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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 2
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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 5 - Chapter 2 Post by :andreas Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :July 2011 Read :776

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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 she would be soon released for a ransom. On that account the messenger did not leave; nobody ever dreamed of the Teutons extorting such a letter from Jurand by the threat of his daughter's death. It was difficult to understand what had happened, because the border chiefs, who were subjects of the prince as well as of the Order, attacked one another in the summer, but not in the winter when the snows betrayed their trail. They also usually attacked merchants, or perpetrated robberies in the villages, capturing people and seizing their herds, but to dare to attack the prince himself and to capture his protegee, who was at the same time the daughter of a powerful and universally feared knight, this seemed entirely to exceed human belief. This, as well as other doubts, was answered by Jurand's letter under his own seal, brought this time by a man who was known to come from Spychow; under such circumstances all suspicions became impossible; the prince only became more enraged than he had ever been seen before, and he ordered a pursuit of the ravishers throughout the border of his principality, at the same time ordering the prince of Plock to do the same and not fail to punish the insolent fellows.

Just then arrived the news of what had happened at Szczytno.

And as it passed from mouth to mouth, it was multiplied tenfold. It was said that Jurand, having arrived all alone in the castle, ran in through the open gate and there committed such slaughter that the garrison was so terrified that it had to send for help to the neighboring castles, to summon the superior knighthood and armed foot-soldiers, who only after a two days' siege succeeded in reentering the castle and there slaying Jurand as well as his associates. It was also said that those forces would probably cross the border, and that a great war would undoubtedly begin. The prince, who knew of how great consequence it was to the grand master in case of war with the Polish king for the powers of both principalities of Mazowsze to remain neutral, did not believe these stories, because it was no secret to him, that should the Teutons declare war on him or the principality of Plock, no human power could keep the Poles back; the master therefore dreaded that war. He knew that it must come, but he wished to postpone it, firstly, because he was of a peaceful disposition, and secondly, because, in order to meet Jagiello's power, it was necessary to gather a strength which the Order until now had never yet possessed, and at the same time to secure the assistance of the princes and knighthood, not only in Germany, but also in the entire West.

The prince, therefore, did not fear the war, but he wished to know what had happened, what he really was to think of the occurrence in Szczytno, of the disappearance of Danusia, and all those stories which arrived from the border; he was also glad, although he hated the Teutons, when on a certain evening the captain of the archers informed him that a knight of the Order had arrived and begged for an audience.

He received him proudly, nevertheless, and although he recognized him instantly as one of the brethren who were in the Forest Court, he pretended not to recollect him and inquired who he was, whence he came, and what caused his arrival in Warsaw.

"I am Brother Rotgier," replied the Teuton, "and a short time ago I had the honor to bow before your Highness."

"Why then, being a brother, do you not wear the insignia of the Order?"

The knight commenced to explain that he did not wear a white cloak, because by so doing he would be undoubtedly captured or killed by the knighthood of Mazowsze: throughout the whole world, in all kingdoms and principalities, the sign of the cross on the cloak is a protection and gains human good-will and hospitality, and only in the principality of Mazowsze does the cross expose the man who wears it to certain death.

But the prince interrupted him angrily:

"Not the cross," he said, "because we also kiss it, but your vices and if they receive you better elsewhere it is, because they do not know you so well."

Then, seeing that the knight was greatly troubled at these words, he inquired: "Were you in Szczytno, do you know what happened there?"

"I was in Szczytno and know what happened there," replied Rotgier, "and I came here not as any one's messenger, but only because the experienced and pious count of Insburk told me: 'Our master loves the pious prince and trusts in his justice, therefore while I hasten to Malborg, you go to Mazowsze and state our grievance, our disgrace, our misery. The just lord will surely not praise a violator of peace and a cruel aggressor, who has shed so much Christian blood, as though he were not Christ's servant but Satan's.'" And then he commenced to narrate everything that had occurred in Szczytno: How Jurand, who had been summoned by them to see whether the girl whom they had taken away from the robbers was not his daughter, instead of repaying that with thankfulness, had fallen into a fit; how he had killed Danveld, Brother Godfried, the Englishmen Hugues, von Bracht and two noble warriors, not counting the servants; how they, remembering God's commandment and not wishing to kill, had finally been compelled to coil the terrible man in a net, who had then turned his sword against himself and wounded himself terribly; how lastly, not only in the castle but also in the tower, there were people, who, in the midst of a wintry gale during the night after the fight, had heard terrible laughter and voices in the air calling: "Our Jurand! Wrongdoer of the cross! Shedder of innocent blood! Our Jurand!"

