Sunday, June 22, 2008

1.5.11


They both began to sigh, and the old nobleman spoke with emotion:

"Don’t worry, your bones will not search for one another at the day of judgment. I have ordered an oak coffin for you. Even the elders of the church could not have any better. You will not perish like a peasant. I will not permit them to decapitate you on the same cloth on which they behead burghers. I have made an agreement that they furnish a new cloth, so handsome that it would be good even for the king. I will not spare any money for a mass in your intention, don't worry!"

Zbyszko's heart rejoiced, and bending toward his uncle's hand, he repeated:

"God will reward you!"

Sometimes, however, notwithstanding all this consolation he was seized with a feeling of dreadful loneliness; therefore, another time when Macko came to see him, as soon as he had welcomed him, he asked him, looking through the grate in the wall:

"How is it outside?"

"Beautiful weather, like gold, and the sun warms so that all the world is pleased."

Hearing this, Zbyszko put both his hands on his neck, and raising his head, said:

"O God! To have a horse and to ride on fields! It is dreadful to die young! So dreadful!"

"People perish on horseback!" answered Macko.

"Yeah! But how many do they kill before!"

And he began to ask about the knights whom he had seen at the king's court what they were doing; how they amused themselves; on what exercises they passed the time? And he listened with interest to Macko’s stories about knights dressed in their armor jumping over horses, about kights trying their skills with swords and with axes with lead edges, about feasts and what songs they sang. Zbyszko longed with heart and soul to be with them, and when he learned that Zawisza leaves right after the christening and goes somewhere beyond Hungary against the Turks, he could not refrain from exclaiming:

"If they would only let me go with him, even to perish fighting the pagans!"

But that could not happen, however something else happened. Both princesses of Masovia had not ceased to think about Zbyszko, who had captivated them by his youth and handsomeness. Finally the Princess Alexandra decided to send a letter to the grand master. It was true that the grand master could not alter the castellan’s sentence but he could intercede with the king in favor of the youth. It was not right for Jagiello to show any clemency, because the offence was an attempt on the life of the envoy; but if the grand master besought the king, then the king would pardon the lad. Therefore hope entered the hearts of both princesses. Princess Alexandra being fond of the monk-knights was also their favorite. Very often they sent her rich presents and letters in which the master called her venerable, pious benefactress and the protector of the Order. Her words could do much; it was probable that her wishes would not be denied. The question now was to find a messenger, who would be zealous enough to carry the letter as soon as possible and return immediately with the answer. Having heard this, the old Macko volunteered for it without any hesitation.

The castellan promised to delay the execution. Full of hope, Macko immediately started preparations for the journey. Then he went to see Zbyszko, to tell him the good news.

At first Zbyszko was filled with as great joy, as if they had already opened the door of the tower for him. But afterward he became thoughtful and gloomy, and said:

"Who can expect anything good from the Germans! Lichtenstein also could ask the king for clemency; and he could get some benefit from it because he would thus avoid your vengeance; but he wouldn’t do anything."

"He is angry because we would not apologize to him on the road to Tyniec. The people don’t say anything bad about the master Konrad. At any rate you will not lose anything by it."

"Sure," said Zbyszko, "but do not bow too low to him."

"I shall not. I am going with the letter from Duchess Alexandra that is all."

"Well, as you are so kind, may God help you!"

Suddenly he looked sharply at his uncle and said:

"But if the king pardons me, Lichtenstein shall be mine, not yours. Remember!"

"You are not sure about your neck yet, therefore don't make any promises. You have enough of those stupid vows!" said the angry old man.

Then they threw themselves into each other's arms and then Zbyszko was alone. Hope and uncertainty tossed his soul by turns; but when a night came, and with it a storm, when the window with iron bars was lighted by lightnings and the walls shook with the thunder, when finally the whistling wind rushed into the tower and extinguished a light in his cell, plunged into darkness Zbyszko again lost confidence; all night he could not close his eyes.

"I shall not escape death," he thought, "nothing can help me!"
But the next day, the Duchess Anna came to see him, she brought with her Danusia who wore her little lute at her belt. Zbyszko fell at their feet, then, although he was in great distress after a sleepless night he did not forget his duty as a knight and expressed his surprise at Danusia's beauty.

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