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Chapter 25 The Unbidden Guest

No human quality is so well wove In warp and woof, but there 's some flaw in it: I've known a brave man fly a shepherd's cur, A wise man so demean him, drivelling idiocy Had wellnigh been ashamed on't. For your crafty, Your worldly wise man, he, above the rest, Weaves his own snares so fine, he 's often caught in them.

OLD PLAY

Quentin, during the earlier part of the night journey, had to combat with that bitter heartache which is felt when youth parts, and probably forever, with her he loves. As, pressed by the urgency of the moment, and the impatience of Crevecoeur, they hasted on through the rich lowlands of Hainault, under the benign guidance of a rich and lustrous harvest moon, she shed her yellow influence over rich and deep pastures, woodland, and cornfields, from which the husbandmen were using her light to withdraw the grain, such was the industry of the Flemings, even at that period, she shone on broad, level, and fructifying rivers, where glided the white sail in the service of commerce, uninterrupted by rock and torrent, beside lively quiet villages, whose external decency and cleanliness expressed the ease and comfort of the inhabitants, -- she gleamed upon the feudal castle of many a Baron and Knight, with its deep moat, battlemented court, and high belfry -- for the chivalry of Hainault was renowned among the nobles of Europe -- and her light displayed at a distance, in its broad beam, the gigantic towers of more than one lofty minster.

Yet all this fair variety, however, differing from the waste and wilderness of his own land, interrupted not the course of Quentin's regrets and sorrows. He had left his heart behind him when he departed from Charleroi, and the only reflection which the farther journey inspired was that every step was carrying him farther from Isabelle. His imagination was taxed to recall every word she had spoken, every look she had directed towards him, and, as happens frequently in such cases, the impression made upon his imagination by the recollection of these particulars, was even stronger than the realities themselves had excited.

At length, after the cold hour of midnight was past, in spite alike of love and of sorrow, the extreme fatigue which Quentin had undergone the two preceding days began to have an effect on him, which his habits of exercise of every kind, and his singular alertness and activity of character, as well as the painful nature of the reflections which occupied his thoughts, had hitherto prevented his experiencing. The ideas of his mind began to be so little corrected by the exertions of his senses, worn out and deadened as the latter now were by extremity of fatigue, that the visions which the former drew superseded or perverted the information conveyed by the blunted organs of seeing and hearing, and Durward was only sensible that he was awake, by the exertions which, sensible of the peril of his situation, he occasionally made to resist falling into a deep and dead sleep. Every now and then, strong consciousness of the risk of falling from or with his horse roused him to exertion and animation, but ere long his eyes again were dimmed by confused shades of all sorts of mingled colours, the moonlight landscape swam before them, and he was so much overcome with fatigue, that the Count of Crevecoeur, observing his condition, was at length compelled to order two of his attendants, one to each rein of Durward's bridle, in order to prevent the risk of his falling from his horse.

When at length they reached the town of Landrecy, the Count, in compassion to the youth, who had now been in a great measure without sleep for three nights, allowed himself and his retinue a halt of four hours, for rest and refreshment. Deep and sound were Quentin's slumbers, until they were broken by the sound of the Count's trumpet, and the cry of his Fouriers (subordinate officers who secure quarters for the army while manoeuvring) and harbingers, "Debout! debout! Ha! Messires, en route, en route! (arise, let us set out!)"

Yet, unwelcomely early as the tones came, they awaked him a different being in strength and spirits from what he had fallen asleep. Confidence in himself and his fortunes returned with his reviving spirits, and with the rising sun. He thought of his love no longer as a desperate and fantastic dream, but as a high and invigorating principle, to be cherished in his bosom, although he might never purpose to himself, under all the difficulties by which he was beset, to bring it to any prosperous issue.

"The pilot," he reflected, "steers his bark by the polar star, although he never expects to become possessor of it, and the thoughts of Isabelle of Croye shall make me a worthy man at arms, though I may never see her more. When she hears that a Scottish soldier named Quentin Durward distinguished himself in a well fought field, or left his body on the breach of a disputed fortress, she will remember the companion of her journey, as one who did all in his power to avert the snares and misfortunes which beset it, and perhaps will honour his memory with a tear, his coffin with a garland."

