Monday, December 15, 2008


Macko, the guide, began to look at de Lorche with certain uneasiness and finally said:

"Sometimes it happens that there are hundreds of devils in a possessed man, and if they are crowded, they are glad to cross to other people. The worst devil is the one sent by a woman."

Then he turned suddenly to the knight:

"May Jesus Christ be praised!"

"I praise him also," answered de Lorche, with some astonishment.

Macko was completely reassured.

"You see, if the devil was dwelling in him, he would have foamed immediately, or he would have been thrown to the earth, because I surprised him. We can go."

So they proceeded steadily. The distance between Ciechanow and Przasnysz is not great, and during the summer a cavalier riding a good horse can travel from one city to the other in two hours; but they were riding in the darkness and snowdrifts. They started after midnight and did not arrive at the prince's hunting house until daybreak.

The wooden mansion stood on the edge of the primeval forest. It was large and had glass windows, symbol of wealth. In a front were the well sweeps and two barns for horses. Around the mansion were many tents made of skins and shelters hastily built of the pine tree branches. The fires shone brightly in front of the tents, and round them were standing the huntsmen dressed in coats made of fox skins, wolf skins and bear skins, with the hair turned outside. They looked like wild beasts standing on two legs, because the majority of them had caps made of the heads of animals. Some of them were leaning on their spears or crossbows; others were busy winding enormous nets; others were turning large pieces of meat over the fire, evidently preparing them for breakfast.

Behind them were the trunks of enormous pines and more people. Such great number of people astonished the man from Lorraine. He was not accustomed to see such large hunting parties.

"Your princes go to a hunt as if to a war."

"That is true, they lack neither hunting implements nor people" answered Macko.

"What are we going to do?" interrupted Zbyszko; "they are still asleep in the mansion."

"Well, we must wait until they get up" answered Macko. "We don’t want to knock on the door and awaken the prince, do we?"

Having said that, he led them to a fire, near which the hunters threw some wolf skins on the ground, and then offered them some roasted meat. Hearing a foreign speech, the people began to gather round to see the visitor. Zbyszko's people spread the news that there was a knight "from beyond the seas," and the crowd became so great that elders had to shield the foreigner from their curiosity. De Lorche also noticed some women in the crowd dressed in skins, but unusually pretty. He inquired whether they also participated in the hunt.

Macko explained to him that they did not. They came to satisfy their womanly curiosity, or to purchase the products of the towns and to sell the riches of the forest. The prince’s court was like a fireplace, round which two kinds of people gathered, city and forest people. The forest people, Kurpie, disliked to leave their wilderness; therefore the inhabitants of a nearby city brought their goods to them. They brought their beer, the ground flour, the much-needed salt, iron, leather and other products. In exchange they took skins, costly furs, dried mushrooms, nuts, herbs for medicine and amber, which was plentiful among the Kurpie. Therefore round the prince's court there was the noise of a continual market, increased during the hunting season.

De Lorche listened to Macko, looking with curiosity at the people, who, living in the healthy resinous air and eating mostly meat astonished the foreign travelers by their strength and size.

Zbyszko was continually looking at the doors and windows of the mansion, hardly able to contain himself. There was light in one window, evidently from the kitchen, because steam was coming out through the gapes between the panes.

In the small door, situated in the side of the house, servants appeared from time to time, hurrying to the wells for water. When asked if everybody was still sleeping, answered that the court, tired by the previous day's hunting, was still resting, but that breakfast was being prepared. And, in fact through the kitchen window the smell of roasted meat and saffron was spreading.

Finally the main door opened, showing the interior of a brightly lighted hall, and on the porch appeared a man whom Zbyszko recognized as one of the musicians, whom he had seen with the princess in Krakow. Seeing him, and waiting neither for Macko nor for de Lorche, Zbyszko rushed toward the mansion. Astonished foreigner asked:

"What is the matter with the young knight?"

"There is nothing the matter with him," answered Macko, "he is in love with a girl from the princess' court and wants to see her as soon as possible."

"Ah!" answered de Lorche, putting both of his hands on his heart.

Looking up he began to sigh deeply. Seeing that Macko shrugged his shoulders and said to himself:

"Is he sighing for his woman? May be his senses are impaired?"

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