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Chapter 27 The Explosion

'T is listening fear, and dumb amazement all, When to the startled eye, the sudden glance Appears far south, eruptive through the cloud.

THOMSON'S SUMMER

The preceding chapter, agreeably to its title, was designed as a retrospect which might enable the render fully to understand the terms upon which the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy stood together, when the former, moved partly perhaps by his belief in astrology, which was represented as favourable to the issue of such a measure, and in a great measure doubtless by the conscious superiority of his own powers of mind over those of Charles, had adopted the extraordinary, and upon any other ground altogether inexplicable, resolution of committing his person to the faith of a fierce and exasperated enemy -- a resolution also the more rash and unaccountable, as there were various examples in that stormy time to show that safe conducts, however solemnly plighted, had proved no assurance for those in whose favour they were conceived; and indeed the murder of the Duke's grandfather at the Bridge of Montereau, in presence of the father of Louis, and at an interview solemnly agreed upon for the establishment of peace and amnesty, was a horrible precedent, should the Duke be disposed to resort to it.

But the temper of Charles, though rough, fierce, headlong, and unyielding, was not, unless in the full tide of passion, faithless or ungenerous, faults which usually belong to colder dispositions. He was at no pains to show the King more courtesy than the laws of hospitality positively demanded; but, on the other hand, he evinced no purpose of overleaping their sacred barriers.

On the following morning after the King's arrival, there was a general muster of the troops of the Duke of Burgundy, which were so numerous and so excellently appointed, that, perhaps, he was not sorry to have an opportunity of displaying them before his great rival. Indeed, while he paid the necessary compliment of a vassal to his Suzerain, in declaring that these troops were the King's and not his own, the curl of his upper lip and the proud glance of his eye intimated his consciousness that the words he used were but empty compliment, and that his fine army at his own unlimited disposal, was as ready to march against Paris as in any other direction. It must have added to Louis's mortification that he recognised, as forming part of this host, many banners of French nobility, not only of Normandy and Bretagne, but of provinces more immediately subjected to his own authority, who, from various causes of discontent, had joined and made common cause with the Duke of Burgundy.

True to his character, however, Louis seemed to take little notice of these malcontents, while, in fact, he was revolving in his mind the various means by which it might be possible to detach them from the banners of Burgundy and bring them back to his own, and resolved for that purpose that he would cause those to whom he attached the greatest importance to be secretly sounded by Oliver and other agents.

He himself laboured diligently, but at the same time cautiously, to make interest with the Duke's chief officers and advisers, employing for that purpose the usual means of familiar and frequent notice, adroit flattery, and liberal presents; not, as he represented, to alienate their faithful services from their noble master, but that they might lend their aid in preserving peace betwixt France and Burgundy -- an end so excellent in itself, and so obviously tending to the welfare of both countries and of the reigning Princes of either.

The notice of so great and so wise a King was in itself a mighty bribe; promises did much, and direct gifts, which the customs of the time permitted the Burgundian courtiers to accept without scruple, did still more. During a boar hunt in the forest, while the Duke, eager always upon the immediate object, whether business or pleasure, gave himself entirely up to the ardour of the chase, Louis, unrestrained by his presence, sought and found the means of speaking secretly and separately to many of those who were reported to have most interest with Charles, among whom D'Hymbercourt and Comines were not forgotten; nor did he fail to mix up the advances which he made towards those two distinguished persons with praises of the valour and military skill of the first, and of the profound sagacity and literary talents of the future historian of the period.

Such an opportunity of personally conciliating, or, if the reader pleases, corrupting the ministers of Charles, was perhaps what the King had proposed to himself as a principal object of his visit, even if his art should fail to cajole the Duke himself. The connection betwixt France and Burgundy was so close that most of the nobles belonging to the latter country had hopes or actual interests connected with the former, which the favour of Louis could advance, or his personal displeasure destroy. Formed for this and every other species of intrigue, liberal to profusion when it was necessary to advance his plans, and skilful in putting the most plausible colour upon his proposals and presents, the King contrived to reconcile the spirit of the proud to their profit, and to hold out to the real or pretended patriot the good of both France and Burgundy as the ostensible motive; whilst the party's own private interest, like the concealed wheel of some machine, worked not the less powerfully that its operations' were kept out of sight. For each man he had a suitable bait, and a proper mode of presenting it; he poured the guerdon into the sleeve of those who were too proud to extend their hand, and trusted that his bounty, thought it descended like the dew, without noise and imperceptibly, would not fail to produce, in due season, a plentiful crop of goodwill at least, perhaps of good offices, to the donor. In fine, although he had been long paving the way by his ministers for an establishment of such an interest in the Court of Burgundy as should be advantageous to the interests of France, Louis's own personal exertions, directed doubtless by the information of which he was previously possessed, did more to accomplish that object in a few hours than his agents had effected in years of negotiation.

One man alone the King missed, whom he had been particularly desirous of conciliating, and that was the Count de Crevecoeur, whose firmness, during his conduct as Envoy at Plessis, far from exciting Louis's resentment, had been viewed as a reason for making him his own if possible. He was not particularly gratified when he learnt that the Count, at the head of an hundred lances, was gone towards the frontiers of Brabant, to assist the Bishop, in case of necessity, against William de la Marck and his discontented subjects; but he consoled himself that the appearance of this force, joined with the directions which he had sent by faithful messengers, would serve to prevent any premature disturbances in that country, the breaking out of which might, he foresaw, render his present situation very precarious.

The Court upon this occasion dined in the forest when the hour of noon arrived, as was common in those great hunting parties; an arrangement at this time particularly agreeable to the Duke, desirous as he was to abridge that ceremonious and deferential solemnity with which he was otherwise under the necessity of receiving King Louis. In fact, the King's knowledge of human nature had in one particular misled him on this remarkable occasion. He thought that the Duke would have been inexpressibly flattered to have received such a mark of condescension and confidence from his liege lord; but he forgot that the dependence of this dukedom upon the Crown of France was privately the subject of galling mortification to a Prince so powerful, so wealthy, and so proud as Charles, whose aim it certainly was to establish an independent kingdom. The presence of the King at the Court of the Duke of Burgundy imposed on that prince the necessity of exhibiting himself in the subordinate character of a vassal, and of discharging many rites of feudal observance and deference, which, to one of his haughty disposition, resembled derogation from the character of a Sovereign Prince, which on all occasions he affected as far as possible to sustain.

But although it was possible to avoid much ceremony by having the dinner upon the green turf, with sound of bugles, broaching of barrels, and all the freedom of a sylvan meal, it was necessary that the evening repast should, even for that very reason, be held with more than usual solemnity.

