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Chapter 36 The Sally

The wretch condemn'd with life to part, Still, still on hope relies, And every pang that rends the heart, Bids expectation rise.

Hope, like the glimmering taper's light, Adorns and cheers the way; And still, the darker grows the night, Emits a brighter ray.

GOLDSMITH

Few days had passed ere Louis had received, with a smile of gratified vengeance, the intelligence that his favourite and his councillor, the Cardinal Balue, was groaning within a cage of iron, so disposed as scarce to permit him to enjoy repose in any posture except when recumbent, and of which, be it said in passing, he remained the unpitied tenant for nearly twelve years. The auxiliary forces which the Duke had required Louis to bring up had also appeared, and he comforted himself that their numbers were sufficient to protect his person against violence, although too limited to cope, had such been his purpose, with the large army of Burgundy. He saw himself also at liberty, when time should suit, to resume his project of marriage between his daughter and the Duke of Orleans; and, although he was sensible to the indignity of serving with his noblest peers under the banners of his own vassal, and against the people whose cause he had abetted, he did not allow these circumstances to embarrass him in the meantime, trusting that a future day would bring him amends.

"For chance," said he to his trusty Oliver, "may indeed gain one hit, but it is patience and wisdom which win the game at last."

With such sentiments, upon a beautiful day in the latter end of harvest, the King mounted his horse; and, indifferent that he was looked upon rather as a part of the pageant of a victor, than in the light of an independent Sovereign surrounded by his guards and his chivalry, King Louis sallied from under the Gothic gateway of Peronne, to join the Burgundian army, which commenced at the same time its march against Liege.

Most of the ladies of distinction who were in the place attended, dressed in their best array, upon the battlements and defences of the gate, to see the gallant show of the warriors setting forth on the expedition. Thither had the Countess Crevecoeur brought the Countess Isabelle. The latter attended very reluctantly, but the peremptory order of Charles had been, that she who was to bestow the palm in the tourney should be visible to the knights who were about to enter the lists.

As they thronged out from under the arch, many a pennon and shield was to be seen, graced with fresh devices, expressive of the bearer's devoted resolution to become a competitor for a prize so fair. Here a charger was painted starting for the goal -- there an arrow aimed at a mark -- one knight bore a bleeding heart, indicative of his passion -- another a skull and a coronet of laurels, showing his determination to win or die. Many others there were; and some so cunningly intricate and obscure, that they might have defied the most ingenious interpreter. Each knight, too, it may be presumed, put his courser to his mettle, and assumed his most gallant seat in the saddle, as he passed for a moment under the view of the fair bevy of dames and damsels, who encouraged their valour by their smiles, and the waving of kerchiefs and of veils. The Archer Guard, selected almost at will from the flower of the Scottish nation, drew general applause, from the gallantry and splendour of their appearance.

And there was one among these strangers who ventured on a demonstration of acquaintance with the Lady Isabelle, which had not been attempted even by the most noble of the French nobility. It was Quentin Durward, who, as he passed the ladies in his rank, presented to the Countess of Croye, on the point of his lance, the letter of her aunt.

"Now, by my honour," said the Count of Crevecoeur, "that is over insolent in an unworthy adventurer!"

"Do not call him so, Crevecoeur," said Dunois; "I have good reason to bear testimony to his gallantry -- and in behalf of that lady, too."

"You make words of nothing," said Isabelle, blushing with shame, and partly with resentment; "it is a letter from my unfortunate aunt. -- She writes cheerfully, though her situation must be dreadful."

"Let us hear, let us hear what says the Boar's bride," said Crevecoeur.

The Countess Isabelle read the letter, in which her aunt seemed determined to make the best of a bad bargain, and to console herself for the haste and indecorum of her nuptials, by the happiness of being wedded to one of the bravest men of the age, who had just acquired a princedom by his valour. She implored her niece not to judge of her William (as she called him) by the report of others, but to wait till she knew him personally. He had his faults, perhaps, but they were such as belonged to characters whom she had ever venerated. William was rather addicted to wine, but so was the gallant Sir Godfrey, her grandsire -- he was something hasty and sanguinary in his temper, such had been her brother Reinold of blessed memory; he was blunt in speech, few Germans were otherwise; and a little wilful and peremptory, but she believed all men loved to rule. More there was to the same purpose; and the whole concluded with the hope and request that Isabelle would, by means of the bearer, endeavour her escape from the tyrant of Burgundy, and come to her loving kinswoman's Court of Liege, where any little differences concerning their mutual rights of succession to the Earldom might be adjusted by Isabelle's marrying Earl Eberson -- a bridegroom younger indeed than his bride, but that, as she (the Lady Hameline) might perhaps say from experience, was an inequality more easy to be endured than Isabelle could be aware of.

(The marriage of William de la Marck with the Lady Hameline is as apocryphal as the lady herself. -- S.)

Here the Countess Isabelle stopped, the Abbess observing, with a prim aspect, that she had read quite enough concerning such worldly vanities, and the Count of Crevecoeur, breaking out, "Aroint thee, deceitful witch! -- Why, this device smells rank as the toasted cheese in a rat trap. -- Now fie, and double fie, upon the old decoy duck!"

