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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knights Of The Cross - Part 2 - Chapter 1
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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 2 - Chapter 1 Post by :lucie101 Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :July 2011 Read :1273

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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 2 - Chapter 1


In merchant Amylej's house, Macko and Zbyszko were deliberating what to do. The old knight expected to die soon, and Father Cybek, a Franciscan friar who had experience in treating wounds, predicted the same; therefore he wanted to return to Bogdaniec to die and be buried beside his forefathers in the cemetery in Ostrow.

But not all of his forefathers were buried there. In days of yore it had been a numerous family of _wlodykas_. During the war their cry was: "Grady!" On their shields, because they claimed to be better _wlodykas than the others who had no right to a coat of arms, they had emblazoned a Tempa Podkowa. In 1331, in the battle of Plowce, seventy warriors from Bogdaniec were killed in the marshes by German archers. Only one Wojciech, called Tur, escaped. After this defeat by the Germans, the king, Wladyslaw Lokietek, granted him a coat of arms and the estate of Bogdaniec as a special privilege. Wojciech returned home, only to discover the complete annihilation of his family.

While the men of Bogdaniec were perishing from German arrows, the _Raubritters of Szlonsk fell upon their homes, burned their buildings, and slaughtered or took into slavery the peasants. Wojciech remained alone, the heir of a large but devastated tract of land, which formerly belonged to the whole family of _wlodykas_. Five years afterward he married and he begot two sons, Jasko and Macko. Afterward he was killed in a forest by an urus.(58)

(Footnote 58: The bison of Pliny; the urus of Caesar.
The bison, destroyed in all other countries of Europe,
is only to be found in Poland in the forest of
Bialowieza, where a special body of guards takes
care of this rare animal.)


The sons grew up under the mother's care. Her maiden name was Kachna of Spalenica. She was so brave that she conducted two successful expeditions against the Germans of Szlonsk to avenge former wrongs; but in the third expedition she was killed. Before that, however, she built with the help of the slaves, a _grodek_(59) in Bogdaniec; on account of that, Jasko and Macko, although from their former estates of _wlodykas were called _wlodykas_, now became men of importance. When Jasko became of age, he married Jagienka of Mocarzew, and begot Zbyszko; Macko remained unmarried. He took care of his nephew's property as far as his war expeditions permitted.

(Footnote 59: It means here a fort, a stronghold, a castle.)

But when during the civil war between Grzymalits and Nalenczs, Bogdaniec was again burned and the peasants scattered, Macko could not restore it, although he toiled for several years. Finally he pledged the land to his relative, the abbot, and with Zbyszko who was small, he went to Lithuania to fight against the Germans.

But he had never forgotten about Bogdaniec. He went to Litwa hoping to become rich from booty so as to return to Bogdaniec, redeem the land from his pledge, colonize it with slaves, rebuild the _grodek and settle Zbyszko on it. Therefore now, after Zbyszko's lucky deliverance, they were discussing this matter at the house of the merchant, Amylej.

They had money enough to redeem the land they possessed quite a fortune gathered from the booty, from the ransoms paid by the knights captured by them, and from Witold's presents. They had received great benefit from that fight with the two Fryzjan knights. The suits of armor alone, were worth what was considered in those times quite a fortune; beside the armor, they had captured wagons, people, clothes, money and rich implements of war. The merchant Amylej had just purchased many of these things, and among them two pieces of beautiful Flemish broadcloth. Macko sold the splendid armor, because he thought that he would have no use for it. The merchant sold it the next day to Marcin of Wrocimowice, whose coat of arms was Polkoza. He sold it for a large sum, because in those times the suits of armor made in Milan were considered the best in the world and were expensive. Zbyszko regretted very much that they sold it.

"If God give you back your health," said he, to his uncle, "where will you find another like it?"

"There, where I found this one; on some German," answered Macko. "But I shall not escape death. The head of the spear will not come out from my body. When I tried to pull it out with my hands, I pushed it in further. And now there is no help."

"You must drink two or three pots of bear's grease."