Previous orders for this purpose had been given, and, upon returning to Peronne, King Louis found a banquet prepared with such a profusion of splendour and magnificence, as became the wealth of his formidable vassal, possessed as he was of almost all the Low Countries, then the richest portion of Europe. At the head of the long board, which groaned under plate of gold and silver, filled to profusion with the most exquisite dainties, sat the Duke, and on his right hand, upon a seat more elevated than his own, was placed his royal guest. Behind him stood on one side the son of the Duke of Gueldres, who officiated as his grand carver -- on the other, Le Glorieux, his jester, without whom he seldom stirred for, like most men of his hasty and coarse character, Charles carried to extremity the general taste of that age for court fools and jesters -- experiencing that pleasure in their display of eccentricity and mental infirmity which his more acute but not more benevolent rival loved better to extract from marking the imperfections of humanity in its nobler specimens, and finding subject for mirth in the "fears of the brave and follies of the wise." And indeed, if the anecdote related by Brantome be true, that a court fool, having overheard Louis, in one of his agonies of repentant devotion, confess his accession to the poisoning of his brother, Henry, Count of Guyenne, divulged it next day at dinner before the assembled court, that monarch might be supposed rather more than satisfied with the pleasantries of professed jesters for the rest of his life.

But, on the present occasion, Louis neglected not to take notice of the favourite buffoon of the Duke, and to applaud his repartees, which he did the rather that he thought he saw that the folly of Le Glorieux, however grossly it was sometimes displayed, covered more than the usual quantity of shrewd and caustic observation proper to his class.

In fact, Tiel Wetzweiler, called Le Glorieux, was by no means a jester of the common stamp. He was a tall, fine looking man, excellent at many exercises, which seemed scarce reconcilable with mental imbecility, because it must have required patience and attention to attain them. He usually followed the Duke to the chase and to the fight; and at Montl'hery, when Charles was in considerable personal danger, wounded in the throat, and likely to be made prisoner by a French knight who had hold of his horse's rein, Tiel Wetzweiler charged the assailant so forcibly as to overthrow him and disengage his master. Perhaps he was afraid of this being thought too serious a service for a person of his condition, and that it might excite him enemies among those knights and nobles who had left the care of their master's person to the court fool. At any rate, he chose rather to be laughed at than praised for his achievement; and made such gasconading boasts of his exploits in the battle, that most men thought the rescue of Charles was as ideal as the rest of his tale; and it was on this occasion he acquired the title of Le Glorieux (or the boastful), by which he was ever afterwards distinguished.

Le Glorieux was dressed very richly, but with little of the usual distinction of his profession; and that little rather of a symbolical than a very literal character. His head was not shorn; on the contrary, he wore a profusion of long curled hair, which descended from under his cap, and joining with a well arranged and handsomely trimmed beard, set off features, which, but for a wild lightness of eye, might have been termed handsome. A ridge of scarlet velvet carried across the top of his cap indicated, rather than positively represented, the professional cock's comb, which distinguished the head gear of a fool in right of office. His bauble, made of ebony, was crested as usual with a fool's head, with ass's ears formed of silver; but so small, and so minutely carved, that, till very closely examined, it might have passed for an official baton of a more solemn character. These were the only badges of his office which his dress exhibited. In other respects, it was such as to match with that of the most courtly nobles. His bonnet displayed a medal of gold, he wore a chain of the same metal around his neck, and the fashion of his rich garments was not much more fantastic than those of young gallants who have their clothes made in the extremity of the existing fashion.

To this personage Charles, and Louis, in imitation of his host, often addressed themselves during the entertainment; and both seemed to manifest, by hearty laughter, their amusement at the answers of Le Glorieux.

"Whose seats be those that are vacant?" said Charles to the jester.

"One of those at least should be mine by right of succession, Charles," replied Le Glorieux.

"Why so, knave?" said Charles.

"Because they belong to the Sieur D'Hymbercourt and De Comines, who are gone so far to fly their falcons, that they have forgot their supper. They who would rather look at a kite on the wing than a pheasant on the board, are of kin to the fool, and he should succeed to the stools, as a part of their movable estate."

"That is but a stale jest, my friend Tiel," said the Duke; "but, fools or wise men, here come the defaulters."

As he spoke, Comines and D'Hymbercourt entered the room, and, after having made their reverence to the two Princes, assumed in silence the seats which were left vacant for them.

"What ho! sirs," exclaimed the Duke, addressing them, "your sport has been either very good or very bad, to lead you so far and so late. Sir Philip de Comines, you are dejected -- hath D'Hymbercourt won so heavy a wager on you? -- You are a philosopher, and should not grieve at bad fortune. -- By Saint George D'Hymbercourt looks as sad as thou dost. -- How now, sirs? Have you found no game? or have you lost your falcons? or has a witch crossed your way? or has the Wild Huntsman (the famous apparition, sometimes called le Grand Veneur. Sully gives some account of this hunting spectre. S.) met you in the forest? By my honour, you seem as if you were come to a funeral, not a festival."

While the Duke spoke, the eyes of the company were all directed towards D'Hymbercourt and De Comines; and the embarrassment and dejection of their countenances, neither being of that class of persons to whom such expression of anxious melancholy was natural, became so remarkable, that the mirth and laughter of the company, which the rapid circulation of goblets of excellent wine had raised to a considerable height, was gradually hushed; and, without being able to assign any reason for such a change in their spirits, men spoke in whispers to each other, as on the eve of expecting some strange and important tidings.

"What means this silence, Messires?" said the Duke, elevating his voice, which was naturally harsh. "If you bring these strange looks, and this stranger silence, into festivity, we shall wish you had abode in the marshes seeking for herons, or rather for woodcocks and howlets."

"My gracious lord," said De Comines, "as we were about to return hither from the forest, we met the Count of Crevecoeur --"

"How!" said the Duke, "already returned from Brabant? -- but he found all well there, doubtless?"

"The Count himself will presently give your Grace an account of his news," said D'Hymbercourt, "which we have heard but imperfectly."

"Body of me, where is the Count?" said the Duke.

"He changes his dress, to wait upon your Highness," answered D'Hymbercourt.

"His dress? Saint Bleu!" exclaimed the impatient Prince, "what care I for his dress! I think you have conspired with him to drive me mad."

"Or rather, to be plain," said De Comines, "he wishes to communicate these news at a private audience."

"Teste dieu! my Lord King," said Charles, "this is ever the way our counsellors serve us. -- If they have got hold of aught which they consider as important for our ear, they look as grave upon the matter and are as proud of their burden as an ass of a new pack saddle. -- Some one bid Crevecoeur come to us directly! -- He comes from the frontiers of Liege, and we, at least" (he laid some emphasis on the pronoun), "have no secrets in that quarter which we would shun to have proclaimed before the assembled world."

All perceived that the Duke had drunk so much wine as to increase the native obstinacy of his disposition; and though many would willingly have suggested that the present was neither a time for hearing news nor for taking counsel, yet all knew the impetuosity of his temper too well to venture on farther interference, and sat in anxious expectation of the tidings which the Count might have to communicate.

A brief interval intervened, during which the Duke remained looking eagerly to the door, as if in a transport of impatience; whilst the guests sat with their eyes bent on the table, as if to conceal their curiosity and anxiety. Louis, alone maintaining perfect composure, continued his conversation alternately with the grand carver and with the jester.

