Part 5 out of 6
and my tears only hardened his heart. Well, of course, he repulsed me;
and soon a page announced Byron the herald and the Bishop of Cambrai.
Father took the packet from the iron box, and put his fingers in the
pouch, as if he were going to take out the letter. He hesitated, and
during that moment of halting I was by turns cold as ice and hot as
fire. Finally his resolution took form, and he drew out the missive. I
thought I should die then and there, when he began to look it over. But
after a careless glance he put it back in the pouch, and threw it on
the table in front of the bishop. I could hardly keep from shouting for
joy. He had failed to see the alteration, and in case of its discovery,
he might now be his own witness against King Louis, should that crafty
monarch dare to alter my father's missive by so much as the crossing of
a 't'. If father hereafter discovers anything wrong in the letter, he
will be able to swear that King Louis was the evil doer, since father
himself put the letter in the pouch with his own hands. Father will
never suspect that a friend came to me out of far-away Styria to commit
"I rejoice that I came," I said.
"And I," she answered. "I feared the bishop would read the letter, but
he did not. He tied the ribbon, softened the lead wafer over the lamp
flame, and placed it on the bow-knot; then he stamped it with father's
small seal. When it was finished I did not want to laugh for joy--when
one is very happy one wants to weep. That I could safely do, and I did.
The bishop handed the letter to Byron, and father spoke commandingly:
'Deliver the missive to the French king before you sleep or eat, unless
he has left Paris. If he has gone to Tours, follow him and loiter not.'
'And if he is not in Tours, Your Grace?' asked Byron. 'Follow him till
you find him,' answered father, 'if you must cross the seas.' 'Shall I
do all this without eating or sleeping?' asked Byron. Father rose
angrily, and Byron said: 'If Your Grace will watch from the donjon
battlements, in five minutes you will see me riding on your mission.
When Your Grace sees me riding back, it will be, I fear, the ghost
"It was a wearisome task for me to climb the donjon stairs, but I knew
father would not be there to watch Byron set out, and I felt that one of
the family should give him God-speed; so alone, and frightened almost
out of my wits, I climbed those dark steps to the battlements, and gazed
after Byron till he was a mere speck on the horizon down toward Paris. I
pray God there may be a great plenty of trouble grow out of the crossing
of this 't'. Father is always saying that women were put on earth to
make trouble, so I'll do what little I can to make true His Lordship's
words." She threw back her head, laughing softly. "Is it not glorious,
"Indeed, Princess--" I began, but she clapped her hand over my mouth and
I continued, "Indeed, Yolanda, the plan is so adroit and so effective
that it fills me with admiration and awe."
"I like the name Yolanda," said she, looking toward Max, who was sitting
with Twonette on one of the benches by the chimney.
"And I, too, like it," I responded. "I cannot think of you as the
greatest and richest princess in Europe."
"Ah, I wish I, too, could forget it, but I can't," she answered with a
sigh, glancing from under her preposterously long lashes toward Max
"How came you to take the name Yolanda?" I asked.
"Grandfather wished to give me the name in baptism," she answered, "but
Mary fell to my lot. I like the present arrangement. Mary is the name of
the princess--the unhappy, faulty princess. Yolanda is my name. Almost
every happy hour I have ever spent has been as Yolanda. You cannot know
the wide difference between me and the Princess Mary. It is, Sir Karl,
as if we were two persons."
She spoke very earnestly, and I could see that there was no mirth in her
heart when she thought of herself as the Princess Mary; she was
"I don't know the princess," I said laughingly, "but I know Yolanda."
"Yes; I'll tell you a great secret, Sir Karl. The Princess Mary is not
at all an agreeable person. She is morose, revengeful, haughty, cold--"
here her voice dropped to a whisper, "and, Sir Karl, she lies--she lies.
While Yolanda--well, Yolanda at least is not cold, and I--I think she is
a very delightful person. Don't you?"
There was a troubled, eager expression in her eyes that told plainly she
was in earnest. To Yolanda the princess was another person.
"Yolanda is very sure of me," I answered.
"Ah, that she is," answered the girl. You see, this was a real case of
billing and cooing between December and May.
A short silence followed, during which Yolanda glanced furtively toward
Max and Twonette.
"You spoke of your grandfather," said I, "and that reminds me that you
promised to tell me the story of the staircase in the wall."
"So I did," answered Yolanda, haltingly. Her attention was at the other
end of the room.
"Do you think Twonette a very pretty girl?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered, surprised at the abrupt question. I caught a glimpse
of Yolanda's face and saw that I had made a mistake, so I continued
hastily: "That is--yes--yes, she is pretty, though not beautiful. Her
face, I think, is rather dollish. It is a fine creation in pink and
white, but I fear it lacks animation."
"Now for the stairway in the wall," said Yolanda, settling herself with
the pretty little movements peculiar to her when she was contented. "As
I told you, grandfather built it. Afterward he ceded Peronne to King
Louis, and for many years none of our family ever saw the castle. A few
years ago King Louis ceded it to my father. Father has never lived here,
and has visited Peronne only once in a while, for the purpose of
looking after his affairs on the French border. The castle is very
strong, and, being here on the border at the meeting of the Somme and
the Cologne, it has endured many sieges, but it has never been taken. It
is called 'Peronne La Pucelle.'
"Father's infrequent visits to the castle have been brief, and all who
have ever known of the stairway are dead or have left Burgundy, save the
good people in this house, my mother, my tire-woman, and myself. Three
or four years ago, when I was a child, mother and I, unhappy at Ghent
and an annoyance to father, came here to live in the castle, and--and--I
wonder what Sir Max and Twonette find to talk about--and Twonette and I
became friends. I love Twonette dearly, but she is a sly creature, for
all she is so demure, and she is bolder than you would think, Sir Karl.
These very demure girls are often full of surprises. She has been
sitting there in the shadow with Sir Max for half an hour. That, I say,
would be bold in any girl. Well, to finish about the staircase: my
bedroom, as I told you, was my grandfather's. One day Twonette was
visiting me, and we--we--Sir Max, what in the world are you and Twonette
talking about? We can't hear a word you say."
"We can't hear what you are saying," retorted Max.
"I wish you were young, Sir Karl," whispered Yolanda, "so that I might
make him jealous."
"Shall we come to you?" asked Max.
"No, no, stay where you are," cried Yolanda; then, turning to me, "Where
did I stop?"
"Your bedroom--" I suggested.
"Yes--my bedroom was my grandfather's. One day I had Twonette in to play
with me, and we rummaged every nook and corner we could reach. By
accident we discovered the movable panel. We pushed it aside, and
spurring our bravery by daring each other, we descended the dark
stairway step by step until we came suddenly against the oak panel at
the foot. We grew frightened and cried aloud for help. Fortunately,
Tante Castleman was on the opposite side of the panel in the oak room,
She had been halting in the latter part of her narrative and I plainly
saw what was coming.
"Tante Castleman was--was--It was fortunate she--was in--" She sprang to
her feet, exclaiming: "I'm going to tell Twonette what I think of her
boldness in sitting there in the dark with Sir Max. Her father is not
here to do it." And that was the last I heard of the stairway in
Yolanda ran across the room to the bench by the fireplace and stamped
her foot angrily before Twonette.
"It--it is immodest for a girl to sit here in the deep shadow beside a
gentleman for hours together. Shame, Twonette! Your father is not here
to correct you."
Castleman had left the room.
Twonette laughed, rose hurriedly, and stood by Yolanda in front of Max.
Yolanda, by way of apology, took Twonette's hand, but after a few words
she coolly appropriated her place "in the deep shadow beside a
gentleman." A princess enjoys many privileges denied to a burgher girl.
When a girl happens to be both, the burgher girl is apt to be influenced
by the princess, as the princess is apt to be modified by the life of
the burgher girl. Presently Yolanda said:--
"Please go, Twonette, and mix a bowl of wine and honey. Yours is
delicious. Put in a bit of allspice, Twonette, and pepper, beat it well,
Twonette, and don't spare the honey. Now there's a good girl. Go
quickly, but don't hurry back. Haste, you know, Twonette, makes waste,
and you may spoil the wine."
Twonette laughed and went to mix the wine and honey. I walked back to
the other end of the room, and sat down by a window to watch the night
gather without. I was athrill with the delightful thought that, all
unknown to the world, unknown even to himself, Max, through my
instrumentality, was wooing Mary of Burgundy within fifty feet of where
I sat. He was not, of course, actively pressing his suit, but all
unconsciously he was taking the best course to win her heart forever and
ever. Now, with a propitious trick of fortune, my fantastic dream,
conceived in far-off Styria, might yet become a veritable fact. By what
rare trick this consummation might be brought about, I did not know, but
fortune had been kind so far, and I felt that her capricious ladyship
would not abandon us.
Yolanda turned to Max with a soft laugh of satisfaction, settled her
skirts about her, as a pleased woman is apt to do, and said
"Fraeulein, you are very kind to me," said Max.
"Yes--yes, I am, Sir Max," she responded, beaming on him. "Now, tell me
what you and Twonette have been talking about."
"You," answered Max.
A laugh gurgled in her throat as she asked:--
"I'll tell you if you will tell me what you and Sir Karl were saying,"
"Ah, I see!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands gleefully. "You were
"I admit it," he answered, so very seriously that one might have thought
him in earnest. "And you, Fraeulein?"
"I jealous?" she responded, with lifted eyebrows. "You are a vain man,
Sir Max. I was not jealous--only--only a tiny bit--so much--" and she
measured the extent of her jealousy on the pink tip of her little
finger. "I am told you were falconing with the Duke of Burgundy to-day.
If you go in such fine company, I fear we shall see little of you."
"There is no company finer than--than--" Max checked his tongue.
"Say it, Max, say it," she whispered coaxingly, leaning toward him.
"Than you, Fraeulein." The girl leaned back contentedly against the wall,
and Max continued: "Yes, his lordship was kind to me, and most gracious.
I cannot believe the stories of cruelty I hear of him. I have been told
that on different occasions he has used personal violence on his wife
and daughter. If that be true, he must be worse than the brutes of the
field, but you may be sure, Yolanda, the stories are false."
"Alas! I fear they are too true," responded the girl, sighing in memory
of the afternoon.
"He is a pleasing companion when he wishes to be," said Max, "and I hear
his daughter, the princess, is much like him."
"Heavens!" exclaimed Yolanda, "I hope she is like him only when he is
"That is probably true," said Max.
