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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 1
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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 1 Post by :dantro Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :July 2011 Read :994

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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 1


Jurand, finding himself in the castleyard, did not know at first where to go, because the servant, who had led him through the gate, had left him and gone toward the stables. It is true, the soldiers stood near the palisades, either singly or in groups, but their faces were so insolent, and their looks so derisive, that the knight could easily guess that they would not show him the way, and even if they were to make a reply to his question, it would be a brutal or an indignant one.

Some laughed, pointing at him with their fingers, others commenced to throw snow at him, like yesterday. But he, noticing a door larger than the others, over which was cut out in stone Christ on a cross, turned to it, thinking that if the count and the elders were in another part of the castle or in other rooms, somebody must set him right.

And so it happened. The instant Jurand approached that particular door, both halves of it opened suddenly, and there stood before it a youth with a head shaven like the clericals, but dressed in a worldly dress, who inquired:

"Are you Sir Jurand of Spychow?"

"I am."

"The pious count ordered me to guide you. Follow me."

And he commenced to lead him through a great vaulted vestibule toward a staircase. At the stairs though he halted, and casting a glance at Jurand, again inquired:

"But have you no weapon with you? I was ordered to search you."

Jurand threw up his arms, so that his guide might be able to view his whole figure, and replied:

"Yesterday I gave up everything."

Then the guide lowered his voice and said almost in a whisper:

"Be careful then not to break out into anger, because you are under might and superior force."

"But also under God's will," returned Jurand.

Then he looked more carefully at his guide, and observing in his face something in the nature of mercy and sympathy, said:

"Honesty looks through your eyes, young man! Will you answer sincerely to what I question?"

"Make haste, sir," said the guide.

"Will they return the child to me?"

And the youth raised his brows wonderingly.

"Is your child here?"

"My daughter."

"That lady in the tower near the gate?"

"Yes. They promised to send her away if I surrendered to them."

The guide waved his hand to signify that he knew nothing, but his face expressed trouble and doubt.

Then Jurand further asked:

"Is it true, that Shomberg and Markward are watching her?"

"Those brethren are not in the castle. Take her away though, sir, ere the nobleman Danveld regains his health."

Hearing that, Jurand shivered, but there was no time to ask any more questions, because they had arrived at the hall on the upper floor in which Jurand was to face the chief Shchycienski. The youth, after having opened the door, retreated toward the stairs.

The knight of Spychow entered and found himself in a roomy apartment, very dark, because the lead-framed, oval-shaped panes transmitted very little light; furthermore the day was wintry and cloudy. There was, it is true, a fire burning in a large chimney at the other end of the apartment, but the green logs produced little flame. Only after a time, when Jurand's eyes became used to the darkness, he distinguished a table behind which were knights sitting, and behind them a whole group of armed warriors and servants also armed, among whom the castle fool held a tame bear by a chain.

Jurand had frequently met Danveld some time before, and afterward had seen him twice at the court of the prince of Mazowsze, as delegate, but several years had passed since that time; yet, notwithstanding the darkness, he recognized him instantly, because of his obesity, his face, and finally because he sat in the centre behind the table in an armchair, his hand being circled by wooden splints and resting upon the arm of the chair. To his right sat the old Zygfried von Loeve of Insburk, an inexorable foe of the Polish race in general, and particularly of Jurand of Spychow; to his left were the younger brethren, Godfried and Rotgier. Danveld had invited them purposely, to witness his triumph over a threatening foe, and at the same time to enjoy the fruits of the treason which they had plotted together, and in the accomplishment of which they had assisted. They sat now comfortably dressed in soft dark cloth, with light swords at their sides. They were joyous and self-confident, and looking upon Jurand with that pride and extreme contempt which they always bore in their hearts toward the weaker and vanquished.

The silence lasted a long while, because they wished to satiate themselves with the sight of the man whom they had previously dreaded, and who stood before them now with his head bowed upon his breast, and dressed like a penitent in sackcloth, and with a rope around his neck, upon which was suspended the scabbard of his sword.

