But Macko, who had already resolved to obtain, by whatever means possible, the protection and the princely influence, seeing that she was listening attentively, told her Zbyszko's and Danusia's ill luck. The narrative brought tears to her eyes, specially when she felt more than anybody the misfortune of her niece, and from her very soul she pitied her.
"I have never heard a more woeful story," said the princess, at last, "the greatest sorrow to my mind is, that he has married her, that she was already his, yet he knew no happiness. However, are you sure that he knew her not."
"Hey! Almighty God!" exclaimed Macko. "If he only knew her, he was bed-ridden when he married her in the evening, and the following morning she was carried off."
"And, do you think that the Knights of the Cross did it? It was said here, that those who actually did it were robbers, and the Knights of the Cross recaptured her, but it turned out to be another girl. They also spoke of a letter which Jurand had written...."
"Human justice did not decide it, but divine. That was a great thing, that knight Rotgier, who conquered the strongest, fell by the hand of a comparative child."
"Well, a fine child he is," said the princess, with a smile, "his valor is a safeguard in his travels. It is a grievance, true, and your complaints are just, but three out of those four opponents are dead, and the remaining old one has also, according to the information I have received, been nearly killed."
"And Danuska? And Jurand?" replied Macko. "Where are they? God only knows whether something ill has happened to Zbyszko, who was on the road to Malborg."
"I know, but the Knights of the Cross are not such out-and-out dog-brothers as you think them to be. In Malborg nothing evil can happen to your nephew, whilst he is at the side of the grand master and his brother Ulrych, who is an honorable knight. Your nephew undoubtedly is provided with letters from Prince Janusz. Unless whilst there he challenged one of the knights and succumbed. At Malborg there are always present a great number of the most valorous knights from all parts of the world."
"Ay! My nephew does not fear them much," said the old knight. "If they only did not cast him in prison, or kill him treacherously, as long as he has an iron weapon in his hand he is not afraid of them. Only once he found himself facing one stronger than himself, but he stretched him in the lists, and that was the Mazovian Prince Henryk who was bishop here and who was enamored of the handsome Ryngalla. But Zbyszko was then a mere youth. For this reason he would be the only one, as sure as amen in prayer, to challenge this one whom I also have vowed to challenge and who is present here."
Saying this, he glanced in the direction of Lichtenstein, who was conversing with the governor (Waywode) of Plock.
But the princess wrinkled her brow and said in stern and dry tones, as she always did when in an angry mood:
"Whether you vowed or not, you must remember that he is our guest and whosoever wishes to be our guest must observe decorum."
"I know, most gracious lady," replied Macko. "For that reason when I adjusted my belt and went to meet him, I restrained myself and thought of obedience."
"He will obey. He is important among his own people, even the master builds upon his counsel and nothing is denied to him. May God grant that your nephew does not meet him at Malborg, especially as Lichtenstein is a determined and revengeful person."
"He could not well recognize me because he did not see me often. We had helmets on when we were at Tyniec, after that I went only once to see him in the Zbyszko affair and that was in the evening. I observed just now that he looked at me, but seeing that I was engaged in a lengthy conversation with Your Grace, he turned his eyes in an opposite direction. He would have recognized Zbyszko, but he only looked at me and very likely he did not hear of my vow, and has to think of more important challenges."
"Because it may be that other powerful knights challenged him, such as Zawisza of Garbow, Powala of Taczew, Marcin of Wrocimowice, Paszko Zlodziej, and Lis of Targowisko. Every one of those, gracious lady, and ten like them. So much the more so if they are numerous. It would be better for him not to have been born, than to have one of those swords over his head. I shall not only try to forget the challenge, but I have resolved to endeavor to go with him."
Macko's face assumed a cunning expression like that of a fox.
"That he might give me a safe conduct to travel through the country belonging to the Knights of the Cross, that will enable me to render assistance to Zbyszko in case of need."
"Does such proceeding deserve praise?" inquired the princess with a smile.
"Yes! It does," replied Macko. "If for instance in time of war I were to attack him from the rear without warning him to face me I should disgrace myself; but in time of peace if one hangs the enemy upon a hook no knight need be reproached for such an act."
"Then I will introduce you," replied the princess. She beckoned to Lichtenstein and introduced Macko; she was of opinion that even if Lichtenstein should recognize Macko nothing serious would result.
But Lichtenstein did not recognize him, because when he had seen him at Tyniec he had his helmet on, and after that he had spoken to Macko only once, and that in the evening, when Macko had begged him to forgive Zbyszko.
However he bowed proudly, the more so because when he saw the two exquisitely dressed youths, he thought that they were not Macko's, his face brightened up a little and he assumed a haughty demeanor as he always did when he spoke to inferiors.
Then the princess pointing at Macko, said: "This knight is going to Malborg. I have given him a recommendation to the grand master, but he heard of your great influence in the Order; he would also like to have a note from you."
Then she went to the bishop, but Lichtenstein fixed his cold, steely eyes upon Macko, and asked:
"What motive induces you, sir, to visit our religious and sober capital?"
"An upright and pious motive," replied Macko, looking at Lichtenstein. "If it were otherwise the gracious princess would not have vouched for me. But apart from pious vows, I wish also to know your grand master, who causes peace in the land and who is the most celebrated knight in the world."
"Those whom your gracious and beneficent princess recommends will not complain of our poor hospitality. Nevertheless, as far as your wishes to know the master is concerned, it is not an easy matter. About a mouth ago, he left for Danzig, thence he was to go to Koenigsberg, and from that place proceed to the frontier, where, although a lover of peace, he is obliged to defend the property of the Order against the violence of the treacherous Witold."
Hearing this, Macko was apparently so much grieved, that Lichtenstein, who noticed it, said:
"I see that you were quite as anxious to see the grand master as to fulfil your religious vows."
"Yes! I am, I am," replied Macko. "Is war against Witold a sure thing?"
"He, himself, began it; he has sworn to help the rebels."
There was silence for a moment.
"Ha! May God help the Order as it deserves!" said Macko. "I see I cannot make the grand master's acquaintance; let me at least fulfil my vow."
But in spite of these words, he did not know what to do, and with deep grief he asked himself:
"Where shall I look for Zbyszko, and where shall I find him?"
It was easy to foresee that if the grand master had left Malborg and gone to war, it was useless to look for Zbyszko there. In any case it was necessary to get the most accurate information of his whereabouts. Old Macko was very anxious about it, but he was a man of ready resource, and he resolved to lose no time, but continue his march next morning. Having obtained a letter from Lichtenstein with the aid of Princess Alexandra in whom the comthur had boundless confidence, it was not a difficult task to obtain. He therefore received a recommendation to the starosta of Brodnic, and to the Grand Szpitalnik of Malborg, for which he presented a silver goblet to Lichtenstein, a treasure procured in Breslau, like that which the knights were accustomed to have near their beds filled with wine, so that in case of sleeplessness they might have at hand a remedy for sleep and at the same time pleasure. This act of Macko's liberality somewhat astonished the Bohemian, who knew that the old knight was not too eager to lavish presents on anybody, especially on Germans, but Macko said:
"I did it because I have vowed, and must fight him, and by no means could I do it to one who has done me some service. To recompense good with evil is not our custom."
"But such a magnificent goblet! It is a pity," replied the Bohemian, apparently vexed.
"Don't fear. I do nothing without premeditation," said Macko; "for if the Lord enables me to overthrow (kill) that German, I shall get back not only the goblet, but a great many good things I shall acquire with it."
Then they, including Jagienka, began to take counsel among themselves concerning further action. Macko thought of leaving Jagienka and Sieciechowa with Princess Alexandra at Plock, owing to the abbot's will, which was in the possession of the bishop. But Jagienka was entirely opposed to it; she was even determined to travel by herself; there was no necessity to have a separate room for night quarters, neither to observe politeness, nor safety, and various other causes. "Surely I did not leave Zgorzelice to rusticate at Plock. The will is at the bishop's and cannot be lost, and as far as they are concerned, when it will be shown that there is need to remain on the road, it will be of greater advantage to be left in the care of Princess Anna, than with Princess Alexandra, because at the former court the Knights of the Cross are not frequent visitors, and Zbyszko is more appreciated there." Upon that Macko truly observed that reason does not belong to women, and that it is unbecoming for a girl "to command" as though she possessed reason. Nevertheless he did not persist in his opposition, and relented entirely when Jagienka had taken him aside and, with tears in her eyes, said:
"You know!... God sees my heart, that every morning and evening I pray for that young lady, Danuska, and for Zbyszko's welfare. God in heaven knows it best. But you and Hlawa said that she had perished already, that she would never escape the hands of the Knights of the Cross alive. Therefore if this has to be so, then I...."
