Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 28

Why, 'tis a boisterous and cruel style,

A style for challengers.

Why, she defies us,

Like Turk to Christian.

As You Like It.

The doors of the hall were now opened to the Swiss Deputies, who for the preceding hour had been kept in attendance on the outside of the building, without receiving the slightest of those attentions which among civilized nations are universally paid to the representatives of a foreign State. Indeed, their very appearance, dressed in coarse gray frocks, like mountain hunters or shepherds, in the midst of an assembly blazing with divers-colored garments; gold and silver lace, embroidery, and precious stones, served to confirm the idea that they could only have come hither in the capacity of the most humble petitioners.

Oxford, however, who watched closely the deportment of his late fellow-travellers, failed not to observe that they retained each in his own person the character of firmness and indifference which formerly distinguished them. Rudolph Donnerhugel preserved his bold and haughty look; the Banneret the military indifference which made him look with apparent apathy on all around him; the burgher of Soleure was as formal and important as ever; nor did any of the three show themselves affected in the slightest degree by the splendor of the scene around them, or embarrassed by the consideration of their own comparative inferiority of appointments. But the noble Landamman, on whom Oxford chiefly bent his attention, seemed overwhelmed with a sense of the precarious state in which his country was placed; fearing, from the rude and unhonored manner in which they were received, that war was unavoidable, while, at the same time, like a good patriot, he mourned over tile consequences of ruin to the freedom of his country by defeat, or injury to her simplicity and virtuous indifference of wealth by the introduction of foreign luxuries, and the evils attending on conquest.

Well acquainted with the opinions of Arnold Biederman, Oxford could easily explain his sadness, while his comrade Bonstetten, less capable of comprehending his friend’s feelings, looked at him with the expression which may be seen in the countenance of a faithful dog, when the creature indicates sympathy with his master’s melancholy, though unable to ascertain or appreciate its cause. A look of wonder now and then glided around the splendid assembly on the part of all the forlorn group, excepting Donnerhugel and the Landamman; for the indomitable pride of the one, and the steady patriotism of the other, could not for even an instant be diverted by external objects from their own deep and stern reflections.

After a silence of nearly five minutes, the Duke spoke, with the haughty and harsh manner wtich he might imagine belonged to his place, and which certainly expressed his character.

“Men of Berne, of Schwytz, or of whatever hamlet and wilderness you may represent, know that we had not honored you, rebels as you are to the dominion of your lawful superiors, with an audience in our own presence, but for the intercession of a well-esteemed friend, who has sojourned among your mountains, and whom you may know by the name of Philipson, an Englishman, following the trade of a merchant, and charged with certain valuable matters of traffic to our court. To his intercession we have so far given way that, instead of commanding you, according to your demerits, to the gibbet and the wheel in the Place de Morimont, we have condescended to receive you into our own presence, sitting in our courpleniere, to hear from you such submission as you can offer for your outrageous storm of our town of La Ferette, the slaughter of many of our liegemen, and the deliberate murder of the noble knight, Archibald of Hagenbach, executed in your presence, and by your countenance and device. Speak — if you can say aught in defence of your felony and treason, either to deprecate just punishment, or crave undeserved mercy.”

The Landamman seemed about to answer; but Rudolph Donnerhugel, with his characteristic boldness and hardihood, took the task of reply on himself. He confronted the proud Duke with an eye unappalled, and a countenance as stern as his own.

“We came not here,” be said, “to compromise our own honor, or the dignity of the free people whom we represent, by pleading guilty in their name, or our own, to crimes of which we are innocent. And when you term us rebels, you must remember, that a long train of victories, whose history is written in the noblest blood of Austria, has restored to the confederacy of our communities the freedom of which an unjust tyranny in vain attempted to deprive us. While Austria was a just and Deneficent mistress, we served her with our lives; — when she became oppressive and tyrannical, we assumed independence. If she has aught yet to claim from us, the descendants of Tell, Faust, and Stauffacher, will be as ready to assert their liberties as their fathers were to gain them. Your Grace — if such be your title — has no concern with any dispute betwixt us and Austria. For your threats of gibbet and wheel, we are here defenceless men, on whom you may work your pleasure; but we know how to die, and our countrymen know how to avenge us.”

