The Knights of the Cross
Part 1 out of 14
THE KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS
By HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ
Author Of "Quo Vadis," "The Deluge," "With Fire And Sword,"
"Pan Michael," Etc., Etc.
Translated From The Original Polish By Samuel A. Binion
Author Of "Ancient Egypt," Etc. Translator Of "Quo Vadis," Etc.
[Illustration: BUST OF HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ]
HON. WILLIAM T. HARRIS, LL.D.
Commissioner of Education
My Dear Doctor:--
This translation, of one of the greatest novels of Poland's foremost
modern writer, Henryk Sienkiewicz, I beg to dedicate to you. Apart for my
high personal regard for you, my reason for selecting you among all my
literary friends, is: that you are a historian and philosopher, and can
therefore best appreciate works of this kind.
SAMUEL A. BINION,
New York City.
To the Reader.
Here you have, gentle reader--old writers always called you
gentle--something very much more than a novel to amuse an idle hour. To
read it will be enjoyable pastime, no doubt; but the brilliant romance of
the brilliant author calls upon you for some exercise of the finest
sympathy and intelligence; sympathy for a glorious nation which, with
only one exception, has suffered beyond all other nations; intelligence,
of the sources of that unspeakable and immeasurable love and of the great
things that may yet befall before those woes are atoned for and due
punishment for them meted out to their guilty authors.
Poland! Poland! The very name carries with it sighings and groanings,
nation-murder, brilliance, beauty, patriotism, splendors, self-sacrifice
through generations of gallant men and exquisite women; indomitable
endurance of bands of noble people carrying through world-wide exile the
sacred fire of wrath against the oppressor, and uttering in every clime a
cry of appeal to Humanity to rescue Poland.
It was indeed a terrible moment in history, when the three military
monarchies of Europe, Russia, Austria and Prussia, swooped down upon the
glorious but unhappy country, torn by internal trouble, and determined to
kill it and divide up its dominions. All were alike guilty, as far as
motive went. But Holy Russia--Holy!--since that horrible time has taken
upon herself by far the greatest burden of political crime in her
dealings with that noble nation. Every evil passion bred of despotism, of
theological hatred, of rancorous ancient enmities, and the ghastliest
official corruption, have combined in Russian action for more than one
hundred and fifty years, to turn Poland into a hell on earth. Her very
language was proscribed.
This is not the place to give details of that unhappy country's woes. But
suffice it to say, that Poland, in spite of fatuous prohibitions, has had
a great literature since the loss of her independence, and that
literature has so kept alive the soul of the nation, that with justice
Poland sings her great patriotic song:
"Poland is not yet lost
As long as we live...."
The nation is still alive in its writers and their works, their splendid
poetry and prose.
It is a pity that so few of these great writers are widely known. But
most people have heard of Jan Kochanowski, of Mikolaj Rey, of Rubinski,
of Szymanowicz, of Poland's great genius in this century, one of the
supreme poets of the world, Adam Mickiewicz, of Joseph Ignac, of
Kraszewski, who is as prolific in literary and scientific works as
Alexander von Humboldt, and of hundreds of others in all branches of
science and art, too numerous to mention here.
And it is remarkable that the author of this book, Henryk Sienkiewicz,
should of late have attained such prominence in the public eye and found
a place in the heart of mankind. It is of good omen. Thus, Poland, in
spite of her fetters, is keeping step in the very van of the most
The romance of Sienkiewicz in this volume is perhaps the most interesting
and fascinating he has yet produced. It is in the very first rank of
imaginative and historical romance. The time and scene of the noble story
are laid in the middle ages during the conquest of Pagan Lithuania by the
military and priestly order of the "Krzyzacy" Knights of the Cross. And
the story exhibits with splendid force the collision of race passions and
fierce, violent individualities which accompanied that struggle. Those
who read it will, in addition to their thrilling interest in the tragical
and varied incidents, gain no little insight into the origin and working
of the inextinguishable race hatred between Teuton and Slav. It was an
unfortunate thing surely, that the conversion of the heathen Lithuanians
and Zmudzians was committed so largely to that curious variety of the
missionary, the armed knight, banded in brotherhood, sacred and military.
To say the least, his sword was a weapon dangerous to his evangelizing
purpose. He was always in doubt whether to present to the heathen the one
end of it, as a cross for adoration, or the other, as a point _to kill
with_. And so, if Poland _was_ made a Catholic nation, she was also made
an undying and unalterable hater of the German, the Teutonic name and
And so this noble, historical tale, surpassed perhaps by none in
literature, is commended to the thoughtful attention and appreciation of
SAMUEL A. BINION.
NEW YORK, May 9, 1899.
KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS.
In Tyniec, in the inn under "Dreadful Urus," which belonged to the
abbey, a few people were sitting, listening to the talk of a military man
who had come from afar, and was telling them of the adventures which he
had experienced during the war and his journey.
He had a large beard but he was not yet old, and he was almost gigantic
but thin, with broad shoulders; he wore his hair in a net ornamented with
beads; he was dressed in a leather jacket, which was marked by the
cuirass, and he wore a belt composed of brass buckles; in the belt he had
a knife in a horn scabbard, and at his side a short traveling sword.
Near by him at the table, was sitting a youth with long hair and joyful
look, evidently his comrade, or perhaps a shield-bearer, because he also
was dressed as for a journey in a similar leather jacket. The rest of the
company was composed of two noblemen from the vicinity of Krakow and of
three townsmen with red folding caps, the thin tops of which were hanging
down their sides to their elbows.
The host, a German, dressed in a faded cowl with large, white collar, was
pouring beer for them from a bucket into earthen mugs, and in the
meanwhile he was listening with great curiosity to the military
The burghers were listening with still greater curiosity. In these times,
the hatred, which during the time of King Lokietek had separated the city
and the knighthood, had been very much quenched, and the burghers were
prouder than in the following centuries. They called them still _des
allerdurchluchtigsten Kuniges und Herren_ and they appreciated their
readiness _ad concessionem pecuniarum_; therefore one would very often
see in the inns, the merchants drinking with the noblemen like brothers.
They were even welcome, because having plenty of money, usually they paid
for those who had coats of arms.
Therefore they were sitting there and talking, from time to time winking
at the host to fill up the mugs.
"Noble knight, you have seen a good piece of the world!" said one of the
"Not many of those who are now coming to Krakow from all parts, have seen
as much," answered the knight.
"There will be plenty of them," said the merchant. "There is to be a
great feast and great pleasure for the king and the queen! The king has
ordered the queen's chamber to be upholstered with golden brocade,
embroidered with pearls, and a canopy of the same material over her.
There will be such entertainments and tournaments, as the world has never
"Uncle Gamroth, don't interrupt the knight," said the second merchant.
"Friend Eyertreter, I am not interrupting; only I think that he also will
be glad to know about what they are talking, because I am sure he is
going to Krakow. We cannot return to the city to-day at any rate, because
they will shut the gates."
"And you speak twenty words, in reply to one. You are growing old, Uncle
"But I can carry a whole piece of wet broadcloth just the same."
"Great thing! the cloth through which one can see, as through a sieve."
But further dispute was stopped by the knight, who said:
"Yes, I will stay in Krakow because I have heard about the tournaments
and I will be glad to try my strength in the lists during the combats;
and this youth, my nephew, who although young and smooth faced, has
already seen many cuirasses on the ground, will also enter the lists."
The guests glanced at the youth who laughed mirthfully, and putting his
long hair behind his ears, placed the mug of beer to his mouth.
The older knight added:
"Even if we would like to return, we have no place to go."
"How is that?" asked one of the nobles.
"Where are you from, and what do they call you?"
"I am Macko of Bogdaniec, and this lad, the son of my brother, calls
himself Zbyszko. Our coat of arms is Tempa Podkowa, and our war-cry is
"Where is Bogdaniec?"
"Bah! better ask, lord brother, where it was, because it is no more.
During the war between Grzymalczyks and Nalenczs, Bogdaniec was
burned, and we were robbed of everything; the servants ran away. Only the
bare soil remained, because even the farmers who were in the
neighborhood, fled into the forests. The father of this lad, rebuilt; but
the next year, a flood took everything. Then my brother died, and after
his death I remained with the orphan. Then I thought: 'I can't stay!' I
heard about the war for which Jasko of Olesnica, whom the king,
Wladyslaw, sent to Wilno after he sent Mikolaj of Moskorzowo, was
collecting soldiers. I knew a worthy abbot, Janko of Tulcza, to whom I
gave my land as security for the money I needed to buy armor and horses,
necessary for a war expedition. The boy, twelve years old, I put on a
young horse and we went to Jasko of Olesnica."
"With the youth?"
"He was not even a youth then, but he has been strong since childhood.
When he was twelve, he used to rest a crossbow on the ground, press it
against his chest and turn the crank. None of the Englishmen, whom I have
seen in Wilno, could do better."
"Was he so strong?"
"He used to carry my helmet, and when he passed thirteen winters, he
could carry my spear also."
"You had plenty of fighting there!"
"Because of Witold. The prince was with the Knights of the Cross, and
every year they used to make an expedition against Lithuania, as far as
Wilno. Different people went with them: Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen,
who are the best bowmen, Czechs, Swiss and Burgundians. They cut down the
forests, burned the castles on their way and finally they devastated
Lithuania with fire and sword so badly, that the people who were living
in that country, wanted to leave it and search for another land, even to
the end of the world, even among Belial's children, only far from the
"We heard here, that the Lithuanians wanted to go away with their wives
and children, but we did not believe it."
"And I looked at it. Hej! If not for Mikolaj of Moskorzowo, for Jasko of
Olesnica, and without any boasting, if not for us, there would be no
"We know. You did not surrender the castle."