In this manly mood of bearing his misfortune, Quentin felt himself more able to receive and reply to the jests of the Count of Crevecoeur, who passed several on his alleged effeminacy and incapacity of undergoing fatigue. The young Scot accommodated himself so good humouredly to the Count's raillery, and replied at once so happily and so respectfully, that the change of his tone and manner made obviously a more favourable impression on the Count than he had entertained from his prisoner's conduct during the preceding evening, when, rendered irritable by the feelings of his situation, he was alternately moodily silent or fiercely argumentative. The veteran soldier began at length to take notice of his young companion as a pretty fellow, of whom something might be made, and more than hinted to him that would he but resign his situation in the Archer Guard of France, he would undertake to have him enrolled in the household of the Duke of Burgundy in an honourable condition, and would himself take care of his advancement. And although Quentin, with suitable expressions of gratitude, declined this favour at present, until he should find out how far he had to complain of his original patron, King Louis, he, nevertheless, continued to remain on good terms with the Count of Crevecoeur, and, while his enthusiastic mode of thinking, and his foreign and idiomatical manner of expressing himself, often excited a smile on the grave cheek of the Count, that smile had lost all that it had of sarcastic and bitter, and did not exceed the limits of good humour and good manners.

Thus travelling on with much more harmony than on the preceding day, the little party came at last within two miles of the famous and strong town of Peronne, near which the Duke of Burgundy's army lay encamped, ready, as was supposed, to invade France, and, in opposition to which, Louis XI had himself assembled a strong force near Saint Maxence, for the purpose of bringing to reason his over powerful vassal.

Perrone, situated upon a deep river, in a flat country, and surrounded by strong bulwarks and profound moats, was accounted in ancient as in modern times, one of the strongest fortresses in France. (Indeed, though lying on an exposed and warlike frontier, it was never taken by an enemy, but preserved the proud name of Peronne la Pucelle, until the Duke of Wellington, a great destroyer of that sort of reputation, took the place in the memorable advance upon Paris in 1815. S.) The Count of Crevecoeur, his retinue, and his prisoner, were approaching the fortress about the third hour after noon, when riding through the pleasant glades of a large forest, which then covered the approach to the town on the east side, they were met by two men of rank, as appeared from the number of their attendants, dressed in the habits worn in time of peace, and who, to judge from the falcons which they carried on their wrists, and the number of spaniels and greyhounds led by their followers, were engaged in the amusement of hawking. But on perceiving Crevecoeur, with whose appearance and liveries they were sufficiently intimate, they quitted the search which they were making for a heron along the banks of a long canal, and came galloping towards him.

"News, news, Count of Crevecoeur," they cried both together, "will you give news, or take news? or will you barter fairly?"

"I would barter fairly, Messires," said Crevecoeur, after saluting them courteously, "did I conceive you had any news of importance sufficient to make an equivalent for mine."

The two sportsmen smiled on each other, and the elder of the two, a fine baronial figure, with a dark countenance, marked with that sort of sadness which some physiognomists ascribe to a melancholy temperament, and some, as the Italian statuary augured of the visage of Charles I, consider as predicting an unhappy death, turning to his companion, said, "Crevecoeur has been in Brabant, the country of commerce, and he has learned all its artifices -- he will be too hard for us if we drive a bargain."

"Messires," said Crevecoeur, "the Duke ought in justice to have the first of my wares, as the Seigneur takes his toll before open market begins. But tell me, are your news of a sad or a pleasant complexion?"

The person whom he particularly addressed was a lively looking man, with an eye of great vivacity, which was corrected by an expression of reflection and gravity about the mouth and upper lip -- the whole physiognomy marking a man who saw and judged rapidly, but was sage and slow in forming resolutions or in expressing opinions. This was the famous Knight of Hainault, son of Collara, or Nicolas de l'Elite, known in history, and amongst historians, by the venerable name of Philip de Comines, at this time close to the person of Duke Charles the Bold, and one of his most esteemed counsellors. He answered Crevecoeur's question concerning the complexion of the news of which he and his companion, the Baron D'Hymbercourt, were the depositaries.

(Philip de Comines was described in the former editions of this work as a little man, fitted rather for counsel than action. This was a description made at a venture, to vary the military portraits with which the age and work abound. Sleidan the historian, upon the authority of Matthieu d'Arves, who knew Philip de Comines, and had served in his household, says he was a man of tall stature, and a noble presence. The learned Monsieur Petitot . . . intimates that Philip de Comines made a figure at the games of chivalry and pageants exhibited on the wedding of Charles of Burgundy with Margaret of England in 1468. . . . He is the first named, however, of a gallant band of assailants, knights and noblemen, to the number of twenty, who, with the Prince of Orange as their leader, encountered, in a general tourney, with a party of the same number under the profligate Adolf of Cleves, who acted as challenger, by the romantic title of Arbre d'or. The encounter, though with arms of courtesy, was very fierce, and separated by main force, not without difficulty. Philip de Comines has, therefore, a title to be accounted tam Martre quam Mercurio. . . S.)