They also apparently wanted as great a number of people as possible to witness his humiliation, for through a side door, leading into other rooms, whoever pleased entered, and the hall was nearly half filled with armed men. They all looked with extreme eagerness at Jurand, conversing loudly and making remarks about him.

But he gained confidence, at the sight of them, because he thought to himself:

"If Danveld did not wish to keep his promise, he would not have ordered so many witnesses."

Meanwhile Danveld raised his hand, and stopped the conversation; he then made a sign to one of the warriors, who approached Jurand, and catching the rope which encircled his neck, dragged him a few steps nearer the table.

And Danveld looked triumphantly at those present and said:

"Look, how the power of religion defeats anger and pride."

"May God always grant it so!" answered those present.

Then again followed a moment of silence, after which Danveld turned to the prisoner:

"You were biting the faith like a mad dog, therefore God has caused you to stand before us, with a rope around your neck, looking for charity and mercy."

"Do not compare me with a dog, count," replied Jurand, "because you thus lower the honor of those who met me and fell under my hand."

At these words the armed Germans commenced to murmur: it was not known whether the daring answer aroused their anger or whether they were struck by its justice.

But the count, dissatisfied at such a turn of the conversation, said:

"Look, even now he spits into our eyes with arrogance and pride!"

Jurand then raised his hands, like a man who calls heaven to witness, and shaking his head, answered:

"God sees that my arrogance remained outside your gate; God sees and will judge, whether in dishonoring my knighthood, you did not dishonor yourself. There is the honor of a nobleman, which every one who has a belt around him, should respect."

Danveld wrinkled his brows, but at that moment the castle fool started to rattle the chain to which he had fastened the bear, and called out:

"Sermon! sermon! the preacher from Mazowsze has arrived! Listen! to the sermon!"

Then turning to Danveld, he said:

"Sir! Duke Rosenheim ordered his sexton to eat the bell-rope from knot to knot whenever the latter awakened him too early for the sermon. This preacher has also a rope around his neck--make him also eat it up before he finishes his sermon."

And, having said this, he gazed at the count in some alarm, being uncertain whether the count would laugh or whether his inappropriate remark would result in an order for a flogging for him. But the religious brethren, gentle, well-behaved, and even humble, whenever they felt they were not in power, did not know any limits before the defeated; therefore, Danveld not only nodded his head at the bear-leader as a sign that he permitted the mockery, but he himself burst out with such unheard-of roughness that the faces of the younger warriors expressed astonishment.

"Don't complain that you were put to shame," he said, "because even if I had made you a dogcatcher, a religious dogcatcher is better than you, knight!"

And the encouraged fool commenced to shout: "Bring the currycomb, comb the bear, and he in turn will comb your shags with his paws."

At that, laughter was heard here and there, and a voice exclaimed from behind the religious brethren:

"You will cut reeds on the lake in the summer!"

"And catch crabs with your carcass!" exclaimed another.

A third added: "And now begin to drive away the crows from the hanging thief! There will always be plenty of work for you."

Thus they made fun of the once terrible Jurand. The assembly gradually became joyous. Some, leaving the table, began to approach the prisoner and look at him closely, saying:

"This is the wild boar of Spychow, whose tusks our count has knocked out; his snout is surely foaming; he would gladly tear somebody, but he cannot!"

Danveld and others of the religious brethren, who at first had wished to give the hearing the solemn appearance of a court, seeing that the affair had turned out differently, also arose from their benches and mingled with those who approached Jurand.

The old Zygfried of Insburk was dissatisfied at that, but the count himself said:

"Be cheerful, there will be a greater joy yet!"

And they also commenced to look at Jurand, for this was a rare opportunity, because when any of the knights or servants had seen him before from so near, they had usually closed their eyes forever. Some of them also remarked:

"He is broad shouldered, although he has a fur beneath his sack; he could be wrapped up with pease straw, and exhibited in country fairs."

Others again commenced to ask for beer in order to make the day a still pleasanter one.

