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Chapter 30 Uncertainty

Our counsels waver like the unsteady bark, That reels amid the strife of meeting currents.

OLD PLAY

If the night passed by Louis was carefully anxious and agitated, that spent by the Duke of Burgundy, who had at no time the same mastery over his passions, and, indeed, who permitted them almost a free and uncontrolled dominion over his actions, was still more disturbed.

According to the custom of the period, two of his principal and most favoured counsellors, D'Hymbercourt and De Comines, shared his bedchamber, couches being prepared for them near the bed of the prince. Their attendance was never more necessary than upon this night, when, distracted by sorrow, by passion, by the desire of revenge, and by the sense of honour, which forbade him to exercise it upon Louis in his present condition, the Duke's mind resembled a volcano in eruption, which throws forth all the different contents of the mountain, mingled and molten into one burning mass.

He refused to throw off his clothes, or to make any preparation for sleep; but spent the night in a succession of the most violent bursts of passion. In some paroxysms he talked incessantly to his attendants so thick and so rapidly, that they were really afraid his senses would give way, choosing for his theme the merits and the kindness of heart of the murdered Bishop of Liege, and recalling all the instances of mutual kindness, affection, and confidence which had passed between them, until he had worked himself into such a transport of grief, that he threw himself upon his face in the bed, and seemed ready to choke with the sobs and tears which he endeavoured to stifle. Then starting from the couch, he gave vent at once to another and more furious mood, and traversed the room hastily, uttering incoherent threats, and still more incoherent oaths of vengeance, while stamping with his foot, according to his customary action, he invoked Saint George, Saint Andrew, and whomsoever else he held most holy, to bear witness that he would take bloody vengeance on De la Marck, on the people of Liege, and on him who was the author of the whole. -- These last threats, uttered more obscurely than the others, obviously concerned the person of the King, and at one time the Duke expressed his determination to send for the Duke of Normandy, the brother of the King, and with whom Louis was on the worst terms, in order to compel the captive monarch to surrender either the Crown itself, or some of its most valuable rights and appanages.

Another day and night passed in the same stormy and fitful deliberations, or rather rapid transitions of passion, for the Duke scarcely ate or drank, never changed his dress, and, altogether, demeaned himself like one in whom rage might terminate in utter insanity. By degrees he became more composed, and began to hold, from time to time, consultations with his ministers, in which much was proposed, but nothing resolved on. Comines assures us that at one time a courier was mounted in readiness to depart for the purpose of summoning the Duke of Normandy, and in that event, the prison of the French Monarch would probably have been found, as in similar cases, a brief road to his grave.

At other times, when Charles had exhausted his fury, he sat with his features fixed in stern and rigid immobility, like one who broods over some desperate deed, to which he is as yet unable to work up his resolution. And unquestionably it would have needed little more than an insidious hint from any of the counsellors who attended his person to have pushed the Duke to some very desperate action. But the nobles of Burgundy, from the sacred character attached to the person of a King, and a Lord Paramount, and from a regard to the public faith, as well as that of their Duke, which had been pledged when Louis threw himself into their power, were almost unanimously inclined to recommend moderate measures; and the arguments which D'Hymbercourt and De Comines had now and then ventured to insinuate during the night, were, in the cooler hours of the next morning, advanced and urged by Crevecoeur and others. Possibly their zeal in behalf of the King might not be entirely disinterested.

Many, as we have mentioned, had already experienced the bounty of the King; others had either estates or pretensions in France, which placed them a little under his influence; and it is certain that the treasure which had loaded four mules when the King entered Peronne, became much lighter in the course of these negotiations.

In the course of the third day, the Count of Campobasso brought his Italian wit to assist the counsels of Charles; and well was it for Louis that he had not arrived when the Duke was in his first fury. Immediately on his arrival, a regular meeting of the Duke's counsellors was convened for considering the measures to be adopted in this singular crisis.

On this occasion, Campobasso gave his opinion, couched in the apologue of the Traveller, the Adder, and the Fox; and reminded the Duke of the advice which Reynard gave to the man, that he should crush his mortal enemy, now that chance had placed his fate at his disposal. (The fox advised the man who had found a snake by the roadside to kill it. He, however, placed it in his bosom, and was afterwards bitten.) De Comines, who saw the Duke's eyes sparkle at a proposal which his own violence of temper had already repeatedly suggested, hastened to state the possibility that Louis might not be, in fact, so directly accessory to the sanguinary action which had been committed at Schonwaldt; that he might be able to clear himself of the imputation laid to his charge, and perhaps to make other atonement for the distractions which his intrigues had occasioned in the Duke's dominions, and those of his allies; and that an act of violence perpetrated on the King was sure to bring both on France and Burgundy a train of the most unhappy consequences, among which not the least to be feared was that the English might avail themselves of the commotions and civil discord which must needs ensue, to repossess themselves of Normandy and Guyenne, and renew those dreadful wars which had only, and with difficulty, been terminated by the union of both France and Burgundy against the common enemy. Finally, he confessed that he did not mean to urge the absolute and free dismissal of Louis; but only that the Duke should avail himself no farther of his present condition than merely to establish a fair and equitable treaty between the countries, with such security on the King's part as should make it difficult for him to break his faith, or disturb the internal peace of Burgundy in the future. D'Hymbercourt, Crevecoeur, and others signified their reprobation of the violent measures proposed by Campobasso, and their opinion, that in the way of treaty more permanent advantages could be obtained, and in a manner more honourable for Burgundy, than by an action which would stain her with a breach of faith and hospitality.

The Duke listened to these arguments with his looks fixed on the ground, and his brow so knitted together as to bring his bushy eyebrows into one mass. But when Crevecoeur proceeded to say that he did not believe Louis either knew of, or was accessory to, the atrocious act of violence committed at Schonwaldt, Charles raised his head, and darting a fierce look at his counsellor, exclaimed, "Have you too, Crevecoeur, heard the gold of France clink? -- Methinks it rings in my council as merrily as ever the bells of Saint Denis. -- Dare any one say that Louis is not the fomenter of these feuds in Flanders?"

"My gracious lord," said Crevecoeur, "my hand has ever been more conversant with steel than with gold, and so far am I from holding that Louis is free from the charge of having caused the disturbances in Flanders, that it is not long since, in the face of his whole Court, I charged him with that breach of faith, and offered him defiance in your name. But although his intrigues have been doubtless the original cause of these commotions, I am so far from believing that he authorized the death of the Archbishop, that I believe one of his emissaries publicly protested against it; and I could produce the man, were it your Grace's pleasure to see him."

