Saturday, August 9, 2008

1.11 (Chap. 11)

The next day after their arrival at Bogdaniec, Macko and Zbyszko began to look around their old home; they soon realized that Zych of Zgorzelice was right when he told them that at first they would have problems.

The farm itself was in a good shape. There were several fields cultivated by the peasants whom the abbot had settled there. Formerly there had been much more cultivated land in Bogdaniec; but after the battle at Plowce where the family Grady perished, there was a scarcity of working hands; and after the invasion of the Germans from Silesia and after the civil war, the formerly rich fields became overgrown with trees. Macko was overwhelmed. In vain he tried for several years to bring farmers from other provinces and rent the land to them; they refused to come, preferring to remain on their own strips of land rather than to cultivate someone else's. His offer however attracted some homeless men; in the different wars, he captured several slaves whom he married and settled in the houses on the farm; and in that way he populated the village. But it was hard work for him; therefore as soon as he had an opportunity, Macko pledged the whole of Bogdaniec, thinking that it would be easier for the powerful abbot to settle the land with peasants, and that the war would bring to him and to Zbyszko some people and money. In fact, the abbot was an energetic caretaker. He had increased the working force of Bogdaniec with five peasant families; he increased the stock of cattle and horses; then he built a barn, a stable and a cow house. But as he did not live in Bogdaniec, he did not repair the house. Macko, who had hoped to find the fort surrounded with a ditch and hedge when he returned, found everything just as he had left it, with this difference only, that the walls were more crooked and seemed to be lower, because they had settled deeper in the earth.

The house contained an enormous hall, two large rooms with alcoves, and a kitchen. In the rooms there were windows made of bladders; and in the center of each room, there was a fireplace made of lime, and the smoke escaped through a hole in the ceiling. From the ceilings now blackened from smoke, during former times used to hang the hams of boars, bears and deer, rumps of roes, sides of beef and rolls of sausages. But now the hooks were empty as well as the shelves fastened to the walls, on which they used to put the tin and earthen dishes. The walls beneath the shelves were no longer empty, however, because Zbyszko had ordered his servants to hang helmets, armor, long swords and short swords on them; and further along spears and forks, caparisons and saddles. The smoke blackened the weapons, and it was necessary to clean them very often. But Macko, who was careful, ordered the servants to put the costly clothes in the alcove in which he slept.

In the front rooms there stood near the windows, tables and benches made of pine, on which the lords used to sit during the meals, with all their servants. People accustomed to war were easily satisfied; but in Bogdaniec there was neither bread nor flour and no dishes. The peasants brought what they could; Macko expected that the neighbors, as was then customary, would help him; and he was not mistaken, at least as far as Zych of Zgorzelice was concerned.

The second day, when the old knight was sitting on a log in front of the house, delighted with the bright autumn day, Jagienka came, riding a black horse; she dismounted and approached Macko, breathing fast from fast ride, and rosy as an apple.

She said: "May you be blessed! Dad sent me to inquire about your health."

"It’s not worse than on the road," answered Macko, "and at least I have slept in my own house."

"But you must be uncomfortable, and a sick person needs some care."

"We are hard men. It is true that there is no comfort, but we were not hungry either. We ordered an ox and two sheep killed, so there is plenty of meat. The women brought some flour and eggs, we just don’t have enough dishes."

"Well, I ordered my servants to load two wagons. On one there are bedding sets and dishes, and on the other the provisions. There are some cakes and flour, some salt pork and dried mushrooms; there is a barrel of beer and one of mead; in fact a little of everything we had in the house."

Macko, grateful for this kindness, caressed Jagienka's head, and said:

"May God reward you and your father. After we settle we will return everything."

"Damn you! We are Germans, to take back what we gave."

"Well, so much more, may God bless you. Your father told us what a good caretaker you are. You cared for Zgorzelice for an entire year?"

"Yes! If you need anything else, send somebody. But, send someone who will know what is needed, because sometimes a stupid servant comes and doesn’t know what he has been sent for."

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