And so in a few moments flowing pitchers began to clink and the dark hall became covered with the foam escaping from under the covers. The good-humored count said:

"That is just right, let him not think that his disgrace is of great importance!"

So they again approached him, and touching his chin with their pewters, said:

"You would like to drink, Mazovian snout!" and others, pouring the beer into their palms, cast it into his eyes, while he stood among them stunned and abused, until at last he moved toward the old Zygfried, and apparently feeling that he could not stand it any longer, he began to cry so loudly as to deafen the noise in the hall:

"By the torture of the Saviour and the salvation of the soul, restore to me my child, as you promised!"

And he attempted to seize the right hand of the old count who quickly withdrew and said:

"Avaunt, prisoner! what dost thou want?"

"I released Bergow from prison, and came myself, because in return you promised to restore my child who is here."

"Who promised you that?" inquired Danveld.

"By the soul and faith, you, count!"

"You will not find any witnesses, but they amount to nothing, if honor and word are in question."

"Upon your honor, upon that of the Order," exclaimed Jurand.

"Then your daughter will be returned to you!" replied Danveld, and, turning to the others, remarked: "All that has happened to him here is an innocent trifle in comparison with his violence and crimes. But since we promised to return his daughter if he should appear and submit himself to us, then know, that the word of a Knight of the Cross is, like God's word, irreproachable, and that that girl, whom we saved from the hands of robbers, shall now be given her liberty, and after an exemplary penance for his sins against the Order, he also shall be allowed to go back to his home."

Such a speech astounded some, because, knowing Danveld and his old hatred for Jurand, they did not expect such honesty from him. Therefore old Zygfried, together with Rotgier and Brother Godfried, looked at him, raising and wrinkling their brows with astonishment, but he pretended not to observe their inquiring looks and said:

"I'll send your daughter back under guard, but you must remain here until our guard returns safely and until you have paid your ransom."

Jurand himself was somewhat astonished, because he had ceased to hope that his sacrifice would be of any use to Danusia; he therefore looked at Danveld, almost with thankfulness and replied:

"May God reward you, count!"

"Recognize the Knights of the Cross," said Danveld.

"All mercy from Him!" replied Jurand; "but, since it is long since I saw my child, permit me to see and bless my girl."

"Bah, and not otherwise than before all of us, so that there may be witnesses of our good faith and mercy."

Then he ordered the warriors standing near to bring Danusia, while he himself approached von Loeve, Rotgier and Godfried, who surrounded him and commenced a quick and animated conversation.

"I do not oppose you, although this was not your object," said old Zygfried.

And the hot Rotgier, famous for his courage and cruelties, said: "How is this? not only the girl but also that devilish dog is going to be liberated, that he may bite again?"

"He will bite not that way only!" exclaimed Godfried.

"Bah! he will pay ransom!" lazily replied Danveld.

"Even if he should return everything, in a year he will have robbed twice as much."

"I shall not object as to the girl," repeated Zygfried; "but this wolf will yet make the sheep of the Order weep more than once."

"And our word?" queried Danveld, laughingly.

"You spoke differently...."

Danveld shrugged his shoulders. "Did you not have enough pleasure?" he inquired. "Do you wish more?"

Others surrounded Jurand again and commenced to brag before him, praising the upright conduct of Danveld, and the impression it made upon the members of the Order.

"And what bone breaker!" said the captain of the castle-archers. "Your heathen brethren would not have treated our Christian knights so!"

"You drank our blood?"

"And we give you bread for stones."

But Jurand paid no attention either to the pride or to the contempt which their words contained: his heart swelled and his eyelashes were moist. He thought that he would see Danusia in a moment, and that he would see her actually by their favor; he therefore gazed at the speakers almost with humility, and finally said:

"True! true! I used to be hard on you but ... not treacherous."

That instant a voice at the other end of the hall suddenly cried: "They are bringing the girl;" and immediately silence reigned throughout the hall. The soldiers scattered to both sides, because none of them had ever seen Jurand's daughter, and the majority of them did not even know of her presence in the castle on account of the secrecy with which Danveld surrounded his actions; but those who knew, whispered to one another about her admirable grace. All eyes turned with extreme curiosity toward the door through which she was to appear.

