"If he prefers the other girl, then I do not care about him," answered Jagienka, through her tears.
"Then why do you, weep?"
"Because I am afraid for him."
"Woman's sense!" said the abbot, laughing.
Then having bent toward Jagienka's ear, he said:
"You must remember, dear girl, that even if he take you, he will be obliged to fight just the same; a nobleman must be a knight." Here he bent still closer and added:
"And he will take you, and before long, as God is in heaven!"
"I do not know about that!" answered Jagienka.
But she began to smile through her tears, and to look at the abbot as if she wished to ask him how he knew it.
Meanwhile, Zbyszko having returned to Krzesnia, went directly to the priest, because he really wished to have a mass read for Macko's health; after having settled about that, he went to the inn, where he expected to find young Wilk of Brzozowa, and Cztan of Rogow.
He found both of them there, and also many other people, noblemen, farmers and a few "madcap fellows" showing different German tricks. At first he could not recognize anybody, because the windows of the inn being made of ox bladders, did not let in a good light; but when the servant put some resinous wood on the fire, he noticed in the corner behind the beer buckets, Cztan's hairy cheeks, and Wilk's furious face.
Then he walked slowly toward them, pushing aside the people; when he reached them, he struck the table so heavily with his fist that the noise resounded throughout the whole inn.
They arose immediately and began to turn their girdles; but before they could grasp the hilts of their swords, Zbyszko threw down a glove, and speaking through his nose, as the knights used to speak while challenging, he said these words which were unexpected by everybody:
"If either of you, or any other knightly person here present, deny that the most beautiful and most virtuous girl in the world is Panna Danuta Jurandowna of Spychow, that one I will challenge to combat, on horseback or on foot, until the first kneeling, or until the last breath."
Wilk and Cztan were astonished as much as the abbot would have been, had he heard Zbyszko's words; and for a while they could not say a word. Who was this panna? They cared about Jagienka and not about her; and if this youth did not care for Jagienka, then what did he wish? Why had he made them angry in the church-yard? What did he return for, and why did he wish to quarrel with them? These questions produced such confusion in their minds, that they opened their mouths widely and stared at Zbyszko as if he were not a man, but some German wonder.
But the more intelligent Wilk, who was a little familiar with chivalrous customs and knew that often a knight served one lady, but married another, thought that this must be a similar case, and that he must seize the opportunity, to defend Jagienka.
Therefore he came out from behind the table, and coming close to Zbyszko, asked threateningly:
"Then, you dog-brother, you mean to say that Jagienka Zychowna is not the most beautiful girl in the world?"
Cztan followed him; and the people surrounded them, because they understood that it would not end in words.
When Jagienka reached home, she immediately sent a servant to Krzesnia to learn whether there had been a fight in the inn, or whether there had been a challenge. But the servant having received a skojec, began to drink with the priest's servants, and did not hasten. Another servant who had been sent to Bogdaniec to inform Macko that the abbot was going to pay him a visit, returned, having fulfilled the commission and reported that he had seen Zbyszko playing dice with the old man. This partly soothed Jagienka, because knowing by experience how dexterous Zbyszko was, she was not so much afraid about a regular duel, as she was about some unexpected accident in the inn. She wanted to accompany the abbot to Bogdaniec, but he was not willing. He wished to talk with Macko about the pledge and about some other important business; and then he wanted to go there toward night. Having learned that Zbyszko had returned home safe, he became very jovial and ordered his wandering seminarists to sing and shout. They obeyed him so well that the forest resounded with the noise, and in Bogdaniec, the farmers came out from their houses, and looked to see whether there was a fire or an invasion of the enemy. The pilgrim riding ahead, quieted them by telling them that a high ecclesiastical dignitary was coming; therefore when they saw the abbot, they bowed to him, and some of them even made the sign of the cross on their chests; he seeing how they respected him, rode along with joyful pride, pleased with the world and full of kindness toward the people.
Macko and Zbyszko having heard the singing, came to the gate to meet him. Some of the seminarists had been in Bogdaniec before with the abbot; but others of them having joined the retinue lately, had never seen it until now. They were disappointed when they saw the miserable house which could not be compared with the large mansion in Zgorzelice. But they were reassured when they saw the smoke coming out from the thatched roof of the house; and they were greatly pleased when upon entering the room, they smelt saffron and different kinds of meats, and noticed two tables full of tin dishes, empty as yet, but enormous. On the smaller table which was prepared for the abbot, shone a silver dish and also a beautifully engraved silver cup, both taken with the other treasures from the Fryzes.
Macko and Zbyszko invited them to the table immediately; but the abbot who had eaten plentifully in Zgorzelice, refused because he had something else on his mind. Since his arrival he had looked at Zbyszko attentively and uneasily, as if he desired to see on him some traces of the fight; but seeing the quiet face of the youth, he began to be impatient; finally he was unable to restrain his curiosity any longer.
"Let us go into the chamber," said he, "to speak about the pledge. Do not refuse me; that will make me angry!"
Here he turned to the seminarists and shouted:
"You keep quiet and do not listen at the door!"
Having said this, he opened the door to the chamber and entered, followed by Zbyszko and Macko. As soon as they were seated on the chests, the abbot turned toward the young knight:
"Did you go back to Krzesnia?" asked he.
"Yes, I was there."
"Well, I paid for a mass for my uncle's health, that's all."
The abbot moved on the chest impatiently.
"Ha!" thought he, "he did not meet Cztan and Wilk; perhaps they were not there, and perhaps he did not look for them. I was mistaken."
But he was angry because he was mistaken, and because his plans had not been realized; therefore immediately his face grew red and he began to breathe loudly.
"Let us speak about the pledge!" said he. "Have you the money? If not, then the estate is mine!"
Macko, who knew how to act with him, rose silently, opened the chest on which he was sitting, and took out of it a bag of grzywien, evidently prepared for this occasion, and said:
"We are poor people, but we have the money; we will pay what is right, as it is written in the 'letter' which I signed with the mark of the holy cross. If you want to be paid for the improvements, we will not quarrel about that either; we will pay the amount you say, and we will bow to you, our benefactor."
Having said this, he kneeled at the abbot's knee and Zbyszko did the same. The abbot, who expected some quarrels and arguing, was very much surprised at such a proceeding, and not very much pleased with it; he wanted to dictate some conditions and he saw that he would have no opportunity to do so.
Therefore returning the "letter" or rather the mortgage which Macko had signed with a cross, he said:
"Why are you talking to me about an additional payment?"
"Because we do not want to receive any presents," answered Macko cunningly, knowing well that the more he quarreled in that matter the more he would get.
At this the abbot reddened with anger:
"Did you ever see such people? They do not wish to accept anything from a relative! You have too much bread! I did not take waste land and I do not return it waste; and if I want to give you this bag, I will do it!"
"You would not do that!" exclaimed Macko.
"I will not do it! Here is your pledge! Here is your money! I give it because I want to, and had I even thrown it into the road, it would be none of your affairs. You shall see if I will not do as I wish!"
Having said this, he seized the bag and threw it on the floor so hard that it burst, and the money was scattered.
"May God reward you! May God reward you, father and benefactor!" exclaimed Macko, who had been waiting for this; "I would not accept it from anyone else, but from a relation and a spiritual father, I will accept it."
The abbot looked threateningly at both of them, and finally he said:
"Although I am angry, I know what I am doing; therefore hold what you have, because I assure you that you shall not have one skojeo more."
"We did not expect even this."
"You know that Jagienka will inherit everything I have."
"The land also?" asked Macko, simply.
"The land also!" shouted the abbot.
At this Macko's face grew long, but he recovered himself and said:
"Ej, why should you think about death! May the Lord Jesus grant you a hundred years or more of life, and an important bishopric soon."
"Certainly! Am I worse than others?" said the abbot.
"Not worse, but better!"
These words appeased the abbot, for his anger never lasted long.
"Well," said he, "you are my relations, and she is only my goddaughter; but I love her, and Zych also. There is no better man in the world than Zych and no better girl than Jagienka, also! Who can say anything against them?"
He began to look angry, but Macko did not contradict; he quickly affirmed that there was no worthier neighbor in the whole kingdom.
"And as for the girl," said he, "I could not love my own daughter any more than I love her. With her help, I recovered my health and I shall never forget it until my death."
"You will both be punished if you forget it," said the abbot, "and I will curse you. But I do not wish to wrong you, therefore I have found a way by which, what I will leave after my death, can belong to you and to Jagienka; do you understand?"
"May God help us to realize that!" answered Macko. "Sweet Jesus! I would go on foot to the grave of the queen in Krakow or to Lysa Gora to bow to the Holy Cross."
The abbot was very much pleased with such sincerity; he smiled and said:
"The girl is perfectly right to be particular in her choice, because she is pretty, rich and of good family! Of what account are Cztan or Wilk, when the son of a wojewoda would not be too good for her! But if somebody, as myself for instance, spoke in favor of any particular one, then she would marry him, because she loves me and knows that I will advise her well."
"The one whom you advise her to marry, will be very lucky," said Macko.
But the abbot turned to Zbyszko:
"What do you say to this?"
"Well, I think the same as my uncle does."
The face of the abbot became still more serene; he struck Zbyszko's shoulder with his hand so hard that the blow resounded in the chamber, and asked:
"Why did you not let Cztan or Wilk approach Jagienka at church?"
"Because I did not want them to think that I was afraid of them, and I did not want you to think so."
"But you gave the holy water to her."
"Yes, I did."
The abbot gave him another blow.
"Then, take her!"
"Take her!" exclaimed Macko, like an echo.
At this Zbyszko gathered up his hair, put it in the net, and answered quietly:
"How can I take her, when before the altar in Tyniec, I made a vow to Danusia Jurandowna?"
"You made a vow about the peacock's tufts, and you must get them, but take Jagienka immediately."
"No," answered Zbyszko; "afterward when Danusia covered me with her veil, I promised that I would marry her."
