“I thank you, Sir Max, but our danger is greater than you know.”
It was four o’clock when we reached Strasburg, where we stopped at The Cygnet. Soon after we entered the inn, Twonette and Yolanda went forth, heavily veiled, and walked rapidly in the direction of the cathedral. Yolanda was going to make her offering to the Virgin of the man she loved; surely woman could make no greater.
When Yolanda and Twonette had gone, Castleman asked me to assist him in procuring a score of men-at-arms. They might be needed in crossing Lorraine from Strasburg to Metz.
“I shall travel night and day till we reach home,” said Castleman. “I have news of war that hastens us, and—and it is most important that Yolanda should deliver certain papers at the castle before the duke arrives at Peronne. If she reaches the castle one hour or one minute after the duke, the results will be evil beyond remedy.”
“I sincerely hope there may be no delay,” I answered, believing that the papers were an invention of Castleman’s.
“Yes,” responded the burgher; “and, Sir Karl, I deem it best for all concerned that you and Sir Max part company with us at Metz. I thank you for your services, and hope you will honor us by visiting Peronne at some future time. But now it is best that you leave us to pursue our journey without you.”
Castleman’s suggestion was most welcome to me, and I communicated it to Max when I returned to the inn. He was sorrowful; but I found that he, too, felt that he should part from Yolanda.
Castleman and I found the burgomaster, to whom we paid five hundred guilders (a sum equal to his entire annual salary), and within an hour a troop of twenty men-at-arms awaited us in the courtyard of The Cygnet. Castleman barely touched his meat at supper, though he drank two bottles of Johannesburg; Max ate little, and I had no appetite whatever.
When Yolanda returned, I said:—
“Fraeulein, will you not eat?”
“I do not care to eat,” she replied, and I could easily see that she was struggling to keep back the tears. “Let us resume our journey at once. I see the men-at-arms are waiting.”
Our rare days of sunshine had surely been weather-breeders. We were all under a dark cloud.
We left Strasburg by the north gate, and, as the city fell back of us, Max, riding by my side, asked:—
“What is the evil news that has cast this gloom over Yolanda and good Castleman? If our friends are in danger, I would not leave them at Metz, and you would not have me do so.”
“The evil news grows out of the war,” I answered evasively. “I heard every word spoken by the herald and Castleman. The burgher is wise to hasten home. If he delays his journey even for a day, he may find Burgundy—especially Lorraine—swarming with lawless men going to the various rendezvous. He also tells me he has important papers that must be delivered in the castle before the duke arrives at Peronne.”