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Chapter 11 The Hall Of Roland

Painters show cupid blind -- Hath Hymen eyes? Or is his sight warp'd by those spectacles which parents, guardians, and advisers, lent him, That he may look through them on lands and mansions, On jewels, gold, and all such rich dotations, And see their value ten times magnified? -- Methinks 't will brook a question.

THE MISERIES OF ENFORCED MARRIAGE

Louis XI of France, though the sovereign in Europe who was fondest and most jealous of power, desired only its substantial enjoyment; and though he knew well enough, and at times exacted strictly, the observances due to his rank, he was in general singularly careless of show.

In a prince of sounder moral qualities, the familiarity with which he invited subjects to his board -- nay, occasionally sat at theirs -- must have been highly popular; and even such as he was, the King's homeliness of manners atoned for many of his vices with that class of his subjects who were not particularly exposed to the consequences of his suspicion and jealousy. The tiers etat, or commons of France, who rose to more opulence and consequence under the reign of this sagacious Prince, respected his person, though they loved him not; and it was resting on their support that he was enabled to make his party good against the hatred of the nobles, who conceived that he diminished the honour of the French crown, and obscured their own splendid privileges by that very neglect of form which gratified the citizens and commons.

With patience which most other princes would have considered as degrading, and not without a sense of amusement, the Monarch of France waited till his Life Guardsman had satisfied the keenness of a youthful appetite. It may be supposed, however, that Quentin had too much sense and prudence to put the royal patience to a long or tedious proof; and indeed he was repeatedly desirous to break off his repast ere Louis would permit him.

"I see it in thine eye," he said good naturedly, "that thy courage is not half abated. Go on -- God and Saint Denis! -- charge again. I tell thee that meat and mass" (crossing himself) "never hindered the work of a good Christian man. Take a cup of wine; but mind thou be cautious of the wine pot -- it is the vice of thy countrymen as well as of the English, who, lacking that folly, are the choicest soldiers ever wore armour. And now wash speedily -- forget not thy benedicite, and follow me."

Quentin obeyed, and, conducted by a different but as maze-like an approach as he had formerly passed, he followed Louis into the Hall of Roland.

"Take notice," said the King, imperatively, "thou hast never left this post -- let that be thine answer to thy kinsman and comrades -- and, hark thee, to bind the recollection on thy memory, I give thee this gold chain" (flinging on his arm one of considerable value). "If I go not brave myself, those whom I trust have ever the means to ruffle it with the best. But when such chains as these bind not the tongue from wagging too freely, my gossip, L'Hermite, hath an amulet for the throat, which never fails to work a certain cure. And now attend. -- No man, save Oliver or I myself, enters here this evening; but ladies will come hither, perhaps from the one extremity of the hall, perhaps from the other, perhaps one from each. You may answer if they address you, but, being on duty, your answer must be brief; and you must neither address them in your turn, nor engage in any prolonged discourse. But hearken to what they say. Thine ears as well as thy hands are mine -- I have bought thee, body and soul. Therefore, if thou hearest aught of their conversation, thou must retain it in memory until it is communicated to me, and then forget it. And, now I think better on it, it will be best that thou pass for a Scottish recruit, who hath come straight down from his mountains, and hath not yet acquired our most Christian language. -- Right. -- So, if they speak to thee, thou wilt not answer -- this will free you from embarrassment, and lead them to converse without regard to your presence. You understand me. -- Farewell. Be wary, and thou hast a friend."

The King had scarce spoken these words ere he disappeared behind the arras, leaving Quentin to meditate on what he had seen and heard. The youth was in one of those situations from which it is pleasanter to look forward than to look back; for the reflection that he had been planted like a marksman in a thicket who watches for a stag, to take the life of the noble Count of Crevecoeur, had in it nothing ennobling. It was very true that the King's measures seemed on this occasion merely cautionary and defensive; but how did the youth know but he might be soon commanded on some offensive operation of the same kind? This would be an unpleasant crisis, since it was plain, from the character of his master, that there would be destruction in refusing, while his honour told him that there would be disgrace in complying. He turned his thoughts from this subject of reflection with the sage consolation so often adopted by youth when prospective dangers intrude themselves on their mind, that it was time enough to think what was to be done when the emergence actually arrived, and that sufficient for the day was the evil thereof.

Quentin made use of this sedative reflection the more easily that the last commands of the King had given him something more agreeable to think of than his own condition. The Lady of the Lute was certainly one of those to whom his attention was to be dedicated; and well in his mind did he promise to obey one part of the King's mandate, and listen with diligence to every word that might drop from her lips that he might know if the magic of her conversation equalled that of her music. But with as much sincerity did he swear to himself, that no part of her discourse should be reported by him to the King which might affect the fair speaker otherwise than favourably.

Meantime, there was no fear of his again slumbering on his post. Each passing breath of wind, which, finding its way through the open lattice, waved the old arras, sounded like the approach of the fair object of his expectation. He felt, in short, all that mysterious anxiety and eagerness of expectation which is always the companion of love, and sometimes hath a considerable share in creating it.