The Countess of Crevecoeur gravely rebuked her husband for his violence.

"The Lady," she said, "must have been deceived by De la Marck with a show of courtesy."

"He show courtesy!" said the Count. "I acquit him of all such dissimulation. You may as well expect courtesy from a literal wild boar, you may as well try to lay leaf gold on old rusty gibbet irons. No -- idiot as she is, she is not quite goose enough to fall in love with the fox who has snapped her, and that in his very den. But you women are all alike -- fair words carry it -- and, I dare say, here is my pretty cousin impatient to join her aunt in this fool's paradise, and marry the Bear Pig."

"So far from being capable of such folly," said Isabelle, "I am doubly desirous of vengeance on the murderers of the excellent Bishop, because it will, at the same time, free my aunt from the villain's power."

"Ah! there indeed spoke the voice of Croye!" exclaimed the Count, and no more was said concerning the letter.

But while Isabelle read her aunt's epistle to her friends, it must be observed that she did not think it necessary to recite a certain postscript, in which the Countess Hameline, lady-like, gave an account of her occupations, and informed her niece that she had laid aside for the present a surcoat which she was working for her husband, bearing the arms of Croye and La Marck in conjugal fashion, parted per pale, because her William had determined, for purposes of policy, in the first action to have others dressed in his coat armour and himself to assume the arms of Orleans, with a bar sinister -- in other words, those of Dunois. There was also a slip of paper in another hand, the contents of which the Countess did not think it necessary to mention, being simply these words: "If you hear not of me soon, and that by the trumpet of Fame, conclude me dead, but not unworthy."

A thought, hitherto repelled as wildly incredible, now glanced with double keenness through Isabelle's soul. As female wit seldom fails in the contrivance of means, she so ordered it that ere the troops were fully on march, Quentin Durward received from an unknown hand the billet of Lady Hameline, marked with three crosses opposite to the postscript, and having these words subjoined: "He who feared not the arms of Orleans when on the breast of their gallant owner, cannot dread them when displayed on that of a tyrant and murderer."

A thousand thousand times was this intimation kissed and pressed to the bosom of the young Scot! for it marshalled him on the path where both Honour and Love held out the reward, and possessed him with a secret unknown to others, by which to distinguish him whose death could alone give life to his hopes, and which he prudently resolved to lock up in his own bosom.

But Durward saw the necessity of acting otherwise respecting the information communicated by Hayraddin, since the proposed sally of De la Marck, unless heedfully guarded against, might prove the destruction of the besieging army, so difficult was it, in the tumultuous warfare of those days, to recover from a nocturnal surprise. After pondering on the matter, he formed the additional resolution, that he would not communicate the intelligence save personally, and to both the Princes while together, perhaps because he felt that to mention so well contrived and hopeful a scheme to Louis whilst in private, might be too strong a temptation to the wavering probity of that Monarch, and lead him to assist, rather than repel, the intended sally. He determined, therefore, to watch for an opportunity of revealing the secret whilst Louis and Charles were met, which, as they were not particularly fond of the constraint imposed by each other's society, was not likely soon to occur.

Meanwhile the march continued, and the confederates soon entered the territories of Liege. Here the Burgundian soldiers, at least a part of them, composed of those bands who had acquired the title of Ecorcheurs, or flayers, showed, by the usage which they gave the inhabitants, under pretext of avenging the Bishop's death, that they well deserved that honourable title; while their conduct greatly prejudiced the cause of Charles, the aggrieved inhabitants, who might otherwise have been passive in the quarrel, assuming arms in self defence, harassing his march by cutting off small parties, and falling back before the main body upon the city itself, thus augmenting the numbers and desperation of those who had resolved to defend it. The French, few in number, and those the choice soldiers of the country, kept, according to the King's orders, close by their respective standards, and observed the strictest discipline, a contrast which increased the suspicions of Charles, who could not help remarking that the troops of Louis demeaned themselves as if they were rather friends to the Liegeois than allies of Burgundy.

At length, without experiencing any serious opposition, the army arrived in the rich valley of the Maes, and before the large and populous city of Liege. The Castle of Schonwaldt they found had been totally destroyed, and learned that William de la Marck, whose only talents were of a military cast, had withdrawn his whole forces into the city, and was determined to avoid the encounter of the chivalry of France and Burgundy in the open field. But the invaders were not long of experiencing the danger which must always exist in attacking a large town, however open, if the inhabitants are disposed to defend it desperately.

A part of the Burgundian vanguard, conceiving that, from the dismantled and breached state of the walls, they had nothing to do but to march into Liege at their ease, entered one of the suburbs with the shouts of "Burgundy, Burgundy, Kill, kill -- all is ours! -- Remember Louis of Bourbon!"

But as they marched in disorder through the narrow streets, and were partly dispersed for the purpose of pillage, a large body of the inhabitants issued suddenly from the town, fell furiously upon them, and made considerable slaughter. De la Marck even availed himself of the breaches in the walls, which permitted the defenders to issue out at different points, and, by taking separate routes into the contested suburb, to attack, in the front, flank, and rear at once the assailants, who, stunned by the furious, unexpected, and multiplied nature of the resistance offered, could hardly stand to their arms. The evening, which began to close, added to their confusion.

When this news was brought to Duke Charles, he was furious with rage, which was not much appeased by the offer of King Louis to send the French men at arms into the suburbs, to rescue and bring off the Burgundian vanguard. Rejecting this offer briefly, he would have put himself at the head of his own Guards, to extricate those engaged in the incautious advance; but D'Hymbercourt and Crevecoeur entreated him to leave the service to them, and, marching into the scene of action at two points with more order and proper arrangement for mutual support, these two celebrated captains succeeded in repulsing the Liegeois, and in extricating the vanguard, who lost, besides prisoners, no fewer than eight hundred men, of whom about a hundred were men at arms. The prisoners, however, were not numerous, most of them having been rescued by D'Hymbercourt, who now proceeded to occupy the contested suburb, and to place guards opposite to the town, from which it was divided by an open space, or esplanade, of five or six hundred yards, left free of buildings for the purposes of defence. There was no moat betwixt the suburb and town, the ground being rocky in that place. A gate fronted the suburb, from which sallies might be easily made, and the wall was pierced by two or three of those breaches which Duke Charles had caused to be made after the battle of Saint Tron, and which had been hastily repaired with mere barricades of timber.

D'Hymbercourt turned two culverins on the gate, and placed two others opposite to the principal breach, to repel any sally from the city, and then returned to the Burgundian army, which he found in great disorder. In fact, the main body and rear of the numerous army of the Duke had continued to advance, while the broken and repulsed vanguard was in the act of retreating; and they had come into collision with each other, to the great confusion of both. The necessary absence of D'Hymbercourt, who discharged all the duties of Marechal du Camp, or, as we should now say, of Quartermaster General, augmented the disorder; and to complete the whole, the night sank down dark as a wolf's mouth; there fell a thick and heavy rain, and the ground on which the beleaguering army must needs take up their position, was muddy and intersected with many canals. It is scarce possible to form an idea of the confusion which prevailed in the Burgundian army, where leaders were separated from their soldiers, and soldiers from their standards and officers. Every one, from the highest to the lowest, was seeking shelter and accommodation where he could individually find it; while the wearied and wounded, who had been engaged in the battle, were calling in vain for shelter and refreshment; and while those who knew nothing of the disaster were pressing on to have their share in the sack of the place, which they had no doubt was proceeding merrily.

When D'Hymbercourt returned, he had a task to perform of incredible difficulty, and imbittered by the reproaches of his master, who made no allowance for the still more necessary duty in which he had been engaged, until the temper of the gallant soldier began to give way under the Duke's unreasonable reproaches.

"I went hence to restore some order in the van," he said, "and left the main body under your Grace's own guidance, and now, on my return, I can neither find that we have front, flank, nor rear, so utter is the confusion."

"We are the more like a barrel of herrings," answered Le Glorieux, "which is the most natural resemblance for a Flemish army."

The jester's speech made the Duke laugh, and perhaps prevented a farther prosecution of the altercation betwixt him and his general.

By dint of great exertion, a small lusthaus, or country villa of some wealthy citizen of Liege, was secured and cleared of other occupants, for the accommodation of the Duke and his immediate attendants; and the authority of D'Hymbercourt and Crevecoeur at length established a guard in the vicinity, of about forty men at arms, who lighted a very large fire, made with the timber of the outhouses, which they pulled down for the purpose.

A little to the left of this villa, and betwixt it and the suburb, which, as we have said, was opposite to the city gate, and occupied by the Burgundian Vanguard, lay another pleasure house, surrounded by a garden and courtyard, and having two or three small enclosures or fields in the rear of it. In this the King of France established his own headquarters. He did not himself pretend to be a soldier further than a natural indifference to danger and much sagacity qualified him to be called such; but he was always careful to employ the most skilful in that profession, and reposed in them the confidence they merited. Louis and his immediate attendants occupied this second villa, a part of his Scottish Guard were placed in the court, where there were outhouses and sheds to shelter them from the weather; the rest were stationed in the garden. The remainder of the French men at arms were quartered closely together and in good order, with alarm posts stationed, in case of their having to sustain an attack.

Dunois and Crawford, assisted by several old officers and soldiers, amongst whom Le Balafre was conspicuous for his diligence, contrived, by breaking down walls, making openings through hedges, filling up ditches, and the like, to facilitate the communication of the troops with each other, and the orderly combination of the whole in case of necessity.

Meanwhile, the King judged it proper to go without farther ceremony to the quarters of the Duke of Burgundy, to ascertain what was to be the order of proceeding, and what cooperation was expected from him. His presence occasioned a sort of council of war to be held, of which Charles might not otherwise have dreamed.

It was then that Quentin Durward prayed earnestly to be admitted, as having something of importance to deliver to the two Princes. This was obtained without much difficulty, and great was the astonishment of Louis, when he heard him calmly and distinctly relate the purpose of William de la Marck to make a sally upon the camp of the besiegers, under the dress and banners of the French. Louis would probably have been much better pleased to have had such important news communicated in private, but as the whole story had been publicly told in presence of the Duke of Burgundy, he only observed, that, whether true or false, such a report concerned them most materially.

