The night was very bright, therefore the whole group was perfectly visible against the white background of snow. Jurand's and Zbyszko's heart began to beat faster at this sight, because who else would be riding to Spychow in the middle of the night, but the messengers from the Teutons?
Zbyszko ordered the driver to go faster, and so they soon came so near each other, that they could be heard, and two riders, who apparently watched over the safety of the sledge, turned to them, and, unslinging their crossbows, cried:
"Who is there?"
"Germans!" whispered Jurand to Zbyszko.
Then he raised his voice and said:
"It is my right to ask, and yours to reply!"
"Who are you?"
"What sort of travelers?"
"It is they!" again whispered Jurand.
Meanwhile the sledges had come together, and at the same time six horsemen appeared before them. This was the guard of Spychow, which watched the dike leading to the castle day and night. With the horses were very large and savage dogs, exactly resembling wolves.
The guardsmen, having recognized Jurand, began to utter cries of welcome mingled with astonishment that the master had returned so soon and unexpectedly; but he was entirely engaged with the messengers, and therefore turned to them again:
"Where are you traveling to?" he asked.
"What do you want there?"
"We can tell that only to the lord himself."
Jurand was about to say: "I am the lord of Spychow;" but he restrained himself, feeling that conversation could not be carried on in the presence of others. He asked them instead, whether they had any letters, and, when they replied that they were ordered to communicate verbally, he gave orders to drive as fast as the horses could go. Zbyszko was equally anxious to hear news of Danusia, and could not turn his attention to anything else. He became impatient when the guards on the dike stopped them twice; and when the bridge was lowered over the moat, behind which rose on the mound a gigantic palisade, and although he had previously often desired to see that castle of ominous fame, at the mention of which the Germans made the sign of a cross, now he saw nothing but the Teuton messengers, from whom he might hear where Danusia was and when she would be set at liberty. He did not foresee though, that a great disappointment was awaiting him. Besides the horsemen, who were given for defence, and the driver, the embassy from Szczytno was composed of two persons: one of these was the same woman who had once brought the healing balsam to the Forest Court; the other was a young pontnik. Zbyszko did not recognize the woman, because he had not seen her at the Forest Court; the pontnik at once seemed to him to be a disguised warrior. Jurand soon led both into the neighboring room, and halted before them, huge, and almost terrible in the glow of the fire, which fell upon him from the logs burning in the chimney.
"Where is the child?" he asked.
But they were frightened, standing face to face with a menacing man. Although the pontnik had an insolent face, he simply trembled like a leaf, and the woman's legs trembled also. She glanced from Jurand to Zbyszko, and then at the shining bald head of the priest Kaleb, and then again at Jurand, as if inquiring what the other two were doing there.
"Sir," she said, finally, "we do not know what you are asking, but we were sent to you on important matters. Yet, the one who sent us ordered us explicitly, that the conversation should be held without witnesses."
"I have no secrets from these!" said Jurand.
"But we have, noble lord," replied the woman, "and if you order them to remain, then we shall ask for nothing but that you allow us to leave to-morrow."
Anger appeared in Jurand's face as he was not used to opposition. For a moment his tawny moustache worked ominously, but he reflected, "For Danusia's sake!" and restrained himself. Moreover, Zbyszko, who wanted above all things that the conversation might be concluded as soon as possible, and felt sure that Jurand would repeat it to him, said:
"If it must be so, then remain alone." And he left, together with the priest Kaleb; but he scarcely found himself in the main hall, in which were hanging targets and weapons, captured by Jurand, when Glowacz approached him.
"Sir," he said, "that is the same woman!"
"From the Teutons, who brought the balsam. I recognized her at once, and so did Sanderus. She came, at it seems, to spy, and she certainly knows now where the lady is."
"And we shall know," said Zbyszko.
"Do you also know that pontnik?"
"No," replied Sanderus; "but do not buy, sir, any remissions from him, because he is a false pontnik,"
"If you put him to the torture, you might obtain a lot of information."
"Wait!" said Zbyszko.
Meanwhile, in the next room hardly had the doors closed behind Zbyszko and the priest Kaleb, when the sister of the Order quickly approached Jurand and whispered:
"Robbers captured your daughter."
"With crosses on their robes?"
"No. But God blessed the pious brethren, so that they recovered her, and now she is with them."
"Where is she, I ask."
"Under the care of the religious Brother Shomberg," she answered, crossing her hands on her breast and bowing humbly.
But Jurand, hearing the dreadful name of the hangman of Witold's children, turned as pale as linen; after a moment he sat on a bench, shut his eyes, and began to wipe away the cold perspiration, which collected in beads on his forehead.
Seeing this, the pontnik, although he had not hitherto been able to restrain his fear, now put his hands on his hips, lounged on the bench, stretched out his legs and looked at Jurand, with eyes full of pride and scorn. A long silence followed.
"Brother Markward also assists Brother Shomberg in guarding her," again said the woman; "it is a vigilant watch and no harm will happen to the lady."
"What am I to do in order to get her back?" inquired Jurand.
"To humble yourself before the Order!" proudly said the pontnik.
At this Jurand arose, went up to him, and bending down over him, said in concentrated, terrible tones:
And the pontnik was again terror-stricken. He knew, that he could threaten and say what would tame and overwhelm Jurand, but he was terrified lest, before saying a word, something dreadful would happen to him; he therefore remained silent, with dilated eyes, as if petrified with fear, fixed on the threatening face of the lord of Spychow, and sat motionless, only his beard began to quiver with agitation.
Jurand again turned to the sister of the Order:
"Have you a letter?"
"No, sir. We have no letter. What we have to say, we were ordered to say verbally."
And she repeated again, as if wishing that Jurand should impress it well in his memory:
"Brother Shomberg and Brother Markward watch over the lady; therefore, you sir, restrain your anger.... But no evil will happen to her, because although you have gravely injured the Order for many years, nevertheless the brethren wish to repay you good for evil if you comply with their just demands."
"What do they wish?"
"They wish you to release Herr von Bergow."
Jurand breathed heavily.
"I will return von Bergow to them," he said.
"And the other prisoners that you have in Spychow."
"There are two retainers of Meineger and von Bergow, besides their boys."
"You must release them, sir, and make amends for the imprisonment."
"God forbid that I should bargain for my child."
"The religious friars expected that from you," said the woman, "but this is not all that I was ordered to say. Your daughter, sir, was captured by some men, undoubtedly robbers, and certainly for the purpose of demanding a rich ransom. God permitted the brethren to recapture her, and now they demand nothing but the return of their brother and associate. But the brethren know, and you, too, sir, what hatred there is in this country against them, and how unfairly even their most righteous actions are judged. For this reason the brethren are sure that, if the people here found out that your daughter was with them, they would at once begin to suspect that they had captured her, and would consequently utter only slander and complaints.... O yes, evil and malicious people here have frequently repaid them so, and the reputation of the holy Order has suffered greatly by it, and the brethren are greatly concerned about it, and therefore they add this sole condition that you alone assure the prince of this country and all the mighty knights that it is true, that not the Teutonic knights, but robbers carried off your daughter, and that you had to ransom her from robbers."
"It is true," said Jurand, "that bandits have captured my child, and that I have to buy her back from bandits...."
"You shall tell nobody otherwise, because if only one person should find out that you come to terms with the brethren, if only one living soul or only one complaint were sent to the master, or the assembly, great complications would ensue."
Jurand's face exhibited great alarm. At the first moment it seemed to him quite natural that the knights required secrecy, fearing responsibility and disgrace, but now a suspicion arose in his mind that there might be another reason, but, not being able to account for it, he was seized with such terror as sometimes happens to the most courageous when danger does not threaten them alone, but also their relatives and loved ones.
He determined however to find out more from the Order's servant.
"The knights wish secrecy," he said, "but how can it be kept, when I release von Bergow and the others in return for my child?"
"You will say that you accepted ransom for von Bergow in order to be able to pay the robbers."
"People will not believe it, because I never accepted ransom," gloomily replied Jurand.
"But your child was never in question," hissed the messenger in reply.
And again silence followed, after which the pontnik, who, in the meanwhile had gained courage, and judged that Jurand must now restrain himself more, said:
"Such is the will of the brethren Shomberg and Markward."
The messenger continued:
"You will say, that this pontnik who came with me, brought you the ransom, we also will leave here with the noble von Bergow and the prisoners."
"How so?" said Jurand, frowning, "do you think that I will give up the prisoners before you return my child?"
