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Chapter 15 The Guide

He was a son of Egypt, as he told me, And one descended from those dread magicians, Who waged rash war, when Israel dwelt in Goshen, With Israel and her Prophet -- matching rod With his, the son's of Levi's -- and encountering Jehovah's miracles with incantations, Till upon Egypt came the avenging Angel, And those proud sages wept for their first born, As wept the unletter'd peasant.

ANONYMOUS

The arrival of Lord Crawford and his guard put an immediate end to the engagement which we endeavoured to describe in the last chapter, and the knight, throwing off his helmet, hastily gave the old Lord his sword, saying, "Crawford, I render myself. -- But hither -- and lend me your ear -- a word for God's sake -- save the Duke of Orleans!"

"How! -- what? -- the Duke of Orleans!" exclaimed the Scottish commander. "How came this, in the name of the foul fiend? It will ruin the gallant with the King, for ever and a day."

"Ask no questions," said Dunois -- for it was no other than he -- "it was all my fault. See, he stirs. I came forth but to have a snatch at yonder damsel, and make myself a landed and a married man -- and see what is come on 't. Keep back your canaille -- let no man look upon him."

So saying, he opened the visor of Orleans, and threw water on his face, which was afforded by the neighbouring lake.

Quentin Durward, meanwhile, stood like one planet struck (affected by the supposed influence of the planets), so fast did new adventures pour in upon him. He had now, as the pale features of his first antagonist assured him, borne to the earth the first Prince of the Blood in France, and had measured swords with her best champion, the celebrated Dunois, -- both of them achievements honourable in themselves: but whether they might be called good service to the King, or so esteemed by him, was a very different question.

The Duke had now recovered his breath, and was able to sit up and give attention to what passed betwixt Dunois and Crawford, while the former pleaded eagerly that there was no occasion to mention in the matter the name of the most noble Orleans, while he was ready to take the whole blame on his own shoulders, and to avouch that the Duke had only come thither in friendship to him.

Lord Crawford continued listening with his eves fixed on the ground, and from time to time he sighed and shook his head. At length he said, looking up, "Thou knowest, Dunois, that, for thy father's sake, as well as thine own, I would full fain do thee a service."

"It is not for myself I demand anything," answered Dunois. "Thou hast my sword, and I am your prisoner -- what needs more? But it is for this noble Prince, the only hope of France, if God should call the Dauphin. He only came hither to do me a favour -- in an effort to make my fortune -- in a matter which the King had partly encouraged."

"Dunois," replied Crawford, "if another had told me thou hadst brought the noble Prince into this jeopardy to serve any purpose of thine own, I had told him it was false. And now that thou dost pretend so thyself, I can hardly believe it is for the sake of speaking the truth."

"Noble Crawford," said Orleans, who had now entirely recovered from his swoon, "you are too like in character to your friend Dunois, not to do him justice. It was indeed I that dragged him hither, most unwillingly, upon an enterprise of harebrained passion, suddenly and rashly undertaken. -- Look on me all who will," he added, rising up and turning to the soldiery, "I am Louis of Orleans, willing to pay the penalty of my own folly. I trust the King will limit his displeasure to me, as is but just. -- Meanwhile, as a Child of France must not give up his sword to any one -- not even to you, brave Crawford -- fare thee well, good steel."

So saying, he drew his sword from its scabbard, and flung it into the lake. It went through the air like a stream of lightning, and sank in the flashing waters, which speedily closed over it. All remained standing in irresolution and astonishment, so high was the rank, and so much esteemed was the character, of the culprit, while, at the same time, all were conscious that the consequences of his rash enterprise, considering the views which the King had upon him, were likely to end in his utter ruin.

Dunois was the first who spoke, and it was in the chiding tone of an offended and distrusted friend: "So! your Highness hath judged it fit to cast away your best sword, in the same morning when it was your pleasure to fling away the King's favour, and to slight the friendship of Dunois?"

"My dearest kinsman," said the Duke, "when or how was it in my purpose to slight your friendship by telling the truth, when it was due to your safety and my honour?"

"What had you to do with my safety, my most princely cousin, I would pray to know?" answered Dunois, gruffly. "What, in God's name, was it to you, if I had a mind to be hanged, or strangled, or flung into the Loire, or poniarded, or broke on the wheel, or hung up alive in an iron cage, or buried alive in a castle fosse, or disposed of in any other way in which it might please King Louis to get rid of his faithful subject? -- (You need 'not wink and frown, and point to Tristan l'Hermite -- I see the scoundrel as well as you do.) But it would not have stood so hard with me. -- And so much for my safety. And then for your own honour -- by the blush of Saint Magdalene, I think the honour would have been to have missed this morning's work, or kept it out of sight. Here has your Highness got yourself unhorsed by a wild Scottish boy."

