Sunday, April 27, 2008


"Why?" asked Macko.

Powala turned toward Zbyszko.

"What have you done, young man? You attacked an envoy on the public highway close to king's residence! Do you know the consequences of such an act?"

"He attacked the envoy because he is young and stupid, therefore the action was easier for him than reflection," said Macko. "But you will not judge him so severely, after I tell you the whole story."

"It is not I who will judge him. My business is only to put him in chains."

"How is that?" said Macko, looking gloomy again.

"According to the king's standing orders."

Silence followed these words.

"He is a nobleman," said Macko finally.

"Let him swear then upon his knightly honor, that he will appear at the court."

"I swear!" exclaimed Zbyszko.

"Very well. What do they call you?"

Macko gave the name and the coat of arms of his nephew.

"If you belong to Duchess court then beg her to intercede for you with the king."

"We are not with her court. We are returning from Lithuania, from Duke Witold. It would be better for us if we had never met any court! This misfortune has come from that."

Here Macko began to tell about what had happened in the inn. He spoke about the meeting with the princess and about Zbyszko's vow. Then finally he was filled with anger against Zbyszko, whose lack of judgment put them in a dreadful situation; therefore, turning toward him, he exclaimed:

"You should have died at Wilno! What have you been thinking, you juvenile wild boar!"

"Well," said Zbyszko, "after the vow, I prayed to the Lord Jesus to let me meet some Germans; I promised an offering; therefore when I saw the peacock feathers, and a mantle with a cross, immediately a voice inside me cried: 'Strike the German, because it’s a miracle!' So I rushed forward; who wouldn’t have done it?"

"Listen," interrupted Powala, "I do not wish you any evil. I see clearly that this youngster is guilty of acting without thinking and not of malice. I will be only too happy to ignore his actions and go as if nothing had happened. But I cannot do that unless that komtur will promise that he will not complain to the king. Ask him, perhaps he will pity the lad too."

"I prefer to stand before the court, than to bow to a German Knight!" exclaimed Zbyszko. "It would not be befitting my dignity as a noble."

Powala of Taczew looked at him severely and said:

"You do not act wisely. Older people know better than you, what is right and what is befitting a knight's dignity. People have heard about me, but I tell you, that if I had acted as you have, I would not be ashamed to ask forgiveness for such an offence."

Zbyszko felt ashamed; but having glanced around, answered:

"The ground is level here. Instead of asking him for forgiveness, I would prefer to fight him on horseback or on foot, till death or slavery."

"You are stupid!" interrupted Macko. "You wish then to fight the envoy?"

Here he turned to Powala:

"You must excuse him, my lord. He became headstrong during the war. It will be better if he does not speak to the German, because he may insult him. I will do it. I will ask him to forgive, and if this komtur be willing to settle it by combat, after his mission is over, even I will meet him."

"He is a knight from a great clan, he will not encounter everybody who challenges him" answered Powala.

"What? Do I not wear a knight’s belt and spurs? Even a prince may meet me."

"That is true, but do not tell him that, unless he mentions it himself. I’m afraid he will become angry if you do. Well, may God help you!"

"I am going to humiliate myself for your sake," said Macko to Zbyszko, "wait here!"

He approached the Knight who sat motionless on his enormous stallion, looking like an iron statue, and listened to the conversation with great indifference. Macko having learned German during the long wars began to explain to the komtur in his language what had happened. He excused the boy on account of his youth and violent temper, and said that it seemed to the boy as though God himself had sent the knight wearing a peacock tuft, and finally he begged forgiveness for the offence.

The knight’s face did not move. Calm and imperious he looked at Macko with his steely eyes with great indifference, but also with great contempt. The noble of Bogdaniec noticed this. His words continued to be courteous but his soul began to boil. He talked with increasing constraint and his swarthy face flushed. It was evident that in the presence of this haughty pride, Macko was fighting to restrain his anger.

Powala seeing this, and having a kind heart, decided to help Macko. He also learned to speak German while seeking adventures at the Hungarian, Burgundian and Bohemian courts, when he was young. Therefore, he now said in that language to Macko in a conciliatory, and purposely-jesting tone:

"You see, sir, the noble komtur thinks that the whole affair is unimportant. Not only in our kingdom but in every country the youths are slightly crazy; but such a noble knight does not fight children, neither by sword nor by law."

Lichtenstein touched his yellow moustache and moved on without a word, passing Macko and Zbyszko.
A dreadful wrath began to raise the hair under their helmets, and their hands grasped their swords.

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