Part 12 out of 14
"You persuaded her," shouted Macko.
"I did, and I confess my guilt. But now, sir, it is necessary to do
something; otherwise we shall perish."
"What can one do here?" said Macko, impatiently, "with such soldiers, in
such a war?... It will be somewhat better, but that cannot be before
July, because the Germans have two favorable seasons for war, viz: winter
when everything is frozen, and the dry season. Now it is only
smouldering, but does not burn. It seems that Prince Witold went to
Krakow to interview the king and ask his permission and help."
"But in the neighborhood are the fortresses of the Knights of the Cross.
If only two could be taken, we might find there Jurandowna, or hear of
"But Zygfried brought her to this part of the country. They told us so at
Szczytno, and everywhere, and we ourselves were of the same opinion."
"But did you observe these soldiers; go into the tents and look for
yourself. Some of them are armed with clubs, whilst others with
antiquated swords made of copper."
"Bah! As far as I have heard they are good fighters."
"But they cannot conquer castles with naked bodies, especially those of
the Knights of the Cross."
Further conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Zbyszko and
Skirwoillo, who was the leader of the Zmudzians. He was a small man and
looked like a boy, but broad shouldered and strong, his chest protuded so
much that it looked like a deformity, his hands were long, they almost
reached his knees. In general he resembled Zyndram of Maszkow, a famous
knight, whom Macko and Zbyszko had formerly known in Krakow, because he
also had a tremendous head and bowed legs. They said that he too
understood the art of war very well. He had spent a lifetime in fighting
the Tartars in Russia, and the Germans, whom he hated like the plague. In
those wars he had learned the Russian language, and later on, at the
court of Witold, he had learned some Polish. He knew German, at least he
repeated only the three words: "Fire, blood and death." His big head was
always filled with ideas and stratagems of war, which the Knights of the
Cross could neither foresee nor prevent. He was therefore banished from
the lands on the other side of the frontier.
"We were talking of an expedition," said Zbyszko to Macko, with unusual
animation, "and that is the reason why we came here so that we too might
learn your opinion."
Macko sat down with Skirwoilla upon a pine stump covered with a bear
skin. Then he ordered the servants to bring little tubs full of mead from
which the knights drew with tin cups and drank. Then after they had taken
refreshment, Macko asked:
"Do you want to undertake an expedition?"
"Burn the German castles...."
"Ragnety, or Nowe (new) Kowno."
"Ragnety," said Zbyszko. "We were three days in the neighborhood of Nowe
Kowno, and they beat us."
"Just so," said Skirwoilla.
"Wait," said Macko, "I am a stranger here, and do not know where Nowe
Kowno and Ragnety are."
"From this place to Old Kowno is less then a mile," replied Zbyszko,
"and from that place to Nowe Kowno, is the same distance. The castle is
situated upon an island. We wanted to cross over yesterday, but we were
beaten in the attempt; they pursued us half the day, then we hid
ourselves in the woods. The soldiers scattered and only this morning some
of them returned."
Skirwoilla stretched his long arms, pointed toward the north, and said:
"Just for the reason that it is distant," replied Zbyszko, "there is
quiet in the neighborhood, because all the soldiers were withdrawn from
there and sent to this place. The Germans there expect no attack; we
shall therefore fall upon those who think themselves secure."
"He speaks reasonably," said Skirwoilla.
Then Macko asked:
"Do you think that it will also be possible to storm the castle?"
Skirwoillo shook his head and Zbyszko replied:
"The castle is strong, therefore it can only be taken by storm. But we
shall devastate the country, burn the towns and villages, destroy
provisions, and above all take prisoners, among whom we may find
important personages, for whom the Knights of the Cross will eagerly give
ransom or exchange...."
Then he turned toward Skirwoillo and said:
"You yourself, prince, acknowledged that I am right, but now consider
that Nowe Kowno is upon an island, there we shall neither stir up the
people in the villages, drive off the herds of cattle, nor take
prisoners, the more so because they have repulsed us here. Ay! Let us
rather go where they do not expect us."
"Conquerors are those who least expect an attack," murmured Skirwoillo.
Here Macko interrupted and began to support Zbyszko's plans, because he
understood that the young man had more hope to hear something near
Ragnety than near Old Kowno, and that there were more chances to take
important hostages at Ragnety who might serve for exchange. He also
thought that it was better to go yonder at all events and attack an
unguarded land, than an island, which was a natural stronghold and in
addition was guarded by a strong castle and the customary garrison.
He spoke as a man experienced in war, he spoke in a clear manner, he
adduced such excellent reasons that convinced everybody. They listened to
him attentively. Skirwoillo raised his brows now and then as an
affirmative sign; at times he murmured: "Well spoken." Finally he moved
his big head between his broad shoulders so that he looked like a
hunchback, and was absorbed in thought.
Then he rose, said nothing, and began to take leave.
"How then will it be, prince?" inquired Macko. "Whither shall we move?"
But he replied briefly:
"To Nowe Kowno."
Then he left the tent.
Macko and the Bohemian looked at each other for some time in surprise;
then the old knight placed his hands upon his thighs and exclaimed:
"Phew! What a hard stump!... He listens, listens and yet keeps his mouth
"I heard before that he is such a man," replied Zbyszko. "To tell the
truth all people here are obstinate; like the little fellow, they listen
to the reasoning of others, then ... it is like blowing in the air."
"Then why does he consult us?"
"Because we are belted knights and he wants to hear the thing argued on
both sides. But he is not a fool."
"Also near Nowe Kowno we are least expected," observed the Bohemian, "for
the very reason that they have beaten you. In that he is right."
"Come, let us see the people whom I lead," said Zbyszko, "because the air
in the tent is too close. I want to tell them to be ready."
They went out. A cloudy and dark night had set in, the scene was only lit
up by the fire around which the Zmudzians were sitting.
Macko and Zbyszko had seen enough of Lithuanian and Zmudz warriors when
serving under Prince Witold. The sights of the encampment were nothing
new to them. But the Bohemian looked at them with curiosity. He pondered
both upon the possibility of their fighting qualities and compared them
with the Polish and German knights. The camp was situated on a plain
surrounded by forests and swamps, which rendered it impregnable, because
none could wade through that treacherous marsh land. Even the place where
the booths were situated was quaggy and muddy, but the soldiers had
covered it with a thick layer of chips and branches of fir and
pine-trees, which enabled them to camp upon it as upon perfectly dry
ground. For Prince Skirwoillo they had hastily constructed a Lithuanian
_numy_, constructed of earth and logs, and for the most important
personages scores of booths of twisted branches. But the common soldiers
were squatting in the open around the camp-fires, and for shelter against
bad weather they only had goatskin coats, and skins upon their naked
bodies. None had gone to sleep yet; they had nothing to do, after
yesterday's defeat, and had thrown up earthworks during the day. Some of
them were sitting or lying around the bright fire which they fed with dry
juniper branches. Others were scraping in the ashes and cinders from
which proceeded a smell of baked turnips, which form the ordinary food of
the Lithuanians, and the strong odor of burned meat. Between the
camp-fires were piles of arms; they were close at hand so that in case of
need it would be an easy matter for everybody to reach his own weapon.
Hlawa looked with curiosity upon the lances with narrow and long heads
made of tempered iron, and the handles of oak saplings, studded with
flint or nails, hatchets with short handles like the Polish axes used by
travelers, and others with handles almost as long as those of the
battle-axes used by the foot-soldiers. There were also among them some
bronze weapons from ancient times when iron was not yet employed in that
low country. Some swords were entirely made of bronze, but most of them
were of good steel of Novgorod. The Bohemian handled the spears, swords,
hatchets, axes and tarred bows, examining them closely by the light of
the camp-fires. There were a few horses near the fires, whilst the cattle
grazed at a distance in the forests and meadows, under the care of
vigilant ostlers; but the great nobles liked to have their chargers close
at hand, hence there were about twoscore horses within the camp, fed by
hand by the slaves of the noblemen in a space enclosed by stacked arms.
Hlawa was amazed at the sight of the extraordinarily small shaggy
chargers, with powerful necks, such strange brutes that the western
knights took them to be quite another species of wild beast, more like a
unicorn than a horse.
"Big battle horses are of no use here," said the experienced Macko,
recollecting his former service under Witold, "because large horses would
at once stick in the mire, but the native nag goes everywhere, like the
"But in the field," replied the Bohemian, "the native horse could not
withstand that of the German."
"True, he may not be able to withstand, but, on the other hand, the
German could not run away from the Zmudzian, neither could he catch him;
they are very swift, swifter than those of the Tartars."
"Nevertheless I wonder; because when I saw the Tartar captives whom Lord
Zych brought to Zgorzelice, they were small and matched their horses; but
these are big men."
The men were tall indeed; their broad chests and strong arms could be
seen under their goatskin coats; they were not stout, but bony and
sinewy, and as a rule they excelled the inhabitants of other parts of
Lithuania, because they lived in better and more productive lands, and
were seldom subject to the dearth which often afflicted Lithuania. On the
other hand they were wilder than the other Lithuanians. The court of the
chief prince was at Wilno, whither the princes from the east and west,
and ambassadors and foreign merchants came, and that contributed somewhat
to lessen the roughness of the inhabitants of the city and neighborhood.
There the stranger only appeared in the form of a Knight of the Cross or
a sworded cavalier, carrying to the settlements in the deep forests fire,
slavery and baptism of blood. That was the reason that the people in that
part of the country were very coarse and rude, more like those of ancient
times, and very much opposed to everything new, the oldest custom and the
oldest warrior clan were theirs, and the reason that paganism was
supported was that the worship of the cross did not bring the
announcement of good tidings with apostolic love, but armed German monks
instead, possessing souls of executioners.
Skirwoilla and the most notable princes and nobles were already
Christians, because they followed the example of Jagiello and Witold.
Others even among the common and uncivilized warriors felt in their
hearts that the death-knell of the old world and religion had sounded.
They were ready to bend their heads to the cross, but not to that cross
which the Germans carried, not to the hand of the enemy. "We ask
baptism," they proclaimed to all princes and nations, "but bear in mind
that we are human beings, not beasts, that can be given away, bought or
sold." Meanwhile, when their old faith was extinguished, as a fire goes
out for lack of fuel, their hearts were again turned away simply because
the religion was forced upon them by the Germans, and there was a general
sense of deep sorrow for the future.
The Bohemian, who had been accustomed from his infancy to hear the jovial
noise of the soldiers, and had grown up among songs and music, observed
for the first time the unusual quiet and gloom in the Lithuanian camp.
Here and there, far away from the camp-fires of Skirwoilla, the sound of
a whistle or fife was heard, or the suppressed notes of the song of the
_burtenikas_, to which the soldiers listened with bent heads and eyes
fixed on the glowing fire. Some crouched around the fire with their
elbows upon their knees and their faces hidden in their hands, and
covered with skins, which made them look like wild beasts of the forest.
But when they turned their heads toward the approaching knights, one saw
from their mild expression and blue pupils that they were not at all
savage or austere, but looked more like sorrowful and wronged children.
At the outskirts of the camp the wounded of the last battle lay upon
moss. _Labdarysi_ and _Sextonowi,_ conjurers and soothsayers, muttered
exorcisms over them or attended to their wounds, to which they applied
certain healing herbs; the wounded lay quietly, patiently suffering pain
and torture. From the depth of the forest, across the marshes and lakes,
came the whistling of the ostlers; now and then the wind arose, driving
the smoke of the camp-fires and making the dark forest resound. The night
was already far advanced and the camp-fires began to burn down and
extinguish, which increased the dominating silence and intensified the
impression of sadness, almost to a crushing extent.
Zbyszko gave orders to the people he led, who easily understood him
because there were a few Poles among them. Then he turned to his
armor-bearer and said:
"You have seen enough, now it is time to return to the tent."
"I have seen," replied Hlawa, "but I am not satisfied with what I have
observed, for it is obvious that they are a defeated people."
"Twice,--four days in front of the castle, and the day before yesterday
at the crossing. Now Skirwoilla wants to go a third time to experience
"How is it that he does not see that he cannot fight the Germans with
such soldiers? Pan Macko told me the same thing, and now I observe myself
that they are a poor lot, and that they must be boys in battle."
"You are mistaken in that, because they are a brave people and have few
equals, but they fight in disordered crowds, whilst the Germans fight in
battle array. If the Zmudzians succeed in breaking the German ranks, then
the Germans suffer more than themselves. Bah, but the latter know this
and close their ranks in such a manner that they stand like a wall."
"We must not even think about capturing the castles," said Hlawa.
"Because there are no engines of war whatever to attempt it," replied
Zbyszko. "Prince Witold has them, but as long as he does not arrive I am
unable to capture them, unless by accident or treachery."
Then they reached the tent, in front of which burned a huge fire, and
within they found smoking dishes of meat, which the servants had prepared
for them. It was cold and damp in the tent, therefore the knights and
Hlawa lay down upon skins in front of the fire.
When they had fortified themselves, they tried to sleep, but they could
not; Macko turned from side to side, and when he observed Zbyszko sitting
near the fire covering his knees with twigs, he asked:
"Listen! Why did you give advice to go as far as Ragnety against
Gotteswerder, and not near here? What do you profit by it?"
"Because there is a voice within me which tells me that Danuska is at
Ragnety, and they are guarded less than they are here."
"There was no time to continue the conversation then, for I too was
fatigued and the people after the defeat gathered in the woods. But now,
tell me, how is it? Do you mean to search for the girl forever?"
"I say that she is not a girl, but my wife," replied Zbyszko.
There was silence, for Macko well understood that there was no answer to
that. If Danuska were still Jurandowna (Miss Jurand) Macko might have
advised his nephew to abandon her: but in the presence of the Holy
Sacrament, his search for her was his simple duty. Macko would not have
put the question to him if he had been present.
Not having been there he always spoke of her at the betrothal or marriage
as a girl.
"Very well," he said, after a while. "But to all my questions during the
last two days, you replied that you knew nothing."
"Because I do know nothing, except that the wrath of God is probably upon
Then Hlawa lifted up his head from the bearskin, sat up and listened with
curiosity and attention.
And Macko said:
"As long as sleep does not overpower you, tell me what have you seen,
what have you done, and what success have you had at Malborg?"
Zbyszko stroked his long, untrimmed hair from his brow, remained silent
for a moment, and then said:
"Would to God that I knew as much of Danuska as I do of Malborg. You ask
me what I have seen there? I have seen the immense power of the Knights
of the Cross; it is supported by all kings and nations, and I do not know
any one who could measure himself with it. I have seen their castles,
which even Caesar of Rome does not possess. I have seen inexhaustible
treasures, I have seen arms, I have seen swarms of armed monks, knights,
and common soldiers,--and as many relics as one sees with the Holy Father
in Rome, and I tell you that my soul trembled within me at the thought of
the possibility of fighting them. Who can prevail against them? Who can
oppose them and break their power?"
"We must destroy them," exclaimed the Bohemian, who could restrain
himself no longer.
Zbyszko's words appeared strange also to Macko, and although he was
anxious to hear all the adventures of the young man, nevertheless, he
interrupted him and said:
"Have you forgotten Wilno? How many times we threw ourselves against
them, shield against shield, head against head! You have also seen that,
how slow they were against us; and, at our hardiness, they exclaimed that
it was not enough to let the horses sweat and break the lances, but it
was necessary to take the strangers by the throat or offer their own.
Surely there were also guests who challenged us. But all of them went
away with shame. What has caused you to change?"
"I am not changed, for I fought at Malborg where also they tilted with
sharp weapons. But you don't know their whole strength."
But the old knight got angry and said:
"Do you know the whole strength of Poland? Did you see all the regiments
together? Well, you did not. But their strength consists in the people's
wrongs and treachery; there, they do not even possess one span of land.
They received our princes there in the same manner as a beggar receives
in his house, and they presented gifts, but they have grown powerful,
they have bitten the hand which fed them, like abominable mad dogs. They
seized the lands and treacherously captured the city; that is their
strength. The day of judgment and vengeance is at hand."
"You requested me to tell you what I have seen, and now you get angry; I
prefer to tell no more," said Zbyszko.
But Macko breathed angrily for a while, then he quieted down and said:
"But this time, thus it will be: You see a tremendous tower-like
pine-tree in the forest; it seems as it will stand there forever; but
strike it fairly with your axe and it will reveal hollowness and punk
will come out. So is it with the strength of the Knights of the Cross.
But I commanded you to tell me what you have done and what you have
accomplished there. Let me see, you said you fought there with weapons,
did you not?"
"I did. They received me at first in an ungrateful and arrogant manner;
they knew of my fight with Rotgier. Perhaps they had planned some evil
against me. But I came provided with letters from the prince; and de
Lorche, whom they honor, protected me from their evil designs. Then came
feasts and tourneys in which the Lord Jesus helped me. You have already
heard how Ulrych, the brother of the grand master, loved me, and obtained
an order from the master himself to surrender Danuska to me."
"We were told," said Macko, "that when his saddle-girdle broke, you would
not attack him."
"I helped him up with my lance, and from that moment he became fond of
me. Hey! Good God! They furnished me with such strong letters, that
enabled me to travel from castle to castle and search. I thought then
that my sufferings were at an end, but now I am sitting here, in a wild
country, without any help, in sorrow and perplexity, and it is getting
He remained silent for a moment, then he forcibly threw a chip into the
fire which scattered sparks among the burning brands, and said:
"If that poor child is suffering in a castle, somewhere in this
neighborhood, and thinks that I don't care for her, then let sudden death
His heart was evidently so full of pain and impatience that he began
again to throw chips into the fire, as though carried away by a sudden
and blind pain; but they were greatly astonished because they had not
realized that he loved Danusia so much.
"Restrain yourself," exclaimed Macko. "How did you fare with those
letters of safe conduct. Did the _comthurs_ pay no attention to the
"Restrain yourself, sir," said Hlawa. "God will comfort you; perhaps very
Tears glistened in Zbyszko's eyes, but he controlled himself, and said:
"They opened different castles and prisons. I have been everywhere; I
searched up to the breaking out of this war. At Gierdaw I was told by the
magistrate, von Heideck, that the laws of war differ from those in time
of peace, and that my safe conduct was of no avail. I challenged him at
once, but he did not accept, and he ordered me to quit the castle."
"What happened in other places?" inquired Macko.
"It was the same everywhere. The Count Koenizsberg, who is the chief
magistrate of Gierdaw, even refused to read the letter of the master,
saying that 'war is war,' and told me to carry my head--while it was
intact--out of the place. It was everywhere the same."
"Now I understand," said the old knight, "seeing that you got nothing,
you came here at least to avenge yourself."
"Exactly so," replied Zbyszko. "I also thought that we should take
prisoners, and also invest some castles. But those fellows could not
"Hey! It will be otherwise when Prince Witold himself comes."
"May God grant it!"
"He will come; I heard at the Mazovian court that he will come, and
perhaps the king and all the forces of Poland will come with him."
Further conversation was interrupted by the appearance of Skirwoilla who
unexpectedly appeared from the shadow, and said:
"We must be on the march."
Hearing that, the knights got up with alacrity. Skirwoilla approached his
tremendous head to their faces, and said in low tones:
"There is news: A relief train is moving toward New Kowno. Two knights
are at the head of the soldiers, cattle and provisions. Let us capture
"Shall we cross the Niemen," inquired Zbyszko.
"Yes! I know a ford."
"Do they know at the castle of the relief train?"
"They know and will come to meet them, but we shall pounce upon them
Then he instructed them where they were to lie in ambush, so as to
attack, unexpectedly, those hurrying from the castle. His intentions were
to engage the enemy in two battles at the same time, and avenge himself
for the last defeat, which could easily be effected, considering that
owing to their last victory the enemy considered himself perfectly safe
from an attack. Therefore Skirwoilla appointed the place and time where
they should meet; as for the rest, he left it with them, for he relied
upon their courage and resource. They were very glad at heart because
they appreciated the fact that an experienced and skilful warrior was
speaking to them. Then he ordered them to start, and he went to his
_numy_ where the princes and captains were already waiting. There he
repeated his orders, gave new ones, and finally put to his lips a pipe,
carved out of a wolf's bone, and whistled shrilly, which was heard from
one end of the camp to the other.
At the sound of the whistle they gathered around the extinguished
camp-fires; here and there sparks shot up, then little flames which
increased momentarily, and wild figures of warriors were visible
gathering around the stands of arms. The forest throbbed and moved. In a
moment there were heard the voices of the ostlers chasing the herd toward
They arrived very early at Niewiazy where they crossed the river, some on
horseback, some upon bundles of osier. Everything went with such dispatch
that Macko, Zbyszko, Hlawa and the Mazovian volunteers were astonished at
the skilfulness of the people; only then they understood why neither
woods, nor swamps, nor rivers could prevent Lithuanian expeditions. When
they emerged from the river none had taken off his wet clothing, not even
the sheep and wolfskin coats, but exposed themselves to the rays of the
sun until they steamed like pitch-burners, and after a short rest they
marched hastily toward the north. At nightfall they arrived at the
The crossing of the great river at that place, swollen in the spring, was
not an easy matter. The ford, which was known to Skuwoilla, changed in
places into deep water, so that the horses had to swim more than a
quarter of a furlong. Two men were carried away quite near Zbyszko, and
Hlawa tried to rescue them, but in vain; owing to the darkness and the
rushing water they lost sight of them. The drowning men did not dare to
shout for help, because the leader had previously ordered that the
crossing should be effected in the most quiet manner possible.
Nevertheless all the others fortunately succeeded in reaching the other
side of the river, where they remained without fires till the morning.
At dawn, the whole army was divided into two divisions. Skirwoilla at the
head of one went toward the interior to encounter the knights at the head
of the relief train for Gotteswerder. The second division was led back by
Zbyszko, toward the island, in order to attack the people coming from the
castle to meet the expedition, upon the elevated ground.
It was a mild and bright morning, but down in the woods the marshes and
bushes were covered with a thick white steam which entirely obscured the
distance. That was just a desirable condition for Zbyszko, because the
Germans coming from the castle would not be able to see them in time to
retreat. The young knight was exceedingly glad of it, and said to Macko:
"Let us get to our position instead of contemplating the mist yonder. God
grant that it is not dissipated before noon."
Then he hurried to the front to give orders to the _setniks_, and
immediately returned and said:
"We shall soon meet them upon the road coming from the ferry of the
island toward the interior. There we shall hide ourselves in the thicket
and watch for them."
"How do you know about that road?" asked Macko.
"We got the information from the local peasants, of whom we have quite a
number among our people who will guide us everywhere."
"At what distance from the castle do you intend to attack?"
"About one mile from it."
"Very well; because if it were nearer, the soldiers from the castle might
hurry to the rescue, but now they will not only not be able to arrive in
time, but will be beyond hearing distance."
"You see I thought about that."
"You thought about one thing, think also about another: if they are
reliable peasants, send two or three of them in front, so as to signal
when they descry the Germans coming."
"Bah! That also has been attended to."
"Then, I have yet something else to tell you; order one or two hundred
men, as soon as the battle begins, not to take part in the fight, but
hasten to the rear and cut off their retreat to the island."
"That is the first thing," replied Zbyszko. "Those orders have been
given. The Germans will fall into a trap and be snared."
Hearing this, Macko looked approvingly at his nephew; he was pleased that
in spite of his youth, he understood much of warfare; therefore he smiled
"Our true blood!"
But Hlawa, the shield-bearer, was more glad than Macko, because there was
nothing he loved more than war.
"I don't know the fighting capacity of our people," he said, "but they
march quietly, they are dexterous, and they seem to be eager. And if
Skirwoilla yonder has well devised his plans, then not a single foot
"God grant that only a few may escape," replied Zbyszko. "But I have
given orders to capture as many prisoners as possible; and if there
should happen to be a knight or a religious brother among them, he must
absolutely not be killed."
"Why not, sir?" inquired the Bohemian.
"You also take care," Zbyszko replied, "that it be so. If there be a
knight among them, he must possess much information, owing to his
wanderings in many cities and castles, seeing, and hearing much; much
more so if he is a religious member of the Order. Therefore I owe to God
my coming to this place so that I might learn something about Danusia,
and exchange prisoners. If there be any, this is the only measure left
Then he urged his horse and galloped again to the front to give his final
orders and at the same time to get rid of his sad thoughts; there was no
time to be lost, because the spot where they were to lie in ambush was
"Why does the young lord think that his little wife is alive, and that
she is somewhere in this neighborhood?" asked the Bohemian.
"Because if Zygfried, at the first impulse, did not kill her at
Szczytno," replied Macko, "then one may rightly conclude that she is
still alive. The priest of Szczytno would not have told us what he did,
in the presence of Zbyszko, if she had been killed. It is a very
difficult matter; even the most cruel man would not lift up his hand
against a defenceless woman. Bah! Against an innocent child."
"It is a hard thing, but not with the Knights of the Cross. And the
children of Prince Witold?"
"It is quite true, they have wolfish hearts. Nevertheless, it is true
that they did not kill her at Szczytno, and Zygfried himself left for
this part of the country; it is therefore possible that he had hid her in
"Hey! If it turns out so, then I shall take this island and the castle."
"Only look at this people," said Macko.
"Surely, surely; but I have an idea that I will communicate to the young
"Even if you have ten ideas, I do not care. You cannot overthrow the
walls with pikes."
Macko pointed toward the lines of pikes, with which most of the warriors
were provided; then he asked:
"Did you ever see such soldiers?"
As a matter of fact, the Bohemian had never seen the like. There was a
dense crowd in front of them marching irregularly. Cavalry and infantry
were mixed up and could not keep proper steps while marching through the
undergrowth in the woods. In order to keep pace with the cavalry the
infantry held on to the horses' manes, saddles and tails. The warriors'
shoulders were covered with wolf, lynx and bearskins; some had attached
to their heads boars' tusks, others antlers of deer, and others still had
shaggy ears attached, so that, were it not for the protruding weapons
above their heads, and the dingy bows and arrows at their backs, they
would have looked from the rear and specially in the mist like a moving
body of wild beasts proceeding from the depths of the forest, driven by
the desire for blood or hunger, in search of prey. There was something
terrible and at the same time extraordinary in it: it had the appearance
of that wonder called _gnomon_, when, according to popular belief, wild
beasts and even stones and bushes were moving in front of them.
It was at that sight that one of the young nobles from Lenkawice, who
accompanied the Bohemian, approached him, crossed himself, and said:
"In the name of the Father and Son! I say I am marching with a pack of
wolves, and not with men."
But Hlawa, although he had never before seen such a sight, replied like
an experienced man who knows all about it and is not surprised at
"Wolves roam in packs during the winter season, but the dog-blood of the
Knights of the Cross they also taste in the spring."
It was spring indeed, the month of May; the hazel-trees which filled the
woods were covered with a bright green. Among the moss, upon which the
soldiers stepped noiselessly, appeared white and blue anemones as well as
young berries and dentillated ferns. Softened by abundant rains, the bark
of the trees produced an agreeable odor, and from the forest under foot,
consisting of pine-needles and punk, proceeded a pungent smell. The sun
displayed a rainbow in the drops upon the leaves and branches of the
trees, and above it the birds sang joyfully.
They accelerated their pace, because Zbyszko urged them on. At times
Zbyszko rode again in the rear of the division with Macko, the Bohemian
and the Mazovian volunteers. The prospect of a good battle apparently
elated him considerably, for his customary sad expression had
disappeared, and his eyes had regained their wonted brightness.
"Cheer up!" he exclaimed. "We must now place ourselves in the front--not
behind the line."
He led them to the front of the division.
"Listen," he added. "It may be that we shall catch the Germans
unexpectedly, but should they make a stand and succeed in falling in
line, then we must be the first to attack them, because our armor is
superior, and our swords are better."
"Let it be so," said Macko.
The others settled themselves in their saddles, as if they were to attack
at once. They took a long breath, and felt for their swords to see
whether they could be unsheathed with ease.
Zbyszko repeated his orders once more, that if they found among the
infantry any knights with white mantles over the armor, they were not to
kill but capture them alive; then he galloped to the guides, and halted
the division for a while.
They arrived at the highway which from the landing opposite the island
extended to the interior. Strictly speaking, there was no proper road
yet, but in reality the edge of the wood had been recently sawed through
and leveled only at the rear so much as to enable soldiers or wagons to
pass over them. On both sides of the road rose the high trunked trees,
and the old pines cut for the widening of the road. The hazelnut growths
were so thick in some places that they overran the whole forest. Zbyszko
had therefore chosen a place at the turning, so that the advancing party
would neither be able to see far, nor retreat, nor have time enough to
form themselves in battle array. It was there that he occupied both sides
of the lane and gave commands to await the enemy.
Accustomed to forest life and war, the Zmudzians took advantage of the
logs, cuts and clumps of young hazelnut growths, and fir saplings--so
that it seemed as if the earth had swallowed them up. No one spoke,
neither did the horses snort. Now and then, big and little forest animals
passed those lying in wait and came upon them before seeing them and were
frightened and rushed wildly away. At times the wind arose and filled the
forest with a solemn, rushing sound, and then again silence fell and only
the distant notes of the cuckoo and the woodpecker were audible.
The Zmudzians were glad to hear those sounds, because the woodpecker was
a special harbinger of good fortune. There were many of those birds in
that forest, and the pecking sound was heard on all sides persistent and
rapid, like human labor. One would be inclined to say, that each of those
birds had its own blacksmith's forge where it went to active labor very
early. It appeared to Macko and the Mazovians that they heard the noise
of carpenters fixing roofs upon new houses, and it reminded them of home.
But the time passed and grew tedious; nothing was heard but the noise of
the trees and the voice of birds. The mist hovering upon the plain was
lifting. The sun was quite high and it was getting hot, but they still
lay in wait. Finally Hlawa who was impatient at the silence and delay,
bent toward Zbyszko's ear and whispered:
"Sir, if God will grant, none of the dog-brothers shall escape alive. May
we not be able to reach the castle and capture it by surprise?"
"Do you suppose that the boats there are not watching, and have no
"They have watchmen," replied the Bohemian, in a whisper, "but prisoners
when threatened with the knife will give up the watchword. Bah! they will
even reply in the German language. If we reach the island, then the
Here he stopped, because Zbyszko put his hand upon his mouth, because
from the roadside came the croak of a raven.
"Hush!" he said. "That is a signal."
About two "paters" later, there appeared at the border a Zmudzian, riding
upon a little shaggy pony, whose hoofs were enveloped in sheepskin to
avoid the clatter and traces of horses' hoofs in the mud. The rider
looked sharply from side to side and, suddenly hearing from the thicket
an answer to the croaking, dived into the forest, and in a moment he was
"They are coming!" ... he said.
Zbyszko inquired hurriedly, how many horsemen and infantry were among
them, in what manner they were advancing, and above all the exact
distance; and he learned from the Zmudzian that their number did not
exceed one hundred and fifty warriors and that about fifty of that number
were horsemen led by a Knight of the Cross, who appears to be of the
secular knights; that they were marching in ranks and had empty wagons
with a supply of wheels upon them; and that at a distance in front of the
detachment were bodies of archers composed of eight men who frequently
left the road and searched the woods and thickets, and finally that the
detachment was about one quarter of a mile distant.
Zbyszko was not particularly pleased with the information of the manner
of their advancing in battle array. He knew by experience how difficult
it was to break the ordered German ranks, and how such a crowd could
retreat and fight in the same manner as a wild-boar that defends itself
when brought to bay by dogs. On the other hand, he was glad of the news
that they were only a quarter of a mile distant, because he calculated
that the people who were detached to cut off their retreat had already
done so,--and, in case of the Germans being routed, not a single soul
could escape. As to the outpost at the head of the detachment he did not
care much, because he knew from the first that such would be the case and
was prepared for them; he had given orders to his men to allow them to
advance, and if they were engaged in searching the thickets to capture
them quietly one by one.
But the last order seemed unnecessary; the scouts advanced without delay.
The Zmudzians who were hidden in the growths near the highway had a
perfect view of the advancing party when they halted at the turning and
took counsel. The chief, a powerful red-bearded German, who signalled to
them to keep silence, began to listen. It was visible for a moment that
he hesitated whether to penetrate the forest or not. At last, as there
was only audible the hammering of the woodpeckers, and he apparently
thought that the birds would not be working so freely if people were
hidden among the trees. Therefore he waved his hand for the detachment to
Zbyszko waited until they were near the second turning, then he
approached the road, at the head of his well-armed men, including Macko,
the Bohemian, and the two noble volunteers from Lenkawice, and three
young knights from Ciechanow, and a dozen of the better armed Zmudzian
nobles. Further concealment was not necessary. Nothing remained for
Zbyszko but to station himself in the middle of the road and, as soon as
the Germans appeared, to fall upon them, and break their ranks. If that
might be accomplished, he was sure that his Zmudzians would take care of
There was silence for a little while, which was only disturbed by the
usual forest noises, but soon there were heard the voices of people
proceeding from the east side; they were yet a considerable distance away
but the voices grew little by little more distinct as they approached.
Without losing a moment's time, Zbyszko and his men placed themselves in
the form of a wedge in the middle of the road. Zbyszko himself formed the
sharp end and directly behind him were Macko and the Bohemian, in the row
behind them were three men, behind those were four; all of them were well
armed. Nothing was wanting but the "wooden" lances of the knights which
could greatly impede the advance of the enemy in forest marches, instead
of those long handled lances; theirs were shorter and lighter. Zmudzian
weapons were well adapted for the first attack, and the swords and axes
at their saddles were handy for combat at close quarters.
Hlawa was wide awake and listening; then he whispered to Macko:
"They are singing, they shall be destroyed."
"But what surprises me is that the woods obscure them from our sight,"
Then Zbyszko, who considered further hiding and silence unnecessary,
"Because the road leads along the stream; that is the reason for its
"But how merrily they are singing!" repeated the Bohemian.
One could judge from the melody that the Germans were singing profane
songs indeed. It could also be distinguished that the singers were not
more than about a dozen, and that they all repeated only one burden which
resounded far and wide in the forest, like a thunderstorm.
Thus they went to death, rejoicing and lusty.
"We shall soon see them," said Macko.
Then his face suddenly darkened and assumed a wolf-like and savage
expression. He had a grudge against the knights for the shots which he
had received at the time when he went to Zbyszko's rescue, on that
occasion when he was the carrier of letters from Prince Witold's sister
to the grand master. Therefore his blood began to boil, and a desire for
vengeance overflowed his soul.
The fellow who first attacks will not fare well, thought Hlawa, as he
looked at the old knight.
Meanwhile the wind carried the sound of the phrase which the singers
"Tandaradei! Tandaradei!" The Bohemian at once recognized the song known
"Bi den rosen er wol mac
Merken wa mir'z houlet lac...."
Then the song was interrupted, because upon both sides of the road was
heard such a croaking noise that it seemed as if the crows were holding
parliament in that corner of the forest. The Germans were wondering
whence so many crows came, and why they proceeded from the ground and not
from the tops of the trees. In fact the first line of the soldiers
appeared at the turning and halted as though nailed to the spot, when
they observed unknown horsemen facing them.
At the same moment Zbyszko sat down in his saddle, spurred his horse, and
rushed forward, crying:
The others galloped with him. The terrible shouting of the Zmudzian
warriors was heard from the woods. Only a space of about two hundred feet
separated Zbyszko from the enemy, who, in the twinkling of an eye,
lowered a forest of lances toward Zbyszko's horsemen; the remaining lines
placed themselves with the utmost dispatch on both sides to protect
themselves against an attack from the direction of the forest. The Polish
knights might have admired the dexterity of the German tactics, but there
was no time for contemplation, owing to the great speed and impetus of
their horses in their charge upon the close phalanx of the Germans.
Happily for Zbyszko, the German cavalry were in the rear of the division
near the wagon train; in fact, they hastened at once to their assistance,
but they could neither reach them in time nor pass beyond them so as to
be of any assistance at the first attack. The Zmudzians, pouring from the
thickets, surrounded them like a swarm of poisonous wasps upon whose nest
a careless traveler had trod. Meanwhile Zbyszko and his men threw
themselves upon the infantry.
The attack was without effect. The Germans planted the ends of their
heavy lances and battle-axes in the ground, held them fast and even so
that the Zmudzian light horses could not break the wall. Macko's horse,
which received a blow from a battle-axe in the shin, reared and stood up
on his hind legs, then fell forward burying his nostrils in the ground.
For a while death was hovering above the old knight; but he was
experienced and had seen many battles, and was full of resources in
accidents. So he freed his legs from the stirrups, and grasped with his
powerful hand the sharp end of the pike which was ready to strike him,
and instead of penetrating his chest it served him as a support. Then he
freed himself, and, springing among the horsemen, he obtained a sword and
fell upon the pikes and battle-axes with such fury as an eagle swoops
upon a flock of long-beaked cranes.
At the moment of attack Zbyszko sat back on his horse, charged with his
spear--and broke it; then he also got a sword. The Bohemian, who, above
all, believed in the efficacy of an axe, threw it in the midst of the
Germans. For a while he remained without arms. One of two _wlodykas_ who
accompanied him was slain in the onset; at the sight of that, the other
lost his reason and raved so that he began to howl like a wolf, stood up
upon his blood-covered horse and charged blindly into the midst of the
throng. The Zmudzian noblemen cut with their sharp blades the spearheads
and wooden handles, behind which they observed the faces of the _knechts_
(common soldiers) upon which was depicted alarm, and at the same time
they were frowning with determination and stubbornness. But the ranks
remained unbroken. Also the Zmudzians, who made a flank attack, quickly
retreated from before the Germans, as one runs away from a venomous
snake. Indeed they returned immediately with yet greater impetuosity, but
they did not succeed. Some of them climbed up the trees in the twinkling
of an eye and directed their arrows into the midst of the _knechts_, but
when their leader saw this he ordered the soldiers to retreat toward the
cavalry. The German ranks also began to shoot, and from time to time a
Zmudzian would fall down and tear the moss in agony, or wriggle like a
fish drawn from the water. The Germans, indeed, could not count upon a
victory, but they knew the efficacy of defending themselves, so that, if
possible, a small number, at least, might manage to escape disaster and
reach the shore.
Nobody thought of surrendering, because they did not spare prisoners,
they knew that they could not count upon mercy from people who were
driven to despair and rebellion. They therefore retreated in silence, in
close rank, shoulder to shoulder, now raising, now lowering their
javelins and broad axes, hewing, shooting with their crossbows as much as
the confusion of the fighting permitted them, and continuing to retreat
slowly toward their horsemen, who were engaged in life and death battle
with another section of the enemy.
Meanwhile something strange occurred which decided the fortune of the
stubborn fight. It was caused by the young _wlodyka_ of Lenkawice, who
became mad at the death of his companion; he did not dismount, but bent
down and lifted up the body of his companion with the object of
depositing it in a safe place to save it from mutilation, and so that he
might find it after the battle was over. But at that very moment a fresh
wave of madness came over him and he entirely lost his mind, so that
instead of leaving the road, he rushed toward the German soldiers and
threw the body upon the points of their pikes, which penetrated the
corpse in various parts, and the weight caused them to bend, and before
the Germans were able to withdraw their weapons, the raving man fell in,
breaking the ranks and overturning the men like a tempest.
In the twinkling of an eye, half a score of hands were extended toward
him and as many pikes penetrated the flanks of his horse, but the ranks
were thrown into disorder, and one Zmudz noble who was near, rushed
through and immediately after him came Zbyszko, then the Bohemian, and
the terrible confusion increased every moment. Other _bojars_ followed
the example, seized corpses and thrust them against the enemies' arms,
whilst the Zmudzians again attacked the flanks. The order which had
hitherto reigned in the German ranks wavered; it began to shake like a
house whose walls are cracked; it was cleft like a log by a wedge, and
finally it burst open.
In a moment the fighting turned to slaughter, the long German pikes and
broad axes were of no use at close quarters. Instead of it the swords of
the horsemen fell upon helmet and neck. The horses pressed into the midst
of the throng, upsetting and trampling the unfortunate Germans. It was
easy for the horsemen to strike from above and they took advantage of the
opportunity and ceaselessly cut the enemy. From the woods on both sides
continually arrived wild warriors, clothed in wolves' skins, and with a
wolfish desire for blood in their hearts. Their howling drowned the
voices praying for mercy and those of the dying. The conquered threw away
their arms; some tried to escape into the forest, others feigned death
and fell to the earth, others stood erect, their faces white as snow, and
bloodshot eyes, whilst others prayed. One of them, apparently demented,
began to play the pipe, then looked upward and smiled, until a Zmudzian
crushed his head with a club. The forest ceased to rustle and death
Finally the small army of the Knights of the Cross melted away; only at
times there were heard voices of small bands fighting in the woods, or a
terrible cry of despair. Zbyszko, Macko and all their horsemen now
galloped toward the cavalry. They were still defending themselves,
placing themselves in the form of a wedge. The Germans were always
accustomed to adopt that manoeuvre when surrounded by an overwhelming
force of the enemy. The cavalry were mounted upon good horses and were
better armed than the infantry; they fought manfully and obstinately and
deserved admiration. There was none with a white mantle among them, but
they were of the middle classes and small nobility of the Germans who
were obliged to go to war when called upon by the Order. Most of their
horses were also armed, some had body armor; but all had iron head covers
with a spike of steel protruding from the centre. Their leader was a
tall, sturdy knight; he wore a dark blue coat of mail and a helmet of the
same color, with a lowered steel visor.
A rain of arrows was showered upon them from the depths of the forest.
But they did but little harm. The Zmudzian infantry and cavalry came
nearer and surrounded them like a wall, but they defended themselves,
cutting and thrusting with their long swords so furiously that in front
of the horses' hoofs lay a ring of corpses. The first lines of the
attackers wanted to retire, but they were unable to do so. There was a
press and confusion all around. The eyes became dazzled by the glint of
the spears and the flash of the swords. The horses began to neigh, bite,
rear and kick. Then the Zmudz noblemen charged down; Zbyszko, Hlawa and
the Mazovians fell upon them. By dint of the press, the German throng
began to waver, and swayed like trees before a storm, but they hewed like
choppers of firewood in the forest thickets, and advanced slowly amidst
fatigue and excessive heat.
But Macko ordered his men to gather together the long-handled German
battle-axes from the battlefield, and armed with them thirty of his wild
warriors pressed on eagerly toward the Germans. "Strike the horses'
legs!" he shouted. A terrible effect was soon apparent. The German
knights were unable to reach the Zmudzians with their swords, at the same
time the battle-axes were crushing the horses' legs. It was then that the
blue knight recognized that the end of the battle was at hand, and that
he had only two resources left--either to fight his way through the army
and retreat, or to remain and perish.
He chose the first plan, and in a moment his knights turned their faces
in the direction whence they came. The Zmudzians fell upon their rear.
Nevertheless the Germans threw their shields upon their shoulders and cut
in front and to the sides, and broke through the ranks of the attacking
party, and hurricane-like, fled toward the east. But that division which
had been despatched for that purpose, rushed to meet them; but by dint of
superior fighting and the greater weight of the horses, they fell in a
moment like flax before a storm. The road to the castle was open, but
escape thither was insecure and too far away, because the Zmudzian horses
were fleeter than those of the Germans. The blue knight was quite aware
"Woe!" he said to himself. "Here none will escape; perhaps I may purchase
their salvation with my own blood."
Then he shouted to his men to halt, and himself turned around toward the
foe, not caring whether any one overheard his command.
Zbyszko galloped up to him first, the German struck him upon the visor,
but without breaking it or harming Zbyszko. At the same time, Zbyszko,
instead of giving stroke for stroke, grasped the knight by the middle,
but, in the attempt to take him alive, engaged in a close struggle,
during which the girth of his horse gave way from the intense strain of
the contest, and both fell to the ground. For a while they wrestled; but
the extraordinary strength of the young man soon prevailed against his
antagonist; he pressed his knees against his stomach, holding him down as
a wolf does a dog who dares to oppose him in the woods.
But there was no need to hold him, because the German fainted. Meanwhile
Macko and the Bohemian arrived at a gallop. Zbyszko shouted: "Quick,
here! A rope!"
The Bohemian dismounted, but seeing the helplessness of the German, he
did not bind him, but disarmed him and unbuckled his armlets and his
belt, and with the attached "_misericordia_," (dagger of mercy) cut the
gorget, and lastly he unscrewed the helmet.
But he had scarcely glanced in the face of the knight, when he started
back and exclaimed:
"Master! master! please only look here!"
"De Lorche!" shouted Zbyszko.
And there lay de Lorche pale and motionless as a corpse, with closed eyes
and face covered with perspiration.
Zbyszko gave orders for him to be laid upon one of the captured wagons
which were laden with spare wheels and axles for the expedition coming to
relieve the castle. He mounted another horse, and with Macko they
continued the pursuit of the fleeing Germans. It was not a difficult
pursuit, because the German horses were not speedy enough, particularly
upon the ground softened by the spring rains, more especially for Macko,
who had with him a light and fleet mare which belonged to the deceased
_wlodyka_ of Lenkawice. After a distance of several furlongs he passed
almost all the Zmudzians. He soon reached the first German trooper, whom
he at once challenged according to the then prevailing custom among the
knights, to surrender or fight. But the German feigned deafness. He even
threw away his shield to relieve the horse, and bent in the saddle and
spurred his horse. The old knight struck him with his broad axe between
the shoulder-blades, and he fell to the ground.
Thus Macko avenged himself upon the fleeing Germans for the treacherous
shot he had once received. They ran before him like a herd of frightened
deer. They had no thought of continuing the fight or defending
themselves, but of fleeing before that terrible man. Some dashed into the
forest, but one stuck fast near the stream: him the Zmudzians strangled
with a halter. Then a hunt as if after wild beasts began after the crowd
of fugitives which sprang into the woods.
The depths of the forests rang with the shouts of the hunters and the
shrieks of the hunted until the latter were exterminated. Then the old
knight, accompanied by Zbyszko and the Bohemian, returned to the
battlefield upon which lay the hacked bodies of the German infantry. They
were already stripped naked. Some were mutilated by the revengeful
Zmudzians. It was an important victory, and the soldiers were drunk with
joy. After the last defeat suffered by Skirwoilla near Gotteswerder, a
sort of apathy had seized the Zmudzians, more especially because the
promised relief from Prince Witold had not yet arrived as quickly as
expected. However, now hope revived and the fire was kindled anew as when
wood is thrown upon glowing embers. The number of slain Germans, as well
as Zmudzians to be buried, was very great, but Zbyszko ordered a special
grave to be dug for the _wlodykas_ of Lenkawice, who contributed so much
toward the victory. They were buried there among the pine-trees, and
Zbyszko cut a cross with his sword upon the bark. Then he ordered the
Bohemian to keep watch over de Lorche who was still unconscious; he
stirred up the people and hurried on along the road toward Skirwoilla to
lend him affective assistance in case of emergency.
But after a long march he came across a deserted battlefield that
resembled the former, being covered with German and Zmudzian corpses. It
was easy for Zbyszko to conclude that the terrible Skirwoilla had also
gained an equally important victory over the enemy, because if he had
been defeated, Zbyszko would have met the victorious Germans marching to
the castle. But the victory must have been a bloody one, because for some
distance a great number of dead were met with. The experienced Macko was
able to deduce from this that some Germans had even succeeded in
retreating from the defeat.
It was difficult to tell whether Skirwoilla was pursuing them or not,
because the tracks were mingled and confused. He also concluded that the
battle had taken place quite early, perhaps earlier than Zbyszko's fight,
for the corpses were livid and swollen, and some of them torn by wolves,
that scattered in the thickets at the approach of armed men.
In face of these circumstances Zbyszko resolved not to wait for
Skirwoilla, but to return to the original safe camp. He arrived there
late at night and found the leader of the Zmudzians who had arrived
somewhat early. His face, which usually wore a sullen expression, was now
lighted with fiendish joy. He asked at once about the result of the
fight, and when he was told of the victory he said in tones that sounded
like the croaking of a crow:
"I am glad of your victory, and I am glad of mine. They will send no more
relief expeditions for some time, and when the great prince arrives there
will be more joy, for the castle will be ours."
"Have you taken any prisoners?" inquired Zbyszko.
"Only small fry, no pike. There was one, there were two but they got
away. They were pikes with sharp teeth! They cut the people and escaped."
"God granted me one." replied the young knight. "He is a powerful and
renowned knight, although a Swede--a guest!"
The terrible Zmudzian raised his hands to his neck and with the right
hand made a gesture like the up-jerk of a halter:
"This shall happen to him," he said, "to him as well as to the other
prisoners ... this!"
Then Zbyszko's brow furrowed.
"Listen, Skirwoilla," he said. "Nothing will happen to him, neither
_this_ nor _that_ because he is my prisoner and my friend. Prince Janusz
knighted both of us. I will not even permit you to cut off one finger
from his hand."
"You will not permit?"
"No, I will not."
Then they glared fiercely into each other's eyes. Skirwoilla's face was
so much wrinkled that it had the appearance of a bird of prey. It
appeared as if both were about to burst out. But Zbyszko did not want any
trouble with the old leader, whom he prized and respected; moreover his
heart was greatly agitated with the events of the day. He fell suddenly
upon his neck, pressed him to his breast and exclaimed:
"Do you really desire to tear him from me, and with him my last hope? Why
do you wrong me?"
Skirwoilla did not repel the embrace. Finally, withdrawing his head from
Zbyszko's arm, he looked at him benignantly, breathing heavily.
"Well," he said, after a moment's silence. "Well, to-morrow I will give
orders for the prisoners to be hanged, but if you want any one of them, I
will give him to you."
Then they embraced each other again and parted on good terms--to the
great satisfaction of Macko, who said:
"It is obvious that you will never be able to do anything with him by
anger, but with kindness you can knead him like wax."
"Such is the whole nation," replied Zbyszko; "but the Germans do not know
Then he gave orders for de Lorche, who had taken rest in the booth, to be
brought to the camp-fire. A moment later the Bohemian brought him in; he
was unarmed and without a helmet, having only his leather jacket upon
which the marks of the coat of mail were visible. He had a red cap on his
head. De Lorche had already been informed by Hlawa that he was a prisoner
and therefore he came in looking cool and haughty, and the light of the
flames revealed defiance and contempt in his countenance.
"Thank God," Zbyszko said, "that He delivered you in my hands, because
nothing evil shall happen to you by me."
Then he extended a friendly hand; but de Lorche did not even move.
"I decline to give my hand to knights who outrage knightly honor, by
joining pagans in fighting Christian knights."
One of the Mazovians present, who could not restrain himself, owing to
Zbyszko's importance, on hearing this became excited and his blood
"Fool!" he shouted and involuntarily grasped the handle of his
But de Lorche lifted up his head.
"Kill me," he said. "I know that you do not spare prisoners."
"But, do you spare prisoners?" the Mazur who could not restrain himself,
exclaimed: "Did you not hang on the shore of the island all the prisoners
you took in the last fight? That is the reason why Skirwoilla will hang
all his prisoners."
"Yes! they did hang them, but they were pagans."
There was a certain sense of shame in his reply; it could easily be seen
that he did not entirely approve of such deeds.
Meanwhile, Zbyszko controlled himself, and in a quiet and dignified
"De Lorche, you and I received our belts and spurs from the same hand,
you also know well that knightly honor is dearer to me than life and
fortune. Listen, therefore, to my words which I say under oath to Saint
Jerzy: There are many among this people whose Christianity does not date
from yesterday, and those who have not yet been converted stretch out
their hands toward the Cross for salvation. But, do you know who hinder
them and prevent their salvation and baptism?"
The Mazur translated all Zbyszko's words to de Lorche, who looked into
the young knight's face questioningly.
"The Germans!" said Zbyszko.
"Impossible," shouted de Lorche.
"By the spear and spurs of Saint Jerzy, the Germans! Because if the
religion of the Cross were to be propagated here, they would lose a
pretext for incursions, and domination and oppression of this unhappy
people. You are well acquainted with these facts, de Lorche! You are best
informed whether their dealings are upright or not."
"But I think that in fighting with the pagans they are only banishing
them to prepare them for baptism."
"They are baptizing them with the sword and blood, not with water that
saves. Read this letter, I pray, and you will be convinced that you
yourself are the wrongdoer, plunderer and the hell-_starosta_ of those
who fight religion and Christian love."
Then he handed him the letter which the Zmudzians had written to the
kings and princes, which was distributed everywhere; de Lorche took it
and perused it rapidly by the light of the fire. He was greatly
surprised, and said;
"Can all that be true?"
"May God, who sees best, so help you and me that I am not only speaking
the truth but I also serve justice."
De Lorche was silent for a moment and then said:
"I am your prisoner."
"Give me your hand," replied Zbyszko. "You are my brother, not my
Then they clasped hands and sat down in company to supper, which the
Bohemian ordered the servant to prepare.
De Lorche was greatly surprised when he was informed on the road that
Zbyszko, in spite of his letters, had not got Danusia, and that the
_comthurs_ had refused important and safe conduct on account of the
outbreak of the war.
"Now I understand why you are here," he said to Zbyszko, "and I thank God
that He delivered me into your hands, because I think that through me the
Knights of the Order will surrender to you what you wish. Otherwise there
will be a great outcry in the West, because I am a knight of importance
and come from a powerful family...."
Then he suddenly threw down his cap and exclaimed:
"By all the relics of Akwizgran! Then those who were at the head of the
relief train to Gotteswerder, were Arnold von Baden and old Zygfried von
Loeve. That we learned from the letters which were sent to the castle.
Were they taken prisoners?"
"No!" said Zbyszko, excitedly. "None of the most important! But, by God!
The news you tell me is important. For God's sake, tell me, are there
other prisoners from whom I can learn whether there were any women with
Then he called the men to bring him lit resinous chips and he hastened to
where the prisoners were gathered by order of Skirwoilla. De Lorche,
Macko and the Bohemian ran with him.
"Listen," said de Lorche to Zbyszko, on the way. "If you will let me free
on parole I will run and seek her throughout the whole of Prussia, and
when I find her, I will return to you and you will exchange me for her."
"If she lives! If she lives!" replied Zbyszko.
Meanwhile they reached the place where Skirwoilla's prisoners were. Some
were lying upon their backs, others stood near the stumps of trees to
which they were cruelly fastened with fibre. The bright flame of the
chips illuminated Zbyszko's face. Therefore all the prisoners' looks were
directed toward him.
Then from the depths of the road there was heard a loud and terrible
"My lord and protector! Oh, save me!"
Zbyszko snatched from the hands of the servant a couple of burning chips
and ran into the forest toward the direction whence the voice proceeded,
holding aloft the burning chips, and cried:
"Sanderus!" repeated the Bohemian, in astonishment.
But Sanderus, whose hands were bound to the tree, stretched his neck and
began to shout again.
"Mercy!... I know where Jurand's daughter is!... Save me."
The soldiers unbound him at once, but his limbs were benumbed and he
fell; when they lifted him up he was seized with successive fainting
fits. In spite of Zbyszko's orders for him to be taken to the fire and
given food and drink, and rubbed over with fat and then covered with
warmed skins, Sanderus did not recover consciousness, but lapsed into a
very deep sleep, which continued until noon of the following day when the
Bohemian succeeded in awakening him.
Zbyszko, who was burning with fiery impatience, immediately went to him,
but at first he could get no information from him, because either from
his terrible experiences or from the relaxation which usually overpowers
weak natures when the threatening danger has passed, Sanderus burst into
long and uncontrollable weeping, so that for some time he could give no
answer to the questions put to him. He was choked with sobs, his lips
trembled, and tears flowed down his cheeks so copiously that it seemed as
though his very life was flowing out with them.
Finally he succeeded to some extent in controlling himself, and he
strengthened himself a little with mares' milk, which mode of refreshing
themselves the Lithunians learned from the Tartars. He began to complain
that the "sons of Belial" had thrust him with their pikes against a wild
apple-tree; that they had taken away his horse which was laden with
relics of priceless virtue; and finally when they had bound him to the
tree, the ants had attacked his feet and body so that he expected to die
from it, if not to-day, to-morrow.
Zbyszko's anger overcame him and he could restrain himself no longer, and
he interrupted Sanderus and said:
"You vagabond, answer the questions I am going to put to you and take
care that you tell the truth, or you will fare worse."
"There are red ants yonder," said the Bohemian, "order them to be pat
upon him, and he will soon find a tongue in his mouth."
Hlawa did not say this seriously; he even smiled as he spoke, for his
heart was well inclined toward Sanderus. The latter, however, was
terror-stricken, and shouted.
"Mercy! Mercy! Give me some more of that pagan drink and I will tell you
all that I have and that I have not seen."
"If you tell lies, even one word that is not true, I will drive a wedge
between your teeth," said the Bohemian.
They brought him another skin full of mares' milk; he grasped it and
fastened his lips to it with the avidity that a child does to its
mother's breast, and began to gulp it down, alternatively opening and
closing his eyes. When he had drank from it about half a gallon or more,
he shook himself, placed the skin upon his knees, and as if submitting
himself to the inevitable, he said:
"Vile stuff!..." Then he turned toward Zbyszko. "Now, deliverer! ask."
"Was my wife in that division with you?"
Sanderus' face assumed a certain air of surprise. In fact he had heard
that Danusia was Zbyszko's wife, but it had been a secret marriage, and
immediately afterward she had been abducted, and he had always thought of
her as Jurandowna, (Miss Jurand).
He replied quickly:
"Yes, _voyevode!_ She was! But Zygfried von Loeve and Arnold von Baden
broke through the enemy's ranks and escaped."
"Did you see her?" asked Zbyszko, with beating heart.
"I did not see her face, sir, but I saw a closed litter made of
brushwood, suspended between two horses, in which there was somebody, led
by that very lizard, the same servant of the Order who came from Danveld
to the Forest Court. I also heard sad singing proceeding from the
Zbyszko grew pale with emotion; he sat down on the stump and was unable
to ask another question for a while. Macko and the Bohemian were also
much moved at this great and important news. The latter, probably,
thought about his beloved lady who remained at Spychow, and upon whom
this news would fall like a doom.
There was silence for a moment. Finally, the shrewd Macko who did not
know Sanderus, and who had scarcely heard of him previously, looked at
him with suspicion, and asked:
"Who are you and what were you doing among the Knights of the Cross?"
"Who am I, powerful knight?" replied Sanderus. "Let this valiant prince
answer for me," (here he pointed toward Zbyszko), "and this manly
Bohemian noble who has known me long."
The effect of the kumys (mares' milk) upon Sanderus apparently began to
show itself, for he grew lively, and turning to Zbyszko he spoke in a
loud voice and showed no trace of his previous feeble condition.
"Sir, you have saved my life twice. If it were not for you, the wolves
would have devoured me, or the punishment of the bishops who were
misguided by my enemies. (Oh, what a wicked world this is!) They issued
an order to hunt me for selling relics which they thought were not
genuine, simply because they took me for one of your people. But you, O
lord, protected me, and thanks to you I was not destroyed by the wolves,
nor shall their persecution harm me. Food and drink was never lacking
whilst I was with you--better than the mares' milk here which makes me
sick, but I drink it in order to show how a poor but pious pilgrim can
stand all kinds of privations."
"Speak, you bear-trainer; tell us quickly what you know, and do not play
the fool," exclaimed Macko.
But he lifted the skin to his mouth again and entirely emptied it;
apparently not hearing Macko's words, he turned again to Zbyszko: "This
is another reason why I love you. The saints, as it is written in the
Scriptures, sinned nine times an hour, consequently, sometimes also
Sanderus transgresses, but Sanderus never was nor shall be ungrateful.
Therefore, when misfortune came upon you, you remember, sir, what I told
you; I said, 'I will go from castle to castle, and, instructing the
people along the road, I will search for your lost one.' Whom did I not
ask? Where did I not go?--It would take me a long time to tell you.--But,
suffice it to say, I found her; and from that moment on, burrs do not
cling as tenaciously to the cloak as I attached myself to old Zygfried. I
became his servant, and from castle to castle, from one _comthur_ to
another, from town to town I went with him without intermission until
this last battle."
Zybszko meanwhile mastered his emotion and said:
"I am very thankful to you and I shall surely reward you. But now, answer
my questions. Will you swear, by the salvation of your soul, that she is
"I swear by the salvation of my soul that she is alive," replied
Sanderus, with a serious air.
"Why did Zygfried leave Szczytno?"
"I do not know, sir. But I surmise that as he was never the _starosta_ of
Szczytno, he left it; perhaps he feared the grand master's orders, which
were, they say, to give up the little lamb to the Mazovian court. Perhaps
that very letter was the cause of his flight, because his soul burned
within him with pain and vengeance for Rotgier who, they say now, was
Zygfried's own son. I cannot tell what happened there, but this I do
know, that something turned his head and he raved, and determined not to
surrender Jurand's daughter--I meant to say, the young lady--as long as
"All this seems to me very strange," suddenly interrupted Macko. "If that
old dog thirsts so much for the blood of all who belong to Jurand, he
would have killed Danuska."
"He wanted to do so," replied Sanderus, "but something happened to him
and he became very sick, and was at the point of death. His people
whisper much over that affair. Some say that upon a certain night when he
went to the tower intending to kill the young lady he met the Evil
Spirit--some say it was an angel whom he met--well--they found him lying
upon the snow in front of the tower wholly lifeless. Now, when he thinks
about it, his hair stands up upon his head like oak-trees; this is the
reason why he does not himself dare to lift up his hand against her, he
even fears to order others to do it. He has with him the dumb executioner
of Szczytno, but it is not known why, because the executioner as well as
others, are equally afraid to harm her."
These words made a great impression. Zbyszko, Macko and the Bohemian came
near Sanderus, who crossed himself and then continued:
"It was not well to be among them. More than once I heard and saw things
that made my flesh creep. I have told your lordship already that
something was wrong with the old _comthur's_ head. Bah! How could it be
otherwise, when spirits from the other world visit him. He would have
remained there, but some presence is always near him which sounds like
one who is breathless. And that is that very Danveld, whom the terrible
lord of Spychow killed. Then Zygfried says to him: 'What shall I do? I
cannot avenge you on anything; what profit will you get?' But the other
(the ghost) gnashes his teeth and then pants again. Very often Rotgier
appears, and the odor of sulphur is noticeable, and the _comthur_ has a
lengthy conversation with him. 'I cannot,' he says to him. 'I cannot.
When I come myself then I will do it, but now I cannot.' I also heard the
old man asking: 'Will that comfort you, dear son,' and other expressions
of the same character. When this happens, the old _comthur_ speaks to
nobody for two or three days in succession, and his face seems as if he
is suffering intense pain. He and the woman servant of the Order watch
the litter carefully, so that the young lady is always unable to see
"Do they not torture her?" asked Zbyszko, in hollow tones.
"I will tell your lordship the candid truth, that I did not hear any
beating or crying; the only thing I heard proceeding from the litter was
sad melodies; sometimes it seemed to me like sweet, sad warblings of a
"That is terrible," exclaimed Zbyszko, his voice hissing between his set
But Macko interrupted further questioning.
"That is enough," he said. "Speak now of the battle. Did you see how they
departed and what became of them?"
"I saw and will give a faithful account. At first they fought terribly.
But when they saw that they were surrounded on all sides, then only they
thought of escape. Sir Arnold, who is quite a giant, was the first to
break the ring, and opened such a road, that he, the old _comthur_ and
some people with the horse-litter succeeded in passing through it."
"How is it that they were not pursued?"
"They were pursued, but nothing could be done, because when they came too
near them, then Sir Arnold faced the pursuers and fought them all. God
protect those who meet him, because he possesses such extraordinary
strength; he considers it a trifle to fight against a hundred. Thrice he
thus turned, thrice he kept the pursuers in check. All the people who
were with him perished. It seems to me that he too was wounded, and so
was his horse, but he escaped, and meanwhile the old _comthur_ succeeded
in making good his escape."
When Macko heard the story he thought that Sanderus was telling the
truth, for he recollected that when he entered the field where Skirwoilla
had given battle, the whole stretch of the road on the line of the
Germans' retreat, was covered with dead Zmudzians, so terribly hacked as
though it had been done by giant hands.
"Nevertheless, how could you observe all that?" he asked Sanderus.
"I saw it," replied the vagabond, "because I grasped the tail of one of
the horses which carried the litter, and held on until I received a kick
in my stomach. Then I fainted, and that was the reason that you captured
"That might happen," said Hlawa, "but take care, if anything you say
turns out to be false; in such case you shall fare badly."
"There is another proof," replied Sanderus; "let one who wishes take a
note of it; yet it is better to believe a man's word than to condemn him
as one who does not tell the truth."
"Although you sometimes unwillingly tell the truth, you will howl for
And they began to tease each other as they formerly did, but Zbyszko
interrupted their chatter.
"You have passed through that region, then you must be acquainted with
the localities in the neighborhood of the castles; where do you suppose
Zygfried and Arnold hide themselves?"
"There are no strongholds whatever in that neighborhood; all is one
wilderness, through which a road was recently cut. There are neither
villages nor farms. The Germans burned those that were there, for the
reason that the inhabitants of those places who are also Zmudzians, had
also risen in arms against the Knights of the Cross with their brethren
here. I think, sir, that Zygfried and Arnold are now wandering about the
woods; either they are trying to return to the place whence they came, or
attempting furtively to reach that fortress whither we were going to
before that unfortunate battle."
"I am sure that it is so," said Zbyszko. He became absorbed in thought so
that he contracted his brows; he was obviously trying to find some plan,
but it did not last long. After a while he lifted up his head and said:
"Hlawa! See that the horses and men get ready; we must move at once."
The Bohemian, whose custom was never to ask for reasons when commanded,
without saying a single word, got up and ran toward the horses; then
Macko opened wide his eyes at his nephew and said with surprise:
"And ... Zbyszko? Hey! Where are you going? What?... How?..."
But he answered his questions with another:
"And what do you think? Is it not my duty?"
The old knight had nothing to say. His looks of astonishment disappeared
little by little from his face; he shook his head once or twice and
finally drew a deep breath and said as though replying to himself:
"Well! there you are.... There is no other remedy!"
And he also went to the horses, but Zbyszko returned to de Lorche, and by
means of a Mazovian interpreter spoke to him thus:
"I cannot ask you to go with me against the people with whom you served.
You are therefore free and you may go wherever you please."
"I cannot serve you now with my sword against my knightly honor," replied
de Lorche; "but as to your granting me my freedom, I cannot accept that
either. I remain your prisoner on parole and shall be at your command
whithersoever you send me. And in case you want to exchange prisoners,
remember that the Order will exchange for me any prisoner, because I am
not only a powerful knight, but I am a descendant of a line of Knights of
the Cross of great merit."
Then they embraced each other according to custom, placing their hands on
each other's arms and kissing each other on the cheeks, and de Lorche
"I will go to Malborg or to the Mazovian court, so that you may know if I
am not in one place you can find me in the other. Thy messenger need only
tell me the two words, '_Lotaryngia-Geldria_'"
"Well," said Zbyszko, "still I will go to Skirwoilla to obtain a pass for
you which the Zmudzians will respect."
Then he called upon Skirwoilla; the old leader gave the pass for his
departure without any difficulty, for he knew all about the affair and
loved Zbyszko; he was grateful to him for his bravery in the last battle,
and for this very reason he made no objection whatever to the departure
of the knight who belonged to another country and came on his own
account. Then, thanking Zbyszko for the great services which he had
rendered, he looked at him in surprise at his courage in undertaking a
journey in the wild lands; he bid him good-bye, expressing his wishes to
meet him again in some greater and more conclusive affair against the
Knights of the Cross.
But Zbyszko was in a great hurry, for he was consumed as with a fever.
When he arrived at the post he found everybody ready, and his uncle,
Macko, on horseback, among them; he was armed and had on his coat of mail
and his helmet upon his head. Zbyszko approached him and said:
"Then you too go with me!"
"But what else could I do?" replied Macko, a little testily.
Zbyszko did not reply, but kissed the right hand of his uncle, then
mounted his horse and proceeded.
Sanderus went with them. They knew the road as far as the battlefield
very well, but beyond that he was to guide them. They also counted upon
the local inhabitants whom they might meet in the woods; who, out of
hatred of their masters, the Knights of the Cross, would aid them in
tracking the old _comthur_ and the knight, Arnold von Baden, to whom
Sanderus attributed such superhuman strength and bravery.
The road to the battlefield where Skirwoilla had routed the Germans was
easy, because they knew it, and so they soon reached it. Owing to the
insufferable stench arising from the unburied dead, they crossed it in a
hurry. As they did so, they drove away wolves, and large flights of
crows, ravens and jackdaws. Then they began to look for traces along the
road. Although a whole division had passed over it on the previous day,
nevertheless, the experienced Macko found upon the trampled road without
trouble, the imprint of gigantic hoofs leading in an opposite direction.
Then he explained to the younger and less experienced companions-in-arms:
"It is fortunate that there has been no rainfall since the battle. Only
look here. Arnold's horse carrying an unusually big man must also be
exceedingly large; this too is easily observed, that the imprint of the
horse's feet on this side of the road is much deeper, owing to the
galloping in his flight; whilst the tracks marking the previous march on
the other side of the road are not so deep, because the horse walked
slowly. Let those who have eyes look how the marks of the horseshoes are
visible. God grant that we may track those dog-brothers successfully,
provided they have not already found shelter somewhere behind walls!"
"Sanderus said," replied Zbyszko, "that there are no forts in this
neighborhood, and it is actually so; because the Knights of the Cross
have only recently taken possession of this region and have not had
enough time to build in it. Then where can they hide themselves? All the
peasants who dwelt in these lands joined Skirwoilla, because they belong
to the same stock as the Zmudzians.... The villages, Sanderus said, these
same Germans destroyed by fire and the women and children are hidden in
the thick forest. Provided we do not spare our horses we shall yet
"We must spare the horses, for even if we overtake them our safety
afterward depends upon our horses," said Macko.
"Sir Arnold," interrupted Sanderus, "received a blow between his
shoulder-blades in battle. He took no notice of it at first, but kept on
fighting and slaying, but they were obliged to dress it afterward; as is
always the case, at first one does not feel the blows but they pain later
on. For this reason he cannot exert himself too much to run fast and it
may be that he is even obliged to rest himself."
"You said that there are no other people with them?" inquired Macko.
"There are two who lead the litter, the _comthur_ and Sir Arnold. There
were quite a number of men with them, but the Zmudzians killed them."
"Let our men lay hold of the two fellows who are with the litter," said
Zbyszko. "You, uncle, manage old Zygfried, and I will pounce upon
"Well," replied Macko, "I shall be able to manage Zygfried, because,
thank God, there is still strength in these bones. But as far as your
task is concerned, I should say, do not be so self-confident, for that
knight seems to be a giant."
"O well! We shall see," replied Zbyszko.
"You are strong, that I don't dispute, but there are stronger men than
you are. Did you observe our own knights whom we met at Krakow? Could you
conquer Pan Powala of Taczew, Paszko Zlodziej of Biskupice, and Zawisza
Czarny, eh? Don't be too rash, but consider the facts."
"Rotgier also was a strong man," murmured Zbyszko.
"Will there be any work for myself?" asked the Bohemian. But he received
no reply, because Macko was thinking about something else.
"If God blesses us we shall be able to reach the Mazowiecki wilderness.
We shall be safe there, and all trouble will be at an end."
But after a while he sighed when he reflected that even there affairs
would not be entirely ended, there would yet be something to attend to
for the unfortunate Jagienka.
"Hey!" he murmured, "God's decrees are wonderful. I had often thought
about it. Why did it not occur to you to get married quietly, and let me
live with you peacefully. That would have been the most happy course. But
now we are the only ones among the noblemen of the kingdom, who are
wandering in various regions and wilds, instead of attending to our homes
as God commands."
"Well, that is true, but it is God's will," replied Zbyszko.
Then they proceeded on their journey for a while in silence. The old
knight turned again to his nephew:
"Do you rely on that vagabond? Who is he?"
"He is a fickle man and perhaps he is a rogue, but he wishes me well, and
I am not afraid of treachery from him."
"If so let him ride in front, for if he overtakes them he will not be
scared. Let him tell them that he is fleeing from captivity, and they
will easily believe him. This is the best way, because if they chanced to
see us they might evade us and hide themselves, or have time enough to
prepare for defence."
"He is afraid and will not travel by himself at night," replied Zbyszko.
"But during the daytime I am sure that that plan is the best one to
adopt. I will tell him to stop and wait for us three times during the
day. If we do not find him at the appointed places then it will be a sign
that he is already with them, and following up his tracks we will fall
upon them unexpectedly."
"But will he not warn them?"
"No. He is more friendly to me than to them. I will also tell him that
when we surprise them we will also bind him, so that he may escape their
revenge later on. Let him not recognize us at all...."
"Do you intend to preserve those fellows alive?"
"How else should it be?" replied Zbyszko, somewhat anxiously. "You
see.... If it were in our country, at home in Mazowsze, we would
challenge them, as I challenged Rotgier, to mortal combat; but this
cannot be here in their own country.... What concerns us here is Danuska
and speed. In order to avoid trouble all must be done quietly afterward
we will do as you said and push on as fast as our horses can go, to the
wilds of Mazowsze. But attacking them unexpectedly we might find them
unarmed, yes, even without their swords. Then how could we kill them? I
am afraid of reproach. We are now both of us, belted knights, so are
"It is so," said Macko. "Yet it may lead to an encounter."
But Zbyszko contracted his brow and in his face was depicted that
determination so characteristic of the looks of the men of Bogdaniec, for
at that moment he looked as if he were Macko's own son.
"What I should also like," he said, in low tones, "is to have that bloody
dog Zygfried crushed under Jurand's feet! May God grant it!"
"Grant it, God! grant it!" immediately repeated Macko.
Whilst conversing, they covered a considerable stretch of the road until
nightfall. It was a starry night, but there was no moon. They were
obliged to halt the horses, breathe, and refresh the men with food and
sleep. Zbyszko informed Sanderus before resting that he was to proceed in
front in the morning. Sanderus willingly assented; but reserved to
himself, in case of an attack by wolves or people, the right to run back
to Zbyszko. He also asked him for permission to make four stations
instead of three, because in solitude fear always took hold of him, even
in pious countries. How much more so in such an abominable wilderness as
the one where they found themselves now?
When they had refreshed themselves with food, they lay down to sleep upon
skins near a small camp-fire, which they built about half a furlong from
the road. The servants alternately guarded the horses, which, after they
were fed, rolled upon the ground and then slept, resting their heads upon
each other's necks. But no sooner did the first ray illuminate the woods
with a silvery hue, than Zbyszko arose and awoke the others, and at dawn
they continued their march. The tracks of the hoofs of Arnold's immense
stallion were easily recovered, because the usual muddy ground had dried
up from drought. Sanderus went on ahead and soon disappeared.
Nevertheless, they found him about half way between sunrise and noon, at
the waiting place. He told them that he had not seen any living soul,
only one large aurochs, but was not scared and did not run away, because
the animal got out of his way. But he declared that shortly before, he
had seen a peasant bee-keeper, but had not detained him, for fear that in
the depths of the forest there might be more of them. He had attempted to
question him, but they had not been able to make themselves understood.
As time went by, Zbyszko became somewhat troubled.
"What will happen," he said, "if I arrive in the higher and drier region,
where, owing to the hard, dry road, the traces of the fugitives will be
lost? or, if the pursuit shall last too long and lead to an inhabited
region where the people have long since accustomed themselves to the
servitude of the Knights of the Cross; an attack and capture of Danusia
by them is more than probable, because, although Arnold and Zygfried did
not erect forts, or fortify their towns, the inhabitants would surely
take their part."
Happily that fear turned out to be groundless, because they did not find
Sanderus at the appointed second post, but found instead an incision in
the form of a cross, apparently newly cut into the bark of an adjacent
pine tree. They looked at each other and their hearts began to beat
faster. Macko and Zbyszko immediately dismounted, in order to discover
the tracks upon the ground; they examined carefully, but it did not last
long, because they were plainly discernible.
Sanderus had apparently deviated from the road into the forest, and
followed the prints of the huge horse-hoofs, which, owing to the dry
condition of the turfy soil, were not so deeply impressed, but
sufficiently visible. The heavy horse disturbed at every step the pine
needles which were blackened at the margins of the impressions.
Other marks did not escape Zbyszko's keen sight. Then he and Macko
mounted their horses, and, together with the Bohemian, silently began
taking counsel as though the enemy were quite near them.
The Bohemian's advice was that they should advance on foot at once, but
they did not agree to that, because they did not know the distance they
would have to traverse in the woods. The footmen, however, had to proceed
carefully in advance, and signal in case something occurred, so that they
might be in readiness.
They moved onward among the woods in some trepidation, and another
incision upon a pine tree assured them that they had not lost Sanderus'
tracks. Very soon they also discovered a path, showing that people
frequently passed that way, and they were convinced that they were in the
neighborhood of some forest habitation, and within it was the object of
The sun was getting low, and shed a golden hue upon the trees of the
forest. The evening promised to be serene; silence reigned in the woods
because beast and birds had retired to rest, only here and there, among
the little top branches of the trees, squirrels moved to and fro looking
quite red in the last beams of the sun. Zbyszko, Macko, the Bohemian and
the attendants, closely followed each other, knowing that their men were
considerably in advance and would warn them in proper time; the old
knight spoke to his nephew in not very subdued tones.
"Let us calculate from the sun," he said. "From the last station to the
place where we found the first incision, we covered a great distance.
According to Krakow time it would be about three hours.... Then Sanderus
must be by this time among them, and has had time enough to tell them his
adventure, provided he has not betrayed us."
"He has not betrayed us," replied Zbyszko.
"Provided they believe him," continued Macko; "if they do not, then it
will be bad for him."
"But why should they not believe him? Do they know of us? Him they know.
It often happens that prisoners escape from captivity."
"But what concerns me is this: if he told them that he ran away they
might fear he would be pursued, and they would move on at once."
"No, he will succeed in casting dust in their eyes by telling them that
such a long pursuit would not be undertaken."
They were silent for a while, then it seemed to Macko that Zbyszko was
whispering to him; he turned and asked:
"What do you say?"
But Zbyszko had said nothing to Macko, but looking upward, said:
"Only if God would favor Danuska and the courageous enterprise in her
Macko also began to cross himself; but he had scarcely made the first
sign of the cross, when from the hazelnut thickets one of the scouts
approached him suddenly and said:
"A pitch-burning cabin! They are there!"
"Stop!" whispered Zbyszko, and dismounted at once. Macko, the Bohemian,
and the attendants, also dismounted; three of the latter received orders
to hold the horses in readiness and take care that they, God forbid, did
not neigh. "I left five men," said Macko. "There will be the two
attendants and Sanderus, whom we shall bind in a moment, and, should any
one show fight, then, at his head!"
Then they advanced, and, as they moved on, Zbyszko said to his uncle:
"You take the old man, Zygfried; and I, Arnold."
"Only take care!" replied Macko. Then he beckoned to the Bohemian,
reminding him to be ready at a moment's notice to be on hand to assist
The Bohemian nodded assent. Then he breathed deeply and felt for his
sword to see whether it could be easily unsheathed.
But Zbyszko observed it and said:
"No! I command you to hasten at once to the litter and not move from it
for a single moment whilst the fight is going on."
They went quickly but silently through the hazelnut thickets. But they
had not gone far, when at a distance of not quite two furlongs, the
growth ceased suddenly, revealing a small field upon which were
extinguished pitch-burning heaps, and two earthen shanties, or huts,
where the pitch-burners had dwelt before the war. The setting sun
brightly illuminated the lawn, the pitch-burning heaps, and the two
detached shanties--in front of one of which the two knights were sitting
upon the ground; and in front of the other were Sanderus and a bearded,
red-headed fellow. These two were occupied in polishing the coats of mail