At length, a door actually creaked and jingled (for the doors even of palaces did not in the fifteenth century turn on their hinges so noiseless as ours); but, alas! it was not at that end of the hall from which the lute had been heard. It opened, however, and a female figure entered, followed by two others, whom she directed by a sign to remain without, while she herself came forward into the hall. By her imperfect and unequal gait, which showed to peculiar disadvantage as she traversed this long gallery, Quentin at once recognised the Princess Joan, and with the respect which became his situation, drew himself up in an attitude of silent vigilance, and lowered his weapon to her as she passed. She acknowledged the courtesy by a gracious inclination of her head, and he had an opportunity of seeing her countenance more distinctly than he had in the morning.

There was little in the features of this ill fated Princess to atone for the misfortune of her shape and gait. Her face was, indeed, by no means disagreeable in itself, though destitute of beauty; and there was a meek impression of suffering patience in her large blue eyes, which were commonly fixed upon the ground. But besides that she was extremely pallid in complexion, her skin had the yellowish discoloured tinge which accompanies habitual bad health; and though her teeth were white and regular, her lips were thin and pale. The Princess had a profusion of flaxen hair, but it was so light coloured as to be almost of a bluish tinge; and her tire woman, who doubtless considered the luxuriance of her mistress's tresses as a beauty, had not greatly improved matters by arranging them in curls around her pale countenance, to which they added an expression almost corpse-like and unearthly. To make matters still worse, she had chosen a vest or cymar of a pale green silk, which gave her, on the whole, a ghastly and even spectral appearance.

While Quentin followed this singular apparition with eyes in which curiosity was blended with compassion, for every look and motion of the Princess seemed to call for the latter feeling, two ladies entered from the upper end of the apartment.

One of these was the young person who upon Louis's summons had served him with fruit, while Quentin made his memorable breakfast at the Fleur de Lys. Invested now with all the mysterious dignity belonging to the nymph of the veil and lute, and proved, besides (at least in Quentin's estimation), to be the high born heiress of a rich earldom, her beauty made ten times the impression upon him which it had done when he beheld in her one whom he deemed the daughter of a paltry innkeeper, in attendance upon a rich and humorous old burgher. He now wondered what fascination could ever have concealed from him her real character. Yet her dress was nearly as simple as before, being a suit of deep mourning, without any ornaments. Her headdress was but a veil of crape, which was entirely thrown back, so as to leave her face uncovered; and it was only Quentin's knowledge of her actual rank, which gave in his estimation new elegance to her beautiful shape, a dignity to her step which had before remained unnoticed, and to her regular features, brilliant complexion, and dazzling eyes, an air of conscious nobleness that enhanced their beauty.

Had death been the penalty, Durward must needs have rendered to this beauty and her companion the same homage which he had just paid to the royalty of the Princess. They received it as those who were accustomed to the deference of inferiors, and returned it with courtesy; but he thought -- perhaps it was but a youthful vision -- that the young lady coloured slightly, kept her eyes on the ground, and seemed embarrassed though in a trifling degree, as she returned his military salutation. This must have been owing to her recollection of the audacious stranger in the neighbouring turret at the Fleur de Lys; but did that discomposure express displeasure? This question he had no means to determine.

The companion of the youthful Countess, dressed like herself simply and in deep mourning, was at the age when women are apt to cling most closely to that reputation for beauty which has for years been diminishing. She had still remains enough to show what the power of her charms must once have been, and, remembering past triumphs, it was evident from her manner that she had not relinquished the pretensions to future conquests. She was tall and graceful, though somewhat haughty in her deportment, and returned the salute of Quentin with a smile of gracious condescension, whispering the next instant something into her companion's ear, who turned towards the soldier as if to comply with some hint from the elder lady, but answered, nevertheless, without raising her eyes. Quentin could not help suspecting that the observation called on the young lady to notice his own good mien; and he was (I do not know why) pleased with the idea that the party referred to did not choose to look at him, in order to verify with her own eyes the truth of the observation. Probably he thought there was already a sort of mysterious connexion beginning to exist between them, which gave importance to the slightest trifle.

This reflection was momentary, for he was instantly wrapped up in attention to the meeting of the Princess Joan with these stranger ladies. She had stood still upon their entrance, in order to receive them, conscious, perhaps, that motion did not become her well; and as she was somewhat embarrassed in receiving and repaying their compliments, the elder stranger, ignorant of the rank of the party whom she addressed, was led to pay her salutation in a manner rather as if she conferred than received an honour through the interview.

"I rejoice," she said, with a smile which was meant to express condescension at once and encouragement, "that we are at length permitted the society of such a respectable person of our own sex as you appear to be. I must say that my niece and I have had but little for which to thank the hospitality of King Louis. -- Nay, niece, never pluck my sleeve -- I am sure I read in the looks of this young lady sympathy for out situation. -- Since we came hither, fair madam, we have been used little better than mere prisoners; and after a thousand invitations to throw our cause and our persons under the protection of France, the Most Christian King has afforded us at first but a base inn for our residence, and now a corner of this moth eaten palace, out of which we are only permitted to creep towards sunset, as if we were bats or owls, whose appearance in the sunshine is to be held matter of ill omen."

"I am sorry," said the Princess, faltering with the awkward embarrassment of the interview, "that we have been unable, hitherto, to receive you according to your deserts. -- Your niece, I trust, is better satisfied?"

