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The Knights of the Cross
by Henryk Sienkiewicz
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Powala having noticed this, and having a kind heart, determined to help Macko. He had learned to speak German while seeking knightly adventures at the Hungarian, Burgundian and Bohemian courts, when he was young. Therefore he now said in that language in a conciliatory but jesting tone:

"You see, sir, the noble comthur thinks that the whole affair is unimportant. Not only in our kingdom but in every country the youths are slightly crazy; but such a noble knight does not fight children, neither by sword nor by law."

Lichtenstein touched his yellow moustache and moved on without a word, passing Macko and Zbyszko.

A dreadful wrath began to raise the hair under their helmets, and their hands grasped their swords.

"Wait, you scoundrel!" said the elder wlodyka through his set teeth; "now I will make a vow to you. I will seek you as soon as you have finished your mission."

But Powala, whose heart began to bleed also, said:

"Wait! Now the princess must speak in favor of the boy; otherwise, woe to him!"

Having said this, he followed the Knight of the Cross, stopped him and for a while they talked with great animation. Macko and Zbyszko noticed that the German knight did not look at Powala so proudly as he had at them; this made them still more angry. After a while, Powala returned and said to them:

"I tried to intercede for you, but he is a hard man. He said that he would not complain to the king if you would do what he requires."

"What?"

"He said thus: 'I will stop to greet the Princess of Mazowsze; let them come, dismount, take off their helmets, and standing on the ground with uncovered heads, ask my forgiveness.'"

Here Powala looked sharply at Zbyszko, and added:

"I know it will be hard for people of noble birth to do this; but I must warn you, that if you refuse no one knows what you may expect,—perhaps the executioner's sword."

The faces of Macko and Zbyszko became like stone. There was silence.

"What then?" asked Powala.

Zbyszko answered quietly and with great dignity as though during this conversation he had grown twenty years older:

"Well, God's might is over all!"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, that even if I had two heads and the executioner was going to cut off both, still I have only one honor which I will not stain."

Powala became grave and turning toward Macko, asked:

"And what do you say?"

"I say," answered Macko gloomily, "that I reared this youth from childhood. On him depends our family, because I am old; but he cannot do what the German asks, even if he must perish."

Here his grim face began to quiver and finally his love for his nephew burst forth with such strength, that he seized the boy in his arms, and began to shout:

"Zbyszku! Zbyszku!"[31]

The young knight was surprised and having returned his uncle's embrace, said:

"Aj! I did not know that you loved me so much."

"I see that you are both true knights," said Powala; "and as the young man has promised me upon his knightly honor, that he will appear at the court, I will not imprison him; one can trust such people as you. No more gloomy thoughts! The German intends to stay in Tyniec a day or two; therefore I will have an opportunity to see the king first, and I will try to tell him about this affair in such a way that his anger will not be aroused. I am glad I succeeded in breaking the spear in time,—great luck, I tell you!"

But Zbyszko said:

"Even if I had to lay down my life, I would like at least to have the satisfaction of breaking his bones."

"It surprises me that you who know how to defend your own honor, do not understand that you would thus disgrace our whole nation!" impatiently answered Powala.

"I understand it very well," said Zbyszko; "but I regret my disability just the same."

Powala turned toward Macko:

"Do you know, sir, that if this lad succeeds in escaping the penalty for his offence, then you ought to put a cowl like a hawk's on his head! Otherwise he will not die a natural death."

"He will escape if you, sir, will not say anything to the king about the occurrence."

"And what shall we do with the German? We cannot tie his tongue."

"That is true! That is true!"

Talking thus, they went back toward the princess' retinue. Powala's servants followed them. From afar one could see amidst the Mazovian caps, the quivering peacock feathers of the Knight of the Cross and his bright helmet shining in the sun.

"Strange is the nature of a Krzyzak," said the knight of Taczew. "When a Krzyzak is in a tight place, he will be as forbearing as a Franciscan monk, as humble as a lamb and as sweet as honey; in fact, it would be difficult to find a better man. But let him feel power behind him; then nobody will be more arrogant and merciless. It is evident that God gave them stones for hearts. I have seen many different nations and I have often witnessed a true knight spare another who was weaker, saying to himself; 'My fame will not increase if I trample this fallen foe.' But at such a time a Krzyzak is implacable. Hold him by the throat, otherwise woe to you! Such a man is that envoy! He wanted not only an apology, but also your humiliation. But I am glad he failed."

"He can wait!" exclaimed Zbyszko.

"Be careful not to show him that you are troubled, because then he would rejoice."

After these words they approached the retinue and joined the princess' court. The envoy of the Krzyzaks, having noticed them, immediately assumed an expression of pride and disdain; but they ignored him. Zbyszko stood at Danusia's side and began to tell her that from the hill one could see Krakow; at the same time Macko was telling one of the rybalts about the extraordinary strength of the Pan of Taczew, who had broken the spear in Zbyszko's hand, as though it were a dry stem.

"And why did he break it?" asked the rybalt.

"Because the boy in fun attacked the German."

The rybalt, being a nobleman, did not consider such an attack a joke; but seeing that Macko spoke about it lightly, did not take it seriously either. The German was annoyed by such conduct. He glanced at Macko and Zbyszko. Finally be realized that they did not intend to dismount and that they did not propose to pay any attention to him. Then something like steel shone in his eyes, and he immediately began to bid the princess adieu.

The Lord of Taczew could not abstain from deriding him and at the moment of departure he said to him:

"Go without fear, brave knight. The country is quiet and nobody will attack you, except some careless child."

"Although the customs of this country are strange, I was seeking your company and not your protection," answered Lichtenstein; "I expect to meet you again at the court and elsewhere."

In the last words a hidden menace rang; therefore Powala answered gravely:

"If God will permit."

Having said this, he saluted and turned away; then he shrugged his shoulders and said in an undertone, but loud enough to be heard by those who were near:

"Gaunt! I could lift you from the saddle with the point of my spear, and hold you in the air during three pater-nosters."[32]

Then he began to talk with the princess with whom he was very well acquainted. Anna Danuta asked him what he was doing on the highway. He told her that the king had commanded him to keep order in the environs while there were so many wealthy guests going to Krakow. Then he told her about Zbyszko's foolish conduct. But having concluded that there would be plenty of time to ask the princess to protect Zbyszko, he did not put any stress on the incident, not wishing to spoil the gaiety. The princess laughed at the boy, because he was so anxious to obtain the peacock tuft; the others, having learned about the breaking of the spear, admired the Lord of Taczew very much, especially as he did it with one hand only.

And he, being a little vain, was pleased because they praised him. Finally he began to tell about some of the exploits which made his name famous; especially those he performed in Burgundia, at the court of Philip the Courageous. There one time, during a tournament, he seized an Ardenian knight, pulled him out of the saddle and threw him in the air, notwithstanding that the knight was in full armor. For that exploit, Philip the Courageous presented him with a gold chain and the queen gave him a velvet slipper, which he wore on his helmet.

Upon hearing this, all were very much amazed, except Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who said:

"In these effeminate times, there are not such strong men as there were when I was young. If a nobleman now happens to shatter a cuirass, to bend a crossbow without the aid of the crank, or to bend a cutlass between his fingers, he immediately considers himself a very strong man. But in times of yore, girls could do such deeds."

"I don't deny that formerly there were stronger people," answered Powala; "but even now there are some strong men. God did not stint me in strength, but I do not consider myself the strongest in this kingdom. Have you ever seen Zawisza of Garbow? He can surpass me."

"I have seen him. He has shoulders broad like a rampart."

"And Dobko of Olesnica? Once at the tournament given in Torun by the Knights of the Cross, he defeated twelve knights for his own and our nation's glory."

"But our Mazur, Staszko Ciolek, was stronger, sir, than you or your Zawisza and Dobko. They say that he took a peg made from green wood in his hand and pressed the sap out of it."[33]

"I can press the sap out myself," said Zbyszko. And before anyone could ask him to prove it, he broke a branch which he pressed so strongly, that really the sap began to ooze from it.

"Aj, Jesus!" exclaimed Ofka of Jarzombkow; "don't go to the war; it would be a pity if such an one should perish before his marriage."

"It would indeed be a pity!" replied Macko, suddenly becoming sorrowful.

But Mikolaj of Dlugolas laughed as did also the princess. The others, however, praised Zbyszko's strength, and as in those times might was appreciated more than any other quality, the young girls cried to Danusia: "Be glad!" She was glad although she could not then understand what benefit she would receive from that piece of compressed wood. Zbyszko having forgotten all about the Krzyzak now looked so proud, that Mikolaj of Dlugolas wishing to curb his pride, said:

"There are better men than you; therefore do not be so proud of your strength. I did not see it, but my father was a witness of something more difficult which happened at the court of Charles, the Roman emperor. King Kazimierz went to pay him a visit and with him went many courtiers. Among these courtiers was Staszko Ciolek, son of Wojewoda[34] Andrzej, who was noted for his strength. The emperor began to boast that he had a Czech who could strangle a bear. They had an exhibition and the Czech strangled two bears in succession. Our king not wishing to be outdone, said: 'But be cannot overcome my Ciolek.' They agreed that they should fight in three days' time. Many ladies and famous knights came, and the Czech and Ciolek grappled in the yard of the castle; but the contest did not last long; hardly had they come together before Ciolek broke the backbone of the Czech, crushed all his ribs, and left him dead to the great glory of the king.[35] They have called him since then Lomignat.[36] Once he placed without help, a bell which twelve men could not move from its place."[37]

"How old was he?" asked Zbyszko.