Here she somewhat hesitated and tears streamed down her cheeks and she became silent.
"Then I want to be near Zbyszko...."
Macko was moved by the tears and words, yet he replied:
"If Danusia is lost, Zbyszko will be so much grieved, that he will care for none else."
"I don't wish that he should care for me, but I would like to be near him."
"You know well that I should like to be myself near him as well as you do, but he would in the first instance be unmindful of you."
"Let him be unmindful. But he will not be," she replied, with a smile, "for he will not know that it was myself."
"He will recognize you."
"He will not know me. You did not recognize me. You will tell him too that it was not I but Jasko, and Jasko is exactly like myself. You will tell him that I have grown up and it will never occur to him that it is anybody else but Jasko...."
Then the old knight remembered somebody upon his knees before him and that kneeling one had the appearance of a boy; then there was no harm in it, specially that Jasko really had exactly the same face, and his hair after the last cutting had again grown up and he carried it in a net just as other noble young knights. For this reason Macko gave way, and the conversation turned to matters concerning the journey. They were to start on the following day. Macko decided to enter into the country of the Knights of the Cross, to draw near to Brodnic to get information there, and if the grand master was still, in spite of Lichtenstein's opinion, at Malborg, to proceed there, and if not there, to push on along the frontiers of the country of the Knights of the Cross in the direction of Spychow, inquiring along the road about the Polish knight and his suit. The old knight even expected that he would easily get more information of Zbyszko at Spychow, or at the court of Prince Janusz of Warsaw, than elsewhere.
Accordingly, they moved on the following day. Spring was fully ushered in, so that the floods of the Skrwy and Drwency obstructed the way, so much so that it took them ten days to travel from Plock to Brodnic. The little town was orderly and clean. But one could see at a glance the German barbarity by the enormously constructed gallows, which was erected out of town on the road to Gorczenice, and which was occupied by the hanging corpses of the executed, one of which was the body of a woman. Upon the watch-tower and upon the castle floated the flag with the red hand on a white field. The travelers did not find the count at home, because he was at the head of the garrison which was drafted of the neighboring noblemen, at Malborg. That information Macko got from a blind old Knight of the Cross, who was formerly the count of Brodnic, but later on he attached himself to the place and castle, and he was the last of his line. When the chaplain of the place read Lichtenstein's letter to the count, he invited Macko as his guest; he was very familiar with the Polish language, because he lived in the midst of a Polish population, and they easily carried on their conversation in that language. In the course of their conversation Macko was informed that the count had left for Malborg six weeks before, being summoned as an experienced knight to a council of war. Moreover he knew what happened in the capital. When he was asked about the young Polish knight, he had heard of such a one, he said, who at first had roused admiration because, in spite of his youthful appearance, he already appeared as a belted knight. Then he was successful at a tourney which, according to custom, the grand master ordained, for foreign guests, before his departure for the war. Little by little he even remembered that the manly and noble, yet violent brother of the master, Ulrych von Jungingen, had become very fond of the young knight and had taken him under his care, provided him with "iron letters," after which the young knight apparently departed toward the east. Macko was overjoyed at the news, because he had not the slightest doubt that the young knight was Zbyszko. It was therefore useless to go to Malborg, for although the grand master, as well as other officials of the Order, and knights who remained at Malborg might furnish more accurate information, they could by no means tell where Zbyszko actually was. On the other hand Macko himself knew better where Zbyszko might be found, and it was not difficult to suppose that he was at that moment somewhere in the neighborhood of Szczytno; or in case he had not found Danusia there, he was making research in distant eastern castles and county seats.
Without losing any more time, they also moved toward the east and Szczytno. They progressed well on the road, the towns and villages were connected by highways which the Knights of the Cross, or rather the merchants of the towns, kept in good condition, and which were as good as the Polish roads, which were under the care of the thrifty and energetic King Kazimierz. The weather was excellent, the nights were serene, the days bright, and about noon a dry and warm zephyr-like wind blew which filled the human breast with health-giving air. The cornfields assumed a green hue, the meadows were covered with abundant flowers, and the pine forests began to emit a smell of rosin. Throughout the whole journey to Lidzbark, thence to Dzialdowa, and further on to Niedzborz, they did not see a single cloud. But at Niedzborz they encountered a thunderstorm at night, which was the first one of the spring, but it lasted only a short time, and in the morning it cleared up and the horizon was brightened with rosy golden hues. It was so brilliant that the land, as far as the eye could reach, appeared like one carpet brocaded with jewels. It seemed as though the whole country smiled back to the sky and rejoiced because of abundant life.
In such a pleasant morning they wended their course from Niedzborz to Szczytno. It was not far from the Mazovian frontier. It was an easy matter to return to Spychow. There was a moment when Macko wanted to do it, but considering the whole matter he desired to push onward toward the terrible nest of the Knights of the Cross, in which Zbyszko's loss was terribly guarded. He then engaged a guide and ordered him to lead them directly to Szczytno; although there was no need of a guide, because the road from Niedzborz was a straight one, marked with white milestones.
The guide was a few steps in advance. Behind him were Macko and Jagienka on horseback; some distance behind them were the Bohemian and Sieciechowa, and farther back were the wagons surrounded by armed men. It was an exquisite morning. The rosy glow had not yet disappeared from the horizon, although the sun had already risen and changed into opals the dewdrops upon the trees and grasses.
"Are you not afraid to go to Szczytno?" asked Macko.
"I am not afraid," replied Jagienka, "God is with me, because I am an orphan."
"There is no faith there. The worst dog was Danveld whom Jurand killed together with Godfried.... The Bohemian told me so. The second after Danveld, was Rotgier, who succumbed by Zbyszko's axe, but the old man is a ruthless tyrant, and is sold to the devil.... They know not kindness. However, I am of opinion that if Danuska has perished she did so by his own hands. They also say that something happened to her. But the princess said in Plock that she extricated herself. It is with him that we shall have to contend at Szczytno.... It is well that we have a letter from Lichtenstein, and as it appears they, the dog-brothers, are afraid of him more than they are of the master himself.... They say that he has great authority and is particularly strict, and is very revengeful, he never forgives even the slightest offence.... Without this safe conduct I would not travel so peacefully to Szczytno...."
"What is his name?"
"Zygfried von Loeve."
"God grant that we may manage him too."
"God grant it!"
Macko smiled for a moment and then said:
"The princess also told me in Plock: 'Ye grieve and complain like lambs against wolves, but in this instance three of the wolves are dead, because the innocent lambs strangled them.' She spoke the truth; it is actually so."
"What about Danuska and her father?"
"I told the princess the very same thing. But I am really glad, since it is demonstrated that it is not safe to harm us. We know already how to handle the helve of an axe, and fight with it. As to Danuska and Jurand, it is true, I think, and so does the Bohemian, that they are no more in this world, but in reality nobody can tell. I am very sorry for Jurand, for he grieved very much for his daughter, and if he perished, it was a hard death."
"If such a thing is mentioned to me," said Jagienka, "I always think of papa, who also is no more."
Then she lifted up her eyes and Macko nodded his head and said:
"He rests with God in everlasting bliss, for there is not a better man than he was in our whole kingdom...."
"Oh there was none like him, none!" sighed Jagienka.
Further conversation was interrupted by the guide, who suddenly checked his stallion, turned and galloped toward Macko and shouted in a strange and frightened voice:
"O, for God's sake! Look there, Sir Knight; who is there on the hillside advancing toward us?"
"Who? Where?" asked Macko.
"Look there! A giant or something of that kind...."
Macko and Jagienka reined in their horses, looked in the direction indicated by the guide, and they indeed descried, about the middle of the hill, a figure, which appeared to be of more than human proportions.
"To tell the truth the man seems to be huge," murmured Macko.
Then he frowned, and suddenly spat and said:
"Let the evil charm be upon the dog."
"Why are you conjuring?" asked Jagienka.
"Because I remember that it was on just such a fine morning when Zbyszko and I were on the road from Tyniec to Krakow we saw such a giant. They said then that it was Walgierz Wdaly. Bah! It was shown afterward that it was the lord of Taczew. Still, nothing good resulted from it. Let the evil charm be upon the dog."
"This one is not a knight, because he is not on horseback," said Jagienka, straining her eyes. "I even see that he is not armed, but holds a staff in his left hand...."
"And he is groping in front of him, as though it were night."
"And can hardly move; surely he must be blind?"
"As sure as I live, he is blind—blind!"
They urged their horses forward, and in a little while they halted in front of the beggar who was slowly coming down the hill and feeling his way with his staff. He was indeed an immense old man, and appeared to them, even when they were near him, a giant. They were convinced that he was stone blind. Instead of eyes he had two red hollows. His right hand was wanting; instead of it he carried a bandage of dirty rags. His hair was white and falling down upon his shoulders, and his beard reached his belt.
"He has neither food, nor companion, not even a dog, but is feeling the way by himself," exclaimed Jagienka. "For God's sake, we cannot leave him here without assistance. I do not know whether he will understand me, but I shall try to talk to him in Polish."
Then she jumped from her horse and approached the beggar, and began to look for some money in her leather pouch which was suspended from her belt.
The beggar, when he heard the noise and tramping of the horses, stretched his staff in front of him and lifted up his head as blind men do.
"Praised be Jesus Christ," said the girl. "Do you understand, little grandfather, in the Christian fashion?"
But on hearing her sweet, young voice, he trembled; a strange flush appeared on his face as though from tender emotion; he covered his hollow orbits with his eyebrows, and suddenly threw down his staff and fell on his knees, with outstretched arms, in front of her.
"Get up! I will assist you. What ails you?" asked Jagienka in astonishment.
But he did not reply, but tears rolled down his cheeks, and he groaned:
"For the love of God—Can you not say something?"
Then he lifted up his hand, with which he made first the sign of the cross, then passed his left hand over his mouth.
Jagienka understood it not, and she looked at Macko, who said:
"He seems to indicate that his tongue has been torn out."
"Did they tear out your tongue?" asked the girl.
"A! a! a! a!" repeated the beggar several times, nodding his head.
Then he pointed with his fingers to his eyes; then he moved his left hand across his maimed right, showing that it was cut off.
Then both understood him.
"Who did it?" inquired Jagienka.
The beggar again made signs of the cross repeatedly in the air.
"The Knights of the Cross," shouted Macko.
As a sign of affirmation the old man let his head drop upon his chest again.
There was silence for a moment. Macko and Jagienka looked at each other with alarm, because they had now before them sufficient proof of their cruelty and the lack of means to chastise those knights who style themselves "the Knights of the Cross."
"Cruel justice!" said Macko, finally. "They punished him grievously, and God knows whether deservedly. If I only knew where he belongs, I would lead him there, for surely he must be from this neighborhood. He understands our language, for the common people here are the same as in Mazowsze."
"Did you understand what we said?" asked Jagienka.
The beggar nodded his head.
"Are you of this neighborhood?"
"No!" The beggar shook his head.
"Perhaps he comes from Mazowsze?"
"Yes!" he nodded.
"Under Prince Janusz?"
"But what were you doing among the Knights of the Cross?"
The old man could give no answer, but his face assumed an air of intense suffering, so much so that Jagienka's heart beat with greater force out of sympathy. Even Macko who was not subject to emotion, said:
"I am sure the dog-brothers have wronged him. May be he is innocent."
Jagienka meanwhile put some small change in the beggar's hand.
"Listen," she said, "we will not abandon you. Come with us to Mazowsze, and in every village we will ask you whether it is yours. May be we shall guess it. Meanwhile, get up, for we are no saints."
But he did not get up, nay, he even bowed lower and embraced her feet as much as to place himself under her protection and show his gratitude. Yet there were marks of certain astonishment, yea even disappointment on his face. May be that from the voice he thought he was in the presence of a young woman; but his hand happened to touch the cowskin gaiters which the knights and armor-bearers were accustomed to wear.
But she said:
"It shall be so; our wagons will soon be here, then you will rest and refresh yourself. But we are not going to take you now to Mazowsze because we must first go to Szczytno."
When the old man heard this, he jumped straight up, terror and amazement were depicted on his face. He opened his arms as though desiring to obstruct their way, and strange, wild ejaculations proceeded from his throat, full of terror and dismay.
"What is the matter with you?" exclaimed Jagienka, much frightened.
But the Bohemian, who had already arrived with Sieciechowa, and for some time had his eyes riveted upon the old beggar, suddenly turned to Macko, and with a countenance changed, and in a strange voice, said:
"For God's sake, permit me, sir, to speak to him, for you do not know who he may be."
After this he begged for no further permission, but rushed toward the old man, placed his hands upon his shoulders, and asked him:
"Do you come from Szczytno?"
The old man appeared to be struck by the sound of his voice, quieted himself and nodded affirmatively.
"Did you not look there for your child? ..."
A deep groan was the only reply to this question.
Then the Bohemian's face paled a little, he looked sharply for a moment at the outlines of the old man's face, then he said slowly and composedly:
"Then you are Jurand of Spychow."
"Jurand!" shouted Macko.
But Jurand was overcome at that moment and fainted. Protracted torture, want of nourishment, fatigue of the road, swept him from his feet. The tenth day had now passed since he left, groping his way, erring and feeling his way with his stick, hungry, fatigued and not knowing where he was going, unable to ask the way, during the daytime he turned toward the warm rays of the sun, the night he passed in the ditches along the road. When he happened to pass through a village, or hamlet, or accidentally encountered people on the road, he only could beg with his hand and voice, but seldom a compassionate hand helped him, because as a rule he was taken for a criminal whom law and justice had chastised. For two days he had lived on bark and leaves of trees; he was already giving up all hope of reaching Mazowsze, when suddenly compassionate voices and hearts of his own countrymen surrounded him; one of whom reminded him of the sweet voice of his own daughter; and, when at last his own name was mentioned, he was greatly agitated and unable to bear it any longer; his heart broke. His thoughts whirled through his head; and, were it not for the strong arms of the Bohemian which supported him, he would have fallen with his face in the dust of the road.
Macko dismounted, then both took hold of him, and carried him to the wagons and laid him upon the soft hay. There, Jagienka and Sieciechowa nursed him. Jagienka observed that he could not carry the cup of wine to his lips by himself so she helped him. Immediately after this he fell into a profound sleep, from which he did not awake till the third day.
Meanwhile they sat down to deliberate.
"To be brief," said Jagienka, "we must go now to Spychow instead of Szczytno, so that by all means we place him in security among his own people."
"Look, how can that be carried out," replied Macko. "It is true that we must send him to Spychow, but there is no necessity for all of us to accompany him, one wagon is enough to carry him there."
"I do not order it, I only think so, because there we might get much information from him about Zbyszko, and Danusia."
"But how can you procure information from one who has no tongue?"
"But the very information that he has no tongue, we got from himself. Do you not see that even without speech we got all that information necessary. How much more shall we derive when we communicate with him by motions of the head and hands? Ask him, for instance, whether Zbyszko has returned from Malborg to Szczytno. You will then see that he will either nod assent, or deny it."
"It is true," said the Bohemian.
"I too do not dispute it," said Macko. "I know it myself, but I am accustomed to think first and then talk."
Then he ordered the train to return to the Mazovian frontier. On the way Jagienka visited now and then the wagon where Jurand slept, fearing that death might ensue.
"I did not recognize him," said Macko, "but it is no wonder. He was as strong as an auroch! They said of him that he was among those who could fight with Zawisza, and now he is reduced to a skeleton."
"We are accustomed to hear all sorts of things," said the Bohemian, "but nobody would believe it if they were told that Christians had acted thus with a belted knight, whose patron is also Saint Jerzy."
"God grant that Zbyszko may at least avenge part of his wrongs. Now, look what a difference there is between them and us. It is true, that three out of those four dog-brothers are dead, but they died in fight, and none of them had his tongue or his eyes plucked out in captivity."
"God will punish them," said Jagienka.
But Macko turned to the Bohemian and said:
"How did you recognize him?"
"I did not recognize him at first, although I saw him later than you did. But it struck me, and the more I looked at him the more so.... Though when I first saw him he had neither beard nor white hair; he was then a very powerful lord. How then could I recognize him in the old beggar. But when the young lady said that we were going to Szczytno, and he began to howl my eyes were opened at once."
Macko was absorbed in thought, then he said:
"From Spychow, it is necessary to take him to the prince, who will not leave the wrong perpetrated on such an important person, unpunished."
"They will excuse themselves. They treacherously abducted his child and they defended themselves. And as to the lord of Spychow they will say that he lost his tongue, eyes and hand in the fight."
"You are right," said Macko. "They once carried off the prince himself. He cannot fight them, because he is no match for them; perhaps our king will assist him. The people talk and talk of a great war, but here we don't even have a little one."
"He is with Prince Witold."
"Thank God, that at least he thinks that they are worthless. Hey! Prince Witold is my prince! In craftiness he is unsurpassable. He is more crafty than all of them together. Those dog-brothers had him cornered once, the sword was over his head and he was about to perish, but, like a serpent, he slipped from their hands and bit them.... Be on your guard when he strikes, but be exceedingly careful when he is patting you."
