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Chapter 20 The Billet

Go to -- thou art made, if thou desirest to be so. -- If not, let me see thee still the fellow of servants, and not fit to touch Fortune's fingers. --

TWELFTH NIGHT

When the tables were drawn, the Chaplain, who seemed to have taken a sort of attachment to Quentin Durward's society, or who perhaps desired to extract from him farther information concerning the meeting of the morning, led him into a withdrawing apartment, the windows of which, on one side, projected into the garden, and as he saw his companion's eye gaze rather eagerly upon the spot, he proposed to Quentin to go down and take a view of the curious foreign shrubs with which the Bishop had enriched its parterres.

Quentin excused himself as unwilling to intrude, and therewithal communicated the check which he had received in the morning. The Chaplain smiled, and said that there was indeed some ancient prohibition respecting the Bishop's private garden.

"But this," he added, with a smile, "was when our reverend father was a princely young prelate of not more than thirty years of age, and when many fair ladies frequented the Castle for ghostly consolation. Need there was," he said with a downcast look, and a smile, half simple and half intelligent, "that these ladies, pained in conscience, who were ever lodged in the apartments now occupied by the noble Canoness, should have some space for taking the air, secure from the intrusion of the profane. But of late years," he added, "this prohibition, although not formally removed, has fallen entirely out of observance, and remains but as the superstition which lingers in the brain of a superannuated gentleman usher. If you please," he added, "we will presently descend, and try whether the place be haunted or no."

Nothing could have been more agreeable to Quentin than the prospect of a free entrance into the garden, through means of which, according to a chance which had hitherto attended his passion, he hoped to communicate with, or at least obtain sight of, the object of his affections, from some such turret or balcony window, or similar "coign of vantage," as at the hostelry of the Fleur de Lys, near Plessis, or the Dauphin's Tower, within that Castle itself. Isabelle seemed still destined, wherever she made her abode, to be the Lady of the Turret.

(Coign of vantage: an advantageous position for observation or action. Cf. 'no jutty, frieze, buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle.' Macbeth, I, vi, 6.)

When Durward descended with his new friend into the garden, the latter seemed a terrestrial philosopher, entirely busied with the things of the earth, while the eyes of Quentin, if they did not seek the heavens, like those of an astrologer, ranged, at least, all around the windows, balconies, and especially the turrets, which projected on every part from the inner front of the old building, in order to discover that which was to be his cynosure.

While thus employed, the young lover heard with total neglect, if indeed he heard at all, the enumeration of plants, herbs, and shrubs which his reverend conductor pointed out to him, of which this was choice, because of prime use in medicine, and that more choice for yielding a rare flavour to pottage, and a third, choicest of all, because possessed of no merit but its extreme scarcity. Still it was necessary to preserve some semblance at least of attention, which the youth found so difficult, that he fairly wished at the devil the officious naturalist and the whole vegetable kingdom. He was relieved at length by the striking of a clock, which summoned the Chaplain to some official duty.

The reverend man made many unnecessary apologies for leaving his new friend, and concluded by giving him the agreeable assurance that he might walk in the garden till supper, without much risk of being disturbed.

"It is," said he, "the place where I always study my own homilies, as being most sequestered from the resort of strangers. I am now about to deliver one of them in the chapel, if you please to favour me with your audience. I have been thought to have some gift. -- But the glory be where it is due!"

Quentin excused himself for this evening, under pretence of a severe headache, which the open air was likely to prove the best cure for, and at length the well meaning, priest left him to himself.

It may be well imagined, that in the curious inspection which he now made, at more leisure, of every window or aperture which looked into the garden, those did not escape which were in the immediate neighbourhood of the small door by which he had seen Marthon admit Hayraddin, as he pretended, to the apartment of the Countesses. But nothing stirred or showed itself, which could either confute or confirm the tale which the Bohemian had told, until it was becoming dusky, and Quentin began to be sensible, he scarce knew why, that his sauntering so long in the garden might be subject of displeasure or suspicion. Just as he had resolved to depart, and was taking what he had destined for his last turn under the windows which had such attraction for him, he heard above him a slight and cautious sound, like that of a cough, as intended to call his attention, and to avoid the observation of others. As he looked up in joyful surprise, a casement opened, a female hand was seen to drop a billet, which fell into a rosemary bush that grew at the foot of the wall. The precaution used in dropping this letter prescribed equal prudence and secrecy in reading it. The garden, surrounded, as we have said, upon two sides, by the buildings of the palace, was commanded, of course, by the windows of many apartments, but there was a sort of grotto of rock work, which the Chaplain had shown Durward with much complacency. To snatch up the billet, thrust it into his bosom, and hie to this place of secrecy, was the work of a single minute. He there opened the precious scroll, and blessed, at the same time, the memory of the Monks of Aberbrothick, whose nurture had rendered him capable of deciphering its contents.

The first line contained the injunction, "Read this in secret," -- and the contents were as follows: "What your eyes have too boldly said, mine have perhaps too rashly understood. But unjust persecution makes its victims bold, and it were better to throw myself on the gratitude of one, than to remain the object of pursuit to many. Fortune has her throne upon a rock but brave men fear not to climb. If you dare do aught for one that hazards much, you need but pass into this garden at prime tomorrow, wearing in your cap a blue and white feather, but expect no farther communication. Your stars have, they say, destined you for greatness, and disposed you to gratitude. -- Farewell -- be faithful, prompt, and resolute, and doubt not thy fortune."

Within this letter was enclosed a ring with a table diamond, on which were cut, in form of a lozenge, the ancient arms of the House of Croye.

The first feeling of Quentin upon this occasion was unmingled ecstasy -- a pride and joy which seemed to raise him to the stars -- a determination to do or die, influenced by which he treated with scorn the thousand obstacles that placed themselves betwixt him and the goal of his wishes.

In this mood of rapture, and unable to endure any interruption which might withdraw his mind, were it but for a moment, from so ecstatic a subject of contemplation, Durward, retiring to the interior of the castle, hastily assigned his former pretext of a headache for not joining the household of the Bishop at the supper meal, and, lighting his lamp, betook himself to the chamber which had been assigned him, to read, and to read again and again, the precious billet, and to kiss a thousand times the no less precious ring.

But such high wrought feelings could not remain long in the same ecstatic tone. A thought pressed upon him, though he repelled it as ungrateful -- as even blasphemous -- that the frankness of the confession implied less delicacy on the part of her who made it, than was consistent with the high romantic feeling of adoration with which he had hitherto worshipped the Lady Isabelle. No sooner did this ungracious thought intrude itself, than he hastened to stifle it, as he would have stifled a hissing and hateful adder that had intruded itself into his couch. Was it for him -- him the Favoured -- on whose account she had stooped from her sphere, to ascribe blame to her for the very act of condescension, Without which he dared not have raised his eyes towards her? Did not her very dignity of birth and of condition reverse, in her case, the usual rules which impose silence on the lady until her lover shall have first spoken? To these arguments, which he boldly formed into syllogisms and avowed to himself, his vanity might possibly suggest one which he cared not to embody even mentally with the same frankness -- that the merit of the party beloved might perhaps warrant, on the part of the lady, some little departure from common rules, and, after all, as in the case of Malvolio (Olivia's steward in Twelfth Night), there was example for it in chronicle. The Squire of low degree, of whom he had just been reading, was, like himself, a gentleman void of land and living, and yet the generous Princess of Hungary bestowed on him, without scruple, more substantial marks of her affection than the billet he had just received:

"'Welcome,' she said, 'my swete Squyre, My heart's roots, my soul's desire, I will give thee kisses three, And als five hundrid poundis in fee.'"

And again the same faithful history made the King of Hongrie himself avouch --

"I have yknown many a page, Come to be Prince by marriage."

So that, upon the whole, Quentin generously and magnanimously reconciled himself to a line of conduct on the Countess's part by which he was likely to be so highly benefited.

But this scruple was succeeded by another doubt, harder of digestion. The traitor Hayraddin had been in the apartments of the ladies, for aught Quentin knew, for the space of four hours, and, considering the hints which he had thrown out of possessing an influence of the most interesting kind over the fortunes of Quentin Durward, what should assure him that this train was not of his laying? And if so, was it not probable that such a dissembling villain had set it on foot to conceal some new plan of treachery -- perhaps to seduce Isabelle out of the protection of the worthy Bishop? This was a matter to be closely looked into, for Quentin felt a repugnance to this individual proportioned to the unabashed impudence with which he had avowed his profligacy, and could not bring himself to hope that anything in which he was concerned could ever come to an honourable or happy conclusion.

These various thoughts rolled over Quentin's mind like misty clouds, to dash and obscure the fair landscape which his fancy had at first drawn, and his couch was that night a sleepless one. At the hour of prime -- ay, and an hour before it, was he in the castle garden, where no one now opposed either his entrance or his abode, with a feather of the assigned colour, as distinguished as he could by any means procure in such haste. No notice was taken of his appearance for nearly two hours, at length he heard a few notes of the lute, and presently the lattice opened right above the little postern door at which Marthon had admitted Hayraddin, and Isabelle, in maidenly beauty, appeared at the opening, greeted him half kindly, half shyly, coloured extremely at the deep and significant reverence with which he returned her courtesy -- shut the casement, and disappeared.

Daylight and champaign could discover no more! The authenticity of the billet was ascertained -- it only remained what was to follow, and of this the fair writer had given him no hint. But no immediate danger impended -- the Countess was in a strong castle, under the protection of a Prince, at once respectable for his secular and venerable for his ecclesiastical authority. There was neither immediate room nor occasion for the exulting Squire interfering in the adventure, and it was sufficient if he kept himself prompt to execute her commands whensoever they should be communicated to him. But Fate purposed to call him into action sooner than he was aware of.

It was the fourth night after his arrival at Schonwaldt, when Quentin had taken measures for sending back on the morrow, to the Court of Louis, the remaining groom who had accompanied him on his journey, with letters from himself to his uncle and Lord Crawford, renouncing the service of France, for which the treachery to which he had been exposed by the private instructions of Hayraddin gave him an excuse, both in honour and prudence, and he betook himself to his bed with all the rosy coloured ideas around him which flutter about the couch of a youth when he loves dearly, and thinks his love is as sincerely repaid.

But Quentin's dreams, which at first partook of the nature of those happy influences under which he had fallen asleep, began by degrees to assume a more terrific character.

He walked with the Countess Isabelle beside a smooth and inland lake, such as formed the principal characteristic of his native glen, and he spoke to her of his love, without any consciousness of the impediments which lay between them. She blushed and smiled when she listened -- even as he might have expected from the tenor of the letter, which, sleeping or waking, lay nearest to his heart. But the scene suddenly changed from summer to winter -- from calm to tempest, the winds and the waves rose with such a contest of surge and whirlwind as if the demons of the water and of the air had been contending for their roaring empires in rival strife. The rising waters seemed to cut off their advance and their retreat -- the increasing tempest, which dashed them against each other, seemed to render their remaining on the spot impossible, and the tumultuous sensations produced by the apparent danger awoke the dreamer.

He awoke, but although the circumstances of the vision had disappeared, and given place to reality, the noise, which had probably suggested them, still continued to sound in his ears.

Quentin's first impulse was to sit erect in bed and listen with astonishment to sounds, which, if they had announced a tempest, might have shamed the wildest that ever burst down from the Grampians, and again in a minute he became sensible that the tumult was not excited by the fury of the elements, but by the wrath of men. He sprang from bed, and looked from the window of his apartment, but it opened into the garden, and on that side all was quiet, though the opening of the casement made him still more sensible from the shouts which reached his ears that the outside of the castle was beleaguered and assaulted, and that by a numerous and determined enemy. Hastily collecting his dress and arms, and putting them on with such celerity as darkness and surprise permitted, his attention was solicited by a knocking at the door of his chamber. As Quentin did not immediately answer, the door, which was a slight one, was forced open from without, and the intruder, announced by his peculiar dialect to be the Bohemian, Hayraddin Maugrabin, entered the apartment. A phial which he held in his hand, touched by a match, produced a dark flash of ruddy fire, by means of which he kindled a lamp, which he took from his bosom.

"The horoscope of your destinies," he said energetically to Durward, without any farther greeting, "now turns upon the determination of a minute."

"Caitiff!" said Quentin, in reply, "there is treachery around us, and where there is treachery thou must have a share in it."

"You are mad," answered Maugrabin. "I never betrayed any one but to gain by it -- and wherefore should I betray you, by whose safety I can take more advantage than by your destruction? Hearken for a moment, if it be possible for you, to one note of reason, ere it is sounded into your ear by the death shut of ruin. The Liegeois are up -- William de la Marck with his band leads them. -- Were there means of resistance, their numbers and his fury would overcome them, but there are next to none. If you would save the Countess and your own hopes, follow me, in the name of her who sent you a table diamond, with three leopards engraved on it."

"Lead the way," said Quentin, hastily. "In that name I dare every danger."

"As I shall manage it," said the Bohemian, "there is no danger, if you can but withhold your hand from strife which does not concern you, for, after all, what is it to you whether the Bishop, as they call him, slaughters his flock, or the flock slaughters the shepherd? -- Ha! ha! ha! Follow me, but with caution and patience, subdue your own courage, and confide in my prudence and my debt of thankfulness is paid, and you have a Countess for your spouse. -- Follow me."

"I follow," said Quentin, drawing his sword, "but the moment in which I detect the least sign of treachery, thy head and body are three yards separate!"

Without more conversation the Bohemian, seeing that Quentin was now fully armed and ready, ran down the stairs before him, and winded hastily through various side passages, until they gained the little garden. Scarce a light was to be seen on that side, scarce any bustle was to be heard, but no sooner had Quentin entered the open space, than the noise on the opposite side of the castle became ten times more stunningly audible, and he could hear the various war cries of "Liege! Liege! Sanglier! Sanglier! (the Wild Boar: a name given to William de la Marck)" shouted by the assailants, while the feebler cry of "Our Lady for the Prince Bishop!" was raised in a faint and faltering tone by those of the prelate's soldiers who had hastened, though surprised and at disadvantage, to the defence of the walls.

But the interest of the fight, notwithstanding the martial character of Quentin Durward, was indifferent to him, in comparison with the fate of Isabelle of Croye, which, he had reason to fear, would be a dreadful one, unless rescued from the power of the dissolute and cruel freebooter who was now, as it seemed, bursting the gates of the castle. He reconciled himself to the aid of the Bohemian, as men in a desperate illness refuse not the remedy prescribed by quacks and mountebanks, and followed across the garden, with the intention of being guided by him until he should discover symptoms of treachery, and then piercing him through the heart, or striking his head from his body.

Hayraddin seemed himself conscious that his safety turned on a feather weight, for he forbore, from the moment they entered the open air, all his wonted gibes and quirks, and seemed to have made a vow to act at once with modesty, courage, and activity.

At the opposite door, which led to the ladies' apartments, upon a low signal made by Hayraddin, appeared two women, muffled in the black silk veils which were then, as now, worn by the women in the Netherlands. Quentin offered his arm to one of them, who clung to it with trembling eagerness, and indeed hung upon him so much, that had her weight been greater, she must have much impeded their retreat. The Bohemian, who conducted the other female, took the road straight for the postern which opened upon the moat, through the garden wall, close to which the little skiff Was drawn up, by means of which Quentin had formerly observed Hayraddin himself retreating from the castle.

As they crossed, the shouts of storm and successful violence seemed to announce that the castle was in the act of being taken, and so dismal was the sound in Quentin's ears, that he could not help swearing aloud, "But that my blood is irretrievably devoted to the fulfilment of my present duty, I would back to the wall, take faithful part with the hospitable Bishop, and silence some of those knaves whose throats are full of mutiny and robbery!"

The lady, whose arm was still folded in his, pressed it lightly as he spoke, as if to make him understand that there was a nearer claim on his chivalry than the defence of Schonwaldt, while the Bohemian exclaimed, loud enough to be heard, "Now, that I call right Christian frenzy, which would turn back to fight when love and fortune both demand that we should fly.

"On, on -- with all the haste you can make. -- Horses wait us in yonder thicket of willows."

"There are but two horses," said Quentin, who saw them in the moonlight.

"All that I could procure without exciting suspicion -- and enough," replied the Bohemian. "You two must ride for Tongres ere the way becomes unsafe -- Marthon will abide with the women of our horde, with whom she is an old acquaintance. Know she is a daughter of our tribe, and only dwelt among you to serve our purpose as occasion should fall."