The fiery Duke would have replied by commanding the instant arrest, and probably the immediate execution, of the whole deputation. But his chancellor, availing himself of the privilege of his office, rose, and doffing his cap with a deep reverence to the Duke, requested leave to reply to the misproud young man, who had, he said, so greatly mistaken the purpose of his Highness’s speech.

Charles, feeling perhaps at the moment too much irritated to form a calm decision, threw himself back in his chair of state, and with an impatient and angry nod gave his chancellor permission to speak.

“Young man,” said that high officer, “you have mistaken the meaning of the high and mighty sovereign in whose presence you stand. Whatever be the lawful rights of Austria over the revolted villages which have flung off their allegiance to their native superior, we have no call to enter on that’ argument. But that for which Burgundy demands your answer, is, wherefore, coming here in the guise, and with the character, of peaceful envoys, on affairs touching your own communities and the rights of the Duke’s subjects, you have raised war in our peaceful dominions, stormed a fortress, massacred its gar rison, and put to death a noble knight, its commander? — all of them actions contrary to the law of nations, and highly deservmg of the punishment with which you have been justly threatened, but with which I hope our gracious sovereign will dispense, if you express some sufficient reason for such outrageous insolence, with an offer of due submission to his Highness’s pleasure, and satisfactory reparation for such a high injury.”

“You are a priest, grave sir?” answered Rudolph Donnerhugel, addressing the Chancellor of Burgundy. “If there be a soldier in this assembly who will avouch your charge, I challenge him to the combat, man to man. We did not storm the garrison of La Ferette — we were admitted into the gates in a peaceful manner, and were there instantly surrounded by the soldiers of the late Archibald de Hagenbach, with the obvious purpose of assaulting and murdering us on our peaceful mission, I promise you there had been news of more men dying than us. But an uproar broke out among the inhabitants of the town, assisted, I believe, by many neighbors, to whom the insolence and oppression of Archibald de Hagenbach had become odious, as to all who were within his reach. We rendered them no assistance; and, I trust, it was not expected that we should interfere in the favor of men who had stood prepared to do the worst against us. But not a pike or sword belonging to us or our attendants was dipped in Burgundian blood. Archibald de Hagenbach perished, it is true, on a scaffold, and I saw him die with pleasure, under a sentence pronounced by a competent court, such as is recognized in Westphalia, and its dependencies on this side of the Rhine. I am not obliged to vindicate their proceedings; but I aver, that the Duke has received full proof of his regular sentence; and, in fine, that it was amply deserved by oppression, tyranny, and foul abuse of his authority, I will uphold against all gainsayers, with the body of a man. There lies my glove.”

And with an action suited to the language he used the stern Swiss flung his right-hand glove on the floor of the hall. In the spirit of the age, with the love of distinction in arms which it nourished, and perhaps with the desire of gaining the Duke’s favor, there was a general motion among the young Burgundians to accept the challenge, and more than six or eight gloves were hastily doffed by the young knights present, those who were more remote flinging them over the heads of the nearest, and each proclaiming his name and title as he proffered the gage of combat.

“I set at all,” said the daring young Swiss, gathering the gauntlets as they fell clashing around him. “More, gentlemen, more! a glove for every finger! come on, one at once-fair lists, equal judges of the field, the combat on foot, and the weapons two-handed swords, and I will not budge for a score of you.”

“Hold, gentlemen; on your allegiance, hold!” said the Duke, gratified at the save time, and somewhat appeased, by the zeal which was displayed in his cause — moved by the strain of reckless bravery evinced by the challenger, with a hardihood akin to his own — perhaps also not unwilling to display, in the view of his cour pleniere, more temperance than he had been at first capable of. “Hold, I command you all. — Toison d’Or, gather up these gauntlets, and return them each to its owner. God and St. George forbid that we should hazard the life of even the least of our noble Burgundian gentry against such a churl as this Swiss peasant, who never so much as mounted a horse and knows not a jot of knightly courtesy, or the grace of chivalry. — Carry your vulgar brawls elsewhere, young man, and know that, on the present occasion, the Place Monmont were your only fitting lists, and the hangman your meet antagonist. And you, sirs, his companions-whose behavior in suffering this swaggerer to take the lead amongst you, seems to show that the laws of nature, as well as of society, are inverted, and that youth is preferred to age, and peasants to gentry — you white-bearded men, I say, is there none of you who can speak your errand in such language as it becomes a sovereign prince to listen to?”

