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Title: The Deluge, Vol. I. (of 2) - An Historical Novel of Poland, Sweden, and Russia.
Author: Sienkiewicz, Henryk, 1846-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/delugeanhistori00siengoog

   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe]. [.Z] represents Z with
      a dot above it.



                              THE DELUGE.

                                Vol. I.



                              THE WORKS OF
                          HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ.

                 AUTHORIZED UNABRIDGED TRANSLATIONS BY
                            JEREMIAH CURTIN.

                            LIBRARY EDITION.

                                *  *  *

                          Historical Romances.

                 _Poland, Turkey, Russia, and Sweden_.

      With Fire And Sword. 1 vol.
      The Deluge. 2 vols.
      Pan Michael. 1 vol.

                      _Rome in the time of Nero_.

      "Quo Vadis." 1 vol.

                        Novels of Modern Poland.

      Children of the Soil. 1 vol.
      Without Dogma. 1 vol. (Translated by Iza Young.)

                             Short Stories.

      Hania, and Other Stories. 1 vol.
      Sielanka, a Forest Picture, and Other Stories.   1 vol.

                                *  *  *

      On the Bright Shore. 1 vol.
      Let Us Follow Him. 1 vol.

      *** The above two are also included in the volume entitled
          "Hania."

      Yanko the Musician, and Other Stories, 1 vol.
      Lillian Morris, and Other Stories, 1 vol.

      *** The tales and sketches included in these two volumes are now
reprinted with others by Sienkiewicz in the volume entitled "Sielanka,
a Forest Picture, and Other Stories."



                              THE DELUGE.


                          An Historical Novel

                                   OF

                      POLAND, SWEDEN, AND RUSSIA.

                              A SEQUEL TO

                         "WITH FIRE AND SWORD."



                                   BY

                          HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ.


              _AUTHORIZED AND UNABRIDGED TRANSLATION FROM
                             THE POLISH BY_

                            JEREMIAH CURTIN.



                            IN TWO VOLUMES.

                                Vol. I.



                                BOSTON:
                       LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
                                 1915.



                 _Copyright, 1891_, by Jeremiah Curtin.

                             *  *  *  *  *

                                Printers
                  S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, U.S.A.



                        TO HON. CHARLES A. DANA,

                          Editor of "The Sun,"
                                         New York.


Sir,--I beg to dedicate to you this translation of a remarkable work,
touching a period eventful in the history of the Poles, and the Slav
race in general. You will appreciate the pictures of battle and trial
contained in these volumes, for you know great events not from books
merely but from personal contact. You receive pleasure from various
literatures, and from considering those points of character by which
nations and men are distinguished; hence, as I think, THE DELUGE will
give you some mental enjoyment, and perhaps turn your attention to a
new field of history.

                                                JEREMIAH CURTIN.


Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology,
            November 25, 1891.



                             INTRODUCTION.


The wars described in THE DELUGE are the most complicated and
significant in the whole career of the Commonwealth, for the political
motives which came into play during these wars had their origin in
early and leading historical causes.

The policy of the Teutonic Knights gave the first of its final results
in the war of 1655, between Sweden and Poland, since it made the
elector independent in Prussia, where soon after, his son was crowned
king. The war with Great Russia in 1654, though its formal cause came,
partly at least, from the struggle of 1612, in which the Poles had
endeavored to subjugate Moscow, was really roused by the conflict of
Southern Russian with Poland to win religious and material equality.

The two fundamental events of Polish history are the settlement of the
Teutonic Knights in Prussia, through the action of the Poles
themselves; and the union of Poland with Lithuania and Russia by the
marriage of Yadviga, the Polish princess, to Yagyello, Grand Prince of
Lithuania.

Before touching on the Teutonic Knights, a few words may be given to
the land where they began that career which cut off Poland from the
sea, took from the Poles their political birthplace, and gave its name
and territory to the chief kingdom of the new German Empire, the
kingdom which is in fact the creator and head of that Empire.

Prussia in the thirteenth century extended from the Vistula eastward to
the Niemen, and from the Baltic southward about as far as it does at
present. In this territory lived the Prussians. East of the Niemen
lived the Lithuanians, another division of the same stock of people.
West of the Vistula lay Pomorye,[1] now Pomerania, occupied at that
time exclusively by Slavs under Polish dominion.

The Prussians, a people closely related to the Slavs, were still
Pagans, as were also the Lithuanians; and having a more highly
developed religion than either the pre-Christian Slavs or the Germans,
their conversion was likely to be of a more difficult nature.

At the end of the tenth and in the beginning of the thirteenth
centuries attempts were made to convert the Prussians; but the only
result was the death of the missionaries, who seem to have been too
greatly filled with zeal to praise their own faith and throw contempt
on that of the people among whom they were really only guests and
sojourners.

Finally, a man appeared more adroit and ambitious than others,--Christian,
a monk of Olivka, near Dantzig. This monk, we are told, had a knowledge
of the weak points of men, spoke Prussian as well as Polish, was not
seeking the crown of martyrdom, and never made light of things held
sacred by those to whom he was preaching. After a few years his success
was such as to warrant a journey to Rome, where he explained to Innocent
III. the results of his labor. The Pope encouraged the missionary, and
in 1211 instructed the Archbishop of Gnezen to aid Christian with his
co-workers and induce secular princes to help them.

Christian returned from Rome with renewed zeal; but instead of being
helped he was hindered, for tribute and labor were imposed on his
converts by the secular power. Since the new religion was coupled with
servitude, the Prussians were roused greatly against it.

Christian strove to obtain relief for his converts, but in vain. Then,
taking two native followers, he made a second journey to Rome, was
created first Bishop of Prussia, and returned again to the field.

The great body of Prussians now considered all converts as traitors.
The priests of the native religion roused the people, and attacked
those persons as renegades who had deserted the ancient faith and were
bringing slavery to the country. They went farther and fell upon
Mazovia, whence the propaganda had issued. Konrad, unable to defend
himself, bought them off with rich presents. The newly made converts
were killed, captured, or driven to deep forests.

Christian turned to the Pope a third time, and implored him to direct
against Prussia those Poles who were going to the Holy Land.

The Archbishop of Gnezen was instructed from Rome to make this change,
and the Poles were summoned against Prussia for the following year. The
crusade was preached also in Germany.

Warriors arrived from both countries in fairly large numbers, and
during their presence ruined villages and churches were rebuilt in the
district of Culm, where the conversions had taken place mainly. In a
couple of seasons the majority of the warriors found their way home
again. A second crusade was proclaimed, and men responded freely. All
these forces were simply guarding the missionaries and the converts,--a
position which could not endure.

Christian, seeing this, formed the plan of founding an order of armed
monks in Poland like the Knights of the Sword in Livonia. Konrad gave
his approval at once.

The Bishop of Modena, at that time papal legate in Poland, hastened the
establishment of the order; for to him it seemed the best agent to bend
the stiff necks of idolaters. Permission to found the order was
obtained from the Pope, and a promise of means to maintain it from
Konrad.

Christian, who had interested Rome and the West in his work, now gave
great praise before the world to the Prince of Mazovia, who thereupon
rewarded him with a gift of twelve castles and one hundred villages,
reserving merely sovereign rights without income. This gift was
confirmed to the Bishop of Prussia by Honorius III.

Christian labored so zealously that in 1225 he consecrated twenty-five
superior knights in his new order, which received the same rules as the
Livonian Knights of the Sword,--that is, the rules of the Templars.

The new knights were called Brothers of Dobjin, from the castle of
Dobjin, which Konrad gave them as a residence, adding the district of
Leslin near Inovratslav as a means of support.

As soon as the Brothers had settled in their castle, they attacked the
Prussians, ruined villages, and brought in plunder. The enraged
Prussians collected large forces, and attacked the land of Culm, with
the intent to raze Dobjin. On hearing this, Konrad with his own troops
and a general levy hastened to the relief of the order.

A bloody and stubborn battle of two days' duration was fought with
great loss on both sides. Konrad, despairing of victory, left the
field, thus causing the complete overthrow of the Poles. The surviving
Brothers of Dobjin took refuge in the castle, which the Prussians were
unable to capture. The order, shattered at its very inception, hoped
for reinforcements from abroad; but the Pope at that juncture was
sending a crusade to Palestine, and would not permit a division in the
forces of the West. The Prussians, elated with victory, plundered at
pleasure the lands bordering on their own.

In this disaster Christian conceived the idea of calling in the
Teutonic Knights against Prussia. This idea, suicidal from a Polish
point of view, was accepted by the Prince of Mazovia.

The Teutonic Order was founded in Palestine near the end of the twelfth
century to succeed some German hospitallers who had resided in
Jerusalem till the capture of the city by Saracens in 1187.

In a few years the new order became military, and under the patronage
of Frederick, Duke of Suabia, afterward the Emperor Frederick II.,
acquired much wealth, with great imperial and papal favor. Under Herman
Von Salza, who was grand master from 1210 to 1239, the future of the
order was determined, its main scene of action transferred to the West,
and that career begun which made the Teutonic Order the most remarkable
of the weapon-bearing monks of Europe. Herman Von Salza--a keen, crafty
man, of great political astuteness and ambition--had determined to win
separate territory for the order, and the dignity of Prince of the
Empire for the grand master.

Nothing therefore could be more timely for his plans than the
invitation from the Prince of Mazovia, who in 1225 sent envoys to
Herman; especially since the order had just been deprived in
Transylvania of lands given to support it while warding off heathen
Kumanians.

The envoys offered the Teutonic master Culm and some adjoining lands
for the order, in return for curbing the Prussians. Herman resolved to
accept, should the Emperor prove friendly to the offer. He hastened to
Frederick at Rimini, explained the whole question, received a grant in
which Konrad's endowment was confirmed; besides the order was given all
the land it could conquer and make subject to the Emperor alone. The
grand master's next care was to obtain papal approval.

Two envoys from Herman were sent to Poland, where they obtained, as the
chronicles of the order relate, a written title to Culm and the
neighboring land as well as to all Prussia which they could conquer.
Near Torun (Thorn) a wooden fortress was built, called in German
Fogelsang (Bird-song). This fortress was the first residence of the
knights, who later on had so much power and such influence in the
history of Poland.

Only two years later did Herman send his knights to Culm. One of the
first acts was to purchase for various considerations, from the Bishop
of Plotsk and from Christian, the Bishop of Prussia, their rights over
the lands granted them in Culm. The labor of conversion began, and soon
the grand master prevailed on the Pope to proclaim throughout Europe a
crusade against Prussia.

From Poland alone came twenty thousand men, and many more from other
parts of Europe. When the knights had made a firm beginning of work,
their design of independence was revealed. They wished to be rid of
even a show of submission to the Prince of Mazovia. They raised the
question by trying to incorporate the remaining Brothers of Dobjin, and
thus acquire the grant given them by Konrad. They had disputes also
with Bishop Christian and the Bishop of Plotsk. In 1234 the Bishop of
Modena was sent as papal legate to settle the disputes. The legate
decided, to the satisfaction of the bishops, that of all lands won from
the Pagans two thirds were to be retained by the knights and one third
given to the bishops, the church administration being under the order
in its own two thirds. For the Prince of Mazovia nothing was left,
though he asserted sovereign rights in Culm and Prussia, and would not
permit the order to acquire the grant given the Brothers of Dobjin by
incorporating the remaining members of that body.

The Teutonic Order would not recognize the sovereignty of the Polish
prince, and insisted on incorporating the Brothers of Dobjin. The
order, knowing that Konrad would yield only under constraint, placed
its possessions at the feet of the Pope, made them the property of the
Holy See. This action found success; the Pope declared Culm and all the
acquisitions of the order the property of Saint Peter, which the church
for a yearly tax then gave in feudal tenure to the Teutonic Knights,
who therefore could not recognize in those regions the sovereignty of
any secular prince. In August, 1234, the Pope informed Konrad in a
special bull of the position of the order, and enjoined on him to aid
it with all means in his power. The Polish prince could do nothing; he
could not even prevent the incorporation of the majority of the
remaining Brothers of Dobjin, and of the lands and property given for
their use he was able to save nothing but the castle of Dobjin.

Konrad now found himself in a very awkward position; he had introduced
of his own will a foreign and hostile power which had all Western
Europe and the Holy See to support it, which had unbounded means of
discrediting the Poles and putting them in the wrong before the world;
and these means the order never failed to use. In half a century after
their coming the knights, by the aid of volunteers and contributions
from all Europe, had converted Prussia, and considered Poland and the
adjoining parts of Lithuania as sure conquests to be made at their own
leisure and at the expense of all Western Christendom.

The first Polish territory acquired was Pomerania. The career of the
knights was easy and successful till the union of Poland and Lithuania
in 1386. In 1410, at the battle called by the names both of Grünwald
and Tannenberg, the power of the order was broken. Some years later
Pomerania was returned to Poland, and the order was allowed to remain
in East Prussia in the position of a vassal to the Commonwealth. In
this reduced state the knights lived for a time, tried to gain allies,
but could not; the most they did--and that was the best for the German
cause--was to induce Albert, a member of the Franconian branch of the
Hohenzollerns, to become grand master. He began to reorganize the
order, and tried to shake off allegiance to Poland; but finding no aid
in the Empire or elsewhere, he acted on Luther's advice to introduce
Protestantism and convert Prussia into a secular and hereditary duchy.
This he did in 1525. Poland, with a simplicity quite equal to that of
Konrad, who called in the order at first, permitted the change. The
military monks married, and were converted into hereditary nobles.
Albert became Duke of Prussia, and took the oath of allegiance to
Poland. Later the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg inherited the duchy,
became feudatories of Poland as well as electors at home. This was the
position during the war between Sweden and Poland described in THE
DELUGE. Frederick William, known as the Great Elector, was ruling at
that time in Brandenburg and Prussia. He acted with great adroitness
and success; paying no attention to his oath as vassal, he took the
part of one side, and then of the other when he saw fit. He fought on
the Swedish side in the three days' battle around Warsaw in which Yan
Kazimir was defeated. This service was to be rewarded by the
independence of Prussia.

Hardly had the scale turned in favor of Poland when the Great Elector
assisted Yan Kazimir against Sweden; and in the treaty of Wehlau (1657)
Poland relinquished its rights over Prussia, which thus became
sovereign and independent in Europe. This most important change was
confirmed three years later at the peace of Oliva.

Frederick, son of the Great Elector, was crowned "King in Prussia" at
Königsberg in 1701. The Elector of Brandenburg became king in that
territory in which he had no suzerain.

At the first division of Poland, Royal Prussia of THE DELUGE, the
territory lying between the Vistula and Brandenburg, went to the new
kingdom; and Brandenburg, Pomerania, and Prussia became continuous
territory.

The early success of the Teutonic Knights was so great that in the
third half century of their rule on the Baltic their power overshadowed
Poland, which was thus seriously threatened. Toward the end of the
fourteenth century, however (1386), the Poles escaped imminent danger
by their union with Lithuania and Russia. Through this most important
connection they rose at once from a position of peril to one of safety
and power.

