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Chapter 4 The Dejeuner

Sacred heaven! what masticators! what bread!

YORICK'S TRAVELS

We left our young stranger in France situated more comfortably than he had found himself since entering the territories of the ancient Gauls. The breakfast, as we hinted in the conclusion of the last chapter, was admirable. There was a pate de Perigord, over which a gastronome would have wished to live and die, like Homer's lotus eaters (see the Odyssey, chap. ix, where Odysseus arrives at the land of the Lotus eaters: "whosoever of them ate the lotus's honeyed fruit resolved to bring tidings back no more and never to leave the place, but with the Lotus eaters there desired to stay, to feed on lotus and forget his going home." Palmer's Translation.), forgetful of kin, native country, and all social obligations whatever. Its vast walls of magnificent crust seemed raised like the bulwarks of some rich metropolitan city, an emblem of the wealth which they are designed to protect. There was a delicate ragout, with just that petit point de l'ail (a little flavor of garlic. The French is ungrammatical.) which Gascons love, and Scottishmen do not hate. There was, besides, a delicate ham, which had once supported a noble wild boar in the neighbouring wood of Mountrichart. There was the most exquisite white bread, made into little round loaves called boules (whence the bakers took their French name of boulangers), of which the crust was so inviting, that, even with water alone, it would have been a delicacy. But the water was not alone, for there was a flask of leather called bottrine, which contained about a quart of exquisite Vin de Beaulne. So many good things might have created appetite under the ribs of death. What effect, then, must they have produced upon a youngster of scarce twenty, who (for the truth must be told) had eaten little for the two last days, save the scarcely ripe fruit which chance afforded him an opportunity of plucking, and a very moderate portion of barley bread? He threw himself upon the ragout, and the plate was presently vacant -- he attacked the mighty pasty, marched deep into the bowels of the land, and seasoning his enormous meal with an occasional cup of wine, returned to the charge again and again, to the astonishment of mine host, and the amusement of Maitre Pierre.

The latter indeed, probably because he found himself the author of a kinder action than he had thought of, seemed delighted with the appetite of the young Scot; and when, at length, he observed that his exertions began to languish, endeavoured to stimulate him to new efforts by ordering confections, darioles (cream cakes), and any other light dainties he could think of, to entice the youth to continue his meal. While thus engaged, Maitre Pierre's countenance expressed a kind of good humour almost amounting to benevolence, which appeared remote from its ordinary sharp, caustic, and severe character. The aged almost always sympathize with the enjoyments of youth and with its exertions of every kind, when the mind of the spectator rests on its natural poise and is not disturbed by inward envy or idle emulation.

Quentin Durward also, while thus agreeably employed, could do no otherwise than discover that the countenance of his entertainer, which he had at first found so unprepossessing, mended when it was seen under the influence of the Vin de Beaulne, and there was kindness in the tone with which he reproached Maitre Pierre, that he amused himself with laughing at his appetite, without eating anything himself.

"I am doing penance," said Maitre Pierre, "and may not eat anything before noon, save some comfiture and a cup of water. -- Bid yonder lady," he added, turning to the innkeeper, "bring them hither to me."

The innkeeper left the room, and Maitre Pierre proceeded, "Well, have I kept faith with you concerning the breakfast I promised you?"

"The best meal I have eaten," said the youth, "since I left Glen Houlakin."

"Glen -- what?" demanded Maitre Pierre. "Are you going to raise the devil, that you use such long tailed words?"

"Glen Houlakin," answered Quentin good humouredly, "which is to say the Glen of the Midges, is the name of our ancient patrimony, my good sir. You have bought the right to laugh at the sound, if you please."

"I have not the least intention to offend," said the old man; "but I was about to say, since you like your present meal so well, that the Scottish Archers of the guard eat as good a one, or a better, every day."

"No wonder," said Durward; "for if they be shut up in the swallows' nests all night, they must needs have a curious appetite in the morning."

"And plenty to gratify it upon," said Maitre Pierre. "They need not, like the Burgundians, choose a bare back, that they may have a full belly -- they dress like counts, and feast like abbots."

"It is well for them," said Durward.

"And wherefore will you not take service here, young man? Your uncle might, I dare say, have you placed on the file when there should a vacancy occur. And, hark in your ear, I myself have some little interest, and might be of some use to you. You can ride, I presume, as well as draw the bow?"

"Our race are as good horsemen as ever put a plated shoe into a steel stirrup; and I know not but I might accept of your kind offer. Yet, look you, food and raiment are needful things, but, in my case, men think of honour, and advancement, and brave deeds of arms. Your King Louis -- God bless him, for he is a friend and ally of Scotland -- but he lies here in this castle, or only rides about from one fortified town to another; and gains cities and provinces by politic embassies, and not in fair fighting. Now, for me, I am of the Douglases' mind, who always kept the fields, because they loved better to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak."

"Young man," said Maitre Pierre, "do not judge too rashly of the actions of sovereigns. Louis seeks to spare the blood of his subjects, and cares not for his own. He showed himself a man of courage at Montl'hery."

"Ay, but that was some dozen years ago or more," answered the youth -- "I should like to follow a master that would keep his honour as bright as his shield, and always venture foremost in the very throng of the battle."

"Why did you not tarry at Brussels, then, with the Duke of Burgundy? He would put you in the way to have your bones broken every day; and, rather than fail, would do the job for you himself -- especially if he heard that you had beaten his forester."

"Very true," said Quentin; "my unhappy chance has shut that door against me."

"Nay, there are plenty of daredevils abroad, with whom mad youngsters may find service," said his adviser. "What think you, for example, of William de la Marck?"

"What!" exclaimed Durward, "serve Him with the Beard -- serve the Wild Boar of Ardennes -- a captain of pillagers and murderers, who would take a man's life for the value of his gaberdine, and who slays priests and pilgrims as if they were so many lance knights and men at arms? It would be a blot on my father's scutcheon for ever."

"Well, my young hot blood," replied Maitre Pierre, "if you hold the Sanglier (Wild Boar) too unscrupulous, wherefore not follow the young Duke of Gueldres?"

(Adolphus, son of Arnold and of Catherine de Bourbon. . . . He made war against his father; in which unnatural strife he made the old man prisoner, and used him with the most brutal violence, proceeding, it is said, even to the length of striking him with his hand. Arnold, in resentment of this usage, disinherited the unprincipled wretch, and sold to Charles of Burgundy whatever rights he had over the duchy of Gueldres and earldom of Zutphen. . . . S.)

"Follow the foul fiend as soon," said Quentin. "Hark in your ear -- he is a burden too heavy for earth to carry -- hell gapes for him! Men say that he keeps his own father imprisoned, and that he has even struck him -- can you believe it?"

Maitre Pierre seemed somewhat disconcerted with the naive horror with which the young Scotsman spoke of filial ingratitude, and he answered, "You know not, young man, how short a while the relations of blood subsist amongst those of elevated rank;" then changed the tone of feeling in which he had begun to speak, and added, gaily, "besides, if the Duke has beaten his father, I warrant you his father hath beaten him of old, so it is but a clearing of scores."

