Part 2 out of 6
him. A brave prince should not fear to be called a coward because of an
act that will bring peace and happiness to his subjects and save their
lives, their liberties, and their estates. That great end will ennoble
any means. The subjects of Burgundy are frugal and peace-loving. They
should be protected from the cruel cost of useless war. I would not
criticise Duke Charles, whose bravery is beyond compare, but for the
sake of his people I could wish that his boldness were tempered with
caution. Policy, not blows, appears to me the only way out of his
present and imminent danger."
"Perhaps you are right, Sir Karl," answered Yolanda, "but I advise you
to keep your views to yourself when you reach Burgundy. Should they come
to the duke's ears, you might lose yours."
"Indeed, Fraeulein, your warning is unnecessary," I responded laughingly.
"I already know the disposition of the duke toward those who disagree
with him. His ungovernable passions will surely lead him to a terrible
end. Bravery, if wise, is one of the noblest attributes of men. The
lack of wisdom makes it the most dangerous. Duke Charles ought to temper
his courage with love for his people. He should fight, when he must,
with wise bravery. If he should die, God pity the poor people of
Burgundy unless their princess choose a husband both wise and brave."
"But she will not be allowed to choose," cried Yolanda, passionately.
"Her freedom is less than that of any serf. She is bound hand and foot
by the chains of her birth. She is more to be pitied than the poorest
maiden in Burgundy. The saddest of all captives is she who is chained to
"That surely is the bitterest draught fate offers to mortal man," sighed
"Yes," whispered Yolanda, huskily. "One cannot rebel; one may not even
kill one's self when one is condemned to live. One can do nothing but
endure and wait in haunting fear and, in rare moments, hope against a
Evidently she meant us to know that she sorrowed for Max's martyrdom,
though how she had learned of his true station in life I could
"It is strange," said I to Castleman, when Yolanda and Twonette had left
us, "that Fraeulein Yolanda, who seems to be all laughter and
thoughtlessness, should be so well informed upon the affairs of princes
and princesses, and should take this public matter so much to heart."
"Yes, she is a strange, unfortunate girl," answered Castleman, "and
truly loves her native land. She would, I believe, be another Joan of
Arc, had she the opportunity. She and her father do not at all agree. He
wholly fails to comprehend her."
"Is her father your brother?" I asked. I felt a sense of impertinence in
putting the question, but my curiosity was irresistible.
"Yes," answered Castleman, hesitatingly; then, as if hurrying from the
subject, he continued, "Her mother is dead, and the girl lives chiefly
under my roof."
I wanted to ask other questions concerning Yolanda, but I kept silent. I
had begun to suspect that she was not what she passed for--a burgher
girl; but Castleman was a straightforward, truthful man, and his words
satisfied me. I had, at any rate, to be content with them, since
Yolanda's affairs were none of mine. Had I not been sure that Max's
training and inheritance gave him a shield against her darts, she and
her affairs would have given me deep concern. At that time I had all the
match-making impulses of an old woman, and was determined that no woman
should step between Max and the far-off, almost impossible Princess
When we resumed our journey the next morning Yolanda was demure, grave,
and serious; but the bright sun soon had its way with her, and within a
half-hour after leaving the village she was riding beside Max, laughing,
singing, and flashing her eyes upon him with a lustre that dimmed the
sun--at least, so Max thought, and probably he was right. That evening
Max told me much of Yolanda's conversation.
The road we were travelling clung to the Rhine for several leagues. In
many places it was cut from the bank at the water's edge. At others it
ran along the brink of beetling precipices. At one of these Max guided
his horse close to the brink, and, leaning over in his saddle, looked
down the dizzy heights to the river below.
"Please do not ride so near the brink, Sir Max," pleaded Yolanda. "It
Max had little of the braggadocio spirit about him, but no rightly
constituted young man is entirely devoid of the desire to "show off" in
the presence of timid and interesting ladies. Without that spirit of
"show-off," what would induce our knights to meet in glorious
tournaments? Without it, what would our chivalry amount to? Without it,
why should a peacock spread its tail? I do not belittle it, since from
this spirit of "show-off" arises one great good--respect for the opinion
of our fellow-man. So Max, with a dash of "show-off" in his disposition,
laughed at Yolanda's fears and answered that he was in no danger.
"It is very brave in you, Sir Max, to go so near the brink," said
Yolanda, ironically, "but do you remember what Sir Karl said concerning
'wise bravery'? There can be no need for your bravery, and therefore no
wisdom in it. Were there good reason why you should go near the brink, I
should despise you if you refused; but there is no reason and, since it
frightens me, I wish you would remain in the road."
"Gladly I will," answered Max, reining his horse beside her.
"Do you know," said Yolanda, with as much seriousness as she could
easily command, "that your friend, Sir Karl, is a philosopher? His
phrase, 'wise bravery,' clings to me. I certainly wish the Duke of
Burgundy would learn it and take it to heart."
"I have heard many conflicting stories concerning this Duke Charles,"
said Max. "Some persons say he is all that is brave and noble; others
declare that he is fierce, passionate, and bad. I wonder which I shall
find him to be?"
"Do you expect to take service with him?" asked Yolanda, half sadly. At
the mention of the duke's name all smiles and dimples fled
"No," answered Max, "I think I shall not take service with the duke. In
truth, I don't know what I shall do. For what purpose I am going to
Burgundy I am sure I cannot say."
A short silence ensued, which was broken by Yolanda, speaking archly:--
"Perhaps you are going to Burgundy or to France to win the lady who gave
you the ring?" Max was surprised, and flushed as he answered:--
"That would be an impossible thought, Fraeulein. If you but knew who the
lady is, you would understand that such a hope on my part were a
phantasy. But I have no such hope or wish. I do not now want to win the
lady of the ring."
"No, no, Sir Max," said Yolanda, protestingly, "you must not basely
desert this lady-love whom you have never seen. If trouble should come
to her, whoever she is, you must hasten to her rescue and carry her
away. The best opportunity to rob, you know, comes in the midst of a
melee. Take her, Sir Max. I wish you success."
"Do you really wish me success, Fraeulein?" asked Max, looking straight
ahead. He was not at all flattered by her good wishes concerning the
lady of the ring.
"Indeed I do," responded the girl, joyously; "I will pray to the Virgin
and ask her to help you to win this fair lady who gave you the ring."
"I thank you for your good wishes," returned Max, "though I could easily
be satisfied with less enthusiasm on the subject."
"Indeed? Why, may I ask?"
"Because, Fraeulein--because I had hoped--" Max ceased speaking, and,
leaning forward, smoothed his horse's mane.
Yolanda waited for a moment and then, turning her face toward Max,
"You had hoped for what, Sir Max?"
"I had hoped for nothing, Fraeulein," he answered. "I am satisfied as
matters now stand between us. Your words at supper last evening rang in
my ears all night, 'Chained to a throne; chained to a throne.' I knew
you referred to my unhappy lot when you spoke, though how you guessed
the truth concerning my station I do not know."
A surprised little smile spread over her face, but he did not see it. He
was still smoothing his horse's mane.
"You cannot know the terrible truth of your words," continued Max. "I
will tell you a part of my secret, Fraeulein. All my life I have been cut
off--chained to a throne--from the fellowship of men and the love of
friends. Karl is the only friend I have ever known save my mother until
I met you and your good people. Only the good God can know how I have
longed and hungered since childhood for friendship; even for
companionship. I did not know what I yearned for until since my arrival
at Basel. Truly it is not good for man to be alone, even though he be
upon a throne. I am not upon a throne, Fraeulein, but I am near one--a
small, barren throne, whose greatest attribute is its ancestry. My home
is a sad, lonely place--how lonely even you, who have guessed so
shrewdly and who speak so eloquently, cannot know. You should thank God
for your lowly birth and your lowly friends."
"I do," the girl answered, with a queer, half-sad, half-amused
expression upon her face which Max could not interpret.
"But we cannot break the chains that have been welded a thousand
years--that have grown stronger and tighter with each generation," said
Max. "You truthfully said, 'One may only endure.'"
"I also said that at rare moments one may hope," she answered, with
"Not I, Fraeulein. I may not even hope. I am doomed," answered Max.
"No, no, Sir Max," responded the drooping head.
After a prolonged silence Max said, "I am sure the secret of my station
is safe with you."
"You need not doubt, Sir Max," she responded. "You cannot know how safe
it is." She turned brightly upon him and continued, "Let me invoke my
spirits, Sir Max." She raised her eyes, saint-fashion, toward heaven,
and spoke under her breath: "I hear the word 'hope,' Sir Max, 'hope.' It
is very faint, but better faint than not at all."
"I tell you there is no hope for me, Fraeulein," responded Max,
desperately. "It is cruel in you to say there is. It is doubly cruel to
"I speak earnestly," said Yolanda. "There is hope. If you win the lady
who gave you the ring, you will be happy. I do not jest."
"You do. You mock me," cried Max. "I tell you, Yolanda, there is in all
the world no woman for me save--save one upon whom I may not think."
Yolanda's face grew radiant, though tears moistened her eyes. "Even
though it were possible for me to defy my parents, to turn my face
against my country, my people, and the sacred traditions of my house, by
asking her to share my life, there could be only wretchedness ahead for
her, and therefore unhappiness for me. The dove and the eagle may not
mate. Consider the fate of sweet Agnes Bernauer, who married Duke Albert
and perished in the Danube. I tell you, Fraeulein, I am hopeless. When I
return to my people, I shall do so knowing that life thereafter will be
something to endure, not a blessing to thank God for."
"No, no, Sir Max," murmured the girl, "you do not know."
Max turned upon her almost angrily:--
"A man knows when he lives; a man knows when he is dying, and a man, if
he be worthy of the name, knows when he loves a woman. I am not sure
that the sun shines, Fraeulein, than I am that I shall not forget this
woman nor cease to sorrow for her all the days of my life."
"You must not speak such words to me, Sir Max," said Yolanda,
reprovingly. "I, too, must live and be happy if--if I can."
She turned her face away from Max and, touching her horse with her whip,
passed a few feet ahead of him. If there were tears in her eyes, she did
not wish Max to see them. After several minutes of silence he spurred
his horse to her side.
"I did not intend to speak, Fraeulein. I once said I would never speak
again. I should not have spoken now, though I have told you only what
you already know. I ask no favor in return, not even a touch from
"You shall have that at least, Sir Max," she answered, impulsively
reining her horse close to Max and placing her hand in his.
"Still, you wish me to win the lady who sent me the ring?" asked Max.
"Yes," returned Yolanda, softly. "It will mean your happiness and
mine--" Suddenly checking herself, she explained: "I shall be happy if
you are. A man cannot know how happy a woman may be for another's sake."
I felt no desire to reprove Max when he told me of his day's adventure
with Yolanda, since I could in no way remedy the evil. In fact, Max was
growing out of my jurisdiction. He had listened to my lectures and
advice since childhood and had taken them kindly, because my authority
grew out of my love for him and his love for me. He was a boy when we
left Styria, but he was a man when we were journeying down the Rhine.
Though the confidential relations between us had grown closer, my advice
was gradually taking the form of consultation. I did not seek his
confidences, and he gave them more freely, if that were possible, than
ever before. I did not offer my advice so readily, but he sought it more
frequently. Max told me the sorrowful little story of the day, and I did
not comment on it. I simply led him in another direction.
"Fraeulein Yolanda's words have given me food for thought," I said. "So
long as Duke Charles lives, there can be no union between Burgundy and
Hapsburg; but at the pace he is travelling he will surely receive his
_coup de grace_ before long, and I hope you will meet and know the
princess before the tragedy occurs. Then declare yourself and back your
claim with the duke's proposal, which has never been withdrawn. That the
people of Burgundy hate France and this French marriage there can be no
doubt. They are fools for so doing, but we may easily profit by their
lack of wisdom. In the event of the duke's death the inclinations of the
princess will be half the battle. So long as he lives they are no part
of it. If, by the help of Twonette, you should be so fortunate as to
meet the princess, our dream may be realized, and our house may become
the greatest in Europe."
"I suppose you are right, Karl," answered Max. "You are always right;
but I have no heart in this matter, and I hope nothing will come of it.
I have never known you to be so cold-blooded as in this affair."
"If you are to be hot-blooded, or even warm-blooded, you must turn your
back on your house and cast from you the duties and privileges of your
birth," I observed.
"You are right," he answered irritably. "But it will be difficult for me
to please one woman while thinking of another. Ah, Karl, I am growing
tired of this Burgundian dream. Dream? It is almost a nightmare."
Max's words did not alarm me; he was "chained to a throne." He would not
fail me if the hour of good fortune should come.
"Your thoughts of another woman will not stand in your way," I said.
"Experience is more necessary in dealing with women than in any other of
life's affairs, and this episode with Yolanda is what you need to
prepare you for--for what I pray you may have to do."
"Karl, please do not talk of this--this--my feeling for Yolanda as an
episode," he said, speaking almost angrily. "It is a part of my life,
and will be my sorrow as long as I live."
The boy's anger warned me that if I would lead him, I must do it gently.
"I believe, Max, you speak truly," I said; "but it will not be an
unmixed evil. Good will come of it, since the image of a pure woman
injures no man's heart. It keeps him in the narrow way and guides his
hand for righteousness."
WHO IS YOLANDA?
Next morning Yolanda came to breakfast smiling, bedimpled, and sparkling
as a sunlit mountain brook. Max, who was gloomy, took her sprightliness
amiss, thinking, no doubt, that her life also ought to be darkened by
the cloud that he thought was over-shadowing him. There was no doubt in
my mind that Yolanda had inspired a deep and lasting passion in Max,
though he was, I hoped, mistaken in the belief that it would darken his
life. But I would not give a kreutzer for a young fellow who does not
feel that life is worthless without his lady-love.
Yolanda did not take kindly to clouds of any sort, and she soon
scattered those that Max had conjured up. After we had resumed our
journey Max fell back to ride with her.
"Sir Max," she said, "if you allow yourself to become The Knight
Doleful, I will not only cease having speech with you, but I will
laugh at you."
The latter she did then and there. This from a burgher girl of Peronne
to a prince of the House of Hapsburg! The good duke and duchess would
have swooned with horror had they known of it. Max was inclined to be
angry, but, unfortunately for his ill-humor, he caught a glimpse of her
face, and he, too, laughed.
"I fear I am a great fool," he said. Yolanda did not contradict him. She
simply shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "That unfortunate condition
is apt, at times, to overtake the best of men."
Soon our little cavalcade came together, and we rode, laughing, and all
talking at once, for a league or more.
Our road had parted from the river at one of its great bends, and for an
hour we had been slowly climbing a long hill. When we reached the top,
we unsaddled for dinner in the shade of a tree by the wayside. A hundred
yards from the road was a dense copse of undergrowth and bushes on the
edge of the forest. Off to the east flowed the majestic Rhine, a league
distant, and to the north ran the road like a white ribbon, stretching
downhill to the valley and up again to the top of another hill, distant
perhaps a half-league.
While we were eating dinner, a cloud of dust arose from the hilltop
north of us, and immediately began descending in our direction. At
intervals, in the midst of the dust-cloud, we caught glimpses of men on
horseback riding at full gallop. This unwelcome sight brought our dinner
to an end. I at once ordered the sumpter mules taken to the copse on
the forest's edge, and directed every man to look to his arms and armor.
I asked Twonette and Yolanda to go with the mules, and Yolanda
"_I_ go with the mules? Sir Karl, you forget yourself," cried the young
lady, drawing herself up with the dignity of a princess royal. Twonette
ran as rapidly as her feet could take her to seek refuge with the mules,
but Yolanda, with flashing eyes, declared:
"I will remain here."
I felt that an apology was due to this burgher girl.
"I will gladly apologize later, Fraeulein, but now I have only time to
beg that you will conceal yourself. These men probably are robbers. If
they see you, we shall be compelled to fight them, however great their
numbers. If we find their force too large for us, we may easily ransom
the mules and their packs, but we could make no terms for you. If they
are Black Riders, they will prefer a little gold to a great deal of
silk, but they will prefer you and Fraeulein Twonette to a great deal
"I would not pay them one piece of gold," cried Yolanda, defiantly.
"Give me an arquebuse. I will help you fight."
The brave little heroine astonished me.
"Would you prefer that Max or your good uncle and perhaps some of our
poor mule-leaders should be killed by these pigstickers," I asked, "or
would you compound with them in some reasonable way? Shall we
"No, no," she answered, "wise bravery is better. I suppose I shall learn
the lesson some day."
While the troop of horsemen were under the crest of the hill, Yolanda
ran across the open to a place of concealment beside Twonette. Hardly
was she hidden when the dust-cloud rose from the brink of the hill, and
five men, well though roughly armed, galloped up to us and drew their
horses back upon their haunches.
"What have we here?" demanded the captain, a huge German. Their grimy
armor and bearded faces besmeared with black marked them as Black
Riders. I was overjoyed to see that they numbered but five.
"What is that to you?" I asked, putting on a bold front, though I feared
our mule-leaders would make but a sorry fight should we come to blows.
"That depends on what you have," responded our swart friend, coolly.
"Whatever you have, so much it is to us."
"What will you take in gold, my good man, and let us go our way in peace
with our cargo of silks?" asked Castleman.
"By your leave, friend," said I, interrupting the negotiations, "I am
in command when fighting is to be done. Let me settle with this fellow."
"Settle now, if you are so keen," cried the big German, drawing his
sword and spurring his horse upon me. I could not have withstood the
unexpected onrush, and certainly would have met with hard blows or
worse, had not Max come to my rescue. I hurriedly stepped back, and the
German, in following me, rode near a large stone by the roadside. He
had, doubtless, passed the stone many times in his travels up and down
the road, but the thought probably had never occurred to him that it
would be the cause of his death. The most potential facts in our lives
are usually too insignificant to attract attention.
When the German charged me, Max sprang upon the stone and dealt the
swart ruffian a blow such as no man may survive. Max's great battle-axe
crushed the Black Eider's helmet as if it were an egg-shell, and the
captain of our foes fell backward, hanging by his stirrups. One of our
squires shot one of the robbers, and the remaining three took flight.
Max caught the captain's horse, and coolly extricated the dead man's
feet from the stirrups. Then he thrust the body to the roadside with the
indifference of a man whose life has been spent in slaughter. Among his
many inheritances, Max probably had taken this indifference, together
with his instinctive love of battle. He was not quarrelsome, but he
took to a fight as naturally as a duck takes to water.
When the robbers had left, Yolanda came running from her hiding-place.
She was not frightened; she was aglow with excitement. She, too, must
have inherited the love of battle. Twonette was trembling with fear.
"Ah, Sir Max, it was beautifully done," said Yolanda. "You sprang upon
the rock with the quickness of a panther, and the blow was dealt with
the strength of a lion. I saw it all. When your battle-axe rose above
the robber's head, death was written on the steel. It was beautiful to
see you kill him, Sir Max. Strength is always beautiful in the eyes of a
woman, but it is doubly so when used in her defence and linked with
'wise bravery.' I thank you, Sir Karl, for teaching me that word. Sir
Max, I--I cannot thank you now."
She stopped speaking and covered her face with her hands. In a moment
she partly recovered composure and smiled her gratitude through a little
shower of tears. Max was, of course, aglow with pleasure at Yolanda's
praise, but he bore his honors meekly. He did not look upon his
tremendous feat of arms as of much importance.
Fearing the return of the Schwartreiter with reenforcements, we lost no
time in resuming our journey, Max and Yolanda quickly finished their
dinner, but Castleman, Twonette, and myself did not care to eat.
Within ten minutes after Max had killed the captain of the Black Riders
we were on our road travelling downhill, very joyful in our victory and
very proud of our knight, Sir Max. We left the dead men by the roadside,
but took with us two fine horses as compensation for our trouble. The
captain's great charger Max appropriated for his own. He will appear
again in this chronicle.
We rode silently but joyfully. Twonette slowly recovered from her
fright, and the pink crept back to her cheeks. The pink had not left
Yolanda's cheeks, nor had her nerves been disturbed by the adventures of
the morning. Max tried hard to suppress his exuberance of spirit, and
Yolanda laved him in the sunshine of her smiles.
Within three hours we were safely housed at a village by the Rhine.
Castleman, finding me alone, said:--
"You, Sir Karl, and Sir Max little know the value of the friend you have
made this day."
"I thank you, good Castleman," I answered, hardly liking so great an air
of condescension on the part of a burgher. An afterthought suggested
that perhaps Castleman had not referred to himself as the friend we had
made. Strange thoughts and speculations had of late been swarming in my
mind until they had almost taken the form of a refrain, "Who is
Yolanda?" Though the question repeated itself constantly by day and by
night, I received no whisper of an answer.
