"You will accompany us; you will then have an opportunity to speak to Danusia about your love."
Having said this, she went out with Danusia to dress for the ride on horseback. Zbyszko rushed to the court-yard, where the horses covered with frost were standing. There was no longer a great crowd, because the men whose duty it was to hem in the beasts, had already gone forward into the wilderness with the nets. The fires were quenched; the day was bright but cold. Soon the prince appeared and mounted his horse; behind him was an attendant with a crossbow and a spear so long and heavy, that very few could handle it; but the prince used it very easily, because like the other Mazovian Piasts, he was very strong. There were even women in that family so strong that they could roll iron axes, between their fingers. The prince was also attended by two men, who were prepared to help him in any emergency: they had been chosen from among the landowners of the provinces of Warszawa and Ciechanow; they had shoulders like the trunks of oak trees. Sir de Lorche gazed at them with amazement.
In the meanwhile, the princess and Danusia came out; both wore hoods made of the skins of white weasels. This worthy daughter of Kiejstut could stitch with a bow better than with a needle; therefore her attendants carried a crossbow behind her. Zbyszko having kneeled on the snow, extended the palm of his hand, on which the princess rested her foot while mounting her horse; then he lifted Danusia into her saddle and they all started. The retinue stretched in a long column, turned to the right from the mansion, and then began slowly to enter the forest.
Then the princess turned to Zbyszko and said:
"Why don't you talk? Speak to her."
Zbyszko, although thus encouraged, was still silent for a moment; but, after quite a long silence, he said:
"I love you!"
Here he again stopped, searching for words which he could not find; although he kneeled before the girl like a foreign knight, and showed her his respect in every way, still he could not express his love in words. Therefore he said:
"My love for you is so great that it stops my breathing."
"I also love you, Zbyszku!" said she, hastily.
"Hej, my dearest! hej, my sweet girl" exclaimed Zbyszko. "Hej!" Then he was silent, full of blissful emotion; but the good-hearted and curious princess helped them again.
"Tell her," said she, "how lonesome you were without her, and when we come to a thicket, you may kiss her; that will be the best proof of your love."
Therefore he began to tell how lonesome he was without her in Bogdaniec, while taking care of Macko and visiting among the neighbors. But the cunning fellow did not say a word about Jagienka. When the first thicket separated them from the courtiers and the guests, he bent toward her and kissed her.
During the winter there are no leaves on the hazel bushes, therefore Hugo von Danveld and Sir de Lorche saw him kiss the girl; some of the courtiers also saw him and they began to say among themselves:
"He kissed her in the presence of the princess! The lady will surely prepare the wedding for them soon."
"He is a daring boy, but Jurand's blood is warm also!"
"They are flint-stone and fire-steel, although the girl looks so quiet. Do not be afraid, there will be some sparks from them!"
Thus they talked and laughed; but the starosta of Szczytno turned his evil face toward Sir de Lorche and asked:
"Sir, would you like some Merlin to change you by his magic power into that knight?"
"Would you, sir?" asked de Lorche.
To this the Knight of the Cross, who evidently was filled with jealousy, drew the reins of his horse impatiently, and exclaimed:
"Upon my soul!"
But at that moment he recovered his composure, and having bent his head, he said:
"I am a monk and have made a vow of chastity."
He glanced quickly at the Lotaringer, fearing he would perceive a smile on his face, because in that respect the Order had a bad reputation among the people; and of all among the monks, Hugo von Danveld had the worst. A few years previous he had been vice-bailiff of Sambia. There were so many complaints against him there that, notwithstanding the tolerance with which the Order looked upon similar cases in Marienburg, the grand master was obliged to remove him and appoint him starosta of the garrison in Szczytno. Afterward he was sent to the prince's court on some secret mission, and having perceived the beautiful Jurandowna, he conceived a violent passion for her, to which even Danusia's extreme youth was no check. But Danveld also knew to what family the girl belonged, and Jurand's name was united in his memory with a painful reminiscence.
De Lorche began to question him:
"Sir, you called that beautiful girl the devil's daughter; why did you call her that?"
Danveld began to relate the story of Zlotorja: how during the restoration of the castle, they captured the prince with the court, and how during that fight Jurandowna's mother died; how since that time Jurand avenged himself on all the Knights of the Cross. Danveld's hatred was apparent during the narration, because he also had some personal reasons for hating Jurand. Two years before, during an encounter, he met Jurand; but the mere sight of that dreadful "Boar of Spychow" so terrified him for the first time in his life that he deserted two of his relatives and his retinue, and fled to Szczytno. For this cowardly act the grand marshal of the Order brought a knightly suit against him; he swore that his horse had become unmanageable and had carried him away from the battlefield; but that incident shut his way to all higher positions in the Order. Of course Danveld did not say anything to Sir de Lorche about that occurrence, but instead he complained so bitterly about Jurand's atrocities and the audacity of the whole Polish nation, that the Lotaringer could not comprehend all he was saying, and said:
"But we are in the country of the Mazurs and not of the Polaks."
"It is an independent principality but the same nation," answered the starosta; "they feel the same hatred against the Order. May God permit the German swords to exterminate all this race!"
"You are right, sir; I never heard even among the heathen of such an unlawful deed, as the building of a castle on somebody else's land, as this prince tried to do," said de Lorche.
"He built the castle against us, but Zlotorja is situated on his land, not on ours."
"Then glory be to Christ that he granted you the victory! What was the result of the war?"
"There was no war then?"
"What was the meaning of your victory at Zlotorja?"
"God favored us; the prince had no army with him, only his court and the women."
Here de Lorche looked at the Knight of the Cross with amazement.
"What? During the time of peace you attacked the women and the prince, who was building a castle on his own land?"
"For the glory of the Order and of Christendom."
"And that dreadful knight is seeking vengeance only for the death of his young wife, killed by you during the time of peace?"
"Whosoever raises his hand against a Knight of the Cross, is a son of darkness."
Hearing this, Sir de Lorche became thoughtful; but he did not have time to answer Danveld, because they arrived at a large, snow-covered glade in the woods, on which the prince and his courtiers dismounted.
The foresters under the direction of the head huntsman, placed the hunters in a long row at the edge of the forest, in such a way that being hidden themselves, they faced the glade. Nets were fastened along two sides of the glade, and behind these were the men whose duty it was to turn the beasts toward the hunters, or to kill them with spears if they became entangled in the nets. Many of the Kurpie were sent to drive every living thing from the depths of the forest into the glade. Behind the hunters there was another net stretched; if an animal passed the row of hunters, he would be entangled in it and easily killed.
The prince was standing in the middle in a small ravine, which extended through the entire width of the glade. The head huntsman, Mrokota of Mocarzew, had chosen that position for the prince because he knew that the largest beasts would pass through this ravine. The prince had a crossbow, and leaning on a tree beside him was a heavy spear; a little behind him stood two gigantic "defenders" with axes on their shoulders, and holding crossbows ready to be handed to the prince. The princess and Jurandowna did not dismount, because the prince would not allow them to do so, on account of the peril from urus and bisons; it was easier to escape the fury of these fierce beasts on horseback than on foot. De Lorche, although invited by the prince to take a position at his right hand, asked permission to remain with the ladies for their defence. Zbyszko drove his spear into the snow, put his crossbow on his back and stood by Danusia's horse, whispering to her and sometimes kissing her. He became quiet only when Mrokota of Mocarzew, who in the forest scolded even the prince himself, ordered him to be silent.
In the meanwhile, far in the depths of the wilderness, the horns of the Kurpie were heard, and the noisy sound of a krzywula answered from the glade; then perfect silence followed. From time to time the chatter of the squirrels was heard in the tops of the pines. The hunters looked at the snow-covered glade, where only the wind moved the bushes, and asked themselves what kind of animals would first appear. They expected abundant game, because the wilderness was swarming with urus, bisons and boars. The Kurpie had smoked out a few bears which were wandering in the thickets, angry, hungry and watchful.
But the hunters were obliged to wait a long time, because the men who were driving the animals toward the glade, had taken a very large space of the forest, and therefore they were so far away that the hunters did not even hear the baying of the dogs, that had been freed from the leashes immediately after the horns resounded.
After a while some wolves appeared on the edge of the forest, but having noticed the people, they again plunged into the forest, evidently searching for another pass. Then some boars having emerged from the wilderness, began to run in a long black line through the snowy space, looking from afar like domestic swine. They stopped and listened—turned and listened again: turned toward the nets, but having smelt the men, went in the direction of the hunters, snorting and approaching more and more carefully; finally there resounded the clatter of the iron cranks of the crossbows, the snarl of the bolts and then the first blood spotted the white snow.