"Marthon!" exclaimed the Countess, looking at the veiled female with a shriek of surprise, "is not this my kinswoman?"

"Only Marthon," said Hayraddin. "Excuse me that little piece of deceit. I dared not carry off both the Ladies of Croye from the Wild Boar of Ardennes."

"Wretch!" said Quentin, emphatically -- "but it is not -- shall not be too late -- I will back to rescue the Lady Hameline."

"Hameline," whispered the lady, in a disturbed voice, "hangs on thy arm, to thank thee for her rescue."

"Ha! what! -- How is this?" said Quentin, extricating himself from her hold, and with less gentleness than he would at any other time have used towards a female of any rank. "Is the Lady Isabelle then left behind! -- Farewell -- farewell."

As he turned to hasten back to the castle, Hayraddin laid hold of him. -- "Nay, hear you -- hear you -- you run upon your death! What the foul fiend did you wear the colours of the old one for? -- I will never trust blue and white silk again. But she has almost as large a dower -- has jewels and gold -- hath pretensions, too, upon the earldom."

While he spoke thus, panting on in broken sentences, the Bohemian struggled to detain Quentin, who at length laid his hand on his dagger, in order to extricate himself.

"Nay, if that be the case," said Hayraddin, unloosing his hold, "go -- and the devil, if there be one, go along with you!"

And, soon as freed from his hold, the Scot shot back to the castle with the speed of the wind.

Hayraddin then turned round to the Countess Hameline, who had sunk down on the ground, between shame, fear, and disappointment.

"Here has been a mistake," he said, "up, lady, and come with me -- I will provide you, ere morning comes, a gallanter husband than this smock faced boy, and if one will not serve, you shall have twenty."

The Lady Hameline was as violent in her passions, as she was vain and weak in her understanding. Like many other persons, she went tolerably well through the ordinary duties of life, but in a crisis like the present, she was entirely incapable of doing aught, save pouring forth unavailing lamentations, and accusing Hayraddin of being a thief, a base slave, an impostor, a murderer.

"Call me Zingaro," returned he, composedly, "and you have said all at once."

"Monster! you said the stars had decreed our union, and caused me to write -- Oh, wretch that I was!" exclaimed the unhappy lady.

"And so they had decreed your union," said Hayraddin, "had both parties been willing -- but think you the blessed constellations can make any one wed against his will? -- I was led into error with your accursed Christian gallantries, and fopperies of ribbons and favours -- and the youth prefers veal to beef, I think -- that 's all. -- Up and follow me, and take notice, I endure neither weeping nor swooning."

"I will not stir a foot," said the Countess, obstinately.

"By the bright welkin, but you shall, though!" exclaimed Hayraddin. "I swear to you, by all that ever fools believed in, that you have to do with one, who would care little to strip you naked, bind you to a tree, and leave you to your fortune!"

"Nay," said Marthon, interfering, "by your favour she shall not be misused. I wear a knife as well as you, and can use it. -- She is a kind woman, though a fool. -- And you, madam, rise up and follow us. -- Here has been a mistake, but it is something to have saved life and limb. There are many in yonder castle would give all the wealth in the world to stand where we do."

As Marthon spoke, a clamour, in which the shouts of victory were mingled with screams of terror and despair, was wafted to them from the Castle of Schonwaldt.

"Hear that, lady!" said Hayraddin, "and be thankful you are not adding your treble pipe to yonder concert. Believe me, I will care for you honestly, and the stars shall keep their words, and find you a good husband."

Like some wild animal, exhausted and subdued by terror amid fatigue, the Countess Hameline yielded herself up to the conduct of her guides, and suffered herself to be passively led whichever way they would. Nay, such was the confusion of her spirits and the exhaustion of her strength, that the worthy couple, who half bore, half led her, carried on their discourse in her presence without her even understanding it."

"I ever thought your plan was folly," said Marthon. "Could you have brought the young people together, indeed, we might have had a hold on their gratitude, and a footing in their castle. But what chance of so handsome a youth wedding this old fool?"

"Rizpah," said Hayraddin, "you have borne the name of a Christian, and dwelt in the tents of those besotted people, till thou hast become a partaker in their follies. How could I dream that he would have made scruples about a few years' youth or age, when the advantages of the match were so evident? And thou knowest, there would have been no moving yonder coy wench to be so frank as this coming Countess here, who hangs on our arms as dead a weight as a wool pack. I loved the lad too, and would have done him a kindness: to wed him to this old woman was to make his fortune, to unite him to Isabelle were to have brought on him De la Marck, Burgundy, France -- every one that challenges an interest in disposing of her hand. And this silly woman's wealth being chiefly in gold and jewels, we should have had our share. But the bow string has burst, and the arrow failed. Away with her -- we will bring her to William with the Beard. By the time he has gorged himself with wassail, as is his wont, he will not know an old Countess from a young one. Away, Rizpah -- bear a gallant heart. The bright Aldebaran still influences the destinies of the Children of the Desert!"

