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Me rather had my heart might feel your love, Than my displeased eye see your courtesy. Up, cousin, up -- your heart is up, I know, Thus high at least -- although your knee -- KING RICHARD II
At the first toll of the bell which was to summon the great nobles of Burgundy together in council, with the very few French peers who could be present on the occasion, Duke Charles, followed by a part of his train, armed with partisans and battle axes, entered the Hall of Herbert's Tower, in the Castle of Peronne. King Louis, who had expected the visit, arose and made two steps towards the Duke, and then remained standing with an air of dignity, which, in spite of the meanness of his dress, and the familiarity of his ordinary manners, he knew very well how to assume when he judged it necessary. Upon the present important crisis, the composure of his demeanour had an evident effect upon his rival, who changed the abrupt and hasty step with which he entered the apartment into one more becoming a great vassal entering the presence of his Lord Paramount. Apparently the Duke had formed the internal resolution to treat Louis, in the outset at least, with the formalities due to his high station; but at the same time it was evident, that, in doing so, he put no small constraint upon the fiery impatience of his own disposition, and was scarce able to control the feelings of resentment and the thirst of revenge which boiled in his bosom. Hence, though he compelled himself to use the outward acts, and in some degree the language, of courtesy and reverence, his colour came and went rapidly -- his voice was abrupt, hoarse, and broken -- his limbs shook, as if impatient of the curb imposed on his motions -- he frowned and bit his lip until the blood came -- and every look and movement showed that the most passionate prince who ever lived was under the dominion of one of his most violent paroxysms of fury.
The King marked this war of passion with a calm and untroubled eye, for, though he gathered from the Duke's looks a foretaste of the bitterness of death, which he dreaded alike as a mortal and a sinful man, yet he was resolved, like a wary and skilful pilot, neither to suffer himself to be disconcerted by his own fears, nor to abandon the helm, while there was a chance of saving the vessel by adroit pilotage. Therefore, when the Duke, in a hoarse and broken tone, said something of the scarcity of his accommodations, he answered with a smile that he could not complain, since he had as yet found Herbert's Tower a better residence than it had proved to one of his ancestors.
"They told you the tradition then?" said Charles.
"Yes -- here he was slain -- but it was because he refused to take the cowl, and finish his days in a monastery."
"The more fool he," said Louis, affecting unconcern, "since he gained the torment of being a martyr, without the merit of being a saint."
"I come," said the Duke, "to pray your Majesty to attend a high council at which tidings of weight are to be deliberated upon concerning the welfare of France and Burgundy. You will presently meet them -- that is, if such be your pleasure."
"Nay, my fair cousin," said the King. "never strain courtesy so far as to entreat what you may so boldly command. -- To council, since such is your Grace's pleasure. We are somewhat shorn of our train," he added, looking upon the small suite that arranged themselves to attend him, "but you, cousin, must shine out for us both."
Marshalled by Toison d'Or, chief of the heralds of Burgundy, the Princes left the Earl Herbert's Tower, and entered the castle yard, which Louis observed was filled with the Duke's bodyguard and men at arms, splendidly accoutred, and drawn up in martial array. Crossing the court, they entered the Council Hall, which was in a much more modern part of the building than that of which Louis had been the tenant, and, though in disrepair, had been hastily arranged for the solemnity of a public council. Two chairs of state were erected under the same canopy, that for the King being raised two steps higher than the one which the Duke was to occupy; about twenty of the chief nobility sat, arranged in due order, on either hand of the chair of state; and thus, when both the Princes were seated, the person for whose trial, as it might be called, the council was summoned, held the highest place, and appeared to preside in it.
It was perhaps to get rid of this inconsistency, and the scruples which might have been inspired by it, that Duke Charles, having bowed slightly to the royal chair, bluntly opened the sitting with the following words --
"My good vassals and councillors, it is not unknown to you what disturbances have arisen in our territories, both in our father's time and in our own, from the rebellion of vassals against superiors, and subjects against their princes. And lately we have had the most dreadful proof of the height to which these evils have arrived in our case, by the scandalous flight of the Countess Isabelle of Croye, and her aunt the Lady Hameline, to take refuge with a foreign power, thereby renouncing their fealty to us, and inferring the forfeiture of their fiefs; and in another more dreadful and deplorable instance, by the sacrilegious and bloody murder of our beloved brother and ally, the Bishop of Liege, and the rebellion of that treacherous city, which was but too mildly punished for the last insurrection. We have been informed that these sad events may be traced, not merely to the inconstancy and folly of women, and the presumption of pampered citizens, but to the agency of foreign power, and the interference of a mighty neighbour, from whom, if good deeds could merit any return in kind, Burgundy could have expected nothing but the most sincere and devoted friendship. If this should prove truth," said the Duke, setting his teeth and pressing his heel against the ground, "what consideration shall withhold us -- the means being in our power -- from taking such measures as shall effectually, and at the very source, close up the main spring from which these evils have yearly flowed on us?"