This union, brought about through the marriage of the Polish princess
Yadviga to Yagyello, Grand Prince of Lithuania, and by exceedingly
adroit management on the part of the Polish nobles and clergy, opened
to the Poles immense regions of country and the way to vast wealth.
Before the union their whole land was composed of Great and Little
Poland, with Mazovia (see map); after the union two thirds of the best
lands of pre-Tartar Russia formed part of the Commonwealth.

Since Poland managed to place and maintain itself at the head of
affairs, though this roused at all times opposition of varying violence
in the other two parts of the Commonwealth, the social ideals and
political structure of Poland prevailed in Lithuania and Russia, so far
as the upper classes were concerned. In Lithuania, by the terms of the
union, all were obliged to become Catholic; in different parts of
Russia, which was Orthodox, the people were undisturbed in their
religion at first; but after a time the majority of the nobles became
Catholic in religion, and Poles in language, name, manners, and ideas.
To these was added a large immigration of Polish nobles seeking
advancement and wealth. All Russia found itself after a time under
control of an upper class which was out of all sympathy with the great
mass and majority of the people.

During the Yagyellon dynasty, which lasted from 1386 to 1572, the
religious question was not so prominent for any save nobles; but
ownership of their own land and their own labor was gradually slipping
away from the people. During the reign of Sigismund III. (1587-1632),
religion was pushed to the foreground, the United Church was brought
into Russia; and land and religion, which raise the two greatest
problems in a State, the material and the spiritual, were the main
objects of thought throughout Russia.

Under Vladislav in 1648 the storm burst forth in Southern Russia. There
was a popular uprising, the most wide-spread and stubborn in history,
during which the Poles lost many battles and gained one great victory,
that of Berestechko; the Southern Russians turned to the North, and
selected the Tsar Alexai Mihailovich as sovereign.

Jan. 8, 1654, there was a great meeting in Pereyaslav,[2] at which
Bogdan Hmelnitski, hetman of the Zaporojian army and head of all
Southern Russia, after he had consulted with the Cossacks, took his
place in the centre of the circle, and in presence of the army, the
people, and Buturlin, the envoy of Alexai Mihailovich, said:--

"Gentlemen, Colonels, Essauls, Commanders of hundreds, the whole
Zaporojian army, and all Orthodox Christians,--You know how the Lord
delivered us from the hands of our enemies who persecuted the Church of
God and were envenomed against all Christians of our Eastern Orthodoxy.
We have lived six years without a sovereign, in endless battles against
our persecutors and enemies who desire to root out the church of God,
so that the Russian name may not be heard in our land. This position
has grown unendurable, and we cannot live longer without a sovereign.
Therefore we have assembled a council before the whole people, so that
you with us may choose from four sovereigns that one whom you wish. The
first is the Sovereign of Turkey, who has invited us under his
authority many times through his envoys; the second is the Khan of the
Crimea; the third the King of Poland, who, if we wish, may receive us
into former favor; the fourth is the Orthodox sovereign, the Tsar and
Grand Prince Alexai Mihailovich, the sole ruler of all Russia, whom we
have been imploring six years with unceasing petitions. Choose whom you
like. The Sovereign of Turkey is a Mussulman; you all know how our
brethren, the Greeks, Orthodox Christians, suffer, and what persecution
they endure from godless men. A Mussulman also is the Khan of the
Crimea, whom we took into friendship of necessity, by reason of the
unendurable woes which we passed through. Of persecutions from Polish
lords it is needless to speak; you know yourselves that they esteemed a
Jew and a dog more than a Christian, our brother. But the great
Orthodox sovereign of the East is of one faith with us, one confession
of the Greek rite; we are one spiritual body with the Orthodoxy of
Great Russia, having Jesus Christ for our head. This great sovereign,
this Christian Tsar, taking pity on the suffering of our Orthodox
church in Little Russia, giving ear to our six years' entreating, has
inclined his heart to us graciously, and was pleased to send with his
favor dignitaries from near his person. If we love him earnestly, we
shall not find a better refuge than his lofty hand. If any man is not
agreed with us, let him go whither he pleases; the road is free--"

Here the whole people shouted: "We choose to be under the Orthodox
sovereign; better to die in our Orthodox faith than to go to a hater of
Christ, to a Pagan!"

Then the Pereyaslav colonel, Teterya, passed around in the circle, and
asked in every direction: "Are all thus agreed?"

"All with one spirit," was the answer.

The hetman now said: "May the Lord our God strengthen us under the
strong hand of the Tsar."

The people shouted back in one voice: "God confirm us! God give us
strength to be one for the ages!"

The hetman, the army, and the representatives of Southern Russia took
the oath of allegiance to the Tsar. The result of this action was a war
between the Commonwealth on one side, and Northern and Southern Russia
on the other. The Commonwealth being thus occupied on the east, Sweden
decided to attack on the west.

The war between Russia and the Commonwealth lasted thirteen years, and
ended with a truce of thirteen years more, made at Andrusovo. By this
agreement the city and province of Smolensk went to Russia, and all the
left bank of the Dnieper, while Kieff was to be occupied by Poland
after two years. This truce became a treaty during the reign of
Sobyeski. Kieff remained with the Russians, and peace was unbroken till
the second half of the following century, when all Russia west of the
Dnieper was restored to the East in nearly the same limits which it had
before the Tartar invasion; excepting the territory included in
Galicia, and known as Red Russia.

                                                  Jeremiah Curtin.


Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology,
              November 25, 1891.



                 REMARKS ON PERSONAGES IN "THE DELUGE."


Yan Kazimir was a son of Sigismund III., who was a son of King John of
Sweden and Catherine, daughter of Sigismund I. of Poland.

John of Sweden was succeeded by his son Sigismund, who under the name
of Sigismund III. was elected King of Poland in 1587 to succeed his
mother's brother, Sigismund Augustus, the last descendant of Yagyello
in the male line.

Sigismund III. was dethroned by the Swedes, and his issue excluded from
the succession. Duke Charles, the ablest of Gustavus Vasa's sons, and
uncle of Sigismund, was made king as Charles IX.

This Charles IX. was father of Gustavus Adolphus. Gustavus Adolphus was
succeeded by his only daughter, Christina, who would not marry, and who
after reigning for a time resigned in favor of her cousin Karl Gustav
of Zweibrücken,[3] son of the only sister of Gustavus Adolphus.
Gustavus Vasa was therefore the great-grandfather of both Yan Kazimir
and Karl Gustav, who were thus second cousins. The Polish Vasas laid
claim to the Swedish crown, thereby causing the Commonwealth during
sixty years much loss in money and men. Yan Kazimir relinquished this
claim when he made peace with Sweden.

Before his election Yan Kazimir, being a cardinal, was dispensed from
his vows by the Pope. Chosen king, he married Louise Marie, daughter of
the Duke of Nevers, a woman of strong will and much beauty.

Discouraged and wearied by many wars and reverses, and more than all by
the endless dissensions of magnates, Yan Kazimir resigned the kingly
office in 1668, and retired to France. Being now a widower, he became
Abbot of St. Germain and St. Martin, and lived on his stipend from
these foundations, for the Poles refused to continue his pension. It
seems, however, that he did not remain in seclusion till the end, for
he is mentioned as marrying in secret a widow who had once been a
laundress. He died in 1672, remembering the world much more than the
world remembered him.

Yan Zamoyski, one of the most celebrated nobles in Polish history, was
the grandfather of Sobiepan Zamoyski. The time of Zamoyski's success
was during the reign of Stephen Batory, who gave him more offices and
power than any citizen of the Commonwealth had ever enjoyed. As
castellan of Cracow, he was the first among lay senators; as starosta
of the same territory, he had extensive jurisdiction over criminals in
Little Poland; as hetman, he was commander of all the military forces
of the kingdom; as chancellor, he held the seals, without which no
official act of the king had validity.

Perhaps the most notable action in Zamoyski's career as a civilian
during Batory's reign was his treatment of the Zborovskis, one of whom
he had beheaded, and another condemned to decapitation and infamy. The
hatred of the Zborovskis for Zamoyski became so intense that later on
they tried to seat their candidate, Maximilian of Austria, in
opposition to Sigismund III., Zamoyski's choice and that of the
majority. The Zborovski party brought their candidate to the gate of
Cracow, intending to enthrone him with armed hand. Zamoyski repulsed
and pursued them to Silesia, where he defeated and made Maximilian
prisoner. The Austrian Archduke was held in captivity till he renounced
all claim to the throne. This is the captivity to which Sobiepan refers
on page 324, Vol. II.

Zamoyski had Sigismund impeached in 1592, not to condemn him, but to
give him a lesson. Zamoyski's course in this affair, and his last
speech in the Diet of 1605 are his most prominent acts during a reign
in which he was first in opposition, as he had been first on the king's
side during Batory's time. Zamoyski died in 1605, alarmed, as Lelevel
says, for the future of his country.

Sobiepan Zamoyski, who conceived such a friendship for Zagloba, married
the daughter of Henri de la Grange, a captain in the guard of Philip,
Duke of Orleans. After Zamoyski's death, his widow, a woman of great
beauty and ambition, married Sobyeski, subsequently elected king to
succeed Michael Vishnyevetski, who is mentioned on page 253, Vol. II.

Kmita, the hero of THE DELUGE, was probably of the Kmitas of Little
Poland, and of those who inherited lands granted Poles in Lithuania and
Russia after the union.

Kmitsits, which means "son of Kmita," as "starostsits" means "son of a
starosta," is the name used by Sienkiewicz; but as that word would
baffle most English readers, I have taken Kmita, the original form of
the family name. Kmita is mentioned in Solovyóff's Russian history as
co-operating with Sapyeha and Charnyetski against Hovanski and
Dolgoruki; in that connection he is called Kmitich.



                                 NOTES.


                            POLISH ALPHABET.

Since the Polish alphabet has many peculiar phonetic combinations which
are difficult to one who does not know the language, it was decided to
transliterate the names of persons and places in which such
combinations occur in this book. The following are the letters and
combinations which are met with most frequently;--

   Polish Letters.                  English Sounds.

     _c_                            _ts_
    _ch_                            _h_
     _cz_                           _ch_
     _rz_                           _r_ followed by the French _j_
     _sz_                           _sh_
     _szcz_                         _shch_
     _w_                            _v_
     _[.z]_                         _j_

In this transliteration _ch_ retains its ordinary English sound. _J_ is
the French _j_; the vowels _e_, _i_, _u_, are, respectively, _ai_ in
"bait," _ee_ in "beet," _oo_ in "pool," when long; when short, "bet,"
"bit," "put" would represent their values. _I_, when unaccented and
followed by a vowel, is sounded as _y_.

The following names will illustrate the method of this
transliteration:--

   Polish Form of Name.                   Form in Transliteration.
          Potocki                              Pototski
          Chudzynski                           Hudzynski
          Czarnkowski                          Charnkovski
          Rzendzian                            Jendzian
          Bleszynski                           Bleshynski
          Szandarowski                         Shandarovski
          Szczaniecki                          Shchanyetski
          Wlostowski                           Vlostovski
          [.Z]yromski                          Jyromski

In Jendzian and Jechytsa,--only names, as I believe, beginning in
Polish with _rz_ in this work,--the initial _r_ has been omitted in the
transliteration on account of the extreme difficulty, for any one not a
Pole, of pronouncing _r_ followed by the French _j_.


                                ACCENT.

All Polish words, with few exceptions, are accented on the syllable
next the last, the penult. The exceptions are foreign names, some
compounds, some words with enclitics. Polish names of men and places
are generally accented on the penult.

                           *  *  *  *  *

                    MAP OF THE POLISH COMMONWEALTH.

This map, though diminutive, contains data through which the reader may
see, at least in part, the historical course of the Commonwealth.

The territory is indicated which was lost to the Teutonic Knights, and
which became later the kingdom of Prussia. On the east are indicated
the Russian lands which became connected with Poland, and which rose
against Polish rule in 1618. These lands are included between the lines
running north and south on the map, and which are designated,
respectively, "Western limit of Russia before the Tartar invasion,"
"Eastern limit of the Polish Commonwealth at the accession of Yan
Kazimir."

The names of more important places mentioned in FIRE AND SWORD and THE
DELUGE appear also on the map. A few of these names are not so familiar
in their Polish forms, which I have preserved; therefore the German is
given, as follows:--

            Polish.                            German.

            Elblang                            Elbing
            Glogov                             Glogau
            Gnyezno                            Gnesen
            Taurogi                            Tauroggen
            Tyltsa                             Tilsit
            Opol                               Oppeln
            Poznan                             Posen

                           *  *  *  *  *

                      TITLES OF RANK AND ADDRESS.

The highest military rank in Poland was grand hetman; next in order
came field-hetman, which has appeared inadvertently in these volumes as
full hetman. "Your worthiness," so frequently used, would be better
translated "your dignity," "dignity" being used in the sense of
"office." The terms Pan, Pani, and Panna are applied, respectively, to
a gentleman, a married lady, and an unmarried lady; they are now
equivalent to Mr., Mrs. or Madame, and Miss.



[Illustration: Map of the Polish Commonwealth at the accession of Yan
Kazimir.]



                               THE DELUGE



                               CHAPTER I.


There was in Jmud a powerful family, the Billeviches, descended from
Mendog, connected with many, and respected, beyond all, in the district
of Rossyeni. The Billeviches had never risen to great offices, the
highest they had filled were provincial; but in war they had rendered
the country unsurpassed services, for which they were richly rewarded
at various times. Their native nest, existing to this day, was called
Billeviche; but they possessed many other estates, both in the
neighborhood of Rossyeni and farther on toward Krakin, near Lauda,
Shoi, Nyevyaja, and beyond Ponyevyej. In later times they branched out
into a number of houses, the members of which lost sight of one
another. They all assembled only when there was a census at Rossyeni of
the general militia of Jmud on the plain of the invited Estates. They
met also in part under the banners of the Lithuanian cavalry and at
provincial diets; and because they were wealthy and influential, even
the Radzivills, all powerful in Lithuania and Jmud, had to reckon with
them.

In the reign of Yan Kazimir, the patriarch of all the Billeviches, was
Heraclius, colonel of light-horse and under-chamberlain of Upita. He
did not dwell in the ancestral nest, which was rented at that time by
Tomash, the sword-bearer of Rossyeni; Heraclius Billevich owned also
Vodokty, Lyubich, and Mitruny, situated near Lauda, surrounded, as if
with a sea, by agriculturists of the petty nobility.

Besides the Billeviches there were only a few of the more considerable
families in the neighborhood, such as the Sollohubs, the Montvills, the
Schyllings, the Koryznis, the Sitsinskis,--though there was no lack of
smaller nobility of these names; finally, the whole river region of
Lauda was thickly studded with so-called "neighborhoods," or, in common
parlance, _zastsianki_,[4] occupied by the nobility of Lauda, renowned
and celebrated in the history of Jmud.