好,只要你自己愿意,你就可以出头了,

否则我要你一生一世与众仆为伍,

不值得抬举。

《第十二夜》

吃完饭之后,那位对昆丁·达威特似乎产生了某种好感的牧师,也许是想了解有关今早事态的更多情况,领着他走进了一间休息室。这房间有一排窗子是朝花园开的。他看到昆丁的眼睛凝望着花园,便建议他下去走一走,欣赏一下主教为了装饰花坛特意请人栽培的奇花异草。

昆丁推辞说他不便贸然撞人,并把今早他碰钉子的事讲给牧师听。那牧师微笑着说道:“很久以来的确一直不许外人擅自进入主教的私人花园。不过,”他又微笑着补充说,“那是我们尊敬的主教还不满三十岁,还是个王子身份的年轻教士时的事。当时有许多美丽的仕女经常到城堡里来寻求宗教的安慰。自然有必要,”他低垂着眼睛,含着有意无意的微笑继续说道,“让这些良心痛苦的仕女们(她们当时就寄居在那高贵的大教堂女牧师现在所住的房间里)有个不许俗人撞人的散步场所。不过近年来,”他又补充说道,“这道禁令虽未正式废除,但已完全失效,只是在那一个守旧的管家先生头脑里仍残存着迷信。假如您高兴的话,”最后他又补充说道,“我们马上可以下去,看看这花园是否有人去过。”

最使昆丁感到喜悦的,莫过于看到有希望进入花园,能获得他那炽热的爱情为他勾绘出的某种巧遇,像在普莱西的百合花旅店或普莱西城堡的“太子塔楼”里那样,使他可以从某个塔楼或阳台的窗口,或类似的“制高点”,和他所爱的人儿隔着花园相会,或至少看上她一眼。不管伊莎贝尔住在什么地方,她似乎仍然注定是他过去的那个“塔楼小姐”。

昆丁和他新交的朋友走进花园。这位牧师倒像是个人间的哲学家,关心的完全是人间的事。而昆丁虽然不是两眼朝天,但他至少像占星术家那样,眼睛仔细地巡视着所有的窗子、阳台,特别是从那古老的楼房内侧向各个方向突出的塔楼,以便发现他所钟情的少女。

在他这样做的时候,那可敬的牧师却在一边指给他看那些奇花异草。年轻的恋人即使听着,也是完全心不在焉。牧师如数家珍地介绍说,这种草之所以名贵是由于医药上具有重要用途,那一种更为名贵则是由于放在粥里滋味特别鲜美,而另一种最为名贵则是因为它虽无实用价值,却极为稀罕。为了礼貌起见,昆丁还是有必要至少装出是在注意听的样子。但年轻人感到这样做很困难,所以恨不得这位过分热心的博物学家以及这整个植物王国都立即见鬼去。最后他听到大钟敲响,召唤牧师去履行他的职务,他才舒了口气。

尊敬的神父为不得不离开他新交的朋友而不必要地一再道歉,最后还给了他一个可喜的保证:他可以在花园里散步到吃晚饭,不会受到更多的打扰。

“这花园是我通常研究布道内容的地方,”他说道,“因为它很僻静,外人不得进入。好了,现在我得去小教堂讲道。假如您愿意赏光听我讲的话,我很欢迎。人们都认为我有些讲道的天才——但光荣归于吾主!”

昆丁借口说他头疼得厉害,呼吸一下新鲜空气可能是最好的药方,所以今晚他不能去听他讲道,深感遗憾。最后那好心的牧师才让他独自留了下来。

可以想象,在昆丁从容而好奇似地向花园的每个窗口或孔洞侦探时,有个窗口自然没有逃过他的侦察。这个窗口紧靠着他曾见玛尔松放海拉丁进去——按海拉丁自己的说法是为了去看望两位仕女——的那道小门。但直到天黑他也没看出任何动静来肯定或否定那波希米亚人告诉过他的话。他自己也不知道为什么,他已意识到他在花园里徘徊过久会引起别人的猜疑和不满。

正当他决心离开,并准备好在他所瞩目的窗子底下走上最后一圈的时候,他忽然听见一个小心发出的轻微声音——像是有意引起他注意而不让别人听见的咳嗽声。他惊喜地抬头一看,只见有扇窗子打开,一个女人用只手丢了一封信下来。信就落在墙脚长着的迷送香灌木丛中。丢信者小心翼翼,也就要求读信者同样谨慎保密。我们曾指出过,花园两边都是宫殿式的建筑物,自然有许多房间的窗子俯瞰着花园。好在那牧师曾十分得意地领着他看过一个石洞般的园景。捡起那封信揣在怀里,躲进那个隐秘的地方,只需要一眨眼的功夫。一躲藏起来,他便马上把这宝贵的纸团打开来看。他禁不住要感谢阿伯布罗迪克寺院的僧侣,因为他们的教育和培养使他看得懂这封信的内容。

他看见一开头就写着这样一句告诫的话:“请暗中读信。”里面写的内容如下:“你通过眼睛大胆流露出来的东西也许我通过眼睛给了它过分轻率的解释。然而,不公正的虐待已使得受害者勇敢起来。与其仍然遭受许多人的追逐,不如把自己寄托给一个人的感激。命运之神在岩石上筑起了她的宝座,惟有勇者不畏攀缘。要是你敢于替一个危难重重的人有所作为,请在帽上插一根蓝白色羽毛,明天一早走进这个花园,但别指望我再给你更多的信息。据说,你命中注定必有伟大前程,而且秉性善良,不忘恩情。再见。祝你忠实、果敢,坚信自己未来的幸福。”信里包着一颗镶有大钻石的戒指,钻石上刻着一个棱形的克罗伊埃家族的古老纹章。

昆丁这时的第一感觉是仿佛登上了一个纯净的极乐世界,他感到一种自豪和喜悦的心情把他举向那遥远的星空,也感到一种敢于行动、敢于献身的决心;在它的影响下,他把实现理想的目标所能遇到的障碍都看得不在话下。

处于这种狂喜心情中的达威特自然不能容忍别人打断他这最令人神往的思绪——哪怕一分钟。所以他躲进城堡的深处,赶忙以先前使用过的头疼为借口,没与主教的家臣一道吃晚饭,而是点燃一盏灯,去到指定给他的房间,把那宝贵的情书一读再读,同时也把那同样宝贵的戒指一吻再吻。

