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Chapter 3 The Castle

Full in the midst a mighty pile arose, Where iron grated gates their strength oppose To each invading step -- and strong and steep, The battled walls arose, the fosse sunk deep. Slow round the fortress roll'd the sluggish stream, And high in middle air the warder's turrets gleam.

ANONYMOUS

While Durward and his acquaintance thus spoke, they came in sight of the whole front of the Castle of Plessis les Tours, which, even in those dangerous times, when the great found themselves obliged to reside within places of fortified strength, was distinguished for the extreme and jealous care with which it was watched and defended.

From the verge of the wood where young Durward halted with his companion, in order to take a view of this royal residence, extended, or rather arose, though by a very gentle elevation, an open esplanade, devoid of trees and bushes of every description, excepting one gigantic and half withered old oak. This space was left open, according to the rules of fortification in all ages, in order that an enemy might not approach the walls under cover, or unobserved from the battlements, and beyond it arose the Castle itself.

There were three external walls, battlemented and turreted from space to space and at each angle, the second enclosure rising higher than the first, and being built so as to command the exterior defence in case it was won by the enemy; and being again, in the same manner, itself commanded by the third and innermost barrier.

Around the external wall, as the Frenchman informed his young companion (for as they stood lower than the foundation of the wall, he could not see it), was sunk a ditch of about twenty feet in depth, supplied with water by a dam head on the river Cher; or rather on one of its tributary branches. In front of the second enclosure, he said, there ran another fosse, and a third, both of the same unusual dimensions, was led between the second and the innermost inclosure. The verge, both of the outer and inner circuit of this triple moat was strongly fenced with palisades of iron, serving the purpose of what are called chevaux de frise in modern fortification, the top of each pale being divided into a cluster of sharp spikes, which seemed to render any attempt to climb over an act of self destruction.

From within the innermost enclosure arose the Castle itself, containing buildings of all periods, crowded around, and united with the ancient and grim looking donjon keep, which was older than any of them, and which rose, like a black Ethiopian giant, high into the air, while the absence of any windows larger than shot holes, irregularly disposed for defence, gave the spectator the same unpleasant feeling which we experience on looking at a blind man. The other buildings seemed scarcely better adapted for the purposes of comfort, for the windows opened to an inner and enclosed courtyard; so that the whole external front looked much more like that of a prison than a palace. The reigning King had even increased this effect; for, desirous that the additions which he himself had made to the fortifications should be of a character not easily distinguished from the original building (for, like many jealous persons, he loved not that his suspicions should be observed), the darkest coloured brick and freestone were employed, and soot mingled with the lime, so as to give the whole Castle the same uniform tinge of extreme and rude antiquity.

This formidable place had but one entrance -- at least Durward saw none along the spacious front, except where, in the centre of the first and outward boundary, arose two strong towers, the usual defences of a gateway; and he could observe their ordinary accompaniments, portcullis and drawbridge -- of which the first was lowered, and the last raised. Similar entrance towers were visible on the second and third bounding wall, but not in the same line with those on the outward circuit; because the passage did not cut right through the whole three enclosures at the same point, but, on the contrary, those who entered had to proceed nearly thirty yards betwixt the first and second wall, exposed, if their purpose were hostile, to missiles from both; and again, when the second boundary was passed, they must make a similar digression from the straight line, in order to attain the portal of the third and innermost enclosure; so that before gaining the outer court, which ran along the front of the building, two narrow and dangerous defiles were to be traversed under a flanking discharge of artillery, and three gates, defended in the strongest manner known to the age, were to be successively forced.

Coming from a country alike desolated by foreign war and internal feuds -- a country, too, whose unequal and mountainous surface, abounding in precipices and torrents, affords so many situations of strength, young Durward was sufficiently acquainted with all the various contrivances by which men, in that stern age, endeavoured to secure their dwellings; but he frankly owned to his companion, that he did not think it had been in the power of art to do so much for defence, where nature had done so little; for the situation, as we have hinted, was merely the summit of a gentle elevation ascending upwards from the place where they were standing.