"Bah! Father Cybek also said that would be a good thing. But where can I get it here? In Bogdaniec one could very easily kill a bear!"

"Then we must go to Bogdaniec! Only you must not die on the road."

Old Macko looked at his nephew with tenderness.

"I know where you would like to go; to the Prince Janusz's court, or to Jurand of Spychow, and fight the Germans of Chelminsko."

"I will not deny it. I would be glad to go to Warszawa with the princess' court, or to go to Ciechanow; and I would remain as long as possible with Danusia, because now she is not only my lady, but my love also. I tremble when I think of her! I shall follow her even to the end of the world; but now you are first. You did not desert me, therefore I will never abandon you. We must go to Bogdaniec."

"You are a good man," said Macko.

"God would punish me, if I were not mindful of you. Look, they are getting ready! I ordered one wagon to be filled with hay. Amylejowna has made us a present of a feather bed, but I am afraid it will be too warm for you. We will travel slowly, in company with the princess' court, so that you may have good care. When they turn toward Mazowsze, we will turn toward home; may God help us!"

"If I can only live long enough to rebuild the _grodek_!" exclaimed Macko. "I know that after my death, you will not think anything more about Bogdaniec."

"Why will I not?"

"Because your head will be filled with thoughts of battles and of love."

"Did you not think yourself about war? I have planned what I must do; in the first place, I will rebuild the _grodek_."

"Do you mean to do that?" asked Macko, "Well, and when the _grodek is finished?"

"When the _grodek is rebuilt, then I will go to Warszawa to the prince's court, or to Ciechanow."

"After my death?"

"If you die soon, then after your death; but before I go, I will bury you properly; if the Lord Jesus restore your health, then you will remain in Bogdaniec. The princess promised me that I should receive my knightly girdle from the prince. Otherwise Lichtenstein will not fight with me."

"Then afterward you will go to Marienburg?"

"To Marienburg, or even to the end of the world to reach Lichtenstein."

"I do not blame you for it! Either he or you must die!"

"I will bring his girdle and his gloves to Bogdaniec; do not be frightened!"

"You must look out for treachery. There is plenty among them."

"I will bow to Prince Janusz and ask him to send to the grand master for a safe conduct. There is peace now. I will go to Marienburg, where there are always many knights. Then you know? In the first place, Lichtenstein; then I will look for those who wear peacock's tufts, and I will challenge them in turn. If the Lord Jesus grant me victory, then I will fulfill my vow."

Speaking thus, Zbyszko smiled at his own thoughts; his face was like that of a lad who tells what knightly deeds he will perform when he is a man.

"Hej!" said Macko; "if you defeat three knights belonging to great families, then you will not only fulfill your vow, but you will bring some booty!"

"Three!" exclaimed Zbyszko. "In the prison I promised myself, that I would not be selfish with Danusia. As many knights as I have fingers on both hands!"

Macko shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you surprised?" said Zbyszko. "From Marienburg I shall go to Jurand of Spychow. Why should I not bow to him, he is Danusia's father? With him I shall attack the Germans of Chelminsko. You told me yourself that in the whole of Mazowsze there was no greater ware-wolf against the Germans."

"And if he will not give you Danusia?"

"Why not? He is seeking his vengeance. I am searching for mine. Can he find a better man? And then, the princess has given her consent for the betrothal; he will not refuse."

"I see one thing," said Macko, "you will take all the people from Bogdaniec in order to have a retinue, as is proper for a knight, and the land will remain without hands to till it. As long as I live, I will not let you do it; but after my death, I see, you will take them."

"The Lord God will help me to get a retinue; Janko of Tulcza is a relation of ours and he will help me also."

At that moment the door opened, and as though to prove that the Lord God would help Zbyszko get a retinue, two men entered. They were dark-complexioned, short, dressed in Jewish-like yellow caftans, red caps and very wide trousers. They stopped in the doorway and touched their fingers to their foreheads, to their mouths, and then to their chests; then they bowed to the ground.

"Who are these devils?" asked Macko. "Who are you?"

"Your slaves," answered the newcomers in broken Polish.

