Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 18

Palmistry

When many a many tale and many a song

Cheer’d the rough road, we wish’d the rough road long.

The rough road, then, returning in a round,

Mock’d our enchanted steps, for all was fairy ground.

SAMUEL JOHNSON

By peep of day Quentin Durward had forsaken his little cell, had roused the sleepy grooms, and, with more than his wonted care, seen that everything was prepared for the day’s journey. Girths and bridles, the horse furniture, and the shoes of the horses themselves, were carefully inspected with his own eyes, that there might be as little chance as possible of the occurrence of any of those casualties, which, petty as they seem, often interrupt or disconcert travelling. The horses were also, under his own inspection, carefully fed, so as to render them fit for a long day’s journey, or, if that should be necessary, for a hasty flight.

Quentin then betook himself to his own chamber, armed himself with unusual care, and belted on his sword with the feeling at once of approaching danger, and of stern determination to dare it to the uttermost.

These generous feelings gave him a loftiness of step, and a dignity of manner, which the Ladies of Croye had not yet observed in him, though they had been highly pleased and interested by the grace, yet naivete, of his general behaviour and conversation, and the mixture of shrewd intelligence which naturally belonged to him, with the simplicity arising from his secluded education and distant country. He let them understand that it would be necessary that they should prepare for their journey this morning rather earlier than usual, and, accordingly, they left the convent immediately after a morning repast, for which, as well as the other hospitalities of the House, the ladies made acknowledgment by a donation to the altar, befitting rather their rank than their appearance. But this excited no suspicion, as they were supposed to be Englishwomen, and the attribute of superior wealth attached at that time to the insular character as strongly as in our own day.

The Prior blessed them as they mounted to depart, and congratulated Quentin on the absence of his heathen guide.

“For,” said the venerable man, “better stumble in the path than be upheld by the arm of a thief or robber.”

Quentin was not quite of his opinion, for, dangerous as he knew the Bohemian to be, he thought he could use his services, and, at the same time, baffle his treasonable purpose, now that he saw clearly to what it tended. But his anxiety upon this subject was soon at an end, for the little cavalcade was not an hundred yards from the monastery and the village before Maugrabin joined it, riding as usual on his little active and wild looking jennet. Their road led them along the side of the same brook where Quentin had overheard the mysterious conference the preceding evening, and Hayraddin had not long rejoined them, ere they passed under the very willow tree which had afforded Durward the means of concealment, when he became an unsuspected hearer of what then passed betwixt that false guide and the lanzknecht.

The recollections which the spot brought back stirred Quentin to enter abruptly into conversation with his guide, whom hitherto he had scarce spoken to.

“Where hast thou found night quarter, thou profane knave?” said the Scot.

“Your wisdom may guess, by looking on my gaberdine,” answered the Bohemian, pointing to his dress, which was covered with seeds of hay.

“A good haystack,” said Quentin, “is a convenient bed for an astrologer, and a much better than a heathen scoffer at our blessed religion and its ministers, ever deserves.”

“It suited my Klepper better than me, though,” said Hayraddin, patting his horse on the neck, “for he had food and shelter at the same time. The old bald fools turned him loose, as if a wise man’s horse could have infected with wit or sagacity a whole convent of asses. Lucky that Klepper knows my whistle, and follows me as truly as a hound, or we had never met again, and you in your turn might have whistled for a guide.”

“I have told thee more than once,” said Durward, sternly, “to restrain thy ribaldry when thou chancest to be in worthy men’s company, a thing, which, I believe, hath rarely happened to thee in thy life before now, and I promise thee, that did I hold thee as faithless a guide as I esteem thee a blasphemous and worthless caitiff, my Scottish dirk and thy heathenish heart had ere now been acquainted, although the doing such a deed were as ignoble as the sticking of swine.”

“A wild boar is near akin to a sow,” said the Bohemian, without flinching from the sharp look with which Quentin regarded him, or altering, in the slightest degree, the caustic indifference which he affected in his language, “and many men,” he subjoined, “find both pride, pleasure, and profit, in sticking them.”

Astonished at the man’s ready confidence, and uncertain whether he did not know more of his own history and feelings than was pleasant for him to converse upon, Quentin broke off a conversation in which he had gained no advantage over Maugrabin, and fell back to his accustomed post beside the ladies.

