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Yolanda: Maid of Burgandy by Charles Major

Part 6 out of 6

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into danger. It is God's will, and it must be right."

The princess walked to the window, and said nothing, until I was about
to leave; then she turned to me nervously and asked:--

"Did--did Sir Max come with you?"

I looked at her in surprise, and glanced inquiringly toward the duchess.

"My mother knows all, Sir Karl," said the princess, reassuringly. "There
have been many things which I could not have done without her help. I
have made many rapid changes, Sir Karl, from a princess to a burgher
girl, and back again, and I should have failed without my mother's help.
I surely mystified you often before you knew of the stairway in the
wall. Indeed, I have often hurried breathless to Uncle Castleman's house
to deceive you. Mother invented a burgher girl's costume that I used to
wear as an under-bodice and petticoat, so, you see, I have been visiting
you in my petticoats. I will show you some fine day--perhaps. I have but
to unfasten a half-score of hooks, and off drops the princess--I am
Yolanda! I throw a skirt over my head, fasten the hooks of a bodice, don
my head-dress, and behold! the princess once more. Only a moment
intervenes between happiness and wretchedness. But tell me, Sir Karl,
have you ever told Sir Max who I am?"

"Never, Your Highness--"

"Yolanda," she interrupted, correcting me smilingly.

"Never, Yolanda," I responded. "He does not even suspect that you are
the princess. I shall be true to you. You know what you are doing."

"Indeed I do, Sir Karl," she replied. "I shall win or lose now in a
short time and in short skirts. If Max will wed me as Yolanda, I shall
be the happiest girl on earth. If not, I shall be the most wretched. If
he learns that I am the princess, and if I must offer him the additional
inducement of my estates and my domains to bring him to me, I shall not
see him again, Sir Karl, if I die of grief for it."

I knew well what she meant, but I did not believe that she would be
able to hold to her resolution if she were put to the test. I was,
however, mistaken. With all my knowledge of the girl I did not know
her strength.

We reached Peronne during the afternoon and, of course, went early the
same evening to Castleman's.

We were greeted heartily by the good burgher, his wife, and his
daughter. Twonette courtesied to Max, but when she came to me, this
serene young goddess of pink and white offered me her cheek to kiss. I,
who had passed my quasi-priestly life without once enjoying such a
luxury, touched the velvet cheek with my lips and actually felt a thrill
of delight. Life among the burghers really was delicious. I tell you
this as a marked illustration of the fact that a man never grows too old
to be at times a fool. Twonette slipped from the room, and within
fifteen minutes returned. She went directly to Max and said:--

"Some one is waiting for you in the oak room above."

She pointed the way, and Max climbed the stairs two steps at a time. I
thought from his eagerness he would clear the entire flight at one
bound. To his knock a soft voice bade him enter. The owner of the voice
was sitting demurely at the farthest end of the room on a cushioned
bench. Her back rested against the moving panel that led to the
stairway in the wall. She did not move when Max entered. She had done
all the moving she intended to do, and Max must now act for himself. He
did. He ran down the long room to her, crying:--

"Yolanda! Yolanda!"

She rose to greet him, and he, taking her in his arms, covered her face
with kisses. The unconscious violence of his great strength bruised and
hurt her, but she gloried in the pain, and was passive as a babe in his
arms. When they were seated and half calm, she clutched one of his great
fingers and said:--

"You kept your word, Little Max. You came back to me."

"Did you not know that I would come?" he asked.

"Ah, indeed, I knew--you are not one that makes a promise to break it.
Sometimes it is difficult to induce such a man to give his word, and I
found it so, but once given it is worth having--worth having,
Little Max."

She smiled up into his face while she spoke, as if to say, "You gave me
a deal of trouble, but at last I have captured you."

"Did you so greatly desire the promise, Yolanda?" asked Max, solely for
the pleasure of hearing her answer.

"Yes," she answered softly, hanging her head, "more than any _man_, can
know. It must be an intense longing that will drive a modest girl to
boldness, such as I have shown ever since the day I first met you at
dear old Basel. It almost broke my heart when father--fatherland--when
Burgundy made war on Switzerland." The word "land" was a lucky thought,
and came to the girl just in the nick of time.

Max was too much interested in the girl to pay close attention to any
slips she might make about the war with Switzerland. It is true he was
now a soldier, and war was all right in its place; but there are things
in life compared with which the wars of nations are trivial affairs. All
subjects save one were unwelcome to him.