"I marvel to hear you speak thus," said the Scot, colouring with indignation; "gray hairs such as yours ought to have fitter subjects for jesting. If the old Duke did beat his son in childhood, he beat him not enough; for better he had died under the rod, than have lived to make the Christian world ashamed that such a monster had ever been baptized."

"At this rate," said Maitre Pierre, "as you weigh the characters of each prince and leader, I think you had better become a captain yourself; for where will one so wise find a chieftain fit to command him?"

"You laugh at me, Maitre Pierre," said the youth, good humouredly, "and perhaps you are right; but you have not named a man who is a gallant leader, and keeps a brave party up here, under whom a man might seek service well enough."

"I cannot guess whom you mean."

"Why, he that hangs like Mahomet's coffin (there is a tradition that Mahomet's coffin is suspended in mid air Without any support, the most generally accepted explanation being that the coffin is of iron and is placed between two magnets) (a curse be upon Mahomet!) between the two loadstones -- he that no man can call either French or Burgundian, but who knows to hold the balance between them both, and makes both of them fear and serve him, for as great princes as they be."

"I cannot guess whom you mean," said Maitre Pierre, thoughtfully.

"Why, whom should I mean but the noble Louis de Luxembourg, Count of Saint Paul, the High Constable of France? Yonder he makes his place good with his gallant little army, holding his head as high as either King Louis or Duke Charles, and balancing between them like the boy who stands on the midst of a plank, while two others are swinging on the opposite ends."

(This part of Louis XI's reign was much embarrassed by the intrigues of the Constable Saint Paul, who affected independence, and carried on intrigues with England, France, and Burgundy at the same time. According to the usual fate of such variable politicians, the Constable ended by drawing upon himself the animosity of all the powerful neighbours whom he had in their turn amused and deceived. He was delivered up by the Duke of Burgundy to the King of France, tried, and hastily executed for treason, A. D. 1475. S.)

"He is in danger of the worst fall of the three," said Maitre Pierre. "And hark ye, my young friend, you who hold pillaging such a crime, do you know that your politic Count of Saint Paul was the first who set the example of burning the country during the time of war? and that before the shameful devastation which he committed, open towns and villages, which made no resistance, were spared on all sides?"

"Nay, faith," said Durward, "if that be the case, I shall begin to think no one of these great men is much better than another, and that a choice among them is but like choosing a tree to be hung upon. But this Count de Saint Paul, this Constable, hath possessed himself by clean conveyance of the town which takes its name from my honoured saint and patron, Saint Quentin" (it was by his possession of this town of Saint Quentin that the Constable was able to carry on those political intrigues which finally cost him so dear. S.) (here he crossed himself), "and methinks were I dwelling there, my holy patron would keep some look out for me -- he has not so many named after him as your more popular saints -- and yet he must have forgotten me, poor Quentin Durward, his spiritual godson, since he lets me go one day without food, and leaves me the next morning to the harbourage of Saint Julian, and the chance courtesy of a stranger, purchased by a ducking in the renowned river Cher, or one of its tributaries."

"Blaspheme not the saints, my young friend," said Maitre Pierre. "Saint Julian is the faithful patron of travellers; and, peradventure, the blessed Saint Quentin hath done more and better for thee than thou art aware of."

As he spoke, the door opened, and a girl rather above than under fifteen years old, entered with a platter, covered with damask, on which was placed a small saucer of the dried plums which have always added to the reputation of Tours, and a cup of the curiously chased plate which the goldsmiths of that city were anciently famous for executing with a delicacy of workmanship that distinguished them from the other cities of France, and even excelled the skill of the metropolis. The form of the goblet was so elegant that Durward thought not of observing closely whether the material was of silver, or like what had been placed before himself, of a baser metal, but so well burnished as to resemble the richer ore.

But the sight of the young person by whom this service was executed attracted Durward's attention far more than the petty minutiae of the duty which she performed.

He speedily made the discovery that a quantity of long black tresses, which, in the maiden fashion of his own country, were unadorned by any ornament, except a single chaplet lightly woven out of ivy leaves, formed a veil around a countenance which, in its regular features, dark eyes, and pensive expression, resembled that of Melpomene (the Muse of tragedy), though there was a faint glow on the cheek, and an intelligence on the lips and in the eye, which made it seem that gaiety was not foreign to a countenance so expressive, although it might not be its most habitual expression. Quentin even thought he could discern that depressing circumstances were the cause why a countenance so young and so lovely was graver than belongs to early beauty; and as the romantic imagination of youth is rapid in drawing conclusions from slight premises, he was pleased to infer, from what follows, that the fate of this beautiful vision was wrapped in silence and mystery.

"How now, Jacqueline?" said Maitre Pierre, when she entered the apartment. "Wherefore this? Did I not desire that Dame Perette should bring what I wanted? -- Pasques dieu! -- Is she, or does she think herself, too good to serve me?"

"My kinswoman is ill at ease," answered Jacqueline, in a hurried yet a humble tone, -- "ill at ease, and keeps her chamber."

"She keeps it alone, I hope!" replied Maitre Pierre, with some emphasis; "I am vieux routier (one who is experienced in the ways of the world), and none of those upon whom feigned disorders pass for apologies."

Jacqueline turned pale, and even tottered at the answer of Maitre Pierre; for it must be owned that his voice and looks, at all times harsh, caustic, and unpleasing, had, when he expressed anger or suspicion, an effect both sinister and alarming.

The mountain chivalry of Quentin Durward was instantly awakened, and he hastened to approach Jacqueline and relieve her of the burden she bore, and which she passively resigned to him, while, with a timid and anxious look, she watched the countenance of the angry burgess. It was not in nature to resist the piercing and pity craving expression of her looks, and Maitre Pierre proceeded, not merely with an air of diminished displeasure, but with as much gentleness as he could assume in countenance and manner, "I blame not thee, Jacqueline, and thou art too young to be, what it is pity to think thou must be one day -- a false and treacherous thing, like the rest of thy giddy sex. No man ever lived to man's estate, but he had the opportunity to know you all (he (Louis) entertained great contempt for the understanding, and not less for the character, of the fair sex. S.). Here is a Scottish cavalier will tell you the same."

Jacqueline looked for an instant on the young stranger, as if to obey Maitre Pierre, but the glance, momentary as it was, appeared to Durward a pathetic appeal to him for support and sympathy; and with the promptitude dictated by the feelings of youth, and the romantic veneration for the female sex inspired by his education, he answered hastily that he would throw down his gage to any antagonist, of equal rank and equal age, who should presume to say such a countenance as that which he now looked upon, could be animated by other than the purest and the truest mind.