"For what reason? Where from? Who sent you here?"

"_Pan Zawisza sent us here as a present to the young knight, to be his slaves."

"O for God's sake! two men more!" exclaimed Macko, joyfully.

"Of what nationality are you?"

"We are Turks!"

"Turks?" repeated Zbyszko. "I shall have two Turks in my retinue. Have you ever seen Turks?"

And having jumped toward them, he began to turn them around and to look at them curiously. Macko said:

"I have never seen them; but I have heard, that the _Pan of Garbow has Turks in his service whom he captured while fighting on the Danube with the Roman emperor, Zygmunt. How is it? Are you heathens, your dog-brothers?"

"The lord ordered us to be baptized," said one of the slaves.

"Did you have no money for ransom?"

"We are from far lands, from Asiatic shores, from Brussa."

Zbyszko, who always listened gladly to war stories, and especially when there was anything told about the deeds of the famous Zawisza of Garbow, began to inquire how they were captured. But there was nothing extraordinary in their narration; Zawisza attacked them in a ravine, part of them perished and part were captured; and he sent the prisoners as presents to his different friends. Zbyszko and Macko's hearts were throbing at the sight of such a noble gift, especially as it was difficult to get men in those days and the possession of them constituted true wealth.

In the meanwhile, Zawisza himself accompanied by Powala and Paszko Zlodzie; of Biskupice arrived. As they had all worked hard to free Zbyszko, they were pleased when they succeeded; therefore everyone of them gave him some present as a souvenir. The liberal _Pan of Taczew gave him a beautiful large caparison embroidered with gold; Paszko, a Hungarian sword and ten _grzywiens_.(60) Then came Lis of Targowisko, Farurej and Krzon of Kozieglowy, with Marcin of Wrocimowice and finally Zyndram of Maszkow; everyone brought rich presents.

(Footnote 60: Grzywna or mark was equal to half pound of silver.)


Zbyszko welcomed them with a joyful heart, feeling very happy on account of the presents and because the most famous knights in the kingdom were showing him their friendship. They asked him about his departure and Macko's health, recommending to the latter, different remedies which would miraculously heal wounds.

But Macko recommended Zbyszko to their care, being ready himself for the other world. He said that it was impossible to live with an iron spear head between the ribs. He complained also that he spit blood and could not eat. A quart of shelled nuts, a sausage two spans long and a dish of boiled eggs were all he could eat at once. Father Cybek had bled him several times, hoping in that way to draw out the fever from around his heart, and restore his appetite; but it had not helped him any.

But he was so pleased with the presents given to his nephew, that at that moment he was feeling better, and when the merchant, Amylej, ordered a barrel of wine brought in honor of such famous guests, Macko drank with them. They began to talk about Zbyszko's deliverance and about his betrothal with Danusia. The knights did not doubt that Jurand of Spychow would give his consent, especially if Zbyszko avenged the death of Danusia's mother and captured the peacock tufts.

"But as for Lichtenstein," said Zawisza, "I do not think he will accept your challenge, because he is a friar, and also one of the officers in the Order. Bah! The people of his retinue told me that perhaps he would be elected grand master!"

"If he refuse to fight, he will lose his honor," said Lis of Targowisko.

"No," answered Zawisza, "because he is not a lay knight; and a friar is not permitted to fight in single combat."

"But it often happens that they do fight."

"Because the Order has become corrupt. The knights make different vows; but they often break them, thus setting a bad example to the whole Christian world. But a Krzyzak, especially a _comthur_, is not obliged to accept a challenge."

"Ha! Then only in war can you reach him."

"But they say, that there will be no war," said Zbyszko, "because the Knights of the Cross are afraid of our nation."

To this Zyndram of Maszkow said:

"This peace will not last long. There cannot be a good understanding with the wolf, because he must live on the goods of others."

"In the meantime, perhaps we will be obliged to fight with Tymur the Lame," said Powala. "Prince Witold was defeated by Edyga; that is certain."

"Certain. _Wojewoda Spytko will not return," said Paszko Zlodziej of Biskupice.

"The late queen prophesied it would be so," said the _Pan of Taczew.

"Ha! Then perhaps we will be obliged to go against Tymur."

Here the conversation was tunned to the Lithuanian expedition against the Tartars. There was no doubt that Prince Witold, that able commander being rather impetuous, had been badly defeated at Worskla, where a great number of the Lithuanian _bojars and also a few Polish knights were killed. The knights now gathered in Amylej's house, pitied especially Spytek of Melsztyn, the greatest lord in the kingdom, who went with the expedition as a volunteer; and after the battle he was lost--nobody knew where. They praised his chivalrous deed, and told how he, having received from the commander of the enemy a protective _kolpak_,(61) would not wear it during the battle, preferring honorable death to life granted him by the ruler of a heathen nation. But it was not certain yet, whether he had perished, or was in captivity. If he were a prisoner, he could pay his ransom himself, because his riches were enormous, and he also held in fief the whole Podole from King Wladyslaw.

(Footnote 61: High sharp pointed hat.)

But the defeat of Witold's army might prove ruinous to the whole of Jagiello's empire. Nobody knew when the Tartars, encouraged by the victory over Witold, might now invade the lands and cities belonging to the grand dukedom. In that case the kingdom of Poland would be involved in a war. Therefore many knights, who like Zawisza, Farurej, Dobko and even Powala, were accustomed to seek adventures and fights in foreign countries, remained in Krakow not knowing what might soon happen. In case Tamerlan, who was the ruler of twenty-seven states, moved the whole Mongolian world, then the peril to the kingdom would be great.

"If it be necessary, then we will measure our swords with the Lame. With us it will not be such an easy matter as it was with those other nations, which he conquered and exterminated. Then the other Christian princes will help us."

To this Zyndram of Maszkow, who especially hated the Order, said bitterly:

"I do not know about the princes; but the Knights of the Cross are ready to become friends even with the Tartars and attack us from the other side."

"Then we shall have a war!" exclaimed Zbyszko. "I am against the Krzyzaks!"

But the other knights began to contradict Zyndram. "The Knights of the Cross have no fear of God, and they seek only their own advantage; but they will not help the pagans against Christian people. And then Tymur is at war somewhere in Asia, and the commander of the Tartars, Edyga, lost so heavily in the battle, that he is afraid even of victory. Prince Witold is a man full of expedients, and you may be sure he took precautions; and even if this time the Lithuanians were not successful, at any rate it is not a new thing for them to overcome the Tartars."

"We have to fight for life and death; not with the Tartars but with the Germans," said Zyndram of Maszkow, "and if we do not crush them, our peril will come from them."

Then he turned toward Zbyszko:

"And in the first place Mazowsze will perish. You will always find plenty to do there; be not afraid!"

"Hej! if my uncle were well, I would go there immediately."

"God help you!" said Powala, raising a glass.

"Yours and Danusia's health!"

"To the destruction of the Germans!" added Zyndram of Maszkow.

Then they began to say farewell. At that moment one of the princess' courtiers entered with a falcon on his arm; and having bowed to the knights who were present, he turned with a peculiar smile to Zbyszko:

"The lady princess wished me to tell you," said he, "that she will stay in Krakow over night, and will start on the journey to-morrow."

"That is well," said Zbyszko; "but why? Is anybody sick?"

"No. But the princess has a visitor from Mazowsze."

"The prince himself?"

"Not the prince, but Jurand of Spychow," answered the courtier.

Having heard this, Zbyszko became very much confused, and his heart began to throb as it did when they read the sentence of death to him.

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PART FIRST: CHAPTER VIII The next day, the court servants began to make preparations in the market square, to build the scaffold which was to be erected opposite the principal gate of the city hall. The princess, however, was still consulting with Wojciech Jastrzembiec, Stanislaw of Skarbimierz and other learned canons, who were familiar with the written laws and also with the laws sanctioned by custom. She was encouraged in these efforts by the castellan's words, when he said, that if they showed him "law or pretext," he would free Zbyszko. Therefore they consulted earnestly, to ascertain if there were any