"Now I am going to ask a promise from you, Fraeulein," said Max,
loosening his hand from her grasp and placing his arm about her waist.
She offered no objections to the new situation, but blushed and looked
down demurely to her folded hands.

"It will, I fear, be very easy for you, Max, to induce me to promise
anything you wish. It will be all too easy, for I am not strong, as you
are." She glanced into his face, but her eyes fell quickly to her hands.

"I shall soon leave you again, Fraeulein, and what I wish is of such
moment that I--I almost fear to ask."

"Yes, Max," she murmured, gently reaching across his knee, and placing
her hand in his by way of encouragement.

"It is this, Fraeulein. I am going back to Styria, and I want to carry
with me your promise to be my wife," said Max, softly.

The girl's head fell over against his shoulder, and she clasped his free
hand between both of hers.

"I will ask my father's consent," said Max. "I will tell him of you and
of my great love, which is so great, Fraeulein, that all the world is
nothing beside it and beside you, and he will grant my request."

"But if he doesn't, Max?" asked the face hidden upon his breast.

"If he does not, Fraeulein, I will forego my country and my estates. I
will come back to you and will work in the fields, if need be, to make
you as happy as you will make me."

"There will be no need for that, Max," she answered, tears of happiness
slowly trickling down her cheeks, "for I am rich."

"That I am sorry to hear," he responded.

"Don't you want to know who I am before you wed me?" she asked, after a
long pause. She had almost made up her mind to tell him.

"That you may tell me when you are my wife," said Max. "I thought you
were the Princess Mary, but I am almost glad that you are not. I soon
knew that I was wrong, for I knew that you would not deceive me."

The girl winced and concluded to postpone telling her momentous secret.
She was now afraid to do so. As a matter of fact, she had in her heart a
healthy little touch of womanly cowardice on small occasions. After a
long, delicious pause, Max said:--

"Have I your promise, Fraeulein?"

"Y-e-s," she answered hesitatingly, "I will be your wife if--if I can,
and if you will take me when you learn who I am. There is no taint of
disgrace about me, Max," she added quickly, in response to the look of
surprise on his face. "But I am not worthy of you, and I fear that if
your father but knew my unworthiness, he would refuse his consent to our
marriage. You must not tell him of my boldness. I will tell you all
about myself before you leave for Styria, and then, if you do not want
me, you may leave me to--to die."

"I shall want you, Yolanda. I shall want you. Have no doubt of that," he

"With the assurance that there is no stain or taint upon me or my
family, do you give me your word, Max, that you will want me and will
take me, whoever I am, and will not by word or gesture show me that you
are angry or that you regret your promise?"

"I gladly give you that promise," answered Max.

"Did you ever tell a lie, Little Max?" she asked banteringly, "or did
you ever deliberately break a promise?"

"Did I ever steal or commit wilful murder?" asked Max, withdrawing his

"No, Max; now put it back again," she said.

After a long pause she continued:--

"I have lied."

Max laughed and drew her to him.

"Your lies will harm no one," he said joyously.

"No," she responded, "I only lie that good may come of it."

Then silence fell upon the world--their world. Was not that hour with
Max worth all the pains that Yolanda had taken to deceive him?

Yolanda and Max came down to the long room, and she, too, gave me her
cheek to kiss.

Twonette had prepared a great tankard of wine and honey, with pepper and
allspice to suit Yolanda's taste, and we all sat before the great
blazing yule fire, as joyful and content as any six people in
Christendom. Twonette and Yolanda together occupied one large chair;
Twonette serenely allowing herself to be caressed by Yolanda, who was in
a state of mind that compelled her to caress some one. Gentle Frau Kate
was sleeping in a great easy chair near the chimney-corner. Max sat at
one side of the table,--the side nearest Yolanda,--while Castleman and
I sat by each other within easy reach of the wine. I knew without the
telling, all that had occurred upstairs, and the same light seemed to
have fallen upon the Castlemans. Good old George was in high spirits,
and I could see in his eye that he intended to get drunk and, if
possible, to bring me, also, to that happy condition. After many goblets
of wine, he remarked:--

"The king of France will probably be upon us within a fortnight after he
hears the sad news from Nancy."

Yolanda immediately sat upright in her chair, abandoning Twonette's soft
hand and softer cheek.

"Why do you believe so, uncle?" she asked nervously.

"Because he has waited all his life for this untoward event to happen."

"Preparations should be made to receive him," said Yolanda.

"Ah, yes," replied Castleman, "but Burgundy's army is scattered to the
four winds. It has given its blood for causes in which its heart was
not. We lack the strong arm of the duke, to force men to battle against
their will. King Louis must be fought by policy, not by armies; and
Hymbercourt is absent."

