Part 4 out of 6
expressionless. Yolanda laughed flutteringly, and the long lashes fell.
"That was prettily spoken, Sir Max," she said, smiling. "No Frenchman
could improve upon it. You are constantly surprising me."
"Are Frenchmen apt at such matters, Fraeulein?" I asked.
"I have known but few Frenchmen," she responded. "You know Burgundy and
France are natural enemies, like the cat and the dog. I have little love
for the French. I speak only from hearsay."
"You will do well to learn to like them," I suggested. "Burgundy itself
will soon be French, if the Princess Mary weds the Dauphin."
By speaking freely of the princess, I hoped Yolanda might believe that,
whatever my surmises were concerning her identity, I did not suspect
that she was Mademoiselle de Burgundy.
Yolanda sighed, but did not answer. Silence fell upon our little party,
and after a long pause I turned to Twonette:--
"I remember that Franz told me at Basel, Fraeulein Twonette, that you and
this famous Princess Mary of Burgundy were friends."
"Yes," answered Twonette, with an effort not to smile, "she has, at
times, honored me with her notice."
"Out of that fact grows Twonette's serene dignity," laughed Yolanda. "On
the strength of this acquaintance she quite lords it over us at times,
and is always reminding me of the many haughty virtues of her friend as
a pattern that I should follow. You see, I am incessantly confronted
with this princess."
I thought it was a pretty piece of acting, though the emphasis of her
dislike for the princess was unmistakably genuine.
"The duke has graciously invited us to the castle," I said, "and I hope
to have the honor of seeing the princess."
When I spoke of the duke's invitation, I at once caught Yolanda's
"You will not meet the princess if you go to the castle," said Yolanda.
"She is an ill-natured person, I am told, and is far from gracious to
"I do not hope for such an honor," I replied. "I should like merely to
see her before I leave Burgundy. That is all the favor I ask at her
hands. She is a lady famed throughout all Europe for her beauty and her
"She doesn't merit her fame," responded Yolanda, carefully examining her
hands folded in her lap, and glancing nervously toward Max.
"Do you know Her Highness?" I asked.
"I--I have heard enough of her and have often seen her," she replied.
"She usually rides out with her ladies at this hour. From the upper end
of the garden you may soon see her come through the Postern gate, if you
care to watch."
"I certainly should like to see her," I answered, rapidly losing faith
in my conclusion that Yolanda was the princess.
The Castlemans did not offer to move, but Yolanda, springing to her
feet, said, "Come," and led the way.
The upper end of the garden, as I have told you, was on the banks of the
Cologne at a point where it flowed into the castle moat. The castle
wall, sixty feet high at that point, bordered the west side of the
garden. The moat curved along the right side, and the river flowed past
the upper end. Castleman's house faced south, and stood on the lower end
of the strip of ground that lay between the castle wall and the moat.
The Postern was perhaps three hundred yards north from the upper end of
Castleman's garden. Since it was on the opposite side of the river, one
could reach the Postern, from Castleman's house, only by going up to the
town bridge and back to the castle by the street that followed the north
side of the Cologne.
We all walked to the upper end of the garden, and stood leaning against
the low stone wall at the river's edge. We had waited perhaps ten
minutes when we heard a blare of trumpets and saw a small cavalcade of
ladies and gentlemen ride from the castle and pass over the drawbridge.
"The lady in scarlet is the duchess," said Castleman.
"She is English," remarked Yolanda, "and loves bright colors."
"Which is the princess?" I asked of Yolanda, feeling that I also was
acting my part admirably. To my surprise she answered promptly:--
"She in blue with a falcon on her shoulder. Am I not right, uncle?"
"Yes," responded Castleman. Twonette confirmed the statement.
My air-castles fell noiselessly about my head. My dreams vanished like
breath from a cold mirror, and the sphinx-like face of my great riddle
rose before me in defiance.
After the cavalcade had passed I found myself with Yolanda a dozen paces
from the others.
"Fraeulein," I said, "I want to confess I thought you were the Princess
Mary of Burgundy."
Yolanda laughed softly.
"I was sure you had some such absurd notion. I supposed you had seen
her, and had believed she was Yolanda, the burgher girl; that mistake
has often been made. You may see this princess at the castle, and I warn
you not to be deceived. I have the great honor, it is said, to resemble
Her Highness as one pea resembles another. I have been told that she has
heard of the low-born maiden that dares to have a face like hers, and
she doubtless hates me for it, just as I bear her no good-will for the
same reason. When two women greatly resemble each other, there is
seldom good feeling between them. Each believes the other is stealing
something of her personality, and a woman's vanity prompts her to resent
it. If you make the mistake with the princess that you made with me, I
warn you it will not be so easily corrected."
My poor riddle! My stony sphinx! My clinging hallucination! Again I
should have it with me, stalking at my side by day, lying by me at
night, whirling through my brain at all times, and driving me mad with
its eternal question, "Who is Yolanda?" The solution of my riddle may be
clear to you as I am telling you the story. At least, you may think it
is, since I am trying to conceal nothing from you. I relate this history
in the order of its happening, and wish, if possible, to place before
you the manner in which this question of Yolanda's identity puzzled me.
If you will put yourself in my place, you will at once realize how
deeply I was affected by this momentous, unanswered, unanswerable
question, "Who is Yolanda?" and you will understand why I could not see
the solution, however clear you may believe it to be to yourself.
We soon went in to supper and, after the peacock, the pheasants, and the
pastries were removed, we were served with a most delicious after-dish
in sparkling glass cups. It was frozen orange-water mixed with wine of
Burgundy. I had never tasted a dish so palatable. I had dined at the
emperor's table in Vienna; I had lived in Italy; I had sojourned in the
East, where luxuries are most valued and used, but I had never partaken
of a more delicious supper than that which I ate at the house of my rich
burgher friend, George Castleman. There might have been a greater
showing of plate, though that was not lacking, but there could have been
no whiter linen nor more appetizing dishes than those which good Frau
Kate gave us that evening.
After the frozen wine had disappeared, a serving-maid brought in a
stoneware pan covered with a snowy pastry, made from the whites of eggs
and clear sugar. At its entry Yolanda clapped her hands and cried out
with childish delight. When the pan was placed before Castleman, she
"Be careful, uncle! Don't thrust the knife too deep, or you will kill
Uncle Castleman ran the point of the knife around the outer edge of the
crust, and, with a twist of the blade, quickly lifted it from the pan,
when out flew a dozen or more wrens. Yolanda's delight knew no bounds.
She sprang from her chair, exclaiming:--
"Catch them! Catch them!" and led the way.
She climbed on chairs, tables, and window shelves, and soon had her
hands full of the demure little songsters. Max, too, was pursuing the
wrens, and Twonette, losing part of her serenity, actually caught a
bird. The sport was infectious, and soon fat old Castleman was puffing
like a tired porpoise, and sedate old Karl de Pitti was in the chase.
Frau Katherine grabbed desperately at a bird now and then, but she was
too stout to catch one and soon took her chair, laughing and out of
breath. Yolanda screamed with laughter, and after she had caught six or
seven birds and put them in the cage provided for them, she asked Max to
lift her in his arms that she might reach one resting on a beam near the
ceiling. Max gladly complied, and Yolanda, having caught the
"Now, Sir Max, open your mouth."
"I have already swallowed one," said Max, laughing, "and I will swallow
none other so long as I live."
As Max lowered her to the floor her arm fell about his neck for an
instant, and the great strong boy trembled at the touch of this
Out to the garden we went again after supper, and when dusk began to
fall, Yolanda led Max to a rustic seat in the deep shadow of the vines.
I could not hear their words, but I learned afterward of the
When I thought Yolanda was the princess, I was joyful because of the
marked favor that she showed Max. When I thought she was a burgher girl,
I felt like a fussy old hen with a flock of ducks if he were alone with
her. She seemed then a bewitching little ogress slowly devouring my
handsome Prince Max. That she was fair, entrancing, and lovable beyond
any woman I had ever known, only added to my anxiety. Would Max be
strong enough to hold out against her wooing? I don't like to apply the
word "wooing" to a young girl's conduct, but we all know that woman does
her part in the great system of human mating when the persons most
interested do the choosing; and it is right that she should. The modesty
that prevents a woman from showing her preference is the result of a
false philosophy, and flies in the face of nature. Her right to choose
is as good as man's.
If Yolanda's wooing was more pronounced than is usual with a modest
young girl, it must be remembered that her situation was different. She
knew that Max had been restrained from wooing her only because of the
impassable gulf that lay between them. Ardor in Max when marriage was
impossible would have been an insult to Yolanda. His reticence for
conscience' sake and for her sake was the most chivalric flattery he
could have paid her. She saw the situation clearly, and, trusting Max
implicitly, felt safe in giving rein to her heart. She did not care to
hide from him its true condition. On the contrary she wished him to be
as sure of her as she was of him, for after all that would be the only
satisfaction they would ever know.
I argued: If Yolanda were the princess, betrothed to the Dauphin, the
gulf between her and Max was as impassable as if she were a burgher
girl. In neither case could she hope to marry him. Therefore, her
girlish wooing was but the outcry of nature and was without boldness.
The paramount instinct of all nature is to flower. Even the frozen
Alpine rock sends forth its edelweiss, and the heart of a princess is
first the heart of a woman, and must blossom when its spring comes. All
the conventions that man can invent will not keep back the flower. All
created things, animate and inanimate, have in them an uncontrollable
impulse which, in their spring, reverts with a holy retrospect to the
great first principle of existence, the love of reproduction.
Yolanda's spring had come, and her heart was a flower with the sacred
bloom. Being a woman, she loved it and cuddled it for the sake of the
pain it brought, as a mother fondles a wayward child. Max, being a man,
struggled against the joy that hurt him and, with a sympathy broad
enough for two, feared the pain he might bring to Yolanda. So this
unresponsiveness in Max made him doubly attractive to the girl, who was
of the sort, whether royal or bourgeois, before whom men usually fall.
"I thought you had left me, Sir Max," she said, drawing him to a seat
beside her in the shade.
"I promised you I would not go," he responded, "and I would not
willingly break my word to any one, certainly not to you, Fraeulein."
"I was angry when I heard you had left the inn," she said, "and I spoke
unkindly of you. There has been an ache in my heart ever since that
nothing but confession and remission will cure."