“God forbid else,” said the Landamman, stepping forward and silencing Rudolph Donnerhugel, who was commencing an answer of defiance —” God forbid,” he said, “noble Duke, that we should not be able to speak so as to be understood before your Highness, since, I trust, we shall speak the language of truth, peace, and justice. Nay, should it incline your Highness to listen to us the more favorably for our humility, I am willing to humble myself rather than you should shun to hear us. For my own part, I can truly say, that though I have lived, and by free choice have resolved to die, a husbandman and a hunter on the Alps of the Unterwald, I may claim by birth the hereditary right to speak before Dukes and Kings, and the Emperor himself. There is no one, my Lord Duke, in this proud assembly, who derives his descent from a nobler source than Geierstein.”

“We have heard of you,” said the Duke. “Men call you the peasant-count. Your birth is your shame; or perhaps your mother’s, if your father had happened to have a handsome ploughman, the fitting father of one who has becoime a willing serf.”

“No serf, my lord,” answered the Landamman, “but a free man, who will neither oppress others, nor be himself tyrannized over. My father was a noble lord, my mother a most virtuous lady. But I will not be provoked, by taunt or scornful jest, to refrain from stating with calmness what my country has given me in charge to say. The inhabitants of the bleak and inhospitable regions of the Alps desire, mighty sir, to remain at peace with all their neighbors, and to enjoy the government they have chosen, as best fitted to their condition and habits, leaving all other states and countries to their free-will in the same respects. Especially, they desire to remain at peace and in unity with the princely house of Burgundy, whose dominions approach their possessions on so many points. My lord, they desire it. they entreat it, they even consent to pray for it. We have been termed stubborn, intractable, and insolent condemners of authority, and headers of sedition and rebellion. In evidence of the contrary, my Lord Duke, I, who never bent a knee but to Heaven, feel no dishonor in kneeling before your Highness, as before a sovereign prince in the cour pleniere of his dominions, where he has a right to exact homage from his subjects out of duty, and from strangers out of courtesy. No vain pride of mine,” said the noble old man, his eyes swelling with tears, as he knelt on one knee, “shall prevent me from personal humiliation, when peace — that blessed peace, so dear to God, so inappreciably valuable to man — is in danger of being broken off.”

The whole assembly, even the Duke himself, were affected by the noble and stately manner in which the brave old man made a genuflection, which was obviously dictated by neither meanness nor timidity. “Arise, sir,” said Charles; “if we have said aught which can wound your private feelings, we retract it as publicly as the reproach was spoken, and sit prepared to hear you as a fair-meaning envoy.”