"It is our pleasure," said the Duke. "Saint George, can you doubt that we desire to act justly? Even in the highest flight of our passion, we are known for an upright and a just judge. We will see France ourself -- we will ourself charge him with our wrongs, and ourself state to him the reparation which we expect and demand. If he shall be found guiltless of this murder, the atonement for other crimes may be more easy. -- If he hath been guilty, who shall say that a life of penitence in some retired monastery were not a most deserved and a most merciful doom? -- Who," he added, kindling as be spoke, "who shall dare to blame a revenge yet more direct and more speedy? -- Let your witness attend. -- We will to the Castle at the hour before noon. Some articles we will minute down with which he shall comply, or woe on his head! Others shall depend upon the proof. Break up the council, and dismiss yourselves. I will but change my dress, as this is scarce a fitting trim in which to wait on my most gracious Sovereign."

With a deep and bitter emphasis on the last expression, the Duke arose and strode out of the room.

"Louis's safety, and, what is worse, the honour of Burgundy, depend on a cast of the dice," said D'Hymbercourt to Crevecoeur and to De Comines. "Haste thee to the Castle, De Comines, thou hast a better filed tongue than either Crevecoeur or I. Explain to Louis what storm is approaching -- he will best know how to pilot himself. I trust this Life Guardsman will say nothing which can aggravate; for who knows what may have been the secret commission with which he was charged?"

"The young man," said Crevecoeur, "seems bold, yet prudent and wary far beyond his years. In all which he said to me he was tender of the King's character, as of that of the Prince whom he serves. I trust he will be equally so in the Duke's presence. I must go seek him, and also the young Countess of Croye."

"The Countess -- you told us you had left her at Saint Bridget's"

"Ay, but I was obliged," said the Count, "to send for her express, by the Duke's orders; and she has been brought hither on a litter, as being unable to travel otherwise. She was in a state of the deepest distress, both on account of the uncertainty of the fate of her kinswoman, the Lady Hameline, and the gloom which overhangs her own, guilty as she has been of a feudal delinquency, in withdrawing herself from the protection of her liege lord, Duke Charles, who is not the person in the world most likely to view with indifference what trenches on his seignorial rights."

The information that the young Countess was in the hands of Charles, added fresh and more pointed thorns to Louis's reflections. He was conscious that, by explaining the intrigues by which he had induced the Lady Hameline and her to resort to Peronne, she might supply that evidence which he had removed by the execution of Zamet Maugrabin, and he knew well how much such proof of his having interfered with the rights of the Duke of Burgundy would furnish both motive and pretext for Charles's availing himself to the uttermost of his present predicament.

Louis discoursed on these matters with great anxiety to the Sieur de Comines, whose acute and political talents better suited the King's temper than the blunt martial character of Crevecoeur, or the feudal haughtiness of D'Hymbercourt.

"These iron handed soldiers, my good friend Comines," he said to his future historian, "should never enter a King's cabinet, but be left with the halberds and partisans in the antechamber. Their hands are indeed made for our use, but the monarch who puts their heads to any better occupation than that of anvils for his enemies' swords and maces, ranks with the fool who presented his mistress with a dog leash for a carcanet. It is with such as thou, Philip, whose eyes are gifted with the quick and keen sense that sees beyond the exterior surface of affairs, that Princes should share their council table, their cabinet -- what do I say? -- the most secret recesses of their soul."

De Comines, himself so keen a spirit, was naturally gratified with the approbation of the most sagacious Prince in Europe, and he could not so far disguise his internal satisfaction, but that Louis was aware he had made some impression on him.

"I would," continued he, "that I had such a servant, or rather that I were worthy to have such a one! I had not then been in this unfortunate situation, which, nevertheless, I should hardly regret, could I but discover any means of securing the services of so experienced a statist."

De Comines said that all his faculties, such as they were, were at the service of his Most Christian Majesty, saving always his allegiance to his rightful lord, Duke Charles of Burgundy.

"And am I one who would seduce you from that allegiance?" said Louis pathetically. "Alas! am I not now endangered by having reposed too much confidence in my vassal? and can the cause of feudal good faith be more sacred with any than with me, whose safety depends on an appeal to it? -- No, Philip de Comines -- continue to serve Charles of Burgundy, and you will best serve him, by bringing round a fair accommodation with Louis of France. In doing thus you will serve us both, and one, at least, will be grateful. I am told your appointments in this Court hardly match those of the Grand Falconer and thus the services of the wisest counsellor in Europe are put on a level, or rather ranked below, those of a fellow who feeds and physics kites! France has wide lands -- her King has much gold. Allow me, my friend, to rectify this scandalous inequality. The means are not distant. -- Permit me to use them."

The King produced a weighty bag of money; but De Comines, more delicate in his sentiments than most courtiers of that time, declined the proffer, declaring himself perfectly satisfied with the liberality of his native Prince, and assuring Louis that his desire to serve him could not be increased by the acceptance of any such gratuity as he had proposed.

"Singular man!" exclaimed the King; "let me embrace the only courtier of his time, at once capable and incorruptible. Wisdom is to be desired more than fine gold; and believe me, I trust in thy kindness, Philip, at this pinch, more than I do in the purchased assistance of many who have received my gifts. I know you will not counsel your master to abuse such an opportunity as fortune, and, to speak plain, De Comines, as my own folly, has afforded him."

"To abuse it, by no means," answered the historian, "but most certainly to use it."

"How, and in what degree?" said Louis. "I am not ass enough to expect that I shall escape without some ransom -- but let it be a reasonable one -- reason I am ever Willing to listen to at Paris or at Plessis, equally as at Peronne."

"Ah, but if it like your Majesty," replied De Comines, "Reason at Paris or Plessis was used to speak in so low and soft a tone of voice, that she could not always gain an audience of your Majesty -- at Peronne she borrows the speaking trumpet of Necessity, and her voice becomes lordly and imperative."

"You are figurative," said Louis, unable to restrain an emotion of peevishness; "I am a dull, blunt man, Sir of Comines. I pray you leave your tropes, and come to plain ground. What does your Duke expect of me?"

"I am the bearer of no propositions, my lord," said De Comines; "the Duke will soon explain his own pleasure; but some things occur to me as proposals, for which your Majesty- ought to hold yourself prepared. As, for example, the final cession of these towns here upon the Somme."

"I expected so much," said Louis.

"That you should disown the Liegeois, and William de la Marck."

"As willingly as I disclaim Hell and Satan," said Louis.

"Ample security will be required, by hostages, or occupation of fortresses, or otherwise, that France shall in future abstain from stirring up rebellion among the Flemings."

"It is something new," answered the King, "that a vassal should demand pledges from his Sovereign; but let that pass too."

"A suitable and independent appanage for your illustrious brother, the ally and friend of my master -- Normandy or Champagne. The Duke loves your father's house, my Liege."

"So well," answered Louis, "that, mort Dieu! he's about to make them all kings. -- Is your budget of hints yet emptied?"

"Not entirely," answered the counsellor: "it will certainly be required that your Majesty will forbear molesting, as you have done of late, the Duke de Bretagne, and that you will no longer contest the right which he and other grand feudatories have, to strike money, to term themselves dukes and princes by the grace of God --"

"In a word, to make so many kings of my vassals. Sir Philip, would you make a fratricide of me? -- You remember well my brother Charles -- he was no sooner Duke of Guyenne, than he died. -- And what will be left to the descendant and representative of Charlemagne, after giving away these rich provinces, save to be smeared with oil (a king, priest, or prophet was consecrated by means of oil) at Rheims, and to eat their dinner under a high canopy?"

"We will diminish your Majesty's concern on that score, by giving you a companion in that solitary exaltation," said Philip de Comines. "The Duke of Burgundy, though he claims not at present the title of an independent king, desires nevertheless to be freed in future from the abject marks of subjection required of him to the crown of France -- it is his purpose to close his ducal coronet with an imperial arch, and surmount it with a globe, in emblem that his dominions are independent."

"And how dares the Duke of Burgundy, the sworn vassal of France," exclaimed Louis, starting up, and showing an unwonted degree of emotion, "how dares he propose such terms to his Sovereign, as, by every law of Europe, should infer a forfeiture of his fief?"

"The doom of forfeiture it would in this case be difficult to enforce," answered De Comines calmly. "Your Majesty is aware that the strict interpretation of the feudal law is becoming obsolete even in the Empire, and that superior and vassal endeavour to mend their situation in regard to each other, as they have power and. opportunity.

"Your Majesty's interferences with the Duke's vassals in Flanders will prove an exculpation of my master's conduct, supposing him to insist that, by enlarging his independence, France should in future be debarred from any pretext of doing so."

"Comines, Comines!" said Louis, arising again, and pacing the room in a pensive manner, "this is a dreadful lesson on the text Vae victis! (woe to the vanquished!) -- You cannot mean that the Duke will insist on all these hard conditions?"

"At least I would have your Majesty be in a condition to discuss them all."

"Yet moderation, De Comines, moderation in success, is -- no one knows better than you -- necessary to its ultimate advantage."

"So please your Majesty, the merit of moderation is, I have observed, most apt to be extolled by the losing party. The winner holds in more esteem the prudence which calls on him not to leave an opportunity unimproved."

"Well, we will consider," replied the King; "but at least thou hast reached the extremity of your Duke's unreasonable exaction? there can remain nothing -- or if there does, for so thy brow intimates -- what is it -- what indeed can it be -- unless it be my crown? which these previous demands, if granted, will deprive of all its lustre?"

"My lord," said De Comines, "what remains to be mentioned, is a thing partly -- indeed in a great measure within the Duke's own power, though he means to invite your Majesty's accession to it, for in truth it touches you nearly."

"Pasques Dieu!" exclaimed the King impatiently, "what is it? -- Speak out, Sir Philip -- am I to send him my daughter for a concubine, or what other dishonour is he to put on me?"

"No dishonour, my Liege; but your Majesty's cousin, the illustrious Duke of Orleans --"

"Ha!" exclaimed the King; but De Comines proceeded without heeding the interruption.

"-- having conferred his affections on the young Countess Isabelle de Croye, the Duke expects your Majesty will, on your part, as he on his, yield your assent to the marriage, and unite with him in endowing the right noble couple with such an appanage, as, joined to the Countess's estates, may form a fit establishment for a Child of France."

"Never, never!" said the King, bursting out into that emotion which he had of late suppressed with much difficulty, and striding about in a disordered haste, which formed the strongest contrast to the self command which he usually exhibited.

"Never, never! -- let them bring scissors, and shear my hair like that of the parish fool, whom I have so richly resembled -- let them bid the monastery or the grave yawn for me, let them bring red hot basins to sear my eyes -- axe or aconite -- whatever they will, but Orleans shall not break his plighted faith to my daughter, or marry another while she lives!"

"Your Majesty," said De Comines, "ere you set your mind so keenly against what is proposed, will consider your own want of power to prevent it. Every wise man, when he sees a rock giving way, withdraws from the bootless attempt of preventing the fall."

"But a brave man," said Louis, "will at least find his grave beneath it. De Comines, consider the great loss, the utter destruction, such a marriage will bring upon my kingdom. Recollect, I have but one feeble boy, and this Orleans is the next heir -- consider that the Church hath consented to his union with Joan, which unites so happily the interests of both branches of my family, think on all this, and think too that this union has been the favourite scheme of my whole life -- that I have schemed for it, fought for it, watched for it, prayed for it -- and sinned for it. Philip de Comines, I will not forego it! Think man, think! -- pity me in this extremity, thy quick brain can speedily find some substitute for this sacrifice -- some ram to be offered up instead of that project which is dear to me as the Patriarch's only son was to him. (Isaac, whose father Abraham, in obedience to the command of God, was about to sacrifice him upon the altar when a ram appeared, which Abraham offered in his stead.) Philip, pity me! -- you at least should know that, to men of judgment and foresight, the destruction of the scheme on which they have long dwelt, and for which they have long toiled, is more inexpressibly bitter than the transient grief of ordinary men, whose pursuits are but the gratification of some temporary passion -- you, who know how to sympathize with the deeper, the more genuine distress of baffled prudence and disappointed sagacity -- will you not feel for me?"

"My Lord and King," replied De Comines, "I do sympathize with your distress in so far as duty to my master --"

"Do not mention him!" said Louis, acting, or at least appearing to act, under an irresistible and headlong impulse, which withdrew the usual guard which he maintained over his language. "Charles of Burgundy is unworthy of your attachment. He who can insult and strike his councillors -- he who can distinguish the wisest and most faithful among them by the opprobrious name of Booted Head!"

The wisdom of Philip de Comines did not prevent his having a high sense of personal consequence; and he was so much struck with the words which the King uttered, as it were, in the career of a passion which overleaped ceremony, that he could only reply by repetition of the words "Booted Head! It is impossible that my master the Duke could have so termed the servant who has been at his side since he could mount a palfrey -- and that too before a foreign monarch! -- it is impossible!"