Meanwhile a warrior appeared in front followed by the well-known servant of the Order, the same woman that rode to the court in the forest. After her entered a girl dressed in white, with loose hair tied with a ribbon on the forehead.

And suddenly one great outburst of laughter, like the roaring of thunder, rang through the entire hall. Jurand, who at the first moment had sprung toward his daughter, suddenly recoiled and stood as pale as linen, looking with surprise at the ill-shaped head, the bluish lips, and the expressionless eyes of the wench who was restored to him as Danusia.

"This is not my daughter!" he said, in a terrifying voice.

"Not your daughter?" exclaimed Danveld. "By the holy Liboryusz of Paderborn! Then either we did not rescue your daughter from the murderers or some wizard has changed her, because there is no other in Szczytno."

Old Zygfried, Rotgier and Godfried exchanged quick glances with each other, full of admiration at the shrewdness of Danveld, but none of them had time enough to speak, because Jurand began to shout with a terrible voice:

"She is, she is in Szczytno! I heard her sing, I heard the voice of dear Danusia!"

Upon that Danveld turned to those assembled and said quietly but pointedly:

"I take you all present as witnesses and especially you, Zygfried of Insburk, and you pious brothers, Rotgier and Godfried, that, according to my word and given promise, I restore that girl, who was said by the robbers whom we defeated, to be the daughter of Jurand of Spychow. If she is not--it is not our fault, but rather the will of our Lord, who in that manner wished to deliver Jurand into our hands."

Zygfried and the two younger brethren bowed to signify that they heard and would testify in case of necessity. Then again they glanced quickly at each other, because it was more than they ever could have expected to capture Jurand, not to restore his daughter, and still ostensibly to keep a promise; who else could do that?

But Jurand threw himself upon his knees and commenced to conjure Danveld by all the relics in Malborg, then by the ashes and heads of his parents, to restore to him his true child and not proceed like a swindler and traitor, breaking oaths and promises. His voice contained so much despair and truth, that some began to suspect treason; others again thought that some wizard had actually changed the appearance of the girl.

"God looks upon your treason!" exclaimed Jurand. "By the Saviour's wounds, by the hour of your death, return my child!"

And arising, he went bent double toward Danveld, as if he wished to embrace his knees; and his eyes glittered with madness, and his voice broke alternately with pain, fear, and dread. Danveld, hearing the accusations of treason and deceit in presence of all, commenced to snort, and at length his features worked with rage; so that like a flame in his desire utterly to crush the unfortunate, he advanced and bending down to his ear, whispered through his set teeth: "If I ever give her up, it will be with my bastard...."

But at that very moment Jurand roared like a bull, and with both hands he caught Danveld and raised him high in the air.

The hall still resounded with the terrible cry: "Save me!" when the body of the count struck the stone floor with such terrible force that the brains from the shattered skull bespattered Zygfried and Rotgier who stood by. Jurand sprang to the wall, near which stood the arms, and snatching a large two-handed weapon, ran like a storm at the Germans, who were petrified with terror. The people were used to battles, butchery and blood, and yet their hearts sank to such an extent that even after the panic had passed, they commenced to retreat and escape like a flock of sheep before a wolf who kills with one stroke of his claws. The hall resounded with the cry of terror, with the sound of human footsteps, the clang of the overturned vessels, the howling of the servants, the growling of the bear, who, tearing himself out of the hands of the trainer, started to climb on a high window, and a terror-stricken cry for arms and targets, weapons and crossbows. Finally weapons gleamed, and a number of sharp points were directed toward Jurand, but he, not caring for anything, half crazed, sprang toward them, and there commenced an unheard-of wild fight, resembling a butchery more than a contest of arms. The young and fiery Brother Godfried was the first to intercept Jurand's way, but he severed his head, hand and shoulder-blade with a lightning swing of his weapon; after him fell by Jurand's hand the captain of the archers, and the castle administrator, von Bracht and the Englishman Hugues, who, although he did not very well understand the cause, pitied Jurand and his sufferings, and only drew his weapon when Danveld was killed. Others, seeing the terrible force and the fury of the man, gathered closely together, so as to offer combined resistance, but this plan brought about a still greater defeat, because he, with his hair standing upright on his head, with maddened eyes, covered all over with blood, panting, raging and furious, broke, tore and cut with terrible strokes of his sword that battered group, casting men to the floor, splashed all over with clotted blood, as a storm overturns bushes and trees. Then followed a moment of terrific fright, in which it seemed that this terrible Mazovian, all by himself, would hew and slay all these people. Like a pack of barking hounds that cannot overpower a fierce boar without the assistance of the hunters, so were those armed Germans; they could not match his might and fierceness in that fight which resulted only in their death and discomfiture.