The blood began to rush to the abbot's face; his ears turned blue, and his eyes bulged; he approached Zbyszko and said, in a voice muffled with anger:
"Your vows are the chaff and I am the wind; understand! Ot!"
And he blew on Zbyszko's head so powerfully, that the net fell off and the hair was scattered on his shoulders. Then Zbyszko frowned, and looking into the abbot's eyes, he said:
"In my vows is my honor, and over my honor, I alone am the guardian!"
At this, the abbot not being accustomed to opposition, lost his breath to such a degree, that for a time he could not speak. There was an ill-omened silence, which finally was broken by Macko:
"Zbyszku!" exclaimed he, "come to your wits again! What is the matter with you?"
Meanwhile the abbot raised his hand and pointing toward the youth, began to shout:
"What is the matter with him? I know what is the matter; he has not the heart of a nobleman, nor of a knight, but of a hare! That is the matter with him; he is afraid of Cztan and Wilk!"
But Zbyszko, who had remained cool and calm, carelessly shrugged his shoulders and answered:
"Owa! I broke their heads when I was in Krzesnia."
"For heaven's sake!" exclaimed Macko.
The abbot stared for a while at Zbyszko. Anger was struggling with admiration in him, and his reason told him that from that fight, he might derive some benefit for his plans.
Therefore having become cooler, he shouted to Zbyszko:
"Why didn't you tell us that before?"
"Because I was ashamed. I thought they would challenge me, as it is customary for knights to do, to fight on horseback or on foot; but they are bandits, not knights. Wilk first took a board from the table, Cztan seized another and they both rushed against me! What could I do? I seized a bench; well—you know!"
"Are they still alive?" asked Macko.
"Yes, they are alive, but they were hurt. They breathed when I left."
The abbot, rubbing his forehead, listened; then he suddenly jumped from the chest, on which he had seated himself to be more comfortable and to think the matter over, and exclaimed:
"Wait! I want to tell you something!"
"What?" asked Zbyszko.
"If you fought for Jagienka and injured them for her sake, then you are really her knight, not Danusia's; and you must take Jagienka."
Having said this, he put his hands on his hips and looked at Zbyszko triumphantly; but Zbyszko smiled and said:
"Hej! I knew very well why you wanted me to fight with them; but you have not succeeded in your plans."
"Because I challenged them to deny that Danusia Jurandowna is the prettiest and the most virtuous girl in the world; they took Jagienka's part, and that is why there was a fight."
Having heard this, the abbot stood amazed, and only the frequent movement of his eyes indicated that he was still alive. Finally he turned, opened the door with his foot, and rushed into the other room; there he seized the curved stick from the pilgrim's hands and began to strike the shpilmen with it, roaring like a wounded urus.
"To horse, you rascals! To horse, you dog-faiths! I will not put my foot in this house again! To horse, he who believes in God, to horse!"
Then he opened the outer door and went into the court-yard, followed by the frightened seminarists. They rushed to the stable and began to saddle the horses. In vain Macko followed the abbot, and entreated him to remain; swore that it was not his fault. The abbot cursed the house, the people and the fields; when they brought him a horse, he jumped in the saddle without touching the stirrups and galloped away looking, with his large sleeves filled by the wind, like an enormous red bird. The seminarists rushed after him, like a herd following its leader.
Macko stood looking after them for some time; but when they disappeared in the forest, he returned slowly to the room and said to Zbyszko, shaking his head sadly:
"See what you have done?"
"It would not have happened if I had gone away; and it is your fault that I did not."
"Because I did not wish to leave you when you were sick."
"And what will you do now?"
"Now I shall go."
"To Mazowsze to see Danusia; and after that to search for peacock's tufts among the Germans."
Macko was silent for a moment, then he said:
"He returned the 'letter,' but the mortgage is recorded in the mortgage-book at the court. Now the abbot will not give us even a skojec."
"I do not care. You have money, and I do not need anything for my journey. I will be received everywhere and my horses will be fed; if I only had a suit of armor on my back and a sword in my hand, I would need nothing else."
Macko began to think about everything that had happened. All his plans and wishes had been frustrated. He had wished with his whole heart that Zbyszko would marry Jagienka; but he now realized that this wish would never be fulfilled; and considering the abbot's anger, the behavior of Zbyszko toward Jagienka and finally the fight with Cztan and Wilk, he concluded it would be better to allow Zbyszko to go.
"Ha!" said he, finally, "if you must seek for the peacock's feathers on the heads of the Knights of the Cross, go then. Let the Lord Jesus' will be accomplished. But I must go immediately to Zgorzelice; perhaps I will succeed in appeasing their wrath if I implore pardon of the abbot and of Zych; I care especially for the friendship of Zych."
Here he looked into Zbyszko's eyes and asked:
"Do you not regret Jagienka?"
"May God give her health and the best of everything!" answered Zbyszko.
END OF PART SECOND.
Macko waited patiently for several days, hoping to receive some news from Zgorzelice, or to hear that the abbot's anger had been appeased; finally he became impatient and determined to go personally to see Zych. Everything had happened contrary to his wishes, and now he was anxious to know whether Zych was angry with him. He was afraid that the abbot would never be reconciled with Zbyszko and him. He wanted, however, to do everything he could, to soften that anger; therefore while riding, he was thinking what he would say in Zgorzelice, to palliate the offence and preserve the old friendship with his neighbor. His thoughts, however, were not clear, therefore he was glad to find Jagienka alone; the girl received him as usual with a bow and kissed his hand,—in a word, she was friendly, but a little sad.
"Is your father home?" asked he.
"He went out hunting with the abbot. They may be back at any moment."
Having said this, she conducted him into the house, where they both sat in silence for a long time; the girl spoke first, and said:
"Are you lonely now in Bogdaniec?"
"Very lonely," answered Macko. "Then you knew that Zbyszko had gone away?"
Jagienka sighed softly:
"Yes, I knew it the very same day; I thought he would come here to bid me good-bye, but he did not."
"How could he come!" said Macko. "The abbot would have torn him to pieces; neither would your father have welcomed him."
She shook her head and said:
"Ej! I would not allow anybody to injure him."
Upon this Macko hugged the girl and said:
"God be with you, girl! You are sad, but I also am sad. Let me tell you that neither the abbot nor your own father loves you more than I do. I wish that Zbyszko had chosen you, and not another."
There came upon Jagienka such a moment of grief and longing, that she could not conceal her feelings, but said:
"I shall never see him again, or if I see him, it will be with Jurandowna, and then I will cry my eyes out."
She raised her apron and covered her eyes, which were filled with tears.
"Stop crying! He has gone, but with God's grace, he will not come back with Jurandowna."
"Why not?" said Jagienka, from behind her apron.
"Because Jurand does not want to give him the girl."
Then Jagienka suddenly uncovered her face, and having turned toward Macko, said to him:
"Zbyszko told me that; but is it true?"
"As true as that God is in heaven."
"Who knows why. Some vow, or something like that, and there is no remission for vows! He liked Zbyszko, because the boy promised to help him in his vengeance; but even that was useless. Jurand would listen neither to persuasion, nor to command, nor to prayers. He said he could not. Well, there must be some reason why he could not do it, and he will not change his mind, because he is stern and unyielding. Don't lose hope but cheer up. Rightly speaking, the boy was obliged to go, because he had sworn in the church to secure three peacocks' crests. Then, also, the girl covered him with her veil, which was a sign that she would take him for her husband; otherwise they would have beheaded him; for that, he must be grateful to her—one cannot deny it. With God's help, she will not be his; but according to the law, he is hers. Zych is angry with him; the abbot has sent a plague upon him, so that his skin shivers; I am angry also, but if one thinks carefully, what else could he do? Since he belonged to the other girl, he was obliged to go. He is a nobleman. But I tell you this; if the Germans do not kill him, then he will come back; and he will come back not only to me an old man, not only to Bogdaniec, but to you, because he was very fond of you."
"I don't believe he was!" said Jagienka.
But she drew near Macko, and having touched him with her elbow, she asked:
"How do you know it? I am sure that is not true."
"How do I know?" answered Macko. "I saw how difficult it was for him to go away. When it was decided that he must go, I asked him: 'Do you not regret Jagienka?' and he said: 'May God give her health and the best of everything.' Then immediately he began to sigh."
"I am sure that it is not true!" said Jagienka, softly; "but tell me again."
"As God is dear to me, it is true! After seeing you, he will not care for the other girl, because you know yourself that there is no girl more beautiful than you in the whole world. He has felt God's will toward you—do not fear—perhaps even more than you have felt it toward him."
"Not at all!" exclaimed Jagienka. Then she again covered her face, which was as rosy as an apple, with her sleeve; Macko smiled, passed his hand over his moustache and said:
"Hej! if I were only younger; but you must comfort yourself, because I see how it will be. He will get his spurs at the Mazowiecki court, because that is near the boundary and it is not difficult to kill a Krzyzak there. I know that there are good knights among the Germans; but I think that it will take a very good one to defeat Zbyszko. See how he routed Cztan of Rogow and Wilk of Brzozowa, although they are said to be dreadful boys and as strong as bears. He will bring his crests, but he will not bring Jurandowna."
"But when will he return?"
"Bah I if you are not willing to wait, then you will not be wronged. Repeat what I have told you to the abbot and to Zych; perhaps they will not be so angry with Zbyszko."
"How can I tell them anything? Tatus is more sorrowful than angry; but it is dangerous even to mention Zbyszko's name to the abbot. He scolded me because I sent Zbyszko a servant."
"We had a Czech, whom tatus captured at Boleslawiec, a good, faithful boy. His name was Hlawa. Tatus gave him to my service, because he was a wlodyka; I gave him a worthy armor and sent him to Zbyszko, to serve and protect him. I also gave him a bag of money for the journey. He promised me that he would serve Zbyszko faithfully until death."
"My dear girl! may God reward you! Was Zych opposed to your doing it?"