(D'Hymbercourt, or Imbercourt, was put to death by the inhabitants of Ghent, with the Chancellor of Burgundy, in the year 1477. Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold, appeared in mourning in the marketplace, and with tears besought the life of her servants from her insurgent subjects, but in vain. S.)

"They were," he said, "like the colours of the rainbow, various in hue, as they might be viewed from different points, and placed against the black cloud or the fair sky. -- Such a rainbow was never seen in France or Flanders, since that of Noah's ark."

"My tidings," replied Crevecoeur, "are altogether like the comet, gloomy, wild, and terrible in themselves, yet to be accounted the forerunners of still greater and more dreadful evils which are to ensue."

"We must open our bales," said Comines to his companion, "or our market will be forestalled by some newcomers, for ours are public news. -- In one word, Crevecoeur -- listen and wonder -- King Louis is at Peronne."

"What!" said the Count in astonishment, "has the Duke retreated without a battle? and do you remain here in your dress of peace, after the town is besieged by the French? -- for I cannot suppose it taken."

"No, surely," said D'Hymbercourt, "the banners of Burgundy have not gone back a foot, and still King Louis is here."

"Then Edward of England must have come over the seas with his bowmen," said Crevecoeur, "and, like his ancestors, gained a second field of Poictiers?"

"Not so," said Comines. "Not a French banner has been borne down, not a sail spread from England -- where Edward is too much amused among the wives of the citizens of London to think of playing the Black Prince. Hear the extraordinary truth. You know, when you left us, that the conference between the commissioners on the parts of France and Burgundy was broken up, without apparent chance of reconciliation."

"True, and we dreamt of nothing but war."

"What has followed has been indeed so like a dream," said Comines, "that I almost expect to awake, and find it so. Only one day since, the Duke had in council protested so furiously against farther delay that it was resolved to send a defiance to the King, and march forward instantly into France. Toison d'Or, commissioned for the purpose, had put on his official dress, and had his foot in the stirrup to mount his horse, when lo! the French herald Montjoie rode into our camp.

"We thought of nothing else than that Louis had been beforehand with our defiance, and began to consider how much the Duke would resent the advice which had prevented him from being the first to declare war. But a council being speedily assembled, what was our wonder when the herald informed us, that Louis, King of France, was scarce an hour's riding behind, intending to visit Charles, Duke of Burgundy, with a small retinue, in order that their differences might be settled at a personal interview!"

"You surprise me, Messires," said Crevecoeur, "yet you surprise me less than you might have expected, for, when I was last at Plessis les Tours, the all trusted Cardinal Balue, offended with his master, and Burgundian at heart, did hint to me that he could so work upon Louis's peculiar foibles as to lead him to place himself in such a position with regard to Burgundy that the Duke might have the terms of peace of his own making. But I never suspected that so old a fox as Louis could have been induced to come into the trap of his own accord. What said the Burgundian counsellors?"

"As you may guess," answered D'Hymbercourt, "talked much of faith to be observed, and little of advantage to be obtained by such a visit, while it was manifest they thought almost entirely of the last, and were only anxious to find some way to reconcile it with the necessary preservation of appearances."

"And what said the Duke?" continued the Count of Crevecoeur.

"Spoke brief and bold as usual," replied Comines. "'Which of you was it,' he asked, 'who witnessed the meeting of my cousin Louis and me after the battle of Montl'hery, when I was so thoughtless as to accompany him back within the intrenchments of Paris with half a score of attendants, and so put my person at the King's mercy?' I replied, that most of us had been present, and none could ever forget the alarm which it had been his pleasure to give us. 'Well,' said the Duke, 'you blamed me for my folly, and I confessed to you that I had acted like a giddy pated boy, and I am aware, too, that my father of happy memory being then alive, my kinsman, Louis, would have had less advantage by seizing on my person than I might now have by securing his. But, nevertheless, if my royal kinsman comes hither on the present occasion, in the same singleness of heart under which I then acted, he shall be royally welcome. -- If it is meant by this appearance of confidence to circumvent and to blind me, till he execute some of his politic schemes, by Saint George of Burgundy, let him to look to it!' And so, having turned up his mustaches and stamped on the ground, he ordered us all to get on our horses, and receive so extraordinary a guest."