"Is he so with everybody?"
"He is only so with the Knights of the Cross, but he is a kind and liberal prince with everybody else."
At this Macko pondered, as though making an effort to recall Prince Witold.
"He is an entirely different man to the prince here," he said, suddenly. "Zbyszko ought to have joined him, for under him and through him, one might achieve the most against the Knights of the Cross."
Then he added:
"Both of us might be found there. Who can tell? For it is there where we can revenge ourselves most properly."
Then he spoke of Jurand, of his misfortunes and of the unheard of injuries, inflicted upon him by the Knights of the Cross, who first, without any cause, murdered his beloved wife, then, revenge for revenge, they carried off his child, and then mangled him in such a cruel manner, that even the Tartars could not invent worse torture. Macko and the Bohemian gnashed their teeth at the thought that even when they set him free it was with malicious intent of inflicting additional cruelty in order to frustrate the old knight's intention, who most likely promised himself that when he was free he would take proper steps to make an inquest and get information of the whole affair, and then pay them out with interest.
On the journey to Spychow they passed their time in such dialogues and thoughts. The clear fine day was succeeded by a quiet starry night; they therefore did not halt for night quarters, but stopped thrice to feed the horses. It was yet dark when they passed the frontier, and in the morning, led by the hired guide, they arrived upon the land of Spychow.
There Tolima apparently held everything with an iron hand, for no sooner did they enter the forest of Spychow, than two armed men advanced against them. These, seeing that the newcomers were not soldiers, but a simple train, not only let them pass without questioning, but placed themselves in front to show the way, which was inaccessible to those unacquainted with the moats and marshes.
Tolima and the priest Kaleb received the guests when they arrived in town. The news that the lord had arrived, and was brought back by pious people spread like lightning through the garrison. But when they saw him in the condition as he looked when he left the Knights of the Cross, there was such an outburst of raging and wild threatening that if there had yet been any Knights of the Cross confined in the prison of Spychow, no human power would have been able to save them from a terrible death.
The retainers wished to mount their horses at once and start to the frontier to capture any Germans and cut off their heads and throw them under the feet of the master. But Macko restrained them because he knew that the Germans lived in the towns and cities, whilst the country people were of the same blood, but lived against their own will under foreign superior force. But neither the din and noise nor the creaking of the well-sweeps could awake Jurand, who was carried upon a bearskin into his own house and put to bed. Father Kaleb was Jurand's intimate friend; they grew up together and loved each other like brothers; he remained with him, and prayed that the Redeemer of the world might restore to the unfortunate Jurand, his eyes, tongue, and hand.
The fatigued travelers went to bed also. Macko who awoke about noon, ordered Tolima to be called.
He knew from the Bohemian that Jurand, before his departure, had ordered all his servants to obey their young master, Zbyszko, and that the priest had informed him of his ownership of Spychow. Macko therefore spoke to the old man with the voice of a superior:
"I am the uncle of your young master, and as long as he is away, I am the commander here."
Tolima bowed his grey head, which had something wolfish, and surrounding his ear with his hand, asked:
"Then you are, sir, the noble knight from Bogdaniec?"
"Yes!" replied Macko. "How do you know it?"
"Because the young master Zbyszko expected and inquired after you here."
Hearing this, Macko stood up straight, and forgetting his dignified manner, he exclaimed:
"What, Zbyszko in Spychow?"
"Yes, he was here, sir; only two days ago since be left."
"For the love of God! Whence did he come and where did he go?"
"He came from Malborg, and on the road he was at Szczytno. He did not say where he was going."
"He did not say, eh?"
"May be he told the priest Kaleb."
"Hey! Mighty God, then we crossed each other on the road," he said, putting his hands on his ribs.
But Tolima put his hand to the other ear:
"What did you say, sir?"
"Where is Father Kaleb?"
"He is at the bedside of the old master."
Call him, but stop ... I will go myself to see him."
"I will call him," said Tolima, and he left. But before he brought the priest, Jagienka entered.
"Come here," said Macko. "Do you know the news? Zbyszko was here only two days ago."
Her face changed in a moment and she almost tottered.
"He was, and left?" she asked, with quickly beating heart. "Where to?"
"It is only two days since he left, but where to I do not know. May be the priest knows."
"We must go after him," she said, peremptorily.
After a while Father Kaleb entered. Thinking that Macko wanted him for information concerning Jurand, he anticipated his question by saying:
"He is still asleep."
"I heard that Zbyszko was here?" said Macko.
"He was, but he left two days ago."
"He did not know himself.... Searching.... He left for the frontier of Zmudz, where there is war now."
"For the love of God, tell us, father, what you know about him!"
"I only know what I heard from himself. He was at Malborg. May be he obtained protection there. Because with the order of the master's brother, who is the first among the knights, Zbyszko could search in all castles."
"For Jurand and Danuska?"
"Yes; but he does not search for Jurand, because he was told that he was dead."
"Tell us from the beginning."
"Immediately, but let me first catch breath and regain presence of mind, for I come from another world."
"From that world which cannot be reached on horseback, but through prayer.... I prayed at the feet of the Lord Jesus that He may have mercy upon Jurand."
"You have asked for a miracle. Have you that power?" asked Macko, with great curiosity.
"I have no power whatever, but I have a Saviour, who, if He wished, could restore to Jurand his eyes, tongue and hand...."
"If He only wanted to do so He could," replied Macko. "Nevertheless you asked for an impossible thing."
Father Kaleb did not reply; possibly because he did not hear it; his eyes were still closed, as if absent-minded, and in reality it was obvious that he was meditating on his prayer.
Then he covered his eyes with his hands and remained so for a while in silence. Finally he shook himself, rubbed his eyes with his hands, and said:
"In what manner did Zbyszko attack the Justice of Sambinsk?"
"He is no more the Justice of Sambinsk...."
"Never mind that.... You understand what I am asking; tell me what you know about it."
"He fought at a tourney. Ulrych liked to fight in the arena. There were many knights, guests at Malborg, and the master ordered public games. Whilst Ulrych was on horseback the strap of the saddle broke and it would have been an easy matter for Zbyszko to throw him from his horse; but he lowered his spear to the ground and even assisted him."
"Hey! You see!" exclaimed Macko, turning toward Jagienka. "Is this why Ulrych likes him?"
"This is the reason of his love for Zbyszko. He refused to tilt against him with sharp weapons, neither with the lance, and has taken a liking to him. Zbyszko related his trouble to him, and he, being zealous of his knightly honor, fell into a great passion and led Zbyszko to his brother, the master, to lodge a complaint. May God grant him redemption for this deed, for there are not many among them who love justice. Zbyszko also told me that de Lorche, owing to his position and wealth, was of much help to him, and testified for him in everything."
"What was the result of that testimony?"
"It resulted in the vigorous order of the grand master to the comthur of Szczytno, to send at once to Malborg all the prisoners who were confined in Szczytno, including even Jurand. Concerning Jurand, the comthur replied that he had died from his wounds and was buried there in the church-yard. He sent the other prisoners, including a milkmaid, but our Danusia was not among them."
"I know from the armor-bearer Hlawa," said Macko, "that Rotgier, whom Zbyszko killed whilst at the court of Prince Janusz, also spoke in the same manner about a certain milkmaid whom they captured whom they took for Jurand's daughter, but when the princess asked: 'How could they mistake Danusia for a common girl, since they knew and had seen the true one, Danusia?'" "You are right," he replied, "but I thought they had forgotten the real Danusia." "This same thing the comthur had written to the master that that girl was not a prisoner but she was under their care, that they had at first rescued her from the robbers, who had sworn that she was Jurand's daughter, but transformed."
"Did the master believe it?"
"He did not know whether to believe or not, but Ulrych was more incensed than ever, and influenced his brother to send an official of the Order with Zbyszko to Szczytno, which was done. When they arrived at Szczytno, they did not find the old comthur, because he had departed to the eastern strongholds against Witold, to the war; but a subordinate, whom the magistrate ordered to open all prisons and underground dungeons. They searched and searched, but found nothing. They even detained people for information. One of them told Zbyszko that he could get much information from the chaplain, because the chaplain understood the dumb executioner. But the old comthur had taken the executioner with him, and the chaplain left for Koenigsberg to attend a religious gathering.... They met there often in order to lodge complaints against the Knights of the Cross to the pope, because even the poor priests were oppressed by them...."
"I am only surprised that they did not find Jurand," observed Macko.