"Yes, at first tatus did not want to let me do it; but when I began to coax him, then he consented. When the abbot heard about it from his seminarists, he immediately rushed out of the room swearing; there was such a disturbance, that tatus escaped to the barn. Toward evening, the abbot took pity on my tears and even made me a present of some beads."
"As God is dear to me, I do not know whether I love Zbyszko any better than I love you; but he had a worthy retinue. I also gave him money, although he did not want to take it. Well, the Mazurs are not beyond the seas."
The conversation was interrupted by the barking of dogs, by shouting and by the sounds of brass trumpets in front of the house. Having heard this, Jagienka said:
"Tatus and the abbot have returned from hunting. Let us go outside; it will be better for the abbot to see you there, and not to meet you unexpectedly in the house."
Having said this, she conducted Macko out-of-doors; in the courtyard, on the snow they perceived a throng of men, horses and dogs, also elks and wolves pierced with spears or shot with crossbows. The abbot saw Macko before he dismounted, and hurled a spear toward him, not to strike him, but to show in that way, his great anger against the inhabitants of Bogdaniec. But Macko uncovered and bowed to him as if he noticed nothing unusual; Jagienka, however, had not noticed the abbot's action, because she was very much surprised to see her two wooers in the retinue.
"Cztan and Wilk are here!" she exclaimed; "I presume they met tatus in the forest."
Immediately the thought ran through Macko's mind, that perhaps one of them would get Jagienka, and with her Moczydoly, the abbot's lands, forests and money. Then grief and anger filled his heart, especially when he perceived what occurred. Behold, Wilk of Brzozowa, although only a short time before the abbot wanted to fight with his father, sprang to the abbot's stirrups, and helped him to dismount; and the abbot leaned in a friendly manner on the young nobleman's shoulder.
"In that way, the abbot will become reconciled with old Wilk," thought Macko, "and he will give the forests and the lands with the girl."
His sad thoughts were interrupted by Jagienka who said:
"They are soon cured after Zbyszko's beating; but even if they come here every day, it will not benefit them!"
Macko looked and saw that the girl's face was red with anger, and that her blue eyes sparkled with indignation, although she knew very well that Cztan and Wilk had taken her part in the inn, and had been beaten on her account.
Therefore Macko said:
"Bah! you will do as the abbot commands."
She immediately retorted:
"The abbot will do what I wish."
"Gracious Lord!" thought Macko, "and that stupid Zbyszko left such a girl!"
Zbyszko had left Bogdaniec with a sad heart indeed. In the first place he felt strange without his uncle, from whom he had never been separated before, and to whom he was so accustomed, that he did not know how he would get along without him during the journey, as well as in the war. Then he regretted Jagienka. Although he was going to Danusia whom he loved dearly, still he had been so comfortable and happy with Jagienka, that now he felt sad without her. He was surprised himself at his grief, and even somewhat alarmed about it. He would not have minded if he longed for Jagienka only as a brother longs for a sister; but he noticed that he longed to embrace her, to put her on horseback, to carry her over the brooks, to wring the water from her tress, to wander with her in the forest, to gaze at her, and to converse with her. He was so accustomed to doing all this and it was so pleasant, that when he began to think about it, he forgot that he was going on a long journey to Mazury; instead of that, he remembered the moment when Jagienka helped him in the forest, when he was struggling with the bear. It seemed to him as though it happened only yesterday; also as though it were only yesterday when they went to the Odstajny lake for beavers. Then he recalled how beautifully she was dressed when going to church in Krzesnia, and how surprised he was that such a simple girl should appear like the daughter of a mighty lord. All these thoughts filled his heart with uneasiness, sweetness, and sadness.
"Had I only bid her good-bye," he said to himself, "perhaps I would feel easier now."
Finally he became afraid of these reminiscences, and he shook them from his mind like dry snow from his mantle.
"I am going to Danusia, to my dearest," he said to himself.
He noticed that this was a more holy love. Gradually his feet grew colder in the stirrups, and the cold wind cooled his blood. All his thoughts now turned to Danusia Jurandowna. He belonged to her without any doubt; but for her, he would have been beheaded on the Krakowski square. When she said in the presence of the knights and burghers: "He is mine!" she rescued him from the hands of the executioners; from that time, he belonged to her, as a slave to his master. Jurand's opposition was useless. She alone could drive him away; and even then he would not go far, because he was bound by his vow. He imagined, however, that she would not drive him away; but rather that she would follow him from the Mazowiecki court, even to the end of the world. Then he began to praise her to himself to Jagienka's disadvantage, as if it were her fault, that temptations assailed him and his heart was divided. Now he forgot that Jagienka cured old Macko; he forgot that without her help, the bear would have torn him to pieces; and he became enraged with her, hoping in this way to please Danusia and to justify himself in his own eyes.
At this moment the Czech, Hlawa, sent by Jagienka, arrived, leading a horse.
"Be blessed!" said he, with a low bow.
Zbyszko had seen him once or twice in Zgorzelice, but he did not recognize him; therefore he said:
"Be blessed for ages and ages! Who are you?"
"Your servant, famous lord."
"What do you mean? These are my servants," said Zbyszko, pointing to the two Turks, given to him by Sulimczyk Zawisza, and to two sturdy men who sitting on horseback, were leading the knight's stallions; "these are mine; who sent you?"
"Panna Jagienka Zychowna of Zgorzelice."
A while ago, Zbyszko had been angry with her and his heart was still full of wrath; therefore he said:
"Return home and thank the panna for the favor; I do not want you."
But the Czech shook his head.
"I cannot return. They have given me to you; besides that, I have sworn to serve you until death."
"If they gave you to me, then you are my servant."
"Then I command you to return."
"I have sworn; although I am a prisoner from Boleslawiec and a poor boy, still I am a wlodyczka."
Zbyszko became angry:
"Go away! What; are you going to serve me against my will? Go away, before I order my servants to bend their crossbows."
But the Czech quietly untied a broadcloth mantle, lined with wolf-skins, handed it to Zbyszko and said:
"Panna Jagienka sent you this, also, sir."
"Do you wish me to break your bones?" asked Zbyszko, taking a spear from an attendant.
"Here is also a bag of money for your disposal," answered the Czech.
Zbyszko was ready to strike him with the lance, but he recollected that the boy, although a prisoner, was by birth a wlodyka, who had remained with Zych only because he did not have money to pay his ransom; consequently Zbyszko dropped the spear.
Then the Czech bent to his stirrups and said:
"Be not angry, sir. If you do not wish me to accompany you, I will follow you at a distance of one or two furlongs; but I must go, because I have sworn to do so upon the salvation of my soul."
"If I order my servants to kill you or to bind you?"
"If you order them to kill me, that will not be my sin; and if you order them to bind me, then I will remain until some good people untie me, or until the wolves devour me."
Zbyszko did not reply; he urged his horse forward and his attendants followed him. The Czech with a crossbow and an axe on his shoulder, followed them, shielding himself with a shaggy bison skin, because a sharp wind carrying flakes of snow, began to blow. The storm grew worse and worse. The Turks, although dressed in sheepskin coats, were chilled with cold; Zbyszko himself, not being dressed very warmly, glanced several times at the mantle lined with wolf-fur, which Hlawa had brought him; after a while, he told one of the Turks to give it to him.
Having wrapped himself with it carefully, he felt a warmth spreading all over his body. He covered his eyes and the greater part of his face with the hood of the mantle, so that the wind did not annoy him any more. Then, involuntarily, he thought how good Jagienka had been to him. He reined in his horse, called the Czech, and asked him about her, and about everything that had happened in Zgorzelice.
"Does Zych know that the panna sent you to me?" he said.
"He knows it," answered Hlawa.
"Was he not opposed to it?"
"Tell me then all about it."
"The pan was walking in the room and the panna followed him. He shouted, but the panienka said nothing; but when he turned toward her, she kneeled but did not utter one word. Finally the panisko said: 'Have you become deaf, that you do not answer my questions? Speak then; perhaps I will consent.' Then the panna understood that she could do as she wished and began to thank him. The pan reproached her, because she had persuaded him, and complained that he must always do as she wished; finally he said: 'Promise me that you will not go secretly to bid him good-bye; then I will consent, but not otherwise.' Then the panienka became very sorrowful, but she promised; the pan was satisfied, because the abbot and he were both afraid that she would see you. Well, that was not the end of it; afterward the panna wanted to send two horses, but the pan would not consent; the panna wanted to send a wolf-skin and a bag of money, but the pan refused. His refusal did not amount to anything, however! If she wanted to set the house on fire, the panisko would finally consent. Therefore I brought two horses, a wolf-skin and a bag of money."
"Good girl!" thought Zbyszko. After a while he asked:
"Was there no trouble with the abbot?" The Czech, an intelligent attendant, who understood what happened around him, smiled and answered:
"They were both careful to keep everything secret from the abbot; I do not know what happened when he learned about it, after I left Zgorzelice. Sometimes he shouts at the panienka; but afterward he watches her to see if he did not wrong her. I saw him myself one time after he had scolded her, go to his chest and bring out such a beautiful chain that one could not get a better one even in Krakow, and give it to her. She will manage the abbot also, because her own father does not love her any more than he does."
"That is certainly true."
"As God is in heaven!"
Then they became silent and rode along amidst wind and snow. Suddenly Zbyszko reined in his horse; from the forest beside the road, there was heard a plaintive voice, half stifled by the roar of the wind:
"Christians, help God's servant in his misfortune!"
Thereupon a man who was dressed partly in clerical clothing, rushed to the road and began to cry to Zbyszko:
"Whoever you are, sir, help a fellow-creature who has met with a dreadful accident!"
"What has happened to you, and who are you?" asked the young knight.
"I am God's servant, although not yet ordained; this morning the horse which was carrying my chests containing holy things, ran away. I remained alone, without weapons; evening is approaching, and soon the wild beasts will begin to roar in the forest. I shall perish, unless you succor me."