Louis instantly saw the impression he had made, and avoiding alike a tone of condolence, which might have seemed insulting, and one of sympathy, which might have savoured of affectation; he said, with simplicity, and at the same time with dignity, "My misfortunes make me forget my courtesy, else I had not spoken to you of what it must be unpleasant for you to hear. But you have in reply taxed me with having uttered impossibilities -- this touches my honour; yet I must submit to the charge, if I tell you not the circumstances which the Duke, laughing until his eyes ran over, assigned for the origin of that opprobrious name, which I will not offend your ears by repeating. Thus, then, it chanced. You, Sir Philip de Comines, were at a hunting match with the Duke of Burgundy, your master; and when he alighted after the chase, he required your services in drawing off his boots. Reading in your looks, perhaps, some natural resentment of this disparaging treatment, he ordered you to sit down in turn, and rendered you the same office he had just received from you. But offended at your understanding him literally, he no sooner plucked one of your boots off than he brutally beat it about your head till the blood flowed, exclaiming against the insolence of a subject who had the presumption to accept of such a service at the hand of his Sovereign; and hence he, or his privileged fool, Le Glorieux, is in the current habit of distinguishing you by the absurd and ridiculous name of Tete botte, which makes one of the Duke's most ordinary subjects of pleasantry."

(The story is told more bluntly, and less probably, in the French memoirs of the period, which affirm that Comines, out of a presumption inconsistent with his excellent good sense, had asked of Charles of Burgundy to draw off his boots, without having been treated with any previous familiarity to lead to such a freedom. I have endeavoured to give the anecdote a turn more consistent with the sense and prudence of the great author concerned. S.)

While Louis thus spoke, he had the double pleasure of galling to the quick the person whom he addressed -- an exercise which it was in his nature to enjoy, even where he had not, as in the present case, the apology that he did so in pure retaliation -- and that of observing that he had at length been able to find a point in De Comines's character which might lead him gradually from the interests of Burgundy to those of France. But although the deep resentment which the offended courtier entertained against his master induced him at a future period to exchange the service of Charles for that of Louis, yet, at the present moment, he was contented to throw out only some general hints of his friendly inclination towards France, which he well knew the King would understand how to interpret. And indeed it would be unjust to stigmatize the memory of the excellent historian with the desertion of his master on this occasion, although he was certainly now possessed with sentiments much more favourable to Louis than when he entered the apartment.

He constrained himself to laugh at the anecdote which Louis had detailed, and then added, "I did not think so trifling a frolic would have dwelt on the mind of the Duke so long as to make it worth telling again. Some such passage there was of drawing off boots and the like, as your Majesty knows that the Duke is fond of rude play; but it has been much exaggerated in his recollection. Let it pass on."

"Ay, let it pass on," said the King; "it is indeed shame it should have detained us a minute. -- And now, Sir Philip, I hope you are French so far as to afford me your best counsel in these difficult affairs. You have, I am well aware, the clew to the labyrinth, if you would but impart it."

"Your Majesty may command my best advice and service," replied De Comines, "under reservation always of my duty to my own master."

This was nearly what the courtier had before stated; but he now repeated it in a tone so different that, whereas Louis understood from the former declaration that the reserved duty to Burgundy was the prime thing to be considered, so he now saw clearly that the emphasis was reversed, and that more weight was now given by the speaker to his promise of counsel than to a restriction which seemed interposed for the sake of form and consistency. The King resumed his own seat, and compelled De Comines to sit by him, listening at the same time to that statesman as if the words of an oracle sounded in his ears. De Comines spoke in that low and impressive tone which implies at once great sincerity and some caution, and at the same time so slowly as if he was desirous that the King should weigh and consider each individual word as having its own peculiar and determined meaning.

"The things," he said, "which I have suggested for your Majesty's consideration, harsh as they sound in your ear, are but substitutes for still more violent proposals brought forward in the Duke's counsels, by such as are more hostile to your Majesty. And I need scarce remind your Majesty, that the more direct and more violent suggestions find readiest acceptance with our master, who loves brief and dangerous measures better than those that are safe, but at the same time circuitous."

"I remember," said the King. "I have seen him swim a river at the risk of drowning, though there was a bridge to be found for riding two hundred yards."

"True, Sire; and he that weighs not his life against the gratification of a moment of impetuous passion will, on the same impulse, prefer the gratification of his will to the increase of his substantial power."

"Most true," replied the King; "a fool will ever grasp rather at the appearance than the reality of authority. And this I know to be true of Charles of Burgundy. But, my dear friend De Comines, what do you infer from these premises?"

"Simply this, my lord," answered the Burgundian, "that as your Majesty has seen a skilful angler control a large and heavy fish, and finally draw him to land by a single hair, which fish had broke through a tackle tenfold stronger, had the fisher presumed to strain the line on him, instead of giving him head enough for all his wild flourishes; even so your Majesty, by gratifying the Duke in these particulars on which he has pitched his ideas of honour, and the gratification of his revenge, may evade many of the other unpalatable propositions at which I have hinted; and which -- including, I must state openly to your Majesty, some of those through which France would be most especially weakened -- will slide out of his remembrance and attention, and, being referred to subsequent conferences and future discussion, may be altogether eluded."

"I understand you, my good Sir Philip; but to the matter," said the King. "To which of those happy propositions is your Duke so much wedded that contradiction will make him unreasonable and untractable?"

"To any or to all of them, if it please your Majesty, on which you may happen to contradict him. This is precisely what your Majesty must avoid; and to take up my former parable, you must needs remain on the watch, ready to give the Duke line enough whenever he shoots away under the impulse of his rage. His fury, already considerably abated, will waste itself if he be unopposed, and you will presently find him become more friendly and more tractable."

"Still," said the' King, musing, "there must be some particular demands which lie deeper at my cousin's heart than the other proposals. Were I but aware of these, Sir Philip"

"Your Majesty may make the lightest of his demands the most important simply by opposing it," said De Comines, "nevertheless, my lord, thus far I can say, that every shadow of treaty will be broken off, if your Majesty renounce not William de la Marck and the Liegeois."

"I have already said that I will disown them," said the King, "and well they deserve it at my hand; the villains have commenced their uproar at a moment that might have cost me my life."

"He that fires a train of powder," replied the historian, "must expect a speedy explosion of the mine. -- But more than mere disavowal of their cause will be expected of your Majesty by Duke Charles, for know that he will demand your Majesty assistance to put the insurrection down, and your royal presence to witness the punishment which he destines for the rebels."

"That may scarce consist with our honour, De Comines," said the King.

"To refuse it will scarcely consist with your Majesty's safety," replied De Comines. "Charles is determined to show the people of Flanders that no hope, nay, no promise, of assistance from France will save them in their mutinies from the wrath and vengeance of Burgundy."

"But, Sir Philip, I will speak plainly," answered the King. "Could we but procrastinate the matter, might not these rogues of Liege make their own part good against Duke Charles? The knaves are numerous and steady. -- Can they not hold out their town against him?"

"With the help of the thousand archers of France whom your Majesty promised them, they might have done something, but --"

"Whom I promised them?" said the King. "Alas! good Sir Philip! you much wrong me in saying so."

