去他的半统靴,毫不犹豫地走进小河。此刻那年纪大的喊他注意,同时放低声音对他的同伴说:“我的天——伙计,你又犯了一个错误,这不是那个波希米亚饶舌鬼。”

但给年轻人的警告为时已晚。他要么是没听见,要么是已经来到深水处,来不及领受忠告。溪水既深又急,人们要不是像他那样灵敏和习于水性,肯定必死无疑了。

“圣安尼呀!他可是个不错的小伙子。”年长的说道,“快跑,伙计,可能的话就帮他一把,弥补一下你的过错吧。他是属于你这号人的——如果古老的格言说得不错的话,水是淹不死他的。”

说实在的,那年轻的旅客游得那么起劲,和波浪搏斗得那么高明,尽管水流湍急,他也只是被带到离通常的上岸处稍远的地方。

这时年轻的那个赶到河边去帮他一把,而年长的则以稳重徐缓的采伐跟在他后面,一边走一边自言自语:“我知道水是绝对淹不死那年轻人的——哎呀,他已经上岸,抓起他的棒子了!要是我不走快一些,他会接我的伙计的,而对我的伙计来说,这是他一生当中我见他干过的或打算要干的惟一一件好事了。”

如此来预卜这事的结果是不无道理的,因为那健美的苏格兰人已经怒气冲冲地斥责那匆忙赶去帮他一把的年轻人:“无礼的狗东西!当我喊着打听是否能试着过河的时候,你干吗不回答?就让恶魔缠住我也行,不过,下一次我可要教你对陌生人表现出应有的尊敬!”

说话的同时,他耀武扬威地挥动他那样子。这棒子被称为“风磨桨”,因为武术家握住棒子的中央,朝四面八方挥动棒的两端,就像风磨的桨片在转动。他的对手看到自己受到这般威胁,便用手握紧他的剑柄,因为他是一个在任何场合都乐于诉诸行动甚于诉诸言词的人。但他那考虑问题更周密的同伴走了上来,命令他克制,然后转过身来对着年轻人,责备他不该莽撞地一头栽进涨了水的渡口,同时也不该肆无忌惮地和跑来帮他一把的人乱吵一顿。

那年轻人听到自己被一个外表可敬的老人这么一训,便放下武器,并说如果他对他们不公道的话,他将感到很抱歉。而事实上他觉得他们没有及时警告他,似乎是在故意让他去冒生命危险;诚实的人和善良的基督徒都不可能做出这种事;既然他们看来都是体面的市民,那就更不应当如此。

“好小子,”年长的说道,“从你的口音和肤色来看,你像个异乡人。你应当想到,方言你说起来容易,我们理解起来可费事了。”

“好吧,老爷爷,”年轻人回答道,“我倒不很在乎我所遭受的这顿鸭子闷水。尽管你们要对这负一部分责任,只要你们能把我带到一个可以晾干我的衣服的地方,我还是乐于原谅你们。这是我惟一的一套衣服,我多少得使它保持点体面。”

“好小子,你把我们当作什么人呢?”年长的陌生人回答道。

“不用说,我把你们当作富裕的市民。”年轻人说,“慢来——你这老爷可能是个贷款经纪人或谷物商,而这人可能是个屠夫或畜牧业者。”

“你算是很难得地猜中了。”年长的微笑道,“我的生意的确是尽可能地经手更多的钱,而我这伙计的生意则有点近似屠夫的。至于说给你找个地方晾干衣服,我们将为你效劳。不过我得先知道你是谁,往何处去,因为在这世道,道路上满是些徒步的和骑马的旅客,他们脑袋里什么都有,就是没有诚实和对上帝的敬畏。”

年轻人对说话的人和他那沉默的伙伴又投以敏锐而犀利的目光,似乎在怀疑,就他们而言,配不配获得他们所要求的信任。观察的结果是这样的。

两人当中年长、突出的那位,就服装和外表来说,像是个当代的商人或店主。他的紧身上衣、裤子、斗篷都是深色的,但穿得如此陈旧,以至那敏锐的苏格兰人认为,穿衣的人要么很富,要么很穷,很可能是前者。这种紧身短衣的式样,在当时的绅士阶层,甚至高阶层市民中,都还不认为是合宜的。当时高阶层市民一般都穿长及膝下的宽松长袍。

