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Chapter 31 The Interview

Hold fast thy truth, young soldier. -- Gentle maiden, Keep you your promise plight -- leave age its subtleties, And gray hair'd policy its maze of falsehood, But be you candid as the morning sky, Ere the high sun sucks vapours up to stain it.

THE TRIAL

On the perilous and important morning which preceded the meeting of the two Princes in the Castle of Peronne, Oliver le Dain did his master the service of an active and skilful agent, making interest for Louis in every quarter, both with presents and promises; so that when the Duke's anger should blaze forth, all around should be interested to smother, and not to increase, the conflagration. He glided like night, from tent to tent, from house to house, making himself friends, but not in the Apostle's sense, with the Mammon of unrighteousness. As was said of another active political agent, "his finger was in every man's palm, his mouth was in every man's ear;" and for various reasons, some of which we have formerly hinted at, he secured the favour of many Burgundian nobles, who either had something to hope or fear from France, or who thought that, were the power of Louis too much reduced, their own Duke would be likely to pursue the road to despotic authority, to which his heart naturally inclined him, with a daring and unopposed pace.

Where Oliver suspected his own presence or arguments might be less acceptable, he employed that of other servants of the King; and it was in this manner that he obtained, by the favour of the Count de Crevecoeur, an interview betwixt Lord Crawford, accompanied by Le Balafre, and Quentin Durward, who, since he had arrived at Peronne, had been detained in a sort of honourable confinement. Private affairs were assigned as the cause of requesting this meeting; but it is probable that Crevecoeur, who was afraid that his master might be stirred up in passion to do something dishonourably violent towards Louis, was not sorry to afford an opportunity to Crawford to give some hints to the young Archer, which might prove useful to his master.

The meeting between the countrymen was cordial and even affecting.

"Thou art a singular youth," said Crawford, stroking the head of young Durward, as a grandsire might do that of his descendant. "Certes, you have had as meikle good fortune as if you had been born with a lucky hood on your head."

"All comes of his gaining an Archer's place at such early years," said Le Balafre; "I never was so much talked of, fair nephew, because I was five and twenty years old before I was hors de page (passed out of the rank of the page)."

"And an ill looking mountainous monster of a page thou wert, Ludovic," said the old commander, "with a beard like a baker's shool, and a back like old Wallace Wight (so called because of his vigour and activity)."

"I fear," said Quentin, with downcast eyes, "I shall enjoy that title to distinction but a short time -- since it is my purpose to resign the service of the Archer Guard."

Le Balafre was struck almost mute with astonishment, and Crawford's ancient features gleamed with displeasure. The former at length mustered words enough to say, "Resign! -- leave your place in the Scottish Archers! -- such a thing was never dreamed of. I would not give up my situation to be made Constable of France."

"Hush! Ludovic," said Crawford; "this youngster knows better how to shape his course with the wind than we of the old world do. His journey hath given him some pretty tales to tell about King Louis; and he is turning Burgundian, that he may make his own little profit by telling them to Duke Charles."

"If I thought so," said Le Balafre, "I would cut his throat with my own hand, were he fifty times my sister's son."

"But you would first inquire whether I deserved to be so treated, fair kinsman?" answered Quentin; "and you, my lord, know that I am no tale bearer; nor shall either question or torture draw out of me a word to King Louis's prejudice, which may have come to my knowledge while I was in his service. -- So far my oath of duty keeps me silent. But I will not remain in that services in which, besides the perils of fair battle with mine enemies, I am to be exposed to the dangers of ambuscade on the part of my friends."

"Nay, if he objects to lying in ambuscade," said the slow witted Le Balafre, looking sorrowfully at the Lord Crawford, "I am afraid, my lord, that all is over with him! I myself have had thirty bushments break upon me, and truly I think I have laid in ambuscade twice as often myself, it being a favourite practice in our King's mode of making war."

"It is so indeed, Ludovic," answered Lord Crawford; "nevertheless, hold your peace, for I believe I understand this gear better than you do."

"I wish to Our Lady you may, my lord," answered Ludovic; "but it wounds me to the very midriff, to think my sister's son should fear an ambushment."

"Young man," said Crawford, "I partly guess your meaning. You have met foul play on the road where you travelled by the King's command, and you think you have reason to charge him with being the author of it."

"I have been threatened with foul play in the execution of the King's commission," answered Quentin; "but I have had the good fortune to elude it -- whether his Majesty be innocent or guilty in the matter, I leave to God and his own conscience. He fed me when I was a-hungered -- received me when I was a wandering stranger. I will never load him in his adversity with accusations which may indeed be unjust, since I heard them only from the vilest mouths."

"My dear boy -- my own lad!" said Crawford, taking him in his arms. -- "Ye think like a Scot, every joint of you! Like one that will forget a cause of quarrel with a friend whose back is already at the wall, and remember nothing of him but his kindness."

