Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 27

My blood hath been too cold and temperate,

Uuapt to stir at these iodigoities,

Aod you have foond me; for accordingly,

You tread upon my patience.

Henry IV.

The dawn of morning roused the banished Earl of Oxford and his son, and its lights were scarce abroad on the eastern heaven, ere their host, Colvin, entered with an attendant, bearing some bundles, which he placed on the floor of the tent, and instantly retired. The officer of the Duke’s ordnance then announced that he came with a message from the Duke of Burgundy.

“His Highness,” he said, “has sent four stdut yeomen, with a commission of credence to my young master of Oxford, and an ample purse of gold, to furnish his expenses to Aix, and while his affairs may detain him there. Also a letter of credence to King Rene, to ensure his reception, and two suits of honor for his use, as for an English gentleman desirous to witness the festive solemnities of Provence, and inwhose safety the Duke deigns to take deep interest. His farther affairs there, if he hath any, his Highness recommends to him to manage with prudence and secrecy. His Highness hath also sent a couple of horses for his use, — one an ambling jennet for the road, and another a strong barbed horse of Flanders, in case he bath aught to do. It will be fitting that my young master change his dress, and assume attire more near his proper rank. His attendants know the road, and have power, in case of need, to summon, in the Duke’s name, assistance from all faithful Burgundians. I have but to add, the sooner the young gentleman sets forward, it will be the better sign of a successful journey.”

“I am ready to mount the instant that I have changed my dress,” said Arthur.

“And I,” said his father, “have no wish to detain him on the service in which he is now employed. Neither he nor I will say more than God be with you. How and where we are to meet again, who can tell?”

“I believe,” said Colvin, “that must rest on the motions of the Duke, which, perchance, are not yet determined upon; but his Highness depends upon your remaining with him, my noble lord, till the affairs of which you come to treat may be more fully decided. Something I have for your lordships private ear, when your son hath parted on his journey.”

While Colvin was thus talking with his father, Arthur, who was not above half dressed when he entered the tent, had availed himself of an obscure corner in which he exchanged the plain garb belonging to his supposed condition as a merchant, for such a riding suit as became a young man of some quality attached to the Court of Burgundy. It was not without a natural sensation of pleasure that the youth resumed an apparel suitable to his birth, and which no one was personally more fitted to become; but it was with much deeper feeling that he hastily, and as secretly as possible, flung round his neck, and concealed under the collar and folds of his ornamented doublet, a small thin chain of gold, curiously linked in what was called Morisco work. This was the contents of the parcel which Anne of Geierstein had indulged his feelings, and perhaps her own, by putting into his hands as they parted. The chain was secured by a slight plate of gold, on which a bodkin, or a point of a knife, had traced on the one side, in distinct though light characters, ADIEU FOREVER! while, on the reverse, there was much more obscurely traced the word REMEMBER! — A. Von G.

All who may read this are, have been, or will be, lovers; and there is none; therefore, who may not be able to comprehend why this token was carefully suspended around Arthur’s neck, so that the inscription might rest on the region of his heart, without the interruption of any substance which could prevent the pledge from being agitated by every throb of that busy organ.

This being hastily ensured, a few minutes completed the rest of his toilet; and he kneeled before his father to ask his blessing, and his further commands for Aix.

His father blessed him almost inarticulately, and then said, with recovered firmness, that he was already possessed of all the knowledge necessary for success on his mission.

“When you can bring me the deeds wanted,” he whispered with more firmness, “you will find me near the person of the Duke of Burgundy.”

They went forth from the tent in silence, and found before it the four Burgundian yeomen, tall and active-looking men, ready mounted themselves, and holding two saddled horses — the one accoutred for war, the other a spirited jennet, for the purposes of the journey. One of them led a sumpter-horse, on which Colvin informed Arthur he would find the change of habit necessary when he should arrive at Aix; and at the same time delivered to him a heavy purse of gold.

“Thiebault,” he continued, pointing out the eldest of the attendant troopers, “may be trusted — I will be warrant tor his sagacty and fidelity. The other three are picked men, who will not fear their skin-cutting.”

Arthur vaulted into the saddle with a sensation of pleasure, which was natural to a young cavalier who had not for many months felt a spirited horse beneath him. The lively jennet reared with impatience. Arthur, sitting firm on his seat, as if he had been a part of the animal, only said, “Ere we are long acquainted, thy spirit, my fair roan, will be something more tamed.”