In other neighborhoods of the region the families took their names from
the places, or the places from the families, as was customary in
Podlyasye; but along the river region of Lauda it was different. In
Morezi dwelt the Stakyans, whom Batory in his time settled there for
bravery at Pskoff; in Volmontovichi, on good land, swarmed the Butryms,
the bulkiest fellows in all Lauda, noted for few words and heavy
hands,--men who in time of provincial diets, raids on property, or wars
were wont to go in close rank and in silence. The lands in Drojeykani
and Mozgi were managed by the numerous Domasheviches, famed hunters;
these men tramped through the wilderness of Zyelonka as far as Wilkomir
on bear-trails. The Gashtovts occupied Patsuneli; their women were
famous for beauty, so that finally all pretty girls around Krakin,
Ponyevyej, and Upita were known as Patsuneli girls. The Sollohubs Mali
were rich in horses and excellent cattle, bred in forest pastures. The
Gostsyeviches in Goshchuni made tar in the woods, from which occupation
they were called Gostsyevichi Charni (Black) or Dymni (Smoky),--the
Black or Smoky Gostsyeviches.

There were other villages and families also. The names of many of them
are still extant; but these villages are not situated as before, and
men call them by other names. Wars came too with misfortunes and fires,
villages were not always rebuilt on the ruins; in a word, much has
changed. But in that time old Lauda was still flourishing in its
primeval estate; and the nobles had reached their highest repute a few
years before, when, fighting at Loyovo against the uprisen Cossacks,
they covered themselves with great glory under the lead of Yanush
Radzivill.

All the Lauda men served in the regiment of old Heraclius
Billevich,--the richer with two horses, the poorer with one, and the
poorest as attendants. In general, these nobles were warlike, and
especially enamoured of a knightly career; but in questions which
formed the ordinary subjects of discussion at a provincial diet they
were less skilled. They knew that there was a king in Warsaw; that
Radzivill and Pan Hlebovich were starostas in Jmud, and Pan Billevich
at Vodokty in Lauda. That was sufficient for them; and they voted as
Pan Billevich instructed them, convinced that he wanted the same as Pan
Hlebovich, and that the latter went hand in hand with Radzivill.
Radzivill was the king's arm in Lithuania and Jmud; the king was the
consort of the Commonwealth, the father of the legion of nobles.

Pan Billevich was, in fact, a friend rather than a client of the
powerful oligarchs in Birji, and a greatly esteemed one at that; for at
every call he had a thousand voices and a thousand Lauda sabres,--and
sabres in the hands of the Stakyans, the Butryms, the Domasheviches, or
the Gashtovts were despised at that period by no man on earth. It was
only later that everything changed, just at the time when Pan Heraclius
Billevich was no more.

This father and benefactor of the nobles of Lauda died in 1654. In that
year a terrible war[5] flamed forth along the whole eastern line of the
Commonwealth; Pan Billevich did not go to it, for his age and his
deafness did not permit; but the Lauda men went. When tidings came that
Radzivill was defeated at Shklov, and the Lauda regiment in an attack
on the hired infantry of France was cut almost to pieces, the old
colonel, stricken by apoplexy, yielded his soul.

These tidings were brought by a certain Pan Michael Volodyovski, a
young but very famous warrior, who instead of Heraclius had led the
Lauda regiment by appointment of Radzivill. The survivors came with him
to their inherited fields, wearied, weighed down, and famished; in
common with the whole army, they complained that the grand hetman,
trusting in the terror of his name and the spell of victory, had rushed
with small forces on a power ten times greater than his own, and thus
had overwhelmed the army and the whole country.

But amid the universal complaining not one voice was raised against
Volodyovski. On the contrary, those who had escaped lauded him to the
skies, relating wonders of his skill and his deeds. And the only solace
left the survivors was the memory of the exploits performed under the
young colonel's leadership,--how in the attack they had burst through
the first line of reserves as through smoke; how later they fell on the
French mercenaries and cut to pieces with their sabres the foremost
regiment, on which occasion Pan Volodyovski with his own hand killed
the colonel; how at last, surrounded and under fire from four sides,
they saved themselves from the chaos by desperate fighting, falling in
masses, but breaking the enemy.

Those of the Lauda men who, not serving in the Lithuanian quota, were
obliged to form a part of the general militia, listened in sorrow but
with pride to these narratives. It was hoped on all sides that the
general militia, the final defence of the country, would soon be
called. It was agreed already that Volodyovski would be chosen captain
of Lauda in that event; for though not of the local residents, there
was no man among them more celebrated than he. The survivors said,
besides, that he had rescued the hetman himself from death. Indeed, all
Lauda almost bore him in its arms, and one neighborhood seized him from
another. The Butryms, the Domasheviches, and the Gashtovts disputed as
to whose guest he should be for the longest period. He pleased that
valiant nobility so much that when the remnant of Radzivill's troops
marched to Birji so as to be brought to some order after the defeat, he
did not go with others, but passing from village to village took up his
abode at last in Patsuneli with the Gashtovts, at the house of Pakosh
Gashtovt, who had authority over all in that place.

In fact, Pan Volodyovski could not have gone to Birji in any event, for
he was so ill as to be confined to the bed. First an acute fever came
on him; then from the contusion which he had received at Tsybihovo he
lost the use of his right arm. The three daughters of his host, who
were noted for beauty, took him into their tender care, and vowed to
bring back to his original health such a celebrated cavalier. The
nobility to the last man were occupied with the funeral of their former
chief, Heraclius Billevich.

After the funeral the will of the deceased was opened, from which it
transpired that the old colonel had made his granddaughter, Aleksandra
Billevich, daughter of the chief hunter of Upita, the heiress of all
his property with the exception of the village of Lyubich. Guardianship
over her till her marriage he confided to the entire nobility of
Lauda--


"who, as they were well wishing to me," continued he in the will, "and
returned kindness for kindness, let them do the same too for the orphan
in these times of corruption and wickedness, when no one is safe from
the license of men or free of fear; let them guard the orphan from
mischance, through memory of me.

"They are also to see that she has safe use of her property with the
exception of the village of Lyubich, which I give, present, and convey
to the young banneret of Orsha, so that he may meet no obstacle in
entering into possession of it. Should any man wonder at this my
affection for Andrei Kmita, or see in it injustice to my own
granddaughter Aleksandra, he must and should know that I held in
friendship and true brotherly love from youthful years till the day of
his death the father of Andrei Kmita. I was with him in war, he saved
my life many times; and when the malice and envy of the Sitsinskis
strove to wrest from me my fortune, he lent me his aid to defend it.
Therefore I, Heraclius Billevich, under-chamberlain of Upita, and also
an unworthy sinner standing now before the stern judgment of God, went
four years ago, while alive and walking upon the earthly vale, to Pan
Kmita, the father, the sword-bearer of Orsha, to vow gratitude and
steady friendship. On that occasion we made mutual agreement, according
to ancient noble and Christian custom, that our children--namely his
son Andrei and my granddaughter Aleksandra--were to be married, so that
from them posterity might rise to the praise of God and the good of the
State, which I wish most earnestly; and by the will here written I bind
my granddaughter to obedience unless the banneret of Orsha (which God
forbid) stain his reputation with evil deeds and be despoiled of honor.
Should he lose his inheritance near Orsha, which may easily happen, she
is to take him as husband with blessing; and even should he lose
Lyubich, to pay no heed to the loss.

"However, if by the special favor of God, my granddaughter should wish
in praise of Him to make an offering of her virginity and put on the
habit of a nun, it is permitted her to do so, for I know that the
praise of God is to precede that of man."


In such fashion did Pan Heraclius Billevich dispose of his fortune and
his granddaughter, at which no one wondered much. Panna Aleksandra had
been long aware of what awaited her, and the nobles had heard from of
old of the friendship between Billevich and the Kmitas; besides, in
time of defeat the thoughts of men were occupied with other things, so
that soon they ceased to talk of the will.

But they talked of the Kmitas continually in the house at Vodokty, or
rather of Pan Andrei, for the old sword-bearer also was dead. The
younger Kmita had fought at Shklov with his own banner and with
volunteers from Orsha. Then he vanished from the eye; but it was not
admitted that he had perished, since the death of so noted a cavalier
would surely not have escaped notice. The Kmitas were people of birth
in Orsha, and lords of considerable fortune; but the flame of war had
ruined those regions. Districts and entire lands were turned into
deserts, fortunes were devoured, and people perished. After the
crushing of Radzivill no one offered firm resistance. Gosyevski, full
hetman, had no troops; the hetmans of the Crown with their armies in
the Ukraine were struggling with what strength they had left and could
not help him, exhausted as well as the Commonwealth by the Cossack
wars. The deluge covered the land more and more, only breaking here and
there against fortified walls; but the walls fell one after another, as
had fallen Smolensk. The province of Smolensk, in which lay the fortune
of the Kmitas, was looked on as lost. In the universal chaos, in the
general terror, people were scattered like leaves in a tempest, and no
man knew what had become of the banneret of Orsha.

But war had not reached Jmud yet. The nobles of Lauda returned to their
senses by degrees. "The neighborhoods" began to assemble, and discuss
both public and private affairs. The Butryms, readiest for battle,
muttered that it would be necessary to go to Rossyeni to the muster of
the general militia, and then to Gosyevski, to avenge the defeat of
Shklov; the Domasheviches, the hunters, had gone through the wilderness
of Rogovo by the forests till they found parties of the enemy and
brought back news; the Smoky Gostsyeviches smoked meat in their huts
for a future expedition. In private affairs it was decided to send
tried and experienced men to find Pan Andrei Kmita.

The old men of Lauda held these deliberations under the presidency of
Pakosh Gashtovt and Kassyan Butrym, two neighborhood patriarchs. All
the nobility, greatly flattered by the confidence which the late Pan
Billevich had placed in them, swore to stand faithfully by the letter
of the will, and to surround Panna Aleksandra with well-nigh fatherly
care. This was in time of war, when even in places to which war had not
come disturbance and suffering were felt. On the banks of the Lauda all
remained quiet, there were no disputes, there was no breaking through
boundaries on the estates of the young heiress, landmarks were not
shifted, no ditches were filled, no branded pine-trees were felled on
forest borders, no pastures were invaded. On the contrary, the heiress
was aided with provisions,--whatever the neighborhood had; for
instance, the Stakjans on the river sent salt-fish, wheat came from the
surly Butryms at Voimontovichi, hay from the Gashtovts, game from the
Domasheviches (the hunters), tar and pitch from the Gostsyeviches. Of
Panna Aleksandra no one in the villages spoke otherwise than as "our
lady," and the pretty girls of Patsuneli waited for Pan Kmita perhaps
as impatiently as she.

Meanwhile came the summons calling the nobility. The Lauda men began to
move. He who from being a youth had grown to be a man, he whom age had
not bent, had to mount his horse. Yan Kazimir arrived at Grodno, and
fixed that as the place of general muster. There, then, they mustered.
The Butryms in silence went forth; after them others, and the Gashtovts
last,--as they always did, for they hated to leave the Patsuneli girls.
The nobles from other districts appeared in scant numbers only, and the
country was left undefended; but God-fearing Lauda had appeared in full
quota.

Pan Volodyovski did not march, for he was not able yet to use his arm;
he remained therefore as if district commander among the women. The
neighborhoods were deserted, and only old men and women sat around the
fires in the evening. It was quiet in Ponyevyej and Upita; they were
waiting on all sides for news.

Panna Aleksandra in like manner shut herself in at Vodokty, seeing no
one but servants and her guardians of Lauda.



                              CHAPTER II.


The new year 1655 came. January was frosty, but dry; a stern winter
covered sacred Jmud with a white coat three feet thick, the forests
were bending and breaking under a wealth of snow bunches, snow dazzled
the eyes during days of sunshine, and in the night by the moon there
glittered as it were sparks vanishing on a surface stiffened by frost;
wild beasts approached the dwellings of men, and the poor gray birds
hammered with their beaks the windows covered with hoar frost and
snow-flowers.

On a certain evening Panna Aleksandra was sitting in the servants' hall
with her work-maidens. It was an old custom of the Billeviches, when
there were no guests, to spend evenings with the servants singing hymns
and edifying simple minds by their example. In this wise did Panna
Aleksandra; and the more easily since among her house-maidens were some
really noble, very poor orphans. These performed every kind of work,
even the rudest, and were servants for ladies; in return they were
trained in good manners, and received better treatment than simple
girls. But among them were peasants too, differing mainly in speech,[6]
for many did not know Polish.

Panna Aleksandra, with her relative Panna Kulvyets, sat in the centre,
and the girls around on benches; all were spinning. In a great chimney
with sloping sides pine-logs were burning, now dying down and now
flaming freshly with a great bright blaze or with sparks, as the youth
standing near the chimney threw on small pieces of birch or pitch-pine.
When the flame shot upward brightly, the dark wooden walls of the
great hall were to be seen, with an unusually low ceiling resting on
cross-beams. From the beams hung, on threads, many-colored stars, made
of wafers, trembling in the warm air; behind, from both sides of the
beams, were bunches of combed flax, hanging like captured Turkish
horse-tail standards. Almost the whole ceiling was covered with them.
On the dark walls glittered, like stars, tin plates, large and small,
standing straight or leaning on long oaken shelves.

In the distance, near the door, a shaggy-haired man of Jmud was making
a great noise with a hand-mill, and muttering a song with nasal
monotone. Panna Aleksandra slipped her beads through her fingers in
silence; the spinners spun on, saying nothing the one to the other.

The light of the flame fell on their youthful, ruddy faces. They, with
both hands raised,--with the left feeding the soft flax, with the right
turning the wheel,--spun eagerly, as if vying with one another, urged
on by the stern glances of Panna Kulvyets. Sometimes, too, they looked
at one another with quick eye, and sometimes at Panna Aleksandra, as if
in expectation that she would tell the man to stop grinding, and would
begin the hymn; but they did not cease working. They spun and spun on;
the threads were winding, the wheel was buzzing, the distaff played in
the hand of Panna Kulvyets, the shaggy-haired man of Jmud rattled on
with his mill.

But at times he stopped his work. Evidently something was wrong with
the mill, for at those times was heard his angry voice: "It's down!"