"There is where I am really jealous, Max--this princess--" she said,
leaning forward and looking up into his face with unmistakable
"Why?" asked Max, laughing.
"Because men love wealth and high estate. There are scores of men--at
least, so I have been told--eager to marry this princess, who do not
even know that she is not hideous to look upon and vixenish in temper.
They would take her gladly, with any deformity, physical, mental, or
moral, for the sake of possessing Burgundy."
"But I am told she is fair and beautiful," said Max.
"Believe it not," said Yolanda, sullenly. "Whoever heard of a rich
princess who was not beautiful? Anne and Joan, daughters of King Louis,
are always spoken of as paragons of beauty; yet those who know tell me
these royal ladies are hideous. King Louis has nicknamed Joan 'The
Owlet' because she is little, ill-shapen, and black. Anne is tall, large
of bone, fat, and sallow. He should name her 'The Giantess of Beaujeu';
and the little half-witted Dauphin he should dub 'Knight of the Princely
Order of House Rats.'"
That she was deeply in earnest there could be no doubt.
"I hope you do not speak so freely to others," said Max. "If His Grace
of Burgundy should hear of your words he might--"
"I hope you will not tell him," said Yolanda, laughing. "But this Mary!"
she continued, clinging stubbornly to the dangerous topic. "You came to
woo her estates, and in the end you will do so."
I am convinced that the girl was intensely jealous of herself. When she
feared that Max might seek the Princess Mary, her heart brooded over the
thought that he would do so for the sake of her wealth and her domains.
"I have told you once, Fraeulein, what I will do and what I will not. For
your own sake and mine I'll tell you no more," said Max.
"If I were a great princess," said Yolanda, pouting and hanging her
head, "you would not speak so sharply to me." Evidently she was hurt by
Max's words, though they were the expression, not of his displeasure,
but of his pain.
"Fraeulein, forgive me; my words were not meant to be sharp. It was my
pain that spoke. You torture me and cause me to torture myself," said
Max. "To keep a constant curb on one's ardent longing is exhausting. It
takes the heart out of a man. At times you seem to forget that my
silence is my great grief, not my fault. Ah, Fraeulein! you cannot
understand my longing and my struggle."
"I do understand," she answered plaintively, slipping her hand into his,
"and unless certain recent happenings have the result I hope for, you,
too, will understand, more clearly than you now do, within a very
She covered her face with her hands. Her words mystified Max, and he was
on the point of asking her to explain. He loved and pitied her, and
would have put his arm around her waist to comfort her, but she sprang
to her feet, exclaiming:--
"No, no, Little Max, let us save all that for our farewell. You will not
have long to wait."
Wisdom returned to Max, and he knew that she was right in helping him to
resist the temptation that he had so valiantly struggled against since
All that I had really hoped for in Styria, all our fair dreams upon the
castle walls of Hapsburg, had come to pass. Max had, beyond doubt, won
the heart of Mary of Burgundy, but that would avail nothing unless by
some good chance conditions should so change that Mary would be able to
choose for herself. In such case, ambition would cut no figure in her
choice. The chains of duty to family, state, and ancestry that bound
Max's feet so firmly would be but wisps of straw about Yolanda's slender
ankles. She would have no hesitancy in making her choice, were she free
to do so, and states might go hang for all she would care. Her heart was
her state. Would she ever be able to choose? Fortune had been kind to us
thus far; would she remain our friend? She is a coquette; but the heart
of a coquette, if truly won, is the most steadfast of all.
Twonette brought in the wine and honey; Castleman soon returned and
lighted the lamp, and we all sat talking before the small blaze in the
fireplace, till the great clock in the middle of the room chimed the
hour of ten. Then Yolanda ran from us with a hurried good night, and Max
returned with me to the inn.
* * * * *
I cannot describe the joy I took from the recurring thought that I was
particeps criminis with the Princess of Burgundy in the commission of a
crime. At times I wished the crime had been greater and its extenuation
far less. We hear much about what happens when thieves fall out, but my
observation teaches me that thieves usually remain good friends. The
bonds of friendship had begun to strengthen between Yolanda and me
before she sought my help in the perpetration of her great crime. After
that black felony, they became like links of Milan chain. I shared her
secrets, great and small.
One day while Yolanda and I were sitting in the oak room,--the room from
which the panel opened into the stairway in the wall,--I said to her:--
"If your letter 't' causes a break with France, perhaps Max's
opportunity may come."
"I do not know--I cannot hope," she responded dolefully. "You see, when
father made this treaty with France, he was halting between two men in
the choice of a husband for me. One was the Dauphin, son to King Louis,
whom father hates with every breath he draws. The other was the Duke of
Gelders, whom father really likes. Gelders is a brute, Sir Karl. He kept
his father in prison four years, and usurped his domain. He is a
drunkard, a murderer, and a profligate. For reasons of state father
chose the Dauphin, but if the treaty with France is broken, I suppose it
will be Gelders again. If it comes to that, Sir Karl--but I'll not say
what I'll do. My head is full of schemes from morning till night, and
when I sleep my poor brain is a whirl of visions. Self-destruction,
elopement, and I know not what else appeal to me. How far is it to
Styria, Sir Karl?" she asked abruptly.
"Two or three hundred leagues, perhaps--it may be more," I answered. "I
do not know how far it is, Yolanda, but it is not far enough for your
purposes. Even could you reach there, Styria could not protect you."
"I was not thinking of--of what you suppose, Sir Karl," she said
"What were you thinking of, Yolanda?" I asked.
"Of nothing--of--of--a wild dream of hiding away from the world in some
unknown corner, at times comes to me in my sleep--only in my sleep, Sir
Karl--for in my waking hours I know it to be impossible. The only
pleasant part of being a princess is that the world envies you; but what
a poor bauble it is to buy at the frightful price I pay!"
"I have been on mountain tops," I answered philosophically, "and I find
that breathing grows difficult as one ascends."
"Ah, Sir Karl," she answered tearfully, "I believe I'll go upstairs and
I led her to the moving panel and opened it for her. Without turning her
face she held back her hand for me to kiss. Then she started up the dark
stone steps, and I knew that she was weeping. I closed the panel and sat
on the cushioned bench. To say that I would have given my old life to
win happiness for her but poorly measures my devotion. A man's happiness
depends entirely on the number and quality of those to whom his love
goes out. Before meeting Yolanda I drew all my happiness from loving one
person--Max. Now my source was doubled, and I wished for the first time
that I might live my life again, to lay it at this girl's feet.
TRIAL BY COMBAT
Max had waited until Calli's arm was mended to bring up the subject of
the trial by combat; but when he would have taken it before the duke, I
dissuaded him by many pretexts, and for a few days it was dropped. But
soon it was brought forward in a most unpleasant way. Max and I were in
the streets of Peronne one afternoon, and as we approached a group of
ragged boys, one of them cried out:--
"There is the fellow that challenged Count Calli, but won't fight him!"
Max turned upon the boy, caught him roughly by the shoulder, and asked
him where he got his information. The frightened boy replied that his
father was a hostler in the duke's stables, and had heard Count Calli
say that the fellow who had challenged him was "all gauntlet but
We at once sought Hymbercourt, who, on being closely questioned,
admitted that the Italians in the castle were boasting that the stranger
who seemed so eager to fight when Calli's arm was lame, had lost his
courage now that the arm was healed.
Of course I was in a deal of trouble over this combat, and heartily
wished the challenge had never been given, though I had all faith in
Max's strength and skill. I, who had fought constantly for twenty years,
had trained him since his tenth birthday. I had not only trained him; I
had introduced him to the lists at eighteen--he being well grown, strong
of limb, and active as a wildcat. I waged him against a famous tilt-yard
knight, and Max held his own manfully, to his great credit and to my
great joy. The battle was a draw. My first great joy in life came a few
months afterward, when Max unhorsed this same knight, and received the
crown of victory from the queen of the lists.
But this combat would be a battle of death. Two men would enter the
lists; one would die in the course.
Max could, with propriety, announce his title and refuse to fight one so
far beneath him as Calli; but even my love for the boy and my fear of
the outcome, could not induce me to advise this. The advice would have
been little heeded had I given it. Max was not one in whose heart hatred
could thrive, but every man should have a just sense of injury received,
and no one should leave all vengeance to God. In Max's heart this sense
was almost judicial. The court of his conscience had convicted Calli of
an unforgivable crime, and he felt that it was his God-appointed duty to
carry out the sentence.
While I had all faith in Max's strength and skill, I also knew Calli to
be a strong, time-hardened man, well used to arms. What his skill was, I
could not say, but fame proclaimed it great. It would need to be great
to kill Max, boy though he was, but accidents are apt to happen in the
lists, and Calli was treacherous. I was deep in trouble, but I saw no
way out but for Max to fight. So, on the morning after our conversation
with Hymbercourt, Max and I sought admission to the duke's audience.
Charles had been privately told of our purpose and of course was
delighted at the prospect of a battle to the death.
A tournament with, mayhap, a few broken heads furnished him great
enjoyment; but a real battle between two men, each seeking the other's
life, was such keen pleasure to his savage, blood-loving nature, that
its importance could hardly be measured. Charles would have postponed
his war against the Swiss, I verily believe, rather than miss this
combat between Max and Calli.
The duke hurried through the business of the morning, and then turned
toward Max, signifying that his time had come. Max stepped before the
ducal throne, made his obeisance, and said:--
"May it please Your Highness to recall a wage of battle given by me some
weeks ago, in this hall and in this august presence, to one who calls
himself Count Calli? The cause of my complaint against the said Calli I
need not here rehearse. I have waited to repeat my defiance until such
time as Count Calli's arm should mend. I am told that he is now strong;
and, most gracious Lord Charles, Duke of Burgundy, I again offer my wage
of battle against this said knight and demand the trial by combat."
Thereupon he drew an iron gauntlet from his girdle and threw it clanking
on the stone floor. The gauntlet lay untouched for the space of a minute
or two; and the duke turned toward Calli and Campo-Basso, who stood
surrounded by their Italian friends at the right of the throne. After a
long pause Charles said:--
"Will Count Calli lift the gage, or shall we appoint a court of heraldry
to determine whether or no the combat shall take place?"
There was a whispered conversation among the Italians, after which
Campo-Basso addressed the duke.
"My most gracious lord," said he, "the noble Count Calli is loath to
lift the gage of an unknown man, and would make bold to say that he will
not do so until he is satisfied that he who so boastingly offers it is
worthy in blood, station, and knighthood to stand before him."
"For all that I will stand surety," said Hymbercourt, turning to the
duke and to Campo-Basso.
