“It is strange,” said Max, “that news of merely a general nature should produce so gloomy an effect; but, if you heard all that De Rose said, that must be the only cause.”
“I cannot say,” I responded, “what the cause may be. All I know is that De Rose spoke of the impending war, and said that the duke was hastening to Peronne for the purpose of consummating the French marriage at once. There is now no reason why we should journey to Peronne. My air-castles have crumbled about my ears in fine shape.”
“I am not sorry, Karl,” replied Max. “During the last fortnight I have changed. Should my marriage with the princess, by any marvellous chance, become possible, it would now be wholly for the sake of her estates, and I despise myself when I try to think that I wish to bring it about. Ah, Karl, it is now impossible even to hope for this marriage, and I tell you I am glad of it. We will see the world, then we will return to Styria; and I shall thank you all my life for having made a man of me.”
DUKE CHARLES THE RASH
Our caravan travelled with the mournfulness of a funeral procession. Early in the evening Max spoke to Yolanda:—
“I hear your uncle desires Sir Karl and me to leave you at Metz.”
“Yes,” she answered dolefully, hanging her head, “we part at Metz. I shall see you there before I leave, and then—and then—ah, Sir Max, I was wrong and you were right; there is no hope.”
“What of the lady who gave me the ring?” asked Max, in a feeble effort to banter her.
“She would have made you very happy, Sir Max. Her estates would have compensated for all losses elsewhere.”
“You know, that is not true, Yolanda,” said Max, earnestly.
“I am not sure, Sir Max,” responded the girl, “and do not wish to be sure. I will see you at Metz, and there we may part. It is our fate. We must not be doleful, Sir Max, we must be—we must be—happy and brave.” Her poor little effort to be happy and brave was piteous.
Castleman soon fell back with Yolanda, and Max rode forward beside me.
At midnight we offsaddled by a stream in a forest and allowed our horses and mules to rest until sunrise. Then we took up our journey again, and by forced marches reached Metz one morning an hour before dawn. We waited in a drizzling rain till the gates opened, and, after a long parley with the warder, entered the city. We were all nearly exhausted, and our poor mules staggered along the streets hardly able to carry their burdens another step. Two had fallen a half-league outside of Metz; and three others fell with their loads within the city gates.
Castleman had determined to stop with a merchant friend, and after what seemed a long journey from the gates we halted at the merchant’s house. Our host left us in his parlor while he went to arrange for breakfast. When he had gone Castleman turned to me:—