Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 27

The Explosion

‘T is listening fear, and dumb amazement all,

When to the startled eye, the sudden glance

Appears far south, eruptive through the cloud.

THOMSON’S SUMMER

The preceding chapter, agreeably to its title, was designed as a retrospect which might enable the render fully to understand the terms upon which the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy stood together, when the former, moved partly perhaps by his belief in astrology, which was represented as favourable to the issue of such a measure, and in a great measure doubtless by the conscious superiority of his own powers of mind over those of Charles, had adopted the extraordinary, and upon any other ground altogether inexplicable, resolution of committing his person to the faith of a fierce and exasperated enemy — a resolution also the more rash and unaccountable, as there were various examples in that stormy time to show that safe conducts, however solemnly plighted, had proved no assurance for those in whose favour they were conceived; and indeed the murder of the Duke’s grandfather at the Bridge of Montereau, in presence of the father of Louis, and at an interview solemnly agreed upon for the establishment of peace and amnesty, was a horrible precedent, should the Duke be disposed to resort to it.

But the temper of Charles, though rough, fierce, headlong, and unyielding, was not, unless in the full tide of passion, faithless or ungenerous, faults which usually belong to colder dispositions. He was at no pains to show the King more courtesy than the laws of hospitality positively demanded; but, on the other hand, he evinced no purpose of overleaping their sacred barriers.

On the following morning after the King’s arrival, there was a general muster of the troops of the Duke of Burgundy, which were so numerous and so excellently appointed, that, perhaps, he was not sorry to have an opportunity of displaying them before his great rival. Indeed, while he paid the necessary compliment of a vassal to his Suzerain, in declaring that these troops were the King’s and not his own, the curl of his upper lip and the proud glance of his eye intimated his consciousness that the words he used were but empty compliment, and that his fine army at his own unlimited disposal, was as ready to march against Paris as in any other direction. It must have added to Louis’s mortification that he recognised, as forming part of this host, many banners of French nobility, not only of Normandy and Bretagne, but of provinces more immediately subjected to his own authority, who, from various causes of discontent, had joined and made common cause with the Duke of Burgundy.

True to his character, however, Louis seemed to take little notice of these malcontents, while, in fact, he was revolving in his mind the various means by which it might be possible to detach them from the banners of Burgundy and bring them back to his own, and resolved for that purpose that he would cause those to whom he attached the greatest importance to be secretly sounded by Oliver and other agents.

He himself laboured diligently, but at the same time cautiously, to make interest with the Duke’s chief officers and advisers, employing for that purpose the usual means of familiar and frequent notice, adroit flattery, and liberal presents; not, as he represented, to alienate their faithful services from their noble master, but that they might lend their aid in preserving peace betwixt France and Burgundy — an end so excellent in itself, and so obviously tending to the welfare of both countries and of the reigning Princes of either.

The notice of so great and so wise a King was in itself a mighty bribe; promises did much, and direct gifts, which the customs of the time permitted the Burgundian courtiers to accept without scruple, did still more. During a boar hunt in the forest, while the Duke, eager always upon the immediate object, whether business or pleasure, gave himself entirely up to the ardour of the chase, Louis, unrestrained by his presence, sought and found the means of speaking secretly and separately to many of those who were reported to have most interest with Charles, among whom D’Hymbercourt and Comines were not forgotten; nor did he fail to mix up the advances which he made towards those two distinguished persons with praises of the valour and military skill of the first, and of the profound sagacity and literary talents of the future historian of the period.

