“That question is settled,” thought I. No power save that of the Pope could absolve the boy from his oath, and I knew that the power of ten score of popes could not move him from its complete fulfilment. The oath of Maximilian of Hapsburg, whose heart had never coined a lie, was as everlasting as the rocks of his native land and, like Styria’s mountain peaks, pierced the dome of heaven.
If Yolanda were not the princess, our journeying to Burgundy had been in vain, and our sojourn in Peronne was useless and perilous. It could not be brought to a close too quickly. But (the question mark seems at times to be the greatest part of life) if Yolanda were Mary of Burgundy, Max had, beyond doubt, already won the lady’s favor, unless she were a wanton snare for every man’s feet. That hypothesis I did not entertain for a moment. I knew little of womankind, but my limited knowledge told me that Yolanda was true. Her heart was full of laughter,—a rare, rich heritage,—and she was little inclined to look on the serious side of life if she could avoid it; but beneath all there was a real Yolanda, with a great, tender heart and a shrewd, helpful brain. She was somewhat of a coquette, but coquetry salts a woman and gives her relish. It had been a grievous waste on the part of Providence to give to any girl such eyes as Yolanda’s and to withhold from her a modicum of coquetry with which to use them. Taken all in all, Yolanda, whoever she was, would grace any station in life. But if she were not the princess, I would be willing to give my life—nay, more, I would almost be willing to take hers—rather than see her marry Maximilian of Hapsburg. Happiness could not come from such a union.
Should Max marry a burgher girl, his father and mother would never look upon his face again. It would alienate his subjects, humble his house, and bring him to the level of the meanest noble on the Danube. To all these dire consequences Max was quite as wide awake as I. He had no intention of bringing them upon his house, though for himself he would have welcomed them. So I felt little uneasiness; but when a great love lays hold upon a great heart, no man may know the outcome.
ON THE MOAT BRIDGE
Awaiting Castleman’s return, we remained housed up at The Mitre, seldom going farther abroad than Grote’s garden save in the early morning or after dark. But despite our caution trouble befell us, as our burgher friend had predicted.
Within a week Max began to go out after dark without asking me to accompany him. When he came into our room late one evening, I asked carelessly where he had been. I knew where he had been going, and had burned to speak, but the boy was twenty-two. Within the last few months he had grown out of my tutelage, and his native strength of character had taught me to respect him and in a certain way to fear him. From the promptness of his reply I thought that he had wished me to ask concerning his outgoing and incoming.