Panna Aleksandra raised her head, as if roused by the silence which
followed the exclamations of the man; then the blaze lighted up her
face and her serious blue eyes looking from beneath black brows. She
was a comely lady, with flaxen hair, pale complexion, and delicate
features. She had the beauty of a white flower. The mourning robes
added to her dignity. Sitting before the chimney, she seemed buried in
thought, as in a dream; doubtless she was meditating over her own lot,
for her fates were in the balance. The will predestined her to be the
wife of a man whom she had not seen for ten years; and as she was now
almost twenty, there remained to her but unclear childhood
reminiscences of a certain boisterous boy, who at the time when he with
his father had come to Vodokty, was more occupied with racing through
the swamps with a gun than in looking at her. "Where is he, and what
manner of man is he now?" These were the questions which thrust
themselves on the mind of the dignified lady. She knew him also, it is
true, from the narratives of the late under-chamberlain, who four
years before had undertaken the long journey to Orsha. According to
those narratives, he was a cavalier "of great courage, though very
quick-tempered." By the contract of marriage for their descendants
concluded between old Billevich and Kmita the father, Kmita the son was
to go at once to Vodokty and be accepted by the lady; but a great war
broke out just then, and the cavalier, instead of going to the lady,
went to the fields of Berestechko. Wounded at Berestechko, he recovered
at home; then he nursed his sick father, who was near death; after that
another war broke out, and thus four years passed. Since the death of
the old colonel considerable time had elapsed, but no tidings of Kmita.

Panna Aleksandra therefore had something to meditate upon, and perhaps
she was pining for the unknown. In her pure heart, especially because
it knew not love as yet, she bore a great readiness for that feeling. A
spark only was needed to kindle on that hearth a flame quiet but
bright, and as steady as the undying sacred fire of Lithuania.

Disquiet then seized her,--at times pleasant, at times bitter; and her
soul was ever putting questions to which there was no answer, or rather
the answer must come from distant fields. The first question was
whether he would marry her with good-will and respond with readiness to
her readiness. In those days contracts by parents for the marriage of
their children were usual; and if the parents died the children, held
by the blessing, observed in most cases the contract. In the engagement
itself the young lady saw nothing uncommon; but good pleasure does not
always go hand in hand with duty; hence the anxiety that weighed down
the blond head of the maiden. "Will he love me?" And then a flock of
thoughts surrounded her, as a flock of birds surround a tree standing
alone in spacious fields: "Who art thou? What manner of person? Art
walking alive in the world, or perhaps thou hast fallen? Art thou
distant or near?" The open heart of the lady, like a door open to a
precious guest, called involuntarily to distant regions, to forests and
snow-fields covered with night: "Come hither, young hero; for there is
naught in the world more bitter than waiting."

That moment, as if in answer to the call, from outside, from those
snowy distances covered with night, came the sound of a bell.

The lady trembled, but regaining her presence of mind, remembered that
almost every evening some one came to Vodokty to get medicine for the
young colonel.

Panna Kulvyets confirmed that idea by saying, "Some one from the
Gashtovts for herbs."

The irregular sound of the bell shaken by the shaft rang more
distinctly each moment; at last it stopped on a sudden. Evidently the
sleigh had halted before the door.

"See who has come," said Panna Kulvyets to the man of Jmud who was
turning the mill.

The man went out of the servants' hall, but soon returned, and taking
again the handle of the mill, said phlegmatically, "Panas Kmitas."[7]

"The word is made flesh!" cried Panna Kulvyets.

The spinners sprang to their feet; the flax and the distaffs fell to
the floor.

Panna Aleksandra rose also. Her heart beat like a hammer; a flush came
forth on her face, and then pallor; but she turned from the chimney,
lest her emotion might be seen.

Then in the door appeared a certain lofty figure in a fur mantle and
fur-bound cap. A young man advanced to the middle of the room, and
seeing that he was in the servants' hall, inquired in a resonant voice,
without removing his cap, "Hei! but where is your mistress?"

"I am the mistress," said Panna Billevich, in tones sufficiently clear.

Hearing this, the newly arrived removed his cap, cast it on the floor,
and inclining said, "I am Andrei Kmita."

The eyes of Panna Aleksandra rested with lightning-like swiftness on
the face of Kmita, and then dropped again to the floor; still during
that time the lady was able to see the tuft shaven high, yellow as
wheat, an embrowned complexion, blue eyes, looking quickly to the
front, dark mustache, a face youthful, eagle-like, but joyous and
gallant.

He rested his left hand on his hip, raised his right to his mustache,
and said: "I have not been in Lyubich yet, for I hastened here like a
bird to bow down at the feet of the lady, the chief hunter's daughter.
The wind--God grant it was a happy one!--brought me straight from the
camp."

"Did you know of the death of my grandfather?" asked the lady.

"I did not; but I bewailed with hot tears my benefactor when I learned
of his death from those rustics who came from this region to me. He was
a sincere friend, almost a brother, of my late father. Of course it is
well known to you that four years ago he came to us at Orsha. Then he
promised me your ladyship, and showed a portrait about which I sighed
in the night-time. I wished to come sooner, but war is not a mother:
she makes matches for men with death only."

This bold speech confused the lady somewhat. Wishing to change the
subject, she said, "Then you have not seen Lyubich yet?"

"There will be time for that. My first service is here; and here the
dearest inheritance, which I wish to receive first. But you turned from
the hearth, so that to this moment I have not been able to look you in
the eye--that's the way! Turn, and I will stand next the hearth; that's
the way!"

Thus speaking, the daring soldier seized by the hand Olenka,[8] who did
not expect such an act, and brought her face toward the fire, turning
her like a top. She was still more confused, and covering her eyes with
her long lashes, stood abashed by the light and her own beauty. Kmita
released her at last, and struck himself on the doublet.

"As God is dear to me, a beauty! I'll have a hundred Masses said for my
benefactor because he left you to me. When the betrothal?"

"Not yet awhile; I am not yours yet," said Olenka.

"But you will be, even if I have to burn this house! As God lives, I
thought the portrait flattered. I see that the painter aimed high, but
missed. A thousand lashes to such an artist, and stoves to paint, not
beauties, with which eyes are feasted! Oh, 'tis a delight to be the
heir to such an inheritance, may the bullets strike me!"

"My late grandfather told me that you were very hot-headed."

"All are that way with us in Smolensk; not like your Jmud people. One,
two! and it must be as we want; if not, then death."

Olenka laughed, and said with a voice now more confident, raising her
eyes to the cavalier, "Then it must be that Tartars dwell among you?"

"All one! but you are mine by the will of parents and by your heart."

"By my heart? That I know not yet."

"Should you not be, I would thrust myself with a knife!"

"You say that laughing. But we are still in the servants' hall; I beg
you to the reception-room. After a long road doubtless supper will be
acceptable. I beg you to follow me."

Here Olenka turned to Panna Kulvyets. "Auntie, dear, come with us."

The young banneret glanced quickly. "Aunt?" he inquired,--"whose aunt?"

"Mine,--Panna Kulvyets."

"Then she is mine!" answered he, going to kiss her hand. "I have in my
company an officer named Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus. Is he not a
relative?"

"He is of the same family," replied the old maid, with a courtesy.

"A good fellow, but a whirlwind like myself," added Kmita.

Meanwhile a boy appeared with a light. They went to the antechamber,
where Pan Andrei removed his shuba; then they passed to the
reception-room.

Immediately after their departure the spinners gathered in a close
circle, and one interrupted another, talking and making remarks. The
stately young man pleased them greatly; therefore they did not spare
words on him, vying with one another in praises.

"Light shines from him," said one; "when he came I thought he was a
king's son."

"And he has lynx eyes, so that he cuts with them," said another; "do
not cross such a man."

"That is worst of all," said a third.

"He met the lady as a betrothed. It is easily seen that she pleased him
greatly, for whom has she not pleased?"

"But he is not worse than she, never fear! Could you get his equal, you
would go even to Orsha, though likely that is at the end of the world."

"Ah, lucky lady!"

"It is always best for the rich in the world. Ei, ei, that's gold, not
a knight."

"The Patsuneli girls say that that cavalry captain who is stopping with
old Pakosh is a handsome cavalier."

"I have not seen him; but how compare him with Pan Kmita! Such another
as Pan Kmita surely there is not in the world!"

"It's down!" cried the man of Jmud on a sudden, when something broke
again in the mill.

"Go out, shaggy head, with thy freaks! Give us peace, for we cannot
hear.--True, true; hard to find better than Pan Kmita in the whole
world; surely in Kyedani there is none such."

"Dream of one like him!"

"May his like come in a dream!"

In such fashion did the girls talk among themselves in the servants'
hall. Meanwhile in the dining-room the table was laid in all haste,
while in the drawing-room Panna Aleksandra conversed face to face with
Kmita, for Aunt Kulvyets had gone to bustle about the supper.

Pan Andrei did not remove his gaze from Olenka, and his eyes shot
sparks more and more every moment; at last he said,--

"There are men to whom land is dearer than all things else; there are
others who chase after plunder in war, others love horses; but I would
not give you for any treasure. As God lives, the more I look the more I
wish to marry; so that even if it were to-morrow-- Oh, that brow,--just
as if painted with burned cork!"

"I hear that some use such strange things, but I am not of that kind."

"And eyes as from heaven! From confusion, words fail me."

"You are not greatly confused, if in my presence you can be so urgent
that I am wonder-stricken."

"That is our way in Smolensk,--to go boldly at women as we do into
battle. You must, my queen, grow accustomed to this, for thus will it
ever be."

"You must put it aside, for thus it cannot be."

"Perhaps I may yield, may I be slain! Believe, believe me not, but with
gladness would I bend the skies for you. For you, my queen, I am ready
to learn other manners; for I know myself that I am a simple soldier, I
have lived more in camps than in chambers of castles."

"Oh, that harms nothing, for my grandfather was a soldier; but I give
thanks for the good-will," said Olenka; and her eyes looked with such
sweetness on Pan Andrei that his heart melted like wax in a moment, and
he answered,--

"You will lead me on a thread."

"Ah, you are not like those who are led on threads; to do that is most
difficult with men who are unsteady."

Kmita showed in a smile teeth as white as a wolf's teeth, "How is
that?" asked he. "Are the rods few that the fathers broke on me in the
monastery to bring me to steadiness and make me remember various fair
maxims for guidance in life--"

"And which one do you remember best?"

"'When in love, fall at the feet,'--in this fashion."

When he had spoken, Kmita was already on his knees. The lady screamed,
putting her feet under the table.

"For God's sake! they did not teach that in the monastery. Leave off,
or I shall be angry--my aunt will come this minute--"

Still on his knees, he raised his head and looked into her eyes. "Let a
whole squadron of aunts come; I shall not forbid their pleasure."

"But stand up!"

"I am standing."

"Sit down!"

"I am sitting."

"You are a traitor, a Judas!"

"Not true, for when I kiss 'tis with sincerity,--will you be
convinced?"

"You are a serpent!"

Panna Aleksandra laughed, however, and a halo of youth and gladness
came from her. His nostrils quivered like the nostrils of a young steed
of noble blood.

"Ai! ai!" said he. "What eyes, what a face! Save me, all ye saints, for
I cannot keep away!"

"There is no reason to summon the saints. You were absent four years
without once looking in here; sit still now!"

"But I knew only the counterfeit. I will have that painter put in tar
and then in feathers, and scourge him through the square of Upita. I
will tell all in sincerity,--forgive, if it please you; if not, take my
head. I thought to myself when looking at that portrait: 'A pretty
little rogue, pretty; but there is no lack of pretty ones in the world.
I have time.' My late father urged me hither, but I had always one
answer: 'I have time! The little wife will not vanish; maidens go not
to war and do not perish.' I was not opposed at all to the will of my
father, God is my witness; but I wanted first to know war and feel it
on my own body. This moment I see my folly. I might have married and
gone to war afterward; and here every delight was waiting for me.
Praise be to God that they did not hack me to death! Permit me to kiss
your hand."

"Better, I'll not permit."

"Then I will not ask. In Orsha we say, 'Ask; but if they don't give,
take it thyself.'"

Here Pan Andrei clung to the hand of the lady and began to kiss it; and
the lady did not resist too greatly, lest she might exhibit ill-will.

Just then Panna Kulvyets came in. When she saw what was going on, she
raised her eyes. That intimacy did not please her, but she dared not
scold. She gave invitation to supper.

Both went to the supper-room, holding each the other's hand as if they
were related. In the room stood a table covered, and on it an abundance
of all kinds of food, especially choice smoked meats and a mouldy thick
bottle of strength-giving wine. It was pleasant for the young people
with each other, gladsome, vivacious. The lady had supped already;
therefore Kmita sat alone, and began to eat with animation equal to
that with which he had just been conversing.

Olenka looked at him with sidelong glance, glad that he was eating and
drinking. When he had appeased his first hunger, she began again to
inquire,--

"Then you are not direct from Orsha?"

"Scarcely do I know whence I come,--here to-day, tomorrow in another
place. I prowled near the enemy as a wolf around sheep, and what was
possible to seize I seized."

"And how had you daring to meet such a power, before which the grand
hetman himself had to yield?"

"How had I daring? I am ready for all things, such is the nature within
me."

"That is what my grandfather said. Great luck that you were not
killed!"

"Ai, they covered me with cap and with hand as a bird is covered on the
nest; but I, whom they covered, sprang out and bit them in another
place. I made it so bitter for them that there is a price on my
head-- A splendid half-goose!"

"In the name of the Father and the Son!" cried Olenka, with unfeigned
wonder, gazing with homage on that young man who in the same moment
mentions the price on his head and the half-goose. "Had you many troops
for defence?"

"I had, of course, my poor dragoons,--very excellent men, but in a
month they were all kicked to bits. Then I went with volunteers whom I
gathered wherever I could without question. Good fellows for battle,
but knave upon knave! Those who have not perished already will sooner
or later be meat for the crows."

Pan Andrei laughed, emptied his goblet of wine, and added: "Such
plunderers you have not seen yet. May the hangman light them!
Officers,--all nobles from our parts, men of family, worthy people, but
against almost every one of them is a sentence of outlawry. They are
now in Lyubich, for where else could I send them?"

"So you have come to us with the whole squadron?"

"I have. The enemy took refuge in towns, for the winter is bitter.
My men too are as ragged as brooms after long sweeping. The prince
voevoda assigned me winter quarters in Ponyevyej. God knows the
breathing-spell is well earned!"

"Eat, I beg you."

"I would eat poison for your sake! I left a part of my ragged fellows
in Ponyevyej, a part in Upita, and the most worthy officers I invited
to Lyubich as guests. These men will come to beat to you with the
forehead."

"But where did the Lauda men find you?"

"They found me on the way to winter quarters in Ponyevyej. Had I not
met them I should have come here."

"But drink."

"I would drink even poison for you!"

"Were the Lauda men the first to tell you of my grandfather's death and
the will?"

"They told of the death.--Lord, give light to the soul of my
benefactor!--Did you send those men to me?"

"Think not such a thing! I had nothing but mourning and prayer on my
mind."

"They too said the same. They are an arrogant set of homespuns. I
wanted to give them a reward for their toil; instead of accepting it,
they rose against me and said that the nobility of Orsha might take
drink-money, but the Lauda men never. They spoke very foully to me;
while listening, I thought to myself: 'If you don't want money, then
I'll command to give you a hundred lashes.'"

Panna Aleksandra seized her head. "Jesus Mary! and did you do that?"