We travelled slowly, and it was not until the second day after our
conflict with the Black Riders that we found ourselves near Strasburg. A
league from the city gates we met Raoul de Rose, a herald of the Duke of
Burgundy. Yolanda recognized his banner at a distance and hastily veiled
herself. Twonette remained unveiled.
We halted, and De Rose, who was travelling alone, safe under a herald's
privileges, drew rein beside Castleman and me, who had been riding in
advance of our cavalcade. While Castleman was talking to De Rose,
Yolanda and Twonette rode forward, passing on that side of the highway
which left Castleman and me between them and the herald.
"Ah, good Castleman," said De Rose, "you are far from home these
"Your words imply bad news, monsieur," returned Castleman. "I have
already heard hints of trouble, though all was quiet when I
"When did you leave?" asked the herald.
"More than two months ago," answered Castleman.
"With our rapidly moving duke, two months is ample time to make a deal
of trouble, to gain victories, and to compel peace among his
quarrelsome neighbors," answered De Rose. "It is publicly known that I
carry defiance to the Swiss. They cannot comply with Burgundy's terms,
and war will surely follow. Our duke will teach these Swiss sheep to
stop bleating, and when this war is finished, the dominion of Burgundy
will include the Alps. Duke Charles will have fresh ice for his dinner
every day--ice from the mountain tops."
"That is all he will get from the barren Swiss land, I fear," remarked
"But if he wants it?" answered De Rose, shrugging his shoulders.
"Yes," returned Castleman, "if the duke wants it, God give it him; but I
am sorry to see war with so peaceful a people as the Swiss."
"There are many persons in Burgundy foolish enough to agree with you,"
answered De Rose, laughingly, "but for my part, the will of my master
is my will."
"Amen!" said the cautious burgher.
De Rose smiled, and said:--
"There is but one will in Burgundy, and that will be done."
"Where is the duke?" asked Castleman.
"He is at home in Ghent," answered the herald.
"Is he to remain there?" asked the burgher, displaying a sudden
"I believe he goes soon to Peronne to look after his affairs, on the
French border, and to see the duchess and the princess before leaving
for Switzerland. It is also publicly known that the duke, while at
Peronne, intends to arrange for the immediate marriage of the princess
to the Dauphin. He wishes to tie the hands of King Louis before making
war elsewhere, and he is going to Peronne to cause this marriage to be
celebrated before he leaves Burgundy."
"Sacred God!" exclaimed the usually phlegmatic burgher. "We must hasten
home. Farewell, Monsieur de Rose. Your news indeed is bad--your news
Castleman urged "Last Week" to an unwonted pace, and drew rein beside
Yolanda. I followed slowly, and unintentionally overhead him say:--
"Your father will soon be in Peronne. The duke leaves Ghent within a day
"Holy Virgin!" cried Yolanda, excitedly. "We must make all haste, good
uncle. Hereafter we must travel night and day. We must double our
retinue at Strasburg and hasten forward regardless of danger and
fatigue. I wish we were across Lorraine and well out of Metz. If this
war begins, Lorraine will surely turn upon Burgundy."
"I begged you not to come upon this journey," said Castleman,
"I know you did, uncle," returned Yolanda, repentantly.
"But you would come," continued Castleman, determined to give vent to
his feelings. "I could not dissuade you, and now if the duke leaves
Ghent--if your father reaches Peronne--before we return, God help
"Yes, dear uncle," said Yolanda, humbly; "as usual, I was at fault. I
have been a source of trouble and danger to you nearly all my life, and
you, of all persons in the world, I would make happy."
I was riding ten paces behind Castleman, but the wind came toward me,
and I was an involuntary listener. What I had heard was of such
tremendous import to Max that I could not bring myself to rein back my
horse, though I despised myself for listening. I believe that moment
was, of all my life, the greatest test of my love for Max. No less a
motive could have induced me to become an eavesdropper. Castleman was
silent for a short time, and then I heard him say:--
"You have also brought me happiness, Yolanda, and I shall be wretched
when your father takes you from me. Twonette is not dearer to me than
you. Whatever befalls, I shall still thank God for the happiness He has
given me in you."
"Ah, uncle, your kind words almost break my heart," said Yolanda,
placing her kerchief to her eyes. "I wish you would not forgive me for
having brought you into this hard case. I wish you would upbraid me. I
will pray to the Blessed Virgin night and day to protect you from this
trouble my wilfulness has brought upon you. Never again will I be
wilful, dear uncle, never again--with you. At Strasburg I will make an
offering to the Virgin."
"Make her an offering of this young man on whom you are smiling,"
suggested Castleman. "I would have left him at Basel but for your
wilfulness and entreaties. We know nothing of him save that he is big,
honest, brave, gentle, and good to look upon. I have already warned you
against the great favor you show him. I shall not do so again. I advise
that we leave him at Metz."
"I will do as you advise," said Yolanda, mournfully. "I will offer even
this, my first great happiness, to the Virgin. Surely it will
This conversation almost deprived me of the power to think. In a dimly
conscious fashion, I wondered whether Castleman could possibly have
meant the Duke of Burgundy when he told Yolanda that her father would
soon be at Peronne. I could find no other meaning for his words, and I
was almost ready to believe that the brown-eyed, laughing Yolanda was
none other than the far-famed Mary of Burgundy, whose tiny hand was
sought by every nation of Europe having a marriageable king or prince.
Kings in their dotage and princes in their nonage wooed her. Old men
and babes eagerly sought the favor of this young girl, and stood ready
to give their gold, their blood, and the lives of their subjects on even
the shadow of a chance to win her. The battle-field and the bower alike
had been wooing-ground for her smiles. After all this, she had been
affianced to the Dauphin of France, and her father would bring the
marriage about within a few weeks. To this girl I had thought to be
gracious, and had feared that I might be too condescending. I then
realized what a pitiable ass a man may make of himself by giving his
whole time and attention to the task.
Of course I was not sure that Yolanda was the princess. Her father,
spoken of by Castleman, might be, and probably was, a great lord in the
duke's train. Yolanda might be the love-daughter of Charles of Burgundy.
Many explanations might be given to Castleman's remarks; but I could not
help believing that Yolanda was the far-famed Burgundian princess. If
so, what a marvellous romance was this journey that Max and I had
undertaken, and what a fantastic trick fate had played in bringing these
two from the ends of the earth to meet in the quaint old Swiss city. It
seemed almost as if their souls had journeyed toward each other, since
the beginning of time.
That the princess should be abroad with Castleman and his daughter
unattended by even a lady-in-waiting seemed improbable--almost
My wavering mind veered with each moment from the conviction that
Yolanda was the princess to a feeling of certainty that she was not, and
back again. That she was the princess seemed at one moment indubitably
true; the next moment it appeared absurdly impossible. Still,
Castleman's words rang in my ears.
I was glad that Max was riding a hundred yards behind me. My first
determination was that he should know nothing of what I had heard. My
second was that he and I should leave the party at Metz. If I were to
disclose to Max my suspicions concerning Yolanda, I well knew that it
would be beyond my power or that of any man to prevent his journeying
This meeting with the princess far from home, one might suppose, was the
event of all others that I desired, but the situation presented many
points to be considered. If we should conduct Yolanda to Peronne and
should reach that city after the duke's arrival, there would be untold
trouble for us, if (oh, that mighty if!) she were the Princess Mary. I
was thoroughly frightened, since I could not know what trouble I might
bring to Max. We might, with comparative safety, visit Peronne at a
later period; but I sincerely hoped that Yolanda would offer Max to the
Virgin when we reached Metz.
If Yolanda were the princess, and if the duke with his intentions
regarding her immediate marriage, should reach Peronne and find his
daughter absent, his wrath against all concerned would be unappeasable.
If he should learn that she had been absent from Peronne on this
journey, even though she reached home before her father, Castleman would
probably lose his head for the crime of taking her, and all concerned in
the journey might meet with evil fortune. Any of these catastrophes
might occur if she were the princess. If she were not the princess, some
other great catastrophe, hinted by Castleman and dreaded by Yolanda,
might happen; and it is well for disinterested persons to remain away
from the scene of impending trouble.
Aside from all these good reasons for cutting short our journey to
Peronne, was the fact that our motive for going there had ceased to
exist. The princess was soon to become the wife of the Dauphin. If
Yolanda were not the princess, there was still good reason why we should
abandon her at Metz. She was dangerously attractive and was gaining too
great a hold on Max. We were under contract to escort Castleman to
Peronne, and no danger should prevent us from fulfilling our agreement;
but if Castleman should voluntarily release us, our obligation
As we passed under the portcullis at Strasburg, Max spurred his horse
to Yolanda's side. She neither lifted her veil nor gave any sign of
recognition. The news of impending war had been discussed, and Max
supposed Yolanda was frightened. He spoke reassuringly to her, and she
"I thank you, Sir Max, but our danger is greater than you know."
It was four o'clock when we reached Strasburg, where we stopped at The
Cygnet. Soon after we entered the inn, Twonette and Yolanda went forth,
heavily veiled, and walked rapidly in the direction of the cathedral.
Yolanda was going to make her offering to the Virgin of the man she
loved; surely woman could make no greater.
When Yolanda and Twonette had gone, Castleman asked me to assist him in
procuring a score of men-at-arms. They might be needed in crossing
Lorraine from Strasburg to Metz.
"I shall travel night and day till we reach home," said Castleman. "I
have news of war that hastens us, and--and it is most important that
Yolanda should deliver certain papers at the castle before the duke
arrives at Peronne. If she reaches the castle one hour or one minute
after the duke, the results will be evil beyond remedy."
"I sincerely hope there may be no delay," I answered, believing that the
papers were an invention of Castleman's.
"Yes," responded the burgher; "and, Sir Karl, I deem it best for all
concerned that you and Sir Max part company with us at Metz. I thank you
for your services, and hope you will honor us by visiting Peronne at
some future time. But now it is best that you leave us to pursue our
journey without you."
Castleman's suggestion was most welcome to me, and I communicated it to
Max when I returned to the inn. He was sorrowful; but I found that he,
too, felt that he should part from Yolanda.
Castleman and I found the burgomaster, to whom we paid five hundred
guilders (a sum equal to his entire annual salary), and within an hour a
troop of twenty men-at-arms awaited us in the courtyard of The Cygnet.
Castleman barely touched his meat at supper, though he drank two bottles
of Johannesburg; Max ate little, and I had no appetite whatever.
When Yolanda returned, I said:--
"Fraeulein, will you not eat?"