"You can act, sir, still differently. You can call personally for your daughter at Szczytno, whither the brethren will bring her to you."
"I? at Szczytno?"
"Because, should the bandits capture her again on the way, your and your people's suspicion would again fall upon the pious knights, and therefore they prefer to give her into your own hands."
"And who will pledge himself for my return, if I walk alone into a wolf's throat?"
"The virtue of the brethren, their justice and godliness!"
Jurand began to walk up and down the room. He began to suspect treason and feared it, but he felt at the same time that the Teutons could impose any conditions they pleased upon him, and that he was powerless before them.
However, an idea struck him, and suddenly halting before the pontnik, he gazed at him with a piercing look, and then turned to the messenger and said;
"Well, I will go to Szczytno. You and this man, who is wearing pontnik garb, will remain here until my return, after which you will leave with von Bergow and the prisoners."
"Do you refuse, sir, to believe friars." said the pontnik; "how then can they trust you to liberate us and von Bergow on your return?"
Jurand's face turned pale with fury, and a critical moment followed, in which it almost seemed that he would catch the pontnik by the throat and dash him to the floor; but he suppressed his anger, drew a deep breath and commenced to speak slowly but emphatically.
"Whoever you are, do not strain my patience to the breaking point!"
But the pontnik turned to the sister: "Speak! what you were ordered."
"Lord," she said: "we would not dare distrust your oath upon your sword and knightly honor, but it is not proper for you to swear before people of low rank. And we were not sent for your oath."
"What were you sent for?"
"The brethren told us that, without saying anything to anybody, you must appear at Szczytno with von Bergow and the prisoners."
At that, Jurand's shoulders began to draw together, and his fingers to extend like the claws of a bird of prey; at last, stopping before the woman, he bent down, as if to speak into her ear, and said:
"Did they not tell you that I should order you and von Bergow to be broken on the wheel in Spychow?"
"Your daughter is in the power of the brethren, and under the care of Shomberg and Markward," replied the sister, meaningly.
"Robbers, poisoners, hangmen!" burst forth Jurand.
"Who are able to avenge us and who said at our departure: 'Should he not comply with all our orders, it would be far better that the girl should die, as Witold's children died.' Choose!"
"And understand that you are in the power of the knights," remarked the pontnik. "They do not wish to do you any harm, and the starosta of Szczytno sends you his word by us that you shall go free from his castle; but they want you, for the wrong done to them, to present your respects to the Teuton, and beg for the victor's mercy. They want to forgive you, but they first wish to bend your stubborn neck. You denounced them as traitors and perjurers.—therefore they want you to acknowledge their good faith. They will restore you and your daughter to liberty—but you must beg for it. You trampled upon them—now you must swear that your hand will never, be raised against the white robe."
"The knights wish it so," added the woman, "and Markward and Shomberg with them."
A moment of deathlike silence followed. It seemed only that somewhere among the beams of the ceiling some smothered echo repeated as if in terror: "Markward ... Shomberg."
Outside the windows could be heard the voices of Jurand's archers keeping watch on the mounds near the palisade of the castle.
The pontnik and the servant of the Order looked for a long time at each other and Jurand, who sat leaning against the wall, motionless, and with a face deeply shadowed by furs suspended by the window. His brain contained only one thought, that, if he did not do what the Teutons demanded, they would destroy his child; again, if he should do it, he might perhaps even then not save Danusia nor himself. And he saw no help, no way of escape. He felt a pitiless superior force over him which was crushing him. He saw in his soul already the iron hands of a Teuton on Danusia's throat; knowing them thoroughly, he did not doubt for a moment that they would kill her, bury her in the castle yard, and then deny it,—and who would then be able to prove that they had captured her?
It was true that Jurand had the messengers in his power; he could bring them to the prince and get a confession by means of torture, but the Teutons had Danusia, and they might not care about their agents' torture. And for a moment he seemed to see his child stretching out her hands from afar, asking for assistance.... If he at least knew that she was really at Szczytno, then he could go that very night to the border, attack the unsuspecting Germans, capture the castle, destroy the garrison and liberate the child—but she might not be and positively was not in Szczytno. It flashed like lightning through his head, that if he were to seize the woman and the pontnik, and take them directly to the grand master, then perhaps the master could draw confessions from them and might order the return of his daughter; but that gleam was extinguished almost as quickly as it took fire.
These people could tell the master that they came to ransom von Bergow and that they knew nothing about a girl. No! that way led to nothing, but what did? He thought, that should he go to Szczytno they would chain him and cast him under ground, while Danusia would not be released, lest it should transpire that they had captured her, if for no other reason. And meanwhile death hung over his only child, death over the last dear head!... And finally his thoughts grew confused, and the pain became so great, that it overpowered itself and became numbness. He sat motionless, for his body became as dead as if cut out of stone. If he wanted to rise now, he would not be able to do so.
Meanwhile the others grew tired of the long waiting, therefore the servant of the Order arose and said:
"It will be soon daylight, therefore permit us, sir, to retire, because we need a rest."
"And refreshment after the long journey," added the pontnik. Then they both bowed to Jurand and went out.
But he continued to sit motionless, as if seized by sleep or death.
Presently, however, the door opened and Zbyszko appeared, followed by the priest Kaleb.
"Who are the messengers? What do they want?" inquired the young knight, approaching Jurand.
Jurand quivered, but at first answered nothing; he only began to blink like a man awakened from a sound sleep.
"Sir, are you not ill?" said the priest Kaleb, who, knowing Jurand better, noticed that something curious was taking place within him.
"No!" replied Jurand.
"And Danusia?" further inquired Zbyszko; "where is she and what did they say to you?"
"What did they bring?"
"The ransom," slowly replied Jurand.
"The ransom for von Bergow?"
"For von Bergow...."
"How so, for von Bergow? what is the matter with you?"
But in his voice there was something so strange and listless that a sudden fear seized those two, especially because Jurand spoke of the ransom and not the exchange of von Bergow for Danusia.
"Gracious God!" exclaimed Zbyszko: "where is Danusia?"
"She is not with the Teutons,—no!" replied Jurand, in a sleepy tone; and suddenly he fell from the bench upon the floor as if dead.
The following day at noon the messengers saw Jurand, and soon afterward they rode away taking with them von Bergow, two esquires and a number of other prisoners. Jurand then summoned Father Kaleb and dictated a letter to the prince, stating that Danusia had not been carried off by the Knights of the Order, but that he had succeeded in discovering her refuge, and hoped to recover her in a few days. He repeated the same to Zbyszko, who had been wild with astonishment, dread and perplexity since the night before.
The old knight refused to answer any of his questions, telling him instead to wait patiently and not to undertake anything for the liberation of Danusia, because it was unnecessary.
Toward evening he shut himself in again with Father Kaleb, whom he had ordered to write down his last will; then he confessed himself, and after receiving the sacrament, he summoned Zbyszko, and the old taciturn Tolima, who used to accompany him in all his expeditions and fights, and in times of peace administered the affairs of Spychow.
"Here," he said, turning to the old warrior and raising his voice, as if he was speaking to a man who could not hear well, "is the husband of my daughter whom he married at the prince's court, for which he had my entire consent. Therefore, after my death, he will be the master and owner of the castle, the soil, forests, waters, people and all the craft in Spychow...."
Hearing this, Tolima was greatly surprised and began to turn his square head to Jurand and to Zbyszko alternately, he said nothing, however, because he scarcely ever did say anything, he only bowed to Zbyszko and lightly embraced his knees. And Jurand continued:
"This is my will, written by Father Kaleb, and below is my seal in wax; you must testify that you have heard this from me, and that I ordered that the young knight should be obeyed here even as I am. Furthermore, what is in the treasury in booty and money, you will show him, and you will serve him faithfully in peace as well as in war till death. Did you hear?"
Tolima raised his hands to his ears and nodded his head, then, at a sign from Jurand, he bowed and went out; the knight again turned to Zbyszko and said impressively:
"There is enough in the treasury to satisfy the greatest greed and to ransom not one but a hundred captives. Remember!"
But Zbyszko inquired:
"And why are you giving me Spychow already?"
"I give you more than Spychow, in the child."
"And we know not the hour of death," said Father Kaleb.
"Yes, unknown," repeated Jurand, sadly, "a short time ago, the snow covered me up, and, although God saved me, I have no more my old strength...."
"Gracious God!" exclaimed Zbyszko, "something his changed within you since yesterday, and you prefer to speak of death than of Danusia. Gracious God!"