"Much -- much better than I can express," answered the youthful Countess. "I sought but safety and I have found solitude and secrecy besides. The seclusion of our former residence, and the still greater solitude of that now assigned to us, augment, in my eye, the favour which the King vouchsafed to us unfortunate fugitives."

"Silence, my silly cousin," said the elder lady, "and let us speak according to our conscience, since at last we are alone with one of our own sex -- I say alone, for that handsome young soldier is a mere statue, since he seems not to have the use of his limbs, and I am given to understand he wants that of his tongue, at least in civilized language -- I say, since no one but this lady can understand us, I must own there is nothing I have regretted equal to taking this French journey. I looked for a splendid reception, tournaments, carousals, pageants, and festivals; instead of which, all has been seclusion and obscurity! and the best society whom the King introduced to us, was a Bohemian vagabond, by whose agency he directed us to correspond with our friends in Flanders. -- Perhaps," said the lady, "it is his politic intention to mew us up here until our lives' end, that he may seize on our estates, after the extinction of the ancient house of Croye. The Duke of Burgundy was not so cruel; he offered my niece a husband, though he was a bad one."

"I should have thought the veil preferable to an evil husband," said the Princess, with difficulty finding opportunity to interpose a word.

"One would at least wish to have the choice, madam," replied the voluble dame. "It is, Heaven knows, on account of my niece that I speak; for myself, I have long laid aside thoughts of changing my condition. I see you smile, but by my halidome, it is true -- yet that is no excuse for the King, whose conduct, like his person, hath more resemblance to that of old Michaud, the moneychanger of Ghent, than to the successor of Charlemagne."

"Hold!" said the Princess, with some asperity in her tone; "remember you speak of my father."

"Of your father!" replied the Burgundian lady, in surprise.

"Of my father," repeated the Princess, with dignity, "I am Joan of France. -- But fear not, madam," she continued, in the gentle accent which was natural to her, "you designed no offence, and I have taken none. Command my influence to render your exile and that of this interesting young person more supportable. Alas! it is but little I have in my power, but it is willingly offered."

Deep and submissive was the reverence with which the Countess Hameline de Croye, so was the elder lady called, received the obliging offer of the Princess's protection. She had been long the inhabitant of courts, was mistress of the manners which are there acquired, and held firmly the established rule of courtiers of all ages, who, although their usual private conversation turns upon the vices and follies of their patrons, and on the injuries and neglect which they themselves have sustained, never suffer such hints to drop from them in the presence of the Sovereign or those of his family. The lady was, therefore, scandalised to the last degree at the mistake which had induced her to speak so indecorously in presence of the daughter of Louis. She would have exhausted herself in expressing regret and making apologies, had she not been put to silence and restored to equanimity by the Princess, who requested, in the most gentle manner, yet which, from a Daughter of France, had the weight of a command, that no more might be said in the way either of excuse or of explanation.

The Princess Joan then took her own chair with a dignity which became her, and compelled the two strangers to sit, one on either hand, to which the younger consented with unfeigned and respectful diffidence, and the elder with an affectation of deep humility and deference which was intended for such.

They spoke together, but in such a low tone that the sentinel could not overhear their discourse, and only remarked that the Princess seemed to bestow much of her regard on the younger and more interesting lady; and that the Countess Hameline, though speaking a great deal more, attracted less of the Princess's attention by her full flow of conversation and compliment, than did her kinswoman by her brief and modest replies to what was addressed to her.

The conversation of the ladies had not lasted a quarter of an hour, when the door at the lower end of the hall opened, and a man entered shrouded in a riding cloak. Mindful of the King's injunction, and determined not to be a second time caught slumbering, Quentin instantly moved towards the intruder, and, interposing between him and the ladies, requested him to retire instantly.

"By whose command?" said the stranger, in a tone of contemptuous surprise.

"By that of the King," said Quentin, firmly, "which I am placed here to enforce."

"Not against Louis of Orleans," said the Duke, dropping his cloak.

The young man hesitated a moment; but how enforce his orders against the first Prince of the Blood, about to be allied, as the report now generally went, with the King's own family?

"Your Highness," he said, "is too great that your pleasure should be withstood by me. I trust your Highness will bear me witness that I have done the duty of my post so far as your will permitted."

"Go to -- you shall have no blame, young soldier," said Orleans; and passing forward, paid his compliments to the Princess, with that air of constraint which always marked his courtesy when addressing her.

He had been dining, he said, with Dunois, and understanding there was society in Roland's Gallery, he had ventured on the freedom of adding one to the number.

The colour which mounted into the pale cheek of the unfortunate Joan, and which for the moment spread something of beauty over her features, evinced that this addition to the company was anything but indifferent to her. She hastened to present the Prince to the two Ladies of Croye, who received him with the respect due to his eminent rank; and the Princess, pointing to a chair, requested him to join their conversation party.

The Duke declined the freedom of assuming a seat in such society; but taking a cushion from one of the settles, he laid it at the feet of the beautiful young Countess of Croye, and so seated himself, that, without appearing to neglect the Princess, he was enabled to bestow the greater share of his attention on her lovely neighbour.

At first, it seemed as if this arrangement rather pleased than offended his destined bride. She encouraged the Duke in his gallantries towards the fair stranger, and seemed to regard them as complimentary to herself. But the Duke of Orleans, though accustomed to subject his mind to the stern yoke of his uncle when in the King's presence, had enough of princely nature to induce him to follow his own inclinations whenever that restraint was withdrawn; and his high rank giving him a right to overstep the ordinary ceremonies, and advance at once to familiarity, his praises of the Countess Isabelle's beauty became so energetic, and flowed with such unrestrained freedom, owing perhaps to his having drunk a little more wine than usual -- for Dunois was no enemy to the worship of Bacchus -- that at length he seemed almost impassioned, and the presence of the Princess appeared well nigh forgotten.

The tone of compliment which he indulged was grateful only to one individual in the circle; for the Countess Hameline already anticipated the dignity of an alliance with the first Prince of the Blood, by means of her whose birth, beauty, and large possessions rendered such an ambitious consummation by no means impossible, even in the eyes of a less sanguine projector, could the views of Louis XI have been left out of the calculation of chances. The younger Countess listened to the Duke's gallantries with anxiety and embarrassment, and ever and anon turned an entreating look towards the Princess, as if requesting her to come to her relief. But the wounded feelings and the timidity of Joan of France rendered her incapable of an effort to make the conversation more general; and at length, excepting a few interjectional civilities of the Lady Hameline, it was maintained almost exclusively by the Duke himself, though at the expense of the younger Countess of Croye, whose beauty formed the theme of his high flown eloquence.

Nor must I forget that there was a third person, the unregarded sentinel, who saw his fair visions melt away like wax before the sun, as the Duke persevered in the warm tenor of his passionate discourse. At length the Countess Isabelle de Croye made a determined effort to cut short what was becoming intolerably disagreeable to her, especially from the pain to which the conduct of the Duke was apparently subjecting the Princess.

Addressing the latter, she said, modestly, but with some firmness, that the first boon she had to claim from her promised protection was, "that her Highness would undertake to convince the Duke of Orleans that the ladies of Burgundy, though inferior in wit and manners to those of France, were not such absolute fools as to be pleased with no other conversation than that of extravagant compliment."

"I grieve, lady," said the Duke, preventing the Princess's answer, "that you will satirize, in the same sentence, the beauty of the dames of Burgundy and the sincerity of the Knights of France. If we are hasty and extravagant in the expression of our admiration, it is because we love as we fight, Without letting cold deliberation come into our bosoms, and surrender to the fair with the same rapidity with which we defeat the valiant."

"The beauty of our countrywomen," said the young Countess, with more of reproof than she had yet ventured to use towards the high born suitor, "is as unfit to claim such triumphs, as the valour of the men of Burgundy is incapable of yielding them."

"I respect your patriotism, Countess," said the Duke; "and the last branch of your theme shall not be impugned by me, till a Burgundian knight shall offer to sustain it with lance in rest. But for the injustice which you have done to the charms which your land produces, I appeal from yourself to yourself. -- Look there," he said, pointing to a large mirror, the gift of the Venetian republic, and then of the highest rarity and value, "and tell me, as you look, what is the heart that can resist the charms there represented?"

The Princess, unable to sustain any longer the neglect of her lover, here sunk backwards on her chair with a sigh, which at once recalled the Duke from the land of romance, and induced the Lady Hameline to ask whether her Highness found herself ill.

"A sudden pain shot through my forehead," said the Princess, attempting to smile; "but I shall be presently better."

Her increasing paleness contradicted her words, and induced the Lady Hameline to call for assistance, as the Princess was about to faint.

The Duke, biting his lip, and cursing the folly which could not keep guard over his tongue, ran to summon the Princess's attendants, who were in the next chamber, and when they came hastily, with the usual remedies, he could not but, as a cavalier and gentleman, give his assistance to support and to recover her. His voice, rendered almost tender by pity and self reproach, was the most powerful means of recalling her to herself, and just as the swoon was passing away, the King himself entered the apartment.

画家们把丘比特画成盲目的——许门是否有眼睛呢?

要不就是他的视力被歪曲,

被父母、监护人和顾问们借给他的眼镜所歪曲?

因为他们希望他通过这些眼镜来看田地和房产,

来看珠宝、黄金和荣华富贵,

看到它们的价值被十倍地夸大。

我想这是个问题。

《不幸的强迫婚姻》

法国的路易十一虽然是一个权力欲望强烈且擅长耍弄权术的欧洲君主,但他希望得到的只是权力带来的具有实质的快乐。虽然他十分懂得人们对他的地位应给予何种尊敬的表现,而且有时也严格要求人们照此去做,但一般说来十分不注重形式。

对于一个道德素质更为健全的君主来说,亲切地邀请部下来吃顿饭,甚至偶尔到他们家里去吃顿饭,那一定会大得人心。但即使像他这样一位国王,就并不特别受到他猜忌的那一级臣民来说,态度的亲切随便也能弥补他许多缺点。第三等级,或称法国的平民阶级,在这位贤明的君主的统治下已变得更富裕更重要。他们很尊敬他这个人,但并不是爱戴他。正是依靠这些平民的支持,路易才有可能有效地对付贵族们对他的仇恨。贵族们都认为他那讨好市民和平民的不拘形式的作风降低了法国王室的尊严,同时也使得他们自己显赫的特权黯然失色。

这位法国国王颇觉有趣地等待着他的卫士满足年轻人挨饿后的食欲,其耐心程度会使大多数别的君王认为有失身份。不过可以设想,昆丁这人十分明理,十分审慎,自然不会让国王的耐心经受冗长而乏味的考验。事实上他也是一再想赶在路易干预之前就结束这顿饭。“通过你的眼睛我可以看出你的勇气并未减弱,”他脾气蛮好地说道,“继续干吧——上帝和圣丹尼斯!——再次发起冲锋吧!我告诉你,吃饭和做弥撒,”(说着他划了个十字)“决不会妨害一个善良的基督徒的功德。来,喝杯酒。不过,你得注意提防酒罐——这可是你的同胞们,也是英国人的一个缺点。要是去掉这个愚蠢的习惯,他们真算得上世界上最优秀的士兵。好了,你赶快用酒涮涮你的喉咙吧——别忘记念你的祝福祷告。行了,跟我来。”

昆丁听从吩咐,跟随路易王穿过和他先前走过的同样复杂的一个通道来到了罗兰厅。

“注意,”国王以命令的口气说道,“你得说你从来没离开这个岗位——这就是你对你舅舅和同伴应作的回答——你听着,为了把这事拴在你的脑子里,我给你这条金链子。”(接着把一条很值钱的金链子挂在他胳膊上)“虽然我不喜欢炫耀外表,但我的亲信们总会得到好东西来和贵人们比比阔气的。不过,要是像这样的金链子也不能把你的舌头拴住,那么,为了免得你随意饶舌,我那个伙计勒尔米特可有个治喉咙的万灵秘方。你注意,今晚除开奥利弗或我本人以外,谁也不会到这儿来。不过有两个贵妇人要来这儿,也许从大厅这一端进来,也许从大厅那一端进来,也可能各从一端进来。如果她们和你讲话,你可以回答,不过既然你在站岗,你的回答必须简短。但你不得反过来和她们讲话,更不得和她们作长时间的交谈。但你得听她们讲些什么。你的耳朵也像你的手一样,都是属于我的——我已经把你的肉体连灵魂全买下来了。因此,要是你听见她们讲什么,你就把它记下来,好讲给我听,然后把它忘掉。啊,我改变了主意。你最好装作一个刚从深山里下来的苏格兰新兵,还没学会我们最基督化的语言——对,要是她们对你讲话,你就别回答。这可以免得你为难,并诱使她们不顾你在场而任意讲话。你懂得我的意思吧!再见。放聪明一些,你就能获得一个朋友。”

国王刚说完这几句话就隐遁到壁毯后面,只留下昆丁独自思忖他看见和听到的种种情况。这年轻人此刻的处境是,向前看要比向后看更为愉快,因为回想自己曾像潜伏在丛林中猎公鹿的射手似的被安插在餐室里准备刺杀高贵的克雷维格伯爵,自然并无高贵可言。诚然,国王在这一场合采取的措施似乎仅属于戒备和保卫的性质。但这年轻人怎会知道,也许很快就会命令他去进行某种类似的进攻性的行动呢?这真是一个很不愉快的难题,因为根据主人的性格来看,很明显,拒绝定会带来灾难,但他的荣誉却告诉他,答应就会带来耻辱。他决心先不想这个问题,而是使用年轻人考虑可能发生的危险时常用的自我安慰的聪明办法:危险真到来时再考虑应付的办法也还不迟,再说,一天的难处一天当就够了。

昆丁比较容易地接受了这种自我安慰的想法,是因为国王的最后一道命令使他想到自己处境以外的某种更令人高兴的东西。那位诗琴女郎肯定是要求他加以注意的两位贵妇人之一。在他心里他自然乐于答应服从国王的那一部分指示,即专心地倾听她嘴里可能说出的每一句话。这样他就能判断她的谈吐的魅力是否比得上她的音乐的魅力。但他也同样真诚地从内心里发誓说,他决不把她谈话中可能会对这位美人产生不利影响的部分汇报给国王。

不过,现在已不用担心他在站岗时再打盹了。穿过大格子窗吹来的微风吹动墙上的挂毯,听起来也像是他所期待的丽人走来的脚步声。总之,此刻他感觉到了那总是伴随爱情而产生,有时又有助于培养爱情的那种翘首企望的神秘和焦急的心情。

最后,有道门终于吱嘎、铿锵地响了起来(因为在十五世纪时,就是皇宫的门也不像我们现在的门这样在铰链上无声地旋转)。天哪!门开的那一端并不是他曾听到诗琴弹奏的那个方向。门开了,一个妇人在另外两个妇人的跟随下走了进来。但她做了个手势叫她们呆在外面,而她则独自往大厅里走去。通过她穿过这长廊时显得特别难看的不均匀的步履,昆丁马上认出这是让娜公主。他向她表示合乎他身份的应有的礼貌。当她走过时,他把枪口低下来,挺直身子默默致敬。她很得体地低下了头作为答礼,因此他乘机比早晨更清楚地看到她的面容。

