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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knights Of The Cross - Part 8 - Chapter 1
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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 8 - Chapter 1 Post by :dhouse Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :July 2011 Read :2599

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The Knights Of The Cross - Part 8 - Chapter 1

PART EIGHTH: CHAPTER I

Neither loving words nor tender persuasion availed. Danusia recognized nobody and did not regain consciousness. The only feeling which pervaded her whole being was fear, a kind of fear shown by captured birds. When food was brought to her she refused to eat it in the presence of others. In the glances of rejection which she cast upon the food one could detect habitual hunger. Left alone, she sprang upon the eatables like a ravenous little wild beast. But when Zbyszko entered she rushed into the corner and hid herself under a bundle of dry hops. Zbyszko opened his arms in vain, he stretched out his hands in vain, with tears he begged her, but unavailingly. She refused to issue from her hiding-place even when the light was so arranged that she could recognize the outlines of Zbyszko's face. It seemed as though she had lost her memory along with her senses. He therefore gazed upon her emaciated pale face in which was depicted an expression of dismay, her hollow eyes, her tattered dress, and his heart cried out within him from pain at the thought in whose hands she had been and how she had been treated. He was finally seized with such a terrible rage that he grasped his sword and rushed toward Zygfried, and he would have certainly killed him, had not Macko grasped him by the arm.

Then like enemies they struggled with each other. But the young man was so much fatigued from his previous fight with the gigantic Arnold, that the old knight prevailed. Twisting Zbyszko's wrist, he exclaimed:

"Are you mad?"

"Let me go!" he begged, gnashing his teeth, "for my heart bursts within me."

"Let it burst! I will not let you go. It is better to dash your head to pieces than disgrace yourself and the whole family."

And, clutching Zbyszko's hand, as with iron tongs, he said threateningly:

"See, revenge will not escape you; and you are a belted knight. How then dare you kill a prisoner in bonds? You cannot help Danusia. What will be the result? Nothing but disgrace. You say that kings and princes think it proper to destroy their prisoners. Bah! That is not the case with us; and what is feasible with them is not so with you. They have a kingdom, cities, castles. But what have you? Knightly honor. Those who find no fault with them will spit in your face. Consider, for God's sake!"

There was silence for a moment.

"Let me go!" Zbyszko repeated gloomily. "I will not kill him."

"Come to the fire, let us consult."

Macko led him by the hand to the fire which the servant stirred up near the tar-ovens. There they sat down and Macko reflected for a moment, and then said:

"You must also remember that you have promised this old dog to Jurand, who will avenge his own and his daughter's tortures. He is the one who will pay him, and do not you fear! In this you must please Jurand. It is his affair and not yours. Jurand may do it, but you must not; he did not capture him but will receive him as a present from you; he can even flay him alive and none will blame him for it. Do you understand me?"

"I understand," replied Zbyszko. "You are right."

"You are evidently coming to your senses again. Should you again be tempted by the devil, bear this also in your mind, that you have also challenged Lichtenstein and other Knights of the Cross, and if you should kill a defenceless captive and the men should publish your action, no knight would accept your challenge, and he would be justified. God forbid! We have enough misfortunes, but spare us shame. Let us rather talk about what concerns our present doings and movements."

"Give your advice," said the young man.

"My advice is this: that serpent who was with Danusia ought to be killed; but it does not become a knight to kill a woman. We shall therefore deliver her into the hands of Prince Janusz. She plotted treason whilst at the forest court of the prince and princess. Let the Mazovian courts judge her. If they do not crush her upon the wheel for her crimes, then they will offend God's justice. As long as we find no other woman to wait upon Danusia, as long as she is wanted to serve her we must keep her until some other old woman be found; then we will tie her to a horse's tail. But now we must push on toward the Mazovian wilderness as soon as possible.

"It cannot be done at once, it is dark already. By to-morrow, if God will, Danusia may come to her senses."

"Let the horses rest well, and at daybreak we will start."

