Read CHAPTER XII - A LIVE WREN PIE of Yolanda: Maid of Burgundy, free online book, by Charles Major, on ReadCentral.com.

The next day came the invitation to sup at Castleman’s, and we were on hand promptly at the appointed time four o’clock. Before leaving the inn I had determined to ask Castleman to satisfy my curiosity concerning Yolanda. With good reason I felt that it was my duty and my right to know certainly who she was. She might not be Mary of Burgundy, but she surely was not a burgher girl, and in some manner she was connected with the court of Duke Charles.

Max and I were sitting in the long room (it was on the ground floor and extended across the entire front of the house) with Castleman when Frau Kate entered followed by Yolanda and Twonette. The frau courtesied, and gave us welcome. Twonette courtesied and stepped to her father’s side. Yolanda gave Max her hand and lifted it to be kissed. The girl laughed joyously, and, giving him her other hand, stood looking up into his face. Her laughter soon became nervous, and that change in a womanly woman is apt to be the forerunner of tears. They soon came to moisten Yolanda’s eyes, but she kept herself well in hand and said:

“It has been a very long time, Sir Max, since last I saw you.”

“A hard, cruel time for me, Fraeulein. Your hot-headed duke gives strange license to his murderous courtiers,” answered Max.

“It has been a hard time for others, too,” she responded. “Hard for uncle, hard for tante, hard for Twonette very hard for Twonette.” She spoke jestingly, but one might easily see her emotion.

“And you, Fraeulein?” he asked smilingly.

“I I dare not say how hard it has been for me, Little Max. Do you not see? I fear I fear I shall weep if I try to tell you. I am almost weeping now. I fear I have grown gray because of it,” she answered, closing with a nervous laugh. Max, too, could hardly speak. She smiled up into his face, and bending before him stood on tiptoe to bring the top of her head under his inspection.

“You may see the white hairs if you look carefully,” she said.

Max laughed and stooped to examine the great bush of fluffy dark hair.

“I see not one white hair,” he said.

“Look closely,” she insisted.

He looked closely, and startled us all, including Yolanda, by putting his lips to the fragrant, silky mass.

“Ah!” exclaimed Yolanda, stepping back from him and placing her hand to the top of her head on the spot that he had kissed. She looked up to him with a fluttering little laugh:

“I I did not know you were going to do that.”

“Neither did I,” said Max.

Castleman and his wife looked displeased and Twonette’s face wore an expression of amused surprise.

After a constrained pause Frau Katherine said:

“Our guests are not in the habit of kissing us.”

“No one has kissed you, tante,” retorted Yolanda, “nor do they intend to do so. Do not fear. I I brought it on myself, and if I do not complain, you may bear up under it.”

“It certainly is unusual to ” began the frau.

“Tante,” cried Yolanda, flushing angrily and stamping her foot. Tante was silent.

“Your words night before last brought marvellous comfort to us, Fraeulein,” said Max. “Where were you, and how ”

“My words? Night before last?” asked Yolanda, in open-eyed wonder, “I have not seen you since three weeks ago.”

“You called to me in my prison in the tower,” said Max. “You called to me by the name you sometimes use.”

“Ah, that is wonderful,” exclaimed Yolanda. “I wakened myself night before last calling your name, and telling you not to fear. I was dreaming that you were in danger, but I also dreamed that you would soon be free. Can it be possible that the voice of a dreamer can travel to a distance and penetrate stone walls? You almost make me fear myself by telling me that you heard my call.”

Like most persons, Max loved the mysterious, so he at once became greatly interested. He would have discussed the subject further had not Yolanda turned to me, saying:

“Ah, I have not greeted Sir Karl.”

She gave me her hand, and I would have knelt had she not prevented me by a surprised arching of her eyebrows. My attempt to salute her on my knee was involuntary, but when I saw the warning expression in her eyes, I quickly recovered myself. I bowed and she withdrew her hand.

“Let us go to the garden,” she suggested.

The others left the room, but Yolanda held back and detained me by a gesture.