To enhance his surprise, his companion told him that the environs of the Castle, except the single winding path by which the portal might be safely approached, were, like the thickets through which they had passed, surrounded with every species of hidden pitfall, snare, and gin, to entrap the wretch who should venture thither without a guide; that upon the walls were constructed certain cradles of iron, called swallows' nests, from which the sentinels, who were regularly posted there, could without being exposed to any risk, take deliberate aim at any who should attempt to enter without the proper signal or password of the day; and that the Archers of the Royal Guard performed that duty day and night, for which they received high pay, rich clothing, and much honour and profit at the hands of King Louis. "And now tell me, young man," he continued, "did you ever see so strong a fortress, and do you think there are men bold enough to storm it?"

The young man looked long and fixedly on the place, the sight of which interested him so much that he had forgotten, in the eagerness of youthful curiosity, the wetness of his dress. His eye glanced, and his colour mounted to his cheek like that of a daring man who meditates an honourable action, as he replied, "It is a strong castle, and strongly guarded; but there is no impossibility to brave men."

"Are there any in your country who could do such a feat?" said the elder, rather scornfully.

"I will not affirm that," answered the youth; "but there are thousands that, in a good cause, would attempt as bold a deed."

"Umph!" said the senior, "perhaps you are yourself such a gallant!"

"I should sin if I were to boast where there is no danger," answered young Durward; "but my father has done as bold an act, and I trust I am no bastard."

"Well," said his companion, smiling, "you might meet your match, and your kindred withal in the attempt; for the Scottish Archers of King Louis's Life Guards stand sentinels on yonder walls -- three hundred gentlemen of the best blood in your country."

"And were I King Louis," said the youth, in reply, "I would trust my safety to the faith of the three hundred Scottish gentlemen, throw down my bounding walls to fill up the moat; call in my noble peers and paladins, and live as became me, amid breaking of lances in gallant tournaments, and feasting of days with nobles, and dancing of nights with ladies, and have no more fear of a foe than I have of a fly."

His companion again smiled, and turning his back on the Castle, which, he observed, they had approached a little too nearly, he led the way again into the wood by a more broad and beaten path than they had yet trodden. "This," he said, "leads us to the village of Plessis, as it is called, where you, as a stranger, will find reasonable and honest accommodation. About two miles onward lies the fine city of Tours, which gives name to this rich and beautiful earldom. But the village of Plessis, or Plessis of the Park as it is sometimes called, from its vicinity to the royal residence, and the chase with which it is encircled, will yield you nearer and as convenient hospitality."

"I thank you, kind master, for your information," said the Scot; "but my stay will be so short here, that, if I fail not in a morsel of meat, and a drink of something better than water, my necessities in Plessis, be it of the park or the pool, will be amply satisfied."

"Nay," answered his companion, "I thought you had some friend to see in this quarter."

"And so I have -- my mother's own brother," answered Durward; "and as pretty a man, before he left the braes of Angus (hills and moors of Angus in Forfarshire, Scotland.), as ever planted brogue on heather."

"What is his name?" said the senior. "We will inquire him out for you; for it is not safe for you to go up to the Castle, where you might be taken for a spy."

"Now, by my father's hand!" said the youth, "I taken for a spy! -- By Heaven, he shall brook cold iron that brands me with such a charge! -- But for my uncle's name, I care not who knows it -- it is Lesly. Lesly -- an honest and noble name."

"And so it is, I doubt not," said the old man; "but there are three of the name in the Scottish Guard."

"My uncle's name is Ludovic Lesly," said the young man.

"Of the three Leslys," answered the merchant, "two are called Ludovic."

"They call my kinsman Ludovic with the Scar," said Quentin. "Our family names are so common in a Scottish house, that, where there is no land in the case, we always give a to-name (surname)."

"A nom de guerre (the war name; formerly taken by French soldiers on entering the service. Hence a fictitious name assumed for other purposes.), I suppose you to mean," answered his companion; "and the man you speak of, we, I think, call Le Balafre, from that scar on his face -- a proper man, and a good soldier. I wish I may be able to help you to an interview with him, for he belongs to a set of gentlemen whose duty is strict, and who do not often come out of garrison, unless in the immediate attendance on the King's person. -- And now, young man, answer me one question. I will wager you are desirous to take service with your uncle in the Scottish Guard. It is a great thing, if you propose so; especially as you are very young, and some years' experience is necessary for the high office which you aim at."

"Perhaps I may have thought on some such thing," said Durward, carelessly; "but if I did, the fancy is off."

"How so, young man?" said the Frenchman, something sternly, "Do you speak thus of a charge which the most noble of your countrymen feel themselves emulous to be admitted to?"

"I wish them joy of it," said Quentin, composedly. "To speak plain, I should have liked the service of the French King full well; only, dress me as fine and feed me as high as you will, I love the open air better than being shut up in a cage or a swallow's nest yonder, as you call these same grated pepper boxes. Besides," he added, in a lower voice, "to speak truth, I love not the Castle when the covin tree bears such acorns as I see yonder."

(The large tree in front of a Scottish castle was sometimes called so. It is difficult to trace the derivation; but at that distance from the castle the laird received guests of rank, and thither he conveyed them on their departure. S.)

"I guess what you mean," said the Frenchman; "but speak yet more plainly."

"To speak more plainly, then," said the youth, "there grows a fair oak some flight shot or so from yonder Castle -- and on that oak hangs a man in a gray jerkin, such as this which I wear."

"Ay and indeed!" said the man of France -- "Pasques dieu! see what it is to have youthful eyes! Why, I did see something, but only took it for a raven among the branches. But the sight is no ways strange, young man; when the summer fades into autumn, and moonlight nights are long, and roads become unsafe, you will see a cluster of ten, ay of twenty such acorns, hanging on that old doddered oak. -- But what then? -- they are so many banners displayed to scare knaves; and for each rogue that hangs there, an honest man may reckon that there is a thief, a traitor, a robber on the highway, a pilleur and oppressor of the people the fewer in France. These, young man, are signs of our Sovereign's justice."

"I would have hung them farther from my palace, though, were I King Louis," said the youth. "In my country, we hang up dead corbies where living corbies haunt, but not in our gardens or pigeon houses. The very scent of the carrion -- faugh -- reached my nostrils at the distance where we stood."

"If you live to be an honest and loyal servant of your Prince, my good youth," answered the Frenchman, "you will know there is no perfume to match the scent of a dead traitor."

"I shall never wish to live till I lose the scent of my nostrils or the sight of my eyes," said the Scot. "Show me a living traitor, and here are my hand and my weapon; but when life is out, hatred should not live longer. -- But here, I fancy, we come upon the village, where I hope to show you that neither ducking nor disgust have spoiled mine appetite for my breakfast. So my good friend, to the hostelrie, with all the speed you may. -- Yet, ere I accept of your hospitality, let me know by what name to call you."

"Men call me Maitre Pierre," answered his companion. "I deal in no titles. A plain man, that can live on mine own good -- that is my designation."

"So be it, Maitre Pierre," said Quentin, "and I am happy my good chance has thrown us together; for I want a word of seasonable advice, and can be thankful for it."

While they spoke thus, the tower of the church and a tall wooden crucifix, rising above the trees, showed that they were at the entrance of the village.

But Maitre Pierre, deflecting a little from the road, which had now joined an open and public causeway, said to his companion that the inn to which he intended to introduce him stood somewhat secluded, and received only the better sort of travellers.