Such an opportunity of personally conciliating, or, if the reader pleases, corrupting the ministers of Charles, was perhaps what the King had proposed to himself as a principal object of his visit, even if his art should fail to cajole the Duke himself. The connection betwixt France and Burgundy was so close that most of the nobles belonging to the latter country had hopes or actual interests connected with the former, which the favour of Louis could advance, or his personal displeasure destroy. Formed for this and every other species of intrigue, liberal to profusion when it was necessary to advance his plans, and skilful in putting the most plausible colour upon his proposals and presents, the King contrived to reconcile the spirit of the proud to their profit, and to hold out to the real or pretended patriot the good of both France and Burgundy as the ostensible motive; whilst the party’s own private interest, like the concealed wheel of some machine, worked not the less powerfully that its operations’ were kept out of sight. For each man he had a suitable bait, and a proper mode of presenting it; he poured the guerdon into the sleeve of those who were too proud to extend their hand, and trusted that his bounty, thought it descended like the dew, without noise and imperceptibly, would not fail to produce, in due season, a plentiful crop of goodwill at least, perhaps of good offices, to the donor. In fine, although he had been long paving the way by his ministers for an establishment of such an interest in the Court of Burgundy as should be advantageous to the interests of France, Louis’s own personal exertions, directed doubtless by the information of which he was previously possessed, did more to accomplish that object in a few hours than his agents had effected in years of negotiation.

One man alone the King missed, whom he had been particularly desirous of conciliating, and that was the Count de Crevecoeur, whose firmness, during his conduct as Envoy at Plessis, far from exciting Louis’s resentment, had been viewed as a reason for making him his own if possible. He was not particularly gratified when he learnt that the Count, at the head of an hundred lances, was gone towards the frontiers of Brabant, to assist the Bishop, in case of necessity, against William de la Marck and his discontented subjects; but he consoled himself that the appearance of this force, joined with the directions which he had sent by faithful messengers, would serve to prevent any premature disturbances in that country, the breaking out of which might, he foresaw, render his present situation very precarious.

The Court upon this occasion dined in the forest when the hour of noon arrived, as was common in those great hunting parties; an arrangement at this time particularly agreeable to the Duke, desirous as he was to abridge that ceremonious and deferential solemnity with which he was otherwise under the necessity of receiving King Louis. In fact, the King’s knowledge of human nature had in one particular misled him on this remarkable occasion. He thought that the Duke would have been inexpressibly flattered to have received such a mark of condescension and confidence from his liege lord; but he forgot that the dependence of this dukedom upon the Crown of France was privately the subject of galling mortification to a Prince so powerful, so wealthy, and so proud as Charles, whose aim it certainly was to establish an independent kingdom. The presence of the King at the Court of the Duke of Burgundy imposed on that prince the necessity of exhibiting himself in the subordinate character of a vassal, and of discharging many rites of feudal observance and deference, which, to one of his haughty disposition, resembled derogation from the character of a Sovereign Prince, which on all occasions he affected as far as possible to sustain.

But although it was possible to avoid much ceremony by having the dinner upon the green turf, with sound of bugles, broaching of barrels, and all the freedom of a sylvan meal, it was necessary that the evening repast should, even for that very reason, be held with more than usual solemnity.

Previous orders for this purpose had been given, and, upon returning to Peronne, King Louis found a banquet prepared with such a profusion of splendour and magnificence, as became the wealth of his formidable vassal, possessed as he was of almost all the Low Countries, then the richest portion of Europe. At the head of the long board, which groaned under plate of gold and silver, filled to profusion with the most exquisite dainties, sat the Duke, and on his right hand, upon a seat more elevated than his own, was placed his royal guest. Behind him stood on one side the son of the Duke of Gueldres, who officiated as his grand carver — on the other, Le Glorieux, his jester, without whom he seldom stirred for, like most men of his hasty and coarse character, Charles carried to extremity the general taste of that age for court fools and jesters — experiencing that pleasure in their display of eccentricity and mental infirmity which his more acute but not more benevolent rival loved better to extract from marking the imperfections of humanity in its nobler specimens, and finding subject for mirth in the “fears of the brave and follies of the wise.” And indeed, if the anecdote related by Brantome be true, that a court fool, having overheard Louis, in one of his agonies of repentant devotion, confess his accession to the poisoning of his brother, Henry, Count of Guyenne, divulged it next day at dinner before the assembled court, that monarch might be supposed rather more than satisfied with the pleasantries of professed jesters for the rest of his life.

But, on the present occasion, Louis neglected not to take notice of the favourite buffoon of the Duke, and to applaud his repartees, which he did the rather that he thought he saw that the folly of Le Glorieux, however grossly it was sometimes displayed, covered more than the usual quantity of shrewd and caustic observation proper to his class.