"Not a whit! -- not a whit!" said the Duke carelessly. "Had there been such a purpose as this young man announces, it had not been communicated to me by an Archer of the Scottish Guard."

"However that may be," answered Louis, "I pray you, fair cousin, you and your captains, to attend, that to prevent the unpleasing consequences of such an attack, should it be made unexpectedly, I will cause my soldiers to wear white scarfs over their armour. -- Dunois, see it given out on the instant -- that is," he added, "if our brother and general approves of it."

"I see no objection," replied the Duke, "if the chivalry of France are willing to run the risk of having the name of the Knights of the Smock Sleeve bestowed on them in future."

"It would be a right well adapted title, friend Charles," said Le Glorieux, "considering that a woman is the reward of the most valiant."

"Well spoken, Sagacity," said Louis. "Cousin, good night, I will go arm me. -- By the way, what if I win the Countess with mine own hand?

"Your Majesty," said the Duke, in an altered tone of voice, "must then become a true Fleming."

"I cannot," answered Louis, in a tone of the most sincere confidence, "be more so than I am already, could I but bring you, my dear cousin, to believe it."

The Duke only replied by wishing the King good night in a tone resembling the snort of a shy horse, starting from the caress of the rider when he is about to mount, and is soothing him to stand still.

"I could pardon all his duplicity," said the Duke to Crevecoeur, "but cannot forgive his supposing me capable of the gross folly of being duped by his professions."

Louis, too, had his confidences with Oliver le Dain, when he returned to his own quarters. "This," he said, "is such a mixture of shrewdness and simplicity, that I know not what to make of him. Pasques dieu! think of his unpardonable folly in bringing out honest De la Marck's plan of a sally before the face of Burgundy, Crevecoeur, and all of them, instead of rounding it in my ear, and giving me at least the choice of abetting or defeating it!"

"It is better as it is, Sire," said Oliver; "there are many in your present train who would scruple to assail Burgundy undefied, or to ally themselves with De la Marck."

"Thou art right, Oliver. Such fools there are in the world, and we have no time to reconcile their scruples by a little dose of self interest. We must be true men, Oliver, and good allies of Burgundy, for this night at least -- time may give us a chance of a better game. Go, tell no man to unarm himself; and let them shoot, in case of necessity, as sharply on those who cry France and St. Denis! as if they cried Hell and Satan! I will myself sleep in my armour. Let Crawford place Quentin Durward on the extreme point of our line of sentinels, next to the city. Let him e'en have the first benefit of the sally which he has announced to us -- if his luck bear him out, it is the better for him. But take an especial care of Martius Galeotti, and see he remain in the rear, in a place of the most absolute safety -- he is even but too venturous, and, like a fool, would be both swordsman and philosopher. See to these things, Oliver, and good night. -- Our Lady of Clery, and Monseigneur St. Martin of Tours, be gracious to my slumbers!"

(The Duke of Burgundy, full of resentment for the usage which the Bishop had received from the people of Liege (whose death, as already noticed, did not take place for some years after), and knowing that the walls of the town had not been repaired since they were breached by himself after the battle of Saint Tron, advanced recklessly to their chastisement. His commanders shared his presumptuous confidence: for the advanced guard of his army, under the Marechal of Burgundy, and Seigneur D'Hymbercourt, rushed upon one of the suburbs, without waiting for the rest of their army, which, commanded by the Duke in person, remained about seven or eight leagues in the rear. The night was closing, and, as the Burgundian troops observed no discipline, they were exposed to a sudden attack from a party of the citizens commanded by Jean de Vilde, who, assaulting them in the front and rear, threw them into great disorder, and killed more than eight hundred men, of whom one hundred were men at arms. When Charles and the King of France came up, they took up their quarters in two villas situated near to the wall of the city. In the two or three days which followed, Louis was distinguished for the quiet and regulated composure with which he pressed the siege, and provided for defence in case of sallies; while the Duke of Burgundy, no way deficient in courage, and who showed the rashness and want of order which was his principal characteristic, seemed also extremely suspicious that the King would desert him and join with the Liegeois. They lay before the town for five or six days, and at length fixed the 30th of October, 1468, for a general storm. The citizens, who had probably information of their intent, resolved to prevent their purpose and determined on anticipating it by a desperate sally through the breaches in their walls. They placed at their head six hundred of the men of the little territory of Fraudemont, belonging to the Bishopric of Liege, and reckoned the most valiant of their troops. They burst out of the town on a sudden, surprised the Duke of Burgundy's quarters, ere his guards could put on their armour, which they had laid off to enjoy some repose before the assault. The King of France's lodgings were also attacked and endangered. A great confusion ensued, augmented incalculably by the mutual jealousy and suspicions of the French and Burgundians. The people of Liege were, however, unable to maintain their hardy enterprise, when the men at arms of the king and Duke began to recover from their confusion, and were finally forced to retire within their walls, after narrowly missing the chance of surprising both King Louis and the Duke of Burgundy, the most powerful princes of their time. At daybreak the storm took place, as had been originally intended, and the citizens, disheartened and fatigued by the nocturnal sally, did not make so much resistance as was expected. Liege was taken and miserably pillaged, without regard to sex or age, things sacred or things profane. These particulars are fully related by Comines in his Memoires, liv. ii, chap. 11, 12, 13, and do not differ much from the account of the same events given in the text. S.)

危在旦夕的可怜人

也仍然抱着生存的希望,

每一次钻心的疼痛,

都会激起求生的欲望。

希望就像一支摇曳的烛光,

照耀着他的归路,

夜愈深愈暗,

烛光也愈为明亮。

哥尔德斯密斯

没过几天路易就带着复仇欲望如愿以偿的满意微笑获悉他原来的宠臣和谋士巴卢红衣主教已在铁笼中发出痛苦的呻吟。按照铁笼的设计,除非仰卧,任何其他姿势都无法使他获得休息。附带说说,在以后将近十二年当中,他都一直被关在这个铁笼里,无人怜惜。公爵要求路易派遣的支援部队已经到达。路易感到安慰的是,部队人数虽十分有限,远不足以和勃艮第庞大的军队抗衡——假如他果有此意的话——但已足够保护他个人的安全。他也看到,只要时机成熟,他仍然可以将他女儿和奥尔良公爵成亲的计划付诸实现。虽然现在他不得不和他最显赫的贵族们在他一个藩属的旗号下出征,前去讨伐受他煽动而走向叛乱的列日市民,感到颇不体面,但他并没有让这情况使他有所不安,因为他相信将来总有一天他会找到报复的机会。“运气的确有可能使人一时得势,”他对他忠实的奥利弗说道,“但最后赢棋还是得靠耐心和智慧。”

路易王在秋收将过的一个晴朗的日子骑上战马出发时正是怀着这样一种心情。虽然人们只把他看作是胜利者示威行列的一个组成部分,而并不把他看作是在卫队和骑兵簇拥下的独立君王,他也并不在乎。他骑着马率部走出佩隆城堡的哥特式大门,去与按同一时间进军列日的勃艮第军队会合。

城堡内的高贵仕女们大都穿着节日的盛装,站在城门上面的城堞和棱堡跟前,观看出征武士的雄壮阵容。克雷维格伯爵夫人也带着伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐加入这些仕女们的行列。伊莎贝尔感到十分勉强。但查尔斯公爵断然命令,作为优胜者奖赏的这位小姐必须露面,好让骑士们在奔赴战场之前欣赏她的芳容。

当武士们步出拱门时,人们看见众多的旗幡和铠甲上新画了图案。以表达这些武士想赢得这美好奖赏的雄心壮志。有的画上一匹战马,正跳起来夺标;有的画上一支对准靶心的箭;另一个则画着一个骑士的心脏正在滴血,说明他对那小姐具有何等的热情;还有一个则画着骷髅和桂冠,说明他决心要么获胜,要么战死。另外还有许多图案,其中一些奥妙而隐晦,哪怕最聪明的人也难以解释其含意。骑士们都一个个威风凛凛地骑着昂扬的战马在美丽的夫人小姐们赞赏的目光下走了过去。她们向他们微笑,向他们挥动头巾和面纱来鼓舞他们的勇气。从苏格兰人的精华中任意挑选出来的射手卫队则以其威武华美的外表受到普遍的赞扬。

在这些异乡人中,有个人竟然大胆地显示他与伊莎贝尔小姐彼此相识,而这是连最高贵的法国贵族也未敢贸然尝试的。这人正是昆丁·达威特。在他随队伍从这些仕女眼下经过时,他把她姑母的信戳在长矛尖上,递给了这位伯爵小姐。

“嘿,说真的,”克雷维格伯爵讲道,“这个卑贱的冒险家可太无礼了。”

“可别这么叫他,克雷维格,”杜诺瓦说道,“我有充分理由为他的勇敢和殷勤作证——也代表那位小姐作证。”

“您这是小题大作,”伊莎贝尔既羞赧又生气地红着脸说道,“这是我不幸的姑母写给我的一封信。她写得倒挺乐观的,但她的处境一定不妙。”

“你念给我们听吧,看这位野猪的新娘说些什么。”克雷维格说道。

伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐便给他们读信。她姑母似乎下定决心要粉饰太平;硬说她嫁给了一个全凭自己的勇敢最近获得了公侯地位的当代勇士,这是她莫大的幸福,从而为她那匆促而不体面的婚事进行自我安慰。她求她侄女在她没有亲自对她的威廉(这是她对他的称呼)很好了解以前,可别根据谣传来判断他的为人。他也可能有他的短处,但这是她所尊敬的人都难免会有的毛病。威廉喜欢酗酒,但她祖父——风流的戈德弗雷勋爵也未尝不如此。威廉血气方刚,脾气暴躁,但她兄弟,已故的雷诺尔德也和他一模一样。威廉说话粗鲁,但说话不粗鲁的德国人的确少见。威廉有点任性武断,但她认为,天下的男人都爱统治别人。信中还说了别的诸如此类的话。信结尾时她向伊莎贝尔提出一个希望和要求,盼她通过带信者的帮助,尽量设法逃出勃艮第暴君的魔掌,前往列日投奔姑母的宫廷。来到列日以后,只要伊莎贝尔能嫁给一个名叫厄伯森的伯爵,那么她们两人有关克罗伊埃伯爵领地继承权的任何微小分歧也能得到解决。厄伯森伯爵固然要比她年轻,但根据她(哈梅琳女士)的经验,她认为这种年龄的差异并不像伊莎贝尔所想象的那样难以忍受。

伊莎贝尔伯爵小姐没有再念下去。女修道院长带着一本正经的面孔说,这些轻浮世俗的东西小姐已读得够多了。克雷维格伯爵也脱口而出:“去你的吧,骗人的巫婆——嘿,这玩意发出的气味就像捕鼠机上一块烘过的劣质奶酪。让这拐骗姑娘的女人快见鬼去吧!”

克雷维格伯爵夫人严肃地责怪丈夫说话太粗鲁。“哈梅琳女士,”她说道,“一定是受了德拉马克彬彬有礼的蒙骗。”

“他会彬彬有礼?!”伯爵说道,“我倒认为那种伪君子的举止与他完全无缘。与其指望他彬彬有礼,还不如指望一头真正的野猪彬彬有礼——还不如指望用金箔来美化生锈的绞架铁链。不!尽管那女人愚蠢,但还不至于蠢得像只母鹅,竟爱上了抓住她的狐狸,何况是在狐狸窝里。不过,你们女人都是一样的货色——花言巧语准能使你们动心——我敢说,我这个漂亮的侄女已在急不可待地想去她姑妈那儿,住进她那傻瓜的乐园,嫁给那头小野猪。”

“我不但不会做出这种傻事,”伊莎贝尔说道,“而且我十分希望杀害善良主教的这个凶手能得到应有的惩罚,因为这也会使我姑母摆脱那恶棍的魔爪。”

“唉!这才真像克罗伊埃家的人讲的话!”伯爵赞叹道。关于这封信也就没再谈下去。

伊莎贝尔向她的朋友读她姑妈来信的过程中,有一点值得指出的是,有个信的附言她感到没有必要念出来。在这附言中哈梅琳女士向她侄女介绍她正在干一些什么活计。她说她已暂时搁下了给她丈夫缝的一件外袍,在这件外袍上应按联姻关系把克罗伊埃和德拉马克的纹章绣在一起。但为了策略关系,她的威廉已决定在首次战斗中让别人穿上他的纹章铠甲,而自己佩戴左侧带有庶出标记的奥尔良纹章——换言之,也就是杜诺瓦的纹章。伯爵小姐另一只手里藏着一小片纸,其内容她也感到不必公开,因为它只是写着这样一行字:“假如你不能很快听到我的喜讯,而且是通过号角手传报的喜讯,你可以断定我已光荣地死去。”

在此以前,一直被视为异想天开而不敢细想的一个念头此刻却十分鲜明地闪现在伊莎贝尔的内心深处。女人总是能够凭她们的聪明想出一些好办法的。所以趁军队正式出发之前,她已设法通过一位无名氏的手把哈梅琳的那封信送回到昆丁·达威特手里。但在那个附语的旁边画有三个十字,并附上她自己写的一行字:“那看见奥尔良的纹章被佩戴在它真正的主人胸前时都毫不畏缩的勇士,在看见它被佩戴在一个残暴的匪首和凶手的胸前时,岂能畏缩?”年轻的苏格兰人把这个递送情报的短简吻了千百次,因为它护佑着他走上既能使他获得荣誉,又能使他获得爱情的道路,使他掌有一个旁人不知道的秘密,借以帮助他辨认出惟有把他杀死才能实现自己的希望的那个匪首。所以他把这个秘密十分小心地锁藏在心里。

然而,达威特感到有必要以不同的态度来对待海拉丁提供的那个情报。德拉马克所计划的突袭,除非认真加以防范,否则很可能给攻城的一方带来毁灭性的打击,因为按当时那种混乱的作战方式,人们很难抵挡得住夜袭而稳住阵脚。经过一番深思熟虑,他决定等两位君王都在场时才亲自向他们公开这个情报。也许是因为他担心,如果把这很有成功希望的精心策划私下告诉路易,这对那和解的诚意尚游移不定的国王来说,将是一种太大的诱惑,会促使他对这计划中的突袭采取支援而不是反击的态度。因此他决心等待路易和查尔斯会面的机会来公开这个秘密。但由于两位君王都不大喜欢因会面而彼此感到的拘束,所以这个机会不大可能很快到来。