Kmita looked at her in astonishment. "Have no fears! I did not, though
my soul revolts within me at such trashy nobility, who pretend to be
the equal of us. But I thought to myself, 'They will cry me down
without cause in those parts, call me tyrant, and calumniate me before
you!'"

"Great is your luck," said Olenka, drawing a deep breath of relief,
"for I should not have been able to look you in the eyes."

"But how so?"

"That is a petty nobility, but ancient and renowned. My dear
grandfather always loved them, and went with them to war. He served all
his life with them. In time of peace he received them in his house.
That is an old friendship of our family which you must respect. You
have moreover a heart, and will not break that sacred harmony in which
thus far we have lived."

"I knew nothing of them at that moment,--may I be slain if I did!--but
yet I confess that this barefooted nobledom somehow cannot find place
in my head. With us a peasant is a peasant, and nobles are all men of
good family, who do not sit two on one mare. God knows that such scurvy
fellows have nothing to do with the Kmitas nor with the Billeviches,
just as a mudfish has nothing to do with a pike, though this is a fish
and that also."

"My grandfather used to say that blood and honor, not wealth, make a
man; and these are honorable people, or grandfather would not have made
them my guardians."

Pan Andrei was astonished and opened wide his eyes, "Did your
grandfather make all the petty nobility of Lauda guardians over you?"

"He did. Do not frown, for the will of the dead is sacred. It is a
wonder to me that the messengers did not mention this."

"I should have-- But that cannot be. There is a number of villages.
Will they all discuss about you? Will they discuss me,--whether I am to
their thinking or not? But jest not, for the blood is storming up in
me."

"Pan Andrei, I am not jesting; I speak the sacred and sincere truth.
They will not debate about you; but if you will not repulse them nor
show haughtiness, you will capture not only them, but my heart. I,
together with them, will thank you all my life,--all my life, Pan
Andrei."

Her voice trembled as if in a beseeching request; but he did not let
the frown go from his brow, and was gloomy. He did not burst into
anger, it is true, though at moments there flew over his face as it
were lightnings; but he answered with haughtiness and pride,--

"I did not look for this! I respect the will of the dead, and I think
the under-chamberlain might have made those petty nobles your guardians
till the time of my coming; but when once I have put foot here, no
other, save me, will be guardian. Not only those gray coats, but the
Radzivills of Birji themselves have nothing in this place to do with
guardianship."

Panna Aleksandra grew serious, and answered after a short silence: "You
do ill to be carried away by pride. The conditions laid down by my late
grandfather must be either all accepted or all rejected. I see no other
way. The men of Lauda will give neither trouble nor annoyance, for they
are worthy people and peaceful. Do not suppose that they will be
disagreeable. Should any trouble arise, they might say a word; but it
is my opinion that all will pass in harmony and peace, and then the
guardianship will be as if it had not been."

Kmita held silence a moment, then waved his hand and said: "It is true
that the marriage will end everything. There is nothing to quarrel
about. Let them only sit quietly and not force themselves on me; for
God knows I will not let my mustache be blown upon. But no more of
them. Permit an early wedding; that will be best."

"It is not becoming to mention that now, in time of mourning."

"Ai, but shall I be forced to wait long?"

"Grandfather himself stated that no longer than half a year."

"I shall be as dried up as a chip before that time. But let us not be
angry. You have begun to look on me as sternly as on an offender. God
be good to you, my golden queen! In what am I to blame if the nature
within me is such that when anger against a man takes me I would tear
him to pieces, and when it passes I would sew him together again."

"'Tis a terror to live with such a man," answered Olenka, more
joyously.

"Well, to your health! This is good wine; for me the sabre and wine are
the basis. What kind of terror to live with me? You will hold me
ensnared with your eyes, and make a slave of me,--a man who hitherto
would endure no superior. At the present time I chose to go with my own
little company in independence rather than bow to the hetman. My golden
queen, if anything in me does not please you, overlook it; for I
learned manners near cannon and not among ladies, in the tumult of
soldiers and not at the lute. Our region is restless, the sabre is
never let go from the hand. There, though some outlawry rests on a man,
though he be pursued by sentences, 'tis nothing! People respect him if
he has the daring of a warrior. For example, my companions who in some
other place would have long been in prison are in their fashion worthy
persons. Even women among us go in boots, and with sabres lead
parties,--like Pani Kokosinski, the aunt of my lieutenant. She died a
heroes death; and her nephew in my command has avenged her, though in
life he did not love her. Where should we, even of the greatest
families, learn politeness? But we know when there is war how to fight,
when there is a diet how to talk; and if the tongue is not enough, then
the sabre. That's the position; as a man of such action did the late
chamberlain know me, and as such did he choose me for you."

"I have always followed the will of my grandfather willingly," answered
the lady, dropping her eyes.

"Let me kiss your hand once again, my dear girl! God knows you have
come close to my heart. Feeling has so taken hold of me that I know not
how I can find that Lyubich which I have not yet seen."

"I will give you a guide."

"Oh, I shall find the way. I am used to much pounding around by night.
I have an attendant from Ponyevyej who must know the road. And there
Kokosinski and his comrades are waiting for me. With us the Kokosinskis
are a great family, who use the seal of Pypka. This one was outlawed
without reason because he burned the house of Pan Orpishevski, carried
off a maiden, and cut down some servants. A good comrade!-- Give me
your hand once more. I see it is time to go."

Midnight began to beat slowly on the great Dantzig clock standing in
the hall.

"For God's sake! 'tis time, 'tis time!" cried Kmita. "I may not stay
longer. Do you love me, even as much as would go around your finger?"

"I will answer another time. You will visit me, of course?"

"Every day, even if the ground should open under me! May I be slain!"

Kmita rose, and both went to the antechamber. The sleigh was already
waiting before the porch; so he enrobed himself in the shuba, and began
to take farewell, begging her to return to the chamber, for the cold
was flying in from the porch.

"Good-night, my dear queen," said he, "sleep sweetly, for surely I
shall not close an eye thinking of your beauty."

"May you see nothing bad! But better, I'll give you a man with a light,
for there is no lack of wolves near Volmontovichi."

"And am I a lamb to fear wolves? A wolf is a friend to a soldier, for
often has he profit from his hand. We have also firearms in the sleigh.
Good-night, dearest, good-night."

"With God."

Olenka withdrew, and Pan Kmita went to the porch. But on the way,
through the slightly open door of the servants' hall he saw a number of
pairs of eyes of maidens who waiting to see him once more had not yet
lain down to sleep. To them Pan Andrei sent, soldier-fashion, kisses
from his mouth with his hand, and went out. After a while the bell
began to jingle, at first loudly, then with a continually decreasing
sound, ever fainter and fainter, till at last it was silent.

It grew still in Vodokty, till the stillness amazed Panna Aleksandra.
The words of Pan Andrei were sounding in her ears; she heard his
laughter yet, heartfelt, joyous; in her eyes stood the rich form of the
young man; and now after that storm of words, mirth, and joyousness,
such marvellous silence succeeded. The lady bent her ear,--could she
not hear even one sound more from the sleigh? But no! it was sounding
somewhere off in the forest, near Volmontovichi. Therefore a mighty
sadness seized the maiden, and never had she felt so much alone in the
world.

Taking the light, slowly she went to her chamber, and knelt down to say
the Lord's Prayer. She began five times before she could finish with
proper attention; and when she had finished, her thoughts, as if on
wings, chased after that sleigh and that figure sitting within. On one
side were pine-woods, pine-woods on the other, in the middle a broad
road, and he driving on,--Pan Andrei! Here it seemed to Olenka that she
saw as before her the blond foretop, the blue eyes, the laughing mouth
in which are gleaming teeth as white as the teeth of a young dog. For
this dignified lady could hardly deny before her own face that this
wild cavalier had greatly pleased her. He alarmed her a little, he
frightened her a little, but he attracted her also with that daring,
that joyous freedom and sincerity, till she was ashamed that he pleased
her, especially with his haughtiness when at mention of the guardians
he reared his head like a Turkish war-horse and said, "Even the
Radzivills of Birji themselves have nothing to do here with
guardianship."

"That is no dangler around women; that is a true man," said the lady to
herself. "He is a soldier of the kind that my grandfather loved most of
all,--and he deserved it!"

So meditated the lady; and a happiness undimmed by anything embraced
her. It was an unquiet; but that unquiet was something dear. Then she
began to undress; the door creaked, and in came Panna Kulvyets, with a
candle in her hand.

"You sat terribly long," said she. "I did not wish to interfere with
young people, so that you might talk your fill the first time. He seems
a courteous cavalier. But how did he please you?"

Panna Aleksandra gave no answer at first, but barefooted ran up to her
aunt, threw herself on her neck, and placing her bright head on her
bosom, said with a fondling voice, "Auntie, oh, Auntie!"

"Oho!" muttered the old maid, raising her eyes and the candle toward
heaven.



                              CHAPTER III.


When Pan Andrei drove up to the mansion at Lyubich, the windows were
gleaming, and bustle reached the front yard. The servants, hearing
the bell, rushed out through the entrance to greet their lord, for
they had learned from his comrades that he would come. They greeted
him with submission, kissing his hands and seizing his feet. The old
land-steward, Znikis, stood in the entrance holding bread and salt, and
beating worship with the forehead; all gazed with uneasiness and
curiosity,--how would their future lord look? Kmita threw a purse full
of thalers on the tray, and asked for his comrades, astonished that no
one of them had come forth to meet his proprietary mightiness.

But they could not come forth, for they were then the third hour at the
table, entertaining themselves at the cup, and perhaps in fact they had
not taken note of the sounding of the bell outside. But when he entered
the room, from all breasts a loud shout burst forth: "The heir, the
heir has come!" and all his comrades, springing from their places,
started toward him with their cups. But he placed his hands on his
hips, and laughed at the manner in which they had helped themselves in
his house, and had gone to drinking before his arrival. He laughed with
increasing heartiness when he saw them advance with tipsy solemnity.

Before the others went the gigantic Pan Yaromir Kokosinski, with the
seal of Pypka, a famous soldier and swaggerer, with a terrible scar
across his forehead, his eye, and his cheek, with one mustache short,
the other long, the lieutenant and friend of Kmita, the "worthy
comrade," condemned to loss of life and honor in Smolensk for stealing
a maiden, for murder and arson. At that time war saved him, and the
protection of Kmita, who was of the same age; and their lands were
adjoining in Orsha till Pan Yaromir had squandered his away. He came up
holding in both hands a great-eared bowl filled with dembniak.

Next came Ranitski, whose family had arms,--Dry Chambers (Suche
Komnaty). He was born in the province of Mstislavsk, from which he was
an outlaw for killing two noblemen, landowners. One he slew in a duel,
the other he shot without an encounter. He had no estate, though he
inherited his step-mother's land on the death of his father. War saved
him, too, from the executioner. He was an incomparable hand-to-hand
sword-slasher.

The third in order was Rekuts-Leliva, on whom blood did not weigh, save
the blood of the enemy. But he had played away, drunk away his
substance. For the past three years he had clung to Kmita.

With him came the fourth, also from Smolensk, Pan Uhlik, under sentence
of death and dishonor for breaking up a court. Kmita protected him
because he played beautifully on the flageolet.

Besides them was Pan Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, in stature the equal of
Kokosinski, in strength even his superior; and Zend, a horse-trainer,
who knew how to imitate wild beasts and all kinds of birds,--a man of
uncertain descent, though claiming to be a noble of Courland; being
without fortune he trained Kmita's horses, for which he received an
allowance.

These then surrounded the laughing Pan Andrei. Kokosinski raised the
eared bowl and intoned:--


           "Drink with us, dear host of ours,
                  Dear host of ours!
            With us thou mightst drink to the grave,
                  Drink to the grave!"


Others repeated the chorus; then Kokosinski gave Kmita the eared bowl,
and Zend gave Kokosinski a goblet.

Kmita raised high the eared bowl and shouted, "Health to my maiden!"

"Vivat! vivat!" cried all voices, till the window-panes began to rattle
in their leaden fittings. "Vivat! the mourning will pass, the wedding
will come!"

They began to pour forth questions: "But how does she look? Hei!
Yendrus,[9] is she very pretty, or such as you pictured her? Is there
another like her in Orsha?"

"In Orsha?" cried Kmita. "In comparison with her you might stop
chimneys with our Orsha girls! A hundred thunders! there's not another
such in the world."

"That's the kind we wanted for you," answered Ranitski. "Well, when is
the wedding to be?"

"The minute the mourning is over."

"Oh, fie on the mourning! Children are not born black, but white."

"When the wedding comes, there will be no mourning. Hurry, Yendrus!"

"Hurry, Yendrus!" all began to exclaim at once.

"The little bannerets of Orsha are crying in heaven for the earth,"
said Kokosinski.

"Don't make the poor little things wait!"

"Mighty lords," added Rekuts-Leliva, with a thin voice, "at the wedding
we'll drink ourselves drunk as fools."

"My dear lambs," said Kmita, "pardon me, or, speaking more correctly,
go to a hundred devils, let me look around in my own house."

"Nonsense!" answered Uhlik. "To-morrow the inspection, but now all to
the table; there is a pair of demijohns there yet with big bellies."

"We have already made inspection for you. This Lyubich is a golden
apple," said Ranitski.

"A good stable!" cried Zend; "there are two ponies, two splendid hussar
horses, a pair of Jmud horses, and a pair of Kalmuks,--all in pairs,
like eyes in the head. We will look at the mares and colts to-morrow."

Here Zend neighed like a horse; they wondered at his perfect imitation,
and laughed.

"Is there such good order here?" asked Kmita, rejoiced.

"And how the cellar looks!" piped Rekuts; "resinous kegs and mouldy
jugs stand like squadrons in ranks."

"Praise be to God for that! let us sit down at the table."

"To the table! to the table!"

They had barely taken their places and filled their cups when Ranitski
sprang up again: "To the health of the Under-chamberlain Billevich!"

"Stupid!" answered Kmita, "how is that? You are drinking the health of
a dead man."

"Stupid!" repeated the others. "The health of the master!"

"Your health!"

"May we get good in these chambers!"

Kmita cast his eyes involuntarily along the dining-hall, and he saw on
the larch wood walls, blackened by age, a row of stern eyes fixed on
him. Those eyes were gazing out of the old portraits of the
Billeviches, hanging low, within two ells of the floor, for the wall
was low. Above the portraits in a long unbroken row were fixed skulls
of the aurochs, of stags, of elks, crowned with their antlers: some,
blackened, were evidently very old; others were shining with whiteness.
All four walls were ornamented with them.

"The hunting must be splendid, for I see abundance of wild beasts,"
said Kmita.

"We will go to-morrow or the day after. We must learn the
neighborhood," answered Kokosinski. "Happy are you, Yendrus, to have a
place to shelter your head!"

"Not like us," groaned Ranitski.

"Let us drink for our solace," said Rekuts.

