“Your Highness is giving King Louis nearly half your domain,” suggested Hymbercourt.
“True,” answered the princess, “but it is better to give half than to lose all. Where can we turn for help against this greedy king? When Burgundy is in better case, we’ll take them all from him again.”
“Your Highness is right,” answered Hymbercourt. “But what assurance have you that King Louis will accept your terms?”
“Little, my lord, save that King Louis does not know our weakness. Oliver has by this time told him that he has news of a vast army collecting within twenty leagues of Peronne. If Louis accepts our terms, Oliver and the cardinal are each to receive twenty thousand crowns out of our treasury at Luxembourg. My father fought King Louis with blows; I’ll fight His Majesty with his own weapon, gold. That is the lesson my father should have learned.”
I rose to my feet during her recital and looked down at her in wonder.
“Yolanda”—I began, but corrected myself—“Your Highness needs no councillor. I, for one, deem your plan most wise, and I see in it the salvation of Burgundy.”
The other councillors agreed with me most heartily.
“I have still another plan which I hope may frighten King Louis into accepting our terms. During the conference which I hope to hold with His Majesty, I shall receive a message from my mother’s brother, King Edward of England. The missive, of course, will be directed to my father, since the English king cannot yet know of the duke’s death. The messenger will be an English herald, and will demand immediate audience, and—and—however, I’ll keep the remainder of that plan to myself.”
A broad smile appeared on the faces of all present. Hugonet gazed at the princess and laughed outright.
“Why did not your father take you into his council?” he asked.
“I should have been no help to him,” she responded. “A woman’s wits, dear Hugonet, must be driven by a great motive.”
“But you would have had the motive,” answered Hugonet.
“There is but one motive for a woman, my lord,” she answered.
Hugonet unceremoniously whistled his astonishment, and Yolanda blushed as she said:—
“You shall soon know.”
Mary’s plan for an interview with Louis succeeded perfectly. He came post-haste under safe conduct to Peronne.
Whatever may be said against Louis, he did not know personal fear. He had a wholesome dread of sacrificing the lives of his people, and preferred to satisfy his greed by policy rather than by war. Gold, rather than blood, was the price he paid for his victories. Taken all in all, he was the greatest king that France ever had—if one may judge a king by the double standard of what he accomplishes and what it costs his people. He almost doubled the territory of France, and he lost fewer men in battle than any enterprising monarch of whom I know.