The Duke had begun his speech with some calmness, but he elevated his voice at the conclusion; and the last sentence was spoken in a tone which made all the councillors tremble, and brought a transient fit of paleness across the King's cheek. He instantly recalled his courage, however, and addressed the council in his turn in a tone evincing so much ease and composure that the Duke, though he seemed desirous to interrupt or stop him, found no decent opportunity to do so.
"Nobles of France and of Burgundy," he said, "Knights of the Holy Spirit and of the Golden Fleece! Since a King must plead his cause as an accused person he cannot desire more distinguished judges than the flower of nobleness and muster and pride of chivalry. Our fair cousin of Burgundy hath but darkened the dispute between us, in so far as his courtesy has declined to state it in precise terms. I, who have no cause for observing such delicacy, nay, whose condition permits me not to do so, crave leave to speak more precisely. It is to Us, my lords -- to Us, his liege lord, his kinsman, his ally, that unhappy circumstances, perverting our cousins's clear judgment and better nature, have induced him to apply the hateful charges of seducing his vassals from their allegiance, stirring up the people of Liege to revolt, and stimulating the outlawed William de la Marck to commit a most cruel and sacrilegious murder. Nobles of France and Burgundy, I might truly appeal to the circumstances in which I now stand, as being in themselves a complete contradiction of such an accusation, for is it to be supposed that, having the sense of a rational being left me, I should have thrown myself unreservedly into the power of the Duke of Burgundy while I was practising treachery against him such as could not fail to be discovered, and which being discovered, must place me, as I now stand, in the power of a justly exasperated prince? The folly of one who should seat himself quietly down to repose on a mine, after he had lighted the match which was to cause instant explosion, would have been wisdom compared to mine. I have no doubt that, amongst the perpetrators of those horrible treasons at Schonwaldt, villains have been busy with my name -- but am I to be answerable, who have given them no right to use it? -- If two silly women, disgusted on account of some romantic cause of displeasure, sought refuge at my Court, does it follow that they did so by my direction? -- It will be found, when inquired into, that, since honour and chivalry forbade my sending them back prisoners to the Court of Burgundy -- which, I think, gentlemen, no one who wears the collar of these Orders would suggest -- that I came as nearly as possible to the same point by placing them in the hands of the venerable father in God, who is now a saint in Heaven."
Here Louis seemed much affected and pressed his kerchief to his eyes. "In the hands, I say, of a member of my own family, and still more closely united with that of Burgundy, whose situation, exalted condition in the church, and, alas! whose numerous virtues qualified him to be the protector of these unhappy wanderers for a little while, and the mediator betwixt them and their liege lord. I say, therefore, the only circumstances which seem, in my brother of Burgundy's hasty view of this subject, to argue unworthy suspicions against me, are such as can be explained on the fairest and most honourable motives; and I say, moreover, that no one particle of credible evidence can be brought to support the injurious charges which have induced my brother to alter his friendly looks towards one who came to him in full confidence of friendship -- have caused him to turn his festive hall into a court of justice, and his hospitable apartments into a prison."
"My lord, my lord," said Charles, breaking in as soon as the King paused, "for your being here at a time so unluckily coinciding with the execution of your projects, I can only account by supposing that those who make it their trade to impose on others do sometimes egregiously delude themselves. The engineer is sometimes killed by the springing of his own petard. -- For what is to follow, let it depend on the event of this solemn inquiry. -- Bring hither the Countess Isabelle of Croye."
As the young lady was introduced, supported on the one side by the Countess of Crevecoeur, who had her husband's commands to that effect, and on the other by the Abbess of the Ursuline convent, Charles exclaimed, with his usual harshness of voice and manner, "So! sweet Princess -- you, who could scarce find breath to answer us when we last laid our just and reasonable commands on you, yet have had wind enough to run as long a course as ever did hunted doe -- what think you of the fair work you have made between two great Princes, and two mighty countries, that have been like to go to war for your baby face?"
