The girl’s face had been slightly clouded, but when I spoke lovingly of the Walloons, the dimples again played around her mouth and a smile brightened her eyes.
“I also am a Walloon,” she answered; “and your friend? He surely is not Italian: he is too fair.”
“The Lombards are fair,” I answered, “and the Guelphs, you know, are of Lombardy. You may have heard of the Houses of Guelph and of Pitti.”
“I have often heard of them,” she answered; then, after a short silence,—“I fear I have asked too many questions.” A gentle, apologetic smile lighted her face and won me instantly. I liked her as much as I admired her. I knew that she wanted me to speak of Max, so to please her I continued, even against my inclination:—
“My young friend, Sir Maximilian du Guelph, wanted to see the world. We are very poor, Fraeulein, and if we would travel, we must make our way as we go. We have just come from Ulm and Cannstadt, passing through the Black Forest. Sir Max saved the life of our host, and in so doing was grievously wounded. Good Master Franz rewarded us far beyond our deserts, and for the time being we think we are rich.”
“The name Maximilian is not Italian,” observed Yolanda. “It has an Austrian sound.”
“That is true,” I responded. “My name, Karl, is German. Few names nowadays keep to their own country. Your name, Yolanda, for example, is Italian.”
“Is that true?” she answered inquiringly, taking up a piece of lace. I saw that the interview was closing. After a moment’s hesitation Yolanda turned quickly to me and said:—
“You and your friend may sup with us this evening in the dining room of our hostess. We take supper at five.”
The invitation was given with all the condescension of a noble lady. Twonette ventured:—
“What will father say, Yolanda?”
“I can guess what uncle will say, but we will give him his say and take our own way. Nonsense, Twonette, if we are to journey to Peronne with these gentlemen, our acquaintance with them cannot begin too soon. Come, Sir Karl, and—and bring your young friend, Sir Maximilian.”
It was clear to my mind that, without my young friend, Sir Maximilian, I should not have had the invitation. Yolanda then turned to Franz and his silks, and I, who had always thought myself of some importance, was dismissed by a burgher girl. I soothed my vanity with the thought that beauty has its own prerogatives.
Without being little, Yolanda was small; without nobility, she had the haute mien. But over and above all she had a sweet charm of manner, a saucy gentleness, and a kindly grace that made her irresistible. When she smiled, one felt like thanking God for the benediction.
That evening at five o’clock Max and I supped with Frau Franz. The good frau and her husband sat at either end of the table, Castleman, his daughter, and Yolanda occupied one side, while I sat by Max opposite them. If Castleman had offered objection to the arrangement, he had been silenced.