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Chapter 34 The Execution

I'll take thee to the good green wood, And make thine own hand choose the tree.

OLD BALLAD

"Now God be praised, that gave us the power of laughing, and making others laugh, and shame to the dull cur who scorns the office of a jester! Here is a joke, and that none of the brightest (though it might pass, since it has amused two Princes), which hath gone farther than a thousand reasons of state to prevent a war between France and Burgundy."

Such was the inference of Le Glorieux, when, in consequence of the reconciliation of which we gave the particulars in the last chapter, the Burgundian guards were withdrawn from the Castle of Peronne, the abode of the King removed from the ominous Tower of Count Herbert, and, to the great joy both of French and Burgundians, an outward show at least of confidence and friendship seemed so established between Duke Charles and his liege lord. Yet still the latter, though treated with ceremonial observance, was sufficiently aware that he continued to be the object of suspicion, though he prudently affected to overlook it, and appeared to consider himself as entirely at his ease.

Meanwhile, as frequently happens in such cases, whilst the principal parties concerned had so far made up their differences, one of the subaltern agents concerned in their intrigues was bitterly experiencing the truth of the political maxim that if the great have frequent need of base tools, they make amends to society by abandoning them to their fate, so soon as they find them no longer useful.

Thus was Hayraddin Maugrabin, who, surrendered by the Duke's officers to the King's Provost Marshal, was by him placed in the hands of his two trusty aides de camp, Trois Eschelles and Petit Andre, to be dispatched without loss of time. One on either side of him, and followed by a few guards and a multitude of rabble -- this playing the Allegro, that the Penseroso, (the mirthful and the serious. Cf. Milton's poems by these names.) -- he was marched off (to use a modern comparison, like Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy) to the neighbouring forest; where, to save all farther trouble and ceremonial of a gibbet, and so forth, the disposers of his fate proposed to knit him up to the first sufficient tree.

They were not long in finding an oak, as Petit Andre facetiously expressed it, fit to bear such an acorn; and placing the wretched criminal on a bank, under a sufficient guard, they began their extemporaneous preparations for the final catastrophe. At that moment, Hayraddin, gazing on the crowd, encountered the eyes of Quentin Durward, who, thinking he recognized the countenance of his faithless guide in that of the detected impostor, had followed with the crowd to witness the execution, and assure himself of the identity.

When the executioners informed him that all was ready, Hayraddin, with much calmness, asked a single boon at their hands.

"Anything, my son, consistent with our office," said Trois Eschelles.

"That is," said Hayraddin, "anything but my life."

"Even so," said Trois Eschelles, "and something more, for you seem resolved to do credit to our mystery, and die like a man, without making wry mouths -- why, though our orders are to be prompt, I care not if I indulge you ten minutes longer."

"You are even too generous," said Hayraddin.

"Truly we may be blamed for it," said Petit Andre, "but what of that? -- I could consent almost to give my life for such a jerry come tumble, such a smart, tight, firm lad, who proposes to come from aloft with a grace, as an honest fellow should."

"So that if you want a confessor --" said Trois Eschelles.

"Or a lire of wine --" said his facetious companion.

"Or a psalm --" said Tragedy.

"Or a song --" said Comedy.

"Neither, my good, kind, and most expeditious friends," said the Bohemian. "I only pray to speak a few minutes with yonder Archer of the Scottish Guard."

The executioners hesitated a moment; but Trois Eschelles, recollecting that Quentin Durward was believed, from various circumstances, to stand high in the favour of their master, King Louis, they resolved to permit the interview.

When Quentin, at their summons, approached the condemned criminal, he could not but be shocked at his appearance, however justly his doom might have been deserved. The remnants of his heraldic finery, rent to tatters by the fangs of the dogs, and the clutches of the bipeds who had rescued him from their fury to lead him to the gallows, gave him at once a ludicrous and a wretched appearance. His face was discoloured with paint and with some remnants of a fictitious beard, assumed for the purpose of disguise, and there was the paleness of death upon his cheek and upon his lip; yet, strong in passive courage, like most of his tribe, his eye, while it glistened and wandered, as well as the contorted smile of his mouth, seemed to bid defiance to the death he was about to die.

Quentin was struck, partly with horror, partly with compassion, as he approached the miserable man; and these feelings probably betrayed themselves in his manner, for Petit Andre called out, "Trip it more smartly, jolly Archer. -- This gentleman's leisure cannot wait for you, if you walk as if the pebbles were eggs, and you afraid of breaking them."