"Scatter! surround him! strike from behind!" shrieked old Zygfried von Loeve.

They consequently dispersed through the hall like a flock of starlings in the field upon which a hawk with crooked beak swoops from a height, but they could not surround him, because, in the heat of the fight, instead of looking for a place of defence, he commenced to chase them around the walls and whoever was overtaken died as if thunderstruck. Humiliation, despair, disappointed hope, changed into one thirst for blood, seemed to multiply tenfold his terrific natural strength. A weapon, for which the most powerful of the Knights of the Cross needed both hands, he managed to wield with one as if it were a feather. He did not care for his life, nor look for escape; he did not even crave for victory; he sought revenge, and like a fire, or like a river, which breaking a dam, blindly destroys everything obstructing its flow, so he, a terrible, blindfolded destroyer, tore, broke, trampled, killed and extinguished human beings. They could not hurt him in his back, because, in the beginning they were unable to overtake him; moreover the common soldiers feared to come near him even from behind; they knew that if he happened to turn no human power could save them from death. Others were simply terror-stricken at the thought, that an ordinary man could cause so much havoc, and that they were dealing with a man who was aided by some superhuman power.

But old Zygfried, and with him Brother Rotgier, rushed to the gallery which extended above the large windows of the hall, and commenced to call others to take shelter after them; these did so in haste, so that, on the narrow stairs, they pushed each other in their desire to get up as quickly as possible and thence to strike the strong knight, with whom any hand to hand struggle appeared to them impossible.

Finally, the last one banged the door leading to the gallery and Jurand remained alone below. From the gallery the sounds of joy and triumph reached him, and soon heavy oak benches and iron collars of torches began to fall upon the nobleman. One of the missiles struck him on the forehead and bathed his face with blood. At the same time the large entrance door opened, and through the upper windows the summoned servants rushed into the hall in a body, armed with pikes, halberds, axes, crossbows, palisades, poles, ropes and all varieties of weapons, which they could hurriedly get hold of. And with his left hand the mad Jurand wiped the blood from his face, so as not to obstruct his sight, gathered himself together, and threw himself at the entire throng. In the hall again resounded groans, the clash of iron, the gnashing of teeth and the piercing voices of the slain men.

In the same hall, behind the table that evening, sat old Zygfried von Loeve, who, after the bailiff Danveld, temporarily took command of Szczytno, and near him were Brother Rotgier, and the knight von Bergow, a former prisoner of Jurand's and two noble youths, novices, who were soon to put on white mantles. The wintry storm was howling outside the windows, shaking the leaden window-frames; the torchlights, which were burning in iron frames, wavered, and now and then the wind drove clouds of smoke from the chimney into the hall. Silence reigned among the brethren, although they were assembled for a consultation, because they were waiting for the word from Zygfried, who, again resting his elbows on the table and running his hands over his grey and bowed head, sat gloomy with his face in the shadow and with sullen thoughts in his soul.

"About what are we to deliberate?" finally asked Brother Rotgier.

Zygfried raised his head, looked at the speaker, and, awakening from thought, said:

"About the defeat, about what the master and the assembly will say, and about this, that our actions may not cause any loss to the Order." He was silent again, but after a while he looked around and moved his nostrils: "There is still a smell of blood here."

