Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Albigentes, or Albigeois, a sect in the south of France, whose principles resembled those of the ancient Manicheans and Paulicians, at least so said the Monkish writers of that day,—who believed the universe to be governed by two Spirits, equal in power, but differing in the use they made of it, was, most surely, not well calculated to do him service in the opinion of those before whom he spoke, who all held such tenets in utter abhorrence and execration.

Besides this, their first amazement and dismay at his bold intrusion, having, in great measure, subsided, they began to feel that they made but a sorry figure in suffering their sovereign to be thus insulted in their presence, and when Robert pronounced the words,—"Fools force weakness, &c."- as by a simultaneous movement they all arose,--twelve or fifteen hands grasped as many swords,-yet Robert still remained seated; scarce a muscle of his countenance was altered ;-he waved his hand,

“ Peace !"

Peace was.- Each blade remained half drawn and suspended within its scabbard, until its

owner, slowly returning it to its place, resumed his own.

A dead silence followed, and Robert was quietly allowed to finish the sentence he had begun. The great Lord Chesterfield was right in saying that every assembly, however composed, is but a mob, liable to be turned from its strongest purposes by the slightest effort. The difficulty consists in finding out what effort is necessary.

Yet Philip, ashamed of his humiliating position, and of thus tamely suffering himself to be called to task, essayed to resume that authoritative tone of voice and dignified demeanour, which were habitual to him, but which he seemed to have lost since d'Artois' entrance. At the same time, he appeared desirous of not pushing matters to an extremity, of which he could not guess the worst consequences. He answered firmly and without fear, but at first with gentleness.

“My lord of Artois ! your menial hath but undergone that extreme question which it is customary to put, when suspicion rests upon the lord. I have already told you this, and have now nought more to add.”

“Suspicion !" His lip curled with disdainful anger, but he smoothed it. “My Lord, you must reverse all this ! You must publicly assert your disbelief of that which you do secretly believe untrue. Your Grace hath been the dupe of some designing knave. That poor woman bleeds for an uncommitted crime.”

I reverse it! I disbelieve! I publicly assert this I cannot-I will not. Should I do so, would my disbelief make others disbelieve ?”

“Ay! my lord, that will it. The craven crew which fawns around your Grace"

“ Leave us, sir, instantly!" said the King, now losing all patience, and with it all prudence too. “I blush to call you relative. Go: I discard you from my counsels-my heart, and your employs. Give up your baston, sir,- Begone !"

Robert loosed the baston from a chain which slung it to his side, and, leaning forward, placed it on the table, but remained seated.

“ Begone !-whither?” - What care we whither, so't be from out our presence. To the Duke of Brabant's court, an so it please you. To the Sire of Hainault's, if you will,—to Edward's, if it like you better.”

“ Pause, my lord! my once loved Liege.Pause-pause, oh pause! I do entreat it, supplicate it of your Grace,” replied Robert, whilst clenching the brackets of his seat in a violently agitated manner, till he had well nigh crushed them.“Recall the words which last fell from you, so unguardedly-think of the ill which may ensue from them. Hear me! My hand hath holp your Grace to that high eminence which maketh you my judge. I have done your Grace good service in the field,—the field of Cassel and elsewhere. I have done your Grace, and your Grace's realm, good service oft in council. Hear me !-I have lived, 'tis nigh on thirty years, a comrade to your Grace; first on a footing of near equality—then in the condition of a vassal; always on terms of friendship. Hear me!-I have espoused your Grace's sister, that sister is now seven months gone in child-bearing. Listen to me!- In the powerful name of all these claims upon your love,-ay! in the name of her who is so lief to me, that were she not, the world and all which it contains, would be as nought to me,-in the name of Jeanne of Valois do I beg, entreat-do I demand attention. I am innocent of the imputed charge. I have not fouled the name of Artois, nor the blood of my royal ancestor, with this graceless deed. Raise not Despair-he is a ruthless demon, piercing with iron fangs !-within my bosom. Oh do not thisurge me not thus, by unjust acts, to acts of which, in calm and temperate moments, I should tremble but to think me capable.

“My Lord,” he said, suddenly checking the volubility with which he had uttered the last sentences, and then continuing in the slow voice of assumed calmness: “ Reverse all this! your Grace may do it-he hath authority. Let that poor creature, whom the rack hath tortured into crime, be granted some few days in order to recruit her broken strength, and wasted spirits. Be she then with me confronted - I will question, her and this false" witness, in the presence of your Grace. If still she shall persist in this sad story, I will submit me to dishonor. But she will not.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »