The page soon came to fetch us, and we were taken to Mary’s parlor, adjoining her bedroom in Darius tower. From the bedroom, as you know, the stairway in the wall descends to Castleman’s house. In the parlor we found Mary, the Duchess Margaret, and several ladies in waiting. All the ladies, including Mary, were heavily veiled. When we entered, Mary addressed Max:—
“Sir Count, you doubtless heard my announcement to the king of France. It was my father’s desire at one time to unite Styria and Burgundy by marriage. I myself sent you a letter and a ring that you doubtless still possess. Are you pleased with my offer?”
Max fell to his knee before the princess:—
“Your Highness’s condescension is far beyond my deserts. There are few men who could refuse your offer, but I am pledged to another, and I beg Your Highness—”
“Enough, enough,” cried the princess, indignantly. “No man need explain his reasons for refusing the hand of Mary of Burgundy.”
Astonishment appeared on all faces save mine. I thought I knew the purpose of Her Highness. Max rose to his feet, and Mary said:—
“We’ll go downstairs now, and, if you wish, Sir Count, you may there say farewell.” She whispered a word to her mother, and led the way into her bedroom. The duchess indicated that Max and I were to follow. We did so, and Margaret came after us.
“We’ll go down by these steps,” said the princess, leading us to the open panel. “The way is dark, and you must use care in descending, Sir Count, but this is the nearest way to the ground.”
Max started down the steps and Mary followed close at his heels. I followed Mary, and Duchess Margaret came after me.
When we had descended twenty steps, the upper panel was closed by some one in the bedroom, and the stairway became inky dark. Ten steps further, I stumbled and almost fell over a soft obstruction on the stairs. I stooped and examined it. Fearing that the duchess might fall when she reached it, I took it up. It was a lady’s head-dress and veil. A few steps farther I picked up a lady’s bodice and then a skirt. By the time I had made this collection, Max and Mary had reached the moving panel at the foot of the stairs. I heard it slide back, and a flood of light came in upon us. Yolanda, in burgher girl’s costume, sprang over the cushioned seat into Castleman’s oak room. Max followed, and I, with an armful of woman’s gear, helped the duchess to step to the cushion and thence to the floor. Max stood for a moment in half-vexed surprise, but Yolanda, two yards off, laughed merrily:—
“You promised, Sir Max, that you would show no anger when you learned who I was, and you said you would neither lie, steal, nor commit murder.”
The Castlemans stood near by, and the duchess and I joined them, forming an admiring group. Max did not reply. He held out his arms to the girl, and she ran to them. So closely did he hold her that she could hardly move. She did, however, succeed in turning her face toward us, and said poutingly:—