"No, count," replied Rotgier; "I ordered the floor to be scrubbed and the place to be fumigated with sulphur. It is the odor of sulphur."

And Zygfried looked at those present with a strange glance, and said: "God have mercy upon the soul of our brothers Danveld and Godfried!"

They again understood that he implored God's mercy upon their souls, because, at the mention of sulphur, he thought of hell; therefore a chill ran through their bones and all at once replied: "Amen! amen! amen!" After a moment the howling of the wind and the rattling of the window-frames were heard again.

"Where are the bodies of the count and Brother Godfried?" inquired the old man.

"In the chapel: the priests are chanting the litany over them."

"Are they already in coffins?"

"In coffins, only the count's head is covered, because his skull and face are crushed."

"Where are the other corpses, and where are the wounded?"

"The corpses are in the snow so as to stiffen whilst the coffins are being made, and the wounded are being attended to in the hospital."

Zygfried again ran his hands over his head.

"And one man did that!... God, have the Order under Thy care, when it comes to a great war with this wolfish race!"

Upon that Rotgier turned up his eyes, as if recollecting something, and said: "I heard in Wilno, how the bailiff of Samboz spoke to his brother the master: 'If you do not make a great war and get rid of them, so that even their name shall not remain, then woe to us and our nation.'"

"May God give such a war and a meeting with them!" said one of the noble novices.

Zygfried looked at him for some time, as if he wanted to say: "You could have met one of them to-day," but seeing the small and youthful figure of the novice, and perhaps remembering that he himself, although famous for his courage, did not care to expose himself to a sure destruction, refrained and inquired:

"Who saw Jurand?"

"I," replied von Bergow.

"Is he alive?"

"Yes, he lies in the same net in which we entrapped him. When he awoke the servants wanted to kill him, but the chaplain would not allow it."

"He cannot be executed. He is too great a man among his people, and there would be a terrible clamor," replied Zygfried. "It will be also impossible to hide what has happened, because there were too many witnesses."

"What then are we to say and do?" inquired Rotgier.

Zygfried meditated, and finally said:

"You, noble Count von Bergow go to Malborg to the master. You were groaning in Jurand's slavery, and are now a guest of the Order; therefore as such, and because you need not necessarily speak in favor of the monks, they will rather believe you. Tell, then, what you saw, that Danveld, having recovered from a band of rogues a certain girl and thinking her to be Jurand's daughter, informed the latter, who also came to Szczytno, and what happened further you know yourself."

"Pardon me, pious count," said von Bergow. "I suffered great hardships as a slave in Spychow, and as your guest, I would gladly testify for you; but tell me, for the sake of quieting my soul, whether there was not a real daughter of Jurand's in Szczytno, and whether it was not Danveld's treason that drove her father to madness?"

Zygfried von Loeve hesitated for a moment with his answer; in his nature lay deep hatred toward the Polish nation, and barbarity in which he exceeded even Danveld, and rapacity, and, when the Order was in question, pride and avarice, but there was no falsehood. It was the greatest bitterness and grief of his life, that lately, through insubordination and riot, the affairs of the Order had turned in such a manner that falsehood had become one of the most general and unavoidable factors of the life of the Order. Therefore von Bergow's inquiry touched the most painful string of his soul, and, after a long silence, he said:

"Danveld stands before God, and God will judge him, while you, duke, should they ask you for conjectures, answer what you please; should they again ask you about what you saw, then say that before we coiled a wild man in a net you saw nine corpses, besides the wounded, on this floor, and among them the bodies of Danveld, Brother Godfried, von Bracht and Hugues, and two noble youths.... God, give them eternal peace. Amen!"

"Amen! Amen!" again repeated the novices.

"And say also," added Zygfried, "that although Danveld wished to subdue the foe of the Order, yet nobody here raised the first weapon against Jurand."

"I shall say only what my eyes saw," replied von Bergow.

"Be in the chapel before midnight; we shall also go there to pray for the souls of the dead," answered Zygfried.