“You would have knelt to me,” she said almost angrily.

“Yes, mademoiselle,” I replied, “the movement was involuntary.”

“I once warned you, Sir Karl, not to try to learn anything concerning me. I told you that useless knowledge was dangerous. You have been guessing, and probably are very far wrong in your conclusion. But whatever your surmises are, don’t let me know them. Above all, say nothing to Sir Max; I warn you! Unless you would see no more of me, bear this warning in mind. Yolanda is a burgher girl. Treat her accordingly, and impress the fact on Sir Max. Were I as great as the ill-tempered Princess of Burgundy, whose estates you came to woo, I should still despise adulation. Bah! I hate it all,” she continued, stamping her foot. “I hate princes and princesses, and do not understand how they can endure to have men kneel and grovel before them. This fine Princess of Burgundy, I am told, looks ” She paused and then went on: “I sometimes hate her most of all. I am a burgher girl, I tell you, and I am proud of it. I warn you not to make me other.”

“Your warning, my lady, is ”

“Fraeulein!” interrupted Yolanda, angrily stamping her foot, “or Yolanda call me either. If I give you the privilege, you should value it sufficiently to use it.”

“Yolanda, I will sin no more,” I responded. Her face broke into a smile, and she took my arm, laughing contentedly.

I walked out to the garden Yolanda danced out and we sat with the others under the shade of the arbor vines. Castleman and Max drank sparingly of wine and honey, while I sipped orange water with Yolanda, Twonette, and Frau Kate.

“What do you think of Burgundy, Sir Max?” asked the burgher.

“I like Grote’s inn well,” answered Max. “I like the castle dungeon ill. I have seen little else of Burgundy save in our journey down the Somme. Then I saw nothing but the road on the opposite bank. Had I tried to see the country I should have failed; the dust-cloud we carried with us was impenetrable.” He turned to Yolanda, “That was a hard journey for you, Fraeulein.”

“No, no,” she cried, “it was glorious. The excitement was worth a lifetime of monotony; it was delightful. I could feel my heart beat all the time, and no woman is sure she lives until she feels the beating of her heart.”

I suspected a double meaning in her words, but no trace of self-consciousness was visible in her face.

“I have often wondered, Fraeulein, if the papers reached the castle before the duke arrived?” asked Max.

“What papers?” queried Yolanda.

“Why, the papers we made the mad race to deliver,” answered Max.

“Oh, y-e-s,” responded the girl, “they arrived just in time.”

“And were delivered at the gate?” I suggested.

A quick, angry glance of surprise shot from Yolanda’s eyes, and rising from her chair she entered the house. Twonette followed her, and the two did not return for an hour. I was accumulating evidence on the subject of my puzzling riddle, but I feared my last batch might prove expensive. I saw the mistake my tongue had led me into. Many a man has wrecked his fortune by airing his wit.

When Yolanda returned, she sat at a little distance from us, pouting beautifully. The cause of her unmistakable ill-humor, of course, was known only to me, and was a source of wonder to Max. At the end of five minutes, during which there had been little conversation, Max, who was amused at Yolanda’s pouting, turned to her, and said:

“The Fates owe me a few smiles as compensation for their frowns during the last three weeks. Won’t you help them to pay me, Fraeulein?”

Her face had been averted, but when Max spoke she turned slowly and gave him the smile he desired as if to say, “I am not pouting at you.”

Her act was so childlike and her face so childishly beautiful that we all smiled with amusement and pleasure. Yolanda saw the smiles and turned on us, pouting though almost ready to laugh. She rose from her chair, stamped her foot, stood irresolutely for a moment, and then breaking into a laugh, drew her chair to our little circle next to Max and sat down.

“Tante, is supper never to be served?” she asked. “I am impatient to see the live wren pie.”

“Live wren pie?” asked Max, incredulously.

“Yes. Have you never seen one?” asked Yolanda.

“Surely not,” he replied.

“Ah, you have a treat in store,” she exclaimed, clapping her hands enthusiastically. “Uncle carves the pie, the wrens fly out, you open your mouth, and the birds, being very small, fly down your throat and save you the trouble eating them. They are trained to do it, you know.”

A chorus of laughter followed this remarkable statement. Max leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, looked at the ground for the space of half a minute, and said:

“I was mistaken in saying that I had never partaken of the dish. While at Basel I foolishly opened my mouth, and a beautiful little bird flew down my throat to my heart.”

Frau Castleman coughed, and the burgher moved in his chair and swallowed half a goblet of wine. Twonette laughed outright at the pretty turn Max had made upon Yolanda, and I ridiculously tried to keep my face expressionless. Yolanda laughed flutteringly, and the long lashes fell.

“That was prettily spoken, Sir Max,” she said, smiling. “No Frenchman could improve upon it. You are constantly surprising me.”

“Are Frenchmen apt at such matters, Fraeulein?” I asked.

“I have known but few Frenchmen,” she responded. “You know Burgundy and France are natural enemies, like the cat and the dog. I have little love for the French. I speak only from hearsay.”

“You will do well to learn to like them,” I suggested. “Burgundy itself will soon be French, if the Princess Mary weds the Dauphin.”

By speaking freely of the princess, I hoped Yolanda might believe that, whatever my surmises were concerning her identity, I did not suspect that she was Mademoiselle de Burgundy.

Yolanda sighed, but did not answer. Silence fell upon our little party, and after a long pause I turned to Twonette:

“I remember that Franz told me at Basel, Fraeulein Twonette, that you and this famous Princess Mary of Burgundy were friends.”

“Yes,” answered Twonette, with an effort not to smile, “she has, at times, honored me with her notice.”

“Out of that fact grows Twonette’s serene dignity,” laughed Yolanda. “On the strength of this acquaintance she quite lords it over us at times, and is always reminding me of the many haughty virtues of her friend as a pattern that I should follow. You see, I am incessantly confronted with this princess.”

I thought it was a pretty piece of acting, though the emphasis of her dislike for the princess was unmistakably genuine.

“The duke has graciously invited us to the castle,” I said, “and I hope to have the honor of seeing the princess.”

When I spoke of the duke’s invitation, I at once caught Yolanda’s attention.

“You will not meet the princess if you go to the castle,” said Yolanda. “She is an ill-natured person, I am told, and is far from gracious to strangers.”

“I do not hope for such an honor,” I replied. “I should like merely to see her before I leave Burgundy. That is all the favor I ask at her hands. She is a lady famed throughout all Europe for her beauty and her gentleness.”

“She doesn’t merit her fame,” responded Yolanda, carefully examining her hands folded in her lap, and glancing nervously toward Max.

“Do you know Her Highness?” I asked.

“I I have heard enough of her and have often seen her,” she replied. “She usually rides out with her ladies at this hour. From the upper end of the garden you may soon see her come through the Postern gate, if you care to watch.”

“I certainly should like to see her,” I answered, rapidly losing faith in my conclusion that Yolanda was the princess.

The Castlemans did not offer to move, but Yolanda, springing to her feet, said, “Come,” and led the way.

The upper end of the garden, as I have told you, was on the banks of the Cologne at a point where it flowed into the castle moat. The castle wall, sixty feet high at that point, bordered the west side of the garden. The moat curved along the right side, and the river flowed past the upper end. Castleman’s house faced south, and stood on the lower end of the strip of ground that lay between the castle wall and the moat. The Postern was perhaps three hundred yards north from the upper end of Castleman’s garden. Since it was on the opposite side of the river, one could reach the Postern, from Castleman’s house, only by going up to the town bridge and back to the castle by the street that followed the north side of the Cologne.

We all walked to the upper end of the garden, and stood leaning against the low stone wall at the river’s edge. We had waited perhaps ten minutes when we heard a blare of trumpets and saw a small cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen ride from the castle and pass over the drawbridge.

“The lady in scarlet is the duchess,” said Castleman.

“She is English,” remarked Yolanda, “and loves bright colors.”