"Tut, tut!" said Lord Crawford, "never shame his Highness for that. It is not the first time a Scottish boy hath broke a good lance -- I am glad the youth hath borne him well."

"I will say nothing to the contrary," said Dunois, "yet, had your Lordship come something later than you did, there might have been a vacancy in your band of Archers."

"Ay, ay," answered Lord Crawford, "I can read your handwriting in that cleft morion. Some one take it from the lad and give him a bonnet, which, with its steel lining, will keep his head better than that broken loom -- And let me tell your Lordship, that your own armour of proof is not without some marks of good Scottish handwriting. But, Dunois, I must now request the Duke of Orleans and you to take horse and accompany me, as I have power and commission to convey you to a place different from that which my goodwill might assign you."

"May I not speak one word, my Lord of Crawford, to yonder fair ladies?" said the Duke of Orleans.

"Not one syllable," answered Lord Crawford, "I am too much a friend of your Highness to permit such an act of folly."

Then addressing Quentin, he added, "You, young man, have done your duty. Go on to obey the charge with which you are intrusted."

"Under favour, my Lord," said Tristan, with his usual brutality of manner, "the youth must find another guide. I cannot do without Petit Andre, when there is so like to be business on hand for him."

"The young man," said Petit Andre, now coming forward, "has only to keep the path which lies straight before him, and it will conduct him to a place where he will find the man who is to act as his guide.

"I would not for a thousand ducats be absent from my Chief this day I have hanged knights and esquires many a one, and wealthy Echevins (during the Middle Ages royal officers possessing a large measure of power in local administration), and burgomasters to boot -- even counts and marquises have tasted of my handiwork but, a-humph" -- he looked at the Duke, as if to intimate that he would have filled up the blank with "a Prince of the Blood!"

"Ho, ho, ho! Petit Andre, thou wilt be read of in Chronicle!"

"Do you permit your ruffians to hold such language in such a presence?" said Crawford, looking sternly to Tristan.

"Why do you not correct him yourself, my Lord?" said Tristan, sullenly.

"Because thy hand is the only one in this company that can beat him without being degraded by such an action."

"Then rule your own men, my Lord, and I will be answerable for mine," said the Provost Marshal.

Lord Crawford seemed about to give a passionate reply, but as if he had thought better of it, turned his back short upon Tristan, and, requesting the Duke of Orleans and Dunois to ride one on either hand of him, he made a signal of adieu to the ladies, and said to Quentin, "God bless thee, my child, thou hast begun thy service valiantly, though in an unhappy cause."

He was about to go off when Quentin could hear Dunois whisper to Crawford, "Do you carry us to Plessis?"

"No, my unhappy and rash friend," answered Crawford, with a sigh, "to Loches."

"To Loches!" The name of a castle, or rather prison, yet more dreaded than Plessis itself, fell like a death toll upon the ear of the young Scotchman. He had heard it described as a place destined to the workings of those secret acts of cruelty with which even Louis shamed to pollute the interior of his own residence. There were in this place of terror dungeons under dungeons, some of them unknown even to the keepers themselves, living graves, to which men were consigned with little hope of farther employment during the rest of their life than to breathe impure air, and feed on bread and water. At this formidable castle were also those dreadful places of confinement called cages, in which the wretched prisoner could neither stand upright nor stretch himself at length, an invention, it is said, of the Cardinal Balue (who himself tenanted one of these dens for more than eleven years. S. De Comines, who also suffered this punishment, describes the cage as eight feet wide, and a foot higher than a man.). It is no wonder that the name of this place of horrors, and the consciousness that he had been partly the means of dispatching thither two such illustrious victims, struck so much sadness into the heart of the young Scot that he rode for some time with his head dejected, his eyes fixed on the ground, and his heart filled with the most painful reflections.

As he was now again at the head of the little troop, and pursuing the road which had been pointed out to him, the Lady Hameline had an opportunity to say to him, "Methinks, fair sir, you regret the victory which your gallantry has attained in our behalf?"

There was something in the question which sounded like irony, but Quentin had tact enough to answer simply and with sincerity.

"I can regret nothing that is done in the service of such ladies as you are, but, methinks, had it consisted with your safety, I had rather have fallen by the sword of so good a soldier as Dunois, than have been the means of consigning that renowned knight and his unhappy chief, the Duke of Orleans, to yonder fearful dungeons."