Then a dreadful squealing resounded and the whole pack dispersed as if struck by a thunderbolt; some of them rushed blindly straight ahead, others ran toward the nets, while still others ran among the other animals, with which the glade was soon covered. The sounds of the horns were heard distinctly, mingled with the howling of the dogs and the bustle of the people coming from the depths of the forest. The wild beasts of the forest driven by the huntsmen soon filled the glade. It was impossible to see anything like it in foreign countries or even in the other Polish provinces; nowhere else was there such a wilderness as there was in Mazowsze. The Knights of the Cross, although they had visited Lithuania, where bisons attacked and brought confusion to the army, were very much astonished at the great number of beasts, and Sir de Lorche was more astonished than they. He beheld in front of him herds of yellow deer and elks with heavy antlers, mingled together and running on the glade, blinded by fear and searching in vain for a safe passage. The princess, in whom Kiejstut's blood began to play, seeing this, shot arrow after arrow, shouting with joy when a deer or an elk which was struck, reared and then fell heavily plowing the snow with his feet. Some of the ladies-in-waiting were also shooting, because all were filled with enthusiasm for the sport. Zbyszko alone did not think about hunting; but having leaned his elbows on Danusia's knees and his head on the palms of his hands, he looked into her eyes, and she smiling and blushing, tried to close his eyelids with her fingers, as if she could not stand such looks.
Sir de Lorche's attention was attracted by an enormous bear, gray on the back and shoulders, which jumped out unexpectedly from the thicket near the huntsmen. The prince shot at it with his crossbow, and then rushed forward with his boar-spear; when the animal roaring frightfully, reared, he pierced it with his spear in the presence of the whole court so deftly and so quickly, that neither of the "defenders" needed to use his axe. The young Lotaringer doubted that few of the other lords, at whose courts he had visited during his travels, would dare to amuse themselves in such a way, and believed that the Order would have hard work to conquer such princes and such people. Later on he saw the other hunters pierce in the same way, many boars much larger and fiercer than any that could be found in the forest of Lower Lotaringen or in the German wilderness. Such expert hunters and those so sure of their strength, Sir de Lorche had never before seen; he concluded, being a man of some experience, that these people living in the boundless forests, had been accustomed from childhood to use the crossbow and the spear; consequently they were very dexterous in using them.
The glade of the wood was finally covered with the dead bodies of many different kinds of animals; but the hunt was not finished. In fact, the most interesting and also the most perilous moment was coming, because the huntsmen had met a herd of urus and bisons. The bearded bulls marching in advance of the herd, holding their heads near the ground, often stopped, as if calculating where to attack. From their enormous lungs came a muffled bellowing, similar to the rolling of thunder, and perspiration steamed from their nostrils; while pawing the snow with their forefeet, they seemed to watch the enemy with their bloody eyes hidden beneath their manes. Then the huntsmen shouted, and their cries were followed by similar shoutings from all sides; the horns and fifes resounded; the wilderness reverberated from its remotest parts; meantime the dogs of the Kurpie rushed to the glade with tremendous noise. The appearance of the dogs enraged the females of the herd who were accompanied by their young. The herd which had been walking up to this moment, now scattered in a mad rush all over the glade. One of the bisons, an enormous old yellow bull, rushed toward the huntsmen standing at one side, then seeing horses in the bushes, stopped, and bellowing, began to plow the earth with his horns, as if inciting himself to fight.
Seeing this, the men began to shout still more, but among the hunters there were heard frightened voices exclaiming: "The princess! The princess! Save the princess!" Zbyszko seized his spear which had been driven into the ground behind him and rushed to the edge of the forest; he was followed by a few Litwins who were ready to die in defence of Kiejstut's daughter; but all at once the crossbow creaked in the hands of the lady, the bolt whistled and, having passed over the animal's head, struck him in his neck.
"He is hit!" exclaimed the princess; "he will not escape."
But suddenly, with such a dreadful bellowing that the frightened horses reared, the bison rushed directly toward the lady; at the same moment with no less impetus, Sir de Lorche rushed from beneath the trees and leaning on his horse, with his spear extended as in a knightly tournament, attacked the animal.
Those near by perceived during one moment, the spear plunged into the animal's neck, immediately bend like a bow, and break into small pieces; then the enormous horned head disappeared entirely under the belly of Sir de Lorche's horse, and the charger and his rider were tossed into the air.
From the forest the huntsmen rushed to help the foreign knight. Zbyszko who cared most about the princess and Danusia's safety, arrived first and drove his spear under the bison's shoulder blade. He gave the blow with such force, that the spear by a sudden turn of the bison, broke in his hands, and he himself fell with his face on the ground. "He is dead! He is dead!" cried the Mazurs who were rushing to help him. The bull's head covered Zbyszko and pressed him to the ground. The two powerful "defenders" of the prince arrived; but they were too late; fortunately the Czech Hlawa, given to Zbyszko by Jagienka, outstripped them, and having seized his broad-axe with both hands he cut the bison's bent neck, near the horns.
The blow was so powerful that the animal fell, as though struck by a thunderbolt, with his head almost severed from his neck; this enormous body fell on top of Zbyszko. Both "defenders" pulled it away quickly. The princess and Danusia having dismounted, arrived at the side of the wounded youth.
Zbyszko, pale and covered with his own and the animal's blood, tried to rise; but he staggered, fell on his knees and leaning on his hands, could only pronounce one word:
Then the blood gushed from his mouth. Danusia grasped him by his shoulders, but being unable to hold him, began to cry for help. The huntsmen rubbed him with snow and poured wine in his mouth; finally the head huntsman, Mrokota of Mocarzew ordered them to put him on a mantle and to stop the blood with soft spunk from the trees.
"He will live if his ribs and his backbone are not broken," said he, turning toward the princess. In the meanwhile some ladies of the court with the help of other huntsmen, were attending to Sir de Lorche. They turned him over, searching in his armor for holes or dents made by the horns of the bull; but besides traces of the snow, which had entered between the joints of the iron plates, they could find nothing. The urus had avenged himself especially on the horse, which was lying dead beside the knight; as for Sir de Lorche, he was not seriously injured. He had fainted and his right hand was sprained. When they took off his helmet and poured some wine in his mouth, he opened his eyes, and seeing the sorrowful faces of two pretty young ladies bent over him, said in German:
"I am sure I am in paradise already and the angels are over me."
The ladies did not understand what he said; but being glad to see him open his eyes and speak, they smiled, and with the huntsmen's help raised him from the ground; feeling the pain in his right hand, he moaned and leaned with the left on the shoulder of one of the "angels"; for a while he stood motionless, fearing to make a step, because he felt weak. Then he glanced around and perceived the yellow body of the urus, he also saw Danusia wringing her hands and Zbyszko lying on a mantle.
"Is that the knight who rushed to help me?" he asked. "Is he alive?"
"He is very severely injured," answered a courtier who could speak German.
"From this time, I am going to fight not with him, but for him!" said the Lotaringer.
At this time, the prince who was near Zbyszko, approached Sir de Lorche and began to praise him because he had defended the princess and the other ladies, and perhaps saved their lives by his bold deed; for which, besides the knightly reward, he would be renowned not only then but in all future generations.
"In these effeminate times," said he, "there are few true knights traveling through the world; therefore pray be my guest as long as possible or if you can, remain forever in Mazowsze, where you have already won my favor, and by honest deeds will easily win the love of the people."
Sir de Lorche's heart was filled with joy when he heard the prince's words and realized that he had accomplished such a famous knightly deed and deserved such praise in these remote Polish lands, about which so many strange things were told in the East. He knew that a knight who could tell at the Burgundian court or at the court of Brabant, that when on a hunting party, he had saved the life of the Mazowiecka princess, would be forever famous.
Zbyszko became conscious and smiled at Danusia; then he fainted again. The huntsmen seeing how his hands closed and his mouth remained open, said to one another that he would not live; but the more experienced Kurpie, among whom many an one had on him the traces of a bear's paws, a boar's tusks or an urus' horns, affirmed that the urus' horn had slipped between the knight's ribs, that perhaps one or two of his ribs were broken, but that the backbone was not, because if it were, he could not rise. They pointed out also, that Zbyszko had fallen in a snow-drift and that had saved him, because on account of the softness the animal when pressing him with his horns, could not entirely crush his chest, nor his backbone.