这人的面部表情既有吸引人的地方,也有令人生畏之处。他那强健的五官、下陷的颧骨、四下的眼眶、精明而幽默的神态,与那年轻冒险家的性格倒十分投合。但在那浓黑眉毛下面凹陷的眼睛却具有某种既威严又阴险的东西。也许是那低低地压在前额上的皮帽子,在眼睛上部添上些阴影,加强了这一效果。如何将他在其他方面表现出的外表的卑微和他做岸的容貌相协调,陌生的年轻人肯定感到很为难。特别是他的帽子。任何有身份的人都会在帽子上配上一个金的或银的饰针,但他的帽子装饰着的却是较贫穷的一类香客从洛雷托带来的那种不值钱的铅制圣母像。

他的同伴是一个身体粗胖、中等个子的人,比他小十多岁,具有一张习惯于朝下望的面孔和偶尔屈从于某种笑意时才露出来的一种非常阴沉的冷笑;而除非他是在回答与年长的陌生人之间的隐语,否则他根本没有笑容,也看不见他产生任何笑意。这人备有一把剑和一把匕首;在他那朴素的外衣下面,那苏格兰人看到他还隐匿着一副具有伸缩性的连锁铠甲衣。既然那些属于平民出身,但在那不太平的乱世同样频繁地被召去打仗的人们也穿这种铠甲衣,这就证实了年轻人的揣测,即此人是屠夫、畜牧业者或是经常被叫去打点仗的那号人物。

年轻的异乡人一眼就得出我们要费些时间才能得出的结论。停顿片刻之后他便回答道:“我不知道我很荣幸地与之交谈的人姓甚名谁,”说着稍微欠身,行了个礼,“不过我并不在乎有谁知道我是苏格兰的一个青年军官,按照我们的习俗,到法国或别的地方去寻求幸福。”

“哎呀,这可是一个勇敢的习俗。”年长的陌生人说道,“你是个很帅的小伙子,正处在该在男人或女人当中发迹的时候。你看怎么样?我是个商人,需要有个小伙子帮我做买卖。我想你身份太高,不屑于帮忙干这种机械的苦活吧?”

“尊敬的先生,”年轻人说道,“如果您的建议是认真作出的——对此我还有怀疑——那么我应当感谢您,也就此向您表示感谢。不过我担心我完全不适合为您效劳。”

“嘿!”年长的说道,“我敢担保,你一定是更善于拉大弓,而不是开账单;更善于操大刀,而不是耍笔杆——哈哈!”

“老爷,”年轻的苏格兰人回答道,“我是一个山地人,因而正像我们所说的,是一个弓箭手。但除此以外,我还在寺院里呆过,善良的神父教过我读和写,甚至翻译。”

“哎呀,那可太美了,”商人说道,“昂布伦的圣母在上,小伙子,你可真是个神童!”

“好老爷,您高兴着吧,”年轻人对这刚认识的陌生人的诙谐感到不快,“我得去晾干衣服,不能老站在这儿让它往下滴水,却来回答问题。”

听他这么一说,那年长的更是放声大笑。“哎呀!俗话说得好——像苏格兰人一般的骄傲——得了,小伙子。你是从我很敬重的一个国家来的人。我敬重苏格兰,因为我早先在那儿做过生意——苏格兰人都是些可怜的老实人。如果你愿意和我们一道进村里去,我将给你一杯萨克烧酒和一顿温暖的早餐来补偿你全身湿透的损失。不过,天哪!你干吗手上戴只猎人手套?难道你不知道在皇家猎场是不准放鹰的吗?”

“勃艮第公爵的一个混账护林宫已经给了我一个教训。”年轻人回答道,“我只不过是把我从苏格兰带来的,曾指望能使我引人注目的老鹰,朝落在佩隆附近的一只苍鸳放去,结果那混账流氓竟用箭射死了我的鹰。”

“那你怎么办呢?”商人问道。

“揍了他一顿,”小伙子挥动着棒子说道,“像一个基督徒揍另一个基督徒所能容许的那样,尽量把他揍到半死不活的地步——我并不想要他的命,以免偿命。”

“你不晓得,”那市民说道,“要是你落到公爵手上,他会把你像颗板栗吊起来吗?”