"If you mean those who travel with the better filled purses," answered the Scot, "I am none of the number, and will rather stand my chance of your flayers on the highway, than of your flayers in the hostelrie."

"Pasques dieu!" said his guide, "how cautious your countrymen of Scotland are! An Englishman, now, throws himself headlong into a tavern, eats and drinks of the best, and never thinks of the reckoning till his belly is full. But you forget, Master Quentin, since Quentin is your name, you forget I owe you a breakfast for the wetting which my mistake pro- cured you. -- It is the penance of my offence towards you."

"In truth," said the light hearted young man, "I had forgot wetting, offence, and penance, and all. I have walked my clothes dry, or nearly so, but I will not refuse your offer in kindness; for my dinner yesterday was a light one, and supper I had none. You seem an old and respectable burgess, and I see no reason why I should not accept your courtesy."

The Frenchman smiled aside, for he saw plainly that the youth, while he was probably half famished, had yet some difficulty to reconcile himself to the thoughts of feeding at a stranger's cost, and was endeavouring to subdue his inward pride by the reflection, that, in such slight obligations, the acceptor performed as complaisant a part as he by whom the courtesy was offered.

In the meanwhile, they descended a narrow lane, overshadowed by tall elms, at the bottom of which a gateway admitted them into the courtyard of an inn of unusual magnitude, calculated for the accommodation of the nobles and suitors who had business at the neighbouring Castle, where very seldom, and only when such hospitality was altogether unavoidable, did Louis XI permit any of his court to have apartments. A scutcheon, bearing the fleur de lys, hung over the principal door of the large irregular building; but there was about the yard and the offices little or none of the bustle which in those days, when attendants were maintained both in public and in private houses, marked that business was alive, and custom plenty. It seemed as if the stern and unsocial character of the royal mansion in the neighbourhood had communicated a portion of its solemn and terrific gloom even to a place designed according to universal custom elsewhere, for the temple of social indulgence, merry society, and good cheer.

Maitre Pierre, without calling any one, and even without approaching the principal entrance, lifted the latch of a side door, and led the way into a large room, where a faggot was blazing on the hearth, and arrangements made for a substantial breakfast.

"My gossip has been careful," said the Frenchman to the Scot. "You must be cold, and I have commanded a fire; you must be hungry, and you shall have breakfast presently."

He whistled and the landlord entered -- answered Maitre Pierre's bon jour with a reverence -- but in no respect showed any part of the prating humour properly belonging to a French publican of all ages.

"I expected a gentleman," said Maitre Pierre, "to order breakfast -- hath he done so?"

In answer the landlord only bowed; and while he continued to bring, and arrange upon the table, the various articles of a comfortable meal, omitted to extol their merits by a single word. And yet the breakfast merited such eulogiums as French hosts are wont to confer upon their regales, as the reader will be informed in the next chapter.

正中央矗立着巍峨的宫殿,

铁栅门有力地抵挡着外来的侵袭。

城雉高耸,坚牢而陡峻,

底下是深深的壕堑。

城堡周围小溪潺潺地流着,

卫兵的塔楼在半空中隐现。

无名氏

达威特和他的新相识这样谈着的时候,已来到一个地方,从这里可以看见整个普莱西·勒·图尔城堡的正面。即使是在贵族们不得不使自己的住处禁卫森严的那个时代,这个城堡也显得十分突出,因为防范的严密已到了无以复加的地步。

年轻的达威特和他的伙伴在树林的边上停了下来,想欣赏一下帝王的宫殿。他们看见一片开阔的草地从树林的边缘伸延开来,或者说以十分徐缓的坡度舒展开来。草地上没有任何树木和灌木丛,而只有一棵庞大的、半枯萎的老橡树。人们是根据各个时代防卫的规则有意使草地保持空旷的,目的在于使敌人无法在掩护下,或不被城堞上的卫兵发现的情况下接近城墙。一过草地便是城堡的所在地。