"It was, then, the Duke of Orleans," said the elder lady, turning to her niece. "I thought so, even at the distance from which we beheld the fray. -- You see, kinswoman, what we might have been, had this sly and avaricious monarch permitted us to be seen at his Court. The first Prince of the Blood of France, and the valiant Dunois, whose name is known as wide as that of his heroic father. -- This young gentleman did his devoir bravely and well, but methinks 't is pity that he did not succumb with honour, since his ill advised gallantry has stood betwixt us and these princely rescuers"

The Countess Isabelle replied in a firm and almost a displeased tone, with an energy, in short, which Quentin had not yet observed her use. She said, "but that I know you jest, I would say your speech is ungrateful to our brave defender, to whom we owe more, perhaps, than you are aware of. Had these gentlemen succeeded so far in their rash enterprise as to have defeated our escort, is it not still evident, that, on the arrival of the Royal Guard, we must have shared their captivity? For my own part, I give tears, and will soon bestow masses, on the brave man who has fallen, and I trust" (she continued, more timidly) "that he who lives will accept my grateful thanks."

As Quentin turned his face towards her, to return the fitting acknowledgments, she saw the blood which streamed down on one side of his face, and exclaimed, in a tone of deep feeling, "Holy Virgin, he is wounded! he bleeds! -- Dismount, sir, and let your wound be bound!"

In spite of all that Durward could say of the slightness of his hurt he was compelled to dismount, and to seat himself on a bank, and unhelmet himself, while the Ladies of Croye, who, according to a fashion not as yet antiquated, pretended some knowledge of leech craft, washed the wound, stanched the blood, and bound it with the kerchief of the younger Countess in order to exclude the air, for so their practice prescribed.

In modern times, gallants seldom or never take wounds for ladies' sake, and damsels on their side never meddle with the cure of wounds. Each has a danger the less. That which the men escape will be generally acknowledged, but the peril of dressing such a slight wound as that of Quentin's, which involved nothing formidable or dangerous, was perhaps as real in its way as the risk of encountering it.

We have already said the patient was eminently handsome, and the removal of his helmet, or more properly, of his morion, had suffered his fair locks to escape in profusion, around a countenance in which the hilarity of youth was qualified by a blush of modesty at once and pleasure. And then the feelings of the younger Countess, when compelled to hold the kerchief to the wound, while her aunt sought in their baggage for some vulnerary remedy, were mingled at once with a sense of delicacy and embarrassment, a thrill of pity for the patient, and of gratitude for his services, which exaggerated, in her eyes, his good mien and handsome features. In short, this incident seemed intended by Fate to complete the mysterious communication which she had, by many petty and apparently accidental circumstances, established betwixt two persons, who, though far different in rank and fortune, strongly resembled each other in youth, beauty, and the romantic tenderness of an affectionate disposition. It was no wonder, therefore, that from this moment the thoughts of the Countess Isabelle, already so familiar to his imagination, should become paramount in Quentin's bosom, nor that if the maiden's feelings were of a less decided character, at least so far as known to herself, she should think of her young defender, to whom she had just rendered a service so interesting, with more emotion than of any of the whole band of high born nobles who had for two years past besieged her with their adoration. Above all, when the thought of Campobasso, the unworthy favourite of Duke Charles, with his hypocritical mien, his base, treacherous spirit, his wry neck and his squint, occurred to her, his portrait was more disgustingly hideous than ever, and deeply did she resolve no tyranny should make her enter into so hateful a union.

In the meantime, whether the good Lady Hameline of Croye understood and admired masculine beauty as much as when she was fifteen years younger (for the good Countess was at least thirty-five, if the records of that noble house speak the truth), or whether she thought she had done their young protector less justice than she ought, in the first view which she had taken of his services, it is certain that he began to find favour in her eyes.

"My niece," she said, "has bestowed on you a kerchief for the binding of your wound, I will give you one to grace your gallantry, and to encourage you in your farther progress in chivalry."

So saying, she gave him a richly embroidered kerchief of blue and silver, and pointing to the housing of her palfrey, and the plumes in her riding cap, desired him to observe that the colours were the same.

The fashion of the time prescribed one absolute mode of receiving such a favour, which Quentin followed accordingly by tying the napkin around his arm, yet his manner of acknowledgment had more of awkwardness, and loss of gallantry in it, than perhaps it might have had at another time, and in another presence, for though the wearing of a lady's favour, given in such a manner, was merely matter of general compliment, he would much rather have preferred the right of displaying on his arm that which bound the wound inflicted by the sword of Dunois.

