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