Tuesday, April 22, 2008

1.4.03

"Why is he stopping?" asked one of the musicians.

"Because we stopped," answered Macko.

"He is looking toward us as if he would like to choose somebody," said another musician "if I were sure he was a man and not an evil spirit, I would go and give him a blow on the head with the lute."

The women began to pray aloud, but Zbyszko wishing to show his courage to the princess and Danusia, said:

"I will go just the same. I am not afraid of Walter Wdaly!"

Danusia began to call him through her tears: "Zbyszko! Zbyszko!" But he rode his horse gaining speed quickly, confident that if he did meet the true Walter Wdaly, he could pierce him through with his spear.

Macko who had sharp sight, said:

"He appears like a giant because he is on the hill. It is some big man, but an ordinary one, nothing else! I am going too, to make sure that he does not quarrel with Zbyszko."

Zbyszko, while riding in gallop was debating whether he should immediately attack with the spear, or whether first take a close look at the man standing on the hill. He decided to check him first, and immediately saw that it was the good choice, because as he approached, the stranger began to lose his extraordinary size. He was a large man and was mounted on a large horse, which was bigger than Zbyszko's stallion; yet he did not exceed human size. Besides that he was without armor, with a velvet cap shaped like a bell on his head; he wore a white linen dust cloak, from beneath which a green dress could be seen. While standing on the hill he was praying. Evidently he had stopped his horse to finish his evening prayers.

"It is not Wdaly," thought the boy.

He had approached so close that he could touch the unknown man with his spear. The man who evidently was a knight, smiled at him benevolently, and said:

"May Jesus Christ be praised!"

"For ages and ages."

"Is that the court of the Duchess of Masovia?"

"Yes, it is!"

"Then you come from Tyniec?"

But he did not receive any answer, because Zbyszko was so astonished that he did not even hear the question. For a moment he stood like a statue, scarcely believing his own eyes, because about quarter a mile behind the unknown man, he perceived several soldiers on horseback, at the head of whom was riding a knight clad in full armor, with a white cloth mantle with a red cross on it, and with a steel helmet having a magnificent peacock tuft in the crest.

"A Knight of the Cross!" whispered Zbyszko. Now he thought that God had heard his prayers; that he had sent him the German knight for whom he had asked in Tyniec. Surely he must take advantage of God's kindness; therefore without any hesitation, before
his astonishment had diminished, he bent low on the saddle, let down his spear and having uttered his family shout: "Grady! Grady!" he rushed with the whole speed of his horse against the Knight.

That knight was astonished also; he stopped his horse, and without lowering his spear, looked in front of him, uncertain whether the attack was directed at him or not.

"Lower your spear!" shouted Zbyszko, pricking his horse with the iron points of the stirrups.

"Grady! Grady!"

The distance separating them began to diminish. The Knight of the Cross seeing that the attack was really against him, reined in his horse and poised his spear. At the moment that Zbyszko's spear was nearly touching knight’s chest, a powerful hand broke it like a thin stick, then the same hand reined in Zbyszko's horse with such force, that the stallion stopped as though rooted to the ground.

"You crazy man, what are you doing?" said a deep, threatening voice, "you are attacking an envoy, you are insulting the king!"

Zbyszko glanced around and recognized the same gigantic man, whom he had taken for Walter Wdaly, and who had frightened the duchess and her court.

"Let me go against the German! Who are you?" he cried, seizing his axe.

"Away with the axe! for God's sake! Away with the axe, I say! I will throw you from your horse!" shouted the stranger more threateningly. "You have offended the majesty of the king and you will be punished."

Then he turned toward the soldiers who were riding behind the Knight of the Cross.

"Come!"

"At this time Macko appeared and his face looked threatening. He understood that Zbyszko had acted like a madman and that the consequences of this affair might be very serious, but he was ready to defend him just the same. The whole party of the stranger and of the Knight of the Cross contained only fifteen men, armed with spears and crossbows, therefore two knights in full armors could fight them with some hope of victory. Macko also thought that as they were threatened with punishment, it would be better perhaps to avoid it, by overcoming these men, and then hiding somewhere until the storm had passed over. Therefore his face immediately contracted, like the jaws of a wolf ready to bite, and having pushed his horse between Zbyszko and the stranger's horse, he began to ask, meanwhile handling his sword:

"Who are you? What right do you have to interfere?"

"My right is this," said the stranger, "that the king put me in charge of the safety of the surroundings of Krakow, and they call me Powala of Taczew."

At these words, Macko and Zbyszko glanced at the knight, then returned to their scabbards the half drawn swords and dropped their heads, not because they were frightened but in respect for this famous name. Powala of Taczew, a nobleman from a powerful clan and a mighty lord, possessor of large estates, was at the same time one of the most famous knights in the kingdom. Musicians sang about him in their songs, citing him as an example of honor and gallantry, praising his name as much as the names of other famous knights. At this moment he was the representative of the king, therefore to attack him was to put one's head under the executioner's axe.

Macko becoming cooler, said with deep respect:

"My respects to you, sir, to your bravery and to your gallantry."

"Honor to you also, sir," answered Powala; "but I would prefer to make your acquaintance under less serious circumstances."

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