"Danusia will return, she will," replied Jurand; "she is under God's protection. But if she returns ... listen ... take her to Bogdaniec and leave Spychow with Tolima.... He is a faithful man, and this is a wild neighborhood.... There they cannot capture her with a rope ... there she is safer...."
"Hej!" cried Zbyszko, "and you talk already as if from the other world. What is that?"
"Because I went half-way to the other world, and now I seem to be ill. And I also care for my child ... because I have only her. And, you too, although I know that you love her...."
Here he interrupted, and drawing a short weapon from its sheath, called the misericordia, he held the handle toward Zbyszko.
"Swear to me now upon this little cross that you will never harm her and that you will love her constantly...."
And tears suddenly started in Zbyszko's eyes; in a moment he fell upon his knees and, putting a finger on the hilt, exclaimed:
"Upon the Holy Passion, I will never harm, and will love her constantly!"
"Amen," said Father Kaleb.
Jurand again put the "dagger of mercy" back into the sheath and extended his arms:
"Then you are my child too!..."
They separated then, because it was late, and they had had no good rest for several days. However, Zbyszko got up the following morning at daybreak, because the previous day he had been frightened, lest Jurand were really falling ill, and he wished to learn how the older knight had spent the night. Before the door to Jurand's room he met Tolima, who had just left it.
"How is the lord? well?" he inquired.
The other again bowed, and then, putting his hand to his ear, said:
"What orders, your grace?"
"I am asking how the lord is?" repeated Zbyszko, louder.
"The lord has departed."
"I do not know.... In arms!"
The dawn was just beginning to whiten the trees, bushes and boulders scattered in the fields, when the hired guide, walking beside Jurand's horse, stopped and said:
"Permit me to rest, knight, for I am out of breath. It is thawing and foggy, but it is not far now."
"You will conduct me to the road, and then return," replied Jurand.
"The road will be to the right behind the forest, and you will soon see the castle from the hill."
Then the peasant commenced to strike his hands against his armpits, because he was chilled with the morning dampness; he then sat on a stone, because this exercise made him still more breathless.
"Do you know whether the count is in the castle?" inquired Jurand.
"Where else could he be, since he is ill?"
"What ails him?"
"People say that the Polish knights gave him a beating," replied the old peasant. And there was a feeling of satisfaction in his voice. He was a Teuton subject, but his Mazovian heart rejoiced over the superiority of the Polish knights.
He presently added:
"Hej! our lords are strong, but they have a hard task with them."
But immediately after saying this, he looked sharply at the knight, as if to convince himself that nothing bad would happen to him for the words which he had heedlessly let slip and said:
"You, lord, speak our language; you are no German?"
"No," replied Jurand; "but lead on."
The peasant arose, and again began to walk beside the horse. On the way, he now and then put his hand into a leathern pouch, pulled out a handful of unground corn, and put it into his mouth, and when he had thus satisfied his first hunger, he began to explain why he ate raw grains, although Jurand was too much occupied with his own misfortune and his own thoughts, to heed him.
"God be blessed for that," he said. "A hard life under our German lords! They lay such taxes upon grist, that a poor man must eat the grain with the chaff, like an ox. And when they find a hand-mill in a cottage, they execute the peasant, take whatever he has, bah! they do not pardon even women and children.... They fear neither God nor the priests. They even put the priest in chains for blaming them for it. Oh, it is hard under the Germans! If a man does grind some grains between two stones, then he keeps that handful of flour for the holy Sunday, and must eat like birds on Friday. But God be blessed for even that, because two or three months before the harvest there will not be even that much. It is not permitted to catch fish ... nor kill animals ... It is not as it is in Mazowsze."
The Teutonic peasant complained, speaking partly to himself, and partly to Jurand, and meanwhile they passed through a waste country, covered with limestone boulders, heaped with snow, and entered a forest, which looked grey in the morning light, and from which came a sharp, damp coolness. It became broad daylight; otherwise it would have been difficult for Jurand to travel along the forest road, which ran somewhat up hill, and was so narrow that his gigantic battle-horse could, in some places, hardly pass between the trunks. But the forest soon ended, and in a few "Paters," they reached the summit of a white hill, across the middle of which ran a beaten road.
"This is the road, lord," said the peasant; "you will find the way alone, now."
"I shall," replied Jurand. "Return home, man." And putting his hand into a leather bag, fastened in front of the saddle, he took from it a silver coin and handed it to the guide. The peasant, accustomed more to blows than to gifts from the local Teutonic knights, could scarcely believe his eyes, and catching the money, dropped his head to Jurand's stirrup and embraced it.
"O Jesus, Mary!" he exclaimed: "God reward your honor!"
"God be with you!"
"God's grace be with you! Szczytno is before you."
Then he once more bent down to the stirrup and disappeared. Jurand remained on the hill alone and looked in the direction indicated by the peasant, at a grey, moist veil of fog, which concealed the world before him. Behind this fog was hidden that ominous castle, to which he was driven by superior force and misery. It is already near, then, and what must happen, must happen.... As that thought came into Jurand's heart, in addition to his fear and anxiety about Danusia, and his readiness to redeem her from a foe's hands even with his own blood, he experienced a new, exceedingly bitter, and hitherto unknown feeling of humiliation. And now Jurand, at the mere mention of whose name the neighboring counts trembled, was riding to their command with a bowed head. He who had defeated and trampled under foot so many of them, now felt himself defeated and trampled upon. It is true, they had not overcome him in the field with courage and knightly strength, nevertheless he felt himself subdued. And it was to him something so unusual, that it seemed as if the entire order of the world were subverted. He was going to submit himself to the Teutons, he, who would rather meet single-handed the entire Teuton force, if it were not for Danusia's sake. Had it not happened already, that a single knight, having to choose between disgrace and death had attacked whole armies? But he felt that he might meet disgrace, and, at that thought, his heart groaned with agony as a wolf howls when it feels the dart within it.
But he was a man with not only a body, but also a soul, of iron. He knew how to subdue others, he knew also how to subdue himself.
"I will not move," he said to himself, "until I have overcome this anger with which I should rather lose than deliver my child."
And he wrestled with his hard heart, his inveterate hatred and his desire to fight. Whoever had seen him on that hill, in armor, on a gigantic horse, would have said that he was some giant, wrought out of iron, and would not have recognized that that motionless knight at that moment was waging the hottest of all the battles of his life. But he fought with himself until he had entirely overcome and felt that his will would not fail him. Meanwhile the mist thinned, although it did not disappear entirely, but finally something darker loomed through it.
Jurand guessed that these were the walls of the castle of Szczytno. At the sight of it he still did not move from the place, but began to pray so fervidly and ardently as a man prays, when nothing is left for him in the world but God's mercy. And when his horse did finally move, he felt that some sort of confidence was beginning to enter his heart. He was now prepared to suffer everything that could befall him. There came back to his memory Saint George, a descendant of the greatest race in Cappadocia, who suffered various shameful tortures, and nevertheless not only did not lose any honor, but is placed on the right hand of God and appointed patron of all knighthood. Jurand had sometimes heard tales of his exploits from the abbots, who came from distant countries, and now he strengthened his heart with these recollections.
Slowly even, hope began to awaken in him. The Teutons were indeed famous for their desire of revenge, therefore he did not doubt that they would take vengeance on him for all the defeats which he had inflicted upon them, for the disgrace which had fallen upon them after each encounter, and for the dread in which they had lived for so many years.
But that very consideration increased his courage. He thought that they had captured Danusia only in order to get him; therefore of what use would she be to them, after they had gotten him? Yes! They would undoubtedly seize him, and, not daring to keep him near Mazowsze, they would send him to some distant castle, where perhaps he would have to groan until his life's end under ground, but they would liberate Danusia. Even if it should prove that they had got him insidiously and by oppression, neither the grand master nor the assembly would blame them very much for that, because Jurand was actually very hard on the Teutons, and shed more of their blood than did any other knight in the world. But that same grand master would perhaps punish them for the imprisonment of the innocent girl, who was moreover a foster-daughter of the prince, whose favor he was seeking on account of the threatening war with the Polish king.
And his hope constantly increased. At times it seemed to him almost certain that Danusia would return to Spychow, under Zbyszko's powerful protection.... "He is a strong man," he thought; "he will not permit anybody to injure her." And he began to recall with affection all he knew of Zbyszko: "He defeated the Germans at Wilno, fought single-handed against the Fryzjans whom he challenged with his uncle and quartered, he also beat Lichtenstein, saved the child from the wild bull, and he challenged those four, whom he will surely not pardon." Here Jurand raised his eyes toward heaven and said: "I gave her to you, O Lord, and you to Zbyszko!"
