Thursday, September 25, 2008

1.19.4


"What about the prior of Sieradz?"

"Ah, sir! I fear that he is infected with Wycliffe heresy. If, as your shield-bearer told me, you are going to Sieradz, it will be better for me not to show myself to him, because I do not want to lead him into the sin of blasphemy against holy things."

"This means, speaking frankly, that he thinks that you are a swindler."

"If the question were about myself, I would pardon him for the sake of brotherly love; but he has blasphemed against my holy wares, for which, I am very much afraid, he will be eternally damned."

"What kind of holy wares have you?"

"It is not right to talk about them with covered head; but this time, having many indulgences ready, I give you, sir, permission to keep you cowl on, because the wind is blowing again. If you will buy an indulgence, the sin will not be counted against you. What do I have? I have a hoof of the ass on which the Holy Family rode during the flight into Egypt; it was found near the pyramids. The king of Aragon offered me fifty ducats for it. I have a feather from the wings of the archangel Gabriel, which he dropped during the annunciation; I have the heads of two quails, sent to the Israelites in the desert; I have the oil in which the heathen wanted to fry St. John; a step of the ladder about which Jacob dreamed; the tears of St. Mary of Egypt and some rust of St. Peter's keys. But I cannot mention any more. I am very cold and your shield-bearer would not give me any wine."

"Those are great relics, if they are authentic!" said Zbyszko.

"If they are authentic? Take the spear from your attendant and aim it, because the devil is near and brings such thoughts to you. Hold him, sir, at the length of the spear. If you do not wish to bring some misfortune on yourself, then buy an indulgence from me; otherwise within three weeks somebody whom you love, will die."

Zbyszko was frightened at this threat, because he thought about Danusia, and said:

"It is not I, but the prior of the Dominicans in Sieradz who does not believe."

"Look, sir, for yourself, at the wax on the seals; as for the prior, I do not know whether he is still living, because God's justice is quick."

But when they came to Sieradz they found the prior alive and well. Zbyszko went to see him, and paid for two masses; one of which was to be read to insure success for Macko's vow, and the other to insure success for his vow to obtain three peacocks' crests. The prior was a foreigner but during his forty years' residence in Sieradz, he had learned Polish very well, and was a great enemy of the Knights of the Cross. Therefore, having learned about Zbyszko's undertaking, he said:

"A still greater punishment will fall upon them; but I shall not dissuade you, because you promised it upon your knightly honor; neither can there be punishment enough administered by Polish hands for the wrongs they hare perpetrated in this land."

"What have they done?" asked Zbyszko, who was anxious to hear about the sins of the Teutonic Knights.

The old prior crossed his hands and began to recite aloud "Eternal rest" then he sat down on a bench and kept his eyes closed for a while as if to collect his thoughts; finally he began to talk:

"I was twenty years old then, and I had just come from Cylia with my uncle Petzoldt. The Teutonic Knights attacked the town at night and set it on fire. We could see from the walls, how in the market square they cut men and women's heads off, and how they threw little children into the fire. They even killed the priests, because in their fury they spared nobody. The prior Mikolaj, having been born in Elblag, was acquainted with their Komtur Herman, the chief of their army. Therefore he went accompanied by the senior brothers, to that dreadful knight, and kneeling before him, entreated him in German, to have pity on Christian blood. Komtur Herman replied: "I do not understand," and ordered his soldiers to continue killing. They slaughtered the monks also, among them my uncle Petzoldt; the prior Mikolaj was tied to a horse's tail. The next morning there was no man alive in this town except the Teutonic Knights and myself. I hid on a beam in the belfry. God punished them at battle of Plowce but they still want to destroy this Christian kingdom, and nothing will deter them unless God's arm crush them."

"At Plowce," said Zbyszko, "almost all the men of my family perished; but I do not regret it, for God granted a great victory to the king Lokietek and twenty thousand Germans were destroyed.

"You will see a still greater war and a greater victory," said the prior.

"Amen!" answered Zbyszko.
Then they began to talk about other matters. The young knight asked about the peddler of relics whom he met on the road. He learned that many similar swindlers were wandering on the roads, cheating credulous people. The prior also told him that there were papal bulls ordering the bishops to examine such peddlers and immediately punish those who did not have authentic letters and seals. The testimonials of the stranger seemed spurious to the prior; therefore he wanted to deliver him to the bishop's jurisdiction. If he proved that the pope sent him, then no harm would be done to him. He escaped, however. Perhaps he was afraid of the delay in his journey; but on account of this flight, he had drawn on himself still greater suspicion.

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