"Since my Lord Crawford has embraced my nephew," said Ludovic Lesly, "I will embrace him also -- though I would have you to know that to understand the service of an ambushment is as necessary to a soldier as it is to a priest to be able to read his breviary."

"Be hushed, Ludovic," said Crawford; "ye are an ass, my friend, and ken not the blessing Heaven has sent you in this braw callant. -- And now tell me, Quentin, my man, hath the King any advice of this brave, Christian, and manly resolution of yours, for, poor man, he had need, in his strait, to ken what he has to reckon upon. Had he but brought the whole brigade of Guards with him! -- But God's will be done. -- Kens he of your purpose, think you?"

"I really can hardly tell," answered Quentin; "but I assured his learned Astrologer, Martius Galeotti, of my resolution to be silent on all that could injure the King with the Duke of Burgundy. The particulars which I suspect, I will not (under your favour) communicate even to your lordship; and to the philosopher I was, of course, far less willing to unfold myself."

"Ha! -- ay!" answered Lord Crawford. -- "Oliver did indeed tell me that Galeotti prophesied most stoutly concerning the line of conduct you were to hold; and I am truly glad to find he did so on better authority than the stars."

"He prophesy!" said Le Balafre, laughing; "the stars never told him that honest Ludovic Lesly used to help yonder wench of his to spend the fair ducats he flings into her lap."

"Hush! Ludovic," said his captain, "hush! thou beast, man! -- If thou dost not respect my gray hairs, because I have been e'en too much of a routier myself, respect the boy's youth and innocence, and let us have no more of such unbecoming daffing."

"Your honour may say your pleasure," answered' Ludovic Lesly; "but, by my faith, second sighted Saunders Souplesaw, the town souter of Glen Houlakin, was worth Galeotti, or Gallipotty, or whatever ye call him, twice told, for a prophet. He foretold that all my sister's children, would die some day; and he foretold it in the very hour that the youngest was born, and that is this lad Quentin -- who, no doubt, will one day die, to make up the prophecy -- the more's the pity -- the whole curney of them is gone but himself. And Saunders foretold to myself one day, that I should be made by marriage, which doubtless will also happen in due time, though it hath not yet come to pass -- though how or when, I can hardly guess, as I care not myself for the wedded state, and Quentin is but a lad. Also, Saunders predicted --"

"Nay," said Lord Crawford, "unless the prediction be singularly to the purpose, I must cut you short, my good Ludovic; for both you and I must now leave your nephew, with prayers to Our Lady to strengthen him in the good mind he is in; for this is a case in which a light word might do more mischief than all the Parliament of Paris could mend. My blessing with you, my lad; and be in no hurry to think of leaving our body; for there will be good blows going presently in the eye of day, and no ambuscade."

"And my blessing, too, nephew," said Ludovic Lesly; "for, since you have satisfied our most noble captain, I also am satisfied, as in duty bound."

"Stay, my lord," said Quentin, and led Lord Crawford a little apart from his uncle. "I must not forget to mention that there is a person besides in the world, who, having learned from me these circumstances, which it is essential to King Louis's safety should at present remain concealed, may not think that the same obligation of secrecy, which attaches to me as the King's soldier, and as having been relieved by his bounty, is at all binding on her."

"On her!" replied Crawford; "nay, if there be a woman in the secret, the Lord have mercy, for we are all on the rocks again!"

"Do not suppose so, my lord," replied Durward, "but use your interest with the Count of Crevecoeur to permit me an interview with the Countess Isabelle of Croye, who is the party possessed of my secret, and I doubt not that I can persuade her to be as silent as I shall unquestionably myself remain, concerning whatever may incense the Duke against King Louis."

The old soldier mused for a long time -- looked up to the ceiling, then down again upon the floor -- then shook his head -- and at length said, "There is something in all this, which, by my honour, I do not understand. The Countess Isabelle of Croye! -- an interview with a lady of her birth, blood, and possessions! -- and thou a raw Scottish lad, so certain of carrying thy point with her? Thou art either strangely confident, my young friend, or else you have used your time well upon the journey. But, by the cross of Saint Andrew, I will move Crevecoeur in thy behalf; and, as he truly fears that Duke Charles may be provoked against the King to the extremity of falling foul, I think it likely he may grant thy request, though, by my honour, it is a comical one!"

So saying, and shrugging up his shoulders, the old Lord left the apartment, followed by Ludovic Lesly, who, forming his looks on those of his principal, endeavoured, though knowing nothing of the cause of his wonder, to look as mysterious and important as Crawford himself.

