小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 双语小说 » 惊婚记 Quentin Durward » Chapter 14 The Journey
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 14 The Journey

I see thee yet, fair France -- thou favour'd land Of art and nature -- thou art still before me, Thy sons, to whom their labour is a sport, So well thy grateful soil returns its tribute, Thy sunburnt daughters, with their laughing eyes And glossy raven locks. But, favour'd France, Thou hast had many a tale of woe to tell In ancient times as now.

ANONYMOUS

Avoiding all conversation with any one (for such was his charge), Quentin Durward proceeded hastily to array himself in a strong but plain cuirass, with thigh and arm pieces, and placed on his head a good steel cap without any visor. To these was added a handsome cassock of chamois leather, finely dressed, and laced down the seams with some embroidery, such as might become a superior officer in a noble household.

These were brought to his apartment by Oliver, who, with his quiet, insinuating smile and manner, acquainted him that his uncle had been summoned to mount guard purposely that he might make no inquiries concerning these mysterious movements.

"Your excuse will be made to your kinsman," said Oliver, smiling again, "and, my dearest son, when you return safe from the execution of this pleasing trust, I doubt not you will be found worthy of such promotion as will dispense with your accounting for your motions to any one, while it will place you at the head of those who must render an account of theirs to you."

So spoke Oliver le Diable, calculating, probably, in his own mind, the great chance there was that the poor youth whose hand he squeezed affectionately as he spoke, must necessarily encounter death or captivity in the commission intrusted to his charge. He added to his fair words a small purse of gold, to defray necessary expenses on the road, as a gratuity on the King's part.

At a few minutes before twelve at midnight, Quentin, according to his directions, proceeded to the second courtyard, and paused under the Dauphin's Tower, which, as the reader knows, was assigned for the temporary residence of the Countesses of Croye. He found, at this place of rendezvous, the men and horses appointed to compose the retinue, leading two sumpter mules already loaded with baggage, and holding three palfreys for the two Countesses and a faithful waiting woman, with a stately war horse for himself, whose steel plated saddle glanced in the pale moonlight. Not a word of recognition was spoken on either side. The men sat still in their saddles as if they were motionless, and by the same imperfect light Quentin saw with pleasure that they were all armed, and held long lances in their hands. They were only three in number, but one of them whispered to Quentin, in a strong Gascon accent, that their guide was to join them beyond Tours.

Meantime, lights glanced to and fro at the lattices of the tower, as if there was bustle and preparation among its inhabitants. At length a small door, which led from the bottom of the tower to the court, was unclosed, and three females came forth attended by a man wrapped in a cloak. They mounted in silence the palfreys which stood prepared for them, while their attendant on foot led the way, and gave the passwords and signals to the watchful guards, whose posts they passed in succession. Thus they at length reached the exterior of these formidable barriers. Here the man on foot, who had hitherto acted as their guide, paused, and spoke low and earnestly to the two foremost females.

"May heaven bless you, Sire," said a voice which thrilled upon Quentin Durward's ear, "and forgive you, even if your purposes be more interested than your words express! To be placed in safety under the protection of the good Bishop of Liege, is the utmost extent of my desire."

The person whom she thus addressed muttered an inaudible answer, and retreated back through the barrier gate, while Quentin thought that, by the moon glimpse, he recognized in him the King himself, whose anxiety for the departure of his guests had probably induced him to give his presence, in case scruples should arise on their part, or difficulties on that of the guards of the Castle.

When the riders were beyond the Castle, it was necessary for some time to ride with great precaution, in order to avoid the pitfalls, snares, and similar contrivances which were placed for the annoyance of strangers. The Gascon was, however, completely possessed of the clew to this labyrinth, and in a quarter of an hour's riding they found themselves beyond the limits of Plessis le Parc, and not far distant from the city of Tours.

The moon, which had now extricated herself from the clouds through which she was formerly wading, shed a full sea of glorious light upon a landscape equally glorious. They saw the princely Loire rolling his majestic tide through the richest plain in France, and sweeping along between banks ornamented with towers and terraces, and with olives and vineyards. They saw the walls of the city of Tours, the ancient capital of Touraine, raising their portal towers and embattlements white in the moonlight, while from within their circle rose the immense Gothic mass, which the devotion of the sainted Bishop Perpetuus erected as early as the fifth century, and which the zeal of Charlemagne and his successors had enlarged with such architectural splendour as rendered it the most magnificent church in France. The towers of the church of Saint Gatien (the cathedral of Tours) were also visible, and the gloomy strength of the Castle, which was said to have been, in ancient times, the residence of the Emperor Valentinian (a Roman emperor who strengthened the northern frontiers against the barbarians).

Even the circumstances in which he was placed, though of a nature so engrossing, did not prevent the wonder and delight with which the young Scottishman, accustomed to the waste though impressive landscape of his own mountains, and the poverty even of his country's most stately scenery, looked on a scene which art and nature seemed to have vied in adorning with their richest splendour. But he was recalled to the business of the moment by the voice of the elder lady (pitched at least an octave higher than those soft tones which bade adieu to King Louis), demanding to speak with the leader of the band. Spurring his horse forward, Quentin respectfully presented himself to the ladies in that capacity, and thus underwent the interrogatories of the Lady Hameline.

"What was his name, and what his degree?"

He told both.

"Was he perfectly acquainted with the road?"

"He could not," he replied, "pretend to much knowledge of the route, but he was furnished with full instructions, and he was, at their first resting place, to be provided with a guide, in all respects competent to the task of directing their farther journey, meanwhile, a horseman, who had just joined them and made the number of their guard four, was to be their guide for the first stage."

"And wherefore were you selected for such a duty, young gentleman?" said the lady. "I am told you are the same youth who was lately upon guard in the gallery in which we met the Princess of France. You seem young and inexperienced for such a charge -- a stranger, too, in France, and speaking the language as a foreigner."