"I grant the remission gladly," answered Max. "There was flattery in
The girl laughed softly and, clasping her hands over her knee, spoke
with a sigh.
"I think women have the harder part of life in everything. I again ask
you to promise me that you will not leave Peronne within a month."
"I cannot promise you that, Fraeulein," answered Max.
"You will some day--soon, perhaps--know my reasons," said Yolanda, "and
if they do not prove good I am willing to forfeit your esteem. That is
the greatest hostage I can give."
"I cannot promise," answered Max, stubbornly.
"I offer you another inducement, one that will overmatch the small
weight of my poor wishes. I promise to bring you to meet this Mary of
Burgundy whom you came to woo. I cannot present you, but I will see that
Twonette brings about the meeting. I tell you, as I have already told
Sir Karl, that it is said I resemble this princess, so you must not
mistake her for me."
When Max told me of this offer I wondered if the girl had been testing
him, and a light dawned on me concerning her motives.
"I did not come to woo her," answered Max, "though she may have been a
part of my reason for coming. I knew that she was affianced to the
Dauphin of France. Her beauty and goodness were known to me through
letters of my Lord d'Hymbercourt, written to my dear old friend Karl.
Because of certain transactions, of which you do not know and of which I
may not speak, I esteemed her for a time above all women, though I had
never seen her. I still esteem her, but--but the other is all past now,
Fraeulein, and I do not wish to meet the princess, though the honor would
be far beyond my deserts."
"Why do you not wish to meet her?" asked Yolanda, with an air of
pleasure. Max hesitated, then answered bluntly:--
"Because I have met you, Fraeulein. You should not lead me to speak such
Yolanda touched Max's arm and said frankly:--
"There can be no harm, Max. If you knew all,--if I could tell you
all,--you would understand. The words can harm neither of us." She
hesitated and, with drooping head, continued: "And they are to me as the
sun and the south wind to the flowers and the corn. You already know all
that is in my heart, or I would not speak so plainly. In all my life I
have known little of the sweet touch of human sympathy and love, and,
Max, my poor heart yearns for them until at times I feel like the
flowers without the sun and the corn without the rain,--as if I will die
for lack of them. I am almost tempted to tell you all."
"Tell me all, Yolanda," entreated Max, "for I, too, have suffered from
the same want, though my misfortune comes from being born to a high
estate. If you but knew the lonely, corroding misery of those born to a
station above the reach of real human sympathy, you would not envy, you
would pity them. You would be charitable to their sins, and would thank
God for your lowly lot in life. I will tell you my secret. I am
Maximilian of Hapsburg."
"I have known it since the first day I saw you at Basel," answered
"I have felt sure at times that you did," responded Max, "though I
cannot think how you learned it. Will you tell me of yourself?"
The girl hung her head and hesitated. Once she lifted her face to speak,
but changed her mind.
"Please don't ask me now. I will tell you soon, but not now, not now. Be
patient with me. I do pity you. I do, I do. If we could help each
other--but we cannot, and there is no use longing for it. I sometimes
fear that your attitude is the right one, and that it is best that we
should part and meet no more."
The proposition to part and meet no more was good in theory, but Max
found that the suggestion to make a fact of it frightened him.
"Let us not speak of that now," he said. "The parting will come soon
enough. You will surely deem me cold and unworthy, Fraeulein, but you
cannot understand. One may not call a man hard and selfish who plucks
out his eye for the sake of a God-imposed duty, or who deliberately
thrusts away happiness and accepts a life of misery and heartache
because of the chains with which God bound him at his birth."
"Ah, I do understand, Max; I understand only too well," answered the
I have often wondered why Max did not suspect that Yolanda was the
Princess Mary; but when I considered that he had not my reasons to lead
him to that conclusion, I easily understood his blindness, for even I
was unconvinced. Had I not overheard Castleman's conversation with
Yolanda on the road to Strasburg, after meeting De Rose, the supposition
that the burgher girl travelling unattended with a merchant and his
daughter could possibly be the Princess Mary would have been beyond the
credence of a sane man. The thought never would have occurred to me.
Even with Castleman's words always ringing in my ears, I was
constantly in doubt.
"There is no reason why one should deliberately hasten the day of one's
thralldom," said Yolanda, softly. "If one may be free and happy for an
hour without breaking those terrible chains of God's welding, is he not
foolish to refuse the small benediction? The memory of it may sweeten
the years to come."
"To woman, such a memory is sweet," answered Max, striving to steel his
heart against the girl. "To men, it is a bitter regret."
To me he had spoken differently of his pain.
"Then be generous, Little Max, and give me the sweet memory," said the
girl, carried away by the swirling impulse of her heart.
"You will not need it," answered Max. "Your lot will be different from
"Yes, it will be different, Max--it will be worse," she cried
passionately, almost in tears. "I think I shall kill myself when you
leave Burgundy." She paused and turned fiercely upon him, "Give me the
promise I ask. I demand at least that consolation as my right--as a poor
return for what you take from me."
Max gently took her hand, which was at once lost in his great clasp.
"Fraeulein, I will not leave Burgundy within a month, whatever the
consequences may be," he said tenderly.
"Upon your honor?" she asked, joyously clapping her hands.
"Every promise I make, Fraeulein, is on my honor," said Max, seriously.
"So it is, Little Max, so it is," she answered gently. Then they rose
and came to the table where Castleman and I were sitting.
Yolanda had gained her point and was joyful over her victory.
Frau Katherine was asleep in a high-backed chair. Twonette slept in a
corner of the arbor, her flaxen head embowered in a cluster of leaves
and illumined by a stray beam of moonlight that stole between the vines.
"I am going in now. Come, Twonette," said Yolanda, shaking that plump
young lady to arouse her. "Come, Twonette."
Twonette slowly opened her big blue eyes, but she was slower in
"Twonette! Twonette!" cried Yolanda, pulling at the girl's hand. "I
declare, if you don't resist this growing drowsiness you will go down in
history as the 'Eighth Sleeper,' and will be left snoring on
When Twonette had awakened sufficiently to walk, we started from the
arbor to the house. As we passed from beneath the vines, the frowning
wall of the castle and the dark forms of its huge towers, silhouetted in
black against the moon-lit sky, formed a picture of fierce and sombre
gloom not soon to be forgotten.
"The dark, frowning castle reminds one of its terrible lord," said Max,
looking up at the battlements.
"It does, indeed," answered Yolanda, hardly above a whisper. Then we
went into the house.
"We hope to see you again for supper to-morrow evening, don't we,
uncle?" said Yolanda, addressing Max and me, and turning to Castleman.
"Yes--yes, to-morrow evening," said the burgher, hesitatingly.
Max accepted the invitation and we made our adieux.
At the bridge over the Cologne we met Hymbercourt returning to his house
from the castle. While we talked, the cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen
that we had watched from Castleman's garden cantered up the street.
"You will now see the princess," said Hymbercourt. "She comes with the
duke and the duchess. They left the castle at five, and have been riding
in the moonlight."
We stepped to one side of the street as the cavalcade passed, and I
asked Hymbercourt to point out the princess.
"She rides between the duke--the tall figure that you may recognize by
his long beard--and the page carrying a hooded falcon," he answered.
Surely this evidence should have put my mind at rest concerning my
hallucination that Yolanda was Mary of Burgundy; but when we reached
the inn and Max told me of his conversation with Yolanda the riddle
again sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. I felt that I was growing weak
in mind. Yolanda's desire to tell Max her secret, and her refusal; her
longing for human sympathy, and the lack of it; her wish that he should
remain in Peronne for a month--all these made me feel that she was
I could not help hoping that Hymbercourt was mistaken in pointing out
Her Highness. She rode in the shadow of the buildings and the moon was
less than half full. Yolanda might have wished to deceive us by pointing
out the princess while we watched the cavalcade from Castleman's garden.
The burgher and Twonette might have been drawn into the plot against us
by the impetuous will of this saucy little witch. Many things, I
imagined, had happened which would have appeared absurd to a sane
man--but I was not sane. I wished to believe that Yolanda was the
princess, and I could not get the notion out of my head.
Yolanda's forwardness with Max, if she were Mary of Burgundy, could
easily be explained on the ground that she was a princess, and was
entitled to speak her mind. I was sure she was a modest girl, therefore,
if she were of lowly birth, she would have hesitated to speak so plainly
to Max. So, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I refused to
be convinced that Yolanda was not Mademoiselle de Burgundy. I loved the
thought so dearly that I could not and would not part with it. That
night, while I lay pondering over the riddle, I determined to do no more
guessing, and let the Fates solve it for me. They might give me the
answer soon if I would "give it up."
The next evening we went to Castleman's house, but we did not see
Yolanda. Frau Kate said she was indisposed, and we ate supper without
her. It was a dull meal,--so much does a good appetite wait upon good
company,--and for the first time I realized fully the marvellous quality
of this girl's magic spell. Max, of course, was disappointed, and we
walked back to The Mitre in silence.
A BATTLE IN MID AIR
A day or two after the supper of the wren pie, Max bought from a pedler
a gray falcon most beautifully marked, with a scarlet head and neck, and
we sent our squires to Hymbercourt, asking him to solicit from the
duke's seneschal, my Lord de Vergy, permission to strike a heron on the
marshes. The favor was easily obtained, and we went forth that afternoon
to try the new hawk.
The hours passed quickly. The hawk was perfectly trained, and as fierce
as a mountain wildcat. Its combats in mid air were most exciting. It
would attack its prey and drive it back to a point nearly over our
heads. There it waged the battle of death. It had killed three herons,
all of which had fallen at our feet, and we were returning home when a
fourth rose from the marsh. We were on a side road or path, perhaps five
hundred yards from the main highway.
At the moment Max gave wing to his bird, two ladies and three gentlemen
came up the road, returning to Peronne, and halted to witness the
aerial combat. That they were of the court, I could easily see by their
habits, though the distance was so great that I could not distinguish
Never did hawk acquit itself more nobly. It seemed to realize that it
had a distinguished audience. The heron opened the battle desperately,
and persisted in keeping its course to the south. The hawk, not ready
for battle till the prey should be over our heads, circled round and
round the heron, constantly striking, but carefully avoiding the _coup
de grace_. After the birds had flown several hundred yards away from us,
and were growing small in the distance, the heron, less hardy than its
knightly foe, showed signs of weariness and confusion. It changed its
course, still flying away from us. This did not suit the hawk, and it
continued circling about its faltering prey with a vicious swiftness
well calculated to inspire terror. Its movements became so rapid that it
appeared to describe a gray circle about the heron. These circles, with
the heron as the centre, constantly grew smaller, and after a time we
could see that the birds were slowly but surely approaching us.
