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Chapter 18 Palmistry

When many a many tale and many a song Cheer'd the rough road, we wish'd the rough road long. The rough road, then, returning in a round, Mock'd our enchanted steps, for all was fairy ground.

SAMUEL JOHNSON

By peep of day Quentin Durward had forsaken his little cell, had roused the sleepy grooms, and, with more than his wonted care, seen that everything was prepared for the day's journey. Girths and bridles, the horse furniture, and the shoes of the horses themselves, were carefully inspected with his own eyes, that there might be as little chance as possible of the occurrence of any of those casualties, which, petty as they seem, often interrupt or disconcert travelling. The horses were also, under his own inspection, carefully fed, so as to render them fit for a long day's journey, or, if that should be necessary, for a hasty flight.

Quentin then betook himself to his own chamber, armed himself with unusual care, and belted on his sword with the feeling at once of approaching danger, and of stern determination to dare it to the uttermost.

These generous feelings gave him a loftiness of step, and a dignity of manner, which the Ladies of Croye had not yet observed in him, though they had been highly pleased and interested by the grace, yet naivete, of his general behaviour and conversation, and the mixture of shrewd intelligence which naturally belonged to him, with the simplicity arising from his secluded education and distant country. He let them understand that it would be necessary that they should prepare for their journey this morning rather earlier than usual, and, accordingly, they left the convent immediately after a morning repast, for which, as well as the other hospitalities of the House, the ladies made acknowledgment by a donation to the altar, befitting rather their rank than their appearance. But this excited no suspicion, as they were supposed to be Englishwomen, and the attribute of superior wealth attached at that time to the insular character as strongly as in our own day.

The Prior blessed them as they mounted to depart, and congratulated Quentin on the absence of his heathen guide.

"For," said the venerable man, "better stumble in the path than be upheld by the arm of a thief or robber."

Quentin was not quite of his opinion, for, dangerous as he knew the Bohemian to be, he thought he could use his services, and, at the same time, baffle his treasonable purpose, now that he saw clearly to what it tended. But his anxiety upon this subject was soon at an end, for the little cavalcade was not an hundred yards from the monastery and the village before Maugrabin joined it, riding as usual on his little active and wild looking jennet. Their road led them along the side of the same brook where Quentin had overheard the mysterious conference the preceding evening, and Hayraddin had not long rejoined them, ere they passed under the very willow tree which had afforded Durward the means of concealment, when he became an unsuspected hearer of what then passed betwixt that false guide and the lanzknecht.

The recollections which the spot brought back stirred Quentin to enter abruptly into conversation with his guide, whom hitherto he had scarce spoken to.

"Where hast thou found night quarter, thou profane knave?" said the Scot.

"Your wisdom may guess, by looking on my gaberdine," answered the Bohemian, pointing to his dress, which was covered with seeds of hay.

"A good haystack," said Quentin, "is a convenient bed for an astrologer, and a much better than a heathen scoffer at our blessed religion and its ministers, ever deserves."

"It suited my Klepper better than me, though," said Hayraddin, patting his horse on the neck, "for he had food and shelter at the same time. The old bald fools turned him loose, as if a wise man's horse could have infected with wit or sagacity a whole convent of asses. Lucky that Klepper knows my whistle, and follows me as truly as a hound, or we had never met again, and you in your turn might have whistled for a guide."

"I have told thee more than once," said Durward, sternly, "to restrain thy ribaldry when thou chancest to be in worthy men's company, a thing, which, I believe, hath rarely happened to thee in thy life before now, and I promise thee, that did I hold thee as faithless a guide as I esteem thee a blasphemous and worthless caitiff, my Scottish dirk and thy heathenish heart had ere now been acquainted, although the doing such a deed were as ignoble as the sticking of swine."

"A wild boar is near akin to a sow," said the Bohemian, without flinching from the sharp look with which Quentin regarded him, or altering, in the slightest degree, the caustic indifference which he affected in his language, "and many men," he subjoined, "find both pride, pleasure, and profit, in sticking them."

Astonished at the man's ready confidence, and uncertain whether he did not know more of his own history and feelings than was pleasant for him to converse upon, Quentin broke off a conversation in which he had gained no advantage over Maugrabin, and fell back to his accustomed post beside the ladies.

We have already observed that a considerable degree of familiarity had begun to establish itself between them. The elder Countess treated him (being once well assured of the nobility of his birth) like a favoured equal, and though her niece showed her regard to their protector less freely, yet, under every disadvantage of bashfulness and timidity, Quentin thought he could plainly perceive that his company and conversation were not by any means indifferent to her.

Nothing gives such life and soul to youthful gaiety as the consciousness that it is successfully received, and Quentin had accordingly, during the former period of their journey, amused his fair charge with the liveliness of his conversation and the songs and tales of his country, the former of which he sang in his native language, while his efforts to render the latter into his foreign and imperfect French, gave rise to a hundred little mistakes and errors of speech, as diverting as the narratives themselves. But on this anxious morning, he rode beside the Ladies of Croye without any of his usual attempts to amuse them, and they could not help observing his silence as something remarkable.

"Our young companion has seen a wolf," said the Lady Hameline, alluding to an ancient superstition, "and he has lost his tongue in consequence."