"I am bound to obey the commands of the King, madam, but am not qualified to reason on them," answered the young soldier.

"Are you of noble birth?" demanded the same querist.

"I may safely affirm so, madam," replied Quentin.

"And are you not," said the younger lady, addressing him in her turn, but with a timorous accent, "the same whom I saw when I was called to wait upon the King at yonder inn?"

Lowering his voice, perhaps from similar feelings of timidity, Quentin answered in the affirmative.

"Then methinks, my cousin," said the Lady Isabelle, addressing the Lady Hameline, "we must be safe under this young gentleman's safeguard, he looks not, at least, like one to whom the execution of a plan of treacherous cruelty upon two helpless women could be with safety intrusted."

"On my honour," said Durward, "by the fame of my house, by the bones of my ancestry, I could not, for France and Scotland laid into one, be guilty of treachery or cruelty towards you!"

"You speak well, young man," said the Lady Hameline, "but we are accustomed to hear fair speeches from the King of France and his agents. It was by these that we were induced, when the protection of the Bishop of Liege might have been attained with less risk than now, or when we might have thrown ourselves on that of Winceslaus of Germany, or of Edward of England, to seek refuge in France. And in what did the promises of the King result? In an obscure and shameful concealing of us, under plebeian names, as a sort of prohibited wares in yonder paltry hostelry, when we -- who, as thou knowest, Marthon" (addressing her domestic), "never put on our head tire save under a canopy, and upon a dais of three degrees -- were compelled to attire ourselves, standing on the simple floor, as if we had been two milkmaids."

Marthon admitted that her lady spoke a most melancholy truth.

"I would that had been the sorest evil, dear kinswoman," said the Lady Isabelle, "I could gladly have dispensed with state."

"But not with society," said the elder Countess, "that, my sweet cousin, was impossible."

"I would have dispensed with all, my dearest kinswoman," answered Isabelle, in a voice which penetrated to the very heart of her young conductor and guard, "with all, for a safe and honourable retirement. I wish not -- God knows, I never wished -- to occasion war betwixt France and my native Burgundy, or that lives should be lost for such as I am. I only implored permission to retire to the Convent of Marmoutier, or to any other holy sanctuary."

"You spoke then like a fool, my cousin," answered the elder lady, "and not like a daughter of my noble brother. It is well there is still one alive who hath some of the spirit of the noble House of Croye. How should a high born lady be known from a sunburnt milkmaid, save that spears are broken for the one, and only hazel poles shattered for the other? I tell you, maiden, that while I was in the very earliest bloom, scarcely older than yourself, the famous Passage of Arms at Haflinghem was held in my honour, the challengers were four, the assailants so many as twelve. It lasted three days, and cost the lives of two adventurous knights, the fracture of one backbone, one collarbone, three legs, and two arms, besides flesh wounds and bruises beyond the heralds' counting, and thus have the ladies of our House ever been honoured. Ah! had you but half the heart of your noble ancestry, you would find means at some court where ladies' love and fame in arms are still prized, to maintain a tournament at which your hand should be the prize, as was that of your great grandmother of blessed memory, at the spear running of Strasbourg, and thus should you gain the best lance in Europe, to maintain the rights of the House of Croye, both against the oppression of Burgundy and the policy of France."

"But, fair kinswoman," answered the younger Countess, "I have been told by my old nurse, that although the Rhinegrave (formerly a Rhenish prince) was the best lance at the great tournament at Strasbourg, and so won the hand of my respected ancestor, yet the match was no happy one, as he used often to scold, and sometimes even to beat, my great grandmother of blessed memory."

"And wherefore not?" said the elder Countess, in her romantic enthusiasm for the profession of chivalry, "why should those victorious arms, accustomed to deal blows when abroad, be bound to restrain their energies at home? A thousand times rather would I be beaten twice a day by a husband whose arm was as much feared by others as by me, than be the wife of a coward, who dared neither to lift hand to his wife, nor to any one else!"

"I should wish you joy of such an active mate, fair aunt," replied Isabelle, "without envying you, for if broken bones be lovely in tourneys, there is nothing less amiable in ladies' bower."

"Nay, but the beating is no necessary consequence of wedding with a knight of fame in arms," said the Lady Hameline, "though it is true that your ancestor of blessed memory, the Rhinegrave Gottfried, was something rough tempered, and addicted to the use of Rheinwein.

"The very perfect knight is a lamb among ladies, and a lion among lances. There was Thibault of Montigni -- God be with him! -- he was the kindest soul alive, and not only was he never so discourteous as to lift hand against his lady, but, by our good dame, he who beat all enemies without doors, found a fair foe who could belabour him within. -- Well, 't was his own fault -- he was one of the challengers at the Passage of Haflinghem, and so well bestirred himself, that, if it had pleased Heaven, and your grandfather, there might have been a lady of Montigni who had used his gentle nature more gently."

The Countess Isabelle, who had some reason to dread this Passage of Haflinghem, it being a topic upon which her aunt was at all times very diffuse, suffered the conversation to drop, and Quentin, with the natural politeness of one who had been gently nurtured dreading lest his presence might be a restraint on their conversation, rode forward to join the guide, as if to ask him some questions concerning their route.

Meanwhile the ladies continued their journey in silence, or in such conversation as is not worth narrating, until day began to break, and as they had then been on horseback for several hours, Quentin, anxious lest they should be fatigued, became impatient to know their distance from the nearest resting place.

"I will show it you," answered the guide, "in half an hour."

"And then you leave us to other guidance?" continued Quentin.

"Even so, Seignior Archer," replied the man, "my journeys are always short and straight. When you and others, Seignior Archer, go by the bow, I always go by the cord."