"No, not for our solace," answered Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, "but once
more to the health of Yendrus, our beloved captain. It is he, my mighty
lords, who has given here in Lyubich an asylum to us poor exiles
without a roof above our heads."

"He speaks justly," cried a number of voices; "Kulvyets is not so
stupid as he seems."

"Hard is our lot," piped Rekuts. "Our whole hope is that you will not
drive us poor orphans out through your gates."

"Give us peace," said Kmita; "what is mine is yours."

With that all rose from their places and began to take him by the
shoulders. Tears of tenderness flowed over those stern drunken faces.

"In you is all our hope, Yendrus," cried Kokosinski, "Let us sleep even
on pea straw; drive us not forth."

"Give us peace," repeated Kmita.

"Drive us not forth; as it is, we have been driven,--we nobles and men
of family," said Uhlik, plaintively.

"To a hundred fiends with you, who is driving you out? Eat, drink! What
the devil do you want?"

"Do not deny us," said Ranitski, on whose face spots came out as on the
skin of a leopard. "Do not deny us, Andrei, or we are lost altogether."

Here he began to stammer, put his finger to his forehead as if
straining his wit, and suddenly said, looking with sheepish eyes on
those present, "Unless fortune changes."

And all blurted out at once in chorus, "Of course it will change."

"And we will yet pay for our wrongs."

"And come to fortune."

"And to office."

"God bless the innocent! Our prosperity!"

"Your health!" cried Pan Andrei.

"Your words are holy, Yendrus," said Kokosinski, placing his chubby
face before Kmita. "God grant us improvement of fortune!"

Healths began to go around, and tufts to steam. All were talking, one
interrupting the other; and each heard only himself, with the exception
of Rekuts, who dropped his head on his breast and slumbered. Kokosinski
began to sing, "She bound the flax in bundles," noting which Uhlik took
a flageolet from his bosom and accompanied him.

Ranitski, a great fencer, fenced with his naked hand against an unseen
opponent, repeating in an undertone, "You thus, I thus; you cut, I
strike,--one, two, three, check!"

The gigantic Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus stared fixedly for some time at
Ranitski; at last he waved his hand and said: "You're a fool! Strike
your best, but still you can't hold your own before Kmita with a
sabre."

"For no one can stand before him; but try yourself."

"You will not win against me with a pistol."

"For a ducat a shot."

"A ducat! But where and at what?"

Ranitski cast his eyes around; at last he cried out, pointing at the
skulls, "Between the antlers, for a ducat!"

"For what?" asked Kmita.

"Between the antlers, for two ducats, for three! Bring the pistols!"

"Agreed!" cried Kmita. "Let it be three. Zend, get the pistols!"

All began to shout louder and louder, and bargain among themselves;
meanwhile Zend went to the antechamber, and soon returned with pistols,
a pouch of bullets, and a horn with powder.

Ranitski grasped for a pistol. "Is it loaded?" asked he.

"Loaded."

"For three, four, five ducats!" blustered Kmita, drunk.

"Quiet! you will miss, you will miss."

"I shall hit at that skull between the antlers--one! two!"

All eyes were turned to the strong elk-skull fixed in front of
Ranitski. He straightened his arm; the pistol turned in his palm.

"Three!" cried Kmita.

The shot sounded; the room was filled with powder smoke.

"He has missed, he has missed! See where the hole is!" cried Kmita,
pointing with his hand at the dark wall from which the bullet had torn
out a brighter chip.

"Two shots each time!"

"No; give it to me," cried Kulvyets.

At that moment the astonished servants ran in at the sound of the shot.

"Away! away!" called Kmita. "One! two! three!"

Again the roar of a shot; this time the pieces fell from the bone.

"But give us pistols too!" shouted all at the same time.

And springing up, they began to pound on the shoulders of their
attendants, urging them to hurry. Before a quarter of an hour had
passed, the whole room was thundering with shots. The smoke hid the
light of the candles and the forms of the men shooting. The report of
discharges was accompanied by the voice of Zend, who croaked like a
raven, screamed like a falcon, howled like a wolf, bellowed like an
aurochs. The whistle of bullets interrupted him; bits flew from the
skulls, chips from the wall, and portraits from their frames; in the
disorder the Billeviches were shot, and Ranitski, falling into fury,
slashed them with his sabre.

The servants, astonished and terrified, stood as if bereft of their
senses, gazing with startled eyes on that sport which resembled a
Tartar invasion. The dogs began to howl and bark. All in the house were
on their feet; in the yard groups of people assembled. The girls of the
house ran to the windows, and putting their faces to the panes,
flattening their noses, gazed at what was passing within.

Zend saw them at last; he whistled so piercingly that it rang in the
ears of all, and then shouted, "Mighty lords! titmice are under the
window,--titmice!"

"Titmice! titmice!"

"Now for a dance!" roared dissonant voices.

The drunken crowd sprang through the anteroom to the porch. The frost
did not sober their steaming heads. The girls, screaming in voices that
rose to the sky, ran in every direction through the yard; but the men
chased them, and brought each one they seized to the room. After a
while they began dancing in the midst of smoke, bits of bone, and chips
around the table on which spilled wine lay in pools.

In such fashion did Pan Kmita and his wild company revel in Lyubich.



                              CHAPTER IV.


For a number of subsequent days Pan Andrei was at Vodokty daily; and
each time he returned more in love, and admired more and more his
Olenka. He lauded her to the skies, too, before his companions, till on
a certain day he said to them,--

"My dear lambs, you will go to-day to beat with the forehead; then, as
we have stipulated with the maiden, we will go to Mitruny to have a
sleigh-ride through the forests and look at the third estate. She will
entertain us there, and do you bear yourselves decently; for I would
cut into hash the man who offended her in anything."

The cavaliers hurried willingly to prepare, and soon four sleighs were
bearing the eager young men to Vodokty. Kmita sat in the first sleigh,
which was highly ornamented and had the form of a silvery bear. This
sleigh was drawn by three captured Kalmuk horses in variegated harness,
in ribbons and peacock feathers, according to the Smolensk fashion,
borrowed from more distant neighbors. A young fellow sitting in the
neck of the bear drove the horses. Pan Andrei was dressed in a green
velvet coat buttoned on golden cords and trimmed with sable, and wore a
sable cap with a heron's feather. He was gladsome, joyous, and spoke to
Kokosinski sitting at his side,--

"Listen, Kokoshko! I suppose we played tricks wild beyond measure on
two evenings, and especially the first, when the skulls and the
portraits suffered. But the case of the girls was still worse. The
Devil always pushes forward that Zend, and then on whom does he pound
out the punishment? On me. I am afraid that people will talk, for in
this place my reputation is at stake."

"Hang yourself on your reputation; it is good for nothing else, just
like ours."

"And who is to blame for that, if not you men? Remember, Kokoshko, they
held me for a disturbing spirit in Orsha, and tongues were sharpened on
me like knives on a whetstone."

"But who dragged Pan Tumgrat out in the frost with a horse; who cut up
that official, who asked whether men walked on two feet in Orsha or on
four? Who hacked the Vyzinskis, father and son? Who broke up the last
provincial Diet?"

"I broke up the Diet in Orsha, not somewhere else; that was a home
affair. Pan Tumgrat forgave me when he was dying; and as to the others,
speak not, for a duel may happen to the most innocent."

"I have not told all yet; I have not spoken of the trials in the army,
of which two are still waiting for you."

"Not for me, but for you men; for I am to blame only for letting you
rob the people. But no more of this! Shut your mouth, Kokoshko, and say
nothing to Olenka about the duels, and especially nothing of that
shooting at the portraits and of the girls. If it is told, I shall lay
the blame on you. I have informed the servants and the girls that if a
word is said, I will order belts taken out of their skins."

"Have yourself shod like a horse, Yendrus, if you are in such dread of
your maiden. You were another man in Orsha. I see already that you will
go in leading-strings, and there is no good in that. Some ancient
philosopher says, 'If you will not manage Kahna, Kahna will manage
you.' You have given yourself to be tied up in all things."

"You are a fool, Kokoshko! But as to Olenka you will stand on one foot
and then on the other when you put eyes on her, for another woman with
such proper intent is not to be found. What is good she will praise in
a moment, but the bad she will blame without waiting; for she judges
according to virtue, and has in herself a ready measure. The late
under-chamberlain reared her in that way. Should you wish to boast of
warlike daring before her, and say that you trampled on justice, you
will soon be ashamed; for at once she will say, 'An honorable citizen
should not do that; it is against the country.' She will speak so to
you that it will be as if some one had slapped you on the face, and
you'll wonder that you did not know these things yourself. Tfu! shame!
We have raised fearful disorder, and now must stand open-eyed before
virtue and innocence. The worst was those girls--"

"By no means the worst. I have heard that in the villages there are
girls of the petty nobility like blood and milk, and probably not
stubborn at all."

"Who told you?" asked Kmita, quickly.

"Who told me? Who, if not Zend? Yesterday while trying the roan steed
he rode to Volmontovichi; he merely rode along the highway, but he saw
many titmice, for they were coming from vespers. 'I thought,' said he,
'that I should fly off the horse, they were so handsome and pretty.'
And whenever he looked at any one of them she showed her teeth
directly. And no wonder! for all the grown men of the nobles have gone
to Rossyeni, and it is dreary for the titmice alone."

Kmita punched his companion in the side with his fist. "Let us go,
Kokoshko, some time in the evening,--pretend we are astray,--shall we?"

"But your reputation?"

"Oh, to the Devil! Shut your mouth! Go alone, if that is the way; but
better drop the matter. It would not pass without talk, and I want to
live in peace with the nobles here, for the late under-chamberlain made
them Olenka's guardians."

"You have spoken of that, but I would not believe it. How did he have
such intimacy with homespuns?"

"Because he went with them to war, and I heard of this in Orsha, when
he said that there was honorable blood in those Lauda men. But to tell
the truth, Kokoshko, it was an immediate wonder to me, for it is as if
he had made them guards over me."

"You will yield to them and bow to your boots before dish-cloths."

"First may the pestilence choke them! Be quiet, for I am angry! They
will bow to me and serve me. Their quota is ready at every call."

"Some one else will command this quota. Zend says that there is a
colonel here among them--I forget his name--Volodyovski or something?
He led them at Shklov. They fought well, it appears, but were combed
out there."

"I have heard of a Volodyovski, a famous warrior--But here is Vodokty
in sight."

"Hei, it is well for people in Jmud; for there is stern order. The old
man must have been a born manager. And the house,--I see how it looks.
The enemy brought fire here seldom, and the people could build."

"I think that she cannot have heard yet of that outburst in Lyubich,"
said Kmita, as if to himself. Then he turned to his comrade: "My
Kokoshko, I tell you, and do you repeat it to the others, that you must
bear yourselves decently here; and if any man permits himself anything,
as God is dear to me, I will cut him up like chopped straw."

"Well, they have saddled you!"

"Saddled, saddled not, I will cut you up!"

"Don't look at my Kasia or I'll cut you to pieces," said Kokosinski,
phlegmatically.

"Fire out thy whip!" shouted Kmita to the driver.

The youth standing in the neck of the silvery bear whirled his whip,
and cracked it very adroitly; other drivers followed his example, and
they drove with a rattling, quick motion, joyous as at a carnival.

Stepping out of the sleighs, they came first to an antechamber as large
as a granary, an unpainted room; thence Kmita conducted them to the
dining-hall, ornamented as in Lyubich with skulls and antlers of slain
beasts. Here they halted, looking carefully and with curiosity at the
door of the adjoining room, by which Panna Aleksandra was to enter.
Meanwhile, evidently keeping in mind Kmita's warning, they spoke with
one another in subdued tones, as in a church.

"You are a fellow of speech," whispered Uhlik to Kokosinski, "you will
greet her for us all."

"I was arranging something to say on the road," answered Kokosinski,
"but I know not whether it will be smooth enough, for Yendrus
interrupted my ideas."

"Let it be as it comes, if with spirit. But here she is!"

Panna Aleksandra entered, halting a little on the threshold, as if in
wonder at such a large company. Kmita himself stood for a while as if
fixed to the floor in admiration of her beauty; for hitherto he had
seen her only in the evening, and in the day she seemed still more
beautiful. Her eyes had the color of star-thistles; the dark brows
above them were in contrast to the forehead as ebony with white, and
her yellow hair shone like a crown on the head of a queen. Not dropping
her eyes, she had the self-possessed mien of a lady receiving guests in
her own house, with clear face seeming still clearer from the black
dress trimmed with ermine. Such a dignified and exalted lady the
warriors had not seen; they were accustomed to women of another type.
So they stood in a rank as if for the enrolling of a company, and
shuffling their feet they also bowed together in a row; but Kmita
pushed forward, and kissing the hand of the lady a number of times,
said,--

"See, my jewel, I have brought you fellow soldiers with whom I fought
in the last war."

"It is for me no small honor," answered Panna Billevich, "to receive in
my house such worthy cavaliers, of whose virtue and excellent qualities
I have heard from their commander, Pan Kmita."

When she had said this she took her skirt with the tips of her fingers,
and raising it slightly, courtesied with unusual dignity. Kmita bit his
lips, but at the same time he was flushed, since his maiden had spoken
with such spirit.

The worthy cavaliers continuing to shuffle their feet, all nudged at
the same moment Pan Kokosinski: "Well, begin!"

Kokosinski moved forward one step, cleared his throat, and began as
follows: "Serene great mighty lady, under-chamberlain's daughter--"

"Chief-hunter's daughter," corrected Kmita.

"Serene great mighty lady, chief-hunter's daughter, but to us right
merciful benefactress," repeated Kokosinski,--"pardon, your ladyship,
if I have erred in the title--"

"A harmless mistake," replied Panna Aleksandra, "and it lessens in no
wise such an eloquent cavalier--"

"Serene great mighty lady, chief-hunter's daughter, benefactress, and
our right merciful lady, I know not what becomes me in the name of all
Orsha to celebrate more,--the extraordinary beauty and virtue of your
ladyship, our benefactress, or the unspeakable happiness of the captain
and our fellow-soldier, Pan Kmita; for though I were to approach the
clouds, though I were to reach the clouds themselves--I say, the
clouds--"

"But come down out of those clouds!" cried Kmita.

With that the cavaliers burst into one enormous laugh; but all at once
remembering the command of Kmita, they seized their mustaches with
their hands.

Kokosinski was confused in the highest degree. He grew purple, and
said, "Do the greeting yourselves, pagans, since you confuse me."

Panna Aleksandra took again, with the tips of her fingers, her skirt.
"I could not follow you gentlemen in eloquence," said she, "but I know
that I am unworthy of those homages which you give me in the name of
all Orsha."

