"And yet! I must be there to-day, and see what is going on, though I perish! Without me the gentry will run wild! Farewell, my dearest brother! Farewell, I must hasten. If I perish, you alone will sigh for my soul; in case of war, the whole secret is known to you—finish what I have begun, and remember that you are a Soplica."
Here the Monk wiped away his tears, buttoned his gown, drew on his cowl, and quietly opened the shutters of the rear window; evidently he jumped through the window into the garden. The Judge, left alone, sat down in a chair and began to weep.
Thaddeus waited a moment, before he jingled at the latch; when the door was opened he went in quietly and bowed low.
"My dear uncle," he said, "I have spent here but a few days, and the days have passed like a flash. I have not yet had time to enjoy fully your house and your own company, but I must depart, I must hasten away at once; to-day, uncle, or to-morrow at the latest. You remember that we have challenged the Count; to fight him is my affair, and I have sent a challenge. Since duelling is prohibited in Lithuania, I am going to the borders of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; the Count, of course, is a braggart, but he does not lack courage, and will appear without fail at the appointed place. We will settle accounts; and, if God grants me his blessing, I will punish him, and then will swim over the Lososna, where the ranks of my brothers await me. I have heard that my father in his will bade me enter the army, and I have not heard that that will has been cancelled."
"My dear Thaddeus," said his uncle, "have you been scalded with boiling water, or are you dodging like a hunted fox that waves its brush in one direction and itself runs in another? We have challenged him, to be sure, and you will have to fight, but why are you so bent on going to-day? Before a duel it is the custom to send friends and settle the terms; the Count may still beg our pardon and make amends: just wait, there is still time enough. Some other whimsy must be driving you away from here; speak it out frankly: why such excuses? I am your uncle, and, though old, I know what young hearts are; I have been a father to you." (As he spoke he stroked his nephew beneath the chin.) "My little finger has already been whispering in my ear that you, sir, have been carrying on some intrigues here with the ladies. Nowadays young men take to the ladies devilish quick. But, my dear Thaddeus, confess it to me, and frankly."
"That is the truth," mumbled Thaddeus, "there are other causes, my beloved uncle! Perhaps it was my own fault! A mistake! No, a misfortune! It is now hard to correct it! No, dear uncle, I can stay here no longer. An error of youth! Uncle, do not question me further; I must depart from Soplicowo as quickly as may be."
"Oho!" said his uncle, "this is certainly some love tiff. I noticed yesterday that you bit your lips while you looked from under your eyebrows at a certain little girl; I saw that she too had a sour expression. I know all that nonsense; when a pair of children fall in love, then they have no end of misfortunes. Now they feel happy, now again they are afflicted and cast down; now again, for God knows what reason, they are ready to bite each other; now they stand in corners as if playing blind man's buff, and won't say a word to each other; sometimes they even run out into the fields. If such an attack is upon you, just be patient, there is a cure for all that; I will undertake to reconcile you shortly. I know all that nonsense, I have been young myself. Tell me all about it; in return I too may reveal something, and thus we will confess ourselves to each other."
"Uncle," said Thaddeus, kissing his hand and blushing, "I will tell you the truth. I have taken a great liking to that little girl, Zosia, your ward, though I have seen her only a couple of times; but they tell me that you design for my wife the Chamberlain's daughter, a beautiful girl, and a rich man's daughter. Now I could not marry Panna Rosa when I am in love with Zosia; it is hard to change one's heart, but dishonourable to marry when one loves another. Perhaps time will heal me; I shall depart—for a long absence."
"Thaddeus," interrupted his uncle, "that is a strange way of being in love, to run away from one's beloved. It is well that you are frank; you see, you would have committed an act of folly by going away. But what should you say if I helped you to obtain Zosia? Hey? Well, aren't you jumping for joy?"
"Your goodness amazes me," said Thaddeus after a pause, "but yet—the favour of my kind uncle will avail me nothing! Ah, my hopes are vain, for Pani Telimena will not yield me Zosia!"
"We will ask her," said the Judge.
"No one can prevail upon her," interrupted Thaddeus hastily. "No, I cannot wait, uncle; I must be on my way quickly, to-morrow. Only give me your blessing, uncle; I have made all my preparations, and am now leaving for the Grand Duchy."
The Judge, twirling his mustaches, gazed angrily at the lad:—
"Are you so frank? Have you opened your heart to me so fully? First that duel! Then again love and this departure; O, there is something behind all this! They have been telling me, I have watched your steps! You are a deceitful, giddy fellow; you have been telling lies. Where were you going that evening, and what were you tracking like a setter outside the house? See here, Thaddeus, maybe you have seduced Zosia and are now running away? If so, booby, you will not succeed! Whether you like it or not, I tell you that you shall marry Zosia. Otherwise, the horsewhip—to-morrow you shall stand before the altar! And you talk to me of feelings—of an unchanging heart! You are a liar! Foh! I'll look into your case, Pan Thaddeus, I'll make your ears smart for you! I've had enough trouble to-day—till my head aches with it—and now you come to keep me from going to sleep in peace! Now go to bed!"
So speaking he threw open the door and called the Apparitor to undress him.
Thaddeus went out quietly, hanging his head, and thought over his bitter interview with his uncle. It was the first time that he had ever been scolded so severely! He appreciated the justice of the reproaches and blushed at himself. What should he do? What if Zosia should learn the whole story? Should he ask for her hand? But what would Telimena say? No—he felt that he could remain no longer in Soplicowo.
Thus buried in thought, he had hardly made two steps when something crossed his path; he looked—and saw a phantom all in white, tall, frail, and slender. It approached him with an outstretched arm, from which was reflected the trembling light of the moon, and, stepping up to him, softly moaned:—
"Ungrateful man! You sought my glance, and now you avoid it; you sought for speech with me, and to-day you close your ears, as though in my words and in my glance there were poison! I deserve my fate; I knew who you were! A man! Guiltless of coquetry, I did not wish to torture you, but made you happy; and is this the gratitude you show me! A triumph over my soft heart has hardened your heart; since you won it so easily, too quickly have you despised it! I deserve my fate; but, taught by bitter experience, believe me, that I despise myself more than you can despise me!"
"Telimena," said Thaddeus, "I vow to Heaven that my heart is not hard, nor do I avoid you through contempt. But just consider, they are watching us, following us; can we act so openly? What will people say? Why, this is improper, I vow—it is a sin!"
"A sin!" she answered him with a bitter smile. "O you young innocent! you lamb! If I, who am a woman, from very force of love care not though I be discovered, and though I be put to shame—but you! you a man? What matters it to one of you men, even though he may confess that he has intrigues with a dozen sweethearts at a time? Speak the truth, you wish to desert me."
She dissolved in tears.
"Telimena," answered Thaddeus, "what would the world say of a man, who now, at my time of life, in good health, should settle down in a village and pass his time making love—when so many young men, so many married men are leaving their wives and children and fleeing abroad, to the standards of their country? Although I might wish to remain, does it depend on me? My father in his will bade me enter the Polish army, and now my uncle has repeated that command; to-morrow I depart; I have already made my resolution, and with Heaven's aid, Telimena, I shall not change it."
"I do not wish to bar your path to glory," said Telimena, "or to hinder your happiness! You are a man, you will find a sweetheart worthier of your love; you will find one richer and fairer! Only for my consolation, let me know before we part that your liking for me was a true affection, that it was not merely a jest or wanton lust, but love; let me know that my Thaddeus loves me! Let me hear once more from your lips the words 'I love,' let me grave them in my heart, and write them in my thoughts; I shall forgive more easily, though you cease to love me, remembering how you have loved me!"
And she began to sob.
Thaddeus, seeing that she wept and implored him so feelingly, and that she required of him only such a trifle, was moved; sincere sorrow and pity overcame him, and if he had searched the secrets of his heart, perhaps at that moment he himself could not have told whether he loved her or not. So he spoke eagerly:—
"Telimena, so may God's bright lightning strike me, if it be not true that I have been fond of you—yes, that I have loved you deeply; short were the moments that we spent together, but so sweetly and so tenderly did they pass that for long, forever, will they be present to my thoughts, and Heaven knows that I shall never forget you!"
With a bound Telimena fell upon his neck:—
"This is what I have hoped for; you love me, so I still live! For to-day I was going to end my life by my own hand! Since you love me, my dear one, can you abandon me? To you I have given my heart, and to you I will give my worldly goods; I will follow you everywhere; with you each corner of the world will be charming; of the wildest wilderness love, believe me, will make a paradise!"
Thaddeus tore himself from her embrace by force. "What?" said he, "are you mad? Follow me? Where? How? Shall I, being a common soldier, drag you after me, as a sutleress?"
"Then we will be espoused," said Telimena.
"No, never!" shouted Thaddeus. "At present I have no intention whatever of marrying, nor of making love—nonsense! Let's drop the matter! I beg you, my dear, bethink yourself! Be calm! I am grateful to you, but it is impossible for us to marry; let us love each other, but just—in different places. I cannot remain longer; no, no, I must go. Farewell, my Telimena, I leave to-morrow."
He spoke, pulled his hat over his eyes, and turned aside, meaning to depart; but Telimena checked him with an eye and countenance like those of Medusa's head: against his will he had to remain; he looked with terror on her form; she had become pale, without motion, breath, or life. At last, stretching out an arm like a sword to transfix him, with her finger aimed straight at the eyes of Thaddeus, she cried:—
"This is what I wished! Ha, tongue of dragon, heart of viper! I care not that, infatuated with you, I scorned the Assessor, the Count, and the Notary, that you seduced me and have now abandoned me in my orphanhood; for that I care not! You are a man, I know your falsity; I know that, like others, you too would be capable of breaking your plighted troth; but I did not know that so basely you could lie! I have been listening by your uncle's door! So what about that child Zosia? Has she attracted your regard? And do you traitorously lay claim to her! Hardly had you deceived one unfortunate, when already beneath her very eyes you were seeking new victims! Flee, but my curses will reach you—or remain, and I will publish your perfidies to the world; your arts will no longer corrupt others as they have corrupted me! Away! I despise you! You are a liar, a base man!"