In a few minutes Crawford returned, but without his attendant, Le Balafre. The old man seemed in singular humour, laughing and chuckling to himself in a manner which strangely distorted his stern and rigid features, and at the same time shaking his head, as at something which he could not help condemning, while he found it irresistibly ludicrous. "My certes, countryman," said he, "but you are not blate -- you will never lose fair lady for faint heart! Crevecoeur swallowed your proposal as he would have done a cup of vinegar, and swore to me roundly, by all the saints in Burgundy, that were less than the honour of princes and the peace of kingdoms at stake, you should never see even so much as the print of the Countess Isabelle's foot on the clay. Were it not that he had a dame, and a fair one, I would have thought that he meant to break a lance for the prize himself. Perhaps he thinks of his nephew, the County Stephen. A Countess! -- would no less serve you to be minting at? -- But come along -- your interview with her must be brief. -- But I fancy you know how to make the most of little time -- ho! ho! ho! -- By my faith, I can hardly chide thee for the presumption, I have such a good will to laugh at it!"

With a brow like scarlet, at once offended and disconcerted by the blunt inferences of the old soldier, and vexed at beholding in what an absurd light his passion was viewed by every person of experience, Durward followed Lord Crawford in silence to the Ursuline convent, in which the Countess was lodged, and in the parlour of which he found the Count de Crevecoeur.

"So, young gallant," said the latter sternly, "you must see the fair companion of your romantic expedition once more, it seems."

"Yes, my Lord Count," answered Quentin firmly, "and what is more, I must see her alone."

"That shall never be," said the Count de Crevecoeur. -- "Lord Crawford, I make you judge. This young lady, the daughter of my old friend and companion in arms, the richest heiress in Burgundy, has confessed a sort of a -- what was I going to say? -- in short, she is a fool, and your man at arms here a presumptuous coxcomb. -- In a word, they shall not meet alone."

"Then will I not speak a single word to the Countess in your presence," said Quentin, much delighted. "You have told me much that I did not dare, presumptuous as I may be, even to hope."

"Ay, truly said, my friend," said Crawford. "You have been imprudent in your communications; and, since you refer to me, and there is a good stout grating across the parlour, I would advise you to trust to it, and let them do the worst with their tongues. What, man! the life of a King, and many thousands besides, is not to be weighed with the chance of two young things whilly whawing in ilk other's ears for a minute."

So saying, he dragged off Crevecoeur, who followed very reluctantly, and cast many angry glances at the young Archer as he left the room.

In a moment after, the Countess Isabelle entered on the other side of the grate, and no sooner saw Quentin alone in the parlour, than she stopped short, and cast her eyes on the ground for the space of half a minute. "Yet why should I be ungrateful," she said, "because others are unjustly suspicious? -- My friend -- my preserver, I may almost say, so much have I been beset by treachery, my only faithful and constant friend!"

As she spoke thus, she extended her hand to him through the grate, nay, suffered him to retain it until he had covered it with kisses, not unmingled with tears. She only said, "Durward, were we ever to meet again, I would not permit this folly."

If it be considered that Quentin had guided her through so many perils -- that he had been, in truth, her only faithful and zealous protector, perhaps my fair readers, even if countesses and heiresses should be of the number, will pardon the derogation.

But the Countess extricated her hand at length, and stepping a pace back from the grate, asked Durward, in a very embarrassed tone, what boon he had to ask of her? -- "For that you have a request to make, I have learned from the old Scottish Lord, who came here but now with my cousin of Crevecoeur. Let it be but reasonable," she said, "but such as poor Isabelle can grant with duty and honour uninfringed, and you cannot tax my slender powers too highly. But, oh! do not speak hastily -- do not say," she added, looking around with timidity, "aught that might, if overheard, do prejudice to us both!"

"Fear not, noble lady," said Quentin sorrowfully; "it is not here that I can forget the distance which fate has placed between us, or expose you to the censures of your proud kindred, as the object of the most devoted love to one, poorer and less powerful -- not perhaps less noble -- than themselves. Let that pass like a dream of the night to all but one bosom, where, dream as it is, it will fill up the room of all existing realities."

"Hush! hush!" said Isabelle "for your own sake -- for mine -- be silent on such a theme. Tell me rather what it is you have to ask of me."

"Forgiveness to one," replied Quentin, "who, for his own selfish views, hath conducted himself as your enemy."

"I trust I forgive all my enemies," answered Isabelle; "but oh, Durward! through what scenes have your courage and presence of mind protected me! -- Yonder bloody hall -- the good Bishop -- I knew not till yesterday half the horrors I had unconsciously witnessed!"

"Do not think on them," said Quentin, who saw the transient colour which had come to her cheek during their conference fast fading into the most deadly paleness. -- "Do not look back, but look steadily forward, as they needs must who walk in a perilous road. Hearken to me. King Louis deserves nothing better at your hand, of all others; than to be proclaimed the wily and insidious politician which he really is. But to tax him as the encourager of your flight -- still more as the author of a plan to throw you into the hands of De la Marck -- will at this moment produce perhaps the King's death or dethronement; and, at all events, the most bloody war between France and Burgundy which the two countries have ever been engaged in."

"These evils shall not arrive for my sake, if they can be prevented," said the Countess Isabelle; "and indeed your slightest request were enough to make me forego my revenge, were that at any time a passion which I deeply cherish. Is it possible I would rather remember King Louis's injuries than your invaluable services? -- Yet how is this to be? -- When I am called before my Sovereign, the Duke of Burgundy, I must either stand silent or speak the truth. The former would be contumacy; and to a false tale you will not desire me to train my tongue."