"It is obvious that the old comthur let him go. There was more wickedness in that than if they had cut his throat. They wished that he should suffer excruciatingly more than a man of his standing could endure.—Blind, dumb and maimed.—For God's sake!... He could neither find his home, nor the road, not even ask for a morsel of bread.... They thought that he would die somewhere behind a fence from hunger, or be drowned in some river.... What did they leave him? Nothing, but the means of discerning the different degrees of misery. And this meant torture upon torture.... He might have been sitting somewhere near the church, or along the road, and Zbyszko passed by without recognizing him. May be he even heard Zbyszko's voice, but he could not hail him.... Hey!... I cannot keep myself from weeping!... God wrought a miracle, and that is the reason why I think that He will do a great deal more, although this prayer proceeds from my sinful lips."
"What else did Zbyszko say? Where did he go to?" asked Macko.
"He said: 'I know that Danuska was at Szczytno, but they have carried her off, or starved her. Old von Loeve did it, and so help me God, I will not rest until I get him.'"
"Did he say so? Then it is sure that the comthur left for the east, but now there is war."
"He knew that there was a war, and that is the cause why he left for the camp of Prince Witold. He also said, he would succeed sooner in scoring a point against the Knights of the Cross through him, than through the king."
"So, to Prince Witold!" exclaimed Macko.
Then he turned to Jagienka.
"Did I not tell you the very same thing. As I live, I said: 'that we should also have to go to Witold.' ..."
"Zbyszko hoped," said Father Kaleb, "that Prince Witold would make an inroad into Prussia and take some of the castles there."
"If time were given to him, he would not delay," replied Macko. "Praise God now, we know at least where to look for Zbyszko."
"We must press on at once," said Jagienka.
"Silence!" said Macko. "It is not becoming for a boy to interrupt the council."
Then he stared at her, as though to remind her that she was a boy; she remembered and was silent.
Macko thought for awhile, and said:
"Now we shall surely find Zbyszko, for he is not moving aimlessly; he is at the side of Prince Witold. But it is necessary to know whether he is still searching for something in this world, besides the heads of the Knights of the Cross which he vowed to get."
"How can that be ascertained?" asked Father Kaleb.
"If we knew that the priest of Szczytno had already returned from the synod. I should like to see him," said Macko. "I have letters from Lichtenstein to Szczytno and I can go there without fear."
"It was not a synod gathering, but a congress," replied Father Kaleb, "and the chaplain must have returned long ago."
"Very well. Everything is upon my own shoulders. I shall take Hlawa with me, and two servants, with proper horses and go."
"Then to Zbyszko?" asked Jagienka.
"Then to Zbyszko," replied Macko. "But you must wait for me here until I return. I also think that I shall not be detained there for more than three or four days. I am accustomed to mosquitoes and fatigue. Therefore, I ask you, Father Kaleb, to give me a letter to the chaplain of Szczytno. He will believe me without hesitation if I show your letter, for there is always great confidence among the clergy."
"The people speak well of that priest," said Father Kaleb, "and if there is one who knows something, it is he."
He prepared a letter in the evening, and in the morning, before sunrise, old Macko left Spychow.
Jurand awoke from his long sleep in the presence of the priest; he forgot what had happened to him and where he was; he began to feel around in bed and at the wall. The priest caught him in his arms and wept, tenderly kissing him, and said:
"It is I! You are at Spychow! Brother Jurand!... God tried you.... But you are now among your own.... Good people brought you here. Brother, dear brother, Jurand."
Then he repeatedly pressed him to his breast, kissed his brow and his hollow eyes; but Jurand appeared to be stupefied and unconscious. At last he moved his left hand toward his head and brow as though wishing to dispel the cloud of sleep and stupor from his mind.
"Do you hear and understand me?" asked Father Kaleb.
Jurand moved his head affirmatively. Then he stretched his hand toward the silver crucifix on the wall which he had once taken from the neck of a powerful German knight, pressed it to his lips and heart and then gave it to Father Kaleb.
"I understand you, brother!" said the priest. "He remained with you. He is able to restore to you all you lost, just as He delivered you from captivity."
Jurand pointed with his hand heavenward, a sign that all will there be returned to him. Then his hollow eyes were filled with tears, and an indescribable pain was depicted upon his tortured face.
Father Kaleb having observed his painful emotion concluded that Danuska was dead. He therefore knelt at the bedside and said:
"O Lord! Grant her eternal rest in peace, and everlasting bliss be hers. Amen."
Then Jurand lifted himself up and began to twist his head and move his hand as though wishing to check the priest, but the priest did not understand. At that moment old Tolima entered, and with him were the garrison of the town, the former and present elders of the peasants of Spychow, foresters, fishermen, etc., because the news of Jurand's return had rapidly spread throughout Spychow. They embraced his feet, kissed his hand and bitterly wept when they saw the old and maimed cripple who looked like another being, not in the least the once invincible knight, the terror of the Knights of the Cross. But some of them, especially those who used to accompany him on his expeditions, were enraged; their faces grew pale and determined. After a while they crowded together and whispered, pulled, and pushed each other. Finally, a certain Sucharz, a member of the garrison and village blacksmith, approached Jurand, clasped his feet and said:
"We intended to go to Szczytno, as soon as they brought you here, but that knight, who brought you, hindered us. Permit us, sir, now. We cannot leave them unpunished. Let it be now as it was long ago. They shall not disgrace us and remain scathless. We used to fight them under your command. Now we will march under Tolima, or without him. We must conquer Szczytno and shed the dog-blood. So help us God!"
"So help us God!" repeated several voices.
"We must have blood!"
Forthwith a burning fire took hold of the inflammable Mazur hearts, their brows began to wrinkle, their eyes to glisten. Here and there was heard the sound of gnashing teeth. But in a moment the noise ceased, and all eyes were turned toward Jurand, whose cheeks reddened and he assumed his wonted warlike appearance. He rose and again felt for the crucifix upon the wall. The people thought that he was looking for a sword. He found it and took it down. His face paled, he turned toward the people, lifted his hollow eyes heavenward and moved the crucifix in front of him.
Silence reigned. It was beginning to get dark; the twittering of birds retiring upon the roofs and trees of the village, penetrated through the open windows. The last red rays of the setting sun penetrated into the room and fell upon the raised cross and upon Jurand's white hair.
Sucharz, the blacksmith, looked at Jurand, glanced at his comrades and looked again at Jurand. Finally, he bid them good-bye and left the room on tiptoe. The others followed suit. When they reached the courtyard they halted, and the following whispered conversation ensued:
"We are not going. How then?"
"He did not permit."
"Leave vengeance with God. It is obvious that even his soul has undergone a change."
It was so indeed.
Those who remained were Father Kaleb and old Tolima. Jagienka with Sieciechowa, who were attracted by the armed crowd in the courtyard, came to learn what was the matter.
Jagienka, who was more daring and sure of herself than her companion, approached Jurand.
"God help you, Knight Jurand," she said. "We are those who brought you here from Prussia."
His face brightened at the sound of her young voice. It was obvious that it brought back to his mind in proper order all the events which had happened upon the road from Szczytno, because he showed his thankfulness by inclining his head and placing his hand upon his chest several times. Then she related to him how they first met him, how Hlawa, the Bohemian, who was Zbyszko's armor-bearer, recognized him, and finally how they brought him to Spychow. She also told him about herself, that she and her companion bore a sword, helmet and shield for the knight Macko of Bogdaniec, the uncle of Zbyszko, who left Bogdaniec to find his nephew, and now he had left for Szczytno and would return to Spychow within three or four days.
At the mention of Szczytno, Jurand did not fall down nor was he overcome as he was when upon the road to that place, but great trouble was depicted upon his face. But Jagienka assured him that Macko was as clever as he was manly, and would not let himself be fooled by anybody. Besides that, he possessed letters from Lichtenstein, which enabled him to travel in safety everywhere.
These words quieted him considerably. It was obvious that he wished to get information about many other things. But as he was unable to do it, he suffered in his soul. This the clever girl at once observed and said;
"We shall often, talk about things. Then everything will be told."
Then he smiled and stretched out his hand and placed it upon her head for a while; it seemed he was blessing her. He thanked her indeed very much, but as a matter of fact he was touched by the youthful voice like the warbling of a bird.
When he was not engaged in prayer, as he was almost all day, or asleep, he wished to have her near him, and when she was not there, he yearned to hear her speak, and endeavored by all means in his power to call the attention of the priest and Tolima that he wished to have that delightful boy near him.
She came often, because her tender heart sincerely pitied him. Besides that, she passed the time in waiting for Macko, whose stay at Szcytno seemed to her uncommonly long.
