小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 双语小说 » 惊婚记 Quentin Durward » Chapter 26 The Interview
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 26 The Interview

When Princes meet, Astrologers may mark it An ominous conjunction, full of boding, Like that of Mars with Saturn.

OLD PLAY

One hardly knows whether to term it a privilege or a penalty annexed to the quality of princes, that, in their intercourse with each other, they are required by the respect which is due to their own rank and dignity, to regulate their feelings and expressions by a severe etiquette, which precludes all violent and avowed display of passion, and which, but that the whole world are aware that this assumed complaisance is a matter of ceremony, might justly pass for profound dissimulation. It is no less certain, however, that the overstepping of these bounds of ceremonial, for the purpose of giving more direct vent to their angry passions, has the effect of compromising their dignity with the world in general; as was particularly noted when those distinguished rivals, Francis the First and the Emperor Charles, gave each other the lie direct, and were desirous of deciding their differences hand to hand, in single combat.

Charles of Burgundy, the most hasty and impatient, nay, the most imprudent prince of his time, found himself, nevertheless, fettered within the magic circle which prescribed the most profound deference to Louis, as his Suzerain and liege Lord, who had deigned to confer upon him, a vassal of the crown, the distinguished honour of a personal visit. Dressed in his ducal mantle, and attended by his great officers and principal knights and nobles, he went in gallant cavalcade to receive Louis XI. His retinue absolutely blazed with gold and silver; for the wealth of the Court of England being exhausted by the wars of York and Lancaster, and the expenditure of France limited by the economy of the Sovereign, that of Burgundy was for the time the most magnificent in Europe. The cortege of Louis, on the contrary, was few in number, and comparatively mean in appearance, and the exterior of the King himself, in a threadbare cloak, with his wonted old high crowned hat stuck full of images, rendered the contrast yet more striking; and as the Duke, richly attired with the coronet and mantle of state, threw himself from his noble charger, and, kneeling on one knee, offered to hold the stirrup while Louis dismounted from his little ambling palfrey, the effect was almost grotesque.

The greeting between the two potentates was, of course, as full of affected kindness and compliment as it was totally devoid of sincerity. But the temper of the Duke rendered it much more difficult for him to preserve the necessary appearances, in voice, speech, and demeanour; while in the King, every species of simulation and dissimulation seemed so much a part of his nature that those best acquainted with him could not have distinguished what was feigned from what was real.

Perhaps the most accurate illustration, were it not unworthy two such high potentates, would be to suppose the King in the situation of a stranger, perfectly acquainted with the habits and dispositions of the canine race, who, for some, purpose of his own, is desirous to make friends with a large and surly mastiff that holds him in suspicion and is disposed to worry him on the first symptoms either of diffidence or of umbrage. The mastiff growls internally, erects his bristles, shows his teeth, yet is ashamed to fly upon the intruder, who seems at the same time so kind and so confiding, and therefore the animal endures advances which are far from pacifying him, watching at the same time the slightest opportunity which may justify him in his own eyes for seizing his friend by the throat.

The King was no doubt sensible, from the altered voice, constrained manner, and abrupt gestures of the Duke, that the game he had to play was delicate, and perhaps he more than once repented having ever taken it in hand. But repentance was too late, and all that remained for him was that inimitable dexterity of management, which the King understood equally at least with any man that ever lived.

The demeanour which Louis used towards the Duke was such as to resemble the kind overflowing of the heart in a moment of sincere reconciliation with an honoured and tried friend, from whom he had been estranged by temporary circumstances now passed away, and forgotten as soon as removed. The King blamed himself for not having sooner taken the decisive step, of convincing his kind and good kinsman by such a mark of confidence as he was now bestowing, that the angry passages which had occurred betwixt them were nothing in his remembrance, when weighed against the kindness which received him when an exile from France, and under the displeasure of the King his father. He spoke of the good Duke of Burgundy, as Philip the father of Duke Charles was currently called, and remembered a thousand instances of his paternal kindness.

"I think, cousin," he said, "your father made little difference in his affection betwixt you and me; for I remember when by an accident I had bewildered myself in a hunting party, I found the good Duke upbraiding you with leaving me in the forest, as if you had been careless of the safety of an elder brother."

The Duke of Burgundy's features were naturally harsh and severe; and when he attempted to smile, in polite acquiescence to the truth of what the King told him, the grimace which he made was truly diabolical.

"Prince of dissemblers," he said, in his secret soul, "would that it stood with my honour to remind you how you have requited all the benefits of our House!"

"And then," continued the King, "if the ties of consanguinity and gratitude are not sufficient to bind us together, my fair cousin, we have those of spiritual relationship; for I am godfather to your fair daughter Mary, who is as dear to me as one of my own maidens; and when the Saints (their holy name be blessed!) sent me a little blossom which withered in the course of three months, it was your princely father who held it at the font, and celebrated the ceremony of baptism with richer and prouder magnificence than Paris itself could have afforded. Never shall I forget the deep, the indelible impression which the generosity of Duke Philip, and yours, my dearest cousin, made upon the half broken heart of the poor exile!"

"Your Majesty," said the Duke, compelling himself to make some reply, "acknowledged that slight obligation in terms which overpaid all the display which Burgundy could make, to show a due sense of the honour you had done its Sovereign."

"I remember the words you mean, fair cousin," said the King, smiling; "I think they were, that in guerdon of the benefit of that day, I, poor wanderer, had nothing to offer, save the persons of myself, of my wife, and of my child. -- Well, and I think I have indifferently well redeemed my pledge."

"I mean not to dispute what your Majesty is pleased to aver," said the Duke; "but --"

"But you ask," said the King, interrupting him, "how my actions have accorded with my words. -- Marry thus: the body of my infant child Joachim rests in Burgundian earth -- my own person I have this morning placed unreservedly in your power -- and, for that of my wife, -- truly, cousin, I think, considering the period of time which has passed, you will scarce insist on my keeping my word in that particular. She was born on the Day of the Blessed Annunciation" (he crossed himself, and muttered an Ora pro nobis (intercede for us)), "some fifty years since; but she is no farther distant than Rheims, and if you insist on my promise being fulfilled to the letter, she shall presently wait your pleasure."

Angry as the Duke of Burgundy was at the barefaced attempt of the King to assume towards him a tone of friendship and intimacy, he could not help laughing at the whimsical reply of that singular monarch, and his laugh was as discordant as the abrupt tones of passion in which he often spoke. Having laughed longer and louder than was at that period, or would now be, thought fitting the time and occasion, he answered in the same tone, bluntly declining the honour of the Queen's company, but stating his willingness to accept that of the King's eldest daughter, whose beauty was celebrated.

"I am happy, fair cousin," said the King, with one of those dubious smiles of which he frequently made use, "that your gracious pleasure has not fixed on my younger daughter, Joan. I should otherwise have had spear breaking between you and my cousin of Orleans; and, had harm come of it, I must on either side have lost a kind friend and affectionate cousin."