Meantime they continued their pilgrimage, Quentin now riding abreast of the ladies, into whose society he seemed to be tacitly adopted. He did not speak much, however, being filled by the silent consciousness of happiness, which is afraid of giving too strong vent to its feelings. The Countess Isabelle spoke still less, so that the conversation was chiefly carried on by the Lady Hameline, who showed no inclination to let it drop, for, to initiate the young Archer, as she said, into the principles and practice of chivalry, she detailed to him at full length the Passage of Arms at Haflinghem, where she had distributed the prizes among the victors.

Not much interested, I am sorry to say, in the description of this splendid scene, or in the heraldic bearings of the different Flemish and German knights, which the lady blazoned with pitiless accuracy, Quentin began to entertain some alarm lest he should have passed the place where his guide was to join him -- a most serious disaster, from which, should it really have taken place, the very worst consequences were to be apprehended.

While he hesitated whether it would be better to send back one of his followers to see whether this might not be the case, he heard the blast of a horn, and looking in the direction from which the sound came, beheld a horseman riding very fast towards them. The low size, and wild, shaggy, untrained state of the animal, reminded Quentin of the mountain breed of horses in his own country, but this was much more finely limbed, and, with the same appearance of hardiness, was more rapid in its movements. The head particularly, which, in the Scottish pony, is often lumpish and heavy, was small and well placed in the neck of this animal, with thin jaws, full sparkling eyes, and expanded nostrils.

The rider was even more singular in his appearance than the horse which he rode, though that was extremely unlike the horses of France. Although he managed his palfrey with great dexterity, he sat with his feet in broad stirrups, something resembling shovels, so short in the leathers that his knees were well nigh as high as the pommel of his saddle. His dress was a red turban of small size, in which he wore a sullied plume, secured by a clasp of silver, his tunic, which was shaped like those of the Estradiots (a sort of troops whom the Venetians at that time levied in the provinces on the eastern side of their gulf), was green in colour, and tawdrily laced with gold, he wore very wide drawers or trowsers of white, though none of the cleanest, which gathered beneath the knee, and his swarthy legs were quite bare, unless for the complicated laces which bound a pair of sandals on his feet, he had no spurs, the edge of his large stirrups being so sharp as to serve to goad the horse in a very severe manner. In a crimson sash this singular horseman wore a dagger on the right side, and on the left a short crooked Moorish sword, and by a tarnished baldric over the shoulder hung the horn which announced his approach. He had a swarthy and sunburnt visage, with a thin beard, and piercing dark eyes, a well formed mouth and nose, and other features which might have been pronounced handsome, but for the black elf locks which hung around his face, and the air of wildness and emaciation, which rather seemed to indicate a savage than a civilized man.

"He also is a Bohemian!" said the ladies to each other. "Holy Mary, will the King again place confidence in these outcasts?"

"I will question the man, if it be your pleasure," said Quentin, "and assure myself of his fidelity as I best may."

Durward, as well as the Ladies of Croye, had recognised in this man's dress and appearance the habit and the manners of those vagrants with whom he had nearly been confounded by the hasty proceedings of Trois Eschelles and Petit Andre, and he, too, entertained very natural apprehensions concerning the risk of reposing trust in one of that vagrant race.

"Art thou come hither to seek us?" was his first question. The stranger nodded. "And for what purpose?"

"To guide you to the Palace of Him of Liege."

"Of the Bishop?"

The Bohemian again nodded.

"What token canst thou give me that we should yield credence to thee?"

"Even the old rhyme, and no other," answered the Bohemian,

"The page slew the boar, The peer had the gloire."

"A true token," said Quentin, "lead on, good fellow -- I will speak farther with thee presently."

Then falling back to the ladies, he said, "I am convinced this man is the guide we are to expect, for he hath brought me a password, known, I think, but to the King and me. But I will discourse with him farther, and endeavour to ascertain how far he is to be trusted."

他告诉我,他是一个埃及人的儿子,

是那些可怕的巫术家的后裔。

他们曾在以色列人住在戈申时,

和以色列及其先知们进行严酷的战争——

和利未人的儿郎们格斗,

以诅咒回敬耶和华的神迹,

直到那复仇的天使来到埃及,

骄傲的圣人们,就像不识字的农民那样,

为他们的孩儿们哭泣。

无名氏

克劳福德大公及其卫队的到来即刻制止了我们在上一章描述过的那场决斗。那骑士取下钢盔赶忙把剑递给年老的大公说:“克劳福德,我向你缴械。不过——看在上帝的分上——让我向你讲句话——救救奥尔良公爵!”