"Surely not," said Durward; "but let your evidence concerning Louis be confined to what you yourself positively know to be truth; and when you mention what others have reported, no matter how credibly, let it be as reports only, and beware of pledging your own personal evidence to that, which, though you may fully believe, you cannot personally know to be true. The assembled Council of Burgundy cannot refuse to a monarch the justice which in my country is rendered to the meanest person under accusation. They must esteem him innocent, until direct and sufficient proof shall demonstrate his guilt. Now, what does not consist with your own certain knowledge, should be proved by other evidence than your report from hearsay."

"I think I understand you," said the Countess Isabelle.

"I will make my meaning plainer," said Quentin; and was illustrating it accordingly by more than one instance when the convent bell tolled.

"That," said the Countess, "is a signal that we must part -- part for ever! -- But do not forget me, Durward; I will never forget you -- your faithful services --"

She could not speak more, but again extended her hand, which was again pressed to his lips; and I know not how it was, that, in endeavouring to withdraw her hand, the Countess came so close to the grating that Quentin was encouraged to press the adieu on her lips. The young lady did not chide him -- perhaps there was no time; for Crevecoeur and Crawford, who had been from some loophole eye witnesses if not ear witnesses, also, of what was passing, rushed into the apartment, the first in a towering passion, the latter laughing, and holding the Count back.

"To your chamber, young mistress -- to your chamber!" exclaimed the Count to Isabelle, who, flinging down her veil, retired in all haste -- "which should be exchanged for a cell, and bread and water. -- And you, gentle sir, who are so malapert, the time will come when the interests of kings and kingdoms may not be connected with such as you are; and you shall then learn the penalty of your audacity in raising your beggarly eyes --"

"Hush! hush! -- enough said -- rein up -- rein up," said the old Lord "and you, Quentin, I command you to be silent, and begone to your quarters. -- There is no such room for so much scorn, neither, Sir Count of Crevecoeur, that I must say now he is out of hearing. -- Quentin Durward is as much a gentleman as the King, only, as the Spaniard says, not so rich. He is as noble as myself, and I am chief of my name. Tush, tush! man, you must not speak to us of penalties."

"My lord, my lord," said Crevecoeur impatiently, "the insolence of these foreign mercenaries is proverbial, and should receive rather rebuke than encouragement from you, who are their leader."

"My Lord Count," answered Crawford, "I have ordered my command for these fifty years without advice either from Frenchman or Burgundian; and I intend to do so, under your favour, so long as I shall continue to hold it."

"Well, well, my lord," said Crevecoeur, "I meant you no disrespect; your nobleness, as well as your age, entitle you to be privileged in your impatience; and for these young people. I am satisfied to overlook the past, since I will take care that they never meet again."

"Do not take that upon your salvation, Crevecoeur," said the old Lord, laughing; "mountains, it is said, may meet, and why not mortal creatures that have legs, and life and love to put those legs in motion? Yon kiss, Crevecoeur, came tenderly off -- methinks it was ominous."

"You are striving again to disturb my patience," said Crevecoeur, "but I will not give you that advantage over me. -- -- Hark! they toll the summons to the Castle -- an awful meeting, of which God only can foretell the issue."

"This issue I can foretell," said the old Scottish lord, "that if violence is to be offered to the person of the King, few as his friends are, and surrounded by his shall neither fall alone nor unavenged; and grieved I am that his own positive orders have prevented my taking measures to prepare for such an issue."

"My Lord of Crawford," said the Burgundian, "to anticipate such evil is the sure way to give occasion to it. Obey the orders of your royal master, and give no pretext for violence by taking hasty offence, and you will find that the day will pass over more smoothly than you now conjecture."

年轻的卫士,牢固地保持你的诚实,

温柔的少女,

坚守你爱情的信誓——让老年人玩弄他们的权术,

让白发的谋略家编造复杂的谎言,

但你们要像早晨的天空——

朝阳吸收的雾气还未玷污的天空,

保持你们的纯朴。

《考验》

两位君王在佩隆城堡会晤的前一天,奥利弗·丹利用当天这个凶多吉少、至关紧要的早晨,充当一个活跃而能干的代理人,为主人积极效劳。他通过送礼和许诺,为路易笼络人心四处奔走,以便公爵脾气发作时,周围的人将关心的是平息他的火气,而不是火上加油。他像夜游神似的从一个营帐溜到另一个营帐,从一个住宅溜到另一个住宅,和人拉关系,交朋友,但并不是按“使徒”的说法和“不义的财神爷”交上了朋友。正如人们对另一个活跃的政治代理人所说的那样,“他的手指伸进了每个人的掌心,他的嘴巴柞到了每个人的耳旁”。由于种种原因——其中某些我们曾暗示过——他竟然获得了许多勃艮第贵族的好感。这些人要么希望从法国得到某些东西,要么害怕从法国失去什么东西;要么是考虑到,一旦路易权力过分削弱,他们这位公爵就会毫无阻拦地继续走向与其天性十分合拍的暴虐专制。