(Vox quoque Moerim Jam fugit ipsa; lupi Moerim videre priores. Virgilii ix. Ecloga. The commentators add, in explanation of this passage, the opinion of Pliny: "The being beheld by a wolf in Italy is accounted noxious, and is supposed to take away the speech of a man, if these animals behold him ere he sees them." S.)

"To say I had tracked a fox were nearer the mark," thought Quentin, but gave the reply no utterance.

"Are you well, Seignior Quentin?" said the Countess Isabelle, in a tone of interest at which she herself blushed, while she felt that it was something more than the distance between them warranted.

"He hath sat up carousing with the jolly friars," said the Lady Hameline, "the Scots are like the Germans, who spend all their mirth over the Rheinwein, and bring only their staggering steps to the dance in the evening, and their aching heads to the ladies' bower in the morning."

"Nay, gentle ladies," said Quentin, "I deserve not your reproach. The good friars were at their devotions almost all night, and for myself, my drink was barely a cup of their thinnest and most ordinary wine."

"It is the badness of his fare that has put him out of humour," said the Countess Isabelle. "Cheer up, Seignior Quentin, and should we ever visit my ancient Castle of Bracquemont together, if I myself should stand your cup bearer, and hand it to you, you shall have a generous cup of wine, that the like never grew upon the vines of Hochheim or Johannisberg."

"A glass of water, noble lady, from your hand," -- Thus far did Quentin begin, but his voice trembled, and Isabelle continued, as if she had been insensible of the tenderness of the accentuation upon the personal pronoun.

"The wine was stocked in the deep vaults of Bracquemont, by my great grandfather the Rhinegrave Godfrey," said the Countess Isabelle.

"Who won the hand of her great grandmother," interjected the Lady Hameline, interrupting her niece, "by proving himself the best son of chivalry, at the great tournament of Strasbourg -- ten knights were slain in the lists. But those days are now over, and no one now thinks of encountering peril for the sake of honour, or to relieve distressed beauty."

To this speech, which was made in the tone in which a modern beauty, whose charms are rather on the wane, may be heard to condemn the rudeness of the present age, Quentin took upon him to reply that there was no lack of that chivalry which the Lady Hameline seemed to consider as extinct, and that, were it eclipsed everywhere else, it would still glow in the bosoms of the Scottish gentlemen.

"Hear him!" said the Lady Hameline, "he would have us believe that in his cold and bleak country still lives the noble fire which has decayed in France and Germany! The poor youth is like a Swiss mountaineer, mad with partiality to his native land -- he will next tell us of the vines and olives of Scotland."

"No, madam," said Durward, "of the wine and the oil of our mountains I can say little more than that our swords can compel these rich productions as tribute from our wealthier neighbours. But for the unblemished faith and unfaded honour of Scotland, I must now put to the proof how far you can repose trust in them, however mean the individual who can offer nothing more as a pledge of your safety."

"You speak mysteriously -- you know of some pressing and present danger," said the Lady Hameline.

"I have read it in his eye for this hour past!" exclaimed the Lady Isabelle, clasping her hands. "Sacred Virgin, what will become of us?"

"Nothing, I hope, but what you would desire," answered Durward. "And now I am compelled to ask -- gentle ladies, can you trust me?"

"Trust you?" answered the Countess Hameline. "Certainly. But why the question? Or how far do you ask our confidence?"

"I, on my part," said the Countess Isabelle, "trust you implicitly, and without condition. If you can deceive us, Quentin, I will no more look for truth, save in Heaven!"

"Gentle lady," replied Durward, highly gratified, "you do me but justice. My object is to alter our route, by proceeding directly by the left bank of the Maes to Liege, instead of crossing at Namur. This differs from the order assigned by King Louis and the instructions given to the guide. But I heard news in the monastery of marauders on the right bank of the Maes, and of the march of Burgundian soldiers to suppress them. Both circumstances alarm me for your safety. Have I your permission so far to deviate from the route of your journey?"

"My ample and full permission," answered the younger lady.

"Cousin," said the Lady Hameline, "I believe with you that the youth means us well -- but bethink you -- we transgress the instructions of King Louis, so positively iterated."

"And why should we regard his instructions?" said the Lady Isabelle. "I am, I thank Heaven for it, no subject of his, and, as a suppliant, he has abused the confidence he induced me to repose in him. I would not dishonour this young gentleman by weighing his word for an instant against the injunctions of yonder crafty and selfish despot."

"Now, may God bless you for that very word, lady," said Quentin, joyously, "and if I deserve not the trust it expresses, tearing with wild horses in this life and eternal tortures in the next were e'en too good for my deserts."

So saying, he spurred his horse, and rejoined the Bohemian. This worthy seemed of a remarkably passive, if not a forgiving temper. Injury or threat never dwelt, or at least seemed not to dwell in his recollection, and he entered into the conversation which Durward presently commenced, just as if there had been no unkindly word betwixt them in the course of the morning.

The dog, thought the Scot, snarls not now, because he intends to clear scores with me at once and for ever, when he can snatch me by the very throat, but we will try for once whether we cannot foil a traitor at his own weapons.

"Honest Hayraddin," he said, "thou hast travelled with us for ten days, yet hast never shown us a specimen of your skill in fortune telling, which you are, nevertheless, so fond of practising that you must needs display your gifts in every convent at which we stop, at the risk of being repaid by a night's lodging under a haystack."

"You have never asked me for a specimen of my skill," said the gipsy. "You are, like the rest of the world, contented to ridicule those mysteries which they do not understand."

"Give me then a present proof of your skill," said Quentin and, ungloving his hand, he held it out to the gipsy.

Hayraddin carefully regarded all the lines which crossed each other on the Scotchman's palm, and noted, with equally Scrupulous attention, the little risings or swellings at the roots of the fingers, which were then believed as intimately connected with the disposition, habits, and fortunes of the individual, as the organs of the brain are pretended to be in our own time.

"Here is a hand," said Hayraddin, "which speaks of toils endured, and dangers encountered. I read in it an early acquaintance with the hilt of the sword, and yet some acquaintance also with the clasps of the mass book."

"This of my past life you may have learned elsewhere," said Quentin, "tell me something of the future."

"This line from the hill of Venus," said the Bohemian, "not broken off abruptly, but attending and accompanying the line of life, argues a certain and large fortune by marriage, whereby the party shall be raised among the wealthy and the noble by the influence of successful love."

"Such promises you make to all who ask your advice," said Quentin, "they are part of your art."

"What I tell you is as certain," said Hayraddin, "as that you shall in brief space be menaced with mighty danger, which I infer from this bright blood red line cutting the table line transversely, and intimating stroke of sword, or other violence, from which you shall only be saved by the attachment of a faithful friend."

"Thyself, ha?" said Quentin, somewhat indignant that the chiromantist should thus practise on his credulity, and endeavour to found a reputation by predicting the consequences of his own treachery.

"My art," replied the Zingaro, "tells me naught that concerns myself."

"In this, then, the seers of my land," said Quentin, "excel your boasted knowledge, for their skill teaches them the dangers by which they are themselves beset. I left not my hills without having felt a portion of the double vision with which their inhabitants are gifted, and I will give thee a proof of it, in exchange for thy specimen of palmistry. Hayraddin, the danger which threatens me lies on the right bank of the river -- I will avoid it by travelling to Liege on the left bank."

The guide listened with an apathy, which, knowing the circumstances in which Maugrabin stood, Quentin could not by any means comprehend.

"If you accomplish your purpose," was the Bohemian's reply, "the dangerous crisis will be transferred from your lot to mine."

"I thought," said Quentin, "that you said but now, that you could not presage your own fortune?"

"Not in the manner in which I have but now told you yours," answered Hayraddin, "but it requires little knowledge of Louis of Valois, to presage that he will hang your guide, because your pleasure was to deviate from the road which he recommended."

"The attaining with safety the purpose of the journey, and ensuring its happy termination," said Quentin, "must atone for a deviation from the exact line of the prescribed route."

"Ay," replied the Bohemian, "if you are sure that the King had in his own eye the same termination of the pilgrimage which he insinuated to you."

"And of what other termination is it possible that he could have been meditating? or why should you suppose he had any purpose in his thought, other than was avowed in his direction?" inquired Quentin.

"Simply," replied the Zingaro, "that those who know aught of the Most Christian King, are aware that the purpose about which he is most anxious, is always that which he is least willing to declare. Let our gracious Louis send twelve embassies, and I will forfeit my neck to the gallows a year before it is due, if in eleven of them there is not something at the bottom of the ink horn more than the pen has written in the letters of credence."

"I regard not your foul suspicions," answered Quentin, "my duty is plain and peremptory -- to convey these ladies in safety to Liege, and I take it on me to think that I best discharge that duty in changing our prescribed route, and keeping the left side of the river Maes. It is likewise the direct road to Liege. By crossing the river, we should lose time and incur fatigue to no purpose -- wherefore should we do so?"

"Only because pilgrims, as they call themselves, destined for Cologne," said Hayraddin, "do not usually descend the Maes so low as Liege, and that the route of the ladies will be accounted contradictory of their professed destination."

"If we are challenged on that account," said Quentin, "we will say that alarms of the wicked Duke of Gueldres, or of William de la Marck, or of the Ecorcheurs (flayers; a name given to bands of wandering troops on account of their cruelty) and lanzknechts, on the right side of the river, justify our holding by the left, instead of our intended route."

"As you will, my good seignior," replied the Bohemian. "I am, for my part, equally ready to guide you down the left as down the right side of the Maes. Your excuse to your master you must make out for yourself."

Quentin, although rather surprised, was at the same time pleased with the ready, or at least the unrepugnant acquiescence of Hayraddin in their change of route, for he needed his assistance as a guide, and yet had feared that the disconcerting of his intended act of treachery would have driven him to extremity. Besides, to expel the Bohemian from their society would have been the ready mode to bring down William de la Marck, with whom he was in correspondence, upon their intended route, whereas, if Hayraddin remained with them Quentin thought he could manage to prevent the Moor from having any communication with strangers unless he was himself aware of it.

Abandoning, therefore, all thoughts of their original route, the little party followed that by the left bank of the broad Maes, so speedily and successfully that the next day early brought them to the proposed end of their journey. They found that the Bishop of Liege, for the sake of his health, as he himself alleged, but rather, perhaps, to avoid being surprised by the numerous and mutinous population of the city, had established his residence in his beautiful Castle of Schonwaldt, about a mile without Liege.