At this insult, mortal for a gentleman's ears, the like of which no Soplica had ever heard, Thaddeus trembled, and his face grew pale as that of a corpse. Stamping his foot and biting his lips, he muttered, "Idiotic woman!"
He walked away, but the epithet "base" echoed in his heart; the young man shuddered, and felt that he had deserved it; he felt that he had inflicted a great wrong on Telimena; his conscience told him that she had reproached him justly: yet he felt that after those reproaches he loathed her more violently than ever. Of Zosia, alas! he did not venture to think; he was ashamed. However, that very Zosia, so lovely and so charming, his uncle had been seeking to win for him! Perhaps she would have been his wife, had not a demon, after entangling him in sin after sin, lie after lie, at last bade him adieu with a mocking laugh. He was rebuked and scorned by all! In a few short days he had ruined his future! He felt the just punishment of his crime.
In this storm of feelings, like an anchor of rest there suddenly flashed upon him the thought of the duel. "I must slay the Count, the scoundrel!" he cried, "I must perish or be avenged!" But for what? That he did not know himself. And that great burst of anger, as it had come over him in the twinkling of an eye, so it vanished away; he was seized anew by a deep sadness. He meditated whether his observation might not be true, that the Count and Zosia had some mutual understanding. "And what of that? Perhaps the Count sincerely loves Zosia; perhaps she loves him, and will choose him for her husband! By what right could I desire to break off that marriage; and, unhappy myself, to destroy the happiness of every one?"
He fell into despair and saw no other means except speedy flight. Whither? To the grave!
So, pressing his fist against his bent brow, he ran to the meadows, where, below, the ponds glittered, and took his stand above the one with marshy banks; in its greenish depths he buried his greedy gaze and drew into his breast with joy the swampy odours, and opened his lips to them; for suicide, like all wild passions, springs from the imagination: in the giddy whirling of his brain he felt an unspeakable longing to drown himself in the swamp.
But Telimena, guessing the young man's despair from his wild gestures, and seeing that he had run towards the ponds, although she burned with such just wrath against him, was nevertheless alarmed; in reality she had a kind heart. She had felt sorrow that Thaddeus dared to love another; she had wished to punish him, but she had not thought of destroying him. So she rushed after him, raising both her arms and crying: "Stop! What folly! Love me or not! Get married or depart! Only stop!——" But in his swift course he had far outstripped her; he already—was standing at the shore!
By a strange decree of fate, along that same shore was riding the Count, at the head of his band of jockeys; and, carried away by the charm of so fair a night, and by the marvellous harmony of that subaqueous orchestra, of those choruses that rang like AEolian harps (for no frogs sing so beautifully as those of Poland), he checked his horse and forgot about his expedition. He turned his ear to the pond and listened curiously; he ran his eyes over the fields, over the expanse of the heavens: he was evidently composing in his thoughts a nocturnal landscape.
In very truth, the neighbourhood was picturesque! The two ponds inclined their faces towards each other like a pair of lovers. The right pond had waters smooth and pure as a maiden's cheeks; the left was somewhat darker, like the swarthy face of a youth, already shaded with manly down. The right was encircled with glittering golden sand as if with bright hair; but the brow of the left bristled with osiers, and was tufted with willows: both ponds were clothed in a garment of green.
From them there flowed and met two streams, like hands clasped together: farther on the stream formed a waterfall; it fell, but did not perish, for into the darkness of the ravine it bore upon its waves the golden shimmer of the moon. The water fell in sheets, and on every sheet glittered skeins of moonbeams; the light in the ravine was dispersed into fine splinters, which the fleeing flood seized and carried off below, but from on high the moonbeams fell in fresh skeins. You might have thought that by the pond a nixie157 was sitting, and with one hand was pouring forth a fountain from a bottomless urn, while with the other she cast sportively into the water handfuls of enchanted gold that she took from her apron.
Farther on, the brook, running out from the ravine, wound over the plain, and became quiet, but one could see that it still flowed, for along its moving, shimmering surface the quivering moonlight twinkled. As the fair serpent of Zmudz called giwojtos, though, lying amid the heather, it seems to slumber, still crawls along, for by turns it shows silver and golden, until it suddenly vanishes from the eye in the moss or ferns; so the brook wound and hid among the alders, which showed black on the far horizon, raising their light forms, indistinct to the eye, like spirits half seen and half in mist.
Between the ponds in the ravine a mill was hidden. As an old guardian who is spying on two lovers and has heard their talk together, grows angry, storms, shakes his head and hands and stutters out threats against them; so that mill suddenly shook its brow overgrown with moss and twirled around its many-fingered fist: hardly had it begun to clatter and stir its sharp-toothed jaws, when at the same moment it deafened the love talk of the ponds, and awoke the Count.
The Count, seeing that Thaddeus had approached so near the spot where he had halted under arms, shouted: "To arms! Seize him!" The jockeys rushed forward, and, before Thaddeus could comprehend what was happening to him, they had already caught him; they ran towards the mansion and poured into the yard. The mansion awoke, the dogs barked, the watchmen shouted, the Judge rushed out half clad; he saw the armed throng and thought that they were robbers until he recognised the Count. "What does this mean?" he asked. The Count flashed his sword over him, but, when he saw that he was unarmed, his fury grew cool.
"Soplica," he said, "ancestral enemy of my family, to-day I punish thee for ancient and for fresh offences; to-day thou wilt render me an account for the seizure of my fortune before I avenge me for the insult to my honour!"
But the Judge crossed himself and cried:—
"In the name of the Father and of the Son! foh! My Lord the Count, are you a robber? By God, does this befit your birth, your education, and the station you occupy in the world? I will not permit myself to be wronged!"
Meanwhile the servants of the Judge had run up, some with clubs, others with guns; the Seneschal, standing some distance away, looked curiously into the eyes of the Count—and held a knife in his sleeve.
They were already on the point of beginning battle, but the Judge prevented them; it was vain to offer any defence, for a new enemy was coming up. Among the alders they saw a flash, and heard the report of a carbine! The bridge over the river rattled with the trampling of cavalry, and a thousand voices thundered, "Down with the Soplica!" The Judge shuddered, for he recognised Gerwazy's watchword.
"This is nothing," cried the Count, "there will soon be more of us here; submit, Judge, these are my allies."
Thereupon the Assessor ran up shouting:—
"I arrest you in the name of His Imperial Majesty! Yield your sword, Count, for I shall summon the aid of the army; and you are aware, that if any one dares to make a night attack under arms, it is provided by ukaz one thousand two hundred, that as a malef——"
Thereupon the Count struck him across the face with the flat of his sword. The Assessor fell stunned, and disappeared among the nettles; all thought that he was wounded or dead.
"I see," said the Judge, "that this looks like brigandage."
Every one shrieked; all were deafened by the wailing of Zosia, who, throwing her arms around the Judge, cried like a child pricked with needles by Jews.
Meanwhile Telimena had rushed among the horses and extended her clasped hands towards the Count.
"Upon your honour!" she cried with a piercing voice, with head thrown back and with streaming hair. "By all that is holy, we implore you on our knees! Count, will you dare to refuse? Ladies beg you; savage man, you must first murder us!"
She fell in a faint.—The Count sprang to her aid, amazed and somewhat disconcerted by this scene.
"Panna Sophia," he said, "Pani Telimena, never shall this sword be stained with the blood of an unarmed foe! Soplicas, you are my prisoners. Thus did I in Italy, when beneath the crag that the Sicilians call Birbante-Rocca I overcame a camp of brigands; the armed I slew, those that laid down their weapons I captured and had bound: they walked behind the steeds and adorned my glorious triumph; then they were hanged at the foot of Etna."
It was an especial piece of good luck for the Soplicas that the Count, having better horses than the gentry, and wishing to be the first in the engagement, had left them behind, and had galloped at least a mile 158 in advance of the rest of the cavalry, along with his jockeys, who were obedient and well disciplined, and formed a sort of regular army. For the rest of the gentry, as is usually the case with insurgents, were turbulent, and beyond measure quick at hanging. As it was, the Count had time to recover from his heat and wrath, and to deliberate how to end the battle without bloodshed; so he gave orders to lock the Soplica family in the mansion as prisoners of war, and stationed guards at the doors.
Then with a shout of "Down with the Soplicas!" the gentry rushed on in a body, surrounded the estate and took it by storm, so much the more easily since the leader had been captured and the garrison had run away; but the conquerors wanted to fight and looked for an enemy. Not being admitted to the mansion, they ran to the farmhouse, to the kitchen—when they entered the kitchen, the sight of the pots, the hardly extinct fire, the fresh smell of cooked food, the crunching of the dogs, which were gnawing the remains of the supper, appealed to the hearts of all, and changed the current of their thoughts; it cooled their wrath, but inflamed their desire for food. Wearied by the march and by an entire day of debate, they thrice shouted with one voice, "Eat, eat!" to which there came a reply of "Drink, drink!" from among the throng of gentry. There arose two choruses, some crying "Drink!" and others "Eat!"—the watchwords flew and echoed, and wherever they reached they made mouths water and stomachs feel empty. And so, at a signal given from the kitchen, the army unexpectedly dispersed for foraging.
Gerwazy, repulsed from the Judge's rooms, had to retire, out of regard for the Count's watchmen. So, not being able to take vengeance on his enemy, he bethought himself of the second great aim of this expedition. As a man experienced and adept in legal matters, he wished to establish the Count in his new possessions legally and formally; so he ran for the Apparitor, and at last, after long search, discovered him behind the stove. Straight-way he seized him by the collar, dragged him to the yard, and, pointing his penknife at his breast, spoke thus:—
"Mr. Apparitor, my Lord the Count ventures to ask Your Honour that you would be so kind as immediately to proclaim before the gentlemen and brethren the establishment of the Count in the castle, in the estate of the Soplicas, the village, the sown fields, the fallow land, in a word, cum grovibus, forestis et borderibus; peasantibus, bailiffis, et omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis. You know the formula; so bark it out: don't leave out anything."