"But without whom," continued De Comines, not heeding the interruption, "as your Majesty will not now likely find it convenient to supply them, what chance will the burghers have of making good their town, in whose walls the large breaches made by Charles after the battle of St. Tron are still unrepaired; so that the lances of Hainault, Brabant, and Burgundy may advance to the attack twenty men in front?"

"The improvident idiots!" said the King. "If they have thus neglected their own safety, they deserve not my protection. Pass on -- I will make no quarrel for their sake."

"The next point, I fear, will sit closer to your Majesty's heart," said De Comines.

"Ah!" replied the King, "you mean that infernal marriage! I will not consent to the breach of the contract betwixt my daughter Joan and my cousin of Orleans -- it would be wresting the sceptre of France from me and my posterity; for that feeble boy, the Dauphin, is a blighted blossom, which will wither without fruit. This match between Joan and Orleans has been my thought by day, my dream by night. -- I tell thee, Sir Philip, I cannot give it up! -- Besides, it is inhuman to require me, with my own hand, to destroy at once my own scheme of policy, and the happiness of a pair brought up for each other."

"Are they, then, so much attached?" said De Comines.

"One of them at least," said the King, "and the one for whom I am bound to be most anxious. But you smile, Sir Philip -- you are no believer in the force of love."

"Nay," said De Comines, "if it please you, Sire, I am so little an infidel in that particular that I was about to ask whether it would reconcile you in any degree to your acquiescing in the proposed marriage betwixt the Duke of Orleans and Isabelle de Croye, were I to satisfy you that the Countess's inclinations are so much fixed on another, that it is likely it will never be a match?"

King Louis sighed. "Alas," he said, "my good and dear friend, from what sepulchre have you drawn such dead comfort? Her inclinations, indeed! -- Why, to speak truth, supposing that Orleans detested my daughter Joan, yet, but for this ill ravelled web of mischance, he must needs have married her; so you may conjecture how little chance there is of this damsel's being able to refuse him under a similar compulsion, and he a Child of France besides. -- Ah, no, Philip! little fear of her standing obstinate against the suit of such a lover. -- Varium et mutabile ((semper femina): woman is always inconstant and capricious), Philip."

"Your Majesty may, in the present instance, undervalue the obstinate courage of this young lady. She comes of a race determinately wilful; and I have picked out of Crevecoeur that she has formed a romantic attachment to a young squire, who, to say truth, rendered her many services on the road."

"Ha!" said the King -- "an Archer of my Guards, by name Quentin Durward?"

"The same, as I think," said De Comines; "he was made prisoner along with the Countess, travelling almost alone together."

"Now, our Lord and our Lady, and Monseigneur Saint Martin, and Monseigneur Saint Julian, be praised every one of them!" said the King, "and all laud and honour to the learned Galeotti; who read in the stars that this youth's destiny was connected with mine! If the maiden be so attached to him as to make her refractory to the will of Burgundy, this Quentin hath indeed been rarely useful to me."

"I believe, my lord," answered the Burgundian, "according to Crevecoeur's report, that there is some chance of her being sufficiently obstinate; besides, doubtless, the noble Duke himself, notwithstanding what your Majesty was pleased to hint in way of supposition, will not willingly renounce his fair cousin, to whom he has been long engaged."

"Umph!" answered the King -- "but you have never seen my daughter Joan. -- A howlet, man! -- an absolute owl, whom I am ashamed of! But let him be only a wise man, and marry her, I will give him leave to be mad par amours for the fairest lady in France. -- And now, Philip, have you given me the full map of your master's mind?"

"I have possessed you, Sire, of those particulars on which he is at present most disposed to insist. But your Majesty well knows that the Duke's disposition is like a sweeping torrent, which only passes smoothly forward when its waves encounter no opposition; and what may be presented to chafe him info fury, it is impossible even to guess. Were more distinct evidence of your Majesty's practices (pardon the phrase, when there is so little time for selection) with the Liegeois and William de la Marck to occur unexpectedly, the issue might be terrible. -- There are strange news from that country -- they say La Marck hath married Hameline, the elder Countess of Croye."

"That old fool was so mad on marriage that she would have accepted the hand of Satan," said the King; "but that La Marck, beast as he is, should have married her, rather more surprises me."

"There is a report also," continued De Comines, "that an envoy, or herald, on La Marck's part, is approaching Peronne; this is like to drive the Duke frantic with rage -- I trust that he has no letters or the like to show on your Majesty's part?"

"Letters to a Wild Boar!" answered the King. -- "No, no, Sir Philip, I was no such fool as to cast pearls before swine. -- What little intercourse I had with the brute animal was by message, in which I always employed such low bred slaves and vagabonds that their evidence would not be received in a trial for robbing a hen roost."

"I can then only further recommend," said De Comines, taking his leave, "that your Majesty should remain on your guard, be guided by events, and, above all, avoid using any language or argument with the Duke which may better become your dignity than your present condition."

"If my dignity," said the King, "grow troublesome to me -- which it seldom doth while there are deeper interests to think of -- I have a special remedy for that swelling of the heart. -- It is but looking into a certain ruinous closet, Sir Philip, and thinking of the death of Charles the Simple; and it cures me as effectually as the cold bath would cool a fever. -- And now, my friend and monitor, must thou be gone? Well, Sir Philip, the time must come when thou wilt tire reading lessons of state policy to the Bull of Burgundy, who is incapable of comprehending your most simple argument. -- If Louis of Valois then lives, thou hast a friend in the Court of France. I tell thee, my Philip, it would be a blessing to my kingdom should I ever acquire thee; who, with a profound view of subjects of state, hast also a conscience, capable of feeling and discerning between right and wrong. So help me our Lord and Lady, and Monseigneur Saint Martin, Oliver and Balue have hearts as hardened as the nether millstone; and my life is embittered by remorse and penances for the crimes they make me commit. Thou, Sir Philip, possessed of the wisdom of present and past times, canst teach how to become great without ceasing to be virtuous."

"A hard task, and which few have attained," said the historian; "but which is yet within the reach of princes who will strive for it. Meantime, Sire, be prepared, for the Duke will presently confer with you."

Louis looked long after Philip when he left the apartment, and at length burst into a bitter laugh. "He spoke of fishing -- I have sent him home, a trout properly tickled! -- And he thinks himself virtuous because he took no bribe, but contented himself with flattery and promises, and the pleasure of avenging an affront to his vanity! -- Why, he is but so much the poorer for the refusal of the money -- not a jot the more honest. He must be mine, though, for he hath the shrewdest head among them. Well, now for nobler game! I am to face this leviathan Charles, who will presently swim hitherward, cleaving the deep before him. I must, like a trembling sailor, throw a tub overboard to amuse him. But I may one day find the chance of driving a harpoon into his entrails!"

(If a ship is threatened by a school of whales, a tub is thrown into the sea to divert their attention. Hence to mislead an enemy, or to create a diversion in order to avoid a danger.)

(Scott says that during this interesting scene Comines first realized the great powers of Louis, and entertained from this time a partiality to France which allured him to Louis's court in 1472. After the death of Louis he fell under the suspicion of that sovereign's daughter and was imprisoned in one of the cages he has so feelingly described. He was subjected to trial and exiled from court, but was afterwards employed by Charles VIII in one or two important missions. He died at his Castle of Argenton in 1509, and was regretted as one of the most profound statesmen, and the best historian of his age.)

我们的主意游移不定,就像一只飘荡的小船,

在水流逐角的漩涡中不停地旋转。

《古老的戏剧》

如果说路易度过的这一夜充满了焦虑和不安,那么,勃艮第公爵度过的这一夜则更是辗转反侧,难以入眠。

按照当时的惯例,他那两位最得宠的主要谋臣——丹伯古和德贡明也在他的卧室里就寝,睡榻就设在公爵的床铺旁边。他们这晚的陪伴比以往任何时候都更为必要,因为悲伤、愤怒、复仇的欲望以及荣誉感在他心中相互交织(这迫使他目前不能对路易下手)。公爵内心十分矛盾,就像一座爆发的火山,正在喷射出混有各种成分的燃烧的熔浆。他不愿解衣就寝,而是在感情激烈爆发中度过了整整一夜。在他爆发的时候,他对两个随从不断地胡说一阵,讲得既快又含糊不清,以致他们真担心他会神经错乱。他讲的内容不外乎是遇害的列日主教的美德,特别是他的善良。他回忆起他们之间充满互信互爱的种种往事,越想越伤心,最后竟悲痛得泣不成声,倒在床上。然后他又从床上跳了起来,发泄另一种更暴烈的感情。他在房里匆匆地踱来踱去,说出一串串语无伦次的恐吓话,以及更语无伦次的复仇誓言。他一边顿着脚,一边按他习惯的做法,祈求圣乔治·安德鲁,以及一切被视为神圣的亡灵作证:他将对德拉马克和列日市民,以及作为总后台的这个人以牙还牙——这后一个誓言对象要比前两个说得更含糊一些,显然针对的是国王本人。有一次公爵表示,他决心派人去把路易王的兄弟——和他关系最恶劣的诺曼底公爵请到这里来,迫使这被国的国王交出王位或放弃最宝贵的一部分王权以及某些附属的特权。

第二天,他也是整天整夜在暴风雨般激动不宁的思虑中,或者说在感情迅速地交替变化中度过的。他寝不安席,食不甘味,总之,表现得就像一个愤怒得快要发狂的人。最后他还是逐步平静下来,有时还和他的两位大臣商量。然而总是拟议的多,什么也决定不下来。贡明告诉我们说,有一次信使已骑上马,准备出发去邀请诺曼底公爵。要是果成事实,那么被囚禁的法国国王就会像在类似情况下常见的那样,提前走进自己的坟墓。

另一些时候,查尔斯像是把满腔的愤怒都发泄光了,便面孔严峻而呆板地坐着,似乎在考虑采取他还不能下定决心的某种果断行动。毫无疑问,只要陪伴公爵的谋臣有哪个稍作点阴险的暗示,都有可能促使他铤而走险。然而,考虑到作为国王和至高无上的君主所具有的神圣权威,考虑到集体的信誉以及公爵本人的信誉(既然路易把自己的人身安危听任公爵支配,公爵就受到信誉的约束),勃艮第的贵族们几乎一致主张采取温和的办法。丹伯古和德贡明利用晚上的时间不时委婉而大胆地提出一些看法,而在第二天早晨,人们头脑比较冷静的时候,克雷维格和别的一些大臣也都跑来推销一些同样的见解。他们之所以为路易王如此热心地说情,也许不完全是出于无私的动机。正如我们提到过的,许多人都已经得到了国王的好处,而另一些人则在法国具有田产和权益,使他们多少受到他的影响。而国王来佩隆时用四匹骡子驮的珠宝,经过这些外交活动之后,也肯定轻了不少。

第三天康波·巴索伯爵带着他那用意大利人处理问题的头脑,走来向查尔斯献策。公爵最初大发雷霆的那个时刻他没有在场,这对路易王说来是很幸运的一点。他一到,公爵便宣布枢密会议正式开始,以考虑在当前这个特殊的紧要关头应采取何种对策。

在这个会上康波·巴索借用旅人、毒蛇和狐狸的寓言来阐述自己的看法。他提醒公爵注意:既然一个死敌碰巧把它的命运置于自己的支配之下,就应当把它一脚踩死。公爵暴烈的性格也曾一再促使他产生过类似的想法。听他这么一说,自然高兴得眼睛炯炯发光。见此情况,德贡明急忙陈辞说,路易可能实际上并没有直接参与索恩瓦尔德的流血惨剧,也许他能提出证据澄清对自己的指控。说不定他还能为他在公爵及其盟友的领土上阴谋搞鬼造成的混乱作出别的一些补偿。而如果对国王人身采取暴力行动,则肯定会给法国和勃艮第带来一系列极其不幸的后果,其中很值得担心的是英国人会利用必然产生的混乱和纷争重新占领诺曼底和吉耶尼,并使得惟一可以依靠的法国和勃艮第为对付共同仇敌而建立的联盟费了许多周折才得以结束的可怕战争继续下去。最后他坦白地表示,他并不是想使路易获得无条件释放。不过,他认为公爵应利用他目前的处境在两国之间签订一个公正的条约,要求他作出保证,以使他今后难以背信弃义,破坏勃艮第的国内和平。丹伯古、克雷维格以及其他一些大臣也都表示不赞成康波·巴索提出的暴力解决办法。他们都认为,签订条约的方式要比有损勃艮第信誉和破坏待客原则的暴力行动更能带来持久的利益,对勃艮第说来也更为光荣。

公爵倾听这些争论时浓眉紧锁,前额皱成一块,眼睛呆滞地望着地面。然而,当克雷维格也接着说,他不相信路易事先知道索恩瓦尔德发生的暴行或参与共谋时,查尔斯突然抬起头向这位谋臣狠狠盯了一眼,大声说道:“克雷维格,难道你也听到了法国金币在你耳朵里丁当响吗?我想它大概就像圣·丹尼斯教堂的钟声那样使我的谋臣们听来悦耳——谁敢说弗兰德这些仇杀不是路易煽动起来的?”

