Sunday, April 27, 2008

1.4.05

"Wait, you scoundrel!" said the elder knight through his set teeth, "now I will make a vow to you. I will seek you as soon as you have finished your mission."

But Powala, whose heart began to bleed also, said:

"That can wait! Now the duchess must speak in favor of the boy, otherwise he is in trouble!"

Having said this, he followed the German Knight, stopped him and for a while they talked with great animation. Macko and Zbyszko noticed that the German knight did not look at Powala so proudly as he had at them; this made them still angrier. After a while, Powala returned and said to them:

"I tried to intercede for you, but he is not an easy man. He said that he would not make a complaint if you would do what he requires."

"What?"

"He quoted: 'I will stop to greet the Duchess of Masovia; let them come, dismount, take off their helmets, and standing on the ground with uncovered heads, ask my forgiveness.'"

Here Powala looked sharply at Zbyszko, and added:

"I know it is hard for people of noble birth, but I must warn you, that if you refuse no one knows what will happen to you, perhaps even the executioner's sword."

The faces of Macko and Zbyszko hardened like stone. There was silence.

"What then?" asked Powala.

Zbyszko answered quietly and with great dignity as though during this conversation he had grown twenty years older:

"Well, God's might is over all of people!"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, that even if I had two heads and the executioner was going to cut off both, still I have only one honor which I will not stain."

Powala became grave and turning toward Macko, asked:

"And what do you say?"

"I say," answered Macko gloomily, "that I raised this youth from childhood. On him depends our family line, because I am old, but he cannot do what the German asks, even if he may perish."

Here his grim face began to quiver and finally his love for his nephew burst forth with such strength, that he seized the boy in his arms, and said:

"Zbyszko! Zbyszko!"

The young knight was surprised and returned his uncle's embrace, saying:

"Well! I did not know that you loved me so much."

"I see that you are both true knights," said Powala; "and since the young man has promised me on his knightly honor, that he will appear at the court, I will not imprison him. One can trust such people as you. No more gloomy thoughts! The German intends to stay in Tyniec a day or two, therefore I will have an opportunity to see the king first, and I will try to tell him about this affair in such a way that his anger will not be aroused. I am glad I succeeded in breaking the spear in time, that was great luck, I tell you!"

But Zbyszko said:

"Even if I had to lay down my life, I would like at least to have the satisfaction of breaking his bones."

"It surprises me that you who know how to defend your own honor, but do not understand that you would disgrace our whole kingdom!" impatiently answered Powala.

"I understand it very well," said Zbyszko; "that is why I regret my inability."

Powala turned toward Macko:

"You know, sir, that if this lad succeeds in escaping the penalty for his offence, then you ought to put a cowl like a hawk's on his head! Otherwise he will not die a natural death."

"He will escape if you, sir, will not say anything to the king about the occurrence."

"And what shall we do with the German? We cannot tie his tongue."

"That is true! That is true!"

Talking, they went back toward the duchess' retinue. Powala's servants who where previously mixed with Lichtenstein’s people now followed them. From afar one could see amidst the Mazovian hats, the quivering peacock feathers of the Teutonic Knight and his bright helmet shining in the sun.
"Strange is the nature of a Teutonic Knight," said the knight of Taczew. "When he is in a tight place, he will be as forbearing as a Franciscan monk, as humble as a lamb and as sweet as honey; in fact, it would be difficult to find a better man. But let him feel power behind him, then nobody will be more arrogant and merciless. It is evident that God gave them stones for hearts. I have seen many different nations and I have often witnessed a true knight spare another who was weaker, saying to himself; 'My fame will not increase if I trample this fallen foe.' But at such a time a Teutonic Knight is implacable. Grab him by the throat and hold, otherwise you are in trouble! Such a man is that envoy! He wanted not only an apology, but also your humiliation. But I am glad he won’t get it."

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