"I must speak with him in privacy," said the criminal, despair seeming to croak in his accent as he uttered the words.

"That may hardly consist with our office, my merry Leap the ladder," said Petit Andre, "we know you for a slippery eel of old."

"I am tied with your horse girths, hand and foot," said the criminal. "You may keep guard around me, though out of earshot -- the Archer is your own King's servant. And if I give you ten guilders --"

"Laid out in masses, the sum may profit his poor soul," said Trois Eschelles.

"Laid out in wine or brantwein, it will comfort my poor body," responded Petit Andre. "So let them be forthcoming, my little crack rope."

"Pay the bloodhounds their fee," said Hayraddin to Durward, "I was plundered of every stiver when they took me -- it shall avail thee much."

Quentin paid the executioners their guerdon, and, like men of promise, they retreated out of hearing -- keeping, however, a careful eye on the criminal's motions. After waiting an instant till the unhappy man should speak, as he still remained silent, Quentin at length addressed him, "And to this conclusion thou hast at length arrived?"

"Ay," answered Hayraddin, "it required neither astrologer, or physiognomist, nor chiromantist to foretell that I should follow the destiny of my family."

"Brought to this early end by thy long course of crime and treachery?" said the Scot.

"No, by the bright Aldebaran and all his brother twinklers!" answered the Bohemian. "I am brought hither by my folly in believing that the bloodthirsty cruelty of a Frank could be restrained even by what they themselves profess to hold most sacred. A priest's vestment would have been no safer garb for me than a herald's tabard, however sanctimonious are your professions of devotion and chivalry."

"A detected impostor has no right to claim the immunities of the disguise he had usurped," said Durward.

"Detected!" said the Bohemian. "My jargon was as good as yonder old fool of a herald's, but let it pass. As well now as hereafter."

"You abuse time," said Quentin. "If you have aught to tell me, say it quickly, and then take some care of your soul."

"Of my soul?" said the Bohemian, with a hideous laugh. "Think ye a leprosy of twenty years can be cured in an instant? -- If I have a soul, it hath been in such a course since I was ten years old and more, that it would take me one month to recall all my crimes, and another to tell them to the priest! -- and were such space granted me, it is five to one I would employ it otherwise."

"Hardened wretch, blaspheme not! Tell me what thou hast to say, and I leave thee to thy fate," said Durward, with mingled pity and horror.

"I have a boon to ask," said Hayraddin; "but first I will buy it of you; for your tribe, with all their professions of charity, give naught for naught."

"I could well nigh say, thy gifts perish with thee," answered Quentin, "but that thou art on the very verge of eternity. -- Ask thy boon -- reserve thy bounty -- it can do me no good -- I remember enough of your good offices of old."

"Why, I loved you," said Hayraddin, "for the matter that chanced on the banks of the Cher; and I would have helped you to a wealthy dame. You wore her scarf, which partly misled me, and indeed I thought that Hameline, with her portable wealth, was more for your market penny than the other hen sparrow, with her old roost at Bracquemont, which Charles has clutched, and is likely to keep his claws upon."

"Talk not so idly, unhappy man," said Quentin; "yonder officers become impatient."

"Give them ten guilders for ten minutes more," said the culprit, who, like most in his situation, mixed with his hardihood a desire of procrastinating his fate, "I tell thee it shall avail thee much."

"Use then well the minutes so purchased," said Durward, and easily made a new bargain with the Marshals men.

This done, Hayraddin continued. -- "Yes, I assure you I meant you well; and Hameline would have proved an easy and convenient spouse. Why, she has reconciled herself even with the Boar of Ardennes, though his mode of wooing was somewhat of the roughest, and lords it yonder in his sty, as if she had fed on mast husks and acorns all her life."

"Cease this brutal and untimely jesting," said Quentin, "or, once more I tell you, I will leave you to your fate."

"You are right," said Hayraddin, after a moment's pause; "what cannot be postponed must be faced! -- Well, know then, I came hither in this accursed disguise, moved by a great reward from De la Marck, and hoping a yet mightier one from King Louis, not merely to bear the message of defiance which yon may have heard of, but to tell the King an important secret."

"It was a fearful risk," said Durward.