要是奥利弗担心对方不愿见他或听他游说,他便利用国王的其他臣仆来做工作。正是按照这种安排,他依靠克雷维格伯爵的帮助,设法使克劳福德大公在巴拉弗雷陪同下见到了自来佩隆以后一直遭到某种软禁的昆丁·达威特。会见是以谈私事为理由。可能是克雷维格担心自己的主人盛怒之下会对路易采取不体面的暴力行动,所以他也情愿给克劳福德提供一个机会,好向这年轻卫士作些有利于路易王的暗示。

两个苏格兰同胞之间的会见自然十分亲热感人。

“你这个年轻人真是顶呱呱,”克劳福德说道,一边像老祖父对待孙子似的抚摸着达威特的头表示亲热,“你也的确走运,仿佛你一生下来就头上戴有一顶吉祥的兜帽。”

“这都是因为他这么小的年纪就获得了一个苏格兰射手的地位。”勒巴拉弗雷说道,“我的好外甥,我过去从来没像你这样出风头,因为我直到二十五岁才出师,不再当侍童。”

“卢德维克,你当侍童时,样子怪难看,活像一座小山,”老年的卫队长说道,“胡子就像面包师的铲子,背就像那名叫华莱士的驼背老人。”

“我担心,”昆丁眼望着地面说道,“这个显贵的称号我不会享受多久了,因为我打算辞去卫士职务。”

巴拉弗雷几乎惊讶得呆若木鸡,克劳福德那苍老的面孔也显出不悦的神色。巴拉弗雷最后才找出一句话来说。“辞职!抛弃你在苏格兰卫队取得的地位!这真是做梦也没想到。即使要我当法兰西总督,我也舍不得放弃我现在的职位!”

“别说了,卢德维克,”克劳福德说道,“这年轻人要比我们这种老古板更懂得看风使舵。他这一趟旅行准是给他提供了一些对路易王不利的宝贵材料。他打算倒向勃艮第,拿这些材料向查尔斯公爵告密,好捞把油水。”

“要是果真如此,”巴拉弗雷说道,“那么哪怕他再是我的亲外甥,我也要亲手把他宰掉!”

“好舅父,您总得先问问我是否值得给以这种惩罚吧?”昆丁对答道,“至于您,克劳福德大公,我想对您说的是,我并不是一个搬弄是非、喜欢告密的人。而且无论是审讯还是刑讯都不能使我供出我在为路易工服役期间我偶尔知道的不利于他的东西——因为我效忠的誓言要求我保守秘密。不过我不想再为他服役,因为,除开与敌人作战所冒的危险以外,我还必须遭受我的朋友对我伏击的危险。”

“我的大人,要是他讨厌伏击,我看,他就完了。”那鲁钝的巴拉弗雷忧伤地对克劳福德大公说道,“我自己就遭到过三十次伏击,而我相信我打别人伏击的次数比这还多一倍,因为国王打仗就喜欢使用伏击战术。”

“卢德维克,这倒是事实,”克劳福德大公对答道,“不过,你住嘴,我想我比你更清楚这个玩意。”

“大人,圣母保佑,愿您如此,”卢德维克对答道,“不过,想到自己的外甥竟然害怕伏击,也真叫我伤心。”

“年轻人,”克劳福德说道,“我稍稍可以猜出你的意思。你在国王指定的路线上遇到了圈套,你就认为有理由说这是国王策划的,是吗?”

“我在执行国王的任务时遇到了陷进圈套的危险,但我幸运地避开了这个圈套。至于陛下在这个事情上是否无辜,我只想让上帝和他自己的良心去回答这个问题。我饥饿时他给我饭吃,我在异乡流落时他把我收留下来。我决不会在他处于逆境时对他进行很可能是不公正的指控,因为那件事我毕竟是从最坏的人口里听来的。”

“我亲爱的孩子,你就像我自己亲生的一样!”克劳福德拥抱他说,“你看问题的方式真说明你是个地地道道的苏格兰人!你也是看到朋友遭难,不念旧恶,只想到他的好处。”

“既然克劳福德大人拥抱了我外甥,”卢德维克·莱斯利说道,“我也要拥抱他——不过我希望你知道,对于一个兵士说来,懂得伏击的意义就像牧师会念祷告一样重要。”

“住嘴,卢德维克,”克劳福德说道,“你简直是匹笨驴,不懂得上帝通过这个好小子给你带来的福音。好吧,我的好昆丁,你告诉我,国王知不知道你这个合乎基督之道的勇敢而忠厚的决心呢?因为,真可怜,在他当前这个困境中他很需要知道,他能指望些什么作为他的依靠。要是他把整个卫队带来就好了!不过,我们也只得服从上帝的意旨——你想,他知道你的意图吗?”