"Mr. Warden, wait awhile," said Protazy boldly, thrusting his hands into his belt. "I am ready to carry out all the orders of the contending parties, but I warn you that the act will not be valid, being extorted by violence and proclaimed by night."
"What violence?" said the Warden. "There is no assault here. Why, I am asking you politely; if it is too dark for you, then I will kindle a fire with my penknife so that it will be as bright in your peepers as in seven churches."
"My dear Gerwazy," said the Apparitor, "why be so huffy? I am an apparitor; it is not my business to discuss the case. Everybody knows that a party to a suit summons an apparitor and dictates to him whatever he chooses, and the apparitor proclaims it. The apparitor is the ambassador of the law, and ambassadors are not subject to punishment, so that I do not know why you keep me under guard. I will immediately write an act if some one will only bring me a lantern, but meanwhile I proclaim: Brothers, come to order!"
And in order to make his voice carry better, he stepped up on a great heap of beams (near the garden fence beams were drying); he climbed on them, and at once, as if the wind had blown him away, he vanished from sight; they heard how he plumped into the cabbage patch, they saw how his white hat flitted like a dove over the dark hemp. Bucket shot at the hat, but missed his aim; then there was a crackling of poles—Protazy was already in the hop patch. "I protest," he shouted; he was sure of escape, for behind him he had swamps and the bed of the stream.
After this protest, which resounded like the last cannon shot on conquered ramparts, all resistance subsided in the mansion of the Soplicas. The hungry gentry pillaged and seized upon whatever they could find. Sprinkler, taking his stand in the cow-shed, sprinkled an ox and two calves on the brows, and Razor plunged his sabre in their throats. Awl with equal diligence employed his sword, sticking hogs and sucking pigs beneath the shoulder blades. And now slaughter threatened the poultry—a watchful flock of those geese that once saved Rome from the treachery of the Gauls, in vain cackled for aid; in place of Manlius, Bucket attacked the coop, strangled some of the birds, and tied others alive to the girdle of his kontusz. In vain the geese called out hoarsely, winding their necks about; in vain the ganders hissed and nipped their assailant. He ran; besprinkled with the glittering down, borne forward as if on wheels by the motion of the close-packed wings, he seemed to be Chochlik, the winged evil spirit.159
But the most terrible slaughter, though the least uproar, was among the hens. Young Buzzard assaulted the hencoop, and, catching them with a cord, he pulled down from the roosts the cocks and the rough-feathered and crested hens; one after another he strangled them and laid them in a heap; lovely birds, fed upon pearl barley. Heedless Buzzard, what fervour carried thee away! Never after this wilt thou win thy pardon from the angry Zosia!
Gerwazy called to mind the days of old, and bade them give him the belts from their kontuszes, and with them he drew from the Soplicas' cellar casks of old brandy, mead, and beer. Some they broached at once; others the gentry, thick as ants, seized with a will and rolled to the castle. There the whole throng gathered for the night encampment; there were established the Count's headquarters.
They laid a hundred fires, boiled, broiled, and roasted; the tables bent beneath the meat, and drink flowed in a river. The gentry were minded to eat, drink, and sing the whole night through, but slowly they began to doze and yawn; eye after eye was extinguished, and the whole company nodded their heads; each fell where he sat, one with a platter, one over a tankard, one by a quarter of beef. Thus the victors were conquered at last by Sleep, the brother of Death.
BOOK IX.—THE BATTLE
Of the dangers arising from the disorderly conduct of a camp—Unexpected succour—The gloomy situation of the gentry—The visit of the Bernardine, collecting alms, is an omen of rescue—Major Plut by excessive gallantry draws down a storm upon himself—A pistol shot, the signal for combat—The deeds of Sprinkler; the deeds and dangers of Maciek—Bucket by an ambuscade preserves Soplicowo—Reinforcements of cavalry; attack on the infantry—The deeds of Thaddeus—Duel of the leaders interrupted by treason—The Seneschal by a decisive manoeuvre inclines the scales of combat—Bloody deeds of Gerwazy—The Chamberlain as a magnanimous victor.
And they snored in so sound a sleep that they were not wakened by the gleam of lanterns and the entry of some dozens of men, who fell upon the gentry as wall spiders, called mowers, upon drowsy flies; scarcely does one of them have time to buzz before the grim master encircles it around with long legs and strangles it. The sleep of the gentry was still sounder than the sleep of flies: not a one buzzed; all lay as if lifeless, though they were seized by strong arms, and thrown about like straw when it is bound into sheaves.
Bucket alone, whose head was strongest at a banquet of all those in the district; Bucket, who could drink two butts of mead before his tongue faltered and his legs tottered—Bucket, though long had he feasted and deeply did he slumber, still gave a sign of life; he blinked with one eye, and saw!—real nightmares! two dreadful faces directly above him, and each had a pair of mustaches. They breathed upon him, and touched his lips with their mustaches, and flourished about four hands like wings. He was terrified, and wanted to cross him self, but he tried in vain to stir his arm; his right arm seemed pinned to his side. He strove to move his left—alas! he found that the spirits had wrapt him tight as a babe in swaddling bands. He was terrified still more frightfully; immediately he closed his eyes and lay without breathing; he grew cold and was near to death.
But Sprinkler made an effort to defend himself, too late! For he was already bound fast in his own belt. However, he twisted himself about and leapt up with such a spring that he fell back on the breasts of the sleeping men and rolled over their heads; he tossed like a pike, when it writhes on the sand, and roared like a bear, for he had strong lungs. He roared: "Treachery!" At once the whole company awoke and answered in chorus: "Treachery! Violence! Treachery!"
The cry went echoing to the mirror room, where slept the Count, Gerwazy, and the jockeys. Gerwazy awoke, and in vain struggled to free himself, for he was tied fast at full length to his own sword; he looked about, and saw by the window armed men, in short, black helmets and green uniforms. One of them, girt with a scarf, held a sword, and with its point directed his company of men, whispering: "Bind! Bind!" Around him lay the jockeys, tied up like sheep; the Count was sitting unbound but without arms, and by him stood two private soldiers with bare bayonets—Gerwazy recognised them: alas! the Muscovites!!!
Often had the Warden been in like distress, often had he felt ropes on his arms and legs; and yet he had freed himself, for he knew a way of breaking bands: he was very strong and trusted in himself. He planned to save himself by silence; he closed his eyes as if he were asleep, slowly stretched out his arms and legs, held his breath, and contracted his belly and his chest to the utmost; then suddenly he grew short, puffed himself out, and doubled up: as a serpent, when it hides its head and tail in its coils, so Gerwazy became short and thick instead of long. The cords stretched and even creaked, but did not break! From very shame and terror the Warden turned over and hid his angry face upon the floor; closing his eyes he lay senseless as a log.
Then the drums began to roll, at first slowly, then with a rumble that became ever faster and louder; at this signal the Muscovite officer gave orders to lock up the Count and the jockeys in the hall, under guard, but to take the gentry out into the yard, where the other company was stationed. In vain Sprinkler fumed and struggled.
The staff was stationed in the yard, and with it many armed gentry, the Podhajskis, Birbaszes, Hreczechas, Biergels, all friends or kinsmen of the Judge. They had hastened to his relief when they heard of the attack upon him, the more eagerly since they had long been at odds with the Dobrzynskis.
Who had summoned the battalion of Muscovites from the villages? Who had gathered so quickly the neighbours from the hamlets? Was it the Assessor or Jankiel? As to this there were various rumours, but no one knew with certainty either then or later.
Already the sun was rising, and showed blood-red; its blunt edge, as if stripped of beams, was half visible and half hidden in the black clouds, like a heated horseshoe in the charcoal of a forge. The wind was rising, and it drove on the clouds from the east, crowded and jagged as blocks of ice; each cloud as it passed over sprinkled cold rain; behind it rushed the wind and dried the rain again; after the wind again a damp cloud flew by; and thus the day by turns was cold and drizzly.
Meanwhile the Major had given orders to drag up the beams that were drying near the yard, and in each beam to cut with an axe semicircular notches; into these notches he thrust the legs of the prisoners and closed them with another beam. The two logs, nailed together at the ends, fastened upon the legs like the jaws of a bulldog; with cords they tied the arms of the gentry still more tightly behind their backs. The Major for their further torment had already had their caps pulled from their heads, and from their backs their cloaks, their kontuszes, and even their jackets—even their tunics. Thus the gentry, fastened in the stocks, sat in a row, chattering their teeth in the cold and the rain, for the drizzle kept increasing. In vain Sprinkler fumed and struggled.
Vainly the Judge interceded for the gentry, and vainly Telimena joined her entreaties to the tears of Zosia, that they should have more regard for the captives. Captain Nikita Rykov, to be sure—a Muscovite but a good fellow—allowed himself to be mollified; but this was of no avail, since he himself had to obey Major Plut.160
This Major, by birth a Pole from the little town of Dzierowicze, according to report, had been named Plutowicz in Polish, but had changed his name; he was a great rascal, as is usually the case with Poles that turn Muscovites in the Tsar's service. Plut, with his pipe in his mouth and his hands on his hips, stood in front of the ranks of soldiers; when people bowed to him, he turned up his nose, and in answer, as a sign of his wrathful humour, he puffed out a cloud of smoke and walked towards the house.
But meanwhile the Judge had been appeasing Rykov, and likewise taking aside the Assessor. They were consulting how to end the affair out of court, and, what was still more important, without interference from the government. So Captain Rykov said to Major Plut:—
"Major, what do we want of all these captives? If we send them up for trial, there will be great trouble for the gentry of the district, and no one will give you any reward for it, sir. I tell you, Major, it will be better to settle the matter quietly; the Judge will have to reward you for your pains, and we will say that we came here on a visit: thus the goats will be whole and the wolf will be full. There is a Russian proverb: 'All can be done—with caution!' and another proverb, 'Roast your own meat on the Tsar's spit,' and a third proverb, 'Harmony is better than discord.' Tie the knot tight and put the ends in the water. We will not make a report, so that nobody will find out. 'God gave hands to take with'—that is a Russian proverb."
When he heard this the Major rose and exploded with wrath:—
"Are you mad, Rykov? This is the Imperial service, and service is not friendship, you idiotic old Rykov! Are you mad? Shall I discharge rebels! In these warlike times! Ha, my Polish friends, I'll teach you rebellion! Ha, you rascally Dobrzynski gentlemen; O, I know you—let the rascals soak!" (And he guffawed, as he looked out of the window.) "Why, that same Dobrzynski who is sitting with his coat on—hey, take off his coat!—last year at the masked ball started that squabble with me. Who began it? He—not I. I was dancing, and he yelled, 'Turn the scoundrel out!' Since I was just then under investigation for stealing from the regimental treasury, I was much embarrassed; but what business was it of his? I was dancing the mazurka, and he shouted from behind, 'Scoundrel!' The gentry after him cried 'Hurrah!' They insulted me. Well? The beggarly gentleman has fallen into my claws. I said to him: 'See here, Dobrzynski, the goat will come to the butcher's waggon!' Well, Dobrzynski, switches are cut for you, you see!"
Then he bent over and whispered into the Judge's ear:—
"Judge, if you want to have this matter hushed up, a thousand rubles cash for each head. A thousand rubles, Judge, that's my last word."
The Judge tried to bargain, but the Major would not listen; once more he stalked about the room and puffed out clouds of smoke, like a squib or a rocket. The women followed him, imploring and weeping.
"Major," said the Judge, "even if you go to law, what will you gain? There has been no bloody battle here, and no wounds; for their eating of hens and geese they will pay fines according to the statute. I shall not make complaint against the Count; this was only an ordinary squabble between neighbours."
"Judge," said the Major, "have you read the Yellow Book?"161
"What yellow book?" asked the Judge.
"A book," said the Major, "that is better than all your statutes, and in it every other word is halter, Siberia, the knout; the book of martial law, now proclaimed throughout all Lithuania: your tribunals are now on the shelf. According to martial law, for such pranks you will at the very least be sent to hard labour in Siberia."
"I appeal to the Governor," said the Judge.
"Appeal to the Emperor if you want to," said Plut. "You know that when the Emperor confirms decrees, he often by his grace doubles the penalty. Appeal, and perhaps in case of need, my dear Judge, I shall get a good hold on you too. Jankiel, a spy whom the government has long been tracking, is a frequenter of your house and the tenant of your tavern. I may now put every one of you under arrest at once."
"Arrest me?" said the Judge. "How do you dare without orders?"
And the dispute was becoming more and more lively, when a new guest rode into the farmyard.
A strange throng was coming in. In front, like a courier, ran an immense black ram, whose brow bristled with four horns, two of which were decked with bells and curled about his ears, and two jutted out sidewise from his forehead and were hung with small, round, tinkling brass balls. After the ram came oxen and a flock of sheep and goats; behind the cattle were four heavily loaded waggons.
All divined that Father Robak, the Alms-Gatherer, had arrived. So the Judge, knowing his duty as host, took his stand on the threshold, to welcome the guest. The Monk rode on the first wain, his face half hidden by his cowl; but they immediately recognised him, for, when he passed the prisoners, he turned his countenance towards them and made a sign to them with his finger. And the driver of the second wain was equally well known, old Maciek, the Switch, disguised as a peasant. The gentry began to shout as soon as he appeared; he said only "Idiots!" and imposed silence by a gesture. On the third waggon was the Prussian, in a torn overcoat; and Zan and Mickiewicz rode on the fourth.
Meanwhile the Podhajskis and the Isajewiczes, the Birbaszes, Wilbiks, Biergels, and Kotwiczes, seeing the Dobrzynskis under so severe constraint, began slowly to cool down from their former wrath; for the Polish gentry, though beyond measure quarrelsome and eager for fighting, are nevertheless not vindictive. So they ran to old Maciej for counsel. He stationed the whole crowd about the waggons and told them to wait.
The Bernardine entered the room. They hardly recognised him, though he had not changed his clothes—his bearing was so different. He was ordinarily gloomy and thoughtful, but now he held his head high, and with a radiant mien, like a jolly monk, he laughed long before he began to talk:—
"Ha! ha! ha! ha! My respects, my respects! Ha! ha! ha! Excellent, first-class! Officers, some people hunt by day, but you by night! The hunting was good; I have seen the game. Pluck, pluck the gentry, peel them well; bridle them, for the gentry sometimes kick! I congratulate you, Major, that you have caught the young Count; he is a fat morsel, a rich fellow, a young man of old family; don't let him out of the cage without getting three hundred ducats for him; and when you have them, give some three-pence for my monastery and for me, for I always pray for your soul. As I am a Bernardine, I am very anxious about your soul! Death pulls even staff-officers by the ears. Baka162 wrote well—that Death seizes on sinners at dinners, and on silken frocks she often knocks, and monks' cowls she slashes like satin sashes, and the curb of girls she raps like shoulder-straps. Mother Death, says Baka, like an onion, brings tears from the dears she embraces, and fondles alike both the baby that drowses and the rake that carouses! Ah! ah! Major, to-day we live and to-morrow we rot; that only is ours which to-day we eat and drink! Judge, doesn't it seem to you time for breakfast? I take my seat at the table, and beg all to be seated with me. Major, how about some stewed beef and gravy? Lieutenant, what's your idea? Should you like a bowl of good punch?"
"That's a fact, Father," said two officers; "it's time to be eating, and to drink the Judge's health!"
The household, gazing at Robak, marvelled whence he had got such a bearing and such jollity. The Judge at once repeated the orders to the cook; they brought in a bowl, sugar, bottles, and stewed beef. Plut and Rykov set to work briskly; and so greedily did they feed and so copiously did they drink, that in a half hour they had eaten twenty-three plates of the stewed beef and emptied an enormous half bowl of punch.
So the Major, full and merry, lolled in his chair, took out his pipe, lighted it with a bank note, and, wiping the breakfast from his lips with the end of a napkin, turned his laughing eyes on the women, and said:—
"Fair ladies, I like you as dessert! By my major's epaulets, when a man has eaten breakfast, the best relish after the stewed beef is chatting with such fair ladies as you fair ladies! I tell you what: let's have a game of cards, of vingt et un or whist; or shall we start a mazurka? Hey, in the name of three hundred devils, why, I am the best dancer of the mazurka in the whole yager regiment!"
Thereupon he leaned forward closer to the ladies, and puffed out smoke and compliments by turns.
"Let's dance!" cried Robak. "When I have finished my bottle, though a monk, I occasionally tuck up my gown, and dance a bit of a mazurka! But you see, Major, we are drinking here and the yagers are freezing there in the yard. Sport is sport! Judge, give them a keg of brandy; the Major will permit it; let the bold yagers have a drink!"
"I might beg the favour," said the Major, "but you are not forced to grant it."
"Judge," whispered Robak, "give 'em a keg of spirits."
And thus, while the merry staff tippled in the mansion, outside the house there began a drinking bout among the troops.
Captain Rykov drained cup after cup in silence; but the Major drank and at the same time paid court to the ladies, and the ardour for dancing continually increased within him. He threw aside his pipe and seized Telimena's hand; he was eager to dance, but she ran away; so he went up to Zosia, and bowing and tottering invited her to open the mazurka.
"Hey you, Rykov, stop pulling at your pipe! Put away your pipe; you play the balalaika well. You see that guitar there; go, get the guitar and give us a mazurka! I, the Major, will lead out in the first couple."
The Captain took the guitar and began to tune it; Plut again urged Telimena to dance:—
"On the word of a Major, madam, I am not a Russian if I lie! May I be the son of a bitch if I lie! Ask, and all the officers will bear witness, all the army will tell you that in the second army, ninth corps, second division of infantry, fiftieth yager regiment, Major Plut is the foremost dancer of the mazurka. Come on, young lady! Don't be so skittish, for I shall punish you in officer's fashion."
So saying he jumped up, seized Telimena's hand, and imprinted a broad kiss on her white shoulder; but Thaddeus, darting in from the side, slapped his face. The kiss and the blow resounded together, one after the other, as word after word.
The Major was dumbfounded, rubbed his eyes, and, pale with wrath, shouted, "Rebellion, a rebel!"—and, drawing his sword, rushed to run him through. Then the Monk took a pistol from his sleeve, and cried: "Shoot, Thaddeus, aim for the bull's eye." Thaddeus at once seized it, aimed, and shot; he missed, but he deafened and scorched the Major. Rykov started up with his guitar, crying, "Rebellion! rebellion!" and made for Thaddeus; but from the other side of the table the Seneschal swung his arm with a left-hand motion, and a knife whistled through the air between the heads of the company and struck before they saw it flash. It struck the bottom of the guitar and pierced it through and through; Rykov dodged and thus escaped death, but he was frightened; with a cry of "Yagers! Rebellion! In God's name!" he drew his sword, and, defending himself, he retreated to the threshold.
Then on the other side of the room many of the gentry poured in through the windows with swords, Switch at their head. In the hall Plut and Rykov behind him were calling the soldiers; already the three nearest the house were running to their aid; already three glittering bayonets were gliding through the door, and behind them there were bent forward three black helmets. Maciek stood by the door with his switch raised on high, and, squeezing close to the wall, lay in wait for them as a cat for rats; then he struck a fearful blow. Perhaps he would have felled three heads, but the old man either had poor eyesight, or else he was too much wrought up; since, before they put forward their necks, he smote on their helmets, and stripped them off; the switch, falling, clinked on the bayonets.—The Muscovites started back, and Maciek drove them out to the yard.
There the confusion was still worse. There the partisans of the Soplicas vied with each other in setting free the Dobrzynskis by tearing apart the beams. Seeing this, the yagers seized their arms and made for them; a sergeant rushed ahead and transfixed Podhajski with a bayonet; he wounded two others of the gentry and was shooting at a third; they fled: this was close to the log in which Baptist was fastened. He already had his arms free and ready for fight; he rose, lifted his hand with its long fingers and clenched his fist; and from above he gave the Russian such a blow on the back that he knocked his face and temples into the lock of his carbine. The lock clicked, but the powder, moist with blood, did not catch; the sergeant fell on his arms at the feet of Baptist. Baptist bent down, seized the carbine by the barrel, and, brandishing it like his sprinkling-brush, lifted it aloft; he whirled it about and straightway smote two privates on the shoulders and gave a corporal a blow on the head; the rest, terrified, recoiled in dismay from the log: thus Sprinkler sheltered the gentry with a moving roof.
Then they pulled apart the logs and cut the cords; the gentry, once free, descended upon the waggons of the Alms-Gatherer, and from them procured swords, sabres, cutlasses, scythes, and guns. Bucket found two blunderbusses and a bag of bullets; he poured some of these into his own blunderbuss; the other gun he loaded in the same way and gave over to Buzzard.
More yagers arrived, fell into disorder, and knocked against one another; the gentry in the tumult could not cut and slash; the yagers could not shoot, for they were fighting hand to hand. Like tooth on tooth, steel on steel clashed and snapped; bayonet broke on sabre and scythe on sword hilt; fist met fist and arm met arm.
But Rykov, with a part of the yagers, ran up to where the barn adjoined the fence; there he made a stand and called to his soldiers that they should stop so disorderly a fight, since, without having a chance to use their weapons, they were falling beneath the fists of the enemy. Angry that he himself could not fire, for in the press he could not distinguish Muscovites from Poles, he shouted, "Fall in" (which means form in line); but his command could not be heard in the midst of the shouting.
Old Maciek, who was not good at hand to hand combat, retreated, clearing a place before him to the right and to the left; now with the tip of his sabre he sheared a bayonet from a gun barrel as a wick from a candle; now with a slashing blow from the left he cut or stabbed. Thus the cautious Maciek retired to the open field.
But an old corporal, who was the instructor of the regiment, a great master of the bayonet, pressed upon him with the utmost obstinacy; he gathered himself together, bent down, and grasped his carbine with both hands, holding the right on the lock and the left at the middle of the barrel; he dodged and skipped, and at times crouched down; he let go with his left hand, and thrust forward the weapon with his right, like the sting from the jaws of a serpent; and again he withdrew it and rested it on his knees; and thus dodging and jumping he pressed upon Maciek.
Old Maciek appreciated the skill of his adversary, and with his left hand adjusted his spectacles on his nose; with his right he held the hilt of his switch close to his breast, and withdrew, following the motions of the corporal with his eyes; he himself tottered on his legs as though he were drunk. The corporal pressed on the more quickly; sure of his triumph, and in order the more easily to reach his retiring foe, he arose and stretched forward his right arm at full length, pushing forward his carbine; he made such an effort in thrusting with his heavy weapon, that he even leaned forward. Maciek shoved the hilt of his sword just under the spot where the bayonet is set upon the gun barrel, and knocked up the weapon; then, suddenly lowering his switch, he wounded the Muscovite in the arm, and again, with a slash from the left, cut through his jaw. Thus fell the corporal, the finest fencer among the Muscovites, a cavalier of three crosses and four medals.
Meanwhile, near the logs, the left wing of the gentry was already near victory. There fought Sprinkler, visible from afar, there Razor hovered around the Muscovites; the latter slashed at their waists, the former pounded their heads. As a machine that German workmen have invented and that is called a thrasher, but is at the same time a chopper—it has chains and knives, and cuts up the straw and thrashes the grain at the same time—so did Sprinkler and Razor work together, slaughtering their enemies, one from above and the other from below.
But Sprinkler now abandoned sure victory and ran to the right wing, where a new danger was threatening Maciek. Eager to avenge the death of the corporal, an ensign was attacking him with a long spontoon—the spontoon is a combination of pike and axe, now discarded, and employed only in the fleet, but then it was used also in the infantry. The ensign, a young man, ran nimbly back and forth; whenever his adversary beat the weapon to one side, he retired; Maciek, not being able to drive off the young man, was obliged merely to defend himself without inflicting wounds. Already the ensign had given him a slight wound with the spear; already, raising the halberd aloft, he was collecting himself for a blow. Baptist was unable to reach him in time, but stopping half way, he whirled his weapon, and cast it under the feet of his enemy; he broke a bone, and the ensign immediately dropped the spontoon from his hands. He staggered; Baptist rushed on him, and after him a throng of gentry, and after the gentry the Muscovites from the left wing ran up in disorder, and the battle raged around Sprinkler.
Baptist, who had lost his arms in defence of Maciek, almost paid for that service with his life; for two strong Muscovites fell on him from behind, and twisted four hands at once into his hair; bracing their feet, they pulled as on springy cables, hitched to the mast of a barge. In vain Sprinkler struck out blindly behind him; he tottered—but suddenly he saw that Gerwazy was fighting close by; he shouted, "Jesus Maria! the penknife!"
The Warden, hearing Baptist's cry, knew that he was in mortal terror; he turned back, and plunged the sharp steel blade between the head of Baptist and the hands of the Muscovites. They withdrew, uttering piercing cries, but one hand, more firmly entwined in the hair, remained hanging and spurted forth blood. Thus an eagle, when it buries one talon in a hare, catches with the other at a tree, in order to hold back the beast; but the hare, pulling, splits the eagle in two; the right talon remains on the tree in the forest; the left, covered with blood, the beast bears away to the fields.
Sprinkler, free once more, cast his eyes about, stretched out his hands, sought for a weapon, shouted for a weapon; meanwhile he brandished his fists, standing his ground manfully, but keeping close to the side of Gerwazy, until he caught sight of his son Buzzard in the press. Buzzard with his right hand was aiming a blunderbuss, and with his left was pulling after him a great club, a fathom long, armed with flints and knobs and knots.163 (No one could have lifted it except Baptist.) Baptist, when he saw his darling weapon, his sprinkling-brush, seized it, kissed it, jumped into the air for joy, whirled it over his head and straightway moistened it.
What deeds he then performed, what disasters he spread abroad, it were vain to sing, for none would believe the Muse: even so they did not believe the poor woman in Wilno, who, standing on the summit of the holy Ostra Gate, saw how Deyov, the Muscovite general, coming on with a regiment of Cossacks, was already opening the gate, and how a single burgher, named Czarnobacki, killed Deyov and routed a whole regiment of Cossacks.164
Suffice it to say, that things came to pass as Rykov had foreseen; the yagers in the crowd yielded to the power of their foes. Twenty-three rolled slain on the ground, thirty and more lay groaning with frequent wounds, many fled and hid in the garden, the hops, or along the river; some took refuge in the house under the protection of the women.
The victorious gentry ran with a cry of joy, some to the casks, others to tear booty from the enemy; Robak alone did not share their exultation. Hitherto he had not fought himself (for the canons forbid a priest to take part in combat), but as an experienced man he had been giving counsel, had run about the battlefield in all directions, and with his glance and his arm had urged on and guided those who were fighting. And now he shouted for them to assemble around him, attack Rykov, and complete the victory. Meanwhile by a messenger he informed Rykov that if he would lay down his arms he would preserve his life; but, in case the surrender of arms were delayed, Robak gave orders to surround the remnant and cut them down.
Captain Rykov was far from asking quarter. Gathering about him half a battalion, he shouted, "Ready!" Immediately the line seized their carbines and the arms rattled; they had long since been loaded. He shouted, "Aim!" and the barrels glittered in a long row. He shouted, "Fire in turn!" and one report followed another; one man shot, another loaded, a third clutched his musket. One could hear the whistling of bullets, the rattle of locks, the clink of ramrods; the whole line seemed to be a moving reptile, which moved a thousand glittering legs at the same time.
To be sure, the yagers were drunk with strong liquor; they aimed poorly and missed their mark; few inflicted wounds and hardly a single one killed his man: however, two of the Maciejs were already wounded, and one of the Bartlomiejs had fallen. The gentry replied but sparingly from their few guns, and were eager to attack the enemy with swords; but the older men restrained them: each moment the bullets whistled, struck, and forced the gentry to retreat—soon they would have cleared the yard; already they began to ring on the windows of the house.
Thaddeus, who by his uncle's orders had remained in the house to protect the women, hearing how the battle was becoming ever fiercer and fiercer, ran out, and after him rushed the Chamberlain, to whom Thomas had at last brought his sabre; he hurriedly joined the gentry and took his place at their head. He ran forward, raising his weapon, and the gentry moved after him. The yagers, letting them come near, poured upon them a hail of bullets; Isajewicz, Wilbik, and Razor fell wounded; then the gentry were checked by Robak on one side and Maciej on the other. The gentry cooled in their ardour, glanced about, and retired; the Muscovites saw this, and Captain Rykov planned to give the final blow, to drive the gentry from the yard and seize the mansion.
"Form for the attack!" he cried. "Charge bayonets! Forward!"
Immediately the line, levelling their gun barrels like poles, bent down their heads, moved on and quickened their step; in vain the gentry endeavoured to check them from in front and shot from the side; the line passed over half the yard without resistance. The Captain, pointing with his sword to the door of the mansion, shouted:—
"Surrender, Judge, or I will order your house to be burned!"
"Burn it," cried the Judge, "and I will roast you in that fire!"
O mansion of Soplicowo! if thy white walls are still whole and glitter beneath the lindens; if a throng of the neighbouring gentry still sit at the Judge's hospitable board, they surely often drink the health of Bucket, for without him Soplicowo would to-day be no more!
Bucket had so far given few proofs of valour. Though he was the first of the gentry to be freed from the stocks, and though he had straightway found in the waggon his darling bucket, his favourite blunderbuss, and with it a pouch of bullets, he did not care to fight. He said that he did not trust himself when dry, and so he went to a cask of spirits standing near, and, using his hand as a spoon, dipped up a stream into his lips. Only when he had well warmed and strengthened himself did he adjust his cap, take up his bucket from his knees, ram home a charge, sprinkle the pan, and gaze at the battlefield. He saw that a glittering wave of bayonets was smiting and dispersing the gentry, and he swam to meet that wave; he bent down and dived through the dense grass, across the centre of the yard, until he paused in ambush where the nettles were growing; with gestures he summoned Buzzard.
Buzzard, who was on guard at the mansion, was standing with his blunderbuss by the threshold, for in that mansion dwelt his dear Zosia, whom he loved eternally (though she had scorned his courtship), and in whose defence he was glad to perish.
The line of yagers was already entering the nettles, on the march, when Bucket touched the trigger, and from the broad mouth of his blunderbuss let fly a dozen chopped bullets into the midst of the Muscovites; Buzzard let fly another dozen, and the yagers fell into confusion. Dismayed by the ambuscade, the line folded back into a disorderly mass, retreated, and abandoned the wounded; Baptist finished their slaughter.
The barn was already far off; fearing a long retreat, Rykov made for the garden fence, and there checked his fleeing company in its course. He drew them up, but changed their formation; instead of a line he made a triangle, with its point to the front and its base protected by the garden fence. He did well, for the cavalry descended on him from the castle.
The Count, who had been in the castle under the guard of the Muscovites, when his terrified guards had dispersed, had mounted his followers, and hearing shots, was leading his cavalry into the firing line, himself at their head, with his steel raised aloft. At once Rykov cried, "Platoon fire!" A fiery thread flew along over the locks, and from the black levelled barrels three hundred bullets whistled. Three riders fell wounded, and one lay dead. The Count's steed fell, and the Count with it; with a cry the Warden ran to the rescue, for he saw that the yagers had aimed at the last of the Horeszkos—though in the female line. Robak was nearer, and covered the Count with his body; he received the bullets in his stead, drew him from under his horse, and led him away; but the gentry he bade disperse, take better aim, spare vain shots, and hide behind the fences, the well, and the walls of the stable. The Count and his cavalry had to wait a more fitting season.
Thaddeus comprehended Robak's plans and carried them out splendidly, seeking cover behind the wooden well; and, since he was sober and was a fine shot with his fowling piece (for he could hit a gold coin thrown in the air), he did terrible execution on the Muscovites, picking out their chiefs; with his first shot he at once killed the sergeant-major. Then with his two barrels, one after the other, he mowed down two sergeants, aiming now at the gold lace, now at the middle of the triangle, where stood the staff. Thereupon Rykov grew angry and chafed, he stamped his feet and bit the hilt of his sword.
"Major Plut," he cried, "what will come of this? Soon not one of us will be left here to give orders!"
So Plut shouted at Thaddeus in great wrath:—
"Shame on you, you Pole, for hiding behind a plank shelter; don't be a coward, come out into the open and fight honourably, as a soldier should."
To this Thaddeus replied:—
"Major, if you are so bold a knight, why do you hide behind a company of yagers? I am not afraid of you—come out from behind the fence; you have had your face slapped, but still I am ready to fight with you! Why all this bloodshed? The quarrel was between us two; so let the pistol or the sword settle it. I give you your choice of weapons, from a cannon to a pin. Otherwise, I will shoot you and your men like wolves in a cave."
So saying, he shot, and aimed so well that he hit the lieutenant by Rykov's side.
"Major," whispered Rykov, "go out and fight a duel with him, and take vengeance on him for what he did some time ago. If anybody else kills that young gentleman, then, Major, you see that you will not wash off your disgrace. You must coax out that gentleman into the field; if you can't kill him with a carbine, you may with a sword. Old Suvorov used to say, 'Rifles are trifles, but hand arms are grand arms.' Go out into the field, Major, for he is shooting at us; look, he is aiming now."
"Rykov, my dear friend," replied the Major, "you are a fine boy with a sword; go out yourself, brother Rykov—or, I tell you what, we will send one of our lieutenants. I, the Major, I cannot desert the soldiers; to me belongs the command of the battalion."
Rykov, hearing this, lifted his sword and went out boldly; he ordered the firing to cease and waved a white handkerchief. He asked Thaddeus what weapon he preferred; after discussion, they agreed on swords. Thaddeus had no weapon; while they were looking for swords, the Count rushed out armed and interrupted the negotiations.
"Pan Soplica," he shouted. "begging your pardon, you challenged the Major! I have a grudge of longer standing against the Captain; he has broken into my castle"—"Please say our castle," interrupted Protazy—"at the head of a band of robbers," the Count concluded. "He—I recognised Rykov—tied up my jockeys; I will punish him as I punished the brigands beneath the crag that the Sicilians call Birbante-Rocca."
All became silent, and the firing ceased; the armies gazed eagerly at the meeting of their leaders. The Count and Rykov advanced, standing sidewise, threatening each other with the right hand and the right eye; then with their left hands they uncovered their heads and bowed courteously—it is the custom of men of honour, before proceeding to murder, first to exchange greetings. Their swords were already crossed and had begun to clash. The knights, each lifting one foot, bent their right knees, and jumped forward and back by turns.
But Plut, seeing Thaddeus in front of his line, had a quiet consultation with Corporal Gont, who passed for the best shot in the company.
"Gont," said the Major, "you see that rascal there; if you will put a bullet into him right under the fifth rib I'll give you four silver rubles."
Gont cocked his carbine and bent over the lock; his faithful comrades sheltered him with their cloaks. He aimed, not at the rib, but at the head of Thaddeus; he shot and hit the centre of his hat, close to his mark. Thaddeus whirled about, then Sprinkler rushed on Rykov, and after him the gentry, crying "Treason!" Though Thaddeus shielded him, Rykov barely managed to retreat and find refuge in the centre of his ranks.
Again the Dobrzynskis and the other Lithuanians vied with one another in pressing forward, and, despite the former disagreements of the two factions, they fought like brothers, each urging on his comrade. The Dobrzynskis, seeing how a Podhajski was prancing before the line of yagers and slashing them with his scythe, shouted joyfully: "Long live the Podhajskis! Forward, brother Lithuanians! hurrah! hurrah for Lithuania!" And the Skolubas, seeing how the valiant Razor, despite his wound, was dashing on with his sabre raised aloft, cried: "Hurrah for the Macieks! long live the Masovians!" Inspiring one another with courage, they ran upon the Muscovites; in vain Robak and Maciek tried to restrain them.
While they were thus smiting the company of yagers from the front, the Seneschal abandoned the battlefield and went into the garden. By his side strode the cautious Protazy, to whom the Seneschal was quietly issuing orders.
In the garden, close to the fence against which Rykov had supported his triangle, stood a large old cheese house, built of lattice work made of beams nailed across one another, like a cage. In it there shone many scores of white cheeses; around them bunches of sage, bennet, cardoon, and wild thyme hung drying, the entire herb apothecary shop of the Seneschal's daughter. The cheese house was some twenty feet square, but it rested only on a single great pillar, like a stork's nest. The old oaken pillar slanted, for it was already half decayed, and threatened to fall. The Judge had often been advised to destroy the age-worn structure, but he always said that he preferred to repair it rather than to destroy it, or even to rebuild it. He kept postponing the task to a more convenient season, and in the meantime bade put two props under the pillar. The structure, thus strengthened, but still not firm, looked over the fence at Rykov's triangle.
Toward this cheese house the Seneschal and the Apparitor walked silently, each armed with an immense pole, as with a pike; after them the housekeeper stole through the hemp, with the scullion, a small but very strong lad. Arriving at the spot, they rested their poles against the rotted top of the pillar, and, clinging to the ends, pushed with all their might, as when boatmen with long poles push from the bank into the deep water a barge that has grounded on a reef.
The pillar snapped, and the cheese house tottered and fell with its load of beams and cheeses on the triangle of Muscovites; it crushed, wounded, and killed; where the ranks had just now been standing lay beams, corpses, and cheeses white as snow, stained with blood and brains. The triangle was shattered into bits, and now in the centre of it the sprinkling-brush thundered, the razor flashed, and the switch slashed; from the mansion rushed a throng of gentry, and the Count from the yard gate sent his cavalry against the scattered fugitives.
Now, only eight yagers with a sergeant at their head still defended themselves; the Warden ran against them, but they boldly stood their ground and aimed nine musket barrels straight at the brow of the Warden; he flew to meet the shot, brandishing the blade of his penknife. The Monk saw it, and ran across Gerwazy's path; he fell and tripped Gerwazy. They fell at the very moment when the platoon fired; hardly had the bullets whistled over him, when Gerwazy rose, and jumped up into the smoke. He straightway sheared off the heads of two yagers; the rest fled in confusion, the Warden chased and slashed them. They ran across the yard, Gerwazy on their track; they rushed into the door of a shed standing open, and Gerwazy entered the shed at their heels. He vanished in the darkness, but did not quit fighting, for through the door could be heard groans, yells, and frequent blows. Soon all became silent; Gerwazy came out alone, with a bloody sword.
Now the gentry had won the field; they pursued, slashed, and stabbed the dispersed yagers. Rykov alone remained, and cried that he would not lay down his arms; he was still fighting, when the Chamberlain went up to him, and, raising his sabre, said in an impressive tone:—
"Captain, you will not soil your honour by accepting quarter; unhappy, but valiant knight, you have given ample proof of your daring: now abandon hopeless resistance; lay down your arms, before we disarm you with our sabres. You will preserve life and honour; you are my prisoner."
Rykov, overcome by the dignity of the Chamberlain, complied, and gave over to him his naked sword, bloody to the hilt, saying:—
"Brother Poles, woe is me that I did not have even a single cannon! Suvorov said well: 'Remember, comrade Rykov, never to attack the Poles without cannon!' Well! The yagers were drunk, the Major let them drink! Ah, Major Plut! He has played sad tricks to-day. He will answer for them to the Tsar, for he was in command. I will be your friend, Chamberlain. There is a Russian proverb, Chamberlain, 'Who loves well, shoves well!' You are good at a bottle and good at a battle—but stop playing your rough jokes on my yagers."
Hearing this, the Chamberlain raised his sabre and, through the Apparitor, proclaimed a general pardon; he gave orders to tend the wounded, to clear the field of troops, and to disarm and imprison the yagers. They searched long for Plut; he had buried himself deep in a nettle bush and lay there as if dead; at last he came out when he saw that the battle was over.
Thus ended the last foray in Lithuania.165
BOOK X—THE EMIGRATION. JACEK
Consultation in regard to securing the fortunes of the victors—Negotiations with Rykov—The farewell—An important discovery—Hope.
The morning clouds, dispersed for a moment, like black birds, kept gathering and flying towards the summit of the heavens; hardly had the sun declined from noon when their flock had covered half the sky with an immense mantle; the wind drove it on faster and faster, the cloud grew more and more dense and hung lower and lower: finally, half torn away from the sky on one side, bending towards the earth, and spread out far and wide like a great sail, it gathered into itself all the winds and flew over the sky from the south to the west.
There was an instant of calm, and the air became dull and silent, as if dumb with terror. And the fields of grain, which just before, bowing to the earth and again shaking their golden ears on high, had tossed like waves, now stood motionless and gazed at the sky with bristling stalks. And the green willows and poplars by the roadside, which, like mourners by an open grave, had been bowing their heads to the earth, and brandishing their long arms, with their silver tresses spread out on the winds, now stood as if dead, with an expression of dumb grief like the statue of Niobe on Sipylos. Only the trembling aspen shook its grey leaves.
The cattle, usually loath to return homeward, now rushed together, and, without waiting for their keepers, deserted their pasturage and ran towards the barn. The bull dug up the ground with his hoof and ploughed it with his horns, frightening all the herd with his ill-omened bellowing; the cow kept raising her large eyes to the sky, opening her mouth in wonder, and lowing deeply. But the boar lagged behind, fretting and gnashing his teeth, and stole sheaves of grain and seized them for his stores.
The birds hid in the woods, in the thatched roofs, in the depths of the grass; the ravens, surrounding the ponds in flocks, walked to and fro with measured steps; they turned their black eyes on the black clouds, and, protruding their tongues from their broad, dry throats and spreading out their wings, they awaited their bath. Yet even they, foreseeing too fierce a storm, already were making for the wood, like a rising cloud. The last of the birds, the swallow, made bold by its fleetness of wing, pierced the cloud like an arrow, and finally dropped from it like a bullet.
Just at that moment the gentry had finished their terrible combat with the Muscovites, and one and all were seeking shelter in the houses and stables, deserting the battlefield, where soon the elements joined in combat.
To the west, the earth, still gilded by the sun, shone with a gloomy, yellowish-red tint; already the cloud, spreading out its shadows like a net, was catching the remnants of the light and flying after the sun as if it wished to seize upon it before it set. Blasts of wind whistled sharply below; they rushed by, one after another, bringing drops of rain, large, clear, and rounded as hailstones.
Suddenly the winds grappled, split asunder, struggled, whirled about, and in whistling columns circled over the ponds, stirring the waters in the ponds to their depths; they fell upon the meadows and whistled through the willows and the grass. The willow branches snapped, the swaths of grass were borne on the wind like hair torn out by handfuls, mixed with ringlets from the sheaves. The winds howled; they fell upon the field, wallowed, dug into the earth, snatched up clods, and made an opening for a third wind, which tore itself from the field like a pillar of black earth, and rose and whirled like a moving pyramid, boring into the ground with its brow and from its feet sprinkling sand in the eyes of the stars; it broadened at every step and opened out at the summit, and with its immense trumpet it proclaimed the storm. At last with all this chaos of water and dust, of straw, leaves, branches, and torn-up sod, the winds smote on the forest and roared through the depths of the thicket like bears.
And now the rain poured as from a sieve, in great, swift drops; then the thunder roared and the drops united; now like straight strings they bound the sky to the earth with long tresses, now, as from buckets, they poured down in great masses. Now the sky and the earth were quite hidden; the night, and the storm more black than night, shrouded them. At times the horizon cracked from side to side, and the angel of the storm, like an immense sun, showed his glittering face; and again, wrapped in a shroud, he fled into the sky and the doors of the clouds crashed together with a thunder-clap. Again the gale increased and the driving rain, and the dense, thick, almost impenetrable darkness. Again the drops murmured more gently, the thunder for a moment subsided; again it awoke and roared and water once more gushed forth. At last all became calm; one heard only the soughing of the trees around the house and the patter of the rain.
On a day such as had just passed the wildest storm was to be desired, since the tempest, which covered the battlefield with darkness, drenched the roads and destroyed the bridges over the river, and made of the farm an inaccessible fortress. So of what had been done in the Soplicas' camp the news could not spread abroad on that day—and it was precisely upon secrecy that the fate of the gentry depended.
In the Judge's room an important consultation was in progress. The Bernardine lay on the bed, exhausted, pale, and blood-stained, but wholly sound in his mind; he issued orders and the Judge carried them out to the letter. He invited the Chamberlain to join them, summoned the Warden, had Rykov brought in, and then shut the door. For a whole hour the secret conversation continued, until Captain Rykov, throwing on the table a heavy purse of ducats, interrupted it with these words:—
"My Polish friends, it is common talk among you that every Muscovite is a rascal: now tell any one who asks, that you have found a Muscovite who was named Nikita Nikitich Rykov, a captain in the army, and who wore eight medals and three crosses—I beg you remember that. This medal was for Ochakov,166 this for Izmailov,167 this for the battle at Novi,168 this for Preisizh-Ilov;169 that for Korsakov's famous retreat from Zurich.170 And tell them that he received also a sword for valour, and likewise three expressions of approval from the field-marshal, two compliments from the Emperor, and four honourable mentions, all in writing."
"But, but, captain," interrupted Robak, "what is going to happen to us if you will not come to terms? You know that you have given your word to hush up this matter."
"Certainly, and I will give my word again," said Rykov; "there you have it! Why should I want to ruin you? I am an honest man; I like you Poles, for you are jolly fellows, good at a bottle, and likewise bold fellows, good at a battle. We have a Russian saying: 'Who rides in the cart often falls under the cart; who is in front to-day may be behind to-morrow; to-day you beat and to-morrow they beat you.' Why be angry over it? Such is the way of life among us soldiers. Why should a man be so mean as to be angry over a defeat! The fight at Ochakov was bloody, at Zurich they crushed our infantry, at Austerlitz I lost my whole company; but before that, when I was a sergeant, your Kosciuszko cut up my platoon with scythes at Raclawice.171 What did it matter? Later on, at Maciejowice172 I killed with my own bayonet two brave gentlemen; one of them was Mokronowski, who was advancing with a scythe in front of his troops and who had cut off the hand of a cannoneer, with the match in it. Ah, you Poles! The Fatherland! I feel it all, I, Rykov. The Tsar gives the order—but I am sorry for you. What have we against the Poles? Let Moscow be for the Muscovites and Poland for the Poles! But what is to be done? The Tsar will not permit it!"
The Judge replied to him:—
"Captain, that you are an honest man all in this district know, where you have been quartered for many years. Good friend, be not angry at this gift; we did not wish to offend you. These ducats we have ventured to collect because we know that you are not a rich man."
"O my yagers!" cried Rykov, "the whole company cut to pieces! My company! And all the fault of that Plut! He was the chief in command; he will have to answer for it to the Tsar. But, gentlemen, take those pennies for yourselves; I have my captain's pay, such as it is—enough for my punch and for a pipe of tobacco. But I like you, gentlemen, because with you I eat, drink, and am merry—with you I can have a friendly talk, and thus my life passes. So I will protect you, and when the inquiry comes up, on my word of honour, I will testify in your favour. We will say that we came here on a visit, had a drink, danced, got a trifle tipsy, and that Plut accidentally gave the word to fire; then came a battle, and the battalion somehow melted away. If you gentlemen will only grease the inquiry with gold it will come out all right. But now I will repeat to you what I have already said to that gentleman with the long sword, that Plut is the first in command, I the second; Plut is still alive, and he may play you a trick that will be your ruin, for he is a cunning specimen—you need to stuff his mouth with bank notes. Well, my friend, you with the long sword, have you called on Plut already? Have you had a talk with him?"
Gerwazy looked around and stroked his bald pate; he made a careless motion of his hand as if to signify that he had already arranged the whole matter. But Rykov persisted:—
"Well, will Plut keep quiet? Has he given his word to do so?"
The Warden, vexed that Rykov should torment him with questions, solemnly bent down his thumb to the ground, and then, with a wave of the hand, as if to cut short further discourse, he said:—
"I swear by my penknife that Plut will not betray us! He will talk no more with any one!"
Then he let his hands fall and cracked his fingers, as if he were shaking the whole mystery out of his hands.
This dark gesture the hearers understood; they began to gaze in amazement at one another, each trying to guess his neighbour's thoughts, and the gloomy silence lasted for several minutes. At last Rykov said:—
"The wolf was a robber, and robbers have caught him!"
"Requiescat in pace," added the Chamberlain.
"In this was the finger of God!" said the Judge. "But I am not guilty of this blood; I did not know of this."
The Monk rose on the pillows and sat up with gloomy mien. At last he said, looking sharply at the Warden:—
"It is a great sin to slay an unarmed captive! Christ forbids us to take vengeance even on our enemies! Ah! Warden, you will answer heavily for this to God. There is but one ground of pardon—if the deed was done not from stupid vengeance but pro publico bono."
The Warden made a motion with his head and with his outstretched hand, and, blinking, repeated, "Pro publico bono."
There was no more talk of Major Plut. Next day they sought vainly for him in the yard, and vainly offered a reward for his body: the Major had perished without leaving a trace behind, as though he had fallen into the water; as to what had become of him there were various rumours, but no one knew with certainty, either then or later. In vain they tormented the Warden with questions; he said nothing but these words, "Pro publico bono." The Seneschal was in the secret, but, bound by his word of honour, the old man kept silent as if under a spell.
After the conclusion of the agreement, Rykov left the room and Robak had the warrior gentry called in, to whom the Chamberlain gravely discoursed as follows:—
"Brothers, to-day God has favoured our arms, but I must confess to you in plain terms that evil results will follow these untimely battles. We have erred, and each one of us here is to some degree at fault: the Monk Robak, for spreading tidings too zealously; the Warden and the gentry, for completely misunderstanding them. The war with Russia will not begin for some time; meanwhile, those who took the most active part in the battle cannot without danger remain in Lithuania. So, gentlemen, you must flee to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; to be specific: Maciej, called Baptist, Thaddeus, Bucket, and Razor must depart over the Niemen, where the hosts of our nation await them. We will throw the whole blame on you who are gone, and on Plut, and thus we shall save the rest of your kindred. I bid you farewell, but not for long; there are sure hopes that in spring the dawn of freedom will arise for us, and Lithuania, who now bids you farewell as wanderers, will soon behold you again as her victorious deliverers. The Judge is preparing everything needful for the journey, and, so far as I am able, I will aid you with money."
The gentry felt that the Chamberlain counselled wisely. It is well known that whoever has once quarrelled with the Russian Tsar, can never conclude a lasting peace with him on this earth, and must either fight or rot in Siberia. So, saying nothing, they looked gloomily at one another and sighed; in token of agreement they nodded their heads.
The Pole, though famous among the nations because he loves his native land more than life, is nevertheless always prepared to abandon it, and to travel to the ends of the earth, to live long years in poverty and contempt, struggling with men and with fate—so long as amid the storm there shines upon him this hope, that he is serving the Fatherland.
They declared that they were ready to depart at once. However, this plan did not meet with Pan Buchmann's approval: Buchmann, prudent man that he was, had not meddled in the battle, but as soon as he heard that they were having a consultation, he hastened to put in his word; he thought the project good, but wanted to alter it, to develop it with more precision, to explain it more clearly, and, first of all, legally to appoint a commission, which should consider the aims of the emigration, the means and methods, and likewise various other matters. Unfortunately the shortness of the time prevented them from adopting Buchmann's advice. The gentry took a hasty farewell and at once started on their journey.
But the Judge retained Thaddeus in the room and said to the Monk:—
"It is time for me to tell you what I learned with certainty only yesterday, that our Thaddeus is sincerely in love with Zosia; let him ask her hand before his departure! I have spoken with Telimena, and she no longer opposes the match; Zosia also agrees to the wishes of her guardians. If we cannot to-day make the pair happy by marriage, then at least, brother, we may betroth them before his departure; for the heart of a young traveller, as you know well, is exposed to various temptations. And yet, when a young man glances at his ring and calls to mind that he is already a husband, at once the fever of temptations in a foreign land subsides. Believe me, a wedding ring has great force.
"I myself, thirty years ago, had a great passion for Panna Marta, whose heart I won; we were betrothed, but God did not bless that union; he left me alone on earth, taking to his glory the fair daughter of my friend the Seneschal Hreczecha. There was left to me only the memory of her virtues and her charms, and this golden wedding ring. Whenever I have looked upon it, the hapless girl has always appeared before my eyes; and thus, by the grace of God, I have preserved till now my plighted faith, and, without ever having been a husband, I am now an old widower, though the Seneschal has another daughter, very fair and very like my beloved Marta:"
So saying, he gazed tenderly at the ring, and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.
"Brother, what think you?" he concluded. "Shall we betroth them? He loves her, and I have the consent of the aunt and of the girl."
But Thaddeus, stepping quickly up to him, said eagerly:—
"How can I thank you enough, my good uncle, for the constant care that you take for my happiness! Ah, my good uncle, I should be the happiest of men if Zosia were betrothed to me to-day, if I knew that she were to be my wife! However, I tell you frankly, this betrothal cannot take place to-day; there are various reasons. Question me no further; if Zosia will consent to wait, she may perhaps soon find in me a better man—and a man more worthy of her; perhaps by my constancy I shall gain her affection, perhaps I shall adorn my name with some trifling glory, perhaps I shall soon return to the home of my fathers. Then, uncle, I shall remind you of your promise, then on my knees I shall greet my dear Zosia, and, if she is free, I shall beg her hand; but now I am abandoning Lithuania, perhaps for long, and perhaps in the meantime another man may win Zosia's favour. I do not wish to bind her will, and to beg for an affection that I have not deserved would be a base act."
While the young man, much moved, was uttering these words, two tears, like two great round pearls, shone in his great blue eyes and rolled down quickly over his rosy cheeks.
But the curious Zosia from the depths of the alcove had been following this mysterious conversation through a crack; she had heard Thaddeus tell frankly and boldly of his love, and with fluttering heart she had seen those two great tears in his eyes. Though she could not find the key to his mystery, why he had fallen in love with her, why he was abandoning her, and where he was departing, nevertheless this departure made her sad. For the first time in her life she heard from the lips of a youth the great and marvellous news that she was beloved. So she ran to the little altar of the house and took from it a picture, and a small reliquary; the picture was of Saint Genevieve, and in the reliquary was a bit of the robe of Saint Joseph the Bridegroom, the patron of youths and maidens who are betrothed. With these sacred objects she entered the room:—
"Are you going away so soon? I want to give you a little present for the journey and a bit of warning too: always carry with you these relics and this picture, and remember Zosia. May the Lord God guide you in health and happiness and may he soon guide you back prosperously to us!"
She ceased, and lowered her head; hardly had she closed her blue eyes, when floods of tears escaped from under her lashes, and Zosia stood there silent, with closed eyelids, shedding tears like diamonds.
Thaddeus, taking his gifts, kissed her hand, and said: "Panna Sophia, now I must bid you good-bye! Farewell, do not forget me, and deign sometimes to repeat a prayer for me! Sophia!——" He could say no more.
But the Count, who had entered unexpectedly with Telimena and had observed the tender farewell of the young pair, was much moved, and said with a glance at Telimena:—
"How much beauty is there even in this simple scene, when the soul of the shepherdess and the soul of the warrior, like a boat and a ship during a storm at sea, must at last be parted! In very truth nothing so kindles the feelings in the heart as when heart separates from heart. Time is like a blast of wind; it extinguishes only the little candle; a great flame it fans to an even mightier conflagration. And my heart also is capable of loving even more mightily at a distance. Pan Soplica, I regarded you as my rival; that mistake was one of the causes of our lamentable quarrel, which forced me to draw the sword against your household. I perceive my mistake, for you sighed to the little shepherdess, while I had given my heart to this fair nymph. Let our differences be drowned in the blood of our country's enemies; we will no longer fight each other with the murderous steel! Let our amorous strife be settled otherwise; let us contend which shall surpass the other in the feeling of love! Let us both leave behind the dear objects of our hearts, let us both hasten against swords and spears; let us contend with each other in constancy, sorrow, and suffering, and pursue our country's enemies with our manly arms!"
He spoke and glanced at Telimena, but she made no reply, being overcome with amazement.
"My dear Count," interrupted the Judge, "why do you insist on departing? Believe me, you had best remain in security on your estate. The poor gentry may be skinned and scourged by the government, but you, Count, are sure of being left whole. You know what sort of government you have to deal with; you are fairly wealthy, and may ransom yourself from prison at the cost of only half your income for one year."
"That is not in concord with my character," said the Count. "Since I cannot be a lover, I will be a hero. Amid the cares of love I will call on glory as my comfortress; since I am a beggar of heart, I will be mighty of hand."
"Who hinders you from loving and being happy?" inquired Telimena.
"The power of my destiny," said the Count, "mysterious forebodings that with a secret impulse urge me to foreign lands and to unwonted deeds. I confess that to-day I wished in honour of Telimena to light the flame on the altars of Hymen, but this youth has given me too fair an example by tearing off his marriage wreath of his own free will and rushing to test his heart amid the hindrances of changeful fortune and amid the bloody chances of war. To-day for me, too, a new epoch is opened! Birbante-Rocca has resounded with the renown of my arms; may this renown spread far and wide in Poland also!"
He concluded, and proudly smote his sword hilt.
"It is hard to blame such a desire," said Robak. "Depart, but take money with you; you may equip a company of soldiers, like Wlodzimierz Potocki, who amazed the French by contributing a million to the treasury, or like Prince Dominik Radziwill, who abandoned his lands and goods and furnished two fresh regiments of cavalry. Go, go, but take money; across the Niemen we have hands enough, but money is scarce in the Grand Duchy; go, we bid you farewell!"
"Alas!" said Telimena with a mournful glance, "I see that nothing will restrain you! My knight, when you enter the lists of battle, turn a feeling gaze on the colours of your beloved." (Here she tore a ribbon from her dress, made a cockade, and pinned it on the Count's bosom.) "May these colours guide you against fiery cannon, against shining spears and sulphurous rains; and when you make yourself famous by warlike deeds, and when you shade with immortal laurels your blood-stained helmet and your casque, bold in victory, even then look once more on this cockade! Remember whose hand pinned upon you these colours!"