In fact, Tiel Wetzweiler, called Le Glorieux, was by no means a jester of the common stamp. He was a tall, fine looking man, excellent at many exercises, which seemed scarce reconcilable with mental imbecility, because it must have required patience and attention to attain them. He usually followed the Duke to the chase and to the fight; and at Montl’hery, when Charles was in considerable personal danger, wounded in the throat, and likely to be made prisoner by a French knight who had hold of his horse’s rein, Tiel Wetzweiler charged the assailant so forcibly as to overthrow him and disengage his master. Perhaps he was afraid of this being thought too serious a service for a person of his condition, and that it might excite him enemies among those knights and nobles who had left the care of their master’s person to the court fool. At any rate, he chose rather to be laughed at than praised for his achievement; and made such gasconading boasts of his exploits in the battle, that most men thought the rescue of Charles was as ideal as the rest of his tale; and it was on this occasion he acquired the title of Le Glorieux (or the boastful), by which he was ever afterwards distinguished.

Le Glorieux was dressed very richly, but with little of the usual distinction of his profession; and that little rather of a symbolical than a very literal character. His head was not shorn; on the contrary, he wore a profusion of long curled hair, which descended from under his cap, and joining with a well arranged and handsomely trimmed beard, set off features, which, but for a wild lightness of eye, might have been termed handsome. A ridge of scarlet velvet carried across the top of his cap indicated, rather than positively represented, the professional cock’s comb, which distinguished the head gear of a fool in right of office. His bauble, made of ebony, was crested as usual with a fool’s head, with ass’s ears formed of silver; but so small, and so minutely carved, that, till very closely examined, it might have passed for an official baton of a more solemn character. These were the only badges of his office which his dress exhibited. In other respects, it was such as to match with that of the most courtly nobles. His bonnet displayed a medal of gold, he wore a chain of the same metal around his neck, and the fashion of his rich garments was not much more fantastic than those of young gallants who have their clothes made in the extremity of the existing fashion.

To this personage Charles, and Louis, in imitation of his host, often addressed themselves during the entertainment; and both seemed to manifest, by hearty laughter, their amusement at the answers of Le Glorieux.

“Whose seats be those that are vacant?” said Charles to the jester.

“One of those at least should be mine by right of succession, Charles,” replied Le Glorieux.

“Why so, knave?” said Charles.

“Because they belong to the Sieur D’Hymbercourt and De Comines, who are gone so far to fly their falcons, that they have forgot their supper. They who would rather look at a kite on the wing than a pheasant on the board, are of kin to the fool, and he should succeed to the stools, as a part of their movable estate.”

“That is but a stale jest, my friend Tiel,” said the Duke; “but, fools or wise men, here come the defaulters.”

As he spoke, Comines and D’Hymbercourt entered the room, and, after having made their reverence to the two Princes, assumed in silence the seats which were left vacant for them.

“What ho! sirs,” exclaimed the Duke, addressing them, “your sport has been either very good or very bad, to lead you so far and so late. Sir Philip de Comines, you are dejected — hath D’Hymbercourt won so heavy a wager on you? — You are a philosopher, and should not grieve at bad fortune. — By Saint George D’Hymbercourt looks as sad as thou dost. — How now, sirs? Have you found no game? or have you lost your falcons? or has a witch crossed your way? or has the Wild Huntsman 188 met you in the forest? By my honour, you seem as if you were come to a funeral, not a festival.”

While the Duke spoke, the eyes of the company were all directed towards D’Hymbercourt and De Comines; and the embarrassment and dejection of their countenances, neither being of that class of persons to whom such expression of anxious melancholy was natural, became so remarkable, that the mirth and laughter of the company, which the rapid circulation of goblets of excellent wine had raised to a considerable height, was gradually hushed; and, without being able to assign any reason for such a change in their spirits, men spoke in whispers to each other, as on the eve of expecting some strange and important tidings.

“What means this silence, Messires?” said the Duke, elevating his voice, which was naturally harsh. “If you bring these strange looks, and this stranger silence, into festivity, we shall wish you had abode in the marshes seeking for herons, or rather for woodcocks and howlets.”

“My gracious lord,” said De Comines, “as we were about to return hither from the forest, we met the Count of Crevecoeur —”

“How!” said the Duke, “already returned from Brabant? — but he found all well there, doubtless?”

“The Count himself will presently give your Grace an account of his news,” said D’Hymbercourt, “which we have heard but imperfectly.”

“Body of me, where is the Count?” said the Duke.

“He changes his dress, to wait upon your Highness,” answered D’Hymbercourt.

“His dress? Saint Bleu!” exclaimed the impatient Prince, “what care I for his dress! I think you have conspired with him to drive me mad.”

“Or rather, to be plain,” said De Comines, “he wishes to communicate these news at a private audience.”

“Teste dieu! my Lord King,” said Charles, “this is ever the way our counsellors serve us. — If they have got hold of aught which they consider as important for our ear, they look as grave upon the matter and are as proud of their burden as an ass of a new pack saddle. — Some one bid Crevecoeur come to us directly! — He comes from the frontiers of Liege, and we, at least” (he laid some emphasis on the pronoun), “have no secrets in that quarter which we would shun to have proclaimed before the assembled world.”

All perceived that the Duke had drunk so much wine as to increase the native obstinacy of his disposition; and though many would willingly have suggested that the present was neither a time for hearing news nor for taking counsel, yet all knew the impetuosity of his temper too well to venture on farther interference, and sat in anxious expectation of the tidings which the Count might have to communicate.

A brief interval intervened, during which the Duke remained looking eagerly to the door, as if in a transport of impatience; whilst the guests sat with their eyes bent on the table, as if to conceal their curiosity and anxiety. Louis, alone maintaining perfect composure, continued his conversation alternately with the grand carver and with the jester.

At length Crevecoeur entered, and was presently saluted by the hurried question of his master, “What news from Liege and Brabant, Sir Count? — the report of your arrival has chased mirth from our table — we hope your actual presence will bring it back to us.”

“My Liege and master,” answered the Count in a firm but melancholy tone, “the news which I bring you are fitter for the council board than the feasting table.”

“Out with them, man, if they were tidings from Antichrist!” said the Duke; “but I can guess them — the Liegeois are again in mutiny.”

“They are, my lord,” said Crevecoeur very gravely.

“Look there,” said the Duke, “I have hit at once on what you had been so much afraid to mention to me: the hare brained burghers are again in arms. It could not be in better time, for we may at present have the advice of our own Suzerain,” bowing to King Louis, with eyes which spoke the most bitter though suppressed resentment, “to teach us how such mutineers should be dealt with. — Hast thou more news in thy packet? Out with them, and then answer for yourself why you went not forward to assist the Bishop.”

“My lord, the farther tidings are heavy for me to tell, and will be afflicting to you to hear. — No aid of mine, or of living chivalry, could have availed the excellent Prelate. William de la Marck, united with the insurgent Liegeois, has taken his Castle of Schonwaldt, and murdered him in his own hall.”

“Murdered him!” repeated the Duke in a deep and low tone, which nevertheless was heard from the one end of the hall in which they were assembled to the other, “thou hast been imposed upon, Crevecoeur, by some wild report — it is impossible!”

“Alas! my lord!” said the Count, “I have it from an eyewitness, an archer of the King of France’s Scottish Guard, who was in the hall when the murder was committed by William de la Marck’s order.”

“And who was doubtless aiding and abetting in the horrible sacrilege,” said the Duke, starting up and stamping with his foot with such fury that he dashed in pieces the footstool which was placed before him. “Bar the doors of this hall, gentlemen — secure the windows — let no stranger stir from his seat, upon pain of instant death! — Gentlemen of my chamber, draw your swords.”

And turning upon Louis, he advanced his own hand slowly and deliberately to the hilt of his weapon, while the King, without either showing fear or assuming a defensive posture, only said — “These news, fair cousin, have staggered your reason.”

“No!” replied the Duke, in a terrible tone, “but they have awakened a just resentment, which I have too long suffered to be stifled by trivial considerations of circumstance and place. Murderer of thy brother! — rebel against thy parent — tyrant over thy subjects! — treacherous ally! — perjured King! — dishonoured gentleman! — thou art in my power, and I thank God for it.”

“Rather thank my folly,” said the King; “for when we met on equal terms at Montl’hery, methinks you wished yourself farther from me than we are now.”