"I do not care to eat," she replied, and I could easily see that she was
struggling to keep back the tears. "Let us resume our journey at once. I
see the men-at-arms are waiting."
Our rare days of sunshine had surely been weather-breeders. We were all
under a dark cloud.
We left Strasburg by the north gate, and, as the city fell back of us,
Max, riding by my side, asked:--
"What is the evil news that has cast this gloom over Yolanda and good
Castleman? If our friends are in danger, I would not leave them at Metz,
and you would not have me do so."
"The evil news grows out of the war," I answered evasively. "I heard
every word spoken by the herald and Castleman. The burgher is wise to
hasten home. If he delays his journey even for a day, he may find
Burgundy--especially Lorraine--swarming with lawless men going to the
various rendezvous. He also tells me he has important papers that must
be delivered in the castle before the duke arrives at Peronne."
"It is strange," said Max, "that news of merely a general nature should
produce so gloomy an effect; but, if you heard all that De Rose said,
that must be the only cause."
"I cannot say," I responded, "what the cause may be. All I know is that
De Rose spoke of the impending war, and said that the duke was hastening
to Peronne for the purpose of consummating the French marriage at once.
There is now no reason why we should journey to Peronne. My air-castles
have crumbled about my ears in fine shape."
"I am not sorry, Karl," replied Max. "During the last fortnight I have
changed. Should my marriage with the princess, by any marvellous
chance, become possible, it would now be wholly for the sake of her
estates, and I despise myself when I try to think that I wish to bring
it about. Ah, Karl, it is now impossible even to hope for this marriage,
and I tell you I am glad of it. We will see the world, then we will
return to Styria; and I shall thank you all my life for having made a
man of me."
DUKE CHARLES THE BASH
Our caravan travelled with the mournfulness of a funeral procession.
Early in the evening Max spoke to Yolanda:--
"I hear your uncle desires Sir Karl and me to leave you at Metz."
"Yes," she answered dolefully, hanging her head, "we part at Metz. I
shall see you there before I leave, and then--and then--ah, Sir Max, I
was wrong and you were right; there is no hope."
"What of the lady who gave me the ring?" asked Max, in a feeble effort
to banter her.
"She would have made you very happy, Sir Max. Her estates would have
compensated for all losses elsewhere."
"You know, that is not true, Yolanda," said Max, earnestly.
"I am not sure, Sir Max," responded the girl, "and do not wish to be
sure. I will see you at Metz, and there we may part. It is our fate. We
must not be doleful, Sir Max, we must be--we must be--happy and brave."
Her poor little effort to be happy and brave was piteous.
Castleman soon fell back with Yolanda, and Max rode forward beside me.
At midnight we offsaddled by a stream in a forest and allowed our horses
and mules to rest until sunrise. Then we took up our journey again, and
by forced marches reached Metz one morning an hour before dawn. We
waited in a drizzling rain till the gates opened, and, after a long
parley with the warder, entered the city. We were all nearly exhausted,
and our poor mules staggered along the streets hardly able to carry
their burdens another step. Two had fallen a half-league outside of
Metz; and three others fell with their loads within the city gates.
Castleman had determined to stop with a merchant friend, and after what
seemed a long journey from the gates we halted at the merchant's house.
Our host left us in his parlor while he went to arrange for breakfast.
When he had gone Castleman turned to me:--
"You and Sir Max will, if you please, find good lodging at the Great
Tun. My friend will send a man in advance to bespeak your comfort."
Max and I rose to leave, and Yolanda offered him her hand, saying:--
"It may be that we are to part here at Metz, but I will send for you
soon and will see you before we leave, and--and--" She could not speak
further; tears were in her eyes and her voice. It was not so easy after
all to be happy and brave.
"You will not fail to send for me?" asked Max, clinging to her hand.
"I will not fail," she answered, looking up timidly and instantly
dropping her eyes. "Of that you have better assurance than you will
Castleman followed us to the street door and handed me a purse of gold.
"I have expected to part from you here," he said, "and it may be so; but
I fear I shall need your services still further. My mules are unfit to
travel at present; they may never be fit to use; surely not within a
fortnight. I must find other sumpter mules, wait for those I have to
regain their strength, or leave my goods at Metz. My fortune is invested
in these silks, and if I leave them here, I shall never see them again.
In case the Duke of Lorraine succeeds in rallying his subjects against
Burgundy, I shall find it difficult to buy sumpter mules on the eve of
war, and may be compelled to remain in Metz until my own mules are able
to travel. In that event may I depend upon you and Sir Max to escort my
niece and my daughter to Peronne without me?"
I answered promptly, though against my desires:--"You may depend on
At midnight I was aroused by a knock at my door. I arose and admitted
"I will take you at your word, Sir Karl," said the burgher. "I cannot
obtain sumpter mules, and I shall be ruined in fortune if I leave my
silks at Metz. I have had word that the Duke of Burgundy leaves Ghent
the day after to-morrow for Peronne. If he leaves late in the day, you
may, by starting at once, reach Peronne Castle ahead of him. His journey
will be shorter than yours by twenty-five leagues, but you will have a
better road. If you travel with all haste, you may be able to take
Yolanda, with--with the important papers, to the castle a half-day
before my lord arrives there. Are you ready to begin the journey
"We are ready," answered Max.
"I will meet you at the Deutsches Thor Gate within an hour," said
Castleman. "My daughter and my niece will be there. Since you are to
travel rapidly I advise a small retinue. Your squires have proved
themselves worthy men, and I feel sure you will be able to protect
"We'll not boast of what we shall do, good Castleman," said Max, "but
we'll do our best."
"If you reach Peronne after the duke arrives," said Castleman, "I advise
you not to enter the gates of the city, but to leave Burgundy at once
and with all the speed you can make. If you reach Peronne before the
duke, I advise you not to tarry; but if you determine to remain, you
will go to The Mitre--a quiet inn kept by my good friend Marcus Grote. I
strongly advise you not to remain at Peronne; but if you do not see fit
to follow my advice, I hope you will remain close at The Mitre until my
return, which, I trust, will be within three weeks. Danger will attend
you if you do not follow my suggestion. In any case, Sir Max, I hope you
will not visit my house. My words may seem ungracious, but they are for
your good and mine. When I return to Peronne, I shall be happy if you
will honor my poor house; but until my return, untold trouble to many
persons may follow your disregard of what I say."
Castleman then departed, and we immediately arranged for the journey.
Max and I, with our squires, were waiting at the Deutsches Thor Gate
when Castleman arrived with Twonette, Yolanda, and a guide. I knocked at
the door of the lodge to rouse the warder, who, of course, was asleep,
and that alert guardian of a drowsy city came grumbling to the wicket.
"What in the devil's name do you want at this time of night?" he
growled. "The gates won't open till dawn."
"Yes, they will," replied Castleman. "I have the burgomaster's order."
"I open the gates only on an order from the governor of the citadel,"
said the warder.
"I have not that, my good friend," responded Castleman, "but I have a
hundred silver marks in my purse."
"Let me see the burgomaster's order," said the worthy gatekeeper. "I am
always glad to be accommodating."
Castleman handed over the order and the purse, and the warder pretended
to read the paper in the dark.
"I'll open the gate to accommodate you and to please the burgomaster,"
The gates screeched upon their hinges, and every link in the portcullis
chain groaned as if it wished to alarm the city. When the portcullis was
a-block, Max, myself, and the squires mounted our horses. Yolanda leaned
down from her saddle and, placing her arms about Castleman's neck,
kissed him. Twonette followed her example; then our small cavalcade
passed out through the gate, and we entered on our long, hard race with
the Duke of Burgundy.
At dawn Yolanda called me to her side.
"Our guide will conduct us to Cinq Voies on the Somme, eight leagues
this side of Peronne," she said. "There we shall dismiss him. From Cinq
Voies the road is straight to Peronne down the river. Shall we put our
horses to the gallop?"
To her last suggestion I objected:--
"We have no relays. These horses must carry us to Peronne. In Styria we
have an adage, 'If you would gallop on a long journey, walk
"In Styria!" exclaimed Yolanda, laughing. "You told me you were from
"So I am," I replied.
"Now you say _we_ have an adage in Styria," she returned, amused at my
discomfiture. "I hope you have not been wandering from the path of truth
in your long journey, Sir Karl."
"No farther than yourself, Fraeulein," I answered.
A frown came instantly to her face and, after a moment's hesitation, she
"Ah, but I am a woman; I am privileged to wander a little way from the
narrow road. A man may protect himself with his sword and battle-axe,
and need never stray. A woman's defence lies in her wit and her tongue."
The frown deepened, and she turned sharply upon me: "But in what
respect, pray, have I wandered? I have not spoken a word to you which
has not been the exact truth. If I have left anything untold, it is
because I do not wish to tell it, in which case, of course, you would
not wish to pry."
Her audacity amused me, and though I knew I ought to hold my tongue, I
could not resist saying:--
"I have asked no questions, Fraeulein."
Yolanda cast a surprised glance toward me and then broke into a merry
"That is to say _I_ have asked too many questions. Good for you, Sir
Karl! I have had the worst of this encounter. I will ask no more
questions nor give you further cause to wander from the truth. Your
memory, Sir Karl, is poor. 'To be a good liar, one must have a good
memory,' as King Louis of France has said."
"Ask all the questions you wish, Fraeulein," I responded penitently, "I
will answer with the truth."
"There is no need to ask questions," she said, giving me a side glance
full of sauciness. "I already know all that I wish to know."
I could not resist saying:--
"Perhaps, Fraeulein, I know quite as much about you as you know about
"There is little to know about me that is really worth while, but what
little there is I sincerely hope you do not know," she replied half
angrily. "If you do know anything which I have left untold, or if, in
your vanity, you think you have discovered some great mystery concerning
me, I advise you to keep your supposed knowledge to yourself. The day
that I am made sure you know too much, our friendship ceases, and that,
Sir Karl, would give me pain. I hope it would pain you."
I at once began an orderly though hasty retreat.
"I do not know to what you refer concerning yourself," I explained. "All
I know about you is that you are Fraeulein Castleman, and a very charming
person, whom I would have for my friend, if that be possible. I spoke
but jestingly. I have often doubted that you are a burgher maiden, but
there my knowledge ceases; and I am willing that it should so remain
till you see fit to enlighten me."
"There is little knowledge in doubt," said Yolanda, with a nervous
laugh, "though a doubt usually precedes wisdom."