At length Crevecoeur entered, and was presently saluted by the hurried question of his master, "What news from Liege and Brabant, Sir Count? -- the report of your arrival has chased mirth from our table -- we hope your actual presence will bring it back to us."

"My Liege and master," answered the Count in a firm but melancholy tone, "the news which I bring you are fitter for the council board than the feasting table."

"Out with them, man, if they were tidings from Antichrist!" said the Duke; "but I can guess them -- the Liegeois are again in mutiny."

"They are, my lord," said Crevecoeur very gravely.

"Look there," said the Duke, "I have hit at once on what you had been so much afraid to mention to me: the hare brained burghers are again in arms. It could not be in better time, for we may at present have the advice of our own Suzerain," bowing to King Louis, with eyes which spoke the most bitter though suppressed resentment, "to teach us how such mutineers should be dealt with. -- Hast thou more news in thy packet? Out with them, and then answer for yourself why you went not forward to assist the Bishop."

"My lord, the farther tidings are heavy for me to tell, and will be afflicting to you to hear. -- No aid of mine, or of living chivalry, could have availed the excellent Prelate. William de la Marck, united with the insurgent Liegeois, has taken his Castle of Schonwaldt, and murdered him in his own hall."

"Murdered him!" repeated the Duke in a deep and low tone, which nevertheless was heard from the one end of the hall in which they were assembled to the other, "thou hast been imposed upon, Crevecoeur, by some wild report -- it is impossible!"

"Alas! my lord!" said the Count, "I have it from an eyewitness, an archer of the King of France's Scottish Guard, who was in the hall when the murder was committed by William de la Marck's order."

"And who was doubtless aiding and abetting in the horrible sacrilege," said the Duke, starting up and stamping with his foot with such fury that he dashed in pieces the footstool which was placed before him. "Bar the doors of this hall, gentlemen -- secure the windows -- let no stranger stir from his seat, upon pain of instant death! -- Gentlemen of my chamber, draw your swords."

And turning upon Louis, he advanced his own hand slowly and deliberately to the hilt of his weapon, while the King, without either showing fear or assuming a defensive posture, only said -- "These news, fair cousin, have staggered your reason."

"No!" replied the Duke, in a terrible tone, "but they have awakened a just resentment, which I have too long suffered to be stifled by trivial considerations of circumstance and place. Murderer of thy brother! -- rebel against thy parent -- tyrant over thy subjects! -- treacherous ally! -- perjured King! -- dishonoured gentleman! -- thou art in my power, and I thank God for it."

"Rather thank my folly," said the King; "for when we met on equal terms at Montl'hery, methinks you wished yourself farther from me than we are now."

The Duke still held his hand on the hilt of his sword, but refrained to draw his weapon or to strike a foe who offered no sort of resistance which could in any wise provoke violence.

Meanwhile, wild and general confusion spread itself through the hall. The doors were now fastened and guarded by order of the Duke; but several of the French nobles, few as they were in number, started from their seats, and prepared for the defence of their Sovereign. Louis had spoken not a word either to Orleans or Dunois since they were liberated from restraint at the Castle of Loches, if it could be termed liberation, to be dragged in King Louis's train, objects of suspicion evidently, rather than of respect and regard; but, nevertheless, the voice of Dunois was first heard above the tumult, addressing himself to the Duke of Burgundy.

"Sir Duke, you have forgotten that you are a vassal of France, and that we, your guests, are Frenchmen. If you lift a hand against our Monarch, prepare to sustain the utmost effects of our despair; for, credit me, we shall feast as high with the blood of Burgundy as we have done with its wine. -- Courage, my Lord of Orleans -- and you, gentlemen of France, form yourselves round Dunois, and do as he does."

It was in that moment when a King might see upon what tempers he could certainly rely. The few independent nobles and knights who attended Louis, most of whom had only received from him frowns or discountenance, unappalled by the display of infinitely superior force, and the certainty of destruction in case they came to blows, hastened to array themselves around Dunois, and, led by him, to press towards the head of the table where the contending Princes were seated.

On the contrary, the tools and agents whom Louis had dragged forward out of their fitting and natural places into importance which was not due to them, showed cowardice and cold heart, and, remaining still in their seats, seemed resolved not to provoke their fate by intermeddling, whatever might become of their benefactor.

The first of the more generous party was the venerable Lord Crawford, who, with an agility which no one would have expected at his years, forced his way through all opposition (which was the less violent, as many of the Burgundians, either from a point of honour, or a secret inclination to prevent Louis's impending fate, gave way to him), and threw himself boldly between the King and the Duke. He then placed his bonnet, from which his white hair escaped in dishevelled tresses, upon one side of his head -- his pale cheek and withered brow coloured, and his aged eye lightened with all the fire of a gallant who is about to dare some desperate action. His cloak was flung over one shoulder, and his action intimated his readiness to wrap it about his left arm, while he unsheathed his sword with his right.

"I have fought for his father and his grandsire," that was all he said, "and by Saint Andrew, end the matter as it will, I will not fail him at this pinch."

What has taken some time to narrate, happened, in fact, with the speed of light; for so soon as the Duke assumed his threatening posture, Crawford had thrown himself betwixt him and the object of his vengeance; and the French gentlemen, drawing together as fast as they could, were crowding to the same point.

The Duke of Burgundy still remained with his hand on his sword, and seemed in the act of giving the signal for a general onset, which must necessarily have ended in the massacre of the weaker party, when Crevecoeur rushed forward, and exclaimed in a voice like a trumpet, "My liege Lord of Burgundy, beware what you do! This is your hall -- you are the King's vassal -- do not spill the blood of your guest on your hearth, the blood of your Sovereign on the throne you have erected for him, and to which he came under your safeguard. For the sake of your house's honour, do not attempt to revenge one horrid murder by another yet worse!"

"Out of my road, Crevecoeur," answered the Duke, "and let my vengeance pass! -- Out of my path! The wrath of kings is to be dreaded like that of Heaven."

"Only when, like that of Heaven, it is just," answered Crevecoeur firmly. "Let me pray of you, my lord, to rein the violence of your temper, however justly offended. -- And for you, my Lords of France, where resistance is unavailing, let me recommend you to forbear whatever may lead towards bloodshed."

"He is right," said Louis, whose coolness forsook him not in that dreadful moment, and who easily foresaw that if a brawl should commence, more violence would be dared and done in the heat of blood than was likely to be attempted if peace were preserved.

"My cousin Orleans -- kind Dunois -- and you, my trusty Crawford -- bring not on ruin and bloodshed by taking offence too hastily. Our cousin the Duke is chafed at the tidings of the death of a near and loving friend, the venerable Bishop of Liege, whose slaughter we lament as he does. Ancient, and, unhappily, recent subjects of jealousy lead him to suspect us of having abetted a crime which our bosom abhors. Should our host murder us on this spot -- us, his King and his kinsman, under a false impression of our being accessory to this unhappy accident, our fate will be little lightened, but, on the contrary, greatly aggravated, by your stirring. -- Therefore stand back, Crawford. -- Were it my last word, I speak as a King to his officer, and demand obedience. -- Stand back, and, if it is required, yield up your sword. I command you to do so, and your oath obliges you to obey."

