Monday, July 28, 2008

1.8 (Chap. 8)


Duchess Anna was not surprised at the arrival of Jurand of Spychow. It used to happen, that during the continual fights with neighboring German knights, a sudden longing for Danusia seized him. Then he would appear unexpectedly in Warsaw, in Ciechanow, or wherever Duke Janusz's court was situated at the time.

Every time he saw the child, his grief burst anew because Danusia looked like her mother when she was her age. The people often thought that his iron heart devoted to vengeance would finally become softer because of such grief. The duchess often tried to persuade him to abandon his bloody Spychow, and remain at the court near Danusia. The prince himself, appreciating his bravery and importance, and at the same time wishing to spare himself the problems caused by the constant quarrels on the frontier, offered him the office of sword bearer. It was always in vain. It was the sight of Danusia that opened his the old wounds. After a few days he always lost his appetite, could not sleep, and became silent. Evidently his heart began to bleed, and finally he would disappear from the court and returned to the marshes of Spychow, to drown his grief and anger in blood.

The people used to say: "Woe to the Germans! They are not sheep, but they are sheep to Jurand, because he is a wolf to them." With time, the news would spread about the guests and volunteers who were captured on their journey to the Order; about burned towns, and captured peasants; or about deadly fights from which the terrible Jurand always emerged victorious. Because of the predatorial disposition of the Mazurs and of the German knights who were holding the land from the Order, even during the greatest peace the fighting never stopped on the frontier. Even when cutting wood in the forests or harvesting in the fields, the inhabitants had to carry their arms. The people lived not knowing what the next day would bring, they lived in continual readiness for war, and were hard-hearted. Nobody was satisfied with self-defence only, but for pillage repaid with pillage; for conflagration, with conflagration; for home invasion, with home invasion. It often happened that while the Germans were stealing through the forest, to attack some stronghold and to seize the peasants or the cattle, at the same time, the Mazurs were doing the same. Sometimes they met and fought; but often only the leaders challenged each other for a deadly fight, after which the conqueror took the retinue of his defeated adversary. So, when complaints were received at the Warsavian court about Jurand, the prince used to reply with complaints about the attacks made by the Germans. Thus both sides asked for justice, but neither was willing to grant it; all robberies, conflagrations and invasions went unpunished.

Jurand dwelling in Spychow, surrounded by marshes overgrown with rushes, and filled with an unquenchable desire for vengeance, was so dreaded by his German neighbors, that finally their fear became greater than their courage. The lands bordering with Spychow, were lying fallow; the forests were overgrown with wild hops and the meadows with reeds. Several German knights tried to settle in the neighborhood of Spychow; but everyone of them after a time, preferred to abandon his estate held in fief, his herds and his peasants, rather than live near this implacable man. Very often the knights planned a common expedition against Spychow; but everyone ended in defeat. They tried different means. One time they brought from the province of Mein, a knight noted for his strength and cruelty, and who had always been victorious in all fights. He challenged Jurand. But as soon as they entered the lists, the German was so frightened at the sight of the dreadful Mazur, that he wheeled his horse intending to flee; Jurand pierced his defenseless buttocks with a spear, and in that way dishonored him forever. After that still greater fear filled the neighbors, and if a German perceived even from afar Spychowian smoke, he immediately crossed himself and began to pray to his patron in heaven. It was generally believed that Jurand had sold his soul to the evil for the sake of vengeance.

The people told dreadful tales about Spychow: they said that the path leading to it through the marshes was overgrown with duck weed and was so narrow that two men on horseback could not ride abreast; that on each side there were many bones, and that during the night, the heads of drowned men were seen walking on spiders' legs, howling and drawing travelers on horses into the depths. They also said that the gate in the stronghold was ornamented with skulls. The truth in those stories was that in the barred pits dug under the house, there were always several groaning prisoners; and Jurand's name was more dreadful than those tales about the skeletons and drowned people.

Zbyszko having learned of Jurand's arrival, hastened to him, but with a certain uneasiness in his heart because he was Danusia's father. Nobody could forbid him choose Danusia for the lady of his thoughts; but afterward they got engaged. What will Jurand say to that?
Will he consent? What will happen if he refuse his consent? These questions filled his heart with fear, because he now cared for Danusia more than for anything else in the world. He was only encouraged by the thought that perhaps Jurand would praise him for having attacked Lichtenstein, because he had done it to avenge Danusia's mother; and in consequence had nearly lost his own head.

In the meantime he began to question the courtier, who had come for him:

"Where are you taking me? To the castle?"

"Yes, to the castle. Jurand is with the duchess' court."

"Tell me, what kind of a man he is, so that I may know how to talk with him!"

"What can I tell you! He is a man entirely different from other men. They say that he was jovial before his blood boiled!"

"Is he wise?"

"He is cunning; he robs others but he does not let others rob him. Hey! He has only one eye, because an arrow from German crossbow destroyed the other; but with that one, he can look a man through and through. He loves no one except the duchess, our lady; and he loves her because his wife was a lady from her court, and now his daughter is with her."

Zbyszko breathed.

"Then you think that he will not oppose the duchess' will?"
"I know what you would like to learn, and therefore I will tell you what I heard. The duchess spoke to him about your engagement, because it would not be proper to conceal it from him; but it is not known what he said in reply."

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