Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 21

The Sack

The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,

And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,

In liberty of bloody hand shall range,

With conscience wide as hell.

HENRY V

The surprised and affrighted garrison of the Castle of Schonwaldt had, nevertheless, for some time made good the defence of the place against the assailants, but the immense crowds which, issuing from the city of Liege, thronged to the assault like bees, distracted their attention, and abated their courage.

There was also disaffection at least, if not treachery, among the defenders, for some called out to surrender, and others, deserting their posts, tried to escape from the castle. Many threw themselves from the walls into the moat, and such as escaped drowning, flung aside their distinguishing badges, and saved themselves by mingling among the motley crowd of assailants. Some few, indeed, from attachment to the Bishop’s person, drew around him, and continued to defend the great keep, to which he had fled, and others, doubtful of receiving quarter, or from an impulse of desperate courage, held out other detached bulwarks and towers of the extensive building. But the assailants had got possession of the courts and lower parts of the edifice, and were busy pursuing the vanquished, and searching for spoil, while one individual, as if he sought for that death from which all others were flying, endeavoured to force his way into the scene of tumult and horror, under apprehensions still more horrible to his imagination than the realities around were to his sight and senses. Whoever had seen Quentin Durward that fatal night, not knowing the meaning of his conduct, had accounted him a raging madman, whoever had appreciated his motives, had ranked him nothing beneath a hero of romance.

Approaching Schonwaldt on the same side from which he had left it, the youth met several fugitives making for the wood, who naturally avoided him as an enemy, because he came in an opposite direction from that which they had adopted. When he came nearer, he could hear, and partly see, men dropping from the garden wall into the castle fosse, and others who seemed precipitated from the battlements by the assailants. His courage was not staggered, even for an instant. There was not time to look for the boat, even had it been practicable to use it, and it was in vain to approach the postern of the garden, which was crowded with fugitives, who ever and anon, as they were thrust through it by the pressure behind, fell into the moat which they had no means of crossing.

Avoiding that point, Quentin threw himself into the moat, near what was called the little gate of the castle, and where there was a drawbridge, which was still elevated. He avoided with difficulty the fatal grasp of more than one sinking wretch, and, swimming to the drawbridge, caught hold of one of the chains which was hanging down, and, by a great exertion of strength and activity, swayed himself out of the water, and attained the platform from which the bridge was suspended. As with hands and knees he struggled to make good his footing, a lanzknecht, with his bloody sword in his hand, made towards him, and raised his weapon for a blow which must have been fatal.

“How now, fellow,” said Quentin, in a tone of authority. “Is that the way in which you assist a comrade? — Give me your hand.”

The soldier in silence, and not without hesitation, reached him his arm, and helped him upon the platform, when, without allowing him time for reflection, the Scot continued in the same tone of command, “To the western tower, if you would be rich — the Priest’s treasury is in the western tower.”

The words were echoed on every hand: “To the western tower — the treasure is in the western tower!” And the stragglers who were within, hearing of the cry, took, like a herd of raging wolves, the direction opposite to that which Quentin, come life, come death, was determined to pursue.

Bearing himself as if he were one, not of the conquered, but of the victors, he made a way into the garden, and pushed across it with less interruption than he could have expected, for the cry of “To the western tower!” had carried off one body of the assailants, and another was summoned together, by war cry and trumpet sound, to assist in repelling a desperate sally, attempted by the defenders of the keep, who had hoped to cut their way out of the castle, bearing the Bishop along with them. Quentin, therefore, crossed the garden with an eager step and throbbing heart, commending himself to those heavenly powers which had protected him through the numberless perils of his life, and bold in his determination to succeed, or leave his life in this desperate undertaking. Ere he reached the garden, three men rushed on him with levelled lances, crying, “Liege, Liege!”

Putting himself in defence, but without striking, he replied, “France, France, friend to Liege.”

“Vivat France!” cried the burghers of Liege, and passed on. The same signal proved a talisman to avert the weapons of four or five of La Marck’s followers, whom he found straggling in the garden, and who set upon him crying, “Sanglier!”