Unfortunately the prince's physician, the ksiondz Wyszoniek of Dziewanna, was not with the hunting party, being busy in the chateau making wafers. The Czech rushed to bring him immediately, and meanwhile the Kurpie carried Zbyszko to the prince's mansion. The Knight of the Cross, Hugo von Danveld, helped Danusia mount her horse and then, riding beside her and closely following the men who were carrying Zbyszko, said in Polish in a muffled voice, so that she alone could hear him:
"In Szczytno I have a marvelous balm, which I received from a hermit living in the Hercynski forest; I can bring it for you in three days."
"God will reward you," answered Danusia.
"God records every charitable deed; but will you reward me also?"
"What reward can I give you?"
The Krzyzak approached and evidently wished to say something else but hesitated; after a while he said:
"In the Order, besides the brothers there are also sisters. One of them will bring the healing balm, and then I will speak about the reward."
The ksiondz Wyszoniek dressed Zbyszko's wounds and he stated that only one rib was broken; but the first day he could not affirm that the sick man would live, because he could not ascertain whether the heart had been injured or not. Sir de Lorche was so ill toward morning that he was obliged to go to bed, and on the following day he could not move his hand nor his foot, without great pain in all the bones. The princess Danusia and some other ladies of the court nursed the sick men and prepared for them, according to the prescriptions of the ksiondz Wyszoniek, different ointments and potions. But Zbyszko was very severely injured, and from time to time blood gushed from his mouth, and this alarmed the ksiondz Wyszoniek very much. He was conscious however, and on the second day, although very weak, having learned from Danusia to whom he owed his life, called Hlawa to thank and reward him. He remembered that he had received the Czech from Jagienka and that had it not been for her kind heart, he would have perished. He feared that he never would be able to repay the good-hearted girl for her kindness, but that he would only be the cause of her sorrow.
"I swore to my panienka," said Hlawa, "on my honor of a wlodyka, that I would protect you; therefore I will do it without any reward. You are indebted to her for your life."
Zbyszko did not answer, but began to breathe heavily; the Czech was silent for a while, then he said:
"If you wish me to hasten to Bogdaniec, I will go. Perhaps you will be glad to see the old lord, because God only knows whether you will recover."
"What does the ksiondz Wyszoniek say?" asked Zbyszko.
"The ksiondz Wyszoniek says that he will know when the new moon comes. There are four days before the new moon."
"Hej! then you need not go to Bogdaniec, because I will either die, or I will be well before my uncle could come."
"Could you not send a letter to Bogdaniec? Sanderus will write one. Then they will know about you, and will engage a mass for you."
"Let me rest now, because I am very ill. If I die, you will return to Zgorzelice and tell how everything happened; then they can engage a mass. I suppose they will bury me here or in Ciechanow."
"I think they will bury you in Ciechanow or in Przasnysz, because only the Kurpie are buried in the forest, and the wolves howl over their graves. I heard that the prince intends to return with the court to Ciechanow in two days' time, and then to Warszawa."
"They would not leave me here alone," answered Zbyszko.
He guessed correctly, because that same day the princess asked the prince's permission to remain in the house in the wilderness, with Danusia and the ladies-in-waiting, and also with the ksiondz Wyszoniek, who was opposed to carrying Zbyszko to Przasnysz. Sir de Lorche at the end of two days felt better, and he was able to leave his bed; but having learned that the ladies intended to remain, he stayed also, in order to accompany them on their journey and defend them in case the "Saracens" attacked them. Whence the "Saracens" could come, the Lotaringer did not know. It is true that the people in the East used thus to call the Litwins; but from them no danger could threaten Kiejstut's daughter, Witold's sister and the first cousin of the mighty "Krakowski king," Jagiello. But Sir de Lorche had been among the Knights of the Cross for so long a time, that notwithstanding all he had heard in Mazowsze about the baptism of the Litwa, and about the union of the two crowns on the head of one ruler, he could not believe that any one could expect any good from the Litwins. Thus the Knights of the Cross had made him believe, and he had not yet entirely lost all faith in their words.
In the meantime an incident occurred which cast a shadow between Prince Janusz and his guests. One day, before the departure of the court, Brother Godfried and Brother Rotgier, who had remained in Ciechanow, came accompanied by Sir de Fourcy, who was a messenger of bad news to the Knights of the Cross. There were some foreign guests at the court of the Krzyzacki starosta in Lubowa; they were Sir de Fourcy and also Herr von Bergow and Herr Meineger, both belonging to families which had rendered great services to the Order. They having heard many stories about Jurand of Spychow, determined, to draw the famous warrior into an open field, and ascertain for themselves whether he really was as dreadful as represented. The starosta opposed the plan, giving as a reason that there was peace between the Order and the Mazowiecki princes; but finally, perhaps hoping thus to get rid of his terrible neighbor, not only connived at the expedition but even furnished the armed knechts. The knights sent a challenge to Jurand, who immediately accepted it under the condition that they would send away the soldiers and that three of them would fight with him and two of his companions on the boundaries of Szlonsk and Spychow. But when they refused to send away the knechts or to retire from the land belonging to Spychow, he suddenly fell upon them, exterminated the knechts, pierced Herr Meineger dreadfully with a spear, took Herr von Bergow into captivity and put him into the Spychowski dungeon. De Fourcy alone escaped and after three days' wandering in the Mazowiecki forests, having learned from some pitch-burners that there were some brothers of the Order in Ciechanow, he succeeded in reaching them. He and the brothers of the Order made a complaint to the prince, and asked for the punishment of Jurand, and for an order for the deliverance of Herr von Bergow.
This news disturbed the good understanding between the prince and his guests, because not only the two newly arrived brothers but also Hugo von Danveld and Zygfried von Loeve, began to beseech the prince to render justice to the Order, to free the boundaries from the plunderer and to punish him once for all his offences. Hugo von Danveld, having his own grievance against Jurand, the remembrance of which burned him with shame and grief, asked for vengeance almost threateningly.
"The complaint will go to the grand master," he said; "and if we be not able to get justice from Your Grace, he will obtain it himself, even if the whole Mazowsze help that robber."
But the prince, although naturally good-tempered, became angry and said.
"What kind of justice do you ask for? If Jurand had attacked you first, then I would surely punish him. But your people were the first to commence hostilities. Your starosta gave the knechts, permission to go on that expedition. Jurand only accepted the challenge and asked that the soldiers be sent away. Shall I punish him for that? You attacked that dreadful man, of whom everybody is afraid, and voluntarily brought calamity upon yourselves—what do you want then? Shall I order him not to defend himself, when it pleases you to attack him?"
"It was not the Order that attacked him, but its guests, foreign knights," answered Hugo.
"The Order is responsible for its guests, and then the knechts, from the Lubowski garrison were there."
"Could the starosta allow his guests to be slaughtered?"
Here the prince turned to Zygfried and said.
"You must take heed lest your wiles offend God."
But the stern Zygfried answered:
"Heir von Bergow must be released from captivity, because the men of his family were high dignitaries in the Order and they rendered important services to the Cross."
"And Meineger's death must be avenged," added Hugo von Danveld.
Thereupon the prince arose and walked threateningly toward the Germans; but after a while, evidently having remembered that they were his guests, he restrained his anger, put his hand on Zygfried's shoulder, and said:
"Listen: you wear a cross on your mantle, therefore answer according to your conscience—upon that cross! Was Jurand right or was he not?"
"Herr von Bergow must be released from prison," answered Zygfried von Loeve.
There was as a moment of silence; then the prince said:
"God grant me patience!"
Zygfried continued sharply, his words cutting like a sword:
"The wrong which was done to us in the persons of our guests, is only one more occasion for complaint. From the time the Order was founded, neither in Palestine, nor in Siedmiogrod, nor among the heathenish Litwa, has any man wronged us so much as that robber from Spychow. Your Highness! we ask for justice and vengeance not for one wrong, but for thousands; not for the blood shed once, but for years of such deeds, for which fire from heaven ought to burn that nest of wickedness and cruelty. Whose moanings entreat God for vengeance? Ours! Whose tears? Ours! We have complained in vain. Justice has never been given us!"
Having heard this, Prince Janusz began to nod his head and said:
"Hej! formerly the Krzyzaks were received hospitably in Spychow, and Jurand was not your foe, until after his dear wife died on your rope; and how many times have you attacked him first, wishing to kill him, as in this last case, because he challenged and defeated your knights? How many times have you sent assassins after him, or shot at him with a crossbow from the forest? He attacked you, it is true, because vengeance burns within him; but have you not attacked peaceful people in Mazowsze? Have you not taken their herds, burned their houses and murdered the men, women and children? And when I complained to the grand master, he sent me this reply from Marienburg: 'Customary frolic of the boundaries' Let me be in peace! Was it not you who captured me when I was without arms, during the time of peace, on my own land? Had it not been for your fear of the mighty Krakowski king, probably I would have had to moan until now in captivity. Who ought to complain? With such gratitude you repaid me, who belonged to the family of your benefactors. Let me be in peace; it is not you who have the right to talk about justice!"
Having heard this, the Knights of the Cross looked at each other impatiently, angry because the prince mentioned the occurrence at Zlotorja, in the presence of Sir de Fourcy; therefore Hugo von Danveld, wishing to finish the conversation about it, said:
"That was a mistake, Your Highness, and we made amends for it, not on account of fear of the Krakowski king, but for the sake of justice; and with regard to the frolics on the boundaries, the grand master cannot be held responsible, because on every frontier there are some restless spirits."
"Then you say this yourself, and still you ask for the punishment of Jurand. What do you wish then?"
"Justice and punishment!"
The prince clenched his bony fists and repeated:
"God grant me patience!"
"Your Princely Majesty must also remember," said Danveld, further, "that our wantons only wrong lay people who do not belong to the German race, but your men raise their hand against the German Order, and for this reason they offend our Saviour Himself."
"Listen!" said the prince. "Do not talk about God; you cannot deceive Him!"
Then having placed his hands on the Krzyzak's shoulders, he shook him so strongly, that he frightened him. He relented immediately and said, mildly:
"If it be true that our guests attacked Jurand first and did not send away the soldiers, I will not blame him; but had Jurand really accepted the challenge?"
Having said this, he looked at Sir de Fourcy, winking at him, to deny it; but the latter, not wishing to lie, answered:
"He asked us to send our soldiers away, and to fight three against three."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Upon my honor! Herr von Bergow and I agreed, but Meineger did not consent."
Here the prince interrupted:
"Starosta from Szczytno! you know better than anybody else that Jurand would not miss a challenge."
Then he turned to all present and said:
"If one of you will challenge Jurand to a fight on horseback or on foot, I give my permission. If he be taken prisoner or killed, then Herr von Bergow will be released without paying any ransom. Do not ask me for anything else, because I will not grant it."
After these words, there was a profound silence. Hugo von Danveld, Zygfried von Loeve, Brother Rotgier and Brother Godfried, although brave, knew the dreadful lord of Spychow too well to dare to challenge him for life or death. Only a foreigner from a far distant country, like de Lorche or de Fourcy, would do it; but de Lorche was not present during the conversation, and Sir de Fourcy was still too frightened.
"I have seen him once," he muttered, "and I do not wish to see him any more."
Zygfried von Loeve said:
"It is forbidden the monks to fight in single combat, except by special permission from the grand master and the grand marshal; but I do not ask for permission for a combat, but for the release of von Bergow and the punishment by death of Jurand."
"You do not make the laws in this country."
"Our grand master will know how to administer justice."
"Your grand master has nothing to do with Mazowsze!"
"The emperor and the whole German nation will help him."
"The king of Poland will help me, and he is more powerful than the German emperor."
"Does Your Highness wish for a war with the Order?"
"If I wanted a war, I would not wait for you to come to Mazowsze, but would go toward you; you need not threaten me, because I am not afraid of you."
"What shall I say to the grand master?"
"He has not asked you anything. Tell him what you please."
"Then we will avenge ourselves."
Thereupon the prince stretched forth his arm and began to shake his finger close to the Krzyzak's face.
"Keep quiet!" said he, angrily; "keep quiet! I gave you permission to challenge Jurand; but if you dare to invade this country with the army of the Order, then I will attack you, and you will stay here not as a guest but as a prisoner."
Evidently his patience was entirely exhausted, because he threw a cap violently on the table and left the room, slamming the door. The Knights of the Cross became pale and Sir de Fourcy looked at them askance.
"What will happen now?" asked Brother Rotgier, who was the first to break the silence.
Hugo von Danveld turned to Sir de Fourcy and menacing him with his fists, said:
"Why did you tell him that you attacked Jurand?"
"Because it is true!"
"You should have lied."
"I came here to fight and not to lie."
"Well, you fought well, indeed!"
"And you! did you not run away from Jurand of Spychow?"
"Pax!" said von Loeve. "This knight is a guest of the Order."
"It is immaterial what he said," added Brother Godfried. "They would not punish Jurand without a trial, and in the court, the truth would come out."
"What will be done now?" repeated Brother Rotgier.
There was a moment of silence; then the sturdy and virulent Zygfried von Loeve spoke:
"We must finish once for all with that bloody dog!" said he. "Herr von Bergow must be released from his fetters. We will gather the garrisons from Szczytno, Insburk and Lubowa; we will summon the Chelminsk nobility and attack Jurand. It is time to settle with him!"
"We cannot do it without permission from the grand master."
"If we succeed, the grand master will be pleased!" said Brother Godfried.
"But if we do not succeed? If the prince go against us?"
"He will not do that if there is peace between him and the Order."
"There is peace, but we are going to violate it. Our garrisons will not be sufficient to fight against the Mazurs."
"Then the grand master will help us and there will be a war."
Danveld frowned again and became thoughtful.
"No! no!" said he after a while. "If we be successful, the grand master will be pleased. Envoys will be sent to the prince, there will be negotiations and we will go scot-free. But in case of defeat, the Order will not intercede for us and will not declare war. Another grand master is necessary for that. The Polski king is behind the prince, and the grand master will not quarrel with him."
"But we have taken the Dobrzynska province; it is evident that we are not afraid of Krakow."
"There was some pretext—Opolczyk. We took it apparently in pledge, and then——" Here he looked around and said quietly:
"I heard in Marienburg, that if they threaten us with war, we will return the province."
"Ah!" said Brother Rotgier, "if we had Markward Salzbach with us, or Shomberg who killed Witold's whelps, he would find some remedy against Jurand. Witold was the king's viceroy and a grand duke! Notwithstanding that, Shomberg was not punished. He killed Witold's children, and went scot-free! Verily, there is great lack among us of people who can find a remedy for everything."
Having heard this, Hugo von Danveld put his elbows on the table, leaned his head on his hands and plunged into deep thought. Then his eyes became bright, he wiped, according to his custom, his moist, thick lips with the upper part of his hand and said:
"May the moment in which you mentioned, pious brother, the name of the valiant Shomberg be blessed."
"Why? Have you found a remedy?" asked Zygfried von Loeve.
"Speak quickly!" exclaimed Brother Godfried.
"Listen," said Hugo. "Jurand has a daughter here, his only child, whom he loves dearly."
"Yes, so he has. We know her. The princess Anna Danuta loves her also."
"Yes. Listen then: if you capture this girl, Jurand will give as a ransom for her, not only, Bergow, but all his prisoners, himself and Spychow!"
"By Saint Bonifacius' blood shed in Duchum!" exclaimed Brother Godfried; "it would be as you say!"
Then they were silent, as if frightened by the boldness and the difficulties of the enterprise. But after a while Brother Rotgier turned toward Zygfried von Loeve, and said:
"Your judgment and experience are equal to your bravery: what do you think about this plan?"
"I think that the matter is worthy of consideration."
"Because," said Rotgier further, "the girl is a lady-in-waiting with the princess—the princess loves her as if she were her own daughter. Think, pious brother, what an uproar will arise."
But Hugo von Danveld began to laugh:
"You said yourself, that Shomberg poisoned or strangled Witold's whelps, and what happened to him? They will raise an uproar about anything we do; but if we sent Jurand in chains to the grand master, then it is certain that we could expect reward rather than punishment."
"Yes," said von Loeve, "there is a good opportunity for an attack. The prince is going away and Anna Danuta will remain here alone with her court. However it is a serious matter to invade the prince's house during the time of peace. The prince's house is not Spychow. It will be the same thing that happened in Zlotorja! Again complaints against the Order will go to all kings and to the pope; again that cursed Jagiello will threaten us, and the grand master; you know him: he is glad to take hold of anything he can, but he does not wish for war with Jagiello. Yes! there will be a great uproar in all the provinces of Mazowsze and of Polska."
"In the meanwhile Jurand's bones will whiten on a hook," answered Brother Hugo. "Then we do not need to take his daughter from the prince's mansion."
"But we cannot do it from Ciechanow either, because there, besides the noblemen, there are three hundred archers."
"No. But Jurand can become ill and send for his daughter. Then the princess would not prevent her going, and if the girl be lost on the road, who will accuse you or me and say to us: 'You captured her!'"