“One word more, my son,” said his father, and whispered in Arthur’s ear, as he stooped from the saddle; “If you receive a letter from me, do not think yourself fully acquainted with the contents till the paper has been held opposite to a hot fire.”

Arthur bowed, and motioned to the elder trooper to lead the way, when all, giving rein to their horses, rode off through the encampment at a round pace, the young leader signing an adieu to his father and Colvin.

The Earl stood like a man in a dream, following his son with his eyes, in a kind of reverie, which was only broken when Colvin said, “I marvel not, my lord, that you are anxious about my young master; he is a gallant youth, well worth a father’s caring for, and the times we live in are both false and bloody.”

“God and St. Mary be my witness,” said the Earl, “that if I grieve, it is not for my own house only; — if I am anxious, it is not for the sake of my own son alone; — but it is hard to risk a last stake in a cause so perilous. — What commands brought you from the Duke?”

“His Grace,” said Colvin, “will get on horseback after be has breakfasted. He sends you some garments, which, if not fitting your quality, are yet nearer to suitable apparel than those you now wear, and he desires that, observing your incognito as an English merchant of eminence, you will join him in his cavalcade to Dijon, where he is to receive the answer of the Estates of Burgundy concerning matters submitted to their consideration, and thereafter give public audience to the Deputies from Switzerland. His Highness has charged me with the care of finding you suitable accommodation during the ceremonies of the day, which, he thinks, you will, as a stranger, be pleased to look upon. But he probably told you all this himself, for I think you saw him last night in disguise — Nay, look as strange as you will — the Duke plays that trick too often to be able to do it with secrecy the very horse-boys know him while he traverses the tents of the common soldiery, and sutler women give him the name of the spied spy. If it were only honest Harry Colvin who knew this, it should not cross his lips. But it is practised too openly, and too widely known. Come, noble lord, though I must teach my tongue to forego that courtesy, will you along to breakfast?”

The meal, according to the practice of the time, was a solemn and solid one; and a favored officer of the great Duke of Burgundy lacked no means, it may be believed, of rendering due hospitality to a guest having claims of such high respect. But ere the breakfast was over a clamorous flourish of trumpets announced that the Duke, with his attendants and retinue, was sounding to horse. Philipson, as he was still called, was, in the name of the Duke, presented with a stately charger, and with his host mingled in the splendid assembly which began to gather in front of the Duke’s pavilion. In a few minutes the Prince himself issued forth, in the superb dress of the Order of the Golden Fleece, of which his father Philip had been the founder, and Charles was himself the patron and sovereign. Several of his courtiers were dressed in the same magnificent robes, and with their followers and attendants displayed so much wealth and splendor of appearance as to warrant the common saying, that the Duke of Burgundy maintained the most magnificent court in Christendom. The officers of his household attended in their order, together with heralds and pursuivants, the grotesque richness of whose habits had a Bingular effect among those of the high clergy in their albes and dalmatiques, and of the knights and crown vassals who were arrayed in armor. Among these last, who were variously equipped, according to the different character of their service, rode Oxford, but in a peaceful habit, neither so plain as to be out of place among such splendor, nor so rich as to draw on him a special or particular degree of attention. He rode by the side of Colvin, his tall muscular figure, and deep-marked features, forming a strong contrast to the rough, almost ignoble, cast of countenance, and stout thick-set form, oi the less distinguished soldier of fortune.

Ranged into a solemn procession, the rear of which was closed by a guard of two hundred picked arquebusiers, a description of soldiers who were just then coming into notice, and as many mounted men-at-arms, the Duke and his retinue, leaving the barriers of the camp, directed their march to the town, or rather city, of Dijon, in those days the capital of all Burgundy.

It was a town well secured with walls and ditches, which last were filled by means of a small river, named the Ousche, which combines its waters for that purpose with a torrent called Suzon. Four gates, with appropriate barbicans, outworks, and drawbridges, corresponded nearly to the cardinal points of the compass, and gave admission to the city. The number of towers, which stood high above its walls, and defended them at different angles, was thirty-three; and the walls themselves, which exceeded in most places the height of thirty feet, were built of stones hewn and squared, and were of great thickness. This stately city was surrounded on the outside with hills covered with vineyards, while from within its walls rose the towers of many noble buildings, both public and private, as well as the steeples of magnificent churches, and of well-endowed convents, attesting the wealth and devotion of the House of Burgundy.