(After the battle of Montl'hery, in 1465, Charles . . . had an interview with Louis under the walls of Paris, each at the head of a small party. The two Princes dismounted, and walked together so deeply engaged in discussing the business of their meeting, that Charles forgot the peculiarity of his situation; and when Louis turned back towards the town of Paris, from which he came, the Count of Charalois kept him company so far as to pass the line of outworks with which Paris was surrounded, and enter a field work which communicated with the town by a trench. . . . His escort and his principal followers rode forward from where he had left them. . . . To their great joy the Count returned uninjured, accompanied with a guard belonging to Louis. The Burgundians taxed him with rashness in no measured terms. "Say no more of it," said Charles; "I acknowledge the extent of my folly, but I was not aware what I was doing till I entered the redoubt." Memoires de Philippe de Comines. -- S.)

"And you met the King accordingly?" replied the Count of Crevecoeur. "Miracles have not ceased -- How was he accompanied?"

"As slightly as might be," answered D'Hymbercourt, "only a score or two of the Scottish Guard, and a few knights and gentlemen of his household among whom his astrologer, Galeotti, made the gayest figure."

"That fellow," said Crevecoeur, "holds some dependence on the Cardinal Balue -- I should not be surprised that he has had his share in determining the King to this step of doubtful policy. Any nobility of higher rank?"

"There are Monsieur of Orleans, and Dunois," replied Comines.

"I will have a rouse with Dunois," said Crevecoeur, "wag the world as it will. But we heard that both he and the Duke had fallen into disgrace, and were in prison."

"They were both under arrest in the Castle of Loches, that delightful place of retirement for the French nobility," said D'Hymbercourt, "but Louis has released them, in order to bring them with him -- perhaps because he cared not to leave Orleans behind. For his other attendants, faith, I think his gossip, the Hangman Marshal, with two or three of his retinue, and Oliver, his barber, may be the most considerable -- and the whole bevy so poorly arrayed, that, by my honour, the King resembles most an old usurer, going to collect desperate debts, attended by a body of catchpolls."

"And where is he lodged?" said Crevecoeur.

"Nay, that," replied the Comines, "is the most marvellous of all. Our Duke offered to let the King's Archer Guard have a gate of the town, and a bridge of boats over the Somme, and to have assigned to Louis himself the adjoining house, belonging to a wealthy burgess, Giles Orthen, but, in going thither, the King espied the banners of De Lau and Pencil de Riviere, whom he had banished from France, and scared, as it would seem, with the thought of lodging so near refugees and malcontents of his own making, he craved to be quartered in the castle of Peronne, and there he hath his abode accordingly."

"Why, God ha' mercy!" exclaimed Crevecoeur, "this is not only not being content with venturing into the lion's den, but thrusting his head into his very jaws. -- Nothing less than the very bottom of the rat trap would serve the crafty old politician!"

"Nay," said Comines, "D'Hymbercourt hath not told you the speech of Le Glorieux (the jester of Charles of Burgundy of whom more hereafter. S.) -- which, in my mind, was the shrewdest opinion that was given."

"And what said his most illustrious wisdom?" asked the Count.

"As the Duke," replied Comines, "was hastily ordering some vessels and ornaments of plate and the like, to be prepared as presents for the King and his retinue, by way of welcome on his arrival:

"'Trouble not thy small brain about it, my friend Charles,' said Le Glorieux, 'I will give thy cousin Louis a nobler and a fitter gift than thou canst, and that is my cap and bells, and my bauble to boot, for, by the mass, he is a greater fool than I am, for putting himself in thy power.'

"'But if I give him no reason to repent it, sirrah, how thou?' said the Duke.

"'Then, truly, Charles, thou shalt have cap and bauble thyself, as the greatest fool of the three of us.'

"I promise you this knavish quip touched the Duke closely -- I saw him change colour and bite his lip. And now, our news are told, noble Crevecoeur, and what think you they resemble?"