“我贤明的君主,”克雷维格说道,“我这人的手一贯习惯于和钢刀打交道,而不习惯于和金币打交道。至于说路易,我不仅认为他应对煽动弗兰德的骚乱承担罪责,而且不久前我还在他的满朝文武面前指控他背信弃义,并以您的名义向他提出挑战。不过,尽管他的阴谋诡计无疑是造成这些骚动的根本原因,我却并不认为是他下令杀害的主教。我甚至有理由相信,他派出的一名特使还对此公开表示抗议。要是殿下愿意见他的话,我可以把这人叫来。”

“我很愿意见他,”公爵说道,“圣乔治在上,难道你不相信,做事公正是我一贯的愿望?即使是在盛怒之下,人们也知道我是一个正直、公道的裁判。我愿亲自去见法国国王——我愿亲自去控诉他给我们造成的损失,并向他提出我们要求得到的赔偿。如果真查明他与这个谋杀无关,要弥补别的罪过就好办得多。如果证实他的确有罪,那么叫他在某个偏僻的寺院过过忏悔的生活,谁能说这不是给他一个咎由自取的、极其宽大的发落?谁,”他火冒三丈地补充说道,“谁又敢指责我,即使我给他一个更直接、更迅速的报复?好吧,你就陪我一道去见他。我将在午前十一点去城堡,并将详细地订出一些条款,要他同意签署,否则当心他的脑袋!别的一些条款得看查出的证据如何。现在我宣布散会。我得换换衣服,因为穿这身衣服地去觐见那位最最贤明的君主未免很不合适。”

公爵带着极为怨忿和辛辣的表情重重地说出“最最贤明的君主”这几个字,一边站了起来,大步走出了议事厅。

“路易的安全,甚至勃艮第的荣誉就在此一举。”丹伯古对克雷维格和德贡明说道,“德贡明,你赶快到城堡去一趟——你比克雷维格和我都能说会道一些。你告诉路易,风暴即将来临——他将知道如何应付局面。但愿那个卫士说的话总不致加剧目前的形势。鬼知道给他的是什么样的秘密使命”

“那年轻人看来很勇敢,”克雷维格说道,“而且他的精明和谨慎也远远超过他的年龄,从他对我的谈话看来,他极不愿意触及国王的品德——就像不愿触及国王所侍奉的撒旦的品德。我想他在公爵面前也会如此。我得去找他和克罗伊埃伯爵小姐。”

“伯爵小姐!你不是告诉我们,你把她留在圣布里杰特的女修道院里了吗?”

“不错。不过么,”伯爵说道,“按照公爵的命令,我已经赶紧派人护送她来佩隆。她没法步行也没法骑马,只好坐轿子。由于她姑母哈梅琳女士下落不明,同时自己的命运也笼罩着阴影,目前她感到十分痛苦。说实在的,她犯的是抗命之罪,因为她想擅自摆脱君王的保护,而查尔斯公爵又是世界上最认真看待自己君权的一位君主。”

年轻的伯爵小姐已落在查尔斯手中这一消息给路易的思想增加了新的刺激。他意识到,要是她讲清促使她和哈梅琳女士来到佩隆的一系列幕后勾当,她就有可能供出他通过处死扎迈特·毛格拉宾原已销毁的一些证据。他也清楚地知道,要是证实他的确干扰了勃艮第公爵的权益,查尔斯便会有了动机和借口来充分利用他目前的困境。

路易十分焦急地和德贡明谈到这些问题,因为这人机敏的政治才能要比克雷维格粗犷的军人气质和丹伯古封建贵族的高傲派头更适合他的口味。

“贡明好友,”他对这位未来的史臣说道,“那些带兵的大老粗进不了我的密室,而只能手持矛戟站在前室守卫。他们的一双手的确可以供我使用。不过,要是哪位国王不把这些大老粗的脑袋瓜子拿来抵挡敌人的刀剑和大槌,而是用来商量大事,那他就和一个不给老婆戴项圈而戴套狗索的傻瓜相去无几。只有和你菲利普这种人在一起,君王们才可以放心商量枢密大事,并道出他们心灵深处的秘密,因为你们生来具有透过事物表面看问题的敏锐头脑。”

德贡明既然头脑机敏,听到欧洲这位最聪明的君主对自己的赞扬自然心领神会,无法掩饰内心的高兴。路易也意识到自己已经在对方身上产生了一些良好印象。

“但愿我能有你这样一个臣仆,”他继续说道,“更恰当地说,但愿我配得上有你这样一个臣仆!果真如此,我的处境就不会如此倒霉。不过,要是我能设法得到你这样一个有经验的政治家的帮助,我也未必对这种处境感到遗憾。”

德贡明说,他的才能尽管有限,但他愿倾其所能为这位最讲基督之道的国王陛下服务。当然,他对自己的君主勃艮第·查尔斯的忠诚亦毋庸置疑。

“我怎么会诱使你背叛你的君王呢?”路易颇动感情地说道,“哎呀!我自己不正是因为过分信赖自己臣属的忠心才遭致危险的么?对我来说,维护臣属对君王的忠心是最神圣不过的事,因为我现在的安全就全靠忠君意识来维系。菲利普·德贡明,你要继续为勃艮第的查尔斯尽忠。你能为他尽忠的最好办法就是促成勃艮第和法国路易王之间圆满的妥协。你这样做就会对我们两个君王都尽忠,而其中至少有一个会对你感激不尽。我听说你在宫廷的职务还比不上一个猎鹰大臣。这样一来,欧洲最聪明的谋士就被降低到一个饲养和医治老鹰的下等人水平,甚至连他们还不如!法国领土宽广,国王有的是黄金。我的朋友,这种不公平的现象真是太不像样。请容许我设法纠正纠正吧。纣正的手段就近在眼前——请允许我把它送给你。”

国王拿出沉甸甸的一袋钱币。然而,德贡明这人的情感要比当时大多数朝臣的更为细腻,他谢绝了这个赏赐。他说他对自己君主的慷慨十分满意,并向路易保证说,他为他效劳的意愿并不会因为是否接受他给的赏赐而有所不同。

“你真是个独特的人!”国王大声说道,让我拥抱你这当代惟一的既能干又不受贿的朝臣吧!智慧比黄金更值得羡慕。请相信我,菲利普,在这紧要关头,我信赖你的善良胜过我信赖许多接受过我的礼物的人给我的贿赂来的援助。我想,你不会劝告你的主人滥用这个机会——坦白地说,是我自己的愚蠢给他提供的这个机会吧。”

“我的主人决不会滥用它,”那历史学家回答说,“但肯定会利用它。”

“怎么利用,利用到什么程度?”路易问道,“我还不至于愚蠢到指望不付给一笔赎金就能脱身——但我希望这是一笔合理的赎金——无论在巴黎、在普莱西,还是在佩隆,我都愿意接受合乎理智的要求。”

“不过,陛下请恕我直言,”德贡明对答道,“在巴黎或普莱西,理智是用轻柔的声音说话,因此并不是总能得到陛下的倾听——在佩隆,她可是用强迫的话筒说话,她的声音是威严的。”

“你太爱用比喻了,”路易用无法抑制的愠怒表情说道,“贡明先生,我是个愚钝的人。我求你别用比喻,开门见山地说吧!你的公爵到底提出了什么要求?”