When the trumpets of the Duke’s procession had summoned the burgher guard at the gate of St. Nicholas, the drawbridge fell, the portcullis rose, the people shouted joyously, the windows were hung with tapestry, and as, in the midst of his retinue, Charles himself came riding on a milk-white steed, attended only by six pages under fourteen years old with each a gilded partisan in his hand, the acclamations with which he was received on all sides showed that, if some instances of misrule had diminished his popularity, enough of it remained to render his reception into his capital decorous at least, if not enthusiastic. It is probable that the veneration attached to his father’s memory counteracted for a long time the unfavorable effect which some of his own actions were calculated to produce in the public mind.

The procession halted before a large Gothic building in the centre of Dijon. This was then called Maison du Duc, as, after the union of Burgundy with France, it was termed Maison du Roy The Maire of Dijon attended on the steps before this palace, accompanied by his official brethren, and escorted by a hundred able-bodied citizens, in black velvet cloaks, bearing half-pikes in their hands. The Maire kneeled to kiss the stir rup of the Duke, and at the moment when Charles descended from his horse, every bell in the city commenced so thundering a peal, that they might almost have awakened the dead who slept in the vicinity of the steeples, which rocked with their clangor. Under the influence of this stunning peal of welcome, the Duke entered the great hall of the building, at the upper end of which were erected a throne for the sovereign, seats for his more distinguished officers of state and higher vassals, with benches behind for persons of less note. On one of these, but in a spot from which he might possess a commanding view of the whole assembly, as well as of the Duke himself, Colvin placed the noble Englishman; and Charles, whose quick stern eye glanced rapidly over the party when they were seated, seemed, by a nod so slight as to be almost imperceptible to those around him, to give his approbation of the arrangement adopted.

When the Duke and his assistants were seated and in order, the Maire, again approaching, in the most humble manner, and kneeling on the lowest step of the ducal throne, requested to know if his Highness’s leisure permitted him to hear the inhabitants of his capital express their devoted zeal to his person, and to accept the benevolence which, in the shape of a silver cup filled with gold pieces, he had the distinguished honor to place before his feet, in name of the citizens and community of Dijon.

Charles, who at no time affected much courtesy, answered, briefly and bluntly, with a voice which was naturally harsh and dissonant, “All things in their order, good Master Maire. Let us first hear what the Estates of Burgundy have to say to us; we will then listen to the burghers of Dijon.”

The Maire rose and retired, bearing in his hand the silver cup, and experiencing probably some vexation, as well as surprise, that its contents had not secured an instant and gracious acceptance.

“I expected,” said Duke Charles, “to have met at this hour and place our Estates of the duchy of Burgundy, or a deputation of them, with an answer to our message conveyed to them three days since by our chancellor. Is there no one here on their part?”

The Maire, as none else made any attempt to answer, said that the members of the Estates had been in close deliberation the whole of that morning, and doubtless would instantly wait upon his Highness, when they heard that he had honored the town with his presence.

“Go, Toison d’Or,” said the Duke to the herald of the Order of the Golden Fleece, 19 “bear to these gentlemen the things that we desire to know the end of their deliberations; and that neither in courtesy nor in loyalty can they expect us to wait long. Be round with them, Sir Herald, or we shall be as round with you.”

While the herald was absent on his mission, we may remind our readers, that in all feudalized countries (that is to say, ill almost all Europe during the middle ages), an ardent spirit of liberty pervaded the constitution; and the only fault that could be found was, that the privileges and freedom for which the great vassals contended did not sufficiently descend to the lower orders of society, or extend protection to those who were most likely to need it. The two first ranks in the State, the nobles and clergy, enjoyed high and important privileges; and even the third estate, or citizens, had this immunity in peculiar, that no new duties, customs, or taxes of any kind, could be exacted from them save by their own consent.

The memory of Duke Philip, the father of Charles, was dear to the Burgundians; for during twenty years that sage prince had maintained his rank amongst the sovereigns of Europe with much dignity, and had accumulated treasure without exacting or receiving any great increase of supplies from the rich countries which he governed. But the extravagant schemes and immoderate expense of Duke Charles had already excited the suspicion of his Estates; and the mutual good-will betwixt the prince and people began to be exchanged for suspicion and distrust on the one side, and defiance on the other. The refractory disposition of the Estates had of late increased for they had disapproved of various wars in which their Duke had needlessly embarked; and from his levying such large bodies of mercenary troops, they came to suspect he might finally employ the wealth voted to him by his subjects, for the undue extension of his royal prerogative, and the destruction of the liberties of the people.