"Do you know aught of him, Sir Karl?" asked Yolanda.

"I do not, Fraeulein," I answered, "save that he was alive and well when
we left Nancy."

"That, at least, is good news," she replied, "and I make sure he will
soon come to Burgundy's help."

"I am sure he is now on his way," I answered.

"What can Burgundy do?" she asked, turning to Castleman and me. "You
will each advise--advise the princess, I hope."

"If she wishes my poor advice," I responded, "she has but to ask it."

"And mine," said Castleman, tipping his goblet over his nose.

"If we are to have clear heads to-morrow," I suggested, "we must drink
no more wine to-night. The counsel of wine is the advice of the devil."

"Right you are, Sir Karl. Only one more goblet. Here's to the health of
the bride to be," said Castleman.

Yolanda leaned back in her chair beside Twonette, and her face wore a
curious combination of smile and pout.

On the way to the inn, Max, who was of course very happy, told me what
had happened in the oak room and added:--

"I look to you, Karl, to help me with father."

"That I will certainly do," I answered. I could not resist saying: "We
came to Burgundy with the hope of winning the princess. Fortune has
opened a door for you by the death of her father. Don't you wish
to try?"

"No," said Max, turning on me. A moment later he added, "If Yolanda were
but the princess, as I once believed she was, what a romance our
journey to Burgundy would make!"

My spirits were somewhat dampened by Castleman's words concerning the
French king. Surely they were true, since King Louis was the last man in
Europe to forego the opportunity presented by the death of Charles.
Should the Princess Mary lose Burgundy just at the time when Max had won
her, my disappointment would indeed be great, and Max might truly need
my help with his father.



The next day Castleman and I were called to the castle, and talked over
the situation with the duchess and the Princess Mary. In the midst of
our council, in walked Hymbercourt and Hugonet. They were devoted
friends of Mary.

Our first move was to send spies to the court of France; so two trusted
men started at once. Paris was but thirty leagues distant, and the men
could reach it in fifteen hours. Half a day there should enable them to
learn the true condition of affairs, since they carried well-filled
purses to loosen the tongues of Cardinal Balau and Oliver the Barber.
The bribery plan was Mary's, and it worked admirably.

Within forty-eight hours the spies returned, and reported that King
Louis, with a small army, was within fifteen leagues of Peronne. He had
quickly assembled the three estates at Paris, all of whom promised the
king their aid. In the language of the chancellor, "The commons offered
to help their king with their bodies and their wealth, the nobles with
their advice, and the clergy with their prayers." This appalling news
set Peronne in an uproar.

Recruiting officers were sent out in all directions, the town was
garrisoned, and fortifications were overhauled. Mary was again in
trouble, and the momentous affairs resting on her young shoulders seemed
to have put Max out of her mind. I expected her to call him into council
and reveal herself, but she did not.

On the day after we learned of King Louis' approach, the princess called
Hymbercourt, Hugonet, Castleman, and myself to her closet and graciously
asked us to be seated about a small table.

"I have formed a plan that I wish to submit to you," she said. "I'll
send to King Louis an invitation to visit me here at Peronne, under
safeguard. When he comes, I intend to offer to restore all the cities
that my father took from him, if he will release me from the treaty of
marriage, and will swear upon the Cross of Victory to support me against
my enemies, and to assist me in subduing Ghent, now in rebellion. What
think you of the plan?"

"Your Highness is giving King Louis nearly half your domain," suggested

"True," answered the princess, "but it is better to give half than to
lose all. Where can we turn for help against this greedy king? When
Burgundy is in better case, we'll take them all from him again."

"Your Highness is right," answered Hymbercourt. "But what assurance have
you that King Louis will accept your terms?"

"Little, my lord, save that King Louis does not know our weakness.
Oliver has by this time told him that he has news of a vast army
collecting within twenty leagues of Peronne. If Louis accepts our terms,
Oliver and the cardinal are each to receive twenty thousand crowns out
of our treasury at Luxembourg. My father fought King Louis with blows;
I'll fight His Majesty with his own weapon, gold. That is the lesson my
father should have learned."

I rose to my feet during her recital and looked down at her in wonder.

"Yolanda"--I began, but corrected myself--"Your Highness needs no
councillor. I, for one, deem your plan most wise, and I see in it the
salvation of Burgundy."

The other councillors agreed with me most heartily.