"The Lord d'Hymbercourt's honor is beyond reproach," replied the
Italian, "but Count Calli must have other proof."
Hymbercourt was about to make an angry reply, but he was silenced by the
duke's uplifted hand.
"We will ourself be surety for this knight," said Charles.
"We cannot gainsay Your Lordship's surety, most gracious duke," returned
Campo-Basso; "but with all meekness and humility we would suggest, with
Your Grace's permission, that when a man jeopards his life against
another he feels it his right to know at least his foe's name."
"Count Calli must content himself with knowing that the knight's name is
Sir Maximilian du Guelph. If Count Calli is right and his cause just,
God will give him victory, and the whole world shall know of his deed.
If he is in the wrong and his cause unjust, may God have mercy on
A long pause ensued during which Max stood before the duke, a noble
figure of manly beauty worthy the chisel of a Greek sculptor. The
shutter in the ladies' gallery was ajar and I caught a glimpse of
Yolanda's pale, tear-stained face as she looked down upon the man she
loved, who was to put his life in peril to avenge her wrong.
"We are wasting time, Count Calli," spoke the duke. "Take up the gage or
demand a court. The charge made by Sir Max will certainly justify a
court of chivalry in ordering the combat. The truth or falsity of that
charge you and Sir Max must prove on each other's bodies. His desire to
remain unknown the court will respect; he has ample precedent. If you
are convinced by the word of our Lord d'Hymbercourt and myself that he
is of birth and station worthy to engage with you in knightly and mortal
combat, you can ask no more. Few courts of chivalry, I take it, would
hold the evidence inconclusive. Take up or leave the gage, Sir Count,
and do one or the other at once."
Calli walked over to the gauntlet and, taking it from the floor, held it
in his right hand while he bent his knee before the duke. He did not
look toward Max, but turned in the direction of his friends and tucked
the gauntlet in his girdle as he strode away.
"We appoint this day twelve days, on a Sunday afternoon, for the
combat," said Charles. "Then these men shall do their endeavor, each
upon the other; and may God give victory to the right!"
* * * * *
That evening, as usual, Max and I were at Castleman's. Yolanda did not
come down till late, but when she came she clung silently to Max, and
there was a deep pathos in her every word and glance. As we left, I went
back and whispered hurriedly to her:--
"Have no fear, dear one. Our Max will take no harm."
My words were bolder than my heart, but I thought to comfort her.
"I have no fear, Sir Karl," she said, in a trembling voice. "There is no
man so strong and brave as Max. He is in the right, and God is just. The
Blessed Virgin, too, will help him. It would be sacrilege to doubt her.
I do not doubt. I do not fear, Sir Karl, but, oh, my friend--" Here she
buried her face on my breast and wept convulsively. Her words, too, had
been bolder than her heart--far bolder.
The brooding instinct in me--the faint remnant of mother love, that kind
Providence has left in every, good man's heart--longed to comfort her
and bear her pains. But I was powerless to help her, and, after all, her
suffering was wholesome. In a moment she continued, sobbing while
"But--oh! if by any mischance Max should fall; if by treachery or
accident--oh, Sir Karl, my heart is breaking. Do not let Max fight."
These words were from her woman's heart. "His station will excuse him,
but if the affair has gone too far for him to withdraw, tell him to--to
leave Burgundy, to run away, to--"
"Yolanda, what are you saying?" I asked. "Would you not rather see him
dead than a coward?"
"No, no, Sir Karl," she cried, wrought almost to a frenzy by her grief
and fear. "No, no, anything but dead."
"Listen to reason, Yolanda," I answered. "I, who love Max more than I
love the blood of my heart, would kill him with my own hand rather than
have cause to call him coward and speak the truth."
"No, no," she cried desperately, grasping my hand. "Do not let him
fight. Ah, Sir Karl, if you bear me any love, if my grief and unhappy
lot have touched your heart, even on the smallest spot, I pray you, do
this thing for me. Do not let Max fight with this Count Calli. If
"But Max will not fall," I answered boldly. "He has overthrown better
men than Calli."
"Has he? Ah, tell me, has he? He is little more than a boy. I seem older
than he at times, and it is hard to believe what you say, though I know
he is strong, and that fear has no place in his heart. Tell me, whom has
"Another time, Yolanda," I responded soothingly, "but this I say now to
comfort you. Calli is no match for our Max. In the combat that is to
come, Max can kill him if he chooses, barring accidents and treachery.
Over and above his prowess, his cause, you know, is just, and for that
reason God will be with him."
"Yes, yes," sobbed Yolanda, "and the Virgin, too."
The Virgin was a woman in whom she could find a woman's sympathy. She
trusted God and stood in reverent awe of Him; but one could easily see
that the Virgin held her heart and was her refuge in time of trouble.
When I turned to leave she called me back, saying:--
"I have a mind to tell Max the truth--to tell him who I am."
"I would not do so now," I answered, fearing, perhaps with good reason,
the effect of the disclosure on Max. "After the combat, if you wish to
"But if he should fall?" said the girl, beginning to weep again and
clinging desperately to my arm. "If he should fall, not knowing who
"Max will not fall, Yolanda. Dismiss that fear from your heart."
My bold words served a double purpose. They at least partially satisfied
Yolanda, and they strengthened me.
Of course Max and I at once began to prepare for the combat. The charger
we had captured from the robbers on the Rhine now came to our hand as if
sent by Providence. He was a large, active horse, with limbs like steel.
He was an intelligent animal, too, and a good brain is almost as
valuable in a horse as in a man. He had evidently borne arms all his
life, for when we tried him in the tilt-yard we found him trained at
There was no heavy plate at the Peronne armorer's large enough for Max,
so Hymbercourt dropped a hint to Duke Charles, and His Grace sent two
beautiful suits to our inn. One was of Barcelona make, the other an old
suit which we judged had come from Damascus. I tried the latter with my
sword, and spoiled a good blade. Although the Damascus armor was too
heavy by a stone, we chose it, and employed an armorer to tighten a few
nuts, and to adjust new straps to the shoulder plates and arm pieces.
We caused lists to be built outside the walls, and Max worked eight
hours a day to harden himself. He ran against me, against our squires,
who were lusty big fellows, and now and then against Hymbercourt, who
was a most accomplished knight.
Yolanda was prone to coax Max not to fight, and her fear showed itself
in every look and gesture. Her words, of course, could not have turned
him, but her fears might have undermined his self-confidence. So I
pointed out to her the help he would get from encouragement, and the
possible hurt he would take were her fears to infect him. After my
admonition, her efforts to be cheerful and confident almost brought
tears to my eyes. She would sing, but her song was joyless. She would
banter Max and would run imaginary courses with him, taking the part of
Calli, and always falling dead at Max's feet; but the moment of
relaxation brought a haunting, terrified expression to her eyes. The
corners of her sweet mouth would droop, effacing the cluster of dimples
that played about her lips, and the fair, childish face, usually so
joyful, wore the mask of grief. For the first time in her life real
happiness had come, not within her grasp, but within sight; and this
combat might snatch it from her.
Once when I was helping Max to buckle on his armor for a bout at
practice, he said:--
"Yolanda seems to treat this battle as a jest. She laughs and banters me
as if it were to be a justing bout. I wonder if she really has a heart?"
"Max, I am surprised at your dulness," I said. "Do you not see her
manner is assumed, though her fear is small because of her great faith
in your prowess?"
"I'll try to deserve her faith," answered Max.
* * * * *
When at last the day arrived, Max was in prime condition. At the inn we
carefully adjusted the armor and fitted it on him. One of our squires
led the charger, carefully trapped, to the lists, which had been built
in an open field outside the town, west of the castle.
Max and I, accompanied by Hymbercourt and two other friends, rode down
to Castleman's, and Max entered the house for a few minutes. Yolanda had
told him that she would not be at the lists, and Max felt that it were
Twonette and her father had gone to the lists when we reached the House
under the Wall, but Yolanda and Frau Kate were awaiting us. There was a
brief greeting and a hurried parting--tearful on Yolanda's part. Then we
rode around to the Postern and entered the courtyard of the castle.
Crossing the courtyard, we passed out through the great gate at the
keep, and soon stood demanding admission to the lists.
The course was laid off north and south, the sun being in the southwest.
The hour of battle was fixed at four o'clock, and the combat was to
continue till sundown, if neither champion fell before that time. The
pavilion for the duke and the other spectators was built at the west
side of the false lists--a strip of ground ten feet wide, extending
entirely around the true lists, but separated from it by a barrier or
railing three feet high.
It was an hour after we left Castleman's house before Max and I entered
the false lists. As I expected, the princess was sitting in the pavilion
with her father and Duchess Margaret. A veil partly concealed her
features, and when Max rode down the false lists to make his obeisance
before the duke and the duchess, he could not know that the white face
of Yolanda looked down upon him. I was sorry to see the princess in the
pavilion, because I knew that if an untoward fate should befall Max, a
demonstration would surely follow in the ducal gallery.
At the gate of the true lists, Max was met by a priest, who heard his
oath, and by a herald, who read the laws and the agreement relating to
the combat. A court of heraldry had decided that three lances should be
broken, after which the champions, if both alive, should dismount and
continue the fight with battle-axes of whatever weight they might
choose. If either knight should be disabled, it was the other's right
to kill him.
After Max had entered the true lists the gates were closed, and
Hymbercourt, myself, and our squires stood outside the barrier at the
north end of the false lists,--the north being Max's station on
Max sat his charger, lance in rest; Calli waited in the south, and these
two faced each other with death between them.
When all was ready the heralds raised their banners, and the duke gave
the word of battle. There was a moment of deep silence, broken by the
thunder of tramping hoofs, as horses and men rushed upon each other.
Calli and Max met in mid-course, and the din of their contact was like
the report of a cannon. Each horse fell back upon its haunches; each
rider bent back upon his horse. Two tough yule lances burst into a
hundred splinters. Then silence ensued, broken after a moment by a storm
of applause from the pavilion.
The second course was like the first, save that Max nearly unhorsed
Calli by a marvellous helmet stroke. The stroke loosened Calli's helmet
by breaking a throat-strap, but neither he nor his friends seemed to
notice the mishap, and the third course was begun without remedying it.
When the champions were within ten yards of each other, a report like
the discharge of an arquebuse was heard, coming apparently from beneath
the pavilion. I could not say whence the report came--I was too intent
upon the scene in the lists to be thoroughly conscious of happenings
elsewhere--but come it did from somewhere, and Max's fine charger
plunged forward on the lists, dead. Max fell over his horse's head and
lay half-stunned upon the ground.