然而,这种欣喜若狂的感情不可能持续很久。有种想法忽然闯进他的脑海——不过他马上把它看作是一种不识好歹、带有亵渎意味的思想而驱赶出去。说穿了就是他感觉这种坦率的表露真情似乎说明,作出这种表露的人不如在他沉浸于对她的罗曼蒂克的爱情时所想象的那么高雅。当这丑恶的思想刚一露头,他就像扼死一条钻进被褥的可憎的毒蛇那样,急忙把它扼死在摇篮里。要知道,她是在为了他的缘故而从她所处的高度向他屈尊就驾。否则,他连抬头望她一眼的勇气都没有。作为一个受宠者,他有权利责怪她这种屈尊的表现吗?按照常规,除非恋人首先开口,贵族小姐是必须保持缄默的。以她那高贵的出身和地位而论,在这种情况下她岂不是颠倒了常规吗?他大胆地把这些想法整理成合乎逻辑的论据,自己也不得不承认其说服力。要是他具有虚荣心,除此之外,也许他还可以提出另一个论据——一个他不愿以同样的坦率暗自承认的论据——那就是获得爱情的男方的种种优点使得一位小姐有权稍稍不按常规办事。而且,以马伏里奥的情况为例,历史上也有先例可循。他刚读到的一位地位卑微的扈从也是像他一样既无土地也无钱财的绅士。但那慷慨的匈牙利公主却毫不犹豫地给了他更具体的爱情表示,甚至超过了他刚才接到的这封情书——

“欢迎你,”她说道,“我亲爱的扈从,

你在我心中生了根,你是我灵魂的归宿。

我要你吻我三吻,

以五百磅作为你吻的报酬。”根据这一真实的历史故事,匈牙利国王自己也承认:

“我曾见过许多书童,

因婚姻而成了驸马和贵族。”所以,总的说来,昆丁还是促使自己以一种高尚的态度来接受伯爵小姐的这一表现,而这很可能会给他带来莫大的好处。

但继这个顾虑而来的是另一个更加令人头疼的问题。据昆丁所知,那奸诈的海拉丁曾在两位仕女房里呆了四小时之久。考虑到他曾暗示他对昆丁·达威特的命运具有极其重要的影响能力,如何能保证这事不是他安的圈套呢?如果真是这样,难道这不会是那虚情假意的坏家伙为了掩盖一个新的奸险阴谋搞的鬼——也许是为了把伊莎贝尔从可敬的主教保护下拐骗出去?这是个必须密切注意的问题。那人曾不知羞耻地大胆承认他的放荡。昆丁早就为此而对他感到十分厌恶,自然不能指望有他插手的事会有什么光荣、可喜的结果。

这种种思绪像迷雾般漂过昆丁的心头,冲散并模糊了他的幻想勾画出的美丽图景,使他彻夜难眠。天一亮——确切地说,是天亮前一个小时——他已来到他可以自由进入和逗留的城堡花园,按指定在头上插着一片匆忙中所能找到的色泽最鲜明的蓝白色羽毛。他呆了将近两个小时都不见有人注意到他的到来。最后他听见几声琴音,并看到在玛尔松曾让海拉丁进去的那道旁门的正上方有扇格子窗打开,洋溢着少女之美的伊莎贝尔出现在窗前,以半亲切半羞赧的表情向他打招呼。看到他带着意味深长的敬意向她还礼,姑娘不禁满脸排红,顿时关上窗子,消失在窗扉后面。

事情真是再明显不过!情书的可靠性已弄清楚,剩下的问题是以后如何行动。但在这一点上,写信的少女没有给他任何暗示。好在当前无燃眉之急——伯爵小姐住在一个坚固的城堡里,受到一位既有世俗权威又有宗教权威的可敬的亲王的保护。这喜气洋洋的扈从目前可没有插手的余地和机会,所要求于他的只是随时准备执行她的指令。然而,命运之神却有意帮他提前采取行动。

在他们来到索恩瓦尔德的第四天晚上,昆丁作好安排,准备第二天派遣和他同来的最后一个随从带几封信返回路易的宫廷。他写给他舅父和克劳福德大公的信在于告诉他们,既然海拉丁私下得到的指示对他是一种叛卖行径,无论从对荣誉的考虑还是从处事慎重的考虑,他都有理由不再为法国效忠。随后他便上床睡觉,在这自认爱情已得到真诚报偿的年轻恋人的梦乡里充满了翩翩起舞的玫瑰色幻梦。

昆丁的梦境起先还受到他入侵时快乐心情的影响,称得上是甜蜜的美梦,但以后便逐渐带上了恐怖的色彩。

他梦见他和伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐漫步在故乡山谷所特有的一个平静的内陆湖边,他向她诉说他的爱情,丝毫没意识到他们之间存有障碍。她一边听着,一边羞怯地微笑——正像他根据那不管是睡着还是醒来都紧贴在他心上的情书所想象的那样。但景色霎时由夏天变为冬天,从宁馨变为风暴。狂风卷着巨浪,仿佛水与空气中的魔鬼和精灵竞相争夺供它们奔腾咆哮的势力范围。那汹涌的湖水使他们进退维谷,那越刮越猛的风暴使他们彼此撞来捷去,像要叫他们再也无法立足下去。眼前的危险所产生的惊心动魄的感觉惊醒了梦中的昆丁。

