I hastened to the inn and wakened Max, to whose well-covered bones a board was as soft as a feather bed. While I was speaking to him, I heard a noise in an adjoining room and saw the door opening. Max and I barely escaped through an open arch when a commanding figure clad in light armor entered the tap-room.
I had not seen Charles of Burgundy since he was a boy—he was then Count of Charolois—but I at once knew with terrifying certainty that I looked on the most dreaded man in Europe. He had changed greatly since I last had seen him. He was then beardless; now he wore a beard that reached almost to his belt, and I should not have recognized in him the young Count of Charolois. There was, however, no doubt in my mind concerning his identity.
Even had I failed to see the angry scar on his neck, of which I had often heard, or had I failed to note the lack of upper teeth (a fact known to all Europe) which gave his face an expression of savagery, I should have recognized him by his mien. There was not another man like him in all the world, and I trust there never will be. His face wore an expression of ferocity that was almost brutal. The passions of anger, arrogance, and hatred were marked on every feature; but over all there was the stamp of an almost superhuman strength, the impress of an iron will, the expression of an exhaustless energy, and the majesty of a satanic bravery. If Yolanda was the daughter of this terrible man, and if he should discover that I had her hidden in the room above his head, I should never eat another breakfast. Truly, Max and I were on perilous ground.
Max remained in concealment, and I climbed the stairs, two steps at a time, to Yolanda’s room. I gently knocked, and received a sleepy response.
“Rise at once,” I whispered. “I must speak to you instantly.”
“Enter—we are already dressed,” answered Yolanda.
When I entered she had risen from the bed and was rubbing her eyes.
“We were so tired we slept in our garments. Don’t we show it?” said Yolanda.
Her hands were above her head, vainly endeavoring to arrange her hair, which had fallen in a great tumble of dark curls over her shoulder. Rest had flushed her cheeks, and her lips and her eyes were moist with the dew of sleep. Though my business was urgent I could not resist exclaiming:—
“Ah, Fraeulein, you surely are beautiful.”
“I thank you, Sir Karl,” she answered, flashing a smile upon me. “You may kiss my hand.”
She offered me her hand and asked:—
“But what is your news?”
While she spoke I heard voices and the tramping of hoofs beneath the window in front of the inn, and turned to look. I quickly drew away from the window and beckoned Yolanda:—
“Come here, Fraeulein.”
She came to my side, and as she looked out upon the road two men emerged from the inn door. One of them was the Duke of Burgundy. She clutched my arm and whispered excitedly:—