We have already observed that a considerable degree of familiarity had begun to establish itself between them. The elder Countess treated him (being once well assured of the nobility of his birth) like a favoured equal, and though her niece showed her regard to their protector less freely, yet, under every disadvantage of bashfulness and timidity, Quentin thought he could plainly perceive that his company and conversation were not by any means indifferent to her.

Nothing gives such life and soul to youthful gaiety as the consciousness that it is successfully received, and Quentin had accordingly, during the former period of their journey, amused his fair charge with the liveliness of his conversation and the songs and tales of his country, the former of which he sang in his native language, while his efforts to render the latter into his foreign and imperfect French, gave rise to a hundred little mistakes and errors of speech, as diverting as the narratives themselves. But on this anxious morning, he rode beside the Ladies of Croye without any of his usual attempts to amuse them, and they could not help observing his silence as something remarkable.

“Our young companion has seen a wolf,” said the Lady Hameline, alluding to an ancient superstition, “and he has lost his tongue in consequence.” 143

“To say I had tracked a fox were nearer the mark,” thought Quentin, but gave the reply no utterance.

“Are you well, Seignior Quentin?” said the Countess Isabelle, in a tone of interest at which she herself blushed, while she felt that it was something more than the distance between them warranted.

“He hath sat up carousing with the jolly friars,” said the Lady Hameline, “the Scots are like the Germans, who spend all their mirth over the Rheinwein, and bring only their staggering steps to the dance in the evening, and their aching heads to the ladies’ bower in the morning.”

“Nay, gentle ladies,” said Quentin, “I deserve not your reproach. The good friars were at their devotions almost all night, and for myself, my drink was barely a cup of their thinnest and most ordinary wine.”

“It is the badness of his fare that has put him out of humour,” said the Countess Isabelle. “Cheer up, Seignior Quentin, and should we ever visit my ancient Castle of Bracquemont together, if I myself should stand your cup bearer, and hand it to you, you shall have a generous cup of wine, that the like never grew upon the vines of Hochheim or Johannisberg.”

“A glass of water, noble lady, from your hand,” — Thus far did Quentin begin, but his voice trembled, and Isabelle continued, as if she had been insensible of the tenderness of the accentuation upon the personal pronoun.

“The wine was stocked in the deep vaults of Bracquemont, by my great grandfather the Rhinegrave Godfrey,” said the Countess Isabelle.

“Who won the hand of her great grandmother,” interjected the Lady Hameline, interrupting her niece, “by proving himself the best son of chivalry, at the great tournament of Strasbourg — ten knights were slain in the lists. But those days are now over, and no one now thinks of encountering peril for the sake of honour, or to relieve distressed beauty.”

To this speech, which was made in the tone in which a modern beauty, whose charms are rather on the wane, may be heard to condemn the rudeness of the present age, Quentin took upon him to reply that there was no lack of that chivalry which the Lady Hameline seemed to consider as extinct, and that, were it eclipsed everywhere else, it would still glow in the bosoms of the Scottish gentlemen.

“Hear him!” said the Lady Hameline, “he would have us believe that in his cold and bleak country still lives the noble fire which has decayed in France and Germany! The poor youth is like a Swiss mountaineer, mad with partiality to his native land — he will next tell us of the vines and olives of Scotland.”

“No, madam,” said Durward, “of the wine and the oil of our mountains I can say little more than that our swords can compel these rich productions as tribute from our wealthier neighbours. But for the unblemished faith and unfaded honour of Scotland, I must now put to the proof how far you can repose trust in them, however mean the individual who can offer nothing more as a pledge of your safety.”

“You speak mysteriously — you know of some pressing and present danger,” said the Lady Hameline.

“I have read it in his eye for this hour past!” exclaimed the Lady Isabelle, clasping her hands. “Sacred Virgin, what will become of us?”

“Nothing, I hope, but what you would desire,” answered Durward. “And now I am compelled to ask — gentle ladies, can you trust me?”

“Trust you?” answered the Countess Hameline. “Certainly. But why the question? Or how far do you ask our confidence?”