这位不幸的公主的容貌没有什么可取之处足以弥补身材和步履的缺陷。当然,她的面孔虽不美丽,但本身并不难看。她那总是注视着地面的大大的蓝眼睛具有一种忍受痛苦的温顺表情。除了脸色极其苍白以外,她的皮肤也因为经常有病而略微发黄。虽然她牙齿整齐洁白,但嘴唇很薄,没有血色。公主小姐有一头浓密的亚麻色头发,颜色淡淡的,几乎有点发蓝。她的梳妆侍女一定是认为女主人浓密的长发很美,因此把它弄成一圈圈的鬈发,围着她苍白的面孔。但这无济于事,反倒给她的面孔增添了一种死尸般不自然的感觉。更糟糕的是,她挑了一件淡绿绸的坎肩穿在身上,从总体上来看这就给人一种可怕的,甚至类似幽灵的印象。

昆丁用好奇掺杂着怜悯的目光看着这位奇异的鬼魂般的人物,因为公主小姐的每一个表情和动作都会引起这后一种感觉。正在这时,两位贵妇人从大厅的上面一端走了进来。

其中一位正是那位年轻的少女。当昆丁在百合花旅店吃那顿难忘的早餐时,她曾应路易之命给他上过水果。现在她既具有面纱诗琴仙女那种神秘的尊严气度,又表明是(至少在昆丁看来)一位富有的、出身高贵的伯爵领地继承人。此刻她在昆丁身上产生的这种印象自然要比他认为她只是一个小店主的女儿,正在侍候一位幽默而有钱的老市民时所产生的印象更深刻十倍。他奇怪,究竟是什么样的魅力使他看不出她的真面目。她的服装仍然和过去一样简朴,只穿着一套深色的丧服,没有任何装饰。她的头上只是披着一块皱纱,完全覆在脑后,露出整个面孔。正因为昆丁知道了她真正的身份,在他眼里那美丽的身材才具有一种新的典雅的风采,那以前没被他注意到的步履才具有一种尊严的感觉,而她那端正的面容、漂亮的肤色、闪耀的眼睛也才具有一种自己意识到的高贵气度,从而增添了它们的姿色。

即使要犯死罪,达威特也会像他刚才对待国王的公主小姐那样对这位美人和她的伴侣致以崇高的敬礼。她们就像习惯于接受下人谦恭行礼的贵人那样接受了他的敬礼,并还了他一个礼。但他想——也许这只是一个年轻人的幻觉吧——那年轻的小姐脸微微红了一下,眼睛望着地上,还礼时似乎稍稍有点发窘。这一定是由于她回想起百合花旅店旁边那个塔楼里住过的胆大的陌生人。但那窘态是否是不悦的表示呢?他无法回答。

年轻的伯爵小姐的伴侣衣着也同样简朴,穿着深色的丧服。某些妇女虽然已人老珠黄,但往往还留恋着昔日美女的名声。这位贵妇人也正是这样一种情况。她残余的风韵足以表明她当初曾有过何等的魅力。她通过自己的仪态明显地暗示出,她还回忆着往日的荣耀,并没有放弃获取未来胜利的权利。她长得又高又窈窕,但举止有些高傲。她带着贵人屈尊的微笑给昆丁还了个礼,马上对她的同伴耳语了一句。那少女像是听从年长妇人的指点似的朝那卫兵望了一眼,但头也不抬地作了个回答。昆丁禁不住猜想,那句话的意思是想叫少女看看他那英俊的面容。而(我也不知为什么)他也乐意接受这样一种想法:少女并不想看他一眼来亲眼证实那年长的仕女说的话是否真实。也许他感到在他们之间已开始存在某种神秘的关系,使得微不足道的小事也具有重要的含义。

这思想只延续了短短一瞬。很快他便全神贯注地观察让娜公主与这两位陌生仕女的会见。她们进来时她已停住脚步准备迎接她们,也许是意识到走动对她很不相宜吧。她颇感发窘地和她们寒暄应酬,而那年长的仕女不知道她谈话对象的身份,对她表现出的礼貌不兔使人感觉她不是蒙受会见的荣幸,而是赐与对方会见的荣幸。

“女士,我很高兴,”她微笑地说道,但这微笑旨在表达贵人的优越感和给对方的鼓励,“我们终于有幸和您这样一位可尊敬的女性在一起。我不能不说,路易王对我和我侄女的招待,我们只能感到遗憾——让我说,侄女,别扯我的袖子——我相信这位年轻女士的表情充满了对我们处境的同情——美丽的小姐,自从我们来到这儿,我们的待遇就比囚犯好不了多少。尽管他千百次地邀请我们把我们的身体和命运托付给法国保护,但这位最讲基督之道的国王先是租一家低级旅店供我们住宿,然后又叫我们住进这个虫蛀的皇宫,拨给我们一个僻静的角落,要等到黄昏才许我们爬出来散散心,仿佛我们是蝙蝠或猫头鹰,在大白天出来会被认为是不祥的征兆。”

“我很遗憾,”公主带着狼狈和为难的表情支吾道,“我们没能按你们应享有的待遇接待你们——我想您的侄女要比您更满意一点吧?”