When they were almost over our heads, the hawk rose with incredible
swiftness above its prey, and dropped like a bolt of gray lightning upon
the heron. Then followed a struggle that lasted while the birds fell
three hundred feet. When within fifty feet of the ground the hawk
suddenly spread its wings and stood motionless in mid air, watching its
vanquished foe as it fell to a spot within ten yards of where we stood.
The movement of the falcon in descending to us can only be described as
a settling or gradual sinking, with outstretched, motionless wings. When
Max piped, the bird flew to its master's wrist and held down its beak
for the hood.
At the close of the battle, the gentlemen of our little audience clapped
their hands, and the ladies waved their kerchiefs. Max and I raised our
caps and reined our horses toward the main road. As we approached, the
ladies and one of the gentlemen resumed their journey toward Cambrai
Gate, but the others awaited us. When we reached them we found, to our
surprise, Duke Charles and my Lord d'Hymbercourt.
"Ah, it is our unknown knight who was so eager to fight Count Calli,"
exclaimed the duke.
"And still eager, Your Grace," answered Max. He uncovered upon
approaching the duke, but after a moment said, "By Your Grace's leave,"
and resumed his cap. I, of course, remained uncovered. The duke showed
surprise and irritation as he answered:--
"Since you do not see fit to tell us who you are, you should have the
grace to remain uncovered."
Max glanced quickly at the duke's face, and removed his cap, as he
"If it pleases Your Grace, I will remain uncovered even though I be the
The duke saw the humor of the situation and replied:--
"One who owns so noble a hawk may remain covered in any man's presence.
Never have I seen so rare a battle in mid air. The soul of Roland
himself must inhabit the bird."
"Will Your Grace accept the hawk?" Max asked.
"Gladly," answered the duke, "though I hesitate to deprive you of a bird
to which you must be attached."
"Do not hesitate to give me that pleasure, my lord," answered Max. "The
bird is yours. His name is Caesar. I will send him to the castle
"Do not send him," suggested the duke. "Double your kindness by bringing
him to-morrow at the noon hour, after the morning audience. We must now
follow the princess. Adieu, messieurs."
The duke touched his cap, and we bent almost to our horses' manes.
Charles and Hymbercourt rode forward at a brisk canter, and Max and I
followed slowly. We entered Cambrai Gate three or four minutes after the
duke and the princess.
Max, eager to exhibit his hawk to Yolanda, proposed that we ride
directly to Castleman's house.
While we were crossing the Cologne bridge we saw the duke's party enter
the castle by the Postern, and as we turned a corner toward Castleman's
the ladies looked in our direction and the gentlemen lifted their caps.
"Yolanda will be delighted when she sees my hawk," said Max.
I did not answer, but I thought that Yolanda would not see the bird that
evening, since she had just entered the castle with her father. I was in
great glee of spirits; I had at last trapped the young lady. If she were
not at Castleman's house there could be but one answer to my riddle. I
did not merely believe that I should not find her there; I knew I
Max and I hitched our horses, and when Castleman's front door opened,
lo! there stood Yolanda. Never in all my life have I taken such a fall.
Somewhat out of breath, Yolanda exclaimed:--
"Ah, Sir Max and Sir Karl, I saw you coming and ran to give you
She was in an ecstasy of glee, strangely out of proportion to the event,
and there was a look of triumph in her eyes.
After we entered the house Yolanda's laughter continued, and if it
ceased for a moment it broke out again without a pretext. She was always
pleased to see Max, and never failed to show her pleasure in laughter
more or less; but Max's presence could hardly account for her high
merriment and the satisfaction she seemed to feel, as if a great victory
had been gained. My sense of utter defeat had nothing but Yolanda's
peculiar conduct to comfort it.
To the arbor we went, Yolanda carrying the hawk on her shoulder and
caressing it with her cheek. In the garden, when our adventures were
related, Yolanda, all excitement, could not keep her chair, but danced
delightedly like a child and killed a score of imaginary herons.
She stroked the falcon's wings, and when I said, "My lord the duke has
graciously consented to accept the bird," she turned upon Max,
exclaiming in mock anger:--
"The duke has graciously consented to accept the bird! I should think it
required little grace to accept such a gift, though much to give it. Why
don't you give the bird to me, Sir Max, if you are eager to part
"I would gladly have given it to you, Fraeulein," answered Max, "had I
supposed you could use it on the duke's marshes. Only nobles practise
the royal sport of falconry."
Yolanda glanced quickly from Max to Castleman, turned her face to the
bird upon her shoulder, and said, with a touch of dignity:--
"We receive small favors from court once in a while, don't we, uncle?
We are not dirt under the nobles' feet, if we are plain burgher folk,
are we, uncle?"
"Don't you know, Fraeulein, what great pleasure I should have taken in
giving you the bird?" asked Max.
Yolanda bent her head to one side, placed her cheek against the falcon's
wing and pouted. Her pout was prettier even than her smile, and that is
saying a great deal.
After a few minutes Yolanda started to walk up the garden path and Max
followed her, leaving the Castlemans and me under the arbor. Yolanda,
still pouting, carried Caesar on her shoulder, lavishing caresses on the
bird that excited Max's bitterest envy. Max spoke at intervals, but she
answered only to the bird. After many futile efforts to make her speak,
"If you won't talk to me, I'll go back to the arbor."
She turned to the bird: "We are willing, Caesar, aren't we--if he can
Max laughed and started toward the arbor.
"Tell him to come back, Caesar. Tell him to come back," exclaimed
"I take no orders from a bird," declared Max, with pretended
seriousness. Then she turned toward him and her face softened. She
smiled and the dimples came, though there was a nervous tremor in the
upturned corners of her mouth that belied her bantering air and brought
Max quickly to her side. I saw the pantomime, though I did not hear the
words; and I knew that neither Max nor any other man could withstand the
quivering smile that played upon Yolanda's lips and the yearning
invitation that was in her eyes. If Max did not soon take himself away
from Burgundy and lead himself out of this temptation, I feared that in
the end he would cast aside his ancient heritage, rend his sacred family
ties, and forego everything he possessed in response to this mighty cry
of nature, offering the one chance in life for happiness.
"Now you will give me the bird--I know you will," exclaimed Yolanda.
A remnant of the pout still hovered about her lips, doing battle with
the dimples of a smile.
"I have already given him to the duke," answered Max.
"Tell the duke the bird escaped, or died suddenly of an apoplexy. Tell
him anything you like, but give me the hawk," said Yolanda.
"Would you have me lie, Fraeulein?" asked Max, amused at her persistency.
"I cannot do that, even for you. If you insist upon having the bird, I
may go to the duke and withdraw my gift."
"Would you do that for me, Sir Max?" she asked, eagerly.
"Ay, and a great deal more, Fraeulein. I tremble at the thought of what
you could make me do," he answered.
"In the fiend's name, let the duke have the bird," cried Yolanda. "He
will pout more than I if you don't. He is of a sullen nature."
"Do you know the duke?" asked Max, suspecting for the first time that
Yolanda might be more intimate about the court than he had supposed.
"I have heard much of him from those who know him," answered Yolanda.
So the duke got Caesar.
The next morning Hymbercourt came to the inn to accompany us to the
castle. While we were sipping a mug of wine at a garden table,
"I do not want to be officious in your affairs, but I am convinced that
it will be well for you to tell the duke who you are. If you do not see
fit to do so, it were wise in you to leave Burgundy at your earliest
"I cannot leave within a month," said Max. I knew the cause of his
detention, and, ignoring his remark, turned to Hymbercourt:--
"Do you want to give the reasons for your advice?"
"Yes, I am quite willing," he answered, "but I would not have my words
"Of that you may rest assured," I answered.
"If you do not tell the duke who you are," said Hymbercourt, "he will
soon learn it from our Italian friends, who have the fiend's own energy
in the pursuit of vengeance. They will discover who you are, and you
will lose the advantage of a frank avowal. Duke Charles admires Sir Max,
but our liege lord is capricious and can easily fancy that others are
plotting to injure him. I am sure that he will now receive the Count of
Hapsburg graciously if you tell him that Sir Max is that person. What he
would do were he to learn the fact highly colored by his Italians, I
cannot say. These mercenaries have a strange influence over His Grace,
and there is not a nobleman in Burgundy who does not fear them."
"How will the duke feel concerning the old proposition of marriage?" I
"That, I hope, will be of no moment now, since the duke is arranging for
the immediate celebration of this marriage with the Dauphin. I am given
to understand that His Grace, the Bishop of Cambrai, secretary to the
duke, has received orders to draught a letter to King Louis expressing
our lord's pleasure. King Louis is so eager for the marriage, which will
once more bring Burgundy to the French kingship, that Duke Charles deems
it sufficiently courteous to express his intentions to Louis, rather
than to request the king's compliance. The duke's contempt for the king
of France is so great that he causes the letter to be written in
English, a language which Charles loves because of the English blood in
his veins, and which Louis, with good reason, hates."
"Has this letter been despatched?" I asked, concealing as well as I
could my deep concern.
Max heard Hymbercourt's statement without even a show of interest. Had
he suspected that Hymbercourt was speaking of Yolanda's marriage, there
surely would have been a demonstration.
"No," answered Hymbercourt, "the letter has not been sent, but the duke
will despatch it at once. It will probably be the chief business of this
morning's audience. The duke wants the marriage celebrated before he
leaves for Switzerland. That will be within three or four weeks. I am
not informed as to the details of the ceremony, but I suppose the
princess will be taken to St. Denis, and will there be married. The
unfortunate princess, doubtless, has not yet been told of her impending
fate, though she may have heard of it by rumor. There will be tears and
trouble when she learns of it, for she has a strong dash of her father's
temper. But--" He shrugged his shoulders as if to say that her tears
would count for nothing.
Hymbercourt's words took the heart out of me; and when he left us for a
moment, I urged Max to leave Burgundy at once.