"A mine full charged with gunpowder," answered Crevecoeur, "to which, I fear, it is my fate to bring the kindled linstock. Your news and mine are like flax and fire, which cannot meet without bursting into flame, or like certain chemical substances which cannot be mingled without an explosion. Friends -- gentlemen -- ride close by my rein, and when I tell you what has chanced in the bishopric of Liege, I think you will be of opinion that King Louis might as safely have undertaken a pilgrimage to the infernal regions as this ill timed visit to Peronne."

The two nobles drew up close on either hand of the Count, and listened, with half suppressed exclamations, and gestures of the deepest wonder and interest, to his account of the transactions at Liege and Schonwaldt. Quentin was then called forward, and examined and re-examined on the particulars of the Bishop's death, until at length he refused to answer any farther interrogatories, not knowing wherefore they were asked, or what use might be made of his replies.

They now reached the rich and level banks of the Somme, and the ancient walls of the little town of Peronne la Pucelle, and the deep green meadows adjoining, now whitened with the numerous tents of the Duke of Burgundy's army, amounting to about fifteen thousand men.

无论人之才智如何高超,

总不能编织得天衣无缝,

我曾见勇士躲避牧羊犬的追逐,

聪明人说着无聊的蠢话自贬身价。

狡猾精明之徒把机关算尽,

却往往害了自家性命。

《古老的戏剧》

在头半段夜行军中昆丁不得不压制年轻人也许在和自己的恋人分离时所感到的心灵的剧痛。由于时间紧迫,他们在伯爵不耐烦的催促下匆忙地穿过埃诺富饶的低洼平原。一轮丰满而灿烂的秋月柔和地倾洒着光辉为他们照亮前程。她那黄色的朦胧的光芒笼罩着一片片的草场、森林和田野。农夫们正利用她的光辉来收割庄稼,即使在夜深之际,弗兰德人也还在辛勤劳动。她照耀着沿岸果树成林的宽阔舒坦的河流。河上的白帆不畏岩石和险滩,满载货物,在充满生气的宁静村庄旁边飘过。村庄外部的整洁说明里面的居民过着安乐的生活。她映照着许多豪侠的贵族和骑士的封建城堡,以及那一条条护城河、一个个城墙围着的庭院和高高的钟楼——足见埃诺的骑士阶级的确在欧洲贵族中久负盛名。她那无限广阔的光辉也照射出远处许多教堂的高大塔影。

然而,这富于变化的美丽景色尽管与他家乡那种荒漠而粗犷的景色很不一样,但仍阻挡不了昆丁的绵绵离恨。当他离开沙勒罗瓦时,他已把他的心留在那里。而继续往前走更只能使他感伤地想到,每走一步便离伊莎贝尔更远一步。他沉浸在回忆和想象中,搜寻她讲过的每句话、她望他时的每个表情。而在这种情况下,人们常常发现,对细节的回忆在头脑中产生的印象甚至比现实的情节产生的印象更为强烈。

在寒冷的半夜过去以后,前两天所经受的极度疲劳终于不顾爱的忧伤开始在昆丁身上产生强烈作用——他那爱动的习惯、异常机敏活跃的性格以及占据着他整个心灵的痛苦回忆以前一直没使他感受到的强烈作用。由于极度的疲劳已使得感官衰疲迟钝,而感官的作用也对心灵的意识活动起不了校正的作用,以至心灵产生的幻象代替或歪曲了迟钝的视觉听觉器官传递的信息。达威特只是偶尔伸伸身体以避免在马上酣睡可能造成的危险,也正是通过这一挣扎的动作他才意识到自己是醒着的。害怕从马上摔下来或连人带马滚下来的强烈意识迫使他经常在马上活动活动,但很快又睡眼矇眬,脑子里呈现出五颜六色的模糊幻象,眼前这片月色也若隐若现地浮动起来。他实在是疲乏过度。克雷维格伯爵注意到他的情况,只好命令两个随从走在达威特拉的缰绳两旁,以防他从马上跌落下来。