The Duke still held his hand on the hilt of his sword, but refrained to draw his weapon or to strike a foe who offered no sort of resistance which could in any wise provoke violence.

Meanwhile, wild and general confusion spread itself through the hall. The doors were now fastened and guarded by order of the Duke; but several of the French nobles, few as they were in number, started from their seats, and prepared for the defence of their Sovereign. Louis had spoken not a word either to Orleans or Dunois since they were liberated from restraint at the Castle of Loches, if it could be termed liberation, to be dragged in King Louis’s train, objects of suspicion evidently, rather than of respect and regard; but, nevertheless, the voice of Dunois was first heard above the tumult, addressing himself to the Duke of Burgundy.

“Sir Duke, you have forgotten that you are a vassal of France, and that we, your guests, are Frenchmen. If you lift a hand against our Monarch, prepare to sustain the utmost effects of our despair; for, credit me, we shall feast as high with the blood of Burgundy as we have done with its wine. — Courage, my Lord of Orleans — and you, gentlemen of France, form yourselves round Dunois, and do as he does.”

It was in that moment when a King might see upon what tempers he could certainly rely. The few independent nobles and knights who attended Louis, most of whom had only received from him frowns or discountenance, unappalled by the display of infinitely superior force, and the certainty of destruction in case they came to blows, hastened to array themselves around Dunois, and, led by him, to press towards the head of the table where the contending Princes were seated.

On the contrary, the tools and agents whom Louis had dragged forward out of their fitting and natural places into importance which was not due to them, showed cowardice and cold heart, and, remaining still in their seats, seemed resolved not to provoke their fate by intermeddling, whatever might become of their benefactor.

The first of the more generous party was the venerable Lord Crawford, who, with an agility which no one would have expected at his years, forced his way through all opposition (which was the less violent, as many of the Burgundians, either from a point of honour, or a secret inclination to prevent Louis’s impending fate, gave way to him), and threw himself boldly between the King and the Duke. He then placed his bonnet, from which his white hair escaped in dishevelled tresses, upon one side of his head — his pale cheek and withered brow coloured, and his aged eye lightened with all the fire of a gallant who is about to dare some desperate action. His cloak was flung over one shoulder, and his action intimated his readiness to wrap it about his left arm, while he unsheathed his sword with his right.

“I have fought for his father and his grandsire,” that was all he said, “and by Saint Andrew, end the matter as it will, I will not fail him at this pinch.”

What has taken some time to narrate, happened, in fact, with the speed of light; for so soon as the Duke assumed his threatening posture, Crawford had thrown himself betwixt him and the object of his vengeance; and the French gentlemen, drawing together as fast as they could, were crowding to the same point.

The Duke of Burgundy still remained with his hand on his sword, and seemed in the act of giving the signal for a general onset, which must necessarily have ended in the massacre of the weaker party, when Crevecoeur rushed forward, and exclaimed in a voice like a trumpet, “My liege Lord of Burgundy, beware what you do! This is your hall — you are the King’s vassal — do not spill the blood of your guest on your hearth, the blood of your Sovereign on the throne you have erected for him, and to which he came under your safeguard. For the sake of your house’s honour, do not attempt to revenge one horrid murder by another yet worse!”

“Out of my road, Crevecoeur,” answered the Duke, “and let my vengeance pass! — Out of my path! The wrath of kings is to be dreaded like that of Heaven.”

“Only when, like that of Heaven, it is just,” answered Crevecoeur firmly. “Let me pray of you, my lord, to rein the violence of your temper, however justly offended. — And for you, my Lords of France, where resistance is unavailing, let me recommend you to forbear whatever may lead towards bloodshed.”

“He is right,” said Louis, whose coolness forsook him not in that dreadful moment, and who easily foresaw that if a brawl should commence, more violence would be dared and done in the heat of blood than was likely to be attempted if peace were preserved.