Just as they approached the Castle, they saw the Prelate returning in long procession from the neighbouring city, in which he had been officiating at the performance of High Mass. He was at the head of a splendid train of religious, civil and military men, mingled together, or, as the old ballad maker expresses it,

"With many a cross bearer before, And many a spear behind."

The procession made a noble appearance, as winding along the verdant banks of the broad Maes, it wheeled into, and was as it were devoured by, the huge Gothic portal of the Episcopal residence.

But when the party came more near, they found that circumstances around the Castle argued a doubt and sense of insecurity, which contradicted that display of pomp and power which they had just witnessed. Strong guards of the Bishop's soldiers were heedfully maintained all around the mansion and its immediate vicinity, and the prevailing appearances in an ecclesiastical residence seemed to argue a sense of danger in the reverend Prelate, who found it necessary thus to surround himself with all the defensive precautions of war.

The Ladies of Croye, when announced by Quentin, were reverently ushered into the great Hall, where they met with the most cordial reception from the Bishop, who met them there at the head of his little Court. He would not permit them to kiss his hand, but welcomed them with a salute, which had something in it of gallantry on the part of a prince to fine women, and something also of the holy affection of a pastor to the sisters of his flock.

Louis of Bourbon, the reigning Bishop of Liege, was in truth a generous and kind hearted prince, whose life had not indeed been always confined, with precise strictness, within the bounds of his clerical profession, but who, notwithstanding, had uniformly maintained the frank and honourable character of the House of Bourbon, from which he was descended.

In latter times, as age advanced, the Prelate had adopted habits more beseeming a member of the hierarchy than his early reign had exhibited, and was loved among the neighbouring princes, as a noble ecclesiastic, generous and magnificent in his ordinary mode of life, though preserving no very ascetic severity of character, and governing with an easy indifference, which, amid his wealthy and mutinous subjects, rather encouraged than subdued rebellious purposes.

The Bishop was so fast an ally of the Duke of Burgundy that the latter claimed almost a joint sovereignty in his bishopric, and repaid the good natured ease with which the Prelate admitted claims which he might easily have disputed, by taking his part on all occasions with the determined and furious zeal which was a part of his character. He used to say he considered Liege as his own, the Bishop as his brother (indeed, they might be accounted such, in consequence of the Duke's having married for his first wife, the Bishop's sister), and that he who annoyed Louis of Bourbon, had to do with Charles of Burgundy, a threat which, considering the character and the power of the prince who used it, would have been powerful with any but the rich and discontented city of Liege, where much wealth had, according to the ancient proverb, made wit waver.

The Prelate, as we have said, assured the Ladies of Croye of such intercession as his interest at the Court of Burgundy, used to the uttermost, might gain for them, and which, he hoped, might be the more effectual, as Campobasso, from some late discoveries, stood rather lower than formerly in the Duke's personal favour. He promised them also such protection as it was in his power to afford, but the sigh with which he gave the warrant seemed to allow that his power was more precarious than in words he was willing to admit.

"At every event, my dearest daughters," said the Bishop, with an air in which, as in his previous salute, a mixture of spiritual unction qualified the hereditary gallantry of the House of Bourbon, "Heaven forbid I should abandon the lamb to the wicked wolf, or noble ladies to the oppression of faitours. I am a man of peace, though my abode now rings with arms, but be assured I will care for your safety as for my own, and should matters become yet more distracted here, which, with Our Lady's grace, we trust will be rather pacified than inflamed, we will provide for your safe conduct to Germany, for not even the will of our brother and protector, Charles of Burgundy, shall prevail with us to dispose of you in any respect contrary to your own inclinations. We cannot comply with your request of sending you to a convent, for, alas! such is the influence of the sons of Belial among the inhabitants of Liege, that we know no retreat to which our authority extends, beyond the bounds of our own castle, and the protection of our soldiery. But here you are most welcome, and your train shall have all honourable entertainment, especially this youth whom you recommend so particularly to our countenance, and on whom in especial we bestow our blessing."

Quentin kneeled, as in duty bound, to receive the Episcopal benediction.

"For yourselves," proceeded the good Prelate, "you shall reside here with my sister Isabelle, a Canoness of Triers, with whom you may dwell in all honour, even under the roof of so gay a bachelor as the Bishop of Liege."

He gallantly conducted the ladies to his sister's apartment, as he concluded the harangue of welcome, and his Master of the Household, an officer who, having taken Deacon's orders, held something between a secular and ecclesiastical character, entertained Quentin with the hospitality which his master enjoined, while the other personages of the retinue of the Ladies of Croye were committed to the inferior departments.

In this arrangement Quentin could not help remarking that the presence of the Bohemian, so much objected to in the country convents, seemed, in the household of this wealthy, and perhaps we might say worldly prelate, to attract neither objection nor remark.