最后他们来到了兰德列西城。伯爵为了对这几乎三夜未曾合眼的年轻人表示同情,决定停歇四个小时,好让他自己和随从也有个休息和吃吃东西的机会。

昆丁睡得很熟,要不是伯爵下令吹的军号声以及信使和传令官发出的“起来!先生们,准备出发!”的催促声,他还会酣睡下去。虽然这些声音过早地把他吵醒,他还是感觉精神焕发、精力充沛,和睡前相比判若两人。此刻朝阳冉冉升起,随着精力的恢复,对自己和自己未来的信心也恢复过来。他想到的爱情已不是没有希望实现的奇妙的梦幻,而是应珍藏在心里激励人向上的崇高目标,尽管他所处条件困难,也许永无实现的可能。“舵手照着北极星的指引驾驶他的小舟,但他永远不能指望占有北极星。我也许再见不到克罗伊埃·伊莎贝尔,但对她的思念将使我成为一名卓越的武士。当有一天她听说一个名叫昆丁·达威特的苏格兰武士在战场上获胜而声名显赫时,或听到他在争夺堡垒当中光荣战死时,她将回想起曾尽力为她消除旅途上的危险和灾祸的旅伴,也许会流一滴眼泪作为对他的怀念,或在他的棺木前献上一个花圈。”

昆丁一旦转而采取这种勇敢承受不幸的态度,他感觉他已能更好地接受和回答克雷维格伯爵开的玩笑,其中有几个是挖苦他具有所谓的女人气,经不住疲劳的考验。年轻的苏格兰人快活地应付着伯爵的打趣,回答得既令人愉快又彬彬有礼。语气和态度的这一转变显然在伯爵心中产生了好的印象。而前晚昆丁对自己的处境感到气恼,时而闷闷不乐、沉默不语,时而气势汹汹、喜争好斗,伯爵对他这些表现印象自然不好。

这位饱经风霜的武士终于注意起他年轻的旅伴,觉得他是个很有出息的好伙计。他相当明显地暗示他说,要是他愿意辞掉法王近卫军射手的职务,他愿负责在勃艮第王室中给他谋一个受人尊敬的职位,并亲自关照他的提升。昆丁向他表示了应有的感谢。他说,他需要摸清他原来的主人路易王在多大程度上有负于他,而在此以前他只得暂时谢绝他的美意。尽管如此,他还是和克雷维格伯爵继续保持良好关系。这年轻人热诚的思想方式以及他那表达思想的异国语言习惯经常使伯爵严肃的面孔上绽开一丝微笑,但这微笑已经没有讥刺的成分,也不超过诙谐幽默和礼貌的范围。

这一小队人马在比前一天更和谐的气氛中继续行进,最后来到了离坚固的名城佩隆两英里的地方。勃艮第公爵的军队已在佩隆附近扎营,准备按原定计划进攻法国。路易十一也在圣马克森斯附近集结大军作为对抗,希望他那过分强大的藩属能幡然醒悟。

佩隆城坐落在一条河流的河岸边,周围地势平坦,布满了堡垒,还有护城河蜿蜒其间,无论在古代和当代都被认为是法国最难攻破的重镇之一。克雷维格伯爵及其随从,带着他们的“俘虏”在下午三点左右来到城郊。城的东郊是一大片森林。当他们正穿过那令人偷快的林间空地时,他们碰见(按随从人数之多来看)地位很高的两位贵人,穿着和平时期的服装。他们手腕上立着老鹰,随行人员领着猎狗和灵提,这说明他们正以打猎作为消遣。一看见外貌和服装都十分熟悉的克雷维格,他们便停止沿一条长长的运河追逐苍鹭的游戏,骑马奔来。

“消息,消息,克雷维格伯爵!”他们两人同声喊道,“你是要讲消息还是听消息?还是打算来个公平交易?”

“先生们,我愿意做个公平交易,”克雷维格客气地行礼之后说道,“要是我认为你们有很重要的消息配和我进行交换的话。”

两位猎手彼此会心地笑了。年长的那位具有男爵般的漂亮身材,黝黑的面孔上笼罩着忧伤的神色。某些相术家把它归因于忧郁的性格,而另一些相术家则像一位意大利人给查里第一看相时那样,认为它是一种无疾而终的征兆。这时他转过身来对他的同伴说:“克雷维格在布拉邦特这个商业之邦呆了好些时候,已经学会了经商之道,论做生意我们可不是他的对手。”

“先生们,”克雷维格说道,“既然这位大人市场没开张就已经开始进货,我的第一批货理应兜售给公爵。不过,请告诉我,你们的是坏消息还是好消息?”