In a word, Quentin began to hope that his character as an emissary of King Louis, the private instigator of the insurgents of Liege, and the secret supporter of William de la Marck, might possibly bear him through the horrors of the night.

On reaching the turret, he shuddered when he found that the little side door, through which Marthon and the Countess Hameline had shortly before joined him, was now blockaded with more than one dead body.

Two of them he dragged hastily aside, and was stepping over the third body, in order to enter the portal, when the supposed dead man laid hand on his cloak, and entreated him to stay and assist him to rise. Quentin was about to use rougher methods than struggling to rid himself of this untimely obstruction, when the fallen man continued to exclaim, “I am stifled here, in mine own armour! — I am the Syndic Pavillon of Liege! If you are for us, I will enrich you — if you are for the other side, I will protect you, but do not — do not leave me to die the death of a smothered pig!”

In the midst of this scene of blood and confusion, the presence of mind of Quentin suggested to him that this dignitary might have the means of protecting their retreat. He raised him on his feet, and asked him if he was wounded.

“Not wounded, at least I think not,” answered the burgher, “but much out of wind.”

“Sit down, then, on this stone, and recover your breath,” said Quentin, “I will return instantly.”

“For whom are you?” said the burgher, still detaining him.

“For France — for France,” answered Quentin, studying to get away.

“What! my lively young Archer?” said the worthy Syndic. “Nay, if it has been my fate to find a friend in this fearful night, I will not quit him, I promise you. Go where you will, I follow, and could I get some of the tight lads of our guildry together, I might be able to help you in turn, but they are all squandered abroad like so many pease. — Oh, it is a fearful night!”

During this time, he was dragging himself on after Quentin, who, aware of the importance of securing the countenance of a person of such influence, slackened his pace to assist him, although cursing in his heart the encumbrance that retarded his pace.

At the top of the stair was an anteroom, with boxes and trunks, which bore marks of having been rifled, as some of the contents lay on the floor. A lamp, dying in the chimney, shed a feeble beam on a dead or senseless man who lay across the hearth.

Bounding from Pavillon like a greyhound from his keeper’s leash, and with an effort which almost overthrew him, Quentin sprang through a second and a third room, the last of which seemed to be the bedroom of the Ladies of Croye. No living mortal was to be seen in either of them. He called upon the Lady Isabelle’s name, at first gently, then more loudly, and then with an accent of despairing emphasis, but no answer was returned. He wrung his hands, tore his hair, and stamped on the earth with desperation. At length a feeble glimmer of light, which shone through a crevice in the wainscoting of a dark nook in the bedroom, announced some recess or concealment behind the arras. Quentin hasted to examine it. He found there was indeed a concealed room, but it resisted his hurried efforts to open it. Heedless of the personal injury he might sustain, he rushed at the door with the whole force and weight of his body, and such was the impetus of an effort made betwixt hope and despair, that it would have burst much stronger fastenings.

He thus forced his way, almost headlong, into a small oratory, where a female figure, which had been kneeling in agonizing supplication before the holy image, now sank at length on the floor, under the new terrors implied in this approaching tumult. He hastily raised her from the ground, and, joy of joys it was she whom he sought to save — the Countess Isabelle. He pressed her to his bosom — he conjured her to awake — entreated her to be of good cheer — for that she was now under time protection of one who had heart and hand enough to defend her against armies.

“Durward!” she said, as she at length collected herself, “is it indeed you? — then there is some hope left. I thought all living and mortal friends had left me to my fate. — Do not again abandon me.”

“Never — never!” said Durward. “Whatever shall happen, whatever danger shall approach, may I forfeit the benefits purchased by yonder blessed sign, if I be not the sharer of your fate until it is again a happy one!”

“Very pathetic and touching, truly,” said a rough, broken, asthmatic voice behind. “A love affair, I see, and, from my soul, I pity the tender creature as if she were my own Trudchen.”

“You must do more than pity,” said Quentin, turning towards the speaker, “you must assist in protecting us, Meinheer Pavillon. Be assured this lady was put under my especial charge by your ally the King of France, and, if you aid me not to shelter her from every species of offence and violence, your city will lose the favour of Louis of Valois. Above all, she must be guarded from the hands of William de la Marck.”

