Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 13

The Journey

Talk not of kings — I scorn the poor comparison;

I am a sage and can command the elements —

At least men think I can; and on that thought

I found unbounded empire.


Occupation and adventure might be said to crowd upon the young Scottishman with the force of a spring tide; for he was speedily summoned to the apartment of his Captain, the Lord Crawford, where, to his astonishment, he again beheld the King. After a few words respecting the honour and trust which were about to be reposed in him, which made Quentin internally afraid that they were again about to propose to him such a watch as he had kept upon the Count of Crevecoeur, or perhaps some duty still more repugnant to his feelings, he was not relieved merely, but delighted, with hearing that he was selected, with the assistance of four others under his command, one of whom was a guide, to escort the Ladies of Croye to the little Court of their relative, the Bishop of Liege, in the safest and most commodious, and, at the same time, in the most secret manner possible. A scroll was given him, in which were set down directions for his guidance, for the places of halt (generally chosen in obscure villages, solitary monasteries, and situations remote from towns), and for the general precautions which he was to attend to, especially on approaching the frontier of Burgundy. He was sufficiently supplied with instructions what he ought to say and do to sustain the personage of the Maitre d’Hotel of two English ladies of rank, who had been on a pilgrimage to Saint Martin of Tours, and were about to visit the holy city of Cologne, and worship the relics of the sage Eastern Monarchs, who came to adore the nativity of Bethlehem 103; for under that character the Ladies of Croye were to journey.

Without having any defined notions of the cause of his delight, Quentin Durward’s heart leapt for joy at the idea of approaching thus nearly to the person of the Beauty of the Turret, and in a situation which entitled him to her confidence, since her protection was in so great a degree intrusted to his conduct and courage. He felt no doubt in his own mind that he should be her successful guide through the hazards of her pilgrimage. Youth seldom thinks of dangers, and bred up free, and fearless, and self confiding, Quentin, in particular, only thought of them to defy them. He longed to be exempted from the restraint of the Royal presence, that he might indulge the secret glee with which such unexpected tidings filled him, and which prompted him to bursts of delight which would have been totally unfitting for that society.

But Louis had not yet done with him. That cautious monarch had to consult a counsellor of a different stamp from Oliver le Diable, who was supposed to derive his skill from the superior and astral intelligences, as men, judging from their fruits, were apt to think the counsels of Oliver sprang from the Devil himself.

Louis therefore led the way, followed by the impatient Quentin, to a separate tower of the castle of Plessis, in which was installed, in no small ease and splendour; the celebrated astrologer, poet, and philosopher, Galeotti Marti, or Martius, or Martivalle, a native of Narni, in Italy, the author of the famous Treatise De Vulgo Incognitis 104to the generality of mankind. S.], and the subject of his age’s admiration, and of the panegyrics of Paulus Jovius 105Italian historian of the sixteenth century who lived at the Pope’s court]. He had long flourished at the court of the celebrated Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, from whom he was in some measure decoyed by Louis, who grudged the Hungarian monarch the society and the counsels of a sage accounted so skilful in reading the decrees of Heaven. 106

Martivalle was none of those ascetic, withered, pale professors of mystic learning of those days, who bleared their eyes over the midnight furnace, and macerated their bodies by out watching the Polar Bear. He indulged in all courtly pleasures, and until he grew corpulent, had excelled in all martial sports and gymnastic exercises, as well as in the use of arms; insomuch, that Janus Pannonius 107 has left a Latin epigram upon a wrestling match betwixt Galeotti and a renowned champion of that art, in the presence of the Hungarian King and Court, in which the Astrologer was completely victorious.

The apartments of this courtly and martial sage were far more splendidly furnished than any which Quentin had yet seen in the royal palace; and the carving and ornamented woodwork of his library, as well as the magnificence displayed in the tapestries, showed the elegant taste of the learned Italian. Out of his study one door opened to his sleeping apartment, another led to the turret which served as his observatory. A large open table, in the midst of the chamber, was covered with a rich Turkey carpet, the spoils of the tent of a Pacha, after the great battle of Jaiza, where the Astrologer had fought abreast with the valiant champion of Christendom, Matthias Corvinus. On the table lay a variety of mathematical and astrological instruments, all of the most rich materials and curious workmanship. His astrolabe of silver was the gift of the Emperor of Germany, and his Jacob’s staff of ebony 108, jointed with gold and curiously inlaid, was a mark of esteem from the reigning Pope.

There were various other miscellaneous articles disposed on the table, or hanging around the walls; amongst others, two complete suits of armour, one of mail, the other of plate, both of which, from their great size, seemed to call the gigantic Astrologer their owner; a Spanish toledo, a Scottish broadsword, a Turkish scymetar, with bows, quivers, and other warlike weapons; musical instruments of several different kinds; a silver crucifix, a sepulchral antique vase, and several of the little brazen Penates of the ancient heathens, with other curious nondescript articles, some of which, in the superstitious opinions of that period, seemed to be designed for magical purposes. The library of this singular character was of the same miscellaneous description with its other effects. Curious manuscripts of classical antiquity lay mingled with the voluminous labours of Christian divines, and of those painstaking sages who professed the chemical science, and proffered to guide their students into the most secret recesses of nature, by means of the Hermetical Philosophy 109. Some were written in the Eastern character, and others concealed their sense or nonsense under the veil of hieroglyphics and cabalistic characters. The whole apartment and its furniture of every kind, formed a scene very impressive on the fancy, considering the general belief then indisputably entertained concerning the truth of the occult sciences; and that effect was increased by the manners and appearance of the individual himself, who, seated in a huge chair, was employed in curiously examining a specimen, just issued from the Frankfort press, of the newly invented art of printing.

Galeotti Martivalle was a tall, bulky, yet stately man, considerably past his prime, and whose youthful habits of exercise, though still occasionally resumed, had not been able to contend with his natural tendency to corpulence, increased by sedentary study, and indulgence in the pleasures of the table. His features, though rather overgrown, were dignified and noble, and a Santon might have envied the dark and downward sweep of his long descending beard. His dress was a chamber robe of the richest Genoa velvet, with ample sleeves, clasped with frogs of gold, and lined with sables. It was fastened round his middle by a broad belt of virgin parchment, round which were represented, in crimson characters, the signs of the Zodiac. He rose and bowed to the King, yet with the air of one to whom such exalted society was familiar, and who was not at all likely, even in the royal presence, to compromise the dignity then especially affected by the pursuers of science.

“You are engaged, father,” said the King, “and, as I think, with this new fashioned art of multiplying manuscripts by the intervention of machinery. Can things of such mechanical and terrestrial import interest the thoughts of one before whom Heaven has unrolled her own celestial volumes?”

“My brother,” replied Martivalle. “for so the tenant of this cell must term even the King of France, when he deigns to visit him as a disciple — believe me that in considering the consequences of this invention, I read with as certain augury as by any combination of the heavenly bodies, the most awful and portentous changes. When I reflect with what slow and limited supplies the stream of science hath hitherto descended to us, how difficult to be obtained by those most ardent in its search, how certain to be neglected by all who regard their ease; how liable to be diverted, altogether dried up, by the invasions of barbarism; can I look forward without wonder and astonishment to the lot of a succeeding generation on whom knowledge will descend like the first and second rain, uninterrupted, unabated, unbounded; fertilizing some grounds, and overflowing others; changing the whole form of social life; establishing and overthrowing religions; erecting and destroying kingdoms”

“Hold, Galeotti,” said Louis, “shall these changes come in our time?”

“No, my royal brother,” replied Martivalle; “this invention may be likened to a young tree, which is now newly planted, but shall, in succeeding generations, bear fruit as fatal, yet as precious, as that of the Garden of Eden; the knowledge, namely, of good and evil.”

Louis answered, after a moment’s pause, “Let futurity look to what concerns them — we are men of this age, and to this age we will confine our care. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

“Tell me, hast thou proceeded farther in the horoscope Which I sent to thee, and of which you made me some report? I have brought the party hither, that you may use palmistry, or chiromancy if such is your pleasure. The matter is pressing.”

The bulky sage arose from his seat, and, approaching the young soldier, fixed on him his keen large dark eyes as if he were in the act of internally spelling and dissecting every lineament and feature.

Blushing and borne down by this close examination on the part of one whose expression was so reverend at once and commanding, Quentin bent his eyes on the ground, and did not again raise them, till in the act of obeying the sonorous command of the Astrologer, “Look up and be not afraid, but hold forth thy hand.”

When Martivalle had inspected his palm, according to the form of the mystic arts which he practised, he led the King some steps aside.

“My royal brother,” he said, “the physiognomy of this youth, together with the lines impressed on his hand, confirm, in a wonderful degree, the report which I founded on his horoscope, as well as that judgment which your own proficiency in our sublime arts induced you at once to form of him. All promises that this youth will be brave and fortunate.”

“And faithful?” said the King; “for valour and fortune square not always with fidelity.”

“And faithful also,” said the Astrologer; “for there is manly firmness in look and eye, and his linea vitae 110 is deeply marked and clear, which indicates a true and upright adherence to those who do benefit or lodge trust in him. But yet —”

“But what?” said the King; “Father Galeotti, wherefore do you now pause?”

“The ears of Kings,” said the sage, “are like the palates of those dainty patients which are unable to endure the bitterness of the drugs necessary for their recovery.”

“My ears and my palate have no such niceness,” said Louis; “let me hear what is useful counsel, and swallow what is wholesome medicine. I quarrel not with the rudeness of the one, or the harsh taste of the other. I have not been cockered in wantonness or indulgence; my youth was one of exile and suffering. My ears are used to harsh counsel, and take no offence at it.”

“Then plainly, Sire,” replied Galeotti, “if you have aught in your purposed commission which — which, in short, may startle a scrupulous conscience — intrust it not to this youth, at least, not till a few years’ exercise in your service has made him as unscrupulous as others.”

“And is this what you hesitated to speak, my good Galeotti? and didst thou think thy speaking it would offend me?” said the King. “Alack, I know that thou art well sensible that the path of royal policy cannot be always squared (as that of private life ought invariably to be) by the abstract maxims of religion and of morality. Wherefore do we, the Princes of the earth, found churches and monasteries, make pilgrimages, undergo penances, and perform devotions with which others may dispense, unless it be because the benefit of the public, and the welfare of our kingdoms, force us upon measures which grieve our consciences as Christians? But Heaven has mercy, the Church, an unbounded stock of merits and the intercession of Our Lady of Embrun and the blessed saints, is urgent, everlasting, and omnipotent.”

He laid his hat on the table, and devoutly kneeling before the images stuck into the hat band, repeated in an earnest tone, “Sancte Huberte, Sancte Juliane, Sancte Martine, Sancta Rosalia, Sancti quotquot adestis, orate pro me peccatore!” 111 He then smote his breast, arose, reassumed his hat, and continued: “Be assured, good father, that whatever there may be in our commission of the nature at which you have hinted, the execution shall not be intrusted to this youth, nor shall he be privy to such part of our purpose.”

“In this,” said the Astrologer, “you, my royal brother, will walk wisely. — Something may be apprehended likewise from the rashness of this your young commissioner, a failing inherent in those of sanguine complexion. But I hold that, by the rules of art, this chance is not to be weighed against the other properties discovered from his horoscope and otherwise.”

“Will this next midnight be a propitious hour in which to commence a perilous journey?” said the King. “See, here is your Ephemerides — you see the position of the moon in regard to Saturn, and the ascendence of Jupiter. — That should argue, methinks, in submission to your better art, success to him who sends forth the expedition at such an hour.”

“To him who sends forth the expedition,” said the Astrologer, after a pause, “this conjunction doth indeed promise success; but, methinks, that Saturn, being combust, threatens danger and infortune to the party sent; whence I infer that the errand may be perilous, or even fatal to those who are to journey. Violence and captivity, methinks, are intimated in that adverse conjunction.”

“Violence and captivity to those who are sent,” answered the King, “but success to the wishes of the sender. — Runs it not thus, my learned father?”

“Even so,” replied the Astrologer.

The King paused, without giving any farther indication how far this presaging speech (probably hazarded by the Astrologer from his conjecture that the commission related to some dangerous purpose) squared with his real object, which, as the reader is aware, was to betray the Countess Isabelle of Croye into the hands of William de la Marck, a nobleman indeed of high birth, but degraded by his crimes into a leader of banditti, distinguished for his turbulent disposition and ferocious bravery.

The King then pulled forth a paper from his pocket, and, ere he gave it to Martivalle, said, in a tone which resembled that of an apology, “Learned Galeotti, be not surprised that, possessing in you an oracular treasure, superior to that lodged in the breast of any now alive, not excepting the great Nostradamus himself 112, I am desirous frequently to avail myself of your skill in those doubts and difficulties which beset every Prince who hath to contend with rebellion within his land, and with external enemies, both powerful and inveterate.”

“When I was honoured with your request, Sire,” said the philosopher, “and abandoned the Court of Buda for that of Plessis, it was with the resolution to place at the command of my royal patron whatever my art had, that might be of service to him.”

“Enough, good Martivalle — I pray thee attend to the import of this question.”

He proceeded to read from the paper in his hand: “A person having on hand a weighty controversy, which is like to draw to debate either by law or by force of arms, is desirous, for the present, to seek accommodation by a personal interview with his antagonist. He desires to know what day will be propitious for the execution of such a purpose; also what is likely to be the success of such a negotiation, and whether his adversary will be moved to answer the confidence thus reposed in him, with gratitude and kindness, or may rather be likely to abuse the opportunity and advantage which such meeting may afford him.”