"Bah!" answered von Loeve, impatiently. "You must first make Jurand sick and then make him summon the girl."
At this Hugo smiled triumphantly and answered:
"I have a goldsmith, who having been driven from Marienburg for theft, settled in Szczytno and who is able to make a seal; I also have people, who although our bondmen, came from the Mazurski country. Do you understand me yet?"
"I understand," shouted Brother Godfried.
And Rotgier raised his hands and said:
"May God bless you, pious brother, because neither Markward Salzbach, nor Shomberg could find better means."
Then he half closed his eyes, as if he saw something afar.
"I see Jurand," said he, "with a rope around his neck, standing at the Gdansk gate in Marienburg and our knechts are kicking him."
"And the girl will become a servant of the Order," said Hugo.
Having heard this, von Loeve turned his severe eyes on Danveld; but the latter again rubbed his lips with the upper part of his hand and said:
"And now to Szczytno as soon as we can!"
Before starting on the journey to Szczytno, the four brothers of the Order and de Fourcy went to bid the prince and the princess adieu. It was not a very friendly farewell; but the prince, not wishing to act contrary to the old Polish custom which did not permit the guests to depart with empty hands, made each brother a present of some beautiful marten-fur and of one grzywna of silver; they received the presents with great pleasure, assuring the prince that being brothers of an order, and having made a solemn promise to live in poverty, they would not retain the money for themselves, but would distribute it among the poor, whom they would recommend to pray for the prince's health, fame and future salvation.
The Mazurs laughed in their sleeves at such an assurance, because they knew very well how rapacious the Order was, and still better what liars the Knights of the Cross were.
It was a popular saying in Mazowsze: "As the skunk smells, so the Krzyzak lies." The prince waved his hand to such thanks, and after they went out he said that by the intervention of the Knights of the Cross, one would go to heaven as swiftly as the craw-fish walks.
But before that, while taking leave of the princess, at the moment that Zygfried von Loeve kissed her hand, Hugo von Danveld approached Danusia, put his hand on her head and caressing her, said:
"Our commandment is to return good for evil, and even to love our enemy; therefore I will send a sister of the Order here, and she will bring you the healing balm."
"How can I thank you for it?" answered Danusia.
"Be a friend of the Order and of the monks."
De Fourcy noticed this conversation, and in the meantime he was struck by the beauty of the young girl; therefore as they traveled toward Szczytno, he asked:
"Who is that beautiful lady of the court with whom you were talking while taking leave of the princess?"
"Jurand's daughter!" answered the Krzyzak.
Sir de Fourcy was surprised.
"The same whom you propose to capture?"
"Yes. And when we capture her, Jurand is ours."
"Evidently everything is not bad that comes from Jurand. It will be worth while to guard such a prisoner."
"Do you think it will be easier to fight with her than with Jurand?"
"I mean that I think the same as you do. The father is a foe of the Order; but you spoke words as sweet as honey to the daughter, and besides you promised to send her the balm."
Evidently Hugo von Danveld felt the need of justification before Zygfried von Loeve who, although not better than the others, observed the austere laws of the Order, and very often scolded the other brothers.
"I promised her the balm," said Hugo, "for that young knight, who was injured by the bison and to whom she is betrothed. If they make an outcry when the girl is captured, then we will tell them that we did not wish to harm her any, and the best proof of it will be that on account of Christian mercy we sent her some medicine."
"Very well," said von Loeve. "Only we must send somebody whom we can trust."
"I will send a pious woman, entirely faithful to the Order. I will command her to look and to listen. When our people, apparently sent by Jurand, arrive, they will find the road already prepared."
"It will be difficult to get such people."
"No! In our province the people speak the same language. There are in our city, bah! even among the knechts of the garrison, some men who left Mazowsze because they were pursued by the law; it is true they are thieves and robbers; but they do not fear anybody and they are ready to do anything. To those men, I will promise, in case they succeed, a large reward; if they fail, a rope."
"Bah! Suppose they betray us?"
"They will not betray us, because in Mazowsze every one of them deserves to be hanged. Only we must give them decent clothes so that they will be taken for Jurand's servants; and we must get the principal thing: a letter with Jurand's seal."
"We must foresee everything," said Brother Rotgier. "It is probable that Jurand will go to see the prince, and justify himself on account of the last war. If he is in Ciechanow, he will go to see his daughter. It may happen that our men when they go to capture Jurandowna, will come in contact with Jurand himself."
"The men whom I am going to choose are sharp. They will know that they will be hanged if they come in contact with Jurand. It will be to their own interest not to meet him."
"But they may be captured."
"Then we will deny them and the letter. Who can prove that we sent them? And then if there be no outrage, there will be no outcry, and it will not harm the Order, if Mazury cut several scoundrels into pieces."
Brother Godfried, the youngest of the monks, said:
"I do not understand your policy, nor your fear that it may be known that the girl was carried off by our command. Because if we have her in our possession, we will be obliged to send some one to Jurand to tell him: 'Your daughter is with us; if you wish her to be set at liberty, give von Bergow and yourself in exchange for her.' You cannot do otherwise, and then it will be known that we ordered the girl to be carried off."
"That is true!" said Sir de Fourcy, who did not like the whole affair. "Why should we hide that which must come out?"
But Hugo von Danveld began to laugh, and turning to Brother Godfried, asked:
"How long have you worn the white mantle?"
"It will be six years the first week after the day of the Holy Trinity."
"When you have worn it six years longer, you will understand the affairs of the Order better. Jurand knows us better than you do. We will tell him: 'Your daughter is watched by Brother Shomberg; if you say a word, remember what happened to Witold's children!'"
"Then von Bergow will be free and the Order also will be free from Jurand."
"No!" exclaimed Brother Rotgier; "everything is planned so cleverly that God ought to bless our enterprise."
"God blesses all deeds whose purpose is the good of the Order," said the gloomy Zygfried von Loeve.
Then they rode silently, and before them went their retinue, to open the way, because the road was covered with a heavy snow, which had fallen during the night. The day was cloudy, but warm; therefore the horses were steaming. From the forest flocks of crows were flying toward the villages, filling the air with their gloomy cawing.
Sir de Fourcy remained a little bit behind the Knights of the Cross and rode along in deep thought. He had been the guest of the Order for several years, and had participated in the expeditions against the Zmudz, where he distinguished himself by great bravery. Everywhere he had been received as the Knights of the Cross knew how to receive the knights from remote countries; he became attached to them very strongly, and not being rich, he planned to join their ranks. In the meanwhile he either lived in Marienburg, or visited the commanderies, searching in his travels for distractions and adventures. Having just arrived at Lubowa with the rich von Bergow, and having heard about Jnrand, he desired very much to fight with the man who was regarded with general dread. The arrival of Meineger, who was always victorious, precipitated the expedition. The comthur of Lubowa furnished the men for it, but in the meanwhile he told them so much not only about Jurand's cruelty, but also about his cunning and treachery, that when Juvand asked them to send away the soldiers, they refused to do it, fearing that if they did, he would surround and exterminate them or else capture and put them into the Spychowski dungeons. Then Jurand thinking that they cared less about a knightly fight than about plunder, attacked them and defeated them. De Fourcy saw von Bergow overthrown with his horse; he saw Meineger with a piece of a spear in his body, and he saw the men asking in vain for mercy. He escaped with great difficulty, and wandered for several days in the forests, where he would have died of hunger or been destroyed by wild beasts, if by chance he had not reached Ciechanow, where he found Brothers Godfried and Rotgier. From the expedition he emerged with a feeling of humiliation and shame, and with a desire for vengeance and a longing after Bergow, who was his dear friend. Therefore he joined with his whole soul in the complaint of the Knights of the Cross, when they asked for the punishment of the Polish knight and the freedom of his unhappy companion. When their complaint had no effect whatever, in the first moment he was ready to approve of any plan for vengeance against Jurand. But now some scruples were aroused in him. Listening to the conversation of the monks, and especially to what Hugo von Danveld said, he could not refrain from astonishment. It is true, that having become well acquainted during the past few years with the Knights of the Cross, he knew that they were not what they were represented to be in Germany and in the West. In Marienburg, he knew, however, a few honest and upright knights who often complained of the corruption of the brothers, of their lasciviousness and lack of discipline; de Fourcy felt that they were right, but being himself dissolute and lacking in discipline, he did not criticise them for those faults, especially because all knights of the Order redeemed them with bravery. He had seen them at Wilno, fighting breast to breast with the Polish knights; at the taking of castles, defended with superhuman stubbornness by Polish garrisons; he had seen them perishing under the blows of axes and swords, in general assaults or in single combats. They were merciless and cruel toward the Litwa, but at the same time, they were as brave as lions.