"If I let you perish," answered Zbyszko, "I will be accountable for your sins; but how can I believe that you are speaking the truth. You may be a highway robber, like many others wandering on the roads!"
"You may believe me, sir, for I will show you the chests. Many a man would give a purse full of gold for what is in them; but I will give you some of it for nothing, if you take me and the chests with you."
"You told me that you were God's servant, and yet you do not know that one must give help, not for earthly recompense, but for spiritual reward. But how is it that you have the chests now if the horse carried them away?"
"The wolves devoured the horse in the forest, but the chests remained; I brought them to the road, and then waited for mercy and help."
Wishing to prove that he was speaking the truth, he pointed to two chests made of leather, lying under a pine tree. Zbyszko still looked at him suspiciously, because the man did not look honest, and his speech indicated that he came from a distant part of the country. He did not refuse to help him, however, but permitted him to ride the horse led by the Czech and take the chests, which proved to be very light.
"May God multiply your victories, valiant knight!" said the stranger.
Then, seeing Zbyszko's youthful face, be added softly:
"And the hairs of your beard, also."
He rode beside the Czech. For a time they could not talk, because a strong wind was blowing, and roaring in the forest; but when it decreased, Zbyszko heard the following conversation behind him.
"I don't deny that you were in Rome; but you look like a beer drunkard," said the Czech.
"Look out for eternal damnation," answered the stranger; "you are talking to a man who last Easter ate hard boiled eggs with the holy father. Don't speak to me in such cold weather about beer; but if you have a flask of wine with you, then give me two or three swallows of it, and I will pardon you a month of purgatory."
"You have not been ordained; I heard you say you had not. How then can you grant me pardon for a month of purgatory?"
"I have not received ordination, but I have my head shaved, because I received permission for that; beside, I am carrying indulgences and relics."
"In the chests?" asked the Czech.
"Yes, in the chests. If you saw all I have there, you would fall on your face, not only you, but all the pines in the forest and all the wild beasts."
But the Czech, being an intelligent and experienced attendant, looked suspiciously at this peddler of indulgences, and said:
"The wolves devoured your horse?"
"Yes, they devoured him, because they are the devil's relatives. If you have any wine, give me some; although the wind has ceased, yet I am frozen, having sat by the road so long."
The Czech would not give him any wine; and they rode along silently, until the stranger began to ask:
"Where are you going?"
"Far. At first to Sieradz. Are you going with us?"
"I must. I will sleep in the stable, and perhaps to-morrow this pious knight will give me a present of a horse; then I will go further."
"Where are you from?"
"From under Prussian lords, not far from Marienburg."
Having heard this, Zbyszko turned and motioned to the stranger to come nearer to him.
"Did you come from Marienburg?" said he
"But are you a German? You speak our language very well. What is your name?"
"I am a German, and they call me Sanderus; I speak your language well, because I was born in Torun, where everybody speaks that language; then I lived in Marienburg, and there it is the same. Bah! even the brothers of the Order understand your language."
"How long since you left Marienburg?"
"I was in the Holy Land, then in Constantinople, and in Rome; thence through France I came to Marienburg and from there I was going to Mazowsze, carrying the holy relics which pious Christians buy willingly, for the salvation of their souls."
"Have you been in Plock or in Warszawa?"
"I was in both cities. May God give good health to both of the princesses! Princess Alexandra is greatly esteemed even by the Prussian lords, because she is a pious lady; the princess Anna Januszowna is also pious."
"Did you see the court in Warszawa?"
"I did not see it in Warszawa but in Ciechanow, where both the princesses received me hospitably, and gave me munificent presents, as God's servant deserves to receive. I left them relics, which will bring them God's blessing."
Zbyszko wanted to ask about Danusia; but he understood that it would be unwise to make a confidant of this stranger, a man of low origin. Therefore, after a short silence, he asked:
"What kind of relics are you carrying?"
"I carry indulgences and relics; the indulgences are different kinds; there are total indulgences, some for five hundred years, some for three hundred, some for two hundred and some for less time, which are cheaper, so that even poor people can buy them and shorten the torments of purgatory. I have indulgences for future and for past sins; but don't think, sir, that I keep the money I receive for them. I am satisfied with a piece of black bread and a glass of water—that is all for me; the rest I carry to Rome, to accumulate enough for a new crusade. It is true, there are many swindlers who carry false indulgences, false relics, false seals and false testimonials; and they are righteously pursued by the holy father's letters; but I was wronged by the prior of Sieradz, because my seals are authentic. Look, sir, at the wax and tell me what you think of them."
"What about the prior of Sieradz?"
"Ah, sir! I fear that he is infected with Wiklef's heresy. If, as your shield-bearer told me, you are going to Sieradz, it will be better for me not to show myself to him, because I do not want to lead him into the sin of blasphemy against holy things."
"This means, speaking frankly, that he thinks that you are a swindler."
"If the question were about myself, I would pardon him for the sake of brotherly love; but he has blasphemed against my holy wares, for which, I am very much afraid, he will be eternally damned."
"What kind of holy wares have you?"
"It is not right to talk about them with covered head; but this time, having many indulgences ready, I give you, sir, permission to keep your cowl on, because the wind is blowing again. For that you will buy an indulgence and the sin will not be counted against you. What have I not? I have a hoof of the ass on which the Holy Family rode during the flight into Egypt; it was found near the pyramids. The king of Aragon offered me fifty ducats for it. I have a feather from the wings of the archangel Gabriel, which he dropped during the annunciation; I have the heads of two quails, sent to the Israelites in the desert; I have the oil in which the heathen wanted to fry St. John; a step of the ladder about which Jacob dreamed; the tears of St. Mary of Egypt and some rust of St. Peter's keys. But I cannot mention any more. I am very cold and your shield-bearer would not give me any wine."
"Those are great relics, if they are authentic!" said Zbyszko.
"If they are authentic? Take the spear from your attendant and aim it, because the devil is near and brings such thoughts to you. Hold him, sir, at the length of the spear. If you do not wish to bring some misfortune on yourself, then buy an indulgence from me; otherwise within three weeks somebody whom you love, will die."
Zbyszko was frightened at this threat, because he thought about Danusia, and said:
"It is not I, but the prior of the Dominicans in Sieradz who does not believe."
"Look, sir, for yourself, at the wax on the seals; as for the prior, I do not know whether he is still living, because God's justice is quick."
But when they came to Sieradz they found the prior alive. Zbyszko went to see him, and purchased two masses; one of which was to be read to insure success for Macko's vow, and the other to insure success for his vow to obtain three peacocks' crests. The prior was a foreigner, having been born in Cylia; but during his forty years' residence in Sieradz, he had learned the Polish language very well, and was a great enemy of the Knights of the Cross. Therefore, having learned about Zbyszko's enterprise, he said:
"A still greater punishment will fall upon them; but I shall not dissuade you, because you promised it upon your knightly honor; neither can there be punishment enough administered by Polish hands for the wrongs they hare perpetrated in this land."
"What have they done?" asked Zbyszko, who was anxious to hear about the iniquities of the Knights of the Cross.
The old prior crossed his hands and began to recite aloud "The eternal rest;" then he sat down on a bench and kept his eyes closed for a while as if to collect his thoughts; finally he began to talk:
"Wincenty of Szamotul brought them here. I was twenty years old then, and I had just come from Cylia with my uncle Petzoldt. The Krzyzaks attacked the town and set it on fire. We could see from the walls, how in the market square they cut men and women's heads off, and how they threw little children into the fire. They even killed the priests, because in their fury they spared nobody. The prior Mikolaj, having been born in Elblong, was acquainted with Comthur Herman, the chief of their army. Therefore he went accompanied by the senior brothers, to that dreadful knight, and having kneeled before him, entreated him in German, to have pity on Christian blood. Comthur Herman replied: "I do not understand," and ordered his soldiers to continue killing the people. They slaughtered the monks also, among them my uncle Petzoldt; the prior Mikolaj was tied to a horse's tail. The next morning there was no man alive in this town except the Krzyzaks and myself. I hid on a beam in the belfry. God punished them at Plowce; but they still want to destroy this Christian kingdom, and nothing will deter them unless God's arm crush them."
"At Plowce," said Zbyszko, "almost all the men of my family perished; but I do not regret it, for God granted a great victory to the king Lokietek, and twenty thousand Germans were destroyed.
"You will see a still greater war and a greater victory," said the prior.
"Amen!" answered Zbyszko.
Then they began to talk about other matters. The young knight asked about the peddler of relics whom he met on the road. He learned that many similar swindlers were wandering on the roads, cheating credulous people. The prior also told him that there were papal bulls ordering the bishops to examine such peddlers and immediately punish those who did not have authentic letters and seals. The testimonials of the stranger seemed spurious to the prior; therefore he wanted to deliver him to the bishop's jurisdiction. If he proved that he was sent by the pope, then no harm would be done him. He escaped, however. Perhaps he was afraid of the delay in his journey; but on account of this flight, he had drawn on himself still greater suspicion.
The prior invited Zbyszko to remain and pass the night in the monastery; but he would not, because he wanted to hang in front of the inn an inscription challenging all knights who denied that Panna Danuta Jurandowna was the most beautiful and the most virtuous girl in the kingdom, to a combat on horseback or on foot. It was not proper to hang such a challenge over the gate of the monastery. When he arrived at the inn, he asked for Sanderus.
"The prior thinks you are a scoundrel," said Zbyszko, "because he said: 'Why should he be afraid of the bishop's judgment, if he had good testimonials?'"
"I am not afraid of the bishop," answered Sanderus; "I am afraid of the monks, who do not know anything about seals. I wanted to go to Krakow, but I have no horse; therefore I must wait until somebody makes me a present of one. Meanwhile, I will send a letter, and I will put my own seal on it."
"If you show that you know how to write, that will prove that you are not a churl; but how will you send the letter?"
"By some pilgrim, or wandering monk. There are many people going on a pilgrimage to the queen's tomb."
"Can you write a card for me?"
"I will write, sir, even on a board, anything you wish."
"I think it will be better on a board," said Zbyszko, "because it will not tear and I can use it again later on."
In fact, after awhile the attendants brought a new board and Sanderus wrote on it. Zbyszko could not read what was written on the board; but he ordered it fastened with nails on the door of the inn, under it to be hung a shield, which was watched by the Turks alternately. Whoever struck the shield would declare that he wished to fight. But neither that day nor the following day, did the shield resound from a blow; and in the afternoon the sorrowful knight was ready to pursue his journey.
Before that, however, Sanderus came to Zbyszko and said to him:
"Sir, if you hang your shield in the land of the Prussian lords, I am sure your shield-bearer will buckle your armor."
"What do you mean! Don't you know that a Krzyzak, being a monk, cannot have a lady nor be in love with one, because it is forbidden him."
"I do not know whether it is forbidden them or not; but I know that they have them. It is true that a Krzyzak cannot fight a duel without bringing reproach on himself, because he swore that he would fight only for the faith; but besides the monks, there are many secular knights from distant countries, who came to help the Prussian lords. They are looking for some one to fight with, and especially the French knights."
"Owa! I saw them at Wilno, and with God's permission I shall see them in Marienburg. I need the peacocks' crests from their helmets, because I made a vow—do you understand?"
"Sir, I will sell you two or three drops of the perspiration, which St. George shed while fighting with the dragon. There is no relic, which could be more useful to a knight. Give me the horse for it, on which you permitted me to ride; then I will also give you an indulgence for the Christian blood which you will shed in the fight."
"Let me be, or I shall become angry. I shall not buy your wares until I know they are genuine."
"You are going, sir, so you have said, to the Mazowiecki court. Ask there how many relics they bought from me, the princess herself, the knights and the girls for their weddings, at which I was present."
"For what weddings?" asked Zbyszko.
"As is customary before advent, the knights were marrying as soon as they could, because the people are expecting that there will be a war between the Polish king and the Prussian lords about the province of Dobrzyn. Therefore some of them say: 'God knows whether I shall return.'"
Zbyszko was very anxious to hear about the war, but still more anxious to hear about the weddings, of which Sanderus was talking; therefore he asked:
"Which girls were married there?"
"The princess' ladies-in-waiting. I do not know whether even one remained, because I heard the princess say that she would be obliged to look for other attendants."
Having heard this, Zbyszko was silent for awhile; then he asked in an altered voice:
"Was Panna Danuta Jurandowna, whose name is on the board, married also?"
Sanderus hesitated before he answered. He did not know anything correctly himself; then he thought that if he kept the knight anxious and perplexed, he would have more influence over him. He wanted to retain his power over this knight who had a goodly retinue, and was well provided with everything.
Zbyszko's youth led him to suppose that he would be a generous lord, without forethought and careless of money. He had noticed already the costly armor made in Milan, and the enormous stallions, which everybody could not possess; then he assured himself that if he traveled with such a knight, he would receive hospitality in noblemen's houses, and a good opportunity to sell his indulgences; he would be safe during the journey, and have abundance of food and drink, about which he cared greatly.
Therefore having heard Zbyszko's question, he frowned, lifted his eyes as if he were trying to recollect, and answered:
"Panna Danuta Jurandowna? Where is she from?"
"Jurandowna Danuta of Spychow."
"I saw all of them, but I cannot remember their names."
"She is very young; she plays the lute, and amuses the princess with her singing."
"Aha—young—plays the lute—there were some young ones married also. Is she dark like an agate?"
Zbyszko breathed more freely.
"No, that was not she! Danusia is as white as snow, but has pink cheeks."
To this Sanderus replied:
"One of them, dark as an agate, remained with the princess; the others were almost all married."
"You say 'almost all,' therefore not all. For God's sake, if you wish to get anything from me, then try to recollect."
"In two or three days I could recollect; the best way will be to give me a horse, on which I can carry my holy wares."
"You will get it if you only tell me the truth."
At that moment the Czech, who was listening to the conversation, smiled and said:
"The truth will be known at the Mazowiecki court."
Sanderus looked at him for a while; then he said:
"Do you think that I am afraid of the Mazowiecki court?"
"I do not say you are afraid of the Mazowiecki court; but neither now, nor after three days will you go away with the horse. If it prove that you were lying, then you will not be able to go on your feet either, because my lord will order me to break them."
"Be sure of that!" answered Zbyszko.
Sanderus now thought that it would be wiser to be more careful, and said:
"If I wanted to lie, I would have said immediately whether she was married or not; but I said: 'I don't remember.' If you had common sense, you would recognize my virtue by that answer."
"My common sense is not a brother of your virtue, because that is the sister of a dog."
"My virtue does not bark, as your common sense does; and the one who barks when alive, may howl after death."
"That is sure! Your virtue will not howl after your death; it will gnash its teeth, provided it does not lose its teeth in the service of the devil while living." Thus they quarreled; the Czech's tongue was ready, and for every word of the German, he answered two. Zbyszko having asked about the road to Lenczyca, ordered the retinue to move forward. Beyond Sieradz, they entered thick forests which covered the greater part of the country; but the highways through these forests, had been paved with logs and ditches dug along the sides, by the order of King Kazimierz. It is true that after his death, during the disturbances of the war aroused by Nalenczs and Grzymalits, the roads were neglected; but during Jadwiga's reign, when peace was restored to the kingdom, shovels were again busy in the marshes, and axes in the forests; soon everywhere between the important cities, merchants could conduct their loaded wagons in safety. The only danger was from wild beasts and robbers; but against the beasts, they had lanterns for night, and crossbows for defence during the day; then there were fewer highway robbers than in other countries, and one who traveled with an armed retinue, need fear nothing.
Zbyszko was not afraid of robbers nor of armed knights; he did not even think about them. But he was filled with great anxiety, and longed with his whole soul to be at the Mazowiecki court. Would he find Danusia still a lady-in-waiting of the princess, or the wife of some Mazowiecki knight? Sometimes it seemed to him impossible that she should forget him; then sometimes he thought that perhaps Jurand went to the court from Spychow and married the girl to some neighbor or friend. Jurand had told him in Krakow, that he could not give Danusia to him; therefore it was evident that he had promised her to somebody else; evidently he was bound by an oath, and now he had fulfilled his promise. Zbyszko called Sanderus and questioned him again; but the German prevaricated more and more.
Therefore, Zbyszko was riding along, sad and unhappy. He did not think about Bogdaniec, nor about Zgorzelice, but only how he should act. First, it was necessary to ascertain the truth at the Mazowiecki court; therefore, he rode hastily, only stopping for a short time at the houses of noblemen, in the inns and in the cities to rest the horses. He had never ceased to love Danusia; but while in Bogdaniec and Zgorzelice, chatting almost every day with Jagienka and admiring her beauty, he had not thought about Danusia often. Now she was constantly in his thoughts, day and night. Even in his sleep, he saw her standing before him, with a lute in her hands and a garland on her head. She stretched her hands toward him, and Jurand drew her away. In the morning, when the dreams disappeared, a greater longing came, and he loved this girl more than ever now, when he was uncertain whether they had taken her from him or not.
Sometimes he feared that they had married her against her will; therefore, he was not angry with her, as she was only a child and could not have her own will. But he was angry with Jurand and with Princess Januszowna. He determined that he would not cease to serve her; even if he found her somebody else's wife, he would deposit the peacocks' crests at her feet.
Sometimes he was consoled by the thought of a great war. He felt that during the war, he would forget about everything and that he would escape all sorrows and griefs. The great war seemed suspended in the air. It was not known whence the news came, because there was peace between the king and the Order; nevertheless, wherever Zbyszko went, nothing else was talked about. The people had a presentiment that it would come, and some of them said openly: "Why were we united with Litwa, if not against those wolves, the Knights of the Cross? Therefore we must finish with them once for all, or they will destroy us." Others said: "Crazy monks! They are not satisfied with Plowce! Death is over them, and still they have taken the land of Dobrzyn."
In all parts of the kingdom, they were making preparations, gravely, without boasting, as was customary for a fight for life or death; but with the silent, deadly grudge of a mighty nation, which had suffered wrongs for a long time, and finally was ready to administer a terrible punishment. In all the houses of the nobility, Zbyszko met people who were convinced that at any moment one might be obliged to mount his horse. Zbyszko was pleased to see these hasty preparations which he met at every step. Everywhere other cares gave way to thoughts about horses and armor. Everywhere the people were gravely inspecting spears, swords, axes, helmets and javelins. The blacksmiths were busy day and night, hammering iron sheets and making heavy armor, which could hardly be lifted by the refined western knights, but which the strong noblemen of Wielko and Malopolska could wear very easily. The old people were pulling out musty bags full of grzywns from their chests, for the war expedition of their children. Once Zbyszko passed the night in the house of a wealthy nobleman, Bartosz of Bielaw, who having twenty-two sturdy sons, pledged his numerous estates to the monastery in Lowicz, to purchase twenty-two suits of armor, the same number of helmets and weapons of war. Zbyszko now realized that it would be necessary to go to Prussia, and he thanked God that he was so well provided.
Many thought that he was the son of a wojewoda; and when he told the people that he was a simple nobleman, and that armor such as he wore, could be bought from the Germans by paying for it with a good blow of an axe, their hearts were filled with enthusiasm for war. Many a knight seeing that armor, and desiring to possess it, followed Zbyszko, and said: "Will you not fight for it?"
In Mazowsze, the people did not talk so much about the war. They also believed that it would come, but they did not know when. In Warszawa there was peace. The court was in Ciechanow, which Prince Janusz rebuilt after the Lithuanian invasion; nothing of the old town remained, only the castle.