"We did not. And now notice what I am going to say, because I have
experience in military matters. The old people used to say: 'furious
Litwa'--and it's true! They fight well, but they cannot withstand the
knights in the field. When the horses of the Germans are sunk in the
marshes, or when there is a thick forest--that's different."
"The Germans are good soldiers!" exclaimed the burghers.
"They stay like a wall, man beside man, in their iron armor. They advance
in one compact body. They strike, and the Litwa are scattered like sand,
or throw themselves flat on the ground and are trampled down. There are
not only Germans among them, because men of all nations serve with the
Knights of the Cross. And they are brave! Often before a battle a knight
stoops, stretches his lance, and rushes alone against the whole army."
"Christ!" exclaimed Gamroth. "And who among them are the best soldiers?"
"It depends. With the crossbow, the best is the Englishman, who can
pierce a suit of armor through and through, and at a hundred steps he
will not miss a dove. Czechowie (Bohemians) cut dreadfully with axes. For
the big two-handed sword the German is the best. The Swiss is glad to
strike the helmets with an iron flail, but the greatest knights are those
who come from France. These will fight on horseback and on foot, and in
the meanwhile they will speak very brave words, which however you will
not understand, because it is such a strange language. They are pious
people. They criticise us through the Germans. They say we are defending
the heathen and the Turks against the cross, and they want to prove it by
a knightly duel. And such God's judgment is going to be held between four
knights from their side, and four from our side, and they are going to
fight at the the court of Waclaw, the Roman and Bohemian king."
Here the curiosity so increased among the noblemen and merchants, that
they stretched their necks in the direction of Macko of Bogdaniec and
"And who are the knights from our side? Speak quickly!" Macko raised the
mug to his mouth, drank and then answered:
"Ej, don't be afraid about them. There is Jan of Wloszczowa, castellan of
Dobrzyn; there's Mikolaj of Waszmuntow; there are Jasko of Zdakow and
Jarosz of Czechow: all glorious knights and sturdy fellows. No matter
which weapons they choose,--swords or axes--nothing new to them! It will
be worth while for human eyes to see it and for human ears to hear
it--because, as I said, even if you press the throat of a Frenchman with
your foot, he will still reply with knightly words. Therefore so help me
God and Holy Cross they will outtalk us, but our knights will defeat
"That will be glory, if God will bless us," said one of the nobles.
"And Saint Stanislaw!" added another. Then turning toward Macko, he asked
"Well! tell us some more! You praised the Germans and other knights
because they are valiant and have conquered Litwa easily. Did they not
have harder work with you? Did they go against you readily? How did it
happen? Praise our knights."
But evidently Macko of Bogdaniec was not a braggart, because he answered
"Those who had just returned from foreign lands, attacked us readily; but
after they tried once or twice, they attacked us with less assurance,
because our people are hardened and they reproached us for that hardness:
'You despise,' they used to say,'death, but you help the Saracens, and
you will be damned for it.' And with us the deadly grudge increased,
because their taunt is not true! The king and the queen have christened
Litwa and everyone there tries to worship the Lord Christ although not
everyone knows how. And it is known also, that our gracious lord, when in
the cathedral of Plock they threw down the devil, ordered them to put a
candle before him--and the priests were obliged to tell him that he ought
not to do it. No wonder then about an ordinary man! Therefore many of
them say to themselves:
"'The _kniaz_ ordered us to be baptized, therefore I was baptized; he
ordered us to bow before the Christ, and I bowed; but why should I grudge
a little piece of cheese to the old heathen devils, or why should I not
throw them some turnips; why should I not pour the foam off of the beer?
If I do not do it, then my horses will die; or my cows will be sick, or
their milk will turn into blood--or there will be some trouble with the
harvest.' And many of them do this, and they are suspected. But they are
doing it because of their ignorance and their fear of the devils. Those
devils were better off in times of yore. They used to have their own
groves and they used to take the horses which they rode for their tithe.
But to-day, the groves are cut down and they have nothing to eat--in the
cities the bells ring, therefore the devils are hiding in the thickest
forest, and they howl there from loneliness. If a Litwin goes to the
forest, then they pull him by his sheep-skin overcoat and they say:
'Give!' Some of them give, but there are also courageous boys, who will
not give and then the devils catch them. One of the boys put some beans
in an ox bladder and immediately three hundred devils entered there. And
he stuffed the bladder with a service-tree peg, brought them to Wilno and
sold them to the Franciscan priests, who gave him twenty _skojcow_ he
did this to destroy the enemies of Christ's name. I have seen that
bladder with my own eyes; a dreadful stench came from it, because in that
way those dirty spirits manifested their fear before holy water."
"And who counted them, that you know there were three hundred devils,"
asked the merchant Gamroth, intelligently.
"The Litwin counted them, when he saw them entering the bladder. It was
evident that they were there, because one would know it from the stench,
and nobody wished to take out the peg to count them."
"What wonders, what wonders!" exclaimed one of the nobles.
"I have seen many great wonders, because everything is peculiar among
them. They are shaggy and hardly any _kniaz_ combs his hair; they live on
baked turnips, which they prefer to any other food, because they say that
bravery comes from eating them. They live in the forests with their
cattle and snakes; they are not abstinent in eating nor drinking. They
despise the married women, but greatly respect the girls to whom they
attribute great power. They say that if a girl rubs a man with dried
leaves, it will stop colic."
"It's worth while to have colic, if the women are beautiful!" exclaimed
"Ask Zbyszko about it," answered Macko of Bogdaniec.
Zbyszko laughed so heartily that the bench began to shake beneath him.
"There are some beautiful ones," he said. "Ryngalla was charming."
"Who is Ryngalla? Quick!"
"What? you haven't heard about Ryngalla?" asked Macko.
"We have not heard a word."
"She was Witold's sister, and the wife of Henryk, Prince Mazowiecki."
"You don't say! Which Prince Henryk? There was only one Prince
Mazowiecki, elect of Plock, but he died."
"The same one. He expected a dispensation from Rome, but death gave him
his dispensation, because evidently he had not pleased God by his action.
Jasko of Olesnica sent me with a letter to Prince Witold, when Prince
Henryk, elect of Plock, was sent by the king to Ryterswerder. At that
time, Witold was tired of the war, because he could not capture Wilno,
and our king was tired of his own brothers and their dissipation. The
king having noticed that Witold was shrewder and more intelligent than
his own brothers, sent the bishop to him, to persuade him to leave the
Knights of the Cross, and return to his allegiance, for which he promised
to make him ruler over Litwa. Witold, always fond of changing, listened
with pleasure to the embassy. There were also a feast and tournaments.
The elect mounted a horse, although the other bishops did not approve of
it, and in the lists he showed his knightly strength. All the princes of
Mazowsze are very strong; it is well known, that even the girls of that
blood can easily break horseshoes. In the beginning the prince threw
three knights from their saddles; the second time he threw five of them.
He threw me from my saddle, and in the beginning of the encounter,
Zbyszko's horse reared and he was thrown. The prince took all the prizes
from the hands of the beautiful Ryngalla, before whom he kneeled in full
armor. They fell so much in love with each other, that dining the feasts,
the _clerici_ pulled him from her by his sleeves and her brother,
Witold, restrained her. The prince said: 'I will give myself a
dispensation, and the pope, if not the one in Home, then the one in
Avignon, will confirm it, but I must marry her immediately--otherwise I
will burn up!' It was a great offence against God, but Witold did not
dare to oppose him, because he did not want to displease the
embassador--and so there was a wedding. Then they went to Suraz, and
afterward to Sluck, to the great sorrow of this youth, Zbyszko, who,
according to the German custom, had selected the Princess Ryngalla to be
the lady of his heart and had promised her eternal fidelity."
"Bah!" suddenly interrupted Zbyszko, "it's true. But afterward the people
said that Ryngalla regretted being the wife of the elect (because he,
although married, did not want to renounce his spiritual dignity) and
feeling that God's blessing could not be over such a marriage, poisoned
her husband. When I heard that, I asked a pious hermit, living not far
from Lublin, to absolve me from that vow."
"He was a hermit," answered Macko, laughing, "but was he pious? I don't
know; we went to him on Friday, and he was splitting bear's bones with an
axe, and sucking the marrow so hard, that there was music in his throat."
"But he said that the marrow was not meat, and besides he had received
permission to do it, because after sucking marrow, he used to have
marvelous visions during his sleep and the next day he could prophesy
"Well, well!" answered Macko. "And the beautiful Ryngalla is a widow and
she may call you to her service."
"It would be in vain, because I am going to choose another lady, whom I
will serve till death, and then I will find a wife."
"You must first find the girdle of a knight."
"_Owa!_ There will be plenty of tournaments. And before that the king
will not dub a single knight. I can measure myself against any. The
prince could not have thrown me down, if my horse had not reared."
"There will be knights here better than you are."
Here the noblemen began to shout:
"For heaven's sake! Here, in the presence of the queen, will fight not
such as you, but only the most famous knights in the world. Here will
fight Zawisza of Garbow and Farurej, Dobko of Olesnica, Powala of Taczew,
Paszko Zlodzie of Biskupice, Jasko Naszan and Abdank of Gora. Andrzej of
Brochocice, Krystyn of Ostrow, and Jakob of Kobylany! Can you measure
your sword against the swords of those, with whom neither the knights
here, nor of the Bohemian court, nor of the Hungarian court can compete?
What are you talking about? Are you better then they? How old are you?"
"Eighteen," answered Zbyszko.
"Everyone of them could crush you between his fingers."
"We will see."
But Macko said:
"I have heard that the king rewarded those knights munificently who
returned from the Lithuanian war. Speak, you belong here; is it true?"
"Yes, it is true!" answered one of the nobles. "The king's munificence is
known to the world; but it will be difficult to get near him now, because
the guests are swarming to Krakow; they are coming to be in time for the
queen's confinement and for the christening, wishing to show reverence to
our lord and to render him homage. The king of Hungary is coming; they
say the Roman emperor will be here also, and plenty of princes, counts
and knights, will come because not one of them expects to return with
empty hands. They even say that Pope Boniface, himself will arrive,
because he also needs favor and help from our lord against his adversary
in Avignon. Therefore in such a crowd, it will be difficult to approach
the king; but if one would be able to see him and bow at his feet, then
he will liberally reward him who deserves it."
"Then I will bow before him, because I have served enough, and if there
is another war, I shall go again. We have taken some booty, and we are
not poor; but I am getting old, and when one is old, and the strength has
left his bones, one is pleased to have a quiet corner."
"The king was glad to see those who returned from Litwa with Jasko of
Olesnica; and they feast well now."
"You see I did not return at that time; I was still at the war. You know
that the Germans have suffered because of that reconciliation between the
king and _Kniaz_ Witold. The prince cunningly got the hostages back, and
then rushed against the Germans! He ruined and burned the castle and
slaughtered the knights and a great many of the people. The Germans
wanted revenge, as did also Swidrygello, who went to them. There was
again a great expedition started. The grand master Kondrat himself went
with a great army; they besieged Wilno, and tried from their towers to
ruin the castles; they also tried to capture the city by treachery--but
they did not succeed! While retreating there were so many killed, that
even half of them did not escape. Then we attacked Ulrich von Jungingen,
the grand master's brother, who is bailiff in Swabja. But the bailiff was
afraid of the _kniaz_ and ran away. On account of this flight there is
peace, and they are rebuilding the city. One pious monk, who could walk
with bare feet on hot iron, has prophesied since that time, that as long
as the world exists, no German soldier will be seen under the walls of
Wilno. And if that be so, then whose hands have done it?"
Having said this, Macko of Bogdaniec, extended his palms, broad and
enormous; the others began to nod and to approve:
"Yes, yes! It's true what he says! Yes!"
But further conversation was interrupted by a noise entering through the
windows from which the bladders had been taken out, because the night was
warm and clear. From afar thrumming, singing, laughing and the snorting
of horses were heard. They were surprised because it was quite late. The
host rushed to the yard of the inn, but before the guests were able to
drink their beer to the last drop, he returned shouting:
"Some court is coming!"
A moment afterward, in the door appeared a footman dressed in a blue
jacket and wearing a red folding cap. He stopped, glanced at the guests,
and then having perceived the host, he said:
"Wipe the tables and prepare lights; the princess, Anna Danuta, will stop
Having said this, he withdrew. In the inn a great commotion began; the
host called his servants, and the guests looked at one another with great
"Princess Anna Danuta," said one of the townsmen, "she is
Kiejstutowna, Janusz Mazowiecki's wife. She was in Krakow two weeks,
but she went to Zator to visit Prince Waclaw, and now she is coming
"Uncle Gamroth," said the other townsman, "let us go to the barn and
sleep on the hay; the company is too high for us."
"I don't wonder they are traveling during the night," said Macko,
"because the days are very warm; but why do they come to the inn when the
monastery is so near?"
Here he turned toward Zbyszko:
"The beautiful Ryngalla's own sister; do you understand?"
And Zbyszko answered:
"There must be many Mazovian ladies with her, hej!"
At that moment the princess entered. She was a middle-aged lady with a
smiling face, dressed in a red mantle and light green dress with a golden
girdle around her hips. The princess was followed by the ladies of the
court; some not yet grown up, some of them older; they had pink and lilac
wreaths on their heads, and the majority of them had lutes in their
hands. Some of them carried large bunches of fresh, flowers, evidently
plucked by the roadside. The room was soon filled, because the ladies
were followed by some courtiers and young pages. All were lively, with
mirth on their faces, talking loudly or humming as if they were
intoxicated with the beauty of the night. Among the courtiers, there were
two _rybalts_; one had a lute and the other had a _gensla_ at his
girdle. One of the girls who was very young, perhaps twelve years old,
carried behind the princess a very small lute ornamented with brass
"May Jesus Christ be praised!" said the princess, standing in the centre
of the room.
"For ages and ages, amen!" answered those present, in the meanwhile
saluting very profoundly.
"Where is the host?"
The German having heard the call, advanced to the front and kneeled, in
the German fashion, on one knee.
"We are going to stop here and rest," said the lady. "Only be quick,
because we are hungry."
The townsmen had already gone; now the two noblemen, and with them Macko
of Bogdaniec and young Zbyszko, bowed again, intending to leave the room,
as they did not wish to interfere with the court.
But the princess detained them.
"You are noblemen; you do not intrude, you are acquainted with courtiers.
From where has God conducted you?"
Then they mentioned their names, their coats of arms, their nicknames
and the estates from which they received their names. The lady having
heard from _wlodyka_ Macko that he had been to Wilno, clapped her
hands, and said:
"How well it has happened! Tell us about Wilno and about my brother and
sister. Is Prince Witold coming for the queen's confinement and for the
"He would like to, but does not know whether he will be able to do so;
therefore he sent a silver cradle to the queen for a present. My nephew
and I brought that cradle."
"Then the cradle is here? I would like to see it! All silver?"
"All silver; but it is not here. The Basilians took it to Krakow."
"And what are you doing in Tyniec?"
"We returned here to see the procurator of the monastery who is our
relative, in order to deposit with the worthy monks, that with which the
war has blessed us and that which the prince gave us for a present."
"Then God gave you good luck and valuable booty? But tell me why my
brother is uncertain whether he will come?"
"Because he is preparing an expedition against the Tartars."
"I know it; but I am grieved that the queen did not prophesy a happy
result for that expedition, and everything she predicts is always
"Ej, our lady is a prophetess, I cannot deny; but with Prince Witold, the
might of our knighthood will go, splendid men, against whom nobody is
able to contend."
"Are you not going?"
"No, I was sent with the cradle, and for five years I have not taken off
my armor," answered Macko, showing the furrows made by the cuirass on his
reindeer jacket; "but let me rest, then I will go, or if I do not go
myself then I will send this youth, my nephew, Zbyszko, to Pan Spytko
of Melsztyn, under whose command all our knights will go."
Princess Danuta glanced at Zbyszko's beautiful figure; but further
conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a monk from the monastery,
who having greeted the princess, began to humbly reproach her, because
she had not sent a courier with the news that she was coming, and because
she had not stopped at the monastery, but in an ordinary inn which was
not worthy of her majesty. There are plenty of houses and buildings in
the monastery where even an ordinary man will find hospitality, and
royalty is still more welcome, especially the wife of that prince from
whose ancestors and relatives, the abbey had experienced so many
But the princess answered mirthfully:
"We came here only to stretch our limbs; in the morning we must be in
Krakow. We sleep during the day and we travel during the night, because
it is cooler. As the roosters were crowing, I did not wish to awaken the
pious monks, especially with such a company which thinks more about
singing and dancing than about repose."
But when the monk still insisted, she added:
"No. We will stay here. We will spend the time well in singing lay songs,
but we will come to the church for matins in order to begin the day with
"There will be a mass for the welfare of the gracious prince and the
gracious princess," said the monk.
"The prince, my husband, will not come for four or five days."
"The Lord God will be able to grant happiness even from afar, and in the
meanwhile let us poor monks at least bring some wine from the monastery."
"We will gladly repay," said the princess.
When the monk went out, she called:
"Hej, Danusia! Danusia! Mount the bench and make our hearts merry with
the same song you sang in Zator."
Having heard this, the courtiers put a bench in the centre of the room.
The _rybalts_ sat on the ends, and between them stood that young girl who
had carried behind the princess the lute ornamented with brass nails. On
her head she had a small garland, her hair falling on her shoulders, and
she wore a blue dress and red shoes with long points. On the bench she
looked like a child, but at the same time, a beautiful child, like some
figure from a church. It was evident that she was not singing for the
first time before the princess, because she was not embarrassed.
"Sing, Danusia, sing!" the young court girls shouted.
She seized the lute, raised her head like a bird which begins to sing,
and having closed her eyes, she began with a silvery voice:
"If I only could get
The wings like a birdie,
I would fly quickly
To my dearest Jasiek!"
The _rybalts_ accompanied her, one on the _gensliks_, the other on a big
lute; the princess, who loved the lay songs better than anything else in
the world, began to move her head back and forth, and the young girl sang
further with a thin, sweet childish voice, like a bird singing in the
"I would then be seated
On the high enclosure:
Look, my dear Jasiulku,
Look on me, poor orphan."
And then the _rybalts_ played. The young Zbyszko of Bogdaniec, who being
accustomed from childhood to war and its dreadful sights, had never in
his life heard anything like it; he touched a Mazur standing beside
him and asked:
"Who is she?"
"She is a girl from the princess' court. We do not lack _rybalts_ who
cheer up the court, but she is the sweetest little _rybalt_ of them all,
and to the songs of no one else will the princess listen so gladly."
"I don't wonder. I thought she was an angel from heaven and I can't look
at her enough. What do they call her?"
"Have you not heard? Danusia. Her father is Jurand of Spychow, a
_comes_ mighty and gallant."
"Hej! Such a girl human eyes never saw before!"
"Everybody loves her for her singing and her beauty."
"And who is her knight?"
"She is only a child yet!"
Further conversation was stopped by Danusia's singing. Zbyszko looked at
her fair hair, her uplifted head, her half-closed eyes, and at her whole
figure lighted by the glare of the wax candles and by the glare of the
moonbeams entering through the windows; and he wondered more and more. It
seemed to him now, that he had seen her before; but he could not remember
whether it was in a dream, or somewhere in Krakow on the pane of a church
And again he touched the courtier and asked in a low voice:
"Then she is from your court?"
"Her mother came from Litwa with the princess, Anna Danuta, who married
her to Count Jurand of Spychow. She was pretty and belonged to a powerful
family; the princess liked her better than any of the other young girls
and she loved the princess. That is the reason she gave the same name to
her daughter--Anna Danuta. But five years ago, when near Zlotorja, the
Germans attacked the court,--she died from fear. Then the princess took
the girl, and she has taken care of her since. Her father often comes to
the court; he is glad that the princess is bringing his child up healthy
and in happiness. But every time he looks at her, he cries, remembering
his wife; then he returns to avenge on the Germans his awful wrong. He
loved his wife more dearly than any one in the whole Mazowsze till now
has loved; but he has killed in revenge a great many Germans."
In a moment Zbyszko's eyes were shining and the veins on his forehead
"Then the Germans killed her mother?" he asked.
"Killed and not killed. She died from fear. Five years ago there was
peace; nobody was thinking about war and everybody felt safe. The prince
went without any soldiers, only with the court, as usual during peace, to
build a tower in Zlotorja. Those traitors, the Germans, fell upon them
without any declaration of war, without any reason. They seized the
prince himself, and remembering neither God's anger, nor that from the
prince's ancestor, they had received great benefits, they bound him to a
horse and slaughtered his people. The prince was a prisoner a long time,
and only when King Wladyslaw threatened them with war, did they release
him. During this attack Danusia's mother died."
"And you, sir, were you there? What do they call you? I have forgotten!"
"My name is Mikolaj of Dlugolas and they call me Obuch. I was there.
I saw a German with peacock feathers on his helmet, bind her to his
saddle; and then she died from fear. They cut me with a halberd from
which I have a scar."
Having said this he showed a deep scar on his head coming from beneath
his hair to his eyebrows.
There was a moment of silence. Zbyszko was again looking at Danusia. Then
"And you said, sir, that she has no knight?"
But he did not receive any answer, because at that moment the singing
stopped. One of the _rybalts_, a fat and heavy man, suddenly rose, and
the bench tilted to one side. Danusia tottered and stretched out her
little hands, but before she could fall or jump, Zbyszko rushed up like a
wild-cat and seized her in his arms.
The princess, who at first screamed from fear, laughed immediately and
began to shout:
"Here is Danusia's knight! Come, little knight and give us back our dear
"He grasped her boldly," some among the courtiers were heard to say.
Zbyszko walked toward the princess, holding Danusia to his breast, who
having encircled his neck with one arm, held the lute with the other,
being afraid it would be broken. Her face was smiling and pleased,
although a little bit frightened.
In the meanwhile the youth came near the princess, put Danusia before
her, kneeled, raised his head and said with remarkable boldness for his
"Let it be then according to your word, my gracious lady! It is time for
this gentle young girl to have her knight, and it is time for me to have
my lady, whose beauty and virtues I shall extol. With your permission, I
wish to make a vow and I will remain faithful to her under all
circumstances until death."
The princess was surprised, not on account of Zbyszko's words, but
because everything had happened so suddenly. It is true that the custom
of making vows was not Polish; but Mazowsze, being situated on the German
frontier, and often being visited by the knights from remote countries,
was more familiar with that custom than the other provinces, and imitated
it very often. The princess had also heard about it in her father's
court, where all eastern customs were considered as the law and the
example for the noble warriors. Therefore she did not see in Zbyszko's
action anything which could offend either herself or Danusia. She was
even glad that her dear girl had attracted the heart and the eyes of a
Therefore she turned her joyful face toward the girl.
"Danusia! Danusia! Do you wish to have your own knight?"
The fair-haired Danusia after jumping three times in her red shoes,
seized the princess by the neck and began to scream with joy, as though
they were promising her some pleasure permitted to the older people only.
"I wish, I wish----!"
The princess' eyes were filled with tears from laughing and the whole
court laughed with her; then the lady said to Zbyszko:
"Well, make your vow! Make your vow! What will you promise her?"
But Zbyszko, who preserved his seriousness undisturbed amidst the
laughter, said with dignity, while still kneeling:
"I promise that as soon as I reach Krakow, I will hang my spear on the
door of the inn, and on it I will put a card, which a student in writing
will write for me. On the card I will proclaim that Panna Danuta
Jurandowna is the prettiest and most virtuous girl among all living in
this or any other kingdom. Anyone who wishes to contradict this
declaration, I will fight until one of us dies or is taken into
"Very well! I see you know the knightly custom. And what more?"
"I have learned from Pan Mikolaj of Dlugolas that the death of Panna
Jurandowna's mother was caused by the brutality of a German who wore the
crest of a peacock. Therefore I vow to gird my naked sides with a hempen
rope, and even though it eat me to the bone, I will wear it until I tear
three such tufts of feathers from the heads of German warriors whom I
Here the princess became serious.
"Don't make any joke of your vows!"
And Zbyszko added:
"So help me God and holy cross, this vow I will repeat in church before a
"It is a praiseworthy thing to fight against the enemy of our people; but
I pity you, because you are young, and you can easily perish."
At that moment Macko of Bogdanice approached, thinking it proper to
reassure the princess.
"Gracious lady, do not be frightened about that. Everybody must risk
being killed in a fight, and it is a laudable end for a _wlodyka_, old or
young. But war is not new nor strange to this man, because although he is
only a youth, he has fought on horseback and on foot, with spear and with
axe, with short sword and with long sword, with lance and without. It is
a new custom, for a knight to vow to a girl whom he sees for the first
time; but I do not blame Zbyszko for his promise. He has fought the
Germans before. Let him fight them again, and if during that fight a few
heads are broken, his glory will increase."
"I see that we have to do with a gallant knight," said the princess.
Then to Danusia, she said:
"Take my place as the first person to-day; only do not laugh because it
is not dignified."
Danusia sat in the place of the lady; she wanted to be dignified, but her
blue eyes were laughing at the kneeling Zbyszko, and she could not help
moving her feet from joy.
"Give him your gloves," said the princess.
Danusia pulled off her gloves and handed them to Zbyszko who pressed them
with great respect to his lips, and said:
"I will fix them on my helmet and woe to the one who stretches his hands
Then he kissed Danusia's hands and feet and arose. Then his dignity left
him, and great joy filled his heart because from that time the whole
court would consider him a mature man. Therefore shaking Danusia's
gloves, he began to shout, half mirthfully, half angrily:
"Come, you dog-brothers with peacock's crests, come!"
But at that moment the same monk who had been there before entered the
inn, and with him two superior ones. The servants of the monastery
carried willow baskets which contained bottles of wine and some tidbits.
The monks greeted the princess and again reproached her because she had
not gone directly to the abbey. She explained to them again, that having
slept during the day, she was traveling at night for coolness; therefore
she did not need any sleep; and as she did not wish to awaken the worthy
abbot nor the respectable monks, she preferred to stop in an inn to
stretch her limbs.
After many courteous words, it was finally agreed, that after matins and
mass in the morning, the princess with her court would breakfast and rest
in the monastery. The affable monks also invited the Mazurs, the two
noblemen and Macko of Bogdaniec who intended to go to the abbey to
deposit his wealth acquired in the war and increased by Witold's
munificent gift. This treasure was destined to redeem Bogdaniec from his
pledge. But the young Zbyszko did not hear the invitation, because he had
rushed to his wagon which was guarded by his servants, to procure better
apparel for himself. He ordered his chests carried to a room in the inn
and there he began to dress. At first he hastily combed his hair and put
it in a silk net ornamented with amber beads, and in the front with real
pearls. Then he put on a "_jaka_" of white silk embroidered with golden
griffins; he girded himself with a golden belt from which was hanging a
small sword in an ivory scabbard ornamented with gold. Everything was
new, shining and unspotted with blood, although it had been taken as
booty from a Fryzjan knight who served with the Knights of the Cross.
Then Zbyszko put on beautiful trousers, one part having red and green
stripes, the other part, yellow and purple, and both ended at the top
like a checkered chessboard. After that he put on red shoes with long
points. Fresh and handsome he went into the room.
In fact, as he stood in the door, his appearance made a great impression.
The princess seeing now what a handsome knight had vowed to Danusia, was
still more pleased. Danusia jumped toward him like a gazelle. But either
the beauty of the young man or the sounds of admiration from the
courtiers, caused her to pause before she reached him, drop her eyes
suddenly and blushing and confused, begin to wring her fingers.
After her, came the others; the princess herself, the courtiers, the
ladies-in-waiting, the _rybalts_ and the monks all wanted to see him. The
young Mazovian girls were looking at him as at a rainbow, each regretting
that he had not chosen her; the older ones admired the costly dress; and
thus, a circle of curious ones was formed around him. Zbyszko stood in
the centre with a boastful smile on his youthful face, and turned himself
slightly, so that they could see him better.
"Who is he?" asked one of the monks.
"He is a knight, nephew of that _wlodyka_" answered the princess,
pointing to Macko; "he has made a vow to Danusia."
The monks did not show any surprise, because such a vow did not bind him
to anything. Often vows were made to married women, and among the
powerful families where the eastern custom was known, almost every woman
had a knight. If a knight made a vow to a young girl, he did not thus
become her fiance; on the contrary he usually married another; he was
constant to his vow, but did not hope to be wedded to her, but to marry
The monks were more astonished at Danusia's youth, and even not much at
that, because in those times sixteen year old youths used to be
castellans. The great Queen Jadwiga herself, when she came from Hungary,
was only fifteen years old, and thirteen year old girls used to marry. At
any rate, at that moment they were more occupied looking at Zbyszko than
at Danusia; they also listened to Macko's words, who, proud of his
nephew, was telling how the youth came in possession of such beautiful
"One year and nine weeks ago," said he, "we were invited by the Saxon
knights. There was another guest, a certain knight, from a far Fryzjan
nation, who lived there on the shores of a sea. With him was his son who
was three years older than Zbyszko. Once at a banquet, that son began to
taunt Zbyszko because he has neither moustache nor beard. Zbyszko being
quick tempered, was very angry, and immediately seized him by his
moustache, and pulled out all the hair. On account of that I afterward
fought until death or slavery."
"What do you mean?" asked the Pan of Dlugolas.
"Because the father took his son's part and I took Zbyszko's part;
therefore we fought, in the presence of the guests, on level ground. The
agreement was, that the one who conquered, should take the wagons,
horses, servants and everything that belonged to the vanquished one. God
helped us. We killed those Fryzes, although with great labor, because
they were brave and strong. We took much valuable booty; there were four
wagons, each one drawn by two horses, four enormous stallions, ten
servants, and two excellent suits of armor which are difficult to find.
It is true we broke the helmets in the fight, but the Lord Jesus rewarded
us with something else; there was a large chest of costly clothing; those
in which Zbyszko is now dressed, we found there also."
Now the two noblemen from the vicinity of Krakow, and all the Mazurs
began to look with more respect on both the uncle and the nephew, and the
Pan of Dlugolas, called Obuch, said:
"I see you are terrible fellows, and not lazy."
"We now believe that this youngster will capture three peacocks' crests."
Macko laughed, and in his face there really appeared an expression
similar to that on the face of a beast of prey.
But in the meanwhile, the servants of the monastery had taken the wine
and the dainties from the willow baskets, and the servant girls were
bringing large dishes full of steaming boiled eggs, surrounded by
sausage, from which a strong and savory smell filled the whole room. This
sight excited everybody's appetite, and they rushed to the tables.
But nobody sat down until the princess was seated at the head of the
table; she told Zbyszko and Danusia to sit opposite her and then she said
"It is right for you both to eat from one dish; but do not step on her
feet under the table, nor touch her with your knees, as the other knights
do to their ladies, because she is too young."
To this he answered:
"I shall not do it, gracious lady, for two or three years yet, until the
Lord Jesus permits me to accomplish my vow, and then this little berry
will be ripe; as for stepping on her feet, even if I would like to do it
I can not, because they do not touch the floor."
"True," answered the princess; "but it is pleasant to see that you have
Then there was silence because everybody was busy eating. Zbyszko picked
the best pieces of sausage, which he handed to Danusia or put directly
into her mouth; she was glad that such a famous knight served her.
After they had emptied the dishes, the servants of the monastery began to
pour out the sweet-smelling wine--abundantly for the men, but not much
for the ladies. Zbyszko's gallantry was particularly shown when they
brought in the nuts which had been sent from the monastery. There were
hazel nuts and some very rare nuts imported from afar, called Italians;
they all feasted so willingly, that after awhile there was heard no sound
in the whole room but the cracking of shells, crushed between the jaws.
But Zbyszko did not think only about himself; he preferred to show to the
princess and Danusia his knightly strength and abstinence. Therefore he
did not put the nuts between his jaws, as the others did, but he crushed
them between his fingers, and handed to Danusia the kernels picked from
the shells. He even invented for her an amusement; after having picked
out the kernel, he placed his hand near his mouth and, with his powerful
blowing, he blew the shells to the ceiling. Danusia laughed so much, that
the princess fearing that the young girl would choke, was obliged to ask
him to stop the amusement; but perceiving how merry the girl was, she
"Well, Danusia, is it good to have your own knight?"
"Oj! Very!" answered the girl.
And then she touched Zbyszko's white silk "_jaka_" with her pink finger,
"And will he be mine to-morrow?"
"To-morrow, and Sunday, and until death," answered Zbyszko.
Supper lasted a long time, because after the nuts, sweet cakes with
raisins were served. Some of the courtiers wished to dance; others wished
to listen to the _rybalts_ or to Danusia's singing; but she was tired,
and having with great confidence put her little head on the knight's
shoulder, she fell asleep.
"Does she sleep?" asked the princess. "There you have your 'lady.'"
"She is dearer to me while she sleeps than the others are while they
dance," answered Zbyszko, sitting motionless so as not to awaken the
But she was awakened neither by the _rybalts_' music nor by the singing.
Some of the courtiers stamped, others rattled the dishes in time to the
music; but the greater the noise, the better she slept.
She awoke only when the roosters, beginning to crow, and the church bell
to ring, the company all rushed from the benches, shouting:
"To matins! To matins!"
"Let us go on foot for God's glory," said the princess.
She took the awakened Danusia by the hand and went out first, followed by
the whole court.
The night was beginning to whiten. In the east one could see a light
glare, green at the top, then pink below, and under all a golden red,
which extended while one looked at it. It seemed as though the moon was
retreating before that glare. The light grew pinker and brighter. Moist
with dew, the rested and joyous world was awakening.
"God has given us fair weather, but there will be great heat," said the
"No matter," answered the Pan of Dlugolas; "we will sleep in the abbey,
and will reach Krakow toward evening."
"Sure of a feast."
"There is a feast every day now, and after the confinement and
tournaments, there will be still greater ones."
"We shall see how Danusia's brave knight will acquit himself."
"Ej! They are of oak, those fellows! Did you hear what they said about
that fight for four knights on each side?"
"Perhaps they will join our court; they are consulting with each other
In fact, they were talking earnestly with each other; old Macko was not
very much pleased with what had happened; therefore while walking in the
rear of the retinue, he said to his nephew:
"In truth, you don't need it. In some way I will reach the king and it
may be he will give us something. I would be very glad to get to some
castle or _grodek_---- Well we shall see. We will redeem Bogdaniec
from our pledge anyhow, because we must hold that which our forefathers
held. But how can we get some peasants to work? The land is worth nothing
without peasants. Therefore listen to what I am going to tell you: if you
make vows or not to anyone you please, still you must go with the Pan of
Mielsztyn to Prince Witold against the Tartars. If they proclaim the
expedition by the sound of trumpets before the queen's confinement, then
do not wait either for the lying-in, or for the tournaments; only go,
because there will be found some profit. Prince Witold is munificent, as
you know; and he knows you. If you acquit yourself well, he will reward
you liberally. Above all, if God help you, you will secure many slaves.
The Tartars swarm in the world. In case of victory, every knight will
capture three-score of them."
At this, Macko being covetous for land and serfs, began to fancy:
"If I could only catch fifty peasants and settle them in Bogdaniec! One
would be able to clear up quite a piece of forest. You know that nowhere
can you get as many as there."
But Zbyszko began to twist his head.
"Owa! I will bring hostlers from the stables living on horse carrion and
not accustomed to working on the land! What use will they be in
Bogdaniec? Then I vowed to capture three German crests. Where will I find
them among the Tartars?"
"You made a vow because you were stupid; but your vow is not worth
"But my honor of _wlodyka_ and knight? What about that?"
"How was it with Ryngalla?"
"Ryngalla poisoned the prince, and the hermit gave me absolution."
"Then in Tyniec, the abbot will absolve you from this vow also. The abbot
is greater than a hermit."
"I don't want absolution!"
Macko stopped and asked with evident anger:
"Then how will it be?"
"Go to Witold yourself, because I shall not go."
"You knave! And who will bow to the king? Don't you pity my bones?"
"Even if a tree should fall on your bones, it would not crush them; and
even if I pity you, I will not go to Witold."
"What will you do then? Will you turn _rybalt_ or falconer at the
"It's not a bad thing to be a falconer. But if you would rather grumble
than to listen to me, then grumble."
"Where will you go? Don't you care for Bogdaniec? Will you plow with your
nails without peasants?"
"Not true! You calculated cleverly about the Tartars! You have forgotten
what the Rusini told us, that it is difficult to catch any prisoners
among the Tartars, because you cannot reach a Tartar on the steppes. On
what will I chase them? On those heavy stallions that we captured from
the Germans? Do you see? And what booty can I take? Scabby sheep-skin
coats but nothing else! How rich then I shall return to Bogdaniec! Then
they will call me _comes_!"
Macko was silent because there was a great deal of truth in Zbyszko's
words; but after a while he said:
"But Prince Witold will reward you."
"Bah, you know; to one he gives too much, to another nothing."
"Then tell me, where will you go?"
"To Jurand of Spychow."
Macko angrily twisted the belt of his leather jacket, and said:
"May you become a blind man!"
"Listen," answered Zbyszko quietly. "I had a talk with Mikolaj of
Dlugolas and he said that Jurand is seeking revenge on the Germans for
the death of his wife. I will go and help him. In the first place, you
said yourself that it was nothing strange for us to fight the Germans
because we know them and their ways so well. _Secundo_, I will thus more
easily capture those peacock's crests; and _tercio_, you know that
peacock's crests are not worn by knaves; therefore if the Lord Jesus will
help me to secure the crests, it will also bring booty. Finally: the
slaves from those parts are not like the Tartars. If you settle such
slaves in a forest, then you will accomplish something."
"Man, are you crazy? There is no war at present and God knows when there
"How clever you are! The bears make peace with the bee-keepers and they
neither spoil the beehives, nor eat the honey! Ha! ha! ha! Then it is
news to you, that although the great armies are not fighting and although
the king and the grand master stamped the parchment with their seals,
still there is always great disturbance on the frontiers? If some cattle
are seized, they burn several villages for one cow's head and besiege the
castles. How about capturing peasants and their girls? About merchants on
the highways? Remember former times, about which you told me yourself.
That Nalencz, who captured forty knights going to join the Knights of the
Cross, and kept them in prison until the grand master sent him a cart
full of _grzywien_; did he not do a good business? Jurand of Spychow
is doing the same and on the frontier the work is always ready."
For a while they walked along silently; in the meanwhile, it was broad
daylight and the bright rays of the sun lighted up the rocks on which the
abbey was built.
"God can give good luck in any place," Macko said, finally, with a calm
voice; "pray that he may bless you."
"Sure; all depends on his favor!"
"And think about Bogdaniec, because you cannot persuade me that you go to
Jurand of Spychow for the sake of Bogdaniec and not for that duck's
"Don't speak that way, because it makes me angry. I will see her gladly
and I do not deny it. Have you ever met a prettier girl?"
"What do I care for her beauty! Better marry her, when she is grown up;
she is the daughter of a mighty _comes_."
Zbyszko's face brightened with a pleasant smile.
"It must be. No other lady, no other wife! When your bones are old, you
shall play with the grandchildren born to her and myself."
Now Macko smiled also and said:
"Grady! Grady!---- May they be as numerous as hail. When one is old,
they are his joy; and after death, his salvation. Jesus, grant us this!"
Princess Danuta, Macko and Zbyszko had been in Tyniec before; but in the
train of attendants there were some courtiers who now saw it for the
first time; these greatly admired the magnificent abbey which was
surrounded by high walls built over the rocks and precipices, and stood
on a lofty mountain now shining in the golden rays of the rising sun. The
stately walls and the buildings devoted to various purposes, the gardens
situated at the foot of the mountain and the carefully cultivated fields,
showed immediately the great wealth of the abbey. The people from poor
Mazowsze were amazed. It is true there were other mighty Benedictine
abbeys in other parts of the country; as for instance in Lubusz on Odra,
in Plock, in Wielkopolska, in Mogila and in several other places: but
none of them could compare with the abbey in Tyniec, which was richer
than many principalities, and had an income greater than even the kings
of those times possessed.
Therefore the astonishment increased among the courtiers and some of them
could scarcely believe their own eyes. In the meanwhile, the princess
wishing to make the journey pleasant, and to interest the young ladies,
begged one of the monks to relate the awful story about Walgierz Wdaly
which had been told to her in Krakow, although not very correctly.
Hearing this, the ladies surrounded the princess and walked slowly,
looking in the rays of the sun like moving flowers.
"Let Brother Hidulf tell about Walgierz, who appeared to him on a certain
night," said one of the monks, looking at one of the other monks who was
an old man.
"Pious father, have you seen him with your own eyes?" asked the princess.
"I have seen him," answered the monk gloomily; "there are certain moments
during which, by God's will, he is permitted to leave the underground
regions of hell and show himself to the world."
"When does it happen?"
The old monk looked at the other monks and became silent. There was a
tradition that the ghost of Walgierz appeared when the morals of the
monastic lives became corrupted, and when the monks thought more about
worldly riches and pleasures than was right.
None of them, however, wished to tell this; but it was also said that the
ghost's appearance portended war or some other calamity. Brother Hidulf,
after a short silence, said:
"His appearance does not foretell any good fortune."
"I would not care to see him," said the princess, making the sign of the
cross; "but why is he in hell, if it is true as I heard, that he only
avenged a wrong?"
"Had he been virtuous during his whole life," said the monk sternly, "he
would be damned just the same because he was a heathen, and original sin
was not washed out by baptism."
After those words the princess' brows contracted painfully because she
recollected that her father whom she loved dearly, had died in the
heathen's errors also.
"We are listening," said she, after a short silence.
Brother Hidulf began thus:
During the time of heathenism, there was a mighty _grabia_ whose name
was Walgierz, whom on account of his great beauty, they called Wdaly.
This whole country, as far as one can see, belonged to him, and he lead
all the expeditions, the people on foot and a hundred spearmen who were
all _wlodykas_; the men to the east as far as Opole, and to the west as
far as Sandomierz, were his vassals. Nobody was able to count his herds,
and in Tyniec he had a towerful of money the same as the Knights of the
Cross have now in Marienburg."
"Yes, they have, I know it!" interrupted the princess.
"He was a giant," continued the monk. "He was so strong he could dig up
an oak tree by the roots, and nobody in the whole world could compare
with him for beauty, playing on the lute or singing. One time when he was
at the court of a French king, the king's daughter, Helgunda, fell in
love with him, and ran away with him to Tyniec, where they lived together
in sin. No priest would marry them with Christian rites, because
Helgunda's father had promised her to the cloister for the glory of God.
At the same time, there lived in Wislica, Wislaw Piekny, who belonged
to King Popiel's family. He, while Walgierz Wdaly was absent, devastated
the county around Tyniec. Walgierz when be returned overpowered Wislaw
and imprisoned him in Tyniec. He did not take into consideration this
fact: that every woman as soon as she saw Wislaw, was ready immediately
to leave father, mother and even husband, if she could only satisfy her
passion. This happened to Helgunda. She immediately devised such fetters
for Walgierz, that that giant, although he could pluck an oak up by its
roots, was unable to break them. She gave him to Wislaw, who took and
imprisoned him in Wislica. There Rynga, Wislaw's sister, having heard
Walgierz singing in his underground cell, soon fell in love with him and
set him at liberty. He then killed Wislaw and Helgunda with the sword,
left their bodies for the crows, and returned to Tyniec with Rynga."
"Was it not right, what he did?" asked the princess.
Brother Hidulf answered:
"Had he received baptism and given Tyniec to the Benedictines, perhaps
God would have forgiven his sins; but he did not do this, therefore the
earth has devoured him."
"Were the Benedictines in this kingdom at that time?"
"No, the Benedictines were not here; only the heathen lived here then."
"How then could he receive baptism, or give up Tyniec?"
"He could not; and that is exactly why he was sent to hell to endure
eternal torture," answered the monk with authority.
"Sure! He speaks rightly!" several voices were heard to say.
In the meanwhile they approached the principal gate of the monastery,
where the abbot with numerous monks and noblemen, was awaiting the
princess. There were always many lay people in the cloister: land
stewards, barristers and procurators. Many noblemen, even powerful
_wlodykas_, held in fief from the monastery numerous estates; and these,
as "vassals," were glad to pass their time at the court of their
"suzerain," where near the main altar it was easy to obtain some gift and
many benefits. Therefore the "_abbas centum villarum_" could greet
the princess with a numerous retinue.
He was a man of great stature, with a thin, intelligent face; his head
was shaved on the top with a fringe of grey hair beneath. He had a deep
scar on his forehead, which he had evidently received during his youth
when he performed knightly deeds. His eyes looked penetratingly from
beneath dark eyebrows. He wore a monk's dress similar to that worn by the
other monks, but over it he wore a black mantle, lined with purple;
around his neck was a gold chain from which was hanging a gold cross set
with precious stones. His whole figure betrayed a proud man, accustomed
to command and one who had confidence in himself.
But he greeted the princess affably and even humbly, because he
remembered that her husband belonged to the family of the princes of
Mazowsze, from which came the kings, Wladyslaw and Kazimierz; and that
her mother was the reigning queen of one of the most powerful kingdoms in
the world. Therefore he passed the threshold of the gate, bowed low, and
then having made the sign of the cross over Anna Danuta and over her
court, he said;
"Welcome, gracious lady, to the threshold of this poor monastery. May
Saint Benedictus of Nursja, Saint Maurus, Saint Bonifacius, Saint
Benedictus of Aniane and also Jean of Tolomeia--our patrons living in
eternal glory,--give you health and happiness, and bless you seven times
a day during the remainder of your life."
"They would be deaf, if they did not hear the words of such a great
abbot," said the princess affably; "we came here to hear mass, during
which we will place ourselves under their protection."
Having said this she stretched her hand toward him, which he falling upon
one knee, kissed in knightly manner. Then they passed through the gate.
The monks were waiting to celebrate mass, because immediately the bells
were rung; the trumpeters blew near the church door in honor of the
princess. Every church used to make a great impression on the princess
who had not been born in a Christian country. The church in Tyniec
impressed her greatly, because there were very few churches that could
rival it in magnificence. Darkness filled the church except at the main
altar where many lights were shining, brightening the carvings and
gildings. A monk, dressed in a chasuble, came from the vestry, bowed to
the princess and commenced mass. Then the smoke from the fragrant incense
arose, veiled the priest and the altar, and mounted in quiet clouds to
the vaulted ceiling, increasing the solemn beauty of the church. Anna
Danuta bent her head and prayed fervently. But when an organ, rare in
those times, began to shake the nave with majestic thunderings, filling
it with angelic voices, then the princess raised her eyes, and her face
expressed, beside devotion and fear, a boundless delight; and one looking
at her would take her for some saint, who sees in a marvelous vision, the
Thus prayed Kiejstut's daughter, who born in heathenism, in everyday life
mentioned God's name just as everybody else did in those times,
familiarly; but in the Lord's house she used to raise her eyes with fear
and humility, toward his secret and unmeasurable power.
The whole court, although with less humility, prayed devoutly. Zbyszko
knelt among the Mazurs, and committed himself to God's protection. From
time to time he glanced at Danusia who was sitting beside the princess;
he considered it an honor to be the knight of such a girl, and that his
vow was not a trifle. He had already girded his sides with a hempen rope,
but this was only half of his vow; now it was necessary to fulfill the
other half which was more difficult. Consequently now, when he was more
serious than when in the inn drinking beer, he was anxious to discover
how he could fulfill it. There was no war. But amidst the disturbances on
the frontier, it was possible to meet some Germans, and either kill them
or lay down his own life.
He had told this to Macko. But he thought: "Not every German wears
peacock or ostrich feathers on his helmet. Only a few among the guests of
the Knights of the Cross are counts, and the Knights of the Cross
themselves are only _comthurs_; and not every one of them is a _comthur_
either. If there be no war, then years may pass before I shall get those
three crests; I have not been knighted yet and can challenge only those
who are not knights like myself. It is true I expect to receive the
girdle of a knight from the king's hands during the tournaments, which
have been announced to take place during the christening, but what will
happen then? I will go to Jurand of Spychow; he will help me kill as many
_knechts_ as possible; but that will benefit me little. The _knechts_
are not knights, with peacock feathers on their heads."
Therefore in his uncertainty, seeing that without God's special favor, he
could do nothing, he began to pray:
"Jesus, grant a war between the Knights of the Cross and the Germans who
are the foes of this kingdom and of all other nations confessing Your
Holy Name. Bless us; but crush them who would rather serve the
_starosta_ of hell, than serve you; they have hatred in their hearts
against us, being angry because our king and queen, having baptized the
Lithuanians, forbade them cut your Christian servants with the sword. For
which anger punish them!"
"And I, Zbyszko a sinner, repent before you and from your five wounds
beseech for help, that in your mercy you permit me to kill as soon as
possible three Germans having peacock feathers on their morions. These
crests I promised upon my knightly honor to Panna Anna Danuta, Jurand's
daughter, and your servant."
"If I shall find any booty on those defeated Germans, I shall faithfully
pay to holy church the tithe, in order that you also, sweet Jesus, may
have some benefit and glory through me; and also that you may know, that
I promise to you with a sincere heart. As this is true, so help me,
But as he prayed, his heart softened under the influence of his devotions
and he made another promise, which was that after having redeemed
Bogdaniec from its pledge, he would give to the church all the wax which
the bees could make during the whole year. He hoped that his Uncle Macko
would not make any opposition to this, and that the Lord Jesus would be
especially pleased with the wax for the candles, and wishing to get it,
would help him sooner. This thought seemed to him so right, that joy
filled his soul; and he was almost sure that his prayer would be heard
and that the war would soon come, so that he could accomplish his vow. He
felt such might in his legs and in his arms, that at that moment he would
have attacked a whole army. He even thought that having increased his
promises to God, he would also add for Danusia, a couple of Germans! His
youthful anger urged him to do it, but this time prudence prevailed, as
he was afraid to exhaust God's patience by asking too much.
His confidence increased, however, when after mass and a long rest, he
heard the conversation between the abbot and Anna Danuta.
The wives of the reigning kings and princes, both on account of devotion
as well as on account of the magnificent presents, sent them by the
Master of the Order, were very kindly disposed toward the Knights of the
Cross. Even the pious Jadwiga, as long as she lived, restrained her
husband's anger against them. Anna Danuta alone, having experienced
dreadful wrongs from the knights hated them with her whole soul.
Therefore when the abbot asked her about Mazowsze and its affairs, she
began to complain bitterly against the Order:
"Our affairs are in a bad condition and it cannot be otherwise with such
neighbors! Apparently it is the time of peace; they exchange ambassadors
and letters, but notwithstanding all that nobody can be sure of anything.
The one who lives on the borders of the kingdom, never knows when he goes
to bed in the evening, whether he will awaken in fetters, or with the
blade of a sword in his throat, or with a burning ceiling over his head.
Neither oaths, nor seals, nor parchment will protect from treachery. Thus
it happened at Zlotorja where during the time of peace, they seized the
prince and imprisoned him. The Knights of the Cross said that our castle
was a menace to them; but the castles are repaired for defence not for an
onset; and what prince has not the right to build and repair in his own
land? Neither the weak nor the powerful can agree with the Order, because
the knights despise the weak and try to ruin the mighty. Good deeds they
repay with evil ones. Is there anywhere in the world another order which
has received as many benefits from other kingdoms as the knights have
received from Polish princes? And how have they repaid? With threats,
with devastation of our lands, with war and with treachery. And it is
useless to complain, even to our apostolic capital, because they do not
listen to the Roman pope himself. Apparently they have sent an embassy
now for the queen's confinement and the expected christening, but only
because they wish to appease the anger of this mighty king for the evil
deeds they performed in Litwa. But in their hearts they are always
plotting means to annihilate this kingdom and the whole Polish nation."
The abbot listened attentively with approval and then said:
"I know that Comthur Lichtenstein came to Krakow at the head of the
embassy; he is very much respected in the Order for his bravery and
intelligence. Perhaps you will see him here soon, gracious lady, because
he sent me a message yesterday, saying that as he wished to pray to our
holy relics, he would pay a visit to Tyniec."
Having heard this, the princess began to complain again:
"The people say--and I am sure rightly--that there will soon be a great
war, in which on one side will be the kingdom of Poland and all the
nations speaking a language similar to the Polish tongue, and on the
other side will be all the Germans and the Order. There is a prophecy
about this war by some saint."
"Bridget," interrupted the scholarly abbot; "eight years ago she was
canonized. The pious Peter from Alvastra and Matthew from Linkoeping have
written her revelations, in which a great war has been predicted."
Zbyszko shuddered at these words, and not being able to restrain himself,
"How soon will it be?"
But the abbot being occupied with the princess, did not hear, or probably
did not wish to hear, the question.
The princess spoke further:
"Our young knights are glad that this war is coming, but the older and
prudent ones speak thus: 'We are not afraid of the Germans, although
their pride and power are great, but we are afraid of their relics,
because against those all human might is powerless.'"
Here Anna Danuta looked at the abbot with fear and added in a softer
"They say they have a true piece of the holy cross; how then can one
fight against them?"
"The French king sent it to them," answered the abbot.
There was a moment of silence, then Mikolaj of Dlugolas, called Obuch, a
man of great experience, said:
"I was in captivity among the Knights of the Cross; I saw a procession in
which they carried this great relic. But beside this, there are many
other relics in the monastery in Oliva without which the order would not
have acquired such power."
The Benedictines stretched their necks toward the speaker, and began to
ask with great curiosity:
"Tell us, what are they?"
"There is a piece of the dress of the Most Holy Virgin," answered the
_wlodyka_ of Dlugolas; "there is a molar tooth of Marya from Magdala and
branches from the bush in which God the Father revealed himself to Moses;
there is a hand of Saint Liberjus, and as for the bones of other saints,
I cannot count them on the fingers of both hands and the toes of both
"How can one fight them?" repeated the princess, sighing.
The abbot frowned, and having thought for awhile, said:
"It is difficult to fight them, for this reason; they are monks and they
wear the cross on their mantles; but if they have exceeded the measure of
their sins, then even those relics will refuse to remain with them; in
that case they will not strengthen the knights, but will take their
strength away, so that the relics can pass into more pious hands. May God
spare Christian blood; but, if a great war should come, there are some
relics in our kingdom also which will succor us."
"May God help us!" exclaimed Zbyszko.
The abbot turned toward the princess and said:
"Therefore have confidence in God, gracious lady, because their days are
numbered rather than yours. In the meanwhile, accept with grateful heart
this box, in which there is a finger of Saint Ptolomeus, one of our
The princess extended her hand and kneeling, accepted the box, which she
immediately pressed to her lips. The courtiers shared the joy of the
lady. Zbyszko was happy because it seemed to him that war would come
immediately after the Krakowian festivals.
It was in the afternoon that the princess left hospitable Tyniec and went
toward Krakow. Often the knights of those times, coming into larger
cities or castles to visit some eminent person, used to put on their
entire battle armor. It is true it was customary to take it off
immediately after they arrived at the gates; in fact it was the custom
for the host himself to invite them to remove it in these words: "Take
off your armor, noble lord; you have come to friends!" This entrance was
considered to be more dignified and to increase the importance of the
knight. To conform with this ostentatious custom Macko and Zbyszko took
with them those excellent suits of armor and shoulder-bands--won from the
conquered Fryzjan knights,--bright, shining and ornamented on the edges
with a gold band. Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who had seen the world and many
knights, and was very expert in judging war things, immediately
recognized that the suits of armor had been made by a most famous armorer
of Milan; armor which only the richest knights could afford; each of them
being worth quite a fortune. He concluded that those Fryzes were mighty
lords among their own people, and he looked with more respect on Macko
and Zbyszko. Their helmets, although not common ones, were not so rich;
but their gigantic stallions, beautifully caparisoned, excited envy and
admiration among the courtiers. Macko and Zbyszko, sitting on very high
saddles, could look down proudly at the whole court. Each held in his
hand a long spear; each had a sword at at his side and an axe at the
saddlebow. For the sake of comfort they had left their shields in the
wagons, but even without them, both men looked as though they were going
to battle and not to the city.
Both were riding near the carriage, in which was seated the princess,
accompanied by Danusia, and in front of them a dignified court lady,
Ofka, the widow of Krystyn of Jarzombkow and the old Mikolaj of Dlugolas.
Danusia looked with great interest at the two iron knights, and the
princess, pulling from time to time the box with the relics of Saint
Ptolomeus from her bosom, raised it to her lips.
"I am very anxious to see what bones are inside," said she, "but I will
not open it myself, for I do not want to offend the saint; the bishop in
Krakow will open it."
To this the cautious Mikolaj of Dlugolas answered:
"Ej, it will be better not to let this go out of your hands; it is too
precious a thing."
"May be you are right," said the princess, after a moment of reflection;
then she added:
"For a long time nobody has given me such pleasure, as this worthy abbot
has by this present; and he also calmed my fears about the relics of the
Knights of the Cross."
"He spoke wisely and well," said Macko of Bogdaniec. "At Wilno they also
had different relics, and they wanted to persuade the guests that they
were at war with the heathen. And what? Our knights noticed that if they
could only make a blow with an axe, immediately the helmet gave way and
the head fell down. The saints help--it would be a sin to say
differently--but they only help the righteous, who go to war justly in
God's name. Therefore, gracious lady, I think that if there be another
war, even if all Germans help the Knights of the Cross, we will overcome
them, because our nation is greater and the Lord Jesus will give us more
strength in our bones. As for the relics,--have we not a true particle of
the holy cross in the monastery of Holy Cross?"