"I must see Yolanda and ask her to release me from my promise before I
go," he said.
"You are surely not so weak as to allow a burgher girl to hold you?" I
"The girl does not hold me," he answered. "I was so weak as to give my
promise, and that holds me."
"She will give you your release if you demand it," I suggested.
"If she does, I will go with you to-morrow. It is time that we were out
of Burgundy. I will forego even my combat with Calli to get away. I
should not have given Yolanda my promise; but she is so persuasive, and
I pity her, and--and, oh! Karl, I--the trouble is, I love her, and it is
like death to part from her forever. That is my weakness."
The poor, suffering boy leaned forward on the table and buried his face
in his arms.
"That isn't your weakness, Max, it's your strength," I responded. "Few
men are so unfortunate as to escape it. God must pity those who do. It
may be well to tell the duke who you are. If he is displeased, we may
leave Burgundy at once. If he receives you graciously, we may remain and
you may fight this Calli. That is the one duty that holds you
My heart was hardened with years, and its love of just vengeance was
stronger than young Max could feel. Besides, he was possessed by a
softer passion; and though he felt it his pleasant duty to fight Calli,
vengeance held second place in his breast.
Hymbercourt returned, and we started for the castle accompanied by our
squires; all riding in fine state.
We arrived at the great hall before the duke had arisen from the morning
audience, and waited unobserved in the back part of the chamber. Our
Irish squire, Michael, carried Caesar, hooded and belled. He was held by
a golden chain that we had bought from a goldsmith, notwithstanding our
purse was growing dangerously light.
There was a great stir in the hall as we entered. The courtiers were
buzzing like a swarm of bees discussing a new queen. Evidently matters
of importance had been under consideration. Campo-Basso, my Lord de
Vergy, seneschal of Burgundy, and the Bishop of Cambrai, clerk to the
duke, were standing on the second step of the dais, each with hand
resting on knee, and leaning eagerly toward the duke. Charles and these
councillors were speaking in low tones, and the courtiers of less degree
were taking advantage of the intermission in public business to settle
the great question among themselves. Each petty courtier felt that he
could offer a suggestion that would be of great value, could he but gain
the duke's ear.
After a little time, Charles saw Hymbercourt with us, and sent a page to
fetch him. Hymbercourt left us, and soon we saw him in whispered
conversation with the duke. Soon after Hymbercourt had gone to the
ducal throne, Calli, with two Italians, stopped four paces from where we
were standing. He gazed insolently at Max, and said in Italian to his
"There is the loutish outlander, who boasted before the duke that he
would fight me. He is a big callow fellow, and it would be a shame to
stick the swine."
Max, who understood the Italian language sufficiently to grasp Calli's
meaning, flushed angrily, but I touched his arm and he turned his back
upon the fellow. Then I spoke in tones that Calli could not fail
"Never turn your face from a cowardly foe, Max. He will, if he can, stab
you in the back. Your revenge will come when you send his soul to hell."
Calli grasped his dagger hilt and muttered something about the duke's
presence. The incident determined us in the course Max should take. He
should tell the duke who he was, remain in Burgundy to kill this fellow
Calli, and to meet such other fortune as the Fates might have in
store for him.
Hymbercourt and the duke spoke together for the space of five minutes,
evidently discussing a parchment that Charles held in his hand. Then the
duke resumed his seat, and handed the parchment to the Bishop of
Cambrai, when all save His Reverence stepped from the dais to the
floor. A herald commanded silence, and the bishop spoke:--
"It is the will of our most gracious lord that I announce to the court
the impending marriage of Her Grace, the Princess, Mademoiselle de
Burgundy, to the princely Dauphin of France, son to our lord's royal
ally, King Louis. His Grace of Burgundy hopes within three weeks to open
his campaign against the Swiss, and it is his intention to cause the
marriage ceremony to take place before his departure. When the details
have been arranged, they will be announced to the court."
The bishop had barely stopped speaking when the shutter in the chancel
of the ladies' gallery above the throne opened, and a voice rang through
the vast audience hall, like the tones of an alarm bell:--
"Make one more announcement, please, my Lord Bishop. Say that if this
wondrous ceremony is to come off within three weeks, the Dauphin of
France must be content with a dead bride."
No one saw the face of the speaker. The shutter closed, and a deep
silence fell upon the room. The duke sprang angrily to his feet; his
face was like a thunder-cloud. He looked toward the ladies' gallery, and
stood for a moment like the incarnation of wrath. A puzzled expression
followed the glare of anger; and within a moment he laughed, and waved
his hands to the heralds, directing them to cry the rising. The
audience was dismissed, and the courtiers left the hall, laughing in
imitation of their lord and master.
Nothing could be more indicative of cruelty than the laughter that
followed the passionate protest of the unhappy princess. To the duke,
and of course to his courtiers, the girl's suffering and the fate that
was in store for her were mere matters of mirth. They laughed at her
pain as savages laugh at the agonies of a tortured victim.
I was so startled by the cry of the princess that for a time I could not
think coherently. My first clear thought was of Yolanda. If she were the
princess, this sacrifice that is practised without a protest throughout
the world had come home to me, for Yolanda had nestled in my heart. That
she, the gentle, the tender, the passionate, the sensitive, should be
the victim of this legalized crime; that she, innocent of all fault,
save that she had been born a girl, should be condemned to misery
because the laws of chivalry and the laws of God, distorted by men to
suit their purposes, declared her to be the chattel of her father, moved
me as I was never moved before. My sympathy for this rare, sweet girl,
so capable of joy, so susceptible to pain, almost brought tears to my
eyes; for I could not help thinking that she was the suffering princess.
When the courtiers had left the great hall Hymbercourt, Max, and I
approached the duke. Hymbercourt and I made obeisance on bended knee,
but Max saluted the duke with a low bow. After the duke had spoken,
"I hope Your Grace has not forgotten your promise to honor me by
accepting the falcon you admired yesterday."
"I have not, my unknown friend," answered the duke.
Max took the bird from Michael and offered it to Charles, who accepted
the gift graciously. I looked toward Hymbercourt and he, understanding
my unspoken word, again bent his knee before the duke:--
"My gracious lord, it is the desire of this young knight that he be
presented to you in due form under his own name and title, though he
would humbly ask that he be permitted to retain the name by which he is
known in Burgundy. His reasons for so doing are good, though they would
not interest Your Grace. Have I my lord's permission to present him?"
"In God's name, yes!" exclaimed the duke, stirred by some irritation,
but spurred by curiosity.
"My lord," said Hymbercourt, speaking to the duke and extending his hand
toward Max, "it is my great honor to present to Your Grace his highness,
Maximilian, Count of Hapsburg."
"By the just God, my lord, you certainly have given us a surprise," said
the duke, stepping back and making no offer of his hand to Max. He
passed the falcon to a page, and continued, "What business have these
men at my court?"
"None, Your Grace, absolutely none," answered Max, standing proudly
before the duke and steadfastly meeting his gaze. "It was my desire to
see the world and to learn something of its people before I undertook to
govern my own. My country is not rich and fat like this great land of
Burgundy. I have neither the means nor the inclination to travel in
state; so my dear friend and instructor, Sir Karl de Pitti, undertook to
guide me and teach me in this journey to the outer world. I would rather
have missed seeing all other countries than Burgundy, and of all the
princes of the world Your Grace was and is to me the most interesting.
Your hand is the strongest, your courage the bravest, and your land the
richest in Europe. We heard at Metz that you were here in Peronne; and
now, my lord, you understand what business I have in Burgundy."
I had never given the boy credit for so much adroitness. What the duke's
intentions were, immediately after Hymbercourt presented Max, I could
not have told, but his words sounded ominous, and the expression of his
face was anything but pleasant. Max, though not quarrelsome, was not
given to the soft answer that turneth away wrath; but on this occasion
discretion came to his rescue, and he made the soft answer with a
dignity and boldness that won Charles's respect. The duke's face
softened into a half-smile,--if anything so hard as his face can be said
to soften,--and he offered his hand to Max. He withdrew it almost
instantly from Max's grasp, and said:--
"Are you sure my armament against Switzerland is no part of the reason
for your presence in Burgundy?" Like all highly pugnacious men, he was
suspicious. "I have been told your father is a friend to the Swiss."
"Does Your Grace mean to ask if I am here in the capacity of a spy, as
Calli has charged?" asked Max, lifting his head and looking boldly into
the duke's face.
"I do not know," said the duke, hesitatingly. "I do not say you are. I
do not think you are, but--"
"I am glad Your Grace does not think we are spies, and am pleased to
believe that you would not put so great an insult upon us," answered
Max, "else we should ask permission to leave Burgundy at once. I am sure
my lord knows we are not spies. If Your Lordship had a son, would you
send him forth as a spy for the sake of Burgundy? Much less would you do
it for another land. Your Grace is misinformed. My father is not a
friend to the Swiss; neither does he hate them, though perhaps he has
better cause to do so than has Your Grace. Your quarrel with the Swiss
is over a few cart-loads of sheepskins. These same Swiss took from my
father our ancient homestead, the old Castle of Hapsburg, and the
surrounding territory of Aargau."
"I have heard of the spoliation, and have often wondered at your
father's meek submission," said the duke, with an almost imperceptible
sneer. Like Richard the Lion-hearted, of England, butchery was this
duke's trade, and he despised a man who did not practise it on all
possible occasions. A pretext for a quarrel is balm to the soul of
"The mountains of Switzerland, my lord, are the graveyard of foreign
soldiers," Max replied. "Old Hapsburg Castle is a mere hawks' crag, as
its name implies, and the half-score of mountain peaks my father lost
with it are not worth the life of his humblest subject. He loves his
people, and would not shed their blood to soothe his wounded pride. The
man who makes war should fight in the front rank."
"There is where I fight, young sir," returned Charles.
"The world knows that fact, my lord," responded Max. "My father cannot
fight at the head of his army, therefore, he makes war only in defence
of his people's hearths. It is possible that after consulting with my
friend, Sir Karl, I may ask the honor of serving with Your Grace against
these Swiss who despoiled my house. Is Your Grace now satisfied that we
are not Swiss spies? And are we welcome to sojourn for a time in
Peronne? Or shall we leave Burgundy and return to my father in Styria,
to tell him that you turned a guest and a friend from your door?"
"You are very welcome, Sir Count, and you, Sir Karl," answered the duke,
giving his right hand to Max and familiarly offering me his left. This
hard duke had been beaten into a gracious mood by Max's adroit mixture
of flattery and boldness.
A soft answer may turn away wrath, but it may also involve the
disagreeable necessity of turning the other cheek. If it be not tempered
by spirit, it is apt to arouse contempt. The duke remained silent for
the space of a minute or two. He was evidently struggling to suppress a
good impulse. Then he turned to me and said, laughingly:--
"By my soul, Sir Karl, you have brought us a Roland and a Demosthenes in
one. Where learned you your oratory, Sir Count?"
"From a just cause, my lord," quickly retorted Max.
"I fear I have had the worst of this encounter, Hymbercourt," said the
duke, smiling, "and I see nothing left for me but apology."
"I sincerely hope Your Grace will not embarrass us by apologizing," said
Charles hesitated, gave a short laugh, and apologized by placing his
hand on Max's shoulder.
"Let us go into the little parley room," he said. "Hymbercourt, lead the
way with Sir Max; Sir Karl and I will follow presently."
Max and Hymbercourt passed out at a small door near the throne, and the
duke turned to me:--
"I like the boy's modest boldness, and I hope that I may induce him and
you to accompany me against the Swiss. I would not accept his offer made
on the spur of the moment, but if, on talking it over with him, you make
up your minds to come with me, I will make it well worth your while.
This war will be but a May-day outing. We'll speak on the subject again.
Meantime, I understand that you and Sir Max wish to remain incognito
"We do, Your Grace," I responded. "I fear it will be impossible to
accept the honor you have offered, but, as you have graciously said, we
will, if you wish, speak of it again."
"I am content," said the duke. "Let us follow Hymbercourt."
SIR KARL MEETS THE PRINCESS
The duke and I passed through the door by which Max and Hymbercourt had
left the hall, and entered a narrow passageway eight or ten yards long,
having two doors at the farther end. The door to the right, I soon
learned, led to the little parley room where Max and Hymbercourt had
gone. The door to the left opened into a staircase that led to the
apartments of the duchess. A narrow flight of stone steps that led from
the ladies' gallery opened into the passage, and, just as the duke
entered in advance of me, two ladies emerged from the stairs. They did
not see me in the shadow, and supposed that the duke was alone. The
taller, who I soon learned was the duchess, hastened down the passage
and through the door leading to her apartments. The smaller I at once
recognized. She was Yolanda.
"Father, you cannot mean to send me into France," she cried, trying to
detain the duke. "Kill me, father, if you will, but do not send me to
that hated land. I shall not survive this marriage a fortnight, and if I
die, Burgundy will go to our cousin of Bourbon."
"Don't hinder me, daughter," returned the duke, impatiently. "Don't you
see we are not alone?"
Yolanda turned in surprise toward me, and the duke said:--
"Go by the right door, Sir Karl. I will be with you at once. I wish to
speak with the duchess."
He hurriedly followed his wife and left me alone with Yolanda.
"Fraeulein, my intrusion was unintentional," I stammered. "I followed the
duke at his request."
"Fraeulein!" exclaimed the girl, lifting her head and looking a very
queen in miniature. "Fraeulein! Do you know, sir, to whom you speak?"
"I beg your pardon, most gracious princess," I replied. "Did you not
command me to address you as Fraeulein or Yolanda?"
"My name, sir, is not Yolanda. You have made a sad mistake," said the
princess, drawing herself up to her full height. Then I thought of
Yolanda's words when she told me that she resembled the princess as one
pea resembles another.
The girl trembled, and even in the dim light I could see the gleam of
anger in her eyes. I was endeavoring to frame a suitable apology when
she spoke again:--
"Fraeulein! Yolanda! Sir, your courtesy is scant to give me these names.
I do not know you, and--did I not tell you that if you made this mistake
with the princess you would not so easily correct it? That
I--you--Blessed Virgin! I have betrayed myself. I knew I should. I knew
I could not carry it out."
She covered her face with her hands and began to weep, speaking while
"My troubles are more than I can bear."
I wished to reassure her at once:--
"Most Gracious Princess--Yolanda--your secret is safe with me. You are
as dear to me as if you were my child. You have nestled in my heart and
filled it as completely as one human being can fill the heart of
another. I would gladly give my poor old life to make you happy. Now if
you can make use of me, I am at your service."
"You will not tell Sir Max?" she sobbed.
She was no longer a princess. She was the child Yolanda.
"As I hope for salvation, no, I will not tell Sir Max," I responded.
"Sometime I will give you my reasons," she said.
"I wish none," I replied.
After a short pause, she went on, still weeping gently:--
"If I must go to France, Sir Karl, you may come there to be my Lord
Chamberlain. Perhaps Max should not come, since I shall be the wife of
another, and--and there would surely be trouble. Max should not come."
She stepped quickly to my side. Her hand fell, and she grasped mine for
an instant under the folds of her cloak; then she ran from the passage,
and I went to the room where Max and Hymbercourt were waiting.
After a few moments the duke joined us. Wine was served, but Charles did
not drink. On account of the excessive natural heat of his blood he
drank nothing but water. His Grace was restless; and, although there was
no lack of courtesy, I fancied he did not wish us to remain. So after
our cups were emptied I asked permission to depart. The duke acquiesced
by rising, and said, turning to Max:--
"May we not try our new hawk together this afternoon?"
"With pleasure, Your Grace," responded Max.
"Then we'll meet at Cambrai Gate near the hour of two," said the duke.
"I thank Your Grace," said Max, bowing.
On our way back to the inn, I told Max of my meeting with the princess,
and remarked upon her resemblance to Yolanda.
"You imagined the resemblance, Karl. There can be but one Yolanda in the
world," said Max. "Her Highness, perhaps, is of Yolanda's complexion and
stature,--so Yolanda has told me,--and your imagination has furnished
"Perhaps that is true," said I, fearing that I had already spoken too
So my great riddle was at last solved! The Fates had answered when I
"gave it up." I was so athrill with the sweet assurance that Yolanda was
the princess that I feared my secret would leap from my eyes or spring
unbidden from my lips.
I cast about in my mind for Yolanda's reasons in wishing to remain
Yolanda to Max, and I could find none save the desire to win his heart
as a burgher girl. That, indeed, would be a triumph. She knew that every
marriageable prince in Europe coveted her wealth and her estates. The
most natural desire that she or any girl could have would be to find a
worthy man who would seek her for her own sake. As Yolanda, she offered
no inducement save herself. The girl was playing a daring game, and
a wise one.
True, there appeared to be no possibility that she could ever have Max
for her husband, even should she win his heart as Yolanda. In view of
the impending and apparently unavoidable French marriage, the future
held no hope. But when her day of wretchedness should come, she would,
through all her life, take comfort from the sweetest joy a woman can
know--that the man she loved loved her because she was her own fair
self, and for no other reason. There would, of course, be the sorrow of
regret, but that is passive, while the joy of memory is ever active.
When Max and I had departed, the duke turned to Hymbercourt and said:--
"The bishop's letter is not sufficiently direct. It is my desire to
inform King Louis that this marriage shall take place at once--now!
_Now_! It will effectually keep Louis from allying with Bourbon and
Lorraine, or some other prince, while I am away from home. They all hate
me, but not one of the cowards would say 'Booh!' unless the others were
back of him. A word from Louis would kindle rebellion in Liege and
Ghent. This war with Switzerland is what Louis has waited for; and when
I march to the south, he will march into Burgundy from the west unless
he has a counter motive."
"That is but too true, my lord," said Hymbercourt.
"But if my daughter marries the Dauphin, Louis will look upon Burgundy
as the property of the French kingship in the end, and the marriage will
frighten Bourbon and Lorraine to our feet once more. This hypocrite,
Louis, has concocted a fine scheme to absorb Burgundy into his realm by
this marriage with my daughter. But I'll disappoint his greed. I'll
whisper a secret in your ear, Hymbercourt,--a secret to be told to no
one else. I'll execute this treaty of marriage now, and will use my
crafty foe for my own purposes so long as I need him; but when I return
from Switzerland, I will divorce my present duchess and take a fruitful
wife who will bear me a son to inherit Burgundy; then King Louis may
keep the girl for his pains."
The duke laughed, and seemed to feel that he was perpetrating a great
joke on his rival.
"But your brother-in-law, Edward of England, may object to having his
sister divorced," suggested Hymbercourt.
"In that case we'll take a page from King Louis' book," answered
Charles. "We'll use gold, Hymbercourt, gold! I shall not, however, like
Louis, buy Edward's ministers! They are too expensive. I'll put none of
my gold in Hastings's sleeve. I'll pension Shore's wife, and Edward will
not trouble himself about his sister. He prefers other men's sisters. Do
not fear, Hymbercourt; the time has come to meet Louis' craft
"And Your Grace's unhappy daughter is to be the shuttlecock, my lord?"
"She will serve her purpose in the weal of Burgundy, as I do. I give my
life to Burgundy. Why should not this daughter of mine give a few tears?
But her tears are unreasonable. Why should she object to this marriage?
Even though God should hereafter give me a son, who should cut the
princess out of Burgundy, will she not be queen of France? What more
would the perverse girl have? By God, Hymbercourt, it makes my blood
boil to hear you, a man of sound reason, talk like a fool. I hear the
same maudlin protest from the duchess. She, too, is under the spell of
this girl, and mourns over her trumped-up grief like a parish priest at
a bishop's funeral."
"But, my lord, consider the creature your daughter is to marry," said
Hymbercourt. "He is but a child, less than fourteen years of age, and is
weak in mind and body. Surely, it is a wretched fate for your daughter."
"I tell you the girl is perverse," interrupted the duke. "She would
raise a storm were the Dauphin a paragon of manliness. He is a poor,
mean wretch, whom she may easily rule. His weakness will be her
advantage. She is strong enough, God knows, and wilful enough to face
down the devil himself. If there is a perverse wench on all the earth,
who will always have her own way by hook or by crook, it is this
troublesome daughter of mine. She has the duchess wound around her
finger. I could not live with them at Ghent, and sent them here for the
sake of peace. When she is queen of France she will also be king of that
realm--and in God's name what more could the girl ask?"
"But, my lord, let me beg you to consider well this step before you take
it. I am sure evil will come of it," pleaded Hymbercourt.
"I have considered," answered the duke. "Let me hear no more of this
rubbish. Two women dinning it into my ears morning, noon, and night are
quite enough for my peace of mind. I hear constantly, 'Dear father,
don't kill me. Spare your daughter,' and 'Dear my lord, I beg you not to
sacrifice the princess, whom I so love.' God's mercy! I say I am tired
of it! This marriage shall take place at once! Now, now, now, do you
hear, Hymbercourt? Tell the bishop to write this letter in English. We
will make the draught as bitter as possible for Louis. He hates the
sight of an English word, and small wonder. Direct the bishop to make
the letter short and to the point. Tell him to say the marriage shall
take place _now_. Have him use the word _now_. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord," answered Hymbercourt.
"Order him to fetch the missive immediately to the apartments of the
duchess. It shall be read, signed, and despatched in the presence of my
daughter and my wife, so that they may know what they have to expect.
I'll see that I'm bothered no more with their tears and their senseless
"I'll carry out your instructions," said Hymbercourt, bowing and taking
The duke went to his wife's parlor and fell moodily into a chair. The
duchess was sitting on a divan, and the princess was weeping in her
arms. After a long silence, broken only by Mary's half-smothered sobs,
the duke turned sharply upon the women:--
"For the love of God, cease your miserable whimpering," growled his
lordship. "Is not my life full of vexations without this deluge of tears
at home? A whimpering woman will do more to wear out the life of a man
than a score of battling enemies. Silence, I say; silence, you fools!"
Mary and the duchess were now unable to control themselves. Charles rose
angrily and, with his clenched hand raised for a blow, strode across the
room to the unhappy women. Clinging to each other, the princess and
Duchess Margaret crouched low on the divan. Then this great hero, whom
the world worships and calls "The Bold," bent over the trembling women
and upbraided them in language that I will not write.
"God curse me if I will have my life made miserable by a pair of fools,"
cried the duke. "I am wretched enough without this useless annoyance.
Enemies abroad and disobedience in my own family will drive me mad!"
The women slipped from the divan to the floor at the duke's feet, and
clung to each other. The duchess covered the princess to protect her
from the duke's blow, and, alas! took it herself. Charles stepped back,
intending to kick his daughter, but the duchess again threw herself on
Yolanda and again received the blow. By that time the duke's fury was
beyond all measure, and he stooped to drag his wife from Yolanda that he
might vent his wrath upon the sobbing girl. The duchess, who was a
young, strong woman, sprang to her feet and placed herself between
Yolanda, lying on the floor, and the infuriated duke.
"You shall not touch the child, my lord!" cried the duchess. "Though she
is your child, you shall not touch her if I can help it. Twice, my lord,
you have almost killed your daughter in your anger, and I have sworn to
prevent a recurrence of your brutality or to die in my attempt to
She snatched a dagger from her bosom, and spoke calmly: "Now come, my
lord; but when you do so, draw your dagger, for, by the Virgin, I will
kill you if you do not kill me, before you shall touch that girl. Before
you kill me, my lord, remember that my brother of England will tear you
limb from limb for the crime, and that King Louis will gladly help him
in the task. Come, my husband! Come, my brave lord! I am but a weak
woman. You may easily kill me, and I will welcome death rather than life
with you. When I am out of the way, you may work your will on your
daughter. Because I am your wife, my brother has twice saved you from
King Louis. You owe your domain and your life to me. I should sell my
life at a glorious price if my death purchased your ruin. Come,
The duke paused with his hand on his dagger; but he knew that his
wife's words were true, and he realized that his ruin would follow
quickly on the heels of her death.
"You complain that the world and your own family are against you, my
lord," said the duchess. "It is because you are a cruel tyrant abroad
and at home. It is because you are against the world and against those
whom you should protect and keep safe from evil. The fault is with you,
Charles of Burgundy. You have spoken the truth. The world hates you, and
this girl--the tenderest, most loving heart on earth--dreads you as her
most relentless enemy. If I were in your place, my lord, I would fall
upon my sword."
Beaten by his wife's just fury, this great war hero walked back to his
chair, and the duchess tenderly lifted Mary to the divan.
"He will not strike you, child," said Margaret. Then she fell to kissing
Yolanda passionately, and tears came to her relief.
Poor Yolanda buried her face in her mother's breast and tried to smother
her sobs. Charles sat mumbling blasphemous oaths. At the expiration of
half an hour, a page announced the Bishop of Cambrai and other
gentlemen. The duke signified that they were to be admitted; and when
the bishop entered the room, Charles, who was smarting from his late
defeat, spoke angrily:--
"By the good God, my Lord Bishop, you are slow! Does it require an hour
to write a missive of ten lines? If you are as slow in saving souls as
in writing letters, the world will go to hell before you can say
"The wording was difficult, Your Grace," replied the bishop
obsequiously. "The Lord d'Hymbercourt said Your Grace wished the missive
to be written in English, which language my scrivener knows but
imperfectly. After it was written I received Your Lordship's
instructions to use the word 'now,' so I caused the letter to be
rewritten that I might comply with your wishes."
"Now" is a small word, but in this instance it was a great one for
Yolanda, as you shall soon learn.
"Cease explaining, my Lord Bishop, and read me the missive," said the
The bishop unfolded the missive, which was in a pouch ready for sealing.
Yolanda stopped sobbing that she might hear the document that touched so
closely on her fate. Her tear-stained face, with its childlike pathos,
but served to increase her father's anger.
"Read, my Lord Bishop! Body of me, why stand you there like a wooden
quintain?" exclaimed the duke. "By all the gods, you are slow! Read,
"With pleasure, my lord," answered the bishop.
"To His Majesty, King Louis of France, Charles, Duke of Burgundy and
Count of Charolois, sends this Greeting:--
"His Grace of Burgundy would recommend himself to His Majesty of France,
and would beg to inform the most puissant King Louis that the said
Charles, Duke of Burgundy, will march at the head of a Burgundian army
within three weeks from the date of these presents, against the Swiss
cantons, with intent to punish the said Swiss for certain depredations.
Therefore, the said Charles, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Charolois,
begs that His Majesty of France will now move toward the immediate
consummation of the treaty existing between Burgundy and France, looking
to the marriage of the Princess Mary, Mademoiselle de Burgundy, with the
princely Dauphin, son to King Louis; and to these presents said Charles,
Duke of Burgundy, requests the honor of an early reply.
"We recommend Your Majesty to the protection of God, the Blessed Virgin,
and the Saints."
"Words, words, my Lord Bishop," said Charles. "Why waste them on a
"I thought only to be courteous," returned the bishop.
"Why should we show King Louis courtesy?" asked the duke. "Is it because
we give him our daughter to be the wife of his bandy-shanked,
half-witted son? There is small need for courtesy, my Lord Bishop. We
could not insult this King Louis, should we try, while he sees an
advantage to be gained. Give me the letter, and I will sign it, though I
despise your whimpering courtesy, as you call it."
Charles took the letter, and, going to a table near a window, drew up a
"Give me a quill," he said, addressing the bishop. "Did you not bring
one, my lord?"
"Your Grace--Your Grace," began the bishop, apologetically.
"Do you think I am a snivelling scrivener, carrying quill and ink-well
in my gown?" asked the duke. "Go to your parlor and fetch ink and
quill," said Charles, pointing with the folded missive toward Yolanda.
"A page will fetch the quill and ink, my lord," suggested the duchess.
"Go!" cried the duke, turning angrily on the princess. Yolanda left the
room, weeping, and hastened up the long flight of steps to her parlor.
It was the refinement of cruelty in Charles to send Yolanda for the
quill with which he was to sign the instrument of her doom.
Still weeping, Yolanda hurried back with the writing materials, but
before entering the room she stopped at the door to dry her tears and
stay her sobs. When she entered, she said:--
"There is the quill, father, and there is the ink."
She placed them before the duke and stood trembling with one hand on the
table. After a moment she spoke in a voice little above a whisper:--"You
will accomplish nothing, my lord, my father, by sending the letter. I
shall die before this marriage can take place. I am willing to obey you,
but, father, I shall die. Ah, father, pity me."
She fell upon her knees before the duke and tried to put her hands
about his shoulders. He repulsed her, and, taking up the quill, signed
the letter. After he had affixed his signature and had sealed the
missive with his private seal, he folded the parchment and handed it to
the bishop, saying:--
"Seal the pouch, my lord, and send Byron, the herald, here to receive
our personal instructions."
"The herald has not yet returned from Cambrai, my lord," said De Vergy,
who stood near by. "He is expected between the hours of five and six
"Leave the letter, my lord," said Charles, "and send Byron to me when he
arrives. I shall be here at six o'clock to give him full instructions."
The letter was deposited in a small iron box on the table, and the duke
left the room, followed closely by the lords and pages.
THE CROSSING OF A "T"
Yolanda and her stepmother remained on the divan in silence for fully an
hour after the duke had left. The duchess was first to speak.
"Be resigned, sweet one, to your fate. It is one common to women. It was
my hard fate to be compelled to marry your father. It was your mother's,
poor woman, and it killed her. God wills our slavery, and we must
submit. We but make our fate harder by fighting against it."
Yolanda answered with convulsive sobs, but after a while she grew more
"Is there nothing I can do to save myself?" she asked.
"No, sweet one," answered the duchess.
"Has God put a curse upon women, mother?" asked Yolanda.
"Alas! I fear He has," answered Margaret. "The Holy Church teaches us
that He punishes us for the sin of our mother Eve, but though He
punishes us, He loves us, and we are His children. He knows what is best
for us here and hereafter."
"He certainly is looking to my _future_ good, if at all," sighed
Yolanda. "But I do believe in God's goodness, mother, and I am sure He
will save me. Holy Virgin! how helpless a woman is." She began to weep
afresh, and the duchess tried to soothe her.
"I believe I will pray to the Virgin. She may help us," said the girl,
in a voice that was plaintively childlike.
"It is a pious thought, Mary," answered the duchess.
Yolanda slipped from the divan to the floor, and, kneeling, buried her
face in her mother's lap. She prayed aloud:--
"Blessed Virgin, Thou seest my dire need. Help me. My prayer is short,
but Thou, Blessed Lady, knowest how fervent it is." The duchess crossed
herself, bowed her head, and murmured a fervent "Amen."
Yolanda rose from her prayer with a brighter face, and exclaimed almost
"It was impious in me to doubt God's love, mother. I do believe I heard
the Blessed Virgin say, 'Help is at hand.' At least, I felt her
Yolanda moved about the room aimlessly for several minutes and by chance
stopped at the table. She started to take up the quill and ink-well to
carry them back to her parlor, which was in Darius (Darius was the name
of the tower that rose from the castle battlements immediately above
Castleman's House under the Wall), and her eyes rested on the small iron
box in which the letter to King Louis had been deposited. An unconscious
motive, perhaps it was childish curiosity, prompted her to examine the
missive. She took the pouch from the box and found it unsealed. She
listlessly drew out the missive and began to read, when suddenly her
face grew radiant with joy. She ran excitedly to her mother, who was
sitting on the divan, and exclaimed:--
"Oh! mother, the sweet Blessed Virgin has sent help!"
"In what manner, child?" asked the duchess, fondling Yolanda's hair
while the girl knelt beside her.
"Here, mother, here! Here is help; here in this very letter that was
intended to be my undoing. I cannot wait to thank the Holy Mother." She
crossed herself and buried her face in her mother's lap while she
thanked the Virgin.
"What is it, Mary, and where is the help?" asked Margaret, fearing the
girl's mind had been touched by her troubles.
"Listen!" cried Yolanda.
Her excitement was so great that she could hardly see the words the
bishop's scrivener had written.
"Listen, listen! Father in this letter first tells the king that
he--that is, father, you understand--is going to war with Lorraine--no,
with Bourbon. I am wrong again. Father is so constantly warring with
some one that I cannot keep track of his enemies--against the Swiss.
See, mother, it is the Swiss. He says he will go--will start--will begin
the war--no, I am wrong again. I can hardly see the words. He says he
will march at the head of a Burgundian army--poor soldiers, I pity
them--within three weeks. Ah, how short that time seemed when I heard
the letter read an hour ago. How long it is now! I wish he would march
to-morrow. Three long weeks!"
"But, my dear, how will that help you?" asked the duchess. "In what
"Do not interrupt me, mother, but hear what follows. Father says he will
march in three weeks and 'begs that His Majesty of France will _now_
move toward the immediate consummation of the treaty existing between
Burgundy and France looking to the marriage of the Princess,
Mademoiselle de Burgundy, with the princely Dauphin, son to King Louis.'
In that word 'now,' mother, lies my help."
"In what manner does help lie in the word 'now,' child?" asked the
"In this, mother. 'Now' is a little word of three letters, n-o-v. See,
mother, the letter 'v' is not perfectly made. We will extend the first
prong upward, cross it and make 't' of it, using the second prong as a
flourish. Then the letter will read, 'begs that His Majesty of France
will _not_ move toward the immediate consummation of the treaty.' What
could be more natural than that my father should wish nothing of
importance to occur until after this war with Switzerland is over? The
French king, of course, will answer that he will not move in the matter,
and his letter will throw father into a delightful frenzy of rage. It
may even induce him to declare war against France, and to break off the
treaty of marriage when he returns from Switzerland. He has often done
battle for a lesser cause. It will at least prevent the marriage for the
present. It may prevent it forever."
"Surely that cannot be; King Louis will immediately explain the mistake
to your father," suggested Margaret.
"But father, you know, will not listen to an explanation if he fears it
may avert blows," returned Yolanda; "and he will be sure not to believe
King Louis whose every word he doubts. I shall enjoy King Louis' efforts
to explain. 'Hypocrite,' 'liar,' 'coward,' 'villain,' will be among
father's most endearing terms when speaking of His Majesty. If by chance
the error of 'not' for 'now' be discovered, the Bishop of Cambrai and
father will swear it is King Louis who has committed the forgery. But
should the worst come, our 't' will have answered its purpose, at least
for the present. The bishop may suffer, but I care not. He did his part
in bringing about this marriage treaty, bribed, doubtless, by King
Louis' gold. In any case, we have no reason to constitute ourselves the
bishop's guardians. We have all we can do to care for ourselves--and
She sprang to her feet and danced about the room, ardently kissing the
letter she had so recently dreaded.
"Mary, you frighten me," said the duchess. "If we should be discovered
in changing this letter, I do believe your father would kill us. I do
not know that it would be right to make the alteration. It would be
forgery, and that, you know, is a crime punishable by death."
"_We_ shall not be discovered," said Mary. "You must have no part in
this transaction, mother. Father would not kill me; I am too valuable as
a chattel of trade. With my poor little self he can buy the good-will of
kings and princes. I am more potent than all his gold. This alteration
can be no sin; it is self-defence. Think how small it is, mother. It is
only a matter of the crossing of a 't.' But I care not how great the
crime may be; I believe, mother, I would commit murder to save myself
from the fate father wishes to put upon me."
"You frighten me, child," said Margaret. "I tremble in terror at what
you propose to do."
"I, too, am trembling, mother," sighed Yolanda, "but you must now leave
the room. You must know nothing of this great crime."
The girl laughed nervously and tried to push her mother from the room.
"No, I will remain," said the duchess. "I almost believe that you are
right, and that the Virgin has prompted you to do this to save
"I know she has," answered Yolanda, crossing herself. "Now leave me. I
must waste no more time."
"I will remain with you, Mary," said Margaret, "and I will myself make
the alteration. Then I'll take all the blame in case we are discovered."
Margaret rose, walked over to the table, and took up the quill. She
trembled so violently that she could not control her hand.
"No, mother, you shall not touch it," cried Yolanda, snatching the
parchment from the countess and holding it behind her. "If I would let
you, you could not make the alteration; see, your hand trembles! You
would blot the parchment and spoil all this fine plan of mine. Give me
the quill, mother! Give me the quill!"
She took the quill from Margaret's passive hand and sat down at the
table. Spreading the missive before her, she dipped the quill in the
ink-well, and when she lifted it, a drop of ink fell upon the table
within a hair's breadth of the parchment.
"Ah, Blessed Virgin!" cried Yolanda, snatching the missive away from the
ink blot. "If the ink had fallen on the parchment, we surely had been
lost. I, too, am trembling, and I dare not try to make the alteration
now. What a poor, helpless creature I am, when I cannot even cross a 't'
to save myself. Blessed Virgin, help me once more!"
But help did not come. Yolanda's excitement grew instead of subsiding,
and she was so wrought upon by a nameless fear that she began to weep.
Margaret seated herself on the divan and covered her face with her
hands. Yolanda walked the floor like a caged wild thing, uttering
ejaculatory prayers to the Virgin. Again she took up the quill, but
again put it down, exclaiming:--
"I have it, mother! There is a friend of whom I have often told you--Sir
Karl. He will help us if I can bring him here in time. If father has
left the castle, I'll take the letter to my parlor and fetch Sir Karl.
He is a brave, strong old man and his hand will not tremble."
Yolanda left the room and soon returned.
"Father has gone to the marshes," she whispered excitedly. "We have
ample time if I can find Sir Karl."
She took the missive, the ink, and the quill to her parlor in Darius
Tower, and hurried to Castleman's house. How she got there I will
soon tell you.
She found Twonette sewing, and hastily explained her wishes.
"Run, Twonette, to The Mitre, and fetch me Sir Karl. I don't want Sir
Max to know that I am sending. I think Sir Max has gone falconing with
father; I pray God he has gone, and I pray that Sir Karl has not. Tell
Sir Karl to come to me at once. If he is not at the inn send for him. If
you love me, Twonette, make all haste. Run! Run!"
Twonette's haste was really wonderful. When she found me her cheeks were
like red roses, and she could hardly speak for lack of breath. For the
first and last time I saw Twonette shorn of her serenity.
The duke had not invited me to go hawking, and fortunately I had stayed
at home cuddling the thought that Yolanda was the Princess Mary, and
that my fair Prince Max had found rare favor in her eyes.
"Yolanda wants you at my father's house immediately," said Twonette,
when I stepped outside the inn door. "The need is urgent beyond
measure." Whereupon she courtesied and turned away. Twonette held that
words were not made to be wasted, so I asked no questions. I almost ran
to Castleman's house, and was taken at once to a large room in the
second story. It was on the west side of the house immediately against
the castle wall. The walls of the room were sealed with broad oak
panels, beautifully carved, and the west end of the apartment--that next
the castle wall--was hung with silk tapestries. When I entered the room
I found Yolanda alone. She hurriedly closed the door after me and spoke
"I am so glad Twonette found you, Sir Karl. I am in dire need. Will you
"I will help you if it is in my power, Yolanda," I answered. "You can
ask nothing which I will not at least try to do."
"Even at the risk of your life?" she asked, placing her hand upon my
"Even to the loss of my life, Yolanda," I replied.
"Would you commit an act which the law calls a crime?" she asked,
trembling in voice and limb.
"I would do that which is really a crime, if I might thereby serve you
to great purpose," I answered. "God often does apparent evil that good
may come of it. An act must be judged as a whole, by its conception, its
execution, and its result. Tell me what you wish me to do, and I will do
it without an 'if'--God giving me the power."
"Then come with me."
She took my hand and led me to the end of the room next the castle
wall. There she held the draperies to one side while she pushed back one
of the oak panels. Through this opening we passed, and the draperies
fell together behind us. After Yolanda had opened the panel a moment of
light revealed to me a flight of stone steps built in the heart of the
castle wall, which at that point was sixteen feet thick. When Yolanda
closed the panel, we were in total darkness. She took my left hand in
her left and with her right arm at my back guided me up the long, dark
stairway. While mounting the steps, she said:--"Now, Sir Karl, you have
all my great secrets--at least, they are very great to me. You know who
I am, and you know of this stairway. No one knows of it but my mother,
uncle, aunt, Twonette, and my faithful tire-woman, Anne. Even my father
does not know of its existence. If he knew, he would soon close it. My
grandfather, Duke Philip the Good, built it in the wall to connect his
bedroom with the house of his true friend, burgher Castleman. Some day
I'll tell you the story of the stairway, and how I discovered it. My
bedroom is the one my grandfather occupied."
The stairway explained to me all the strange occurrences relating to
Yolanda's appearances and disappearances at Castleman's house, and it
will do the same for you.