他醒了过来。尽管恶梦消失,让位于现实,但那可能是引起了这场恶梦的喧嚣声却续续在他耳际响个不停。

昆丁的第一个反应就是坐起来,惊奇地倾听这喧哗声。假如这声音只是暴风雨的前奏,那么也许它能使那格兰扁山脉爆发出的最狂野的呼啸声也黯然失色。但很快他就意识到,这喧嚣声并不是出于大自然的愤怒,而是出于人群的愤怒。

他跳下床来,从窗口向外望了一眼。那窗子是朝花园开的,而那一边毫无动静。但打开窗子后传到他耳朵里来的吼叫声,使他进一步意识到城堡已受到袭击和包围,而且敌人为数众多,意志坚决。在摸黑和吃惊的情况下他尽快穿好衣服,戴上盔甲。这时一个敲门的声音吸引了他的注意。昆丁并没有立即开门。来人见那房门很小,便破门而入。一听他那特殊的土腔土调就知道来者是那波希米亚人海拉丁·毛格拉宾。他用火柴点燃了他手上握着的一个小瓶子,燃起一小团幽暗的红色火焰,再用它点燃他从怀里取出的一盏油灯。

“你命运的星宿如何转动,”他没另打招呼便狠狠说道,“就看你是否能马上下定决心。”

“你这恶棍!”昆丁回答道,“我们周围充满了阴谋奸诈。而哪儿有阴谋奸诈,都会有你一份。”

“你疯了!”毛格拉宾对答道,“要我出卖别人,除非有利可图。既然你的安全能比你的毁灭使我更有利,我干吗要出卖你呢?要是可能,就请你别等毁灭和死亡硬把它灌进你的耳朵,主动地听听理智的呼声吧!列日人都起来了——是威廉·德拉马克和他那帮人马在领导他们。即使有进行抵抗的手段,也抵不过他们众多的人数和德拉马克的残暴。何况这种手段几等于零。假如你真想拯救伯爵小姐和你自己未来的希望,那就看在送给了你刻有三只豹子的大钻石的少女分上,快跟我来!”

“赶快带路,”昆丁急忙说,“为了她我敢冒任何危险!”

“按照我的安排,”那波希米亚人说,“只要你不插手与你无关的争斗,就不会有什么危险。话说回来,究竟是所谓的主教大人杀他的教民,还是教民杀他们的主教,这与你有何相干呢?哈!哈!哈!跟我来吧。但你得小心,忍着点。压一压你的勇气,相信我的谨慎。这样我就能还掉我欠你的感恩债,你也可以娶伯爵小姐为妻。快跟我来。”

“我会跟着你的,”昆丁拔出刀说,“但一当我发现你稍有一点叛卖的迹象,你的脑袋就会和你的身子分家!”

那波希米亚人看见昆丁全副武装,准备停当,二话没说便带着他跑下楼梯,匆匆穿过一些曲折的回廊,来到那个小花园。那边几乎看不见一点灯光,听不到一点动静。但一当昆丁来到空地上,城堡对面就传来震耳欲聋的吼叫声。他听到了进犯者一声声的呐喊:“列日!列日!”“Sanglier!Sanglier!”以及遭到偷袭匆匆跑去捍卫城墙的卫士们在劣势下发出的不坚定和软弱无力的喊声:“圣母保佑主教大人!”

虽然昆丁·达威特具有尚武精神,但在伊莎贝尔生死攸关的情况下,他已无暇顾及战斗的胜败得失,因为除非能将她从那可能正在攻打城门的放荡、残忍的强盗手中解救出来,他担心她将遭到可怕的命运。正像垂死的病人不拒绝走江湖的庸医开的药方一样,他也无可奈何,只好依靠这个波希米亚人的帮助。他跟他走过花园,打算一方面遵照他的指引,一方面准备一旦发现他有捣鬼的迹象,便戳穿他的胸膛,或砍掉他的脑袋。海拉丁似乎自己也意识到他的安全发发可危,所以一走到露天底下,他便不再卖弄他习惯的那套俏皮话,似乎发誓要表现得谦卑、勇敢而又积极。

海拉丁低声发出一个信号,便有两个妇女蒙着荷兰女子至今还使用的黑面纱从通向两位仕女的卧室的那道门里走了出来。昆丁向其中一位妇女伸出胳膊,她便颤抖着急忙搂住它,把整个身子靠在它上面;要是她再重一点,这肯定会大大妨碍他们的撤退。那波希米亚人则扶着另外那个妇女,直接向穿过花园围墙朝护城河开的那道旁门走去。那儿原吊有一只小船,昆丁以前曾看见海拉丁用这船从城堡渡到河的对岸。

渡河的时候,他们已听到显示出进攻者正在节节胜利的喊杀声,说明城堡即将失守。昆丁感到这声音如此恐怖,竟忍不住大声咒骂起来:“要不是我必须为履行我现在的责任而献出我的鲜血,我真想返回城墙去忠实地捍卫那殷勤好客的主教,干掉几个狂呼叛逆口号的歹徒!”

正当他说话的当儿,手挽着他胳膊的仕女轻轻按了他一下,仿佛想要他懂得,比起捍卫索恩瓦尔德城堡来,亲人更有权得到他骑士般的保护。那波希米亚人也有意让人听见似地大声叫了起来:“这可真叫基督徒的狂热——爱情和幸福要求我们逃跑,而它却要求人们掉转头去打仗。快走,赶紧走,那边柳树丛里有几匹马在等着我们哩。”

“只有两匹马。”昆丁说道,他已看见它们站在月光下。

“我也只能搞到这么两匹,否则就得打草惊蛇。再说,两匹也够了。”那波希米亚人说道,“你们两个得趁道路还安全的时候骑到腾格雷斯去。玛尔松将去和我们自己部落的妇女住在一起。反正她已经是她们的老相识了。你还不知道,她是我们部族的人,只是为了必要时帮助我们自己人才混在你们当中的。”

“玛尔松!”那仕女望着蒙面的女人吃惊地叫道,“不是我的……?”