Further conversation was interrupted by Arnold von Baden, who was stretched on his back at a distance, trussed by his own sword; he said something in German. Old Macko got up and went to him, but as he did not understand him he called the Bohemian.

But Hlawa could not come at once because he was busy about something else. During the conversation, near the fire, he went directly to the servant of the Order, put his hands around her neck, shook her like a pear-tree, and said:

"Listen, you slut! Go into the shanty and prepare the fur bedding for the young lady. But before you do that, dress her in your good apparel, whilst you put upon your carcass the tattered rags which you have given her.... May your mother suffer perdition!"

He was so angry that he could not control himself, and shook her so savagely that her eyes bulged out. He would have twisted her neck, but he thought better of it since she was still of some use; finally he let her go, saying:

"After that I will hang you to a branch."

She embraced his knees in terror, but he kicked her. She rushed into the shanty, threw herself at Danusia's feet and began to scream:

"Protect me. Do not permit!"

But Danusia closed her eyes, and uttered her customary suppressed whisper: "I am afraid, I am afraid, I am afraid."

Then she lapsed into perfect silence, because that was the effect whenever the woman approached her. She permitted the woman to undress, wash and dress her in the new clothes. The woman prepared the bedding and laid upon it Danusia, who had the appearance of a wooden or wax figure; after which she sat down near the fireplace fearing to go out.

But the Bohemian entered after awhile. First he turned toward Danusia and said:

"You are among friends, lady, so in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, sleep peacefully!"

Then he made the sign of the cross. Then not wishing to disturb her he said to the servant in a low voice:

"You shall lie bound at the threshold; you must keep quiet and do not frighten her; if not, I will break your neck. Get up, and come."

He led her out and bound her tightly, then he went to Zbyszko.

"I have ordered that lizard to dress the lady in her own garments, to make her a soft bed, and the lady is asleep; better leave her alone because she is scared. God grant that by to-morrow, after repose, she may regain her presence of mind. You too must think of refreshment and rest."

"I shall sleep at her threshold," replied Zbyszko.

"Then I shall withdraw the slut from the threshold and place her near that corpse with curled locks. But you must take refreshment now, because there is a long road and no little fatigue before you."

Then he went and got some smoked meat and dried turnips which they had procured in the Lithuanian camp; but he had scarcely put the meal in front of Zbyszko when Macko called him to come to Arnold.

"Notice carefully, what this mass wishes, although I know a few German words, I am unable to understand him."

"Bring him to the fire, sir, and have your conversation there," replied the Bohemian.

Then he unbelted himself and placed the belt under Arnold's arms and lifted him upon his shoulders; he bent much under the heavy weight of the giant, but as the Bohemian was a powerful man, he carried him near the fireplace and threw him down, as one throws a sack of peas, at the side of Zbyszko.

"Take off the fetters from me," said Arnold.

"That might be done if you swore on knightly honor, that you would consider yourself a prisoner. Nevertheless, I will order the sword to be taken from under your knees, the bonds of your hands to be loosened, so as to enable you to sit with us, but the rope binding your feet shall remain until we have discussed the affair." And he nodded to the Bohemian, who cut the bonds away from Arnold's hands and assisted him to sit down. Arnold looked haughtily at Macko and Zbyszko and asked:

"Who are you?"

"How do you dare to ask? It is not your business. Go and inform yourself."

"It concerns me, because to swear upon the honor of a knight can only be done to knights."

"Then look!"

And Macko opened his cloak and showed his knightly belt upon his loins.

Seeing that, the Knight of the Cross was greatly amazed, and after awhile said:

"How is it? and you prowl in the wilderness for prey and assist the pagans against the Christians?"

"You lie!" exclaimed Macko.