He was to return within three days, and now the fourth and fifth have passed by and it is already the evening of the sixth, and he has not yet returned. The alarmed girl was ready to ask Tolima to send a searching party, when suddenly the guard upon the watch-oak signalled the approach of some horsemen, and in a few moments was heard the tramp of the horses upon the drawbridge, and Hlawa accompanied by a courier appeared in the courtyard. Jagienka who had left her room, to watch in the courtyard before their arrival, rushed toward Hlawa before he dismounted.
"Where is Macko?" she asked, with beating heart and alarmed.
"He went to Prince Witold, and he ordered you to stay here."
When Jagienka realized the import of Macko's message, that she was to remain at Spychow, she was almost stunned. Grief and anger rendered her speechless for a while, and with wide opened eyes she stared at the Bohemian, which told him how unwelcome was the information he brought her. He therefore said:
"I should also like to inform you, what we heard at Szczytno. There is much and important news."
"Is it from Zbyszko?"
"No, from Szczytno. You know...."
"Let the servant unsaddle the horses, and you come with me."
The order was executed and they went into her room.
"Why does Macko leave us here? Why must we remain at Spychow, and why did you return here?" she asked in one breath.
"I returned," replied Hlawa, "because the knight Macko ordered me. I wished to go to the war, but an order is an order. Knight Macko told me thus: 'Return, take care of the lady of Zgorzelice, and wait for news from me. You may have to escort her to Zgorzelice, since she cannot go there by herself.'"
"For the love of God, tell me what happened! Did they find Jurand's daughter? Has Macko gone there to search for Zbyszko? Did you see her? Have you spoken to her? Why have you not brought her with you? Where is she now?"
Hearing such an avalanche of questions, the Bohemian bowed to the girl's feet and said:
"Let it not displease your grace if I do not reply to all questions at once, for it is impossible for me to do so, but, I shall if nothing hinders, endeavor to answer them one by one in the order according as they were put."
"Well, did they find her?"
"No, but there is sure information that she was at Szczytno, and that she was probably removed to a distant castle in the east."
"But why must we remain at Spychow?"
"Bah! If she were found?... It is true, as your grace is aware.... There would be no reason for remaining here...."
Jagienka was silent, only her cheeks reddened. But the Bohemian said;
"I thought and am still of the opinion, that we shall not be able to rescue her alive from the talons of those dog-brothers. But everything is in God's hands. I must relate to you from the beginning. We arrived at Szczytno. Well. Knight Macko showed Lichtenstein's letter to the bailiff, who kissed the seal in our presence, and received us as guests. He did not suspect us in the least and had full confidence in us, so that if we had had a few of our men in the neighborhood we could easily have taken possession of the castle. There was no hindrance to our interview with the priest. We conversed for two nights; we informed ourselves of strange things which the priest got from the executioner."
"But the executioner is dumb."
"He is, but the priest speaks to him by signs, and he understands him perfectly well. They are strange things. It must have been the finger of God. That executioner cut off Jurand's hand, tore out his tongue, and put out his eyes. That executioner is such that where men are concerned he would not shrink from inflicting any torture, even if he were ordered to pull the teeth of the victim; but, where girls are concerned, he would not lift up his hand to kill them, or to assist in torturing them. The reason for this determination is, because he too had an only daughter whom he loved dearly, and whom the Knights of the Cross have...."
Here Hlawa stopped; he knew not how to continue his narrative. This Jagienka observed, and she said:
"What do I care about the executioner?"
"Because this is in order," he replied. "When our young master quartered the knight Rotgier the old comthur Zygfried almost raved. They said at Szczytno that Rotgier was the comthur's son. The priest confirmed the story, that no father ever loved his son as much as Zygfried loved Rotgier; for his thirst for vengeance he sold his soul to the devil. All this the executioner saw. The comthur talked with the slain Rotgier, as I am talking to you, and the corpse smiled; then he gnashed his teeth, and for joy he licked his livid lips with his black tongue when the old comthur promised him Zbyszko's head. But as he could not then get Zbyszko, he ordered Jurand to be tortured in the meanwhile and then placed Jurand's tongue and hand in Rotgier's coffin, who began to devour it...."
"It is terrible to hear. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, amen," said Jagienka. Then she got up and threw a log of wood on the fire because it was night already.
"How," continued Hlawa, "how will it be in the day of judgment? Because then everything belonging to Jurand must be restored to him. But that surpasses human understanding. The executioner then saw everything. Gorged with human flesh, the old comthur went to take Jurand's daughter, because the other, it seems, whispered to him that he wanted to drink innocent human blood, after his meal. But the executioner, as I have already told you, who did everything, but would not hurt or kill a girl, placed himself upon the staircase.... The priest said that otherwise the executioner is stupid and half a brute, but in that matter he was wide awake, and when necessary he has no equal in cunning. He sat on the stairs and waited, until the comthur arrived and heard the breathing of the executioner. He saw something shining and started back for he thought it was the devil. The executioner struck him in the neck with his fist, so that he thought the bones were completely shattered. He did not die, but fainted, and became sick with fright. When he recovered, he was afraid to repeat this attempt upon Jurandowna."
"But they have carried her off."
They have, but they have taken the executioner with her. The comthur did not know that it was he who defended Jurandowna. He thought that some supernatural power, good or evil, did it. He had taken the executioner with him and would not leave him at Szczytno. He was afraid of his testimony, for although dumb, he could in case of a trial testify by signs that which he told the priest. Moreover, the priest finally told Macko that old Zygfried no more threatens Jurandowna, because he is afraid; and although he ordered somebody else to harm her, nothing will happen to her as long as Diedrich lives; he will not permit it, especially as he has already protected her once."
"But does the priest know where they have taken her?"
"Not exactly, but he heard them talk of a certain place called Ragniec, which castle is situated not far from the Lithuanian or Zmudz frontiers."
"What did Macko say concerning that?"
"Pan Macko told me the following day: 'If it is so, then I can and will find her, but I must hasten to Zbyszko, to see that he is not entrapped by them through Jurandowna as they did with Jurand. They have only to tell him that if he comes by himself they will give her up to him and he would not hesitate to go; then old Zygfried would wreak his vengeance upon him, for the death of Rotgier, in unheard-of tortures.'"
"True! It is true!" exclaimed Jagienka, alarmed. "If that is the reason of his hurried departure, then he is right."
But after a moment she turned to Hlawa and said:
"Nevertheless he made a mistake in sending you here. There is no need to guard us here. Old Tolima can do it as well. You, being strong and intrepid, could be of much help to Zbyszko there."
"But who would guard you in case you were to go to Zgorzelice?"
"In such a case they would have to convey the news by somebody; they will do it through you. You will precede them and take us home."
The Bohemian kissed her hand, and asked, with emotion:
"But during the time of your sojourn here?"
"God watches over orphans! I shall remain here."
"Will you not find it tedious? What will you do here?"
"I shall ask the Lord Jesus to restore happiness to Zbyszko and keep all of you in good health."
Then she burst out weeping, and the armor-bearer bowed again at her feet, and said:
"You are indeed like an angel in heaven."
But she wiped away her tears, took the armor-bearer with her and went to Jurand to tell him the news. She found him in a bright room, the tame she-wolf at his feet, sitting with Father Kaleb, old Tolima and Sieciechowa. Supporting their heads with their hands, absorbed in thought, and sorrowful, they were listening to a poem which the village beadle, who was also the rybalt, accompanied by his lute, sang of Jurand's former exploits against the "abominable Knights of the Cross." The room was lit up by the moon. A very warm and quiet night followed a scorching day. The windows were open, and beetles from the linden in the courtyard, were seen crawling upon the floor. In front of the fireplace, where there were yet glimmering a few embers, sat the servant sipping a mixture of hot mead, wine and spices.
The rybalt, or beadle, and servant of Father Kaleb, was about to begin another song, entitled "The Happy Encounter." "Jurand is riding, riding, upon a chestnut-colored horse," when Jagienka entered and said:
"The Lord Jesus be praised!"
"Forever and ever," replied Father Kaleb. Jurand sat in an armchair, with his elbows upon the arms, but when he heard her voice he immediately turned toward her, and began to greet her, nodding his milk white head.
"Zbyszko's armor-bearer has arrived from Szczytno," said the girl, "and has brought news from the priest. Macko will not return to this place. He went to Prince Witold."
"Why will he not return here?" asked Father Kaleb.
Then she told all she had heard from the Bohemian. She related how Zygfried avenged himself for Rotgier's death; how the old comthur intended to destroy Danusia for Rotgier to drink her innocent blood; and how the executioner defended her. She even told them of Macko's hopes to find Danusia, with Zbyszko's assistance, rescue her, bring her to Spychow; and for that very reason he had gone to Zbyszko and ordered her to remain here.
Be it from grief or sorrow her voice trembled at the end. When she finished, silence prevailed for a while in the room and only the chirping of the crickets, from the linden in the courtyard, penetrated through the open windows and sounded like a heavy rainfall. All eyes were directed toward Jurand, who with closed eyelids and head bent backward, showed no sign of life.
"Do you hear?" finally asked the priest.
But Jurand kept on bending his head, lifted up his left hand and pointed toward the sky. The light of the moon fell directly upon his face, upon the white hair, upon the blind eyes; and there was depicted in that face such indescribable suffering, together with complete hope and resignation in God's will, that it appeared to all present that he only saw with his soul which was freed from the fetters of the body, and had renounced once for all earthly life, in which nothing was left for him.
Silence again reigned and the noise of the crickets was still audible.
But almost with filial love, Jagienka was suddenly overcome with great pity for the unhappy old man. At the first impulse she rushed to his side, grasped his hand and covered it with kisses and tears.
"And I too am an orphan!" she exclaimed, with swelling heart. "I am not a boy, but am Jagienka of Zgorzelice. Macko took me in order to protect me from bad people. Now I shall remain with you until God restores Danusia to you."
Jurand was not at all surprised; he seemed to know it already; he only took hold of her and pressed her to his breast, and she continued to kiss his hand and spoke in a broken and sobbing voice:
"I will remain with you. Danuska will return.... Then I shall return to Zgorzelice. God protects the orphans! The Germans have also killed my father. But your beloved one is alive and will return. Grant this, O most merciful God! Grant this, O most holy and compassionate Mother!..." Then Father Kaleb suddenly knelt and with a solemn voice began to pray:
"Lord have mercy upon us!"
"Christ have mercy upon us!" immediately responded the Bohemian and Tolima. Then all knelt down, because it was the Litany, which is not only said at the moment of death, but also for the delivery of dear and near persons from the danger of death. Jagienka knelt; Jurand slipped down from his seat and knelt, and all began to pray in chorus:
"Lord have mercy upon us!"
"Christ have mercy upon us!"
"O God the Father in Heaven, have mercy upon us!"
"Son of God, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us!"
Their praying voices, "Have mercy upon us!" were mingled with the chirping of the crickets.
The tame she-wolf suddenly got up from the bearskin upon which she was crouching, in front of Jurand, approached the open window, supported herself upon the sill, turned her triangular jaws toward the moon and howled in a low and plaintive voice.
END OF PART SIXTH.
To a certain extent the Bohemian adored Jagienka, but his love for the charming Sieciechowna was on the increase, nevertheless his young and brave heart caused him to be eager above all for war. He returned to Spychow with Macko's message, in obedience to his master, and therefore he felt a certain satisfaction that he would be protected by both masters, but when Jagienka herself told him what was the truth, that there was none to oppose him in Spychow and that his duty was to be with Zbyszko, he gladly assented. Macko was not his immediate authority. It was therefore an easy matter to justify himself before him, that he had left Spychow at the command of his mistress to go to Zbyszko.
But Jagienka did it purposely, that the valiant and clever armor-bearer might always be of assistance to Zbyszko and save him in many dangerous situations. He had already shown his ability at the prince's hunting party in which Zbyszko nearly perished from the attack of a urus; much more so would he be useful in war, specially such as the present one on the Zmudz frontier. Glowacz was so eager for the field, that when he left Jurand with Jagienka he embraced her feet and said:
"I desire to kneel before you at once and beg you for a good word for my journey."
"How is that?" asked Jagienka. "Do you want to go to-day?"
"Early to-morrow, so that the horses may rest during the night, for the expedition to Zmudz is very far."
"Then go so that you may easily overtake Macko."
"It will be a hard task. The old gentleman is hardy in all kinds of toil, and he is several days ahead of me. In order to shorten my way I shall have to travel through Prussia, through pathless forests. Pan Macko has letters from Lichtenstein which he can show when necessary; but I have nothing to show, I shall therefore be obliged to make a free road for myself."
Then he placed his hand upon his sword. At that Jagienka exclaimed:
"Be careful! It is necessary to travel as fast as possible, but on the other hand you must be careful to avoid being caught and imprisoned by the Knights of the Cross. Also be careful whilst you are in the wild forests, for there are just now all kinds of gods whom the people of that land who have not been converted to Christianity worship. I remember what Macko and Zbyszko said about them in Zgorzelice."
"I too remember what they said about those gods, but I am not afraid of them; they are puny things and no gods, and they have no power whatever. I shall manage them as well as the Germans whom I shall meet in the field and make it hot for them."
"But you can't kill gods! Tell me, what did you hear of them among the Germans?"
Then the discreet Bohemian wrinkled his brow, stopped for a moment, and said:
"Killing or no killing, we informed ourselves of everything, specially Pan Macko, who is cunning and able to circumvent every German. He asks for one thing or another, or pretends to salute, and says nothing that might betray him, and whatever he says is to the point and draws his information as the angler draws out the fish. If your grace will listen patiently I will tell you: Some years ago, Prince Witold planned an expedition against the Tartars, but wished to be at peace with the Germans; he therefore ceded to them the province of Zmudz. Then there was great friendship and peace. He allowed them to build castles. Bah, he even assisted them. They, including the master, met at an island, where they ate, drank and showed each other much friendship. They were even permitted to hunt in those wild forests. When the poor people of Zmudz rose in arms against the rule of the Order, Prince Witold helped the Germans with his own soldiers. The people throughout Lithuania murmured that the prince was against his own blood. All this the under-bailiff of Szczytno related to us; he praised the courts of the Knights of the Cross in Zmudz because they sent priests to that country to convert the people to Christianity and feed them in time of dearth. Something of that kind was done, for the grand master, who fears God more than the others, ordered it. But instead of it, they gathered together the children and sent them to Prussia, and they outraged the women in the presence of their husbands and brothers; whoever dared to oppose it was hanged. This, lady, is the cause of the present war."
"And Prince Witold?"
"The prince had his eyes shut for a long time to the wrongs of the oppressed people of Zmudz, and he loved the Knights of the Cross. It is not long since the princess, his wife, went to Prussia to visit Malborg. They received her with great pomp, as though she were the queen of Poland. That happened quite recently! They showered gifts upon her, and gave numerous tourneys, feasts, and all kinds of fetes wherever she went. The people thought that it would result in everlasting friendship between the Knights of the Cross and Prince Witold. But suddenly his heart was changed...."
"This confirms what I heard from my lamented father and Macko more than once, that the prince often changed his heart."
"Not often toward the upright, but frequently toward the Knights of the Cross, owing to the very reason that they themselves keep no faith, and are unreliable in everything. They asked him to give up deserters to them. His reply was that he would give up only those of ill repute, but free men he would not, because, as such, they were entitled to live wherever they chose. Just now they are soured and engaged in writing letters, complaining against each other. The people of Zmudz, now in Germany, heard of it; they left the garrisons, stirred up the people in the small castles, and now they make raids in Prussia itself and Prince Witold not only does not hinder them any longer, but he also laughs at the German trouble, and assists the Zmudzians secretly."
"I understand," said Jagienka. "But if he assists them secretly, open war is not yet declared."
"There is open war with the Zmudz people, but as a matter of fact there is also war against Prince Witold. Germans are coming from all parts of the country to defend their strongholds on the frontier and are contemplating a great expedition to invade Zmudz. But they cannot execute it before the winter season arrives, because it is a swampy country and impossible for them to fight in, and where a Zmudz warrior could pass, a German knight would stick fast. Winter, therefore, would be favorable to the Germans. As soon as it begins to freeze, the whole German forces will move, but Prince Witold will come to the aid of the Zmudz people. He will come with the permission of the king of Poland, since the king is the head of all great princes and, above all, Lithuania."
"Then there will be war against the king?"
"The people here, as well as in Germany, say that there will be war. The Knights of the Cross are probably now collecting forces in all courts, with cowls upon their heads like thieves. For every Knight of the Cross knows that the king's army is no joke, and, most likely, the Polish knights would easily vanquish them."
Jagienka sighed, and said:
"A boy is always more happy than a girl is. Here is proof of what I say. You will go to the war, as Zbyszko and Macko went, and we shall remain here, in Spychow."
"How can it be otherwise, lady? It is true that you remain here, but perfectly secure. The name of Jurand I have learned in Szczytno, is still a terror to the Germans, and if they learn that he is now at Spychow they will be terrified at once."
"We know that they will not dare to come here, because the swamps and old Tolima defend this place, but it will be hard to sit here without news."
"I will let you know if anything occurs. Even before we departed for Szczytno, two good young noblemen volunteered to start for the war. Tolima was unable to prevent it, because they are noblemen and come from Lenkawice. We shall now depart together and if anything occurs, one of them will be sent to you with the news."
"May God reward you. I have always known that you are wise in any adventure, but for your willingness and good heart toward me I shall thank you as long as I live."
Then the Bohemian knelt upon one knee and said:
"I have had nothing but kindness from you. Pan Zych captured me near Boleslawce, when I was a mere boy, and set me free without any ransom. But I preferred captivity under you to freedom. God grant that I might shed my blood for you, my lady."
"God lead you and bring you back!" replied Jagienka, holding out her hand to him.
But he preferred to bow to her knees and kiss her feet to honor her the more. Then he lifted up his head and said submissively and humbly:
"I am a simple boy, but I am a nobleman and your faithful servant. Give me therefore some token of remembrance for my journey. Do not refuse me this request; war time is approaching and I take Saint Jerzy to witness that I shall always try to be one of those in front, but never in the rear."
"What kind of souvenir do you ask for?"
"Girdle me with a strip of cloth for the road, so that if I fall in the field my pain may be lessened in having, when dying, the belt you fastened round my body."
Then he bowed again at her feet, folded his arms and gazed into her eyes imploringly.
But Jagienka's face assumed a troubled look, and after a while she replied as if with involuntary bitterness:
"O, my dear! Ask me not for that, my girdling will be of no use to you. Whoever is happy can impart happiness to you. Only such an one can bring you fortune. But I, surely, have nothing but sorrow! Alas! I can give happiness neither to you nor others; for that which I do not possess myself I cannot impart to others. I feel so, Hlawa. There is nothing, now, for me in the world, so, so that...."
Then she suddenly ceased, because she knew that if she said another word it would cause her to burst into tears, even so her eyes became clouded. But the Bohemian was greatly moved, because he understood that it would be equally bad for her, in case she had to return to Zgorzelice and be in the neighborhood of the rapacious villains Cztan and Wilk: or to remain in Spychow, where sooner or later Zbyszko might come with Danusia. Hlawa seemed to understand Jagienka's troubles, but he had no remedy for them. He therefore embraced her knees again and repeated.
"Oh! I will die for you! I will die!"
"Get up!" she said. "Let Sieciechowna gird you for the war, or let her give you some other keepsake, because you have been friends for some time past."
Then she began to call her, and Sieciechowna entered from the neighboring room immediately. She had heard before she entered, but she dared not enter although she burned with desire to take leave of the handsome armor-bearer. She therefore was frightened and confused, and her heart was beating violently when she entered; her eyes were glistening with tears, and with lowered eyelashes she stood before him; she looked like an apple blossom, and could not utter a single word.
Hlawa worshipped Jagienka, but with deepest respect, and he dared not reach her even in mind. He often thought familiarly about Sieciechowna because the blood in his veins coursed rapidly at the very sight of her and he could not withstand the presence of her charms. But now his heart was taken by her beauty, especially when he beheld her confusion and tears, through which he saw affection as one sees the golden bed of a crystal stream.
He therefore turned toward her and said:
"Do you know that I am going to war. Perchance I shall perish. Will you be sorry for me?"
"I shall feel very sorry for you!" replied the girl, in soft tones. Then she shed copious tears as she was always ready to do. The Bohemian was moved and began to kiss her hands, smothering his desire for more familiar kisses in the presence of Jagienka.
"Gird him or give him something else as a memento for the road, so that he may fight under your colors and in your name."
But Sieciechowna had nothing to give him, because she was attired in boy's clothes. She searched for something but found neither ribbon, nor anything that could be fastened, because her women's dresses were still packed up in the baskets, which had not been touched since they left Zgorzelice. She was therefore greatly perplexed until Jagienka came to her rescue by advising her to give him the little net upon her head.
"My God!" Hlawa joyously exclaimed, "let it be the net, attach it to the helmet, and woe betide that German who attempts to reach it."
Then Sieciechowna took it down with both hands and immediately her bright golden hair fell upon her shoulders and arms. At the sight of her beautiful disheveled hair, Hlawa's face changed, his cheeks flamed and then paled. He took the net, kissed it, and hid it in his breast. Then he embraced Jagienka's feet once more, and did the same, though a little more strongly than was necessary, to Sieciechowna. Then with the words: "Let it be so," he left the house without another word.
Although he was about to travel and in want of rest, he did not go to sleep. With his two companions who were to accompany him to Zmudz, he drank throughout the whole night. But he was not intoxicated, and at the first ray of light he was already in the courtyard where the horses were ready for the journey.
From the membrane window above the carriage house two blue eyes were looking upon the courtyard. When the Bohemian observed them, he wished to approach and show the net which he had attached to his helmet, then wish her good-bye once more, but Father Kaleb and old Tolima, who came to give him advice for his journey, interrupted him.
"Go first to the court of Prince Janusz," said the priest. "Perhaps Pan Macko stopped there. At all events, you will get there proper information; you will find there numerous acquaintances. Also the road there to Lithuania is known, and it is not difficult there to procure guides for the wilderness. If you are indeed bent on seeing Pan Zbyszko, then do not go directly to Zmudz, for there is the Prussian reservation, but go via Lithuania. Remember that the Zmudzians themselves might kill you even before you could shout to them who you were. But it is quite a different matter in Lithuania in the direction where Prince Witold is. Finally, may God bless you, and those two knights. May you return in good health and bring the child with you. I shall daily lie prostrate before the cross from vespers to the rising of the first star in prayer for this cause."
"I thank you, father, for your blessing," replied Hlawa. "It is not an easy task to rescue one alive from their devilish hands. But since everything is in God's hands, it is better to hope than to sorrow."
"It is better to hope, for this reason I do not despair. Hope lives, although the heart is full of anxiety.... The worst is, that Jurand himself, when his daughter's name is mentioned, immediately points with his finger toward heaven as though he already sees her there."
"How could he see her without eyes?"
The priest then replied, partly to himself and partly to Hlawa:
"Perchance he who has lost his bodily vision sees more with his spiritual eyes.... It may be so. It may be! But this, that God should permit so much wrong to be done to such an innocent lamb I do not understand clearly. Why should she suffer so much, even if she had offended the Knights of the Cross. But there was nothing against her and she was as pure as the divine lily, loving to others and lovely as yonder little free singing bird. God loves children, and is compassionate. Bah! If they were to kill her, He is able to resuscitate her as He did Piotrowina, who after having risen from the grave lived for many long years.... Depart in peace, and may God's hand protect you all!"
Then he returned to the chapel to say early Mass. The Bohemian mounted his horse, for it was already broad daylight, and bowed once more toward the window and departed.
Prince and Princess Janusz had left with part of the court for the spring fishing at Czerska, of which sport he was extremely fond, and loved it above all others. The Bohemian got much important information from Mikolaj of Dlugolas, treating of private affairs as well as of the war. First he learned that Macko had apparently given up his intended route to Zmudz, the "Prussian enclosure," that a few days ago he had left for Warsaw where be found the princely pair. As to the war, old Mikolaj informed him all that he had already heard in Szczytno. All Zmudz, as one man, had risen in arms against the Germans, and Prince Witold not only had refused to help the Order against the unhappy Zmudzians, but had not yet declared war against them, and was negotiating with them; but meanwhile he supplied the Zmudzians with money, men, horses and corn. Meanwhile, he, as well as the Knights of the Cross, sent ambassadors to the pope, to the emperor, and to other Christian lords, accusing each other of breach of faith, and treachery. The ambassador carrying the letters of the prince was the clever Mikolaj of Rzeniewa, a man of great ability who could unravel the thread which was woven by the artifice of the Knights of the Cross, convincingly demonstrating the great wrongs done to the lands of Lithuania and Zmudz.
Meantime when at the diet in Wilno the ties between the Poles and Lithuanians were strengthened, it acted like poison in the hearts of the Knights of the Cross. It was easy to foresee that Jagiello as the supreme lord of all the lands under the command of Prince Witold, would stand at his side in time of war. Count Jan Sayn, the comthur of Grudzia, and Count Schwartzburg of Danzig, went, at the request of the grand master, to see the king and asked him what might be expected from him. Although they brought him falcons and costly presents, he told them nothing. Then they threatened him with war, without really intending it, because they well knew that the grand master and the chapter were terribly afraid of Jagiello's forces, and were anxious to avert the day of wrath and calamity.