"He was young!"

In the meantime, Powala of Taczew, while riding at the princess' right hand, bent toward her and told her the truth about the importance of Zbyszko's adventure, and asked her to speak to the king in Zbyszko's behalf. The princess being fond of Zbyszko, received this news with sadness and became very uneasy.

"The Bishop of Krakow is a friend of mine," said Powala; "I will ask him and also the queen to intercede; but the more protectors he has, the better it will be for the lad."

"If the queen will promise to say one word in his favor, not a hair will fall from his head," said Anna Danuta; "the king worships her for her piety and for her dowry, and especially now, when the shame of sterility has been taken from her. But the king's beloved sister, Princess Ziemowit lives in Krakow; you must go to her. For my part I will do anything I can; but the princess is his own sister, and I am only his first cousin."

"The king loves you also, gracious lady."

"Ej, but not as much," she answered with a certain sadness; "for me a link, for her a whole chain; for me a fox skin, for her a sable. He loves none of his relations as dearly as he loves Alexandra."

Thus talking, they approached Krakow. The highway which was crowded on the road from Tyniec, was still more crowded here. They met countrymen going with their servants to the city, sometimes armed and sometimes in summer clothing and straw hats. Some of them were on horseback; some traveled in carriages, with their wives and daughters, who wished to see the long looked for tournaments. In some places the whole road was crowded with merchants' wagons which could not pass Krakow until the toll was paid. They carried in these wagons wax, grain, salt, fish, skins, hemp and wood. Others came from the city loaded with cloth, barrels of beer and different merchandise. One could now see Krakow very well; the king's gardens, lords' and burghers' houses surrounded the city; beyond them were the walls and the towers of the churches. The nearer they came to the city the greater was the traffic and at the gates it was almost impossible to pass.

"What a city! There is no other like it in the world," said Macko.

"It is always like a fair," answered one of the rybalts; "how long since you were here, sir?"

"A very long time ago. I wonder at it just as much as if I saw it now for the first time, because we are returning from a wild country."

"They say that Krakow has grown very much since the time of King Jagiello."

This was true; after the grand duke of Litwa ascended the throne, enormous Lithuanian and Russian countries were opened for commerce; because of this the city had increased in population, richness and buildings, and had become one of the most important cities in the world.

"The cities of the Knights of the Cross are very beautiful also," said the larger rybalt.

"If only we could capture one of them," said Macko. "Worthy booty we could get!"

But Powala of Taczew was thinking about something else; namely, of Zbyszko, who was in peril because of his stupid blind fury. The Pan of Taczew, fierce and implacable in the time of war, had in his powerful breast, however, the heart of a dove; he realized better than the others what punishment awaited the offender; therefore he pitied him.

"I ponder and ponder," said he again to the princess, "whether to tell the king of the incident or not. If the Krzyzak does not complain, there will be no case; but if he should complain, perhaps it would be better to tell the king everything beforehand, so that he will not become angry."

"If the Krzyzak has an opportunity to ruin somebody, he will do it," answered the princess; "but I will tell that young man to join our court. Perhaps the king will be more lenient to one of our courtiers."

She called Zbyszko, who having had his position explained to him, jumped from his horse, kissed her hands and became with the greatest pleasure one of her courtiers, not so much for greater safety, as because he could now remain nearer Danusia.

Powala asked Macko:

"Where will you stay?"

"In an inn."

"There is no room in any inn now."

"Then we will go to merchant Amylej, he is an acquaintance of mine, perhaps he will let us pass the night in his house."

"Accept hospitality in my house. Your nephew can stay with the princess' courtiers in the castle; but it will be better for him not to be near the king. What one does in the first paroxysm of anger, one would not do afterward. You will be more comfortable and safe with me."

Macko had become uneasy because Powala thought so much about their safety; he thanked Powala with gratitude and they entered the city. But here they both as well as Zbyszko forgot for a while about danger in the presence of the wonders they saw before them. In Lithuania and on the frontier, they had only seen single castles, and the only city of any importance which they knew was Wilno, a badly built and ruined town; but here many of the merchants' houses were more magnificent than the grand duke's palace in Lithuania. It is true that there were many wooden houses; but even these astonished them by the loftiness of their walls and roofs; also by the windows, made of glass balls, set in lead which so reflected the rays of the setting sun, that one would imagine that there was fire in the houses. In the streets near the market place, there were many highly ornamented houses of red brick, or of stone. They stood side by side like soldiers; some of them, broad; others, narrow; but all lofty with vaulted halls, very often having the sign of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ or an image of the Most Holy Virgin over the door. There were some streets, on which one could see two rows of houses, over them a stripe of blue sky, between them, a road paved with stones; and on both sides as far as one could see stores and stores. These were full of the best foreign goods, at which being accustomed to war and the capture of booty, Macko looked with a longing eye. But both were still more astonished at the sight of the public buildings; the church of Panna Maryia on the square; the sukiennice;[38] the city hall with its gigantic cellar, in which they were selling beer from Swidnica; other churches, depots of broadcloth, the enormous "mercatorium," devoted to the use of foreign merchants; then a building in which were the public scales, bath houses, cooper works, wax works, silver works, gold works, breweries, the mountains of barrels round the so-called Schrotamto,—in a word, riches which a man not familiar with the city, even though a well-to-do possessor of a grodek, could not even imagine.

Powala conducted Macko and Zbyszko to his house situated on Saint Anna Street, assigned a large room to them, recommended them to his shield-bearers, and then went to the castle, from which he returned for supper quite late at night.

A few friends accompanied him, and they enjoyed the plentiful repast of wine and meat. The host alone was sorrowful. When finally the guests departed, he said to Macko:

"I spoke to a canon, able in writing and in the law, who says, that an insult to an envoy is a capital offence. Therefore pray God, that the Krzyzak may not complain."

Hearing this, both knights, who, during the feast had exceeded the other guests in mirth, retired with sorrowful hearts. Macko could not even sleep and after a while when they were in bed, he said to his nephew:

"Zbyszku?"

"What?"

"I have considered everything and I do not think they will execute you."

"You do not think so?" asked Zbyszko, in a sleepy voice.

Having turned toward the wall, he fell sound asleep, because he was very weary.

The next day, both wlodykas of Bogdaniec, went with Powala to morning mass in the cathedral, for devotion and also to see the court and the guests who had arrived at the castle. In fact, on the way Powala met many acquaintances, and among them several knights famous at home and abroad. At these Zbyszko looked with admiration, promising himself that if he escaped death for the insult to Lichtenstein, he would try to rival them in gallantry and in all knightly virtues. One of these knights, Toporczyk, a relative of the castellan of Krakow, told them that Wojciech Jastrzembiec had returned from Rome, where he had been sent to Pope Bonifacius IX. with the king's invitation to the christening at Krakow. Bonifacius accepted the invitation; and although it was doubtful whether he would be able to come personally, he authorized the envoy to stand godfather for the coming child in his name; and he asked that the name Bonifacius or Bonifacia be given to the child as a proof of his particular love for the king and the queen.

They also spoke of the arrival of the Hungarian king, Sigismundus; they expected him positively, because he always came, invited or not, whenever there was an opportunity for feasts and tournaments. Of these he was very fond, because he desired to be famous the world over as a ruler, a singer and the first among knights. Powala, Zawisza of Garbow, Dobko of Olesnica, Naszan and others of the same rank, recollected with a smile that during Sigismundus' first visit, King Wladyslaw requested them privately not to attack him very fiercely, but to spare "the Hungarian guest," whose vanity, known throughout the world, used to make him cry in case of defeat. But the most interest was excited among the knights by Witold's affairs. They told marvelous tales about the magnificence of that cradle, made of sterling silver, which the Lithuanian princes and bojars[39] had brought as a present from Witold and his wife, Anna. Macko told about the proposed enormous expedition against the Tartars. The expedition was almost ready, and a great army had already gone eastward toward Rus'. If it were successful, it would extend the king's supremacy over almost half the world, to the unknown Asiatic countries, to the frontier of Persia and to the shores of the Aral. Macko, who formerly served under Witold and knew his plans, could tell about them so accurately and even so eloquently, that before the bells were rung for mass, a large circle of curious people had formed around him. He said that the question was simply about a crusade. "Witold himself," he said, "although they call him a grand duke, rules over Litwa by Jagiello's authority; he is only viceroy, therefore the renown will be the king's. What fame it will be for the newly baptized Lithuanians and for the might of Poland, when the united armies carry the cross to those countries where, if they mention the Saviour's name at all, it is only to blaspheme! When the Polish and Lithuanian armies restore Tochtamysh to the throne of Kapchak, he will acknowledge himself "the son" of King Wladyslaw, and he has promised to bow to the cross with the whole Zlota Orda."

The people listened to Macko with great attention; but many did not thoroughly understand what people Witold intended to help nor against whom he intended to fight; therefore some one asked:

"Tell exactly with whom is the war to be?"

"With whom? With Tymur the Lame!" replied Macko.