"It was paid for as such, and such it hath proved," answered the Bohemian. "De la Marck attempted before to communicate with Louis by means of Marthon; but she could not, it seems, approach nearer to him than the Astrologer, to whom she told all the passages of the journey, and of Schonwaldt; but it is a chance if her tidings ever reach Louis, except in the shape of a prophecy. But hear my secret, which is more important than aught she could tell. William de la Marck has assembled a numerous and strong force within the city of Liege, and augments it daily by means of the old priest's treasures. But he proposes not to hazard a battle with the chivalry of Burgundy, and still less to stand a siege in the dismantled town. This he will do -- he will suffer the hot brained Charles to sit down before the place without opposition, and in the night, make an outfall or sally upon the leaguer with his whole force. Many he will have in French armour, who will cry, France, Saint Louis, and Denis Montjoye, as if there were a strong body of French auxiliaries in the city. This cannot choose but strike utter confusion among the Burgundians; and if King Louis, with his guards, attendants, and such soldiers as he may have with him, shall second his efforts, the Boar of Ardennes nothing doubts the discomfiture of the whole Burgundian army. -- There is my secret, and I bequeath it to you. Forward or prevent the enterprise -- sell the intelligence to King Louis, or to Duke Charles, I care not -- save or destroy whom thou wilt; for my part, I only grieve that I cannot spring it like a mine, to the destruction of them all."

"It is indeed an important secret," said Quentin, instantly comprehending how easily the national jealousy might be awakened in a camp consisting partly of French, partly of Burgundians.

"Ay, so it is," answered Hayraddin; "and now you have it, you would fain begone, and leave me without granting the boon for which I have paid beforehand."

"Tell me thy request," said Quentin. "I will grant it if it be in my power."

"Nay, it is no mighty demand -- it is only in behalf of poor Klepper, my palfrey, the only living thing that may miss me. -- A due mile south, you will find him feeding by a deserted collier's hut; whistle to him thus" (he whistled a peculiar note), "and call him by his name, Klepper, he will come to you; here is his bridle under my gaberdine -- it is lucky the hounds got it not, for he obeys no other. Take him, and make much of him -- I do not say for his master's sake, -- but because I have placed at your disposal the event of a mighty war. He will never fail you at need -- night and day, rough and smooth, fair and foul, warm stables and the winter sky, are the same to Klepper; had I cleared the gates of Peronne, and got so far as where I left him, I had not been in this case. -- Will you be kind to Klepper?"

"I swear to you that I will," answered Quentin, affected by what seemed a trait of tenderness in a character so hardened.

"Then fare thee well!" said the criminal. "Yet stay -- stay -- I would not willingly die in discourtesy, forgetting a lady's commission. -- This billet is from the very gracious and extremely silly Lady of the Wild Boar of Ardennes, to her black eyed niece -- I see by your look I have chosen a willing messenger. -- And one word more -- I forgot to say, that in the stuffing of my saddle you will find a rich purse of gold pieces, for the sake of which I put my life on the venture which has cost me so dear. Take them, and replace a hundred fold the guilders you have bestowed on these bloody slaves -- I make you mine heir."

"I will bestow them in good works and masses for the benefit of thy soul," said Quentin.

"Name not that word again," said Hayraddin, his countenance assuming a dreadful expression; "there is -- there can be, there shall be -- no such thing! -- it is a dream of priestcraft."

"Unhappy, most unhappy being! Think better! let me speed for a priest -- these men will delay yet a little longer. I will bribe them to it," said Quentin. "What canst thou expect, dying in such opinions, and impenitent?"

"To be resolved into the elements," said the hardened atheist, pressing his fettered arms against his bosom; "my hope, trust, and expectation is that the mysterious frame of humanity shall melt into the general mass of nature, to be recompounded in the other forms with which she daily supplies those which daily disappear, and return under different forms -- the watery particles to streams and showers, the earthy parts to enrich their mother earth, the airy portions to wanton in the breeze, and those of fire to supply the blaze of Aldebaran and his brethren. -- In this faith have I lived, and I will die in it! -- Hence! begone! -- disturb me no farther! -- I have spoken the last word that mortal ears shall listen to."

Deeply impressed with the horrors of his condition, Quentin Durward yet saw that it was vain to hope to awaken him to a sense of his fearful state. He bade him, therefore, farewell, to which the criminal only replied by a short and sullen nod, as one who, plunged in reverie, bids adieu to company which distracts his thoughts. He bent his course towards the forest, and easily found where Klepper was feeding. The creature came at his call, but was for some time unwilling to be caught, snuffing and starting when the stranger approached him. At length, however, Quentin's general acquaintance with the habits of the animal, and perhaps some particular knowledge of those of Klepper, which he had often admired while Hayraddin and he travelled together, enabled him to take possession of the Bohemian's dying bequest. Long ere he returned to Peronne, the Bohemian had gone where the vanity of his dreadful creed was to be put to the final issue -- a fearful experience for one who had neither expressed remorse for the past, nor apprehension for the future!

我将领你去那个绿色的树林,

让你亲手挑选那棵树。

《古老的民谣》

“赞美上帝,因为他使我们具有哈哈大笑,也使别人开怀大笑的本领。一些蠢猪轻视弄臣们的作用,那是十分可耻的。我们看到人们开了一个玩笑,何况还不是最漂亮的玩笑(既然它能使两位君王都很开心,自然也还过得去),结果在防止法兰西和勃艮第发生一场大战上起到了一千种政治考虑都无法起到的作用。”

这就是勒格洛里尔看到眼前发生的现象所作出的一个推论。正如我们在前一章详细描述过的,两位君王之间实现了和解。接着,勃艮第的警卫便撤出了佩隆城堡,国王也迁出了那不祥的“赫伯特伯爵塔楼”,法国和勃艮第的大臣们都高兴地看到查尔斯公爵及其宗主之间至少是表面上又沉浸在信任和友好的气氛中。然而,路易王虽受到了礼貌的对待,他还是充分意识到自己仍是被怀疑对象。但他却审慎地装出视而不见的样子,并给人一种自以为完全自由自在的印象。

然而,正如在类似情况下经常发生的那样,虽然主要当事人已暂时消除分歧,实现和解,但参与阴谋的一个卑贱奴才却正在痛苦地体验到有句政治格言的确言之不假,即大人物固然经常用得着一些社会渣滓来充当工具,但一旦发现他们不再必需,便令其得到可悲的下场,从而弥补对社会造成的损失。

这人便是海拉丁·毛格拉宾。公爵的官员把他交给了路易王的军法总监。此人又把他交给了他的两名忠实助手,特洛瓦—艾歇尔和小安德烈,要他们立即将他处决。在几个卫兵和一大群看热闹的游民的跟随下,他们两人一个扮演欢快的角色,一个扮演忧郁的角色,走在这流浪汉的两边(用现代人的比喻来说,就像悲剧演员和喜剧演员中间夹着加立克),押着他前往附近的一个森林。为了减少麻烦,免去绞刑架所牵涉到的那套行刑仪式,负责处决他的这两个人打算利用碰到的第一株高得足以吊得起他的大树,把他打发了事。

他们没过多久就找到了一株像滑稽人物小安德烈所说的能结这样一颗“橡子”的橡树。他们把这倒霉的囚徒放在河岸上,让一支人数不少的卫队看守他,便着手行刑前的临时准备。海拉丁呆望着人群,正好碰到了昆丁·达威特的目光。由于昆丁觉得他已认出这被戮穿了伪装的骗子正是那个不忠不义的向导,所以他跟在人群后面来到现场,想看看处决的情况,并亲自证实一下,是否确系此人。

当行刑者告诉他一切准备就绪时,海拉丁以十分镇静的表情请他们行行善,答应他一件事。

“我的儿子,只要不违反我们的职责,什么都可以。”特洛瓦—艾歇尔说道。

“那就是说,”海拉丁讲道,“除开我这条命,什么都可以。”

“正是这样,”特洛瓦—艾歇尔说道,“不过,我还可以更慷慨一点。你似乎决心给我们这个神秘的行道增加点光彩,准备死得像个男子汉大丈夫,不装出一副难看的鬼脸——好吧,尽管给我们的命令是迅速处决,但我倒不在乎让你多活十分钟。”

“您真是太慷慨了。”海拉丁说道。

“为此我们真会受到指责,”小安德烈说道,“不过,这怕什么?像你这样一个灵活精干、身体结实的伙子满有希望像个老实人那样从树上乖乖落下来。对于你这种好样的货色,我把命送给你都行。”