“It is an important question,” said Martivalle, when the King had done reading, “and requires that I should set a planetary figure 113, and give it instant and deep consideration.”

“Let it be so, my good father in the sciences, and thou shalt know what it is to oblige a King of France. We are determined, if the constellations forbid not — and our own humble art leads us to think that they approve our purpose — to hazard something, even in our own person, to stop these anti-Christian wars.”

“May the Saints forward your Majesty’s pious intent,” said the Astrologer, “and guard your sacred person.”

“Thanks, learned father. Here is something, the while, to enlarge your curious library.”

He placed under one of the volumes a small purse of gold; for, economical even in his superstitions, Louis conceived the Astrologer sufficiently bound to his service by the pensions he had assigned him, and thought himself entitled to the use of his skill at a moderate rate, even upon great exigencies.

Louis, having thus, in legal phrase, added a refreshing fee to his general retainer, turned from him to address Durward.

“Follow me,” he said, “my bonny Scot, as one chosen by Destiny and a Monarch to accomplish a bold adventure. All must be got ready, that thou mayest put foot in stirrup the very instant the bell of Saint Martin’s tolls twelve. One minute sooner, one minute later, were to forfeit the favourable aspect of the constellations which smile on your adventure.”

Thus saying, the King left the apartment, followed by his young guardsman; and no sooner were they gone than the Astrologer gave way to very different feelings from those which seemed to animate him during the royal presence.

“The niggardly slave!” he said, weighing the purse in his hand — for, being a man of unbounded expense, he had almost constant occasion for money — “The base, sordid scullion! A coxswain’s wife would give more to know that her husband had crossed the narrow seas in safety. He acquire any tincture of humane letters! — yes, when prowling foxes and yelling wolves become musicians. He read the glorious blazoning of the firmament! — ay, when sordid moles shall become lynxes. Post tot promissa — after so many promises made, to entice me from the Court of the magnificent Matthias, where Hun and Turk, Christian and Infidel, the Czar of Muscovia and the Cham of Tartary themselves, contended to load me with gifts — doth he think I am to abide in this old castle like a bullfinch in a cage, fain to sing as oft as he chooses to whistle, and all for seed and water? Not so — aut inveniam viam, aut faciam — I will discover or contrive a remedy. The Cardinal Balue is politic and liberal — this query shall to him, and it shall be his Eminence’s own fault if the stars speak not as he would have them.”

He again took the despised guerdon, and weighed it in his hand. “It may be,” he said, “there is some jewel, or pearl of price, concealed in this paltry case — I have heard he can be liberal even to lavishness, when it suits his caprice or interest.”

He emptied the purse, which contained neither more nor less than ten gold pieces. The indignation of the Astrologer was extreme.

“Thinks he that for such paltry rate of hire I will practise that celestial science which I have studied with the Armenian Abbot of Istrahoff, who had not seen the sun for forty years — with the Greek Dubravius, who is said to have raised the dead — and have even visited the Sheik Ebn Hali in his cave in the deserts of Thebais? No, by Heaven! — he that contemns art shall perish through his own ignorance. Ten pieces! — a pittance which I am half ashamed to offer to Toinette, to buy her new breast laces.”

So saying, the indignant Sage nevertheless plunged the contemned pieces of gold into a large pouch which he wore at his girdle, which Toinette, and other abettors of lavish expense, generally contrived to empty fully faster than the philosopher, with all his art, could find the means of filling.

103 the relics of the three kings, or Magi, were placed in the Cathedral of Cologne in 1162

104 concerning things unknown

105 an

106 Martius Galeotti . . . was secretary to Matthias Carvinus, King of Hungary. He left Hungary in 1477, and was made prisoner at Venice on a charge of having propagated heterodox opinions. . . . He might have suffered seriously but for the protection of Sixtus IV, then Pope, who had been one of his scholars. . . . He attached himself to Louis XI, and died in his service. S.

107 a Hungarian poet of the fifteenth century

108 a divining rod made of a hazel fork

109 a system of philosophy ascribed to the Egyptian Hermes (Thoth) who was reputed to have written certain sacred books treating of religion and the natural sciences

110 the line of life, a term used in palmistry

111 St. Hubert, St. Julian, St. Martin, St. Rosalia, all ye saints who hear me, pray for me, a sinner.

112 a French astrologer of the sixteenth century, author of a book of prophecies, which was condemned by the papal court in 1781

113 to prepare a diagram which would represent the heavens at that particular moment


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00