“满意得多——超过我言词所能表达的程度。”年轻的伯爵小姐回答道,“我本来就只求平安无事,但除此之外,我还找到了与世隔绝的幽静。我们原先的住处已很僻静,而现在拨给我们的住处就更好了。在我看来,这更增添了他赐予给我们这两个不幸的流亡者的恩惠。”

“得了,我痴傻的侄女,”年长的妇人说道,“既然我们总算和一位像我们一样的女性单独在一起,就让我们凭良心说话吧。我之所以说单独在一起,是因为那漂亮的年轻卫兵只像一尊塑像,仿佛不懂得如何使用他的四肢,而他也同样暗示我,至少在文明语言方面他不懂得如何使用他的舌头。既然只有这位小姐能听懂我们的话,我得说,我不能不承认,这次来法国是我一生中最遗憾的事。我本来指望受到热烈欢迎,能经常看比武,看社戏,三日一小宴,五日一大宴。但恰恰相反,与世隔绝,默默无闻!国王让我们接触到的最好的陪伴只是一个波希米亚流浪汉。他嘱咐我们通过他来和我们在弗兰德的朋友取得联系。也许,”那贵妇人说道,“他是处心积虑地想把我们关到死的那天,好让他在古老的克罗伊埃家族消亡之后攫取我们的家产。勃艮第公爵也没有这么残酷。虽然他给我侄女挑了一个不称心的女婿,他终归还是赏给了她一个女婿。”

“我想,宁可当女修道士也不能嫁给一个坏丈夫。”公主说道,好容易才找到一个机会插话。

“小姐,人们至少希望能有个选择余地。”那口若悬河的妇女说道,“上帝知道,我这是替我侄女说的。至于我自己,我早就放弃了结婚的念头。我看你在笑,但是,老天爷在上,这是真话——不过这可不是给国王一个借口,因为他的行为也像他的人品一样,更像根特的钱币兑换商——老年的米肖德,而不那么像查里曼大帝的后裔。”

“住嘴!”公主以颇为严峻的声调说道,“要晓得你是讲我的父亲!”

“讲你的父亲!”那勃艮第贵妇人吃惊地说道。

“讲我的父亲,”公主严肃地重说了一遍,“我是法国的让娜公主。不过,女士,你不用害怕,”她用一种天生的柔和声调继续说道,“你没有冒犯我的意思,我并不见怪。你可以利用我的影响使你和那位可爱的少女的流亡生活过得更好受一些。可惜的是我的权力也很有限。不过我很乐意为你们效劳。”

哈梅琳·德·克洛伊埃伯爵夫人(这就是那位年长的妇人的大名)以最谦恭的敬意,接受公主的善意表示。她曾长期在宫廷生活,深谙宫廷礼节,而且坚守各个时代朝臣们规定的准则,即尽管他们平时私下谈话的话题往往是君主的一些恶习和傻事,以及他们自己受到的委屈和疏忽,但从不容许在国王或其家属面前流露出来。因此这位贵妇人对于她在路易王的女儿面前讲话如此放肆的错误真是羞愧得无地自容。要不是公主以最温和的态度(既然她是法国公主,这态度本身也等于是一种命令)要求她别再说什么来进行辩说和解释,从而使她住了嘴,恢复了平静,否则她肯定会没完没了地赔礼道歉下去。

让娜公主带着一种合乎其身份的尊严坐在自己的椅子上,并要那两位陌生的仕女坐在她的两边。年轻的少女带着真诚的恭敬表情,年长的妇人则故意装出一付谦卑的样子遵命坐下。她们在一起谈话,声音很低,那哨兵根本听不见她们谈些什么,只是观察到,公主似乎是对那年轻可爱的少女更感兴趣。哈梅琳女士虽然讲了一大堆,但她那滔滔不绝的恭维话还不如她侄女对提问所作的简短适度的回答更能引起公主的注意。

三位贵妇人的谈话只延续了一刻钟。正对着大厅下首的大门突然打开,一个披着斗篷的男人走了进来。昆丁牢记着国王的严命,决心不再让人发觉自己站岗时打盹,便马上朝那擅自进入的男人走过去,插在他和贵妇人中间,要求他马上离开。

“你这是根据谁的命令?”那陌生人轻蔑而又惊奇地问道。

“根据国王的命令,”昆丁坚定地说道,“我在这儿站岗就是为了执行这个命令。”

“总不能对奥尔良·路易也执行这个命令吧!”公爵把披风一甩,厉声喝道。

年轻人犹豫了片刻:怎么好对这个属于皇族血统的第一亲王——而且像人们传说的那样,是即将和国王家庭联姻的一位亲王——执行国王的命令呢?

