Monday, May 5, 2008


"And what nation should defeat The Lame, if not ours?"

Thus the knights conversed. Zbyszko was surprised that before he didn’t want to go with Witold to the wild steppes. When he was in Wilno, he wanted to see Krakow and its court and take part in the tournaments; but now he fears that he will find disgrace and the court, while there on the steppes at the worst, he would have found a glorious death.

But a hundred years old knight from Jaglow discouraged the zealous knights.

"You are stupid!" said he. "Is it possible that none of you have beard that Christ's image spoke to the queen? And if the Savior himself condescends to such familiarity, then why would the Holy Ghost, who is the third person of the Trinity, be less kind to her. Because of all that she sees future events, as if they were taking place in front of her, and she said:"

Here he stopped for a while, shook his head, and then said:

"I have forgotten what she prophesied, but I will soon recollect."

He began to think, and they waited silently, because the popular belief was that the queen could see the future.

"Aha!" he finally said, "I remember now! The queen said, that if every knight went with Witold against The Lame-Man, then pagans would be destroyed. But all cannot go because of the dishonesty of Christian lords. We have to guard the boundaries with the Czechs and with the Hungarians and also with the Order, because we cannot trust any of them. Therefore if Witold goes with only a handful of Polish warriors, then Timur the Lame, or his warlords, coming with innumerable troops, will defeat him."

"But we have a peace now," said Toporczyk, "and the Order will give some assistance to Witold. The Teutonic Knights cannot act otherwise, if only for the sake of appearances, and to show to the Holy Father that they are ready to fight the pagans. The courtiers say that Kuno von Lichtenstein came not entirely for the christening, but also to consult with the king."

"Here he is!" exclaimed the astonished Macko.

"True!" said Powala, turning his head. "It is him! He did not stay long with the abbot he had to leave early in the morning."

"He was in a hurry," answered Macko, gloomily.

Kuno von Lichtenstein passed them. Macko recognized him, but he did not recognize either Macko nor Zbyszko because he had seen them before with their helmets on. Passing by, he nodded to Powala of Taczew, and to Toporczyk; then with his shield bearers, he ascended the stairs of the cathedral, in a majestic and stately manner.

At that moment the church bells resounded, frightening flocks of doves, and announcing that mass would soon begin. Macko and Zbyszko entered the church with the others, feeling troubled about Lichtenstein's quick return. The older noble was very uneasy, but the young man's attention was attracted by the king's court. He never saw such a magnificent church nor that many important people. He was surrounded by noted men, famous in war and in counsel. Many of those by whose wisdom the marriage of the Grand Duke of Lithuania with the young and beautiful Queen of Poland, had been planned and accomplished, were now dead; but a few of them were still living, and at these, all looked with the greatest respect. The young knight could not admire enough the magnificent figure of Jasko of Tenczyn, castellan of Krakow, in which sternness was united with dignity and honesty; he admired the wise countenances of the counselors and the powerful faces of the knights whose hair was cut evenly on their foreheads, and fell in long curls on their sides and backs. Some of them wore nets, others wore bands to keep the hair in order. The foreign guests, emissaries from Rome, from Hungary and Austria, and their attendants, wore amazing and elegant costumes. The Lithuanian warlords and boyars, notwithstanding the summer heat, were dressed for the sake of pompous display in costly furs. The Russian warlords wore large stiff dresses, and in the background they looked like figures in Byzantine pictures. With the greatest curiosity Zbyszko awaited the appearance of the king and the queen. He advanced toward the stalls behind which he could see the red velvet cushions near the altar, on which the king and the queen kneeled during mass.

He did not wait long. The king entered first, through the vestry door, and before he reached the altar one could have a good look at him. He had long, dark, disheveled hair; his face was thin and clean shaven; he had a large pointed nose and some wrinkles around his mouth. His eyes were small, dark, and shining. His face had a kind but cautious look, like that of a man who having risen by good luck to a position far beyond his expectations, is obliged to think continually whether his actions correspond to his dignity and who is afraid of malicious criticism. This also was the reason why in his face and in his movements there was a certain impatience. It was very easy to understand that his anger would be sudden and dreadful. He was that prince, who being angered at the frauds of the Knights of the Cross, shouted after their envoy: "Thou comest to me with a parchment, but I will come to thee with a spear!"

But now this natural vehemence was restrained by great and sincere piety. He set a good example, not only to the recently converted Lithuanian princes, but even to the Polish lords, pious for generations. Often the king kneeled, for the greater mortification of the flesh, on bare stones; often having raised his hands, he held them uplifted until they dropped with fatigue. He attended at least three masses every day. After mass he left the church as if just awakened from slumber, soothed and gentle. The courtiers knew that it was the best time to ask him either for pardon, or for a gift.

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