Wednesday, September 24, 2008


"The wolves killed the horse in the forest before I found it, but the chests remained; I brought them to the road, and then waited for mercy and help."

Wishing to prove that he was speaking the truth, he pointed to two chests made of leather, lying under a pine tree. Zbyszko still looked at him suspiciously, because the man did not look honest, and his speech indicated that he came from a distant part of the country. He did not refuse to help him, however, but permitted him to ride the horse led by the Czech and take the chests, which proved to be very light.

"May God multiply your victories, valiant knight!" said the stranger.

Then, seeing Zbyszko's youthful face, be added softly:

"And the hairs on your beard, too."

He rode beside the Czech. For a time they could not talk, because a strong wind was blowing and roaring in the forest; but when it decreased, Zbyszko heard the following conversation behind him.

"I don't deny that you were in Rome; but you look like a beer drinking drunk," said the Czech.

"Look out for eternal damnation," answered the stranger; "you are talking to a man who during last Easter ate hard boiled eggs with the Holy Father. Don't speak to me in such cold weather about beer, unless it’s warm; but if you have a flask of wine with you, then let me have two or three swallows of it, and I will pardon you a month of purgatory."

"You have not been ordained; I heard you say you had not. How then can you grant me pardon for a month of purgatory?"

"I have not received ordination, but I have my head shaved, because I received permission for that; beside, I am carrying indulgences and relics."

"In the chests?" asked the Czech.

"Yes, in the chests. If you saw all I have there, you would fall on your face, not only you, but all the pines in the forest and all the wild beasts."

But the Czech, being an intelligent and experienced man, looked suspiciously at this peddler of indulgences, and said:

"The wolves devoured your horse?"

"Yes, they devoured him, because they are the devil's relatives. If you have any wine, give me some; although the wind has ceased, yet I am frozen, having sat by the road so long."

The Czech would not give him any wine; and they rode along silently, until the stranger began to ask:

"Where are you going?"

"Far. At first to Sieradz, are you going with us?"

"I must. I will sleep in the stable, and perhaps tomorrow this pious knight will give me a present of a horse; then I will go further."

"Where are you from?"

"From under Prussian lords, not far from Marienburg."

Having heard this, Zbyszko turned and motioned to the stranger to come nearer to him.

"Did you come from Marienburg?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"So you are a German? You speak our language very well. What is your name?"

"I am a German, and they call me Sanderus; I speak your language well, because I was born in Torun, where everybody speaks that language; then I lived in Marienburg, and there it is the same. Even the brothers of the Order understand your language."

"How long since you left Marienburg?"

"I was in the Holy Land, then in Constantinople and Rome; then through France I came to Marienburg and from there I was going to Masovia, carrying the holy relics which pious Christians buy willingly, for the salvation of their souls."

"Have you been in Plock or in Warsaw?"

"I was in both cities. May God give good health to both of the princesses! Princess Alexandra is greatly esteemed even by the Prussian lords, because she is a pious lady; the princess Anna is also pious."

"Did you see the court in Warsaw?"

"I did not meet them in Warsaw but in Ciechanow, where both the duke and duchess received me hospitably, and gave me generous presents, as God's servant deserves to receive. I left them relics, which will bring them God's blessing."

Zbyszko wanted to ask about Danusia; but he understood that it would be unwise to make a confidant of this stranger, a man of low origin and suspicious looks, who could be a con artist. Therefore, after a short silence, he asked:

"What kind of relics are you carrying?"
"I carry indulgences and relics; the indulgences are of different kinds; there are total indulgences, some for five hundred years, some for three hundred, some for two hundred and some for less time, which are cheaper, so that even poor people can buy them and shorten the torments of purgatory. I have indulgences for future and for past sins; but don't think, sir, that I keep the money I receive for them. I am satisfied with a piece of black bread and a glass of water--that is enough for me; the rest I carry to Rome, to accumulate enough for a new crusade. It is true, there are many swindlers who carry false indulgences, false relics, false seals and false testimonials; and they are righteously pursued by the holy father's letters; but I was wronged by the prior of Sieradz, because my seals are authentic. Look, sir, at the wax and tell me what you think of them."

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