Then the conversation began in an unfriendly and arrogant manner, which seemed like quarreling. But when Macko vehemently shouted that the very Order prevented Lithuania from embracing Christianity, and when all proofs were adduced, Arnold was again amazed and became silent, because the truth was so obvious that it was impossible not to see it, or to dispute it. What specially struck him was Macko's words which he uttered whilst making the sign of the cross: "Who knows whom ye actually serve, if not all at least some among you." It specially struck him because there were certain _comthurs in the very Order who were suspected of having given themselves over to Satan. Steps were not taken against them for fear of public reproach of the whole Order. But Arnold knew it well because these things were whispered among the brethren of the Order and happenings of such a character reached his ears. Therefore, Macko's narrative which he had heard from Sanderus, concerning the inconceivable conduct of Zygfried, greatly disturbed the mind of the candid giant.

"Oh, that very Zygfried, with whom you marched to war," he said. "Does he serve Christ? Have you never heard how he communicates with evil spirits, how he whispers to them, smiles and gnashes his teeth at them?"

"It is true!" murmured Arnold.

But Zbyszko, whose heart was filled with new waves of grief and anger, suddenly exclaimed:

"And you, who speak of knightly honor? Shame upon you, because you help a hangman, a devilish man. Shame upon you, because you quietly looked upon the torture of a defenceless woman, and a knight's daughter. Maybe you also outraged her. Shame upon you!"

Arnold closed his eyes, and making the sign of the cross, said:

"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.... How is that?... That fettered girl in whose head dwell twenty-seven devils? I?..."

"Oh, horrible! horrible!" interrupted Zbyszko, groaning.

And, grasping the handle of his _misericordia he again looked savagely toward the dark corner where Zygfried lay on his back.

Macko placed his hand quietly upon Zbyszko's arm, which he pressed with his whole strength, so as to bring him back to his senses; whilst he himself, turning toward Arnold, said:

"That woman is the daughter of Jurand of Spychow, and wife of this young knight. Do you understand now, why we followed you up, and why we have captured you?"

"For God's sake!" said Arnold. "Whence? How? she is insane...."

"Because the Knights of the Cross kidnapped that innocent lamb and subjected her to torture."

When Zbyszko heard these words: "Innocent lamb," he put his fist to his mouth, gnashed his teeth, and was not able to restrain his tears.

Arnold sat absorbed in thought; but the Bohemian told him in a few words of Danveld's treachery, the kidnapping of Danusia, the torture of Jurand, and the duel with Rotgier. Silence reigned when he concluded. It was only disturbed by the rustling of the trees of the forest and the crackling of the brands in the fireplace.

In that manner they sat for a while. Finally Arnold lifted up his head and said:

"I swear to you not only upon my knightly honor, but also upon the crucifix, that I have not seen that woman, that I did not know who she was, and that I have not taken the least part in her tortures and never laid my hand upon her."

"Then swear also that you will go with us willingly and that you will make no attempt to escape, then I will order your bonds to be entirely unloosed," said Macko.

"Let it be as you say. I swear! Whither are you going to take me?"

"To Mazovia, to Jurand of Spychow."

Then Macko himself cut the rope from Arnold's feet, and ordered meat and turnips to be brought. After a while Zbyszko went out and sat upon the threshold of the hut to rest, where he no longer found the servant, for the hostler boys had carried her off and put her among the horses. Zbyszko lay down upon the fur which Hlawa brought. He resolved to keep awake and wait until daybreak; peradventure then some happy change might take place in Danusia!

But the Bohemian returned to the fireplace where he wished to converse with the old knight of Bogdaniec about a certain affair and take off the burden which pressed so heavily upon his heart. He found him also absorbed in troubled thought, and not noticing the snoring of Arnold who, after having consumed an immense quantity of baked turnips and meat, was much fatigued and slept the sleep of a stone. "And why do you not take a rest?" inquired the Bohemian.

"Sleep has fled from my eyelids," replied Macko. "May God grant a good morning."

Then he looked at the stars and said:

"The Wagoner is already visible in the sky, and I am continually thinking about how all these things shall be arranged. And I shall not go to sleep either because the young lady of Zgorzelice occupies my mind."

"Ah! that is true. More trouble. But she, at least, is at Spychow."