一个个愉快的故事和愉快的歌声

伴随着我们愉快地走着崎岖的路程,

我们惟愿这崎岖的路越走越长——

但见它转个圈又回到原来的地方,

笑我们不识仙乡。

塞缪尔·约翰逊

天刚一亮昆丁·达威特便离开了他小小的住室,唤醒睡眼惺忪的马夫,比以往更仔细地查看马的肚带、勒具、披挂以及马的蹄铁,以便尽可能避免发生那些看来虽小,但经常会妨碍和打乱行程的偶然事故。在他亲自督促之下,马也被喂得饱饱的,好让它们适应当天的长途跋涉,而且在必要时能迅速奔跑。

昆丁回到自己的房间,比平常更仔细地穿上铠甲,并以临危不惧、决心奋斗到底的严肃心情把刀系在腰带上。

这种豪侠的心情使他步履矫健,态度庄严。尽管两位克罗伊埃仕女对他平常那种优雅而质朴的举止谈吐与他那天生的精明机智以及在偏僻环境中长大所具有的憨厚混合而成的独特气质十分欣赏,但像他此刻的这种表现她们还从未见过。他告诉她们今早有必要提前出发。吃完早点之后他们便立即离开寺院。动身之前,两位仕女给圣坛作了一个符合她们身份而不大符合她们外表的慷慨捐赠,以感谢寺院对她们的盛情款待。这并没有引起什么疑心,因为她们都伪称是英国人,而当时也和现在一样,人们普遍认为岛国人非常富有。

在他们上马出发的时候,院长向他们行祝福礼,并为昆丁失去他那不信教的向导向他表示庆贺。“因为,”那可敬的僧人说道,“宁可在路上摔跤,也不宁受强盗或小偷的阻拦。”

昆丁倒不是他这种看法。虽然他知道那波希米亚人十分危险,但他认为一旦他清楚地看出了他的意向,他就能利用他为自己服务,而且能挫败他的奸诈预谋。不过很快他就不必再为此操心,因为这小小的马队还没有走出寺院和村庄一百码就看见毛格拉宾像往常一样骑着他那匹活泼好看的小马来加入他们的行列。这条路正是顺着昨晚昆丁偷听他们神秘聚会的那条小溪走的。海拉丁插进他们的行列不久,他们就从那株曾给达威特提供隐蔽,从而使他偷听到那不忠的向导与长矛手谈话的柳树下面穿过。

这地方引起了昆丁对昨晚的回忆,促使他突然和他先前没怎么理睬的向导谈起话来。

“你这亵渎神明的混蛋,你到哪儿过夜去了?”苏格兰人问道。

“你瞧瞧我的宽袍,就可以凭你的聪明猜出来了。”那波希米亚人指着他那沾满了碎干草的衣服说道。

“好一个干草堆,”昆丁说道,“对于占星家说来可真是一个舒适而方便的床铺。一个蔑视我们神圣的宗教及其僧侣的异教徒不配享用。”

“不过,我的小马要比我对它更感到满意,”海拉丁拍拍马脖子说道:“因为它既得到了睡处,又得到了饲料。那些秃头的老傻瓜连它也赶跑了,仿佛聪明人的马也会给一庙子的蠢驴感染上聪明和智慧。幸好这马懂得我的哨声,能像只猎犬一样忠实地跟随我。要不我们就永远见不了面,而你也休想得到一个向导了。”

“我不止一次警告过你,”达威特严厉地说,“叫你碰到和高尚的人在一起时不要开玩笑。当然,我看你过去一生很少有机会遇到这种幸运。老实告诉你吧,要是我认为你既是一个亵渎神明的贱痞,又是一个不忠实的向导,那么我这苏格兰的匕首早就碰上你这异教徒的心脏了——尽管干这种事就像戳死一头猪那样龌龊。”

“猪和野猪很相像,”波希米亚人说道。他在昆丁锐利目光的注视下毫不畏缩,也毫不改变他说话时装出的满不在乎的挖苦腔调。“许多人,”他补充说,“戳起野猪来既高兴,又得意,还得到好处。”

昆丁对这人随口说出别人的秘密感到吃惊。他无法肯定这人对他的往事和心情是否知道得很多,谈下去是否对自己不利,便打断了这个无法使他占上风的谈话,而退到两位仕女旁边,走在他已习惯的位置上。

我在前面已经说到过,他们之间的关系如今已相当亲密。年长的仕女把他当作一个受宠的平辈人看待(因为她们已完全相信他出身高贵)。她的侄女虽然对待她们的保护人不那么随便,但在她那羞怯的窘态下面,昆丁清楚地意识到,他的陪伴和谈话对她说来决非可有可无。

看到自己的快活和豪爽受到赏识,年轻人更是感到如虎添翼。在他们以前的旅程中,昆丁总是用他那活跃的谈话以及苏格兰的民歌和故事来愉悦那美丽的少女。他用当地方言唱这些民歌,但把苏格兰民间故事翻译成生硬的法语却往往错误百出。这个事实本身也和故事同样有趣。然而在这个使他焦虑的早晨,他却默默地骑在两位克罗伊埃仕女身边,不像往常那样想方设法使她们高兴。她们不能不感到他这种沉默很不寻常。

“我们年轻的旅伴一定是看见狼了,”哈梅琳女士说道,她心目中指的是一个古老的迷信,“所以舌头也不在了。”

“如果说我跟踪上了一头狐狸,那才讲到点子上了。”昆丁想道,但他并没有把这话说出声来。

“您身体好吗,昆丁先生?”伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐问道,那关心的语气使她自己也不觉脸红起来,因为她感到这超过了他们之间的距离所能允许的程度。