He then extended his hand to him as a sign of gratitude and farewell; he wished to remain for a further consultation alone with Brother Rotgier, whom he loved and had great confidence in. After the withdrawal of von Bergow, he also dismissed the two novices, under the pretence that they might watch the work of the coffins for the common servants killed by Jurand, and after the doors had closed behind them he turned with animation to Rotgier, and said:

"Listen to what I am going to say: there is only one remedy: that no living soul should ever find out that the real daughter of Jurand was with us."

"It will not be difficult," replied Rotgier, "because nobody knew that she was here except Danveld, Godfried, we two, and those servants of the Order who watched her. Danveld ordered the people who brought her here to be made intoxicated and hanged. There were some among the garrison who suspected something, but that affair confused them, and they do not know now themselves whether an error happened on our part, or whether some wizard really exchanged Jurand's daughter."

"This is good," said Zygfried.

"I have been thinking again, noble count, whether, since Danveld lives no longer, we should not cast all the guilt upon him...."

"And so admit before the whole world that we, in a time of peace and concord with the prince of Mazowsze, ravished from his court the pupil of the princess and her beloved courtlady? No, for God's sake! this cannot be!... We were seen at the court together with Danveld; and the grand master, his relative, knows that we always undertook everything together.... If we accuse Danveld, he may desire to avenge his memory...."

"Let us consult on that," said Rotgier. "Let us consult and find good advice, because otherwise woe to us! If we return Jurand's daughter, then she will say herself that we did not capture her from robbers, but that the people who caught her carried her directly to Szczytno."

"That is so."

"And God is witness that I do not care for the responsibility alone. The prince will complain to the Polish king, and their delegates will not fail to clamor at all courts against our outrages, our treason, and our crime. God alone knows how much loss the Order may suffer from it. The master himself, if he knew the truth, ought to order that girl to be hidden."

"And even if so, when that girl is lost, will they not accuse us?" inquired Rotgier.

"No! Brother Danveld was a shrewd man. Do you remember, that he imposed the condition on Jurand, that he should not only appear in Szczytno personally, but also previously proclaim and write to the prince, that he is going to ransom his daughter from the robbers, and that he knows that she is not with us."

"True! but in that case how shall we justify what happened in Szczytno?"

"We shall say that knowing that Jurand was looking for his child, and having captured some girl from the robbers and not being able to tell who she was, we informed Jurand, thinking that this might possibly be his daughter; on his arrival he fell into a fit at the sight of her, and, being possessed with the devil, shed so much innocent blood that more than one battle does not cost so much."

"That is true," replied Rotgier, "wisdom and the experience of age speak through you. The bad deeds of Danveld, even if we should throw the guilt on him, would always go to the account of the Order, therefore, to the account of all of us, the assembly and the master himself; so again our innocence will become apparent, and all will fall upon Jurand, the iniquity of the Poles and their connection with infernal powers...."

"And then whoever wishes may judge us; the Pope, or the Roman Emperor!"

"Yes!" Then followed a moment of silence, after which Brother Rotgier questioned:

"What shall we do then with Jurand's daughter?"

"Let us consult."

"Give her to me."

And Zygfried looked at him and replied:

"No I Listen, young brother! When the Order is in question, do not trust a man, woman nor even your own self. Danveld was reached by God's hand, because he not only wished to revenge the wrongs of the Order, but also to satisfy his own desires."

"You misjudge me!" said Rotgier.

"Do not trust yourself," interrupted Zygfried, "because your body and soul will become effeminate, and the knee of that hard race will some day bear heavily upon your breast, so that you will not be able to arise any more." And he the third time rested his gloomy head on his hand, but he apparently conversed with his own conscience only, and thought of himself only, because he said after a while:

"Much human blood, much pain, many tears weigh heavily on me also ... moreover I did not hesitate to seek other means, when the Order was in question, and when I saw I should not succeed by mere force; but when I stand before the Almighty, I shall tell Him: 'I did that for the Order, and for myself--what I chose.'"