“为什么?怎么回事?奥尔良公爵!”那苏格兰卫队长叫道,“你们是搞的什么鬼名堂?这会叫这年轻人被国王永远抛弃的。”

“别问了。”杜诺瓦说道。原来,他正是那位骑士。“这都是我的过错,瞧,他快醒过来了。我是来抢亲的。我打算抢走那个姑娘成个亲。结果搞成这个样于。请你把你那帮人叫过去,不要让人看见他。”说罢他打开奥尔良的面甲,用近旁一个湖里打来的水洒在他脸上。

这时昆丁·达威特像着了魔似的痴呆地站着,因为意外的事纷至沓来,使他真是摸不着头脑。和他交锋的头一个对手显露出来的苍白面孔使他明白,被他打翻在地的正是法国皇族血统的第一亲王,而刚才和他交过锋的是法国最优秀的武士,闻名的杜诺瓦。这两个成就固然都很光荣,但这是否算得上为国王效劳,国王本人又怎样看待,则是完全不同的问题。

公爵的呼吸趋于正常,能够坐起来,听清杜诺瓦和克劳福德之间的谈话。这时杜诺瓦正在急切地申辩说,在这件事情上没有必要提到最高贵的奥尔良的名字,他准备承担全部过错,并发誓说公爵只是到这儿来助他一臂之力。

克劳福德大公低头望着地上,继续倾听他的申辩,不时叹口气,摇摇头。最后他抬起头来说:“你知道,杜诺瓦,看在你父亲的分上,也为了你自己的缘故,我倒是很愿意给你帮个忙。”

“我并不为我自己要求什么,”杜诺瓦说,“我已经向你缴械,成了你的囚徒——还不够么?——我这是为了这位高贵的亲王。假如上帝有意立他为皇太子,他将是法兰西惟一的希望。他到这儿来只是为了帮我个忙——成全我的幸福——办一件国王给了我某种鼓励的事。”

“杜诺瓦,”克劳福德对答道,“要是别人对我说,你不惜让高贵的亲王遭受危险来帮你实现某种目的,我会告诉他这是说谎。而现在你竟然自己这样装腔作势,我的确很难相信这是为了陈述事实。”

“高贵的克劳福德,”奥尔良说道,这时他已从昏迷中完全清醒过来,“您和您的朋友杜诺瓦性格十分相似,肯定会为他主持公道。的确是我硬把他拉到这儿来,轻率唐突地干这种情欲冲动的鬼事的。大伙愿意,都望着我好了,”他站了起来面对士兵们说道,“我是奥尔良·路易,愿意为我干的蠢事接受惩罚。我相信国王会有限度地对我进行责难,而这是完全公正的。但作为法兰西的亲王我不得把剑交给任何人——甚至是你这勇敢的克劳福德——再见吧,我的好宝剑。”

说罢,他把剑抽出来向湖里扔去。只见它像道白光似的飞去,落进闪光的湖里,霎时就被湖水吞没。这触犯刑律者的地位如此之高,品格如此受尊敬,人们都不知所措地、惊奇地站着。想到国王对他所抱的希望,谁都意识到这一轻率行径所造成的后果有可能使他完全身败名裂。

第一个打破沉默的是杜诺瓦;他就像一个因自己的忠诚受到怀疑而感到十分气愤的朋友那样,以责备的口吻说道:“好呀!殿下竟在同一个早晨有意抛弃国王对你的恩惠,藐视杜诺瓦对你的友谊,又不惜扔掉你最好的宝剑?”

“我亲爱的堂兄,”公爵说道,“在关系到你的安全和我的荣誉的时刻,我说出真情,怎么会是有意藐视你的友谊呢?”

“请问我身为亲王的堂弟,这和我的安全有什么关系呢?”杜诺瓦气呼呼地回答道,“看在上帝的分上,如果我有心被绞死,被勒死,或被扔进卢瓦尔河,被刀砍,被车裂,被活活吊在铁笼里,被活埋在城堡的壕堑里,或让路易王以任何他乐意处置他忠臣的方式把我处置掉,这对你又有什么关系呢?(你不用挤眉弄眼,指着特里斯顿·勒尔米特——我和你一样看到了这个恶棍。)要知道,所有这些惩罚都不会使我感到有现在这么难受——这是讲到我个人的安全。至于说你自己的荣誉——凭圣马格德琳的赧颜说,我认为荣誉在于根本不干今早这种事,要干也别让人看见。瞧你殿下竟被一个野蛮的苏格兰娃娃打下马来。”

“别这么说,别这么说!”克劳福德大公说道,“你可别拿这个事来为难殿下。苏格兰娃娃也不是第一次耍长矛大显身手。看到这年轻人表现得很英勇我真高兴。”