“我的确无从知道,”昆丁回答道,“不过我对那位有学问的占星术家马蒂阿斯·伽利奥提说过,我决心隐瞒会使勃艮第公爵加害于路易王的任何情况。至于我怀疑的具体事实,那我连您也不愿告诉(请您原谅),就更不用说这位哲学家了。”

“哈!太好了!”克劳福德说道,“难怪奥利弗告诉我说,伽利奥提对你将要采取的态度作出了极有把握的预言。我很高兴,原来他根据的不是什么星象,而是更可靠的事实。”

“他会作出预言!”巴拉弗雷笑哈哈地说道,“星象可从没有告诉过他,老实的卢德维克·莱斯利经常帮他那个情妇花掉他送给她的金币呐!”

“住嘴,卢德维克,”队长说道,“你真是个大老粗!如果你不尊重我这白发老人——因为我自己也很放荡——那你也得尊重这个纯真清白的小伙子。我们不要再谈这些乌七八糟的东西了。”

“大人爱怎么说,就怎么说好了,”卢德维克·莱斯利对答道,“不过,老实说,我们格兰一呼拉金的鞋匠——具有预见力的桑德斯·苏卜勒乔,作为一个先知可抵得上两个加洛提或伽利奥提(或他别的一些乱七八糟的叫法)。这人曾预言我妹妹所有的儿女有一天都会死光。而他作出这个预言的时间正好是在她的小儿子诞生那天。这指的就是昆丁这个娃娃。他肯定也有一天会死去,以实现这个预言的——真造孽,特别是因为他们全家都死光了。桑德斯有一天还对我预言说,我将通过婚姻发迹。当然,到时候,总是要结婚的;尽管现在还没有成为事实——尽管什么时候,怎么个情况,我也还猜不到,因为我自己不想结婚,昆丁也还小。此外,桑德斯还预言过——”

“别说了,好卢德维克,”克劳福德大公说道,“我必须打断你。看来你这个预言无关紧要。你和我必须马上离开。祷告圣母,愿你外甥能坚定他所下的决心,因为目前是一句话不小心,闯的祸就连整个巴黎国会也难以补救。我的好孩子,我祝福你。别忙着考虑脱离我们的卫队。要知道,很快就有许多仗要打,而且是明打,不是暗打。”

“好外甥,我也祝福你,”卢德维克·莱斯利说道,“既然你已使得我们最高贵的卫队长感到满意,我自然也应当感到满意。”

“大人,请等一等,”昆丁说道,一边把克劳福德大公拉朝一边,和他舅父隔得稍远一点,“我必须向您说的是,在这个世界上还有一个人已经从我这儿了解到目前严格保密对路易王的安全至关紧要的一些情况。我作为国王的卫士,受到他的恩惠和救济,有义务为他保密,但她可能并不认为像我一样具有这种义务和约束。”

“一个女人!”克劳福德对答道,“要是一个女人知道了这个秘密,那么,上帝保佑,我们可又撞进了死胡同!”

“大人,请别这么想,”达威特对答道,“清运用您与克雷维格伯爵的关系求他允许我见克罗伊埃·伊莎贝尔小姐一面——正是她掌握了我知道的这个秘密。我相信在可能刺激公爵对路易王发火的问题上我能说服她像我一样地严守秘密。”

老年的卫队长沉思良久。他抬头看看天花板,又低头看看地面,然后又摇摇头,最后才说道:“说实话,这里面有点什么真叫我莫名其妙。要和克罗伊埃·伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐——要和具有她这样一种出身、血统和她这样财产的贵妇人见见面!而你一个苏格兰野娃娃竟如此有把握说服她?年轻的朋友,要么是你过于自信,要么是你在旅途中很善于利用你的时间。不过,凭圣安德鲁的十字说,我将为你向克雷维格游说。他的确担心查尔斯公爵对国王的恼怒会发展到蛮干的地步,我想他可能会答应你的请求。不过,凭良心说,这可真是个滑稽的请求!”

说罢那年老的大公便耸耸肩膀走了出去。跟随他的卢德维克·莱斯利也仿效长官的表情;尽管不知道克劳福德惊奇的原因何在,也竭力像他一样装出一副神秘和庄严的样子。

几分钟以后克劳福德走了回来,但没带他的随从巴拉弗雷。老人显得非常开心。他呵呵笑个没完,笑容扭歪了他那严峻的面孔;他一边还摇着头,似乎忍不住要对某个他认为十分荒谬的事表示异议。“我的老乡,”他说道,“你真不赖——你永远不会因为胆怯失去一个美人!克雷维格就像喝了一杯醋似的勉强同意了你的请求。他以勃艮第所有圣徒的名义狠狠向我发誓说,要不是事关君王们的荣誉和王国之间的和平,就连伊莎贝尔地上的脚印你也休想再看到。要不是他有自己的夫人,而且长得很漂亮,我还以为他打算通过比武来争夺这位小姐哩。也许他考虑的是他侄儿斯蒂芬伯爵吧。找上一个伯爵小姐!难道你就不能把目标定得低一点吗?你来吧。你和她相会只能很短——不过,我想你懂得如何尽量利用这短暂的功夫——说实在的,我也无法责怪你的狂妄,我只是善意地感到事情好笑!”