There was a moment of silence. It is true the eastern knights often heard the names of Golden, of Blue, of Azovian and of other Ords; but they were not familiar with the civil wars of the Tartars. Nevertheless there was not one man in Europe, who had not heard about the terrible Tymur the Lame, or Tamerlan. This name was heard with no less fear than of old was the name of Attila. He was "lord of the world" and "lord of ages;" the ruler over twenty-seven conquered states: the ruler of Moskiewskoy Russia; ruler of Siberia and of China as far as the Indies; of Bagdad, of Ispahan, of Alep, of Damascus—whose shadow was falling over the sands of Arabia, on Egypt, and on Bosphorus in the Greek empire; he was the exterminator of mankind; the terrible builder of pyramids composed of human skulls; he was the conqueror in all battles, never conquered in any, "lord of souls and of bodies."

Tochtamysh had been placed by him on the throne of the Golden and the Blue Ords,[40] and acknowledged as "the son." But when his sovereign authority extended from Aral to Crimea, over more lands than were in the rest of Europe, "the son" wanted to be an independent ruler. For this he was deposed from his throne with "one finger" of the terrible father; he escaped to the Lithuanian governor and asked him for help. Witold decided to restore him to his throne; but to do this it was necessary to vie with the world-ruling Tymur the Lame.

For these reasons his name made a great impression on the audience, and after a short silence, one of the oldest knights, Kazko of Jaglow, said:

"A difficult business!"

"And for a trifle," said the prudent Mikolaj of Dlugolas. "What difference will it make to us, whether Tochtamysh or some Kutluk rules over the sons of Belial who dwell beyond the tenth-land?"

"Tochtamysh will turn to the Christian faith," answered Macko.

"He will or he will not! Can you trust dog-brothers, who do not confess Christ?"

"But we are ready to lay down our lives for Christ's name," answered Powala.

"And for knightly honor," added Toporczyk, the relative of the castellan; "there are some among us however who will not go. The Lord Wojewoda, Spytko of Melsztyn has a young and beloved wife, but he has already joined Kniaz Witold."

"No wonder," added Jasko Naszan; "no matter how hideous a sin you have on your soul, pardon and salvation are sure for those who fight in such a war."

"And fame for ages and ages," said Powala of Taczew. "Let us then have a war, and it will be better if it be a great war. Tymur has conquered the world and has twenty-seven states under him. It will be an honor for our nation if we defeat him."

"Why not?" answered Toporczyk, "even if he possesses a hundred kingdoms, let others be afraid of him—not us! You speak wisely! Let us gather together ten thousand good spearmen, and we will pass round the world."

"And what nation should conquer The Lame, if not ours?"

Thus the knights conversed. Zbyszko was sorry now because he did not go with Witold to the wild steppes. But when he was in Wilno, he wanted to see Krakow and its court and take part in the tournaments; but now he fears that he will find disgrace here at the court, while there on the steppes even at the worst, he would have found a glorious death.

But the aged Kazko of Jaglow, who was a hundred years old, and whose common sense corresponded to his age, discouraged the zealous knights.

"You are stupid!" said he. "Is it possible that none of you have beard that Christ's image spoke to the queen? If the Saviour himself condescend to such familiarity, then why will the Holy Ghost, who is the third person of the Trinity, be less kind to her. Therefore she sees future events, as if they were passing before her, and she has thus spoken:"

Here he stopped for a while, shook his head, and then said:

"I have forgotten what she prophesied, but I will soon recollect."

He began to think, and they waited silently, because the popular belief was that the queen could see the future.

"Aha!" said he, finally, "I remember now! The queen said, that if every knight went with Witold against The Lame-Man, then heathenish power would be destroyed. But all cannot go because of the dishonesty of Christian lords. We are obliged to guard the boundaries from the attacks of the Czechs and the Hungarians and also from the attacks of the Order, because we cannot trust any of them. Therefore if Witold go with only a handful of Polish warriors, then Tymur the Lame, or his wojewodas, coming with innumerable hosts, will defeat him."

"But we are at peace now," said Toporczyk, "and the Order will give some assistance to Witold. The Knights of the Cross cannot act otherwise, if only for the sake of appearances, and to show to the holy father that they are ready to fight the pagans. The courtiers say that Kuno von Lichtenstein came not entirely for the christening, but also to consult with the king."

"Here he is!" exclaimed the astonished Macko.

"True!" said Powala, turning his head. "So help me God, it is he! He did not stay long with the abbot."

"He is in a hurry," answered Macko, gloomily.

Kuno von Lichtenstein passed them. Macko and Zbyszko recognized him by the cross embroidered on his mantle; but he did not recognize either of them because he had seen them before with their helmets on. Passing by, he nodded to Powala of Taczew, and to Toporczyk; then with his shield-bearers, he ascended the stairs of the cathedral, in a majestic and stately manner.

At that moment the bells resounded, frightening flocks of doves and jackdaws, and announcing that mass would soon begin. Macko and Zbyszko entered the church with the others, feeling troubled about Lichtenstein's quick return. The older wlodyka was very uneasy, but the young one's attention was attracted by the king's court. He was surrounded by noted men, famous in war and in counsel. Many of those by whose wisdom the marriage of the grand duke of Lithuania with the young and beautiful queen of Poland, had been planned and accomplished, were now dead; but a few of them were still living, and at these, all looked with the greatest respect. The young knight could not admire enough the magnificent figure of Jasko of Tenczyn, castellan of Krakow, in which sternness was united with dignity and honesty; he admired the wise countenances of the counsellors and the powerful faces of the knights whose hair was cut evenly on their foreheads, and fell in long curls on their sides and backs. Some of them wore nets, others wore bands to keep the hair in order. The foreign guests, Hungarian and Austrian, and their attendants, were amazed at the great elegance of the costumes; the Lithuanian princes and bojars, notwithstanding the summer heat, were dressed for the sake of pompous display in costly furs; the Russian princes wore large stiff dresses, and in the background they looked like Byzantine pictures. With the greatest curiosity Zbyszko awaited the appearance of the king and the queen. He advanced toward the stalls behind which he could see the red velvet cushions near the altar, on which the king and the queen kneeled during mass.

He did not wait long; the king entered first, through the vestry door, and before he reached the altar one could have a good look at him. He had long, dark, disheveled hair; his face was thin and clean shaven; he had a large pointed nose and some wrinkles around his mouth. His eyes were small, dark, and shining. His face had a kind but cautious look, like that of a man who having risen by good luck to a position far beyond his expectations, is obliged to think continually whether his actions correspond to his dignity and who is afraid of malicious criticism. This also was the reason why in his face and in his movements there was a certain impatience. It was very easy to understand that his anger would be sudden and dreadful. He was that prince, who being angered at the frauds of the Knights of the Cross, shouted after their envoy: "Thou comest to me with a parchment, but I will come to thee with a spear!"

But now this natural vehemence was restrained by great and sincere piety. He set a good example, not only to the recently converted Lithuanian princes, but even to the Polish lords, pious for generations. Often the king kneeled, for the greater mortification of the flesh, on bare stones; often having raised his hands, he held them uplifted until they dropped with fatigue. He attended at least three masses every day. After mass he left the church as if just awakened from slumber, soothed and gentle. The courtiers knew that it was the best time to ask him either for pardon, or for a gift.

Jadwiga entered through the vestry door also. Seeing her enter, the knights standing near the stalls, immediately kneeled, although mass had not begun, voluntarily paying her homage as to a saint. Zbyszko did the same; nobody in this assembly doubted that he really saw a saint, whose image would some time adorn the church altars. Besides the respect due to a queen, they almost worshipped her on account of her religious and holy life. It was reported that the queen could perform miracles. They said that she could cure the sick by touching them with her hand; that people who could not move their legs nor their arms, were able to do it, after they put on a dress which the queen had worn. Trustworthy witnesses affirmed that they had heard with their own ears, Christ speak to her from the altar. Foreign monarchs worshipped her on their knees and even the Order of the Knights of the Cross respected her and feared to offend her. Pope Bonifacius IX. called her the pious and chosen daughter of the church. The world looked at her deeds and remembered that this child of the Andegavian[41] house and Polish Piasts[42], this daughter of the powerful Louis, a pupil of the most fastidious of courts, and also one of the most beautiful women on earth, renounced happiness, renounced her first love and being a queen married a "wild" prince of Lithuania, in order to bring to the cross, by his help, the last pagan nation in Europe. That which could not be accomplished by the forces of all the Germans, by a sea of poured out blood, was done with one word from her. Never did the glory of an apostle shine over a younger and more charming forehead; never was the apostleship united with equal self-denial; never was the beauty of a woman lighted with such angelic kindness and such quiet sadness.

Therefore minstrels sang about her in all the European courts; knights from the remotest countries came to Krakow to see this "Queen of Poland;" her own people loved her, as the pupil of the eye and their power and glory had increased by her marriage with Jagiello. Only one great sorrow hung over her and the nation; for long years this child of God had had no issue.

But now this sorrow had passed away and the joyful news of God's blessing on the queen sped like lightning from the Baltic to the Black Sea, also to Karpaty[43] and filled with joy all peoples of this powerful kingdom. In all foreign courts, except in the capital of the Knights of the Cross, the news was received with pleasure. In Rome "Te Deum" was sung. In the provinces of Poland the belief was firmly established, that anything the "Saint lady" asked of God, would be granted.

Therefore there came to her people to beseech her, that she ask health for them; there came envoys from the provinces and from other countries, to ask that she pray according to their need, either for rain, or for fair weather for harvesting; for lucky moving time; for abundant fishing in the lakes or for game in the forests.