Although I was looking at my horse's ears, I could see the light of her
eyes as she watched me inquiringly. After a long pause she stroked her
horse's mane with her whip, and said, musingly:--
"A man should seek to know only the languages, philosophy, and other
useful learning. Useless knowledge has cost many a man his head."
After a long pause she turned to me with a broad smile:--
"But it is usually not dangerous so long as it does not lodge in the
I replied quickly:--
"Fraeulein, when my tongue makes a fool of me, I pray God I may lose it."
"God save all fools by a like fate," she answered.
I was sure she did not mean to include me in the category of fools.
This conversation revealed to me two facts: first, I learned that by
some means--possibly the ring Max wore--this girl, Yolanda, whoever she
might be, knew Max. Second, I discovered in myself a dangerous
propensity to talk, and of all sure roads to ruin the tongue is the
surest. A man's vanity prompts him to be witty; hatred prompts him to
cut his enemy, and his love of truth often prompts him to speak it at
the wrong time. These three motives combined often prompt him to lose
his head. Max and I were on dangerous ground, and one untimely error
might make it perilous.
We travelled rapidly, and near midnight of the second day out of Metz we
reached Cinq Voies on the Somme. The village, consisting of a large inn,
a church, a priest's house, and a farrier's shop, is situate at the
meeting of five roads, from which the hamlet takes its name. One road
led down from Cambrai and Ghent in the north, one from Liege in the
northeast, and the one over which we had travelled from Metz came out of
the southeast. Two roads led westward to Peronne. One followed the right
bank of the Somme, passed Peronne, and thence on to Amiens. Another road
followed the left bank of the Somme, touched Peronne, and thence ran
southwesterly to Paris.
When we reached Cinq Voies on the Somme--within eight leagues of
Peronne--we halted for supper, very tired and weary. While supper was
preparing, we held a consultation, and determined to rest there for the
night. I advised against this course, believing that the duke would pass
that way on his road from Ghent to Peronne. But Yolanda's sweet face
was pinched by weariness, and Twonette was sound asleep. Our horses, I
feared, might fail, and leave us hopelessly in the lurch. Therefore, I
gave the command to offsaddle, and we halted at the inn for the night.
Our host told me his house was full of guests who had arrived two hours
before, but he found a room for Yolanda and Twonette, and told Max and
me to sleep, if we could, on the tap-room floor. After an hour on the
hard boards I went to the stable, and, rousing a groom, gave him a
silver crown for the privilege of sleeping on a wisp of hay. I fell
asleep at once and must have slept like the dead, for the dawn was
breaking when one of our squires wakened me. I could not believe that I
had been sleeping five minutes, but the dim morning light startled me,
and I ordered the horses saddled.
I hastened to the inn and wakened Max, to whose well-covered bones a
board was as soft as a feather bed. While I was speaking to him, I heard
a noise in an adjoining room and saw the door opening. Max and I barely
escaped through an open arch when a commanding figure clad in light
armor entered the tap-room.
I had not seen Charles of Burgundy since he was a boy--he was then Count
of Charolois--but I at once knew with terrifying certainty that I looked
on the most dreaded man in Europe. He had changed greatly since I last
had seen him. He was then beardless; now he wore a beard that reached
almost to his belt, and I should not have recognized in him the young
Count of Charolois. There was, however, no doubt in my mind concerning
Even had I failed to see the angry scar on his neck, of which I had
often heard, or had I failed to note the lack of upper teeth (a fact
known to all Europe) which gave his face an expression of savagery, I
should have recognized him by his mien. There was not another man like
him in all the world, and I trust there never will be. His face wore an
expression of ferocity that was almost brutal. The passions of anger,
arrogance, and hatred were marked on every feature; but over all there
was the stamp of an almost superhuman strength, the impress of an iron
will, the expression of an exhaustless energy, and the majesty of a
satanic bravery. If Yolanda was the daughter of this terrible man, and
if he should discover that I had her hidden in the room above his head,
I should never eat another breakfast. Truly, Max and I were on
Max remained in concealment, and I climbed the stairs, two steps at a
time, to Yolanda's room. I gently knocked, and received a
"Rise at once," I whispered. "I must speak to you instantly."
"Enter--we are already dressed," answered Yolanda.
When I entered she had risen from the bed and was rubbing her eyes.
"We were so tired we slept in our garments. Don't we show it?" said
Her hands were above her head, vainly endeavoring to arrange her hair,
which had fallen in a great tumble of dark curls over her shoulder. Rest
had flushed her cheeks, and her lips and her eyes were moist with the
dew of sleep. Though my business was urgent I could not resist
"Ah, Fraeulein, you surely are beautiful."
"I thank you, Sir Karl," she answered, flashing a smile upon me. "You
may kiss my hand."
She offered me her hand and asked:--
"But what is your news?"
While she spoke I heard voices and the tramping of hoofs beneath the
window in front of the inn, and turned to look. I quickly drew away from
the window and beckoned Yolanda:--
"Come here, Fraeulein."
She came to my side, and as she looked out upon the road two men emerged
from the inn door. One of them was the Duke of Burgundy. She clutched my
arm and whispered excitedly:--
"Watch them, Sir Karl! Note the road they take! If they go by the right,
we shall take the left. We _must_ reach Peronne Castle before the duke.
Death itself hangs upon the issue, Sir Karl."
I watched till the duke and all his people had left the inn; then I
followed till I saw them take the road leading down the right bank of
the Somme. When I returned to the inn, I paid the score, and gave each
member of our little party a _boule_ of bread to be eaten as we rode;
and within five minutes after the duke's departure we were fording the
Somme to take the left bank for Peronne.
A BACK WITH THE DUKE
Neither road clung to the river in all its windings, but at too frequent
intervals both touched the stream at the same points. At places the
roads hugged the Somme, separated only by its width--perhaps two hundred
yards. These would be our danger points. I did not know them, and
Yolanda's knowledge of the road was imperfect.
Soon after leaving Cinq Voies, the road on the right bank--the one taken
by the duke--gained a mile over the road on the left by cutting across a
great bend in the river around which we had to travel. We therefore lost
the duke's cavalcade at the outset.
Hoping to pass the duke before the roads came again within sight of each
other, we urged our horses to full speed. But the duke also was
travelling rapidly, as we learned when we reached the first point of
contact. Should the duke's men see us they would certainly hail. Four
men in armor and two ladies, travelling the road to Peronne would not be
allowed to pass unchallenged. Fortunately, just before the danger point,
a clump of trees and underbushes grew between our road and the river.
Max, who was riding a hundred yards in advance, suddenly stopped and
held up his hand warningly. We halted immediately, and Max turned back
to us, guiding his horse to the roadside to avoid raising a dust-cloud.
We listened in silence, and I beckoned the squires to our sides. The men
of our little party all dismounted and stood by their horses' heads,
ready to strike the noses of the animals should they offer to salute the
horses across the river with a neigh. Had not our danger been so great
it would have been amusing to see each man, with uplifted hand, watching
the eyes of his horse as intently as though they were the eyes of his
lady-love. Yolanda laughed despite the danger, but covered her mouth
with her hand when I frowned warningly.
Presently we heard the tramping of horses and the voices of men across
the river, and soon the duke approached at a canter. I could not help
speculating on the consequences should His Grace know that Yolanda was
watching him--if Yolanda were his daughter.
That "if" would surely be the death of me.
When the duke had passed a little way down the road, I peered through
the bushes and saw the dust-cloud ahead of us.
We could not venture from our hiding-place till the duke was out of
sight, and by the delay we lost a good half-league in our race. I asked
Yolanda if she knew how far it was to the next point of contact, She did
not know, but I learned from a peasant that the river made a great bend,
and that our road gained nearly a league over the other before each
again touched the river. This was our great chance.
We put our horses to their best; and when we again reached the river,
Max, who was riding in advance, announced that the other cavalcade was
not in sight. If it had passed, our race was lost; if it had not, we
felt that we could easily ride into Peronne ahead of Duke Charles. At
that point the roads followed the river within a stone's throw of each
other for a great distance. If the duke had not reached this point, our
need for haste was greater than ever before. We must be beyond the open
stretch before the other cavalcade should come up to it.
Our poor blown horses were loath to run, but we urged them to it. When
we had covered half this open road, we took to the sod at the roadside
to avoid raising a telltale cloud of dust. After a hard gallop we
reached a forest where the road again left the river. Here we halted to
breathe our horses and to watch the road on the right bank. After ten
minutes we became uneasy and began to fear that the duke's cavalcade had
passed us, but Max insisted that our fears were groundless.
"Their dust could not have settled so quickly," he declared. "We should
see at least traces of it. They cannot have passed."
"One cannot help believing," said Yolanda, musingly, "that there are men
who command the elements. One would almost say they make the rain to
fall or to cease, the wind to rise or to drop, to suit their purposes,
and the dust to lie quietly beneath their horses' feet. I pray God we
may soon know, else I shall surely die of suspense."
"There are also some persons, Fraeulein, whom God answers quickly," said
Max, looking under his hand down the road. "Do you see yonder
dust-cloud? It is a good two miles back of us."
"It may not be the duke," said Yolanda, doubtingly.
"Let us trust it is," said Max, "and lose no more time here."
We watered our horses at a small brook and entered the forest, feeling
that our race was won. The exultation of victory was upon Yolanda, and
her buoyant spirits mounted to the skies. All fear and gloom had left
her. She laughed and sang, and the sunshine of her humor filled all our
hearts with delight. Since leaving Metz we had travelled so rapidly, and
a cloud of uncertainty and fear was so constantly over us, that Yolanda
had spoken little to Max or to any one; but now that victory was in her
grasp, she intended to waste not one moment more in troubled thoughts
and painful fears.
"Ride beside me, Sir Max," she cried, beckoning him as if she were a
great princess and he her page. Max spurred his horse to her side, and
after a moment Twonette fell back with me. I overheard all that was said
between Max and Yolanda, and though I do not pretend to quote
accurately, I will give you the substance of their conversation.
"I cannot help laughing," she said, suiting the action to the word,
"over our tragic parting at Metz. We were separated a whole day!"
"But we supposed it was to be for a very long time," said Max. "We--that
is, I--feared I should never see you again. As it was, the day seemed
long to me, Fraeulein."
The girl laughed joyously. She had, you remember, offered Max to the
Virgin at Strasburg. Perhaps part of her joy was because the Queen of
Heaven had returned him to her.
"I should like to try a separation for many days," she said.
"You will soon have the opportunity," returned Max, with wounded vanity.