And he gained still more confidence, judging that if God had given her to the youth, then He would certainly not allow the Germans to mock him but snatch her out of their hands, even if the entire Teuton power should oppose it. But then he commenced to think again about Zbyszko: "Bah! he is not only a mighty man but also as true as gold. He will guard her, love her, and Jesus! be good to her; but it seems to me, that, by his side she will neither miss the princely court nor paternal love...." At that thought his eyelids became suddenly moist, and a great yearning filled us heart. He would like to see his child once more at least in his life, and at some future time die in Spychow near those two, and not in the dark Teuton cells. "But God's will be done!" Szczytno was already visible. The walls became more distinct in the mist, the hour of sacrifice was approaching; he therefore began to comfort himself, and said to himself: "Surely, it is God's will! but the end of life is near. A few years more or less, the result will be the same. Hej! I would like to see both children yet, but, justly speaking, I have lived long enough. Whatever I had to experience, I did; whomever to revenge, I revenged. And what now? Rather to God, than to the world; and since it is necessary to suffer, then it is necessary. Danusia with Zbyszko, even when most prosperous, will not forget. Surely, they will sometimes recollect and ask: where is he? is he alive yet, or already in God's court of justice? They will inquire and perhaps find out. The Teutons are very revengeful, but also very greedy for ransom. Zbyszko would not grudge ransoming the bones at least. And they will surely order more than one mass. The hearts of both are honest and loving, for which may God and the Most Holy Mother bless them!"
The road became not only broader but also more frequented. Wagons laden with lumber and straw were on the way to the town. Herders were driving cattle. Frozen fish were carried on sledges from the lakes. In one place four archers led a peasant on a chain to court for some offence, for he had his hands tied behind him, and on his feet were fetters which, dragging in the snow, hardly enabled him to move. From his panting nostrils and mouth escaped breath in the shape of wreaths of vapor, while they sang as they urged him on. Or seeing Jurand, they began to look at him inquisitively, apparently marvelling at the huge proportions of the rider and horse; but, at the sight of the golden spurs and knightly belt, they lowered then crossbows as a sign of welcome and respect. The town was still more populous and noisy, but everybody hastily got out of the armed man's way, while he, traversing the main street, turned toward the castle which, wrapped in clouds, seemed to sleep yet.
Not everything around slept, at least not the crows and ravens, whole flights of which were stirring on the elevation, which constituted the entrance to the castle, flapping their wings and crowing. On coming nearer, Jurand understood the cause of their gathering. Beside the road leading to the gate of the castle, stood wide gallows, on which were hanging the bodies of four Mazovian peasants. There was not the least breath of wind, therefore the corpses, which seemed to be looking at their own feet, did not sway at all, except when the black buds perched upon their shoulders and heads, jostling one another, striking the ropes and pecking the bowed heads. Some of the hanged men must have been there for a long time, because their skulls were entirely naked, and their legs very much lengthened. At Jurand's approach, the flock arose with a great noise, but they soon turned in the air and began to settle on the crossbeam of the gallows. Jurand passed them, crossing himself, approached the moat, and, stopping at the place where the drawbridge was raised before the gate, sounded the horn.
He sounded it a second and a third time and waited. There was no living soul upon the walls, nor could a voice be heard within the gates. After a while though, a heavy flap, visible behind a grate built in stone near the castle gate, was raised with a crash, and in the opening appeared the bearded head of a German servant.
"Wer da?" inquired a harsh voice.
"Jurand of Spychow!" replied the knight.
Immediately the flap was closed again and deep silence followed.
Time passed. No movement was heard behind the gate, only the cawing of birds reached his ear from the direction of the gallows.
Jurand stood yet a long time before he raised the horn and sounded it again. But silence again was the sole response.
Now he understood that he was kept before the gate by Teuton pride, which knew no bounds before the defeated, in order to humiliate him like a beggar. He also guessed that he would have to wait thus until evening, or even longer. Consequently his blood began to boil in the first moments; he was suddenly seized with the desire to dismount, pick up one of the rocks which lay near the moat, and cast it at the grate. He and every other Mazovian or Polish knight would have done so, under other circumstances, and let them come then from behind the gate and fight him. But recollecting for what purpose he had come, he bethought himself and desisted.
"Have I not sacrificed myself for my child?" he said in his soul.
And he waited.
Meanwhile something black appeared in the loopholes of the wall. There appeared heads covered with fur, dark hoods and even iron bars, from behind which curious eyes gazed at the knight. More came every moment, because the terrible Jurand, waiting solitarily before the Teuton gate, was an unusual sight for the garrison. Whoever had seen him hitherto, had seen death, but now he could be looked at in safety. The heads constantly multiplied till at last all the loopholes near the gate were occupied by servants. Jurand thought that also the superiors must be looking at him through the grates of the windows in the adjacent tower, and he turned his eyes in that direction, but there the windows were cut in deep walls, and it was impossible to see through them. But in the apertures, the group of people who at first looked at him silently, began to talk. One after another repeated his name, here and there laughter was heard, gruff voices shouted as if at a wolf, louder and more insolently, and when, apparently, nobody among them interfered, they finally began to throw snow at the standing knight. He moved his horse as if involuntarily and then for a moment the throwing of snow ceased, voices quieted down, and even some heads disappeared behind the walls. Surely, Jurand's name must have been very menacing! Soon, however, even the most cowardly bethought themselves that a moat and a wall separated them from that terrible Mazovian, therefore the rough soldiery again commenced to throw not only small lumps of snow, but also ice, and even shards and stones, which rebounded with a clang from the armor which covered the horse.
"I have sacrificed myself for the child," repeated Jurand to himself.
And he waited. Noontime arrived, the walls were deserted, because the retainers were called to dinner. A few, those that had to be on guard, ate their meal on the wall, and, after having eaten, entertained themselves with throwing the picked bones at the hungry knight. They also began to tease and question each other who would dare to descend and strike him with the fist in the neck, or with the handle of the lance. Others, returning from their meal, called to him that if he disliked waiting he could hang himself, because there was a vacant hook on the gallows with a ready rope. And amidst such mockery, cries, bursts of laughter and cursing, the afternoon hours passed. The short wintry day gradually drew toward evening, and the drawbridge was still up and the gate remained closed.
But toward evening a wind arose, dispersed the mist, cleared the sky and revealed the sunset glow.
The snow became dark-blue, and then violet. There was no frost, but the night promised to be fair. The walls were again deserted by all but the guard; the rooks and crows departed from the gallows to the forests. Finally the sky darkened and complete silence followed.
"They will not open the gate before nightfall," thought Jurand.
And for a moment he thought to return to the city, but he soon gave up that idea. "They want me to stand here," he said to himself. "If I return, they will certainly not let me go home, but surround and capture me, and then they will say that they owe me nothing, because they took me by force, and if I should ride over them, even then I must return...."
The great endurance of the Polish knights for cold, hunger and hardships, so admired by foreign chroniclers, frequently enabled them to perform deeds which the less hardy people from the west could not undertake. Jurand possessed that endurance to a still greater degree than others; therefore, although hunger had long since began to gripe him, and the evening frost penetrated his fur, which was covered with iron plates, he determined to wait, even if he had to die before this gate.
But suddenly, before it became entirely dark, he heard behind him the sound of footsteps in the snow.
He looked back: there were coming toward him, from the direction of the city, six men, armed with lances and halberds; in their midst walked a seventh man supporting himself on a weapon.
"They will perhaps open the gate for them and then I shall ride in with them," thought Jurand. "They will not try to take me by force, nor kill me, because there are too few; should they attack me, however, it will prove that they do not mean to keep their promise, and then—woe to them!"
Thus thinking, he raised the steel axe hanging at his saddle, so heavy, that its weight was too great for the two hands of an ordinary man, and moved toward them.
But they did not think of attacking him. On the contrary, the servants planted their lances and halberds in the snow, and as the night was not entirely dark yet, Jurand saw that the handles somewhat trembled in their hands.
The seventh, who appeared to be the superior, put out his left arm quickly, and turning his hand upward, said:
"Are you the knight Jurand of Spychow?"
"Do you wish to hear my message?"
"The powerful and religious Count von Danveld ordered me to tell you, lord, that until you dismount, the gate will not be opened for you."
Jurand remained motionless for a while, then he dismounted, the horse being instantly taken away by one of the archers.
"The arms must be surrendered to us," again said the man with the weapon.
The lord of Spychow hesitated. Perhaps they would attack him unarmed, and kill him like a beast; or capture and cast him under ground? But after a moment he thought that if it were to be so, they would have sent more men. But should they throw themselves on him, they would not destroy his armor at once, and then he could wrench a weapon from the nearest and kill them all before assistance could arrive. They knew him well.
"And even if they should wish to shed my blood," he said to himself, "I came for no other purpose than that."
Thus thinking, he threw down first the axe, then the sword, and finally the misericordia, and waited. They took everything, and then the man who had addressed him previously, withdrawing several steps, stopped and began to speak in an insolent, loud voice:
"For all the wrongs you have done to the Order, you must, by the count's orders, put on this sack cloth which I leave here, tie around your neck the scabbard of your sword with a rope, and wait humbly at the gate until the count's grace orders it to be opened for you."
And the next moment Jurand remained alone in the darkness and silence. In the snow before him the penitential robe and rope showed black while he stood long, feeling something in his soul dissolving, breaking, agonizing, dying, and that shortly he would be a knight no more, Jurand of Spychow no more, but a beggar, a slave without a name, without fame, without respect.
Therefore, a long time passed before he approached the penitential robe, and said:
"How can I do otherwise? Christ, Thou knowest they will kill the innocent child, if I do not do all they order. And Thou also knowest that I would not do that for the sake of my own life! Disgrace is a distasteful thing!... distasteful!—but Thou also wast disgraced of old. Well then, in the name of the Father and of the Son...."
He then bent down, put on the robe in which were cut the openings for the head and hands, then he tied around his neck the scabbard of his sword, and dragged himself to the gate.
He did not find it open; but now it was immaterial to him whether they opened it sooner or later. The castle sank into nocturnal silence, only the guards called now and then to each other on the bastions. In the tower near the gate there was light in one window high up; the others were dark.
The night hours flew one after another, on the sky appeared the crescent moon and threw light upon the gloomy walls of the castle. It became so quiet that Jurand was able to hear his own heart-beats. But he stiffened and became entirely petrified, as if his soul were taken from him, and took no account of anything. One thought remained with him, that he had ceased to be a knight, Jurand of Spychow, but what he was he did not know.... Sometimes it also seemed to him that in the middle of the night death was coming to him across the snow from those hanged men that he had seen in the morning....
Suddenly he quivered and awoke entirely.
"O gracious Christ! what is that?"
From the high window in the adjacent tower, the sounds of a lute, hardly heard at first, reached his ear. Jurand, while on the way to Szczytno, was sure that Danusia was not in the castle, and yet this sound of the lute at night aroused his heart in an instant. It seemed to him that he knew those sounds, and that nobody else was playing but she—his child! his darling.... He therefore fell upon his knees, clasped his hands to pray, and listened shivering, as in a fever.
Just then a half-childish and as if ardently longing voice began to sing:
"Had I the dear little wings Of a gosling, I would fly To Jasiek at Szlonsk."
Jurand wished to reply, to utter the dear name, but his words were imprisoned in his throat, as if an iron band squeezed them. A sudden wave of pain, tears, longing, suffering, collected in his breast; be therefore cast himself down with his face in the snow and began in ecstasy to call upon heaven in his soul, as if in thankful prayer:
"O Jesus! I hear my child once again! O Jesus!" ...
And weeping began to tear his gigantic body. Above, the longing voice continued to sing amid the undisturbed silence of the night:
"Would that I might sit In the little Szlonsk garden To gaze upon little Jasiek The poor orphan!"
In the morning a stout, bearded German retainer began to prod the ribs of the knight lying at the gate.
"Upon your feet, dog!... The gate is open, and the count orders you to appear before him."
Jurand awoke, as if from sleep. He did not catch the man by the throat, he did not crush him in his iron hands, he had a quiet and almost humble face; he arose, and, without saying a word, followed the soldier through the gate.
He had hardly crossed, when a clang of chains was heard, and the bridge began to be drawn up again, while in the gateway itself fell a heavy iron grating.
END OF PART FOURTH.
Jurand, finding himself in the castleyard, did not know at first where to go, because the servant, who had led him through the gate, had left him and gone toward the stables. It is true, the soldiers stood near the palisades, either singly or in groups, but their faces were so insolent, and their looks so derisive, that the knight could easily guess that they would not show him the way, and even if they were to make a reply to his question, it would be a brutal or an indignant one.
Some laughed, pointing at him with their fingers, others commenced to throw snow at him, like yesterday. But he, noticing a door larger than the others, over which was cut out in stone Christ on a cross, turned to it, thinking that if the count and the elders were in another part of the castle or in other rooms, somebody must set him right.
And so it happened. The instant Jurand approached that particular door, both halves of it opened suddenly, and there stood before it a youth with a head shaven like the clericals, but dressed in a worldly dress, who inquired:
"Are you Sir Jurand of Spychow?"
"The pious count ordered me to guide you. Follow me."
And he commenced to lead him through a great vaulted vestibule toward a staircase. At the stairs though he halted, and casting a glance at Jurand, again inquired:
"But have you no weapon with you? I was ordered to search you."
Jurand threw up his arms, so that his guide might be able to view his whole figure, and replied:
"Yesterday I gave up everything."
Then the guide lowered his voice and said almost in a whisper:
"Be careful then not to break out into anger, because you are under might and superior force."
"But also under God's will," returned Jurand.
Then he looked more carefully at his guide, and observing in his face something in the nature of mercy and sympathy, said:
"Honesty looks through your eyes, young man! Will you answer sincerely to what I question?"
"Make haste, sir," said the guide.
"Will they return the child to me?"
And the youth raised his brows wonderingly.
"Is your child here?"
"That lady in the tower near the gate?"
"Yes. They promised to send her away if I surrendered to them."
The guide waved his hand to signify that he knew nothing, but his face expressed trouble and doubt.
Then Jurand further asked:
"Is it true, that Shomberg and Markward are watching her?"
"Those brethren are not in the castle. Take her away though, sir, ere the nobleman Danveld regains his health."
Hearing that, Jurand shivered, but there was no time to ask any more questions, because they had arrived at the hall on the upper floor in which Jurand was to face the chief Shchycienski. The youth, after having opened the door, retreated toward the stairs.
The knight of Spychow entered and found himself in a roomy apartment, very dark, because the lead-framed, oval-shaped panes transmitted very little light; furthermore the day was wintry and cloudy. There was, it is true, a fire burning in a large chimney at the other end of the apartment, but the green logs produced little flame. Only after a time, when Jurand's eyes became used to the darkness, he distinguished a table behind which were knights sitting, and behind them a whole group of armed warriors and servants also armed, among whom the castle fool held a tame bear by a chain.
Jurand had frequently met Danveld some time before, and afterward had seen him twice at the court of the prince of Mazowsze, as delegate, but several years had passed since that time; yet, notwithstanding the darkness, he recognized him instantly, because of his obesity, his face, and finally because he sat in the centre behind the table in an armchair, his hand being circled by wooden splints and resting upon the arm of the chair. To his right sat the old Zygfried von Loeve of Insburk, an inexorable foe of the Polish race in general, and particularly of Jurand of Spychow; to his left were the younger brethren, Godfried and Rotgier. Danveld had invited them purposely, to witness his triumph over a threatening foe, and at the same time to enjoy the fruits of the treason which they had plotted together, and in the accomplishment of which they had assisted. They sat now comfortably dressed in soft dark cloth, with light swords at their sides. They were joyous and self-confident, and looking upon Jurand with that pride and extreme contempt which they always bore in their hearts toward the weaker and vanquished.
The silence lasted a long while, because they wished to satiate themselves with the sight of the man whom they had previously dreaded, and who stood before them now with his head bowed upon his breast, and dressed like a penitent in sackcloth, and with a rope around his neck, upon which was suspended the scabbard of his sword.
They also apparently wanted as great a number of people as possible to witness his humiliation, for through a side door, leading into other rooms, whoever pleased entered, and the hall was nearly half filled with armed men. They all looked with extreme eagerness at Jurand, conversing loudly and making remarks about him.
But he gained confidence, at the sight of them, because he thought to himself:
"If Danveld did not wish to keep his promise, he would not have ordered so many witnesses."
Meanwhile Danveld raised his hand, and stopped the conversation; he then made a sign to one of the warriors, who approached Jurand, and catching the rope which encircled his neck, dragged him a few steps nearer the table.