"True, true, my lord," said Crawford, stepping back, and returning to the sheath the blade he had half drawn. -- "It may be all very true; but, by my honour, if I were at the head of threescore and ten of my brave fellows, instead of being loaded with more than the like number of years, I would try whether I could have some reason out of these fine gallants, with their golden chains and looped up bonnets, with braw warld dyes (gaudy colors) and devices on them."

The Duke stood with his eyes fixed on the ground for a considerable space, and then said, with bitter irony, "Crevecoeur, you say well; and it concerns our honour that our obligations to this great King, our honoured and loving guest, be not so hastily adjusted, as in our hasty anger we had at first proposed. We will so act that all Europe shall acknowledge the justice of our proceedings. -- Gentlemen of France, you must render up your arms to my officers! Your master has broken the truce, and has no title to take farther benefit of it. In compassion, however, to your sentiments of honour, and in respect to the rank which he hath disgraced, and the race from which he hath degenerated, we ask not our cousin Louis's sword."

"Not one of us," said Dunois, "will resign our weapon, or quit this hall, unless we are assured of at least our King's safety, in life and limb."

"Nor will a man of the Scottish Guard," exclaimed Crawford, "lay down his arms, save at the command of the King of France, or his High Constable."

"Brave Dunois," said Louis, "and you, my trusty Crawford, your zeal will do me injury instead of benefit. -- I trust," he added with dignity, "in my rightful cause, more than in a vain resistance, which would but cost the lives of my best and bravest. Give up your swords. -- The noble Burgundians, who accept such honourable pledges, will be more able than you are to protect both you and me. -- Give up your swords. -- It is I who command you."

It was thus that, in this dreadful emergency, Louis showed the promptitude of decision and clearness of judgment which alone could have saved his life. He was aware that, until actual blows were exchanged, he should have the assistance of most of the nobles present to moderate the fury of their Prince; but that, were a melee once commenced, he himself and his few adherents must be instantly murdered. At the same time, his worst enemies confessed that his demeanour had in it nothing either of meanness or cowardice. He shunned to aggravate into frenzy the wrath of the Duke; but he neither deprecated nor seemed to fear it, and continued to look on him with the calm and fixed attention with which a brave man eyes the menacing gestures of a lunatic, whilst conscious that his own steadiness and composure operate as an insensible and powerful check on the rage even of insanity.

Crawford, at the King's command, threw his sword to Crevecoeur, saying, "Take it! and the devil give you joy of it. -- It is no dishonour to the rightful owner who yields it, for we have had no fair play."

"Hold, gentlemen," said the Duke in a broken voice, as one whom passion had almost deprived of utterance, "retain your swords; it is sufficient you promise not to use them. And you, Louis of Valois, must regard yourself as my prisoner, until you are cleared of having abetted sacrilege and murder. Have him to the Castle. -- Have him to Earl Herbert's Tower. Let him have six gentlemen of his train to attend him, such as he shall choose. -- My Lord of Crawford, your guard must leave the Castle, and shall be honourably quartered elsewhere. Up with every drawbridge, and down with every portcullis. -- Let the gates of the town be trebly guarded. -- Draw the floating bridge to the right hand side of the river. -- Bring round the Castle my band of Black Walloons (regiments of Dutch troops, wearing black armour), and treble the sentinels on every post! -- You, D'Hymbercourt, look that patrols of horse and foot make the round of the town every half hour during the night and every hour during the next day -- if indeed such ward shall be necessary after daybreak, for it is like we may be sudden in this matter. -- Look to the person of Louis, as you love your life."

He started from the table in fierce and moody haste, darted a glance of mortal enmity at the King, and rushed out of the apartment.

"Sirs," said the King, looking with dignity around him, "grief for the death of his ally hath made your Prince frantic. I trust you know better your duty, as knights and noblemen, than to abet him in his treasonable violence against the person of his liege Lord."

At this moment was heard in the streets the sound of drums beating, and horns blowing, to call out the soldiery in every direction.

"We are," said Crevecoeur, who acted as the Marshal of the Duke's household, "subjects of Burgundy, and must do our duty as such. Our hopes and prayers, and our efforts, will not be wanting to bring about peace and union between your Majesty and our liege Lord. Meantime, we must obey his commands. These other lords and knights will be proud to contribute to the convenience of the illustrious Duke of Orleans, of the brave Dunois, and the stout Lord Crawford. I myself must be your Majesty's chamberlain, and bring you to your apartments in other guise than would be my desire, remembering the hospitality of Plessis. You have only to choose your attendants, whom the Duke's commands limit to six."

"Then," said the King, looking around him, and thinking for a moment -- "I desire the attendance of Oliver le Dain, of a private of my Life Guard called Balafre, who may be unarmed if you will -- of Tristan l'Hermite, with two of his people -- and my right royal and trusty philosopher, Martius Galeotti."

"Your Majesty's will shall be complied with in all points," said the Count de Crevecoeur. "Galeotti," he added, after a moment's inquiry, "is, I understand, at present supping in some buxom company, but he shall instantly be sent for; the others will obey your Majesty's command upon the instant."

"Forward, then, to the new abode, which the hospitality of our cousin provides for us," said the King. "We know it is strong, and have only to hope it may be in a corresponding degree safe."

"Heard you the choice which King Louis has made of his attendants?" said Le Glorieux to Count Crevecoeur apart, as they followed Louis from the hall.

"Surely, my merry gossip," replied the Count. "What hast thou to object to them?"

"Nothing, nothing -- only they are a rare election! -- A panderly barber -- a Scottish hired cutthroat -- a chief hangman and his two assistants, and a thieving charlatan. -- I will along with you, Crevecoeur, and take a lesson in the degrees of roguery, from observing your skill in marshalling them. The devil himself could scarce have summoned such a synod, or have been a better president amongst them."

Accordingly, the all licensed jester, seizing the Count's arm familiarly, began to march along with him, while, under a strong guard, yet forgetting no semblance of respect, he conducted the King towards his new apartment.

(The historical facts attending this celebrated interview are expounded and enlarged upon in this chapter. Agents sent by Louis had tempted the people of Liege to rebel against their superior, Duke Charles, and persecute and murder their Bishop. But Louis was not prepared for their acting with such promptitude. They flew to arms with the temerity of a fickle rabble, took the Bishop prisoner, menaced and insulted him, and tore to pieces one or two of his canons. This news was sent to the Duke of Burgundy at the moment when Louis had so unguardedly placed himself in his power; and the consequence was that Charles placed guards on the Castle of Peronne, and, deeply resenting the treachery of the king of France in exciting sedition in his dominions, while he pretended the most intimate friendship, he deliberated whether he should not put Louis to death. Three days Louis was detained in this very precarious situation, and it was only his profuse liberality amongst Charles's favourites and courtiers which finally ensured him from death or deposition. Comines, who was the Duke of Burgundy's chamberlain at the time, and slept in his apartment, says Charles neither undressed nor slept, but flung himself from time to time on the bed, and, at other times, wildly traversed the apartment. It was long before his violent temper became in any degree tractable. At length he only agreed to give Louis his liberty, on condition of his accompanying him in person against, and employing his troops in subduing, the mutineers whom his intrigues had instigated to arms. This was a bitter and degrading alternative. But Louis, seeing no other mode of compounding for the effects of his rashness, not only submitted to this discreditable condition, but swore to it upon a crucifix said to have belonged to Charlemagne. These particulars are from Comines. There is a succinct epitome of them in Sir Nathaniel Wraxall's History of France, vol. i. -- S.)

人们惊奇地看到在远远的南方,

透过云层突然爆发出闪光,

一个个都被那响声吓得无比惊慌。

汤姆逊《夏日》

按标题来看,前一章旨在作为一种回顾,使读者能充分了解路易工来到勃艮第后和公爵的相互关系。也许是因为路易王所迷信的占星术,据说对他此行的结果作出了有利的预示,再加上他自认在心智方面明显地胜过查尔斯,更使他对这一预示深信不疑,所以他作出了一个异乎寻常的,无论哪方面来看都是完全不可思议的决定——寄希望于一个凶顽的敌人的信用,不惜以自己的人身安全孤注一掷。由于在当时那个动荡不安的时代已有许多事例表明,庄严保证安全的诺言并不能保证当事人的安全,这一决定就更显得轻率、不可理解。事实上公爵的祖父为了建立和平,颁发赦令,前往参加庄严约定的会谈时,就曾在路易父亲面前惨遭杀害。只要公爵想对路易下手,这个历史也无疑给公爵提供了一个可怕的先例。

查尔斯性格固然粗暴、莽撞而倔强,但除非在盛怒之下,也并非不仁不义。不仁不义通常属于性格冷峻的人。他固然不打算给国王一种超出待客之道的礼遇,但另一方面他也不想越过待客之道的神圣界限。

国王到来的第二天早晨,勃艮第公爵的军队进行了一次总检阅。看到能有机会在他的劲敌面前显示他那人数众多的军队及其精良的装备,公爵颇感自豪。他为了表示藩属对宗主应有的客气,声称这些军队属于国王,而不属于他自己时,他撅起上嘴唇,眼里闪着骄傲的光芒,这说明他自己也意识到这些话全是空洞的客套话,而他的精兵是完全置于他的支配下,随时可以东征西代,也随时可以进军巴黎。路易看到有许多法国贵族——不仅来自诺曼底和布列塔尼,甚至来自直接受他控制的省份——由于各种使他们不满的原因参加了勃艮第公爵的阵营,打着旗号,也成了这只大军的一部分,自然倍感羞辱。

然而,路易还是脸不变色,装出对叛变分子不屑一顾的样子,实际上却在脑子里盘算使他们脱离勃艮第、回归法国的各种花招,并决定让奥利弗及其他谋士对他认为最重要的一些人物进行摸底。

他煞费苦心、小心谨慎地争取公爵几个主要的大臣和谋士,使用的不外乎是常见的一些手段,例如经常给以亲切的关心。巧妙的奉承和慷慨的赠礼。当然,正像他所说的,目的不在于使这些忠实的仆人疏远他们高贵的主人,而是希望他们能帮助维护法国和勃艮第之间的和平。这一目的自然十分良好;无论对两国,还是两国君主都显然有利。这样一位伟大而英明的国王对他们表示关心,其本身就是一种有效的贿赂。诺言固然很起作用,而按照当时的习俗许可勃艮第的朝臣们毫无顾忌地直接收纳的直接馈赠就会更起作用。有一天他们在森林里猎野猪。当那无论做事或娱乐总是全神贯注于眼前目标的公爵完全热衷于打猎时,路易看到他不在身边,便充分寻找机会和一些据说最能影响查尔斯的大臣私下个别交谈,其中包括丹伯古和贡明。在他对这两个显要人物表示友好时,也没忘记大肆赞扬前者的勇敢和武艺,以及后者作为当代史臣的睿智和文学天才。

争取机会个别拉拢,甚至——假如读者不嫌过分的话——腐蚀查尔斯的大臣,也许正是路易在万一自己的权术不能哄骗公爵本人时,给他此行提出的一个主要目标。法国和勃艮第的关系如此密切,以致勃艮第的一些贵族有的想在法国取得立足的机会,有的则已经取得既得利益。这种利益会得到增进还是遭到破坏,则取决于路易王个人的恩怨。既然路易王生来就擅长玩弄权术,在施展计划的必要时刻也能不惜重金贿赂,同时又善于把许愿和馈赠涂上冠冕堂皇的色彩,所以他终于设法使清高之士也接受了他的好处。针对那些真假爱国之士,他则使出“以法国和勃艮第的利益为重”的花招。这些人的个人利益,也和机器的隐避齿轮一样,尽管没人看见,但作用同样不小。他给每个不同的人都投下一个适当的诱饵,和一个恰当的奉送方式。对那些自命清高、不愿伸手的人,他的办法是把赏钱塞进他们的衣袖。他相信,虽然这些赏钱像露水般无声无息地降在他们头上,但到一定的时候,即使不能为赏赐者出力,至少也能得到他们的友谊作为收获。总之,虽然路易王一直在通过他的朝臣设法在勃艮第宫廷建立一个有利于法国的势力,但路易本人的努力——显然是根据他以前掌握的情报——在几小时当中收到的成效却比他的代理人在几年的谈判中收到的成效还更显著。

国王只漏掉了一个人,那就是他一直都想拉拢的克雷维格伯爵。他出使普莱西宫时所表现出的坚定不但没有引起路易的不满,反而成了路易想争取他成为自己人的一个理由。当他听说伯爵已率领一百名长矛手去布拉邦特边境,必要时协助主教抵御威廉·德拉马克及反叛的市民时,他感到有点失望,不过他安慰自己说,伯爵的这支部队加上他通过可靠的信使送去的指示,会防止列日过早的骚乱,而据他估计,这时爆发骚乱将使他的处境十分危险。

宫廷按照大型狩猎会的习惯,这次也在森林里举行午宴。这样一种安排使公爵特别满意,因为他很想减免他在别的场合接待路易王时不得不遵守的隆重礼节。在这次不寻常的会见中,国王发现,他对人性的理解不够充分,已使他在一个具体问题上产生了误解。他原以为公爵得到自己的宗主这一屈尊就驾的信赖表现会感到受宠若惊,而忘了勃艮第公国必须从属于法国国王这一点,正是使得查尔斯这样一个一心想建立独立公国的强大、富有而骄傲的亲王感到十分气恼的问题。路易王来到公爵的宫廷,公爵不得不以藩臣的从属地位出现,并遵守表示尊敬和顺从的种种封建礼节。对于他那种性格高傲的人说来这无异是贬低了他在各种场合都要竭力保持的主权君主的身份。