"I have still another plan which I hope may frighten King Louis into
accepting our terms. During the conference which I hope to hold with His
Majesty, I shall receive a message from my mother's brother, King Edward
of England. The missive, of course, will be directed to my father, since
the English king cannot yet know of the duke's death. The messenger will
be an English herald, and will demand immediate audience,
and--and--however, I'll keep the remainder of that plan to myself."

A broad smile appeared on the faces of all present. Hugonet gazed at the
princess and laughed outright.

"Why did not your father take you into his council?" he asked.

"I should have been no help to him," she responded. "A woman's wits,
dear Hugonet, must be driven by a great motive."

"But you would have had the motive," answered Hugonet.

"There is but one motive for a woman, my lord," she answered.

Hugonet unceremoniously whistled his astonishment, and Yolanda blushed
as she said:--

"You shall soon know."

Mary's plan for an interview with Louis succeeded perfectly. He came
post-haste under safe conduct to Peronne.

Whatever may be said against Louis, he did not know personal fear. He
had a wholesome dread of sacrificing the lives of his people, and
preferred to satisfy his greed by policy rather than by war. Gold,
rather than blood, was the price he paid for his victories. Taken all in
all, he was the greatest king that France ever had--if one may judge a
king by the double standard of what he accomplishes and what it costs
his people. He almost doubled the territory of France, and he lost fewer
men in battle than any enterprising monarch of whom I know.

Within forty-eight hours of receiving the safe conduct, King Louis was
sitting beside Mary on the dais of the ducal throne in the great hall.
She was heavily veiled, being in mourning for her father. At her left
stood Hymbercourt, Hugonet, Max, and myself. At the king's right stood
Cardinal Balau and Oliver the Barber, each anticipating a rich reward in
case Louis should accept Mary's terms. Back of them stood a score of the
king's courtiers. Many questions of state were discussed; and then
Hymbercourt presented Mary's offer to King Louis. The king hesitated.
After a long pause he spoke, looking straight ahead, at nothing; as was
his custom.

"We will consult with our friends and make answer soon," he said,
speaking to nobody.

Louis seemed to think that if he looked at no one and addressed nobody,
when he spoke, he might the more easily wriggle out of his
obligations later on.

Mary had caused to be drawn up in duplicate a treaty in accordance with
the terms that she had outlined at our little council. It was handed to
Oliver when the king rose to retire to a private room, to discuss the
contents with his councillors.

At the moment when King Louis rose to his feet, a herald was announced
at the great hall door.

"A message from His Majesty, King Edward of England," cried the
Burgundian herald. Louis resumed his seat as though his feet had slipped
from under him.

"We are engaged," answered Mary, acting well a difficult part. "Let the
herald leave his packet, or deliver it later."

A whispered conversation took place between the Burgundian herald and
the Englishman. Then spoke the Burgundian:--

"Most Gracious Princess, the English herald has no packet. He bears a
verbal message to your late father, and insists that he must deliver it
to Your Highness at once."

"Must, indeed!" cried Mary, indignantly. Then turning to the king:
"These English grow arrogant, Your Majesty. What has the herald to say?
Let him come forward. We have no secrets from our most gracious
godfather, King Louis."

The English herald approached the ducal throne, but did not speak.

"Proceed," said Mary, irritably.

"With all deference, Most Gracious Princess," said the herald, "the
subject-matter of my message is such that it should be communicated
privately, or at Your Highness's council-board."

"If you have a message from my good uncle, King Edward, deliver it here
and now," said the princess.

"As you will, Most Gracious Princess," said the herald. "King Edward has
amassed a mighty army, which is now awaiting orders to sail for France;
and His Majesty asks permission to cross the territory of Burgundy on
his way to Paris. He will pay to Your Highness such compensation as may
be agreed upon when His Majesty meets you, which he hopes may be within
a month. His Majesty begs a written reply to the message I bear."

Mary paused before she answered.

"Wait without. My answer depends upon the conclusions of His Majesty,
the King of France."

The herald withdrew, but in the meantime Louis had descended to the
floor and was busily conning the treaty that Mary had caused to be
written. He was whispering with Cardinal Balau and Oliver, and was
evidently excited by the news he had just heard from England. When he
resumed his seat beside Mary, he said:--

"By this treaty, which is simple and straightforward, Your Highness
cedes to me certain cities herein named, in perpetuity; and in
consideration thereof, I am to be with you friend of friend and foe of
foe. I am to aid you in subduing your rebellious subjects, and to
sustain you in your choice of a husband. I am also to release you from
the present contract of marriage with my son, the Dauphin."