“My cousin Orleans — kind Dunois — and you, my trusty Crawford — bring not on ruin and bloodshed by taking offence too hastily. Our cousin the Duke is chafed at the tidings of the death of a near and loving friend, the venerable Bishop of Liege, whose slaughter we lament as he does. Ancient, and, unhappily, recent subjects of jealousy lead him to suspect us of having abetted a crime which our bosom abhors. Should our host murder us on this spot — us, his King and his kinsman, under a false impression of our being accessory to this unhappy accident, our fate will be little lightened, but, on the contrary, greatly aggravated, by your stirring. — Therefore stand back, Crawford. — Were it my last word, I speak as a King to his officer, and demand obedience. — Stand back, and, if it is required, yield up your sword. I command you to do so, and your oath obliges you to obey.”

“True, true, my lord,” said Crawford, stepping back, and returning to the sheath the blade he had half drawn. — “It may be all very true; but, by my honour, if I were at the head of threescore and ten of my brave fellows, instead of being loaded with more than the like number of years, I would try whether I could have some reason out of these fine gallants, with their golden chains and looped up bonnets, with braw warld dyes 189 and devices on them.”

The Duke stood with his eyes fixed on the ground for a considerable space, and then said, with bitter irony, “Crevecoeur, you say well; and it concerns our honour that our obligations to this great King, our honoured and loving guest, be not so hastily adjusted, as in our hasty anger we had at first proposed. We will so act that all Europe shall acknowledge the justice of our proceedings. — Gentlemen of France, you must render up your arms to my officers! Your master has broken the truce, and has no title to take farther benefit of it. In compassion, however, to your sentiments of honour, and in respect to the rank which he hath disgraced, and the race from which he hath degenerated, we ask not our cousin Louis’s sword.”

“Not one of us,” said Dunois, “will resign our weapon, or quit this hall, unless we are assured of at least our King’s safety, in life and limb.”

“Nor will a man of the Scottish Guard,” exclaimed Crawford, “lay down his arms, save at the command of the King of France, or his High Constable.”

“Brave Dunois,” said Louis, “and you, my trusty Crawford, your zeal will do me injury instead of benefit. — I trust,” he added with dignity, “in my rightful cause, more than in a vain resistance, which would but cost the lives of my best and bravest. Give up your swords. — The noble Burgundians, who accept such honourable pledges, will be more able than you are to protect both you and me. — Give up your swords. — It is I who command you.”

It was thus that, in this dreadful emergency, Louis showed the promptitude of decision and clearness of judgment which alone could have saved his life. He was aware that, until actual blows were exchanged, he should have the assistance of most of the nobles present to moderate the fury of their Prince; but that, were a melee once commenced, he himself and his few adherents must be instantly murdered. At the same time, his worst enemies confessed that his demeanour had in it nothing either of meanness or cowardice. He shunned to aggravate into frenzy the wrath of the Duke; but he neither deprecated nor seemed to fear it, and continued to look on him with the calm and fixed attention with which a brave man eyes the menacing gestures of a lunatic, whilst conscious that his own steadiness and composure operate as an insensible and powerful check on the rage even of insanity.

Crawford, at the King’s command, threw his sword to Crevecoeur, saying, “Take it! and the devil give you joy of it. — It is no dishonour to the rightful owner who yields it, for we have had no fair play.”

“Hold, gentlemen,” said the Duke in a broken voice, as one whom passion had almost deprived of utterance, “retain your swords; it is sufficient you promise not to use them. And you, Louis of Valois, must regard yourself as my prisoner, until you are cleared of having abetted sacrilege and murder. Have him to the Castle. — Have him to Earl Herbert’s Tower. Let him have six gentlemen of his train to attend him, such as he shall choose. — My Lord of Crawford, your guard must leave the Castle, and shall be honourably quartered elsewhere. Up with every drawbridge, and down with every portcullis. — Let the gates of the town be trebly guarded. — Draw the floating bridge to the right hand side of the river. — Bring round the Castle my band of Black Walloons 190, and treble the sentinels on every post! — You, D’Hymbercourt, look that patrols of horse and foot make the round of the town every half hour during the night and every hour during the next day — if indeed such ward shall be necessary after daybreak, for it is like we may be sudden in this matter. — Look to the person of Louis, as you love your life.”

He started from the table in fierce and moody haste, darted a glance of mortal enmity at the King, and rushed out of the apartment.