不过,草地上的午宴虽能避免许多礼节,而代之以号角声、开酒桶声,以及林中野餐那种无拘束的乐趣,但正因为如此,晚宴就需要搞得比平常更为隆重。

公爵事先就下了准备晚宴的命令。回到佩隆时,等待着路易王的已是一席琳琅满目的华筵——其丰盈考究的程度自然和这雄据欧洲最富饶的低地平原的强大藩属所拥有的财富完全相称。在摆着盛满了各种珍肴的金银碗碟的长桌的上席坐着公爵,在他右边一个更高的座椅上坐着路易王。而在他后面则一边站着格尔德雷斯公爵的儿子,主持食物的侍奉,另一边站着弄臣勒格洛里尔。没有这个弄臣在场,他是不舒服的,因为查尔斯也和大多数性格急躁粗暴的人一样,把人们当时对宫廷弄臣的普遍爱好引到了极端的地步——从他们表现出的怪癖和心智的缺陷中感受乐趣。他那为人机敏而不宽厚的对手却更喜欢通过观察贵人们身上的人性缺点,在“勇者的胆怯,智者的愚昧”中寻找取笑的题材。布朗托姆曾讲过一则轶事,说一个宫廷小丑偷听到路易王在忏悔祷告中痛苦地坦白他曾参与毒害他的兄弟居耶纳亨利伯爵的事,第二天午餐时小丑便当着满朝文武泄露了这个秘密。假如这个故事是真实的,那么可以设想这位君主对职业弄臣开的玩笑一辈子都会感到头疼。

但在当前这个场合,路易却没有忽视对公爵宠爱的弄臣倍加关注,并对他精彩的俏皮话表示赞赏,特别是由于他看到勒格洛里尔的“傻话”虽然有时显得很不雅,但它所蕴含的锐利而辛辣的内容超过了他这类人通常所能达到的分量。

事实上,蒂尔·魏茨威勒(又名勒格洛里尔)并不是一个普通的弄臣。他个子高大,长得很英俊,擅长许多种运动。运动技巧需要耐心和注意力,这和所谓的心智缺陷自然很矛盾。他时常跟随公爵去打猎、作战。有一次公爵在蒙勒里打仗,脖子被戳伤,他骑的马已被一个法国骑士抓住缰绳,眼看就要被俘。正在这十分危险的关头,蒂尔·魏茨威勒勇猛地向进犯者冲了过来,把他撞翻在地,救了他的主人。也许他担心别人认为他这种卑贱的人给主人帮的忙未免过头,会在惯于丢弃主人,而让弄臣保护其安全的骑士和贵族们当中引起猜忌——不管怎么说吧,他宁肯为他这一功勋受到嘲弄,而不愿为它受到赞扬。因此他故意把他在战斗中的表现吹得天花乱坠,以致大多数人都认为,他的援救查尔斯云云也和他别的大话一样荒诞无稽。正因为这样他才得到了勒格洛里尔(牛皮大王)的大名,以后他也以此出了名。

勒格洛里尔穿得很阔气,但显示其弄臣职业的服饰并不多,而且那很少的一点也主要是为了象征性地做做样子,并不是真为了表现他的身份。他没剃头,相反是蓄着又长又密的鬈发。那修剪得漂亮而整齐的胡须和从帽子底下垂落下来的鬈发衬托着一张要不是眼珠颜色太淡,也还算得上英俊的面孔。他戴的帽子顶部饰有一横条深红色的天鹅绒,用来象征——而不是严格地模拟——弄臣职业的鸡冠状头饰。他那乌木手杖顶部也按惯例饰有一个带有银制的驴耳朵的弄臣头像,但做得如此之小,雕刻得如此之精细,以致就像一根带有神圣特点的权杖。这些就是他的装束中所能表现出来的惟一的职业标志。在其他方面,他的穿着可以与任何一个显赫的宫廷贵族相媲美。他的帽子上还戴着一个金质奖章,脖子上也围着一根金项链。比起那些穿着时髦的花花公子,他穿的这身华丽衣服还不如他们穿的那样稀奇古怪。

在宴会上,查尔斯以及仿效他这东道主的路易都经常和这个人物攀谈。听到他的回答,他们放声大笑,表示他们十分开心。

“那些空着的座位是谁的?’喳尔斯问弄臣说。

“查尔斯,至少有一个按理得由我来坐。”勒格洛里尔说道。

“奴才,这是为什么?”查尔斯问道。

“因为这两个座位是丹伯古和德·贡明大人的。他们跑得老远地去放他们的鹰了,忘记了宴会。谁眼睛盯着天上飞的老鹰而不盯着餐桌上摆的野鸡,谁就和傻瓜没有两样。聪明人有理由把他们的座椅作为他们的一部分不动产接过来。”

“蒂尔朋友,这可是个陈腐的玩笑,”公爵说道,“不过,傻瓜也罢,聪明人也罢,缺席者已经来了。”

正当他说着的时候,贡明和丹伯古已经走进大厅;向两位君主鞠躬致敬之后,便来到为他们空着的席位上默默就座。

“嘿,先生们,”公爵冲着他们大声说道,“你们走得那么远,这么晚才回来,你们的打猎一定很顺利,或者很糟糕。菲利普·德·贡明先生,瞧你垂头丧气的——是不是丹伯古在你身上赢了很大一笔赌注?——你是个哲学家。运气不好,也不应该伤心。圣乔治在上!丹伯古看起来和你一样发愁。先生们,怎么回事?没找到猎物?丢掉了老鹰?还是女巫拦住了你们的路?或在林中碰见了‘野蛮的猎人’?说真的,你们就像来参加葬礼而不是来参加宴会似的。”

公爵这么说着时,在场的人眼睛都注视着丹伯古和德·贡明。他们面部显现出的窘急和沮丧的表情,既然不属于习惯于面带焦虑的愁容的人们常见的表情,自然显得十分突出。此时,伴随着迅速传送美酒的满堂欢笑已在逐渐消失。由于人们不能对这两个人情绪上的变化找出任何理由,便彼此交头接耳地议论起来,仿佛是在等待什么特殊的重要消息。

“先生们,你们干吗不说话?”公爵抬高嗓门,用生来就粗厉的声音说道,“如果你们带着这副奇怪的面容和更难理解的沉默来参加宴会,那我倒希望你们呆在沼泽地里捉苍鹭,或山鹬和小猫头鹰。”

“陛下,”德·贡明说道,“我们正从森林回来的时候,碰见了克雷维格伯爵。”

“怎么!”公爵说道,“已经从布拉邦特回来了?他肯定是看到那儿一切正常吧?”