She paid no heed to his remark, and continued:--
"The second day would not seem so long to you. The third would be still
shorter, and at the end of a fortnight--nay, at the end of a week--you
would wonder how you were ever brought to fix your eyes on a poor
burgher girl, even for a passing moment--you, a great lord. You see, I
have no vast estates to hold you constant, such as those possessed by
the forward lady who sent you the letter and the ring. Do you know, Sir
Max, if I were very fond of you,--if I were your sweetheart,--I should
be jealous of this brazen lady, very jealous."
There was a glint in her eyes that might have caused one to believe the
jealousy already existed.
"Your raillery ill becomes you," said Max, half sullenly. "If I forget
my rank and hold it of small account for your sake, you should not make
a jest of it."
You see, he had not entirely washed out of himself the ceremonious
starch of Hapsburg.
She glanced quickly toward him and answered poutingly:--
"If you don't like my jesting, Sir Max, you may leave me to ride alone."
"You asked me to ride with you," returned Max, "but if you have changed
your mind and insist on being ill-tempered, I will--"
She reached out her hand, and, grasping his bridle-reins, threw them
over the pommel of her saddle.
"Now let me see what you will do, my great Lord Somebody," she cried
defiantly. "You shall not only ride beside me, but you shall also
listen good-humoredly to my jests when I am pleased to make them, and
bear with my ill-humor when I am pleased to be ill-humored."
Max left the bridle-reins in her hand, but did not smile. She was not to
be driven from her mood.
"You are such a serious person, Sir Max, that you must, at times, feel
yourself a great weight--almost burdensome--to carry about." She
laughed, though his resentment had piqued her, and there was a dash of
anger in her words. "Ponderous persons are often ridiculous and are apt
to tire themselves with their own weight--no, Sir Max, you can't get
away. I have your reins."
"I can dismount," returned Max, "and leave you my horse to lead."
He turned to leave his saddle, but she caught his arm, rode close to his
side, and, slipping her hand down his sleeve, clasped his hand--if a
hand so small as hers can be said to clasp one so large as his.
A beautiful woman is born with a latent consciousness of her power over
the subjugated sex. Max found in the soft touch of the girl's hand a
wonderful antidote to her sharp words. She continued to hold his hand as
compensation while she said, laughing nervously:--
"Sir Max, you are still young. A friend would advise you: Never lose a
chance to laugh, even though it be at your own expense. There will
always be opportunity to grieve and be gloomy. I tell you frankly, Sir
Max, I almost wept when I bade you good-by at Metz. Now, I am telling
you my state secret and am giving you more than you have asked."
Max joyfully interrupted her:--
"I can forgive you all your raillery, Fraeulein, for that admission."
"Yes, I confess it is a very important admission," she said, in
half-comic seriousness, "but you see, I really did weep when I parted
from my great mastiff, Caesar, at Peronne."
The saucy turn was made so quickly that its humor took Max unawares, and
"There, there! Sir Max, there is hope for you," she cried exultantly.
Then she continued, stealing a side glance at him, "I loved Caesar very,
There was a satisfying implication in her laughing words, owing to the
fact that she had almost wept at Metz. Max was eager to take advantage
of the opportunity her words gave him, for his caution was rapidly
oozing away; but he had placed a seal on his lips, and they were
shut--at least, for the time. His silence needed no explanation to
Yolanda, and she continued laughingly:--
"Yes, I almost wept. Perhaps I did weep. I will not say truly that I did
not, Sir Max, but within an hour I was laughing at my foolish self and
feared that you, too, would be laughing at me. I wondered if in all the
world there was another burgher maiden so great a fool as to lift her
eyes to a mighty lord, or to think that he could lower his eyes to her
with true intent."
At that point in the conversation I felt that the seal upon Max's lips
would not stand another attack. It was sure to melt; so I rode to
Yolanda's side and interrupted the interesting colloquy.
Max supposed the girl to be of the burgher class, and if by any chance
she were Mary of Burgundy, he might ruin his future, should he become
too insistent upon his rank in explaining the reasons why he could not
follow the path of his inclinations. He might make himself ridiculous;
and that mistake will ruin a man with any woman, especially if she be
young and much inclined to laugh.
During the foregoing conversation we had been travelling at a six-mile
canter. The day was warm, and I suggested breathing the horses in the
shade of the forest.
"I believe we are approaching the river," I said, "and we should rest
the horses before taking a dash over the open road."
Yolanda assented--in a manner she seemed to have taken command of the
party--and we halted under the trees. Max rode forward to a point from
which he could view the other road, and waved his hand to let us know
that the duke was not in sight. We immediately put spurs to our horses
and covered the stretch of open road by the river in a short, brisk
gallop. On leaving the road again we saw no indication of the duke's
cavalcade. Evidently the race was ours by an easy canter. From that
point to within two miles of Peronne, Yolanda's song was as joyous as
that of a wooing bird. The sun beat down upon us, and blinding clouds of
dust rose from every plunge of our horses' hoofs; but Yolanda's song
transformed our hot, wearisome journey into a triumphant march.
Happiness seemed to radiate from her and to furnish joy for all.
For a stretch of two miles up river from Peronne the roads approached
each other, but, owing to an intervening marsh, they were fully half a
mile apart. We, or at least Yolanda, had apparently forgotten the duke
when, near the hour of eight in the morning, we approached the marsh;
but when we entered the open country we saw, to our consternation, the
duke's cavalcade within one mile of Peronne. Where they had passed us we
did not know, nor did we stop to consider. They were five minutes ahead,
and if we could not enter Peronne in advance of them, it were no worse
had they been a day before us.
Yolanda cast one frightened glance toward the duke's party, and struck
her horse a blow with her whip that sent it bounding forward at a
furious gallop. We reached the river and were crossing as the duke
entered Cambrai Gate--the north entrance to the city. We would enter by
the gate on the south known as the Somme Gate; Cambrai Gate was nearer
The duke, I supposed, would go directly to the castle; where Yolanda
would go I could not guess. From outside the Somme Gate we saw the duke
enter Cambrai, but after we had passed under the arch we could not see
him for a time because of intervening houses. The huge, grim pile of
stone known as Peronne Castle loomed ominously on the opposite side of
the small town. Yolanda veiled herself before passing under the gate and
hastened, though without conspicuous speed, toward the castle.
I afterward learned that there was but one entrance to the castle from
the town. It was known as the Postern, though it had a portcullis and a
drawbridge spanning the moat. To the Postern the duke took his way, as
we could see at intervals by looking down cross streets. Yolanda did not
follow him. She held her course down a narrow street flanked by
overhanging eaves. Looking down this street, I could see that it
terminated abruptly at the castle wall, which rose dark and unbroken
sixty feet above the ground.
At the end of this street a stone footbridge spanned the moat, leading
to a strip of ground perhaps one hundred yards broad and two hundred
long that lay between the moat and the castle wall. At either end of
this strip the moat again turned to the castle. The Cologne River joined
the moat at the north end of this tract of ground and flowed on by the
castle wall to the Somme. In a grove of trees stood a large two-story
house of time-darkened stone, built against the castle wall. One could
not leave the strip of ground save by the stone footbridge, unless by
swimming the moat or scaling the walls.
When we reached the footbridge, Yolanda and Twonette, without a word of
farewell, urged their horses across, and, springing from their saddles,
hurriedly entered the house. Max and I turned our horses' heads, and, as
we were leaving the footbridge, saw the duke's cavalcade enter the
Postern, which was perhaps three hundred yards back and north of the
strip on which stood the House under the Wall.
To reach the Postern in the castle wall from the footbridge one must go
well up into the town and cross the great bridge that spans the Cologne;
then back along the north bank of the river by the street that leads to
the Postern. From the House under the Wall to the Postern, by way of the
Cologne bridge, is a half-hour's walk, though in a direct line, as the
crow flies, it may be less than three hundred yards. Neither Max nor I
knew whether our journey had been a success or a failure.
We rode leisurely back to the centre of the town, and asked a carter to
direct us to Marcus Grote's inn, The Mitre. We soon found it, and gave
mine host the letter that we bore from Castleman. Although the hour of
nine in the morning had not yet struck, Max and I eagerly sought our
beds, and did not rise till late in the afternoon. The next morning we
dismissed our squires, fearing they might talk. We paid the men, gave
them each a horse, and saw them well on their road back to Switzerland.
They were Swiss lads, and could not take themselves out of Burgundy fast
enough to keep pace with their desires.
Notwithstanding Castleman's admonition, Max determined to remain in
Peronne; not for the sake of Mary the princess, but for the smile of
Yolanda the burgher girl. I well knew that opposition would avail
nothing, and was quite willing to be led by the unseen hand of fate.
The evening of the second day after our arrival I walked out at dusk and
by accident met my friend, the Sieur d'Hymbercourt. He it was to whom my
letters concerning Max had been written, and who had been responsible
for the offer of Mary's hand. He recognized me before I could avoid him,
so I offered my hand and he gave me kindly welcome.
"By what good fortune are you here, Sir Karl?" he asked.
"I cannot tell," I answered, "whether it be good or evil fortune that
brings me. I deem it right to tell you that I am here with my young
pupil, the Count of Hapsburg."
Hymbercourt whistled his astonishment.
"We are out to see a little of the world, and I need not tell you how
important it is that we remain unknown while in Burgundy. I bear my own
name; the young count has assumed the name of his mother's family and
wishes to be known as Sir Maximilian du Guelph."
"I shall not mention your presence even to my wife," he replied. "I
advise you not to remain in Burgundy. The duke takes it for granted that
Styria will aid the Swiss, or at least will sympathize with them in this
brewing war, and I should fear for your safety were he to discover you."
"I understand the duke recently arrived in Peronne?" I asked.
"Yes," answered Hymbercourt, "we all came yesterday morning."
"How is the fair princess? Did she come with you?" I asked, fearing to
hear his reply.
"She is well, and more beautiful than ever before," he answered. "She
did not come with us from Ghent; she has been here at the castle with
her stepmother, the Duchess Margaret. They have lived here during the
last two or three years. The princess met her father just inside the
Postern, lovely and fresh as a dew-dipped rose."
"She met her father just inside the Postern?" I asked, slowly dropping
my words in astonishment. "She was in the castle yard when her father
entered,--and at the Postern?"
"Yes, she took his hand and sprang to a seat behind him," answered
"She met him inside the Postern, say you?" I repeated musingly.