Above the din rose a cry, a frantic scream, that fairly pierced my
heart. Well I knew the voice that uttered it. The people in the pavilion
rose to their feet, and cries of "Treachery! treachery!" came from all
directions. Calli was evidently expecting the shot, for just before it
came he reined in his horse, and when Max fell the Italian instantly
brought his charger to a standstill and began to dismount with all the
speed his heavy armor would permit. When safely down, he unclasped his
battle-axe from the chain that held it to his girdle and started toward
Max, who was lying prone upon the ground. Cries of "Shame! shame!" came
from the pavilion, but no one, not even the duke, dared to interfere; it
was Calli's right to kill Max if he could.
I had covered my eyes with my hand, thinking that surely the boy's hour
had come. I removed my hand when I heard the scream, and I have thanked
God ever since for prompting me to do that little act, for I saw the
most beautiful sight that my eyes have ever beheld. Calli had reached
his prostrate foe and was standing over him with battle-axe uplifted to
deal the blow of death. At that same moment Yolanda sprang from the
duke's side, cleared the low railing in front of the ducal box, and
jumped to the false lists six or eight feet below. Her gown of scarlet
and gold shone with dazzling radiance in the sunlight.
Calli was facing the pavilion, and Yolanda's leap probably attracted his
attention. However that may have been--perhaps it was because of Calli's
haste, perhaps it was the will of God--the blow fell short, and Calli's
battle-axe, glancing from Max's helmet, buried itself in the hard
ground. While Calli was struggling to release his axe, Yolanda cleared
the low barrier of the true lists, sped across the intervening space
like a flash of red avenging flame, and reached Max not one second too
soon, for Calli's axe was again uplifted. She fell upon Max, and had the
axe descended she would have received the blow. Calli stepped back in
surprise, his heel caught on the toe of Max's iron boot, he fell prone
upon his back, and the weight of his armor prevented him from rising
quickly. The glancing blow on Max's helmet had roused him, and when he
moved Yolanda rose to her knees beside him.
"Let me help you," she cried, lifting Max's mailed hand to her shoulder;
Max did so, and by help of the frail girl he drew himself to his knees
and then to his feet. Meantime, Calli was attempting to rise. I can
still see the terrible picture. Calli's panting horse stood near by with
drooping head. Max's charger lay quivering in the convulsions of death.
Calli, whose helmet had dropped from his head when he fell, lay resting
on his elbow, half risen and bareheaded. Max stood deliberately taking
his battle-axe from his girdle chain, while Yolanda still knelt at his
feet. Battle-axe in hand, Max stepped toward Calli, who had risen to his
knees. The expression on the Italian's face I shall never forget. With
bared head and upturned face he awaited the death that he knew he
deserved. Max lifted his battle-axe to give the blow. I wondered if he
would give it. He lowered the axe, and a shout went up from the
"Kill him! Kill him!"
He lifted the axe again, and a silence like the hush of death fell upon
the shouting audience. Again Max hesitated, and I distinctly heard
Yolanda, who was still upon her knees, whisper:--
"Kill him! Kill him!"
Then came the shouts of a thousand voices, thrilling me to the marrow:--
"Kill him! Kill him!" and I knew that if I were standing in Max's shoes,
Calli would die within a moment. I also remember wondering in a flash of
thought if Max were great enough to spare him. Again the battle-axe came
slowly down, and the din in the pavilion was deafening:--
"Kill him! Kill him!"
Again the battle-axe rose; but after a pause, Max let it fall to the
ground behind him; and, turning toward the girl, lifted her with his
mailed hands to her feet. When she had risen Max looked into her face,
and, falling back a step, exclaimed in a voice hushed by wonder:--
His words coming to the girl's ears, like a far-away sound, from the
cavernous recesses of his helmet, frightened her.
"No, no, my name is not Yolanda. You are mistaken. You do not know me.
I--I am the princess. You do not know me."
Her words were prompted by two motives: she wished to remain unknown to
Max, and she feared lest her father should come to know that a great
part of her life was spent as a burgher girl. Her hands were clasped at
her breast; her face was as pale as a gray dawn; her breath came in
feeble gusts, and her words fell haltingly from her lips. She took two
steps forward, her eyes closed, and she began to fall. Max caught her
and lifted her in his strong arms. On great occasions persons often do
trivial acts. With Yolanda held tightly in the embrace of his left arm,
Max stooped to the ground and picked up his battle-axe with his right
hand. Then he strode to the north end of the lists and placed the girl
in my arms.
"Yolanda," he said, intending to tell me of his fair burden.
"No, Max," I whispered, as he unfastened his helmet. "Not Yolanda, but
the princess. The two resemble each other greatly."
"Yolanda," returned Max, doggedly. "I know her as a mother knows her
Not one hundred seconds had elapsed between the report of the arquebuse
and the placing of Yolanda in my arms; but hardly had Max finished
speaking when a dozen ladies crowded about us and took possession of the
After the duke had set on foot a search for the man who had fired the
arquebuse, he came down to the false lists and stood with Hymbercourt
and me, discussing the event. Campo-Basso said that his heart was "sore
with grief," and the Italians jabbered like monkeys. One of them wanted
to kiss Max for sparing his kinsman's life, but Max thrust him off with
a fierce oath. The young fellow was in an ugly mood, and if I had been
his enemy, I would sooner have crossed the path of a wounded lion than
his. He was slow to anger, but the treachery he had encountered had
raised all of Satan that was in him. Had he stood before Calli thirty
seconds longer that treacherous heart would have ceased to beat.
While we were standing in the false lists, speaking with the duke, an
Italian approached Max, bowed low, and said:--
"The noble Count Calli approaches to thank you for your mercy and to
extol your bravery."
Max turned his head toward the centre of the course, and saw Calli
surrounded by a crowd of jabbering friends who were leading him toward
us. A black cloud--a very mist from hell--came over Max's face. He
stooped and took his battle-axe from the ground. I placed my hand on the
boy's arm and warningly spoke his name:--
"Max!" After a pause I continued, "Leave murder to the Italians."
Max uttered a snort of disdain, but, as usual, he took my advice. He
turned to Campo-Basso, still grasping his battle-axe:--
"Keep that fellow away from me," he said, pointing toward Calli. "My
merciful mood was brief. By the good God who gave me the villain's life,
I will kill him if he comes within reach of my axe."
An Italian ran to the men who had Calli in charge, and they turned at
once and hurried toward the south gate of the lists. All this action was
very rapid, consuming only a minute or two, and transpired in much less
time than it requires to tell of it.
While our squires were removing Max's armor, I heard the duke say:--
"Arrest Calli. We will hold him until the shot is explained. If he was
privy to it, he shall hang or boil." Then the duke, placing his hand on
Max's shoulder, continued: "You are the best knight in Christendom, the
bravest, the most generous, and the greatest fool. Think you Calli would
have spared you, boy?"
"I am not Calli, my lord," said Max.
"You certainly are not," returned the duke.
Visions of trouble with France growing out of Yolanda's "t," and of a
subsequent union between Max and the princess, floated before my mind,
even amidst the din that surrounded me. Taking the situation by and
large, I was in an ecstasy of joy. Max's victory was a thousand
triumphs in one. It was a triumph over his enemy, a triumph over his
friends, but, above all, a triumph over himself. He had proved himself
brave and merciful, and I knew that in him the world had a man who would
leave it better and happier than he found it.
Calli was arrested and brought to the duke's presence. Of course he
denied all knowledge of the shot that had killed Max's horse. Others
were questioned, including three Italian friars wearing cassocks and
cowls, who bore a most wondrous testimony.
"Your Grace," said one of the friars, "we three men of God can explain
this matter that so nearly touches the honor of our fair countryman, the
noble Count Calli."
"In God's name, do so," exclaimed the duke.
"This is the explanation, most gracious lord. When the third course was
preparing, we three men of God prayed in concert to God the
Father,"--all the friars crossed themselves,--"God the Son, and God the
Holy Ghost, to save our countryman, and lo! our prayers were most
graciously answered; for, noble lord, at the moment when this most
valiant knight was about to kill our friend, we each heard a report
marvellously like to the discharge of an arquebuse. At the same instant
a fiery shaft descended from the palm of a mighty hand in the heavens,
and the horse of this valiant and most generous knight, Sir Max, fell
dead, stricken by the hand of God."
I had no doubt that this absurd explanation would be received with
scorn and derision; but the friar knew his audience, and I did not. His
statement was not really accepted as true, but it was not cast aside as
utterly absurd. I saw that it might easily be believed.
"Why did not others see your wondrous shaft from the hand of God?" I
"Because, noble lord," answered the friar, "our eyes were looking upward
in prayer. All others were fixed on this worldly combat."
The explanation actually seemed to explain.
Just then the men who had been sent out to seek evidence concerning the
shot returned, and reported that no arquebuse was to be found. The lists
were surrounded by an open field, and a man endeavoring to escape would
have been seen.
"Did you search all places of possible concealment for an arquebuse?"
asked the duke.
"All, my lord," answered the men, who were Burgundians and to be
Faith in the friars absurd story was rapidly gaining ground, and several
of the Italian courtiers, emboldened by encouragement, affirmed upon
their hope of salvation and their knightly honor that they, too, had
witnessed the descent of the shaft from heaven. Touch a man on his
superstitions, and he will believe anything you tell him. If you assure
him that an honest friend has told you so and so, he may doubt you, but
tell him that God tells you, and he will swallow your hook. If you would
have your lie believed, tell a great one.
Charles, more credulous and gullible than I should have believed, turned
to Hymbercourt. He spoke reverentially, being, you understand, in the
presence of a miracle:--
"This is a wondrous happening, my lord," said the duke.
"If it happened, Your Grace," returned Hymbercourt, "it certainly was
"Don't you think it did happen? Do not you believe that this bolt came
from the hand that was seen by these worthy friars?" asked the duke.
"The shaft surely did not come from a just God, my lord," returned
"Whence, then, did it come?" asked the duke. "No arquebuse has been
found, and a careful scrutiny has been made."
"Aye!" echoed the friars. "Whence else did it come? Whence, my Lord
I had noticed our Irish servant Michael standing near one of the friars.
At this point in the conversation the Irishman plucked me by the sleeve,
pointed to a friar, and whispered a word in my ear. Like a stone from a
catapult I sprang on the friar indicated, threw him to the ground, and
drew from under his black cassock an arquebuse.
