Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 15

The Guide

He was a son of Egypt, as he told me,

And one descended from those dread magicians,

Who waged rash war, when Israel dwelt in Goshen,

With Israel and her Prophet — matching rod

With his, the son’s of Levi’s — and encountering

Jehovah’s miracles with incantations,

Till upon Egypt came the avenging Angel,

And those proud sages wept for their first born,

As wept the unletter’d peasant.

ANONYMOUS

The arrival of Lord Crawford and his guard put an immediate end to the engagement which we endeavoured to describe in the last chapter, and the knight, throwing off his helmet, hastily gave the old Lord his sword, saying, “Crawford, I render myself. — But hither — and lend me your ear — a word for God’s sake — save the Duke of Orleans!”

“How! — what? — the Duke of Orleans!” exclaimed the Scottish commander. “How came this, in the name of the foul fiend? It will ruin the gallant with the King, for ever and a day.”

“Ask no questions,” said Dunois — for it was no other than he — “it was all my fault. See, he stirs. I came forth but to have a snatch at yonder damsel, and make myself a landed and a married man — and see what is come on ‘t. Keep back your canaille — let no man look upon him.”

So saying, he opened the visor of Orleans, and threw water on his face, which was afforded by the neighbouring lake.

Quentin Durward, meanwhile, stood like one planet struck 119, so fast did new adventures pour in upon him. He had now, as the pale features of his first antagonist assured him, borne to the earth the first Prince of the Blood in France, and had measured swords with her best champion, the celebrated Dunois, — both of them achievements honourable in themselves: but whether they might be called good service to the King, or so esteemed by him, was a very different question.

The Duke had now recovered his breath, and was able to sit up and give attention to what passed betwixt Dunois and Crawford, while the former pleaded eagerly that there was no occasion to mention in the matter the name of the most noble Orleans, while he was ready to take the whole blame on his own shoulders, and to avouch that the Duke had only come thither in friendship to him.

Lord Crawford continued listening with his eves fixed on the ground, and from time to time he sighed and shook his head. At length he said, looking up, “Thou knowest, Dunois, that, for thy father’s sake, as well as thine own, I would full fain do thee a service.”

“It is not for myself I demand anything,” answered Dunois. “Thou hast my sword, and I am your prisoner — what needs more? But it is for this noble Prince, the only hope of France, if God should call the Dauphin. He only came hither to do me a favour — in an effort to make my fortune — in a matter which the King had partly encouraged.”

“Dunois,” replied Crawford, “if another had told me thou hadst brought the noble Prince into this jeopardy to serve any purpose of thine own, I had told him it was false. And now that thou dost pretend so thyself, I can hardly believe it is for the sake of speaking the truth.”

“Noble Crawford,” said Orleans, who had now entirely recovered from his swoon, “you are too like in character to your friend Dunois, not to do him justice. It was indeed I that dragged him hither, most unwillingly, upon an enterprise of harebrained passion, suddenly and rashly undertaken. — Look on me all who will,” he added, rising up and turning to the soldiery, “I am Louis of Orleans, willing to pay the penalty of my own folly. I trust the King will limit his displeasure to me, as is but just. — Meanwhile, as a Child of France must not give up his sword to any one — not even to you, brave Crawford — fare thee well, good steel.”

So saying, he drew his sword from its scabbard, and flung it into the lake. It went through the air like a stream of lightning, and sank in the flashing waters, which speedily closed over it. All remained standing in irresolution and astonishment, so high was the rank, and so much esteemed was the character, of the culprit, while, at the same time, all were conscious that the consequences of his rash enterprise, considering the views which the King had upon him, were likely to end in his utter ruin.

Dunois was the first who spoke, and it was in the chiding tone of an offended and distrusted friend: “So! your Highness hath judged it fit to cast away your best sword, in the same morning when it was your pleasure to fling away the King’s favour, and to slight the friendship of Dunois?”

“My dearest kinsman,” said the Duke, “when or how was it in my purpose to slight your friendship by telling the truth, when it was due to your safety and my honour?”

“What had you to do with my safety, my most princely cousin, I would pray to know?” answered Dunois, gruffly. “What, in God’s name, was it to you, if I had a mind to be hanged, or strangled, or flung into the Loire, or poniarded, or broke on the wheel, or hung up alive in an iron cage, or buried alive in a castle fosse, or disposed of in any other way in which it might please King Louis to get rid of his faithful subject? — (You need ‘not wink and frown, and point to Tristan l’Hermite — I see the scoundrel as well as you do.) But it would not have stood so hard with me. — And so much for my safety. And then for your own honour — by the blush of Saint Magdalene, I think the honour would have been to have missed this morning’s work, or kept it out of sight. Here has your Highness got yourself unhorsed by a wild Scottish boy.”

“Tut, tut!” said Lord Crawford, “never shame his Highness for that. It is not the first time a Scottish boy hath broke a good lance — I am glad the youth hath borne him well.”

“I will say nothing to the contrary,” said Dunois, “yet, had your Lordship come something later than you did, there might have been a vacancy in your band of Archers.”

“Ay, ay,” answered Lord Crawford, “I can read your handwriting in that cleft morion. Some one take it from the lad and give him a bonnet, which, with its steel lining, will keep his head better than that broken loom — And let me tell your Lordship, that your own armour of proof is not without some marks of good Scottish handwriting. But, Dunois, I must now request the Duke of Orleans and you to take horse and accompany me, as I have power and commission to convey you to a place different from that which my goodwill might assign you.”

“May I not speak one word, my Lord of Crawford, to yonder fair ladies?” said the Duke of Orleans.

“Not one syllable,” answered Lord Crawford, “I am too much a friend of your Highness to permit such an act of folly.”

Then addressing Quentin, he added, “You, young man, have done your duty. Go on to obey the charge with which you are intrusted.”

“Under favour, my Lord,” said Tristan, with his usual brutality of manner, “the youth must find another guide. I cannot do without Petit Andre, when there is so like to be business on hand for him.”

“The young man,” said Petit Andre, now coming forward, “has only to keep the path which lies straight before him, and it will conduct him to a place where he will find the man who is to act as his guide.

“I would not for a thousand ducats be absent from my Chief this day I have hanged knights and esquires many a one, and wealthy Echevins 120, and burgomasters to boot — even counts and marquises have tasted of my handiwork but, a-humph” — he looked at the Duke, as if to intimate that he would have filled up the blank with “a Prince of the Blood!”

“Ho, ho, ho! Petit Andre, thou wilt be read of in Chronicle!”

“Do you permit your ruffians to hold such language in such a presence?” said Crawford, looking sternly to Tristan.

“Why do you not correct him yourself, my Lord?” said Tristan, sullenly.

“Because thy hand is the only one in this company that can beat him without being degraded by such an action.”

“Then rule your own men, my Lord, and I will be answerable for mine,” said the Provost Marshal.

Lord Crawford seemed about to give a passionate reply, but as if he had thought better of it, turned his back short upon Tristan, and, requesting the Duke of Orleans and Dunois to ride one on either hand of him, he made a signal of adieu to the ladies, and said to Quentin, “God bless thee, my child, thou hast begun thy service valiantly, though in an unhappy cause.”

He was about to go off when Quentin could hear Dunois whisper to Crawford, “Do you carry us to Plessis?”

“No, my unhappy and rash friend,” answered Crawford, with a sigh, “to Loches.”

“To Loches!” The name of a castle, or rather prison, yet more dreaded than Plessis itself, fell like a death toll upon the ear of the young Scotchman. He had heard it described as a place destined to the workings of those secret acts of cruelty with which even Louis shamed to pollute the interior of his own residence. There were in this place of terror dungeons under dungeons, some of them unknown even to the keepers themselves, living graves, to which men were consigned with little hope of farther employment during the rest of their life than to breathe impure air, and feed on bread and water. At this formidable castle were also those dreadful places of confinement called cages, in which the wretched prisoner could neither stand upright nor stretch himself at length, an invention, it is said, of the Cardinal Balue 121. It is no wonder that the name of this place of horrors, and the consciousness that he had been partly the means of dispatching thither two such illustrious victims, struck so much sadness into the heart of the young Scot that he rode for some time with his head dejected, his eyes fixed on the ground, and his heart filled with the most painful reflections.

As he was now again at the head of the little troop, and pursuing the road which had been pointed out to him, the Lady Hameline had an opportunity to say to him, “Methinks, fair sir, you regret the victory which your gallantry has attained in our behalf?”

There was something in the question which sounded like irony, but Quentin had tact enough to answer simply and with sincerity.

“I can regret nothing that is done in the service of such ladies as you are, but, methinks, had it consisted with your safety, I had rather have fallen by the sword of so good a soldier as Dunois, than have been the means of consigning that renowned knight and his unhappy chief, the Duke of Orleans, to yonder fearful dungeons.”

“It was, then, the Duke of Orleans,” said the elder lady, turning to her niece. “I thought so, even at the distance from which we beheld the fray. — You see, kinswoman, what we might have been, had this sly and avaricious monarch permitted us to be seen at his Court. The first Prince of the Blood of France, and the valiant Dunois, whose name is known as wide as that of his heroic father. — This young gentleman did his devoir bravely and well, but methinks ‘t is pity that he did not succumb with honour, since his ill advised gallantry has stood betwixt us and these princely rescuers”

The Countess Isabelle replied in a firm and almost a displeased tone, with an energy, in short, which Quentin had not yet observed her use. She said, “but that I know you jest, I would say your speech is ungrateful to our brave defender, to whom we owe more, perhaps, than you are aware of. Had these gentlemen succeeded so far in their rash enterprise as to have defeated our escort, is it not still evident, that, on the arrival of the Royal Guard, we must have shared their captivity? For my own part, I give tears, and will soon bestow masses, on the brave man who has fallen, and I trust” (she continued, more timidly) “that he who lives will accept my grateful thanks.”

As Quentin turned his face towards her, to return the fitting acknowledgments, she saw the blood which streamed down on one side of his face, and exclaimed, in a tone of deep feeling, “Holy Virgin, he is wounded! he bleeds! — Dismount, sir, and let your wound be bound!”

In spite of all that Durward could say of the slightness of his hurt he was compelled to dismount, and to seat himself on a bank, and unhelmet himself, while the Ladies of Croye, who, according to a fashion not as yet antiquated, pretended some knowledge of leech craft, washed the wound, stanched the blood, and bound it with the kerchief of the younger Countess in order to exclude the air, for so their practice prescribed.

In modern times, gallants seldom or never take wounds for ladies’ sake, and damsels on their side never meddle with the cure of wounds. Each has a danger the less. That which the men escape will be generally acknowledged, but the peril of dressing such a slight wound as that of Quentin’s, which involved nothing formidable or dangerous, was perhaps as real in its way as the risk of encountering it.

We have already said the patient was eminently handsome, and the removal of his helmet, or more properly, of his morion, had suffered his fair locks to escape in profusion, around a countenance in which the hilarity of youth was qualified by a blush of modesty at once and pleasure. And then the feelings of the younger Countess, when compelled to hold the kerchief to the wound, while her aunt sought in their baggage for some vulnerary remedy, were mingled at once with a sense of delicacy and embarrassment, a thrill of pity for the patient, and of gratitude for his services, which exaggerated, in her eyes, his good mien and handsome features. In short, this incident seemed intended by Fate to complete the mysterious communication which she had, by many petty and apparently accidental circumstances, established betwixt two persons, who, though far different in rank and fortune, strongly resembled each other in youth, beauty, and the romantic tenderness of an affectionate disposition. It was no wonder, therefore, that from this moment the thoughts of the Countess Isabelle, already so familiar to his imagination, should become paramount in Quentin’s bosom, nor that if the maiden’s feelings were of a less decided character, at least so far as known to herself, she should think of her young defender, to whom she had just rendered a service so interesting, with more emotion than of any of the whole band of high born nobles who had for two years past besieged her with their adoration. Above all, when the thought of Campobasso, the unworthy favourite of Duke Charles, with his hypocritical mien, his base, treacherous spirit, his wry neck and his squint, occurred to her, his portrait was more disgustingly hideous than ever, and deeply did she resolve no tyranny should make her enter into so hateful a union.

In the meantime, whether the good Lady Hameline of Croye understood and admired masculine beauty as much as when she was fifteen years younger (for the good Countess was at least thirty-five, if the records of that noble house speak the truth), or whether she thought she had done their young protector less justice than she ought, in the first view which she had taken of his services, it is certain that he began to find favour in her eyes.

“My niece,” she said, “has bestowed on you a kerchief for the binding of your wound, I will give you one to grace your gallantry, and to encourage you in your farther progress in chivalry.”

So saying, she gave him a richly embroidered kerchief of blue and silver, and pointing to the housing of her palfrey, and the plumes in her riding cap, desired him to observe that the colours were the same.

The fashion of the time prescribed one absolute mode of receiving such a favour, which Quentin followed accordingly by tying the napkin around his arm, yet his manner of acknowledgment had more of awkwardness, and loss of gallantry in it, than perhaps it might have had at another time, and in another presence, for though the wearing of a lady’s favour, given in such a manner, was merely matter of general compliment, he would much rather have preferred the right of displaying on his arm that which bound the wound inflicted by the sword of Dunois.

Meantime they continued their pilgrimage, Quentin now riding abreast of the ladies, into whose society he seemed to be tacitly adopted. He did not speak much, however, being filled by the silent consciousness of happiness, which is afraid of giving too strong vent to its feelings. The Countess Isabelle spoke still less, so that the conversation was chiefly carried on by the Lady Hameline, who showed no inclination to let it drop, for, to initiate the young Archer, as she said, into the principles and practice of chivalry, she detailed to him at full length the Passage of Arms at Haflinghem, where she had distributed the prizes among the victors.

Not much interested, I am sorry to say, in the description of this splendid scene, or in the heraldic bearings of the different Flemish and German knights, which the lady blazoned with pitiless accuracy, Quentin began to entertain some alarm lest he should have passed the place where his guide was to join him — a most serious disaster, from which, should it really have taken place, the very worst consequences were to be apprehended.

While he hesitated whether it would be better to send back one of his followers to see whether this might not be the case, he heard the blast of a horn, and looking in the direction from which the sound came, beheld a horseman riding very fast towards them. The low size, and wild, shaggy, untrained state of the animal, reminded Quentin of the mountain breed of horses in his own country, but this was much more finely limbed, and, with the same appearance of hardiness, was more rapid in its movements. The head particularly, which, in the Scottish pony, is often lumpish and heavy, was small and well placed in the neck of this animal, with thin jaws, full sparkling eyes, and expanded nostrils.

The rider was even more singular in his appearance than the horse which he rode, though that was extremely unlike the horses of France. Although he managed his palfrey with great dexterity, he sat with his feet in broad stirrups, something resembling shovels, so short in the leathers that his knees were well nigh as high as the pommel of his saddle. His dress was a red turban of small size, in which he wore a sullied plume, secured by a clasp of silver, his tunic, which was shaped like those of the Estradiots (a sort of troops whom the Venetians at that time levied in the provinces on the eastern side of their gulf), was green in colour, and tawdrily laced with gold, he wore very wide drawers or trowsers of white, though none of the cleanest, which gathered beneath the knee, and his swarthy legs were quite bare, unless for the complicated laces which bound a pair of sandals on his feet, he had no spurs, the edge of his large stirrups being so sharp as to serve to goad the horse in a very severe manner. In a crimson sash this singular horseman wore a dagger on the right side, and on the left a short crooked Moorish sword, and by a tarnished baldric over the shoulder hung the horn which announced his approach. He had a swarthy and sunburnt visage, with a thin beard, and piercing dark eyes, a well formed mouth and nose, and other features which might have been pronounced handsome, but for the black elf locks which hung around his face, and the air of wildness and emaciation, which rather seemed to indicate a savage than a civilized man.

“He also is a Bohemian!” said the ladies to each other. “Holy Mary, will the King again place confidence in these outcasts?”

“I will question the man, if it be your pleasure,” said Quentin, “and assure myself of his fidelity as I best may.”

Durward, as well as the Ladies of Croye, had recognised in this man’s dress and appearance the habit and the manners of those vagrants with whom he had nearly been confounded by the hasty proceedings of Trois Eschelles and Petit Andre, and he, too, entertained very natural apprehensions concerning the risk of reposing trust in one of that vagrant race.

“Art thou come hither to seek us?” was his first question. The stranger nodded. “And for what purpose?”

“To guide you to the Palace of Him of Liege.”

“Of the Bishop?”

The Bohemian again nodded.

“What token canst thou give me that we should yield credence to thee?”

“Even the old rhyme, and no other,” answered the Bohemian,

“The page slew the boar, The peer had the gloire.”

“A true token,” said Quentin, “lead on, good fellow — I will speak farther with thee presently.”

Then falling back to the ladies, he said, “I am convinced this man is the guide we are to expect, for he hath brought me a password, known, I think, but to the King and me. But I will discourse with him farther, and endeavour to ascertain how far he is to be trusted.”

119 affected by the supposed influence of the planets

120 during the Middle Ages royal officers possessing a large measure of power in local administration

121 who himself tenanted one of these dens for more than eleven years. S. De Comines, who also suffered this punishment, describes the cage as eight feet wide, and a foot higher than a man.

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