At the same time the Duke’s uniform success in enterprises which appeared desperate as well as difficult, esteem forthe frankness and openness of his character, and dread of the obstinacy and headstrong tendency of a temper which could seldom bear persuasion, and never endured opposition, still threw awe and terror around the throne, which was materially aided by the attachment of the common people to the person of the present Duke, and to the memory of his father. It had been understood, that upon the present occasion there was strong opposition amongst the Estates to the system of taxation proposed on the part of the Duke, and the issue was expected with considerable anxiety by the Duke’s counsellors, and with fretful impatience by the sovereign himself.

After a space of about ten minutes had elapsed, the Chancellor of Burgundy, who was Archbishop of Vienne, and a prelate of high rank, entered the hall with his train; and passing behind the ducal throne to occupy one of the most distinguished places in the assembly, he stopped for a moment to urge his master to receive the answer of his Estates in a private manner, giving him at the same time to understand that the result of the deliberations had been by no means satisfactory.

“By Saint George of Burgundy, my Lord Archbishop,” answered the Duke, sternly and loud, “we are not a prince of a mind so paltry that we need to shun the moody looks of a discontented and insolent faction. If the Estates of Burgundy send a disobedient and disloyal answer to our paternal message, let them deliver it in open court, that the assembled people may learn how to decide between their Duke and those petty yet intriguing spirits, who would interfere with our authority.”

The Chancellor bowed gravely, and took his seat; while the English Earl observed that most of the members of the assembly, excepting such as in doing so could not escape the Duke’s notice, passed some observations to their neighbors, which were received with a half-expressed nod, shrug, or shake of the head, as men treat a proposal upon which it is dangerous to decide. At the same time, Toison d’Or, who acted as master of the ceremonies, introduced into the hall a committee of the Estates, consisting of twelve members, four from each branch of the Estates, announced as empowered to deliver the answer of that assembly to the Duke of Burgundy. When the deputation entered the hall, Charles arose from his throne according to ancient custom, and taking from his head his bonnet, charged with a huge plume of feathers, Health and welcome,” he said, “to my good subjects of the Estates of Burgundy!” All the numerous train of courtiers rose and uncovered their beads with the same ceremony. The members of the states then dropped on one knee, the four ecclesiastics, among whom Oxford recognized the Black Priest of St. Paul’s, approaching nearest to the Duke’s person, the nobles kneeling behind them, and the burgesses in the rear of the whole.

“Noble Duke,” said the Priest of St. Paul’s, “will it best please you to hear the answer of your good and loyal Estates of Burgundy by the voice of one member speaking for the whole, or by three persons, each delivering the sense of the body to which he belongs?”

“As you will,” said the Duke of Burgundy.

“A priest, a noble, and a free burgher,” said the churchman still on one knee, “will address your Highness in succession. For though, blessed be the God who leads brethren to dwell together in unity! we are agreed in the general answer, yet each body of the Estates may have special and separate reasons to allege for the common opinion.”

“We will hear you separately,” said Duke Charles, casting his hat upon his head, and throwing himself carelessly back into his seat. At the same time, all who were of noble blood, whether in the committee or amongst the spectators, vouched their right to be peers of their sovereign by assuming their bon nets; and a cloud of waving plumes at once added grace and dignity to the assembly.

When the Duke resumed his seat, the deputation arose from their knees, and the Black Priest of St. Paul’s, again stepping forth, addressed him in these words:—

“My Lord Duke, your loyal and faithful clergy have considered your Highness’s proposal to lay a talliage on your people, in order to make war on the Confederate Cantons in the country of the Alps. The quarrel, my liege lord, seems to your clergy an unjust and oppressive one on your Highness’s part; nor can they hope that God will bless those who arm in it. They are therefore compelled to reject your Highness’s proposal.”

The Duke’s eye lowered gloomily on the deliverer of this unpalatable message. He shook his head with one of those stern and menacing looks which the harsh composition of his features rendered them peculiarly qualified to express. “You have spoken, Sir Priest,” was the only reply which he deigned to make.

One of the four nobles, the Sire de Myrebeau, then expressed himself thus “Your Highness has asked of your faithful nobles to consent to new imposts and exactions, to be levied through Burgundy, for the raising of additional bands of hired soldiers for the maintenance of the quarrels of the state. My lord, the swords of the Burgundian nobles, knights, and gentlemen, have been ever at your Highness’s command, as those of our ancestors have been readily wielded for your predecessors. In your Highness’s just quarrel we will go farther, and fight firmer, than any hired fellows who can be procured, whether from France, or Germany, or Italy. We will not give our consent that the people should be taxed for paying mercenaries to discharge that military duty which it is alike our pride and our exclusive privilege to render.”