Those knights, living in castles and grodeks on the frontier, who according to the custom learned from the Germans, had become robbers or waged war among themselves, at the command of the queen, put their swords in their scabbards, released their prisoners without ransom, restored stolen herds and clasped hands in friendship. All kinds of misery, all kinds of poverty crowded the gates of her castle in Krakow. Her pure spirit penetrated human hearts, softened the hard lot of the serfs, the great pride of the lords, the unjust severity of the judges, and hovered like a dove of happiness, like an angel of justice and peace, over the whole country.

No wonder then that all were awaiting with anxious hearts for the day of blessing.

The knights looked closely at the figure of the queen, to see if they could ascertain how long they would be obliged to wait for the future heir to the throne. The ksiondz[44] bishop of Krakow, Wysz, who was also the ablest physician in the country, and famous even abroad, had not announced when the delivery would occur. They were making some preparation; but it was the custom at that time to begin all festivals as early as possible, and to prolong them for weeks. In fact the figure of the lady, although a little rounded, had retained until now its former grandeur. She was dressed with excessive simplicity. Formerly, having been brought up at a brilliant court, and being more beautiful than any of the contemporary princesses, she was fond of costly fabrics, of chains, pearls, gold bracelets and rings; but now and even for several years past, she not only wore the dress of a nun, but she even covered her face, fearing that the thoughts of her beauty might arouse in her worldly vanity. In vain Jagiello, having learned of her condition, in a rapture of joy ordered her sleeping apartment to be decorated with brocade and jewels. Having renounced all luxury, and remembering that the time of confinement is often the time of death, she decided that not among jewels, but in quiet humility she ought to receive the blessing which God had promised to send her.

Meanwhile the gold and jewels went to establish a college and to send the newly converted Lithuanian youths to foreign universities.

The queen agreed only to change her monastical dress, and from the time that the hope of maternity was changed to positive certainty, she did not veil her face, thinking that the dress of a penitent was no longer proper.

Consequently everybody was now looking with love at that beautiful face, to which neither gold, nor precious stones could add any charm. The queen walked slowly from the vestry door toward the altar, with uplifted eyes, holding in one hand a book, in the other a rosary. Zbyszko saw the lily-like face, the blue eyes, and the angelic features full of peace, kindness and mercy, and his heart began to throb with emotion. He knew that according to God's command he ought to love the king and the queen, and he did in his way; but now his heart overflowed with a great love, which did not come by command, but burst forth like a flame; his heart was also filled with the greatest worship, humility and desire for sacrifice. The young wlodyka Zbyszko was impetuous; therefore a desire immediately seized him, to show in some way that love and the faithfulness of a knight; to accomplish some deed for her; to rush somewhere, to conquer some one and to risk his own life for it all. "I had better go with Kniaz Witold," he said to himself, "because how can I serve the holy lady, if there is no war here." He did not stop to think that one can serve in other ways as well as with sword or spear or axe; he was ready to attack alone the whole power of Tymur the Lame. He wanted to jump on his charger immediately after mass and begin something. What? He did not know himself. He only knew, that he could not hold anything, that his hands were burning and his whole soul was on fire.

He forgot all about the danger which threatened him. He even forgot about Danusia, and when he remembered her, having heard the children singing in the church, he felt that this love was something different. He had promised Danusia fidelity; he had promised her three Germans and he would keep his promise. But the queen is above all women. While he was thinking how many people he would like to kill for the queen, he perceived regiments of armors, helmets, ostrich feathers, peacocks' crests, and he felt that even that would be small in proportion to his desire.

He looked at her constantly, pondering with overflowing heart, how he could honor her by prayer, because he thought that one could not make an ordinary prayer for a queen. He could say: Pater noster, qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen Tuum, because a certain Franciscan monk taught him this in Wilno; but it may be that the Franciscan himself did not know more; it may be that Zbyszko had forgotten; but it is certain that he could not recite the whole "Our Father." But now he began to repeat these few words which in his soul had the following meaning: "Give our beloved lady good health, long life and great happiness; care for her more than for anyone else."

As this was repeated by a man over whose head punishment was suspended, therefore there was no more sincere prayer in the whole church.



CHAPTER V.

After mass Zbyszko thought that if he could only fall upon his knees before the queen and kiss her feet, then he did not care what happened afterward. But after the first mass, the queen went to her apartments. Usually she did not take any nourishment until noontime, and was not present at the merry breakfast, during which jugglers and fools appeared for the amusement of the king. The old wlodyka of Dlugolas came and summoned Zbyszko to the princess.

"You will serve Danusia and me at the table as my courtier," said the princess. "It may happen that you will please the king by some facetious word or deed, and the Krzyzak if he recognize you, will not complain to the king, seeing that you serve me at the king's table."

Zbyszko kissed the princess' hand. Then he turned to Danusia; and although he was more accustomed to battles than to the manners of the court, still he evidently knew what was befitting a knight, when he sees the lady of his thoughts in the morning; he retreated, and assuming an expression of surprise, and making the sign of the cross, exclaimed:

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost!"

Danusia, looking at him with her blue eyes, asked:

"Why do you make the sign of the cross, Zbyszko, after mass is ended?"

"Because your beauty increased so much, during last night, that I am astonished!"

Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who did not like the new, foreign customs of chivalry, shrugged his shoulders and said:

"Don't lose time talking to her about her beauty! She is only a bush hardly grown up from the soil."

At this Zbyszko looked at him with rancor.

"You must be careful about calling her a 'bush,'" said he, turning pale with anger; "if you were younger, I would challenge you immediately and would fight until either you or I were dead!"

"Keep quiet, you beardless boy! I can manage you even to-day!"

"Be quiet!" said the princess. "Instead of thinking about your own danger, you are seeking a quarrel! I would prefer to find a more steady knight for Danusia. If you wish to foam, go where you please; but we do not need you here."

Zbyszko felt abashed at the princess' words and began to apologize. But he thought to himself that if Pan Mikolaj of Dlugolas had a grown-up son, then sometime he would challenge the son and would not forgive Mikolaj for calling her "bush." Now he determined to be quiet while in the king's castle and not to provoke anybody, only in case of absolute necessity.

The blowing of horns announced that breakfast was ready; therefore the Princess Anna taking Danusia by the hand, went to the king's apartments, where the lay-dignitaries and the knights, stood awaiting her arrival. Princess Ziemowita entered first, because being the king's sister, she occupied a higher seat at the table. Soon the hall was filled with guests, dignitaries and knights. The king was seated at the upper end of the table, having near him Wojciech Jastrzembiec, bishop of Krakow, the bishop, although inferior in rank to the other priests wearing mitres, was seated at the right hand of the king because he was the pope's envoy. The two princesses took the next places. Near Anna Danuta, the former archbishop of Gniezno, Jan, was comfortably seated in a large chair. He was a descendant of the Piasts of Szlonsk and the son of Bolko, Prince of Opole. Zbyszko had heard of him at the court of Witold; and now while standing behind the princess and Danusia, he recognized the archbishop by his abundant hair which being curled, made his head look like a kropidlo.[45] At the courts of the Polish princes, they called him "Kropidlo," for this reason; and the Knights of the Cross gave him the name of "Grapidla." He was noted for his gaiety and giddy manners. Having received the nomination for the archbishopric of Gniezno, against the king's wish, he took possession of it by military force; for this act he was deprived of his rank. He then joined the Knights of the Cross who gave him the poor bishopric of Kamieniec in Pomorze. Then he concluded that it was better to be friendly with the mighty king; he craved his pardon, returned to the country and was now waiting for a vacancy to occur, hoping that the good hearted lord would let him fill it. He was not mistaken as the future proved. In the meantime he was trying to win the king's heart by merry frolics. But he still liked the Knights of the Cross. Even now, at the court of Jagiello where he was not greatly welcomed by the dignitaries and knights, he sought Lichtenstein's company and gladly sat beside him at the table.

Zbyszko, standing behind the princess' chair, was so near to the Krzyzak, Lichtenstein, that he could have touched him with his hand. In fact, his fingers began to twitch, but he overcame his impetuosity and did not permit himself any evil thoughts. But he could not refrain from looking eagerly at Lichtenstein's head and shoulders, trying to decide whether he would have a hard fight with him, if they met either during the war, or in single combat. He concluded that it would not be difficult to conquer the German. The Krzyzak's shoulder bones appeared quite large under his dress of grey broadcloth; but he was only a weakling compared with Powala or with Paszko Zlodziej of Biskupice, or with both of the most famous Sulimczyks, or with Krzon of Kozieglowy or with many of the other knights, sitting at the king's table.

At these knights Zbyszko looked with admiration and envy; but his attention was also attracted by the actions of the king, who at this moment gathered his hair with his fingers and pushed it behind his ears, as if he was impatient because breakfast was not served. His eyes rested for a moment on Zbyszko, and at that the young knight felt afraid, fearing that perhaps he would be obliged to face the angry king. This was the first time he had thought seriously about the consequences of his rash action. Until now it had seemed to him to be something remote, therefore not worthy of sorrow.

The German did not know that that youth who dad attacked him so boldly on the highway, was so near. The breakfast began. They brought in caudle, seasoned so strongly with eggs, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and saffron, that the fragrance filled the whole room. In the meanwhile the fool Ciaruszek, sitting on a chair in the doorway, began to imitate the singing of a nightingale, of which the king was very fond. Then another jester went around the table, stopped behind the guests and imitated the buzzing of a bee so well, that some of them began to defend their heads. Seeing this, the others burst with laughter. Zbyszko had served the princess and Danusia diligently; but when Lichtenstein began to clap his baldhead, he again forgot about his danger and began to laugh. The young Lithuanian kniaz, Jamut, who was standing beside him, also laughed at this very heartily. The Krzyzak having finally noticed his mistake, put his hand in his pocket, and turning to the bishop, Kropidlo, said a few words to him in German; the bishop immediately repeated them in Polish.