The young woman grew deadly pale, and cast an apprehensive glance upon Maitre Pierre, in whom the bravado of the young gallant seemed only to excite laughter, more scornful than applausive. Quentin, whose second thoughts generally corrected the first, though sometimes after they had found utterance, blushed deeply at having uttered what might be construed into an empty boast in presence of an old man of a peaceful profession; and as a sort of just and appropriate penance, resolved patiently to submit to the ridicule which he had incurred. He offered the cup and trencher to Maitre Pierre with a blush in his cheek, and a humiliation of countenance which endeavoured to disguise itself under an embarrassed smile.

"You are a foolish young man," said Maitre Pierre, "and know as little of women as of princes, -- whose hearts," he said, crossing himself devoutly, "God keeps in his right hand."

"And who keeps those of the women, then?" said Quentin, resolved, if he could help it, not to be borne down by the assumed superiority of this extraordinary old man, whose lofty and careless manner possessed an influence over him of which he felt ashamed.

"I am afraid you must ask of them in another quarter," said Maitre Pierre, composedly.

Quentin was again rebuffed, but not utterly disconcerted. "Surely," he said to himself, "I do not pay this same burgess of Tours all the deference which I yield him, on account of the miserable obligation of a breakfast, though it was a right good and substantial meal. Dogs and hawks are attached by feeding only -- man must have kindness, if you would bind him with the cords of affection and obligation. But he is an extraordinary person; and that beautiful emanation that is even now vanishing -- surely a thing so fair belongs not to this mean place, belongs not even to the money gathering merchant himself, though he seems to exert authority over her, as doubtless he does over all whom chance brings within his little circle. It is wonderful what ideas of consequence these Flemings and Frenchmen attach to wealth -- so much more than wealth deserves, that I suppose this old merchant thinks the civility I pay to his age is given to his money. I a Scottish gentleman of blood and coat armour, and he a mechanic of Tours!"

Such were the thoughts which hastily traversed the mind of young Durward; while Maitre Pierre said with a smile, and at the same time patting Jacqueline's heed, from which hung down her long tresses, "This young man will serve me, Jacqueline, thou mayst withdraw. I will tell thy negligent kinswoman she does ill to expose thee to be gazed on unnecessarily."

"It was only to wait on you," said the maiden. "I trust you will not be displeased with my kinswoman, since" --

"Pasques dieu!" said the merchant, interrupting her, but not harshly, "do you bandy words with me, you brat, or stay you to gaze upon the youngster here? -- Begone -- he is noble, and his services will suffice me."

Jacqueline vanished; and so much was Quentin Durward interested in her sudden disappearance that it broke his previous thread of reflection, and he complied mechanically when Maitre Pierre said, in the tone of one accustomed to be obeyed, as he threw himself carelessly upon a large easy chair, "Place that tray beside me."

The merchant then let his dark eyebrows sink over his keen eyes so that the last became scarce visible, or but shot forth occasionally a quick and vivid ray, like those of the sun setting behind a dark cloud, through which its beams are occasionally darted, but singly and for an instant.

"That is a beautiful creature," said the old man at last, raising his head, and looking steadily and firmly at Quentin, when he put the question, -- "a lovely girl to be the servant of an auberge (an inn)? She might grace the board of an honest burgess; but 'tis a vile education, a base origin."

It sometimes happens that a chance shot will demolish a noble castle in the air, and the architect on such occasions entertains little goodwill towards him who fires it, although the damage on the offender's part may be wholly unintentional. Quentin was disconcerted, and was disposed to be angry -- he himself knew not why -- with this old man, for acquainting him that this beautiful creature was neither more nor less than what her occupation announced; the servant of the auberge -- an upper servant, indeed, and probably a niece of the landlord, or such like; but still a domestic, and obliged to comply with the humour of the customers, and particularly of Maitre Pierre, who probably had sufficiency of whims, and was rich enough to ensure their being attended to.

The thought, the lingering thought, again returned on him, that he ought to make the old gentleman understand the difference betwixt their conditions, and call on him to mark, that, how rich soever he might be, his wealth put him on no level with a Durward of Glen Houlakin. Yet, whenever he looked on Maitre Pierre's countenance with such a purpose, there was, notwithstanding the downcast look, pinched features, and mean and miserly dress, something which prevented the young man from asserting the superiority over the merchant which he conceived himself to possess. On the contrary, the oftener and more fixedly Quentin looked at him, the stronger became his curiosity to know who or what this man actually was; and he set him down internally for at least a Syndic or high magistrate of Tours, or one who was, in some way or other, in the full habit of exacting and receiving deference. Meantime, the merchant seemed again sunk into a reverie, from which he raised himself only to make the sign of the cross devoutly, and to eat some of the dried fruit, with a morsel of biscuit. He then signed to Quentin to give him the cup, adding, however, by way of question, as he presented it, "You are noble, you say?"

"I surely am," replied the Scot, "if fifteen descents can make me so -- so I told you before. But do not constrain yourself on that account, Maitre Pierre -- I have always been taught it is the duty of the young to assist the more aged."

"An excellent maxim," said the merchant, availing himself of the youth's assistance in handing the cup, and filling it from a ewer which seemed of the same materials with the goblet, without any of those scruples in point of propriety which, perhaps, Quentin had expected to excite.

"The devil take the ease and familiarity of this old mechanical burgher!" said Durward once more to himself. "He uses the attendance of a noble Scottish gentleman with as little ceremony as I would that of a gillie from Glen Isla."

The merchant, in the meanwhile, having finished his cup of water, said to his companion, "From the zeal with which you seem to relish the Vin de Beaulne, I fancy you would not care much to pledge me in this elemental liquor. But I have an elixir about me which can convert even the rock water into the richest wines of France."

As he spoke, he took a large purse from his bosom, made of the fur of the sea otter, and streamed a shower of small silver pieces into the goblet, until the cup, which was but a small one, was more than half full.

"You have reason to be more thankful, young man," said Maitre Pierre, "both to your patron Saint Quentin and to Saint Julian, than you seemed to be but now. I would advise you to bestow alms in their name. Remain in this hostelry until you see your kinsman, Le Balafre, who will be relieved from guard in the afternoon. I will cause him to be acquainted that he may find you here, for I have business in the Castle."

Quentin Durward would have said something to have excused himself from accepting the profuse liberality of his new friend; but Maitre Pierre, bending his dark brows, and erecting his stooping figure into an attitude of more dignity than he had yet seen him assume, said in a tone of authority, "No reply, young man, but do what you are commanded."

With these words he left the apartment, making a sign, as he departed, that Quentin must not follow him.

The young Scotsman stood astounded, and knew not what to think of the matter. His first most natural, though perhaps not most dignified impulse, drove him to peer into the silver goblet, which assuredly was more than half full of silver pieces to the number of several scores, of which perhaps Quentin had never called twenty his own at one time during the course of his whole life. But could he reconcile it to his dignity as a gentleman, to accept the money of this wealthy plebeian? -- This was a trying question; for, though he had secured a good breakfast, it was no great reserve upon which to travel either back to Dijon, in case he chose to hazard the wrath and enter the service of the Duke of Burgundy, or to Saint Quentin, if he fixed on that of the Constable Saint Paul; for to one of those powers, if not to the king of France, he was determined to offer his services. He perhaps took the wisest resolution in the circumstances, in resolving to be guided by the advice of his uncle; and, in the meantime, he put the money into his velvet hawking pouch, and called for the landlord of the house, in order to restore the silver cup -- resolving, at the same time, to ask him some questions about this liberal and authoritative merchant.

The man of the house appeared presently; and, if not more communicative, was at least more loquacious, than he had been formerly. He positively declined to take back the silver cup. It was none of his, he said, but Maitre Pierre's, who had bestowed it on his guest. He had, indeed, four silver hanaps of his own, which had been left him by his grandmother, of happy memory, but no more like the beautiful carving of that in his guest's hand, than a peach was like a turnip -- that was one of the famous cups of Tours, wrought by Martin Dominique, an artist who might brag all Paris.

"And, pray, who is this Maitre Pierre," said Durward, interrupting him, "who confers such valuable gifts on strangers?"

"Who is Maitre Pierre?" said the host, dropping the words as slowly from his mouth as if he had been distilling them.

"Ay," said Durward, hastily and peremptorily, "who is this Maitre Pierre, and why does he throw about his bounties in this fashion? And who is the butcherly looking fellow whom he sent forward to order breakfast?"

"Why, fair sir, as to who Maitre Pierre is, you should have asked the question of himself; and for the gentleman who ordered breakfast to be made ready, may God keep us from his closer acquaintance!"

"There is something mysterious in all this," said the young Scot. "This Maitre Pierre tells me he is a merchant."

"And if he told you so," said the innkeeper, "surely he is a merchant."

"What commodities does he deal in?"

"Oh, many a fair matter of traffic," said the host; "and especially he has set up silk manufactories here which match those rich bales that the Venetians bring from India and Cathay. You might see the rows of mulberry trees as you came hither, all planted by Maitre Pierre's command, to feed the silk worms."

"And that young person who brought in the confections, who is she, my good friend?" said the guest.

"My lodger, sir, with her guardian, some sort of aunt or kinswoman, as I think," replied the innkeeper.

"And do you usually employ your guests in waiting on each other?" said Durward; "for I observed that Maitre Pierre would take nothing from your hand, or that of your attendant."

"Rich men may have their fancies, for they can pay for them," said the landlord; "this is not the first time Maitre Pierre has found the true way to make gentlefolks serve at his beck."

The young Scotsman felt somewhat offended at the insinuation; but, disguising his resentment, he asked whether he could be accommodated with an apartment at this place for a day, and perhaps longer.

"Certainly," the innkeeper replied; "for whatever time he was pleased to command it."

"Could he be permitted," he asked, "to pay his respects to the ladies, whose fellow lodger he was about to become?"

The innkeeper was uncertain. "They went not abroad," he said, "and received no one at home."

"With the exception, I presume, of Maitre Pierre?" said Durward.

"I am not at liberty to name any exceptions," answered the man, firmly but respectfully.

Quentin, who carried the notions of his own importance pretty high, considering how destitute he was of means to support them, being somewhat mortified by the innkeeper's reply, did not hesitate to avail himself of a practice common enough in that age. "Carry to the ladies," he said, "a flask of vernat, with my humble duty; and say that Quentin Durward, of the house of Glen Houlakin, a Scottish cavalier of honour, and now their fellow lodger, desires the permission to dedicate his homage to them in a personal interview."

The messenger departed, and returned, almost instantly, with the thanks of the ladies, who declined the proffered refreshment, and, with their acknowledgments to the Scottish cavalier, regretted that, residing there in privacy, they could not receive his visit.

Quentin bit his lip, took a cup of the rejected vernat, which the host had placed on the table. "By the mass, but this is a strange country," said he to himself, "where merchants and mechanics exercise the manners and munificence of nobles, and little travelling damsels, who hold their court in a cabaret (a public house), keep their state like disguised princesses! I will see that black browed maiden again, or it will go hard, however;" and having formed this prudent resolution, he demanded to be conducted to the apartment which he was to call his own.

The landlord presently ushered him up a turret staircase, and from thence along a gallery, with many doors opening from it, like those of cells in a convent; a resemblance which our young hero, who recollected, with much ennui, an early specimen of a monastic life, was far from admiring. The host paused at the very end of the gallery, selected a key from the large bunch which he carried at his girdle, opened the door, and showed his guest the interior of a turret chamber; small, indeed, but which, being clean and solitary, and having the pallet bed and the few articles of furniture, in unusually good order, seemed, on the whole, a little palace.

"I hope you will find your dwelling agreeable here, fair sir," said the landlord. "I am bound to pleasure every friend of Maitre Pierre."

"Oh, happy ducking!" exclaimed Quentin Durward, cutting a caper on the floor, so soon as his host had retired: "Never came good luck in a better or a wetter form. I have been fairly deluged by my good fortune."

As he spoke thus, he stepped towards the little window, which, as the turret projected considerably from the principal line of the building, not only commanded a very pretty garden of some extent, belonging to the inn, but overlooked, beyond its boundary, a pleasant grove of those very mulberry trees which Maitre Pierre was said to have planted for the support of the silk worm. Besides, turning the eye from these more remote objects, and looking straight along the wall, the turret of Quentin was opposite to another turret, and the little window at which he stood commanded a similar little window in a corresponding projection of the building. Now, it would be difficult for a man twenty years older than Quentin to say why this locality interested him more than either the pleasant garden or the grove of mulberry trees; for, alas! eyes which have been used for forty years and upwards, look with indifference on little turret windows, though the lattice be half open to admit the air, while the shutter is half closed to exclude the sun, or perhaps a too curious eye -- nay, even though there hang on the one side of the casement a lute, partly mantled by a light veil of sea green silk. But, at Durward's happy age, such accidents, as a painter would call them, form sufficient foundation for a hundred airy visions and mysterious conjectures, at recollection of which the full grown man smiles while he sighs, and sighs while he smiles.

As it may be supposed that our friend Quentin wished to learn a little more of his fair neighbour, the owner of the lute and veil -- as it may be supposed he was at least interested to know whether she might not prove the same whom he had seen in humble attendance on Maitre Pierre, it must of course be understood that he did not produce a broad staring visage and person in full front of his own casement. Durward knew better the art of bird catching; and it was to his keeping his person skilfully withdrawn on one side of his window; while he peeped through the lattice, that he owed the pleasure of seeing a white, round, beautiful arm take down the instrument, and that his ears had presently after their share in the reward of his dexterous management.