"It is true, as God is dear to me," said the princess. "But ours will
remain in the monastery, while if necessary they carry theirs."
"No matter! There is no limit to God's power."
"Is that true? Tell me; how is it?" asked the princess, turning to the
wise Mikolaj of Dlugolas; and he said:
"Every bishop will affirm it. Rome is distant too, and yet the pope rules
over the whole world; cannot God do more!"
These words soothed the princess so completely that she began to converse
about Tyniec and its magnificence. The Mazurs were astonished not only at
the riches of the abbey, but also at the wealth and beauty of the whole
country through which they were now riding. All around were many
flourishing villages; near them were orchards full of trees, linden
groves, storks' nests on the linden trees, and beneath the trees were
beehives with straw roofs. Along the highway on both sides, there were
fields of all kinds of grain. From time to time, the wind bent the still
greenish sea of grain, amidst which shone like the stars in the sky, the
blue heads of the flowers of the bachelor button, and the light red wild
poppies. Far beyond the fields appeared the woods, black in the distance
but bathed in sunlight; here and there appeared moist meadows, full of
grass and birds flying round the bushes; then appeared hills with houses;
again fields; and as far as one could see, the country appeared to flow
not only with milk and honey but also with quiet and happiness.
"That is King Kazimierz' rural economy," said the princess; "it must be a
pleasure to live here."
"Lord Jesus rejoices to see such a country," answered Mikolaj of
Dlugolas; "and God's blessing is over it; but how can it be different;
when they ring the bells here, there is no corner where they cannot be
heard! And it is known that no evil spirit can endure the ringing of the
bells, and they are obliged to escape to the forests on the Hungarian
"I wonder," said Pani Ofka, the widow of Krystyn of Jarzombkow, "how
Walgierz Wdaly, about whom the monk was talking, can appear in Tyniec,
where they ring the bells seven times a day."
This remark embarrassed Mikolaj for a moment, who after thinking, quietly
"In the first place, God's decrees are not well known; and then you must
remember that every time he appears he has had special permission."
"At any rate, I am glad that we shall not pass the night in the
monastery. I would die from fear if I saw such an infernal giant."
"Hej! I doubt it, because they say, he is very handsome."
"If he were very beautiful, I would not want a kiss from such a man, from
whose mouth one could smell sulphur."
"I see that when the conversation is even about devils, you are still
thinking about kisses."
At these words the princess, Pan Mikolaj and both _wlodykas_ of Bogdaniec
began to laugh. Danusia laughed also, following the example of the
others. But Ofka of Jarzombkow turned her angry face toward Mikolaj of
Dlugolas, and said:
"I should prefer him to you."
"Ej! Don't call the wolf out of the forest;" answered the merry Mazur;
"the ghost often wanders on the high road, between Krakow and Tyniec,
especially toward night; suppose he should hear you and appear to you in
the form of a giant!"
"Let the enchantment go on the dog!" answered Ofka.
But at that moment Macko of Bogdaniec, who being seated on a high
stallion, could see further than those who were in the carriage, reined
in his horse, and said:
"O, as God is dear to me, what is it?"
"Some giant of the forest is coming!"
"And the word became flesh!" exclaimed the princess. "Don't say that!"
But Zbyszko arose in his stirrups and said:
"It is true; the giant Walgierz; nobody else!"
At this the coachman reined in the horses, but not dropping the reins,
began to make the sign of the cross, because he also perceived on an
opposite hill the gigantic figure of a horsemen.
The princess had risen; but now she sat down, her face changed with fear.
Danusia hid her face in the folds of the princess' dress. The courtiers,
ladies and _rybalts_, who were on horseback behind the carriage, having
heard the ill-omened name, began to surround the carriage. The men tried
to laugh, but there was fear in their eyes; the young girls were pale;
only Mikolaj of Dlugolas maintained his composure and wishing to
tranquilize the princess, said:
"Don't be frightened, gracious lady. The sun has not yet set; and even if
it were night, Saint Ptolomeus will manage Walgierz."
In the meanwhile, the unknown horseman, having mounted the top of the
hill, stopped his horse and stood motionless. In the rays of the setting
sun, one could see him very distinctly; his stature seemed greater than
ordinary human dimensions. The space separating him from the princess'
retinue was not more than three hundred steps.
"Why is he stopping?" asked one of the _rybalts_.
"Because we stopped," answered Macko.
"He is looking toward us as if he would like to choose somebody," said
another _rybalt_; "if I were sure he was a man and not an evil spirit, I
would go and give him a blow on the head with the lute."
The women began to pray aloud, but Zbyszko wishing to show his courage to
the princess and Danusia, said:
"I will go just the same. I am not afraid of Walgierz!"
Danusia began to scream: "Zbyszko! Zbyszko!" But he went forward and rode
swiftly, confident that even if he did meet the true Walgierz, he could
pierce him through and through with his spear.
Macko who had sharp sight, said:
"He appears like a giant because he is on the hill. It is some big man,
but an ordinary one, nothing else! Owa! I am going also, to see that he
does not quarrel with Zbyszko."
Zbyszko, while riding was debating whether he should immediately attack
with the spear, or whether first take a close view of the man standing on
the hill. He decided to view him first, and immediately persuaded himself
that it was the better thought, because as he approached, the stranger
began to lose his extraordinary size. He was a large man and was mounted
on a large horse, which was bigger than Zbyszko's stallion; yet he did
not exceed human size. Besides that he was without armor, with a velvet
cap shaped like a bell on his head; he wore a white linen dust cloak,
from beneath which a green dress could be seen. While standing on the
hill he was praying. Evidently he had stopped his horse to finish his
"It is not Walgierz," thought the boy.
He had approached so close that he could touch the unknown man with his
spear. The man who evidently was a knight, smiled at him benevolently,
"May Jesus Christ be praised!"
"For ages and ages."
"Is that the court of the Princess of Mazowsze below?"
"Yes, it is!"
"Then you come from Tyniec?"
But he did not receive any answer, because Zbyszko was so much surprised
that he did not even hear the question. For a moment he stood like a
statue, scarcely believing his own eyes, for, behold! about half a
furlong behind the unknown man, he perceived several soldiers on
horseback, at the head of whom was riding a knight clad in full armor,
with a white cloth mantle with a red cross on it, and with a steel helmet
having a magnificent peacock tuft in the crest.
"A Knight of the Cross!" whispered Zbyszko. Now he thought that God had
heard his prayers; that he had sent him the German knight for whom he had
asked in Tyniec. Surely he must take advantage of God's kindness;
therefore without any hesitation,--before all these thoughts had hardly
passed through his head, before his astonishment had diminished,--he bent
low on the saddle, let down his spear and having uttered his family
shout: "Grady! Grady!" he rushed with the whole speed of his horse
against the Knight of the Cross.
That knight was astonished also; he stopped his horse, and without
lowering his spear, looked in front of him, uncertain whether the attack
was against him or not.
"Lower your spear!" shouted Zbyszko, pricking his horse with the iron
points of the stirrups.
The distance separating them began to diminish. The Knight of the Cross
seeing that the attack was really against him, reined in his horse and
poised his spear. At the moment that Zbyszko's lance was nearly touching
his chest, a powerful hand broke it like a reed; then the same hand
reined in Zbyszko's horse with such force, that the charger stopped as
though rooted to the ground.
"You crazy man, what are you doing?" said a deep, threatening voice; "you
are attacking an envoy, you are insulting the king!"
Zbyszko glanced around and recognized the same gigantic man, whom he had
taken for Walgierz, and who had frightened the princess and her court.
"Let me go against the German! Who are you?" he cried, seizing his axe.
"Away with the axe! for God's sake! Away with the axe, I say! I will
throw you from your horse!" shouted the stranger more threateningly. "You
have offended the majesty of the king and you will be punished."
Then he turned toward the soldiers who were riding behind the Knight of
"At this time Macko appeared and his face looked threatening. He
understood that Zbyszko had acted like a madman and that the consequences
of this affair might be very serious; but he was ready to defend him just
the same. The whole retinue of the stranger and of the Knight of the
Cross contained only fifteen men, armed with spears and crossbows;
therefore two knights in full armors could fight them with some hope of
being victorious. Macko also thought that as they were threatened with
punishment, it would be better perhaps to avoid it, by overcoming these
men, and then hiding somewhere until the storm had passed over. Therefore
his face immediately contracted, like the jaws of a wolf ready to bite,
and having pushed his horse between Zbyszko and the stranger's horse, he
began to ask, meanwhile handling his sword:
"Who are you? What right have you to interfere?"
"My right is this," said the stranger, "that the king has intrusted to me
the safety of the environs of Krakow, and they call me Powala of Taczew."
At these words, Macko and Zbyszko glanced at the knight, then returned to
their scabbards the half drawn swords and dropped their heads, not
because they were frightened but in respect for this famous and very
well-known name. Powala of Taczew, a nobleman of a powerful family and a
mighty lord, possessor of large estates round Radom, was at the same time
one of the most famous knights in the kingdom. _Rybalts_ sang about him
in their songs, citing him as an example of honor and gallantry, praising
his name as much as the names of Zawisza of Garbow and Farurej, Skarbek
of Gora, Dobek of Olesnica, Janko Nanszan, Mikolaj of Moskorzowo, and
Zandram of Maszkowic. At this moment he was the representative of the
king, therefore to attack him was to put one's head under the
Macko becoming cooler, said with deep respect:
"Honor and respect to you, sir, to your fame and to your gallantry."
"Honor to you also, sir," answered Powala; "but I would prefer to make
your acquaintance under less serious circumstances."
"Why?" asked Macko.
Powala turned toward Zbyszko.
"What have you done, you youngster? You attacked an envoy on the public
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