“Which is the princess?” I asked of Yolanda, feeling that I also was acting my part admirably. To my surprise she answered promptly:

“She in blue with a falcon on her shoulder. Am I not right, uncle?”

“Yes,” responded Castleman. Twonette confirmed the statement.

My air-castles fell noiselessly about my head. My dreams vanished like breath from a cold mirror, and the sphinx-like face of my great riddle rose before me in defiance.

After the cavalcade had passed I found myself with Yolanda a dozen paces from the others.

“Fraeulein,” I said, “I want to confess I thought you were the Princess Mary of Burgundy.”

Yolanda laughed softly.

“I was sure you had some such absurd notion. I supposed you had seen her, and had believed she was Yolanda, the burgher girl; that mistake has often been made. You may see this princess at the castle, and I warn you not to be deceived. I have the great honor, it is said, to resemble Her Highness as one pea resembles another. I have been told that she has heard of the low-born maiden that dares to have a face like hers, and she doubtless hates me for it, just as I bear her no good-will for the same reason. When two women greatly resemble each other, there is seldom good feeling between them. Each believes the other is stealing something of her personality, and a woman’s vanity prompts her to resent it. If you make the mistake with the princess that you made with me, I warn you it will not be so easily corrected.”

My poor riddle! My stony sphinx! My clinging hallucination! Again I should have it with me, stalking at my side by day, lying by me at night, whirling through my brain at all times, and driving me mad with its eternal question, “Who is Yolanda?” The solution of my riddle may be clear to you as I am telling you the story. At least, you may think it is, since I am trying to conceal nothing from you. I relate this history in the order of its happening, and wish, if possible, to place before you the manner in which this question of Yolanda’s identity puzzled me. If you will put yourself in my place, you will at once realize how deeply I was affected by this momentous, unanswered, unanswerable question, “Who is Yolanda?” and you will understand why I could not see the solution, however clear you may believe it to be to yourself.

We soon went in to supper and, after the peacock, the pheasants, and the pastries were removed, we were served with a most delicious after-dish in sparkling glass cups. It was frozen orange-water mixed with wine of Burgundy. I had never tasted a dish so palatable. I had dined at the emperor’s table in Vienna; I had lived in Italy; I had sojourned in the East, where luxuries are most valued and used, but I had never partaken of a more delicious supper than that which I ate at the house of my rich burgher friend, George Castleman. There might have been a greater showing of plate, though that was not lacking, but there could have been no whiter linen nor more appetizing dishes than those which good Frau Kate gave us that evening.

After the frozen wine had disappeared, a serving-maid brought in a stoneware pan covered with a snowy pastry, made from the whites of eggs and clear sugar. At its entry Yolanda clapped her hands and cried out with childish delight. When the pan was placed before Castleman, she exclaimed:

“Be careful, uncle! Don’t thrust the knife too deep, or you will kill the birds.”

Uncle Castleman ran the point of the knife around the outer edge of the crust, and, with a twist of the blade, quickly lifted it from the pan, when out flew a dozen or more wrens. Yolanda’s delight knew no bounds. She sprang from her chair, exclaiming:

“Catch them! Catch them!” and led the way.

She climbed on chairs, tables, and window shelves, and soon had her hands full of the demure little songsters. Max, too, was pursuing the wrens, and Twonette, losing part of her serenity, actually caught a bird. The sport was infectious, and soon fat old Castleman was puffing like a tired porpoise, and sedate old Karl de Pitti was in the chase. Frau Katherine grabbed desperately at a bird now and then, but she was too stout to catch one and soon took her chair, laughing and out of breath. Yolanda screamed with laughter, and after she had caught six or seven birds and put them in the cage provided for them, she asked Max to lift her in his arms that she might reach one resting on a beam near the ceiling. Max gladly complied, and Yolanda, having caught the bird, said:

“Now, Sir Max, open your mouth.”

“I have already swallowed one,” said Max, laughing, “and I will swallow none other so long as I live.”