“That will be difficult,” said Pavillon, “for these schelms of lanzknechts are very devils at rummaging out the wenches. But I’ll do my best. — We will to the other apartment, and there I will consider. — It is but a narrow stair, and you can keep the door with a pike, while I look from the window, and get together some of my brisk boys of the curriers’ guildry of Liege, that are as true as the knives they wear in their girdles. — But first undo me these clasps — for I have not worn this corselet since the battle of Saint Tron 158 and I am three stone heavier since that time, if there be truth in Dutch beam and scale.”

The undoing of the iron enclosure gave great relief to the honest man, who, in putting it on, had more considered his zeal to the cause of Liege, than his capacity of bearing arms. It afterwards turned out that being, as it were, borne forward involuntarily, and hoisted over the walls by his company as they thronged to the assault, the magistrate had been carried here and there, as the tide of attack and defence flowed or ebbed, without the power, latterly, of even uttering a word until, as the sea casts a log of driftwood ashore in the first creek, he had been ultimately thrown in the entrance to the Ladies of Croye’s apartments, where the encumbrance of his own armour, with the superincumbent weight of two men slain in the entrance, and who fell above him, might have fixed him down long enough, had he not been relieved by Durward.

The same warmth of temper which rendered Hermann Pavillon a hot headed and intemperate zealot in politics, had the more desirable consequence of making him, in private, a good tempered, kind hearted man, who, if sometimes a little misled by vanity, was always well meaning and benevolent. He told Quentin to have an especial care of the poor pretty yung frau 159, and, after this unnecessary exhortation, began to halloo from the window, “Liege, Liege, for the gallant skinners’ guild of curriers!”

One or two of his immediate followers collected at the summons and at the peculiar whistle with which it was accompanied (each of the crafts having such a signal among themselves), and, more joining them, established a guard under the window from which their leader was bawling, and before the postern door.

Matters seemed now settling into some sort of tranquillity. All opposition had ceased, and the leaders of the different classes of assailants were taking measures to prevent indiscriminate plunder. The great bell was tolled, a summons to a military counsel, and its iron tongue communicating to Liege the triumphant possession of Schonwaldt by the insurgents, was answered by all the bells in that city, whose distant and clamorous voices seemed to cry, Hail to the victors! It would have been natural that Meinheer Pavillon should now have sallied from his fastness, but either in reverent care of those whom he had taken under his protection, or perhaps for the better assurance of his own safety, he contented himself with dispatching messenger on messenger, to command his lieutenant, Peterkin Geislaer, to attend him directly.

Peterkin came, at length, to his great relief, as being the person upon whom, on all pressing occasions, whether of war, politics, or commerce, Pavillon was most accustomed to repose confidence. He was a stout, squat figure, with a square face and broad black eyebrows, that announced him to be opinionative and disputatious, — an advice giving countenance, so to speak. He was endued with a buff jerkin, wore a broad belt and cutlass by his side, and carried a halberd in his hand.

“Peterkin, my dear lieutenant,” said the commander, “this has been a glorious day — night I should say — I trust thou art pleased for once.”

“I am well enough pleased that you are so,” said the doughty lieutenant, “though I should not have thought of your celebrating the victory, if you call it one, up in this garret by yourself, when you are wanted in council.”

“But am I wanted there?” said the Syndic.

“Ay, marry are you, to stand up for the rights of Liege, that are in more danger than ever,” answered the lieutenant.

“Pshaw, Peterkin,” answered his principal, “thou art ever such a frampold grumbler —”

“Grumbler? not I,” said Peterkin, “what pleases other people will always please me. Only I wish we have not got King Stork, instead of King Log, like the fabliau 160 that the Clerk of Saint Lambert’s used to read us out of Meister Aesop’s book.” 161

“I cannot guess your meaning,” said the Syndic.

“Why then, I tell you, Master Pavillon, that this Boar or Bear is like to make his own den of Schonwaldt, and is probable to turn out as bad a neighbour to our town as ever was the old Bishop, and worse. Here has he taken the whole conquest in his own hand, and is only doubting whether he should be called Prince or Bishop — and it is a shame to see how they have mishandled the old man among them.”

“I will not permit it, Peterkin,” said Pavillon, hustling up, “I disliked the mitre, but not the head that wore it. We are ten to one in the field, Peterkin, and will not permit these courses.”

“Ay, ten to one in the field, but only man to man in the castle, besides that Nikkel Blok the butcher, and all the rabble of the suburbs, take part with William de la Marck, partly for saus and braus 162 (for he has broached all the ale tubs and wine casks), and partly for old envy towards us, who are the craftsmen, and have privileges.”

“Peter,” said Pavillon, “we will go presently to the city. I will stay no longer in Schonwaldt.”

“But the bridges of this castle are up, master,” said Geislaer — “the gates locked, and guarded by these lanzknechts, and, if we were to try to force our way, these fellows, whose everyday business is war, might make wild work of us that only fight of a holyday.”

“But why has he secured the gates?” said the alarmed burgher, “or what business hath he to make honest men prisoners?”

“I cannot tell — not I,” said Peter. “Some noise there is about the Ladies of Croye, who have escaped during the storm of the castle. That first put the Man with the Beard beside himself with anger, and now he ‘s beside himself with drink also.”

The Burgomaster cast a disconsolate look towards Quentin, and seemed at a loss what to resolve upon. Durward, who had not lost a word of the conversation, which alarmed him very much, saw nevertheless that their only safety depended on his preserving his own presence of mind, and sustaining the courage of Pavillon. He struck boldly into the conversation, as one who had a right to have a voice in the deliberation.

“I am ashamed,” he said, “Meinheer Pavillon, to observe you hesitate what to do on this occasion. Go boldly to William de la Marck, and demand free leave to quit the castle, you, your lieutenant, your squire, and your daughter. He can have no pretence for keeping you prisoner.”

“For me and my lieutenant — that is myself and Peter? — Good — but who is my squire?”

“I am for the present,” replied the undaunted Scot.

“You!” said the embarrassed burgess, “but are you not the envoy of King Louis of France?”

“True, but my message is to the magistrates of Liege — and only in Liege will I deliver it. — Were I to acknowledge my quality before William de la Marck, must I not enter into negotiations with him? Ay, and, it is like, be detained by him. You must get me secretly out of the castle in the capacity of your squire.”

“Good — my squire — but you spoke of my daughter — my daughter is, I trust, safe in my house in Liege — where I wish her father was, with all my heart and soul.”

“This lady,” said Durward, “will call you father while we are in this place.”

“And for my whole life afterwards,” said the Countess, throwing herself at the citizen’s feet, and clasping his knees.

“Never shall the day pass in which I will not honour you, love you, and pray for you as a daughter for a father, if you will but aid me in this fearful strait. — Oh, be not hard hearted! Think, your own daughter may kneel to a stranger, to ask him for life and honour — think of this, and give me the protection you would wish her to receive!”

“In troth,” said the good citizen, much moved with her pathetic appeal, “I think, Peter, that this pretty maiden hath a touch of our Trudchen’s sweet look — I thought so from the first, and that this brisk youth here, who is so ready with his advice, is somewhat like Trudchen’s bachelor — I wager a groat, Peter, that this is a true love matter, and it is a sin not to further it.”

“It were shame and sin both,” said Peter, a good natured Fleming, notwithstanding all his self conceit, and as he spoke he wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his jerkin.

“She shall be my daughter, then,” said Pavillon, “well wrapped up in her black silk veil and if there are not enough of true hearted skinners to protect her, being the daughter of their Syndic, it were pity they should ever tug leather more. — But hark ye — questions must be answered — How if I am asked what should my daughter make here at such an onslaught?”

“What should half the women in Liege make here when they followed us to the castle?” said Peter. “They had no other reason, sure, but that it was just the place in the world that they should not have come to. Our yung frau Trudchen has come a little farther than the rest — that is all.”

“Admirably spoken,” said Quentin, “only be bold, and take this gentleman’s good counsel, noble Meinheer Pavillon, and, at no trouble to yourself, you will do the most worthy action since the days of Charlemagne. — Here, sweet lady, wrap yourself close in this veil” (for many articles of female apparel lay scattered about the apartment) — “be but confident, and a few minutes will place you in freedom and safety. Noble Sir,” he added, addressing Pavillon, “set forward.”