“For that, my noble Lord, thanks; and I shall hold it a blessed day) if I can find words worthy of the cause I have to plead. My lord, a schedule in your Highness’s hands has stated the sense of many injuries received at the hand of your Highness’s officers, and those of Romont, Count of Savoy, your strict ally and adviser, we have a right to suppose, under your Highness’s countenance. For Count Romont — he has already delt with whom he has to continued; but we have as yet taken no measures to avenge injuries, affronts, interruptions to our commerce, from those who have availed themselves of your Highness’s authority to intercept our countrymen, spoil our goods, impress their persons, and even, in some instances, take their lives. The affray at La Ferette — I can vouch for what I saw — had no origin or abettance from us; nevertheless, it is impossible an independent nation can suffer the repetition of such injuries, and free and independent we are determined to remain, or to die in defence of our rights. What then must follow, unless your Highness listens to the terms which I am commissioned to offer? War, a war to extermination for so long as one of our Confederacy can wield a halberd, so long, if this fatal strife once commences, there will be war betwixt your powerful realms and our poor and barren states. And what can the noble Duke of Burgundy gain by such a strife? — is it wealth and plunder? Alas, my Lord, there is more gold and silver on the very bridle-bits of your Highness’s household troops than can be found in the public treasures or private hoards of our whole Confederacy. Is it fame and glory you aspire to? There is little honor to be won by a numerous army over a few scattered bands, by men clad in mail over half-armed husbandmen and shepherds — of such conquest small were the glory. But if, as all Christian men believe, and as it is the constant trust of my countrymen, from memory of the times of our fathers, — if the Lord of Hosts should cast the balance in behalf of the fewer numbers and worse-armed party, I leave it with your Highness to judge, what would, in that event, be the diminution of worship and fame. Is it extent of vassalage and dominion your Highness desires, by warring with your mountain neighbors? Know that you may, if it be God’s will, gain our barren and rugged mountains but, like our ancestors of old, we will seek refuge in wilder and more distant solitudes, and when we have resisted to the last, we will starve in the icy wastes of the Glaciers. Ay, men, women, and children, we will be frozen into annihilation together, ere one free Switzer will acknowledge a foreign master.”

The speech of the Landamman made an obvious impression on the assembly. The Duke observed it, and his hereditary obstinacy was irritated by the general disposition which he saw entertained in favor of the ambassador. This evil principle overcame some impression which the address of the noble Biederman had not failed to make upon him He answered with a lowering brow, interrupting the old man as he was about to continue his speech — “You argue falsely, Sir Count, or Sir Landamman, or by whatever name you call yourself, if you think we war on you from any hope of spoil, or any desire of glory. We know as well as you can tell us, that there is neither profit nor fame to be achieved by conquering you. Put sovereigns, to whom Heaven has given the power, must root out a band of robbers, though there is dishonor in measuring swords with them; and we hunt to death a herd of wolves, though their flesh is carrion, and their skins are nought.”

The Landamman shook his gray head, and replied. without testifying emotion, and even with something approaching to a smile — “I am an older woodsman than you, my Lord Duke — and it mav be a more experienced one. The boldest, the hardiest hunter, will not safely drive the wolf to his den, I have shown your Highness the poor chance of gain, and the great risk of Toss, which even you, powerful as you are, must incur by asking a war with determined and desperate men. Let me now tell what we are willing to do to secure a sincere and lasting peace with our powerful neighbor of Burgundy Your Grace is in the act of engrossing Lorraine, and it seems probable, under so vigorous and enterprising a Prince, your authority may be extended to the shores of the Mediterranean — be our noble friend and sincere ally, and our mountains, defended by warriors familiar with victory, will be your barriers against Germany and Italy. For your sake we will admit the Count of Savoy to terms, and restore to him our conquests, on such conditions as your Highness shall yourself judge reasonable. Of past subjects of offence on the part of your lieutenants and governors upon the frontier, we will be silent, so we have assurance of no such aggressions in future. Nay, more, and it is my last and proudest offer, we will send three thousand of our youth to assist your Highness in any war which you may engage in, whether against Louis of France, or the Emperor of Germany. They are a different set of men — proudly and truly may I state it — from the scum of Germany and Italy, who for themselves into mercenary bands of soldiers. And if Heaven should decide your Highness to accept our offer, there will be one corps in your army which will leave their carcasses on the field ere a man of them break their plighted troth.”

A swarthy, but tall and handsome man, wearing a corselet richly engraved with arabesque work, started from his seat with the air of one provoked beyond the bounds of restraint. This was the Count de Campo-Basso, commander of Charles’s Italian mercenaries, who possessed, as has been alluded to, much influence over the Duke’s mind, chiefly obtained by accommodating himself to his master’s opinions and prejudices, and placing before the Duke specious arguments to justify him for following his own way.