“Sirs,” said the King, looking with dignity around him, “grief for the death of his ally hath made your Prince frantic. I trust you know better your duty, as knights and noblemen, than to abet him in his treasonable violence against the person of his liege Lord.”

At this moment was heard in the streets the sound of drums beating, and horns blowing, to call out the soldiery in every direction.

“We are,” said Crevecoeur, who acted as the Marshal of the Duke’s household, “subjects of Burgundy, and must do our duty as such. Our hopes and prayers, and our efforts, will not be wanting to bring about peace and union between your Majesty and our liege Lord. Meantime, we must obey his commands. These other lords and knights will be proud to contribute to the convenience of the illustrious Duke of Orleans, of the brave Dunois, and the stout Lord Crawford. I myself must be your Majesty’s chamberlain, and bring you to your apartments in other guise than would be my desire, remembering the hospitality of Plessis. You have only to choose your attendants, whom the Duke’s commands limit to six.”

“Then,” said the King, looking around him, and thinking for a moment — “I desire the attendance of Oliver le Dain, of a private of my Life Guard called Balafre, who may be unarmed if you will — of Tristan l’Hermite, with two of his people — and my right royal and trusty philosopher, Martius Galeotti.”

“Your Majesty’s will shall be complied with in all points,” said the Count de Crevecoeur. “Galeotti,” he added, after a moment’s inquiry, “is, I understand, at present supping in some buxom company, but he shall instantly be sent for; the others will obey your Majesty’s command upon the instant.”

“Forward, then, to the new abode, which the hospitality of our cousin provides for us,” said the King. “We know it is strong, and have only to hope it may be in a corresponding degree safe.”

“Heard you the choice which King Louis has made of his attendants?” said Le Glorieux to Count Crevecoeur apart, as they followed Louis from the hall.

“Surely, my merry gossip,” replied the Count. “What hast thou to object to them?”

“Nothing, nothing — only they are a rare election! — A panderly barber — a Scottish hired cutthroat — a chief hangman and his two assistants, and a thieving charlatan. — I will along with you, Crevecoeur, and take a lesson in the degrees of roguery, from observing your skill in marshalling them. The devil himself could scarce have summoned such a synod, or have been a better president amongst them.”

Accordingly, the all licensed jester, seizing the Count’s arm familiarly, began to march along with him, while, under a strong guard, yet forgetting no semblance of respect, he conducted the King towards his new apartment. 191

188 the famous apparition, sometimes called le Grand Veneur. Sully gives some account of this hunting spectre. S.

189 gaudy colors

190 regiments of Dutch troops, wearing black armour

191 The historical facts attending this celebrated interview are expounded and enlarged upon in this chapter. Agents sent by Louis had tempted the people of Liege to rebel against their superior, Duke Charles, and persecute and murder their Bishop. But Louis was not prepared for their acting with such promptitude. They flew to arms with the temerity of a fickle rabble, took the Bishop prisoner, menaced and insulted him, and tore to pieces one or two of his canons. This news was sent to the Duke of Burgundy at the moment when Louis had so unguardedly placed himself in his power; and the consequence was that Charles placed guards on the Castle of Peronne, and, deeply resenting the treachery of the king of France in exciting sedition in his dominions, while he pretended the most intimate friendship, he deliberated whether he should not put Louis to death. Three days Louis was detained in this very precarious situation, and it was only his profuse liberality amongst Charles’s favourites and courtiers which finally ensured him from death or deposition. Comines, who was the Duke of Burgundy’s chamberlain at the time, and slept in his apartment, says Charles neither undressed nor slept, but flung himself from time to time on the bed, and, at other times, wildly traversed the apartment. It was long before his violent temper became in any degree tractable. At length he only agreed to give Louis his liberty, on condition of his accompanying him in person against, and employing his troops in subduing, the mutineers whom his intrigues had instigated to arms. This was a bitter and degrading alternative. But Louis, seeing no other mode of compounding for the effects of his rashness, not only submitted to this discreditable condition, but swore to it upon a crucifix said to have belonged to Charlemagne. These particulars are from Comines. There is a succinct epitome of them in Sir Nathaniel Wraxall’s History of France, vol. i. — S.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/quentin/chapter27.html

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