The publicity of the scene and the violence of Charles's manner totally overcame the resolution which Isabelle had formed of throwing herself at the Duke's feet and imploring him to take possession of her estates, and permit her to retire into a cloister. She stood motionless, like a terrified female in a storm, who hears the thunder roll on every side of her, and apprehends in every fresh peal the bolt which is to strike her dead. The. Countess of Crevecoeur, a woman of spirit equal to her birth and to the beauty which she preserved even in her matronly years, judged it necessary to interfere.
"My Lord Duke," she said, "my fair cousin is under my protection. I know better than your Grace how women should be treated, and we will leave this presence instantly, unless you use a tone and language more suitable to our rank and sex."
The Duke burst out into a laugh. "Crevecoeur," he said, "thy tameness hath made a lordly dame of thy Countess; but that is no affair of mine. Give a seat to yonder simple girl, to whom, so far from feeling enmity, I design the highest grace and honour. -- Sit down, mistress, and tell us at your leisure what fiend possessed you to fly from your native country, and embrace the trade of a damsel adventurous."
With much pain, and not without several interruptions, Isabelle confessed that, being absolutely determined against a match proposed to her by the Duke of Burgundy, she had indulged the hope of obtaining protection of the Court of France.
"And under protection of the French Monarch," said Charles. "Of that, doubtless, you were well assured?"
"I did indeed so think myself assured," said the Countess Isabelle, "otherwise I had not taken a step so decided."
Here Charles looked upon Louis with a smile of inexpressible bitterness, which the King supported with the utmost firmness, except that his lip grew something whiter than it was wont to be.
"But my information concerning King Louis's intentions towards us," continued the Countess, after a short pause, "was almost entirely derived from my unhappy aunt, the Lady Hameline, and her opinions were formed upon the assertions and insinuations of persons whom I have since discovered to be the vilest traitors and most faithless wretches in the world."
She then stated, in brief terms, what she had since come to learn of the treachery of Marthon, and of Hayraddin Maugrabin, and added that she "entertained no doubt that the elder Maugrabin, called Zamet, the original adviser of their flight, was capable of every species of treachery, as well as of assuming the character of an agent of Louis without authority."
There was a pause while the Countess had continued her story, which she prosecuted, though very briefly, from the time she left the territories of Burgundy, in company with her aunt, until the storming of Schonwaldt, and her final surrender to the Count of Crevecoeur. All remained mute after she had finished her brief and broken narrative, and the Duke of Burgundy bent his fierce dark eyes on the ground, like one who seeks for a pretext to indulge his passion, but finds none sufficiently plausible to justify himself in his own eyes.
"The mole," he said at length, looking upwards, "winds not his dark subterranean path beneath our feet the less certainly that we, though conscious of his motions, cannot absolutely trace them. Yet I would know of King Louis wherefore he maintained these ladies at his Court, had they not gone thither by his own invitation."
"I did not so entertain them, fair cousin," answered the King. "Out of compassion, indeed, I received them in privacy, but took an early opportunity of placing them under the protection of the late excellent Bishop, your own ally, and who was (may God assoil him!) a better judge than I, or any secular prince, how to reconcile the protection due to fugitives with the duty which a king owes to his ally, from whose dominions they have fled. I boldly ask this young lady whether my reception of them was cordial, or whether it was not, on the contrary, such as made them express regret that they had made my Court their place of refuge?"
"So much was it otherwise than cordial," answered the Countess, "that it induced me, at least, to doubt how far it was possible that your Majesty should have actually given the invitation of which we had been assured, by those who called themselves your agents, since, supposing them to have proceeded only as they were duly authorized, it would have been hard to reconcile your Majesty's conduct with that to be expected from a king, a knight, and a gentleman."
The Countess turned her eyes to the King as she spoke, with a look which was probably intended as a reproach, but the breast of Louis was armed against all such artillery. On the contrary, waving slowly his expanded hands, and looking around the circle, he seemed to make a triumphant appeal to all present, upon the testimony borne to his innocence in the Countess's reply.
Burgundy, meanwhile, cast on him a look which seemed to say, that if in some degree silenced, he was as far as ever from being satisfied, and then said abruptly to the Countess, "Methinks, fair mistress, in this account of your wanderings, you have forgot all mention of certain love passages. -- So, ho, blushing already? -- Certain knights of the forest, by whom your quiet was for a time interrupted. Well -- that incident hath come to our ear, and something we may presently form out of it. -- Tell me, King Louis, were it not well, before this vagrant Helen of Troy [the wife of Menelaus. She was carried to Troy by Paris, and thus was the cause of the Trojan War], or of Croye, set more Kings by the ears, were it not well to carve out a fitting match for her?"
King Louis, though conscious what ungrateful proposal was likely to be made next, gave a calm and silent assent to what Charles said; but the Countess herself was restored to courage by the very extremity of her situation. She quitted the arm of the Countess of Crevecoeur, on which she had hitherto leaned, came forward timidly, yet with an air of dignity, and kneeling before the Duke's throne, thus addressed him "Noble Duke of Burgundy, and my liege lord, I acknowledge my fault in having withdrawn myself from your dominions without your gracious permission, and will most humbly acquiesce in any penalty you are pleased to impose. I place my lands and castles at your rightful disposal, and pray you only of your own bounty, and for the sake of my memory, to allow the last of the line of Croye, out of her large estate, such a moderate maintenance as may find her admission into a convent for the remainder of her life."
"What think you, Sire, of the young person's petition to us," said the Duke, addressing Louis.
"As of a holy and humble motion," said the King, "which doubtless comes from that grace which ought not to be resisted or withstood."
"The humble and lowly shall be exalted," said Charles. "Arise, Countess Isabelle -- we mean better for you than you have devised for yourself. We mean neither to sequestrate your estates, nor to abase your honours, but, on the contrary, will add largely to both."
"Alas! my lord," said the Countess, continuing on her knees, "it is even that well meant goodness which I fear still more than your Grace's displeasure, since it compels me --"
"Saint George of Burgundy!" said Duke Charles, "is our will to be thwarted, and our commands disputed, at every turn? Up, I say, minion, and withdraw for the present -- when we have time to think of thee, we will so order matters that, Teste Saint Gris! you shall either obey us, or do worse."
Notwithstanding this stern answer, the Countess Isabelle remained at his feet, and would probably, by her pertinacity, have driven him to say upon the spot something yet more severe, had not the Countess of Crevecoeur, who better knew that Prince's humour, interfered to raise her young friend, and to conduct her from the hall.
Quentin Durward was now summoned to appear, and presented himself before the King and Duke with that freedom, distant alike from bashful reserve and intrusive boldness, which becomes a youth at once well born and well nurtured, who gives honour where it is due but without permitting himself to be dazzled or confused by the presence of those to whom it is to be rendered. His uncle had furnished him with the means of again equipping himself in the arms and dress of an Archer of the Scottish Guard, and his complexion, mien, and air suited in an uncommon degree his splendid appearance. His extreme youth, too, prepossessed the councillors in his favour, the rather that no one could easily believe that the sagacious Louis would have chosen so very young a person to become the confidant of political intrigues; and thus the King enjoyed, in this, as in other cases, considerable advantage from his singular choice of agents, both as to age and rank, where such election seemed least likely to be made. At the command of the Duke, sanctioned by that of Louis, Quentin commenced an account of his journey with the Ladies of Croye to the neighbourhood of Liege, premising a statement of King Louis's instructions, which were that he should escort them safely to the castle of the Bishop.
"And you obeyed my orders accordingly," said the King.
"I did, Sire," replied the Scot.
"You omit a circumstance," said the Duke. "You were set upon in the forest by two wandering knights."
"It does not become me to remember or to proclaim such an incident," said the youth, blushing ingenuously.
"But it doth not become me to forget it," said the Duke of Orleans. "This youth discharged his commission manfully, and maintained his trust in a manner that I shall long remember. -- Come to my apartment, Archer, when this matter is over, and thou shalt find I have not forgot thy brave bearing, while I am glad to see it is equalled by thy modesty."
"And come to mine," said Dunois. "I have a helmet for thee, since I think I owe thee one."
Quentin bowed low to both, and the examination was resumed. At the command of Duke Charles he produced the written instructions which he had received for the direction of his journey.
"Did you follow these instructions literally, soldier?" said the Duke.
"No; if it please your Grace," replied Quentin. "They directed me, as you may be pleased to observe, to cross the Maes near Namur; whereas I kept the left bank, as being both the nigher and the safer road to Liege."
"And wherefore that alteration?" said the Duke.
"Because I began to suspect the fidelity of my guide," answered Quentin.
"Now mark the questions I have next to ask thee," said the Duke. "Reply truly to them, and fear nothing from the resentment of any one. But if you palter or double in your answers I will have thee hung alive in an iron chain from the steeple of the market house, where thou shalt wish for death for many an hour ere he come to relieve you!"