军队继续前进,不久联军便进入了列日的领土。勃艮第的士兵至少有一部分是由原来获得“剥皮专家”绰号的散兵游勇所组成。在为主教复仇的薪口下,他们对待居民的做法也表明他们对这个称号真是当之无愧。他们的表现大大损害了查尔斯公爵这一讨伐的义举。结果使得那些在这场战争中本可以采取消极态度的居民也都怨忿地拿起武器进行自卫。有的切断小股部队,骚扰大军阻止其前进,有的则赶在大军到来之前退回到列日城,从而增加了决心守城者的人数,也加强了他们决一死战的意志。法军人数不多,但却是全国最精良的士兵。他们都按照国王的命令,坚守各自的阵容,严格遵守纪律。形成的这一对比增加了查尔斯的猜疑。他不禁注意到,路易王部队的这种表现使人感觉他们更像列日市民的朋友,而不像是勃艮第的盟军。这支联军一路上都没遇到强烈抵抗,最后来到了马埃斯河富饶的河谷,在那人口众多的列日城前扎下营来。他们发现索恩瓦尔德城堡已完全被毁,并得知那惟一的才能表现为军事指挥的威廉·德拉马克已将整个部队撤进城内,决心避免与勃艮第和法国的骑兵在开阔地带交锋。但入侵者很快就体会到,不管一个大城市如何缺乏防御,只要居民决心死守,就会给他们造成很大的威胁。

有一部分勃艮第的先头部队看到有的城墙被毁,有的被打开了缺口,以为不费一枪一弹就能轻松地开进列日城。于是他们喊着口号:“勃艮第,勃艮第!杀,杀——一切归于我们——为波旁·路易复仇!”然后开进了列日的一个郊区。但正当他们无秩序地穿过狭窄的街道,并散开进行抢劫时,一大股列日市民突然从城区冲了出来,对他们猛烈袭击,造成了很大的伤亡。德拉马克甚至利用不同的城墙缺口,让守城者分成几路冲进双方争夺的郊区,从前后方及侧翼袭击进犯者。这突如其来的猛烈抵抗搞得这些入侵者惊惶失措,难以招架。黑夜的来临更使得他们乱作一团。

查尔斯公爵听到这个消息时几乎气得要发狂。路易王表示愿意派遣法国武士前往郊区援救勃艮第先头部队,但这并没有能够平息公爵的愤怒。他简慢地拒绝了国王这个建议。他本想率领自己的卫队去解救这些贸然进攻的士兵。只是因为丹伯古和克雷维格恳求他把这事交给他们,他才作罢。这两位著名的将领从两个不同的地点开进战地,在适当的相互支援和较好的配合下终于打退了列日市民,救出了先头部队。除开被俘者以外,这支部队伤亡不下八百,其中约有一百名是武士。被俘者为数并不多,其中多数已被丹伯古救了出来。他们接着占领了争夺地区,并在面对城区的地方布了防,与城区只隔着一块五六百码宽,没有建筑物的无人地带。在城区和郊区之间有许多岩石,也没凿护城河。一出城门便是郊区。因此人们很容易从城门走出去,何况在圣特仑战争爆发以后,查尔斯公爵曾命令把城墙打开两三个缺口,现在也只是用木材把缺口匆忙堵修了一下。丹伯古将两门重炮对准城门,另将两门对准主要的城墙缺口,以击退城里的任何突袭,然后回到勃艮第军营。但他发现部队极度混乱。

实际上,即使在先头部队已被击溃往后撤的时候,公爵这支大军的主力和后卫也还在继续向前挺进,结果引起双方冲突,造成巨大的混乱。丹伯古为了执行其总司令,也可说总后勤的种种职务,有时不得不离开军营,这就更增加了部队的混乱。而更糟糕的是,像要吞噬一切的深沉的夜幕已降临下来,又加上一场滂沦大雨骤然而至,使得攻城部队必须用来作阵地的地方变成了一片泥泞,中间还穿插着许多沟渠和运河。在这支勃艮第军队中军官找不到士兵、士兵找不到军旗和军官的现象比比皆是,其混乱真是难以想象。每个人,无论高低贵贱,都在自寻隐蔽的休歇场所。从战斗中撤回来的疲惫不堪的士兵和伤兵的食宿根本无人过问。面对已发生的不妙情况还毫无所知的士兵仍在继续前进,指望在他们误以为仍在进行着的快活的抢劫当中也能捞它一把。

当丹伯古返回时,他面临的任务真是困难得难以置信。但公爵没考虑到他刚处理完的事情比起来更为迫切,就对他横加指责。面对公爵这种无理指责,勇敢的将军终于伤心得再也无法忍受。“我离开这里是去整顿一下先头部队的秩序,”他说道,“我把主力部队留给殿下亲自指挥。而等我一回来,我却找不到哪儿是前沿。侧翼,哪儿是后卫;简直是乱成一团。”

“那我们就更像一坛子鲱鱼,”勒格洛里尔说道,“弗兰德军队生来就是如此。”

弄臣的这一句话惹得公爵哈哈大笑。也许正因为如此,才避免了他和他的主帅继续争吵下去。

人们费了很大的劲才为公爵及其最亲近的随从搞到一个列日市民的别墅作为他们的大本营。最后是靠丹伯古和克雷维格下的命令才在其附近布置了一个约有四十名武士组成的卫队。他们拆除了别墅里的一间木屋,用其木料生了一堆熊熊的黄火供他们取暖。

我们在前面曾提到过,勃艮第军队已占领了对着城门的那个郊区。就在这个郊区和别墅之间,在别墅左边不远处还另有一个富翁的宅第。其周围被一个花园和庭院所围,后面还有两三个小围场或田庄。法王路易则在这里设下他自己的大本营。他除了天生不畏危险并具有明智的判断力,有资格称得上一个将才以外,也并不自以为具有很大的军事指挥才能。不过他总是十分谨慎地选用一些最擅长于军事的人来担任指挥职务,并对他们寄予应有的信任。路易及其最亲近的随从占用这第二个别墅。一部分苏格兰卫士被安置在庭院里;这里有些木屋和木棚可供他们过夜。其余的则驻扎在花园里。剩下的那些法国武士的宿营地都靠得很紧,而且秩序井然,还设有警戒岗哨,以防突然袭击。

杜诺瓦和克劳福德为了防备万一,还在几个老练的军官的帮助下——其中巴拉弗雷以其手勤显得最为突出——拆除了一些墙壁,戳通了一些篱笆,填平了一些壕沟等等,以使部队之间的交通以及整个驻地有秩序的联系更为便利。

与此同时,路易王认为有必要直截了当地去勃艮第公爵的大本营走一趟,以便了解他的作战计划和步骤,以及期望他给予什么合作。路易的到来促使查尔斯召开了一个原先他根本没想到要开的作战会议。

昆丁正是看准这个时机恳切求见,说是有要事面禀两位君王。他没费多少周折就得到了晋见的许可。听到他镇静而明晰地陈述威廉·德拉马克打算伪装法国人,打着法国旗号对攻城一方进行突袭的计划,路易十分吃惊。要是他能私下获得这样一个重要情报,他可能要高兴得多。但既然整个情况已当着勃艮第公爵的面说了出来,他只好说,不管真假如何,这样一个情报的确对他们关系重大。

“丝毫不!丝毫不!”公爵无所谓地说道,“要是真有这年轻人所说的这样一个计划,那也不会让一个苏格兰卫队的射手来告诉我。”

“不管如何,”路易对答道,“我都请求你和你的将军们注意,为了防备这个突然袭击可能造成的不愉快后果,我将命令我的士兵铠甲上披白的肩巾——杜诺瓦,你负责马上发出这道命令——当然,”他又补充说道,“这要看我的兄弟和统帅是否同意。”

“只要法国骑兵愿意冒被人封以‘女衫骑士’外号的危险,”公爵对答道,“我自然没有什么反对意见。”

“查尔斯好友,这将是一个恰如其分的封号,”勒格洛里尔说道,“因为最勇敢的武士将获得女人作为奖赏。”

“聪明人,你说得真好,”路易说道,“堂弟,晚安,我得去穿上我的戎装。附带问一句,假如我亲手赢得了伯爵小姐,那该怎么办呢?”

“陛下,”公爵以不同的腔调说道,“那您就必须成为一个地地道道的弗兰德人。”

“我但愿我能使我亲爱的堂弟相信,”路易以极其诚挚的、像说知心话的口吻对答道,“我已经说得上是个彻头彻尾的弗兰德人了。”

公爵只是以向国王道晚安作为回答,所用的声音类似一个骑者在上马时为了诓使马乖乖站定,用手抚摸它,马一惊之下发出的鼻息声。

“我能原谅他的种种虚伪,”公爵对克雷维格说道,“但不能原谅的是他竟以为我会愚蠢得被他这些表白蒙骗住。”

路易回到他的大本营时,和奥利弗·丹说出了他的知心话。“那个苏格兰人可真是个既精明又单纯的怪物,”他说道,“我对他真感到莫名其妙。老天爷!他竟然会不可饶恕地愚蠢得把那老实的德拉马克的突袭计划当着勃艮第、克雷维格和他们那帮人的面公开讲出来,而不把它悄悄告诉我,好让我至少有个机会选择,究竟是鼓励这个计划,还是挫败这个计划!”

“陛下,就像现在这个样子也好,”奥利弗说道,“要是您不宣而战地进攻勃艮第,并与德拉马克联合,在您目前的随从当中许多人都会产生顾虑。”

“奥利弗,你说得很对。世界上就是有这样一些傻瓜。但我们也没有时间用点小恩小惠来消除他们的顾虑。奥利弗,至少今晚我们得守信用,当当勃艮第的忠实盟友。时间将会给我们更好的赌博的机会的。你去叫大伙都做好战斗准备。必要时要把那些呼喊‘法兰西’和‘圣丹尼斯’的人当作呼喊‘地狱’和‘魔鬼’的人那样给以猛烈的射击!我自己也要穿着铠甲睡觉。你要告诉克劳福德,让昆丁·达威特守在警戒线最靠城墙的一端。让他首当其冲,最先获得他所泄露的突袭的好处。假如他运气好能挺过去,那就算他有福气。不过你得特别注意马蒂阿斯·伽利奥提,要叫他留在后方一个绝对安全的地方。这家伙太爱冒险,是一种既爱耍大刀又爱谈哲学的傻瓜。奥利弗,你办办这几件事。祝你晚安——愿克列里的圣母和图尔的圣马丁保佑我的睡眠!”



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