The moon had by this time long been down, and the lights of dawn were beginning to spread bright and strong in the east, and to gleam on the bosom of a small lake, on the verge of which they had been riding for a short space of time. This lake lay in the midst of a wide plain, scattered over with single trees, groves and thickets, but which might be yet termed open, so that objects began to be discerned with sufficient accuracy. Quentin cast his eye on the person whom he rode beside, and under the shadow of a slouched overspreading hat, which resembled the sombrero of a Spanish peasant, he recognised the facetious features of the same Petit Andre whose fingers, not long since, had, in concert with those of his lugubrious brother, Trois Eschelles, been so unpleasantly active about his throat. -- Impelled by aversion, not altogether unmixed with fear (for in his own country the executioner is regarded with almost superstitious horror), which his late narrow escape had not diminished, Durward instinctively moved his horse's head to the right, and pressing him at the same time with the spur, made a demi-volte, which separated him eight feet from his hateful companion.

"Ho, ho, ho, ho!" exclaimed Petit Andre, "by Our Lady of the Grave, our young soldier remembers us of old. What! comrade, you bear no malice, I trust? -- every one wins his bread in this country. No man need be ashamed of having come through my hands, for I will do my work with any that ever tied a living weight to a dead tree. -- And God hath given me grace to be such a merry fellow withal. -- Ha! ha! ha! -- I could tell you such jests I have cracked between the foot of a ladder and the top of the gallows, that, by my halidome, I have been obliged to do my job rather hastily, for fear the fellows should die with laughing, and so shame my mystery!"

As he thus spoke he edged his horse sideways to regain the interval which the Scot had left between them, saying, at the same time, "Come, Seignior Archer, let there be no unkindness betwixt us! -- For my part, I always do my duty without malice, and with a light heart, and I never love a man better than when I have put my scant of wind collar about his neck, to dub him Knight of the order of Saint Patibularius (patibulum, a gibbet), as the Provost's Chaplain, the worthy Father Vaconeldiablo (possibly Baco (Bacchus) el Diablo (the Devil)), is wont to call the Patron Saint of the Provostry."

"Keep back, thou wretched object!" exclaimed Quentin, as the finisher of the law again sought to approach him closer, "or I shall be tempted to teach you the distance that should be betwixt men of honour and such an outcast."

"La you there, how hot you are!" said the fellow, "had you said men of honesty, there had been some savour of truth in it, but for men of honour, good lack, I have to deal with them every day, as nearly and closely as I was about to do business with you. -- But peace be with you, and keep your company to yourself. I would have bestowed a flagon of Auvernat upon you to wash away every unkindness -- -- but 't is like you scorn my courtesy. -- Well. Be as churlish as you list -- I never quarrel with my customers -- my jerry come tumbles, my merry dancers, my little playfellows, as Jacques Butcher says to his lambs -- those in fine, who, like your seigniorship, have H. E. M. P. written on their foreheads. -- No, no, let them use me as they list, they shall have my good service at last -- and yourself shall see, when you next come under Petit Andre's hands, that he knows how to forgive an injury."

So saying, and summing up the whole with a provoking wink, and such an interjectional tchick as men quicken a dull horse with, Petit Andre drew off to the other side of the path, and left the youth to digest the taunts he had treated him with, as his proud Scottish stomach best might. A strong desire had Quentin to have belaboured him while the staff of his lance could hold together, but he put a restraint on his passion, recollecting that a brawl with such a character could be creditable at no time or place, and that a quarrel of any kind, on the present occasion, would be a breach of duty, and might involve the most perilous consequences. He therefore swallowed his wrath at the ill timed and professional jokes of Mons. Petit Andre, and contented himself with devoutly hoping that they had not reached the ears of his fair charge, on which they could not be supposed to make an impression in favour of himself, as one obnoxious to such sarcasms. But he was speedily roused from such thoughts by the cry of both the ladies at once, to "Look back -- look back! -- For the love of Heaven look yourself, and us -- we are pursued!"

Quentin hastily looked back, and saw that two armed men were in fact following them, and riding at such a pace as must soon bring them up with their party. "It can," he said, "be only some of the Provostry making their rounds in the forest. -- Do thou look," he said to Petit Andre, "and see what they may be."

Petit Andre obeyed, and rolling himself jocosely in the saddle after he had made his observations, replied, "These, fair sir, are neither your comrades nor mine -- neither Archers nor Marshals men -- for I think they wear helmets, with visors lowered, and gorgets of the same. -- A plague upon these gorgets of all other pieces of armour! -- I have fumbled with them an hour before I could undo the rivets."

"Do you, gracious ladies," said Durward, without attending to Petit Andre, "ride forward -- not so fast as to raise an opinion of your being in flight, and yet fast enough to avail yourself of the impediment which I shall presently place between you and these men who follow us."

The Countess Isabelle looked to their guide, and then whispered to her aunt, who spoke to Quentin thus: "We have confidence in your care, fair Archer, and will rather abide the risk of whatever may chance in your company, than we will go onward with that man, whose mien is, we think, of no good augury."

"Be it as you will, ladies," said the youth. "There are but two who come after us, and though they be knights, as their arms seem to show, they shall, if they have any evil purpose, learn how a Scottish gentleman can do his devour in the presence and for the defence of such as you.

"Which of you," he continued, addressing the guards whom he commanded, "is willing to be my comrade, and to break a lance with these gallants?"

Two of the men obviously faltered in resolution, but the third, Bertrand Guyot, swore that cap de diou, were they Knights of King Arthur's Round Table, he would try their mettle, for the honour of Gascony.

While he spoke, the two knights -- for they seemed of no less rank -- came up with the rear of the party, in which Quentin, with his sturdy adherent, had by this time stationed himself. They were fully accoutred in excellent armour of polished steel, without any device by which they could be distinguished.

One of them, as they approached, called out to Quentin, "Sir Squire, give place -- we come to relieve you of a charge which is above your rank and condition. You will do well to leave these ladies in our care, who are fitter to wait upon them, especially as we know that in yours they are little better than captives."