But now it seemed to Sir de Fourcy, that Hugo von Danveld advised such actions from which every knight's soul should recoil; and the other brothers not only were not angry with him, but approved of his words. Therefore astonishment seized him more and more; finally he became deeply thoughtful, pondering whether it was proper to join in the performance of such deeds.
If it were only a question of carrying off the girl and then exchanging her for Bergow, he would perhaps consent to that, although his heart had been moved by Danusia's beauty. But evidently the Knights of the Cross wished for something else. Through her they wished to capture Jurand, and then murder him, and together with him,—in order to hide the fraud and the crime—must assuredly murder the girl also.
They had threatened her already with the same fate that Witold's children met, in case Jurand should dare to complain. "They do not intend to keep any promise, but to cheat both and kill both," said de Fourcy, to himself, "although they wear the cross, and ought to guard their honor more than anybody else."
He became more and more indignant at such effrontery, and he determined to verify his suspicions; therefore he rode near Danveld and asked:
"If Jurand give himself up to you, will you set the girl at liberty?"
"If we let her go free, the whole world would immediately say that we had captured both of them," answered Danveld.
"Then, what do you propose to do with her?"
At this Danveld bent toward the knight, and laughing, showed his rotten teeth from beneath his thick lips.
"Do you mean what will be done with her, before or after?"
But Fourcy, surmising already that which he wished to know, became silent; for a while he seemed to struggle with himself; then he raised himself in his stirrups and said so loudly that he could be heard by all four of the monks:
"The pious brother, Ulrych von Jungingen, who is an example and an ornament of knighthood, said to me: 'Among the old knights in Marienburg, one can still find worthy Knights of the Cross; but those who control the commanderies near the frontier, only bring shame upon the Order.'"
"We are all sinful, but we serve the Saviour," answered Hugo.
"Where is your knightly honor? One cannot serve the Saviour by shameful deeds. You must know that I will not put my hand to anything like that, and that I also will prevent you."
"What will you prevent?"
"The artifice, the treachery, the shame!"
"How can you do it? In the fight with Jurand, you lost your retinue and wagons. You are obliged to live on the generosity of the Order, and you will die from hunger if we do not throw you a piece of bread; and then, you are alone, we are four—how could you prevent us?"
"How can I prevent you?" repeated de Fourcy. "I can return to the mansion and warn the prince; I can divulge your plans to the whole world."
Here the brothers of the Order looked at one another, and their faces changed in the twinkling of an eye. Hugo von Danveld, especially, looked questioningly into Zygfried von Loeve's eyes; then he turned to Sir de Fourcy:
"Your ancestors," said he, "used to serve in the Order, and you wished to join it also; but we do not receive traitors."
"And I do not wish to serve with traitors."
"Ej! you shall not fulfill your threat. The Order knows how to punish not only the monks——"
Sir de Fourcy being excited by these words, drew his sword, and seized the blade with his left hand; his right hand he put on the hilt and said:
"On this hilt which is in the form of the cross, on St. Denis, my patron's head, and on my knightly honor, I swear that I will warn the Mazowiecki prince and the grand master."
Hugo von Danveld again looked inquiringly at Zygfried von Loeve, who closed his eyelids, as if consenting to something.
Then Danveld said in a strangely muffled and changed voice:
"St. Denis could carry his head after he was beheaded, but when yours once falls down——"
"Are you threatening me?" interrupted de Fourcy.
"No, but I kill!" answered Danveld. And he thrust his knife into de Fourcy's side with such strength, that the blade disappeared up to the hilt. De Fourcy screamed dreadfully; for a while he tried to seize his sword which he held in his left hand, with his right, but he dropped it; at the same time, the other three brothers began to pierce him mercilessly with their knives, in the neck, in the back, and in the stomach, until he fell from his horse.
Then there was silence. De Fourcy bleeding dreadfully from several wounds, quivered on the snow. From beneath the leaden sky, there came only the cawing of the crows, which were flying from the silent wilderness, toward human habitations.
Then there began a hurried conversation between the murderers:
"Our servants did not see anything!" said Danveld, panting.
"No. The retinues are in front; we cannot see them," answered von Loeve.
"Listen: we will have cause for a new complaint. We will publish the statement that the Mazowiecki knights fell upon us and killed our companion. We will shout aloud—they will hear us in Marienburg—that the prince sent murderers even after his guests. Listen! we must say that Janusz did not wish to listen to our complaints against Jurand, but that he ordered the accuser to be murdered."
In the meanwhile, de Fourcy turned in the last convulsion on his back and then remained motionless, with a bloody froth on his lips and with dread pictured in his widely-opened dead eyes. Brother Rotgier looked at him and said:
"Notice, pious brothers, how God punishes even the thought of treachery."
"What we have done, was done for the good of the Order," answered Godfried. "Glory to those——"
But he stopped, because at that moment, behind them, at the turn of the snowy road, there appeared a horseman, who rushed forward as fast as his horse could go. Having perceived him, Hugo von Danveld quickly exclaimed:
"Whoever this man is—he must die." And von Loeve, who although the oldest among the brothers, had very keen eyesight, said:
"I recognize him; it is that shield-bearer who killed the bison with an axe. Yes; it is he!"
"Hide your knives, so that he may not become frightened," said Danveld. "I will attack him first, you shall follow me."
In the meanwhile, the Bohemian arrived and reined in his horse at a distance of eight or ten steps. He noticed the corpse lying in the pool of blood, the horse without a rider, and astonishment appeared on his face; but it lasted only for the twinkling of an eye. After a while, he turned to the brothers as if nothing had happened and said:
"I bow to you, brave knights!"
"We recognize you," answered Danveld, approaching slowly. "Have you anything for us?"
"The knight Zbyszko of Bogdaniec, after whom I carry the spear, sent me, because being injured by the bison, he could not come himself."
"What does your master wish from us?"
"My master commanded me to tell you that because you unrighteously accused Jurand of Spychow, to the detriment of his knightly honor, you did not act like honest knights, but howled like dogs; and if any one of you feels insulted by these words, he challenges him to a combat on horseback or on foot, to the last breath; he will be ready for the duel as soon as with God's help and mercy he is released from his present indisposition."
"Tell your master, that the Knights of the Order bear insults patiently for the Saviour's sake, and they cannot fight, without special permission from the grand master or from the grand marshal; for which permission they will write to Malborg."
The Czech again looked at de Fourcy's corpse, because he had been sent especially to that knight. Zbyszko knew that the monks could not fight in single combat: but having heard that there was a secular knight with them, he wanted to challenge him especially, thinking that by doing so he would win Jurand's favor. But that knight was lying slaughtered like an ox, by the four Knights of the Cross.
It is true that the Czech did not understand what had happened; but being accustomed from childhood to different kinds of danger, he suspected some treachery. He was also surprised to see Danveld, while talking with him, approach him closer and closer; the others began to ride to his sides, as if to surround him. Consequently he was upon the alert, especially as he did not have any weapons; he had not brought any, being in great haste.
In the meanwhile Danveld who was near him, said:
"I promised your master some healing balm; he repays me badly for my good deed. But no wonder, that is the usual thing among the Polaks. But as he is severely injured and may soon be called to God, tell him then——"
Here he leaned his left hand on the Czech's shoulder.
"Tell him then, that I—well—I answer this way!——"
And at the same moment, his knife gleamed near the throat of the shield-bearer; but before he could thrust, the Czech who had been watching his movements closely, seized Danveld's right hand, with his iron-like hands, bent and twisted it so that the bones cracked; then hearing a dreadful roaring of pain, he pricked his horse and rushed away like an arrow, before the others could stop him.
Brothers Rotgier and Godfried pursued him, but they soon returned, frightened by a dreadful cry from Danveld. Von Loeve supported him with his shoulders, while he cried so loudly that the retinue, riding with the wagons in front at quite a distance, stopped their horses.
"What is the matter with you?" asked the brothers.
But von Loeve ordered them to ride forward as fast as they could, and bring a wagon, because Danveld could not remain in his saddle. After a moment, a cold perspiration covered his forehead and he fainted.
When they brought the wagon, they put him on some straw in the bottom and hurried toward the frontier. Von Loeve urged them forward because he realized that after what had happened, they could not lose time in nursing Danveld. Having seated himself beside him in the wagon, he rubbed his face with snow from time to time; but he could not resuscitate him. At last when near the frontier, Danveld opened his eyes and began to look around.