In the city of Warszawa, Zbyszko was received by Jasko Socha, the starosta of the castle, and the son of the wojewoda Abraham, who was killed at Worskla. Jasko knew Zbyszko, because he was with the princess in Krakow; therefore he received him hospitably and with joy; but the young man, before he began to eat or drink, asked Jasko about Danusia. But he did not know anything about her, because the prince and the princess had been in Ciechanow since fall. In Warszawa there were only a few archers and himself, to guard the castle. He had heard that there had been feasts and weddings in Ciechanow; but he did not know which girls were married.
"But I think," said he, "that Jurandowna is not married; it could not be done without Jurand, and I have not heard of his arrival. There are two brothers of the Order, comthurs, with the prince; one from Jansbork and the other from Szczytno, and also some foreign guests; on such occasions, Jurand never goes to the court, because the sight of a white mantle enrages him. If Jurand were not there, there would be no wedding! If you wish, I will send a messenger to ascertain and tell him to return, immediately; but I firmly believe that you will find Jurandowna still a girl."
"I am going there to-morrow myself; but may God reward you for your kindness. As soon as the horses are rested, I will go, because I shall have no peace, until I know the truth."
But Socha was not satisfied with that, and inquired among the nobles and the soldiers if they had heard about Jurandowna's wedding. But nobody had heard anything, although there were several among them who had been in Ciechanow.
Meanwhile Zbyszko retired greatly relieved. While lying in bed he decided to get rid of Sanderus; but afterward he thought that the scoundrel might be useful to him because he could speak German. Sanderus had not told him a falsehood; and although he was a costly acquisition, because he ate and drank as much as four men would in the inns, still he was serviceable, and showed some attachment for the young knight. Then he possessed the art of writing, and that gave him a superiority over the shield-bearer, the Czech, and even over Zbyszko himself. Consequently Zbyszko permitted him to accompany his retinue to Ciechanow. Sanderus was glad of this, because he noticed that being in respectable company, he won confidence and found purchasers for his wares more easily. After stopping one night in Nasielsk, riding neither too swiftly nor too slowly, they perceived next day toward evening, the walls of the castle of Ciechanow. Zbyszko stopped in an inn to don his armor, so as to enter the castle according to knightly custom, with his helmet on his head and his spear in his hand; then he mounted his enormous stallion, and having made the sign of the cross in the air, he rushed forward. He had gone only a short distance, when the Czech who was riding behind him, drew near and said:
"Your Grace, some knights are coming behind us; they must be Krzyzaks."
Zbyszko turned and saw about half a furlong behind him, a splendid retinue at the head of which there were riding two knights on fine Pomeranian horses, both in full armor, each of them wearing a white mantle with a black cross, and a helmet having a high crest of peacock's feathers.
"For God's sake, Krzyzacy!" said Zbyszko.
Involuntarily he leaned forward in his saddle and aimed his spear; seeing this the Czech seized his axe. The other attendants being experienced in war, were also ready, not for a fight, because the servants did not participate in single combat, but to measure the space for the fight on horseback, or to level the ground for the fight on foot. The Czech alone, being a nobleman, was ready to fight; but he expected that Zbyszko would challenge before he attacked, and he was surprised to see the young knight aim his spear before the challenge.
But Zbyszko came to his senses in time. He remembered how he attacked Lichtenstein near Krakow, and all the misfortunes which followed; therefore he raised the spear and handed it to the Czech. Without drawing his sword, he galloped toward the Krzyzaks. When he came near them, he noticed that there was a third knight, also with a peacock's crest on his helmet, and a fourth, without armor, but having long hair, who seemed to be a Mazur. Seeing them, he concluded that they must be some envoys to the prince of Mazowiecki; therefore he said aloud:
"May Jesus Christ be praised!"
"For ages and ages!" answered the long-haired knight.
"May God speed you!"
"And you also, sir!"
"Glory be to St. George!"
"He is our patron. You are welcome, sir."
Then they began to bow; Zbyszko told his name, who he was, what his coat of arms was, what his war-cry was and whence he was going to the Mazowiecki court. The long-haired knight said that his name was Jendrek of Kropiwnica and that he was conducting some guests to the prince; Brother Godfried, Brother Rotgier, also Sir Fulko de Lorche of Lotaringen, who being with the Knights of the Cross, wished to see the prince and especially the princess, the daughter of the famous "Kiejstut."
While they were conversing, the foreign knights sat erect on their horses, occasionally bending their heads which were covered with iron helmets ornamented with peacocks' tufts. Judging from Zbyszko's splendid armor, they thought that the prince had sent some important personage, perhaps his own son, to meet them. Jendrek of Kropiwnica said further:
"The comthur, or as we would say the starosta from Jansbork is at our prince's castle; he told the prince about these knights; that they desired to visit him, but that they did not dare, especially this knight from Lotaringen, who being from a far country, thought that the Saracens lived right beyond the frontier of the Knights of the Cross, and that there was continual war with them. The prince immediately sent me to the boundary, to conduct them safely to his castle."
"Could they not come without your help!"
"Our nation is very angry with the Krzyzaks, because of their great treacherousness; a Krzyzak will hug and kiss you, but he is ready in the same moment to stab you with a knife from behind; and such conduct is odious to us Mazurs. Nevertheless anyone will receive even a German in his house, and will not wrong his guest; but he would stop him on the road. There are many who do this for vengeance, or for glory."
"Who among you is the most famous?"
"There is one whom all Germans fear to meet; his name is Jurand of Spychow."
The heart of the young knight throbbed when he heard that name; immediately he determined to question Jendrek of Kropiwnica.
"I know!" said he; "I heard about him; his daughter Danuta was girl-in-waiting with the princess; afterward she was married."
Having said this, he looked sharply into the eyes of the Mazowiecki knight, who answered with great astonishment:
"Who told you that? She is very young yet. It is true that it sometimes happens that very young girls are married, but Jurandowna is not married. I left Ciechanow six days ago and I saw her then with the princess. How could she marry during advent?"
Zbyszko having heard this, wanted to seize the knight by the neck and shout: "May God reward you for the news!" but he controlled himself, and said:
"I heard that Jurand gave her to some one."
"It was the princess who wished to give her, but she could not do it against Jurand's will. She wanted to give her to a knight in Krakow, who made a vow to the girl, and whom she loves."
"Does she love him?" exclaimed Zbyszko.
At this Jendrek looked sharply at him, smiled and said:
"Do you know, you are too inquisitive about that girl."
"I am asking about my friend to whom I am going."
One could hardly see Zbyszko's face under the helmet; but his nose and cheeks were so red that the Mazur, who was fond of joking, said:
"I am afraid that the cold makes your face red!"
Then the young man grew still more confused, and answered:
"It must be that."
They moved forward and rode silently for some time; but after a while Jendrek of Kropiwnica asked:
"What do they call you? I did not hear distinctly?"
"Zbyszko of Bogdaniec."
"For heaven's sake! The knight who made a vow to Jurandowna, had the same name."
"Do you think that I shall deny that I am he?" answered Zbyszko, proudly.
"There is no reason for doing so. Gracious Lord, then you are that Zbyszko whom the girl covered with her veil! After the retinue returned from Krakow, the women of the court talked about nothing else, and many of them cried while listening to the story. Then you are he! Hej! how happy they will be to see you at the court; even the princess is very fond of you."
"May the Lord bless her, and you also for the good news. I suffered greatly when I heard that Danusia was married."
"She is not married! Although she will inherit Spychow, and there are many handsome youths at the court, yet not one of them looks into her eyes, because all respect your vow; then the princess would not permit it. Hej! there will be great joy. Sometimes they teased the girl! Some one would tell her: 'Your knight will not come back!' Then she would reply: 'He will be back! He will be back!' Sometimes they told her that you had married another; then she cried."
These words made Zbyszko feel very tender; he also felt angry because Danusia had been vexed; therefore he said:
"I shall challenge those who said such things about me!"
Jendrek of Kropiwnica began to laugh and said:
"The women teased her! Will you challenge a woman? You cannot do anything with a sword against a distaff."
Zbyszko was pleased that he had met such a cheerful companion; he began to ask Jendrek about Danusia. He also inquired about the customs of the Mazowiecki court, about Prince Janusz, and about the princess. Finally he told what he had heard about the war during his journey, and how the people were making preparations for it, and were expecting it every day. He asked whether the people in the principalities of Mazowsze, thought it would soon come.
The heir of Kropiwnica did not think that the war was near. The people said that it could not be avoided; but he had heard the prince himself say to Mikolaj of Dlugolas, that the Knights of the Cross were very peaceable now, and if the king only insisted, they would restore the province of Dobrzyn to Poland; or they would try to delay the whole affair, until they were well prepared,
"The prince went to Malborg a short time ago," said he, "where during the absence of the grand master, the grand marshal received him and entertained him with great hospitality; now there are some comthurs here, and other guests are coming."
Here he stopped for a while, and then added:
"The people say that the Krzyzaks have a purpose in coming here and in going to Plock to the court of Prince Ziemowit. They would like to have the princes pledge themselves not to help the king but to aid them; or if they do not agree to help the Krzyzaks, that at least they will remain neutral; but the princes will not do that."
"God will not permit it. Would you stay home? Your princes belong to the kingdom of Poland!"
"No, we would not stay home," answered Jendrek of Kropiwnica.
Zbyszko again glanced at the foreign knights, and at their peacocks' tufts, and asked:
"Are these knights going for that purpose?"
"They are brothers of the Order and perhaps that is their motive. Who understands them?"
"And that third one?"
"He is going because he is inquisitive."
"He must be some famous knight."
"Bah! three heavily laden wagons follow him, and he has nine men in his escort. I would like to fight with such a man!"
"Can you not do it?"
"Of course not! The prince commanded me to guard them. Not one hair shall fall from their heads until they reach Ciechanow."
"Suppose I challenge them? Perhaps they would desire to fight with me?"
"Then you would be obliged to fight with me first, because I will not permit you to fight with them while I live."
Zbyszko looked at the young nobleman in a friendly way, and said:
"You understand what knightly honor is. I shall not fight with you, because I am your friend; but in Ciechanow, God will help me to find some pretext for a challenge to the Germans."