And the whole story, especially the last words of the Teuton, made a great impression upon all present. Terror fell upon them all. They were simply overwhelmed with fear lest Jurand had actually summoned unclean powers to his assistance, and deep silence followed. But the princess, who was present at the audience, and who, loving Danusia, had a heart full of inconsolable sorrow for her, turned with an unexpected question to Rotgier: "You say, knight," she remarked, "that, after capturing the girl, you thought her to be Jurand's daughter, and therefore summoned him to Szczytno?"

"Yes, beloved lady," replied Rotgier.

"How could you have thought so, since you saw the real daughter of Jurand with me in the Forest Court?"

At that Brother Rotgier became embarrassed, because he was not prepared for such a question. The prince arose and fixed a severe look on the Teuton, while Mikolaj of Dlugolas, Mrokota of Mocarzew, Jasko of Jagielnica and other knights of Mazowsze instantly sprang toward the brother, inquiring alternately with threatening voices:

"How could you have thought so? Speak, German I How could that be?"

And Brother Rotgier recovered himself and said: "We brethren do not raise our eyes to women. In the Forest Court with the beloved princess there were many court ladies, but which among them was Jurand's daughter, none of us knew."

"Danveld knew," said Mikolaj of Dlugolas. "He even talked to her during the hunt."

"Danveld stands before God," replied Rotgier, "and of him I shall only say that the following morning blooming roses were found on his coffin, which, in this wintry weather, could not come there by human hands."

Then again followed silence.

"How did you know of the capture of Jurand's daughter?" inquired the prince.

"Only the wickedness and audacity of the deed made it known to us. Therefore on hearing about it, we ordered thanksgiving masses because only a plain court lady, and not one of the children born of your Highness, was captured from the Forest Court."

"But I still wonder, how you could mistake a wench for Jurand's daughter."

"Danveld said: 'Often Satan betrayed his servants, so perhaps he changed Jurand's daughter.'"

"The robbers though, as vulgar men, could not counterfeit Kaleb's writing and Jurand's seal. Who could have done it?"

"The Evil Spirit."

And again nobody could find an answer.

Rotgier glanced searchingly into the prince's eyes and said: "Indeed, these questions are like weapons in my breast, because they contain doubt and suspicion. But I trust in God's justice and the power of truth. I ask of your majesty: even Jurand himself suspected us of that action, and when suspecting, before we summoned him to Szczytno, why did he search for robbers through the whole border in order to buy his daughter back from them?"

"It is true!" said the prince. "Even if you were hiding something from men, you cannot hide it from God. He suspected you in the first moment but then ... then he thought differently."

"Behold how the brightness of truth conquers the darkness," said Rotgier, and he glanced triumphantly around the hall; he thought that Teutonic heads had more adroitness and sense than the Polish, and that the latter race would always be the prey and food of the Order, as a fly is the prey and food of the spider.

Therefore, throwing off his previous disguise, he approached the prince and commenced to speak in loud and impetuous tones:

"Requite us, lord, our losses, our grievances, our tears, and our blood! That hell-hound was your subject; therefore, in the name of God from whom the power of kings and princes is derived, in the name of justice and the cross, requite us for our grievances and blood!"

But the prince looked at him in astonishment.

"For God's sake!" he said, "what do you want? if Jurand shed your blood in madness, am I to answer for his frenzy?"

"He was your subject, lord," said the Teuton, "in your principality lie his possessions, his villages and his castle, in which he imprisoned the servants of the Order; at least let these possessions, this domain and that wicked castle, become henceforth the property of the Order. Truly this will not be an adequate payment for the noble blood shed! truly it will not revive the dead, but perhaps it will partly appease God's anger and wipe away the disgrace, which will otherwise fall upon this entire principality. O, lord! The Order possesses grounds and castles everywhere, which were given to it by the favor and piety of the Christian princes, and only here in your territory have we no particle of land. Let our grievance, which calls to God for vengeance, be at least so rewarded that we may say that here also live people, who have the fear of God in their hearts!" Hearing this, the prince was still more amazed, and then, after a long silence, replied:

"For God's sake! And through whose clemency, if not through that of my ancestors, does your Order even exist here? The lands, estates and towers, which once upon a time belonged to us and our nation, and which now are your property, do these not suffice for you yet? Jurand's girl is yet alive because nobody has informed you of her death, while you already want to seize the orphan's dower, and requite your grievances with an orphan's bread?"