And having said this, he put his hands to his breast and opened a dark cloth garment, beneath which appealed a sackcloth. He then pressed his temples with his hands, raised his head and eyes, and exclaimed:

"Give up pleasures and profligacy, harden your bodies and hearts, because even now I see the whiteness of the eagle's feathers in the air and its claws reddened with Teutonic blood!..."

Further speech was interrupted by such a terrible knock of the gate that one window above the gallery opened with a crash, and the entire hall was filled with a howling and whistling of the storm and with snowflakes.

"In the name of God, His Son and the Holy Ghost! this is a bad night," remarked the old Teuton.

"A night of unclean powers," answered Rotgier.

"Are there priests with Danveld's body?"

"Yes.... He departed without absolution.... God have mercy upon him!"

And both ceased speaking. Rotgier presently called some boys, and ordered them to shut the window and light the torches, and after they had gone away, he again inquired:

"What will you do with Jurand's daughter? Will you take her away from here to Insburk?"

"I shall take her to Insburk and do with her what the good of the Order demands."

"What am I to do then?"

"Have you courage in your heart?"

"What have I done to make you doubt it?"

"I doubt not because I know you and love you as my own son for your courage. Go then to the court of the prince of Mazowsze and narrate everything that has happened here, according to our arrangement."

"Can I expose myself to certain destruction?"

"You ought, if your destruction will bring glory to the Cross and Order. But no! Destruction does not await you. They do no harm to a guest: unless somebody should challenge you, as that young knight did who challenged us all ... he, or somebody else, but that is not terrible...."

"May God grant it! they can seize me though and cast me under ground."

"They will not do that. Remember that there is Jurand's letter to the prince, and besides that you will go to accuse Jurand. Narrate faithfully what he did in Szczytno, and they must believe you.... We were even the first to inform him that there was a certain girl; we were the first to invite him to come to see her, and he came, went mad, killed the count and slew our people. Thus you will speak, and what can they say to you? Danveld's death will certainly resound throughout the whole Mazowsze. On that account they will fail to bring charges. They will actually look for Jurand's daughter, but, since Jurand himself wrote that she is not here, no suspicion will fall upon us. It is necessary to face them boldly and close their mouths, because they will also think that if we were guilty, none of us would dare to go there."

"True! I will set out on the journey immediately after Danveld's funeral."

"May God bless you, my dear son! If you do all properly, they not only will not detain you, but they will have to disavow Jurand, so that we may not be able to say: 'Look how they treat us!'"

"And so we must sue at all courts."

"The grand master will attend to that for the benefit of the Order, besides being Danveld's relative."

"But if that devil of Spychow should survive and regain his liberty!..."

A dark look came into Zygfried's eyes and he replied slowly and emphatically:

"Even if he should regain his liberty, he will never utter a word of accusation against the Order."

He then commenced again to instruct Rotgier, what to say and demand at the court in Mazowsze.

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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 2 The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 2

The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 2
PART FIFTH: CHAPTER II The rumor of the occurrence in Szczytno arrived in Warsaw however before Brother Rotgier, and there excited amazement and concern. Neither the king himself, nor anybody else at the court, could understand what had happened. Shortly before, just when Mikolaj of Dlugolas was starting for Malborg with the prince's letter, in which he bitterly complained of the capture of Danusia by turbulent border counts and almost threateningly demanded her instant restoration, a letter had arrived from the owner of Spychow stating that his daughter was not captured by the Teutons, but by ordinary border bandits, and that

The Knights Of The Cross - Part 4 - Chapter 7 The Knights Of The Cross - Part 4 - Chapter 7

The Knights Of The Cross - Part 4 - Chapter 7
PART FOURTH: CHAPTER VII The dawn was just beginning to whiten the trees, bushes and boulders scattered in the fields, when the hired guide, walking beside Jurand's horse, stopped and said: "Permit me to rest, knight, for I am out of breath. It is thawing and foggy, but it is not far now." "You will conduct me to the road, and then return," replied Jurand. "The road will be to the right behind the forest, and you will soon see the castle from the hill." Then the peasant commenced to strike his hands against his armpits, because he was chilled with