Sunday, September 14, 2008

1.16 (Chap. 16)


Zbyszko joined Zych and Jagienka and abbot’s retinue on the road to Krzesnia, because he wanted to show the abbot that he was not afraid either of Wolf, or of Cztan. He was again surprised at Jagienka beauty. He had often seen her dressed beautifully, but never had she looked as she did now going to church. Her dress was made of red broadcloth, lined with ermine fur; she wore red gloves, and on her head was an ermine fur hood embroidered with gold, from beneath which two braids fell down on her shoulders. She was not sitting on the horse astride, but on a high saddle which had an arm and a little bench for her feet, which scarcely showed from beneath her long skirt. Zych permitted the girl to dress in a sheepskin overcoat and high-legged boots when at home, but required that for church she should be dressed not like the daughter of a poor knight but like a lady from a mighty and noble clan. Two boys, dressed like pages, led her horse. Four servants were riding behind with the abbot's people, who were armed with swords and carried their lutes. Zbyszko admired all the retinue, but especially Jagienka, who looked like a picture. The abbot, who was dressed in a red cloak, having enormous sleeves, resembled a traveling prince. Zych, who cared that others look magnificent, wore the most modest clothes and cared only for singing and joy.

Zych, Zbyszko, Jagienka and the abbot rode together. At first the abbot ordered his people to sing some church songs; afterward, when he was tired of their songs, he began to talk with Zbyszko, who smiled at his enormous sword, which was as large as a two-handed German sword.

"I see," he said gravely, "that you wonder at my sword; you should know that synods permit a clergyman to wear a sword during a journey, and I am traveling. When the holy father forbade the priests to wear swords and red dresses, most assuredly he meant the men of low birth, because God intended that noblemen should wear arms; and he who would dare to take this right from a nobleman, would oppose His eternal will."

"I saw the Masovian Prince Henryk, when he fought in the lists," said Zbyszko.

"We do not censure him, because he fought," answered the abbot, raising his finger, "but because he married and married unhappily, and besides that she was an adulteress, from whom no one could expect any good." He stopped his horse and began to expound with still greater gravity:

"Whoever wishes to marry, must ascertain that a wife is pious, moral, a good housekeeper and clean. This is recommended not only by the fathers of the church, but also by a certain pagan sage, called Seneca. And how can you know whether you have chosen well, if you do not know the nest from which you take your life companion? Because another sage has said: As is the ox, so is the skin; as is the mother, so is the girl. From which you, a sinner, must draw this moral, that you must look for your wife not far away, but near; because if you get a bad one, you will cry as did the philosopher, when his quarrelsome wife poured hot water on his head."

"Forever and ever, amen!" exclaimed in unison the wandering clerics, who when always responding to the abbot this way, did not care if it made any sense.

They were all listening very attentively to the abbot's words, admiring his eloquence and his knowledge of the Scriptures; he apparently did not speak directly to Zbyszko; but on the contrary, he turned more toward Zych and Jagienka, as if he wished to edify them. But evidently Jagienka understood what he was trying to do, because from beneath her long eyelashes, she looked at Zbyszko, who frowned and dropped his head as if he were seriously thinking about what the abbot had said.

After this the retinue moved on silently; but when they came near Krzesnia, the abbot touched his girdle and then turned it so that he could seize the hilt of his sword more easily, and said:

"I am sure that old Wolf will come with a good retinue."

"Perhaps," replied Zych, "but I heard that he was not well."

"One of my clerics heard that he intends to attack us in front of the inn after the service is over."

"He will not do that without a challenge, and especially after holy mass."

"May God, bring him to reason. I do not seek a quarrel with anybody and I bear my wrongs patiently."

Here he looked at his men, and said:

"Do not draw your swords, and remember that you are spiritual servants; but if they attack us first, then strike them!"

Zbyszko, while riding beside Jagienka, said to her:

"I am sure that in Krzesnia we will meet young Wolf and Cztan. Show me them from afar, so that I may recognize them."

"Very well, Zbyszko," answered Jagienka.

"Do they not meet you before the service and after the service? What do they do then?"

"They serve me."

"They will not serve you now, understand?" And she answered again, almost with humility:
"Very well, Zbyszku."

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