"Here is the shaft from God!" I exclaimed, holding the arquebuse up to
view. Then I kneeled on the prostrate wretch and clutched his throat.
Anger gathered in my brain as lightning clusters about a mountain top. I
threw aside the arquebuse and proceeded to kill the canting mendicant. I
do not know that I killed him; I hope I did. I cannot speak with
certainty on that point, for I was quickly thrown away from him by the
avenging mob that rushed upon us and tore the fellow limb from limb. The
other friars were set upon by the populace that had witnessed the combat
from without the lists, and were beaten so unmercifully that one of them
died. Of the other's fate I know nothing, but I have my secret desires.
"Kill the Italians! Murder the assassins! Down with the mercenaries,"
cried the populace, who hated the duke's guard. The barriers were broken
down, and an interesting battle ensued. Surely the people got their full
satisfaction of blood and excitement that day. The Italians drew their
swords, but, being separated, they were at a disadvantage, though their
assailants carried only staves. I expected the duke to stop the fight,
but he withdrew to a little distance and watched it with evident
interest. My interest was more than evident; it was uproarious. I have
never spent so enjoyable a day. The fight raged after Max and I left,
and there was many a sore head and broken bone that night among the
Italian mercenaries of the Duke of Burgundy.
When Max and I returned to Peronne, we went to the noble church of St.
Jean and offered our humble gratitude. Max, having thrown off his anger,
proposed to buy a mass for the dead friar; but I was for leaving him in
purgatory where he belonged, and Max, as usual, took my advice.
On reaching the inn, Max cried loudly for supper. His calmness would
have done credit to a hardened warrior. There was at least one hardened
warrior that was not calm. I was wrought almost to a pitch of frenzy and
could not eat, though the supper prepared by Grote was a marvel in its
way. The old man, usually grave and crusty, after the manner of German
hosts, actually bent his knee to Max and said:--
"My poor house has entertained kings and princes; but never has it had
so great an honor as that which it now has in sheltering you."
That night the duke came with Hymbercourt to honor us at the inn. Each
spoke excitedly and warmly. Max seemed to be the only calm man
YOLANDA OR THE PRINCESS?
After these adventures we could no longer conceal Max's identity, and it
soon became noised about that he was Count of Hapsburg. But Styria was
so far away, and so little known, even to courtiers of considerable
rank, that the fact made no great stir in Peronne. To Frau Kate and
Twonette the disclosure came with almost paralyzing effect.
The duke remained with us until late in the night, so Max and I did not
go over to the House under the Wall. When we were alone in our room,
"The Princess Mary has treated me as if I were a boy."
"She saved your life," I returned. "Calli would certainly have killed
you had she not acted quickly."
"I surely owe her my life," said Max, "though I have little knowledge of
what happened after I fell from my horse until I rose to my feet by her
help. I complain of her conduct in deceiving me by pretending to be a
burgher maiden. It was easily done, Karl, but ungraciously."
"You are now speaking of Yolanda," I said, not knowing what the wishes
of the princess might be in regard to enlightening him. He looked at me
"Karl, if a woman's face is burned on a man's heart, he knows it when he
"You know Yolanda's face, certainly, and I doubt if Yolanda will thank
you for mistaking another's for it."
"I have made no mistake, Karl," he answered.
"I am not so sure," I replied. "The girl you placed in my arms seemed
taller by half a head than Yolanda. I noticed her while she was
standing. She seemed rounder and much heavier in form; but I, too,
thought she was Yolanda, and, after all, you may be right."
"I caught but a glimpse of her face, and that poorly," said Max. "It is
difficult to see anything looking downward out of a helmet; one must
look straight ahead. But the glimpse I had of her face satisfied me."
"Do not be too sure, Max. I once took another man for myself." Max
laughed. "I am sure no one could have told us apart. He was the Pope,
and I his cousin. Yolanda herself once told me--I believe she has also
told you--that she has the honor to resemble the princess."
I did not wish to lie to Max, and you will note that I did not say the
princess was not Yolanda. Still, I wished him to remain ignorant upon
the important question until Yolanda should see fit to enlighten him. I
was not sure of her motive in maintaining the alias, though I was
certain it was more than a mere whim. How great it was I could not know.
Should she persist in it I would help her up to the point of telling Max
a downright falsehood. There I would stop.
We spent two evenings at Castleman's, but did not see Yolanda. On the
first evening, after an hour of listlessness, Max hesitatingly asked:--
"Where is Yo--that is, the princess has not been here this evening."
"The princess!" exclaimed Frau Kate. "No, she has not been here this
evening--nor the duke, nor the king of France. No titled person, Sir
Count, save yourself, has honored us to-day. Our poor roof shelters
"I mean Yolanda," said Max. Good-natured Frau Kate laughed softly, and
Twonette said, with smiling serenity:--
"Yolanda's head will surely be turned, Sir Count, when she hears you
have called her the princess. So much greatness thrust upon her will
make it impossible for us to live with her."
"She rules us all as it is, sweet soul," said Castleman.
"Yolanda is ill upstairs, Sir Count," said Frau Kate. "She wanted to
come down this evening, but I commanded otherwise. Twonette, go to her.
She will be lonely."
Twonette rose, courtesied, and departed. This splendid bit of acting
almost made me doubt that Yolanda was the princess, and it shook Max's
conviction to its very foundation.
I wish to warn you that the deception practised upon Max by Yolanda will
seem almost impossible, except on the hypothesis that Max was a very
simple fellow. But the elaborate scheme designed and executed by this
girl, with the help of the Castlemans and myself,--all of whom Max had
no reason to distrust,--would have deceived any man. Max, though simple
and confiding where he trusted,--judging others' good faith by his
own,--was shrewd for his years, and this plan of Yolanda's had to be
faultless, as it really was, to mislead him.
On the morning of the fourth day after the trial by combat, Yolanda made
her appearance at Castleman's, looking pale and large-eyed. Max and I
had walked down to the House under the Wall before going to dine with
the duke. Soon after we were seated Twonette left, and within five
minutes Yolanda came suddenly upon us in the long parlor. She ran to
Max, grasping both his hands. For a moment she could only say, "Max,
Max," and he remained silent.
When she recovered control of her voice she said:--
"How proud we are of you, Sir Max! Uncle and aunt have told me how
brave and merciful you were at the combat."
"Your Highness surely knows all that can be told on the subject, since
you were there and took so active a part in the adventure," answered
Max. "It is I who should be grateful, and I am. I owe my life to Your
"You honor me too much, Sir Max," said Yolanda, looking up with surprise
and bowing low before him. "Let my elevation be gradual that I may grow
accustomed to my rank. Make of me first a great lady, and then, say, a
countess. Afterward, if I prove worthy, call me princess."
"We will call you a princess now, Your Highness," answered Max, not to
be driven from his position.
"Very well," cried Yolanda, with a laugh and a sweeping courtesy. "If
you will have me a princess, a princess I'll be. But I will not be the
Princess of Burgundy. She saved your life, and I am jealous of her--I
She stamped her foot, and the angry gleam in her eyes was genuine. There
could be no doubt that she was jealous of the princess. I could not
account for her unique attitude toward herself save on one hypothesis:
she was, even to herself, two distinct persons. Yolanda was a happy
burgher girl; Mary was a wretched princess. The two widely differing
conditions under which she lived were so distinct, and were separated by
a gulf so broad, that to her the princess and the burgher girl were in
no way related.
With change of condition there was always a change of person. The
unhappy princess would come down the stairway in the wall; God would
kindly touch her, and lo! she was transformed into a happy Yolanda.
Yolanda's light feet would climb the dark stone steps, and God was once
more a frowning father. There must also be added Max's share in her
emotions. Perhaps she feared the princess as she would have dreaded a
rival; since she longed with all her passionate, tender heart to win Max
for herself only. It would have been an easy task, as princess, to win
him or any man; but if she could win him as Yolanda, the burgher girl,
the prize would be the greatest that could fall to a woman.
The true situation dawned upon me as I stood before Max and watched
Yolanda. I thought of her adroit plan to make trouble with France, and I
wanted to shout for joy. The impossible might yet happen. God's hand
surely had been in our journeying to Burgundy. Max might yet win this
peerless princess, this priceless girl; or, reverse it if you choose,
Mary of Burgundy might win this peerless man, and might at the same time
attain the unutterable joy of knowing that she had won him for her
Perhaps her yearning had led her to hope that he might in the end be
willing to fling behind him his high estate for the sake of a burgher
girl. Then, when she had brought him to that resolution, what a joy it
would be to turn upon him and say: "I am not a burgher girl. I am
Princess Mary of Burgundy, and all these things which you are willing to
forego for my sake you may keep, and you may add to them the fair land
of Burgundy!" Her high estate and rich domains, now the tokens of her
thralldom, would then be her joy, since she could give them to Max.
While these bright hopes were filling my mind, Yolanda was playing well
her part. She, too, evidently meant to tell no lies, though she might be
forced to act many. Her fiery outburst against the Princess of Burgundy
astonished Max and almost startled me. Still, the conviction was strong
with him that Yolanda was Mary.
"If--if you are the princess, Yo--Yolanda," said Max, evidently
wavering, "it were ungracious to deceive me."
"But I _am_ the princess," cried Yolanda, lifting her head and walking
majestically to and fro. "Address me not by that low, plebeian
She stepped upon a chair and thence to the top of the great oak table
that stood in the middle of the room. Drawing the chair up after her she
placed it on the table, and, seating herself on this improvised throne,
lifted one knee over the other, after the manner of her father. She
looked serenely about her in a most amusing imitation of the duke, and
spoke with a deep voice:--
No one responded. So she filled the office of herald herself and cried
"Oyez! Oyez! The princess now gives audience!" Resuming the ducal voice,
she continued, "Are there complaints, my Lord Seneschal?" A pause. "Ah,
our guards have stolen Grion's cow, have they? The devil take Grion and
his cow, too! Hang Grion for complaining." A pause ensues while the duke
awaits the next report. "The Swiss have stolen a sheepskin? Ah, we'll
skin the Swiss. My Lord Seneschal, find me fifty thousand men who are
ready to die for a sheepskin. Body of me! A sheepskin! I do love
Yolanda's audience was roaring with laughter by this time, but her face
was stern and calm.
"Silence, you fools," she cried hoarsely, but no one was silent, and Max
laughed till the tears came to his eyes. Yolanda on her throne was so
irresistibly bewitching that he ran to her side, grasped her about the
waist, and unceremoniously lifted her to the floor. When she was on her
feet, he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, saying:--
"Yolanda or Mary--it's all one to me. There is not another like you in
all the world."
She drew herself up haughtily: "Sir, this indignity shall cost you
dear," and turning her back on him she moved away three or four paces.
Then she stopped and glanced over her shoulder. His face had lost its
smile, and she knew the joke had gone far enough; so the dimples began
to cluster about the quivering corners of her mouth, the long black
lashes fell for a moment, a soft radiance came to her eyes, and
"Which shall it be, Sir Max, Yolanda or the princess?"
"Yolanda," cried Max, huskily, while he held out his hands to her. Quick
as the movement of a kitten, she sprang to him and allowed his arms to
close about her for one brief moment. While one might count ten she
rested her head on his breast, but all too quickly she turned her face
to his and whispered:--
"Are you sure? Is it Yolanda?"
"Yes, yes, Yolanda. Thank God! it is Yolanda," he replied, placing his
hand before his eyes. She slipped from his arms, and Max, too deeply
moved to speak, walked over to the window and looked out upon the
frowning walls of Peronne the Impregnable. There was irony for you!
Probably Max was not sure that Yolanda was Yolanda; but, if he was,
conviction had come through his emotions, and it might be temporary. He
was, however, soon to be convinced by evidence so cunningly constructed
that he was compelled to abandon the testimony of his own eyes and
accept that of seemingly incontestable facts.
"We are to dine privately with the duke at twelve o'clock," I said,
while Max was standing at the window.
"Indeed?" asked Yolanda, arching her eyebrows; surprise and displeasure
evident in her voice. She glanced at the great clock, then looked toward
Max, and said:--
"It lacks but thirty minutes of that time now, and I suppose I shall
soon lose you."
Max turned from the window, saying:--"Yes, we must go, or we shall be
"Does the princess dine with you?" asked Yolanda.
"I do not know, Fraeulein," answered Max. Thereupon Yolanda left the room
pouting, and we took our departure, having promised to return to
Castleman's after dinner.
We went at once to the castle; and thirty minutes after leaving
Castleman's we were in the small parlor or talking room of Duchess
Margaret, where the famous letter to the king of France had been signed
by Duke Charles. When we entered we saw the duchess and the princess
sitting upon the divan. The duke was in his great oak chair, and
Hymbercourt and two other gentlemen were standing near by. I made
obeisance to Charles on bended knee. He rose to receive Max, and, after
a slight hesitation, offered his hand, saying:--
"You are welcome, my Lord Count."
A year had passed since I had heard Max addressed as "my lord," and the
words sounded strange to my ears. I turned quickly toward the princess,
expecting to see a sparkle of mirth in her eyes, but Yolanda's ever
present smile was wholly lacking. The countenance of the princess was
calm, immovable, and expressionless as a mirror. I could hardly believe
that it was the radiant, bedimpled, pouting face I had just seen at
Castleman's, and for the first time in all my experience I realized that
I was face to face with a dual personality. The transformation was so
complete that I might easily have been duped had I not known beyond
peradventure the identity of Yolanda and Mary.
After the duke had kindly saluted Max, His Grace presented us to the
ladies. When the princess rose to receive us, she seemed at least half a
head taller than Yolanda. Her hair was hidden, and her face seemed
fuller. These changes were probably wrought by her head-dress, which
towered in two great curved horns twelve inches high. She wore a long,
flowing gown that trailed two yards behind her, and this added to her
apparent height. Max had seen Yolanda only in the short skirts of a
burgher girl's costume.
When Max rose, after kneeling before the princess, he gazed into her
eyes, but the glance he received in return was calm and cold. Yolanda
was rich, red wine, hot and strong; the princess was cold, clear water.
The one was exhilarating, at times intoxicating; the other was chilling.
The face of the princess, though beautiful, was touched with disdain.
Every attitude was one of dignity and hauteur. Her words, though not
lacking intelligence, were commonplace, and her voice was that of her
father's daughter. Yolanda was a girl; the princess was a woman. The
metamorphosis was complete, and Max's hallucination, I felt sure, would
be cured. The princess's face was not burned on his heart, whatever
might be true of Yolanda's. I can give no stronger testimony to the
marvellous quality of the change this girl had wrought in herself than
to tell you that even I began to doubt, and wonder if Yolanda had
tricked me. The effect on Max was instantaneous. After looking into the
princess's face, he said:--
"I wish to thank Your Highness for saving my life. I surely had been
killed but for your timely help."
The situation bordered on the ridiculous.
"Do not thank me, my Lord Count," responded the princess, in cold and
measured words. "I should have done the same for any man in your hard
case. I once saved a yokel in like manner. Two common men were fighting
with staves. One would have beaten the other to death had I not entered
the lists and parted them. Father feared a similar exhibition on my part
and did not wish me to attend your combat. He says now that I shall go
to no more. I certainly made myself ridiculous. I enjoy a fair fight,
whatever the outcome may be, but I despise murder. My act was entirely
impersonal, Sir Count."
"On the lists I addressed Your Highness as 'Yolanda,'" said Max. "Your
resemblance to one whom I know well was so great as to deceive me."
I was eager to take Max away from the dangerous situation, but I could
not. The duke, the courtiers, and myself had moved several paces from
Max and the princess. I, however, kept my eyes and ears open to what
occurred between them.
"Yes," returned the princess, haughtily, "I remember you so addressed
me. I have heard of the person to whom you refer. She is, I believe, a
niece of one Castleman, a burgher of Peronne. I know Castleman's
daughter--a simple creature, with no pretence of being else. It has been
said that--what do they call her? Yolanda, I believe--resembles me in
some respects and is quite proud of the distinction. I am sure I thank
no one for the compliment, since she is a low creature, but I accept
your apology, my Lord Count."
"I do not apologize, Your Highness," answered Max, in tones of equal
hauteur. "You probably do not know the lady of whom you speak."
The princess seemed to increase by an inch or two in stature as she drew
herself up, and answered:--
"Of course we do not know her."
"If you knew her, Your Highness would apologize," retorted Max.
Seeing the angry color mounting to his face, I stepped to his side and
joined in the conversation. Presently dinner was announced, and I
rejoiced when we parted from the princess. Turning our faces toward the
ladies, we moved backward from the room, and went with the duke to the
Compared with Castleman's daily fare, the duke's dinner was almost
unpalatable. We had coarse beef, coarse boar's meat, coarse bread,--not
black, but brown. Frau Kate's bread was like snow. The sour wine on the
duke's table set our teeth on edge, though it was served in huge golden
goblets studded with rare gems. At each guest's plate was a jewelled
dagger. The tablecloth was of rich silk, soiled by numberless stains.
Leeks and garlic were the only vegetables served.
Nothing of importance occurred at the table, but after dinner the duke
abruptly offered Max a large sum of gold to accompany him to
Switzerland. Max thanked His Grace and said he would give him an answer
soon. The duke urged an early reply, and Max said:--
"With Your Grace's permission we will attend to-morrow's morning
audience, and will make our answer after Your Lordship has risen."
Charles acquiesced, and we soon left the castle. The duke, as I have
already told you, was very rich. Hymbercourt once told me that he had
two hundred and fifty thousand gold crowns in his coffers at Luxembourg.
That was probably more than the combined treasuries of any two kings in
Europe could show. Max and I were short of money, and the sum that the
duke offered seemed enormous. Neither Max nor his father, Duke
Frederick, had ever possessed as much money at one time.
While we were leisurely walking across the courtyard toward the Postern,
three ladies and two gentlemen, accompanied by outriders and pages
carrying falcons, rode by us and passed out through the Postern. We
followed, and overtook them at the town end of the drawbridge, where
they had halted. When we came up to them, we recognized the duchess and
the princess. The duchess bowed smilingly, but the princess did not
speak, though she looked in our direction.
The cavalcade turned to the left, and went up a narrow street toward
Cambrai Gate, evidently bound for the marshes. Max and I walked straight
ahead toward the Cologne bridge, intending, as we had promised, to go
back to Castleman's. Two hundred yards up the street I glanced back, and
saw a lady riding through the Postern, back to the castle. I knew at
once that the princess had returned, and I was sure of meeting
Yolanda,--sweet, smiling, tender Yolanda,--at the dear old House under
the Wall. I did not like the princess; she was cold, haughty,
supercilious, and perhaps tinged with her father's cruelty. I longed
ardently for Yolanda to come out of her skin, and my heart leaped with
joy at the early prospect.
I was right in my surmise. Yolanda's sweet face, radiant with smiles and
soft with dimples, was pressed against the window-pane watching for us
when we crossed the moat bridge at Castleman's door.
"To see her face again is like coming back to heaven; isn't it, Karl?"
Yolanda ran to the door and opened it.
"I am glad you did not stay with her," she said, giving a hand to Max
and to me, and walking into the room between us. She was like a child
holding our hands.
I had seen the world and its people in all its phases, and I prided
myself on my shrewdness, but without my knowledge of the stairway in the
wall, I would have sworn that Yolanda had played a trick on me by
leading me to believe that she was the Princess Mary. Even with full
knowledge of all the facts, I found myself doubting. It is small cause
for wonder, therefore, that Max was deceived.
"Uncle is at the shop," said Yolanda. "Tante is at a neighbor's, and
Twonette, of course, is asleep. We three will sit here on this bench
with no one to disturb us, and I shall have you both all to myself. No!
There! I'll sit between you. Now, this is delightful."
She sat between us, crossed her knees--an unpardonable crime, Frau Kate
would have thought--and giving a hand to Max and to me, said
"Now, tell me all about it."
I was actually on the point of beginning a narrative of our adventures,
just as if she did not already know them,--so great was the spell she
had thrown over me,--when Max spoke:--
"We had a poor dinner, but a kind host, therefore a fine feast. The duke
has asked us to go to Switzerland with him. Judging by the enormous sum
he offers for our poor services, he must believe that he will need no
other help to conquer the Swiss."
"Yes--yes, that is interesting," said Yolanda, hastily, "but the
princess--tell me of her."
"She is a very beautiful princess," answered Max.
"Yes--I suppose she is," answered Yolanda. "I have it dinned into my
ears till I ought to believe it; but tell me of her manner, her
conversation, her temper. What of them?"
"She is a most beautiful princess," answered Max, evidently intending to
utter no word against Her Highness, though as a matter of fact he did
not like her at all. "I am sure she deserves all the good that fame
speaks of her."
Yolanda flung our hands from her, sprang to her feet, and faced us
"That's the way with all men. A rich princess, even though she be a cold
devil, is beautiful and good and gentle and wise and true and quick of
wit. Men care not what she is if her house be great and rich and
powerful. If her domains are fat and broad, she deserves 'all the good
that fame speaks of her.' She can win no man for herself. She cannot
touch a man's heart; she can only satisfy his greed. You went to the
castle, Sir Max, to see this princess. You want Burgundy. That is why
you are in Peronne!"
The girl's passionate outburst was sincere, and showed me her true
motive for deceiving Max. Her plan was not the outgrowth of a whim; it
was the result of a tremendous motive conceived in the depths of her
soul. She had found the man she loved, and was taking her own way to win
him, if she could, for herself. She judged all men by the standard that
she had just announced. She would never believe in the love of a man who
should woo her as Princess Mary of Burgundy.
Her words came near accomplishing more than she desired. When she
stopped speaking, Max leaned forward and gently took her hand.
"Yolanda, this princess is nothing to me, and I swear to you that I will
never ask her to marry--"
A frightened gleam came to the girl's eyes when she understood the oath
that Max was about to take, and she quickly placed her hand over his
mouth. Max was swearing too much.
"You shall not make that oath, Little Max," she said. "You shall not say
that you will never marry her, nor shall you say that you will never
marry any one else. You must remain free to choose the right wife when
the right time comes. You must tread the path that God has marked out
for you. Perhaps it leads to this princess; no one can tell. If so, you
must accept your fate, Sir Max." She sighed at the mere thought of so
untoward a fate for Max.
"I need make no oath not to marry the princess," answered Max. "She is
beyond my reach, even though I were dying for love of her."
"And you are not dying for love of her, are you?" asked Yolanda, again
taking the seat between Max and me.
"No," he responded.
"Nor for love of any woman?" she asked, looking toward Max.
"I'll not say that," he replied, laughing softly, and taking her hands
"No, no," she mused, looking in revery out the window. "No, we will not
I have always been as unsentimental as a man well can be, but I believe,
had I been in Max's place, I should have thrown away my crown for the
sake of Yolanda, the burgher girl. I remember wondering if Max would be
strong enough finally to reach the same conclusion. If he should be, my
faith in Yolanda's powers led me to believe that she would contrive a
plan to make him her husband, despite her father, or the devil and
all his imps.
There is a power of finesse in the feminine mind that no man may fully
compass, and Yolanda, in that respect, was the flower of her sex. That
she had been able to maintain her humble personality with Max, despite
the fact that she had been compelled to meet him twice as princess,
proved her ability. Of course, she had the help of good old Castleman
and his sweet Frau Kate, serene Twonette, and myself; but with all this
help she probably would have failed without the stairway in the wall.
When we left Castleman's, I did not bring up the subject of Mary and
Yolanda. Max walked silently beside me until we had nearly reached the
inn, when he said:--
"I am almost glad I was wrong, Karl. I would not have Yolanda other
than she is. At times, wild thoughts suggest themselves to me; but I am
not so weak as to give way to them. I drive them off and clench my
teeth, determined to take the misery God doles out to me. I am glad we
are soon to leave Burgundy. The duke marches in three days, and it is
none too soon for me."
"Shall not we return to Burgundy?" I asked. "I want you to see Paris and
Brussels, and, if possible, London before we return to Styria. Don't you
think it best that we come back to Peronne after this war?"
"You are right, Karl; we must come back," he answered. "I do not fear
Yolanda. I am not weak."
"I sometimes wonder if we know our strength from our weakness," I
suggested. "There is doubtless much energy wasted by conscientious men
striving in the wrong direction, who fancy they are doing their duty."
"You would not have me marry Yolanda?" asked Max, a gleam of light
coming to his eyes.
"I do not know, Max," I responded. "A rare thing has happened to you.
You have won a marvellous love from a marvellous woman. She takes no
pains to conceal it. She could not hide it if she would. What you feel,
only you and God know."
"Only God," cried Max, huskily. "Only God. I cannot measure it."
"My dear boy," said I, taking his arm, "you are at a point where you
must decide for yourself."
"I have decided," returned Max. "If my father and mother were not
living, I might--I might--bah! there is but one life for me. I am
doomed. I make myself wretched by resistance."
"When we return to Peronne, you will know your mind," I answered
"I know my mind now," he answered. "I know that I would give half the
years of my life to possess Yolanda; but I also know the fate that God
has marked out for me."
"Then you know more than many a wise man thrice your age can boast,"
* * * * *
The duke's armies had been gathering throughout Burgundy. Men had come
in great numbers to camp near Peronne, and the town was noisy with
martial preparations. Contrary to Hymbercourt's advice, the duke was
leaving Peronne Castle guarded by only a small garrison. Charles had
great faith in the strength of Peronne the Impregnable, and, although it
was near the French border, he trusted in its strength and in his treaty
with King Louis. He knew from experience that a treaty with Louis would
bind that crafty monarch only so long as it was to his interest to
remain bound; but Louis' interest in maintaining the treaty seemed
greater than Burgundy's, and Charles rested on that fact. Peronne was to
be left captained by the duchess and Mary, and garrisoned by five score
men-at-arms, who were either too old or too young to go to war.
Without discussing the duke's offer, Max and I decided to accept it,
though for different reasons. Max needed the gold; he also sniffed
battle, and wanted the excitement and the enterprise of war. I had all
his reasons, and still another; I wanted to give Yolanda time to execute
The war with Switzerland would probably be short. Max would be with the
duke, and would, I hoped, augment the favor with which Charles already
honored him. Should Yolanda's letter make trouble with France, Duke
Charles might be induced, through his personal feelings, to listen to
Max's suit. If Charles returned from Switzerland victorious--and no
other outcome seemed possible--he would no longer have reason to carry
out the marriage treaty with France. It had been made largely for the
purpose of keeping Louis quiet while Charles was absent. Anything might
happen; everything might happen, while Max was with Charles in
Switzerland and Yolanda at home making trouble with France.
The next day, by appointment, we waited on the duke at the morning
audience. When we entered the great hall, the urgent business had been
transacted, and half a score of lords and gentlemen stood near the dais,
discussing some topic with the duke and with one another. We moved near
the throne, and I heard Charles say to Campo-Basso and Hymbercourt:--
"Almost three weeks have passed since our message to France, and we have
had no answer. What think you, gentlemen, of the delay?"
"His Majesty is not in Paris, or delays answering," said Hymbercourt.
"By the Host, if I could think that King Louis were holding Byron and
delaying an answer, I would change my plans and march on Paris rather
than on Switzerland."
"I fear, my lord," said Campo-Basso, with a sympathetic desire to make
trouble, if possible, "that His Majesty delays an answer while he frames
one that shall be elusive, yet conciliatory. King Louis, Your Grace
knows, thinks many times before each word he speaks or writes."
"If he has intentionally delayed this answer, I'll give him cause to
think many times _after_ his words," said Charles.
Conversations of like nature had occurred on several occasions since the
sending of the missive to Louis, and they offered the stormy duke
opportunity to vent his boastfulness and spleen. While Charles was
pouring out his wrath against his brother-in-law, Byron, the herald,
appeared at the door of the great hall. He announced himself, and, when
ordered to approach, ran to the dais, kneeled on the second step, and
placed a small sealed packet in the duke's hand.
"Did you find King Louis at Paris?" asked the duke, addressing Byron.
"I did, my lord."
"Paris is but thirty leagues distant, and you certainly have had
sufficient time since leaving us to journey across Europe and back. Did
not I command you to make haste?"
"You did, my lord," answered the herald. "King Louis put me off from day
to day, always promising me an answer, but giving it only yesterday
afternoon when the sun was half below the horizon."
Charles nervously broke the seals of the package, and attempted to read
the letter. He failed, and handed it to Campo-Basso, saying:--
"Read the missive. I already know its contents, but read, my lord,
Campo-Basso read the letter.
"To Our Most Illustrious Brother Charles Duke of Burgundy, and Count of
"We recommend us and send Your Grace greeting. We are anxious to
pleasure our noble brother of Burgundy in all things, and heartily
desire the marriage between our son and the illustrious Princess of
Burgundy, but we shall not move toward it until our said noble brother
shall return from Switzerland, nor will we do aught to distract his
attention from the perilous business he now has on hand. We pray that
the saints may favor his design, and would especially recommend that our
noble brother propitiate with prayers and offerings the holy Saint
Hubert. We, ourselves, have importuned this holy saint, and he has
proved marvellously helpful on parlous occasions.
The duke's anger was terrible and disgusting to behold. When his
transports of rage allowed him to speak, he broke forth with oaths too
blasphemous to write on a white page.
"The fawning hypocrite!" he cried. "He thinks to cozen us with his cheap
words. The biting insult in his missive is that he takes it for granted
that we are so great a fool as to believe him. Even his recommendation
of a saint is a lie. The world knows his favorite saint is Saint Andrew.
King Louis spends half his time grovelling on his marrow bones before
that saint and the Blessed Virgin. He recommends to us Saint Hubert,
believing that his holy saintship will be of no avail."
Charles was right. Sir Philip de Comines, seneschal to King Louis,
afterward told me that His Majesty, in writing this letter to the Duke
of Burgundy, actually took counsel and devoted much time and thought to
the choice of a baneful or impotent saint to recommend to his "noble
brother of Burgundy." Disaster to Louis had once followed supplication
to Saint Hubert, and the king hoped that the worthy saint might prove
equally unpropitious for Charles. Yolanda's wonderful "t" was certainly
the most stupendous single letter ever quilled. Here were the
first-fruits of it.
"Were it not that these self-sufficient Swiss need to be blooded, I
would turn my army against France to-morrow," said the duke.
"And have Bourbon and Lorraine upon Your Lordship's back from the east,
Ghent rebelling in the north, and the Swiss pouring in from the south,"
"You are certainly right, my Lord d'Hymbercourt," replied Charles,
sullenly. "They surround us like a pack of starved wolves, ready to
spring upon us the moment we are crippled. Burgundy stands alone against
"A vast treasure, my lord, attracts thieves," said Hymbercourt.
"Burgundy is the richest land on earth."
"It is, indeed it is," replied the duke, angrily, "and I have no son to
keep it after me. But France shall not have it; that I swear upon my
knighthood. Write to France, my Lord Bishop of Cambrai, and tell King
Louis that my daughter shall not marry his son. Waste no words, my Lord
Bishop, in what you call courtesy. We need no double meaning in our
Those who heard the duke's words knew that he was committing a costly
error, but no one dared to suggest as much. One might, with equal
success, have flung soft words at a mad bull. Truly that "t"--but I will
speak of it no more, though I have a thrill of joy and mirth even now
when I think of it.
After many explosions, the duke's pent-up wrath found vent, and began to
subside. Espying Max and me he called us to the throne.
"Have you concluded to join us in our little holiday excursion against
these mountain swine?" asked His Grace, addressing us.
"We have, my lord. We shall be proud to serve under the banner of so
brave a prince," I answered.
"'We have' would have been sufficient, Sir Karl," answered the duke,
still surly from the dregs of his wrath. "We hear so many soft words
from France that we despise them in the mouths of honest men."
The duke then turned to his seneschal, De Vergy, and spoke in tones that
were heard all over the room:--
"My lord, Maximilian, Count of Hapsburg, and Sir Karl de Pitti have
consented to join our banners. Enroll them in places of honor, my Lord
Seneschal. See that they are supplied with horses, accoutrements, and
tents for themselves and their squires, and direct my Lord Treasurer to
pay to them upon demand a sum of money of which he shall be duly
When the duke stopped speaking, a murmur of approval ran through the
audience--though the Italians had no part in it. The murmur grew
clamorous and soon a mighty shout filled the vaulted roof:--
"Long life to the noble Count of Hapsburg! Burgundy and Styria forever!"
To me, the words seemed delightfully prophetic. Soon afterward the
audience was dismissed, and Max and I had the great honor of being asked
to join the duke's council. A council to the Duke of Burgundy was indeed
a veritable fifth wheel. He made his own plans and, right or wrong,
clung to them. He would, on rare occasions, listen to Hymbercourt,--a
man of few words, who gave advice as if he were lending a crown,--but
the suggestions of others antagonized him.
The question before the council this morning was: Should the duke's army
carry provisions, or should it take them from the countries through
which it was to pass? Charles favored the latter course, and it was
agreed upon. The people of non-belligerent states should be paid for the
provisions that were taken; that is, theoretically they should be paid.
The Swiss should furnish provision, gratis, and that doubtless would be
On each of the three evenings intervening between the day of this
council and the departure of the army, we saw Yolanda at Castleman's.
She was always waiting when we arrived. She had changed in many
respects, but especially in her attitude regarding Max. She was kind and
gentle, but shy. Having dropped her familiar manner, she did not go near
him, but sat at a distance, holding Twonette's hand, and silently but
constantly watching him, as if she were awaiting something. Her eyes, at
times, seemed to be half-indignant interrogation points. At other times
I could see in them doubt, waiting, and hope--hope almost tired
It was no small love that she wanted from Max. She had hoped--perhaps I
should say she had longed with little hope--that he would, for the sake
of the burgher girl, Yolanda, be willing to turn his back on his family
and his land. But now he was leaving, and her dream was about to close,
since Max would probably never come back to her.
Not the least painful of Yolanda's emotions was the knowledge that she
could insure Max's return by telling him that she was the Princess of
Burgundy. But she did not want this man whom she loved so dearly, and
who, she knew, loved her, if she must win him as princess. She was
strangely impelled to reject a reprieve from a life of wretchedness,
unless it came through the high court of love.
Max, in speaking to me about his return, had wavered many times. One day
he would return; the next, he would swallow the bitter draught fate had
in store for him. He was a great, honest soul, and to such the call of
duty is compelling.
On the evening before our departure we went to sup with Castleman. On
our way down to the House under the Wall, Max said:--
"Karl, my duty is clear. I must not return to Peronne. If I do, I fear I
shall never leave it."
I did not answer; but I had resolved that he should return, and I
intended that my resolution should become a fact. Yolanda was not
present at supper, but she appeared soon after we had risen. We sat
under the dim light of a lamp in the long room. Yolanda was on the
cushioned bench in the shadow of the great chimney, silently clasping
Twonette's hand. Twonette, of course, was silent and serene. Castleman
and I talked disjointedly, and Max sat motionless, gazing through the
window into the night. After greeting us, Yolanda spoke not a word; but
ever in the deep shadow I could see the glow of her eyes looking toward
Max. That his heart was filled with a great struggle, I knew, and I
believed that Yolanda also knew.
We had many preparations to make before our departure next morning at
dawn, so after an hour Max and I rose to leave. Twonette, leaving
Yolanda, came to us, and the Castlemans all gave us a hearty God-speed.
Yolanda sat wordless in the shadow. I went to her and gave her my hand.
"Farewell, Fraeulein," I said.
Max followed me closely, and I stepped aside to make way for him. The
girl rose and stood irresolute before him. I went to the Castlemans, who
were standing at a distance.
"Fraeulein--" said Max. But she interrupted him, extending her hands,
which he clasped.
"Have you no word for me, Sir Max?" she asked pathetically, tears
springing to her eyes. "Are you coming back to me? Have you the right to
come into my life as you have done, and to leave me? Does God impose but
one duty on you--that of your birth?"
"Ah, Fraeulein," answered Max, huskily, "you know--you know what I
"I surely do know," she responded, "else I would not speak so plainly.
But answer me, Sir Max. Answer my question. It is my right to know upon
what I may depend. Will you come back to me?"
The imperious will of the princess had come to the rescue of Yolanda,
the burgher girl.
Max paused before speaking, then grasped her hands fiercely and
"Before God, Fraeulein, I will come back to you, if I live."
Yolanda sank upon the cushioned bench, covered her face with her hands,
and the pent-up storm of sobs and tears broke forth as Max and I passed
out the door.
Yolanda had won.
MAX GOES TO WAR
The next morning at dawn our army marched. Although Duke Charles would
not encumber himself with provisions for his men, he carried a vast
train of carts filled with plate, silk tents, rich rugs, and precious
jewels; for, with all his bravery, this duke's ruling passion was the
love of display in the presence of foreigners.
I shall not give the story of this disastrous war in detail; that lies
in the province of history, and my story relates only to Max and
Yolanda, and to the manner in which they were affected by the results
of the war.
We marched with forty thousand men, and laid siege to the city of
Granson, in the district of Vaud. The Swiss sent ambassadors under a
flag of truce, begging Charles to spare them, and saying, according to
my friend Comines, that "there were among them no good prisoners to
make, and that the spurs and horses' bits of the duke's army were worth
more money than all the people of Switzerland could pay in ransoms, even
if they were taken." Charles rejected all overtures, and on the third of
March the brave little Swiss army sallied against us, "heralding their
advances by the lowings of the Bull of Uri and the Cow of Unterwalden,
two enormous instruments which had been given to their ancestors by
God was against Charles of Burgundy, and his army was utterly routed by
one of less than a fourth its size. I was with Charles after the battle,
and his humiliation was more pitiful than his bursts of ungovernable
wrath were disgusting. The king of France, hoping for this disaster, was
near by at Lyons.
A cruel man is always despicable in misfortune. Charles at once sent to
King Louis a conciliatory, fawning letter, recanting all that he had
said in his last missive from Peronne, and expressing the hope that His
Majesty would adhere to the treaty and would consent to the marriage of
Princess Mary and the Dauphin at once. In this letter Yolanda had no
opportunity to insert a disturbing "t." Louis answered graciously,
saying that the treaty should be observed, and that the marriage should
take place immediately upon the duke's return to Burgundy.
"We have already forwarded instructions to Paris," wrote King Louis,
"directing that preparations be made at once for the celebration of this
most desired union at the holy church of St. Denis. We wondered much at
Your Grace's first missive, in which you so peremptorily desired us not
to move in this matter till your return; and we wondered more at Your
Lordship's ungracious reply to our answer in which we consented to the
delay Your Grace had asked."
Well might King Louis wonder. Charles also wondered, and cursed the
stupidity of the Bishop of Cambrai, who had so "encumbered his letter
with senseless courtesy as to distort its meaning."
Charles despatched letters to Peronne and Ghent, ordering immediate
preparations for the marriage. As usual, poor Mary was not considered of
sufficient importance to receive notice of the event that concerned her
so vitally. Others would prepare her, as one might fatten a lamb for
slaughter. The lamb need not be consulted or even informed; the day of
its fate would be sufficient for it. I was in despair. Max, in his
ignorance, was indifferent.
After a short delay, the duke gathered his wrath and his army and laid
siege to the town of Morat, announcing his intention to give no quarter,
but to kill all, old and young, men, women, and children. The Swiss were
prepared for us. "The energy of pride was going to be pitted against the
energy of patriotism." Again disaster fell upon Charles. Thousands of
his army were slain, and thousands fled in hopeless rout. His soldiers
had never wanted to fight, and one man defending his hearth is stronger
than half a score attacking it.
The loss of this battle drove Charles back to Burgundy. With a few of
his train, including Max and myself, he retired to the Castle of La
Riviera. Here he learned that Rene, Duke of Lorraine, had mustered his
forces and had laid siege to Nancy, which city Charles had taken from
Duke Rene, some years before, and had garrisoned with Burgundians and
English. Upon hearing this unwelcome news, Charles began the arduous
task of collecting another army. He was compelled to leave the
neighborhood of Switzerland and fly to the rescue of Nancy.
The first of January found us before Nancy, but our arrival was three
days too late. The city had capitulated to Duke Rene. On the fifth of
January a battle was fought before Nancy, but Fortune had turned her
back for all and all on this cruel Duke of Burgundy and Count of
Charolois. The disasters at Granson and Morat were repeated. At
nightfall Charles could not be found. I supposed that he had escaped,
but the next morning his body was found by a washerwoman, frozen in the
ice of a pond. He had been killed through the machinations of
Campo-Basso. Duke Rene magnanimously gave Charles regal burial, and
dismissed his followers without ransom. You may be sure I was eager to
return to Peronne.
Fortune, in turning her back upon Charles, had turned her smiling face
toward Max. Her ladyship's smiles were too precious to be wasted, so we
made post-haste for Peronne, I spurred by one motive, Mary of Burgundy,
Max by another--Yolanda. His heart had grieved for her in castle, in
camp, and in din of battle. He had, unknown to me, formed a great and
noble resolution; and there was no horse swift enough to keep pace with
his desire when we started for Peronne.
I was the first to announce the duke's death. The dark news was given by
me to the duchess and the princess in Margaret's parlor. These poor
women tried to grieve, but they were not hypocrites, and they could not
weep. Each had received at Charles's hands only ill-usage and cruelty,
and in their hearts they must have felt relief at his death.
"It was sure to come," said Margaret. "The duke's bravery led him always