"In Ciechanow you can do what you please. I am sure there will be tournaments; then you can fight, if the prince and the comthurs give permission."
"I have a board on which is written a challenge for anyone who will not affirm that Panna Danuta Jurandowna is the most virtuous and the most beautiful girl in the world; but everywhere the people shrugged their shoulders and laughed."
"Because it is a foreign custom; and speaking frankly, a stupid one which is not known in our country, except near the boundaries. That Lotaringer tried to pick a quarrel with some noblemen, asking them to praise some lady of his; but nobody could understand him, and I would not let them fight."
"What? He wanted to praise his lady? For God's sake!"
He looked closely at the foreign knight, and saw that his young face was full of sadness, he also perceived with astonishment that the knight had a rope made of hairs round his neck.
"Why does he wear that rope?" asked Zbyszko.
"I could not find out, because they do not understand our language, Brother Rotgier can say a few words, but not very well either. But I think that this young knight has made a vow to wear that rope until he has accomplished some knightly deed. During the day, he wears it outside of his armor, but during the night, on the bare flesh."
"Sanderus!" called Zbyszko, suddenly
"At your service," answered the German, approaching
"Ask this knight, who is the most virtuous and the most beautiful girl in the world."
Sanderus repeated the question in German.
"Ulryka von Elner!" answered Fulko de Lorche.
Then he raised his eyes and began to sigh. Zbyszko hearing this answer, was indignant, and reined in his stallion; but before he could reply, Jendrek of Kropiwnica, pushed his horse between him and the foreigner, and said:
"You shall not quarrel here!"
Zbyszko turned to Sanderus and said:
"Tell him that I say that he is in love with an owl."
"Noble knight, my master says that you are in love with an owl!" repeated Sanderus, like an echo.
At this Sir de Lorche dropped his reins, drew the iron gauntlet from his right hand and threw it in the snow in front of Zbyszko, who motioned to the Czech to lift it with the point of his spear.
Jendrek of Kropiwnica, turned toward Zbyszko with a threatening face, and said:
"You shall not fight; I shall permit neither of you."
"I did not challenge him; he challenged me."
"But you called his lady an owl. Enough of this! I also know how to use a sword."
"But I do not wish to fight with you."
"You will be obliged to, because I have sworn to defend the other knight."
"Then what shall I do?" asked Zbyszko.
"Wait; we are near Ciechanow."
"But what will the German think?"
"Your servant must explain to him that he cannot fight here; that first you must receive the prince's permission, and he, the comthur's."
"Bah! suppose they will not give permission."
"Then you will find each other. Enough of this talk."
Zbyszko, seeing that he could not do otherwise, because Jendrek of Kropiwnica would not permit them to fight, called Sanderus, and told him to explain to the Lotaringer knight, that they could fight only in Ciechanow. De Lorche having listened, nodded to signify that he understood; then having stretched his hand toward Zbyszko, he pressed the palm three times, which according to the knightly custom, meant that they must fight, no matter when or where. Then in an apparent good understanding, they moved on toward the castle of Ciechanow, whose towers one could see reflected on the pink sky.
It was daylight when they arrived; but after they announced themselves at the gate, it was dark before the bridge was lowered. They were received by Zbyszko's former acquaintance, Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who commanded the garrison consisting of a few knights and three hundred of the famous archers of Kurpie. To his great sorrow, Zbyszko learned that the court was absent. The prince wishing to honor the comthurs of Szczytno and Jansbork, arranged for them a great hunting party in the Krupiecka wilderness; the princess, with her ladies-in-waiting went also, to give more importance to the occasion. Ofka, the widow of Krzych of Jarzombkow, was key-keeper, and the only woman in the castle whom Zbyszko knew. She was very glad to see him. Since her return from Krakow, she had told everybody about his love for Danusia, and the incident about Lichtenstein. These stories made her very popular among the younger ladies and girls of the court; therefore she was fond of Zbyszko. She now tried to console the young man in his sorrow, caused by Danusia's absence.
"You will not recognize her," she said. "She is growing older, and is a little girl no longer; she loves you differently, also. You say your uncle is well? Why did he not come with you?"
"I will let my horses rest for a while and then I will go to Danusia. I will go during the night," answered Zbyszko.
"Do so, but take a guide from the castle, or you will be lost in the wilderness."
In fact after supper, which Mikolaj of Dlugolas ordered to be served to the guests, Zbyszko expressed his desire to go after the prince, and he asked for a guide. The brothers of the Order, wearied by the journey, approached the enormous fireplaces in which were burning the entire trunks of pine trees, and said that they would go the next day. But de Lorche expressed his desire to go with Zbyszko, saying that otherwise he might miss the hunting party, and he wished to see them very much. Then he approached Zbyszko, and having extended his hand, he again pressed his fingers three times.
Mikolaj of Dlugolas having learned from Jendrek of Kropiwnica about the challenge, required both Zbyszko and the other knight to give him their knightly word that they would not fight without the prince and the comthur's permission; if they refused, he said he would shut the gates and not permit them to leave the castle. Zbyszko wished to see Danusia as soon as possible, consequently he did not resist; de Lorche, although willing to fight when necessary, was not a bloodthirsty man, therefore he swore upon his knightly honor, to wait for the prince's consent. He did it willingly, because having heard so many songs about tournaments and being fond of pompous feasts, he preferred to fight in the presence of the court, the dignitaries and the ladies; he believed that such a victory would bring greater renown, and he would win the golden spurs more easily. Then he was also anxious to become acquainted with the country and the people, therefore he preferred a delay. Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who had been in captivity among the Germans a long time, and could speak the language easily, began to tell him marvelous tales about the prince's hunting parties for different kinds of beasts not known in the western countries. Therefore Zbyszko and he left the castle about midnight, and went toward Przasnysz, having with them their armed retinues, and men with lanterns to protect them against the wolves, which gathering during the winter in innumerable packs, it was dangerous even for several well armed cavaliers to meet. On this side of Ciechanow there were deep forests, which a short distance beyond Przasnysz were merged into the enormous Kurpiecka wilderness, which on the west joined the impassable forest of Podlasie, and further on Lithuania. Through these forests the Lithuanian barbarians came to Mazowsze, and in 1337 reached Ciechanow, which they burned. De Lorche listened with the greatest interest to the stories, told him by the old guide, Macko of Turoboje. He desired to fight with the Lithuanians, whom as many other western knights did, he had thought were Saracens. In fact he had come on a crusade, wishing to gain fame and salvation. He thought that a war with the Mazurs, half heathenish people, would secure for him entire pardon. Therefore he could scarcely believe his own eyes, when having reached Mazowsze, he saw churches in the towns, crosses on the towers, priests, knights with holy signs on their armor and the people, very daring indeed, and ready for a fight, but Christian and not more rapacious than the Germans, among whom the young knight had traveled. Therefore, when he was told that these people had confessed Christ for centuries, he did not know what to think about the Knights of the Cross; and when he learned that Lithuania was baptized by the command of the late queen, his surprise and sorrow were boundless.
He began to inquire from Macko of Turoboje, if in the forest toward which they were riding, there were any dragons to whom the people were obliged to sacrifice young girls, and with whom one could fight. But Macko's answer greatly disappointed him.
"In the forest, there are many beasts, wolves, bisons and bears with which there is plenty of work," answered the Mazur. "Perhaps in the swamps there are some unclean spirits; but I never heard about dragons, and even if they were there, we would not give them girls, but we would destroy them. Bah! had there been any, the Kurpie would have worn belts of their skins long ago."
"What kind of people are they; is it possible to fight with them?" asked de Lorche.
"One can fight with them, but it is not desirable," answered Macko; "and then it is not proper for a knight, because they are peasants."
"The Swiss are peasants also. Do they confess Christ?"
"There are no such people in Mazowsze. They are our people. Did you see the archers in the castles? They are all the Kurpie, because there are no better archers than they are."
"They cannot be better than the Englishmen and the Scotch, whom I saw at the Burgundian court."
"I have seen them also in Malborg," interrupted the Mazur. "They are strong, but they cannot compare with the Kurpie, among whom a boy seven years old, will not be allowed to eat, until he has knocked the food with an arrow from the summit of a pine."
"About what are you talking?" suddenly asked Zbyszko, who had heard the word "Kurpie" several times.
"About the English and the Kurpiecki archers. This knight says that the English and the Scotch are the best."
"I saw them at Wilno. Owa! I heard their darts passing my ears. There were knights there from all countries, and they announced that they would eat us up without salt; but after they tried once or twice, they lost their appetite."
Macko laughed and repeated Zbyszko's words to Sir de Lorche.
"I have heard about that at different courts," answered the Lotaringer; "they praised your knights' bravery, but they blamed them because they helped the heathen against the Knights of the Cross."
"We defended the nation which wished to be baptized, against invasion and wrong. The Germans wished to keep them in idolatry, so as to have a pretext for war."
"God shall judge them," answered de Lorche.
"Perhaps He will judge them soon," answered Macko of Turoboje.
But the Lotaringer having heard that Zbyszko had been at Wilno, began to question Macko, because the fame of the knightly combats fought there, had spread widely throughout the world. That duel, fought by four Polish and four French knights, especially excited the imagination of western warriors. The consequence was that de Lorche began to look at Zbyszko with more respect, as upon a man who had participated in such a famous battle; he also rejoiced that he was going to fight with such a knight.
Therefore they rode along apparently good friends, rendering each other small services during the time for refreshment on the journey and treating each other with wine. But when it appeared from the conversation between de Lorche and Macko of Turoboje, that Ulryka von Elner was not a young girl, but a married woman forty years old and having six children, Zbyszko became indignant, because this foreigner dared not only to compare an old woman with Danusia, but even asked him to acknowledge her to be the first among women.
"Do you not think," said he to Macko, "that an evil spirit has turned his brain? Perhaps the devil is sitting in his head like a worm in a nut and is ready to jump on one of us during the night. We must be on our guard."