"Nay, nay, my royal sovereign," said Duke Charles, "the Duke of Orleans shall have no interruption from me in the path which he has chosen par amours. The cause in which I couch my lance against Orleans must be fair and straight."

Louis was far from taking amiss this brutal allusion to the personal deformity of the Princess Joan. On the contrary, he was rather pleased to find that the Duke was content to be amused with broad jests, in which he was himself a proficient, and which (according to the modern phrase) spared much sentimental hypocrisy. Accordingly, he speedily placed their intercourse on such a footing that Charles, though he felt it impossible to play the part of an affectionate and reconciled friend to a monarch whose ill offices he had so often encountered, and whose sincerity on the present occasion he so strongly doubted, yet had no difficulty in acting the hearty landlord towards a facetious guest; and so the want of reciprocity in kinder feelings between them was supplied by the tone of good fellowship which exists between two boon companions -- a tone natural to the Duke from the frankness, and, it might be added, the grossness of his character, and to Louis, because, though capable of assuming any mood of social intercourse, that which really suited him best was mingled with grossness of ideas and of caustic humour and expression.

Both Princes were happily able to preserve, during the period of a banquet at the town house of Peronne, the same kind of conversation, on which they met as on a neutral ground, and which, as Louis easily perceived, was more available than any other to keep the Duke of Burgundy in that state of composure which seemed necessary to his own safety.

Yet he was alarmed to observe that the Duke had around him several of those French nobles, and those of the highest rank, and in situations of great trust and power, whom his own severity or injustice had driven into exile; and it was to secure himself from the possible effects of their resentment and revenge, that (as already mentioned) he requested to be lodged in the Castle or Citadel of Peronne, rather than in the town itself. This was readily granted by Duke Charles, with one of those grim smiles of which it was impossible to say whether it meant good or harm to the party whom it concerned.

(Scott quotes from the Memoires of De Comines as follows: "these nobles . . . inspired Louis with so much suspicion that he . . . demanded to be lodged in the old Castle of Peronne, and thus rendered himself an absolute captive.")

But when the King, expressing himself with as much delicacy as he could, and in the manner he thought best qualified to lull suspicion asleep, asked whether the Scottish Archers of his Guard might not maintain the custody of the Castle of Peronne during his residence there, in lieu of the gate of the town which the Duke had offered to their care, Charles replied, with his wonted sternness of voice and abruptness of manner, rendered more alarming by his habit, when he spoke, of either turning up his mustaches, or handling his sword or dagger, the last of which he used frequently to draw a little way, and then return to the sheath (this gesture, very indicative of a fierce character, is also by stage tradition a distinction of Shakespeare's Richard III. S.),

"Saint Martin! No, my Liege. You are in your vassal's camp and city -- so men call me in respect to your Majesty -- my castle and town are yours, and my men are yours; so it is indifferent whether my men at arms or the Scottish Archers guard either the outer gate or defences of the Castle. -- No, by Saint George! Peronne is a virgin fortress -- she shall not lose her reputation by any neglect of mine. Maidens must be carefully watched, my royal cousin, if we would have them continue to live in good fame."

"Surely, fair cousin, and I altogether agree with you," said the King, "I being in fact more interested in the reputation of the good little town than you are -- Peronne being, as you know, fair cousin, one of those upon the same river Somme, which, pledged to your father of happy memory for redemption of money, are liable to be redeemed upon repayment. And, to speak truth; coming, like an honest debtor, disposed to clear off my obligations of every kind, I have brought here a few sumpter mules loaded with silver for the redemption -- enough to maintain even your princely and royal establishment, fair cousin, for the space of three years."

"I will not receive a penny of it," said the Duke, twirling his mustaches -- "the day of redemption is past, my royal cousin; nor were there ever serious purpose that the right should be exercised, the cession of these towns being the sole recompense my father ever received from France, when, in a happy hour for your family, he consented to forget the murder of my grandfather, and to exchange the alliance of England for that of your father. Saint George! if he had not so acted, your royal self, far from having towns in the Somme, could scarce have kept those beyond the Loire. No -- I will not render a stone of them, were I to receive for every stone so rendered its weight in gold. I thank God, and the wisdom and valour of my ancestors, that the revenues of Burgundy, though it be a duchy, will maintain my state, even when a King is my guest, without obliging me to barter my heritage."

"Well, fair cousin," answered the King, with the same mild and placid manner as before, and unperturbed by the loud tone and violent gestures of the Duke, "I see that you are so good a friend to France that you are unwilling to part with aught that belongs to her. But we shall need some moderator in those affairs when we come to treat of them in council. -- What say you to Saint Paul?"

"Neither Saint Paul, nor Saint Peter, nor e'er a Saint in the Calendar," said the Duke of Burgundy, "shall preach me out of the possession of Peronne."

"Nay, but you mistake me," said King Louis, smiling; "I mean Louis de Luxembourg, our trusty constable, the Count of Saint Paul. -- Ah! Saint Mary of Embrun! we lack but his head at our conference! the best head in France, and the most useful to the restoration of perfect harmony betwixt us."

"By Saint George of Burgundy!" said the Duke, "I marvel to hear your Majesty talk thus of a man, false and perjured, both to France and Burgundy -- one who hath ever endeavoured to fan into a flame our frequent differences, and that with the purpose of giving himself the airs of a mediator. I swear by the Order I wear that his marshes shall not be long a resource for him!"

"Be not so warm, cousin," said the King, smiling, and speaking under his breath; "when I wished for the head constable, as a means of ending the settlement of our trifling differences, I had no desire for his body, which might remain at Saint Quentin's with much convenience."

"Ho! ho! I take your meaning, my royal cousin," said Charles, with the same dissonant laugh which some other of the King's coarse pleasantries had extorted; and added, stamping his heel on the ground, "I allow, in that sense, the head of the Constable might be useful at Peronne."

These, and other discourses, by which the King mixed hints at serious affairs amid matters of mirth and amusement, did not follow each other consecutively; but were adroitly introduced during the time of the banquet at the Hotel de Ville, during a subsequent interview in the Duke's own apartments, and, in short, as occasion seemed to render the introduction of such delicate subjects easy and natural.

Indeed, however rashly Louis had placed himself in a risk which the Duke's fiery temper and the mutual subjects of exasperated enmity which subsisted betwixt them rendered of doubtful and perilous issue, never pilot on an unknown coast conducted himself with more firmness and prudence. He seemed to sound with the utmost address and precision the depths and shallows of his rival's mind and temper, and manifested neither doubt nor fear when the result of his experiments discovered much more of sunken rocks and of dangerous shoals than of safe anchorage.

At length a day closed which must have been a wearisome one to Louis, from the constant exertion, vigilance, precaution, and attention which his situation required, as it was a day of constraint to the Duke, from the necessity of suppressing the violent feelings to which he was in the general habit of giving uncontrolled vent.