“他一夜没睡觉,和那些快活的僧侣饮酒作乐。”哈梅琳女士说,“苏格兰人也和德国人一样,畅饮莱茵美酒来欢度良辰,晚上又摇摇晃晃地跑去参加舞会,早晨却带着疼痛的脑袋走进情人们的闺房。”

“尊敬的女士们,事情不是这样,”昆丁说道,“这种指责与我无缘。善良的僧侣们几乎整夜都在祷告。至于我自己,我只喝了普普通通的一杯淡酒。”

“是饮食糟糕使得他情绪不好。”伊莎贝尔小姐说道,“昆丁先生,请您别丧气。要是我们能再回到我那古老的布拉克蒙特城堡,而我有幸为您敬酒,您将喝到满满一杯葡萄美酒,一杯霍克海姆或约翰尼斯堡的葡萄园酿造不出的葡萄美酒。”

“只需要您亲手递给我一杯水,高贵的小姐。”昆丁一开头就把话说到这种程度,这时声音不免有些颤抖。伊莎贝尔小姐继续讲下去,仿佛她并没有注意到昆丁强调“您”这个人称代词时所表现的无限柔情。

“这种酒是我曾祖父,莱茵伯爵戈德弗雷藏在布拉克蒙特的地窖里的。”伊莎贝尔小姐说道。

“就是赢得她曾祖母作妻子的那位骑士,”哈梅琳女士打断了她侄女,“因为他在斯特拉斯堡比武会上证明自己是骑士阶级最优秀的代表——当场丧命的有十人之多。不过那种时代已经过去了。现在可没有人再想为荣誉,为拯救受难的美女而甘冒生命危险了。”

这话是个姿色已非往昔的近代美人用一种听来像是责怪当代男人的鄙俗口气说出来的。对此昆丁义不容辞地作了如下的回答:“哈梅琳女士似乎认为已经消亡了的这种骑士精神,其实并不罕见。如果说在别的地方有所减弱的话,至少它还在苏格兰绅士们的胸中燃烧。”

“说得真好!”哈梅琳女士议论道,“他竟然想让我们相信,在他那既寒冷又荒凉的苏格兰仍然燃烧着在法国和德国都已经熄灭了的高贵火焰!这可怜的年轻人就像个瑞士的山地人,充满了对故乡的偏爱——往下他就该给我们大谈其苏格兰的葡萄和橄榄树了。”

“不会的,女士,”达威特说,“谈到我们山地人喝的酒,吃的油,我只能说,我们能用刀剑迫使我们富庶的邻居向我们贡奉这些美好的产物。至于苏格兰人纯洁无瑕的忠诚和永不衰败的荣誉,那么我不得不现在就请你们考验,你们究竟可以对它给予多大的信赖。自然,我个人很卑微,不能提供更多的东西作为你们安全的保证。”

“你说得真令人费解——你一定知道有什么迫在眉睫的危险。”哈梅琳女士说道。

“在过去的一小时里我通过他的眼神看出是出了什么事!”伊莎贝尔小姐合拢双手说道,“圣母呀,我们该怎么办呢?”

“我想,一切都会顺心的。”达威特回答道,“现在我不得不问一个问题——高贵的女士们,你们信得过我吗?”

“信得过你?”哈梅琳女士回答道,“当然嘛。不过,你干吗要问呢?你要求我们信赖到什么程度?”

“就我来说,”伊莎贝尔小姐说道,“我无条件地绝对信赖你。假如你昆丁骗了我们的话,那么除了上帝以外我就谁的话也不相信了。”

“高贵的小姐,”达威特十分满意地回答说,“你给我说了句公道话。我想讲明的是我打算改变我们的路线,直接沿马埃斯河左岸去列日,而不在纳慕尔渡河。这与路易王的命令和向导得到的指示有出人。问题是我在寺院听人说,马埃斯河右岸常有匪徒出没,勃艮第士兵已奉命前去镇压。这两个情况都使我为你们的安全担忧。你们是否允许我改变你们的旅行路线呢?”

“我完全同意。”年轻的小姐回答说。

“侄女,”哈梅琳女士说,“我跟你一样,相信这年轻人是一番好意。不过你得考虑,我们是违反路易王十分强调的指示。”

“我们干吗要重视他的指示呢?”伊莎贝尔小姐说道,“谢天谢地,我并不是他的臣民。而且,作为一个请求他保护的人来说,他已辜负了他曾经诱使我给过他的信赖。我不想委屈这位年轻的绅士,把那狡猾自私的暴君的命令和他讲的话放在一起来权衡——哪怕是一分钟。”

“小姐,上帝保信你,你讲得太好了。”昆丁高兴地说道,假如我辜负了你话中所表达的信任,即使今世被五马分尸、来世永受酷刑也未免太便宜了我。”

说罢他策马奔到前面去找那个波希米亚人。这位贵人即使谈不上性格宽宏大量,至少也显得非常随和。他从不会记住(至少表面如此)别人对他的冒犯或恐吓。达威特一开始和他讲话,他便谈笑自若,仿佛今早他们根本不曾顶过嘴。