The maid of the little turret, of the veil, and of the lute sang exactly such an air as we are accustomed to suppose flowed from the lips of the high born dames of chivalry, when knights and troubadours listened and languished. The words had neither so much sense, wit, or fancy as to withdraw the attention from the music, nor the music so much of art as to drown all feeling of the words. The one seemed fitted to the other; and if the song had been recited without the notes, or the air played without the words, neither would have been worth noting. It is; therefore, scarcely fair to put upon record lines intended not to be said or read, but only to be sung. But such scraps of old poetry have always had a sort of fascination for us; and as the tune is lost for ever unless Bishop (Sir Henry Rowley, an English composer and professor of music at Oxford in 1848. Among his most popular operas are Guy Mannering and The Kniqht of Snowdon) happens to find the notes, or some lark teaches Stephens (Catherine (1794-1882): a vocalist and actress who created Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro, and various parts in adaptation of Scott.) to warble the air -- we will risk our credit, and the taste of the Lady of the Lute, by preserving the verses, simple and even rude as they are:

Ah! County Guy, the hour is nigh, The sun has left the lea, The orange flower perfumes the bower, The breeze is on the sea. The lark, his lay who thrill'd all day, Sits hush'd his partner nigh; Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour, But where is County Guy?

The village maid steals through the shade, Her shepherd's suit to hear; To beauty shy, by lattice high, Sings high born Cavalier. The star of Love, all stars above, Now reigns o'er earth and sky; And high and low the influence know -- But where is County Guy?

Whatever the reader may think of this simple ditty, it had a powerful effect on Quentin, when married to heavenly airs, and sung by a sweet and melting voice, the notes mingling with the gentle breezes which wafted perfumes from the garden, and the figure of the songstress being so partially and obscurely visible as threw a veil of mysterious fascination over the whole.

At the close of the air, the listener could not help showing himself more boldly than he had yet done, in a rash attempt to see more than he had yet been able to discover. The music instantly ceased -- the casement was closed, and a dark curtain, dropped on the inside, put a stop to all farther observation on the part of the neighbour in the next turret.

Durward was mortified and surprised at the consequence of his precipitance, but comforted himself with the hope that the Lady of the Lute could neither easily forego the practice of an instrument which seemed so familiar to her, nor cruelly resolve to renounce the pleasures of fresh air and an open window for the churlish purpose of preserving for her own exclusive ear the sweet sounds which she created. There came, perhaps, a little feeling of personal vanity to mingle with these consolatory reflections. If, as he shrewdly suspected, there was a beautiful dark tressed damsel inhabitant of the one turret, he could not but be conscious that a handsome, young, roving, bright locked gallant, a cavalier of fortune, was the tenant of the other; and romances, those prudent instructors, had taught his youth that if damsels were shy, they were yet neither void of interest nor of curiosity in their neighbours' affairs.

Whilst Quentin was engaged in these sage reflections, a sort of attendant or chamberlain of the inn informed him that a cavalier desired to speak with him below.

神圣的上帝啊!人们咀嚼得多么津津有味!

面包多么香甜可口!

《约里克游记》

在上一章结尾时,这位来到法国的年轻异乡人真算得上是他进入古高卢国的国土以后最享福的时刻。正如在上一章结尾时提到的,早餐是值得羡慕的。有一种“贝里戈尔德馅饼”,可说是任何美食嗜好者都会像荷马史诗中的食莲忘忧者一样忘掉亲人、祖国和一切社会义务而不惜吃着生,吃着死的上等食品。它那精美的酥皮的硕大外壁就像一个富裕城市的壁垒,象征着它所要保护的财富。还有一道精美的肉菜,这正好是加斯科尼人喜欢吃,而苏格兰人也不厌弃的鸡翅嫩尖。此外,还有一道美味的火腿。想当初这只大腿也曾支撑过邻近的蒙特里夏尔森林里某只贵重的野猪。吃的面包则是做工考究的小园点式的白面包,俗称boules(面包师的法语名称boulanger就是来源于此)。面包的酥皮如此诱人,我看只消一杯水伴食,就已经是一道佳肴了。何况桌上并不光有一杯水,还摆着名叫波特林的皮酒囊,装有大约一夸特香郁的波尔尼葡萄酒。即使在死神的威胁下,这么多的美食也会激起食欲的。既然这个还不到二十岁的年轻小伙子,前两天除了极少一点大麦面包和偶有机会摘到的还不大熟的果子以外,吃得实在少得可怜,那么这些美食会对他产生什么效果呢?他简直是把身子扑在那道菜饨鸡肉上,把它一扫而光;接着又长驱直入地进攻那块硕大的馅饼。他偶尔用一杯酒来调剂调剂这丰盛的食物,又马上回过头来对准它一次又一次地冲锋,使得店主大为吃惊,也使皮埃尔老爷觉得很有趣。

皮埃尔老爷也许发觉自己干了一桩比他原先料想的更为仁慈的好事,似乎对这年轻的苏格兰人的好胃口感到很高兴,因此,当他看到他的努力开始松劲时,便点些名叫“达里阿勒”的甜食以及他想得起的别的一些精美点心作新的努力,来刺激这年轻人,诱使他继续加餐。当皮埃尔这样做的时候,他脸上表现出一种近乎仁慈的好兴致,显得和他平常那种刻薄严厉的性格迥然不同。当老人在一边旁观,心情舒坦,不为内心的羡慕或无谓的炉忌所扰时,他们对年轻人的享乐和各种活动自然能报以同情。

昆丁·达威特在高兴地吃着早点的同时,不能不发现,尽管东道主的容貌先前很令人不快,但在波尔尼酒的作用下,此刻也有了改善。他以善意的语气责备皮埃尔老爷,说他只是取笑他的好胃口来寻开心,而自己却一口不吃。

“我是在悔罪,”皮埃尔老爷说,“除了一点糖果和一杯开水,我早上什么也不能吃——请你叫叫那位小姐,”他转过身对店主补充说道,“把那两样给我拿来。”

店主走出去以后,皮埃尔老爷继续说道:“我许诺过请你吃顿早餐。怎么样,我守信用吧?”

“这是我离开格兰一呼拉金以后吃过的一顿最好的饭食。”年轻人说道。

“格兰——什么?”皮埃尔老爷问道,“你用这么长的字眼,是打算捣什么鬼吗?”

“格兰一呼拉金,”昆丁兴致勃勃地回答道,“是蚊蚋之谷的意思。我的好老爷,这是我们古代的祖先留下的庄园的名字。假如您愿意,您倒是拿钱买了取笑这名字的权利。”

“我丝毫不想冒犯你。”老人说道,“既然我看到你那么喜欢你刚吃过的早点,我想告诉你,皇家卫队的苏格兰射手们每天都吃得这么好,甚至比这更好。”

“这不稀奇。”达威特说道,“既然他们整晚都被关在那些燕窝里,他们早上一定有非常好的胃口。”

“满足他们胃口的东西真是应有尽有。”皮埃尔老爷说道,“他们不必像勃艮第人那样,为了填饱肚子,不得不选择光着背的办法——他们穿得像伯爵那样华丽,也吃得像寺院的方丈那样高级。”

“他们算有福气。”达威特说道。

“年轻人,你干吗不在这儿服役呢?要是卫队出现一个空缺,我敢说你舅舅会把你安插进去。让我悄悄对你说吧,我个人也有点用场,也许能帮你一点忙。我想,你会射箭和骑马吧?”

“我们苏格兰人是能把铠靴放进钢马镫里的好骑手。很难说,也许我会接受您好心的建议。不过您要知道,吃穿固然要紧,但像我这种情况,人们还要考虑荣誉、提升和勇士的英雄业绩。你们的路易王——上帝祝福他,因为他是苏格兰的盟友——只住在这个城堡里,或骑马从一个设防的城市走到另一个设防的城市。他不是通过公平的战斗而是通过有谋略的使节来赢得城市和地盘的。不过,就我来说,我属于道格拉斯的战士们那种思想性格;像他们一样,我喜欢在田野和战场上讨生活,更喜欢听百灵鸟歌唱,而不爱听老鼠尖叫。”

“年轻人,”皮埃尔老爷说道,“你可别轻率地判断君王们的行动。路易王谋求的是如何避免臣民们流血,而他自己倒不在乎。在蒙勒里他已表明自己是个勇敢的人。”

“您说得对。不过,那是十二年前的事了。”年轻人回答道,“我希望我跟的主人愿把自己的荣誉保持得像盾甲一样锃亮,在战斗最激烈的地方冲锋陷阵。”

“那你为什么不留在布鲁塞尔,和勃艮第公爵在一起鬼混呢?他会使你每天都有机会打断你的骨头。而且,为了避免你失误,他还会亲自替你打断你的骨头——特别是如果他听说你打了他的护林宫的话。”

“您说得很对,”昆丁说道,“我运气不好,自己把这道门关上了。”

“不要紧。国外有许多敢冲敢闯的人,你们狂热的年轻人满可以到那儿去找出路。”年长者给他充当起参谋来,“比如说吧,你认为威廉·德拉马克如何?”

“什么!”达威特惊叫道,“投奔大胡子的德拉马克——投奔‘阿登内斯野猪’?您知道,这家伙是杀人越货者的首领。在他眼里,一条人命只抵得上他穿的长袍。他可以把牧师和香客像对待骑士和武士那样无情地杀戮!如果我去投奔他,那将使我祖先的光荣历史永远蒙上污点。”

“好吧,你这血气方刚的年轻人,”皮埃尔老爷回答道,“如果你认为德拉马克这野猪为非作歹,你干吗不去跟年轻的格尔德雷斯公爵呢?”

“我宁可跟罪恶的魔鬼。”昆丁说道,“让我悄悄对您说吧——他简直是个连地球也承受不起的负担——愿地狱张开口把他吞没了吧!人们说他监禁他亲生父亲,而且还打了他——你能相信竟有人干出了这种事吗?”

看到这年轻人谈到儿子不孝父亲时表现出天真的恐怖,皮埃尔似乎有点不安。他回答道:“年轻人,你不知道贵族当中血缘关系存在的时间多么短暂,”接着他又改变他开始时的腔调,开心地补充道,“再说嘛,如果公爵打了他的父亲,我敢说,他父亲以前也打过他,所以这只是还还债。”

“听您这么说,我真感到吃惊。”那苏格兰人脸气得通红。“像您这样的白发老人本应选择更恰当的话题来开玩笑。如果说老公爵的确在儿子小的时候打了他,应该说他还打得不够,因为宁可让他死在棍棒底下,也不能因为教会曾为这样一个残忍的怪物施洗而使整个基督世界蒙羞。”

“像你这样衡量每个王公贵族和君主的品德,”皮埃尔老爷说道,“那么,我想你最好是自己当一个首领,因为,像你这样聪明的人,你能在哪儿找到一个配得上指挥你的首领呢?”

“皮埃尔老爷,您是在笑话我。”年轻人和气地说道,“也许您说得对,但您没有提到一个人的名字。他不愧是一个豪侠的首领,在这一带统率着一批勇敢的弟兄。在他手下人们可以很好地为他效劳。”

“我猜不出你指的是谁。”

“嘿,我指的是那像穆罕默德的棺材一样(该诅咒的穆罕默德!)悬在两块磁石当中的一个好人——这人既算不上属于法兰西,也算不上属于勃艮第,但他知道怎样在他们两者之间保持平衡,使他们都害怕他,为他效劳,尽管他们本身都是势力强大的君主。”

“我猜不出你指的是哪个。”皮埃尔老爷沉思般地说道。

“嘿,难道您不知道我指的正是圣保罗伯爵,法兰西总督卢森堡·路易么?他在那儿依靠一支勇敢的小部队,把他的地盘经营得很好,头抬得和路易工和查尔斯公爵一般高,并与之抗衡。他们两人在跷跷板的两头摆动,而他就像个小男孩那样踩在跷跷板的中央。”

“他在他们当中可能跌得最惨。”皮埃尔老爷说道,“你听着吧,年轻的朋友,既然你把劫掠看作是莫大的罪恶,那么你知不知道,你那讲究策略的圣保罗伯爵是第一个在战争时期带头放火烧房子的人?而在他犯下这无耻的暴行以前,不进行抵抗和不设防的城市和乡村本不遭受任何人侵犯!”

“说实在的,我并不知道。”达威特说,“如果真是这样,那么我不得不认为,这些大人物都是半斤八两。在他们当中进行选择无异于挑选一根便于上吊的大树。不过,这位圣保罗伯爵总督大人已通过充分的转让占有一座城市,它的名字就是取自我尊敬的圣徒和保护神圣昆丁,”(说着他划了一个十字)“我想,要是我住在那儿,我圣洁的保护神会保佑我——因为他不像那些大受欢迎的圣徒,有那么多人取他的名字。不过,他一定是忘了他精神上的教子——我这可怜的昆丁·达威特。瞧他让我饿着肚子赶了一天,第二天早晨又把我丢给圣朱利安照顾。由于我在有名的谢尔河或其支流成了落汤鸡,才有机会受到一位陌生人的礼遇得以裹腹充饥。”

“年轻的朋友,可别亵渎圣徒了,”皮埃尔老爷说道,“圣朱利安是旅客们忠实的保护神。再说,也许得福的圣昆丁为你干了许多好事,而你根本没感觉到。”

在他正说着的时候,房门打开,一个看来年过十五(而非不满十五)的少女端着一个盖有大马士革绸子的大盘子进来。盘子上摆着一小碟使图尔城增添光彩的梅子,以及一个精工细镂的镀金杯。这杯子是该城的金匠自古闻名的杰作,因为他们精雕细刻的本领与法国其他城市相比更为突出,甚至比巴黎的技术都更胜一筹。酒杯的形状如此雅致,以致达威特根本没想到要仔细观察一下究竟它是银的,还是像先前摆在他面前的那只,是用较贱的金属制成的。这酒杯被擦拭得晶莹透亮,看起来就像银的一样。

端东西进来的这个姑娘的模样远比她干这差事的详细情形更引起达威特的注意。

他很快发现,她那一堆长而黑的鬈发,也像他们苏格兰少女时兴的那样,除了一个用常春藤叶子编织成的花冠以外,别无他饰。这些鬈发似乎成了她脸部周围的黑面纱,加上她那端正的五官、黑色的眼睛和沉思的表情,看起来很像美尔波马尼的面孔。不过,她面颊上微微有红晕;而嘴唇和眼角带有的神色也使人觉得,对于这样一张富于表情的面孔来说,尽管快乐不是最惯常的表情,但也并非完全陌生。昆丁甚至觉得他可以看出,正是不幸的境遇使得这么一张年轻可爱的面孔显示出少女不应有的过分严肃。年轻人都喜欢以其浪漫的幻想通过轻率的假设很快得出结论,所以他很容易就凭自己看到的以上事实,推断这美人的命运一定是笼罩在沉默和神秘之中。

“是怎么回事,杰奎琳?”她一进屋皮埃尔老爷便说道,“这是干什么?我不是讲过,要贝雷特太太给我端我所点的东西吗?——老天爷,难道她真是,或自以为是太高贵,不屑于侍候我吗?”

“我姑妈身体不舒服,”杰奎琳赶忙谦恭地说道,“她在房里休息。”

“我想她是一个人在房里吧?”皮埃尔老爷略微加重语气说道,“我是个老手,不是用装病就可以被蒙骗的。”

听到皮埃尔老爷的回答,杰奎琳脸色刷白,甚至摇晃了两下。必须承认,这人的声音和容貌虽然随时都显得粗鲁、尖刻和不愉快,但当他发怒或猜疑的时候,其效果就显得既阴森又可怕。

昆丁·达威特那种山地人特有的骑士性格马上表现了出来。他赶忙跑过去和杰奎琳打招呼,把她手上端的东西接过来。她一边被动地接受他的好意,一边带着胆怯而焦急的目光注视那市民生气的面孔。然而她目光中那种令人钻心、动人哀怜的表情是天性无法抗拒的。皮埃尔老爷不仅将不悦的表情收敛了一些,而且面色和态度都尽量显得温和地说道:“我并不责怪你,杰奎琳。你十分年轻,还不至于是——但我很遗憾地说,总有一天你必然会是一个和别的轻浮女子一样阴险虚伪的坏人。任何成年男子都会有机会彻底了解你们这些女人。我想这位苏格兰骑士也会对你说同样的话。”

杰奎琳似乎为了服从皮埃尔老爷的吩咐,望了那年轻的陌生人一眼。尽管这只是短暂的一瞥,但在达威特看来却像在哀求他给她同情和支持。年轻人的感情以及教育灌输给他的对女性罗曼蒂克般的尊敬促使他迅速作出反应。他赶忙回答说,像他现在所看到的这位小姐的面孔所流露出的表情,充分说明她思想十分真纯;要是有人胆敢不这样认为,他就要向他挑战。

年轻少女脸色刷地变白。她恐惧地向皮埃尔老爷望了一眼。但年轻人的胆量在这位老爷身上似乎只激起了一阵表示轻蔑而非夸奖的大笑。昆丁经常是稍一考虑就会改正出于一时冲动而产生的想法,尽管有时这种想法已经脱口而出。这时他脸色通红,因为在一个赤手空拳的老人面前刚讲过的话很可能被理解为空洞的大话。作为一种公平而适当的歉意表示,他决定耐心地忍受他自己招来的这一讥笑。他双颊绊红,带着一种以不好意思的微笑极力掩盖的谦卑表情,把杯子和盘子递给皮埃尔老爷。

“你真是一个傻气的年轻人,”皮埃尔老爷说道,“你对王公贵族缺乏了解,也同样对女人缺乏了解。但愿上帝——”他一边虔诚地画十字一边说道,“好好照管他们的心灵。”

“那么谁又来照管女人的心灵呢?”昆丁说道。他决心尽可能不让这气度不凡的老人摆出的一副高人一等的姿态把自己压倒,因为他觉得他那高傲而毫不在乎的样子对他具有某种令他自己也感到羞愧的慑服力。

“我看,你得向别人请教这个问题。”皮埃尔老爷安详地说道。

昆丁又碰了一鼻子灰。但他并不觉得十分难堪。“说实在的,”他暗自想道,“我并没有向这位图尔人表示应有的尊敬以报答他对我的款待。这顿早餐的确很丰盛。狗和老鹰只要人来喂养它们就会互相产生感情。如果你想用感情和感恩的纽带来束住人的话,你还得使他感到你的善意和仁慈。话说回来,他的确是个不寻常的人。而刚才那个昙花一现似的美丽精灵——像这样一位美丽的少女肯定不属于这个鄙陋的客店,甚至也不属于这个以赚钱为业的商人;但他似乎能对她施展权威。看来他对任何偶然进入他这个小圈子的人都能施展权威。这些弗兰德人和法国人对财富的重视真是惊人——它远远超过财富真正的价值。我猜这位年老的商人定以为我对他表现的礼貌不是由于他年高而是由于他有钱——但我是一个出身名门、有高贵血统的苏格兰绅士,而他只是个图尔的工匠而已!”

这就是匆匆掠过年轻的达威特心头的一些想法。这时皮埃尔老爷含着微笑,轻轻地拍拍杰奎琳垂挂着长发的头说:“杰奎琳,这年轻人会侍候我——你可以走了。我将告诉你那粗心大意的姑妈,让你受到别人的注视是不必要的。”

“这只是因为要侍候您。”那姑娘说道,“我想您不会对我的姑妈不高兴,既然——”

“天啦!”那商人粗鲁地打断了她的话,“你这小家伙,你在这儿是为了和我拌嘴,还是为了盯着这年轻小伙子呢?你走吧——他很高贵,他侍候我就行了。”

杰奎琳走了。她的突然离去使得昆丁·达威特怅然若失。他对皮埃尔老爷的吩咐也只表示出机械的服从。皮埃尔老爷懒洋洋地往一张大安乐椅上一躺,以一种习惯于使唤他人的声调说道:“把那个盘子给我端过来。”

这时那商人双眉低垂,掩住了他那敏锐的眼睛,使得它们被这得几乎看不见,只像消失在乌云后面的落日偶尔一瞬间放射出一丝阳光一样,间或从浓眉底下射出一道锋利的目光。

“这是个美人。”老人抬起头来说道,接着一边目不转睛地盯着昆丁·达威特,一边问道,“这样一位可爱的姑娘竟在旅店当个传女?她满可以侍候一位贵人,给他的餐桌增添光彩。只是受的教育糟糕,且出身卑微。”

有时偶然射出的一发炮弹会打垮一座高贵的空中楼阁。在这种情况下,楼阁的建筑师对发射炮弹的人是不会有好感的,尽管肇事者可能完全是无意的。昆丁感到十分难堪,很想对这商人发火——连他自己也不知道为什么——因为他告诉自己,这美人正是她的活计所表明的那样一种身份——旅店恃女——尽管是个高级侍女,也许还是店主的侄女一类的人物,但毕竟是个仆役,不得不迎合顾客的脾气,特别是皮埃尔老爷的脾气;看来这老爷有许多怪癖,也有足够的金钱来驱使别人满足他这些怪癖。

一些断断续续的思想又回到他脑海中;他想他应当叫这年老的绅士懂得,他们的身份不同,他得注意,不管他多么有钱,他的财富也不能使他和一个格兰一呼拉金地方的达威特子弟平起平坐。但是,每当他带着这个目的注视皮埃尔老爷的面孔时,尽管皮埃尔老爷其貌不扬,低垂着眼睛,衣服也很不讲究,却总有某种东西使他无法表现出他自以为对这商人具有的优越感。相反,昆丁越是注视他,就越是好奇地想知道这人究竟是谁,是干什么的。他暗自猜想,他至少是图尔城的市政官或高级知事,一个或多或少习惯于要求别人尊敬自己和接受别人尊敬的要人。

这时那商人似乎又陷入沉思,只是为了虔诚地划划十字,吃点干果和饼干才抬起头来。他向昆丁打了个手势叫他把酒杯递给他。当昆丁把酒杯递给他时,他又问了一句:“你说你是贵族,是吗?”

“这不用说,”苏格兰人回答道,“如果一个第十五代的贵族后裔仍能算得上贵族的话——我先前就是这样告诉你的。不过,皮埃尔老爷,您用不着为此感到拘谨——我受的教育教导我,帮助年长者是年轻人应尽的义务。”

“妙不可言。”那商人说道,一边心安理得地让这年轻人替自己递杯子,用酒壶(酒壶似乎和酒杯一样的材料)斟满酒,丝毫不觉得礼节方面有何不妥,而昆丁原以为这会使他不安。

“让这蛮不讲礼自得其乐的老家伙见鬼去吧,”达威特又一次暗自思忖道,“他使唤一个苏格兰贵族绅士时的那种毫不客气的派头简直就像我使唤一个格兰一依斯拉的游猎随从。”

这时那商人已喝完了一杯水,便对他的同伴说:“从你欣赏波尔内葡萄酒的兴致看来,我想你不会愿意用它来为我祝酒。不过我有个灵丹妙药能使岩石中的水也变成法国最好的美酒。”

他说着从怀中掏出一个海獭皮做的钱袋,把小银币哗啦哗啦地倒在酒杯里,直到把半个小酒杯都装得满满的。

“年轻人,对你的保护神圣昆丁和圣朱利安你应当表现出比先前更深的感激。我建议你以他们的名义对穷人施舍。你就呆在这客店里,等你舅舅勒巴拉弗雷吧。他下午交岗休息。我将告诉他你在这儿等他,因为我正好要去城堡办点事。”

昆丁·达威特本想说点什么来谢绝这位新朋友的慷慨赠与。但皮埃尔老爷低下他的浓眉,直起他弯曲的身子,摆出一副还没见他有过的更为庄严的气派,用一种权威的口气说道:“不要回答了,年轻人,照我吩咐你的去做吧。”

说着他离开了屋子。走出去的时候他做了个手势,叫昆丁别跟在后面。

年轻的苏格兰人吃惊地站着,对这事不知该如何理解。他首先感到的一个合乎自然的,但也许不是最高贵的冲动便是急于看一看那个银酒杯。酒杯肯定有一半以上装满了银币。多达几十个,而昆丁也许一生还不曾一次有过二十个。接受这位富有的平民的钱和他绅士的尊严是否相容呢?这是个恼人的问题,因为说实在的,要是他决定冒着勃艮第公爵会对他发怒的危险,返回第戎去参加他的军队,或者,要是他看中了圣保罗总督决定去圣昆丁,那么,尽管他吃了一顿丰盛的早餐,但肚子里的这点储备究竟很有限。他原来的打算就是若不投奔法国国王,就投奔这两个权贵当中的某一个,为其服役。他也许是作出了当时情况下最明智的决定:准备接他舅父的意见行事。他暂时把钱放进他那天鹅绒的饲鹰袋里,叫来店主,把银酒杯还给他——同时决心就这位慷慨而威严的商人问他几个问题。

店主很快走了出来;他虽然不见得比先前更乐于交谈,但至少显得更爱唠叨一些。他断然拒绝收回那个银杯。他说这不是他的,而是皮埃尔老爷送给客人的。固然他自己有四个银酒杯,是他值得怀念的外祖母留给他的,但就像萝卜不能和桃子相比一样,它们根本不能和客人手上拿着的这个镶着美丽雕花的酒杯相比——因为这是图尔最有名的酒杯之一,是一位技艺精湛足以使全巴黎为之叹服的艺人马丁·多米尼克制作的。

“请问,皮埃尔老爷是谁,”达威特打断他的话问道,“竟把这样珍贵的礼物赠给陌生人?”

“皮埃尔老爷是谁呢?”店主说道,就像蒸馏水滴似的,把字一个个从嘴里慢慢吐了出来。

“是的,”达威特匆忙而果断地说道,“皮埃尔老爷是谁?为什么他这么随便这么慷慨地送礼物给人?而那个被他派来订早餐的屠夫模样的人又是谁?”

“嘿,亲爱的先生,皮埃尔老爷究竟是谁,这个问题你本该问你自己。至于跑来订早餐的那位先生,但愿上帝使我们不会和他再打交道!”

“这一切都有一种神秘的意味。”年轻的苏格兰人说道,“皮埃尔老爷对我说他是个商人。”

“既然他是这么对你说的,”店主讲道,“那么他肯定是个商人。”

“他经营什么商品?”

“啊,多种精美的商品,”店主说道,“特别是他在这儿修建了一些丝绸厂,产品足以和威尼斯人从印度和中国输人的成捆丝绸相媲美。您来这儿的途中可以看到一排排的桑树,这都是按皮埃尔老爷的吩咐栽来养蚕的。”

“我的好朋友,送茶点来的那个少女又是谁呢?”客人问道。

“先生,是我的房客,和她的保护人住在一起。我猜是她的姑母或别的什么亲戚。”

“你经常叫你的客人来侍候顾客吗?”达威特说道,“据我观察,皮埃尔老爷不愿你或你的仆人递给他东西。”

“有钱人都有他们的怪癖,反正他们也付得起钱来满足自己的怪癖。”店主说道,“皮埃尔老爷自有办法使唤贵族,这已经不是第一次了。”

年轻的苏格兰人对这一暗讽感到有点生气。不过,他掩盖住内心的不满,问他是否可以在这儿租间



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