No sooner had the latter retired into his own apartment, after he had taken a formal leave of the King for the night, than he gave way to the explosion of passion which he had so long suppressed; and many an oath and abusive epithet, as his jester, Le Glorieux said, "fell that night upon heads which they were never coined for," his domestics reaping the benefit of that hoard of injurious language which he could not in decency bestow on his royal guest, even in his absence, and which was yet become too great to be altogether suppressed. The jests of the clown had some effect in tranquillizing the Duke's angry mood -- he laughed loudly, threw the jester a piece of gold, caused himself to be disrobed in tranquillity, swallowed a deep cup of wine and spices, went to bed, and slept soundly.

The couchee of King Louis is more worthy of notice than that of Charles; for the violent expression of exasperated and headlong passion, as indeed it belongs more to the brutal than the intelligent part of our nature, has little to interest us, in comparison to the deep workings of a vigorous and powerful mind.

Louis was escorted to the lodgings he had chosen in the Castle, or Citadel of Peronne, by the Chamberlains and harbingers of the Duke of Burgundy, and received at the entrance by a strong guard of archers and men at arms.

As he descended from his horse to cross the drawbridge, over a moat of unusual width and depth, he looked on the sentinels, and observed to Comines, who accompanied him, with other Burgundian nobles, "They wear Saint Andrew's crosses -- but not those of my Scottish Archers."

"You will find them as ready to die in your defence, Sire," said the Burgundian, whose sagacious ear had detected in the King's tone of speech a feeling which doubtless Louis would have concealed if he could. "They wear the Saint Andrew's Cross as the appendage of the collar of the Golden Fleece, my master the Duke of Burgundy's Order."

"Do I not know it?" said Louis, showing the collar which he himself wore in compliment to his host. "It is one of the dear bonds of fraternity which exist between my kind brother and myself. We are brothers in chivalry, as in spiritual relationship; cousins by birth, and friends by every tie of kind feeling and good neighbourhood. -- No farther than the base court, my noble lords and gentlemen! I can permit your attendance no farther -- you have done me enough of grace."

"We were charged by the Duke," said D'Hymbercourt, "to bring your Majesty to your lodging. -- We trust your Majesty will permit us to obey our master's command."

"In this small matter," said the King, "I trust you will allow my command to outweigh his, even with you his liege subjects. -- I am something indisposed, my lords -- something fatigued. Great pleasure hath its toils, as well as great pain. I trust to enjoy your society better tomorrow. -- And yours, too, Seignior Philip of Comines -- I am told you are the annalist of the time -- we that desire to have a name in history must speak you fair, for men say your pen hath a sharp point, when you will. -- Goodnight, my lords and gentles, to all and each of you."

The Lords of Burgundy retired, much pleased with the grace of Louis's manner, and the artful distribution of his attentions; and the King was left with only one or two of his own personal followers, under the archway of the base court of the Castle of Peronne, looking on the huge tower which occupied one of the angles, being in fact the Donjon, or principal Keep, of the palace. This tall, dark, massive building was seen clearly by the same moon which was lighting Quentin Durward betwixt Charleroi and Peronne, which, as the reader is aware, shone with peculiar lustre. The great Keep was in form nearly resembling the White Tower in the Citadel of London, but still more ancient in its architecture, deriving its date, as was affirmed, from the days of Charlemagne. The walls were of a tremendous thickness, the windows very small, and grated with bars of iron, and the huge clumsy bulk of the building cast a dark and portentous shadow over the whole of the courtyard.

"I am not to be lodged there," the King said, with a shudder that had something in it ominous.

"No," replied the gray headed seneschal, who attended upon him unbonneted. "God forbid! -- Your Majesty's apartments are prepared in these lower buildings which are hard by, and in which King John slept two nights before the battle of Poitiers."

"Hum -- that is no lucky omen neither," muttered the King; "but what of the Tower, my old friend? and why should you desire of Heaven that I may not be there lodged?"

"Nay, my gracious Liege," said the seneschal, "I know no evil of the Tower at all, only that the sentinels say lights are seen, and strange noises heard in it at night; and there are reasons why that may be the case, for anciently it was used as a state prison, and there are many tales of deeds which have been done in it."

Louis asked no further questions; for no man was more bound than he to respect the secrets of a prison house. At the door of the apartments destined for his use, which, though of later date than the Tower, were still both ancient and gloomy, stood a small party of the Scottish Guard, which the Duke, although he declined to concede the point to Louis, had ordered to be introduced, so as to be near the person of their master. The faithful Lord Crawford was at their head.

"Crawford -- my honest and faithful Crawford," said the King, "where hast thou been today? -- Are the Lords of Burgundy so inhospitable as to neglect one of the bravest and most noble gentlemen that ever trode a court? -- I saw you not at the banquet."

"I declined it, my Liege," said Crawford, "times are changed with me. The day has been that I could have ventured a carouse with the best man in Burgundy and that in the juice of his own grape; but a matter of four pints now flusters me, and I think it concerns your Majesty's service to set in this an example to my gallants."

"Thou art ever prudent," said the King, "but surely your toil is the less when you have so few men to command? -- and a time of festivity requires not so severe self denial on your part as a time of danger."

"If I have few men to command," said Crawford, "I have the more need to keep the knaves in fitting condition; and whether this business be like to end in feasting or fighting, God and your Majesty know better than old John of Crawford."

"You surely do not apprehend any danger?" said the King hastily, yet in a whisper.

"Not I," answered Crawford; "I wish I did; for, as old Earl Tineman (an Earl of Douglas, so called. S.) used to say, apprehended dangers may be always defended dangers. -- The word for the night, if your Majesty pleases?"

"Let it be Burgundy, in honour of our host and of a liquor that you love, Crawford."

"I will quarrel with neither Duke nor drink, so called," said Crawford, "provided always that both be sound. A good night to your Majesty!"

"A good night, my trusty Scot," said the King, and passed on to his apartments.

At the door of his bedroom Le Balafre was placed sentinel. "Follow me hither," said the King, as he passed him; and the Archer accordingly, like a piece of machinery put into motion by an artist, strode after him into the apartment, and remained there fixed, silent, and motionless, attending the royal command.

"Have you heard from that wandering Paladin, your nephew?" said the King; "for he hath been lost to us, since, like a young knight who had set out upon his first adventures, he sent us home two prisoners as the first fruits of his chivalry."

"My Lord, I heard something of that," said Balafre, "and I hope your Majesty will believe that if he acted wrongfully, it was in no shape by any precept or example, since I never was so bold as to unhorse any of your Majesty's most illustrious house, better knowing my own condition, and --"

"Be silent on that point," said the King; "your nephew did his duty in the matter."

"There indeed," continued Balafre, "he had the cue from me. -- 'Quentin,' said I to him, 'whatever comes of it, remember you belong to the Scottish Archer Guard, and do your duty whatever comes on't.'"

"I guess he had some such exquisite instructor," said Louis; "but it concerns me that you answer me my first question. -- Have you heard of your nephew of late? -- Stand aback, my masters," he added, addressing the gentlemen of his chamber, "for this concerneth no ears but mine."

"Surely, please your Majesty," said Balafre, "I have seen this very evening the groom Charlot, whom my kinsman dispatched from Liege, or some castle of the Bishop's which is near it, and where he hath lodged the Ladies of Croye in safety."

"Now Our Lady of Heaven be praised for it!" said the King. "Art thou sure of it? -- sure of the good news?"

"As sure as I can be of aught," said Le Balafre, "the fellow, I think, hath letters for your Majesty from the Ladies of Croye."

"Haste to get them," said the King. "Give the harquebuss to one of these knaves -- to Oliver -- to any one. Now Our Lady of Embrun be praised! and silver shall be the screen that surrounds her high altar!"

Louis, in this fit of gratitude and devotion, doffed, as usual, his hat, selected from the figures with which it was garnished that which represented his favourite image of the Virgin, placed it on a table, and, kneeling down, repeated reverently the vow he had made.

The groom, being the first messenger whom Durward had despatched from Schonwaldt, was now introduced with his letters. They were addressed to the King by the Ladies of Croye, and barely thanked him in very cold terms for his courtesy while at his Court, and something more warmly for having permitted them to retire and sent them in safety from his dominions; expressions at which Louis laughed very heartily, instead of resenting them. He then demanded of Charlot, with obvious interest, whether they had not sustained some alarm or attack upon the road? Charlot, a stupid fellow, and selected for that quality, gave a very confused account of the affray in which his companion, the Gascon, had been killed, but knew of no other. Again Louis demanded of him, minutely and particularly, the route which the party had taken to Liege; and seemed much interested when he was informed, in reply, that they had, upon approaching Namur, kept the more direct road to Liege, upon the right bank of the Maes, instead of the left bank, as recommended in their route. The King then ordered the man a small present, and dismissed him, disguising the anxiety he had expressed as if it only concerned the safety of the Ladies of Croye.

Yet the news, though they implied the failure of one of his own favourite plans, seemed to imply more internal satisfaction on the King's part than he would have probably indicated in a case of brilliant success. He sighed like one whose breast has been relieved from a heavy burden, muttered his devotional acknowledgments with an air of deep sanctity, raised up his eyes, and hastened to adjust newer and surer schemes of ambition.

With such purpose, Louis ordered the attendance of his astrologer, Martius Galeotti, who appeared with his usual air of assumed dignity, yet not without a shade of uncertainty on his brow, as if he had doubted the King's kind reception. It was, however, favourable, even beyond the warmest which he had ever met with at any former interview. Louis termed him his friend, his father in the sciences -- the glass by which a king should look into distant futurity -- and concluded by thrusting on his finger a ring of very considerable value. Galeotti, not aware of the circumstances which had thus suddenly raised his character in the estimation of Louis, yet understood his own profession too well to let that ignorance be seen. He received with grave modesty the praises of Louis, which he contended were only due to the nobleness of the science which he practised, a science the rather the more deserving of admiration on account of its working miracles through means of so feeble an agent as himself; and he and the King took leave, for once much satisfied with each other.

On the Astrologer's departure, Louis threw himself into a chair, and appearing much exhausted, dismissed the rest of his attendants, excepting Oliver alone, who, creeping around with gentle assiduity and noiseless step, assisted him in the task of preparing for repose.

While he received this assistance, the King, unlike to his wont, was so silent and passive, that his attendant was struck by the unusual change in his deportment. The worst minds have often something of good principle in them -- banditti show fidelity to their captain, and sometimes a protected and promoted favourite has felt a gleam of sincere interest in the monarch to whom he owed his greatness. Oliver le Diable, le Mauvais (or by whatever other name he was called expressive of his evil propensities), was, nevertheless, scarcely so completely identified with Satan as not to feel some touch of grateful feeling for his master in this singular condition, when, as it seemed, his fate was deeply interested and his strength seemed to be exhausted. After for a short time rendering to the King in silence the usual services paid by a servant to his master at the toilette, the attendant was at length tempted to say, with the freedom which his Sovereign's indulgence had permitted him in such circumstances, "Tete dieu, Sire, you seem as if you had lost a battle; and yet I, who was near your Majesty during this whole day, never knew you fight a field so gallantly."

"A field!" said King Louis, looking up, and assuming his wonted causticity of tone and manner. "Pasques dieu, my friend Oliver, say I have kept the arena in a bullfight; for a blinder, and more stubborn, untameable, uncontrollable brute than our cousin of Burgundy never existed, save in the shape of a Murcian bull, trained for the bull feasts. -- Well, let it pass -- I dodged him bravely. But, Oliver, rejoice with me that my plans in Flanders have not taken effect, whether as concerning those two rambling Princesses of Croye, or in Liege -- you understand me?"

"In faith, I do not, Sire," replied Oliver; "it is impossible for me to congratulate your Majesty on the failure of your favourite schemes, unless you tell me some reason for the change in your own wishes and views."

"Nay," answered the King, "there is no change in either, in a general view. But, Pasques dieu, my friend, I have this day learned more of Duke Charles than I before knew. When he was Count de Charalois, in the time of the old Duke Philip and the banished Dauphin of France, we drank, and hunted, and rambled together -- and many a wild adventure we have had. And in those days I had a decided advantage over him -- like that which a strong spirit naturally assumes over a weak one. But he has since changed -- has become a dogged, daring, assuming, disputatious dogmatist, who nourishes an obvious wish to drive matters to extremities, while he thinks he has the game in his own hands. I was compelled to glide as gently away from each offensive topic, as if I touched red hot iron. I did but hint at the possibility of those erratic Countesses of Croye, ere they attained Liege (for thither I frankly confessed that, to the best of my belief, they were gone), falling into the hands of some wild snapper upon the frontiers, and, Pasques dieu! you would have thought I had spoken of sacrilege. It is needless to tell you what he said, and quite enough to say that I would have held my head's safety very insecure, if, in that moment, accounts had been brought of the success of thy friend, William with the Beard, in his and thy honest scheme of bettering himself by marriage."

"No friend of mine, if it please your Majesty," said Oliver, "neither friend nor plan of mine."

"True, Oliver," answered the King; "thy plan had not been to wed, but to shave such a bridegroom. Well, thou didst wish her as bad a one, when thou didst modestly hint at thyself. However, Oliver, lucky the man who has her not; for hang, draw, and quarter were the most gentle words which my gentle cousin spoke of him who should wed the young Countess, his vassal, without his most ducal permission."

"And he is, doubtless, as jealous of any disturbances in the good town of Liege?" asked the favourite.

"As much, or much more," replied the King, "as your understanding may easily anticipate; but, ever since I resolved on coming hither, my messengers have been in Liege to repress, for the present, every movement to insurrection; and my very busy and bustling friends, Rousalaer and Pavillon, have orders to be quiet as a mouse until this happy meeting between my cousin and me is over."

"Judging, then, from your Majesty's account," said Oliver dryly, "the utmost to be hoped from this meeting is that it should not make your condition worse -- Surely this is like the crane that thrust her head into the fox's mouth, and was glad to thank her good fortune that it was not bitten off. Yet your Majesty seemed deeply obliged even now to the sage philosopher who encouraged you to play so hopeful a game."

"No game," said the King sharply, "is to be despaired of until it is lost, and that I have no reason to expect it will be in my own case. On the contrary, if nothing occurs to stir the rage of this vindictive madman, I am sure of victory; and surely, I am not a little obliged to the skill which selected for my agent, as the conductor of the Ladies of Croye, a youth whose horoscope so far corresponded with mine that he hath saved me from danger, even by the disobedience of my own commands, and taking the route which avoided De la Marck's ambuscade."

"Your Majesty," said Oliver, "may find many agents who will serve you on the terms of acting rather after their own pleasure than your instructions."

"Nay, nay, Oliver," said Louis impatiently, "the heathen poet speaks of Vota diis exaudita malignis, -- wishes, that is, which the saints grant to us in their wrath; and such, in the circumstances, would have been the success of William de la Marck's exploit, had it taken place about this time, and while I am in the power of this Duke of Burgundy. -- And this my own art foresaw -- fortified by that of Galeotti -- that is, I foresaw not the miscarriage of De la Marck's undertaking, but I foresaw that the expedition of yonder Scottish Archer should end happily for me -- and such has been the issue, though in a manner different from what I expected; for the stars, though they foretell general results, are yet silent on the means by which such are accomplished, being often the very reverse of what we expect, or even desire. -- But why talk I of these mysteries to thee, Oliver, who art in so far worse than the very devil, who is thy namesake, since he believes and trembles; whereas thou art an infidel both to religion and to science, and wilt remain so till thine own destiny is accomplished, which as thy horoscope and physiognomy alike assure me, will be by the intervention of the gallows!"

"And if it indeed shall be so," said Oliver, in a resigned tone of voice, "it will be so ordered, because I was too grateful a servant to hesitate at executing the commands of my royal master."

Louis burst into his usual sardonic laugh. -- "Thou hast broke thy lance on me fairly, Oliver; and by Our Lady thou art right, for I defied thee to it. But, prithee, tell me in sadness, dost thou discover anything in these measures towards us which may argue any suspicion of ill usage?"

"My Liege," replied Oliver, "your Majesty and yonder learned philosopher look for augury to the stars and heavenly host -- I am an earthly reptile, and consider but the things connected with my vocation. But methinks there is a lack of that earnest and precise attention on your Majesty which men show to a welcome guest of a degree so far above them. The Duke tonight pleaded weariness, and saw your Majesty not farther than to the street, leaving to the officers of his household the task of conveying you to your lodgings. The rooms here are hastily and carelessly fitted up -- the tapestry is hung up awry -- and, in one of the pieces, as you may observe, the figures are reversed and stand on their heads, while the trees grow with their roots uppermost."

"Pshaw! accident, and the effect of hurry," said the King. "When did you ever know me concerned about such trifles as these?"

"Not on their own account are they worth notice," said Oliver; "but as intimating the degree of esteem in which the officers of the Duke's household observe your Grace to be held by him. Believe me, that, had his desire seemed sincere that your reception should be in all points marked by scrupulous attention, the zeal of his people would have made minutes do the work of days. -- And when," he added, pointing to the basin and ewer, "was the furniture of your Majesty's toilette of other substance than silver?"

"Nay," said the King, with a constrained smile, "that last remark upon the shaving utensils, Oliver, is too much in the style of thine own peculiar occupation to be combated by any one. -- True it is, that when I was only a refugee, and an exile, I was served upon gold plate by order of the same Charles, who accounted silver too mean for the Dauphin, though he seems to hold that metal too rich for the King of France. Well, Oliver, we will to bed. -- Our resolution has been made and executed; there is nothing to be done, but to play manfully the game on which we have entered. I know that my cousin of Burgundy, like other wild bulls, shuts his eyes when he begins his career. I have but to watch that moment, like one of the tauridors (Spanish bull fighters) whom we saw at Burgos, and his impetuosity places him at my mercy."

占星术家满可以把君王的会见

比作土星与火星相遇——

是个充满了凶兆和不吉祥的缘会。

《古老的戏剧》

人们很难判断,究竟这是君王地位的一种权利,还是一种惩罚:在他们的交往中,要求他们考虑自己的地位和尊严,按照严格的礼节来克制自己的感情和表现。这种礼节不容许激烈和公开地表露感情。要不是大家都知道这种外表的客气不过是礼貌的要求,那简直可以认为它是最大的虚伪。但同样肯定的是,逾越了礼貌的范围来直接发泄愤怒,就会在全世界面前有损他们的尊严。这一点在两位地位显赫的对手——法兰西斯第一和查尔斯皇帝的交锋当中表现得尤为突出,因为当时他们都彼此揭露对方,并要求通过单枪匹马的搏斗来解决他们的分歧。

勃艮第·查尔斯,这位当代最急躁、最莽撞、最粗心的君王,面对着作为其宗主要求给与他尊敬的路易王,也觉得有一种魔术般的力量使他感到拘束;何况路易通过他的登门拜访又给了他这个国王的藩属一种莫大的荣誉。他穿着公爵的礼服,在大臣们和显要的骑士贵族们的簇拥下,以雄壮的马队开道,前去迎接路易十一。他的随行人员简直满身都是耀眼的金银装饰。这说明在当时英国宫廷由于玫瑰战争被弄得财源枯竭,法国宫廷也由于国王的俭省而励行节约的情况下,勃艮第的宫廷的确是最富有、最阔气的一个。路易的随从则正好相反,人数极少,外表也颇为寒伧。国王本人穿着破旧的披风,戴着他那顶插满了偶像的高顶旧帽,对比更加鲜明。当头戴冠冕、身穿富丽礼服的公爵跃下高头大马,一只脚跪着握住马镫,好让路易王从他那匹走路慢悠悠的小马身上爬下来时,这一对比简直使人感到滑稽。

两位元首的彼此问候表面上当然显得非常亲切有礼,但骨子里却完全缺乏诚意。不过,公爵的性格使得他在声调、语言和举止方面保持必要的体面就困难得多。而作为虚伪典型的路易工则看来十分得心应手,使得最熟悉他的人也感到他这些表现真假难辨。

