“You must not speak such words to me, Sir Max,” said Yolanda, reprovingly. “I, too, must live and be happy if—if I can.”
She turned her face away from Max and, touching her horse with her whip, passed a few feet ahead of him. If there were tears in her eyes, she did not wish Max to see them. After several minutes of silence he spurred his horse to her side.
“I did not intend to speak, Fraeulein. I once said I would never speak again. I should not have spoken now, though I have told you only what you already know. I ask no favor in return, not even a touch from your hand.”
“You shall have that at least, Sir Max,” she answered, impulsively reining her horse close to Max and placing her hand in his.
“Still, you wish me to win the lady who sent me the ring?” asked Max.
“Yes,” returned Yolanda, softly. “It will mean your happiness and mine—” Suddenly checking herself, she explained: “I shall be happy if you are. A man cannot know how happy a woman may be for another’s sake.”
I felt no desire to reprove Max when he told me of his day’s adventure with Yolanda, since I could in no way remedy the evil. In fact, Max was growing out of my jurisdiction. He had listened to my lectures and advice since childhood and had taken them kindly, because my authority grew out of my love for him and his love for me. He was a boy when we left Styria, but he was a man when we were journeying down the Rhine. Though the confidential relations between us had grown closer, my advice was gradually taking the form of consultation. I did not seek his confidences, and he gave them more freely, if that were possible, than ever before. I did not offer my advice so readily, but he sought it more frequently. Max told me the sorrowful little story of the day, and I did not comment on it. I simply led him in another direction.
“Fraeulein Yolanda’s words have given me food for thought,” I said. “So long as Duke Charles lives, there can be no union between Burgundy and Hapsburg; but at the pace he is travelling he will surely receive his coup de grace before long, and I hope you will meet and know the princess before the tragedy occurs. Then declare yourself and back your claim with the duke’s proposal, which has never been withdrawn. That the people of Burgundy hate France and this French marriage there can be no doubt. They are fools for so doing, but we may easily profit by their lack of wisdom. In the event of the duke’s death the inclinations of the princess will be half the battle. So long as he lives they are no part of it. If, by the help of Twonette, you should be so fortunate as to meet the princess, our dream may be realized, and our house may become the greatest in Europe.”
“I suppose you are right, Karl,” answered Max. “You are always right; but I have no heart in this matter, and I hope nothing will come of it. I have never known you to be so cold-blooded as in this affair.”