"But we brought her to Spychow from Zgorzelice, not knowing why."

"It was at her own request," replied Macko, impatiently, because he knew in his heart that he was wrong and he hated to talk about it.

"Yes! But what now?"

"Ha! Well? I shall carry her back to her home; then let God's will be done!"

But after a moment he added:

"Yes! God's will be done, that at least Danuska be restored to health, one might then know what to do. But as it is now, the deuce knows! What will it be if she neither recovers nor dies? The Devil knows."

But the Bohemian was thinking all the time of Jagienka.

"Your honor should understand that when I left Spychow and bade her good-bye, she told me this: 'If anything should happen, come and inform me before Zbyszko and Macko arrive. And as they will be obliged to send information by somebody, let them send it by you, then you will take me to Zgorzelice.'"

"Hey!" replied Macko. "Surely, it would be improper for her to stay at Spychow when Danusia arrives. Surely she ought now to be taken back to Zgorzelice. I pity the little orphan, I sincerely regret it. But God's will must be done. But now how shall I arrange the matter? Let me see. Did you say that she commanded you to come ahead of us with the news, and then take her to Zgorzelice?"

"She did. I repeated to you her words exactly."

"Now, you may move ahead of us. Old Jurand must also be informed that his daughter has been found, but it must be done carefully so that the sudden joy may not kill him. As I love God, I declare that it is the most practical thing to do."

"Return! Tell them that we have rescued Danusia, and that we shall bring her home without delay. Then take that other poor girl to Zgorzelice!"

Then the old knight sighed, because he was really sorry for Jagienka, whom he had fostered.

After a while he asked again:

"I know that you are a valiant and powerful man, but see that you keep her out of harm's way or accident. Things of that character are often met with on the road."

"I shall do my best, even if I lose my head! I shall take with me a few good men, whom the lord of Spychow will not grudge, and I shall bring her safely even to the end of the world."

"Well, do not have too much confidence in yourself. Bear also in mind that even there, at Zgorzelice, it will be necessary to watch Wilk of Brzozowa and Cztan of Rogow. But, I confess, in speaking of Wilk and Cztan, I am out of order; for, it was necessary to watch them when there was nothing else to think of. But now, things have changed and there is no more hope, and that which is going to happen must happen."

"Nevertheless, I shall protect the young lady from those knights, seeing Danusia is very weak and consumptive. What if she should die?"

"As God is dear to me you are right. The emaciated lady is scarcely alive. If she should die?"

"We must leave that with God. But we must now think only of the young lady of Zgorzelice."

"By rights, I ought to convey her myself to her fatherland. But it is a difficult task. I cannot now leave Zbyszko for many potent reasons. You saw how he gnashed his teeth, how he strove to get at the old _comthur to kill him, and my wrangling with him. Should that girl die on the road, even I should be unable to restrain him. And if I shall not be able to prevent him, nobody else could, and everlasting shame would fall upon him and upon our clan, which God forbid. Amen!"

Then the Bohemian replied:

"Bah! There is, I am sure, a simple means. Give me the hangman and I will keep him and bring him to Jurand at Spychow and shake him out of the sack."

"How clever you are! May God grant you health," exclaimed Macko, joyfully. "It is a very simple thing, quite simple. Should you succeed in bringing him to Spychow alive then do with him as you please."

"Then let me also have that Szczytno bitch, and if she is not troublesome on the road, I will bring her too to Spychow, if she is, then I shall hang her on a tree."

"The removal of the pair, whose presence causes much fear to Danusia, may contribute to her speedy recovery. But if you take the female servant with you, who is going to nurse Danusia?"

"You may find some old woman in the wilderness, or one of the fugitive peasant women; take hold of the first one you meet, for any one will be better than this. Meanwhile, you must take care of lady Zbyszko."

"You speak to-day somewhat more prudently than usually. Seeing that Zbyszko is constantly with her, he will also succeed in filling the double position, that of father and mother, for her. Very well, then. When do you intend to start?"

"I shall not wait for the dawn; now I must lie down for a while, it is scarcely midnight yet."

"The Wagoner(117) is already in the sky, but the chickens(117) had not yet made their appearance."

(Footnote 117: The Greater Bear, or
Charleswain ... other names are hen
and chickens, dipper, etc. Arabic, _Dhiba_.)


"Thank God that we have taken some counsel together, for I was very much troubled."

Then the Bohemian stretched himself near the expiring fire, covered himself over with the long furred robe and in a moment he fell asleep. However, the sky had not yet paled and it was still deep, dark night when he awoke, crept from under the skin, looked at the stars, and stretching his somewhat benumbed limbs, he awoke Macko.

"It is time for me to move," he said.

"Whither?" asked the semi-conscious Macko, rubbing his eyes with his fists.

"To Spychow."

"True, I quite forgot. Who is there snoring so loud as to awake the dead?"

"The knight Arnold. Let me throw a few branches upon the embers, then I will go to the men."

Then he left, and hastily returned in a little while, and from a distance he called in a low voice:

"Sir, there is news, bad news!"

"What has happened?" Macko exclaimed, jumping to his feet.

"The servant has escaped. The men took her among the horses. May thunder strike them, and when they fell asleep, she sneaked like a serpent from among them and escaped. Come, sir!"

Macko, in alarm, moved quickly with the Bohemian toward the horses, where they found only one man, the others had scattered in pursuit of the fugitive. But, considering the darkness of the night and the thickets of the forest, the search was a foolish undertaking, and after a while they returned with hanging heads. Macko began to belabor them quietly with his fists. Then he returned to the fireplace, for there was nothing to be done.

Zbyszko, who was watching in the hut and did not sleep, came in, hearing the movements, to ascertain the reason. Macko told him all about his consultation with the Bohemian, then he also informed him of the woman's escape.

"It is not a great misfortune," he said. "Because she will either die of starvation, or fall into the hands of the peasants who will flay her; that is, if she succeeds first in escaping the wolves. It is only to be regretted that she escaped the punishment at Spychow."

Zbyszko also regretted her escaping punishment at Spychow; otherwise he received the news quietly. He did not oppose the departure of the Bohemian with Zygfried, because he was indifferent to anything which did not directly concern Danusia. He began to talk about her at once.

"I shall take her in front of me on horseback to-morrow, then we shall proceed."

"How is it there? Is she asleep?" inquired Macko.

"At times she moans, but I do not know whether she does it in sleep or whilst she is awake, but I don't want to disturb her, lest I frighten her."

Further conversation was interrupted by the Bohemian, who observing Zbyszko, exclaimed:

"O! your honor, also here! It is now time for me to start. The horses are ready and the old devil is fastened to the saddle. It will soon begin to dawn because now the nights are short. Good-bye, your grace!"

"God be with you, and health!"

But Hlawa pulled Macko aside again and said:

"I wish also to ask you kindly, that in case anything should happen.... You know, sir ... some misfortune or another ... you would dispatch a courier posthaste to Spychow. If we have left Spychow, let him overtake us."

"Well," said Macko, "I have also forgotten to tell you to take Jagienka to Plock. Do you understand? Go there to the bishop, and tell him who she is, that she is the goddaughter of the abbot, for whom there is a will in the bishop's possession; then ask his guardianship for her, as that is also mentioned in the abbot's will."

"But if the bishop orders us to remain in Plock?"

"Then obey him in everything and follow his counsel."

"It shall be so, sir! Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!"

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PART EIGHTH: CHAPTER II Sir Arnold was informed in the morning of the flight of the servant of the Order; he chuckled at the news, on the other hand he held the same opinion as Macko, viz, that she might fall a prey to the wolves, or be slain by the Lithuanians. The latter was not at all improbable, since the inhabitants of that locality who were descendants of the Lithuanians abhorred the Order and all those who came in contact with it. Some of the male population had joined Skirwoillo, others had risen in arms and slaughtered the Germans here
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