“I have been to the bridge over the moat, near Castleman’s House under the Wall,” he answered.
“What did you there?” I asked, seeing his willingness to be questioned.
“I stood there—I—I—” He paused, laughed, and stammered on. “I looked at the castle and at the moat, like a silly fool, and—and—”
“Castleman’s house?” I suggested, helping him out.
“Y-e-s,” he answered hesitatingly, “I could not help seeing it. It is close by the bridge—not twenty paces distant.”
“Did you see any one else—except the house?” I asked.
“No,” he returned promptly. “I did not want to see any one else. If I had I should have entered the house.”
“Why, then, did you go to the bridge?” I queried.
“I cannot answer that question even to myself,” he replied. “I—I—there is a constant hungering for her, Karl, that I cannot overcome; it seems as if I am compelled to go to the bridge, though I know I should not. It is very foolish in me, I am sure, but—”
“I heartily agree with you,” I answered. “It is not only foolish, it is rash; and it may bring you great trouble.”
I did not deem it necessary to tell him that he was following in the footsteps of his race. I left him to suppose that he was the only fool of the sort that had ever lived. The thought would abate his vanity.
“But I must go to the bridge,” he continued, finishing the sentence I had interrupted, “and I do not see how there can be evil in it.”
“No, Max, it Is not wrong in itself,” I said reprovingly; “but Castleman, evidently for good reasons, asked you to stay away from his house, and counselled us to remain close at the inn. It has also this evil in it for you, aside from the danger: it will make your duty harder to perform. When a man longs for what he may not have, he should not think upon it, much less act on it. Our desires, like covetousness and jealousy, feed upon themselves. We may, if we but knew it, augment or abate them at will.”
“I shall always think on—on my love for Yolanda,” he replied. “I would not abate it one jot; I would augment it in my heart. But, Karl—you see, Karl, it is not a question of my own strength to resist. I need no strength. There is no more reason for you to warn me against this danger than to admonish a child not to long for a star, fearing he might get it. The longing may be indulged with impunity; the star and the danger are out of reach.”
I had nothing to say; Max was stronger and nobler than ever I had believed.
Max continued to go to the bridge, and I made no effort to prevent him. Meddling mars more frequently than it mends, and when the Fates are leading, a man is a fool to try to direct their course. Whatever was to be would be. Fate held Max by the hand and was leading him. I almost feared to move or to speak in his affairs, lest I should make a mistake and offend these capricious Fates. The right or the wrong of his visits to the moat depended entirely upon the answer to my riddle, “Who is Yolanda?” and I dared not put it to the touch.