Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chapter 4 (1.4.01)

It was in the afternoon that the duchess left hospitable Tyniec and went toward Krakow. Often the knights of those times, coming into larger cities or castles to visit some important person, used to put on their entire battle armor. It was customary to take it off immediately after they crossed the gates when the host himself invited them to remove it saying: "Take off your armor, noble lord; you have come to friends!" Nevertheless, such military style entrance was considered to be more dignified and increasing the importance of the knight. To conform with this custom Macko and Zbyszko took with them those excellent suits of armor and shoulder bands won from the Fryzjan knights, bright, shining, and ornamented on the edges with a gold band. Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who had seen the world and many knights, and was an expert in military matters, immediately recognized that a famous armorer of Milan had made those suits of armor. Only the richest knights could afford such armor. Each of them being worth quite a fortune. He concluded that those Fryzes were highly placed lords among their own people, and he looked with more respect at Macko and Zbyszko. Their helmets, although not common ones were not so expensively built, but their gigantic stallions, beautifully ornamented, caused envy and admiration among the courtiers. Macko and Zbyszko, sitting on very high saddles, looked down proudly at the whole court. Each held in his hand a long spear; each had a sword at his side and an axe at the saddle. For the sake of comfort they had left their shields in the wagons, but even without them, both men looked as though they were going to battle and not to the city.

They both were riding near the carriage, in which in the back seat was the duchess with Danusia, and in front of them a dignified court lady, Ofka, with Mikolaj of Dlugolas. Danusia looked with great interest at the two iron knights and duchess Anna from time to time pulled the box with the relics of Saint Ptolemy from her garments and raised it to her lips.

"I am very curious what bones are inside," said she, "but I will not open it myself, for I do not want to offend the saint. I will let the bishop in Krakow open it."

Mikolaj of Dlugolas answered:

"It will be better not to let this go out of your hands, it is too precious."

"You may be right," said the duchess after a moment of reflection, and then she added:

"It has been a while since someone gave me some happiness as this abbot did. By giving me this present and calming my fears about the relics of the Order."

"He spoke wisely and well," said Macko of Bogdaniec. "At Wilno they also had different relics, and they wanted to persuade the guests that they were at war with the pagans. And what? Our knights noticed that if they made a good blow with an axe, immediately the helmet and head gave way. The saints help, it would be a sin to say otherwise, but only the righteous, who go to just war in God's name. So I think, my gracious lady, that if there will be another war, even if all German people help the Knights, we will defeat them, because our nation is greater and the Lord Jesus gave us more strength. As for the relics, don’t we have a piece from the Jesus' Cross in the monastery of Holy Cross Mountains?"

"It is true, as God is dear to me," said the duchess. "But ours will remain in the monastery, while if necessary they carry theirs."

"No matter! There is no limit to God's power."

"Is that true? Tell me, how is it?" asked the duchess, turning to the Mikolaj of Dlugolas and he said:

"Every bishop will affirm that. Rome is distant too, and yet the pope rules over the whole world, cannot God do more!"

These words soothed the duchess so completely that she turned the subject of the conversation toward Tyniec and its magnificence. The Mazurs were astonished not only at the riches of the abbey, but also at the wealth and beauty of the whole country through which they were now riding. All around were many flourishing villages; near them were orchards full of fruit trees, linden groves, storks' nests on the linden trees, and beneath the trees were beehives with straw roofs. Along the road on both sides, there were fields of all kinds of grain. From time to time, the wind bent the still greenish sea of grain, amidst which shone like the stars in the sky, the blue heads of the flowers of the bachelor button, and the light red wild poppies. Far beyond the fields appeared the woods. Here and there appeared moist meadows, full of grass and lapwings flying over wetlands, then again appeared hills with houses, again fields, and as far as one could see, the country appeared to flow not only with milk and honey but also with quiet and happiness.

"That is king’s farm land," said the duchess; "it would be good to live here forever."
"The Lord Jesus rejoices to see such a country," answered Mikolaj of Dlugolas; "and God's blessing is over it; but how can it be different; when they ring the bells here, there is no corner where they cannot be heard! And it is known that no evil spirit can endure the ringing of the bells, so they have to run to the forests on the Hungarian border."

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