"In return to your demand, sirs," replied Durward, "know, in the first place, that I am discharging the duty imposed upon me by my present sovereign, and next, that however unworthy I may be, the ladies desire to abide under my protection."

"Out, sirrah!" exclaimed one of the champions, "will you, a wandering beggar, put yourself on terms of resistance against belted knights?"

"They are indeed terms of resistance," said Quentin, "since they oppose your insolent and unlawful aggression, and if there be difference of rank between us, which as yet I know not, your discourtesy has done it away. Draw your sword, or if you will use the lance, take ground for your career."

While the knights turned their horses, and rode back to the distance of about a hundred and fifty yards, Quentin, looking to the ladies, bent low on his saddlebow, as if desiring their favourable regard, and as they streamed towards him their kerchiefs, in token of encouragement, the two assailants had gained the distance necessary for their charge.

Calling to the Gascon to bear himself like a man, Durward put his steed into motion, and the four horsemen met in full career in the midst of the ground which at first separated them. The shock was fatal to the poor Gascon, for his adversary, aiming at his face, which was undefended by a visor, ran him through the eye into the brain, so that he fell dead from his horse.

On the other hand, Quentin, though labouring under the same disadvantage, swayed himself in the saddle so dexterously, that the hostile lance, slightly scratching his cheek, passed over his right shoulder, while his own spear, striking his antagonist fair upon the breast, hurled him to the ground. Quentin jumped off, to unhelm his fallen opponent, but the other knight (who had never yet spoken), seeing the fortune of his companion, dismounted still more speedily than Durward, and bestriding his friend, who lay senseless, exclaimed, "In the name of God and Saint Martin, mount, good fellow, and get thee gone with thy woman's ware -- Ventre Saint Gris, they have caused mischief enough this morning."

"By your leave, Sir Knight," said Quentin, who could not brook the menacing tone in which this advice was given, "I will first see whom I have had to do with, and learn who is to answer for the death of my comrade."

"That shalt thou never live to know or to tell," answered the knight. "Get thee back in peace, good fellow. If we were fools for interrupting your passage, we have had the worst, for thou hast done more evil than the lives of thee and thy whole hand could repay. -- Nay, if thou wilt have it" (for Quentin now drew his sword, and advanced on him), "take it with a vengeance!"

So saying, he dealt the Scot such a blow on the helmet, as, till that moment (though bred where good blows were plenty), he had only read of in romance. It descended like a thunderbolt, beating down the guard which the young soldier had raised to protect his head, and, reaching his helmet of proof, cut it through so far as to touch his hair, but without farther injury while Durward, dizzy, stunned, and beaten down on one knee, was for an instant at the mercy of the knight, had it pleased him to second his blow. But compassion for Quentin's youth, or admiration of his courage, or a generous love of fair play, made him withhold from taking such advantage: while Durward, collecting himself, sprang up and attacked his antagonist with the energy of one determined to conquer or die, and at the same time with the presence of mind necessary for fighting the quarrel out to the best advantage. Resolved not again to expose himself to such dreadful blows as he had just obtained, he employed the advantage of superior agility, increased by the comparative lightness of his armour, to harass his antagonist by traversing on all sides, with a suddenness of motion and rapidity of attack against which the knight -- in his heavy panoply -- found it difficult to defend himself without much fatigue.

It was in vain that this generous antagonist called aloud to Quentin that there now remained no cause of fight betwixt them, and that he was loath to be constrained to do him injury. Listening only to the suggestions of a passionate wish to redeem the shame of his temporary defeat, Durward continued to assail him with the rapidity of lightning -- now menacing him with the edge, now with the point of his sword, and ever keeping such an eye on the motions of his opponent, of whose superior strength he had had terrible proof, that he was ready to spring backward, or aside, from under the blows of his tremendous weapon.

"Now the devil be with thee for an obstinate and presumptuous fool," muttered the knight, "that cannot be quiet till thou art knocked on the head!"

So saying, he changed his mode of fighting, collected himself, as if to stand on the defensive, and seemed contented with parrying, instead of returning, the blows which Quentin unceasingly aimed at him, with the internal resolution that the instant when either loss of breath or any false or careless pass of the young soldier should give an opening, he would put an end to the fight by a single blow. It is likely he might have succeeded in this artful policy, but Fate had ordered it otherwise.

The duel was still at the hottest, when a large party of horse rode up, crying, "Hold, in the King's name!"

Both champions stepped back -- and Quentin saw, with surprise, that his Captain, Lord Crawford, was at the head of the party who had thus interrupted their combat. There was also Tristan l'Hermite, with two or three of his followers, making, in all, perhaps twenty horse.

我还能看见你哩,美丽的法兰西——

融天然与人工之美于一体。

你还呈现在我的眼前——

我看见你那以劳动为乐趣的儿郎,

土壤给他们的劳动带来了巨大的报偿。

我看见你那皮肤黝黑的女儿,

眼里含着笑容,长着光泽而乌黑的鬈发。

但可爱的法兰西,

无论在古代和现代,

你都有许多哀怨的往事可以诉说。

无名氏

昆丁·达威特避免跟任何人谈话(因为国王作了这样的吩咐),赶紧穿上一件带有腿部和臂部护甲的坚牢而朴素的铠甲,戴上一顶无面甲的优质钢盔;铠甲外面还披上一件精制的鲨皮革做的漂亮罩衫,衣缝都是由绣花边系拢起来的。只有名门望族的高官才配得上穿戴这种装饰。

这些衣装都是奥利弗拿到他房里来的。这位理发师带着宁静而阿谀的微笑和态度告诉他说,他舅父已被叫去站岗,故意不让他打听这些保密行动。

“将来会替你向你舅父作解释的,”奥利弗又微笑着说,“但当你,我亲爱的孩子,执行了这个愉快的任务平安回来之后,我相信,你将够资格获得破格的提升,那时你也就毋需向任何人汇报你的行动,而你的手下人倒必须向你汇报他们的行动了。”

魔鬼奥利弗说着这些话时,也许正在心中算计,此刻被他热情地握着手的这个可怜的年轻人在执行托负给他的任务当中十之八九会死于非命,或遭到劫持。为了给他这一席好话增添一点内容,他代表国王送给他一小袋金币,作为旅途中的必要开销。

离午夜十二时只差几分钟的时候,昆丁按照指示来到第二个庭院,在“皇太子塔楼”底下停了下来。正如读者所知道的,这正是特意拨给克罗伊埃伯爵小姐临时居住的那个塔楼。这是约定的碰头地点。他发现组成随行队伍的几个人正牵着两匹驮有行李的骡子,以及那两位仕女和她们的忠实侍女骑的三匹小马,再就是为他自己备的一匹高大战马。马的钢甲鞍座在朦胧的月色下隐隐发光。双方都没有打招呼。那几个男人静静地坐在马上,像是不动的雕像。透过朦胧的月光,昆丁高兴地看到,他们全副武装,手持长矛。虽然人数只有三个,但其中一个带有浓重的加斯科尼口音的人低声告诉他,离开图尔城以后还有个向导将加入他们的行列。

这时塔楼格子窗里的灯光闪闪烁烁,房客好像正忙着在准备。最后,塔楼底部通向庭院的小门打开,三个妇女在一个披着斗篷的男人伴随下走了出来。她们悄悄地骑上为她们准备好的三匹小马,这些徒步的旅伴领着她们动身出发,并向他们所经过的站岗的哨兵报口令和暗号。最后他们终于走出了这个森严的城堡。那一直充当向导的徒步男人这才停了下来,向那两个走在前面的妇女低声而严肃地讲着话。

“陛下、愿上帝为您祝福,”昆丁·达威特听到一个使他为之一怔的声音这样说道,“并将宽恕您——即使您的意图并不像您的言语所表现的那样毫无私心!要是我能使自己置身于列日主教的保护之下,那真是求之不得,再好不过。”

听到她讲这番话的男人喃喃地说了一句听不见的答话,然后通过一道门退了回去。在月色底下,昆丁认出那人正是国王。也许因为他急于让他的客人离开,所以他不惜亲自出马,一方面是想避免她们产生疑虑,一方面是想避免哨兵制造困难。

当这小小的马队走出城堡之后,他们还得十分小心地骑一段时间,以躲避专门给陌生人制造麻烦的陷阱、陷坑和类似的机关。然而那加斯科尼人却完全掌握了这类迷魂阵的脉胳。一刻钟之后,他们已走出了普莱西皇家花园,来到离图尔城不很远的地方。

月亮从云层后面钻了出来,把一片美丽的光华投向同样美丽的原野。他们看到那庄严肃穆的卢瓦尔河波涛滚滚,流经法国最富饶的平原,在缀饰着塔楼、台地、橄榄树和葡萄园的河岸之间奔腾而过。在白蒙蒙的月色中他们看到那都兰的古都图尔城的城墙上耸立着高大的塔楼和城谍,而在城墙内则呈现着一大片哥特式建筑。这是由虔诚的圣徒柏尔贝图阿斯主教早在公元五世纪建立,而热情的查里曼大帝及其继承者以非凡的建筑艺术扩建而成的法国最雄伟的教堂。圣加丁教堂的塔楼也历历在目。人们还可以看见那阴森雄壮的古堡,据说它曾是古代范兰廷尼安皇帝的皇宫。

尽管那年轻的苏格兰人眼下处于这种环境,然而面对着独具魅力的大自然,怎能不产生赞叹与喜悦之情呢!他看惯了家乡的山山水水,但即使其最壮观的景色也不免掺杂着贫乏的色彩。所以他饱餐着这人工、天然竞相点缀的旖旎风光。但这时他听到那年长的仕女正在叫唤自己,这声音与她和国王道别时的柔和声音相比至少要高八度,使他从沉思中醒过来面对眼前的职责。原来是那仕女要求和领队谈话。昆丁策马前去,以领队的身份尊敬地向贵妇人作了自我介绍,然后接受哈梅琳女士的一系列提问。

“你叫什么?什么级别?”

他针对这两点作了回答。

“你完全熟悉这条路吗?”

“我不能妄称对这条路很熟悉,”他回答道,“但我得到了详尽的指示,而且在第一个歇脚处就会给我配备一个完全有能力领我们继续前进的向导。其间有位骑士刚加入我们的行列,使我们的卫队已增加到四人。他将充当第一阶段的向导。”

“年轻的绅士,干吗要选你来担负这任务呢?”那贵妇人问道,“我听说你就是在我们最近会见法兰西公主时,在那个大厅里站岗放哨的年轻人。你担负这样一个任务似乎嫩了点。何况你刚来法国,说起法语来就像个外国人。”

“女士,我得服从国王的命令,而没资格空发议论。”年轻的卫士说道。

“你出身高贵吗?”贵妇人继续问道。

“女士,我可以满有把握地作出肯定的回答。”昆丁回答道。

“你不就是在那个旅店里国王叫我上菜时,我见到的那个人吗?”那小姐转过身来以一种怯生生的语调也对他说道。

也许是由于同样的胆怯心情吧,昆丁低声地作了肯定的回答。

“好了,姑妈,我想我们在这位年轻绅士的保护下一定会很安全。”伊莎贝尔小姐对哈梅琳女士说道,“他一点不像个坏人——一个会执行残酷迫害两个弱女子的邪恶命令的那种坏人。”

“小姐,我以我的荣誉担保,”达威特说道,“我以我们家族的名声和我们祖先的遗骨担保,即使把法国和苏格兰加在一起赠送给我,我也不可能背叛您,加害于您!”

“年轻人,你说得很好,”哈梅琳女士说道,“不过我们已听惯了法国国王和他手下人讲的好话,正是因为相信了这些好话,我们才会被诱骗,使我们在本来可以比现在少冒危险获得列日主教保护的时候,在本来可以投奔德国的温塞斯劳斯或英国的爱德华请求保护的时候,竟会跑到法国来避难。国王的许诺结果如何呢?结果是把我们改名换姓,当作某种违禁品偷偷地藏在那个寒伧的旅店里。你是知道的,玛尔松,”她对她的女仆人说,“我们这种人从来都是用华盖遮着,只有坐在具有三度坡度的坛台上才戴上我的头饰。但我们却被迫像两个挤奶的女人那样,只站在地板上穿衣戴帽。”

玛尔松承认她的女主人讲了一个极为可悲的事实。

“亲爱的姑妈,可惜这并不是最糟糕的事,”伊莎贝尔小姐说道,“不讲排场我倒是很乐意的。”

“可不能没有社交,”年老的仕女说道,“我亲爱的侄女,没有交际应酬可无法忍受。”

“我亲爱的姑妈,我什么都可以不要,”伊莎贝尔用一种深深打动那年轻的向导和卫士的声音说道,“只要我能得到一个安全面体面的隐遁之所,我什么都可以不要。我不希望——上帝知道,我决不希望——在法国和我的故乡勃艮第之间引起战争,或为我这样的人牺牲他人的生命。我只央求准许我去马穆蒂女修道院或别的教堂庇护所去隐居。”

“我的侄女,你说起话来简直像个傻瓜,”那年长的仕女说道,“真不像我那高贵的兄弟的女儿。幸亏有我这个保留着克罗伊埃家族的贵族精神的人还活着。人们为追求一位出身高贵的小姐折断长矛,而为了追求一个皮肤黝黑的挤奶姑娘只会折断根榛木棒。要不,二者有何区别呢?让我告诉你吧,姑娘,当我和你年纪差不多,正在含苞欲放的时候,人们就为争夺我举行了著名的哈弗林汉姆比武大会。有四人挑战,而应战的则有十二人之多。一共连续了三天。结果有两个不怕死的骑士丧了命,一个折断了脊梁,一个打断了锁骨,三个断腿,两个断臂,还有连纹章官点都点不过来的无数皮肉损伤和跌打损伤。我们家族的仕女们一直是这样受人敬佩的。唉!假如你能有你高贵的祖先一半的志气,你就会找到一个仍然珍惜仕女爱情和武士荣誉的宫廷,也像人们为你已故的曾祖母在斯特拉斯堡举行过长矛比武大会那样,争取为你举行一次以向你求婚为名的比武大会。这样你便可以赢得欧洲最优秀的武士来维护我们克罗伊埃家族的权利,使我们既不受勃艮第的压迫,也不受法国人阴谋权术的危害。”

“不过,亲爱的姑妈,”那年轻的伯爵小姐对答道,“我年老的奶妈对我说过,虽然那位莱茵伯爵是比武大会上最优秀的武士,因而赢得了我可敬的曾祖母,但婚姻并不幸福,因为他经常责骂,甚至殴打我已故的曾祖母。”

“干吗不行呢?”对骑士职业充满了罗曼蒂克热情的年长仕女辩护说,“那些惯于在外面你争我斗的得胜的武士们为什么就该在家里束手束脚呢?我宁肯让一个武艺超群、使别人和我一样感到可畏的丈夫每天揍我两次,也不宁嫁给一个既不敢动手打老婆也不敢揍别人的胆小鬼!”

“好姑母,我但愿你有幸得到这样一个好动武的丈夫,”伊莎贝尔回答道,“我也不会忌妒你,因为断筋折骨的人在比武会上固然可爱,在闺房中可最不可爱。”

“你说得不对。挨打并不是和武艺超群的骑士结婚的必然后果,”哈梅琳女士说道,“固然我们已故的祖先莱茵伯爵哥特弗里德是有些性格粗暴,嗜好莱茵白酒,但一个真正完美的骑士应该既是仕女群中的羔羊,又是武士群中的雄狮。以前有个蒙蒂尼·蒂博尔特——愿上帝保佑他——他可是世界上最厚道的人。他不但决不会无礼地动手打他的夫人,圣母在上,这个在外面能打败任何敌人的男子汉在家里却碰到了敢于揍他的一员女将。他也是哈弗林汉姆比武会上的一个挑战者。他表现得很起劲,要是老天爷高兴,你祖父也高兴的话,我们家本会有一位更温和地对待这性格温良的蒙蒂尼骑士的蒙蒂尼夫人哩。”

看到哈弗林汉姆比武会是她姑母随时想滔滔不绝地谈的话题,伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐有理由对它感到头疼,便让谈话中止下来。昆丁基于受过良好教养的人自然会有的一种礼貌上的考虑,惟恐他在近旁会使她们谈话感到拘束,便骑向前去,和向导走在一起,像是想问他某些有关路线的问题。

两位仕女继续默默地往前走着,有时进行一些不值一提的谈话,这样一直走到天将拂晓。由于她们已经骑了好几个小时,昆丁担心她们已经疲乏,急于想了解离最近的歇脚处还有多远。

“我将在半小时内告诉你。”那向导回答道。

“那时你就会把我们交给另一个向导吗?”昆丁继续问道。

“正是这样,射手先生,”那人回答道,“我的行程总是既短又直的。你和别的射手靠的是弓,而我总是靠我的绞索。”