"What is there amazing about so small an act?" asked Hymbercourt. "Is it
not natural that she should greet her father whom she has not seen for
"Indeed, yes," I replied stumblingly, "but the weather is very hot,
and--and I was thinking how much I should have enjoyed witnessing the
meeting. She doubtless was dressed in gala attire for so rare an
occasion?" I asked, wishing to talk upon the subject that touched me so
nearly. Yolanda was in short skirts, stained and travel-worn, when
she left us.
"Indeed she was," answered Hymbercourt. "I can easily describe her
dress. She loves woman's finery, and I must confess that I too love it.
She wore a hawking costume; a cap of crimson--I think it was
velvet--with little knots on it and gems scattered here and there. A
heron's plume clasped with a diamond brooch adorned the cap. Her hair
hung over her shoulders. It is very dark and falls in a great bush of
fluffy curls. When her headgear is off, her hair looks like a black
corona. She is wonderfully beautiful, wonderfully beautiful. Her gown
was of red stuff. Perhaps it was of velvet like the cap. It was hitched
up with a cord and girdle, with tassels of gold lace and--and--Sir Karl,
you are not listening."
"I am listening," I replied. "I am greatly interested. Her gown--she
wore a gown--she wore a gown--"
"Yes, of course she wore a gown," laughingly retorted Hymbercourt. "Your
lagging attention is what I deserve, Sir Karl, for trying in my lame
fashion to describe a woman's gear to a man who is half priest, half
warrior. I do not wonder that you did not follow me."
I had heard him, but there was another question dinning in my ears so
loudly that it drowned all other sounds--"Who is Yolanda?"
Yolanda was entering the door of the House under the Wall less than five
minutes before I saw the duke pass through the Postern. Marcus Grote had
told me there were but two openings to the castle, the Postern and the
great gate on the other side of the castle by the donjon keep. To reach
the great gate one must pass out by Cambrai or the Somme Gate and go
around the city walls--an hour's journey.
With an air of carelessness I asked Hymbercourt concerning the various
entrances to the castle. He confirmed what Grote had said. Considering
all the facts, I was forced to this conclusion: If the Princess Mary had
met the duke at the Postern, Yolanda was not the Princess Mary.
The next day I reconnoitred the premises, and again reached the
conclusion that Yolanda could not have met the duke inside the Postern
unless she were a witch with wings that could fly thither over the
castle walls; ergo, she was not the princess. With equal certainty she
was not a burgher girl.
In seeking an identity that would fit her I groped among many absurd
propositions. Yolanda might be the duke's ward, or she might be his
daughter, though not bearing his name. My brain was in a whirl. If she
were the princess, I wished to remain in Peronne to pursue the small
advantage Max had assuredly gained in winning her favor. The French
marriage might miscarry. But if she were not the princess, I could not
get my Prince Max away from her dangerous neighborhood too quickly. I
could not, of course, say to Max, "You shall remain in Peronne," or "You
shall leave Peronne at once;" but my influence over him was great, and
he trusted my fidelity, my love, and my ability to advise him rightly. I
had always given my advice carefully, but, above all, I had given him
the only pleasurable moments he had ever known. That, by the way, may
have been the greatest good I could have offered him.
When Max was a child, the pleasure of his amusements was smothered by
officialism. My old Lord Aurbach, though gouty and stiff of joint, was
eager to "run" his balls or his arrows, and old Sir Giles Butch could be
caught so easily at tag or blind man's buff that there was no sport for
Max in doing it. Everything the boy did was done by the heir of Styria,
except on rare occasions when he and I stole away from the castle. Then
we were boys together, and then it was I earned his love and confidence.
At such times we used to leave the Hapsburg ancestry to care for itself
and dumped Hapsburg dignity into the moat. But the crowning good I had
brought to him was this journey into the world. The boy loathed the
clinging dignities that made of him, at home, a royal automaton, tricked
out in tarnished gold lace, faded velvets, and pompous airs. He often
spoke of the pleasures I had given him. One evening at Grote's inn I
"Nonsense, Max, nonsense," though I was so pleased with his gratitude I
could have wept.
"It is not nonsense. You have saved me from becoming a mummy. I see it
all, Karl, and shudder to think of the life that might have been mine. I
take no pleasure in seeing gouty old dependents bowing, kneeling, and
smirking before me. Of course, these things are my prerogative, and a
man born to them may not forego what is due to his birth even though it
irks him. But such an existence--I will not call it living--saps the
juice of life. Even dear old mother is compelled to suppress her love
for me. Often she has pressed me to her breast only to thrust me away at
the approach of footsteps. By the way, Karl," continued Max, while
preparing for bed, "Yolanda one day at Basel jestingly called me
"The devil she did," I exclaimed, unable to restrain my words.
"Yes," answered Max, "and when in surprise I told her that it was my
mother's love-name for me, she laughed saucily, 'Yes, I know it is.'"
"The dev--Max, you can't mean what you say?" I cried, in an ecstasy of
delight over the news he was telling me.
"Indeed I do," he returned. "I told her I loved the name as a sweet
reminder of my mother."
"What did she say?" I asked.
"She seemed pleased and flashed her eyes on me--you know the way she
has--and said: 'I, too, like the name. It fits you so well--by
contraries.' Where could she have learned it, and how could she have
known it was my mother's love-name for me?"
"I cannot tell," I answered.
So! here was a small fact suddenly grown big, since, despite all
evidence to the contrary, it brought me back to my old belief that this
fair, laughing Yolanda was none other than the great Princess of
Burgundy. I was sure that she had gained all her information concerning
Max from my letters to Hymbercourt.
It racks a man's brain to play shuttlecock with it in that fashion.
While I lay in bed trying to sleep, I thought of the meeting between the
duke and the princess at the Postern, and back again flew my mind to the
conviction that Yolanda was not, and could not possibly be, the Princess
Mary. For days I had been able to think on no other subject. One moment
she was Yolanda; the next she was the princess; and the next I did not
know who she was. Surely the riddle would drive me mad. The fate of
nations--but, infinitely more important to me, the fate of Max--depended
upon its solution.
Castleman had told us to remain at the inn until his return, and had
exacted from Max, as you will remember, a promise not to visit the House
under the Wall, which we had learned was the home of our burgher friend.
We therefore spent our days and evenings in Grote's garden near the
banks of the river Cologne.
One afternoon, while we were sitting at a table sipping wine under the
shade of a tree near the river bank, Max said:--
"I have enjoyed every day of our journey, Karl. I have learned the great
lesson of life, and am now ready to go back to Styria and take up my
burden. We must see our friends and say farewell to them. Then--"
"You forget the object of our journey to Burgundy," I answered.
"No, I have not forgotten it," he replied. "I had abandoned it even
before I heard of the impending French marriage."
"Not with my consent, Max," I answered almost fiercely. "The princess is
not yet married, and no one can foresee the outcome of these present
complications into which the duke is plunging. We could not have reached
Burgundy at a more auspicious time. God's hand seems to have been in our
venture. If evil befall the duke, there will be an open gate for you,
Max,--a gate opened by fate."
I could not, by my utmost effort, force myself entirely away from the
belief that Yolanda was the princess, and I was near to telling Max of
my suspicions; but doubt came before my words, and I remained silent.
Before many days I was glad of my caution.
"I knew," said Max, "that I would pain you, Karl, by this determination
to return to Styria without so much as an effort to do--to do what we--
what you wished; but it must be as I say. I must leave Burgundy and go
back to my strait-jacket. I have lived my life, Karl, I have had my
portion of sweet joy and sweeter pain. The pain will give me joy as long
as I live. Now for my duty to my father, my house, and my ancestors."
"But your duty to all these lies here in Peronne," I answered, almost
stifled by the stupendous import of the moment.
"I suppose you are right," sighed Max, speaking gently, though with
decision. "But that duty I'll shirk, and try to make amends in other
ways. I shall never marry. That, Karl, you may depend upon. Styria may
go at my death to Albert of Austria, or to his issue."
"No, no! Max," I cried. He ignored my interruption.
"Along with the countless duties that fall to the lot of a prince are a
few that one owes to himself as a man. There are some sacrifices a man
has no right to inflict upon himself, even for the sake of his family,
his ancestors, or his state." He paused for the space of a minute, and,
dropping his words slowly, continued in a low voice vibrant with
emotion: "There is but one woman, Karl, whom I may marry with God's
pleasure. Her, I may not even think upon; she is as far from me as if
she were dead. I must sacrifice her for the sake of the obligations and
conditions into which I was born; but--" here he hesitated, rose slowly
to his feet, and lifted his hands above his head, "but I swear before
the good God, who, in His wisdom, inflicted the curse of my birth upon
me, that I will marry no other woman than this, let the result be
what it may."
He sank back into the chair and fell forward on the table, burying his
face in his arms. His heart for the moment was stronger than his
"That question is settled," thought I. No power save that of the Pope
could absolve the boy from his oath, and I knew that the power of ten
score of popes could not move him from its complete fulfilment. The oath
of Maximilian of Hapsburg, whose heart had never coined a lie, was as
everlasting as the rocks of his native land and, like Styria's mountain
peaks, pierced the dome of heaven.
If Yolanda were not the princess, our journeying to Burgundy had been in
vain, and our sojourn in Peronne was useless and perilous. It could not
be brought to a close too quickly. But (the question mark seems at times
to be the greatest part of life) if Yolanda were Mary of Burgundy, Max
had, beyond doubt, already won the lady's favor, unless she were a
wanton snare for every man's feet. That hypothesis I did not entertain
for a moment. I knew little of womankind, but my limited knowledge told
me that Yolanda was true. Her heart was full of laughter,--a rare, rich
heritage,--and she was little inclined to look on the serious side of
life if she could avoid it; but beneath all there was a real Yolanda,
with a great, tender heart and a shrewd, helpful brain. She was somewhat
of a coquette, but coquetry salts a woman and gives her relish. It had
been a grievous waste on the part of Providence to give to any girl such
eyes as Yolanda's and to withhold from her a modicum of coquetry with
which to use them. Taken all in all, Yolanda, whoever she was, would
grace any station in life. But if she were not the princess, I would be
willing to give my life--nay, more, I would almost be willing to take
hers--rather than see her marry Maximilian of Hapsburg. Happiness could
not come from such a union.
Should Max marry a burgher girl, his father and mother would never look
upon his face again. It would alienate his subjects, humble his house,
and bring him to the level of the meanest noble on the Danube. To all
these dire consequences Max was quite as wide awake as I. He had no
intention of bringing them upon his house, though for himself he would
have welcomed them. So I felt little uneasiness; but when a great love
lays hold upon a great heart, no man may know the outcome.