城堡一共有三道外壁,每隔一段距离都在不同的角度配置着城雉和塔楼。第二道围墙要比第一道围墙耸立得更高,这是为了在万一被敌人占领时,有可能控制外围工事。同样,第二道围墙也受到第三道围墙以及最里层的障壁居高临下的控制。那法国人告诉他的年轻伙伴(因为他们这时站的位置要比墙脚更低,年轻人看不见他要讲的东西),在外墙的周围挖有一条约二十英尺深的壕堑,壕里的水是由谢尔河,更恰当地说,是由谢尔河一条支流上的堤坝截流引来的。他说,在第二道围墙的前面也有一条壕堑,而在第二道和最里层的围墙之间还挖有第三条壕堑。两者的宽度和深度都不同一般。在这“三重壕堑”的外圈和里圈的边缘都有坚固的铁栅保护。其用途相当于现代工事中的所谓马障。每根铁栅的顶部是一束尖钉,这势必使得想跨越它的任何企图都成为一种自我毁灭的行径。

在最后的那道围墙里面耸立着城堡。构成这城堡的是属于不同时期的几个楼房。它们挤在一起,由一个显得严峻可怕的古老的主塔楼起勾通作用。这主塔楼要比这里的任何一座楼房的年代都更为久远,看起来就像一个埃塞俄比亚巨人那样,高耸入云,而由于所有的窗口都和那些凌乱地散布在墙上的防御射击孔大小相似,从外面看来,不免使人产生一种目睹盲人的不愉快感觉。别的建筑物也不见得能满足居住舒适的要求,因为所有的窗子都开向里面一个有围墙的院子。因此,整个城堡从正面看来更像监狱而不像皇宫。当朝国王更为这外观增辉添色。为了使他自己修建的补充防御工事不致和原来的轻易区别开来(和许多戒心很重的人们一样,他很不喜欢让别人注意到他有戒心),他使用的都是颜色最深的砖石,并且石灰里掺上烟灰,使整个城堡带上一种统一、均匀的原始古朴的色调。

这森严可怕的地方只有一个人口。至少达威特沿着城堡那宽阔的前部看去时,就只看见一个人口。那人口是在第一道外墙的中央,两旁耸立着坚固的塔楼,作为大门的常规防御工事。他还观察到常见的一些附属工事,铁门和吊桥——此刻铁门已放下来,而吊桥则被提了上去。第二和第三道围墙的人口处也可以看到类似的塔楼,但与外墙人口处的塔楼不在一条线上。作为人口的通道并不是在同一点上穿过三道围墙,而恰好相反。穿过第一道围墙的人得在第一道和第二道墙之间行进三十码左右的距离。如果怀着敌意进来,他们就会受到两边箭石的夹击。同样,当他们穿过了第二道墙之后,也得偏离直线照样绕一下路才能抵达最里层的第三道围墙的大门。因此,要想进入城堡大楼前的外院,敌人就必须在两边受到箭石袭击的情况下穿过两个危险的狭道,还必须成功地突破以当代最坚固的方式进行防守的三道大门。

达威特来自一个充满内忧外患的国家。它具有险峻多山的地势,到处都是悬崖峭壁和湍急的水流,地形极易防守。所以这年轻人相当熟悉在那严酷的时代人们力图保护自己的住所而发明的各种巧妙办法;但他向同伴坦率地承认,他从没料到,在大自然没提供防御条件的地方,却能设计出这么多的办法,匠心独运地来弥补天工之不足。因为,正如我们提到过的,城堡只不过是建立在从他们所站的地点缓缓上升的那个斜坡的坡顶。

使他更为吃惊的是,他的同伴告诉他,城堡的周围,除开一条可以安全抵达大门的曲折小径以外,其余地方也都像他们刚穿过的丛林那样,布满了各种隐蔽的陷阱、机关,以捕捉没有向导带领而敢于闯进的不速之客。他还说墙上都造了一些称之为燕窝的铁笼子。布置在那儿的哨兵不冒任何风险就能瞄准那些不知道他们的暗号和当天口令而擅自进来的生人。皇家卫队的射手们不分昼夜地执行这一勤务,为此路易工给他们极高的报酬、华丽的服装,还有很多的荣誉和好处。“你说说吧,年轻人,”他继续讲道,“你可曾见到过这样坚固的堡垒,你是否以为有人胆大包天,竟敢进攻这样一个堡垒?”

年轻人久久地凝望着这个地方,越看越感兴趣,以至在年轻人好奇心的影响下,竟忘了他还穿着湿衣服。

他像正在考虑采取果敢而光荣的行动的人那样,一边闪着眼睛,面颊绊红,一边回答道:“这是个坚固的城堡,防守严密。但对于勇敢的人说来,并没有什么办不到的事。”

“在你们国家有谁能干这种了不起的事吗?”老年人相当轻蔑地说道。

“我不愿打保票,”年轻人回答道,“不过我们那儿有成千上万的人会为了正义事业尝试干这种冒险事。”

“哼!”长者说道,“也许你自己就是这样一个勇士?”

“如果我在没有危险的形势下吹牛皮,那我就是罪过。”年轻的达威特回答道,“不过,我父亲就干过这种勇敢的事,而我自信我并不是一个胆小的杂种。”

“行!”他的伙伴微笑着说道,“不过,干这种冒险事你就会碰到你的对手,而且是你的同胞,因为在那边墙上站岗的正是路易王卫队的苏格兰射手——是你们国家三百个出身最好的贵族。”

“要是我是路易王,”年轻人回答道,“我就把我的人身安全托付给这三百个苏格兰贵族,充分相信他们的忠诚,而把围墙拆下来填平护城河,并把我的贵族和骑士们邀集在身边,过与国王地位相称的生活。我要在威武壮观的比武会上观看长矛手决斗,我要白天和贵族们欢宴,晚上和什女们跳舞;我要像毫不惧怕苍蝇那样毫不惧怕我的敌人。”

他的同伴又微笑起来。这时他转过身去背对着城堡,因为他发觉他们已离它太近。接着他带领年轻人通过一条他们没走过,但常有人来往的更宽的小径回到原来那个树林。“这条小路会把我们带到一个叫做普莱西的村庄。”他说道,“作为一个异乡人,你将在那儿得到诚实无欺的款待。再往上大约两英里就是美丽的图尔城。这个美丽而富饶的伯爵领地正是由它而得名。不过我们要去的普莱西村,因为它离皇宫很近,有时也叫做御花园的普莱西村,而它周围有很多猎物,将会为你提供更殷勤的招待。”

“善良的老爷,我很感谢您给我介绍这个情况,”那苏格兰人说道,“不过我在这儿呆的时间很短,因此,只要我能得到一点肉吃吃,一点比白开水稍好的东西喝喝,那么管它叫花园的普莱西也罢,池塘的普莱西也罢,我有求于这个村庄的就将大大得到满足。”

“不,”他的同伴答道,“我想,你在这儿有个什么朋友要拜访。”

“我的确有个朋友要拜访——那是我妈的亲兄弟,”达威特回答说,“而且,在他离开安古斯山以前,还是脚踏结实的厚底皮鞋。在石南地里呆过的最漂亮的小伙子。”

“他叫什么名字?”年长者问道,“我可以代你打听他。你一个人上城堡很不安全。人们会把你当作奸细。”

“嘿,我的天!”年轻人说道,“把我当作奸细!——上帝在上,谁捏造我这个罪状,就清谁试试我宝剑的厉害。至于我舅舅的名字,我倒不在乎别人知道——他叫莱斯利。莱斯利是个忠厚而高贵的名字。”

“这我不怀疑,’老人说道,“不过,在苏格兰卫队里有三个人叫这个名字。”