“这狗东西现在不咬人,”苏格兰人想道,“因为他打算一当他能够掐住我的脖子时便和我算总账。不过我倒要看看我能否以其人之道还治其人之身,挫败一个奸人——诚实的海拉丁,”他说道,“你和我们一道走了五天了,但你从来还没给我们表演过你算命的本事。我知道你是很喜欢算命的。在我们停歇的每个寺院你都硬要表演一下你这种天赋,还不惜受到在草堆里睡一夜的惩罚。”

“你从来没要求过我表演我的本事,”那吉卜赛人说道,“你也和别人一样,满足于对自己所不懂的玄妙事物讥笑了事。”

“那你现在就把你的本事证明给我看吧。”昆丁说道,一边脱掉一只手套,把手递给那吉卜赛男子。

海拉丁仔细地察看那苏格兰人手上纵横交错的纹路,也同样严格认真地注意手指根部那些小的鼓胀部分。这些东西,也像人们今天看待大脑一样,当时被认为与人的性格、习惯和命运具有密切关系。

“这只手,”海拉丁说道,“说明你干过苦活,碰到过危险。我看得出你很早就操刀把子,精通武艺。不过你也曾和弥撒书打过交道。”

“你可能在别的什么地方了解到我这些往事。”昆丁说道,“你给我讲讲未来吧。”

“从维纳斯山引出的这条线,”那波希米亚人说道,“没有突然中断,而是一直伴随着生命线,说明你肯定会通过婚姻交好运,通过美满的爱情上升为富有的贵族。”

“凡是找你看相,你都会说这种好话的。”昆丁说,“这是你们方术的一个组成部分。”

“我所告诉你的是肯定无疑的,”海拉丁说道,“同样肯定无疑的是,我们很快会碰到巨大的危险。这是我从这条鲜明的血红线横切合线推出来的。它说明会有兵戎之险,杀身之祸。只有靠一个忠实朋友对你的感情你才得以消灾免祸。”

“哈,这是指你自己吧?”昆丁有点愤激地说道,因为这位手相家视他如此可欺,竟妄想通过预卜他自己背信弃义的结果以树立自己的名声。

“我的相术无法预卜我自己的事情。”那吉普卜人说道。

“在这方面,我们苏格兰的算命先生要比你们所吹嘘的本事高明,”昆丁说道,“因为他们的相术可以说出他们自己会遭到哪些危险。我是个山地人,尽管我离开了山地,但我也具有一些山地居民遥看未来的天赋。我将把它证实给你看,作为你表演手相术的一种交换。海拉丁,威胁我的危险是在河的右岸——我将沿河的左岸去列日以摆脱这个危险。”

那向导听他讲这话时无动于衷的表情使得明知其底细的昆丁感到实在无法理解。“如果你达到你的目的,”那波希米亚人回答道,“那么危险就会从你身上转移到我身上。”

“你瞧,”昆丁说,“你不是刚才还说你无法预言自己的未来么?”

“当然不是以我刚才给你算命的方式预知这点的。”海拉丁回答道,“任何稍微了解瓦卢瓦·路易的人都能预言,假如你有意不走他提出的路线,他就会绞死你的向导。”

“能平安到达目的地,保证旅行顺利结束,”昆丁说道,“就应该可以弥补不走指定路线的过错。”

“不错,”波希米亚人回答说,“要是你能肯定国王向你讲的目的地和他心目中的目的地是一回事的话。”

“那么,他心目中能有什么别的目的地呢?你干吗要设想,除了他命令中讲明的意图以外,心中还另有打算呢?”昆丁盘问道。

“很简单,”那吉卜赛人回答说,“凡是了解这位最讲基督之道的国王的人都很清楚,他最想实现的意图往往是他最不肯讲明的意图。假设我们贤明的路易王派遣十二位使臣,我敢用脖子担保,十二个人当中准有十一个人的墨水瓶底写的藏有比国书写的更多的名堂。”

“我不管你这些胡猜乱想,”昆丁说,“我的责任是明确无误的——把两位仕女平安地送到列日。我自认为改变规定的路线,沿马埃斯河左岸走,最能有效地履行我的职责。再说这也是去列日的直路。要是渡河,我们就会白白浪费时间,增加旅途的劳累——我们干吗要这样做呢?”

“因为打算去科隆的所谓香客一般都不会沿马埃斯河走到列日那么远的地方,两位仕女走的路线会被认为与她们声称的目的不符。”

“要是有人就这点质问我们,”昆丁说,“我们就说这是因为那邪恶的格尔德雷斯公爵,或威廉·德拉马克,或剥皮专家和德国长矛手在河右岸进行骚扰。这样我们就不得不改变原定路线,继续走左岸。”

“悉听尊便,我的好人。”那波希米亚人回答道,“就我来说,我既乐意领你们沿马埃斯河右岸走,也乐意带你们沿左岸走。不过,你得自己找出理由,向你主人辩解。”

海拉丁对于改变路线的做法轻易地、至少并非勉强地表示默许,不能不使昆丁感到诧异,同时也感到高兴,因为他还需要他给他们领路。但昆丁又担心,打破他原来想出卖他们的计划会驱使他铤而走险。然而,要把这波希米亚人赶出他们的队伍却等于是使和他有勾结的威廉·德拉马克知道他们的新路线,跑来袭击他们。假如让海拉丁留下来,昆丁倒可以设法防止他独自和外人悄悄来往。

