When Quentin Durward, a young Scottish gentleman, approaches the ford of a small river near the castle of Plessisles-Tours, in France, he finds the river in flood. Two people watch him from the opposite bank. They are King Louis XI in his common disguise of Maître Pierre, a merchant, and Tristan l’Hermite, marshal of France. Quentin enters the flood and nearly drowns. Arriving on the other side and mistaking the king and his companion for a burgher and a butcher, he threatens the two with a drubbing because they did not warn him of the deep ford. Amused by Quentin’s spirit and daring, Maître Pierre takes him to breakfast at a nearby inn to make amends. At the inn, Quentin meets a beautiful young peasant, Jacqueline, who actually is Isabelle, the countess of Croye. Quentin tries to learn why the merchant Maître Pierre acts so much like a noble. He sees many other things as well that arouse his curiosity but for which he finds no explanation.
Shortly afterward, Quentin meets Ludovic Lesly, known as Le Balafré, his maternal uncle, who is a member of King Louis’s Scottish Archers. Le Balafré is exceedingly surprised to learn that Quentin can read and write, something that no other Durward or Lesly before him has been able to do.
Later, Quentin discovers the body of a man hanging from a tree. When he cuts the body down, he is seized by two officers of Tristan l’Hermite. They are about to hang Quentin for his deed when he asks of the crowd that has gathered if there is a good Christian among them who will inform Le Balafré of what is taking place. A Scottish Archer hears him and cuts his bonds. While Quentin and the man prepare to defend themselves from the mob, Le Balafré rides up with some of his men and takes command of the situation, haughtily insisting that Quentin is a member of the Scottish Archers and beyond the reach of the marshal’s men. Quentin has not joined the guards as yet, but the lie saves his life. Le Balafré takes Quentin to see Lord Crawford, the commander of the guards, to enroll him. When the Scottish Archers are summoned to the royal presence, Quentin is amazed to see that Maître Pierre is King Louis.
Count Philip de Crèvecur arrives at the castle to demand an audience with the king in the name of his master, the duke of Burgundy. When the king admits Crèvecur, the messenger presents a list of wrongs and oppressions committed on the frontier for which the duke of Burgundy demands redress. The duke also requests that Louis cease his secret and underhanded dealings in the towns of Ghent, Liège, and Malines. Further, he requests that the king send back to Burgundy, under safeguard, the person of Isabelle, the countess of Croye; Isabelle is the duke’s ward, and the duke accuses the king of harboring her in secret. Dissatisfied with the king’s replies to these demands, Crèvecur throws his gauntlet to the floor of the hall. Several of the king’s attendants rush to pick it up and to accept the challenge it represents, but the king orders the bishop of Auxerre to lift the gauntlet and to remonstrate with Crèvecur for thus declaring war between Burgundy and France. The king and his courtiers then leave to hunt wild boar.
During the hunt, Quentin Durward saves the king’s life by spearing a wild boar after Louis has slipped and fallen before the infuriated beast. The king decides to reward Quentin with a special mission: He...
(The entire section is 1391 words.)