“Hold — hold — hold a minute,” said Pavillon, “my mind misgives me! — This De la Marck is a fury, a perfect boar in his nature as in his name, what if the young lady be one of those of Croye? — and what if he discover her, and be addicted to wrath?”

“And if I were one of those unfortunate women,” said Isabelle, again attempting to throw herself at his feet, “could you for that reject me in this moment of despair? Oh, that I had been indeed your daughter, or the daughter of the poorest burgher!”

“Not so poor — not so poor neither, young lady — we pay as we go,” said the citizen.

“Forgive me, noble sir,” again began the unfortunate maiden.

“Not noble, nor sir, neither,” said the Syndic, “a plain burgher of Liege, that pays bills of exchange in ready guilders. — But that is nothing to the purpose. — Well, say you be a countess, I will protect you nevertheless.”

“You are bound to protect her, were she a duchess,” said Peter, “having once passed your word.”

“Right, Peter, very right,” said the Syndic “it is our old Low Dutch fashion, ein wort, ein man 163, and now let us to this gear. We must take leave of this William de la Marck, and yet I know not, my mind misgives me when I think of him, and were it a ceremony which could be waived, I have no stomach to go through it.”

“Were you not better, since you have a force together, to make for the gate and force the guard?” said Quentin.

But with united voice, Pavillon and his adviser exclaimed against the propriety of such an attack upon their ally’s soldiers, with some hints concerning its rashness, which satisfied Quentin that it was not a risk to be hazarded with such associates.

They resolved, therefore, to repair boldly to the great hall of the castle, where, as they understood, the Wild Boar of Ardennes held his feast, and demand free egress for the Syndic of Liege and his company, a request too reasonable, as it seemed, to be denied. Still the good burgomaster groaned when he looked on his companions, and exclaimed to his faithful Peter, “See what it is to have too bold and too tender a heart! Alas! Peterkin, how much have courage and humanity cost me! and how much may I yet have to pay for my virtues, before Heaven makes us free of this damned Castle of Schonwaldt!”

As they crossed the courts, still strewed with the dying and dead, Quentin, while he supported Isabelle through the scene of horrors, whispered to her courage and comfort, and reminded her that her safety depended entirely on her firmness and presence of mind.

“Not on mine — not on mine,” she said, “but on yours — on yours only. Oh, if I but escape this fearful night, never shall I forget him who saved me! One favour more only, let me implore at your hand, and I conjure you to grant it, by your mother’s fame and your father’s honour!”

“What is it you can ask that I could refuse?” said Quentin, in a whisper.

“Plunge your dagger in my heart,” said she, “rather than leave me captive in the hands of these monsters.”

Quentin’s only answer was a pressure of the young Countess’s hand, which seemed as if, but for terror, it would have returned the caress. And, leaning on her youthful protector, she entered the fearful hall, preceded by Pavillon and his lieutenant, and followed by a dozen of the Kurschenschaft, or skinner’s trade, who attended as a guard of honour on the Syndic.

As they approached the hall, the yells of acclamation and bursts of wild laughter which proceeded from it, seemed rather to announce the revel of festive demons, rejoicing after some accomplished triumph over the human race, than of mortal beings who had succeeded in a bold design. An emphatic tone of mind, which despair alone could have inspired, supported the assumed courage of the Countess Isabelle, undaunted spirits, which rose with the extremity, maintained that of Durward, while Pavillon and his lieutenant made a virtue of necessity, and faced their fate like bears bound to a stake, which must necessarily stand the dangers of the course.

158 fought by the insurgents of Liege against the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, when Count of Charalois, in which the people of Liege were defeated with great slaughter. S.

159 young woman

160 fable

161 Refers to Aesop’s fable. The commonwealth of frogs, having conceived an aversion for their amiable king Log, asked Jupiter to send them another sovereign. He accordingly bestowed upon them a stork who gradually devoured all his subjects.

162 means here carousing

163 a man of his word

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