“伯爵马上会亲自向您报告他带来的消息,”丹伯古说,“我们听得不够完全。”

“真见鬼。伯爵在哪儿?”公爵问道。

“他在换衣,好晋见大人。”丹伯古回答道。

“在换衣?我的老天爷!”那不耐烦的公爵说道,“我要他换衣干什么?我想你们是和他联合起来,阴谋把我逼疯!”

“实说吧,”德·贡明讲道,“他希望私下把消息讲给您听。”

“您瞧,国王陛下,”查尔斯说道,“我的谋士们就是这样为我效劳的。一听到他们自认为对我要紧的消息,他们就像驴子看到自己有了一副新鞍子那样,摆出一副严肃的面孔,为他们脑子里装的消息而感到神气十足。把克雷维格赶快给我叫来!他是从列日边境来的,至少我”(他把“我”这个代词说得很重)“在那个地区没有什么不可向在座的诸位公开的秘密。”

在座的人都知道公爵喝了很多酒,他那天生的执拗性格已变得更为突出。尽管有许多人想提醒他,现在不是听消息的时候,也不是商量事情的时候,但大家也都了解他性格暴躁,不敢多加干预,只是焦急地等待着伯爵将宣布的消息。

接着是片刻的寂静。公爵仍然急切地望着门口,似乎等得很不耐烦。客人们都低头望着桌子,仿佛想掩盖他们的好奇和不安。只有路易仍保持绝对镇定,时而和侍奉大臣,时而和弄臣继续谈着话。

最后,克雷维格终于走进了大厅。公爵看见他劈头就问:“伯爵先生,列日和布拉邦特有何消息?听说你提前赶回,宴会的欢乐气氛都被驱散了。但愿你的驾到把欢乐的气氛带了回来。”

“殿下,”伯爵用坚定而优伤的声调说道,“我给您带来的消息更适合在会议桌上听,而不适合在宴会桌上听。”

“即使是反基督的消息,你也只管讲!”公爵说道,“不过我猜得出是什么——列日市民又在叛乱。”

“大人,正是这样。”克雷维格非常严肃地说道。

“你瞧,伙计,”公爵说道,“我一下就请中了你这么害怕告诉我的这个消息。果然是这些莽撞的市民又在大动干戈了。这事来得正好。我现在可以请教我的宗主,”接着便向路易三鞠了一躬,眼睛流露出压抑着的巨大愤怒,“如何来对付这些叛民——你锦囊里还有什么消息?全给我端出来。然后再交待你为什么没有前去援助主教。”

“大人,下面要讲的消息说起来真叫我痛心,您听起来也会感到伤心。无论是我的援助,还是骑士们的援助对善良的主教都已无济于事。威廉·德拉马克联合反叛的列日市民已攻占了索恩瓦尔德堡,并在主教自己的大厅里杀害了主教。”

“杀害了主教?”公爵用一种深沉的声音轻声说道,但话还是从宴会厅的这头传到了另一头,“克雷维格,你一定是受到毫无根据的谣传的蒙蔽吧?这是不可能的!”

“哎呀,我的大人!”伯爵说道,“这是一个目击者——法王苏格兰卫队的一名射手亲自告诉我的。威廉·德拉马克杀害主教时他就坐在大厅里。”

“那么他肯定是这个亵渎神明的恐怖罪行的教唆者!”公爵大声说道,一边站起身来,狂怒地把脚往地上一跺,踩破了摆在他面前的一个踏脚凳,“绅士们,把门关起来——把窗子也关起来——任何来客不得离开座位,否则立即处死!王室的绅士们,把刀拔出来。”说罢他转过身来对着路易,缓慢沉着地把手移到刀柄上。路易既不表示畏缩,也不采取自卫的姿态,只是说道:

“好堂弟,你让这消息冲昏了你的头脑。”

“不对!”公爵用一种可怕的声音说道,“它只不过激起了一种正义的愤怒——由于不必要地考虑到地点和场合而长时间压抑着的愤怒。你这杀害兄弟的凶手!背叛父亲的叛逆!统治臣民的暴君!背信弃义的盟友!奸伪的国王!无耻的绅士!你落进了我的手心,我得好好感谢上帝。”

“你最好感谢我的愚蠢,”国王说道,“我想,上次我们在蒙勒里会面时,你多么希望自己比现在离我更远一些。”

公爵仍然手握刀柄,但他并没有把刀拔出来对这仇人下手——仇人既然不抵抗,他也下不了这个手。

这时大厅里一片混乱。所有的门都按公爵的命令上了锁,把守得严严的。为数很少的几名法国贵族,从座位上跳了起来,准备保卫他们的君主。奥尔良和杜诺瓦从罗歇堡被释放(如果谈得上释放的话)以来,路易还从没和他们当中哪个讲过一句话。显然他们只是人们怀疑的对象,而不是尊敬的对象。然而在这骚乱当中最先听到的还是杜诺瓦的声音。他对勃艮第公爵说道:“公爵先生,你忘记了你是法国的藩臣,而我们这些客人也都是法国人。只要你胆敢对我们的君主动手,你就得承担我们殊死搏斗的全部后果。你可以相信,我们会像畅饮勃艮第葡萄酒那样痛饮勃艮第人的鲜血——鼓起勇气,奥尔良公爵——法国的绅士们,快站在杜诺瓦周围,和他一致行动!”

正是在这样一个关头,国王看出,究竟是怎样一些人能成为他忠实的依靠。保护路易的是几个独立的贵族和骑士,过去大多数都只得到他皱眉头的待遇,这时却不畏强敌、奋不顾身地赶紧聚集在杜诺瓦周围,在他的率领下朝两位争持不下的君主所坐的上席冲了过去。

相反,那些从原来只适合他们的社会地位,而被路易硬提拔到不适合他们的重要地位的工具和爪牙这时却表现出懦弱和冷漠,一个个仍然坐着不动,似乎已下定决心,不管恩人命运如何,都不想介入,以免惹来杀身之祸。

在比较讲义气的人们当中第一个挺身而出的就是克劳福德大公。他以和他年龄不相称的敏捷克服阻挡(由于许多勃艮第人考虑到事关荣誉,想暗中防止路易遭到杀害,都赶紧放他过去,从而减少了阻力)冲向前去,把身体插在国王和公爵之间。他那覆盖着一串串凌乱的白发的帽子歪朝一边戴着。他那苍白的面颊和皱额涨得通红,一双老成持重的眼里闪烁着准备蜒而走险的勇士所特有的怒火。他把斗篷披在他肩膀上,打算左手裹在斗篷里,用右手抽刀。

“我曾经为他父亲和他祖父战斗过,”他说道,“圣安德鲁在上,不管结局如何,我决不会在这个节骨眼上抛弃他。”

所发生的一切,说来话长,实际上只是一刹那间的事。换言之,一当公爵作出了那个威胁的姿态,克劳福德便已经插到了他和他想进行报复的对象的中间;而那几个法国贵族也已尽快地聚拢来,向告急的地方冲过去。

勃艮第公爵仍然手握着刀柄,仿佛想立即发出总攻击的信号,从而不可避免地导致对力量弱的一方的大屠杀。这时克雷维格冲向前来,以号角般的声音大声喊道:“我的勃艮第公爵大人呀!做事当心点吧!这是你的大厅——你是国王的藩臣——别把你客人的鲜血溅在你自己的家里,把你君主的鲜血溅在你为他树立的宝座上。他有权得到你的保护。为了你们家族的荣誉,切莫用更可憎的凶杀来报复恐怖的凶杀!”

