I was especially anxious that Max should devote himself to Twonette, but, as I had expected, Yolanda’s attractions were far too great to be resisted. There was a slight Walloon accent in her French and German (we all spoke both languages) that gave to her voice an exquisite cadence. I spoke to her in Walloonish, and she was so pleased that she seemed to nestle toward me. In the midst of an animated conversation she suddenly became silent, and I saw her watching Max’s hand. I thought she was looking at his ring. It was the one that Mary of Burgundy had given him.
YOLANDA THE SORCERESS
Several days passed, during which we saw the Castlemans frequently. One evening after supper, when we were all sitting in the parlor, Yolanda enticed Max to an adjoining room, on the excuse of showing him an ancient piece of tapestry. When it had been examined, she seated herself on a window bench and indicated a chair for Max near by. Among much that was said I quote the following from memory, as Max told me afterward:—
“So you are from Italy, Sir Max?” queried Yolanda, stealing a glance at his ring.
“Yes,” returned Max.
“From what part, may I ask?” continued the girl, with a slight inclination of her head to one side and a flash from beneath the preposterously long lashes toward his hand.
“From—from Rome,” stammered Max, halting at even so small a lie.
“Ah, Sir Karl said you were from Lombardy,” answered the girl.
“Well—that is—originally, perhaps, I was,” he returned.
“Perhaps your family lives in both places?” she asked very seriously.
“Yes, that is the way of it,” he responded.
“Were you born in both places?” asked Yolanda, without the shadow of a smile. Max was thinking of the little lie he was telling and did not analyze her question.
“No,” he answered, in simple honesty, “you see I could not be born in two places. That would be impossible.”
“Perhaps it would be,” replied Yolanda, with perfect gravity. Max was five years her senior, but he was a boy, while she had the self-command of a quick-witted woman, though she still retained the saucy impertinence of childhood. Slow-going, guileless Max began to suspect a lurking intention on Yolanda’s part to quiz him.
“Did not Sir Karl say something about your having been born in Styria?” asked the girl, glancing slyly at the ring.
“No, he did not,” answered Max, emphatically. “I suppose I was born in Rome—no, I mean Lombardy—but it cannot matter much to you, Fraeulein, where I was born if I do not wish to tell.”
The direct course was as natural to Max as breathing. The girl was startled by his abruptness. After a pause she continued:—
“I am sure you are not ashamed of your birthplace, and—”
He interrupted her sharply:—