“Seal the pouch, my lord, and send Byron, the herald, here to receive our personal instructions.”
“The herald has not yet returned from Cambrai, my lord,” said De Vergy, who stood near by. “He is expected between the hours of five and six this evening.”
“Leave the letter, my lord,” said Charles, “and send Byron to me when he arrives. I shall be here at six o’clock to give him full instructions.”
The letter was deposited in a small iron box on the table, and the duke left the room, followed closely by the lords and pages.
THE CROSSING OF A “T”
Yolanda and her stepmother remained on the divan in silence for fully an hour after the duke had left. The duchess was first to speak.
“Be resigned, sweet one, to your fate. It is one common to women. It was my hard fate to be compelled to marry your father. It was your mother’s, poor woman, and it killed her. God wills our slavery, and we must submit. We but make our fate harder by fighting against it.”
Yolanda answered with convulsive sobs, but after a while she grew more calm.
“Is there nothing I can do to save myself?” she asked.
“No, sweet one,” answered the duchess.
“Has God put a curse upon women, mother?” asked Yolanda.
“Alas! I fear He has,” answered Margaret. “The Holy Church teaches us that He punishes us for the sin of our mother Eve, but though He punishes us, He loves us, and we are His children. He knows what is best for us here and hereafter.”
“He certainly is looking to my future good, if at all,” sighed Yolanda. “But I do believe in God’s goodness, mother, and I am sure He will save me. Holy Virgin! how helpless a woman is.” She began to weep afresh, and the duchess tried to soothe her.
“I believe I will pray to the Virgin. She may help us,” said the girl, in a voice that was plaintively childlike.
“It is a pious thought, Mary,” answered the duchess.
Yolanda slipped from the divan to the floor, and, kneeling, buried her face in her mother’s lap. She prayed aloud:—
“Blessed Virgin, Thou seest my dire need. Help me. My prayer is short, but Thou, Blessed Lady, knowest how fervent it is.” The duchess crossed herself, bowed her head, and murmured a fervent “Amen.”
Yolanda rose from her prayer with a brighter face, and exclaimed almost joyfully:—
“It was impious in me to doubt God’s love, mother. I do believe I heard the Blessed Virgin say, ‘Help is at hand.’ At least, I felt her words, mother.”