“我倒不想表示异议,”杜诺瓦说道,“不过要是大人稍来晚一点的话,您的卫队可能会出现一名缺额。”

“不错,不错,”克劳福德大公对答说,“我看那被打裂的钢盔正是你的杰作。谁给那小伙子把钢盔取下来,给他一顶有钢村里的帽子吧。我想他戴上总要比那破家伙强一些。话说回来,我也想提醒大人,您自己这身保险铠甲也还是留下了好些苏格兰人杰作的迹印。不过,杜诺瓦,我得请奥尔良公爵和你本人上马,跟我一道走。我有权也有责任把你们带到我个人的友善本不希望把你们带去的地方。”

“克劳福德大公,我能对那两位美丽的仕女说句话吗?”奥尔良公爵问道。

“一个字也不行,”克劳福德公爵回答说,“我和殿下深厚的友谊使我不能容许您干这种傻事。”这时他转过身来对昆丁说:“年轻人,你尽了你的职责。继续遵照给你的命令去做吧。”

“大人赏光,”特里斯顿以他一贯的蛮横态度说道,“这年轻人得另找个向导。我没有小安德烈可不行。眼看他又有活计要干。”

“这个年轻人,”小安德烈走上前来说道,“只消沿着前面这条笔直的路走下去,就会走到一个地方,找到该给他带路的向导。今天就是给我一千个金币,我也不肯离开我的头头了!我吊死过许多骑士和扈从,外加有钱的市政官员和市长——甚至连伯爵和侯爵也尝过我的拿手好戏——不过么——”他望望奥尔良公爵,仿佛暗示那停顿处该说的是“一个皇家血统的亲王”!——“嗬,嗬,嗬!小安德烈,人们将来会在‘大事纪’里读到您的大名啊!”

“你竟让你手下这个无赖在这样一些人面前口出狂言吗?”克劳福德望着特里斯顿严厉地说道。

“我的大人,您干吗不亲自惩戒他呢?”特里斯顿愠怒地说道。

“因为你是这里站着的人当中惟一可以打他而不致降低身份的人。”

“那么我的大人,您管管您自己的人,我管我自己的人好了。”军法总监说道。

克劳福德似乎想给他一个愤怒的回答,但又像转了几个念头,忍住没说,只是不客气地转过身来不理睬他。他要求奥尔良公爵和杜诺瓦骑在他两边和他同行,然后做了个手势向两位仕女告别,并对昆丁说:“上帝祝福你,我的孩子。你一开始服役就表现得很英勇,尽管事情本身很不愉快。”他正要出发,昆丁忽然听见社诺瓦向克劳福德低声说道:“你想把我们带往普莱西宫吗?”

“不,我卤莽不幸的朋友,”克劳福德叹口气说,“我带你们到罗歇去。”

“到罗歇去!”这个比起普莱西宫更为可怕的城堡——更恰当地说应该是监狱——的名字在那年轻的苏格兰人听来就像丧钟似的恐怖。他曾听人说这是个用来秘密施行酷刑的地方;因为刑罚十分残酷,甚至路易都耻于利用他自己的内宫为其提供场地,玷污他宫殿的名声。在这个恐怖的城堡里地牢下面还有地牢,其中有些连狱吏也不知道。那儿都是些活的坟墓,人被投进这种坟墓,除开呼吸污浊的空气,以面包和水为生之外,一辈子就别想再干别的事。在这森严的城堡里还有称之为“罐笼”的可怕牢笼。不幸的囚徒在里面既不能站直,也不能伸伸腰。据说这是巴卢红衣主教的一大发明。听到这恐怖的监狱的名字,同时意识到他自己正是促使如此显赫的两位贵人被送往这个监狱的部分契因,这年轻的苏格兰人自然感到十分忧伤。他垂头丧气地走了一段路,眼睛望着地上,心里充满了痛苦的思虑。

当他重新走在这一小队人的前面,沿着指给他的道路往前走去时,哈梅琳女士抓住这个机会对他说道:

“好先生,我想你因为以你的勇敢为我们赢得了胜利而感到遗憾吧?”