“是玛尔松。”海拉丁说道,“请原谅我这个小小的骗局。我不敢把两位克罗伊埃仕女都从‘阿登内斯野猪’口里夺走。”

“混蛋!”昆丁厉声说道,“不过还——还来得及。我马上回去拯救哈梅琳女士。”

“哈梅琳,”那贵妇人以激动的声调说道,“哈梅琳正靠着你的胳膊感谢你的拯救哩。”

“什么!这是怎么回事?”昆丁摆脱她的手说道,很不像他平常对待贵妇人那样客气,“伊莎贝尔小姐独自留下了吗?再见——再见。”

他转过身想赶回城堡,海拉丁却抓住他不放。“听我说——听我说——你这是去找死。活见鬼,你干吗要戴那鬼颜色的羽毛呢?以后我再也不相信蓝色和白色绸子的意义了。不过,她也拿得出同样多的嫁妆和金银财宝,也有权获得伯爵领地。”

他喘着气,上句不接下句地说着,一边拚命拖住昆丁。最后这年轻人只得握紧匕首,准备摆脱他的纠缠。

“既然如此,”海拉丁放开手说道,“要是有魔鬼的话,你就见魔鬼去吧,滚你的!”那苏格兰人一脱身便像阵风似的向城堡奔去。

海拉丁转过身来看着哈梅琳女士,只见她在羞愧、害怕和失望情绪的支配下已瘫软地跪了下来。

“发生了一个误会,”他说道,“起来吧,女士,跟我走吧。天亮以前我就会给你找一个比这黄毛小子更漂亮的丈夫。一个不够,我还可以给你找二十个。”

哈梅琳女士情欲旺盛,却头脑空虚;像许多别的人一样,应付日常生活的需要还可以,但碰到当前这个危机时,她却束手无策,只得徒然痛哭流涕,骂海拉丁是个贼,是个下贱的奴才,是个骗子和杀人犯。

“你叫我吉卜赛得了,”他镇静地回答道,“这就把一切都包括进去了。”

“畜牲!你说星宿注定我们该结合,要我给他写情书——啊!我真该死!”那不幸的仕女叫道。

“星宿的确注定你们命该结合,”海拉丁说,“问题是要双方都愿意。你以为伟大的星象能使人违反他的意愿和别人结婚吗?我是被你们基督徒那些献殷勤、互赠绸绢信物等倒霉的无聊玩意给搞糊涂了。那年轻人喜欢吃小牛肉而不爱吃母牛肉,我想这就是症结所在。起来,跟我走。你小心,我是容不得哭哭啼啼和佯装作死的。”

“我一步也不走。”那仕女倔强地说道。

“明亮的天空在上,你就是得走!”海拉丁叫道,“我凭着傻瓜所信奉的一切向你赌咒说,你面对的人可以毫不在乎地把你剥得精光,捆在树上,让你听凭命运摆布!”

“那可不行,”玛尔松干预道,“你别虐待她。我和你一样身上带有刀,也知道如何动刀。她人虽傻,但心肠不错。女士,你起来,跟我们一道走吧。发生了一个误会,不过救人一命还是值得的。此刻在那城堡里,许多人都不惜以全部财产来换取我们现在的安全哩。”

玛尔松这么说着的时候,从索恩瓦尔德城堡传来了一片胜利的欢呼,当然里面夹杂着恐怖与失望的尖叫。

“听吧,我的女士!”海拉丁说道,“你得感谢,你没有把自己那尖细的嗓门加到那合奏里去。你放心,我会老实照看你,星宿也会遵守诺言,给你找个好丈夫的。”

哈梅琳女士就像一只被恐怖和疲劳征服了的野兽,只好听从两个带路人的摆布,让他们随意把自己带到什么地方去。由于她精疲力竭,神志恍惚,两个吉卜赛人不得不半牵着她,半抬着她。尽管他们在她面前继续着他们的谈话,她却不知所云。

“我就一直觉得你那个计划太蠢,”玛尔松说,“要是你能把年轻的一对结合在一起,真的,我们倒有把握得到他们的感激,在他们的城堡里得到个立足之地。你怎么能指望这么一个漂亮的年轻人娶这么一个老傻瓜呢?”

“里茨巴,”海拉丁说,“你取了个基督徒的名字,一直住在那些蠢家伙的营垒里,使你也染上了他们的愚蠢。我怎么想得到,他硬要考虑年纪轻,年纪大,那么几岁的区别,而不顾这个婚姻带来的明显好处呢?你知道,要叫那个羞答答的少女和这位像个羊毛垫似的重重压在我们胳膊上的女士一样坦率,那是办不到的。再说,我也喜欢这个小伙子,想帮他个忙。让他娶这年纪大的女人是想叫他发财,而让他和伊莎贝尔结合,那等于是把德拉马克、勃艮第和法兰西都招惹到自己头上——三方都在为支配她的婚姻争夺权利。这个傻女人的财产既然主要是金银财宝,我们本来也会搞到我们的一份。但弓弦断了,箭已射不出去。去她的,我们干脆把她带去见大胡子威廉。等他像往常那样喝得酩酊大醉时,他就分不清谁是年纪大的伯爵女士,谁是年纪轻的伯爵小姐了。走吧,里茨巴,放勇敢些。那明亮的阿多波兰星座仍在护佑着沙漠之子的命运哩!”



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