“This news, I suppose, is intended for our ears by the Duke of Styria. He probably wishes us to know that he is against us,” said Charles. “He wanted our daughter for his clown of a son, and our contempt for his claims rankles in his heart. He cannot inflame Wuertemberg, and Wuertemberg cannot influence the other German princes.”
The duke paused, and Campo-Basso proceeded:—
“The citizens of Ghent, my lord, petition Your Grace for the restoration of certain communal rights, and beg for the abolition of the hearth tax and the salt levy. They also desire the right to elect their own burgomaster and—”
“Give me the petition,” demanded the duke. Campo-Basso handed the parchment to Charles, and he tore it to shreds.
“Send these to the dogs of Ghent, and tell them that for every scrap of parchment I’ll take a score of heads when I return from Switzerland.”
“We hear also, my lord,” said the Italian, “that King Edward of England is marshalling an army, presumably for the invasion of France and, because of the close union that is soon to be between King Louis and Burgundy, I have thought proper to lay the news before Your Grace.”
“Edward wants more of King Louis’ gold,” answered Charles. “We’ll let him get it. We care not how much he has from this crafty miser of the Seine. Louis will buy the English ministers, and the army will suddenly vanish. When King Edward grows scarce of gold, he musters an army, or pretends to do so, and Louis fills the English coffers. The French king would buy an apostle, or the devil, and would sell his soul to either to serve a purpose. Have you more in your budget, Sir Count?”
“I have delivered all, I believe, my lord,” answered Campo-Basso.
“It might have been worse,” said the duke, rising to quit his throne.
“One moment, my lord! There is another matter to which I wish to call Your Grace’s attention before you rise,” said the count. “I have for your signature the warrants for the execution of the Swiss spies, who, Your Highness may remember, were entrapped and arrested by the watchfulness of Your Grace’s faithful servant, the noble Count Calli.”
“Give me the warrant,” said the duke, “and let the execution take place at once.”
Hymbercourt had been standing in the back part of the room, paying little attention to the proceedings, but the mention of Calli’s name in connection with the Swiss spies quickly roused him, and he hurriedly elbowed his way to the ducal throne. A page was handing Charles a quill and an ink-well when Hymbercourt spoke:—
“My Lord Duke, I beg you not to sign the warrant until I have asked a few questions of my Lord Campo-Basso concerning these alleged spies.”
“Why do you say ‘alleged spies,’ my Lord d’Hymbercourt?” asked the duke. “Do you know anything of them? Are they friends of yours?”
“If they are friends of mine, Your Grace may be sure they are not spies,” answered Hymbercourt. “I am not sure that I know these men, but I fear a mistake has been made.”