这问题听起来有点讽刺味道,但昆丁很策略地作了个简单而诚恳的回答:

“为你们这样的仕女做任何事情我都不会感到遗憾。不过,要是不违背你们的安全利益,我宁肯死于杜诺瓦这样一位战士的刀下,也不愿看到自己促使这位著名的骑士及其不幸的上司奥尔良公爵被送往那可怕的地牢。”

“原来那人就是奥尔良公爵,”年长的仕女转过身来对她侄女说道,“本来我就猜想是这个人,尽管我们是隔着一段距离观看他们的交锋。你瞧,我的好侄女,要是那个狡猾而贪婪的国王让我们在宫廷露面的话,我们的处境会怎样地不同。这个法兰西皇族血统的第一亲王,这个和他勇敢的父亲同样闻名的英勇的杜诺瓦——唉,这年轻的绅士固然勇敢地尽了他的责任,不过,他没有体面地屈服也真是令人遗憾,因为他那不明智的勇敢阻碍了这么两位王公贵人对我们的拯救。”

伊莎贝尔小姐用坚定而近乎不悦的,也是昆丁从没听见她使用过的激昂有力的语调作了回答。

“夫人,”她说道,“要不是我知道您是在开玩笑,我会说您讲的话对我们勇敢的保护者真是忘恩负义。我们应当给予他的感激也许超过了我们所能想象的程度。要是那两位绅士轻率的行动获得成功,以致击败了我们的护卫者,那么当皇家卫队赶来的时候,我们岂不也和他们一样沦为囚徒?就我来说,我为那英勇的牺牲者表示哀悼,不久我会为他作个弥撒;而我相信(她继续说道,但显得更为胆怯)生者会得到我衷心的感激。”

昆丁转过脸去向她表示应有的谢意。这时她看见鲜血正顺着他脸部的一侧淌了下来,便满怀深情地叫道:“圣母呀!他受伤了,在淌血!先生,你快下马,让我给你扎扎伤口吧。”

尽管达威特一再说他的伤微不足道,他还是不得不从马上下来,解下钢盔,坐在一个土墩上,而按照当时还很时髦的习俗自认颇懂医道的两位克罗伊埃仕女则开始给他洗伤口,止血,并用年轻的伯爵小姐的头巾把伤口扎起来,照她们一惯的做法,使它避免接触空气。

在我们这个时代,勇士们为仕女们受伤流血是绝无仅有的事,仕女们也从来不给男人治治伤口。彼此都不会使对方有什么大的危险。男人避免遭到的危险是人所共认的。但给昆丁所受的这种毫不可怕、毫无危险的小伤口进行包扎,这给年轻人带来的危险却和他受伤时所冒的危险同样实在。

我们已经说过,这个负伤的年轻人长得十分英俊,脱掉钢盔(更恰当地说是脱掉头盔)之后,他那美丽的鬈发便一束束地落在他那抹上了一层羞怯和喜悦的红晕,充满了青春和欢乐的脸庞周围。那年轻的伯爵小姐,因她姑母在行囊里找寻治伤药品,所以不得不独自用头巾按着伤口,心情既掺揉着微妙的羞怯,又混杂着对负伤者的同情和对他的侠义行为的感激。这两种感情使他的容貌和面孔在她眼里更显得十倍的美好和英俊。总之,命运之神似乎在利用这桩小事来完成她通过许多貌似偶然的细小情节业已在他们两人之间建立起的心灵默契。这两个人的地位和命运固然迥然不同,但在年轻貌美和罗曼蒂克的温情性格方面却十分相似。因此,自那以后,那本来就经常出现在昆丁幻想世界里的伊莎贝尔小姐自然就更在他的心灵中处于至高无上的地位。而那姑娘的感情,虽然就她个人来说也还不甚明确,但与在过去两年当中一直向她表示爱慕的那些贵族子弟相比,她自然要对这位自己刚才耐人寻味地为其包扎过小小伤口的年轻卫士怀有更大的好感。特别是当她一想起查尔斯公爵那卑劣的宠臣康波·巴索;想起那伪善的面孔、卑鄙奸恶的灵魂,那歪脖子、斜眼睛,其尊容比以往就更显得丑恶可憎。她决心不屈从任何专横与暴虐而和这个可恨的家伙结A

那好心的哈梅琳女士,也不知是因为她能像十五年前那样来理解和欣赏男性美(顺便说说,假如克罗伊埃家族的档案没错的话,她当时至少已有三十五岁),还是因为在最初看待这位年轻卫士的功劳时,她没有对他给以应有的公正评价,反正肯定无疑的是,她现在已开始向他大献殷勤。

“我的侄女,”她说,“已经把她一条头巾赠送给你包扎伤口。我也想送给你一条来报答你的勇敢,并鼓励你继续发扬你的骑士精神。”