"The noble lord says to you," said he, turning toward the fool, "that you will receive two skojce; but do not buzz too near, because the bee is driven away, but the drones are killed."

The fool took the two skojce given to him by the Krzyzak, and taking advantage of the license granted at all courts to the fools, answered:

"There is plenty of honey in the province of Dobrzyn;[46] that is why it is beset with the drones. Drive them, King Wladyslaw!"

"Here is a penny from me, because you have said a clever thing," said Kropidlo, "but remember that if the rope break, the beehive keeper break his neck.[47] Those drones from Malborg, by whom Dobrzyn is beset, have stings, and it is dangerous to climb to the beehives."

"Owa!" exclaimed Zyndram of Maszkow, the sword bearer of Krakow, "one can smoke them out!"

"With what?"

"With powder."

"Or cut the beehive with an axe," added the gigantic Paszko Zlodziej of Biskupice.

Zbyszko's heart was ready to leap with joy, because he thought that such words betokened war. Kuno von Lichtenstein understood what was said, because during his long sojourn in Torun and Chelmno, he learned the Polish language; but he would not use it on account of pride. But now, being irritated by the words of Zyndram of Maszkow, he looked at him sharply with his grey eyes and said:

"We shall see."

"Our fathers saw at Plowce[48] and at Wilno," answered Zyndram.

"Pax vobiscum!" exclaimed Kropidlo. "Pax, pax! If only the ksiondz[49] Mikolaj of Kurow, will give up his Kujawian bishopric, and the gracious king appoint me in his place, I will preach you such a beautiful sermon about the love between Christian nations, that you will sincerely repent. Hatred is nothing but ignis and ignis infernalis at that; such a dreadful fire that one cannot extinguish it with water, but is obliged to pour wine on it. Give us some wine! We will go on ops,[50] as the late Bishop Zawisza of Kurozwenki used to say!"

"And from ops to hell, the devil says," added the fool Ciaruszek.

"Let him take you!"

"It would be more amusing for him to take you. They have not yet seen the devil with Kropidlo, but I think we shall all have that pleasure."

"I will sprinkle you first. Give us some wine and may love blossom among the Christians!"

"Among true Christians!" added Kuno von Lichtenstein, emphatically.

"What?" exclaimed the Krakowian bishop Wysz, raising his head; "are you not in an old Christian kingdom? Are not our churches older than yours in Malborg?"[51]

"I don't know," answered the Krzyzak. The king was especially sensitive where any question about Christianity arose. It seemed to him that the Krzyzak wished to make an allusion to him; therefore his cheeks flamed immediately and his eyes began to shine.

"What!" said he, in a deep voice, "am I not a Christian king?"

"The kingdom calls itself a Christian one," coolly answered the Krzyzak; "but its customs are pagan."

At this many angry knights arose; Marcin of Wrocimowice, whose coat of arms was Polkoza, Florian of Korytnica, Bartosz of Wodzinek, Domarat of Kobylany, Zyndram of Maszkow, Powala of Taczew, Paszko Zlodziej of Biskupice, Jaxa of Targowisko, Krzon of Kozieglowy, Zygmunt of Bobowa and Staszko of Charbimowice, powerful and famous knights, victorious in many battles and in many tournaments. Alternately blushing and turning pale from anger, gnashing their teeth, they began to shout:

"Woe to us! He is a guest and we cannot challenge him!"

Zawisza Czarny, Sulimczyk, the most famous among the famous, "the model of knighthood," turned to Lichtenstein with a frown on his forehead and said:

"I do not recognize you, Kuno. How can you, a knight, insult a mighty nation, when you know that, being an envoy, you cannot be punished for it."

But Kuno quietly sustained the threatening look, and answered slowly and precisely:

"Our Order, before it came to Prussia, fought in Palestine; even there the Saracens respected the envoys. But you do not respect them; that is the reason I called your customs pagan."

At these words the uproar increased. Round the table again were heard shouts: "Woe! Woe!"

But they subsided when the king, who was furious, clasped his hands in the Lithuanian fashion. Then the old Jasko Topor of Tenczyn, castellan of Krakow, venerable, grave and dreaded on account of the importance of his office, arose and said:

"Noble Knight of Lichtenstein, if you, an envoy, have been insulted, speak, and severe punishment will be given quickly."

"It would not have happened to me in any other Christian country," answered Kuno. "Yesterday on the road to Tyniec I was attacked by one of your knights, and although he could very easily recognize by the cross on my mantle who I was, he attempted my life."

Zbyszko, having heard these words, became very pale and involuntarily glanced at the king, whose anger was terrible. Jasko of Tenczyn was surprised, and said:

"Can it be possible?"

"Ask the Pan of Taczew, who was a witness of the incident."

"All eyes turned toward Powala, who stood for a while gloomy, and with lowered eyelids; then he said:

"Yes, it is so!"

Hearing this the knights began to shout: "Shame! Shame! The earth will devour such a man!" Because of this disgrace some of them began to strike their chests with their hands, and others to rap the silver dishes, not knowing what to do.

"Why did you not kill him?" shouted the king.

"Because his head belongs to the court," answered Powala.

"Have you put him in prison?" asked the castellan, Topor of Tenczyn.

"No. He is a wlodyka, who swore on his knightly honor, that he would appear."

"But he will not appear!" ironically exclaimed Kuno, raising his head.

At that moment a young voice resounded behind the Krzyzak:

"I did it; I, Zbyszko of Bogdaniec!"

After these words the knights rushed toward the unhappy Zbyszko; but they were stopped by a threatening nod from the king who began to shout in an angry voice, similar to the rattling of a carriage rolling over the stones:

"Cut his head off! Cut his head off! Let the Krzyzak send it to Malborg to the grand master!"

Then he cried to the young Lithuanian prince standing near.

"Hold him, Jamont!"

The frightened Jamont put his trembling hands on Zbyszko's shoulders.

But the white-bearded castellan of Krakow, Topor of Tenczyn, raised his hand as a sign that he wished to speak; when everybody was quiet, he said:

"Gracious king! Let this comthur be convinced that not only your impetuous anger, but our laws will punish with death any who insult an envoy. Otherwise he will think that there are no Christian laws in this country. To-morrow I will judge the offender."

The last words he said quietly and as though no one could change his decision. Then he said to Jamont:

"Shut him in the tower. As for you, Pan of Taczew, you will be a witness."

"I will tell about the offence of this lad," answered Powala, looking at Lichtenstein.

"He is right!" immediately said some knights. "He is only a lad! Why should the shame be put on us all!"

There was a moment of silence, and angry looks were cast at the Krzyzak. In the meanwhile Jamont conducted Zbyszko to the court-yard of the castle and intrusted him to the archers. In his young heart he pitied the prisoner, and this pity was increased by his natural hatred of the Germans. But he was a Lithuanian, accustomed to fulfill blindly the orders of the grand duke; being himself afraid of the king's wrath, he began to whisper to the young knight, with kindly persuasion:

"Do you know, what I would do if in your place? Hang myself! It will be the best! The korol[52] is angry; they will cut off your head. Why should you not make him joyful? Hang yourself, druh.[53] Such is the custom in my country."

Zbyszko, half dazed with shame and fear, at first did not seem to understand the words of the kniazik;[54] but finally he understood them and then he was amazed:

"What do you say?"

"Hang yourself! Why should they judge you. You will only afford pleasure for the king!" repeated Jamont.

"Hang your own self!" exclaimed the young wlodyka. "They have baptized you but your heathen skin remains on you. Do you not know that it is a sin for a Christian to kill himself?"

The kniaz shrugged his shoulders:

"It will not be according to your will. They will cut off your head just the same."

These words angered Zbyszko, and he wondered if it would be proper to challenge the bojarzynek[55] for a fight either on horseback or on foot, with swords or with axes; but he stifled this desire. He dropped his head sadly and surrounded by the archers, went silently to the tower.

In the meanwhile everybody's attention in the dining hall was turned to Danusia, who became pale with fright. She stood motionless like a wax figure in a church. But when she heard that they were going to execute Zbyszko, then she was seized with great fear; her mouth quivered and at once she began to cry so loudly and so pitifully, that all faces turned toward her and the king himself asked her:

"What is the matter with thee?"

"Gracious king!" said the Princess Anna, "she is the daughter of Jurand of Spychow and this unhappy knight made a vow to her. He promised her to tear three peacock tufts from the helmets of the Germans, and having noticed such a tuft on the helmet of this comthur, he thought that God himself had sent the Krzyzak. He did not attack him, lord, through malice, but through stupidity; therefore be merciful and do not punish him, we beseech you on our knees!"

Having said this she arose, seized Danusia by the hand, and rushed with her toward the king, who seeing this began to retire. But both kneeled before him and Danusia began to cry;

"Forgive Zbyszko, king, forgive Zbyszko!"

Because she was afraid, she hid her fair head between the folds of the king's dress, kissed his knees and trembled like a leaf. Anna Ziemowitowa kneeled on the other side and having clasped her hands, looked at the king on whose face there was visible great perplexity. He retired toward the chair, but did not push Danusia back, only waved his hands.