“我舅舅的名字是卢德维克·莱斯利。”年轻人说道。

“三个莱斯利当中,”那商人对答道,“就有两个叫卢德维克。”

“人们把我舅舅叫做带伤疤的卢德维克。”昆丁说道,“我们的姓在苏格兰氏族中是非常普通的,因此,在不牵涉土地的情况下,我们总是要加上一个小名。”

“我想你指的是化名,”他的同伴回答道,“你提到的这个人,我想是由于他脸上的伤疤才叫他做勒巴拉弗雷。他是个挺不错的人,一个好武士。我希望我能帮助你和他见面,因为他是负有严格保卫责任的显要人物。除非直接陪伴国王外出,这些人是不会经常离开他们的卫戍岗位的——好了,年轻人,你回答我一个问题吧。我敢打赌,你是想和你的舅父一道在苏格兰卫队里服役。要是你有这个打算,那可是一件大事,特别是因为你还非常年轻,而要获得你所追求的那个高贵职位是需要好些年经验的。”

“也许我曾想过这种事,”达威特漫不经心地说道,“不过一旦真想,吸引力也就消失了。”

“怎么会呢,年轻人?”那法国人有点严峻地说道,“难道你就这样来评论你那些最高贵的同胞们急于获得的差事?”

“我祝他们幸福。”昆丁不动声色地讲,“坦白地说,本来我也许很想为法国国王服役。不过,不管你让我穿得多么华丽,吃得多么高级,我还是更热爱自由的空气,而不愿关在那种笼子里,或你们称之为燕窝的那种铁格子胡椒罐里。此外,”他低声补充说道,“说真的,假如某个城堡前的科温大树上结着像那边树上的这类椽子,我就不会喜欢这个城堡。”

“我猜出你是什么意思了,”那法国人说道,“不过请你说得更清楚些。”

“好,我就把话说得更清楚些。离城堡一箭之遥的地方长着一株漂亮的橡树——在那株橡树上吊着一个穿我这种灰色紧身上衣的男人。”

“一点不错!”那法国人说道,“天哪!看来就应该有年轻人的锐利眼光!嘿,我可的确看见点什么,不过只把它当作树枝中间藏着的一只乌鸦。年轻人,其实这也没有什么可奇怪的,在夏日过去,秋天来临,月夜很长,道路变得不安全的时候,你会看到十个,甚至二十个一束的这类椽子挂在那株老朽的橡树上——不过,那有什么呢?——它们都是为了吓退歹人,发出警告的讯号旗。每有一个恶棍挂在那儿,老实人就可以指望法国少一个小偷、逆贼和在官道上公开抢劫的盗匪,或剥削压迫百姓的恶棍。年轻人,这些都是我们的君主执法如山的明证。”

“要是我是路易王,我就会把他们吊在离我的皇宫更远的地方。”年轻人说道,“在苏格兰,我们是把死乌鸦吊在活乌鸦常去的地方,而不是吊在我们的花园里或鸽房里。呸,尽管我们站得这么远,那腐尸的臭气还会飘人我的鼻孔里。”

“我的年轻人,如果你想成为你们君主的一个忠诚的仆人,”那法国人回答道,“那你就会发现没有哪种香味能比得上一个被处死的逆贼的尸臭气。”

“要是这样,我就宁肯不活,除非我失去嗅觉和视觉。”苏格兰人说道,“您还不如指给我一个活的逆贼。我的手和我的武器将知道如何对付他。不过,人一死,仇恨就该了结。——我想,我们快进村了。我希望我能向您表明,不管是在河里吃了口水,还是感到恶心,都没有败坏我吃早点的胃口。好朋友,请您尽快领我去客店吧——不过在我接受您好客的招待之前,请告诉我该怎样称呼您。”

“就叫我皮埃尔老爷好了,”他的同伴回答道,“我不在乎头衔和称号。做一个依靠自己的本事谋生的平凡人——这就是我的志向。”

“那好吧,皮埃尔老爷,”昆丁说道,“我很高兴有这么好的机会使我们碰在一起。我正需要有人给我及时出出主意。我懂得该如何向他表示感激。”

他们这样说着的时候,看到教堂尖塔和高高的木十字架突出于树枝之上,这说明他们已来到了那个村庄。

他们走的这条路已经和一条开阔的公共堤道相联结,但皮埃尔老爷却领着他离开这条路向一旁走去,并对他的同伴说,他打算领他去的那家客店要稍微幽静一些,只接待比较高级的旅客。

“如果您指的是那些钱袋装得更满满的旅客,”那苏格兰人回答道,“那我可不敢当,我宁愿碰碰运气和你们官道上的强盗打交道,也不肯和你们客店里的强盗打交道!”

“老天爷呀!”领路的人说道,“瞧你们苏格兰人做事多么谨慎呀!要是一个英国人,他就会一头钻进一家酒店,要上最好的酒菜一醉方休,未填饱肚子以前决不考虑算账的事。不过,昆丁少爷(既然你名叫昆丁),你忘了,由于我的过错使你在河里打湿了衣服,我还欠你一顿早餐哩。这是我冒犯了你,向你表示一点道歉的意思。”

“说实在的,”心情愉快的年轻人说道,“您害得我打湿了衣服,冒犯了我,要表示歉意等等,我全都忘了。走了这么多路,我的衣服也已经晾干,或差不多快晾干。不过,我也不会拒绝您盛情的邀请。我昨天吃的那顿午餐不怎么丰盛,晚饭我也没吃。看来您是个年老而体面的市民,我想没什么理由不接受您的邀请。”

那法国人把头转向一边微笑起来,因为他清楚地了解这年轻人尽管可能饿得够呛,但又不甘心承认自己白吃陌生人的东西,因此正力图求助于一种想法来克服自己的自尊心。其找到的论据是在这类小恩小惠的问题上,接受和发出邀请都能使对方偷快。

这时他们已走下一棵高大的榆树荫蔽着的小径,在小径的尽头处通过一道门走进一家大旅店的庭院。这家旅店专门接待来邻近的城堡办差事的贵族或求见国王的要人,因为只有在很少的情况下,在按照礼节实在无法回避时,路易十一才许可在他的皇宫里布置客房接待客人。在这不整齐的大楼房的门上挂着一个饰有百合花皇家标志的盾牌。但在庭院及其附属房舍的周围都几乎没有当时那个时代公私客店雇有许多招待,生意兴隆、顾客盈门的忙碌气氛。似乎近旁那个严峻而孤高的皇宫,也把它一部分严肃可怖的阴森气氛传染给了这个殿堂般的建筑物,而按照外地的习惯,它本应成为人们纵情地进行社交娱乐的场所。

皮埃尔老爷没有叫谁一声,甚至也没有走近大门的人口,就打开一道旁门的门闩,带头走进了一间大房子。这时一大块木柴正在壁炉里熊熊燃烧,人们正在安排一顿丰盛的早餐。

“我的老伙计办事很细心,”那法国人对苏格兰人讲,“你一定很冷,我已叫人事先生好了火。你肯定也很饿了,早餐马上给你端来。”

他吹吹口哨。店主走了进来,并尊敬地回答了皮埃尔老爷向他道的“早安”,但丝毫没表现出任何时代一个法国的酒店老板那种爱唠叨的幽默风趣。

“我请一位绅士来订早餐,”皮埃尔老爷说道,“他订好了吗?”

店主只以鞠躬行礼作为回答。接着他就把各种点心菜肴一一端来摆在桌上。他没说一句话来赞扬它们的美味。固然法国的东道主们往往喜欢夸耀他们的菜肴,但就这顿早餐来说,任何溢美之词它都当之无愧。我将在下一章向读者作些介绍。



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