“You have spoken, Sire de Myrebeau,” were again the only words of the Duke’s reply. He uttered them slowly and with deliberation, as if afraid lest some phrase of imprudent violence should escape along with what he purposed to say. Oxford thought he cast a glance towards him before he spoke, as if the consciousness of his presence was some additional restraint on his passion. “Now, Heaven grant,” he said to himself, “that this opposition may work its proper effect, and induce the Duke to renounce an imprudent attempt, so hazardous and so unnecessary!”

While he muttered these thoughts, the Duke made a sign to one of the tiers etat, or commons, to speak in his turn. Thc person who obeyed the signal was Martin Block, a wealthy butcher and grazier of Dijon. His words were these:— “Noble Prince, our fathers were the dutiful subjects of your predecessors; we are the same to you; our children will be alike the liegemen of your successors. But touching the request your chancellor has made to us, it is such as our ancestors never complied with; such as we are determined to refuse, and such as will never be conceded by the Estates of Burgundy, to any prince whatsoever, even to the end of time.”

Charles had borne with impatient silence the speeches of the two former orators, but this blunt and hardy rep~ of the third Estate excited him beyond what his nature could endure. He gave way to the impetuosity of his disposition, stamped on the floor till the throne shook, and the high vault rung over their heads, and overwhelmed the bold burgher with reproaches. Beast of burden,” he said, “am I to be stunned with thy braying, too? The nobles may claim leave to speak, for they can fight; the clergy may use their tongues, for it is their trade; but thou, that hast never shed blood, save that of bullocks, less stupid than thou art thyself — must thou and thy herd come hither, privileged, forsooth, to bellow at a prince’s footstool? Know, brute as thou art, that steers are never introduced into temples but to be sacrificed, or butchers and mechanics brought before their sovereign, save that they may have the honor to supply the public wants from their own swelling hoards!”

A murmur of displeasure, which even the terror of the Duke’s wrath could not repress, ran through the audience at these words; and the burgher of Dijon, a sturdy plebeian, re plied, with little reverence, — ” Our purses, my Lord Duke, are our own-we will not put the strings of them into your Highness’s hands, unless we are satisfied with the purposes to which the money is to be applied; and we know well how to protect oui persons and our goods against foreign ruffians and plunderers.”

Charles was on the point of ordering the deputy to be arrested, when, having cast his eye towards the Earl of Oxford, whose presence, in despite of himself, imposed ascertain degree of restraint upon him, he exchanged that piece of imprudence for another.

“I see,” he said, addressing the committee of Estates, “that you are all leagued to disappoint my purposes, and doubtless to deprive me of all the power of a sovereign, save that of wearing a coronet, and being served on the knee like a second Charles the Simple, while the Estates of my kingdom divide the power among them. But you shall know that you have to do with Charles of Burgundy, a prince, who, though he has deigned to consult you, is fully able to fight battles without the aid of his nobles, since they refuse him the assistance of their swords — to defray the expense without the help of his sordid burghers — and, it may be, to find out a path to Heaven, without the assistance of an ungrateful priesthood. I will show all that are here present how little my mind is affected, or my purpose changed, by your seditious reply to the message with which I honored you. — Here, Toison d’Or, admit into our presence these men from the confederated towns and cantons, as they call themselves, of Switzerland.”

Oxford, and all who really interested themselves in the Duke’s welfare, heard, with the utmost apprehension, his resolution to give an audience to the Swiss Envoys, prepossessed as he was against them, and in the moment when his mood was chafed to the uttermost by the refusal of the Estates to g’rant him supplies. They were aware that obstacles, opposed to the current of his passion, were like rocks in the bed of a river, whose course they cannot interrupt, while they provoke it to rage and foam. All were sensible that the die was cast, but none who were not endowed with more than mortal prescience could have imagined how deep was the pledge which depended upon it. Oxford, in particular, conceived that the execution of his plan of a descent upon England was the principal point compromised by the Duke in his rash obstinacy; but he suspected not — he dreamed not of supposing that the life of Charles himself, and the independence of Burgundy as a separate kingdom, hung quivering in the same scales.

19 The chief order of knighthood in the State of Burgundy.

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