"Do not trouble me!" he cried. "The youth is guilty; he has brought disgrace on the country! They must execute him!"

But the little hands clung closer and closer to his knees and the child cried more and more pitifully:

"Forgive Zbyszko, king, forgive Zbyszko!"

Now the voices of some knights were heard to exclaim:

"Jurand of Spychow is a famous knight, and the cause of awe to the Germans."

"And that youth fought bravely at Wilno!" added Powala.

But the king excused himself further, although he pitied Danusia.

"He is not guilty toward me and it is not I who can forgive him. Let the envoy of the Order pardon him, then I will pardon him also; but if the envoy will not, then he must die."

"Forgive him, sir!" exclaimed both of the princesses.

"Forgive, forgive!" repeated the voices of the knights.

Kuno closed his eyes and sat with uplifted forehead, as if he was delighted to see both princesses and such famous knights entreating him. Then his appearance changed; he dropped his head, crossed his hands on his breast and from a proud man became a humble one, and said with a soft, mild voice:

"Christ, our Saviour, forgave his enemies and even the malefactor on the cross."

"He is a true knight!" said Bishop Wysz.

"He is, he is!"

"How can I refuse to forgive," continued Kuno, "being not only a Christian, but also a monk? Therefore I forgive him with all my heart, as Christ's servant and friar!"

"Honor to him!" shouted Powala of Taczew.

"Honor!" repeated the others.

"But," said the Krzyzak, "I am here among you as an envoy and I carry in me the majesty of the whole Order which is Christ's Order. Whosoever offends me, therefore, offends the Order; and whosoever offends the Order, offends Christ himself; and such an offence, I, in the presence of God and the people, cannot forgive; and if your law does not punish it, let all Christian lords know."

After these words, there was a profound silence. Then after a while there could be heard here and there the gnashing of teeth, the heavy breathing of suppressed wrath and Danusia's sobbings.

By evening all hearts were in sympathy with Zbyszko. The same knights who in the morning were ready to cut him into pieces, were now considering how they could help him. The princesses determined to see the queen, and beseech her to prevail upon Lichtenstein to withdraw his complaint; or if necessary to write to the grand master of the Order, and ask him to command Kuno to give up the case. This plan seemed to be the best because Jadwiga was regarded with such unusual respect that if the grand master refused her request, it would make the pope angry and also all Christian lords. It was not likely that he would refuse because Konrad von Jungingen was a peaceable man. Unfortunately Bishop Wysz of Krakow, who was also the queen's physician, forbade them to mention even a word about this affair to the queen. "She never likes to hear about death sentences," he said, "and she takes even the question of a simple robber's death too seriously; she will worry much more if she hear about this young man who hopes to obtain mercy from her. But such anxiety will make her seriously ill, and her health is worth more to the whole kingdom than ten knightly heads." He finally said that if anyone should dare, notwithstanding what he had said, to disturb the queen, on that one he would cause the king's anger to rest and then he threatened such an one with excommunication.

Both princesses were frightened at such menace and determined to be silent before the queen; but instead to beseech the king until he showed some mercy. The whole court and all the knights sympathized with Zbyszko. Powala of Taczew declared that he would tell the whole truth; but that he would also speak in favor of the young man, because the whole affair was only an instance of childish impetuousness. But notwithstanding all this, everybody could see, and the castellan, Jasko of Tenczyn made it known, that if the Krzyzak was unrelenting, then the severe law must be fulfilled.

Therefore the knights were still more indignant against Lichtenstein and they all thought and even said frankly: "He is an envoy and cannot be called to the lists; but when he returns to Malborg, God will not permit that he die a natural death." They were not talking in vain, because a knight who wore the girdle was not permitted to say even one word without meaning it, and the knight who vowed anything, was obliged to accomplish his vow or perish. Powala was the most implacably angry because he had a beloved daughter of Danusia's age in Taczew, and Danusia's tears made his heart tender.

Consequently, that same day, he went to see Zbyszko, in his underground cell, commanded him to have hope, and told him about the princesses' prayers and about Danusia's tears. Zbyszko having learned that the girl threw herself at the king's feet for his sake, was moved to tears, and wishing to express his gratitude, said, wiping his tears with his hand:

"Hej! may God bless her, and permit me as soon as possible to engage in a combat, either on horseback or on foot, for her sake! I did not promise Germans enough to her! To such a lady, I ought to vow as many as she has years. If the Lord Jesus will only release me from this tower, I will not be niggardly with her!" He raised his eyes, full of gratitude.

"First promise something to some church," advised the Pan of Taczew; "if your promise is pleasing, you will surely soon be free. Now listen; your uncle went to see Lichtenstein, and I will go see him also. It will be no shame for you to ask his pardon, because you are guilty; and then you do not ask for pardon of Lichtenstein, but an envoy. Are you ready?"

"As soon as such a knight as your grace tells me it is proper, I will do it. But if he require me to ask him for pardon in the same way he asked us to do it, on the road from Tyniec, then let them cut off my head. My uncle will remain and he will avenge me when the envoy's mission is ended."

"We shall hear first what he says to Macko," answered Powala.

And Macko really went to see the German; but he returned as gloomy as the night and went directly to the king, to whom he was presented by the castellan, himself. The king received Macko kindly because he had been appeased; when Macko kneeled, he immediately told him to arise, asking what he wished.

"Gracious lord," said Macko, "there was an offence, there must be a punishment; otherwise, there would be no law in the world. But I am also guilty because I did not try to restrain the natural impetuosity of that youth; I even praised him for it. It is my fault, gracious king, because I often told him: 'First cut, and then look to see whom you have hurt.' That was right in war, but wrong at the court! But he is a man, pure as gold, the last of our family!"

"He has brought shame upon me and upon my kingdom," said the king; "shall I be gracious to him for that?"

Macko was silent, because when he thought about Zbyszko, grief overpowered him; after a long silence, he began to talk in a broken voice:

"I did not know that I loved him so well; I only know it now when misfortune has come. I am old and he is last of the family. If he perish—we perish! Merciful king and lord, have pity on our family!"

Here Macko kneeled again and having stretched out his arms wasted by war, he spoke with tears:

"We defended Wilno; God gave us honest booty; to whom shall I leave it? If the Krzyzak requires punishment, let punishment come; but permit me to suffer it. What do I care for life without Zbyszko! He is young; let him redeem the land and beget children, as God ordered man to do. The Krzyzak will not ask whose head was cut off, if there is one cut. There will be no shame on the family. It is difficult for a man to die; but it is better that one man perish than that a family should be destroyed."

Speaking thus he clasped the king's legs; the king began to wink his eyes, which was a sign of emotion with him; finally he said:

"It can not be! I cannot condemn to death a belted knight! It cannot be! It cannot be!"

"And there would be no justice in it," added the castellan. "The law will crush the guilty one; but it is not a monster, which does not look to see whose blood is being shed. And you must consider what shame would fall on your family, if your nephew agreed to your proposal. It would be considered a disgrace, not only to him, but to his children also."

To this Macko replied:

"He would not agree. But if it were done without his knowledge, he would avenge me, even as I also will avenge him."

"Ha!" said Tenczynski, "persuade the Krzyzak to withdraw the complaint."

"I have asked him."

"And what?" asked the king, stretching his neck; "what did he say?"

"He answered me thus: 'You ought to have asked me for pardon on the road to Tyniec; you would not then; now I will not.'"

"And why didn't you do it?"

"Because he required us to dismount and apologize on foot."

The king having put his hair behind his ears, commenced to say something when a courtier entered to announce that the Knight of Lichtenstein was asking for an audience.

Having heard this, Jagiello looked at Jasko of Tenczyn, then at Macko. He ordered them to remain, perhaps with the hope that he would be able to take advantage of this opportunity and using his kingly authority, bring the affair to an end.

Meanwhile the Krzyzak entered, bowed to the king, and said:

"Gracious lord! Here is the written complaint about the insult which I suffered in your kingdom."

"Complain to him," answered the king, pointing to Jasko of Tenczyn.

The Krzyzak, looking directly into the king's face, said:

"I know neither your laws nor your courts; I only know, that an envoy of the Order can complain only to the king."

Jagiello's small eyes flashed with impatience; he stretched out his hand however, and accepted the complaint which he handed to Tenczynski.

The castellan unfolded it and began to read; but the further he read, the more sorrowful and sad his face became.

"Sir," said he, finally, "you are seeking the life of that lad, as though he were dangerous to the whole Order. Is it possible that the Knights of the Cross are afraid even of the children?"

"The Knights of the Cross are not afraid of anyone," answered the comthur, proudly.

And the old castellan added:

"And especially of God."

The next day Powala of Taczew testified to everything he could before the court of the castellan, that would lessen the enormity of Zbyszko's offence. But in vain did he attribute the deed to childishness and lack of experience; in vain he said that even some one older, if he had made the same vow, prayed for its fulfillment and then had suddenly perceived in front of him such a crest, would also have believed that it was God's providence. But one thing, the worthy knight could not deny; had it not been for him, Zbyszko's spear would have pierced the Krzyzak's chest. Kuno had brought to the court the armor which he wore that day; it appeared that it was so thin that Zbyszko with his great strength, would have pierced it and killed the envoy, if Powala of Taczew had not prevented him. Then they asked Zbyszko if he intended to kill the Krzyzak, and he could not deny it. "I warned him from afar," said he, "to point his lance, and had he shouted in reply that he was an envoy, I would not have attacked him."