"Lord, you admit the wrong," said Rotgier, "consequently right it according to what your princely conscience and your honest soul dictates." And he was again glad in his heart, because he thought: "Now, they not only will not sue but they will even consider how to wash their hands and to evade the whole matter. Nobody will blame us for anything, and our fame will be as spotless as the white cloak of the Order."

Just then the voice of old Mikolaj of Dlugolas was heard: "They suspect you of being avaricious and God knows whether justly or no, because even in this matter, you care more for the profits than the honor of the Order."

"True!" cried the Mazovian knights in chorus. Then the Teuton advanced a few steps, proudly raised his head, and measuring them with a haughty look, said:

"I do not come here as a messenger, but merely as a witness of the affair and a knight of the Order who is ready to defend the honor of the Order with his own blood to the last gasp! Who, then, in contradiction to Jurand's own words, dares to suspect the Order of having captured his daughter--let him raise this knightly pledge and submit to God's judgment!"

Having said this, he cast before them his knightly glove, which fell upon the floor; they again stood in deep silence, because, although more than one of them would have liked to break his weapon on the Teuton's back, they all feared God's judgment. Every one knew that Jurand had expressly stated that the knights of the Order had not captured his child; so they all thought to themselves, "It is a just cause; consequently Rotgier will be victorious."

He again became so much the more insolent, and leaning upon his loins, inquired:

"If it is so, who will raise that glove?"

Just then, a knight, whose entrance nobody had yet observed, and who for some time had listened at the door to the conversation, advanced to the centre, raised the gauntlet and said:

"I will!" and so saying, he stared directly into Rotgier's face, and then began to speak with a voice which in that universal silence resounded like thunder through the hall:

"Before God, before the august prince and all the honorable knighthood of this land, I tell you, Teuton, that you bark like a dog against justice and truth--and I challenge you to a combat on foot, or horseback, with lance or axe, short or long weapons, and not unto imprisonment but unto the last gasp, unto death!"

A fly could be heard in the hall. All eyes were turned upon Rotgier and the challenging knight, whom nobody recognized, because he had a helmet covering his head, although without a steel cap, but with a circular visor descending below the ear entirely covering the upper part of the face, and casting a deep shadow over the lower part. The Teuton was no less astonished than the rest. Confusion, pallor and raging anger chased each other over his face, as lightning flashes across a mighty heaven.

He caught the gauntlet and attached it to the hook of his armlet, and said:

"Who are you that challenge God's justice?"

The other then unbuckled his gorget, removed the helmet, beneath which appeared a fair, youthful head, and said:

"Zbyszko of Bogdaniec, the husband of Jurand's daughter."

They were all amazed, and Rotgier, with the others, because none of them, except the prince and his wife, Father Wyszoniek and de Lorche, knew of Danusia's marriage; the Teutons moreover were confident that Jurand's daughter had no other natural defender besides her father; but at that moment de Lorche stood up and said:

"Upon my knightly honor I vouch for the truthfulness of his words; should anybody dare to doubt it, here is my guage."

Rotgier, who did not know what fear meant, and whose heart swelled with anger at this moment, would have perhaps accepted even this challenge, but remembering that the man who cast it was powerful, and moreover a relative of Duke Geldryi, he refrained, and the more readily, because the prince himself arose and, wrinkling his brows, said:

"It is forbidden to accept this challenge, because I also declare that this knight has told the truth."

The Teuton, on hearing this, bowed, and then said to Zbyszko:

"If you wish it, then on foot, in closed lists with axes."

"I have already challenged you in all ways," replied Zbyszko.

"May God give the victory to justice!" exclaimed the Mazovian knights.

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PART FIFTH: CHAPTER III There was anxiety about Zbyszko in the whole court, among the knights as well as among the ladies, because he was universally liked; but, according to Jurand's letter, nobody doubted that the right was on the side of the Teuton. On the other hand it was known that Rotgier was one of the more famous brethren of the Order. The squire van Krist narrated among the Mazovian nobility, perhaps on purpose, that his lord before becoming an armed monk, once sat at the Honor-Table of the Teutons, to which table only world-famous knights were admitted, those who
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PART FIFTH: CHAPTER I 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
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