如果不必担心有损于两位崇高元首的形象的话,那么最确切的比喻莫过于把路易王看作一个完全熟悉犬类习性的陌生人,由于某种原因很想和一只对他抱有怀疑、并一当他显示出胆怯或怨恨便会扑上去咬他的猛犬交交朋友。这猛犬暗自发怒,正张牙咧嘴,竖起硬毛,但又不好意思向那显得和蔼可亲、十分信赖他的不速之客扑将过去。因此猛犬只好忍受一下这丝毫不能使他息怒的友好表示,随时等待着一出现他自认为有理可凭的机会,便跳过去咬住这位朋友的喉咙。

路易工看到公爵态度拘束,手势唐突,声调也不自然,肯定意识到他所表演的这出戏很棘手,也许他已不止一次后悔,不该这么弄巧成拙。但后悔已无济于事,剩下的法宝就是路易王对待任何人都善于玩弄的那一套耍手腕的独特本领。

路易王对待公爵的态度简直就如同向一位受尊敬的、久经考验的朋友寻求真诚的谅解那样推心置腹;仿佛只是暂时的因素使得他们疏远,但这些因素已成为过去,而一旦消失,也就很快被遗忘。路易王责怪自己没有更早地采取这一决定性的步骤,以便通过他目前表现的这种信赖来说服他善良可亲的堂弟:每当他想起在他冒犯父王、逃离法国的期间,他在勃艮第所受到的礼遇,他就觉得他们之间出现过的争执与不和简直不足挂齿。他还谈到善良的勃艮第公爵(这是当时人们对查尔斯公爵的父亲菲利普的称呼),并回忆起他那慈父般体贴的种种表现。

“堂弟,”他说道,“在我看来,你父亲对待你和我完全没有两样。我还记得,有一次打猎我偶然迷了路,后来我碰巧看到善良的公爵正在责备你,不该把我一个人留在森林里,仿佛是你忽视了当哥哥的人身安全。”

勃艮第公爵的面容生来就显得严酷,当他为了表示他同意国王说的是实话而客气地微笑时,看起来就更像是一副可怕的鬼脸。

“这天字第一号的伪君子,”他内心里暗自说道,“但愿不损我的荣誉我能提醒你,你是怎样报答我们家族给你的好处的!”

“再说,”国王继续讲道,“要是血缘和感激的纽带还不足以把我们系在一起的话,我们还有精神形成的纽带。我是你女儿玛丽的教父。我把她视如己出。当圣徒们(愿他们神圣的名字得福吧!)送给我一个花朵般的小女娃——但不幸在三个月之内就夭折了——正是你父亲抱着她在圣水盆前进行的施洗礼。其富贵荣华的场面真是使巴黎也望洋兴叹。我永远也忘不了菲利普公爵以及你个人的慷慨。在我这可怜的流亡者破碎的心灵上这些都留下了不可磨灭的印象!”

“陛下,”公爵勉强应付地说道,“您当时用来感谢这件小事所用的言辞真是大大超过了勃艮第为了报答您对其君主给予的荣幸所提供的喜庆安排。”

“亲爱的堂弟,我还记得你所指的那句话,”国王微笑地说道,“我想这句话说的是:我这可怜的流浪人,惟有我与我妻子和我孩子的人身可以奉献,来报答这天给予我的恩惠。好吧,我想我现在已经相当忠实地兑现了我说的这句话。”

“我并不是想对陛下乐意讲到的东西表示怀疑,”公爵说道,“不过——”

“不过,你是想问,”国王打断他说,“我的言行是否相符。好,你听我说吧:我的婴儿若阿香是安葬在勃艮第土地上。我自己的人身安全我今早已无保留地置于你的支配之下。至于说我妻子的人身——老弟呀,既然过了这么多年了,我想你未必坚持要我在那个细节上履行我的诺言了。她是在大约五十年前的一个圣母报喜日出生的。”(接着他划了个十字,喃喃地念了一通“为我祈祷”)“不过,她人也就在兰斯,如果你硬要我一字不差地兑现我的诺言,那她可以马上来这儿听你支配。”

看到路易王对他赤裸裸地采用一种友好亲热的腔调,勃艮第公爵固然感到很生气,但对这个不拘一格的君主这种离奇古怪的回答也不禁哈哈大笑。这笑声也和他平常那种激动而唐突的说话声音一样地刺耳,而且时间之长、声音之大,也超过了当时,甚至现在,人们认为时间和场合所能容许的限度。最后他才以同样的腔调率直地表示,他谢绝皇后做伴的美意,但愿意接受姿色出众的路易王的长女做伴。

“老弟呀,我真高兴,”国王带着他经常使用的一种暧昧的微笑说道,“你幸好没有看中我的幼女让娜公主。否则我就得在你和我侄儿奥尔良之间安排一次决斗。要是结果不妙,无论在哪一方我都会失去一个至亲好友。”

“国王陛下,您可别这么说,”查尔斯公爵讲道,“我不会妨碍奥尔良公爵所选定的这条爱情的道路。我要和奥尔良决斗总得有个漂亮而正直的理由。”

对让娜公主生理缺陷的这一粗鲁无礼的暗示,路易王丝毫不见怪。相反,他颇为高兴地看到,公爵乐意开开他本人也很擅长的那种粗俗的玩笑。这样就可以(按照现代人的话来说)免掉许多感情上的虚伪。因此他很快改变他们谈话的气氛,从而使得查尔斯虽不能对他的这位君主扮演一个忘却宿怨的好朋友角色——因为他经常吃到国王的苦头,而且目前也十分怀疑他的诚意——但不难扮演一个开心地接待滑稽来客的东道主角色。这样一来,彼此缺乏善意的这一情况就通过两个酒肉朋友之间那种嬉笑取乐的气氛得到了弥补。这种气氛对于公爵固然相宜,而对于路易王也很合适,因为前者性格坦率,甚至粗犷,而后者虽然善于逢场作戏,应付各种社交场合,但对于思想粗俗、言词幽默和讥消的场合则最能得心应手。

两位君王在佩隆市政厅的宴会上幸好都能维持这种性质的谈话。这样,双方都无须针锋相对。路易王自然也看出,这种谈话最能使勃艮第公爵保持一种对他个人安全颇有必要的心平气和状态。

但他不安地注意到,公爵周围有几个地位很高、很受信任和握有实权的法国贵族都是由于他自己的苛刻和不义而被迫流亡的。正是为了免遭他们的忿懑和报复,他才(正如上面提到的)要求住在佩隆的城堡里,而不愿住在城里。查尔斯公爵带着苦笑——一种说不出是凶是吉的苦笑,立刻同意了他的要求。