“I, on my part,” said the Countess Isabelle, “trust you implicitly, and without condition. If you can deceive us, Quentin, I will no more look for truth, save in Heaven!”

“Gentle lady,” replied Durward, highly gratified, “you do me but justice. My object is to alter our route, by proceeding directly by the left bank of the Maes to Liege, instead of crossing at Namur. This differs from the order assigned by King Louis and the instructions given to the guide. But I heard news in the monastery of marauders on the right bank of the Maes, and of the march of Burgundian soldiers to suppress them. Both circumstances alarm me for your safety. Have I your permission so far to deviate from the route of your journey?”

“My ample and full permission,” answered the younger lady.

“Cousin,” said the Lady Hameline, “I believe with you that the youth means us well — but bethink you — we transgress the instructions of King Louis, so positively iterated.”

“And why should we regard his instructions?” said the Lady Isabelle. “I am, I thank Heaven for it, no subject of his, and, as a suppliant, he has abused the confidence he induced me to repose in him. I would not dishonour this young gentleman by weighing his word for an instant against the injunctions of yonder crafty and selfish despot.”

“Now, may God bless you for that very word, lady,” said Quentin, joyously, “and if I deserve not the trust it expresses, tearing with wild horses in this life and eternal tortures in the next were e’en too good for my deserts.”

So saying, he spurred his horse, and rejoined the Bohemian. This worthy seemed of a remarkably passive, if not a forgiving temper. Injury or threat never dwelt, or at least seemed not to dwell in his recollection, and he entered into the conversation which Durward presently commenced, just as if there had been no unkindly word betwixt them in the course of the morning.

The dog, thought the Scot, snarls not now, because he intends to clear scores with me at once and for ever, when he can snatch me by the very throat, but we will try for once whether we cannot foil a traitor at his own weapons.

“Honest Hayraddin,” he said, “thou hast travelled with us for ten days, yet hast never shown us a specimen of your skill in fortune telling, which you are, nevertheless, so fond of practising that you must needs display your gifts in every convent at which we stop, at the risk of being repaid by a night’s lodging under a haystack.”

“You have never asked me for a specimen of my skill,” said the gipsy. “You are, like the rest of the world, contented to ridicule those mysteries which they do not understand.”

“Give me then a present proof of your skill,” said Quentin and, ungloving his hand, he held it out to the gipsy.

Hayraddin carefully regarded all the lines which crossed each other on the Scotchman’s palm, and noted, with equally Scrupulous attention, the little risings or swellings at the roots of the fingers, which were then believed as intimately connected with the disposition, habits, and fortunes of the individual, as the organs of the brain are pretended to be in our own time.

“Here is a hand,” said Hayraddin, “which speaks of toils endured, and dangers encountered. I read in it an early acquaintance with the hilt of the sword, and yet some acquaintance also with the clasps of the mass book.”

“This of my past life you may have learned elsewhere,” said Quentin, “tell me something of the future.”

“This line from the hill of Venus,” said the Bohemian, “not broken off abruptly, but attending and accompanying the line of life, argues a certain and large fortune by marriage, whereby the party shall be raised among the wealthy and the noble by the influence of successful love.”

“Such promises you make to all who ask your advice,” said Quentin, “they are part of your art.”

“What I tell you is as certain,” said Hayraddin, “as that you shall in brief space be menaced with mighty danger, which I infer from this bright blood red line cutting the table line transversely, and intimating stroke of sword, or other violence, from which you shall only be saved by the attachment of a faithful friend.”

“Thyself, ha?” said Quentin, somewhat indignant that the chiromantist should thus practise on his credulity, and endeavour to found a reputation by predicting the consequences of his own treachery.

“My art,” replied the Zingaro, “tells me naught that concerns myself.”

“In this, then, the seers of my land,” said Quentin, “excel your boasted knowledge, for their skill teaches them the dangers by which they are themselves beset. I left not my hills without having felt a portion of the double vision with which their inhabitants are gifted, and I will give thee a proof of it, in exchange for thy specimen of palmistry. Hayraddin, the danger which threatens me lies on the right bank of the river — I will avoid it by travelling to Liege on the left bank.”

The guide listened with an apathy, which, knowing the circumstances in which Maugrabin stood, Quentin could not by any means comprehend.

“If you accomplish your purpose,” was the Bohemian’s reply, “the dangerous crisis will be transferred from your lot to mine.”

“I thought,” said Quentin, “that you said but now, that you could not presage your own fortune?”

“Not in the manner in which I have but now told you yours,” answered Hayraddin, “but it requires little knowledge of Louis of Valois, to presage that he will hang your guide, because your pleasure was to deviate from the road which he recommended.”

“The attaining with safety the purpose of the journey, and ensuring its happy termination,” said Quentin, “must atone for a deviation from the exact line of the prescribed route.”

“Ay,” replied the Bohemian, “if you are sure that the King had in his own eye the same termination of the pilgrimage which he insinuated to you.”

“And of what other termination is it possible that he could have been meditating? or why should you suppose he had any purpose in his thought, other than was avowed in his direction?” inquired Quentin.

“Simply,” replied the Zingaro, “that those who know aught of the Most Christian King, are aware that the purpose about which he is most anxious, is always that which he is least willing to declare. Let our gracious Louis send twelve embassies, and I will forfeit my neck to the gallows a year before it is due, if in eleven of them there is not something at the bottom of the ink horn more than the pen has written in the letters of credence.”

“I regard not your foul suspicions,” answered Quentin, “my duty is plain and peremptory — to convey these ladies in safety to Liege, and I take it on me to think that I best discharge that duty in changing our prescribed route, and keeping the left side of the river Maes. It is likewise the direct road to Liege. By crossing the river, we should lose time and incur fatigue to no purpose — wherefore should we do so?”

“Only because pilgrims, as they call themselves, destined for Cologne,” said Hayraddin, “do not usually descend the Maes so low as Liege, and that the route of the ladies will be accounted contradictory of their professed destination.”

“If we are challenged on that account,” said Quentin, “we will say that alarms of the wicked Duke of Gueldres, or of William de la Marck, or of the Ecorcheurs 144 and lanzknechts, on the right side of the river, justify our holding by the left, instead of our intended route.”

“As you will, my good seignior,” replied the Bohemian. “I am, for my part, equally ready to guide you down the left as down the right side of the Maes. Your excuse to your master you must make out for yourself.”

Quentin, although rather surprised, was at the same time pleased with the ready, or at least the unrepugnant acquiescence of Hayraddin in their change of route, for he needed his assistance as a guide, and yet had feared that the disconcerting of his intended act of treachery would have driven him to extremity. Besides, to expel the Bohemian from their society would have been the ready mode to bring down William de la Marck, with whom he was in correspondence, upon their intended route, whereas, if Hayraddin remained with them Quentin thought he could manage to prevent the Moor from having any communication with strangers unless he was himself aware of it.

Abandoning, therefore, all thoughts of their original route, the little party followed that by the left bank of the broad Maes, so speedily and successfully that the next day early brought them to the proposed end of their journey. They found that the Bishop of Liege, for the sake of his health, as he himself alleged, but rather, perhaps, to avoid being surprised by the numerous and mutinous population of the city, had established his residence in his beautiful Castle of Schonwaldt, about a mile without Liege.

Just as they approached the Castle, they saw the Prelate returning in long procession from the neighbouring city, in which he had been officiating at the performance of High Mass. He was at the head of a splendid train of religious, civil and military men, mingled together, or, as the old ballad maker expresses it,

“With many a cross bearer before, And many a spear behind.”

The procession made a noble appearance, as winding along the verdant banks of the broad Maes, it wheeled into, and was as it were devoured by, the huge Gothic portal of the Episcopal residence.

But when the party came more near, they found that circumstances around the Castle argued a doubt and sense of insecurity, which contradicted that display of pomp and power which they had just witnessed. Strong guards of the Bishop’s soldiers were heedfully maintained all around the mansion and its immediate vicinity, and the prevailing appearances in an ecclesiastical residence seemed to argue a sense of danger in the reverend Prelate, who found it necessary thus to surround himself with all the defensive precautions of war.

The Ladies of Croye, when announced by Quentin, were reverently ushered into the great Hall, where they met with the most cordial reception from the Bishop, who met them there at the head of his little Court. He would not permit them to kiss his hand, but welcomed them with a salute, which had something in it of gallantry on the part of a prince to fine women, and something also of the holy affection of a pastor to the sisters of his flock.