说罢她送他一条绣有许多蓝色和银色花朵的头巾,并指着她骑的小马的披挂和她戴的骑马帽的羽饰,叫他注意,它们都属于同一种颜色。

当时的习俗规定了接受这类赠礼必须遵守的形式,那就是把头巾系在胳膊上。昆丁只好照此行事。但他表示谢意的态度要比在别的时间和别人在场时显得更尴尬,表现得不那么洒脱。虽然戴上一位仕女这样赠送的绢巾只是一般的礼貌问题,但他更希望的是能有权在胳膊上戴上给他包扎住刀伤的那条绢巾。

他们继续往前行进。昆丁与两位仕女骑着马并排走着。他似乎通过她们的默许进入了她们的小圈子。不过他难得开口,因为他内心充满了一种幸福感,惟恐自己过分地外露感情。伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐仍很少讲话。因此谈话便主要被哈梅琳女士一人垄断。况且她也无意让谈话中止下来。正如她所说的,为了让这位年轻的射手熟悉骑士阶级的原则和实践,她不厌其烦地在向他详细介绍她曾给优胜者发过奖的哈弗林汉姆比武会的盛况。

我很遗憾地说,昆丁对于这个壮观的盛会以及这位女士给弗拉芒和德国的骑士们佩戴的纹章所作的精确描绘都不很感兴趣。这时他担心的是他已经过了他该和向导碰头的地方。要是果真如此,那就十分糟糕,因为其后果不堪设想。

他正在考虑是否应该派一个随从回去看看情况究竟如何,不料忽然听见一声号角。顺着号角声的方向望去,只见一个人骑着马向他们飞奔而来。那马个头矮小,鬃毛粗糙,未经训练,颇不驯服。昆丁觉得很像苏格兰山地的小种马。只是这匹马腿更细更匀;虽然外表同样结实,但其动作更为迅速。特别是马头,与苏格兰小马那大笨的头相比显得很小,但与马脖子倒很相称。马的嘴皮薄薄的,眼睛亮晶晶的,鼻孔也胀得很大,样子十分精神。

尽管这匹马完全不像法国马的样子,外表极其奇特,但骑马的人却比这匹马的外表更奇特。虽然他骑术高明,两只脚却踩在铲形般的马镫里;而皮带委实太短,两膝几乎伸得和马鞍头一般高。头上包着小小的红头巾,插着一片弄脏了的羽毛,用银扣别在头巾上。他的上衣像是艾斯特拉底阿特人(当时威尼斯人在海峡东部的外省地区招募的军队)穿的那种带有俗丽的金花边的绿色外袍。他那宽大的白裤子极为肮脏,在膝部以下扎成灯笼裤的样子,两只黝黑的腿完全裸露在外面,只是脚背上缠绕着系凉鞋的带子。他脚上没带马刺,但那大的马镫具有十分锐利的边缘,能用来刺马飞奔。这位怪异的骑手还扎着红色的腰带,右边插着把匕首,左边插着把摩尔人用的短弯刀,肩上斜披着一条褪色的缎带,挂着那宣告他驾临的号角。他的脸被太阳晒得很黑,上面长着稀稀的胡须、锐利的黑眼睛端正的嘴鼻。别的地方也还谈得上英俊,只是那脸旁垂着的黑色鬈发、那狂野的神态和瘦削的身材似乎表明他不是一个文明人,而是个未开化的野人。

“他也是个波希米亚人!”两位仕女同声说道,“圣母马利亚呀!难道国王还信赖这些化外之民吗?”

“如果你们愿意,我可以盘问一下这个人,”昆丁说道,“尽可能搞清他是否忠实可靠。”

达威特也和两位克罗伊埃仕女一样,通过他的衣着和外貌意识到他身上具有流浪汉的习惯和表现。由于特洛瓦—艾歇尔和小安德烈的莽撞做法,他自己还差点被搞得和这些流浪汉混淆不清哩。对于信赖这样一个流浪汉所冒的危险,他自然也感到担心。

“你是来找我们的吗?”这是他问的第一个问题。

那陌生人点点头。

“有何贵干?”

“领你们去列日那人的宫廷。”

“是列日主教的宫廷吗?”

那波希米亚人又点点头。

“你能给我点什么证据,使我们能信任你呢?”

“别的没有;只有个古老的民谣,”波希米亚人说道——

“童仆杀了野猪,

贵人得了荣誉。”

“这是个可靠的证据,”昆丁说道,“好伙计,你领路吧——很快我会和你继续交谈的。”然后他退到两位仕女跟前说:“我深信这人正是我们所等待的向导,因为他向我说出了我认为只有国王和我才知道的一个隐语。不过我将继续和他谈谈,尽量搞清能给他多大的信赖。”



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