“This lofty presence must excuse me,” be said, “if I speak in defence of my honor, and those of my bold lances, who have followed my fortunes from Italy to serve the bravest Prince in Christendom. I might, indeed, pass over without resentment the outrageous language of this gray-haired churl, whose words cannot affect a knight and a nobleman more than the yelling of a peasant’s mastiff. But when I hear him propose to associate his bands of mutinous misgoverned ruffians with your Highness’s troops, I must let him know that there is not a horse-boy in my ranks who would fight in such fellowship. No, even I myself, bound by a thousand ties of gratitude, could not submit to strive abreast with such comrades. I would fold up my banners, and lead five thousand men to seek, not a nobler master, for the world has none such, but wars in which we might not be obliged to blush for our assistants.”

“Silence, Campo-Basso,” said the Duke, “and be assured you serve a prince. who knows your worth too well to exchange it for the untried and untrustful services of those, whom we have only known as vexatious and malignant neighbors.”

Then addressing himself to Arnold Biederman, he said coldly and sternly,” Sir Landamman, we have heard you fairly. We have heard you, although you come before us with hands dyed deep in blood of our servant, Sir Archibald de Hagenbach; for, supposing he was murdered by a villainous, association — which, by Saint George! shall never, while we live and reign, raise its pestilential head on this side of the Rhine — yet it is not the less undeniable and undenied, that you stood by in arms, and encouraged the deed the assassins performed under your countenance. Return to your mountains, and be thankful that you return in life. Tell those who sent you that I will be presently on their frontiers. A deputation of your most notable persons, who meet me with halters round their necks, torches in their left hands, in their right their swords held by the point, may learn on what conditions we will grant you peace.”

“Then farewell peace, and welcome war,” said the Landamman; “and be its plagues and curses on the heads of those who choose blood and strife rather than peace and union. We will meet you on our frontiers with our naked swords, but the hilts, not their points, shall be in our grasp. Charles of Burgundy, Flanders, and Lorraine, Duke of seven dukedoms, Count of seventeen earldoms, I bid you defiance; and declare war against you in the name of the Confederated Cantons, and such others as shall adhere to them. There,” he said, “are my letters of defiance.”

The herald took from Arnold Biederman the fatal denunciation. “Read it not, Toison d’Or!” said the haughty Duke. “Let the executioner drag it through the streets at his horse’s tail, and nail it to the gibbet, to show in what account we hold the paltry scroll, and those who sent it. — Away, sirs,” speaking to the Swiss, “trudge back to your wildernesses with such haste as your feet can use. When we next meet, you shall better know whom you have offended. — Get our horse ready-the council is broken up.”

The Maire of Dijon, when all were in motion to leave the hall, again approached the Duke, and timidly expressed some hopes that his Highness would deign to partake of a banquet which the magistracy had prepared, in expectation he might do them such an honor.

“No, by Saint George of Burgundy, Sir Maire,” said Charles, with one of the withering glances by which the was wont to express indignation mixed with contempt; “you have not pleased us so well with our breakfast as to induce us to trust our dinner to the loyalty of our good town of Dijon.”

So saying, he rudely turned off from the mortified chief magistrate, and, mounting his horse, rode back to his camp, conversing earnestly on the way with the Count of Campo-Basso.

“I would offer you dinner, my Lord of Oxford,” said Colvin to that nobleman, when he alighted at his tent, “but I foresee, ere you could swallow a mouthful, you will be summoned to the Duke’s presence; for it is our Charles’s way, when he has fixed on a wrong course, to wrangle with his friends and counsellors, in order to prove it is a right one. Marry, he always makes a convert of yon supple Italian.”

Colvin’s augury was speedily realized; for a page almost immediately summoned the English merchant, Philipson, to attend the Duke. Without waiting an instant, Charles poured forth an incoherent tide of reproaches against the Estates of his dukedom, for refusing him their countenance in so slight a matter, and launched out in explanations of the necessity which lie alleged there was for punishing the audacity of the Swiss. “And thou, too, Oxford,” he concluded, “are such an impatient fool as to wish me to indulge in a distant war with England, and transport forces over the sea, when I have such insolent mutineers to chastise on my own frontiers?”

When he was at length silent, the English Earl laid before him, with respectful earnestness, the danger that appeared to be involved in engaging with a people, poor indeed, hut universally dreaded, from their discipline and courage, and that under the eye of so dangerous a rival as Louis of France, who was sure to support the Duke’s enemies underhand, if he did not join them openly. On this point the Duke’s resolution was immovable. “It shall never,” he said, “be told of me, that I uttered threats which I dared not execute. These boors have declared war against me, and they shall learn whose wrath it is that they have wantonly provoked but I do not, therefore, renounce thy scheme, my good Oxford. If thou canst procure me this same cession of Provence, and induce old Rene to give up the cause of his grandson, Ferrand of Vaudemont, in Lorraine, thou wilt make it well worth my while to send thee brave aid against my brother Blackburn, who, while he is drinking healths bottle — deep in France, may well come to lose his lands in England. And be not impatient because I cannot at this very instant send men across the seas. The march which I am making towards Neufchatel, which is, I think, the nearest point where I shall find these churls, will be but like a morning’s excursion. I trust you will go with us, old companion. I should like to see if you have forgotten, among yonder mountains, how to back a horse and lay a lance in rest.”

“I will wait on your Highness,” said the Earl, “as is my duty, for my motions must depend upon your pleasure. But I will not carry arms, especially against those people of Helvetia, from whom I have experienced hospitality, unless it be for my own personal defence.”

“Well,” replied the Duke, “e’en be it so; we shall have in you an excellent judge, to tell us who best discharges his devoir against the mountain clowns.”

At this point in the conversation there was a knocking at the entrance of the pavilion, and the Chancellor of Burgundy presently entered in great haste and anxiety. “News, my Lord-news of France and England,” said the prelate, and then, observing the presence of a stranger, he looked at the Duke? and was silent.

“It is a faithful friend, my Lord Bishop,” said the Duke; you may tell your news before him.”

“It will soon be generally known,” said the Chancellor — “Louis and Edward are fully accorded.” Both the Duke and the English Earl started.

“I expected this,” said the Duke, “but not so soon.”

“The Kings have met,” answered his minister.

“How — in battle?” said Oxford, forgetting himself in his extreme eagerness.

The chancellor was somewhat surprised, but as the Duke seemed to expect him to give an answer, he replied, “No, Sir Stranger, not in battle, but upon appointment, and in peace and amity.”

“The sight must have been worth seeing,” said the Duke, “when the old fox Louis, and my brother Black — I mean my brother Edward — met. Where held they their rendezvous?”

“On a bridge over the Seine, at Picquigny.”

“I would thou hadst been there,” said the Duke, looking to Oxford, “with a good axe in thy hand, to strike one fair blow for England, and another for Burgundy. My grandfather was treacherously slain at just such a meeting, at the Bridge of Montereau, upon the Yonne.”

“To prevent a similar chance,” said the chancellor, a strong barricade, such as closes the cages in which men keep wild beasts, was raised in the midst of the bridge, and prevented the possibility of their even touching each other’s hands.”

“Ha, ha! By Saint George, that smells of Louis’s craft and caution; for the Englishman, to give him his due, is as little acquainted with fear as with policy. But what terms have they made? Where do the English army winter? What towns, fortresses, and castles, are surrendered to them, in pledge or in perpetuity?”

“None, my liege,” said the chancellor. “The English army returns into England, as fast as shipping can be procured to transport them; and Louis will accommodate them with every sail and oar in his dominions, rather than they should not instantly evacuate France.”

“And by what concessions has Louis bought a peace so necessary to his affairs?”

“By fair words,” said the chancellor, “by liberal presents, and by some five hundred tuns of wine.”

“Wine!” exclaimed the Duke — “Heard’st thou ever the like, Seignor Philipson? Why, your countrymen are little better than Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, Marry, I must confess I never saw an Englishman who loved a dry-lipped bargain.”

“I can scarce believe this news,” said the Earl of Oxford. “If this Edward were content to cross the sea with fifty thousand Englishmen merely to return again, there are in his camp both proud nobles and haughty commons enough to resist his disgraceful purpose.”