"That is all, Your Majesty," said the princess. "It is short and to the

"Indeed it is, Your Highness, and if you will answer King Edward and
will deny him the privilege of crossing Burgundy, I will sign the
treaty, and will swear upon the true cross to keep it inviolate."

Mary could hardly conceal her exultation, but she answered calmly:--

"Will Your Majesty sign now?"

Louis and Mary each signed the treaty, and the piece of the true cross
upon which the oath was to be made was brought before them, resting on a
velvet pillow. Now there were many pieces of the true cross, of which
Louis possessed two. Upon one of these he held the oath to be binding
and inviolate; it was known as the Cross of Victory. Upon the other his
oath was less sacred, and the sin of perjury was venial.

I stood near the throne, and, suspecting Louis of fraud, made bold to

"Most humbly I would ask Your Majesty, is this the Cross of Victory?"

The king examined the piece of wood resting on the cushion and said:--

"By Saint Andrew, My Lord Cardinal, you have committed an error. You
have brought me the wrong piece."

The Cross of Victory was then produced, with many apologies and excuses
for the mistake, and the oath was taken while Mary's tiny hand rested on
the relic beside King Louis' browned and wrinkled talon. When the
ceremony was finished, the king turned to Mary and said:--

"Whom will Your Highness select for a husband?"

"My father sometime had treaty with Duke Frederick of Styria, looking
to my marriage with his son Maximilian, and I shall ratify the compact."

Max was about to speak, but I plucked him by the sleeve.

* * * * *

Now I shall hasten to the end. The king took his departure within an
hour, carrying with him his copy of the treaty. The audience was
dismissed, and the princess left the great hall by the door back of the
throne, having first directed Hymbercourt, Hugonet, Max, and myself to
follow within five minutes, under conduct of a page. Castleman excused
himself and left the hall.

The page soon came to fetch us, and we were taken to Mary's parlor,
adjoining her bedroom in Darius tower. From the bedroom, as you know,
the stairway in the wall descends to Castleman's house. In the parlor we
found Mary, the Duchess Margaret, and several ladies in waiting. All the
ladies, including Mary, were heavily veiled. When we entered, Mary
addressed Max:--

"Sir Count, you doubtless heard my announcement to the king of France.
It was my father's desire at one time to unite Styria and Burgundy by
marriage. I myself sent you a letter and a ring that you doubtless still
possess. Are you pleased with my offer?"

Max fell to his knee before the princess:--

"Your Highness's condescension is far beyond my deserts. There are few
men who could refuse your offer, but I am pledged to another, and I beg
Your Highness--"

"Enough, enough," cried the princess, indignantly. "No man need explain
his reasons for refusing the hand of Mary of Burgundy."

Astonishment appeared on all faces save mine. I thought I knew the
purpose of Her Highness. Max rose to his feet, and Mary said:--

"We'll go downstairs now, and, if you wish, Sir Count, you may there say
farewell." She whispered a word to her mother, and led the way into her
bedroom. The duchess indicated that Max and I were to follow. We did so,
and Margaret came after us.

"We'll go down by these steps," said the princess, leading us to the
open panel. "The way is dark, and you must use care in descending, Sir
Count, but this is the nearest way to the ground."

Max started down the steps and Mary followed close at his heels. I
followed Mary, and Duchess Margaret came after me.

When we had descended twenty steps, the upper panel was closed by some
one in the bedroom, and the stairway became inky dark. Ten steps
further, I stumbled and almost fell over a soft obstruction on the
stairs. I stooped and examined it. Fearing that the duchess might fall
when she reached it, I took it up. It was a lady's head-dress and veil.
A few steps farther I picked up a lady's bodice and then a skirt. By the
time I had made this collection, Max and Mary had reached the moving
panel at the foot of the stairs. I heard it slide back, and a flood of
light came in upon us. Yolanda, in burgher girl's costume, sprang over
the cushioned seat into Castleman's oak room. Max followed, and I, with
an armful of woman's gear, helped the duchess to step to the cushion and
thence to the floor. Max stood for a moment in half-vexed surprise, but
Yolanda, two yards off, laughed merrily:--

"You promised, Sir Max, that you would show no anger when you learned
who I was, and you said you would neither lie, steal, nor
commit murder."

The Castlemans stood near by, and the duchess and I joined them, forming
an admiring group. Max did not reply. He held out his arms to the girl,
and she ran to them. So closely did he hold her that she could hardly
move. She did, however, succeed in turning her face toward us, and said

"Why don't you leave the room?"


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