“走开,克雷维格,”公爵回答道,“让我复仇!走开!告诉你,君主的愤怒会像天神的愤怒那样叫你害怕。”

“除非它和天神的愤怒同样合乎情理。”克雷维格坚定地回答道,“我的大人,不管你的愤怒多么有理,我也求你遏制一下你那狂暴的性格。我也同样奉劝法国的王公大人们,在这抵抗无益的地方避免作出导致流血的任何举动。”

“他说得很对。”路易说道。在这可怕的时刻他仍然保持着头脑的镇静,并预见到,一旦开始械斗,打红了眼,人们就会比在心情平静时干得更为残暴。“奥尔良——杜诺瓦——还有你,忠实的克劳福德——别这么快就发火,从而招来流血和灾难。我当公爵的堂弟是因为听到一位亲近而慈爱的朋友——列日主教的噩耗而感到激愤。对于主教不幸遇害,我和他其实一样感到悲拗。是过去的猜忌再加上最近不幸产生的隔阂促使他怀疑我唆使别人干了一件我本人也同样无比憎恨的罪行。假如我的东道主仅根据我参与了这不幸的事件的虚假印象就将我这既是他的国王又是他的亲属的人当场杀害,那么你们动武也不会减轻我的不幸,而只能加剧我的不幸。所以,克劳福德,我要你退下——即使这是我讲的最后一句话,它也是国王对一位大臣讲的话,要求你好好服从。退下吧。假如他们要求,你也不妨把刀交出来。我命令你这样做,按你的誓言你也有义务这样做。”

“是,是,我的陛下,”克劳福德说道,接着把半抽出的刀送回刀鞘,退了下来,“您说得很对。不过,老实说,要是我率领七十名勇敢的卫士,而不是迈入了七十以上的高龄,我就要试试是否能叫这些系金链、戴冠冕、满身华丽装饰的风流阔少头脑清醒清醒。”

公爵低头沉吟了好一会儿,然后带着尖刻的讥讽口吻说道:“克雷维格,你说得很对。我不能像我在一气之下所想的那样,过于莽撞地改变我对这位伟大的国王兼尊敬而可爱的来宾承担的义务,因为这事关我的荣誉。我将采取另一种做法,好让整个欧洲都承认我的行动合乎正义。法国的绅士们,你们必须向我的军官交出你们的武器!你们的主人破坏了休战,已无权再享受休战的好处。然而,为了照顾你们的荣誉感,考虑到他的崇高地位和高贵血统——尽管前者被他糟蹋,后者被他玷污——我将不要求我堂兄路易交出他的武器。”

“除非我们能得到国王生命安全和人身安全的保证,”杜诺瓦说道,“否则我们不会交出武器或退出这个大厅。”

“除非法国国王或他的总督下命令,”克劳福德大声说道,“否则,任何一个苏格兰卫士也不会交出武器。”

“勇敢的杜诺瓦,”路易说道,“还有你,我忠实的克劳福德,你们这满腔热血只能给我造成危害,而不能带来好处。我更信赖的是自己的清白无辜,”他庄严地补充说道,“而不信赖那只能使我最优秀最勇敢的部下断送性命的无益抵抗。交出你们的武器吧。得到这种荣誉保证以后,高贵的勃艮第人将能更有效地保护我和你们的安全。交出你们的武器吧。我命令你们这样做。”

在这场可怕的危机当中路易表现出椎一能挽救其性命的迅速决断能力和清晰判断能力。他意识到,只要双方都不动武,他会得到在场的大多数贵族的帮助,来缓和公爵的怒气。但一旦开始厮杀,他和他少数几个追随者就会马上送命。与此同时,连他的头号敌手也得承认,他的态度既不卑下也不怯弱。他只是避免使公爵的愤怒白热化。他既不谴责它,也似乎并不惧怕它,而是继续以勇士对待张牙舞爪的疯子那种平静而镇定的神情看着他的对手。同时,他相信自己的坚定和镇静对于失去理智的狂怒也能起到不知不觉的强有力的抑制作用。

克劳福德听从国王的命令,把剑扔给克雷维格说:“拿去吧!愿魔鬼给你带来快乐。对于理当掌有宝剑的人说来,交出宝剑并不是什么耻辱,因为我们得到的是不公正的待遇。”

“等等,绅士们,”公爵激动得几乎说不出话来,只得用嗫嚅的声音说道,“你们还是留下你们的宝剑。只消答应不用就行。至于你,瓦诺瓦·路易,你必须接受对你的监护,直到你能洗清你亵渎神明和谋杀主教的教唆罪为止。我命令:立刻将他押往城堡——押往‘赫伯特伯爵塔楼’。让他挑六名绅士充当他的随从。克劳福德大公,你的卫队必须离开城堡。我将另给你们找个体面的住处。把所有的吊桥都提起来,把所有的铁门都放下去——要派比现在多两倍的卫兵看守城门——把浮桥都拖到河的右岸。叫黑瓦龙部队把城堡包围起来,将每个岗哨的哨兵增加两倍!丹伯古,你得安排步骑兵今晚每隔半小时在城里巡逻一次。事情可能会有突然的发展。如果天亮以后还有必要,明天再每隔一小时巡逻一次。要像爱惜你们的生命那样,把路易好好看住!”

他气势汹汹地从餐桌上蓦地站了起来,向国王身上投射了一个充满不共戴天之仇的目光,然后冲出了大厅。

“先生们,”国王庄严地环顾四周说道,“盟友的惨死使得你们的公爵悲伤得近乎发狂。我相信诸位知道自己作为骑士和贵族的义务,不会唆使他采取叛逆的暴力行径来危害君主的人身安全。”

这时街上传来了召集各处士兵的鼓声和号角声。

“我们都是勃艮第的臣属,”作为公爵王室总管的克雷维格说道,“我们也只好履行我们臣属的责任。不过,我们衷心祝愿,并将努力促成陛下和我们君主之间的和解与团结。在这以前我们还得服从命令。另外几个骑士和贵族将荣幸地为显赫的奥尔良公爵、勇敢的杜诺瓦和忠实的克劳福德大公的方便服务。而我将充当陛下的临时宫廷总管。我很遗憾,回想您在普莱西宫给了我那么殷勤的款待,而我现在却不得不以这副装束带您前往住所。您可以在公爵限定的六个名额内选择您的随从。”

“那么,”国王环顾四周,思考了



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