“要是你想请一位忏悔师……”特洛瓦—艾歇尔说道——

“或者想喝一公升的酒。”那滑稽鬼说道。

“或者要听一首赞美诗。”那悲剧角色说道。

“或者,要听一支歌。”那喜剧角色说道。

“都不需要。仁慈、善良、办事利落的朋友们,”那波希米亚人说道,“我只要求和那位苏格兰卫队的射手谈几分钟话。”

两位行刑吏踌躇了一会。特洛瓦—艾歇尔想起,根据许多情况来判断,昆丁·达威特的确深受他们的主子路易王的赏识,所以决定同意让他们谈谈话。

当昆丁应他们的召唤来到死回跟前时,这死回狼狈的外貌——诚然其下场确实罪有应得——也不禁使他大吃一惊。猎犬把他那纹章官的华丽外袍撕成了碎片;而把他从猎犬的狂咬下救出来,并把他带上绞架的那两个两足动物又把这身衣服连抓带扯,搞得更加残破不堪。这就使得这个死回的外表显得既可笑,又可怜。满脸的油彩和残存的伪装用的假胡须使他的面孔显得光怪陆离,但脸颊和嘴唇却透露出临终者的苍白。然而,他也和他们部族的大多数人一样,表现出顽强的忍受痛苦的勇气。他那滴溜溜转的闪烁着的眼睛以及他嘴边挂着的一丝苦笑似乎都在向逼近的死亡表示轻蔑。

昆丁走近这可怜的死回时,既感到恐怖,也动了恻隐之心。也许他的态度不免流露出这两种心情,因为他听见小安德烈喊道:“快活的射手,你就快点走吧——假如你走路慢腾腾的,就像把脚下的卵石当成鸡蛋,害怕踩破它们,那么这位贵人就没功夫等你了。”

“我得和他私下谈谈。”那死因说道,说话的声调似乎充满了绝望。

“我这上绞架的可爱的伙计,我们的职责可无法容许你这么干啦。我们知道你像条老奸巨滑的鳝鱼。”

“我已经被你们用马肚带全身绑住,”那罪人说道,“再说,你们可以在我们周围警戒,只消所不到我们讲话就行——那射手是你们国王的仆人——要是我给你们十个钱币——”

“这笔钱用来买弥撒,对他可怜的灵魂会有好处。”特洛瓦—艾歇尔说道。

“用来买葡萄酒或白兰地酒,可以慰劳慰劳我可怜的身体,”小安德烈一唱一和地说道,“那么,我的小乖乖,你就把钱拿出来吧。”

“弄点钱赏赏这两个嗜血的猎犬吧,”海拉丁对达威特说道,“他们一抓住我就把我的钱抢光了——给这点钱会对你大有好处的。”

两个绞刑吏得到昆丁的贿赂之后,便遵守诺言,退到听不见他们讲话的地方,但对这死回的行动进行严密的监视。昆丁等了片刻,想让这不幸的人开口讲话。见他仍不做声,便主动对他说道:“你终于获得到了这种下场?”

“不错。”海拉丁对答道,“既用不着占星术家,也用不着给我相面或看手相,谁都可以预言,我一家人的下场也就是我自己的下场。”

“是你长期欺诈作恶才使得你不得善终!”那苏格兰人说道。

“不,这是那明亮的阿多波兰及其姊妹星安排给我的归宿!”那波希米亚人回答道,“我之所以来到这里,是因为我愚蠢地相信,法国人自己奉为神圣的东西可以对他们的嗜血和残忍有所约束。但不管他们把忠诚和骑士精神说得多么神圣,即使我穿上牧师的外袍也未必会比纹章官的外袍使我的安全更有保障。”

“被戳穿的骗子无权希求伪装给他带来豁免。”达威特说道。

“被戳穿的骗子!”波希米亚人说道,“我掌握的行话和那个当纹章官的老混蛋一样地道。不过,别提它了。今后都别再提它了。”

“你在滥用时间,”昆丁说道,“如果你有什么要说的,就赶快说,然后照管照管你自己的灵魂吧!”

“照管我的灵魂?”那波希米亚人可惜地大声笑道。“你以为一个二十年的麻疯病患者可以顷刻治好吗?要是我真有灵魂,那么,打从我十岁起我的灵魂就已经走上了今天这条轨道。也许我得花一个月的时间才能回忆完我所有的罪过,再花一个月时间来向牧师坦白。如果能让我多活这么长的时间,十之八九我会把它另作别用。”

“你这铁了心的家伙,别说亵渎神明的话了!你有什么要说的就快说。听你说完我好走开,让你去迎接你的灭亡。”达威特带着既怜悯又恐怖的心情说道。

“我想求你给我做件好事,”海拉丁说道,“不过,我想先花点什么来买你这件好事,因为,你们这些人虽然口说要待人慈善,却决不会白给人东西。”

“要不是你已经站在死亡的边缘,我真想说:愿你这些玩意都见鬼去,”昆丁说道,“你快说要我帮什么忙得了。把你想要给我的留给你自己吧——它对我没有用。我记得你过去对我的好处已经够多的了。”

“你知道,我念念不忘的是在谢尔河岸上发生的那件事。我一直很喜欢你,”海拉丁说道,“我本可以帮你娶到一个有钱的贵妇人。我见你系着她的纱巾,结果使我误以为你对她有意。我的确认为携带有大量钱财的哈梅琳要比那另一只雌麻雀更能给你带来实惠,因为这只雌麻雀的老窝是在布拉克蒙。查尔斯已把它据为己有,而且很可能长期霸占。”

“你这不幸的浪子,快别瞎扯了,”昆丁说道,“那两个行刑官等得不耐烦了。”

“再给他们十个钱币,要求再延长十分钟吧!”那死因说道,因为他也像大多数临刑的犯人那样,一方面蔑视死亡,一方面又想推迟死亡的到来。

“那么你就好好利用花钱买来的这几分钟吧!”达威特说道,然后又去和军法总监的两名部下作了一笔新的交易。

这事办妥以后,海拉丁又继续说道:“你可以相信我,我的确是对你一片好心。你本来可以轻而易举地娶她为妻,因为她就连‘阿登内斯野猪’都不嫌弃,尽管他求婚的方式十分粗鲁,而且在他的猪厩里对她作威作福,仿佛她也是一辈子都吃榛子壳和橡子长大的。”

“别说这种粗野的、不合时宜的笑话了,”昆丁说道,“我得再次告诉你,再这样我就要走开,让你去迎接你的灭亡。”

“你说得对,”海拉丁考虑片刻后说道,“在劫难逃,无法回避!好吧,我告诉你,我之所以倒霉地伪装纹章官来到这里,是因为德拉马克的一大笔赏金打动了我的心,同时我还指望从路易王手上捞到更大的一笔。我不仅是为了传递你也许听人提到过的那个挑战书,而且是想告诉国王一个重要的机密。”

“这可是一个可怕的冒险。”达威特说道。

“事情果然如此,我也为此付出了代价,”那波希米亚人对答道,“德拉马克原打算通过玛尔松与路易王取得联系。但看来她无法接近他,而只能找到那位占星术家。她把我们旅途的经过以及在索恩瓦尔德发生的事情全都告诉了他。但她所带的这些信息除开那老人以预言的形式暗示给路易王以外,就很少有可能传到他耳里。好吧,我就把我的秘密告诉你吧。这要比她所掌握的那个重要得多。威廉·德拉马克已在列日城聚集了一支兵多将广的强大军队,并且每天都在动用那老主教留下的钱财继续招兵买马。但他不打算和勃艮第的骑兵贸然交锋,更不打算困守被毁过的列日城。他打算这么办——先按兵不动,让那性情急躁的查尔斯在城外扎营,然后趁黑夜倾巢出动,对围城者来个突然袭击。他准备叫许多兵士都穿上法军铠甲,并叫喊“法兰西”,“圣路易”和“圣丹尼斯的圣旗万岁!”这样一些口号,以造成仿佛城里真有一支强大的法国增援部队的假象。这样就不可避免地会在勃艮第人当中制造极大的混乱。假如路易工率领卫队、随从以及可能跟随他的士兵给以外应,那么‘阿登内斯野猪’就肯定能叫勃艮第全军覆没。这就是我的秘密,我把它遗赠给你。你可以用它来防止事情的发生,也可以用它来推波助澜——你可以随意把情报卖给路易工或卖给查尔斯公爵——救你想救的人,消灭你想消灭的人。就我来说,我只惋惜我不能把它当成引信,点燃一个地雷,让他们全都毁灭!”

“这的确是一个重要机密。”昆丁说道,因为他马上意识到在一半法国人、一半勃艮第人组成的阵营中,要制造国家之间的猜忌是多么轻而易举。

“那还用说,”海拉丁对答道,“既然情报到手,我想你就不会在答应我为之付出了这一代价的请求之前一走了事吧?”

“你把你的要求告诉我好了,”昆丁说道,“只要办得到,我就答应。”

“这倒不是什么了不起的要求——只是为了我那匹可怜的小马克勒帕。它是这世界上惟一会想念我的动物。你往南走一英里,就会看到它在一个挖煤工人留下的茅草棚旁边吃草。你只消这么给它打个口哨,”(说罢他吹了一个特殊的哨音)“叫叫它的名宇克勒帕,它就会走到你的跟前。这是我藏在宽袍底下的缰绳——幸好那些猎狗没把它夺走,因为别的缰绳休想套住它。你把它牵走,要心疼它——我并不因为是它的主人才说这个话,而是因为我把一场大仗的命运交给了你掌握。它决不会在紧要关头拆你的台——无论白天夜晚,气候好坏,也不管是歇在温暖的马厩里,还是露宿在寒冬的旷野上,这对克勒帕都无所谓。要是我逃出了佩隆城门,跑到我留下它的那个地方,我也就不会像现在这个样子了。你愿好好对待克勒帕吗?”

“我向你发誓,我会好好待它。”看到这么一个狠心的人也似乎保留了一丝慈爱之心,昆丁大受感动。

“永别了!”那死因说道,“再等等——再等等——我差点忘记了一位仕女的委托。而有负人情和礼貌是虽死也难以瞑目的。这封短简是‘阿登内斯野猪’贤惠而又异常愚蠢的夫人写给她黑眼睛的侄女的。从你的表情看来,我算是找到了一个十分乐意的信使。还补充一句:我忘了告诉你,你可以在我鞍座的填塞物里找到满满一袋金币。正是为了它我才干了这件要了我的命的冒险差事。你把它拿去,以百倍地补偿你给那两个嗜血奴才的几个金币——我把你作为我的财产继承人。”

“我会用这钱来做些好事,并为你的灵魂买些弥撒。”昆丁说道。

“别提灵魂了,”海拉丁脸色可怕地说道,“过去、现在、将来都不可能有灵魂这个东西!这是牧师们臆想出来的!”

“你是个不幸的,最最不幸的人!你考虑考虑吧!让我跑去给你请位牧师——他们还会答应再延迟一会的——我可以花钱贿赂他们。”昆丁说道,“临死你还是这么个看法,毫不改悔,你到底指望什么呢?”

“我希望我能风归风,土归土,”这横了心的无神论者将他那被束缚的两臂用力抵着胸口说道,“我所信仰、我所希望和我所期待的就是人这奥秘的形体能消融在大自然的整体当中,与别的物质混在一起,以便填补那随时消失,又随时以别的形式再现出来的种种物质。我化成的水滴将用来补充溪水和雨水,我化成的泥土将用来丰富它们的大地母亲,我化成的空气将在微风中嬉戏,我化成的火将用来增添阿多波兰及其姊妹星体上的熊熊烈焰。我生是这个信仰,死也还是这个信仰!走开吧!滚吧!别再打搅我了!我想对人讲的全都讲完了!”

昆丁·达威特深深感到此人处境可怕,但也看到,要想唤醒他意识到自己正处于地狱的边缘,也属徒劳。因此他只好向他道别。这死回也像已陷入沉思但不得不向扰乱其思路的亲朋道别的人们一样,只是愠怒地略略点头作为回答。昆丁向那森林走去,很快就找到了正在吃草的克勒帕。这小马一听到他的哨音便走了过来,但并不是马上就愿意向他的新主人俯首就范,而是见这陌生人走近时,便发出鼻息声,并作出惊跳的反应。然而,由于昆丁对马的习性具有一般的知识,而且他和海拉丁在旅途中同行时已对他所赞赏的这匹马具有某些具体的了解,所以他还是很快占有了波希米亚人的这一临终赠礼。他还没来得及赶回佩隆城,那波希米亚人早已去到他那虚妄而可怕的信念将最终受到考验的地方——对于一个既不悔恨过去,也不惧怕来世的人,这将是一种可怕的经历。



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