路易王用他认为最能避免怀疑的方式尽可能巧妙地询问道,他在佩隆逗留期间可否让他的苏格兰卫士守卫城堡,而不是像公爵提出的守卫城门。话刚说完,查尔斯便按他说话时的习惯,捻捻胡须,摸摸刀(还把刀抽出一截,再往鞘里一推),从而使他回答这问题时的严厉声调和唐突态度更显得令人惊惶不安。他说道:“圣马丁在上!陛下,这可不行。您现在是置身于您的藩属——人们都称我是您的藩属——的营垒和城镇里。我的城堡和城镇都是您的,我的人马也是您的。所以,究竟是由我的武士还是由您的苏格兰卫士来守卫城门或城堡,我看都是一样。不行,圣乔治在上!佩隆这个堡垒就像个处女,不能由于我的任何疏忽而使她失去贞洁的名声。我的国王陛下,要是我们想让处女继续享有好的名声,我们就得小心地守护她。”

“那当然。好堂弟,我完全同意你的看法,”国王说道,“因为事实上我比你更关心这个小城镇的名声——好堂弟,正如你所知道的,佩隆是索姆河的一个沿江城镇,本是典押给你已故的父亲的。因此,只要偿还债务就可以把它赎回。说实话,我作为一个诚实的欠债者到这儿来,正是想还清各种积债。我已经带来几匹骡子驮载的金银作为索回这个城镇的赎金——好堂弟,足够你开销三年的王室费用哩。”

“我分文不收,”公爵捻捻胡子说道,“我的陛下,赎期早就过了。再说,行使这个权利也没有多大的道理,因为,你们割让这几个城镇是我父亲(你们全家应感谢这个幸运)同意忘却杀害我祖父的宿怨,不与英国结盟,而与你父亲结盟,从法国获得的惟一报酬。圣乔治在上!要是他没这样做,别说陛下得不到索姆河上的这几个城镇,就连卢瓦尔河那边的也休想保住。不——即使你拿等重的黄金来交换石头,我也绝不交出一块石头。感谢上帝,感谢我祖先的智慧和勇敢,尽管勃艮第只不过是个小小的公国,但其收入也够满足我的国务需要。即使是一个国王来做客,我也不必出卖祖宗的遗产来维持我这东道主的体面。”

“得了,好堂弟,”国王丝毫不为公爵的疾言厉色所动,和先前一样心平气和地对答道,“我看你对法国太友好,对属于她的任何东西都爱不释手了。不过,在我们正式谈判它们的归属时得有个仲裁人,你看‘圣保罗’如何?”

“不管是圣保罗、圣彼得,还是日历上的任何一个圣徒,都不可能劝说我让出佩隆。”勃艮第公爵说道。

“唉,你没听懂我的意思,”路易王微笑着说道,“我指的是卢森堡的路易,我忠实的总督——圣保罗伯爵。嘿,昂布伦的圣马利亚呀!我们谈判时差的就是他的头脑!法国最好的头脑,也是最有助于恢复我们之间和睦的头脑。”

“勃艮第的圣乔治在上!”公爵说道,“听到陛下如此夸奖对法国和勃艮第都不忠不义的这个人物,真令我吃惊。要知道,这人一直在企图利用我们常有的分歧煽风点火,好让自己能以一个仲裁人的姿态出现。我凭着我佩戴的徽章发誓,他不可能长期凭借他的沼泽地作威作福!”

“堂弟,别生气嘛!”国王微笑地低声说道,“我说的是我希望得到这位总督的脑袋来解决我们之间的微小分歧,而不是希望得到他的躯体。至于他的躯体么,就不如让他留在圣昆丁教堂更合适。”

“嗬!嗬!陛下,我算懂得你的意思了。”查尔斯大声笑道,也和听到路易王先前的俏皮话时的反应一样,笑声十分刺耳。接着他又顿着脚补充说:“就这个意义上讲,我倒承认这位总督的脑袋可能对佩隆有好处。”

路易王通过嬉笑打趣来暗示他心目中的重要问题的这类谈话并不是连续进行的,而是在佩隆宾馆举行的宴会上,以及后来去公爵宅邸拜会他时,巧妙地安排好的。总之,他是根据情况和时机来提出这些棘手的问题,以便做起来显得既平易又自然。

虽然公爵的暴躁性格和他们之间存在着的互抱敌意的问题使得路易这次轻率的冒险可能造成的结局危机四伏,颇堪虞虑,但从来还没有哪个舵手来到了情况不明的海岸之后,表现得像他那样坚定沉着。他似乎极其灵巧而准确地探察着他对手的思想和性格中的深水和浅滩。当他探察出更多的暗礁和险滩,发现无法安全停泊时,他也不表露出疑虑和恐惧。

最后,这一天总算结束了。这肯定是使路易感到困倦的一天,因为客观情况要求他无时不在活动,无时不在保持警惕、严加防范和提高注意。对于公爵来说,这同样是使他感到很大约束的一天,因为他不得不压抑他一贯喜欢发泄的强烈感情。

公爵和国王按礼节互道晚安之后,一回到自己的卧室便让他那压抑了很久的愤怒暴发出来。正如他的弄臣勒格洛里尔所说的那样,许多咒语和不雅的称呼都“落到了无辜者的头上”。压在心头的那一大堆咒语——即使国王不在场也碍于体面无法奉送,但又多得难以忍受——只好端出来让仆人消受。弄臣的打趣稍稍平息了公爵的愤怒心情。他大声笑了起来,并扔给弄臣一枚金币作为赏钱,然后静静地脱掉衣服,喝了一大杯加香料的葡萄酒,一触枕头便立刻酣然入侵。

路易王的睡眠情况要比查尔斯的更值得玩味,因为激烈而莽撞的感情不是人的智能表现,而更接近于人的动物本能,远不如一个有能量的活跃心灵的深思熟虑那样有趣。

路易在勃艮第公爵的宫廷总管和礼宾官的护送下来到自己选定的佩隆城堡内的住地,在大门口受到一大队射手和武士的迎接。

当他从马上下来,走过那架在既深且宽的护城河上的吊桥时,他望望哨兵,然后对陪同他的勃艮第贵族贡明说:“他们都戴着圣安德鲁十字——但不是我的苏格兰射手带的那种。”

“陛下,您将发现他们同样勇于为保卫您而牺牲,”那勃艮第人说道,他那聪敏的耳朵听出国王的声调中有一种他无疑想尽量掩饰的感情,“他们佩戴圣安德鲁十字作为我主人勃艮第公爵的徽记——金羊毛领章的附属装饰。”

“难道我还不知道?”路易说道,一边露出他自己为了向东道主表示敬意亲自佩戴的领章,“这是我的好堂弟和我之间联系兄弟情谊的一个纽带。论骑士派别和精神关系我们是兄弟。就家庭出生我们是堂兄弟,而就各种友好感情和睦邻关系的纽带来讲,我们也都是朋友。高贵的绅士们,送到这个院子为止吧!我不许你们再往前送了——你们对我已经够客气了。”

“公爵嘱咐我们,”丹伯古说,“要把陛下一直送到住地。我们相信陛下会准许我们忠实地执行主人的命令。”

