Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is with difficulty that we refrain from transcribing two other dialogues, one of which occurs at the meeting between Louis and Charles, while in the other Philip de Comines is introduced in person, and most completely cajoled by the artful king. But the passages are long, and will be injured by curtailment; and we must refer our readers to the original for the gratification of their curiosity.

To the same source we shall also send them for such acquaintance as they may be desirous of forming with the life and adventures of Quentin Durward-his introduction to the courts and cabinets of princes, his valiant and honourable conduct, his romantic and successful love. Incidents are crowded together in such boundless profusion, that to sketch the story would require a volume. The author introduces us, as is his custom, to all sorts of places, and all sorts of company, monarchs and gypsies, soldiers and hangmen, astrologers and demagogues, come and go like the groupes in a magic lantern; and some notion of the general effect of their movements is the most that we can convey to our readers.

The story, through the two first volumes is conducted with more success than has usually attended this department of the author's labours. Events succeed each other naturally and rapidly. The plot and under-plot, in which Louis and Quentin are the chief actors, are interwoven with exquisite skill; and the fates of a kingdom and a love-match are embarked (without the intention or knowledge of the persons principally interested,) in one and the same adventure. The King converses incognito with a new acquaintance, takes the field with regal pomp against the bristled boar, receives and entertains ambassadors from a deadly enemy, consults the learned man who can read and explain the stars, contrives a piece of complicated political villany, and sends the lovers from one end of his kingdom to the other, in order to execate or to defeat the scheme-and throughout the whole of these transactions there is no pause or breathing time. Even those persons who in the concluding volume are most uninteresting and tiresome, namely, his Majesty's confidential hangmen, and his Majesty's confidential gypsies, give no jnst cause of offence in the earlier part of the story. The former, whom our brethren of the Quarterly will denominate the bores of the novel, are described with the characteristic humour of their parent. But their brutality and hypocrisy become at last insufferable, and their claim to the title we have ventured to anticipate, is much stronger than that of many upon whom it has been conferred. The Bohemian is intro . duced to greater advantage, and managed with more tact; and he deserves and will obtain the public favour, in spite of the absurdities which occasioned his death.

In the third volume, the story changes very much for the worse, The alliance between Louis and Quentin is dissolved by the great maker of treaties, and their influence upon each other's fortune becomes at once unimportant and improbable. The thread of the narrative is broken—the di. gressions are abrupt and tedious; and the double catas, trophes of the King and the Hero are as unsatisfactory and unnatural as possible. Into all these misfortunes the author is betrayed by one false step--the irresistible desire of des. cribing the night-attack upon the Castle of Schonwaldt, and the murder of its venerable prelate.

The other deviations from historic truth may be easily excused; and if the story had gained in interest or effect by antedating the death of the Bishop of Liege, we should not have objected to the arrangement. But by this ' very manoeuvre the story is spoiled. Louis in a fit of superstitious rashness, put himself in the power of Charles of Burgundy, and was well and honourably received. News came to the Duke of the insurrection at Liege, and the Bishop's murder; and Louis was instantly imprisoned. Thus far the historian and the novelist are of one mind; and the latter has as fine an opportunity as a reasonable man could desire to develope the characters of the rival princes. But when this task bas been ably accomplished, and it behoves the King of France to be restored to liberty, Philip de Comines accomplishes the work by a very simple instrument, a contradiction of the reported death of the Bishop of Liege. The author of Waverley is estopped from pursuing this course; his Bishop's brains having been knocked out the week before by a butcher. And King Louis is indebted for his safety to the arrival of a mock herald at the court of the Duke, who is detected by the sagacity of the assembled nobles, stripped of his splendid armorial disguise, allowed a start of sixty yards and then coursed, caught and worried by his highness's hounds. With which merry adventure the Duke of Burgundy is so delighted that he sets his captive at liberty upon easy terms, and marches off with him to Liege in the bighest good humour. This contrivance is worthy of the wild boar of Ardennes, who dispatched the soi-disant berald to the court of Charles ; but how it came to be adopted by the author of Quentin Dorward, is as profound a secret as the author's real name.

The circumstance occurs at such a short distance from the close of the work that the reader has barely time to recover his temper before the volume is dismissed from his hand, But in order to appease his just indignation he is treated with a passage of first rate beauty and merit, with which we shall close our critique. It is a description of the sally and repulse of the Liegeois. The real event is minutely described by the lristoriap; and the dangers to which the principal personages, Louis and Charles, were exposed, appears to have been much greater than our author has chosen to confess. But the general features of the battle are correctly sketched; and the excellence of the picture is sufficient to obliterate alt recollection of the preceding absurdities, and to atone for the platitude of the succeeding catastrophe. How can we dare to breathe a word of complaint against a writer who treats the public twice or three times a year with such painting as the following passages contain?

" A dead silence soon reigned over that great host which lay in leaguer before Liege. For a long time the cries of the soldiers repeating their signals, and seeking to join their several banners, sounded like the howling of bewildered dogs seeking their masters. But at length, overcome with weariness through the fatigues of the day, the dispersed soldiers crowded under such shelter as they could light upon, and those who could find none sunk down, through very fatigue, under walls, hedges, and such temporary protection, there to await for morning,-a morning which sone of them were never to behold. A dead sleep fell on almost all, excepting those who kept a faint and weary watch by the lodgings of the King and the Duke. The dangers and hopes of the morroweven the schemes of glory which many of the young nobility had founded upon the splendid prize held out to him who should avenge the murdered Bishop of Liege-glided from their recollection as they lay stupified with fatigue and sleep. But not so with Quentin Durward. The knowledge that he alone was possessed of the means of distinguishing La Marck in the contest--the recollection by whom that information had been communicated, and the fair augury which might be drawn from her conveying it to him—the thought that his fortune had brought him to a most perilous and doubtful crisis indeed, but one where there was still, at least, a chance of his coming off triumphant, banished every desire to sleep, and strung his nerves with vigour, which defied fatigue.

Posted, by the King's express order, on the extreme point be. tween the French quarters and the town, a good way to the rigbt of the suburb which we have mentioned, he sharpened his eye, to penetrate the mass which lay before him, and excited liis ears, to catch the slightest sound which might announce any commotion in the beleagured city. But its huge clocks had successively knelled three hours after midnight, and all contipued still and silent as the gravé.

“ At length, and when he began to think the attack would be deferred till day-break, and joyfully recollected that there would be then liglit enough to descry the Band Sinister across the Fleurde-lis of Orleans, he thought he heard in the city a huniming murmur, like that of disturbed bees mustering for the defence of their hives. He listened--the noise continued ; but it was of a character so undistinguished by any peculiar or precise sound, that it might be the murmur of a wind arising among the boughs of a distant grove, or perhaps some strcam swollen by the late rain, which was discharging itself into the sluggish Maes with more than usual sound. Quentin was prevented by these considerations fron instantly giving the alarm, which, if done carelessly, would have been a heavy offence. But, when the noise rose louder, and seemed pouring at the same time towards his own post, and towards the suburb, he deemed it his duty to fall back as silently as possible, and call his uncle, who commanded the small body of Archers destined to his support. All were on their feet in a moment, and with as little noise as possible. In less than a second, Lord Crawford was at their head, and, dispatching an archer to alarm the King and his household, drew back his little party to some distance behind their watch-fire, that they might not be seen by its light. The rushing sound, which had approached them more nearly, seemed suddenly to have ceased ; but they still heard distinctly the more distant heavy tread of a large body of men approaching the suburb.

" The lazy Burgundians are asleep on their post,' whispered Crawford ; make for the suburb, Cunningham, and awaken the stupid oxen.

Keep well to the rear as you go,' said Durward; if ever I heard the tread of mortal men, there is a strong body interposed between us and the suburb.'

« • Well said, Quentin, my dainty callant,' said Crawford ; thou art a soldier beyond thy years. They only make halt till the others come forward. I would I had some knowledge where they are !

"I will creep forward, my lord,' said Quentin, "and endeavour to bring you information.'

* Do so, my bonny chield ; thou hast sharp ears and eyes, and good will--but take heed - I would not lose thee for two and a plack.'

Quentin, with his harquebuss ready prepared, stole forward, through ground which he had reconnoitered carefully in the twilight of the preceding evening, until he was not only certain that he was in the neighbourhood of a very large body of men, who weré standing fast betwixt the King's quarters and the suburbs, but also that there was a detached party of smaller number in advance, and very close to him. They seemed to whisper together, as if uncertain what to do next. At last, the steps of two or three Enfans perdus, detached from that smaller party, approached him so near as twice a pike's length. Seeing it impossible to retreat undiscovered, Quentin called out aloud, Qui dive?' and was answered by Vide Li--Limege-c'est-à-dire,' (added he who spoke, correcting himself,) Vive la France !--Quentin instantly fired his harquebuss-a man groaned and fell, and he himself, under the instant but vague discharge of a number of pieces, the fire of which ran in a disorderly manner alongst the column, and shewed it to be very numerous, hastened back to the main guard.” Vol. III.

p. 328.

“ The arrival of the King, only attended by Le Balafré and Quentin, and half a score of archers, restored confidence. Hymbercourt, Crevečæur, and others of the Burgundian leaders, whose names were then the praise and dread of war, rushed devotedly into the conflict ; and, while some hastened to bring up more distant troops, to whom the panic had not extended, others threw themselves into the tumult, re-animated the instinct of discipline, and while the Duke toiled in the front like an ordinary man-atarms, brought their men by degrees into array, and dismayed the assailants by the use of their artillery. The conduct of Louis, on the other hand, was that of a calm, collected, sagacious leader, who neither sought nor avoided danger, but shewed so much selfpossession and sagacity, that the Burgundian leaders readily obeyed the orders which he issued.

“ The scene was now become in the utmost degree animated and horrible. On the left the suburb, after a fierce contest, had been set on fire, and a wide and dreadful conflagration did not prevent the burning ruins from being still disputed.

On the centre, the French troops, though pressed by immense odds, kept up 80 close and constant a fire, that the little pleasure-house shone bright with the glancing flashes, as if surrounded with a martyr's crown of flames. On the left, the battle swayed backwards and forwards with varied success, as fresh reinforcements poured out of the town, or were brought forward from the rear of the Burgundian host; and the strife continued with unremitting fury for three mortal hours, which at length brought the dawn, so much desired by the besiegers. The enemy, at this period, seemed to be slack. ing their efforts upon the right and in the centre, and several discharges of cannon were heard from the Lust-haus.

“Go,' said the King, to Le Balafré and Quentin, the instant his ear had caught the sound; they have got up the sakers and falconets-the Lust-haus is safe, blessed be the Holy Virgin ! Tell Dunois to move this way, but rather nearer the city, with all our men-at-arms, excepting what he may leave for the defence of

« PreviousContinue »