As Max lowered her to the floor her arm fell about his neck for an instant, and the great strong boy trembled at the touch of this weak girl.

Out to the garden we went again after supper, and when dusk began to fall, Yolanda led Max to a rustic seat in the deep shadow of the vines. I could not hear their words, but I learned afterward of the conversation.

When I thought Yolanda was the princess, I was joyful because of the marked favor that she showed Max. When I thought she was a burgher girl, I felt like a fussy old hen with a flock of ducks if he were alone with her. She seemed then a bewitching little ogress slowly devouring my handsome Prince Max. That she was fair, entrancing, and lovable beyond any woman I had ever known, only added to my anxiety. Would Max be strong enough to hold out against her wooing? I don’t like to apply the word “wooing” to a young girl’s conduct, but we all know that woman does her part in the great system of human mating when the persons most interested do the choosing; and it is right that she should. The modesty that prevents a woman from showing her preference is the result of a false philosophy, and flies in the face of nature. Her right to choose is as good as man’s.

If Yolanda’s wooing was more pronounced than is usual with a modest young girl, it must be remembered that her situation was different. She knew that Max had been restrained from wooing her only because of the impassable gulf that lay between them. Ardor in Max when marriage was impossible would have been an insult to Yolanda. His reticence for conscience’ sake and for her sake was the most chivalric flattery he could have paid her. She saw the situation clearly, and, trusting Max implicitly, felt safe in giving rein to her heart. She did not care to hide from him its true condition. On the contrary she wished him to be as sure of her as she was of him, for after all that would be the only satisfaction they would ever know.

I argued: If Yolanda were the princess, betrothed to the Dauphin, the gulf between her and Max was as impassable as if she were a burgher girl. In neither case could she hope to marry him. Therefore, her girlish wooing was but the outcry of nature and was without boldness.

The paramount instinct of all nature is to flower. Even the frozen Alpine rock sends forth its edelweiss, and the heart of a princess is first the heart of a woman, and must blossom when its spring comes. All the conventions that man can invent will not keep back the flower. All created things, animate and inanimate, have in them an uncontrollable impulse which, in their spring, reverts with a holy retrospect to the great first principle of existence, the love of reproduction.

Yolanda’s spring had come, and her heart was a flower with the sacred bloom. Being a woman, she loved it and cuddled it for the sake of the pain it brought, as a mother fondles a wayward child. Max, being a man, struggled against the joy that hurt him and, with a sympathy broad enough for two, feared the pain he might bring to Yolanda. So this unresponsiveness in Max made him doubly attractive to the girl, who was of the sort, whether royal or bourgeois, before whom men usually fall.

“I thought you had left me, Sir Max,” she said, drawing him to a seat beside her in the shade.

“I promised you I would not go,” he responded, “and I would not willingly break my word to any one, certainly not to you, Fraeulein.”

“I was angry when I heard you had left the inn,” she said, “and I spoke unkindly of you. There has been an ache in my heart ever since that nothing but confession and remission will cure.”

“I grant the remission gladly,” answered Max. “There was flattery in your anger.”

The girl laughed softly and, clasping her hands over her knee, spoke with a sigh.

“I think women have the harder part of life in everything. I again ask you to promise me that you will not leave Peronne within a month.”

“I cannot promise you that, Fraeulein,” answered Max.

“You will some day soon, perhaps know my reasons,” said Yolanda, “and if they do not prove good I am willing to forfeit your esteem. That is the greatest hostage I can give.”

“I cannot promise,” answered Max, stubbornly.

“I offer you another inducement, one that will overmatch the small weight of my poor wishes. I promise to bring you to meet this Mary of Burgundy whom you came to woo. I cannot present you, but I will see that Twonette brings about the meeting. I tell you, as I have already told Sir Karl, that it is said I resemble this princess, so you must not mistake her for me.”

When Max told me of this offer I wondered if the girl had been testing him, and a light dawned on me concerning her motives.