And again she made a courtesy with exceeding dignity, and it was
somehow out of place for the Orsha roisterers in the presence of that
courtly maiden. They strove to exhibit themselves as men of politeness,
but it did not become them. Therefore they began to pull their
mustaches, to mutter and handle their sabres, till Kmita said,--

"We have come here as if in a carnival, with the thought to take you
with us and drive to Mitruny through the forest, as was the arrangement
yesterday. The snow-road is firm, and God has given frosty weather."

"I have already sent Aunt Kulvyets to Mitruny to prepare dinner. But
now, gentlemen, wait just a little till I put on something warm."

Then she turned and went out.

Kmita sprang to his comrades. "Well, my dear lambs, isn't she a
princess? Now, Kokosinski, you said that she had saddled me, and why
were you as a little boy before her? Where have you seen her like?"

"There was no call to interrupt me; though I do not deny that I did not
expect to address such a person."

"The late under-chamberlain," said Kmita, "lived with her most of the
time in Kyedani, at the court of the prince voevoda, or lived with the
Hleboviches; and there she acquired those high manners. But her
beauty,--what of that? You cannot let your breath go yet."

"We have appeared as fools," said Ranitski, in anger; "but the biggest
fool was Kokosinski."

"Traitor! why punch me with your elbow? You should have appeared
yourself, with your spotted mouth."

"Harmony, lambs, harmony!" said Kmita; "I will let you admire, but not
wrangle."

"I would spring into the fire for her," said Rekuts. "Hew me down,
Yendrus, but I'll not deny that."

Kmita did not think of cutting down; he was satisfied, twisted his
mustache, and gazed on his comrades with triumph. Now Panna Aleksandra
entered, wearing a marten-skin cap, under which her bright face
appeared still brighter. They went out on the porch.

"Then shall we ride in this sleigh?" asked the lady, pointing to the
silvery bear. "I have not seen a more beautiful sleigh in my life."

"I know not who has used it hitherto, for it was captured. It suits me
very well, for on my shield is a lady on a bear. There are other Kmitas
who have banners on their shield, but they are descended from Filon
Kmita of Charnobil; he was not of the same house from which the great
Kmitas are descended."

"And when did you capture this bear sleigh?"

"Lately, in this war. We poor exiles who have fallen away from fortune
have only what war gives us in plunder. But as I serve that lady
faithfully, she has rewarded me."

"May God grant a better; for war rewards one, but presses tears from
the whole dear fatherland."

"God and the hetmans will change that."

Meanwhile Kmita wrapped Panna Aleksandra in the beautiful sleigh robe
of white cloth lined with white wolfskin; then taking his own seat, he
cried to the driver, "Move on!" and the horses sprang forward at a run.

The cold wind struck their faces with its rush; they were silent,
therefore, and nothing was heard save the wheezing of frozen snow under
the runners, the snorting of the horses, their tramp, and the cry of
the driver.

At last Pan Andrei bent toward Olenka. "Is it pleasant for you?"

"Pleasant," answered she, raising her sleeve and holding it to her
mouth to ward off the rush of air.

The sleigh dashed on like a whirlwind. The day was bright, frosty; the
snow sparkled as if some one were scattering sparks on it. From the
white roofs of the cottages, which were like piles of snow, rosy smoke
curled in high columns. Flocks of crows from among the leafless trees
by the roadside flew before the sleighs with shrill cawing.

About eighty rods from Vodokty they came out on a broad road into dark
pine-woods which stood gloomy, hoary, and silent as if sleeping under
the thick snow-bunches. The trees flitted before the eye, appeared to
be fleeing to some place in the rear of the sleigh; but the sleigh flew
on, every moment swiftly, more swiftly, as if the horses had wings.
From such driving the head turns, and ecstasy seizes one; it seized
Panna Aleksandra. She leaned back, closed her eyes, and yielded
completely to the impetus. She felt a sweet powerlessness, and it
seemed to her that that boyar of Orsha had taken her by violence: that
he is rushing away like a whirlwind, and she growing weak has no
strength to oppose or to cry,--and they are flying, flying each moment
more swiftly. Olenka feels that arms are embracing her; then on her
cheek as it were a hot burning stamp. Her eyes will not open, as if in
a dream; and they fly, fly.

An inquiring voice first roused the sleeping lady: "Do you love me?"

She opened her eyes. "As my own soul."

"And I for life and death."

Again the sable cap of Kmita bent over the marten-skin cap of Olenka.
She knew not herself which gave her more delight,--the kisses or the
magic ride.

And they flew farther, but always through pine-woods, through
pine-woods. Trees fled to the rear in whole regiments. The snow was
wheezing, the horses snorting; but the man and the maiden were happy.

"I would ride to the end of the world in this way," cried Kmita.

"What are we doing? This is a sin!" whispered Olenka.

"What sin? Let us commit it again."

"Impossible! Mitruny is not far."

"Far or near, 'tis all one!"

And Kmita rose in the sleigh, stretched his arms upward, and began to
shout as if in a full breast he could not find place for his joy:
"Hei-ha! hei-ha!"

"Hei-hop! hoop-ha!" answered the comrades from the sleighs behind.

"Why do you shout so?" asked the lady.

"Oh, so, from delight! And shout you as well!"

"Hei-ha!" was heard the resonant, thin alto voice.

"O thou, my queen! I fall at thy feet."

"The company will laugh."

After the ecstasy a noisy joyousness seized them, as wild as the
driving was wild. Kmita began to sing,--


     "Look thou, my girl! look through the door,
                    To the rich fields!
      Oh, knights from the pine-woods are coming, my mother,
                    Oh, that's my fate!
      Look not, my daughter! cover thy eyes,
                    With thy white hands,
      For thy heart will spring out of thy bosom
                    With them to the war."


"Who taught you such lovely songs?" asked Panna Aleksandra.

"War, Olenka. In the camp we sang them to one another to drive away
sadness."

Further conversation was interrupted by a loud calling from the rear
sleighs: "Stop! stop! Hei there--stop!"

Pan Andrei turned around in anger, wondering how it came to the heads
of his comrades to call and stop him. He saw a few tens of steps from
the sleigh a horseman approaching at full speed of the horse.

"As God lives, that is my sergeant Soroka; what can have happened?"
said Pan Andrei.

That moment the sergeant coming up, reined his horse on his haunches,
and began to speak with a panting voice: "Captain!--"

"What is the matter, Soroka?"

"Upita is on fire; they are fighting!"

"Jesus Mary!" screamed Olenka.

"Have no fear!--Who is fighting?"

"The soldiers with the townspeople. There is a fire on the square! The
townspeople are enraged, and they have sent to Ponyevyej for a
garrison. But I galloped here to your grace. I can barely draw breath."

During this conversation the sleighs behind caught up; Kokosinski,
Ranitski, Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, Uhlik, Rekuts, and Zend, springing
out on the snow, surrounded the speakers with a circle.

"What is the matter?" asked Kmita.

"The townspeople would not give supplies for horses or men, because
there was no order for it; the soldiers began to take by force. We
besieged the mayor and those who barricaded themselves in the square.
Firing was begun, and we burned two houses; at present there is
terrible violence, and ringing of bells--"

Kmita's eyes gleamed with wrath.

"We must go to the rescue!" shouted Kokosinski.

"The rabble are oppressing the army!" cried Ranitski, whose whole face
was covered at once with red, white, and dark spots. "Check, check!
mighty lords!"

Zend laughed exactly as a screech-owl hoots, till the horses were
frightened; and Rekuts raised his eyes and piped, "Strike, whoso
believes in God! smoke out the ruffians!"

"Be silent!" roared Kmita, till the woods echoed, and Zend, who stood
nearest, staggered like a drunken man. "There is no need of you there,
no need of slashing! Sit all of you in two sleighs, leave me the third.
Drive back to Lyubich; wait there unless I send for succor."

"How is that?" asked Ranitski, opposing.

But Pan Andrei laid a hand on his throat, and his eyes gleamed more
terribly. "Not a breath out of you!" said he, threateningly.

They were silent; evidently they feared him, though usually on such
familiar footing.

"Go back, Olenka, to Vodokty," said Kmita, "or go for your Aunt
Kulvyets to Mitruny. Well, our party was not a success. But it will be
quieter there soon; only a few heads will fly off. Be in good health
and at rest; I shall be quick to return."

Having said this, he kissed her hand, and wrapped her in the wolf-skin;
then he took his seat in the other sleigh, and cried to the driver, "To
Upita!"



                               CHAPTER V.


A number of days passed, and Kmita did not return; but three men of
Lauda came to Vodokty with complaints to the lady. Pakosh Gashtovt from
Patsuneli came,--the same who was entertaining at his house Pan
Volodyovski. He was the patriarch of the village, famed for wealth and
six daughters, of whom three had married Butryms, and received each one
hundred coined dollars as dowry, besides clothing and cattle. The
second who came was Kassyan Butrym, who remembered Batory well, and
with him the son-in-law of Pakosh, Yuzva Butrym; the latter, though in
the prime of life,--he was not more than fifty years old,--did not go
to Rossyeni to the registry of the general militia, for in the Cossack
wars a cannon-ball had torn off his foot. He was called on this account
Ankle-foot, or Yuzva Footless. He was a terrible man, with the strength
of a bear, and great sense, but harsh, surly, judging men severely. For
this reason he was feared somewhat in the capitals, for he could not
pardon either himself or others. He was dangerous also when in liquor;
but that happened rarely.

These men came, then, to the lady, who received them graciously, though
she divined at once that they had come to make complaints, and wanted
to hear something from her regarding Pan Kmita.

"We wish to pay our respects to Pan Kmita, but perhaps he has not come
back yet from Upita," said Pakosh; "so we have come to inquire, our
dear darling, when it will be possible to see him."

"I think the only hindrance is that he is not here," answered the lady.
"He will be glad with his whole soul to see you, my guardians, for he
has heard much good concerning you,--in old times from my grandfather,
and lately from me."

"If only he does not receive us as he received the Domasheviches when
they went to him with tidings of the colonel's death," muttered Yuzva,
sullenly.

The lady listened to the end, and answered at once with animation: "Be
not unjust about that. Perhaps he did not receive them politely enough,
but he has confessed his fault in this house. It should be remembered
too that he was returning from a war in which he endured much toil and
suffering. We must not wonder at a soldier, even if he snaps at his
own, for warriors have tempers like sharp swords."

Pakosh Gashtovt, who wished always to be in accord with the whole
world, waved his hand and said: "We did not wonder, either. A beast
snaps at a beast when it sees one suddenly; why should not a man snap
at a man? We will go to old Lyubich to greet Pan Kmita, so that
he may live with us, go to war and to the wilderness, as the late
under-chamberlain used to do."

"Well, tell us, dear darling, did he please you or did he not please
you?" asked Kassyan Butrym. "It is our duty to ask this."

"God reward you for your care. Pan Kmita is an honorable cavalier, and
even if I had found something against him it would not be proper to
speak of it."

"But have you not seen something, our dearest soul?"

"Nothing! Besides, no one has the right to judge him here, and God save
us from showing distrust. Let us rather thank God."

"Why thank too early? When there will be something to thank for, then
thank; if not, then not thank," answered the sullen Yuzva, who, like a
genuine man of Jmud, was very cautious and foreseeing.

"Have you spoken about the marriage?" inquired Kassyan.

Olenka dropped her eyes: "Pan Kmita wishes it as early as possible."

"That's it! and why shouldn't he wish it?" muttered Yuzva; "he is not a
fool! What bear is it that does not want honey from a tree? But why
hurry? Is it not better to see what kind of man he is? Father Kassyan,
tell what you have on your tongue; do not doze like a hare at midday
under a ridge."

"I am not dozing, I am only turning in my head what to say," answered
the old man. "The Lord Jesus has said, 'As Kuba [Jacob] is to God, so
will God be to Kuba.' We wish no ill to Pan Kmita, if he wishes no ill
to us,--which God grant, amen."

"If he will be to our thinking," said Yuzva.

Panna Billevich frowned with her falcon brows, and said with a certain
haughtiness: "Remember that we are not receiving a servant. He will be
master here; and his will must have force, not ours. He will succeed
you in the guardianship."

"Does that mean that we must not interfere?" asked Yuzva.

"It means that you are to be friends with him, as he wishes to be a
friend of yours. Moreover he is taking care of his own property here,
which each man manages according to his wish. Is not this true, Father
Pakosh?"

"The sacred truth," answered the old man of Patsuneli.

Yuzva turned again to old Butrym. "Do not doze, Father Kassyan!"

"I am not dozing, I am only looking into my mind."

"Then tell what you see there."

"What do I see? This is what I see: Pan Kmita is a man of great family,
of high blood, and we are small people. Moreover he is a soldier of
fame; he alone opposed the enemy when all had dropped their hands,--God
give as many as possible of such men! But he has a company that is
worthless. Pan Pakosh, my neighbor, what have you heard about them from
the Domasheviches? That they are all dishonored men, against whom
outlawry has been declared, infamous and condemned, with declarations
and trials hanging over them, children of the hangman. They were
grievous to the enemy, but more grievous to their own people. They
burned, they plundered, they rioted; that is what they did. They may
have slain people in duels or carried out executions,--that happens to
honest men; but they have lived in pure Tartar fashion, and long ago
would have been rotting in prison but for the protection of Pan Kmita,
who is a powerful lord. He favors and protects them, and they cling to
him just as flies do in summer to a horse. Now they have come hither,
and it is known to all what they are doing. The first day at Lyubich
they fired out of pistols,--and at what?--at the portraits of the dead
Billeviches, which Pan Kmita should not have permitted, for the
Billeviches are his benefactors."

Olenka covered her eyes with her hands. "It cannot be! it cannot be!"

"It can, for it has been. He let them shoot at his benefactors, with
whom he was to enter into relationship; and then they dragged the girls
of the house into the room for debauchery. Tfu! an offence against God!
That has never been among us! The first day they began shooting and
dissoluteness,--the first day!"

Here old Kassyan grew angry, and fell to striking the floor with his
staff. On Olenka's face were dark blushes, and Yuzva said,--

"And Pan Kmita's troops in Upita, are they better? Like officers, like
men. Some people stole Pan Sollohub's cattle; it is said they were Pan
Kmita's men. Some persons struck down on the road peasants of Meizagol
who were drawing pitch. Who did this? They, the same soldiers. Pan
Sollohub went to Pan Hlebovich for satisfaction, and now there is
violence in Upita again. All this is in opposition to God. It used to
be quiet here as in no other place, and now one must load a gun for the
night and stand guard; but why? Because Pan Kmita and his company have
come."

"Father Yuzva, do not talk so," cried Olenka.

"But how must I talk? If Pan Kmita is not to blame, why does he keep
such men, why does he live with such men? Great mighty lady, tell him
to dismiss them or give them up to the hangman, for otherwise there
will be no peace. Is it a thing heard of to shoot at portraits and
commit open debauchery? Why, the whole neighborhood is talking of
nothing else."

"What have I to do?" asked Olenka. "They may be evil men, but he fought
the war with them. If he will dismiss them at my request?"