他提问的对象是一个眼睛有神,只是嘴角呈现出一点严肃和深沉表情,样子活跃的人物。他整个面孔都说明他观察和判断都很敏捷,但作出决定和表达意见时却缓慢而审慎。这就是埃诺男爵科拉特(或称尼古拉斯·德勒利特)的儿子。在历史上以及史学家当中人称菲利普·德贡明,目前是大胆的查尔斯公爵身边的红人,也是他最受尊重的谋臣之一。听到克雷维格询问他和丹伯古男爵掌握的消息究竟性质如何,他回答说:“它就像彩虹的颜色,根据不同的观察角度以及不同的背景——是乌云还是晴空,而具有不同的色调。打从诺亚方舟的时代算起,无论在法国或是弗兰德,人们还是第一次见到这样的彩虹。”

“我的消息完全像颗彗星,”克雷维格对答说,“本身固然阴暗、险恶,但它还预兆着将发生更大更可怕的灾祸。”

“我们得开始营业了,”贡明对他的同伴说道,“否则新来的人就会抢我们的生意了。要知道,我们的只不过是公开的消息。一句话,克雷维格,你听到一定大吃一惊——路易王已来到了佩隆!”

“什么!”伯爵吃惊地说道,“难道公爵不打就退?法军已经围城,你们干吗还身穿便服?我说围城,因为我不能设想佩隆已被攻占。”

“当然没有,”丹伯古说道,“勃艮第的旗帜未后撤一步。不过,路易王的确已来我们这儿。”

“那么,一定是英国的爱德华率领他的弓箭手渡海东征,”克雷维格说道,“并像他祖先那样,又把普瓦克蒂埃变成了战场。”

“事情并非如此,”贡明说道,“没有一面法国军旗被人夺走,也没有一艘帆船从英国开过来。要知道,爱德华在伦敦市民的妻妾当中温得很愉快,不想再扮演‘黑王子”的角色了。你听听事实是多么奇特吧!想必你离开的时候已经知道,法国和勃艮第专使的会谈已告破裂,看来已毫无和解的可能?”

“是呀,我们只想到要打仗。”

“以后发生的事的确很像是做梦,”贡明说道,“我随时都准备清醒过来,发现它果然是一场梦。只是前一天,公爵还在会议上激烈反对任何拖延,说已决心向路易王发出挑战书,马上进军法国。特瓦松·多尔受命去递战表。他都已经穿上纹章官的礼服,脚也已经踏上马镫准备上马,但法国的纹章官蒙·日瓦忽然骑马来到我们的营帐。我们还以为是路易王抢在我们之先向我们宣战,担心公爵该如何抱怨我们的建议使他没能首先宣战哩。公爵很快召集起满朝文武。谁知那纹章官却向我们说,法国的路易王一小时之内就会随后到达,打算轻装简从地拜访勃艮第·查尔斯亲王,想通过亲自会谈解决他们的分歧。”

“先生们,你们的消息真叫我吃惊,”克雷维格说道,“但并不像你们预料的那样使我吃惊。因为我上次在普莱西·勒·图尔的时候,那位对主子颇有怨气,内心同情勃艮第的十分可信的巴卢主教就曾暗示我,他可以利用路易的特殊弱点使他在对待勃艮第的问题上陷入困境,不得不接受公爵提出的和平条件。但我绝没想到像路易这样一个老狐狸竟然会被诱使自投罗网。勃艮第的谋臣们意见如何?”

“你可以猜想到,”丹伯古回答道,“他们谈的多半是应当遵守信义,而很少谈到通过这次访问可能得到的好处。不过,他们考虑的显然只是后一个问题,并且急于找到某种既能获得好处,又能顾全面子的办法。”

“公爵怎么说?”克雷维格伯爵继续问道。

“和往常一样,说得简单扼要、开门见山。”贡明回答道,“‘你们有谁见过我堂兄路易和我在蒙勒里战役之后的那次约会?’公爵说道,‘当时我十分疏忽大意,竟只带领十来个随从陪路易工走到巴黎的防区以内,从而使我的人身安全完全受他的支配。’我回答说,当时我们大多数人都在场。谁也不会忘记当时给我们带来的惊恐。‘你们责备我昏庸,’公爵说道,‘我也承认我的行为简直像个莽撞的小伙子。不过,我也意识到,既然我已故的父亲当时还活着,路易堂兄要想扣留我就不如我现在扣留他这么有利。尽管如此,只要这位国王现在到这儿来的目的和我那时一样的单纯,那么他将得到国王的礼遇。如果他想佯装信赖来欺骗和蒙蔽我,以便实现他的某种策略,那么,勃艮第的圣乔治在上,叫他小心点!’说罢他捻捻胡须,顿顿脚,命令我们立刻上马去迎接这个不寻常的来客。”

“这么说,你们都见到路易王了?”克雷维格说道,“奇迹真是层出不穷!他的随从多吗?”