由于完全放弃了按原定路线走的计划,这一小队人马顺利地沿着那宽阔的马埃斯河左岸迅速行进,第二天一早他们便到达了他们预定的目的地。他们发现列日主教已称病住进了索恩瓦尔德城堡,其实,也许是为了避免遭到人数众多、蓄谋反叛的列日市民的突然袭击。

当他们走近城堡时,他们看见在邻近一个城市主持完大弥撒的主教正在一长队人马的跟随下返回教廷。

他走在一长列衣着华丽的僧人和文武官员的前面。正像那古老的民间诗人说的那样:

“众僧人高擎十字架开道,

众武士手持长矛殿后。”

长长的行列沿着宽阔的马埃斯河绿茵茵的河岸蜿蜒走去,最后来到主教官邸巨大的哥特式门廊前,慢慢旋了进去,也仿佛是被吞没了进去。

当这一小队人马走得更近时,城堡周围的情况表明,这里存在着疑虑和不安全感,与他们刚看到的富贵荣华和威风凛凛的场面很不协调。在官邸的周围和附近都小心地布满了主教的岗哨。教廷总的气氛似乎说明,可敬的主教感到安全无保障,因而有必要在自己周围采取这些军事防御措施。经过昆丁通报之后,二位克罗伊埃仕女被尊敬地引进大厅。主教率领他的小教廷对她们表示最热诚的欢迎。他免了她们的吻手礼,而是向她们行了一个表示欢迎的敬礼。这既有点王子向贵妇人献殷勤的味道,也有点牧师对女教民表现圣洁感情的味道。

波旁·路易这位列日主教的确是一个慷慨善良的王室贵族。固然他一生并不是严格地只限于从事圣职,但他却给终一贯地保持着他所出身的波旁家族那种坦率而高尚的品格。

随着年事日高,主教晚年的习惯要比早年更显得符合其圣职人员的身份。他在邻近的王公贵族中受到普遍的爱戴,公认是一位高贵的教士。他在日常生活中表现得慷慨大方,不讲什么严厉的禁欲主义。在施政方面他实行的是无为而治。这对他那些桀骛不驯和富有的臣民的反叛企图起了鼓励而不是抑制的作用。

主教是勃艮第公爵牢靠的同盟者。公爵大人几乎要求在主教辖区和主教享有共同的统治权。主教满不在乎地好心接受了他本可以轻易驳斥的这一要求,而公爵则以他性格所特有的坚定而偏激的热忱在一切场合袒护主教,作为对他的报答。他经常说,他把列日看作是他自己的领土,而把主教看作是他自己的兄弟(既然公爵曾娶主教的妹妹作原配夫人,倒也不妨这样看待),谁要是冒犯了波旁·路易,勃艮第·查尔斯就得找他算账。考虑到这位君王的性格和权势,这种话对任何人来说都算得上一种有力的威胁。但那富裕而不满的列日市民却属例外。按照一个古老格言的说法,想必是它拥有的大量财富使得人们利欲熏心。

主教向两位克罗伊埃仕女保证说,他将尽量利用他在勃艮第宫廷的影响为她们求情,而根据最近一些情况来看,康波·巴索已不像从前那样得宠,这样他的求情就会更加有效。他也保证给她们提供力所能及的保护。不过他作出这保证时叹了口气,似乎不得不承认他的能力颇成问题,而他不愿用言语表示出来。

“我亲爱的孩子们,不管怎么说吧,”主教带着先前敬礼时那种既给人精神安慰又伴有波旁家族豪侠气概的态度说道,“皇天有眼,我不能让羔羊任恶狼摆布,让高贵的仕女任人欺凌。尽管现在我的住所颇有战火味儿,但我确实是个热爱和平的人。你们放心,我就像关心我自己的安全一样关心你们的安全。万一这里事态变得更难以收拾——愿圣母保佑,我相信事情会平息,而不会加剧——我会设法把你们安全地送往德国。勃艮第·查尔斯虽然是我的兄弟和保护者,但他个人的意志决不能促使我在任何方面违反你们的意愿作出有关你们命运的安排。你们要求把你们送到修道院,这我不能照办,因为,遗憾的是,在列日的居民当中,魔鬼的门徒具有很大的影响力。除了我自己这个警卫森严的城堡以外,我的权力还达不到任何别的场所。我欢迎你们住在这里。你们的随从将得到礼貌的款待。尤其是你们特别介绍给我认识的这位年轻人,我要特意为他祝福。”

昆丁理所当然地跪了下来接受主教的祝福。

“至于你们自己,”善良的主教继续说道,“我请你们和我姐姐伊莎贝尔,一位特里埃尔的修女住在一起。虽然这是在列日主教这个快活的单身汉家里,但有她一道,你们满可以体面地住下去。”

在讲完这一席表示欢迎的话之后,他便领着两位仕女去她姐姐的卧室。他的管家是个具有执事级别,介乎僧俗两种身份之间的教廷官员。他按主教的嘱咐盛情款待昆丁。

在进行这一安排的过程中,昆丁注意到,那在乡村寺院里屡遭拒绝的波希米亚人,如今来到这位富有的、近乎凡俗人的主教家中却似乎没引起注意,也没引起反感。



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