Macko of Turoboje began to look at the Lotaringer with a certain uneasiness and finally said:
"Sometimes it happens that there are hundreds of devils in a possessed man, and if they are crowded, they are glad to go in other people. The worst devil is the one sent by a woman."
Then he turned suddenly to the knight:
"May Jesus Christ be praised!"
"I praise him also," answered de Lorche, with some astonishment.
Macko was completely reassured.
"No, don't you see," said he, "if the devil were dwelling in him, he would have foamed immediately, or he would have been thrown to the earth, because I asked him suddenly. We can go."
In fact, they proceeded quietly. The distance between Ciechanow and Przasnysz is not great, and during the summer a cavalier riding a good horse can travel from one city to the other in two hours; but they were riding very slowly on account of the darkness and the drifts of snow. They started after midnight and did not arrive at the prince's hunting house, situated near the woods, beyond Przasnysz, until daybreak. The wooden mansion was large and the panes of the windows were made of glass balls. In front of the house were the well-sweeps and two barns for horses, and round the mansion were many tents made of skins and booths hastily built of the branches of pine trees. The fires shone brightly in front of the tents, and round them were standing the huntsmen who were dressed in coats made of sheepskins, foxskins, wolfskins and bearskins, and having the hair turned outside. It seemed to Sir de Lorche that he saw some wild beasts standing on two legs, because the majority of these men had caps made of the heads of animals. Some of them were standing, leaning on their spears or crossbows; others were busy winding enormous nets made of ropes; others were turning large pieces of urus and elk meat which was hanging over the fire, evidently preparing for breakfast. Behind them were the trunks of enormous pines and more people; the great number of people astonished the Lotaringer who was not accustomed to see such large hunting parties.
"Your princes," said he, "go to a hunt as if to a war."
"To be sure," answered Macko of Turoboje; "they lack neither hunting implements nor people."
"What are we going to do?" interrupted Zbyszko; "they are still asleep in the mansion."
"Well, we must wait until they get up," answered Macko; "we cannot knock at the door and awaken the prince, our lord."
Having said this, he conducted them to a fire, near which the Kurpie threw some wolfskins and urusskins, and then offered them some roasted meat. Hearing a foreign speech, the people began to gather round to see the German. Soon the news was spread by Zbyszko's attendants that there was a knight "from beyond the seas," and the crowd became so great that the lord of Turoboje was obliged to use his authority to shield the foreigner from their curiosity. De Lorche noticed some women in the crowd also dressed in skins, but very beautiful; he inquired whether they also participated in the hunt.
Macko explained to him that they did not take part in the hunting, but only came to satisfy their womanly curiosity, or to purchase the products of the towns and to sell the riches of the forest. The court of the prince was like a fireplace, round which were concentrated two elements—rural and civic. The Kurpie disliked to leave their wilderness, because they felt uneasy without the rustling of the trees above their heads; therefore the inhabitants of Przasnysz brought their famous beer, their flour ground in wind mills or water mills built on the river Wengierka, salt which was very rare in the wilderness, iron, leather and other fruits of human industry, taking in exchange skins, costly furs, dried mushrooms, nuts, herbs, good in case of sickness, or clods of amber which were plentiful among the Kurpie. Therefore round the prince's court there was the noise of a continual market, increased during the hunting parties, because duty and curiosity attracted the inhabitants from the depths of the forests.
De Lorche listened to Macko, looking with curiosity at the people, who, living in the healthy resinous air and eating much meat as was the custom with the majority of the peasants in those days, astonished the foreign travelers by their strength and size. Zbyszko was continually looking at the doors and windows of the mansion, hardly able to remain quiet. There was light in one window only, evidently in the kitchen, because steam was coming out through the gapes between the panes.
In the small doors, situated in the side of the house, servants in the prince's livery appeared from time to time, hurrying to the wells for water. These men being asked if everybody was still sleeping, answered that the court, wearied by the previous day's hunting, was still resting, but that breakfast was being prepared. In fact through the window of the kitchen, there now issued the smell of roasted meat and saffron, spreading far among the fires. Finally the principal door was opened, showing the interior of a brightly lighted hall, and on the piazza appeared a man whom Zbyszko immediately recognized as one of the rybalts, whom he had seen with the princess in Krakow. Having perceived him, and waiting neither for Macko of Turoboje, nor for de Lorche, Zbyszko rushed with such an impetus toward the mansion, that the astonished Lotaringer asked:
"What is the matter with the young knight?"
"There is nothing the matter with him," answered Macko of Turoboje; "he is in love with a girl of the princess' court and he wants to see her as soon as possible."
"Ah!" answered de Lorche, putting both of his hands on his heart. He began to sigh so deeply that Macko shrugged his shoulders and said to himself:
"Is it possible that he is sighing for that old woman? It may be that his senses are impaired!"
In the meanwhile he conducted de Lorche into the large hall of the mansion which was ornamented with the horns of bisons, elks and deer, and was lighted by the large logs burning in the fireplace. In the middle of the hall stood a table covered with kilimek and dishes for breakfast; there were only a few courtiers present, with whom Zbyszko was talking. Macko of Turoboje introduced Sir de Lorche to them. More courtiers were coming at every moment; the majority of them were fine looking men, with broad shoulders and fallow hair; all were dressed for hunting. Those who were acquainted with Zbyszko and were familiar with his adventure in Krakow, greeted him as an old friend—it was evident that they liked him. One of them said to him:
"The princess is here and Jurandowna also; you will see her soon, my dear boy; then you will go with us to the hunting party."
At this moment the two guests of the prince, the Knights of the Cross, entered: brother Hugo von Danveld, starosta of Ortelsburg, and Zygfried von Loeve, bailiff of Jansbork. The first was quite a young man, but stout, having a face like a beer drunkard, with thick, moist lips; the other was tall with stern but noble features. It seemed to Zbyszko that he had seen Danveld before at the court of Prince Witold and that Henryk, bishop of Plock, had thrown him from his horse during the combat in the lists. These reminiscences were disturbed by the entrance of Prince Janusz, whom the Knights of the Cross and the courtiers saluted. De Lorche, the comthurs and Zbyszko also approached him, and he welcomed them cordially but with dignity. Immediately the trumpets resounded, announcing that the prince was going to breakfast; they resounded three times; and the third time, a large door to the right was opened and Princess Anna appeared, accompanied by the beautiful blonde girl who had a lute hanging on her shoulder.
Zbyszko immediately stepped forward and kneeled on both knees in a position full of worship and admiration. Seeing this, those present began to whisper, because Zbyszko's action surprised the Mazurs and some of them were even scandalized. Some of the older ones said: "Surely he learned such customs from some knights living beyond the sea, or perhaps even from the heathen themselves, because there is no custom like it even among the Germans." But the younger ones said: "No wonder, she saved his life." But the princess and Jurandowna did not recognize Zbyszko at once, because he kneeled with his back toward the fire and his face was in the shadow. The princess thought that it was some courtier, who, having been guilty of some offence, besought her intervention with the prince; but Danusia having keener sight, advanced one step, and having bent her fair head, cried suddenly:
Then forgetting that the whole court and the foreign guests were looking at her, she sprang like a roe toward the young knight and encircling his neck with her arms, began to kiss his mouth and his cheeks, nestling to him and caressing him so long that the Mazurs laughed and the princess drew her back.
Then Zbyszko embraced the feet of the princess; she welcomed him, and asked about Macko, whether he was alive or not, and if alive whether he had accompanied Zbyszko. Finally when the servants brought in warm dishes, she said to Zbyszko:
"Serve us, dear little knight, and perhaps not only now at the table, but forever."
Danusia was blushing and confused, but was so beautiful, that not only Zbyszko but all the knights present were filled with pleasure; the starosta of Szczytno, put the palm of his hands to his thick, moist lips; de Lorche was amazed, and asked:
"By Saint Jacob of Compostella, who is that girl?"
To this the starosta of Szczytno, who was short, stood on his toes and whispered in the ear of the Lotaringer:
"The devil's daughter."
De Lorche looked at him; then he frowned and began to say through his nose:
"A knight who talks against beauty is not gallant."
"I wear golden spurs, and I am a monk," answered Hugo von Danveld, proudly.
The Lotaringer dropped his head; but after awhile he said:
"I am a relative of the princess of Brabant."
"Pax! Pax!" answered the Knight of the Cross. "Honor to the mighty knights and friends of the Order from whom, sir, you shall soon receive your golden spurs. I do not disparage the beauty of that girl; but listen, I will tell you who is her father."
But he did not have time to tell him, because at that moment, Prince Janusz seated himself at the table; and having learned before from the bailiff of Jansbork about the mighty relatives of Sir de Lorche, he invited him to sit beside him. The princess and Danusia were seated opposite. Zbyszko stood as he did in Krakow, behind their chairs, to serve them. Danusia held her head as low as possible over the plate, because she was ashamed. Zbyszko looked with ecstasy at her little head and pink cheeks; and he felt his love, like a river, overflowing his whole breast. He could also feel her sweet kisses on his face, his eyes and his mouth. Formerly she used to kiss him as a sister kisses a brother, and he received the kisses as from a child. Now Danusia seemed to him older and more mature—in fact she had grown and blossomed. Love was so much talked about in her presence, that as a flower bud warmed by the sun, takes color and expands, so her eyes were opened to love; consequently there was a certain charm in her now, which formerly she lacked, and a strong intoxicating attraction beamed from her like the warm beams from the sun, or the fragrance from the rose.
Zbyszko felt it, but he could not explain it to himself. He even forgot that at the table one must serve. He did not see that the courtiers were laughing at him and Danusia. Neither did he notice Sir de Lorche's face, which expressed great astonishment, nor the covetous eyes of the starosta from Szczytno, who was gazing constantly at Danusia. He awakened only when the trumpets again sounded giving notice that it was time to go into the wilderness, and when the princess Anna Danuta, turning toward him said: