“True,” I replied, “but I have a small sum in the hands of a merchant at Vienna that will support us for a time. When it is spent, we must make our bread or starve. That will be the best part of our experience. A struggle for existence sweetens it; and if we starve, we shall deserve the fate.”
After three days Max gave me his answer.
“I will go with you, Karl,” he said; “you have never led me wrong. If we starve, I shall not be much worse off than I am here in Styria. It hurts me to say that the love of my father and mother is my greatest danger; but it is true. They have lived here so long, feeding on the poor adulation of a poor people, that they do not see life truly. I have had none of the joys and pleasures which, my heart tells me, life holds. I have known nothing but this existence—hard and barren as the rocks that surround me. I must, in time, return to Styria and take up my burden, but, Karl, I will first live.”
After this great stand, Max and I attacked first the father fortress and then the mother stronghold. The latter required a long siege; but at last it surrendered unconditionally, and the day was appointed when Max and I should ride out in quest of fortune, and, perhaps, a-bride-hunting. Neither of us mentioned Burgundy. I confess to telling—at least, to acting—a lie. We said that we wished to go to my people in Italy, and to visit Rome, Venice, and other cities. I said that I had a small sum of gold that I should be glad to use; but I did not say how small it was, and no hint was dropped that the heir to Styria might be compelled to soil his hands by earning his daily bread. We easily agreed among ourselves that Max and I, lacking funds to travel in state befitting a prince of the House of Hapsburg, should go incognito. I should keep my own name, it being little known. Max should take the name of his mother’s house, and should be known as Sir Maximilian du Guelph.
* * * * *
At last came the momentous day of our departure. The battlements of the gate were crowded with retainers, many of them in tears at losing “My young Lord, the Count.” Public opinion in Castle Hapsburg unanimously condemned the expedition, and I was roundly abused for what was held to be my part in the terrible mistake. Such an untoward thing had never before happened in the House of Hapsburg. Its annals nowhere revealed a journey of an heir into the contaminating world. The dignity of the house was impaired beyond remedy, and all by the advice of a foreigner. There was no lack of grumbling; but of course the duke’s will was law. If he wished to hang the count, he might do so; therefore the grumbling reached the duke’s ears only from a distance.