这时月亮早已西沉,东方的曙光已越来越强,越来越明亮,他们已绕着走了一阵的小湖的湖心微微发光。这个湖位于一个大平原上,举目望去到处是些稀稀落落的树木、树丛和丛林,但地势还谈得上开阔,远处的物体已逐渐清晰可辨。昆丁望望在他旁边骑着的那个人。他戴着一顶颇像西班牙农民戴的那种阔边帽。在那软塌而宽大的帽子阴影下,他认出了小安德烈的滑稽面孔。不久以前,这家伙还曾用他的手指头配合他那阴森可怕的兄弟特洛瓦·艾歇尔的手指头十分可憎地忙着勒他的脖子。虽然几天前他侥幸脱险,但他对这家伙的厌恶并未消减。在掺杂着几分恐惧(因为在苏格兰,人们都以近乎迷信的恐惧看待刽子手)的厌恶心情的驱使下,达威特本能地把马首勒向右边,用马刺一踢,使马回转了半个圈子,把他和这可憎的同伴隔开了八英尺距离。

“嗬,嗬,嗬,嗬!”小安德烈叫道,“格雷弗圣母在上,这年轻的卫士还记得我们。喂!伙计,我想你不会记仇吧?在这个国家人人都得挣自己的面包。谁也不必因为在我手上挨过两下勒脖子就感到害羞,因为我敢和世界上任何一个曾经把活东西吊在死树上的人比比高低。况且上帝还仁慈地让我成为这样一个快活的伙计!——哈!哈!哈!——我还可以给你讲我从梯子底下爬到绞架顶部时讲过的一些笑话。这些笑话真是笑死人,天老爷,我不得不匆匆忙忙干完活计,惟恐那该被绞死的家伙会大笑而死。”

他边说边把马朝横的方向一勒,靠拢那苏格兰人,从而又夺回了在他们之间造成的那段距离,同时对他讨好地说:“得了,射手先生,别让我们之间再留有宿怨吧!就我来说,我执行任务从来不怀恶意,而总是心情愉快。况且我最喜欢的人就是我曾把那‘叫人喘不过气的领圈’套在他的脖子上,被我封为‘圣巴蒂布拉里阿斯骑士’的人。顺便说说,巴蒂布拉里阿斯乃是军法总监的随军牧师——尊敬的瓦斯内尔第阿波罗神父经常用来称呼‘军法执行保护神’的一个名字。”

“站远点,你这卑鄙的家伙!”看到那绞刑吏企图靠他更近时昆丁愤怒地吼道,“我恨不得教训你一顿,好让你懂得在你这种贱人和贵人之间要保持距离。”

“瞧你脾气多暴!”那家伙说道,“要是你说的是‘老实人’,那么还有几分道理,至于说贵人么,老天爷在上,我每天都得像我打算对付你那样,十分亲近地和他们打交道。不过,愿上帝保佑你,就让你独自和自己做伴吧。我本来想送你一瓶阿维纳酒,让酒来洗掉宿怨。但蔑视我的客气正是你这种人的脾气。得了。你喜欢怎么闹别扭,就怎么闹别扭吧。正如屠夫贾克针对他的羊羔说的那样,我从来不和我的顾客、我的伙计、我快活的舞蹈家、我的小朋友——总之,我从来不和像您这位贵人那样曾在额头上写过H.E.M.P.字样的人闹别扭。行,行,让他们爱怎么对待我就怎么对待我得了。他们最后还是会让我为他们好好效劳的。你将会看到,你下次再落到小安德烈手上时,他懂得如何宽恕罪恶。”

说罢,小安德烈又用一个挑逗性的鬼眨眼以及人们吆喝弩马的“契克”声作为他的压轴戏,然后撤到路的另一边,让那年轻人以他那骄傲的苏格兰人的胃口好好消化给他的这些挖苦和讽刺。昆丁本想用他的长矛杆狠狠接他一顿,但他抑制住自己的愤怒,因为他和这种人打架在任何时间或地点都不光彩,而在当前这种场合,不管什么形式的斗殴都将是一种读职行为,并有可能引起极其危险的后果。所以他只得吞下小安德烈先生那不合时宜的职业性玩笑慧起的愤怒,并虔诚地希望这些胡言乱语没有让他所护送的美丽姑娘听见。否则,尽管他憎恶这种挖苦人的俏皮话,他也无法指望这会给姑娘产生有利于他的印象。但这时两位仕女同时叫了起来:“你看后面,你看后面!看在上帝的分上当心你自己,也保护保护我们——后面有人追!”昆丁这才从他的思索当中迅速惊醒过来。

他赶紧回头看,只见有两个全副武装的人的确正在追赶他们。马跑得很快,立刻会追上他们这行人。“这只可能是军法总监的人在巡逻森林地带。你去看看,”他对安德烈说,“看他们是干什么的。”

小安德烈遵命前去。一当他看清之后便在马鞍上摇头晃脑地乐呵呵跑回来,向昆丁报告说:“亲爱的先生,这两个人既不是和您一伙的,也不是和我一伙的——既不是射手也不是军法官——但见他们头戴钢盔,脸罩面甲,还戴着护喉甲——在所有铠甲当中就数护喉甲最讨厌!磨蹭它一小时才解得开它们上面的铆钉。”

“尊敬的女士们,”达威特没有理睬小安德烈的唠叨,“请你们骑到前面去。别骑得太快以造成你们在逃跑的印象,但要快得足以使你们能利用我堵住两个追赶者所赢得的时间。”

伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐望望她们的领队,又对姑母耳语了一阵。那贵妇人便对昆丁说道:“好射手,我们相信你的保护,宁愿冒和你在一起可能碰到的危险,也不愿和那个相貌不善的人到前面去。”

“女士们,那就听你们的便吧,”那年轻人说道,“追赶我们的只有两个人。尽管他们的装备似乎表明他们都是骑士,但只要他们有任何罪恶企图,我会让他们领教一位苏格兰绅士为了保护你们而怎样尽自己的职责的。喂,”接着他对受他指挥的护送士兵说,“你们有谁愿意和我一道同这两个纨绔子弟拚一个回合吗?”