ON THE MOAT BRIDGE
Awaiting Castleman's return, we remained housed up at The Mitre, seldom
going farther abroad than Grote's garden save in the early morning or
after dark. But despite our caution trouble befell us, as our burgher
friend had predicted.
Within a week Max began to go out after dark without asking me to
accompany him. When he came into our room late one evening, I asked
carelessly where he had been. I knew where he had been going, and had
burned to speak, but the boy was twenty-two. Within the last few months
he had grown out of my tutelage, and his native strength of character
had taught me to respect him and in a certain way to fear him. From the
promptness of his reply I thought that he had wished me to ask
concerning his outgoing and incoming.
"I have been to the bridge over the moat, near Castleman's House under
the Wall," he answered.
"What did you there?" I asked, seeing his willingness to be questioned.
"I stood there--I--I--" He paused, laughed, and stammered on. "I looked
at the castle and at the moat, like a silly fool, and--and--"
"Castleman's house?" I suggested, helping him out.
"Y-e-s," he answered hesitatingly, "I could not help seeing it. It is
close by the bridge--not twenty paces distant."
"Did you see any one else--except the house?" I asked.
"No," he returned promptly. "I did not want to see any one else. If I
had I should have entered the house."
"Why, then, did you go to the bridge?" I queried.
"I cannot answer that question even to myself," he replied. "I--I--there
is a constant hungering for her, Karl, that I cannot overcome; it seems
as if I am compelled to go to the bridge, though I know I should not. It
is very foolish in me, I am sure, but--"
"I heartily agree with you," I answered. "It is not only foolish, it is
rash; and it may bring you great trouble."
I did not deem it necessary to tell him that he was following in the
footsteps of his race. I left him to suppose that he was the only fool
of the sort that had ever lived. The thought would abate his vanity.
"But I _must_ go to the bridge," he continued, finishing the sentence I
had interrupted, "and I do not see how there can be evil in it."
"No, Max, it Is not wrong in itself," I said reprovingly; "but
Castleman, evidently for good reasons, asked you to stay away from his
house, and counselled us to remain close at the inn. It has also this
evil in it for you, aside from the danger: it will make your duty harder
to perform. When a man longs for what he may not have, he should not
think upon it, much less act on it. Our desires, like covetousness and
jealousy, feed upon themselves. We may, if we but knew it, augment or
abate them at will."
"I shall always think on--on my love for Yolanda," he replied. "I would
not abate it one jot; I would augment it in my heart. But, Karl--you
see, Karl, it is not a question of my own strength to resist. I need no
strength. There is no more reason for you to warn me against this danger
than to admonish a child not to long for a star, fearing he might get
it. The longing may be indulged with impunity; the star and the danger
are out of reach."
I had nothing to say; Max was stronger and nobler than ever I had
Max continued to go to the bridge, and I made no effort to prevent him.
Meddling mars more frequently than it mends, and when the Fates are
leading, a man is a fool to try to direct their course. Whatever was to
be would be. Fate held Max by the hand and was leading him. I almost
feared to move or to speak in his affairs, lest I should make a mistake
and offend these capricious Fates. The right or the wrong of his visits
to the moat depended entirely upon the answer to my riddle, "Who is
Yolanda?" and I dared not put it to the touch.
On one occasion he returned from the bridge, and without lighting the
lamp, sat on the arm of my chair. The moonlight streaming through the
window illumined his head as with a halo. He tossed the damp curls from
his face, and his eyes were aglow with joy. There was no need to tell me
what had happened, but he told me.
"Ah, Karl, I've seen the star," he cried triumphantly. He was but a
boy-man, you must remember.
"I was sure you would see her," I answered. "How did you bring the
"I did not bring it about," he answered, laughing softly. "The star came
to the child."
"All things come to him that waits at the bridge," I replied
sarcastically. He paid no heed to the sarcasm, but continued:--
"She happened to be near the bridge when I got there, and she came to
me, Karl,--she came to me like a real star falling out of the darkness."
That little fact solved once more my great riddle--at least, it solved
it for a time. Yolanda was not Mary of Burgundy. I had little knowledge
of princesses and their ways, but I felt sure they were not in the habit
of lurking in dark places or wandering by sluggish moats in the black
shadow of a grim castle. A princess would not and could not have been
loitering by the bridge near the House under the Wall. Castleman's words
concerning Yolanda's residence under his roof came back and convinced me
that my absurd theory concerning her identity was the dream of a madman.
"She happened to be near the bridge?" I asked, with significant
"Perhaps I should not have used the word 'happened,'" returned Max.
"I thought as much. What did she have to say for herself, Max?"
"If I were not sure of your devotion, Karl, I should not answer a
question concerning Yolanda put in such a manner," he replied; "but I'll
tell you. When I stepped on the bridge, she came running to me from the
shadow of the trees. Her arms were uplifted, and she moved so swiftly
and with such grace one could almost think she was flying--"
"Witches fly," I interrupted. My remark checked his flow of enthusiasm.
After a long silence I queried, "Well?"
Max began again.
"She gave me her hand and said: 'I knew you would come again, Sir Max. I
saw you from the battlements last night and the night before and the
night before that. I could not, with certainty, recognize you from so
great a distance, but I was sure you would come to the bridge--I do not
know why, but I was sure you would come; so to-night I too came. You
cannot know the trouble I took or the risk I ran in coming. You have not
seen me for many days, yet you remember me and have come five times to
the bridge. I was wrong when I said you would forget the burgher girl
within a fortnight. Sir Max, you are a marvel of constancy.' At that
moment the figures of two men appeared on the castle battlements,
silhouetted against the moon; they seemed of enormous stature, magnified
in the moonlight. One of them was the Duke of Burgundy. I recognized him
by his great beard, of which I have heard you speak. Yolanda caught one
glimpse of the men and ran back to the house without so much as giving
me a word of farewell."
"What did you say during the brief interview?" I asked.
"Not one word," he replied.
"By my soul, you are an ardent lover," I exclaimed.
"I think she understood me," Max replied, confidently; and doubtless he
Once more the riddle was solved. A few more solutions and there would be
a mad Styrian in Burgundy. My reflections were after this fashion:
Princesses, after all, do wander by the moat side and loiter by the
bridge. Princesses do go on long journeys with no lady-in-waiting to do
their bidding and no servants ready at their call. Yolanda was Mary of
Burgundy, thought I, and Max had been throwing away God-given
opportunities. Had she not seen Max from the battlements, and had she
not fled at sight of the duke? These two small facts were but scant
evidence of Yolanda's royalty, but they seemed sufficient.
"What would you have me say, Karl?" asked Max. "You would not have me
speak more than I have already said and win her love beyond her power to
withdraw it. That I sometimes believe I might do, but if my regard for
her is true, I should not wish to bring unhappiness to her for the sake
of satisfying my selfish vanity. If I am not mistaken, a woman would
suffer more than a man from such a misfortune."
Here, truly, was a generous love. It asked only the privilege of giving,
and would take nothing in return because it could not give all. If
Yolanda were Mary of Burgundy, Max might one day have a reward worthy of
his virtue. Yolanda's sweetness and beauty and Mary's rich domain would
surely be commensurate with the noblest virtue. I was not willing that
Max should cease wooing Yolanda--if I might give that word to his
conduct--until I should know certainly that she was not the princess.
This, I admit, was cruel indifference to Yolanda's peace of mind or
pain of heart, if Max should win her love and desert her.
Because of a faint though dazzling ray of hope, I encouraged Max after
this to visit the bridge over the moat, dangerous though it was; and
each night I received an account of his doings. Usually the account was
brief and pointless. He went, he stood upon the bridge, he saw the House
under the Wall, he returned to the inn. But a night came when he had
stirring adventures to relate.
At the time of which I am writing every court in Europe had its cluster
of genteel vagabonds,--foreigners,--who stood in high favor. These
hangers-on, though perhaps of the noblest blood in their own lands, were
usually exiles from their native country. Some had been banished for
crimes; others had wandered from their homes, prompted by the love of
roaming so often linked with unstable principles and reckless
dispositions. Burgundy under Charles the Rash was a paradise for these
gentry. The duke, who was so parsimonious with the great and wise Philip
de Comines that he drove him to the court of Louis XI, was open-handed
with these floating villains.
In imitation of King Louis's Scotch guard, Charles had an Italian guard.
The wide difference in the wisdom of these princes is nowhere more
distinctly shown than in the quality of the men they chose to guard
them. Louis employed the simple, honest, brave Scot. Charles chose the
most guileful of men. They were true only to self-interest, brave only
in the absence of danger. The court of Burgundy swarmed with these
Italian mercenaries, many of whom had followed Charles to Peronne. Count
Campo-Basso, who afterward betrayed Charles, was their chief. Among his
followers was a huge Lombard, a great bully, who bore the name of
On the evening of which I speak Max had hardly stepped on the bridge
when Yolanda ran to him.
"I have been waiting for you, Sir Max," she said. "You are late. I
feared you would not come. I have waited surely an hour, though I am
loath to confess it lest you think me a too willing maiden."
"It would be hard, Fraeulein, for me to think you too willing--you are
but gracious and kind, and I thank you," answered Max. "But you have not
waited an hour. Darkness has fallen barely a quarter of that time."
"I was watching long before dark on the battlements, and--"
"On the battlements, Fraeulein?" asked Max, in surprise.
"I mean from--from the window battlements in uncle's house. I've been
out here under the trees since nightfall, and that seems to have been at
least an hour ago. Don't you understand, Sir Max?" she continued,
laughing softly and speaking as if in jest; "the longer I know you the
more shamefully eager I become; but that is the way with a maid and a
man. She grows more eager and he grows less ardent, and I doubt not the
time will soon arrive, Sir Max, when you will not come at all, and I
shall be left waiting under the trees to weep in loneliness."
Max longed to speak the words that were in his heart and near his lips,
but he controlled himself under this dire temptation and remained
silent. After a long pause she stepped close to him and asked:--
"Did you not want me to come?"
Max dared not tell her how much he had wanted her to come, so he went to
the other extreme--he must say something--and, in an excess of
"I would not have asked you to come, Fraeulein, though I much desired it;
but sober judgment would prompt me to wish that--that is, I--ah,
Fraeulein, I did not want you to come to the bridge."
She laughed softly and said:--
"Now, Little Max, you do not speak the truth. You did want me to come,