“I did not come to woo her,” answered Max, “though she may have been a part of my reason for coming. I knew that she was affianced to the Dauphin of France. Her beauty and goodness were known to me through letters of my Lord d’Hymbercourt, written to my dear old friend Karl. Because of certain transactions, of which you do not know and of which I may not speak, I esteemed her for a time above all women, though I had never seen her. I still esteem her, but but the other is all past now, Fraeulein, and I do not wish to meet the princess, though the honor would be far beyond my deserts.”

“Why do you not wish to meet her?” asked Yolanda, with an air of pleasure. Max hesitated, then answered bluntly:

“Because I have met you, Fraeulein. You should not lead me to speak such words.”

Yolanda touched Max’s arm and said frankly:

“There can be no harm, Max. If you knew all, if I could tell you all, you would understand. The words can harm neither of us.” She hesitated and, with drooping head, continued: “And they are to me as the sun and the south wind to the flowers and the corn. You already know all that is in my heart, or I would not speak so plainly. In all my life I have known little of the sweet touch of human sympathy and love, and, Max, my poor heart yearns for them until at times I feel like the flowers without the sun and the corn without the rain, as if I will die for lack of them. I am almost tempted to tell you all.”

“Tell me all, Yolanda,” entreated Max, “for I, too, have suffered from the same want, though my misfortune comes from being born to a high estate. If you but knew the lonely, corroding misery of those born to a station above the reach of real human sympathy, you would not envy, you would pity them. You would be charitable to their sins, and would thank God for your lowly lot in life. I will tell you my secret. I am Maximilian of Hapsburg.”

“I have known it since the first day I saw you at Basel,” answered Yolanda.

“I have felt sure at times that you did,” responded Max, “though I cannot think how you learned it. Will you tell me of yourself?”

The girl hung her head and hesitated. Once she lifted her face to speak, but changed her mind.

“Please don’t ask me now. I will tell you soon, but not now, not now. Be patient with me. I do pity you. I do, I do. If we could help each other but we cannot, and there is no use longing for it. I sometimes fear that your attitude is the right one, and that it is best that we should part and meet no more.”

The proposition to part and meet no more was good in theory, but Max found that the suggestion to make a fact of it frightened him.

“Let us not speak of that now,” he said. “The parting will come soon enough. You will surely deem me cold and unworthy, Fraeulein, but you cannot understand. One may not call a man hard and selfish who plucks out his eye for the sake of a God-imposed duty, or who deliberately thrusts away happiness and accepts a life of misery and heartache because of the chains with which God bound him at his birth.”

“Ah, I do understand, Max; I understand only too well,” answered the girl.

I have often wondered why Max did not suspect that Yolanda was the Princess Mary; but when I considered that he had not my reasons to lead him to that conclusion, I easily understood his blindness, for even I was unconvinced. Had I not overheard Castleman’s conversation with Yolanda on the road to Strasburg, after meeting De Rose, the supposition that the burgher girl travelling unattended with a merchant and his daughter could possibly be the Princess Mary would have been beyond the credence of a sane man. The thought never would have occurred to me. Even with Castleman’s words always ringing in my ears, I was constantly in doubt.

“There is no reason why one should deliberately hasten the day of one’s thralldom,” said Yolanda, softly. “If one may be free and happy for an hour without breaking those terrible chains of God’s welding, is he not foolish to refuse the small benediction? The memory of it may sweeten the years to come.”

“To woman, such a memory is sweet,” answered Max, striving to steel his heart against the girl. “To men, it is a bitter regret.”

To me he had spoken differently of his pain.

“Then be generous, Little Max, and give me the sweet memory,” said the girl, carried away by the swirling impulse of her heart.

“You will not need it,” answered Max. “Your lot will be different from mine.”

“Yes, it will be different, Max it will be worse,” she cried passionately, almost in tears. “I think I shall kill myself when you leave Burgundy.” She paused and turned fiercely upon him, “Give me the promise I ask. I demand at least that consolation as my right as a poor return for what you take from me.”

Max gently took her hand, which was at once lost in his great clasp.