有两个人明显地不敢下这个决心,但另一个叫贝尔特兰·几阿特的赌咒说:“妈的,就算他是亚瑟王的圆桌骑士,我也得为了加斯科尼的荣誉尝尝他们的味道。”

他话还没说完,那两个骑士——看来他们正是属于这种陛阶——已经追上了昆丁及其坚定的随从组成的后卫。他们戴着全副亮锃锃的优质钢甲,没有任何识别的标志。

其中一人走了过来对昆丁喊道:“扈从先生,请让位吧——我们来的目的是替你免除一个超出你的官阶和地位的任务。你最好是把这两位仕女交给我们保护。我们会更适合侍候她们,因为我们看到她们在你的照顾下并不比囚徒好多少。”

“先生们,”昆丁说道,“我对你们要求的回答是:首先请你们放明白,我是在执行我当今的君主委派给我的任务;其次你们要知道,不管我地位多么卑微,这两位仕女都希望得到我的保护。”

“好哇,你出来吧!”一位骑士吼道,“你这流浪的叫花子,你胆敢抗拒被授过勋带的骑士?”

“这的确是抗拒,”昆丁说道,“因为它抗拒的是你们无礼的非法侵犯。如果说我们之间地位有所不同(目前我还不清楚是否果真如此),那么,你们的无礼已使它毫无价值。拔出你们的刀吧!如果你们想使用长矛,那你们就各就各位吧!”

趁这两个骑士掉转马头,往回倒退一百五十码的时候,昆丁伏在马鞍上,望着两位仕女,像是想邀得她们赞许的目光。她们向他挥动头巾表示鼓励。这时两个进犯者已退足了进行交锋所需要的距离。

达威特一边叫那加斯科尼人鼓起大丈夫的勇气,一边策马迎战。四位骑士顿时迅猛地跑到腾出的场地一半的地方交起锋来。这下可要了那加斯科尼人的命。只见他的对手举着矛朝他那没戴面甲的脸上一戳,从眼睛一直戳到后脑勺,杀得他从马上滚翻下来。

昆丁固然处于同样的不利地位,但他十分灵巧地稳住在马鞍上的架势。尽管对方的长矛稍稍擦伤了他的面颊,但它从右肩上滑了过去;而他自己的长矛却正好击中了对方的胸部,把他打下马来。昆丁也跟着跳下马,替躺在地上的敌人解开钢盔。剩下的那个骑士(他还从没讲过一句话)看到他同伴遭到不幸,便抢在昆丁之先从马上跳下来,用两腿跨在他朋友身上喊道:“看在上帝和圣马丁的分上,好伙计,你快骑上马带着你的烂女人滚吧!圣格里斯呀,今天早晨她们闯的祸已经够大的了。”

“请原谅,骑士先生,”昆丁无法忍受说出这忠告时带的威胁口吻,毅然说道,“我得先搞清我刚才是和谁打交道,并查明谁得为我伙伴的死亡负责。”

“这你可永远没法知道,也没法去打报告。”那骑士回答道,“你乖乖地回去吧,好伙计。如果我们阻挡你是干了蠢事,我们也已经够倒霉了,因为你所犯的罪过是你和你全部人马的生命也抵偿不了的。好吧,假如你硬要打(因为昆丁已拔出剑向他冲来),那你就吃我这一梭标吧!”

说着他就朝这苏格兰人钢盔上猛地一击,其猛烈的程度昆丁以前也只在传奇小说上读到过(尽管他生长在一个以武打出名的国家)。它像霹雳般降临在这年轻人头上,使他简直无法招架。长矛不但戳穿了他那相当保险的钢盔,而且一直碰到他的头发,幸好没有造成进一步的伤害。达威特被打得头晕目眩,单膝跪倒在地,性命之忧真是千钧一发,全看这骑士是否有意再补上一击。但这骑士或许是对年轻的昆丁忽生怜惜之心,或许是对他的勇敢感到钦佩,或许是受到喜爱公平竞赛的侠义性格的支配,总之,他并没有进一步利用这一优势。昆丁一清醒过来,便以决心拼个你死我活的猛劲和最有效地夺取胜利所必需的镇定向对方冲杀过去。他决心不再让自己遭受刚才那种可怕的打击,遂利用其灵活机敏,再加装备轻捷的有利条件,东跑西跳,以突然的动作、快速的进攻来和对手周旋。那身穿笨重铠甲的骑士实在难以招架,颇感疲于奔命。这位讲义气的骑士对昆丁劝说:他们没有理由再打下去;他不愿被迫加害于他。但这根本无济于事。达威特只是听从他那洗雪失败之耻的强烈欲望的驱使,继续以闪电般的速度向他进攻。他时而以刀刃,时而以刀尖威胁他,并时刻提防着对方的动作,因为他已尝到过他那可怕的超人力量的滋味。他随时准备好向后跳,向旁边跳,来躲避他那沉重武器的打击。

“你这顽固而狂妄的傻瓜见鬼去吧!”那骑士喃喃说道,“不敲破你的脑袋你是不会善罢干休的!”说着他立即改变作战方式:先稳住阵脚,表面上像是采取守势,只求挡住昆丁不断的袭击,而不作还击,但内心却暗自下定决心,一旦那年轻人需要换口气,或动作失误,使他有机可乘时便一下子结束这场战斗。他这个狡黠的策略本来可望成功,但命运之神却作了另外的安排。

决斗正酣之际,一大队人马走了上来,大声喊道:“以国王的名义命令你们住手!”两位斗士顿时各自退到一边。昆丁惊愕地看到,阻止了他们继续战斗的这队人马为首的正是他的队长克劳福德大公。来人当中还包括特里斯顿·勒尔米特和他的两三个随从,共约二十人之众。



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533

鲁ICP备05031204号