“殿下的崇高地位使我无法阻挡您的意愿,”昆丁说道,“我相信殿下将为我作证,在您可以容忍的范围内我已尽了我执勤的责任。”

“去吧——年轻的卫兵。不会向你问罪的。”奥尔良说道,接着走向前去,用和公主谈话时常见的拘谨有礼的态度向公主请安。

“我本来和杜诺瓦在一起吃饭,”他说,“听说在罗兰大厅有个聚会,便冒昧地跑来参加。”

不幸的让娜公主苍白的脸颊上泛起的红晕使得她的面容暂时出现了某种美丽的姿色,说明亲王驾到对她说来绝非无关痛痒。她赶紧把亲王介绍给两位克罗伊埃仕女。她们都向他致以适合他崇高地位的敬意。公主指着一张椅子要他坐下来参加她们的谈话。

公爵不愿在这样一种场合贸然就座,而从一张长靠背椅上取下一个垫子摆在年轻美丽的克罗伊埃伯爵小姐的脚下,席地而坐,坐的姿势使他既显得没有疏忽公主,又有可能把他大部分的注意力给与他那可爱的邻座。

他的未婚妻对这一安排起先似乎还感到高兴,并不见怪。她鼓励公爵向那美丽的客人献殷勤,并认为这对她自己也很光彩。然而奥尔良公爵虽然已习惯于在国王在场时让自己的思想感情受他这位叔父的严格约束,但一当这束缚暂时解除,他还是有足够的贵人气质促使他自行其是。由于他崇高的地位,他有权逾越通常的礼节,而立刻和别人表现亲昵。也许是因为他比平常多喝了些酒吧(杜诺瓦这人也是个酒神的崇拜者),他对美丽的伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐的恭维已失去分寸,变得十分热烈,最后已接近狂热的地步,几乎忘记了公主的存在。

他所恣意使用的这一恭维口吻只是叫在场的一个人听来高兴,那就是哈梅琳女士。她在指望通过她和皇族血统的第一亲王联姻带来的光荣,因为,假如路易十一的观点可以不加考虑的话,那么即使一个不如她乐观的谋划者也会觉得,以她侄女的出身、美丽和巨大的产业来说,这桩雄心勃勃的婚事也并非绝不可能。然而年轻的伯爵小姐却带着不安和为难的心情听着公爵向她大献殷勤。她不时向公主投以恳求般的目光,仿佛求她帮忙解围。然而法兰西让娜公主那受伤害的感情和胆怯的心理都使她无法使话题更广泛一些。最后,除开哈梅琳女士插进几句客套话以外,谈话几乎全被公爵一人垄断。自然这是以年轻的克罗伊埃伯爵小姐的不快为代价的。事实上,小姐的美丽成了他夸张的口才的惟一话题。

我也不应当忘记还有一个第三者——那个不受人注意的卫兵。他看到一方面是公爵坚持在用亲热的语调继续他那热情洋溢的谈话,而另一方面那精灵般的美人却像蜡一样在被阳光慢慢地融化。最后伊莎贝尔·德·克罗伊埃伯爵小姐断然打断了公爵的恭维话,特别是因为公爵的表现显然已给公主造成痛苦,从而使得这些难听的话变得无法容忍。

她转过身来对公主谦和而坚定地说道,既然她答应过给她保护,那么她要求于她的第一个恩惠就是:“盼公主殿下负责说服奥尔良公爵:勃艮第仕女虽在聪明和礼貌方面不及法国仕女,但还不至愚蠢到只能赏识天花乱坠的恭维。”

“小姐,我很伤心,”没等公主回答,公爵抢先说道,“您竟然在同一句话里既贬损了勃艮第仕女们的美丽,也贬损了法国骑士们的真诚。如果说我们在表达赞赏方面有鲁莽放肆之处,那是因为我们爱慕女性也和我们对敌作战一样,不让冷静的思考来妨碍我们的心灵。我们既能迅速击败勇士,也能同样迅速地向美丽的姑娘表示我们的折服。”

“勃艮第的仕女们不配享有这种胜利,但勃艮第英勇的男子汉也不可能让自己的对手赢得胜利。”年轻的伯爵小姐以比先前对待这位高贵的追求者敢于使用过的更带责备意味的口吻说道。

“伯爵小姐,我佩服您的爱国精神,”公爵说道,“对于您说的后半句话我暂时不提出异议,直到一位勃艮第的骑士愿用长矛比武来证明其正确性。至于您对贵国仕女的美丽的不公正评价,我只想诉诸您本人来作出裁判——您望望这儿,”他指着威尼斯共和国赠送的,当时十分珍贵而稀有的一面大镜子说道,“请您瞧瞧这面镜子,说句公道话吧,看到这镜子里映出来的美貌,谁能不动心呢?”

这时公主已无法再忍受她所爱的男人对她的冷落。她叹口气,往后倒在椅背上。这才使公爵立刻从罗曼蒂克的心境中清醒过来。见此情景,哈梅琳女士赶紧问公主是否身体不适。

“我脑门上突然感到一阵剧痛,”公主勉强微笑地说道,“不过我会马上恢复的。”

但她那越发苍白的脸色否定了她自己讲的话,也促使哈梅琳女士赶紧去叫人来帮忙急救,因为公主眼看就会昏倒过去。

公爵咬咬嘴唇,诅咒自己愚蠢,没有管好舌头,连忙跑到隔壁房间去召唤公主的侍女。她们带着一些常用药物匆忙赶来。作为一个骑士和贵族,他只得帮忙托住她,使她恢复过来。他那由于怜悯和自责而变得近乎温柔的声音自然是使公主苏醒的灵丹妙药。正当她从昏迷中醒来时,国王已亲自驾到。



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