Louis of Bourbon, the reigning Bishop of Liege, was in truth a generous and kind hearted prince, whose life had not indeed been always confined, with precise strictness, within the bounds of his clerical profession, but who, notwithstanding, had uniformly maintained the frank and honourable character of the House of Bourbon, from which he was descended.

In latter times, as age advanced, the Prelate had adopted habits more beseeming a member of the hierarchy than his early reign had exhibited, and was loved among the neighbouring princes, as a noble ecclesiastic, generous and magnificent in his ordinary mode of life, though preserving no very ascetic severity of character, and governing with an easy indifference, which, amid his wealthy and mutinous subjects, rather encouraged than subdued rebellious purposes.

The Bishop was so fast an ally of the Duke of Burgundy that the latter claimed almost a joint sovereignty in his bishopric, and repaid the good natured ease with which the Prelate admitted claims which he might easily have disputed, by taking his part on all occasions with the determined and furious zeal which was a part of his character. He used to say he considered Liege as his own, the Bishop as his brother (indeed, they might be accounted such, in consequence of the Duke’s having married for his first wife, the Bishop’s sister), and that he who annoyed Louis of Bourbon, had to do with Charles of Burgundy, a threat which, considering the character and the power of the prince who used it, would have been powerful with any but the rich and discontented city of Liege, where much wealth had, according to the ancient proverb, made wit waver.

The Prelate, as we have said, assured the Ladies of Croye of such intercession as his interest at the Court of Burgundy, used to the uttermost, might gain for them, and which, he hoped, might be the more effectual, as Campobasso, from some late discoveries, stood rather lower than formerly in the Duke’s personal favour. He promised them also such protection as it was in his power to afford, but the sigh with which he gave the warrant seemed to allow that his power was more precarious than in words he was willing to admit.

“At every event, my dearest daughters,” said the Bishop, with an air in which, as in his previous salute, a mixture of spiritual unction qualified the hereditary gallantry of the House of Bourbon, “Heaven forbid I should abandon the lamb to the wicked wolf, or noble ladies to the oppression of faitours. I am a man of peace, though my abode now rings with arms, but be assured I will care for your safety as for my own, and should matters become yet more distracted here, which, with Our Lady’s grace, we trust will be rather pacified than inflamed, we will provide for your safe conduct to Germany, for not even the will of our brother and protector, Charles of Burgundy, shall prevail with us to dispose of you in any respect contrary to your own inclinations. We cannot comply with your request of sending you to a convent, for, alas! such is the influence of the sons of Belial among the inhabitants of Liege, that we know no retreat to which our authority extends, beyond the bounds of our own castle, and the protection of our soldiery. But here you are most welcome, and your train shall have all honourable entertainment, especially this youth whom you recommend so particularly to our countenance, and on whom in especial we bestow our blessing.”

Quentin kneeled, as in duty bound, to receive the Episcopal benediction.

“For yourselves,” proceeded the good Prelate, “you shall reside here with my sister Isabelle, a Canoness of Triers, with whom you may dwell in all honour, even under the roof of so gay a bachelor as the Bishop of Liege.”

He gallantly conducted the ladies to his sister’s apartment, as he concluded the harangue of welcome, and his Master of the Household, an officer who, having taken Deacon’s orders, held something between a secular and ecclesiastical character, entertained Quentin with the hospitality which his master enjoined, while the other personages of the retinue of the Ladies of Croye were committed to the inferior departments.

In this arrangement Quentin could not help remarking that the presence of the Bohemian, so much objected to in the country convents, seemed, in the household of this wealthy, and perhaps we might say worldly prelate, to attract neither objection nor remark.

143 Vox quoque Moerim Jam fugit ipsa; lupi Moerim videre priores. Virgilii ix. Ecloga. The commentators add, in explanation of this passage, the opinion of Pliny: “The being beheld by a wolf in Italy is accounted noxious, and is supposed to take away the speech of a man, if these animals behold him ere he sees them.” S.

144 flayers; a name given to bands of wandering troops on account of their cruelty

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