There was a deep silence ensued. At length, having given the youth time, as he thought, to consider the circumstances in which he was placed, the Duke demanded to know of Durward who his guide was, by whom supplied, and wherefore he had been led to entertain suspicion of him. To the first of these questions Quentin Durward answered by naming Hayraddin Maugrabin, the Bohemian; to the second, that the guide had been recommended by Tristan l'Hermite; and in reply to the third point he mentioned what had happened in the Franciscan convent near Namur, how the Bohemian had been expelled from the holy house, and how, jealous of his behaviour, he had dogged him to a rendezvous with one of William de la Marck's lanzknechts, where he overheard them arrange a plan for surprising the ladies who were under his protection.
"Now, hark," said the Duke, "and once more remember thy life depends on thy veracity, did these villains mention their having this King's -- I mean this very King Louis of France's authority for their scheme of surprising the escort and carrying away the ladies?"
"If such infamous fellows had said," replied Quentin, "I know not how I should have believed them, having the word of the King himself to place in opposition to theirs."
Louis, who had listened hitherto with most earnest attention, could not help drawing his breath deeply when he heard Durward's answer, in the manner of one from whose bosom a heavy weight has been at once removed. The Duke again looked disconcerted and moody, and, returning to the charge, questioned Quentin still more closely, whether he did not understand, from these men's private conversation, that the plots which they meditated had King Louis's sanction?
"I repeat that I heard nothing which could authorize me to say so," answered the young man, who, though internally convinced of the King's accession to the treachery of Hayraddin, yet held it contrary to his allegiance to bring forward his own suspicions on the subject; "and if I had heard such men make such an assertion, I again say that I would not have given their testimony weight against the instructions of the King himself."
"Thou art a faithful messenger," said the Duke, with a sneer, "and I venture to say that, in obeying the King's instructions, thou hast disappointed his expectations in a manner that thou mightst have smarted for, but that subsequent events have made thy bull headed fidelity seem like good service."
"I understand you not, my lord," said Quentin Durward, "all I know is that my master King Louis sent me to protect these ladies, and that I did so accordingly, to the extent of my ability, both in the journey to Schonwaldt, and through the subsequent scenes which took place. I understood the instructions of the King to be honourable, and I executed them honourably; had they been of a different tenor, they would not have suited one of my name or nation."
"Fier comme an Ecossois," said Charles, who, however disappointed at the tenor of Durward's reply, was not unjust enough to blame him for his boldness. "But hark thee, Archer, what instructions were those which made thee, as some sad fugitives from Schonwaldt have informed us, parade the streets of Liege, at the head of those mutineers, who afterwards cruelly murdered their temporal Prince and spiritual Father? And what harangue was it which thou didst make after that murder was committed, in which you took upon you, as agent for Louis, to assume authority among the villains who had just perpetrated so great a crime?"
"My lord," said Quentin, "there are many who could testify that I assumed not the character of an envoy of France in the town of Liege, but had it fixed upon me by the obstinate clamours of the people themselves, who refused to give credit to any disclamation which I could make. This I told to those in the service of the Bishop when I had made my escape from the city, and recommended their attention to the security of the Castle, which might have prevented the calamity and horror of the succeeding night. It is, no doubt, true that I did, in the extremity of danger, avail myself of the influence which my imputed character gave me, to save the Countess Isabelle, to protect my own life, and, so far as I could, to rein in the humour for slaughter, which had already broke out in so dreadful an instance. I repeat, and will maintain it with my body, that I had no commission of any kind from the King of France respecting the people of Liege, far less instructions to instigate them to mutiny; and that, finally, when I did avail myself of that imputed character, it was as if I had snatched up a shield to protect myself in a moment of emergency, and used it, as I should surely have done, for the defence of myself and others, without inquiring whether I had a right to the heraldic emblazonments which it displayed."
"And therein my young companion and prisoner," said Crevecoeur, unable any longer to remain silent, "acted with equal spirit and good sense; and his doing so cannot justly be imputed as blame to King Louis."
There was a murmur of assent among the surrounding nobility, which sounded joyfully in the ears of King Louis, whilst it gave no little offence to Charles. He rolled his eyes angrily around; and the sentiments so generally expressed by so many of his highest vassals and wisest councillors, would not perhaps have prevented his giving way to his violent and despotic temper, had not De Comines, who foresaw the danger, prevented it, by suddenly announcing a herald from the city of Liege.
"A herald from weavers and nailers!" exclaimed the Duke. "But admit him instantly. By Our Lady, I will learn from this same herald something farther of his employers' hopes and projects than this young French Scottish man at arms seems desirous to tell me!"
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