After we had climbed until I felt that surely we must be among the
clouds, I said:--
"Yolanda, you must be leading me to heaven."
"I should like to do that, Sir Karl," she responded, laughing softly.
"I would gladly give my life to lead you and Max to heaven," said I.
"Ah, Sir Karl," she answered gently, pressing my hand and caressingly
placing her cheek against my arm. "I dare not even think on that. If he
could and would take me, believing me to be a burgher girl, he would
truly lead me to heaven."
After a pause, while we rested to take a breath, I said: "What is it you
want me to do, Yolanda? I am unarmed."
"I shall not ask you to do murder, Sir Karl," she said, laughing
nervously. I fancied I could see a sparkle of mirth in her eyes as she
continued: "It is not so bad as that. Neither is there a dragon for you
to overthrow. But I shall soon enlighten you--here we are at the top of
At the moment she spoke I collided with a heavy oak partition, in which
Yolanda quickly found a moving panel, and we entered a dimly lighted
room. I noticed among the furniture a gorgeously tapestried bed. A rich
rug, the like of which I had seen in Damascus, covered the floor. The
stone walls were draped with silk tapestry, and a jewelled lamp was
pendant from the vaulted ceiling. This was Yolanda's bedroom, and truly
it was a resting-place worthy of the richest princess in Christendom. I
felt that I was in the holy of holies. I found difficulty in believing
that the childlike Yolanda could be so important a personage in the
politics of Europe. She seemed almost to belong to me, so much at that
time did she lean on my strength.
Out of her sleeping apartment she led me to another and a larger room,
lighted by broad windows cut through the inner wall of the castle, which
at that point was not more than three or four feet thick. This was
Yolanda's parlor. The floor, like that of the bedroom, was covered with
a Damascus rug. The windows were closed by glass of crystal purity, and
the furniture was richer than any I had seen in the emperor's palace.
Yolanda led me to a table, pointed to a chair for me, and drew up one
for herself. At that moment a lady entered, whom Yolanda ran to meet.
The princess took the lady's hand and led her to me:--
"Sir Karl, this is my mother. As you already know, she is my stepmother,
but I forget that in the love I bear her, and in the sweet love she
gives to me."
I bent my knee before the duchess, who gave me her hand to kiss,
"The princess has often spoken to me of you, Sir Karl. I see she has
crept into your heart. She wins all who know her."
"My devotion to Her Highness is self-evident and needs no avowal," I
answered, "but I take pleasure in declaring it. I am ready to aid her at
"Has the princess told you what she wants you to do?" asked the duchess.
I answered that she had not, but that I was glad to pledge myself
unenlightened. I then placed a chair for the duchess, but, of course,
remained standing. Yolanda resumed her chair, and said:--
"Fetch a chair, Sir Karl. We are glad to have you sit, are we not,
"Indeed we are," said Margaret. "Please sit by the table, and the
princess will explain why she brought you here."
"I believe I can now do it myself, mother," said Yolanda, taking a
folded parchment from its pouch.
"See, my hand is perfectly steady. Sir Karl has given me strength."
She spread the parchment before her, and, taking a quill from the table,
dipped it in the ink-well.
"I'll not need you after all, Sir Karl. I find I can commit my own
crime," she said, much to my disappointment. I was, you see, eager to
sin for her. I longed to kill some one or to do some other deed of
valiant and perilous villany.
Yolanda bent over the missive, quill in hand, but hesitated. She
changed her position on the chair, squaring herself before the
parchment, and tried again, but she seemed unable to use the quill. She
placed it on the table and laughed nervously.
"I surely am a great fool," she said. "When I take the quill in my hand,
I tremble like a squire on his quintain trial. I'll wait a moment, and
grow calm again," she added, with a fluttering little laugh peculiar to
her when she was excited. But she did not grow calm, and after she had
vainly taken up the quill again and again, her mother said:--
"Poor child! Tell Sir Karl what you wish him to do."
Yolanda did so, and then read the missive. I did not know the English
language perfectly, but Yolanda, who spoke it as if it were her mother
tongue, translated as she read. I had always considered the island
language harsh till I heard Yolanda speak it. Even the hissing "th" was
music on her lips. Had I been a young man I would doubtless have made a
fool of myself for the sake of this beautiful child-woman. When she had
finished reading the missive, she left her chair and came to my side.
She bent over my shoulder, holding the parchment before me.
"What I want to do, but can't--what I want you to do is so small and
simple a matter that it is almost amusing. I grow angry when I think
that I cannot do so little a thing to help myself; but you see, Sir
Karl, I tremble and my hand shakes to that extent I fear to mar the
page. I simply want to make the letter 't' on this parchment and I
can't. Will you do it for me?"
"Ay, gladly," I responded, "but where and why?" Then she pointed out to
me the word "nov" in the manuscript and said:--
"A letter 't,' if deftly done, will make 'not' instead of 'nov.' Do you
understand, Sir Karl?"
I sprang to my feet as if I had been touched by a sword-point. The
thought was so ingenious, the thing itself was so small and the result
was so tremendous that I stood in wonder before the daring girl who had
conceived it. I made no answer. I placed the parchment on the table,
unceremoniously reached in front of the duchess for the quill, and in
less time than one can count three I made a tiny ink mark not the
sixteenth part of an inch long that changed the destinies of nations for
all time to come.
I placed the quill on the table and turned to Yolanda, just in time to
catch her as she was about to fall. I was frightened at the sight of her
pale face and cried out:--
Margaret quickly brought a small goblet of wine, and I held the princess
while I opened her lips and poured a portion of the drink into her
mouth. I had in my life seen, without a tremor, hundreds of men killed,
but I had never seen a woman faint, and the sight almost unmanned me.
Stimulated by the wine Yolanda soon revived; and when she opened her
eyes and smiled up into my face, I was so joyful that I fell to kissing
her hands and could utter no word save "Yolanda, Yolanda." She did not
at once rise from my arms, but lay there smiling into my face as if she
were a child. When she did rise she laughed softly and said, turning to
"'Yolanda' is the name by which Sir Karl knows me. You see, mother, I
was not mistaken in deeming him my friend."
Then she turned suddenly to me, and taking my rough old hand in hers,
lifted it to her lips. That simple act of childish gratitude threw me
into a fever of ecstasy so great that death itself could have had no
terrors for me. He might have come when he chose. I had lived through
that one moment, and even God could not rob me of it.
Yolanda moved away from me and took up the parchment.
"Don't touch it till the ink dries," I cried sharply.
She dropped it as if it were hot, and the duchess came to me, and
graciously offered her hand:--
"I thank you with my whole heart, not only for what you have done, but
for the love you bear the princess. She is the one I love above all
others, and I know she loves me. I love those who love her. As the
French say, '_Les amies de mes amies sont mes amies.'_ I am a poor
helpless woman, more to be pitied than the world can believe. I have
only my gratitude to offer you, Sir Karl, but that shall be yours so
long as I live."
"Your Grace's reward is far too great for the small service I have
rendered," I replied, dropping to my knee. I was really beginning to
live in my sixtieth year. I was late in starting, but my zest for life
was none the less, now that I had at last learned its sweetness through
these two gracious women.
When we had grown more composed, Yolanda explained to me her hopes
regarding the French king's answer to the altered missive, and the whole
marvellous possibilities of the letter "t" dawned upon my mind. The
princess bent over the parchment, watching our mighty "t" while the ink
was drying, but the process was too slow for her, so she filled her
cheeks and breathed upon the writing. The color returned to her face
while I watched her, and I felt that committing a forgery was a small
price to pay for witnessing so beautiful a sight. Yolanda's breath soon
dried the ink, and then we examined my work. I had performed wonders.
The keenest eye could not detect the alteration. Yolanda, as usual,
sprang from the deepest purgatory of trouble to the seventh heaven of
joy. She ran about the room, singing, dancing, and laughing, until the
duchess warned her to be quiet. Then she placed her hand over her mouth,
shrugged her shoulders, walked on tiptoe, and spoke only in whispers.
Margaret smiled affectionately at Yolanda's childish antics and said:--
"I think the conspirators should disperse. I hope, Sir Karl, that I may
soon meet you in due form. Meantime, of course, it is best that we do
not know each other."
After examining the missive for the twentieth time, Yolanda placed it in
its pouch and turned to the duchess.
"Take it, mother, to the iron box, and I will lead Sir Karl back to
Uncle Castleman's," she said.
The duchess graciously offered me a goblet of wine, and after I had
drunk, Yolanda led me down the stairway to the House under the Wall.
While descending Yolanda called my attention to a loose stone in the
wall of the staircase.
"The other end of this stone," she said, "penetrates the wall of the
room that you and Sir Max occupied the night before you were liberated.
The mortar has fallen away, and it was here that I spoke to you and told
you not to fear."
Here was another supernatural marvel all too easily explained.
That evening after supper Max and I walked over to Castleman's. The
evening was cool, and we were sitting in the great parlor talking with
Castleman and Twonette when Yolanda entered. The room was fully fifty
feet long, and extended across the entire front of the house. A huge
chimney was built at the east end of the room, and on either side of the
fireplace was a cushioned bench. A similar bench extended across the
entire west end of the room. When Yolanda entered she ran to me and
took my hand.
"Come, Sir Karl, I want to speak with you," she said.
She led me to the west end of the room, sat down on the cushioned bench,
and drew in her skirts that I might sit close beside her.
"I want to tell you about the missive, Sir Karl," she whispered,
laughing and shrugging her shoulders in great glee. "Mother returned it
to the box, and when I left you I hurried back and haunted the room,
fearing that some one might meddle with the parchment. Near the hour of
six o'clock father entered. I was sitting on the divan, and he sat down
in his great chair, of course taking no notice of me--I am too
insignificant for so great a person to notice, except when he is
compelled to do so. I was joyful in my heart, but I conjured up all my
troubles that I might make myself weep. I feared to show any change in
myself, so I sobbed aloud now and then, and soon father turned angrily
toward me. 'Are you still there?' he asked. 'Yes, father,' I answered,
as if trying to stifle my sobs. 'Are you really going to send that cruel
letter to King Louis?'"
"Cruel, indeed," I interrupted.
"Ah, yes! Well, father made no reply, and I went over to him and began
to plead. I should have wanted to cut my tongue out had I succeeded, but
I had little fear. Father is not easily touched by another's suffering,