“在这样一件小事情上,”国王说道,“我想你们这些臣仆总会把国王的命令摆在公爵的命令之上吧。我有点不舒服——有点疲倦。巨大的喜悦也像巨大的痛苦一样需要付出代价。我想你们最好明天再来陪我——你也一样,菲利普·贡明先生——听说你是当代的史臣。我们想青史留名就得在你面前说说好话。人们说,只要你愿意,你可以把文章写得很尖刻。再见吧,绅士们、贵族们,我向你们大家问晚安。”

勃艮第贵族们便就此告辞。大家对路易王的优雅态度和给每个人表示应有的礼貌的巧妙方式都很满意。这时只有国王和一两个随从留下来,站在佩隆城堡内院的拱门下面,仰望着那占据了一个角落的巨塔——实际上是城堡的主楼。这正是昆丁·达威特从沙勒罗瓦到佩隆的那个月色特别明亮的夜晚(也许读者还记得)在远处清楚看到的黑影憧憧的高大建筑物。这个庞大的主楼外形很像伦敦城堡内的“白塔”,但建筑式样更为古老,据说其修建的年代可以远溯到查里曼时代。这主楼墙壁极厚,窗子很小,上面安有铁栅。塔楼那庞大而笨拙的塔身投下的阴森可怕的黑影笼罩着整个庭院。

“我才不住那儿。”国王似感不吉,颤栗着说道。

“当然不能住那儿,”那个陪伴国王、没带帽子的白发』总管对答说,“上帝不容!陛下的卧室竟坐落在这些低矮的陋室里。约翰王在普瓦克蒂埃战役以前还在那儿睡过两晚哩。”

“哼!这也不是什么吉兆,”国王喃喃说道,“不过,老伙计,那个高塔有什么问题?为什么你求老天爷不要让我住在那儿?”

“嘿,我的好国王,”总管说道,“我倒不知道那高塔有什么问题——只是哨兵说晚上看见里面有光,还听见有奇怪的响声。这样说也有它的道理,因为古时候这个塔本是个国家监狱,而且里面发生过的事也有许多传说。”

路易不再问下去,因为他比任何人都更有义务保守监狱的秘密。他的住房年代虽没有高塔那么久远,但仍然显得古老而阴暗。门口站着一小队苏格兰卫士。公爵虽然拒绝答应路易王先前那个要求,但还是把这一小队卫士召进来,以便他们能在主人身旁进行警卫。他们的头儿就是忠诚的克劳福德大公。

“克劳福德——我忠实的克劳福德,”国王说道,“今天一整天你都到哪儿去了?难道勃艮第的贵族们这么不好客,甚至把你这个出人宫廷的最勇敢、最高贵的绅士也给忽略了么?在宴会上我没见到你。”

“是我自己谢绝参加的,我的国王,”克劳福德说道,“我已经不像过去了。以前我敢和勃艮第最有海量的人对饮,而且是喝勃艮第葡萄做的酒。但如今只消四品脱就可以使我醉醺醺的了。同时,在这方面给我的部下树个榜样也关系到为陛下尽忠的问题。”

“你总是很谨慎,”国王说道,“不过,你现在要指挥的人不多,你总没有以前那么忙了吧?再说,宴会的时候也不像危险的时刻那样要求严格克制自己。”

“既然我能指挥的人已经很少,我就更有必要叫这些家伙安分守已,”克劳福德说道,“况且,究竟这事将以喜庆结束还是以战斗结束,上帝和陛下肯定要比克劳福德老伙计知道得更清楚。”

“想必你没觉察出什么危险吧?”国王赶紧低声问道。

“没有,”克劳福德回答说,“但愿我能有所觉察,因为,正如泰门老伯爵经常说的,觉察到的危险往往是可以防备的危险。请问陛下,今晚的口令是什么?”

“为了对我们的东道主和你所喜爱的一种名酒表示敬意,就拿‘勃艮第’作今晚的口令吧!”

“我既不想和名叫勃艮第的公爵,也不想和名叫勃艮第的葡萄酒过不去,”克劳福德说道,“只要这两者都有益无害。陛下,再见!”

“再见,我忠实的苏格兰卫队长。”国王说道,接着走进了自己的卧室。

巴拉弗雷在卧室门口站岗。“跟我来。”国王从他身旁经过时对他说道。这位卫士便像工匠开动的机器似的迈着大步跟在后面走进卧室,然后默默地站着不动,听候国王吩咐。

“你那个当上了流浪骑士的外甥有没有消息?”国王说道,“自从这个年轻人首战告捷,把两个俘虏作为他的第一个骑士功勋给我们送回来以后,至今杳无音讯。”

“陛下,那个事我倒是听人说起过,”巴拉弗雷说道,“我希望陛下相信,假如他做错了,这可绝不是按照我的教导和榜样,因为我有自知之明,还从来不敢把最显赫的皇室贵族打下马来。”

“别提那个事了,”国王说道,“你外甥是尽其职责。”

“这下好了,”巴勒弗雷又改口说,“您知道,这是我教他的。‘昆丁,’我对他说,‘不管出了什么事,你得记住你是苏格兰卫队的人,你只管尽你的职责。’”

“我猜想,他准是有你这样一个卓越的老师,”路易说道,“不过,我关心的是你好好回答我的第一个问题——你最近听到你侄儿的消息了吗?先生们,请站过去,”他冲着房间里的其他几位也想听消息的绅士补充说道,“这事只需要我听听就行了。”

“陛下放心,我当然听到了,”巴拉弗雷说道,“今天晚上我还看见那个叫夏洛特的马夫,是我外甥从列日或附近某个城堡派回来的。他说我外甥已把两位克罗伊埃女士平安地送到了目的地。”

“赞美天上的圣母!”国王说道,“你敢肯定吗?肯定这好消息是真的吗?”

“当然敢肯定,”巴拉弗雷说道,“这家伙还带来了两位克罗伊埃仕女给您的信哩。”

“赶快把信取来,”国王说道,“把你的火统枪交给别的伙计吧——交给奥利弗——交给谁都行。感激昂布伦的圣母!我将用银子做个屏风围住她那高高的圣坛!”

在这一阵感激和虔敬心情的驱使下,路易像往常一样脱下他的帽子,从装饰帽子的偶像当中挑出他最喜爱的圣母像,放在桌上,朝它跪了下来,一再虔诚地重复着他许过的愿。

这时,达威特从索恩瓦尔德最先派回来送信的那个马夫拿着信走了进来。信是两位克罗伊埃仕女写给国王的。她们以冷淡的词句感谢他在法国宫廷给与她们的礼遇,但更为热诚地感谢他允许她们离开并安全地把她们护送出境。路易王对这话并不感到生气,而是开心地大笑。然后他显然很关切地问夏洛特,他



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

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

鲁ICP备05031204号