“Fraeulein, I will not leave Burgundy within a month, whatever the consequences may be,” he said tenderly.

“Upon your honor?” she asked, joyously clapping her hands.

“Every promise I make, Fraeulein, is on my honor,” said Max, seriously.

“So it is, Little Max, so it is,” she answered gently. Then they rose and came to the table where Castleman and I were sitting.

Yolanda had gained her point and was joyful over her victory.

Frau Katherine was asleep in a high-backed chair. Twonette slept in a corner of the arbor, her flaxen head embowered in a cluster of leaves and illumined by a stray beam of moonlight that stole between the vines.

“I am going in now. Come, Twonette,” said Yolanda, shaking that plump young lady to arouse her. “Come, Twonette.”

Twonette slowly opened her big blue eyes, but she was slower in awakening.

“Twonette! Twonette!” cried Yolanda, pulling at the girl’s hand. “I declare, if you don’t resist this growing drowsiness you will go down in history as the ‘Eighth Sleeper,’ and will be left snoring on resurrection morn.”

When Twonette had awakened sufficiently to walk, we started from the arbor to the house. As we passed from beneath the vines, the frowning wall of the castle and the dark forms of its huge towers, silhouetted in black against the moon-lit sky, formed a picture of fierce and sombre gloom not soon to be forgotten.

“The dark, frowning castle reminds one of its terrible lord,” said Max, looking up at the battlements.

“It does, indeed,” answered Yolanda, hardly above a whisper. Then we went into the house.

“We hope to see you again for supper to-morrow evening, don’t we, uncle?” said Yolanda, addressing Max and me, and turning to Castleman.

“Yes yes, to-morrow evening,” said the burgher, hesitatingly.

Max accepted the invitation and we made our adieux.

At the bridge over the Cologne we met Hymbercourt returning to his house from the castle. While we talked, the cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen that we had watched from Castleman’s garden cantered up the street.

“You will now see the princess,” said Hymbercourt. “She comes with the duke and the duchess. They left the castle at five, and have been riding in the moonlight.”

We stepped to one side of the street as the cavalcade passed, and I asked Hymbercourt to point out the princess.

“She rides between the duke the tall figure that you may recognize by his long beard and the page carrying a hooded falcon,” he answered.

Surely this evidence should have put my mind at rest concerning my hallucination that Yolanda was Mary of Burgundy; but when we reached the inn and Max told me of his conversation with Yolanda the riddle again sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. I felt that I was growing weak in mind. Yolanda’s desire to tell Max her secret, and her refusal; her longing for human sympathy, and the lack of it; her wish that he should remain in Peronne for a month all these made me feel that she was the princess.

I could not help hoping that Hymbercourt was mistaken in pointing out Her Highness. She rode in the shadow of the buildings and the moon was less than half full. Yolanda might have wished to deceive us by pointing out the princess while we watched the cavalcade from Castleman’s garden. The burgher and Twonette might have been drawn into the plot against us by the impetuous will of this saucy little witch. Many things, I imagined, had happened which would have appeared absurd to a sane man but I was not sane. I wished to believe that Yolanda was the princess, and I could not get the notion out of my head.

Yolanda’s forwardness with Max, if she were Mary of Burgundy, could easily be explained on the ground that she was a princess, and was entitled to speak her mind. I was sure she was a modest girl, therefore, if she were of lowly birth, she would have hesitated to speak so plainly to Max. So, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I refused to be convinced that Yolanda was not Mademoiselle de Burgundy. I loved the thought so dearly that I could not and would not part with it. That night, while I lay pondering over the riddle, I determined to do no more guessing, and let the Fates solve it for me. They might give me the answer soon if I would “give it up.”

The next evening we went to Castleman’s house, but we did not see Yolanda. Frau Kate said she was indisposed, and we ate supper without her. It was a dull meal, so much does a good appetite wait upon good company, and for the first time I realized fully the marvellous quality of this girl’s magic spell. Max, of course, was disappointed, and we walked back to The Mitre in silence.