对这年老的卫队长所作的率直的推测昆丁感到既生气又难堪,看到所有过来人全都认为他的爱情荒唐可笑也感到十分恼火。他额头涨得通红,默默地跟随克劳福德大公来到伯爵小姐所在的乌尔苏林女修道院。在会客室里碰见了克雷维格伯爵。

“风流的小伙子,”克雷维格严厉地说道,“看来,不再见见你那罗曼蒂克的旅行中的美丽女伴,你是不甘心的啰?”

“是的,伯爵大人,”昆丁坚定地回答说,“而且,我必须和她单独见面。”

“那可不行,”克雷维格伯爵说道,“克劳福德大公,我请您评评理。这位年轻小姐是我老朋友、老战友的女儿,是勃艮第最富有的财产继承人。她竟然向我坦白了某种——叫我怎么说好呢?总之,她是个大傻瓜,而你这位武士则是个不知天高地厚的纨绔子。一句话,不能让他们单独见面。”

“当您的面我一句话也不对小姐讲,”昆丁十分高兴地说道,“尽管我不知天高地厚,但您刚才告诉我的却是我想都不敢想的。”

“朋友,这是讲的实话,”克劳福德说道,“你刚才讲的那句话太不小心了。既然你叫我来评断,那么我的意见是可以利用客厅里横着的这个牢固的铁栏栅。你可以放心,大不了就是让他们隔着栅栏饶饶舌头!伙计,难道一个国王的命运,再加上成千上万个普通人的性命还值不得让两个人有机会在彼此耳朵里嘀咕一分钟吗?”

说着他便硬拖着克雷维格往外走。伯爵极其勉强地跟在他后面,离开会客室时还一再回过头来向这年轻的卫士投以愤怒的目光。

不久伊莎贝尔小姐便走到栅栏的另一侧。她看见昆丁一个人在会客室里,便立刻停了下来,低头望着地面约莫半分钟之久。“何必因为别人的瞎乱猜疑,我就得忘恩负义呢?”她说道,“我的朋友,我的保护人——我几乎可以这样称呼你,因为我周围充满着那么多的危险——我惟一忠实可靠的朋友!”

她边说边将手伸过铁栅,让他一把握住。他狂吻着她的手,眼泪籁籁地落在它上面。她只是说:“昆丁,要是我们以后再见面,我可不允许你干这种傻事了。”

回想起昆丁曾保护她避免那么多的危险——事实上他的确是她惟一的忠实而热情的保护者——我想我亲爱的读者们,其中甚至包括一些伯爵小姐和继承产业的仕女们,也会原谅使她有失身份的这个举动吧。

伯爵小姐终于把手缩了回去,然后从铁栅后退一步,怪难为情地问达威特,他究竟要她帮什么忙。“刚才和我叔父克雷维格一道来见我的那位年老的苏格兰贵族对我说,你有为难之处想要我帮个忙,只要这个要求合理,”她说道,“只要是可怜的伊莎贝尔在无损义务和荣誉的条件下能够答应的,都不成问题。你当然不能对我这能力十分有限的人要求过高。啊!别说得太莽撞——别说,”她胆怯地望望周围又补充说道,“别说什么让人听见会给我们带来不利的话!”

“别担心,高贵的小姐,”昆丁忧伤地说道,“在这样一个地方,我不可能忘记命运摆在我们之间的距离,使你受到那高傲的亲戚的谴责。虽然你是我最真诚地爱慕的人,但我也知道,我不像他们那样富有,那样有权势——倒不见得没有他们那样高贵。让事情就像夜里的幻梦那样成为过去吧!但尽管是幻梦,它仍将代替真实,永远留在我的心中。”

“别说了!别说了!”伊莎贝尔耳语道,“为了你的缘故——也为了我的缘故,别再谈这种事了。你最好告诉我:你想求我做什么?”

“宽恕一个人,”昆丁回答道,“一个曾为了自私的目的与你为敌的人。”

“我想我已经宽恕了我所有的仇人,”伊莎贝尔对答道,“啊,达威特!依靠你的勇敢和镇定,在你的保护下我经历了多么可怕的情景啊!那大厅里的血腥屠杀——那善良的主教——直到昨天我才多少知道了我虽然在场但没有亲眼看到的一些恐怖情节r

“别再想这些了,”昆丁说道;他看到他们谈话时她脸上刚刚泛起的红晕迅速地转变成死灰般的苍白色,“你应当像走在险道上的人们那样,始终向前看,别往后看。听我说吧,要是你将路易王那阴险狡猾的政客面目公诸于众,诚然这对你说来本是再公正不过;但如果你现在要指责他鼓励你逃跑,甚至策划使你落进德拉马克的手里,那就会造成国王丧命或被废黜的后果,至少会使法国和勃艮第之间一直在进行着的战争变得十分残酷。”

“只要是能够避免的,就绝不会因为我而招致这些灾祸。”伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐说道,“何况,即使复仇曾经是我内心深处的强烈欲望,但只消你一提出要求,我也会放弃这个念头。难道我宁可记住路易王对我的冤仇,而忘掉你对我的无比宝贵的帮助吗?不过,我该怎么办呢?要是我被叫到我的君主勃艮第公爵面前,我就得要么保持缄默,要么就讲实话。前者意味着藐视公爵;至于说谎,我想你是不希望我这样做的。”

“那当然,”达威特说道,“不过你可以把有关路易王的证词局限在你肯定知道是事实的范围以内。提到别人谣传的东西时,不管多么可信,你也只能把它说成是谣传;对于你尽管完全相信,但并不能亲自证明属实的东西,千万别把你自己作为人证。勃艮第的满朝文武自然不会拒绝给一位国王哪怕苏格兰一个最卑微的受审者也会得到的公正裁决。除非有充分和直接的证据证明他有罪,否则,他们就得判他无罪。要知道,任何并非你自己确切知道的东西,都必须通过别的旁证,而非你听来的谣传,才能落实下来。”

“我懂得你的意思了。”伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐说道。

“我想把我的意思说得更明白一些。”昆丁说道,接着他又举出好几个例于来解释。但这时修道院的大钟忽然响了起来。

“这是我们永远分手的信号!”伯爵小姐说道,“达威特,别忘了我哟,我永远不会忘记你——和你忠诚的帮助——”

她再也说不下去了,只是又把手伸了出来。他又把它一遍遍地吻着。我也不知道是怎么回事:当她竭力把手缩回去时,身子却往前迈了一步,紧紧贴着铁栏栅。昆丁感觉受到鼓舞,竞吻了她的嘴唇作为告别。年轻的小姐并没有责怪他——也许是时间不容许了。克雷维格和克劳福德尽管听不到他们说的话,却一直躲着窥望他们的动作。这时两人都冲了进来。前者怒不可遏,后者则一边拖着他,一边放声大笑。

“回你房里去!回你房里去!”伯爵对伊莎贝尔喊道。听这一喊,小姐便把面纱放了下来,赶忙退了回去。“我看,得把你关进国室,只给你面包和水过日子。而你这不识体统的先生,我看,待哪天君王和社稷的利益不再和你这种人搅在一起时,你总会尝到因你胆大妄为而受的惩罚,假如你竟敢把你那叫花子般的眼睛——”

“别说了!别说了!够了,该收一收了!”年老的大公说道,“昆丁,我命令你别还嘴,马上回你住的地方去——克雷维格伯爵先生,他并没有理由遭到您这般轻视。现在他人不在了,我必须说明,他昆丁·达威特也和国王一般高贵,只是像西班牙人说的那样,没有国王那么富有。他和我本人一样出身高贵,而我是我们家族的旅长。得了,伙计!别对我们谈什么惩罚了。”

“我的大人,我的大人,”克雷维格不耐烦地说道,“这些外籍雇佣兵的傲慢无礼是出了名的。您既然是他们的首领,您就应当谴责他们,而不要鼓励。”

“伯爵大人,”克劳福德回答道,“我指挥我的卫队也有五十年之久了,还从来不需要哪个法国人或勃艮第人来指教我。只要我还掌有我的指挥权,承您关照,我打算继续如此。”

“行,行,我的大人,”克雷维格说道,’‘我原来也并非有冒犯您的尊严的意思。您的高贵和高龄使您有权发点脾气。至于这两个年轻人,我也愿不咎既往。不过我得注意不让他们再见面。”

“这种事和您克雷维格的灵魂得救无关,最好别去管它,”年老的大公笑着说道,“俗话说,两山相会也难阻挡,何况有生命、有爱情、有两条腿的活人可以命令两条腿走路呢?克雷维格,那个亲吻多富于感情啊!我想它可是个强有力的预兆。”

“您又在拼命刺激我发脾气,”克雷维格说道,“不过我不想让您占我这个便宜。听!钟声响了,是召我们进城堡去——这将是个可怕的集会,其后果只有上帝能预先知道。”

“我可以预言这样一个结局,”年老的苏格兰大公说道,“假如对国王动武的话,那么即使在敌人包围下,他的朋友寡不敌众,倒下的也不会是他一个人,事情也不会得不到报复。我感到遗憾的是,由于他的断然命令我无法事先采取措施来对付这样一种结局。”

“克劳福德大公,”那勃艮第大臣说道,“预先提防这种灾祸就肯定会引起这种灾祸。服从国王陛下的命令,别冒失地发火以给人动武的口实,您就会发现,今天会比您此刻所猜想的顺利一些。”



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