And Danveld looked triumphantly at those present and said:
"Look, how the power of religion defeats anger and pride."
"May God always grant it so!" answered those present.
Then again followed a moment of silence, after which Danveld turned to the prisoner:
"You were biting the faith like a mad dog, therefore God has caused you to stand before us, with a rope around your neck, looking for charity and mercy."
"Do not compare me with a dog, count," replied Jurand, "because you thus lower the honor of those who met me and fell under my hand."
At these words the armed Germans commenced to murmur: it was not known whether the daring answer aroused their anger or whether they were struck by its justice.
But the count, dissatisfied at such a turn of the conversation, said:
"Look, even now he spits into our eyes with arrogance and pride!"
Jurand then raised his hands, like a man who calls heaven to witness, and shaking his head, answered:
"God sees that my arrogance remained outside your gate; God sees and will judge, whether in dishonoring my knighthood, you did not dishonor yourself. There is the honor of a nobleman, which every one who has a belt around him, should respect."
Danveld wrinkled his brows, but at that moment the castle fool started to rattle the chain to which he had fastened the bear, and called out:
"Sermon! sermon! the preacher from Mazowsze has arrived! Listen! to the sermon!"
Then turning to Danveld, he said:
"Sir! Duke Rosenheim ordered his sexton to eat the bell-rope from knot to knot whenever the latter awakened him too early for the sermon. This preacher has also a rope around his neck—make him also eat it up before he finishes his sermon."
And, having said this, he gazed at the count in some alarm, being uncertain whether the count would laugh or whether his inappropriate remark would result in an order for a flogging for him. But the religious brethren, gentle, well-behaved, and even humble, whenever they felt they were not in power, did not know any limits before the defeated; therefore, Danveld not only nodded his head at the bear-leader as a sign that he permitted the mockery, but he himself burst out with such unheard-of roughness that the faces of the younger warriors expressed astonishment.
"Don't complain that you were put to shame," he said, "because even if I had made you a dogcatcher, a religious dogcatcher is better than you, knight!"
And the encouraged fool commenced to shout: "Bring the currycomb, comb the bear, and he in turn will comb your shags with his paws."
At that, laughter was heard here and there, and a voice exclaimed from behind the religious brethren:
"You will cut reeds on the lake in the summer!"
"And catch crabs with your carcass!" exclaimed another.
A third added: "And now begin to drive away the crows from the hanging thief! There will always be plenty of work for you."
Thus they made fun of the once terrible Jurand. The assembly gradually became joyous. Some, leaving the table, began to approach the prisoner and look at him closely, saying:
"This is the wild boar of Spychow, whose tusks our count has knocked out; his snout is surely foaming; he would gladly tear somebody, but he cannot!"
Danveld and others of the religious brethren, who at first had wished to give the hearing the solemn appearance of a court, seeing that the affair had turned out differently, also arose from their benches and mingled with those who approached Jurand.
The old Zygfried of Insburk was dissatisfied at that, but the count himself said:
"Be cheerful, there will be a greater joy yet!"
And they also commenced to look at Jurand, for this was a rare opportunity, because when any of the knights or servants had seen him before from so near, they had usually closed their eyes forever. Some of them also remarked:
"He is broad shouldered, although he has a fur beneath his sack; he could be wrapped up with pease straw, and exhibited in country fairs."
Others again commenced to ask for beer in order to make the day a still pleasanter one.
And so in a few moments flowing pitchers began to clink and the dark hall became covered with the foam escaping from under the covers. The good-humored count said:
"That is just right, let him not think that his disgrace is of great importance!"
So they again approached him, and touching his chin with their pewters, said:
"You would like to drink, Mazovian snout!" and others, pouring the beer into their palms, cast it into his eyes, while he stood among them stunned and abused, until at last he moved toward the old Zygfried, and apparently feeling that he could not stand it any longer, he began to cry so loudly as to deafen the noise in the hall:
"By the torture of the Saviour and the salvation of the soul, restore to me my child, as you promised!"
And he attempted to seize the right hand of the old count who quickly withdrew and said:
"Avaunt, prisoner! what dost thou want?"
"I released Bergow from prison, and came myself, because in return you promised to restore my child who is here."
"Who promised you that?" inquired Danveld.
"By the soul and faith, you, count!"
"You will not find any witnesses, but they amount to nothing, if honor and word are in question."
"Upon your honor, upon that of the Order," exclaimed Jurand.
"Then your daughter will be returned to you!" replied Danveld, and, turning to the others, remarked: "All that has happened to him here is an innocent trifle in comparison with his violence and crimes. But since we promised to return his daughter if he should appear and submit himself to us, then know, that the word of a Knight of the Cross is, like God's word, irreproachable, and that that girl, whom we saved from the hands of robbers, shall now be given her liberty, and after an exemplary penance for his sins against the Order, he also shall be allowed to go back to his home."
Such a speech astounded some, because, knowing Danveld and his old hatred for Jurand, they did not expect such honesty from him. Therefore old Zygfried, together with Rotgier and Brother Godfried, looked at him, raising and wrinkling their brows with astonishment, but he pretended not to observe their inquiring looks and said:
"I'll send your daughter back under guard, but you must remain here until our guard returns safely and until you have paid your ransom."
Jurand himself was somewhat astonished, because he had ceased to hope that his sacrifice would be of any use to Danusia; he therefore looked at Danveld, almost with thankfulness and replied:
"May God reward you, count!"
"Recognize the Knights of the Cross," said Danveld.
"All mercy from Him!" replied Jurand; "but, since it is long since I saw my child, permit me to see and bless my girl."
"Bah, and not otherwise than before all of us, so that there may be witnesses of our good faith and mercy."
Then he ordered the warriors standing near to bring Danusia, while he himself approached von Loeve, Rotgier and Godfried, who surrounded him and commenced a quick and animated conversation.
"I do not oppose you, although this was not your object," said old Zygfried.
And the hot Rotgier, famous for his courage and cruelties, said: "How is this? not only the girl but also that devilish dog is going to be liberated, that he may bite again?"
"He will bite not that way only!" exclaimed Godfried.
"Bah! he will pay ransom!" lazily replied Danveld.
"Even if he should return everything, in a year he will have robbed twice as much."
"I shall not object as to the girl," repeated Zygfried; "but this wolf will yet make the sheep of the Order weep more than once."
"And our word?" queried Danveld, laughingly.
"You spoke differently...."
Danveld shrugged his shoulders. "Did you not have enough pleasure?" he inquired. "Do you wish more?"
Others surrounded Jurand again and commenced to brag before him, praising the upright conduct of Danveld, and the impression it made upon the members of the Order.
"And what bone breaker!" said the captain of the castle-archers. "Your heathen brethren would not have treated our Christian knights so!"
"You drank our blood?"
"And we give you bread for stones."
But Jurand paid no attention either to the pride or to the contempt which their words contained: his heart swelled and his eyelashes were moist. He thought that he would see Danusia in a moment, and that he would see her actually by their favor; he therefore gazed at the speakers almost with humility, and finally said:
"True! true! I used to be hard on you but ... not treacherous."
That instant a voice at the other end of the hall suddenly cried: "They are bringing the girl;" and immediately silence reigned throughout the hall. The soldiers scattered to both sides, because none of them had ever seen Jurand's daughter, and the majority of them did not even know of her presence in the castle on account of the secrecy with which Danveld surrounded his actions; but those who knew, whispered to one another about her admirable grace. All eyes turned with extreme curiosity toward the door through which she was to appear.
Meanwhile a warrior appeared in front followed by the well-known servant of the Order, the same woman that rode to the court in the forest. After her entered a girl dressed in white, with loose hair tied with a ribbon on the forehead.
And suddenly one great outburst of laughter, like the roaring of thunder, rang through the entire hall. Jurand, who at the first moment had sprung toward his daughter, suddenly recoiled and stood as pale as linen, looking with surprise at the ill-shaped head, the bluish lips, and the expressionless eyes of the wench who was restored to him as Danusia.
"This is not my daughter!" he said, in a terrifying voice.
"Not your daughter?" exclaimed Danveld. "By the holy Liboryusz of Paderborn! Then either we did not rescue your daughter from the murderers or some wizard has changed her, because there is no other in Szczytno."
Old Zygfried, Rotgier and Godfried exchanged quick glances with each other, full of admiration at the shrewdness of Danveld, but none of them had time enough to speak, because Jurand began to shout with a terrible voice:
"She is, she is in Szczytno! I heard her sing, I heard the voice of dear Danusia!"
Upon that Danveld turned to those assembled and said quietly but pointedly:
"I take you all present as witnesses and especially you, Zygfried of Insburk, and you pious brothers, Rotgier and Godfried, that, according to my word and given promise, I restore that girl, who was said by the robbers whom we defeated, to be the daughter of Jurand of Spychow. If she is not—it is not our fault, but rather the will of our Lord, who in that manner wished to deliver Jurand into our hands."
Zygfried and the two younger brethren bowed to signify that they heard and would testify in case of necessity. Then again they glanced quickly at each other, because it was more than they ever could have expected to capture Jurand, not to restore his daughter, and still ostensibly to keep a promise; who else could do that?
But Jurand threw himself upon his knees and commenced to conjure Danveld by all the relics in Malborg, then by the ashes and heads of his parents, to restore to him his true child and not proceed like a swindler and traitor, breaking oaths and promises. His voice contained so much despair and truth, that some began to suspect treason; others again thought that some wizard had actually changed the appearance of the girl.
"God looks upon your treason!" exclaimed Jurand. "By the Saviour's wounds, by the hour of your death, return my child!"
And arising, he went bent double toward Danveld, as if he wished to embrace his knees; and his eyes glittered with madness, and his voice broke alternately with pain, fear, and dread. Danveld, hearing the accusations of treason and deceit in presence of all, commenced to snort, and at length his features worked with rage; so that like a flame in his desire utterly to crush the unfortunate, he advanced and bending down to his ear, whispered through his set teeth: "If I ever give her up, it will be with my bastard...."
But at that very moment Jurand roared like a bull, and with both hands he caught Danveld and raised him high in the air.
The hall still resounded with the terrible cry: "Save me!" when the body of the count struck the stone floor with such terrible force that the brains from the shattered skull bespattered Zygfried and Rotgier who stood by. Jurand sprang to the wall, near which stood the arms, and snatching a large two-handed weapon, ran like a storm at the Germans, who were petrified with terror. The people were used to battles, butchery and blood, and yet their hearts sank to such an extent that even after the panic had passed, they commenced to retreat and escape like a flock of sheep before a wolf who kills with one stroke of his claws. The hall resounded with the cry of terror, with the sound of human footsteps, the clang of the overturned vessels, the howling of the servants, the growling of the bear, who, tearing himself out of the hands of the trainer, started to climb on a high window, and a terror-stricken cry for arms and targets, weapons and crossbows. Finally weapons gleamed, and a number of sharp points were directed toward Jurand, but he, not caring for anything, half crazed, sprang toward them, and there commenced an unheard-of wild fight, resembling a butchery more than a contest of arms. The young and fiery Brother Godfried was the first to intercept Jurand's way, but he severed his head, hand and shoulder-blade with a lightning swing of his weapon; after him fell by Jurand's hand the captain of the archers, and the castle administrator, von Bracht and the Englishman Hugues, who, although he did not very well understand the cause, pitied Jurand and his sufferings, and only drew his weapon when Danveld was killed. Others, seeing the terrible force and the fury of the man, gathered closely together, so as to offer combined resistance, but this plan brought about a still greater defeat, because he, with his hair standing upright on his head, with maddened eyes, covered all over with blood, panting, raging and furious, broke, tore and cut with terrible strokes of his sword that battered group, casting men to the floor, splashed all over with clotted blood, as a storm overturns bushes and trees. Then followed a moment of terrific fright, in which it seemed that this terrible Mazovian, all by himself, would hew and slay all these people. Like a pack of barking hounds that cannot overpower a fierce boar without the assistance of the hunters, so were those armed Germans; they could not match his might and fierceness in that fight which resulted only in their death and discomfiture.
"Scatter! surround him! strike from behind!" shrieked old Zygfried von Loeve.
They consequently dispersed through the hall like a flock of starlings in the field upon which a hawk with crooked beak swoops from a height, but they could not surround him, because, in the heat of the fight, instead of looking for a place of defence, he commenced to chase them around the walls and whoever was overtaken died as if thunderstruck. Humiliation, despair, disappointed hope, changed into one thirst for blood, seemed to multiply tenfold his terrific natural strength. A weapon, for which the most powerful of the Knights of the Cross needed both hands, he managed to wield with one as if it were a feather. He did not care for his life, nor look for escape; he did not even crave for victory; he sought revenge, and like a fire, or like a river, which breaking a dam, blindly destroys everything obstructing its flow, so he, a terrible, blindfolded destroyer, tore, broke, trampled, killed and extinguished human beings. They could not hurt him in his back, because, in the beginning they were unable to overtake him; moreover the common soldiers feared to come near him even from behind; they knew that if he happened to turn no human power could save them from death. Others were simply terror-stricken at the thought, that an ordinary man could cause so much havoc, and that they were dealing with a man who was aided by some superhuman power.
But old Zygfried, and with him Brother Rotgier, rushed to the gallery which extended above the large windows of the hall, and commenced to call others to take shelter after them; these did so in haste, so that, on the narrow stairs, they pushed each other in their desire to get up as quickly as possible and thence to strike the strong knight, with whom any hand to hand struggle appeared to them impossible.
Finally, the last one banged the door leading to the gallery and Jurand remained alone below. From the gallery the sounds of joy and triumph reached him, and soon heavy oak benches and iron collars of torches began to fall upon the nobleman. One of the missiles struck him on the forehead and bathed his face with blood. At the same time the large entrance door opened, and through the upper windows the summoned servants rushed into the hall in a body, armed with pikes, halberds, axes, crossbows, palisades, poles, ropes and all varieties of weapons, which they could hurriedly get hold of. And with his left hand the mad Jurand wiped the blood from his face, so as not to obstruct his sight, gathered himself together, and threw himself at the entire throng. In the hall again resounded groans, the clash of iron, the gnashing of teeth and the piercing voices of the slain men.
In the same hall, behind the table that evening, sat old Zygfried von Loeve, who, after the bailiff Danveld, temporarily took command of Szczytno, and near him were Brother Rotgier, and the knight von Bergow, a former prisoner of Jurand's and two noble youths, novices, who were soon to put on white mantles. The wintry storm was howling outside the windows, shaking the leaden window-frames; the torchlights, which were burning in iron frames, wavered, and now and then the wind drove clouds of smoke from the chimney into the hall. Silence reigned among the brethren, although they were assembled for a consultation, because they were waiting for the word from Zygfried, who, again resting his elbows on the table and running his hands over his grey and bowed head, sat gloomy with his face in the shadow and with sullen thoughts in his soul.
"About what are we to deliberate?" finally asked Brother Rotgier.
Zygfried raised his head, looked at the speaker, and, awakening from thought, said:
"About the defeat, about what the master and the assembly will say, and about this, that our actions may not cause any loss to the Order." He was silent again, but after a while he looked around and moved his nostrils: "There is still a smell of blood here."
"No, count," replied Rotgier; "I ordered the floor to be scrubbed and the place to be fumigated with sulphur. It is the odor of sulphur."
And Zygfried looked at those present with a strange glance, and said: "God have mercy upon the soul of our brothers Danveld and Godfried!"
They again understood that he implored God's mercy upon their souls, because, at the mention of sulphur, he thought of hell; therefore a chill ran through their bones and all at once replied: "Amen! amen! amen!" After a moment the howling of the wind and the rattling of the window-frames were heard again.
"Where are the bodies of the count and Brother Godfried?" inquired the old man.
"In the chapel: the priests are chanting the litany over them."
"Are they already in coffins?"
"In coffins, only the count's head is covered, because his skull and face are crushed."
"Where are the other corpses, and where are the wounded?"
"The corpses are in the snow so as to stiffen whilst the coffins are being made, and the wounded are being attended to in the hospital."
Zygfried again ran his hands over his head.
"And one man did that!... God, have the Order under Thy care, when it comes to a great war with this wolfish race!"
Upon that Rotgier turned up his eyes, as if recollecting something, and said: "I heard in Wilno, how the bailiff of Samboz spoke to his brother the master: 'If you do not make a great war and get rid of them, so that even their name shall not remain, then woe to us and our nation.'"
"May God give such a war and a meeting with them!" said one of the noble novices.
Zygfried looked at him for some time, as if he wanted to say: "You could have met one of them to-day," but seeing the small and youthful figure of the novice, and perhaps remembering that he himself, although famous for his courage, did not care to expose himself to a sure destruction, refrained and inquired:
"Who saw Jurand?"
"I," replied von Bergow.
"Is he alive?"
"Yes, he lies in the same net in which we entrapped him. When he awoke the servants wanted to kill him, but the chaplain would not allow it."
"He cannot be executed. He is too great a man among his people, and there would be a terrible clamor," replied Zygfried. "It will be also impossible to hide what has happened, because there were too many witnesses."
"What then are we to say and do?" inquired Rotgier.
Zygfried meditated, and finally said:
"You, noble Count von Bergow go to Malborg to the master. You were groaning in Jurand's slavery, and are now a guest of the Order; therefore as such, and because you need not necessarily speak in favor of the monks, they will rather believe you. Tell, then, what you saw, that Danveld, having recovered from a band of rogues a certain girl and thinking her to be Jurand's daughter, informed the latter, who also came to Szczytno, and what happened further you know yourself."
"Pardon me, pious count," said von Bergow. "I suffered great hardships as a slave in Spychow, and as your guest, I would gladly testify for you; but tell me, for the sake of quieting my soul, whether there was not a real daughter of Jurand's in Szczytno, and whether it was not Danveld's treason that drove her father to madness?"
Zygfried von Loeve hesitated for a moment with his answer; in his nature lay deep hatred toward the Polish nation, and barbarity in which he exceeded even Danveld, and rapacity, and, when the Order was in question, pride and avarice, but there was no falsehood. It was the greatest bitterness and grief of his life, that lately, through insubordination and riot, the affairs of the Order had turned in such a manner that falsehood had become one of the most general and unavoidable factors of the life of the Order. Therefore von Bergow's inquiry touched the most painful string of his soul, and, after a long silence, he said:
"Danveld stands before God, and God will judge him, while you, duke, should they ask you for conjectures, answer what you please; should they again ask you about what you saw, then say that before we coiled a wild man in a net you saw nine corpses, besides the wounded, on this floor, and among them the bodies of Danveld, Brother Godfried, von Bracht and Hugues, and two noble youths.... God, give them eternal peace. Amen!"
"Amen! Amen!" again repeated the novices.
"And say also," added Zygfried, "that although Danveld wished to subdue the foe of the Order, yet nobody here raised the first weapon against Jurand."
"I shall say only what my eyes saw," replied von Bergow.
"Be in the chapel before midnight; we shall also go there to pray for the souls of the dead," answered Zygfried.
He then extended his hand to him as a sign of gratitude and farewell; he wished to remain for a further consultation alone with Brother Rotgier, whom he loved and had great confidence in. After the withdrawal of von Bergow, he also dismissed the two novices, under the pretence that they might watch the work of the coffins for the common servants killed by Jurand, and after the doors had closed behind them he turned with animation to Rotgier, and said:
"Listen to what I am going to say: there is only one remedy: that no living soul should ever find out that the real daughter of Jurand was with us."
"It will not be difficult," replied Rotgier, "because nobody knew that she was here except Danveld, Godfried, we two, and those servants of the Order who watched her. Danveld ordered the people who brought her here to be made intoxicated and hanged. There were some among the garrison who suspected something, but that affair confused them, and they do not know now themselves whether an error happened on our part, or whether some wizard really exchanged Jurand's daughter."
"This is good," said Zygfried.
"I have been thinking again, noble count, whether, since Danveld lives no longer, we should not cast all the guilt upon him...."
"And so admit before the whole world that we, in a time of peace and concord with the prince of Mazowsze, ravished from his court the pupil of the princess and her beloved courtlady? No, for God's sake! this cannot be!... We were seen at the court together with Danveld; and the grand master, his relative, knows that we always undertook everything together.... If we accuse Danveld, he may desire to avenge his memory...."
"Let us consult on that," said Rotgier. "Let us consult and find good advice, because otherwise woe to us! If we return Jurand's daughter, then she will say herself that we did not capture her from robbers, but that the people who caught her carried her directly to Szczytno."
"That is so."
"And God is witness that I do not care for the responsibility alone. The prince will complain to the Polish king, and their delegates will not fail to clamor at all courts against our outrages, our treason, and our crime. God alone knows how much loss the Order may suffer from it. The master himself, if he knew the truth, ought to order that girl to be hidden."
"And even if so, when that girl is lost, will they not accuse us?" inquired Rotgier.
"No! Brother Danveld was a shrewd man. Do you remember, that he imposed the condition on Jurand, that he should not only appear in Szczytno personally, but also previously proclaim and write to the prince, that he is going to ransom his daughter from the robbers, and that he knows that she is not with us."
"True! but in that case how shall we justify what happened in Szczytno?"
"We shall say that knowing that Jurand was looking for his child, and having captured some girl from the robbers and not being able to tell who she was, we informed Jurand, thinking that this might possibly be his daughter; on his arrival he fell into a fit at the sight of her, and, being possessed with the devil, shed so much innocent blood that more than one battle does not cost so much."
"That is true," replied Rotgier, "wisdom and the experience of age speak through you. The bad deeds of Danveld, even if we should throw the guilt on him, would always go to the account of the Order, therefore, to the account of all of us, the assembly and the master himself; so again our innocence will become apparent, and all will fall upon Jurand, the iniquity of the Poles and their connection with infernal powers...."
"And then whoever wishes may judge us; the Pope, or the Roman Emperor!"
"Yes!" Then followed a moment of silence, after which Brother Rotgier questioned:
"What shall we do then with Jurand's daughter?"
"Let us consult."
"Give her to me."
And Zygfried looked at him and replied:
"No I Listen, young brother! When the Order is in question, do not trust a man, woman nor even your own self. Danveld was reached by God's hand, because he not only wished to revenge the wrongs of the Order, but also to satisfy his own desires."
"You misjudge me!" said Rotgier.
"Do not trust yourself," interrupted Zygfried, "because your body and soul will become effeminate, and the knee of that hard race will some day bear heavily upon your breast, so that you will not be able to arise any more." And he the third time rested his gloomy head on his hand, but he apparently conversed with his own conscience only, and thought of himself only, because he said after a while:
"Much human blood, much pain, many tears weigh heavily on me also ... moreover I did not hesitate to seek other means, when the Order was in question, and when I saw I should not succeed by mere force; but when I stand before the Almighty, I shall tell Him: 'I did that for the Order, and for myself—what I chose.'"
And having said this, he put his hands to his breast and opened a dark cloth garment, beneath which appealed a sackcloth. He then pressed his temples with his hands, raised his head and eyes, and exclaimed:
"Give up pleasures and profligacy, harden your bodies and hearts, because even now I see the whiteness of the eagle's feathers in the air and its claws reddened with Teutonic blood!..."
Further speech was interrupted by such a terrible knock of the gate that one window above the gallery opened with a crash, and the entire hall was filled with a howling and whistling of the storm and with snowflakes.
"In the name of God, His Son and the Holy Ghost! this is a bad night," remarked the old Teuton.
"A night of unclean powers," answered Rotgier.
"Are there priests with Danveld's body?"
"Yes.... He departed without absolution.... God have mercy upon him!"
And both ceased speaking. Rotgier presently called some boys, and ordered them to shut the window and light the torches, and after they had gone away, he again inquired:
"What will you do with Jurand's daughter? Will you take her away from here to Insburk?"
"I shall take her to Insburk and do with her what the good of the Order demands."
"What am I to do then?"
"Have you courage in your heart?"
"What have I done to make you doubt it?"
"I doubt not because I know you and love you as my own son for your courage. Go then to the court of the prince of Mazowsze and narrate everything that has happened here, according to our arrangement."
"Can I expose myself to certain destruction?"
"You ought, if your destruction will bring glory to the Cross and Order. But no! Destruction does not await you. They do no harm to a guest: unless somebody should challenge you, as that young knight did who challenged us all ... he, or somebody else, but that is not terrible...."
"May God grant it! they can seize me though and cast me under ground."
"They will not do that. Remember that there is Jurand's letter to the prince, and besides that you will go to accuse Jurand. Narrate faithfully what he did in Szczytno, and they must believe you.... We were even the first to inform him that there was a certain girl; we were the first to invite him to come to see her, and he came, went mad, killed the count and slew our people. Thus you will speak, and what can they say to you? Danveld's death will certainly resound throughout the whole Mazowsze. On that account they will fail to bring charges. They will actually look for Jurand's daughter, but, since Jurand himself wrote that she is not here, no suspicion will fall upon us. It is necessary to face them boldly and close their mouths, because they will also think that if we were guilty, none of us would dare to go there."