“少得不能再少,”丹伯古回答道,“只有二十一二个苏格兰卫士以及王室的几名骑士和贵族。在这些人当中,他的占星术家伽利奥提算是个最有趣的人物。”

“那家伙有点仰承红衣主教巴卢的鼻息,”克雷维格说,“我毫不怀疑,在促使国王采取这个吉凶未卜的策略当中他也插了一手。还有别的地位高贵的贵族吗?”

“还有奥尔良和杜诺瓦。”贡明说道。

“这下我可不管天垮下来也得和杜诺瓦畅饮一回,”克雷维格说道,“不过,我们听说他和奥尔良公爵都已失宠,蹲过监狱。”

“他们两个都曾在法国贵族那愉快的隐居地罗歇堡呆过,”丹伯古说,“路易释放了他们,好让他们和他一道来这里——也许是不愿奥尔良独自留下吧。在其他随行人员当中,最重要的人物就是他的好伙伴——军法总监及其两三个随从,再加上御前理发师奥利弗。这帮人都穿得十分寒伧。说实在的,路易工简直像个年老的高利贷者,在一群狗腿子的跟随下,去讨久欠不还的债。”

“他住在哪儿?”克雷维格问道。

“嘿,这可是最妙之处!”贡明回答说,“公爵提出让路易王的卫队把守一个城门,以及横越索姆河的一个浮桥,并拨给路易本人属于富商贾尔斯·奥尔松的一所邻近的住宅。但路易王走去一看,发现了曾被他逐出法国的德洛和庞塞·德里维埃的战旗。也许是因为想到他一手制造出来的难民和叛乱分子就住在自己身旁而感到害怕吧,他竟要求让他在佩隆城堡里面住宿。所以眼下他就下榻在城堡里面。”

“嘿,我的上帝呀!”克雷维格惊叫道,“这可不仅是深入虎穴,而且是把头伸进虎口呀!只有捕鼠机的最底部才捉得住这狡猾的老政客!”

“且慢,”贡明说道,“丹伯古还没把勒格洛里尔讲的话告诉你哩——在我看来,那才是发表过的最精明的高见。”

“那位仁兄有何高见?”伯爵问道。贡明作了如下的回答:

“公爵赶紧吩咐下面准备一些金银器饰和装饰品等作为欢迎国王到来赠送给国王及其随行人员的礼物。对此,勒格洛里尔说道:‘查尔斯,我的好朋友,用不着麻烦你的小脑袋了。我会给你的堂兄路易一个比你所能给的更高贵更合适的礼物。这就是我的弄臣帽和铃铛,加上我的小玩意,因为,说实话,他竟然自投罗网,受你的摆布,真是一个比我更大的傻瓜。’公爵说道:‘要是我不给他制造值得他懊悔的理由呢?’弄臣说道:‘那么,查尔斯,你就得接受这顶帽子,这副铃铛,因为你不愧是我们三个当中最大的傻瓜。’我敢担保,这个恶作剧的俏皮话深深打动了公爵——我看见他变了脸色,咬着嘴唇。我们的消息讲完了。高贵的克雷维格,你认为这消息像个什么?”

“像个一触即发的地雷,”克雷维格回答道,“我担心我是被注定给它带来导火线哩。你们的消息和我的消息就像亚麻和火焰,碰在一起不可能不起火,也像某些化学药品混在一起不可能不爆炸。朋友们,绅士们,请靠拢些听我讲吧!当我告诉你们,列日主教区发生了什么事情,我想你们会认为,路易王来佩隆的这次拜访真不是时候,也许去地狱朝拜还会更安全些。”

两位贵族都向伯爵身边靠拢过来。他们仔细听他介绍列日和索恩瓦尔德发生的事件,一边发出半压抑的惊叹,作出流露惊奇和关心的姿态;又把昆丁叫了过来,一再询问主教被害的详细经过。由于昆丁既不清楚他们干吗要问,也不明白他的回答有何用处,最后竟拒绝继续回答他们的询问。

这时他们终于看到了富饶而平坦的索姆河,看到它的两岸风光以及“处女般的佩隆”,它的古老城墙和毗邻的一片片绿色草地。草地上点缀着勃艮第公爵一万五千人的军队搭的白色帐篷。



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