“The money of Louis,” said the statesman, “has found noble hands willing to clutch it. The wine of France has flooded every throat in the English army — the riot and uproar was unbounded — and at one time the town of Amiens, where Louis himself resided, was full of so many English archers, all of them intoxicated, that the person of the King of France was almost in their hands. Their sense of national honor has been lost in the universal revel, and those amongst them who would be more dignified and play the wise politicians say, that having come to France by connivance of the Duke of Burgundy, and that prince having failed to join them with his forces, they have done well, wisely, and gallantly, considering the season of the year, and the impossibility of obtaining quarters, to take tribute of France, and return home in triumph.”

“And leave Louis,” said Oxford, “at undisturbed freedom to attack Burgundy with all his forces?”

“Not so, friend Philipson,” said Duke Charles; “know, that there is a truce betwixt Burgundy and France for the space of seven years, and had not this been granted and signed, it is probable that we might have found some means of marring the treaty betwixt Edward and Louis, even at the expense of affording those voracious islanders beef and beer during the winter months. — Sir Chancellor, you may leave us, but be within reach of a hasty summons.”

When his minister left the pavilion, the Duke, who with his rude and imperious character united much kindness, if it could not be termed generosity of disposition, came up to the Lancastrian lord, who stood like one at whose feet a thunderbolt has just broken, and who is still appalled by the terrors of the shock.

“My poor Oxford,” he said, “thou art stupified by this news, which thou canst not doubt must have a fatal effect on the plan which thy brave bosom cherishes with such devoted fidelity. I would for thy sake I could have detained the English a little longer in France; but had I attempted to do so, there were an end of my truce with Louis, and, of course to my power to chastise these paltry Cantons, or send forth an expedition to England. As matters stand, give me but a week to punish these mountaineers, and you shall have a larger force than your modesty has requested of me for your enterprise; and, in the meanwhile, I will take care that Blackburn and his cousins archers have no assistance of shipping from Flanders. Tush, man, never fear it — thou wilt be in England long ere they; and, once more, rew on my assistance — always, thou knowest, the cession of Provence being executed, as in reason. Our cousin Margaret’s diamonds we must keep for a time; and perhaps they may pass as a pledge, with some of our own, for the godly purpose of setting at freedom the imprisoned angels of our Flemish usurers, who will not lend even to their sovereign, unless on good current security. To such straits has the disobedient avarice of our estates for the moment reduced us.”

“Alas! my Lord,” said the dejected nobleman, “I were ungrateful to doubt the sincerity of your good intentions. But who can presume on the events of war, especially when time presses for instant decision? You are pleased to trust me. Let your Highness extend your confidence thus far: I will take my horse and ride after the Landamman, if he hath already set forth. I have little doubt to make such an accommodation with him that you may be secure on all your south-eastern frontiers. You may then with security work your will in Lorraine and Provence.”

“Do not speak of it,” said the Duke, sharply; “thou forget’st thyself and me, when thou supposest that a prince, who has pledged his word to his people, can recall it like a merchant chaffering for his paltry wares. Go to — we will assist you, but we’ will be ourselves judge of the time and manner. Yet, having both kind will to our distressed cousin of Anjou, and being your good friend, we will not linger in the matter. Out host have orders to break up this evening and direct their march against Neufchatel, where these proud Swiss shall have a taste of the fire and sword which they have provoked.”

Oxford sighed deeply, but made no further remonstrance; in which he acted wisely, since it was likely to have exasperated the fiery temper of the sovereign to whom it was addressed, while it was certain that it would not in the slightest degree alter his resolution.

He took farewell of the Duke, and returned to Colvin, whom he found immersed in the business of his department, and preparing for the removal of the artillery, an operation which the clumsiness of the ordnance, and the execrable state of the roads, rendered at that time a much more troublesome operation that at present, though it is even still one of the most laborous movements attending the march of an army. The Master of the Ordnance welcomed Oxford with much glee, and congratulated himself on the distinguished honor of enjoying his company during the campaign, and acquainted him, that, by the especial command of the Duke, he had made fitting preparations for his accommodation, suitable to the disguised character which he meant to maintain, but in every other respect as convenient as a camp could admit of.

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29