“陛下,我并没有被授权给你带来任何条件,”德贡明说道,“公爵很快就会讲明他的意图。不过,有某些东西在我看来会作为条件提出来,陛下应该做好心理准备。比如说,最终割让索姆河上这几个城市。”

“这我已经料到了。”路易说道。

“还有,您必须和列日市民以及威廉·德拉马克断绝关系。”

“非常愿意,就像我愿与地狱和撒旦断绝关系。”

“还需要通过抵押人质,让出军事要地等安排作出充分的保证,即法国今后将不再在弗兰德人当中挑起叛乱。”

“这可有点新鲜,”国王回答道,“一个藩属竟然要求自己的君主作出保证。不过,这也不计较算了。”

“您得给公爵的盟友,亦即您自己那位卓越的兄弟,一个适当独立的领地——诺曼底或香槟省。陛下,您知道公爵很爱您的家族。”

“好得很,”路易回答说,“我的老天爷!他打算把他们都封为国王哩。你想暗示的都完了吗?”

“还没完哩,”那谋臣回答道,“肯定还会求您今后不再像您近来所做的那样,烦扰布立塔尼公爵,而且不再反对他以及别的王公蒙上帝之恩享有的开发财源和称王称爵的权利。”

“一句话,想把我的藩臣一个个都变成国王。菲利普先生,你想把我变成一个弑弟的罪人吗?你该记得我兄弟查尔斯吧——他刚当上吉耶尼的公爵便夭折了——再说,把这些最富饶的省份都割让掉以后,除了在兰斯涂上圣油,在高高的华盖下面进餐以外,我这查里曼的后裔和代表还剩得了什么呢?”

“请您放心,我们会给孤处高位的陛下提供一个伴侣,”菲利普·德贡明说道,“勃艮第公爵尽管目前还不要求独立称王,但他今后很想摆脱向法国国王表示恭顺和服从的要求——他的意图是想把他公爵的冠冕加上个皇帝的弧圈,上面再放上一个地球,以表示他拥有独立的领土。”

“勃艮第的公爵既是法国一名宣过誓的藩臣,”路易说着站了起来,表明他感情无比激动,“他怎敢,怎敢向自己的君主提出这种条件?要知道,按照任何一种欧洲法律,这都能使他丧失自己的封地!”

“要对他执行剥夺封地的判决是困难的,”德贡明冷静地对答道,“陛下知道,甚至在帝国范围内,对封建法律的严格执行业已过时。君主和藩臣都在尽他们的力量和可能的机会以改变其相互的地位。陛下影响和煽动公爵在弗兰德的臣民,这就给公爵的行为找到了开脱的理由——假定他坚持要求扩大他的独立自主,以使法国将来找不到继续进行干预的借口。”

“贡明,贡明!”路易说着又站了起来,沉思般地在室内踱来踱去,似乎陷入了沉思之中,“这真是战败者可悲这一名言的一个可怕教训!你总不至于说,公爵将坚持所有这些苛刻条件吧?”

“至少我希望陛下能讨论所有这些条件。”

“不过,要有节制,德贡明,我认为胜利者要想取得终极的利益,就有必要表现克制。这你比别人知道得更清楚。”

“请陛下宽恕我的冒昧,在我看来,输的一方总是最喜欢赞美克制的美德,而赢的一方却更看重能使他乘机捞它一把的审慎。”

“好吧,让我考虑考虑,”国王回答说,“不过,至少你已经把公爵苛刻的要求讲到头了吧?不可能再有了吧?要是真像你皱着眉头所暗示的,还有什么的话,那么,除开我的王冠以外,还能是什么呢?再说,假如前面提出的要求都答应了的话,我的王冠也就失去了一切光彩!”

“陛下,”德贡明说道,“还需提到的是一件在某种程度上——甚至在很大程度上——可由公爵自行决定的事。不过他想请陛下也参与其事,因为说实话,它与陛下关系密切。”

“老天爷!”国王不耐烦地喊道,“是什么事?你快说吧,菲利普先生——是要我把女儿送给他作妃子,还是叫我蒙受别的侮辱?”

“陛下,不是什么侮辱,而是陛下的侄儿,鼎鼎大名的奥尔良公爵——”

“哼!”国王大声说道。但德贡明不理会他的打断继续说道:

“——已向克罗伊埃家族的伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐求婚,公爵希望陛下也能像他那样,同意他们的婚事,并和他一道赠与这对高贵的夫妻一块封地。和伯爵小姐自己的封地加在一起,法国王室的嗣子便能拥有一块体面的采邑。”

“办不到!办不到!”国王愤激地说道,最近几天一直竭力压抑着的感情终于爆发了出来。他狂乱而急速地踱来踱去,这与他一贯表现出的镇定形成了强烈的对比。“办不到!办不到!让他们把剪刀拿来,把我的头发剪得像教区供养的白痴一样好了!反正我和傻于已经相差无几了。让他们叫寺院或坟墓向我张开大口好了!让他们用炽热的烙铁烧灼我的眼睛——用斧于劈我,用乌头毒我好了——但我绝不能让奥尔良毁弃他和我女儿的婚约。只要我女儿还活着,就绝不能让他改娶别的女人!”

“陛下,”德贡明继续说道,“您先别一个心眼地反对提出的这个条件。您最好先想想,您自己是无力阻挡这事的。任何聪明人看到岩石要垮,都不会徒劳地去阻止它的倒塌。”

“不过勇者至少愿在它底下找到自己的坟墓。德贡明,你想想这样一个婚姻会给我的王国带来多么重大的损失——带来彻底的毁灭。你想想我只有一个赢弱的男孩,而这个奥尔良就是我的第二继承人——你想想,教堂已经同意他俩的结合,因为它能十分圆满地把我们家族两个系脉的利益连系在一起。想想这一切,也想想这婚姻曾是我一生最得意的计划——我曾为它筹谋,为它斗争,为它担心,为它祈祷——并为它犯了罪过。菲利普·德贡明,我决不会善罢甘休的!考虑考虑吧,伙计!请你在我陷于绝境时同情同情我。你敏捷的头脑可以为我迅速地想出一个替代这一牺牲的办法。你知道,



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