These words pleased the knights who, on account of their sympathy for the lad, were present in great numbers, and immediately numerous voices were heard to say: "True! Why did he not reply!" But the castellan's face remained gloomy and severe. Having ordered those present to be silent, he meditated for a while, then looked sharply at Zbyszko, and asked:

"Can you swear by the Passion of our Lord that you saw neither the mantle nor the cross?"

"No!" answered Zbyszko. "Had I not seen the cross, I would have thought he was one of our knights, and I would not have attacked one of ours."

"And how was it possible to find any Krzyzak near Krakow, except an envoy, or some one from his retinue?"

To this Zbyszko did not reply, because there was nothing to be said. To everybody it was clear, that if the Pan of Taczanow had not interposed, at the present moment there would lie before them not the armor of the envoy, but the envoy himself, with pierced breast—an eternal disgrace to the Polish nation;—therefore even those who sympathized with Zbyszko, with their whole souls, understood that he could not expect a mild sentence.

In fact, after a while the castellan said:

"As you did not stop to think whom you were attacking, and you did it without anger, therefore our Saviour will forgive you; but you had better commit yourself to the care of the Most Holy Lady, because the law cannot condone your offence."

Having heard this, Zbyszko, although he expected such words, became somewhat pale; but he soon shook his long hair, made the sign of the cross, and said:

"God's will! I cannot help it!"

Then he turned to Macko and looked expressively at Lichtenstein, as if to recommend him to Macko's memory; his uncle nodded in return that he understood and would remember. Lichtenstein also understood the look and the nod, and although he was as courageous as implacable, a cold shiver ran through him—so dreadful and ill-omened was the face of the old warrior. The Krzyzak knew that between him and that knight it would be a question of life or death. That even if he wanted to avoid the combat, he could not do it; that when his mission was ended, they must meet, even at Malborg.[56]

Meanwhile the castellan went to the adjoining room to dictate the sentence to a secretary. Some of the knights during the interruption came near the Krzyzak, saying:

"May they give you a more merciful sentence in the great day of judgment!"

But Lichtenstein cared only for the opinion of Zawisza, because he was noted all over the world for his knightly deeds, his knowledge of the laws of chivalry and his great exactness in keeping them. In the most entangled affairs in which there was any question about knightly honor, they used to go to him even from distant lands. Nobody contradicted his decisions, not only because there was no chance of victory in a contest with him, but because they considered him "the mirror of honor." One word of blame or praise from his mouth was quickly known by the knighthood of Poland, Hungary, Bohemia (Czech) and Germany; and he could decide between the good and evil actions of a knight.

Therefore Lichtenstein approached him as if he would like to justify his deadly grudge, and said:

"The grand master himself, with the chapter, could show him clemency; but I cannot."

"Your grand master has nothing to do with our laws; our king can show clemency to our people, not he," answered Zawisza.

"I as the envoy was obliged to insist upon punishment."

"Lichtenstein, you were first a knight, afterward an envoy!"

"Do you think that I acted against honor?"

"You know our books of chivalry, and you know that they order us to imitate two animals, the lamb and the lion. Which of the two have you, imitated in this case?"

"You are not my judge!"

"You asked me if you had committed an offence, and I answered as I thought."

"You give me a hard answer, which I cannot swallow."

"You will be choked by your own malice, not by mine."

"But Christ will put to my account, the fact that I cared more about the dignity of the Order, than about your praise."

"He will judge all of us."

Further conversation was interrupted by the reappearance of the castellan and the secretary. They knew that the sentence would be a severe one, and everyone waited silently. The castellan sat at the table, and, having taken a crucifix in his hand, ordered Zbyszko to kneel.

The secretary began to read the sentence in Latin. It was a sentence of death. When the reading was over, Zbyszko struck himself several times on the chest, repeating; "God be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Then he arose and threw himself in Macko's arms, who began to kiss his head and eyes.

In the evening of the same day, a herald announced at the four corners of the market place with the sound of trumpets, to the knights, guests and burghers assembled, that the noble Zbyszko of Bogdaniec was sentenced by the castellan's court to be decapitated by the sword.

But Macko obtained a delay of the execution; this was readily granted, because in those days they used to allow prisoners plenty of time to dispose of their property, as well as to be reconciled to God. Lichtenstein himself did not wish to insist upon an early execution of the sentence, because he understood, that as long as he obtained satisfaction for the offended majesty of the Order, it would be bad policy to estrange the powerful monarch, to whom he was sent not only to take part in the solemnity of the christening, but also to attend to the negotiations about the province of Dobrzyn. But the chief reason for the delay was the queen's health. Bishop Wysz did not wish even to hear about the execution before her delivery, rightly thinking, that it would be difficult to conceal such an affair from the lady. She would feel such sorrow and distress that it would be very injurious to her health. For these reasons, they granted Zbyszko several weeks, and perhaps more, of life, to make his final arrangements and to bid his friends farewell.

Macko visited him every day and tried to console him. They spoke sorrowfully about Zbyszko's inevitable death, and still more sorrowfully about the fact that the family would become extinct.

"It cannot be otherwise, unless you marry," Zbyszko said once.

"I would prefer to find some distant relative," answered the sorrowful Macko. "How can I think about women, when they are going to behead you. And even if I am obliged to marry, I will not do it, until I send a knightly challenge to Lichtenstein, and seek to avenge your death. Do not fear!"

"God will reward you. I have at least that joy! But I know that you will not forgive him. How will you avenge me?"

"When his duty as an envoy has ended, there may be a war! If there be war, I will send him a challenge for single combat before the battle."

"On the leveled ground?"

"On the leveled ground, on horseback or on foot, but only for death, not for captivity. If there be peace, then I will go to Malborg and will strike the door of the castle gates with my spear, and will order the trumpeter to proclaim that I challenge Kuno to fight until death. He cannot avoid the contest!"

"Surely he will not refuse. And you will defeat him."

"Defeat? I could not defeat Zawisza, Paszko, nor Powala; but without boasting, I can take care of two like him. That scoundrel Krzyzak shall see! That Fryzjan knight, was he not stronger? And how I cut him through the helmet, until the axe stopped! Did I not?"

Zbyszko breathed with relief and said:

"I will perish with some consolation."

They both began to sigh, and the old nobleman spoke with emotion:

"You mustn't break down with sorrow. Your bones will not search for one another at the day of judgment. I have ordered an honest coffin of oak planks for you. Even the canons of the church of Panna Marya could not have any better. You will not perish like a peasant. I will not permit them to decapitate you on the same cloth on which they behead burghers. I have made an agreement with Amylej, that he furnish a new cloth, so handsome that it would be good enough to cover king's fur. I will not be miserly with prayers, either; don't be afraid!"

Zbyszko's heart rejoiced, and bending toward his uncle's hand, he repeated:

"God will reward you!"

Sometimes, however, notwithstanding all this consolation he was seized with a feeling of dreadful loneliness; therefore, another time when Macko came to see him, as soon as he had welcomed him, he asked him, looking through the grate in the wall:

"How is it outside?"

"Beautiful weather, like gold, and the sun warms so that all the world is pleased."

Hearing this, Zbyszko put both his hands on his neck, and raising his head, said:

"Hej, Mighty God! To have a horse and to ride on fields, on large ones! It is dreadful for a young man to perish! It is dreadful!"

"People perish on horseback!" answered Macko.

"Bah! But how many they kill before!"

And he began to ask about the knights whom he had seen at the king's court; about Zawisza, Farurej, Powala of Taczew, about Lis of Targowisko and about all the others; what they were doing; how they amused themselves; in what honest exercises they passed the time? And he listened with avidity to Macko who told him that in the morning, the knights dressed in their armor, jumped over horses, broke ropes, tried one another's skill with swords and with axes having sharp ends made of lead; finally, he told how they feasted and what songs they sang. Zbyszko longed with heart and soul to be with them, and when he learned that Zawisza, immediately after the christening, intended to go somewhere beyond Hungary, against the Turks, he could not refrain from exclaiming:

"If they would only let me go! It would be better to perish among the pagans!"

But this could not be done. In the meanwhile something else happened. Both princesses of Mazowsze had not ceased to think about Zbyszko, who had captivated them by his youth and beauty. Finally the Princess Alexandra Ziemowitowna decided to send a letter to the grand master. It was true that the grand master could not alter the sentence, pronounced by the castellan; but he could intercede with the king in favor of the youth. It was not right for Jagiello to show any clemency, because the offence was an attempt on the life of the envoy; but if the grand master besought the king, then the king would pardon the lad. Therefore hope entered the hearts of both princesses. Princess Alexandra being fond of the polished monk-knights, was a great favorite with them also. Very often they sent her from Marienburg, rich presents and letters in which the master called her venerable, pious benefactress and the particular protectress of the Order. Her words could do much; it was probable that her wishes would not be denied. The question now was to find a messenger, who would be zealous enough to carry the letter as soon as possible and return immediately with the answer. Having heard this, the old Macko determined without any hesitation to do it.

The castellan promised to delay the execution. Full of hope, Macko set himself to work the same day to prepare for the journey. Then he went to see Zbyszko, to tell him the good news.

At first Zbyszko was filled with as great joy, as if they had already opened the door of the tower for him. But afterward he became thoughtful and gloomy, and said:

"Who can expect anything from the Germans! Lichtenstein also could ask the king for clemency; and he could get some benefit from it because he would thus avoid your vengeance; but he will not do anything."