"How do you feel?" asked Loeve.
"I do not feel any pain, but neither can I feel my hand," answered Danveld.
"Because it has grown stiff already; that is why you do not feel any pain. It will come back in a warm room. In the meanwhile, thank God even for a moment of relief."
Rotgier and Godfried approached the wagon.
"What a misfortune!" said the first. "What shall we do now?"
"We will declare," said Danveld in a feeble voice, "that the shield-bearer murdered de Fourcy."
"It is their latest crime and the culprit is known!" added Rotgier.
In the meanwhile, the Czech rushed as fast as he could to the prince's hunting residence, and finding the prince still there, he told him first, what had happened. Happily there were some courtiers who had seen the shield-bearer go without any arms. One of them had even shouted after him, half in jest, to take some old iron, because otherwise the Germans would get the best of him; but he, fearing that the knights would pass the frontier, jumped on horseback as he stood, in a sheepskin overcoat only and hurried after them. These testimonies dispelled all possible doubts from the prince's mind as to the fact who had murdered de Fourcy; but they filled him with uneasiness and with such anger, that at first he wanted to pursue the Knights of the Cross, capture them and send them to the grand master in chains. After a while, however, he came to the conclusion, that it was impossible to reach them on this side of the boundary and he said:
"I will send, instead, a letter to the grand master, so that he may know what they are doing here. God will punish them for it!"
Then he became thoughtful and after a while he began to say to the courtiers:
"I cannot understand why they killed their guest; I would suspect the shield-bearer if I did not know that he went there without weapons."
"Bah!" said the ksiondz Wyszoniek, "why should the boy kill him? He had not seen him before. Then suppose be had had arms, how could he attack five of them and their armed retinues?"
"That is true," said the prince. "That guest must have opposed them in something, or perhaps be did not wish to lie as was necessary for them. I saw them wink at him, to induce him to say that Jurand was the first to begin the fight."
Then Mrokota of Mocarzew said:
"He is a strong boy, if be could crush the arm of that dog Danveld."
"He said that be heard the bones of the German crack," answered the prince; "and taking into consideration what he did in the forest, one must admit it is true! The master and the servant are both strong boys. But for Zbyszko, the bison would have rushed against the horses. Both the Lotaringer and he contributed very much to the rescue of the princess."
"To be sure they are great boys," affirmed the ksiondz Wyszoniek. "Even now when he can hardly breathe, be has taken Jurand's part and challenged those knights. Jurand needs exactly such a son-in-law."
"In Krakow, Jurand said differently; but now, I think he will not oppose it," said the prince.
"The Lord Jesus will help," said the princess, who entered just now and heard the end of the conversation.
"Jurand cannot oppose it now, if only God will restore Zbyszko's health; but we must reward him also."
"The best reward for him will be Danusia, and I think he will get her, for when the women resolve to accomplish some object, then even Jurand himself could not prevent them."
"Am I not right, to wish for that marriage?" asked the princess.
"I would not say a word if Zbyszko were not constant; but I think there is no other in the world as faithful as he. And the girl also. She does not leave him now for a moment; she caresses him and he smiles at her, although he is very ill. I cry myself when I see this! I am speaking righteously! It is worth while to help such a love, because the Holy Mother looks gladly on human happiness."
"If it be God's will," said the prince, "the happiness will come. But it is true that he nearly lost his head for that girl and now the bison has injured him."
"Do not say it was for that girl," said the princess, quickly, "because in Krakow Danusia saved him."
"True! But for her sake he attacked Lichtenstein, in order to tear from his head the feathers, and he would not have risked his life for de Lorche. As for the reward, I said before that they both deserve one, and I will think about it in Ciechanow."
"Nothing will please Zbyszko more than to receive the knightly girdle and the golden spurs."
The prince smiled benevolently and answered:
"Let the girl carry them to him; and when the illness leaves him, then we will see that everything is accomplished according to the custom. Let her carry them to him immediately, because quick joy is the best!"
The princess having heard that, hugged her lord in the presence of the courtiers, and kissed his hands; he smiled continually and said:
"You see—A good idea! I see that the Holy Ghost has granted the woman some sense also! Now call the girl."
"Danuska! Danuska!" called the princess.
And in a moment in the side door Danusia appeared; her eyes were red on account of sleepless nights; and she held a pot of steaming gruel, which the ksiondz Wyszoniek had ordered to be put on Zbyszko's fractured bones.
"Come to me, my dear girl!" said Prince Janusz. "Put aside the pot and come."
When she approached with some timidity, because "the lord" always excited some fear in her, he embraced her kindly and began to caress her face, saying:
"Well, the poor child is unhappy—hein?"
"Yes!" answered Danusia.
And having sadness in her heart, she began to cry but very quietly, in order not to hurt the prince; he asked again:
"Why do you cry?"
"Because Zbyszko is ill," answered she, putting her little hands to her eyes.
"Do not be afraid, there is no danger for him. Is that not true, Father Wyszoniek?"
"Hej! by God's will, he is nearer to the wedding than to the coffin," answered the good-hearted ksiondz Wyszoniek.
The prince said:
"Wait! In the meanwhile, I will give you a medicine for him, and I trust it will relieve him or cure him entirely."
"Have the Krzyzaks sent the balm?" asked Danusia quickly, taking her little hands from her eyes.
"With that balm which the Krzyzaks will send, you had better smear a dog than a knight whom you love. I will give you something else."
Then he turned to the courtiers and said:
"Hurry and bring the spurs and the girdle."
After a while, when they had brought them to him, he said to Danusia:
"Take these to Zbyszko—and tell him that from this time he is a belted knight. If he die, then he will appear before God as miles cinctus; if he live, then the rest will be accomplished in Ciechanow or in Warszawa."
Having heard this, Danusia seized "the lord" by his knees; then caught the knightly insignia with one hand and the pot of porridge with the other, and rushed to the room where Zbyszko was lying. The princess, not wishing to lose the sight of their joy, followed her.
Zbyszko was very ill, but having perceived Danusia, he turned his pale face toward her and asked:
"Has the Czech returned?"
"No matter about the Czech!" answered the girl. "I bring you better news than that. The lord has made you a knight and has sent you this by me."
Having said this, she put beside him the girdle and the spurs. Zbyszko's pale cheeks flushed with joy and astonishment, he glanced at Danusia and then at the spurs; then he closed his eyes and began to repeat:
"How could he dub me a knight?"
At that moment the princess entered, and he raised himself a little and began to thank her, because he guessed that her intervention had brought such a great favor and bliss to him. But she ordered him to be quiet and helped Danusia to put his head on the pillows again. In the meanwhile, the prince, the ksiondz Wyszoniek, Mrokota and several other courtiers entered.
Prince Janusz waved his hand to signify that Zbyszko must not move; then having seated himself beside the bed, he said:
"You know! The people must not wonder that there is reward for good deeds, because if virtue remained without any reward, human iniquities would walk without punishment. You did not spare your life, but with peril to yourself defended us from dreadful mourning; therefore we permit you to don the knightly girdle, and from this moment to walk in glory and fame."
"Gracious lord," answered Zbyszko. "I would not spare even ten lives——"
But he could not say anything more, on account of his emotion; and the princess put her hand on his mouth because the ksiondz Wyszoniek did not permit him to talk. The prince continued further:
"I think that you know the knightly duties and that you will wear the insignia with honor. You must serve our Saviour, and fight with the starosta of hell. You must be faithful to the anointed lord, avoid unrighteous war and defend innocence against oppression; may God and His Holy Passion help you!"
"Amen!" answered the ksiondz Wyszoniek.
The prince arose, made the sign of the cross over Zbyszko and added:
"And when you recover, go immediately to Ciechanow, where I will summon Jurand."
Three days afterward, a woman arrived with the Hercynski balm and with her came the captain of the archers from Szczytno, with a letter, signed by the brothers and sealed with Danveld's seal; in that letter the Knights of the Cross called on heaven and earth as witnesses of the wrongs committed against them in Mazowsze, and with a threat of God's vengeance, they asked for punishment for the murder of their "beloved comrade and guest." Danveld added to the letter his personal complaint, asking humbly but also threateningly for remuneration for his crippled hand and a sentence of death against the Czech. The prince tore the letter into pieces in the presence of the captain, threw it under his feet and said:
"The grand master sent those scoundrels of Krzyzaks to win me over, but they have incited me to wrath. Tell them from me that they killed their guest themselves and they wanted to murder the Czech. I will write to the grand master about that and I will request him to send different envoys, if he wishes me to be neutral in case of a war between the Order and the Krakowski king."
"Gracious lord," answered the captain, "must I carry such an answer to the mighty and pious brothers?"
"If it is not enough, tell them then, that I consider them dog-brothers and not honest knights."
This was the end of the audience. The captain went away, because the prince departed the same day for Ciechanow. Only the "sister" remained with the balm, but the mistrustful ksiondz Wyszoniek did not wish to use it, especially as the sick man had slept well the preceding night and had awakened without any fever, although still very weak. After the prince's departure, the sister immediately sent a servant for a new medicine apparently—for the "egg of a basilisk"—which she affirmed had the power to restore strength even to people in agony; as for herself, she wandered about the mansion; she was humble and was dressed in a lay dress, but similar to that worn by members of the Order; she carried a rosary and a small pilgrim's gourd at her belt. She could not move one of her hands. As she could speak Polish well, she inquired from the servants about Zbyszko and Danusia, to whom she made a present of a rose of Jericho; on the second day during Zbyszko's slumber, while Danusia was sitting in the dining-room, she approached her and said:
"May God-bless you, panienko. Last night after my prayers I dreamed that there were two knights walking during the fall of the snow; one of them came first and wrapped you in a white mantle, and the other said: 'I see only the snow, and she is not here,' and he returned."
Danusia who was sleepy, immediately opened her blue eyes curiously, and asked:
"What does it mean?"
"It means that the one who loves you the best, will get you."
"That is Zbyszko!" said the girl.
"I do not know, because I did not see his face; I only saw the white mantle and then I awakened; the Lord Jesus sends me pain every night in my feet and I cannot move my hand."
"It is strange that the balm has not helped you any!"
"It cannot help me, panienko, because the pain is a punishment for a sin; if you wish to know what the sin was, I will tell you."
Danusia nodded her little head in sign that she wished to know; therefore the "sister" continued:
"There are also servants, women, in the Order, who, although they do not make any vows, and are allowed to marry, are obliged to perform certain duties for the Order, according to the brothers' commands. The one who meets such favor and honor, receives a pious kiss from a brother-knight as a sign that from that moment she is to serve the Order with words and deeds. Ah! panienko!—I was going to receive that great favor, but in sinful obduracy instead of receiving it with gratitude, I committed a great sin and was punished for it."
"What did you do?"
"Brother Danveld came to me and gave me the kiss of the Order; but I, thinking that he was doing it from pure license, raised my wicked hand against him——"
Here she began to strike her breast and repeated several times:
"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
"What happened then?" asked Danusia.
"Immediately my hand became motionless, and from that moment I have been crippled. I was young and stupid—I did not know! But I was punished. If a woman fears that a brother of the Order wishes to do something wicked, she must leave the judgment to God, but she must not resist herself, because whosoever contradicts the Order or a brother of the Order, that one will feel God's anger!"
Danusia listened to these words with fright and uneasiness; the sister began to sigh and to complain.
"I am not old yet," said she; "I am only thirty years old, but besides the hand, God has taken from me my youth and beauty."
"If it were not for the hand," said Danusia, "you need not complain."
Then there was silence. Suddenly the sister, as if she had just remembered something, said:
"I dreamed that some knight wrapped you with a white mantle on the snow. Perhaps it was a Krzyzak! They wear white mantles."
"I want neither Krzyzaks nor their mantles," answered the girl.
But further conversation was interrupted by the ksiondz Wyszoniek, who entering the room, nodded to Danusia and said:
"Praise God and come to Zbyszko! He has awakened and has asked for something to eat. He is much better."
In fact it was so. Zbyszko was a great deal better, and the ksiondz Wyszoniek was almost sure that he would recover, when an unexpected accident upset all his expectations. There came envoys from Jurand with a letter to the princess, containing dreadful news. In Spychow, half of Jurand's grodek had been burned, and he himself during the rescue was struck by a beam. It is true that the ksiondz Kaleb, who wrote the letter, said that Jurand, would recover, but that the sparks had burned his remaining eye so badly that there was very little sight left in it, and he was likely to become blind.
For that reason, Jurand asked his daughter to come to Spychow as soon as possible, because he wished to see her once more, before he was entirely encompassed by darkness. He also said that she was to remain with him, because even the blind, begging on the roads, had some one to lead them by the hand and show them the way; why should he be deprived of that pleasure and die among strangers? There were also humble thanks for the princess, who had taken care of the girl like a mother, and finally Jurand promised that, although blind, he would go to Warszawa once more, in order to fall at the lady's feet and beg her for further favor for Danusia.
The princess, when the ksiondz Wyszoniek had finished reading the letter, could not say a word for some time. She had hoped that when Jurand came to see his daughter and her, she would be able by the prince's and her own influence to obtain his consent for the wedding of the young couple. But this letter, not only destroyed her plans, but in the meanwhile deprived her of Danusia whom she loved as well as she did her own children. She feared that Jurand would marry the girl to some neighbor of his, so as to spend the rest of his life among his own people. It was no use to think about Zbyszko—he could not go to Spychow, and then who knew how he would be received there. The lady knew that Jurand had refused to give him Danusia; and he had said to the princess herself that on account of some secret reason, he would never consent to their marriage. Therefore in great grief she ordered the principal messenger to be brought to her, as she desired to ask him about the Spychowski misfortune, and also to learn something about Jurand's plans.
She was very much surprised when a stranger came instead of the old Tolima, who used to bear the shield after Jurand and usually carried his messages; but the stranger told her that Tolima had been seriously injured in the last fight with the Germans and that he was dying in Spychow; Jurand being very ill himself, asked her to send his daughter immediately, because every day he saw less and less, and perhaps in a few days he would become blind. The messenger begged the princess to permit him to take the girl immediately after the horses were rested, but as it was already dusk she refused; especially as she did not wish to distress Zbyszko and Danusia by such a sudden separation.
Zbyszko already knew all about it, and he was lying like one stricken by a heavy blow; when the princess entered, and wringing her hands, said from the threshold:
"We cannot help it; he is her father!" he repeated after her like an echo: "We cannot help it——" then closed his eyes, like a man who expects death immediately.
But death did not come; but in his breast there gathered a still greater grief and through his head ran sad thoughts, like the clouds which driven by the wind, obstruct the sun and quench all joy in the world. Zbyszko understood as well as the princess did, that if Danusia were once in Spychow, she would be lost to him forever. Here everybody was his friend; there Jurand might even refuse to receive him, or listen to him, especially if he were bound by a vow, or some other unknown reason as strong as a religious vow. Then how could he go to Spychow, when he was sick and hardly able to move in bed. A few days ago, when the prince rewarded him with the golden spurs, he had thought that his joy would conquer his illness, and he had prayed fervently to God to be permitted to soon rise and fight with the Krzyzaks; but now he had again lost all hope, because he felt that if Danusia were not at his bedside, then with her would go his desire for life and the strength to fight with death. What a pleasure and joy it had been to ask her several times a day: "Do you love me?" and to see how she covered her smiling and bashful eyes, or bent and answered: "Yes, Zbyszko."
But now only illness, loneliness and grief would remain, and the happiness would depart and not return.
Tears shone in Zbyszko's eyes and rolled slowly down on his cheeks; then he turned to the princess and said:
"Gracious lady, I fear that I shall never see Danusia again."
And the lady being sorrowful herself, answered:
"I would not be surprised if you died from grief; but the Lord Jesus is merciful."
After a while, however, wishing to comfort him, she added:
"But if Jurand die first, then the tutelage will be the prince's and mine, and we will give you the girl immediately."
"He will not die!" answered Zbyszko.
But at once, evidently some new thought came to his mind, because he arose, sat on the bed and said in a changed voice:
At that moment Danusia interrupted him; she came crying and said from the threshold:
"Zbyszku! Do you know about it already! I pity tatus, but I pity you also, poor boy!"
When she approached, Zbyszko encircled his love with his well arm, and began to speak:
"How can I live without you, my dearest? I did not travel through rivers and forest, I did not make the vow to serve you, that I might lose you. Hej! sorrow will not help, crying will not help, bah! even death itself, because even if the grass grow over me, my soul will not forget you, even if I am in the presence of the Lord Jesus or of God the Father—I say, there must be a remedy! I feel a terrible pain in my bones, but you must fall at the lady's feet, I cannot—and ask her to have mercy upon us."
Danusia hearing this, ran quickly to the princess' feet, and having seized them in her arms, she hid her face in the folds of the heavy dress; the lady turned her compassionate but also astonished eyes to Zbyszko, and said: