The count got up with difficulty and went out. The guards were calling to one another from the bastions upon the palisades. The light emanating from the windows of the chapel illuminated the snow in front with a yellow gleam. In the middle of the court near the stone wall were two black dogs playing and tugging at a black rag. Beyond this the courtyard was empty and silent.
“It is yet necessary this night!” said Zygfried. “I am exceedingly tired, but I must go…. All are asleep. Jurand, overcome by torture, might also be asleep. I only am unable to sleep. I will go. I will go, for there is death within, and I have promised you…. Let death come afterward; sleep will not come. You are smiling there, but my strength is failing me. You are smiling, you are apparently glad. But you see that my fingers are benumbed, my hands have lost their strength, and I cannot accomplish it by myself … the servant with whom she sleeps will accomplish it….”
Then he moved on with heavy steps toward the tower situated near the gate. Meanwhile the dogs which were playing near the stone wall came running up and began to fawn upon him. In one of them Zygfried recognized the bulldog which was so much attached to Diedrich that it was said in the castle that it served him as a pillow at night.
The dog greeted the count, it barked low once or twice; and then returned toward the gate acting as though it had divined his thoughts.
After a while Zygfried found himself in front of the narrow little doors of the tower, which at night were barred on the outside. Removing the bars, he felt for the balustrade of the stairs which commenced quite near the doors and began to ascend. In his absentmindedness he forgot the lantern; he therefore went up gropingly, stepping carefully and feeling with his feet for the steps.
Having advanced a few steps, he suddenly halted, when below quite near him he heard something like the breathing of a man, or beast.
“Who is there?”
But there was no answer, only the breathing grew quicker.
Zygfried was not a timid man; he was not afraid of death. But the preceding terrible night had quite exhausted his courage and self-control. It crossed his mind that Rotgier or the evil spirit was barring his way, and his hair stood up on his head and his brow was covered with cold sweat.
He retreated to the very entrance.
“Who is there?” he asked, with a choked voice.
But at that moment something struck him a powerful blow on his chest, so terrible that the old man fell through the door upon his back and swooned. He did not even groan.
Silence followed, after which there could be seen a dark form, stealthily issuing from the tower and making off toward the stable which was situated on the left side of the courtyard near the arsenal. Diedrich’s big bulldog followed that figure silently. The other dog also ran after him and disappeared in the shadow of the wall, but shortly appeared again with its head to the ground, scenting as it were the trail of the other dog. In this manner the dog approached the prostrate and lifeless body of Zygfried, which it smelled carefully, then crouched near the head of the prostrate man and began to howl.
The howling continued for a long while, filling the air of that sombre night with a new kind of dolefulness and horror. Finally the small door concealed in the middle of the gate creaked and a guard armed with a halberd appeared in the courtyard.
“Death upon that dog,” he said, “I’ll teach you to howl during the night.”
And he aimed the sharp end of the halberd so as to hit the animal with it, but at that moment he observed something lying near the little open door of the bastion.
“Lord Jesus! what is that?…”
He bent his head so as to look in the face of the prostrate man, and began to shout:
“Help! Help! Help!”
Then he rushed to the gate and pulled with all his strength at the bell-rope.
END OF PART FIFTH.
Although Glowacz was somewhat anxious to hasten to Zgorzelice, he could not make the progress he wished, because the road was exceedingly bad. A general thaw had followed the severe winter, keen frost, and immense snowdrifts which covered whole villages.
Luty (February), in spite of its name, by no means showed itself formidable. First there were thick, continuous fogs, succeeded by torrential rains, which melted the white snowdrifts before one’s eyes; and in the intervals there were very high winds as is usual in the month of March; then the tempestuous clouds were suddenly torn asunder by the wind which now drove them together, and now scattered them, whilst on the earth the wind howled in the thickets, whistled in the forests and dispersed the snow beneath which only a short time before the boughs and trunks had slept their silent, wintry sleep.
The woods assumed a dark color. The meadows were inundated with broad sheets of water. The rivers and streams overflowed. Only the fishermen were glad at the abundance of the watery element, but the rest of humanity were confined as within a prison, sheltering themselves within their houses and huts. In many places communication between village and village could only be effected by means of boats. There was no lack of dams, dykes and roads through the forests and swamps, constructed of trunks, of trees and logs, but now the dykes became soft and the stumps in the low, wet places endangered travel, or the roads were rendered altogether impracticable. The most difficult part for the Bohemian to traverse was the lake-land region of Wielkopolska, where every spring the thaw was greater than in any other part of Poland. Consequently the road was specially difficult for horses.
He was therefore obliged to wait whole weeks, sometimes in small towns, sometimes in villages and farms, where he and his men were hospitably received, according to custom, by the people, who were willing listeners to the tale of the “Knights of the Cross,” and paid for it with bread and salt. For this reason spring was already far advanced, and the greater part of March had already passed before he found himself in the neighborhood of Zgorzelice and Bogdaniec.
He longed to see his mistress as soon as possible, although he knew that he could never gain her, even as he could not gain the stars of heaven; nevertheless he adored and loved her with his whole soul. Yet he resolved first to go and see Macko; first, because he was sent to him; secondly, because he was bringing men with him who were to be left at Bogdanice. Zbyszko, having killed Rotgier, according to established rules, became the owner of his following, which consisted of ten men and as many horses. Two of them had been sent back with the body of Rotgier to Szczytno. Knowing how anxious his uncle was to obtain colonists, he sent the remaining eight men by Glowacz as a present to old Macko.
The Bohemian, on his arrival at Bogdaniec, did not find Macko at home; he was informed that Macko had gone with his dogs and crossbow to the forest; but he returned the same day, and having heard that an important retinue was waiting for him, he hastened to salute the guests and offer them hospitality. He did not recognize Glowacz at first, but when he gave his name, Macko was greatly agitated, and throwing down his hat and crossbow he cried:
“For God’s sake! tell me, have they killed him? Tell what you know.”
“They have not killed him,” replied the Bohemian. “He is enjoying good health.”
On hearing this, Macko was somewhat ashamed of himself, and began to puff; at last he drew a deep breath.
“Praised be the Lord Christ,” he said. “Where is he now?”
“He left for Malborg and sent me here with news.”
“And why did he go to Malborg?”
“To fetch his wife.”
“Be careful, boy, in the name of God what wife did he go for?”
“For Jurand’s daughter. There is much to be told about it, enough for a whole night, but, honored sir, allow me to rest a little, for I have been constantly traveling since midnight.”
Macko ceased questioning for a little while, for his great surprise deprived him of speech. When he had somewhat recovered, he shouted to the servant to throw some wood on the fire and bring food for the Bohemian; then he began to pace up and down, gesticulating and talking to himself:
“I cannot believe mine own ears…. Jurand’s daughter…. Zbyszko married….”
“He is married and not married,” said the Bohemian.
Then he began slowly to relate what had happened, while Macko listened eagerly, only interrupting with questions when what the Bohemian related was not quite clear to him. For instance, Glowacz could not give the exact time when Zbyszko had got married, as there had been no public marriage. Nevertheless he affirmed that that marriage had surely taken place, and that it had come to pass owing to the instigation of Princess Anna Danuta, and had been made public only after the arrival of the Knight of the Cross, Rotgier, when Zbyszko had challenged him to the judgment of God, in the presence of the entire Mazovian court.
“Ah! He fought?” Macko exclaimed, his eyes sparkling with intense curiosity. “What followed?”
“He cut the German in two, and God also made me happy by delivering the armor-bearer into my hands.”
Macko again began to puff, but this time with an air of satisfaction.
“Well!” he said. “He is a fellow not to be trifled with. He is the last of the Gradys, but so help me God, not the least. He was that already in the fight with the Fryzjans … when he was a mere stripling….”
Here he glanced sharply once and again at the Bohemian, then he continued:
“And so you tried to imitate him, and it seems you tell the truth. I doubted your words, but, as you yourself say, you had little work with the armor-bearer. But if he chopped off the arm of that dog-brother after killing the Aurochs, those are valiant deeds.”
Then he suddenly asked:
“Is there rich spoil?”
“We have taken the arms, horses and ten men, eight of whom, the young lord sends you.”
“What has he done with the other two?”
“He sent them back with the corpse.”
“Why did not the prince send two of his own servants? Those two will not return.”
The Bohemian smiled at Macko’s greed which often betrayed him.
“The young lord need not consider such trifles now,” he said, “Spychow is a large estate.”
“It is a large estate; what of it, it is not yet his.”
“Then whose is it?”
Macko rose from his seat.
“Speak! and Jurand?”
“Jurand is a prisoner, and dying, in the hands of the Knights of the Cross. God knows whether he will survive, and even if he survives and returns, what of it? Did not Father Caleb read Jurand’s testament, announcing to all that the young lord is to be their master?”
The last words obviously made a great impression upon Macko; because he was too much amazed to thoroughly grasp the news. That Zbyszko had got married was painful to him at the first moment, for he loved Jagienka with a fatherly love, and heartily wished to see Zbyszko united to her. But, on the other hand, he had already grown accustomed to regard the affair as lost; moreover Jurandowna brought with her so much that Jagienka could never bring; the prince’s favor, and being an only daughter her dower was many times greater. Macko already saw Zbyszko, as the prince’s friend, the master of Bogdaniec and of Spychow; nay, in the near future, a castellan. That was not at all unlikely. For it was told in those days of a certain poor nobleman who had twelve sons, six fell in battle and the other six became castellans and were advancing toward greatness; only a reputation could assist Zbyszko in this career, so that Macko’s ambition and greed for a pedigree might be realized according to his wishes. The old man, however, had much cause for alarm. He, himself, had once gone to the Knights of the Cross, to save Zbyszko and brought back with him an iron splinter between the ribs; now Zbyszko had gone to Malborg, into the very throat of the wolf. Was it to get his wife there or death? They would not look upon him there with a favorable eye, thought Macko. He had just destroyed one of their famous knights and before that he had killed Lichtenstein. Those dog-blooded men loved vengeance. That thought made the old knight very uneasy. It also occurred to him that Zbyszko, being quick tempered, would engage in a fight with some German; or what he most feared was that they would kidnap him as they had old Jurand and his daughter. At Zlotorja they did not scruple to kidnap even the prince himself. Why then should they be scrupulous with Zbyszko?
Then he asked himself what would happen if the youngster should escape the knights, but not find his wife? This thought pleased him, because even if Zbyszko should not recover her, he would still be the owner of Spychow, but that pleasure only lasted for a moment. For while the old man was much concerned about the property, yet Zbyszko’s offspring interested him quite as much. If Danusia were to be lost, like a stone in the water and nobody knew whether she were alive or dead, Zbyszko could not marry another, and then there would be no heir to the Gradys of Bogdaniec. Ah! It would be quite another thing if he were married to Jagienka!… Moczydoly was not to be scorned; it was spacious and well stocked. Such a girl, like an apple-tree in the orchard, would bring forth every year without fail. Thus Macko’s regret was greater than his joy at the prospect of the possession of the new estate. His regret and agitation caused him to renew his questions, and he again inquired of the Bohemian how and when the marriage had taken place.
But the Bohemian replied:
“I have told you already, honored sir, that I do not know when it happened, and what I conjecture I cannot confirm with an oath.”
“What do you conjecture?”
“I have never left my young master and we slept together. On one evening only, he ordered me to leave him when I saw them all visit him: the princess accompanied by the lady Jurandowna, (Danusia,) Lord de Lorche and Father Wyszoniek. I was even surprised to see the young lady with a wreath on her head; but I thought they had come to administer the sacrament to my master…. It may be that the marriage took place then…. I recollect that the master commanded me to attire myself as for a wedding ceremony, but then I also thought that that was to receive the eucharist.”
“And after that, did they remain by themselves?”
“They did not remain alone; and even if they had remained by themselves the master was then so feeble that he could not even eat without assistance. And there were already people sent by Jurand waiting for the young lady, and she left the following morning….”
“Then Zbyszko has not seen her since?”
“No human eye has seen her.”
Then silence reigned for a while.
“What do you think?” asked Macko, presently. “Will the Knights of the Cross give her up, or not?”
The Bohemian shook his head, then he waved his hand discouragingly.
“I think,” he said, slowly, “she is lost forever.”
“Why?” asked Macko in terror.
“Because, when they said they had her there was yet hope, one could yet contend with them, either to ransom her, or take her from them by force. ‘But,’ they said, ‘we had a girl retaken from robbers and we notified Jurand; he did not recognize her, and he killed of our people, in our very presence, more than fall in one good fight in war.'”
“Then they showed Jurand some other girl.”
“So it is said. God knows the truth. It may not be true, and it may be that they showed him some other girl. But it is a fact that he killed people, and the Knights of the Cross are ready to swear that they never abducted Panna Jurandowna, and that is an exceedingly difficult affair. Even should the grand master order an investigation, they would reply that she was not in their hands; especially since the courtiers of Ciechanow spoke of Jurand’s letter in which he said that she was not with the Knights of the Cross.”
“It may be she is not with them.”
“I beg your pardon, sir!… If they had recaptured her from the robbers, it would have been for no other motive than for ransom. The robbers, before that happened could neither write a letter nor imitate the signature of the lord of Spychow, nor send an honorable messenger.”
“That is true; but what do the Knights of the Cross want her for?”
“Revenge on Jurand’s race. They prefer vengeance to mead and wine; and if they want a pretext, they have one. The lord of Spychow was terrible to them, and his last deed completely finished them…. My master, I also heard, had lifted up his hand against Lichtenstein; he killed Rotgier…. God helped me, too, to shatter that dog-brother’s arm. Wait, I pray, let us consider. There were four of them to be exterminated; now hardly one is alive, and that one is an old man, and your grace must bear in mind that we yet have our teeth.”
There was again silence for a moment.
“You are a discreet armor-bearer,” said Macko, at last; “but what do you think they are going to do with her?”
“Prince Witold, they say, is a powerful prince, even the German emperor bows to him; and what did they do to his children? Have they but few castles? Few underground prisons? Few wells? Few ropes and halters for the neck?”
“For the living God’s sake!” exclaimed Macko.
“God grant that they may not also detain the young lord, although he went there with a letter from the prince, and accompanied by de Lorche who is a powerful lord and related to the prince. Ah, I did not want to set out for this place. But he commanded me to go. I heard him once say to the old lord of Spychow: ‘It is to be regretted that you are not cunning, for I shall get nothing by craft, and with them that is a necessary thing. O Uncle Macko! he would be useful here;’ and for that reason he dispatched me. But as for Jurandowna, even you, sir, will not find her, for probably she is already in the other world, and where death is concerned, even the greatest cunning cannot prevail.”
Macko was absorbed in thought for a long while, after which he said:
“Ha! Then there is no counsel. Cunning cannot prevail against death. But if I were to go there and only get assurance that she has been removed, then in that case Spychow as well as Zbyszko remain. He will be able to return here and marry another maiden.”
Here Macko breathed freely, as though a burden were removed from his heart, and Glowacz asked in a bashful, subdued voice:
“Do you mean the young lady of Zgorzelice?”
“Well!” replied Macko, “especially as she is an orphan, and Cztan of Rogow and Wilk of Brzozowa continually press their court to her.”
At that the Bohemian straightened himself up.
“Is the young lady an orphan?… The knight Zych?…”
“Then you do not know.”
“For the love of God! What has happened?”
“Well you are right. How could you know, since you have just arrived; and our only conversation has been about Zbyszko. She is an orphan. Unless he had guests, Zych of Zgorzelice never remained at home; otherwise he avoided Zgorzelice. He wrote about you to his abbot that he was going to visit Prince Przemka of Oswiecemia and ask him to give you to him. Zych did it because he was well acquainted with the prince and they have often frolicked together. Consequently Zych called upon me and said as follows: ‘I am going to Oswiecemia, then to Glewic; keep your eye on Zgorzelice.’ I at once suspected something wrong and said: ‘Don’t go! I will keep good watch over Jagienka and the estate,’ for I know that Cztan and Wilk intend to do you some wrong, and you ought to know that the abbot out of spite against Zbyszko, preferred Cztan or Wilk for the girl. But he subsequently learned to know them better and rejected both of them, and turned them out of Zgorzelice; but not effectually, for they obstinately persisted. Now they have quieted down for a while, for they have wounded each other and are laid up, but before that occurred there was not a moment of security. Everything is upon my head, protection and guardianship. Now Zbyszko wishes me to come…. What will happen here to Jagienka–I don’t know, but now I will tell you about Zych; he did not follow my advice–he went. Well, they feasted and frolicked together. From Glewic they went to see old Nosak, Prince Przemka’s father, who rules in Cieszyn; till Jasko, the prince of Racibor, out of hatred for Prince Przemka, set upon them the robber band under the leadership of the Bohemian Chrzan; Prince Przemka and Zych of Zgorzelice perished in the affray. The robbers stunned the abbot with an iron flail, so that even now his head shakes and he knows nothing of what is going on in the world and has lost his speech, God help him, forever! Now old Prince Nosak bought Chrzan from the owner of Zampach, and tortured him so much that even the oldest inhabitants never heard of such cruelty,–but the cruelty did not lessen the sorrow of the old man for his son; neither did it resuscitate Zych, nor wipe away the tears of Jagienka. This is the result of the frolic…. Six weeks ago they brought Zych here and buried him.”
“Such a hard master!…” sorrowfully said the Bohemian. “Under Boleslaw I was comfortably situated when he took me into captivity. But such was the captivity that I would not have exchanged it for freedom…. He was a good and worthy master! May God grant him eternal glory. Ah, I am very sorry! But I must grieve for the helpless young lady.”
“Because the poor thing is a good girl, she loved her father more than a man loves his mother. Then too she is not safe in Zgorzelice. After the funeral, scarcely had the snow covered Zych’s grave, when Cztan and Wilk stepped into the mansion of Zgorzelice. My people were informed of it beforehand. Then I, with the farm hands went to the rescue; we arrived in good time and with God’s help we gave them a good thrashing. Immediately after the fight, the girl fell on her knees and begged me to save her. ‘If I cannot belong to Zbyszko,’ she said, ‘I will belong to nobody else; only save me from those torturers, I prefer death to them….’ I tell you that I made a real castle out of Zgorzelice. After that, they appeared twice on the premises, but believe me, they could not succeed. Now there will be peace for some time, for as I told you: they hurt each other badly, so much so, that neither is able to move head or foot.”
Glowacz made no observation upon this, but when he heard of the conduct of Cztan and Wilk, he began to gnash his teeth so loudly, that it sounded like the creaking caused by the opening and closing of a door, then he began to rub his strong hands upon his thighs as though they were itching. Finally, he uttered with difficulty only one word:
But at that moment, a voice was heard in the entrance-hall, the door suddenly opened and Jagienka rushed into the house, and with her was Jasko, her oldest brother, who was fourteen years old and looked as like her, as though they were twins.
She had heard from some peasants at Zgorzelice, that they had seen the Bohemian Hlawa, at the head of some people, journeying to Bogdaniec, and like Macko, she also was terrified, and when they informed her that Zbyszko was not among them she was almost sure that some misfortune had happened. She therefore lost no time and hastened to Bogdaniec to ascertain the truth.
“What has happened?… For God’s sake tell me,” she shouted, when yet upon the threshold.
“What should happen?” replied Macko. “Zbyszko is alive and well.”
The Bohemian hastened toward the young lady, knelt upon one knee and kissed the hem of her dress, but she paid no attention to it; only when she heard the reply of the old knight she turned her head from the fireplace to the darker side of the room, and only after a while, as if having forgotten that it was necessary to salute the Bohemian, she said:
“The name of Jesus Christ be praised!”
“Forever and ever,” replied Macko.
Then she observed the kneeling Bohemian at her feet and bent toward him.
“From my soul I am glad to see you, Hlawa, but why did you leave your master behind?”
“He sent me away, most gracious lady.”
“What were his orders?”
“He ordered me to go to Bogdaniec.”
“To Bogdaniec?… What else?”
“He sent me to get counsel…. He also sends his compliments and good wishes.”
“To Bogdaniec? Very well, then. But where is he himself?”
“He left for Malborg, and is now among the Knights of the Cross.”
Jagienka’s face again assumed an expression of alarm.
“Why, is he tired of life?”
“He is in quest, gracious lady, of that which he will not be able to find.”
“I believe he will not find it,” interrupted Macko. “Just as one cannot drive a nail without a hammer, so are man’s wishes without the will of God.”
“What are you talking about?” cried Jagienka. But Macko replied with another query.
“Did he say to you that Zbyszko went for Jurandowna? It seems to me that he did.”
Jagienka at first did not reply, and only after awhile, catching her breath, she replied:
“Ay! He said! But what hindered him telling?”
“Well, then, now I can talk freely.”
And he began to tell to her all that he had heard from the Bohemian. He wondered at himself why his words came haltingly and with difficulty, but being a clever man, he tried to avoid any expression that might irritate Jagienka, and he dwelt strongly upon what he himself believed, that Zbyszko was never the husband of Danusia in reality and that she was already lost to him forever.
The Bohemian confirmed Macko’s words now and then, sometimes by nodding his head in approval, sometimes repeating “By God, true, as I live,” or: “It is so, not otherwise!” The young lady listened, with eyelashes lowered till they touched her cheeks; she asked no more questions, and was so quiet that her silence alarmed Macko.
“Now, what do you say to that?” he enquired when he had ended.
But she did not reply, only two tears glistened between her eyelids and rolled down her cheeks.
After a while she approached Macko, and kissing his hand, said:
“The Lord be praised.”
“Forever and ever,” replied Macko. “Are you so much needed at home? Better stay with us.”
But she refused to remain, giving as a reason that she had not given out the provisions for supper. But Macko, although he knew that there was the old lady, Sieciechowa, at Zgorzelice, who could easily fulfil Jagienka’s duties, did not persuade her to remain, for he knew that sorrow does not like the light on human tears, and that a man is like a fish, when it feels the penetrating harpoon in its body it sinks to the depths.
Then he only regarded her as a girl, so he led her and the Bohemian into the courtyard.
But the Bohemian brought the horse from the stable, harnessed him, and departed with the young lady.
But Macko returned to the house, shook his head, and murmured:
“What a fool that Zbyszko is?… Why, her presence seems to have filled the whole house with perfume.”
The old man lamented to himself. “Had Zbyszko taken her immediately after he returned, by this time there might have been joy and delight! But what of it now? If they should speak of him her eyes would immediately be filled with tears of longing, and the fellow is roaming about the world and may break the head of some of the knights at Malborg, provided they do not break his; and now the house is empty, only the arms on the wall glitter. There is some benefit in husbandry. Running about is nothing, Spychow and Bogdaniec are nothing. Very soon none will remain to whom they might be left.”
Here Macko became angry.
“Wait, you tramp,” he exclaimed, “I will not go with you, you may do as you like!”
But at that very moment he was seized with an exceeding yearning after Zbyszko.
“Bah! shall I not go,” he thought. “Shall I remain at home? God forbid!… I wish to see that rascal once more. It must be so. He will again fight one of those dog-brothers–and take spoil. Others grow old before they receive the belt of knighthood, but he already has received the belt from the prince…. And rightly so. There are many valorous youths among the nobility; but not another like him.”
His tender feelings entirely subdued him. First he began to look at the arms, swords and axes which had become blackened by the smoke, as though considering which to take with him, and which to leave behind; then he left the house; first, because he could not stay there; secondly, to give orders to prepare the carriage and give the horses double provender.
In the courtyard where it was already beginning to grow dark, he remembered Jagienka, who only a moment ago sat here on horseback, and he again became uneasy.
“I must go,” he said to himself, “but who is going to protect the girl against Cztan and Wilk. May thunder strike them.”
But Jagienka was on the road with her little brother, Jasko, crossing the woods leading to Zgorzelice, and the Bohemian accompanied them in silence, with love and grief in his heart. A moment since he saw her tears, now he looked at her dark form, scarcely visible in the darkness of the forest, and he guessed her sorrow and pain. It also seemed to him that at any moment Wilk or Cztan’s rapacious hands might dart from the dark thicket and grasp her, and at that thought, he was carried away by wild anger and longed for a fight. At times the desire for fight was so intense that he wanted to grasp his axe or sword and cut down a pine tree on the road. He felt that a good fight would comfort him. Lastly he would be glad, even if he could let the horse go at a gallop. But he could not do it, they rode silently in front of him, and at a very slow gait, foot by foot, and little Jasko, who was of a talkative disposition, after several attempts to engage his sister in conversation, seeing that she was unwilling to speak, desisted, and also sank into deep silence.
But when they were approaching Zgorzelice, the sorrow in the Bohemian’s heart turned to anger against Cztan and Wilk: “I would not spare even my blood in your behalf,” he said to himself, “provided it comforted you. But what can I, unfortunate, do? What can I tell you? Unless I tell you that he ordered me to kneel before you. And, God grant that that might be of some comfort to you.”
Thinking thus, he urged his horse close to Jagienka’s.
“Are you riding with us?” enquired Jagienka, as though awaking from sleep. “What do you say?”
“I forgot to tell you what my master commanded me to say to you. When I was about to depart from Spychow, he called me and said ‘I bow at the feet of the young lady of Zgorzelice, for whether in good or bad fortune, I shall never forget her; and for what she did for my uncle and myself, may God recompense her, and keep her in good health.'”
“May God also recompense him for his good words,” replied Jagienka.
Then she added, in such a wonderful tone, that it caused the Bohemian’s heart to melt:
“And you, Hlawa.”
The conversation ceased for a while. But the armor-bearer was glad for himself and for her words. For he said to himself: “At least it shall not be said that she has been fed with ingratitude.” He also began to rack his brains for something more of the same nature to tell her; and after a moment he said:
“This … as it were … I want to say, as the old _pan_ of Bogdaniec also said: ‘That the lady there is lost forever, and that he will never find her, even if the grand master himself assist him.'”
“Then she is his wife….”
The Bohemian nodded his head.
“Yes, she is his wife.”
Jagienka made no reply to this, but at home, after supper, when Jasko and the younger brother were put to bed, she ordered a pitcher of mead. Then she turned to the Bohemian and asked:
“Perhaps you want to retire. I wish to continue our conversation.”
The Bohemian, although tired, was ready to chatter even till morning. So they began to talk, and he again related in general terms all that had happened to Zbyszko, Jurand, Danusia and himself.
Macko prepared for his journey, and Jagienka did not show herself at Bogdaniec for two days after her consultation with the Bohemian. It was only on the third day that the old knight met her on his way to church. She was riding with her brother Jasiek to church at Krzesnia, and with her was a considerable number of armed servants in order to protect her from Cztan and Wilk, because she was not sure whether Cztan and Wilk were still sick or were planning to harm her.
“Any way, I intended to call upon our own people at Bogdaniec,” she said, greeting Macko, “because I have to consult you about a very important affair, but since you are here we can talk about it now.”
Then she advanced in front of the retinue, obviously to prevent the servants overhearing their conversation. When Macko was near her she inquired:
“Are you surely going?”
“If God will, not later than to-morrow.”
“Are you going to Malborg?”
“To Malborg, or any other place, according to circumstances.”
“Now then listen to me. I have thought a long time about what I ought to do. I want to ask your advice, too. You well know that as long as papa was alive, and the abbot was powerful, it was quite different. Cztan and Wilk also thought that I should choose one of them, so they kept their temper. But now I stand alone without a protector; then either I shall remain at Zgorzelice in a fortress, like a prisoner, or they will do us some harm without fail. Is it not so?”
“Yes,” said Macko, “I thought of it myself.”
“And what did you devise?”
“I devised nothing, but I must tell you one thing, that we are in Poland and the law of this country punishes severely those who are guilty of acts of violence.”
“Very well, but the transgressors have no difficulty in crossing the frontier. Indeed, I know that Szlonsk is also in Poland, yet there the princes themselves quarrel and attack each other. If it were not so, my beloved father would still be alive. There are already Germans there and the times are stormy; they are mischievous, so that if any one of them wishes to conceal himself, he does. It would be easy for me to avoid Cztan and Wilk, but it concerns my little brother. If I should be absent there would be peace, but if I remained in Zgorzelice, God only knows what ill luck might happen. There would be outrages and fights; and Jasiek is already fourteen years old, and nobody, not even myself, can detain him. Upon the last occasion when you came to our assistance he flew to the front, and when Cztan used his club upon the crowd he nearly hit him on the head. ‘O,’ Jasko said to the servants, ‘those two I will prosecute to the very end.’ I tell you that there will not be a single peaceful day and some evil might befall the youngster.”
“Faith. Cztan and Wilk are dog-brothers,” said Macko, “although they would not dare lift up their hands against children. Bah! only a Knight of the Cross would do that.”
“They will not lift up their hands against children, but in case of tumult, or, God forbid, in an incendiary fire, there will be no lack of accidents. Why talk! I love the brother of old Sieciechowa as my own parents, and protection for them from the dear old woman is not wanting, yet, without me … would they be safer without me?”
“May be,” replied Macko.
Then he looked slyly at the girl.
“Then, what do you want?”
And she replied in a low tone:
“Take me with you.”
Then Macko, although he easily understood the drift of the conversation, was much surprised. He checked his horse, and exclaimed:
“Fear God, Jagienka.”
But she dropped her head and replied bashfully and sadly:
“You may think so, but as far as myself is concerned, I would rather speak out than be silent. Hlawa and yourself said that Zbyszko will never find Danusia, and the Bohemian’s hope of finding her is even less. God is my witness that I do not wish her evil in the least. Let the mother of God watch over that poor girl and keep her. Zbyszko loved her more than myself. Well, I cannot help it. Such is my lot. But observe this, so long as Zbyszko does not find her, or as you believe, he will never find her, then, then …”
“What then?” asked Macko, seeing that the girl was getting more and more confused and stammering.
“Then I do not wish to be Madame Cztan, nor Madame Wilk, nor madame anybody.”
Macko breathed freely.
“I thought that you had already forgiven him.”
But she, still in a sad tone, replied: “Ah!…”
“Then what are your wishes? How can we take you among the Knights of the Cross?”
“Not exactly among the Knights of the Cross, I should like to be now with the abbot who is confined in the hospital at Sieradz. He has not a single friendly soul with him. The servants care more for the pitcher than they do for him. Moreover, he is my godfather and benefactor. If he were well I would have sought his protection all the same because the people fear him.”
“I shall not dispute that,” said Macko, who as a matter of fact, would be glad that Jagienka should not go with him, for he well knew the Knights of the Cross, and he was thoroughly convinced that Danuska would never come out alive from their hands. “But only this I tell you, that to travel with a girl is very troublesome.”
“May be with others, but not with me. Nothing has occurred to me so far, but I am accustomed to go about with the bow and can endure hardship in the chase. When it is necessary, it is necessary. Don’t be afraid. I shall take Jasiek’s clothing and a net for my hair and I shall go. Jasiek, although younger than I am, with the exception of his hair looks exactly like myself, so much so that when we disguised ourselves last carnival our departed father could not tell one from the other. Observe, neither the abbot nor anybody else recognized me.”
“If I shall see him….”
Macko thought for a moment, then suddenly smiled and said:
“But Wilk of Brzozowa and Cztan of Rogow would be furious.”
“Let them! It might be worse if they came after us.”
“Well! Fear not. I am an old man, but let them beware of my fist. All the Gradys are of the same mettle!… However, they have already tested Zbyszko….”
Meanwhile they arrived at Krzesnia. Old Wilk of Brzozowa, who also happened to be at church, from time to time cast gloomy glances at Macko, but he did not mind it, and with a light heart he returned with Jagienka immediately after mass…. Then they took leave of each other and parted. When Macko was by himself at Bogdaniec, less happy thoughts passed through his mind. He understood that neither the people at Zgorzelice nor the relatives of Jagienka would really object to her departure. “But as to the girl’s admirers,” he said to himself, “that is quite another affair, but against the orphans and their property they would not dare to lift up their hand, because they would cover themselves with excessive infamy. Everybody would be against them as one is against a wolf. But Bogdaniec is left to God’s favor!… The quarries will be filled up, the flocks will be seized, the peasants will be enticed away!… If God permit me to return, then I will fight them. I shall send out bans, and fight them not with the fist but with the law!… Only let me return, and if I do?… They will combine against me, because I have spoiled their love affair, and if she goes with me they will yet be more rancorous.”
He was much grieved about his estate at Bogdaniec which he had improved. Now he felt sure that on his return he would find it desolate and in ruins.
“Now then, it is necessary to take counsel,” he thought.
Accordingly, after dinner, he ordered his horse to be saddled and left directly for Brzozowa.
It was already dark when he arrived. Old Wilk was sitting in the front room drinking mead from a pitcher. Young Wilk, who was wounded by Cztan, was lying on a skin-covered bench, and was also drinking mead. Macko entered unexpectedly and remained standing upon the threshold with a stern look on his face; tall, bony, armed only with a big sabre at his side. They recognized him at once, because his face was lit up by the bright flame of the fireplace, and at the first moment, both the father and son jumped up, lightning-like, and running toward the wall seized the first arms that were at hand.
But the old experienced Macko, well knowing the people and their customs, did not interfere in the least, he did not even reach his hand to his sword. He only put his hands on his hips, and said quietly in a somewhat sarcastic voice:
“How is it? Is this the kind of hospitality which the nobles in Brzozowa practice?”
These words had the desired effect; their hands fell, and in a moment the old man let fall the sword with a clash, the young man dropped his pike, and they stood with their necks craned toward Macko, their faces still expressing hatred, but already amazed and ashamed of themselves.
Macko smiled and said:
“May the name of Christ be praised!”
“Forever and ever.”
“And Saint Jerzy.”
“We serve him.”
“I come to visit my neighbors with good will.”
“With good will we greet you, the guest of his holy person.”
Then old Wilk rushed toward Macko, and with his son, both of them pressed his right hand, they made him sit at a comfortable place at the table; in a second they threw another log on the fireplace, spread the table and put upon it a dish full of food, a jug of beer, a pitcher of mead, and began to eat and drink. Young Wilk glanced now and then at Macko, which, happily for the guest, contributed to lessen his hatred against him. But he served him, however, so diligently that he became pale from fatigue, because he was wounded and deprived of his wonted strength. The father and son burned with curiosity to know the object of Macko’s call. None, however, asked him why, but waited for him to speak.
But Macko, as a man of manners, praised the meat, drink and hospitality. Only when he had filled himself well, he looked up and spoke with dignity:
“People often quarrel. But neighborly peace above all.”
“There is not a better thing than peace,” replied old Wilk, with equal composure.
“It also often happens,” said Macko, “when one wants to undertake a long journey, he wants to make up and bid good-bye even to his adversaries.”
“God reward you for your candid words.”
“Not mere words, but deeds, for I actually came to wish you good-bye.”
“From our soul we wish you might visit us daily.”
“I wish I could feast you in Bogdaniec in a manner suitable to people who are acquainted with knightly honor. But I am in a hurry to go.”
“Is it to war, or to some holy place?”
“I should like to go to one of the two, but the place I am going to is worse, for I am going among the Knights of the Cross.”
“Among the Knights of the Cross,” exclaimed both father and son.
“Yes!” replied Macko. “And one who is their enemy is going to them. It is well for him to be reconciled with God and men, so that he may not forfeit, not only his life, but everlasting salvation.”
“It is wonderful,” said old Wilk. “I have never yet seen any man who has not suffered from their wrongs and oppression.”
“So it is in the whole fatherland,” added Macko. “Neither Lithuania before its conversion to Christianity, nor even the Tartars were such a burden to the Polish kingdom as those devilish monks.”
“Quite true, but this you also know, they gathered and gathered. It is time now to finish with them.”
Then the old man spat in his hands, and young Wilk added:
“It cannot be otherwise now.”
“It will come to pass, surely, but when? We cannot do it, it is the king’s affair. It may be soon or not … God only knows. But meanwhile I must go to them.”
“Is it not with ransom for Zbyszko?”
As his father mentioned Zbyszko’s name young Wilk’s face became pale with hatred.
But Macko replied quietly:
“May be with ransom but not for Zbyszko.”
These words intensified the curiosity of both lords of Brzozowa. Old Wilk, who could no more contain himself, said:
“Can you tell us, or not, the reason for your going there?”
“I will tell you! I will!” he said, nodding assent, “but first let me tell you something else. Take notice then. After my departure Bogdaniec will be under God’s care…. When Zbyszko and myself were fighting under Prince Witold, the abbot, also Zych of Zgorzelice, looked somewhat after our small property. Now we shall miss even that little. It pains me terribly to think that my endeavor and labor will be in vain…. You can well form an idea how much this troubles me. They will entice away my people, plough up the boundaries; they will take away my herds. Even should God permit me to return, I shall find my property ruined…. There is only one remedy, only one help … good neighbor. For this reason I came to ask you as a neighbor that you would take Bogdaniec under your protection and see that no harm is done.”
Listening to Macko’s request, old Wilk and his son exchanged looks; both of them were amazed beyond measure. They were silent for a moment, and neither could muster courage enough to reply. But Macko lifted another cup of mead to his mouth, drank it, then continued his conversation in as quiet and confiding a manner as though the two had been his most intimate friends for years.
“I have told you candidly from whom most damage is expected. It is from no other quarter but from Cztan of Rogow. Although we were hostile to each other, I fear nothing from you because you are noble people who would face your adversaries, yet would not revenge yourselves by acting meanly. You are quite different. A knight is always a knight. But Cztan is a _prestak_ (churl). From such a fellow anything might be expected, as you know. He is very bitter against me because I spoiled his game with Jagienka.”
“Whom you reserve for your nephew,” burst out young Wilk.
Macko looked at him and held him under his cold gaze for a moment, then he turned to the old man and said quietly:
“You know, my nephew married a rich Mazovian proprietress and took considerable dower.” Silence more profound than before again reigned for a while. Both father and son gazed at Macko with their mouths wide open, for some time.
Finally the old man said:
“O! how is that? Tell us….”
Macko appeared not to notice the question and continued:
“This is the very reason why I must go, and why I also ask you, as worthy and upright neighbors, to take care of Bogdaniec when I go, and see to it that nobody damages my property. Have your eye especially upon Cztan and protect me against him.”
During that time young Wilk, who was quick to understand, reflected that since Zbyszko had got married it would be better to be in friendship with Macko, because Jagienka confided in him, and did nothing without asking his advice. Thus new prospects suddenly presented themselves before his eyes. “It is not enough, we must not only not oppose Macko, but endeavor to be reconciled with him,” he said to himself. Therefore, although he was somewhat under the influence of drink, he quickly stretched his hand under the table and grasped his father’s knee and pressed it vigorously as a sign for his father to be careful in his speech, but said himself:
“Ay! we do not fear Cztan! Let him only try. He wounded me with the platter, true, but I too have given him such a sound drubbing that his own mother could not recognize him. Fear nothing! Be at your ease. Not even one crow shall be lost at Bogdaniec!”
“I see you are upright people. Do you promise me?”
“We promise!” both exclaimed.
“Upon your knightly honor?”
“Upon knightly honor.”
“And upon your escutcheon?”
“Upon the escutcheon; yea, upon the cross too. So help us God!”
Macko smiled with satisfaction, and said:
“Well, this is now with you, and I am confident you will do it. If so, let me tell you something more. Zych, as you know, appointed me guardian of his children. I have, therefore, spoiled both Cztan’s incursions and your young man at Zgorzelice. But now when I arrive at Malborg, or, God knows where, what then will become of my guardianship?… It is true, that God is a father of the fatherless; and woe to him who shall attempt to harm her; not only will I chop off his head with an axe, but also proclaim him an infamous scoundrel. Nevertheless I feel very sorry to part, sorry indeed. Then promise me I pray, that you will not only yourself not do any harm to Zych’s orphans, but see too that others do not harm them.”
“We swear! We swear!”
“Upon your knightly honor and your escutcheon?”
“Upon knightly honor and escutcheon.”
“Also upon the cross?”
“Upon the cross too.”
“God hears it. Amen,” concluded Macko, and he breathed deeply, because he was sure that they would not break such an oath. Even if they were provoked they would rather gnaw their fists with anger than perjure themselves.
Then he began to take leave, but they insisted upon his remaining. He was obliged to drink and fraternize with old Wilk. But young Wilk, contrary to his custom to look for quarrels when drunk, this time limited his anger to threats against Cztan, and ran around Macko so assiduously as though he were to obtain Jagienka from Macko the following morning. Toward midnight he fainted from over-exertion, and after they revived him, he fell asleep like a log. Old Wilk followed the example of his son, so that when Macko left them they were lying under the table like corpses. Yet Macko himself had an extraordinary head and was not so much affected by the drink, but was cheerful. When he returned home he reflected with joy upon what he had accomplished.
“Well!” he said to himself, “Bogdaniec is safe and so is Zgorzelice. They will be raging when they hear of Jagienka’s departure. But she and my property are safe. The Lord Jesus has endowed men with skill, so that when one cannot make use of his fist, he uses his mind. The old man will surely challenge me when I return home, but it is not worth while to think about it…. Would to God that I might entrap the Knights of the Cross in such manner…. But it will be a difficult task with them. With us, even when one has an affair with a ‘dog brother,’ nevertheless if he takes an oath on his knightly honor and escutcheon he will keep it. But with them an oath has no value; it is like spitting upon the water. But may the mother of Jesus assist me, that I may be as serviceable to Zbyszko as I have been to Zychow’s children, and Bogdaniec….”
Here, it crossed his mind, that perhaps it might be advisable not to take Jagienka, because the two Wilks would care for her as the apple of their eye. But the next moment he rejected that plan. “The Wilks might care for her, true, but Cztan will persist in his attempts, and God knows who will prevail. But it is a sure thing that there will be a succession of fights and outrages from which Zgorzelice, Zych’s orphans, and even the girl might suffer. It will be an easy matter for Wilk to guard Bogdaniec. But by all means it will be better for the girl to be as far away from the two murderers as possible, and at the same time to be as near the rich abbot as possible. Macko firmly believed that Danusia would never be rescued from the Knights of the Cross, alive. And the hope that Zbyszko would return home as a widower and most likely take to Jagienka, never left him.”
“Ah! Mighty God!” he said to himself. “In such a case he will be the owner of Spychow, then he will get Jagienka and Moczydoly, and in addition to it he will acquire that which the abbot will bequeath. I would not even spare him wax for candles.”
Occupied with such thoughts, the road from Brzozowa seemed to be shortened, yet he arrived at Bogdaniec after nightfall, and was surprised to see his windows brightly illuminated. The servants, too, were awake, for he had scarcely entered the courtyard when the stable boy came rushing to him.
“Are there some guests?” asked Macko, dismounting.
“There is the young gentleman of Zgorzelice with the Bohemian,” replied the stable boy.
This information astonished Macko, for Jagienka had promised to arrive next day, very early, when they were to start immediately. Then, why had Jasko come and that so late? It struck the old knight that something must have occurred at Zgorzelice, and he entered his house with a certain amount of anxiety. But within he found a bright fire burning in the large clay oven in the centre of the room. And upon the table were two iron cradles and two torches in them, by which light Macko observed Jasko, the Bohemian, Hlawa, and another young servant with a face as red as an apple.
“How are you, Jasko? and what is the matter with Jagienka?” asked the old nobleman.
“Jagienka ordered me to tell you,” he said, whilst kissing Macko’s hand, “that she has reconsidered the matter and she prefers to stay at home.”
“For God’s sake! What do you say? How? What has happened to her?”
But the boy looked at him with his beautiful blue eyes and smiled.
“What are you prating about?”
But at this moment, the Bohemian and the other boy also burst out laughing.
“You see!” exclaimed the disguised boy. “Who could recognize me. You even have failed to recognize me!”
Then Macko looked at the lovely figure carefully and exclaimed:
“In the name of the Father and Son! It is a true carnival! You also here, croaking thing. Why?”
“Yes! Why? Those who are on the road have no time to lose.”
“Is it not to-morrow at dawn, that you were to leave?”
“Certainly! to-morrow at dawn, so that all may know. To-morrow they will think at Zgorzelice that I am your guest, and they will not notice it till the day after to-morrow. Sieciechowa and Jasiek know it. But Jasko promised, upon knightly honor, that he will tell only then, when the people begin to be restless. How is it you did not recognize me?”
Now it was Macko’s turn to laugh.
“Let me have a good look at you; you are an excessively fine boy!… and singularly so. From such one might expect to raise a good breed…. I justly declare, if this fellow were, (pointing at himself) were not old,–well! But, even thus I tell you, keep off, girl, from creeping under my eyes, stand back!…”
And he began to threaten her with his finger, but looked at her with much pleasure. Because such a girl he never saw before. Upon her head she had a silken red net, and a yellow jacket upon her body and the breeches ample round her hips and tighter above them, of which one little leg was of the same color as the cap (net) upon her head, the other had longwise stripes, with a richly covered little sword at her side, smiling and bright like the dawn. Her face was so exquisite that he could not take his eyes off her.
“My God!” said the overjoyed Macko. “She looks like some marvelous young lady or like a flower, or something else!”
“And this one here–I am sure it must also be somebody in disguise?”
“This is Sieciechowa,” answered Jagienka. “It would be improper for me to be alone among you. How could I? Therefore I have taken Anulka with me so that two courageous women will be of help and service. Her also, nobody can recognize.”
“There, old woman, you have a marriage feast. One is bad enough, now there will be two.”
“I am not teasing, but everybody will recognize you and her, in the daytime.”
“Pray, and why?”
“In order to go on their knees to you and to her also.”
“O, give us peace!…”
“You shall have it, I am not in a hurry. But will Cztan or Wilk let you have peace? God knows. Do you know, birdie, where I have just been? Why, at Brzozowa.”
“For God’s sake! What are you saying?”
“It is true as truth itself that the Wilks protect Bogdaniec and Zgorzelice against Cztan. Well, it is an easy matter to challenge an enemy and fight him. But to make your enemy into a protector of your own property is a very difficult task.”
Then Macko related his adventures with the Wilks, how they had become reconciled to each other. How he had got advantage over them; to this she listened with the greatest wonder, and when he concluded she said:
“The Lord Jesus did not stint you in craftiness, and I observe that you will always be successful in your undertakings.”
But Macko shook his head, as though he felt sorry.
“Ay, daughter! If that were so, you would have long ago become the lady of Bogdaniec!”
Upon hearing that, Jagienka looked at him with her lovely blue eyes for a moment, then she approached him, and kissed his hand.
“Why do you kiss me?” inquired the old knight.
“Nothing…. I only wish to bid you goodnight, because it is getting late and to-morrow we must get up early for our journey.”
She then embraced Sieciechowa and left, and Macko led the Bohemian to his room, where they stretched themselves upon aurochs’ skins and both fell sound asleep.
After the destruction, conflagration and slaughter which the Knights of the Cross had committed in 1331, at Sieradz, Casimir the Great rebuilt the razed town. The place, however, was not exceedingly splendid and could not keep pace with the other towns of the realm. But Jagienka, who hitherto had spent her time among the people of Zgorzelice and Krzesnia, was beside herself with admiration and astonishment at the sight of the houses, towers, town hall, and especially the churches; the wooden structure at Krzesnia could not be compared with them. At first she lost her wonted resolution, so much so that she dared not talk aloud, and only inquired of Macko in a whisper about those wonderful things which dazzled her eyes. But when the old knight assured her that there was as much difference between Sieradz and Krakow as there is between a firebrand and the sun, she would not believe her own ears, because it appeared to her an impossibility that another city could be found in the world which could be equal to Sieradz.
They were received in the cloister by the same shriveled old prior, who still remembered in his childhood the butchery by the Knights of the Cross, and who had previously received Zbyszko. The news of the abbot occasioned them sorrow and trouble; he lived in the cloister for a long while, but he left a fortnight before their arrival to visit his friend, the bishop of Plock. He was constantly ill. He was generally conscious in the morning; but toward the evening he lost his head, he stormed and he asked to put on a coat of mail, and challenged Prince John of Racibor. The clergy were obliged to apply force to keep him in bed; that was not accomplished without considerable trouble and even much risk. About a fortnight ago he had entirely lost his reason, and in spite of his serious illness, he had given orders to be taken to Plock immediately.
“He said that he confided in nobody so much as in the bishop of Plock, and that he wished to receive the sacrament from him alone and leave his testament with him. We opposed his journey as much as we could, for he was very faint, and we feared that he would not survive even one mile’s journey. But to oppose him was not an easy task. So the attendants prepared a wagon and carried him away. May God direct it to a happy issue.”
“If he had died somewhere near Sieradz you would have heard of it,” said Macko.
“We would have surely heard of it,” replied the little old prior. “We therefore are of opinion that he did not die, and we think that he had not yet when he reached Lenczyca. What may have happened beyond that place, we are unable to tell. You will get information on the road if you go after him.”
Macko felt uneasy when he received the tidings, and he went to take counsel with Jagienka, who had already got information from the Bohemian whither the abbot had gone.
“What is to be done?” he asked her; “and what are you going to do with yourself?”
“Come to Plock, and I will go with you.”
“To Plock!” repeated Sieciechowa, in a piping voice.
“Look how things go! Is it as easy for you to go to Flock as to handle the sickle?”
“How can I and Sieciechowa return by ourselves? If I cannot continue my journey with you, it would have been preferable to have remained at home. Do you not think that Wilk and Cztan will be more obstinate in their intrigues against me?”
“Wilk will protect you against Cztan.”
“I fear Wilk’s protection as much as Cztan’s open violence. I see that you too are opposing me; if it were only simple opposition I should not mind it, but not when it is in earnest.”
Indeed Macko’s opposition was not in earnest; on the contrary he preferred that Jagienka should accompany him, than return, so when he heard her words, he smiled and said:
“She has got rid of her petticoats, and now she wants reason too.”
“Reason is only to be found in the head.”
“But Plock is out of the way.”
“The Bohemian said that it is not out of the way, but it is nearer to Malborg.”
“Then you have already consulted the Bohemian?”
“Surely; moreover, he said: ‘If the young lord got into trouble at Malborg, then we could get much help from Princess Alexandra, for she is a relative of the king; besides that, being a personal friend of the Knights of the Cross, she has great influence among them.'”
“It is true, as God is dear to me!” exclaimed Macko. “It is a fact well known to all, that if she wished to give us a letter to the master we could travel with perfect safety in all lands of the Knights of the Cross. They love her because she loves them. That Bohemian boy is not a fool, his advice is good.”
“And how much so!” Sieciechowa exclaimed with warmth, lifting up her little eyes.
Macko suddenly turned toward her and said:
“What do you want here?”
The girl became much confused, lowered her eyelashes and blushed like a rose.
However, Macko saw that there was no other remedy but to continue his journey and take both girls with him. This he much desired. The following morning he took leave of the little old prior and then they continued their journey. Owing to the thawing of the snow and inundations they progressed with greater difficulty than before. On the road they inquired after the abbot, and they found many courts, and parsonages, where there were none of the former, even inns, where he had remained for a night’s lodging. It was quite easy to follow in his track, because he had lavishly distributed alms, bought missals, contributed to church bells and subscribed to funds for the repair of churches. Therefore every beggar, sexton, yea even every priest they met remembered him with gratitude. They generally said: “He traveled like an angel,” and prayed for his recovery, although here and there were heard more expressions of apprehension that his everlasting rest was drawing nigh, than hopes of temporary recovery. In some places he had taken supplies enough for two or three days. It seemed to Macko that most likely he would be able to overtake him.
Yet Macko was mistaken in his calculations. The overflow of the rivers Ner and Bzur prevented them from arriving at Lenczyca. They were obliged to take up their quarters for four days at a deserted inn, whose owner apparently had fled on account of the threatening floods. The road leading from the inn to the town which to a certain extent was repaired with stumps of trees was submerged for a considerable stretch in the muddy flood. Macko’s servant, Wit, a native of that locality, had some knowledge of the road leading through the woods, but he refused to act as guide, because he knew that the marshes of Lenczyca were the rendezvous of unclean spirits, especially the powerful Borut who delighted in leading people to bottomless swamps, whence escape was only possible by forfeiture of the soul. Even the inn itself was held in bad repute, so that travelers used to provision themselves with victuals to avoid hunger. Even old Macko was scared of this place. During the night they heard skirmishing upon the roof of the inn; at times there were also rappings at the door. Jagienka and Sieciechowa, who slept in the alcove near the large room, also heard the sound of little footsteps upon the ceiling and walls during the night-time. They were apparently not afraid of it, because at Zgorzelice they were accustomed to croaking birds. Old Zych, in his time, fed them, according to the then prevailing custom there were not wanting those who would provide them with crusts, and they were not mischievous. But on a certain night, from the neighboring thickets resounded a dull ominous bellowing, and the following morning they discovered huge cloven-foot traces upon the mud. They might have been of aurochs or bison, but Wit was of opinion that the traces were those of Borut, and although his outward appearance is that of a man, even of a nobleman, he has cloven instead of human feet. But owing to parsimony he takes off his boots when crossing the swamps. Macko was informed that one could appease him with drink; he considered during the whole day whether it would be sinful to gain the friendship of the evil spirit. He even took counsel with Jagienka on the same subject.
“I should like to suspend upon the fence a bull’s bladder full of wine or mead,” he said, “and if it were found that something of the drink were missing, then it would be conclusive proof that the evil spirit was present.”
“But that might displease the heavenly powers,” replied Jagienka, “of whose blessing we stand in need to assist us in succoring Zbyszko successfully.”
“I, too, am afraid, but I think that a little mead is not the soul. I shall not give him my soul. One bladder full of wine or mead, I think, is of little significance in the eyes of the heavenly powers!”
Then he lowered his voice and added:
“One nobleman entertains another even if he is a useless fellow, and they say he is a nobleman.”
“Who?” asked Jagienka.
“I do not want to mention the name of the unclean spirit.”
Nevertheless, Macko, with his own hands suspended the same evening a large bull’s bladder in which drink is usually carried, and it was found empty the following morning.
When that was related to the Bohemian, he laughed heartily, but nobody paid attention to it. Macko, however, was filled with joy, because he expected that when he should attempt to cross the swamp no mishap would occur on that account.
“Unless they told an untruth when they said that he knows honor,” he said to himself.
Above all things it was necessary to investigate if there was a passage through the woods. It might have been so, because where the soil was made firm by the roots of the trees and other growths, it did not easily soften by the rains; although Wit, who belonged in the locality, could best perform that service, he refused to go, and when his name was suggested, he shouted: “Better kill me. I shall not go.”
Then they explained to him that the unclean spirits are powerless during the daytime. Macko himself was willing to go, but it was finally arranged that Hlawa should venture, because he was a bold fellow, agreeable to all, specially to the ladies. He put an axe in his belt, and in his hand a scythe, and left.
He left early in the morning and was expected to return about noon, but he did not, and they began to be alarmed. Later on, the servants were watching at the edge of the forest, and in the afternoon Wit waved his hand as a sign that Hlawa had not returned, and should he return the danger is greater for us, for God knows whether, owing to a wolf’s bite, he is not transformed into a werewolf. Hearing this, all were frightened; even Macko was not himself. Jagienka turned toward the forest and made the sign of the cross. But Anulka searched in vain in her skirt and apron for something with which to cover her eyes, but finding nothing she covered them with her fingers, from between which tears began to trickle in big drops.
However, toward evening time, just at the spot where the sun was about to set, the Bohemian appeared, and that, not by himself, but accompanied by a human figure whom he drove in front of him on a rope. All rushed out toward him with shouts of joy. But at the sight of the figure they became silent; it was dwarfed, monkey-like, hairy, black and dressed in wolf skin.
“In the name of the Father and Son tell me; what is this figure you have brought,” shouted Macko.
“How do I know?” replied the Bohemian. “He said that he was a man and a pitch-burner, but I don’t know whether he told me the truth.”
“Oh, he is not a man, no,” said Wit.
But Macko ordered him to be quiet; then he looked carefully around him and suddenly said:
“Cross yourself. We are accustomed to cross ourselves when with the spirits….”
“Praised be Jesus Christ!” exclaimed the prisoner, and crossed himself as fast as he could. He breathed deeply, looked with great confidence at the group and said:
“Praised be Jesus Christ. I too, O Jesus, was uncertain whether I was in Christian or in the devil’s power.”
“Fear not, you are among Christians, who attend the holy Mass. What are you then?”
“I am a pitch-burner, sir, dwelling in a tent. There are seven of us who dwell in tents with our families.”
“How far are you from here?”
“Not quite ten furlongs.”
“How do you get to town?”
“We have our private road along the ‘Devil’s Hollow.'”
“Along what? The Devil’s?… then cross yourself again.”
“In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
“Very well. Is that road practicable for vehicles?”
“Now there is quagmire everywhere, although there is less near the Hollow than upon the regular road; owing to the access of the wind the mud is quickly dried up. But farther on to Buda the road is bad. But those who know the track push through it slowly.”
“Will you lead us for a florin or two?”
The pitch-burner accepted the offer willingly, but begged for half a loaf of bread, which he said is very scarce in the woods and he had seen none for some time past. It was arranged that they should start very early the next morning, because it was “not good to travel in the evening,” he said. “There at Boruca ghosts storm terribly, but they do no harm. But being jealous for the Lenczyca principality they chase away other devils into the bushes. It is only bad to meet them during the night, especially when a man is drunk, but the sober need not be afraid.”
“You were afraid nevertheless,” said Macko.
“Because that knight unexpectedly grasped me with such strength that I took him for another being.”
Then Jagienka smiled that all of them took the pitch-burner to be the devil, and he thought them to be the same. Anulka and Sieciechowa laughed at Macko’s words, when he said:
“Your eyes are not yet dry from weeping for Hlawa; now you are laughing?”
The Bohemian looked at the girl, he observed her eyelids which were still moist, then he asked:
“Did you cry for me?”
“Of course not,” replied the girl. “I was only scared.”
“You ought to be ashamed. Are you not a noblewoman, and a noblewoman like your mistress is not afraid. Nothing evil could happen to you in the middle of the day, and among people.”
“Nothing to me, but to you.”
“Yet you said that you did not cry for me.”
“I insist, not for you.”
“Then why did you cry?”
“You are not afraid now?”
“Because you have returned.”
Then the Bohemian looked at her with gratitude, smiled, and said:
“Bah! If we kept on talking in that manner we might have continued till morning. What a smart woman you are!”
“Make no fun of me,” quietly replied Sieciechowa. In fact she was as smart as any woman; and Hlawa who was himself a cunning fellow understood it well. He knew that the girl’s attachment to him was daily increasing. He loved Jagienka, but the love was that of a subject for his king’s daughter, and with great humility and reverence, and without any other motive. Meanwhile the journey brought him in closer contact with Sieciechowa. When on the march old Macko and Jagienka usually rode side by side in front, while Hlawa and Sieciechowa were together in the rear. He was as strong as a urus and hot-blooded, so that when looking straight into her lovely bright eyes, at her flaxen locks which escaped from under her bonnet, upon her whole slender and well-shaped figure, especially at her admirably shaped limbs gripping the black pony, his whole frame trembled. He could restrain himself no longer. The more he looked upon those charms the more intense and longing his gaze became. He involuntarily thought that if the devil were to assume the form of that girl he would have no difficulty in leading one into temptation. She was moreover of a sweet temperament, very obedient, and lively, like a sparrow upon the roof. Sometimes strange thoughts crossed the Bohemian’s mind; once when he and Anulka remained somewhat in the rear near the packhorses, he suddenly turned toward her and said:
“Do you know I shall devour you here as a wolf devours a lamb.”
She heartily laughed, and showed her pretty little white teeth.
“Do you want to eat me?” she asked.
“Yes I even with the little bones.”
And he cast such a look at her that she melted under his glances. Then they lapsed into silence, only their hearts were beating intensely, his with desire, and hers with pleasurable intoxication tinged with fear.
But the Bohemian’s passion at first entirely prevailed over his tenderness, and when he said that he looked at Anulka like a wolf at a lamb, he told the truth. Only on that evening when he observed her eyelids and cheeks moistened with tears, his heart became softened She seemed to him as good, as though near to him and as though she were already his own, and as he himself was upright by nature, and at the same time a knight, he not only was elated with pride, and not hardened at the sight of the sweet tears, but he courageously continued gazing at her. His wonted gaiety of conversation left him, and although he continued to jest in the evening with the timid girl, yet it was of a different nature. He treated her as a knightly armor-bearer ought to treat a noblewoman.
Old Macko was chiefly occupied in thinking of the journey, and the crossing of the swamps, and he only praised him for his noble manners which, as he observed, he must have learned when he was with Zbyszko at the Mazovian court.
Then he turned to Jagienka and added:
“Hey! Zbyszko!… His deportment befits even a king’s presence.”
But his work was over in the evening, when it was time to retire. Hlawa, after having kissed the hand of Jagienka, lifted in turn the hand of Sieciechowa to his lips and said:
“Not only need you not fear me, but whilst you are with me you need fear nothing, for I shall not give you to anybody.”
Then the men went into the front room whilst Jagienka and Anulka retired to the alcove and slept together in a wide and comfortable bed. Neither fell asleep readily, especially Sieciechowa, who was restless and turned from side to side. At length Jagienka moved her head toward Anulka and whispered:
“What is it?”
“It seems to me that you are much taken with that Bohemian…. Is it so?”
Her question remained unanswered.
But Jagienka whispered again:
“I understand it all…. Tell me.”
Sieciechowa did not reply, but instead, pressed her lips to the cheeks of her mistress and showered kisses upon them.
At Anulka’s kisses, poor Jagienka’s breast heaved.
“Oh, I understand, I understand,” she whispered, so low that Anulka’s ear scarcely caught her words.
After a mild and foggy night, a windy and gloomy day came. At times the sky was bright, at others it was covered with broken clouds which were driven before the wind like flocks of sheep. Macko ordered the train to move by daybreak. The pitch-burner, who was hired as guide to Buda, affirmed that the horses could pass everywhere, but as to the wagons, provisions and baggage, it would be necessary in some places to take them apart and carry them piecemeal, and that could not be done without tedious work. But people accustomed to hard labor preferred hardship to lounging in the deserted inn. Therefore they moved on willingly. Even the timid Wit was not scared by the words and presence of the pitch-burner.
They left the inn and entered at once between high-trunked forest trees, free from undergrowth. They led their horses, and could pass along without taking the wagons to pieces. Occasionally a storm arose, and at times it increased to such extraordinary force that it struck the branches of the bending pines as with gigantic wings, bending, twisting and shaking and breaking them as it were with the fans of a windmill. The forest bent under the unchained elements. Even in the intervals between the gusts it did not cease to howl and thunder, as if angry with their rest at the inn, and the forced march they had undertaken. Now and then the clouds entirely obscured the daylight. Drenching rain mingled with hail came down in torrents, and it became as dark as nightfall. Wit was short of breath, and shouted that “evil was bent to do harm and is doing it.” But nobody paid attention to it, even the timid Anulka did not take his words to heart because the Bohemian was so near that her stirrup touched his, and he looked ahead with such a brave air that he seemed to want to challenge the very devil.
Behind the tall pine trees where the undergrowth began, the thickets were impassable. There they were obliged to take the wagons in sections; they did it dexterously and quickly. The strong servants transported the wheels, axle-tree, front of the wagon, packages and stores, upon their shoulders. The bad road continued about three furlongs. However they arrived at Buda about nightfall; there the pitch-burner received them as his guests, and they were assured by him that along the Devil’s Hollow, correctly speaking, they could reach the town. These people, inhabitants of the pathless forest seldom saw bread or flour, yet they were not starving. Because all kinds of smoked meat, especially eels, which abounded in all swamps and mud holes, they had in plenty. They treated them liberally, in exchange, holding out greedy hands for the biscuits. There were among them women and children, all blackened from the smoke. There was also a peasant, more than one hundred years old, who remembered the massacre of Lenczyca, which happened in 1331, and the complete destruction of the town by the “Knights of the Cross.” Although Macko, the Bohemian, and the two girls, had already heard the narrative from the prior of Sieradz, nevertheless they listened with much interest to the tale of the old man who was sitting at the fireside scraping in the cinders. It seemed as if he discovered among them the events of his earlier days. At Lenczyca, as well as at Sieradz, they spared not even the churches and clergy, and the knives of the conquerors were covered with the blood of old men, women and children. Always the Knights of the Cross, the everlasting Knights of the Cross! The thoughts of Macko and Jagienka were constantly directed toward Zbyszko, who was living in the very jaws of the wolves, in the midst of a hardened clan who knew neither pity nor the laws of hospitality. Sieciechowa was faint at heart, because she feared that their hunt after the abbot might lead them among those terrible Knights of the Cross.
But the old man, to counteract the unfavorable impression which the stories made upon the women, told them of the battle near Plowce, which put an end to the incursions of the Knights of the Cross, and in which he took part as a soldier in the infantry raised by the peasants, and armed with an iron flail. In that battle perished almost the whole clan of the Gradys; Macko knew all the particulars of it, nevertheless he listened now as though it were a recital of a new terrible calamity caused by the Germans, when like cornfields before the storm they were mowed down by the sword in the hands of the Polish knighthood and the forces of King Lokietek….
“Ha! I just recollect,” said the old man, “when they invaded this country, they burned the town and castles. Yes, they even massacred the infants in the cradles, but their terrible end came. Hey! It was a fine fight. I can see the battle now with my eyes closed….”
He closed his eyes and was silent, gently moving the ashes until Jagienka, who could wait no longer, asked:
“How was it?”
“How was it?…” repeated the old man. “I remember the battlefield, it seems that I am now looking at it; there were bushes, and patches of stubble to the right. But after the battle nothing was visible but swords, axes, pikes and fine armor, one upon another, as though the whole blessed land was covered with them…. I have never seen so many slain in one heap, and so much human blood shed….”
Macko’s heart was strengthened anew by the recollection of these events, then he said:
“True. Merciful Lord Jesus! They had then encompassed the kingdom like a conflagration or like a plague. Not only Sieradz and Lenczyca, but they destroyed many other towns. What now? Are not our people mighty and indestructible? And although those dog-brothers, the Knights of the Cross, were severely chastised, yet if you cannot crush them they will attack you and break your teeth…. Only see, King Kazimierz rebuilt Sieradz and Lenczyca so that they are better now than ever before, yet the incursions occur there as of old, and the Knights of the Cross are laid low and rot there as they were at the battle of Plowce. May God always grant them such an end!”
When the old peasant heard these words he nodded assent; finally he said:
“Perhaps they don’t lie and rot. We of the infantry were ordered by the king, after the battle was over, to dig ditches; the peasants from the neighborhood came to assist us in our labor. We worked industriously, so that the spades groaned. Then we laid the Germans in trenches and covered them well, to avoid pestilence. But they did not remain there.”
“What happened? Why did they not remain there?”
“I did not see it, but the people said afterward that after the battle there came a fierce storm which lasted about twelve weeks, but only at night-time. The sun shone during the daytime, but at night the wind was so fierce that it almost tore the hair from off the head. The devils, like thick clouds, came down in great numbers, whirling like a hurricane; every one of them held a pitchfork, and as soon as one of them reached the earth he thrust the pitchfork into the ground and carried off one Knight of the Cross to hell. At Plowce they heard a hurly-burly of human voices which sounded like the howling of whole packs of dogs, but they did not know what it all meant, whether it were the noise of the Germans, who were howling with terror and pain, or the devils with joy. That continued as long as the trenches were not consecrated by the priest, and the ground was not frozen, so that there was no need even for pitchforks.”
Silence followed for a moment, then the old man added:
“But God grant, Sir Knight, such an end to them as you said, and although I shall not live to see it, but such young lasses as these two will live, but they shall not see what mine eyes have seen.”
Then he turned his head, now looking at Jagienka, now at Sieciechowa, wondering at their marvelous faces and shaking his head.
“Like poppies in corn,” he said. “Such beautiful faces I have never seen.”
Thus they chattered during a part of the night. Then they went to sleep in the shanties and lay down upon mosses as soft as down and covered themselves with warm fur; then after a refreshing sleep, they arose early in the morning and continued their journey. The road along the hollow was not an easy passage, but it was not a very bad road. So that before sunset they descried the castle of Lenczyca. The city had arisen from its ashes, it was rebuilt; part of it was built of brick and part of stone, its walls were high, the towers armed. The churches were even larger than those of Sieradz. There they had no difficulty in getting information from the Dominican friars concerning the abbot. He was there, he said that he felt better, and he hoped to recover his health entirely; and only a few days ago he left for his onward journey. Macko was not bent on overtaking him on the road, so he had already procured conveyance for both girls to Plock, where the abbot himself would have taken them. But Macko was much concerned about Zbyszko, and other news distressed him. The rivers had arisen after the departure of the abbot, and it was impossible to continue the journey. Seeing that the knight was accompanied by a considerable retinue and was proceeding to the court of Prince Ziemowit, the Dominicans offered him their hospitality; they had even provided him with an olive-wood tablet upon which there was inscribed a Latin prayer to the angel Raphael, the patron of travelers.
Their compulsory sojourn at Lenczyca lasted a fortnight, during which time a servant of the castle discovered that the two young pages accompanying the knight were females in disguise, and at once fell deeply in love with Jagienka. The Bohemian was about to challenge him at once, but as it happened on the eve of their departure Macko dissuaded him from taking such a step.
When they moved on toward Plock, the wind had already somewhat dried the road, and although it rained often, yet the rainfall, as is usual in the spring, consisted of larger drops, but warm, and of short duration. The furrows upon the fields glistened with water. The moist, sweet smell from the cultivated fields was wafted by the strong wind. The marshes were covered with buttercups and the violets blossomed in the woods, and the grasshoppers joyfully chirped among the branches. The hearts of the travelers were also filled with new hope and longing, especially as they were now progressing well. After sixteen days’ travel they were at the gates of Plock.
But they arrived at night, when the gates of the city were closed. They were obliged to pass the night with a weaver outside the wall.
The girls retired late, and after the fatigue of the long journey they fell sound asleep, but Macko, who was not troubled by fatigue, got up early; he did not wish to wake them and he entered the town by himself at the opening of the gates. He found the cathedral and the bishop’s residence without difficulty. There he was informed that the abbot had died a week ago, but according to the prevailing custom they had celebrated mass before the coffin from the sixth day, and the funeral was to take place on the day of Macko’s arrival, after which would be obsequies and last honors in memory of the defunct.
Owing to intense grief, Macko did not even look about the town, but he knew something already from that time when he had passed through that city with a letter from the princess Alexandra to the grand master. He returned to the weaver’s place as fast as he could, and on his way home he said to himself:
“Ha! He is dead. Eternal repose to him. There is nothing in the world to remedy it. But now what shall I do with the girls?”
Then he reflected whether it were not better to leave them with the princess Alexandra, or with the princess Anna Danuta, or to take them to Spychow. It struck him more than once, that if Danuska were dead, it would be advisable to have Jagienka close to Zbyszko at Spychow, since Zbyszko, who loved Danuska above all other things would greatly mourn after his beloved. He was also sure that Jagienka’s presence at Zbyszko’s side would have the desired effect. He also remembered that Zbyszko in his boyhood, although his heart was after the woods in Mazowsze, was constantly longing for Jagienka. For these reasons, and fully believing that Danusia was lost, he often thought that in case of the abbot’s demise, he would not send Jagienka to any other place; but as he was greedy to acquire landed property, he was therefore concerned about the property of the abbot. Surely, the abbot was displeased with them and promised to bequeath nothing to them; but after that he must have felt sorry and, before he died left something for Jagienka. He was sure that the abbot had bequeathed something to her, because he frequently spoke about it at Zgorzelice, and he would not overlook Zbyszko on account of Jagienka. Macko was also thinking of remaining for sometime at Plock, so as to investigate the will and attend to the matter, but other thoughts crossed his mind, and he said: “Should I longer be here looking after property, whilst my boy yonder is stretching out his hand and waiting for my help from some Knight of the Cross dungeon?”
In truth, there was only one course, and that was: to leave Jagienka under the care of the princess and the bishop, and beg them to look after her interest. But that plan did not please Macko. The girl has already considerable property of her own, and when her estate is increased by that which the abbot has bequeathed her, then as sure as there is a God some Mazur will take her, for she cannot hold out any longer. Zych, her defunct father, used to say of her, that she was in danger even then. In such case, the old knight thought that both Danusia and Jagienka might fail Zbyszko. That of course was not to be thought of.
He will take one of the two, whichever God had decreed. Finally that plan to rescue Zbyszko he preferred to the others; and as to Jagienka, he resolved either to leave her in the care of Princess Danuta, or at Spychow, but not at the court at Plock where there was much glitter, and which was filled with handsome knights.
Overwhelmed with these thoughts, he proceeded quickly to the dwelling of the weaver, to inform Jagienka of the abbot’s death. He was determined not to break the news to her suddenly, as it might greatly endanger her health. When he reached home both ladies were properly dressed and appeared as gay as birds; he sat down and ordered the servants to bring him a jug of brown beer; then he assumed a doleful air, and said:
“Do you hear the bells ringing in town? Guess, why are they ringing, since to-day is not Sunday, and you slept during matins. Would you like to see the abbot?”
“Surely! What a question?” answered Jagienka.
“Well, you shall see him as the king sees Cwiek.”
“Has he left the city?”
“He has left, but do you not hear the bells ringing?”
“Is he dead?” exclaimed Jagienka.
“Yes! say ‘God rest his soul.’ …”
Both ladies knelt down and began to chant: “God rest his soul,” in a bell-like voice. Then tears streamed down Jagienka’s cheeks, for she was very fond of the abbot, who, though of a violent temper, never harmed anybody, but did much good; he specially loved Jagienka, for he was her godfather, he loved her as one loves his own daughter. Macko remembered that the abbot was related to him and Zbyszko; he was also moved to tears and even cried. After his grief had subsided a little, he took the ladies and the Bohemian with him and went to the funeral services in the church.
It was a magnificent funeral. The bishop himself, Jacob of Kurdwanow, conducted it. There were present all the priests and monks of the diocese of Plock, all the bells were ringing, and prayers were said which none else but the clergy understood, for they were said in the Latin. Then the clergy and the laity went to the banquet at the bishop’s palace.
Macko and his two girls (disguised as boys) also went to the banquet; he, as a relative of the deceased, and known to the bishop, was fully entitled to be present. The bishop also willingly received him as such, but immediately after the invitation he said to Macko:
“There is here a bequest of some forests for the Gradys of Bogdaniec. The rest he did not bequeath to the abbey and the cloister, but to his goddaughter, a certain Jagienka of Zgorzelice.”
Macko, who did not expect much, was glad for the woodlands. The bishop did not observe that one of the youths accompanying the old knight at the mentioning of the name of Jagienka of Zgorzelice lifted up her tearful eyes, and said:
“May God recompense him, but I wish he were alive.”
Macko turned and said angrily:
“Be silent, otherwise you will shame yourself.”
But he suddenly stopped, his eyes glistened with amazement, then his face assumed wolfish fierceness, when at a distance from him opposite the door, through which the princess Alexandra had just entered, he observed the figure, dressed in court uniform, of Kuno of Lichtenstein, the very man by whom Zbyszko had nearly lost his life in Krakow.
Jagienka had never seen Macko in such a condition. His face was contracted like the jaws of a fierce dog, his teeth glistened beneath his moustache, and in a moment he tightened his belt and moved toward the hateful Knight of the Cross.
But when about midway he checked himself and began to pass his broad hands through his hair; he reflected in time, that Lichtenstein might only be a guest in the court of Plock, or an envoy, therefore, if he were to strike him without apparent reason, the very thing which happened to