"He is angry because we would not apologize on the road to Tyniec. The people speak well about the master, Konrad. At any rate you will not lose anything by it."

"Sure," said Zbyszko, "but do not bow too low to him."

"I shall not. I am going with the letter from Princess Alexandra; that is all."

"Well, as you are so kind, may God help you!"

Suddenly he looked sharply at his uncle and said:

"But If the king pardon me, Lichtenstein shall be mine, not yours. Remember !"

"You are not yet sure about your neck, therefore don't make any promises. You have enough of those stupid vows !" said the angry old man.

Then they threw themselves into each other's arms. Zbyszko remained alone. Hope and uncertainty tossed his soul by turns; but when night came, and with it a storm, when the uncovered window was lighted by ill-omened lightnings and the walls shook with the thunder, when finally the whistling wind rushed into the tower, Zbyszko plunged, into darkness, again lost confidence; all night he could not close his eyes.

"I shall not escape death," he thought; "nothing can help me!"

But the next day, the worthy Princess Anna Januszowna came to see him, and brought Danusia who wore her little lute at her belt. Zbyszko fell at their feet; then, although he was in great distress, after a sleepless night, in woe and uncertainty, he did not forget his duty as a knight and expressed his surprise about Danusia's beauty.

But the princess looked at him sadly and said:

"You must not wonder at her; if Macko does not bring a favorable answer, or if he does not return at all, you will wonder at better things in heaven!"

Then she began to weep as she thought of the uncertain future of the little knight. Danusia wept also. Zbyszko kneeled again at their feet, because his heart became soft like heated wax in the presence of such grief. He did not love Danusia as a man loves a woman; but he felt that he loved her dearly. The sight of her had such an effect on him that he became like another man, less severe, less impetuous, less warlike. Finally great grief filled him because he must leave her before he could accomplish the vow which he had made to her.

"Poor child, I cannot put at your feet those peacock crests," said he. "But when I stand in the presence of God, I will say: 'Lord, forgive me my sins, and give Panna Jurandowna of Spychow all riches on earth.'"

"You met only a short time ago," said the princess. "God will not grant it!"

Zbyszko began to recollect the incident which occurred in Tyniec and his heart was melted. Finally he asked Danusia to sing for him the same song which she was singing when he seized her from the falling bench and carried her to the princess.

Therefore Danusia, although she did not feel like singing, raised her closed eyes toward the vault and began:

"If I only could get The wings like a birdie, I would fly quickly To my dearest Jasiek! I would then be seated On the high enclosure: Look my dear Jasiulku——"

But suddenly the tears began to flow down her face, and she was unable to sing any more. Zbyszko seized her in his arms, as he had done in the inn at Tyniec and began to walk with her around the room, repeating in ecstasy:

"If God release me from this prison, when you grow up, if your father give his consent, I will take you for my wife! Hej!"

Danusia embraced him and hid her face on his shoulder. His grief which became greater and greater, flowed from a rustic Slavonic nature, and changed in that simple soul almost to a rustic song:

"I will take you, girl! I will take you!"



CHAPTER VI.

An event now happened, compared with which all other affairs lost their importance. Toward evening of the twenty-first of June, the news of the queen's sudden illness spread throughout the castle. Bishop Wysz and the other doctors remained in her room the whole night. It was known that the queen was threatened with premature confinement. The castellan of Krakow, Jasko Topor of Tenczyn, sent a messenger to the absent king that same night. The next day the news spread throughout the entire city and its environs. It was Sunday, therefore the churches were crowded. All doubt ceased. After mass the guests and the knights, who had come to be present at the festivals, the nobles and the burghers, went to the castle; the guilds and the fraternities came out with their banners. From noontide numberless crowds of people surrounded Wawel, but order was kept by the king's archers. The city was almost deserted; crowds of peasants moved toward the castle to learn some news about the health of their beloved queen. Finally there appeared in the principal gate, the bishops and the castellan, and with them other canons, king's counselors and knights. They mingled with the people telling them the news, but forbidding any loud manifestation of joy, because it would be injurious to the sick queen. They announced to all, that the queen was delivered of a daughter. This news filled the hearts of all with joy, especially when they learned, that, although the confinement was premature, there was now no danger, neither for the mother nor for the child. The people began to disperse because it was forbidden to shout near the castle and everybody wished to manifest his joy. Therefore, the streets of the city were filled immediately, and exulting songs and exclamations resounded in every corner. They were not disappointed because a girl had been born. "Was it unfortunate that King Louis had no sons and that Jadwiga became our queen? By her marriage with Jagiello, the strength of the kingdom was doubled. The same will happen again. Where can one find a richer heiress than our queen. Neither the Roman emperor nor any king possesses such dominion, nor so numerous a knighthood! There will be great competition among the monarchs for her hand; the most powerful of them will bow to our king and queen; they will come to Krakow, and we merchants will profit by it; perhaps some new domains, Bohemian or Hungarian, will be added to our kingdom."

Thus spoke the merchants among themselves, and their joy increased every moment. They feasted in the private houses and in the inns. The market place was filled with lanterns and torches. Almost till daybreak, there was great life and animation throughout the city.

During the morning, they heard more news from the castle.

They heard that the ksiondz Bishop Peter, had baptized the child during the night. On account of this, they feared that the little girl was not very strong. But the experienced townswomen quoted some similar cases, in which the infants had grown stronger immediately after baptism. Therefore they comforted themselves with this hope; their confidence was greatly increased by the name given to the princess.

"Neither Bonifacius nor Bonifacia can die immediately after baptism; the child so named is destined to accomplish something great," they said. "During the first years, especially during the first weeks, the child cannot do anything good or bad."

The next day, however, there came bad news from the castle concerning the infant and the mother, and the city was excited. During the whole day, the churches were as crowded as they were during the time of absolution. Votive offerings were very numerous for the queen's and princess' health. One could see poor peasants offering some grain, lambs, chickens, ropes of dried mushrooms or baskets of nuts. There came rich offerings from the knights, from the merchants and from the artisans. They sent messengers to the places where miracles were performed. Astrologers consulted the stars. In Krakow itself, they ordered numerous processions. All guilds and fraternities took part in them. There was also a children's procession because the people thought that these innocent beings would be more apt to obtain God's favor. Through the gates new crowds were coming.

Thus day after day passed, with continual ringing of bells, with the noise of the crowds in the churches, with processions and with prayers. But when at the end of a week, the beloved queen and the child were still living, hope began to enter the hearts of the people. It seemed to them impossible, that God would take from the kingdom the queen who, having done so much for it, would thus be obliged to leave so much unfinished. The scholars told how much she had done for the schools; the clergy, how much for God's glory; the statesmen, how much for peace among Christian monarchs; the jurisconsults, how much for justice; the poor people, how much for poverty. None of them could believe that the life so necessary to the kingdom and to the whole world, would be ended prematurely.

In the meanwhile on July thirteenth, the tolling bells announced the death of the child. The people again swarmed through the streets of the city, and uneasiness seized them. The crowd surrounded Wawel again, inquiring about the queen's health. But now nobody came out with good news. On the contrary, the faces of the lords entering the castle, or returning to the city, were gloomy, and every day became sadder. They said that the ksiondz Stanislaw of Skarbimierz, the master of liberal sciences in Krakow, did not leave the queen, who every day received holy communion. They said also, that after every communion, her room was filled with celestial light. Some had seen it through the windows; but such a sight frightened the hearts devoted to the lady; they feared that it was a sign that celestial life had already begun for her.

But everybody did not believe that such a dreadful thing could happen; they reassured themselves with the hope that the justice of heaven would be satisfied with one victim. But on Friday morning, July seventeenth, the news spread among the people that the queen was in agony. Everybody rushed toward Wawel. The city was deserted; even mothers with their infants rushed toward the gates of the castle. The stores were closed; they did not cook any food. All business was suspended; but around Wawel, there was a sea of uneasy, frightened but silent people.

At last at the thirteenth hour from noontime, the bell on the tower of the cathedral resounded. They did not immediately understand what it meant; but the people became uneasy. All heads and all eyes turned toward the tower in which was hung the tolling bell; its mournful tones were soon repeated by other bells in the city: by those at Franciscans, at Trinity, and at Panna Marya. Finally the people understood; then their souls were filled with dread and with great grief. At last a large black flag embroidered with a death's head, appeared on the tower. Then all doubt vanished: the queen had rendered her soul to God.

Beneath the castle walls resounded the roar and the cries of a hundred thousand people and mingled with the gloomy voices of the bells. Some of the people threw themselves on the ground; others tore their clothing or lacerated their faces; while others looked at the walls with silent stupefaction. Some of them were moaning; some, stretching their hands toward the church and toward the queen's room, asked for a miracle and God's mercy. But there were also heard some angry voices, which on account of despair were verging toward blasphemy:

"Why have they taken our dear queen? For what then were our processions, our prayers and our entreaties? Our gold and silver offerings were accepted and we have nothing in return for them! They took but they gave us nothing in return!" Many others weeping, repeated: "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" The crowds wanted to enter the castle, to look once more on the face of their queen.

This they were not permitted to do; but were promised that the body would soon be placed in the church where everyone would be allowed to view it and to pray beside it. Consequently toward evening, the sorrowing people began to return to the city, talking about the queen's last moments, about the future funeral and the miracles, which would be performed near her body and around her tomb. Some also said that immediately after her burial, the queen would be canonized, and when others said that they doubted if it could be done, many began to be angry and to threaten to go to the pope in Avignon.

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