“不错,我听说干起这种事来他和法国国王一样迅速果决。不过,幸好这事发生在佩隆附近,我一跃而越过了边界,并嘲笑了他一顿。要是他不那么莽撞,我也许会在他那儿找点差事干。”

“万一停战被破坏了的话,他会十分后悔失掉你这样一个骑士的。”商人说道,一边递给他同伴一个眼色。这阴沉的一笑闪过那人的面孔,就像瞬间消逝的流星使冬天的夜空增加了一线生气一样,使这面孔也增加了一点生机。

年轻的苏格兰人忽然停下来,把他的无边帽拉到右边的眉毛上,像一个不愿受人嘲弄的人那样坚定地说道:“二位大人请注意,尤其是您,您年纪更大,更应该放聪明一些。怨我冒昧,你们会发现,拿我来开心是不那么保险的。我并不十分喜欢你们谈话的腔调。我可以和任何人开开玩笑,也可以接受长辈的训斥。如果我知道我值得受训斥的话,我还会说声:先生,谢谢您。但我不喜欢像个小孩那样让人耍弄。上帝知道,要是你们惹我发火的话,我想我一个人就足够把你们这两个家伙都接扁。”

年长的那人看到小伙子的这一表态像要笑得喘不过气来。他那同伴的手却悄悄挪到了剑柄上。年轻人眼疾手快,往他手腕上猛地一击,使他无法握住剑柄。而这一举动只是使得他的同伴更乐不可支。“住手,住手,”他叫道,“最最勇敢的苏格兰人,哪怕是看在你亲爱的祖国的分上,请你住手。伙计,你也收起你这吓唬人的样子。哎呀!让我们做个公平的交易吧,你被河水浸湿和你对他如此漂亮利索的一击就算是两相抵消吧。你听着,年轻的朋友,”他以一种威严的口吻说道。不管年轻人有多大的能耐,这语气也不能不使他冷静下来,肃然起敬。“你别再动武了。我不是你的合适对手,而我的伙计,你可以看出,也感到够呛了。你还是给我们通通你的姓名吧。”

“我可以客气地回答一个有礼貌的问题。”年轻人说道,“如果您不用嘲弄来逼我失去耐心的话,我会对您的高龄给予恰如其分的尊敬。自从我来到法国和弗兰德以后,就因为我腰上挂着的这个饲鹰袋,人们竟莫名其妙地叫我带天鹅绒袋的浪子。但我在家时的真名是昆丁·达威特。”

“达威特!”问话的人说,“这是个绅士的名字吗?”

“我们家族的这个英名已经传了十五代了,”年轻人说道,“这使我除了当军人以外很不愿从事其他职业。”

“一个真正的苏格兰人!血气方刚,矜持自负,此外,我敢担保,一定很缺钱用。好吧,伙计,”他对同伴说道,“你先走一步,叫他们在桑树林旅店准备些早点。这年轻人将会像只饿老鼠不辜负家庭主妇的奶酪那样不辜负这顿早点的。至于说那个波希米亚人——你伸过耳朵来听着——”

他的同伴报以一个阴沉而会意的冷笑,然后便以快速的步伐动身前去。那年长的继续和达威特攀谈:“你和我一道慢悠悠地走吧,在我们穿过森林的时候可以在圣胡伯特的教堂做个弥撒,因为在想到我们的精神需求以前就想到肉体的需要是不好的。”

作为一个善良的天主教徒,达威特对这个建议没有什么可反对的,不过也许他宁可先晾干他的衣服,填饱他的肚子。这时那惯于低头俯视的同伴已经消失在他们的视线以外。他们继续沿着他走过的那条路走去,一直走到了一个夹杂有茂密的灌木丛的古木参天的森林。森林里长长的林阴道纵横交错,通过林阴道,就像透过一幅远景画似的,可以看见小群的麋鹿以一种自我充分意识到受到保护的安全感在那儿悠然奔驰。

“你先前问我是不是一个好的弓箭手,”年轻的苏格兰人说道,“你只消给我一张弓、两只箭,你就会马上得到一块鹿肉。”

“哎呀!我的年轻朋友,”他的同伴说道,“当心点,我那伙计特别关照鹿群。它们都在他的保护之下,他可是个严格的看守人。”

“他的神情更像个屠夫,而不是个快活的护林人。”达威特答道,“我不能想象他那副阴险狡猾的样子会属于一个谙于高雅的园林之道的人物。”

“唉,我年轻的朋友,”他的同伴回答说,“我那伙计初看起来其貌不扬,不过熟识他的人从没有对他抱有不满的。”

昆丁·达威特感到这话的语气中有某种奇特的含意和令人不快的东西。猛然望望说话的人,从他那嘴唇翘起的微笑,以及敏锐的黑眼睛同时一眨当中,看到某种表情,足以说明自己的不快深有道理。“我听人说到过强盗,”他寻思道,“还有狡猾的骗子和刺客——要是那家伙是个谋杀犯,而这老流氓是给他拉线的,该怎么办呢?我得提防着——除了苏格兰式的痛打一顿,他们将从我手上得不到什么东西。”

当他正这样寻思的时候,他们来到一块林间空地。在这里,高大的树木之间的间距更宽,地面上去掉了矮小的树丛,铺上了一层最柔软可爱的绿茵。由于灼热的阳光被树叶遮住,绿茵要比通常在法国看到的更美丽而柔和。在这个隐蔽的地方,树木主要是些庞大的捕树和榆树,丛丛簇簇,像树叶搭成了山峦。在这些壮丽的大地之子当中,人们可以在林间空地的一个最开阔的地方隐约看见一个低矮的小教堂,附近一条小溪涓涓流淌。教堂的建筑式样属最原始而简单的一种类型。旁边有一个很小的木屋,供一个呆在那儿定期给祭坛尽些义务的隐士或孤单的牧师居住。在拱门上的一个小神龛里立着圣胡伯特的一尊石像。石像的颈部绕着一只号角,脚边是一根拴猎犬的皮带。小教堂设在如此富于猎物的花园或猎场当中,就使得对这位圣徒化了的猎人所作的这一奉献显得特别得体。

老人在年轻的达威特的跟随下向着这祷告用的小建筑物走去。当他们走近的时候,身穿僧侣服的牧师出现在他们眼前。他正从他的小居室出来走到小教堂去,无疑是为了履行他的圣职。达威特向牧师恭敬地鞠了一躬,因为对圣职的尊敬要求如此。而他的同伴则带着更深的虔诚的表情一只脚跪了下来,接受这神圣的僧人的祝福,然后以显示其最衷心的忏悔和谦卑的步履和仪态跟着他走进教堂。

小教堂的内部是按照与保护神在世时的职业相适应的方式装饰起来的。在各个不同的国家作为狩猎对象的动物的最珍贵的毛皮代替了祭坛周围以及其他地方挂的壁毯和悬垂饰物。号角、弓弩、箭筒和其他象征狩猎的有代表性的东西围绕着四壁,并与鹿头、狼头及被视为狩猎野兽的其他一些动物的头颅混杂在一起。整个装饰带有一种很得体的森林意趣。而经过大大缩短的弥撒本身也表明是属于称之为狩猎弥撒的一类仪式。之所以采用这种简短的弥撒是因为那些高贵而有权势的人在出席这庄严的仪式时,通常都急不可待地想立刻开始他们心爱的娱乐。

不过,在这简短的仪式当中,达威特的同伴似乎表现出最严格的一丝不苟的态度。达威特并不那么专心于宗教思想,这时忍不住内心责怪自己竟对如此善良、谦恭的一个人曾抱有有损于其人格的怀疑。现在他不但不把他看作是强盗的同伴和同谋,相反,他费了好大的劲才克制住没有把他看作是一个圣徒般的人物。

弥撒结束以后,他们一道从小教堂里退了出来,那年长的对同伴说:“从这儿到村子里只有很短的一截路——现在你可以心安理得地用你的早点了——跟我来。”

当他们转向右边,并沿着一条似乎逐渐向上的小路走去时,他劝告他的同伴切莫走出道路以外,相反要尽可能地挨近路的中央。达威特忍不住要问一问为什么需要这般小心。

“年轻人,你现在已经离皇宫很近了。”领路的回答道,“哎呀!在这个地方行走和在你们自己那石南多的小山上行走是有所不同的。这里的每一码土地,除了我们所走的这条小路以外,都布满了危险,几乎无法通行,因为到处都是陷阱、机关,还配置着铡刀,其利刃割人的手足,就像一把篱刀砍掉一根山楂枝那么干净利落——此外,铁蒺藜会刺穿你的脚,陷坑深得可以把你永远埋在地里。你现在已经来到皇宫辖区以内,我们很快就可以看见城堡的正面。”

“要是我是法国国王,”年轻人说道,“我就不会伤这么多脑筋来搞什么陷阱、机关,而是励精图治,以便没人敢于怀着恶意接近我的住所。至于那些怀着善意的吉祥的来客,则是多多益善。”

他的同伴环顾四周,装出惊恐的神情说道:“小声点,小声点,带天鹅绒袋的浪子先生!我忘了告诉你,这个地区的一个巨大危险是这些树的每一片叶子都像一只耳朵,它可以把人们说的每个字都传进国王的密室。”

“我倒不在乎这个。”昆丁·达威特回答道,“我嘴里长着一个苏格兰人的舌头,我有足够的胆量敢于当着路易王的面说我想说的话,愿上帝保佑他——至于你谈到的耳朵,如果我看见它们是长在人头上的,我会用我的削木刀把它们割掉。”



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