"If he does not dismiss them," muttered Yuzva, in a low voice, "he is
the same as they."

With this the lady's blood began to boil against those men, murderers
and profligates.

"Let it be so. He must dismiss them. Let him choose me or them. If what
you say is true,--and I shall know to-day if it is true,--I shall not
forgive them either the shooting or the debauchery. I am alone and a
weak orphan, they are an armed crowd; but I do not fear them."

"We will help you," said Yuzva.

"In God's name," continued Olenka, more and more excited, "let
them do what they like, but not here in Lyubich. Let them be as they
like,--that is their affair, their necks' answer; but let them not lead
away Pan Kmita to debauchery. Shame and disgrace! I thought they were
awkward soldiers, but now I see that they are vile traitors, who stain
both themselves and him. That's the truth! Wickedness was looking out
of their eyes; but I, foolish woman, did not recognize it. Well, I
thank you, fathers, for opening my eyes on these Judases. I know what
it beseems me to do."

"That's it!" said old Kassyan. "Virtue speaks through you, and we will
help you."

"Do not blame Pan Kmita, for though he has offended against good
conduct he is young; and they tempt him, they lead him away, they urge
him to license with example, and bring disgrace to his name. This is
the condition; as I live, it will not last long."

Wrath roused Olenka's heart more and more, and indignation at the
comrades of Pan Kmita increased as pain increases in a wound freshly
given; for terribly wounded in her were the love special to woman and
that trust with which she had given her whole unmixed feeling to Pan
Andrei. She was ashamed, for his sake and for her own, and anger and
internal shame sought above all guilty parties.

The nobles were glad when they saw their colonel's granddaughter so
terrible and ready for unyielding war against the disturbers from
Orsha.

She spoke on with sparkling eyes: "True, they are to blame; and they
must leave not only Lyubich, but the whole country-side."

"Our heart, we do not blame Pan Kmita," said old Kassyan. "We know that
they tempt him. Not through bitterness nor venom against him have we
come, but through regret that he keeps near his person revellers. It is
evident, of course, that being young he is foolish. Even Pan Hlebovich
the starosta was foolish when he was young, but now he keeps us all in
order."

"And a dog," said the mild old man from Patsuneli, with a voice of
emotion,--"if you go with a young one to the field, won't the fool
instead of running after the game fall about your feet, begin to play,
and tug you by the skirts?"

Olenka wanted to say something, but suddenly she burst into tears.

"Do not cry," said Yuzva Butrym.

"Do not cry, do not cry," repeated the two old men.

They tried to comfort her, but could not. After they had gone, care,
anxiety, and as it were an offended feeling against them and against
Pan Andrei remained. It pained the proud lady more and more deeply that
she had to defend, justify, and explain him. But the men of that
company! The delicate hands of the lady clinched at thought of them.
Before her eyes appeared as if present the faces of Pan Kokosinski,
Uhlik, Zend, Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, and the others; and she
discovered what she had not seen at first, that they were shameless
faces, on which folly, licentiousness, and crime had all fixed their
stamps in common. A feeling of hatred foreign to Olenka began to seize
her as a rattling fire seizes fuel; but together with this outburst
offence against Pan Kmita increased every minute.

"Shame, disgrace," whispered the maiden, with pallid lips, "that
yesterday he went from me to house-wenches!" and she felt herself
overborne. A crushing burden stopped the breath in her breast.

It was growing raw out of doors. Panna Aleksandra walked in the room
with hurried step, but anger was seething in her soul without ceasing.
Hers was not the nature to endure the persecutions of fate without
defending herself against them. There was knightly blood in the girl.
She wanted straightway to begin a struggle with that band of evil
spirits,--straightway. But what remained to her? Nothing, save tears
and the prayer that Pan Andrei would send to the four winds those
shame-bringing comrades. But if he will not do that--And she did not
dare to think more of the question.

The meditations of the lady were interrupted by a youth who brought an
armful of juniper sticks to the chimney, and throwing them down at the
side of the hearth, began to pull out the coals from under the
smouldering ashes. Suddenly a decision came to Olenka's mind.

"Kostek!" said she, "sit on horseback for me at once, and ride to
Lyubich. If the master has returned, ask him to come here; but if he is
not there, let the manager, old Znikis, mount with thee and come
straight to me, and quickly."

The youth threw some bits of pitch on the coals and covered them with
clumps of dry juniper. Bright flames began to crackle and snap in the
chimney. It grew somewhat lighter in Olenka's mind.

"Perhaps the Lord God will change this yet," thought she to herself,
"and maybe it is not so bad as the guardians have said."

After a while she went to the servants' room to sit, according to the
immemorial custom of the Billeviches, with the maidens to oversee the
spinning and sing hymns.

In two hours Kostek entered, chilled from cold. "Znikis is in the
antechamber," said he. "The master is not in Lyubich."

The lady rose quickly. The manager in the antechamber bowed to her
feet. "But how is your health, serene heiress? God give you the best."

They passed into the dining-hall; Znikis halted at the door.

"What is to be heard among you people?" asked the lady.

The peasant waved his hand. "Well, the master is not there."

"I know that, because he is in Upita. But what is going on in the
house?"

"Well!--"

"Listen, Znikis, speak boldly; not a hair will fall from thy head.
People say that the master is good, but his companions wild?"

"If they were only wild, serene lady!--"

"Speak candidly."

"But, lady, if it is not permitted me--I am afraid--they have forbidden
me."

"Who has forbidden?"

"My master."

"Has he?" asked the lady.

A moment of silence ensued. She walked quickly in the room, with
compressed lips and frowning brow. He followed her with his eyes.
Suddenly she stopped before him.

"To whom dost thou belong?"

"To the Billeviches. I am from Vodokty, not from Lyubich."

"Thou wilt return no more to Lyubich; stay here. Now I command thee to
tell all thou knowest."

The peasant cast himself on his knees at the threshold where he was
standing. "Serene lady, I do not want to go back; the day of judgment
is there. They are bandits and cut-throats; in that place a man is not
sure of the day nor the hour."

Panna Billevich staggered as if stricken by an arrow. She grew very
pale, but inquired calmly, "Is it true that they fired in the room, at
the portraits?"

"Of course they fired! And they dragged girls into their rooms, and
every day the same debauchery. In the village is weeping, at the house
Sodom and Gomorrah. Oxen are killed for the table, sheep for the table.
The people are oppressed. Yesterday they killed the stable man without
cause."

"Did they kill the stable-man?"

"Of course. And worst of all, they abused the girls. Those at the house
are not enough for them; they chase others through the village."

A second interval of silence followed. Hot blushes came out on the
lady's face, and did not leave it.

"When do they look for the master's return?"

"They do not know, my lady. But I heard, as they were talking to one
another, that they would have to start to-morrow for Upita with their
whole company. They gave command to have horses ready. They will come
here and beg my lady for attendants and powder, because they need both
there."

"They are to come here? That is well. Go now, Znikis, to the kitchen.
Thou wilt return to Lyubich no more."

"May God give you health and happiness!"

Panna Aleksandra had learned what she wanted, and she knew how it
behooved her to act.

The following day was Sunday. In the morning, before the ladies had
gone to church, Kokosinski, Uhlik, Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, Ranitski,
Rekuts, and Zend arrived, followed by the servants at Lyubich, armed
and on horseback, for the cavaliers had decided to march to Upita with
succor for Kmita.

The lady went out to meet them calmly and haughtily, altogether
different from the woman who had greeted them for the first time a few
days before. She barely motioned with her head in answer to their
humble bows; but they thought that the absence of Pan Kmita made her
cautious, and took no note of the real situation.

Kokosinski stepped forward more confidently than the first time, and
said,--

"Serene great mighty lady, chief-hunter's daughter, benefactress; we
have come in here on our way to Upita to fall at the feet of our lady
benefactress and beg for assistance, such as powder, and that you would
permit your servants to mount their horses and go with us. We will take
Upita by storm, and let out a little blood for the basswood-barks."

"It is a wonder to me," answered Panna Billevich, "that you are going
to Upita, when I heard myself how Pan Kmita commanded you to remain
quietly in Lyubich, and I think that it beseems him to command and you
to obey, as subordinates."

The cavaliers hearing these words looked at one another in
astonishment. Zend pursed out his lips as if about to whistle in bird
fashion. Kokosinski began to draw his broad palm over his head.

"As true as life," said he, "a man would think that you were speaking
to Pan Kmita's baggage-boys. It is true that we were to sit at home;
but since the fourth day is passing and Yendrus has not come, we have
reached the conviction that some serious tumult may have risen, in
which our sabres, too, would be of service."

"Pan Kmita did not go to a battle, but to punish turbulent soldiers,
and punishment may meet you also if you go against orders. Besides, a
tumult and slashing might come to pass more quickly if you were there."

"It is hard to deliberate with your ladyship. We ask only for powder
and men."

"Men and powder I will not give. Do you hear me, sirs!"

"Do I hear correctly?" asked Kokosinski. "How is this? You will not
give? You will spare in the rescue of Kmita, of Yendrus? Do you prefer
that some evil should meet him?"

"The greatest evil that can meet him is your company."

Here the maiden's eyes began to flash lightning, and raising her head
she advanced some steps toward the cutthroats, and they pushed back
before her in astonishment.

"Traitors!" said she, "you, like evil spirits, tempt him to sin; you
persuade him on. But I know you,--your profligacy, your lawless deeds.
Justice is hunting you; people turn away from you, and on whom does the
shame fall? On him, through you who are outlaws, and infamous."

"Hei, by God's wounds, comrades, do you hear?" cried Kokosinski. "Hei,
what is this? Are we not sleeping, comrades?"

Panna Billevich advanced another step, and pointing with her hand to
the door, said, "Be off out of here!"

The ruffians grew as pale as corpses, and no one of them found a word
in answer. But their teeth began to gnash, their hands to quiver toward
their sword-hilts, and their eyes to shoot forth malign gleams. After a
moment, however, their spirits fell through alarm. That house too was
under the protection of the powerful Kmita; that insolent lady was his
betrothed. In view of this they gnawed their rage in silence, and she
stood unflinchingly with flashing eyes pointing to the door with her
finger.

At last Kokosinski spoke in a voice broken with rage: "Since we are
received here so courteously, nothing remains to us but to bow to the
polished lady and go--with thanks for the entertainment."

Then he bowed, touching the floor with his cap in purposed humility;
after him all the others bowed, and went out in order. When the door
closed after the last man, Olenka fell exhausted into the armchair,
panting heavily, for she had not so much strength as daring.

They assembled in counsel in front of the entrance near their horses,
but no man wanted to speak first. At last Kokosinski said, "Well, dear
lambs, what's that?"

"Do you feel well?"

"Do you?"

"Ei! but for Kmita," said Ranitski, rubbing his hands convulsively, "we
would revel with this lady here in our own fashion."

"Go meet Kmita," piped Rekuts.

Ranitski's face was covered completely with spots, like the skin of a
leopard. "I'll meet him and you too, you reveller, wherever it may
please you!"

"That's well!" cried Rekuts.

Both rushed to their sabres, but the gigantic Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus
thrust himself between. "See this fist!" said he, shaking as it were a
loaf of bread; "see this fist!" repeated he. "I'll smash the head of
the first man who draws his sabre." And he looked now at one and now at
the other, as if asking in silence who wished to try first; but they,
addressed in such fashion, were quiet at once.

"Kulvyets is right," said Kokosinski. "My dear lambs, we need agreement
now more than ever. I would advise to go with all speed to Kmita, so
that she may not see him first, for she would describe us as devils. It
is well that none of us snarled at her, though my own hands and tongue
were itching. If she is going to rouse him against us, it is better for
us to rouse him first. God keep him from leaving us! Straightway the
people here would surround us, hunt us down like wolves."

"Nonsense!" said Ranitski. "They will do nothing to us. There is war
now; are there few men straggling through the world without a roof,
without bread? Let us collect a party for ourselves, dear comrades, and
let all the tribunals pursue us. Give your hand, Rekuts, I forgive
you."

"I should have cut off your ears," piped Rekuts; "but let us be
friends, a common insult has met us."

"To order out cavaliers like us!" said Kokosinski.

"And me, in whom is senatorial blood!" added Ranitski.

"Honorable people, men of good birth!"

"Soldiers of merit!"

"And exiles!"

"Innocent orphans!"

"I have boots lined with wool, but my feet are freezing," said
Kulvyets. "Shall we stand like minstrels in front of this house? They
will not bring us out heated beer. We are of no use here; let us mount
and ride away. Better send the servants home, for what good are they
without guns and weapons? We will go on alone."

"To Upita!"

"To Yendrus, our worthy friend! We will make complaint before him."

"If only we do not miss him."

"To horse, comrades, to horse!"

They mounted, and moved on at a walk, chewing their anger and shame.
Outside the gate Ranitski, whom rage still held as it were by the
throat, turned and threatened the house with his fist. "Ei! I want
blood! I want blood!"

"If we can only raise a quarrel between her and Kmita," said
Kokosinski, "we shall go through this place yet with fire."

"That may happen."

"God aid us!" added Uhlik.

"Oh, pagan's daughter, mad heath-hen!"

Railing thus, and enraged at the lady, snarling sometimes too at
themselves, they reached the forest. They had barely passed the first
trees when an enormous flock of crows whirled above their heads. Zend
began at once to croak in a shrill voice; thousands of voices answered
him from above. The flock came down so low that the horses began to be
frightened at the sound of their wings.

"Shut your mouth!" cried Ranitski to Zend. "You'll croak out misfortune
on us yet. Those crows are circling over us as over carrion."

The others laughed. Zend croaked continually. The crows came down more
and more, and the party rode as if in the midst of a storm. Fools! they
could not see the ill omen.

Beyond the forest appeared Volmontovichi, toward which the cavaliers
moved at a trot, for the frost was severe; they were very cold, and it
was still a long way to Upita, but they had to lessen their speed in
the village itself. In the broad road of the village the space was full
of people, as is usual on Sundays. The Butryms, men and women, were
returning on foot and in sleighs from Mitruny after receiving
indulgence. The nobles looked on these unknown horsemen, half guessing
who they were. The young women, who had heard of their license in
Lyubich and of the notorious public sinners whom Pan Kmita had brought,
looked at them with still greater curiosity. But they rode proudly in
imposing military posture, with velvet coats which they had captured,
in panther-skin caps, and on sturdy horses. It was to be seen that they
were soldiers by profession,--their gestures frequent and haughty,
their right hands resting on their hips, their heads erect. They gave
the way to no man, advancing in a line and shouting from time to time,
"Out of the road!" One or another of the Butryms looked at them with a
frown, but yielded; the party chatted among themselves about the
village.

"See, gentlemen," said Kokosinski, "what sturdy fellows there are here;
one after another like an aurochs, and each with the look of a wolf."

"If it were not for their stature and swords, they might be taken for
common trash."

"Just look at those sabres,--regular tearers, as God is dear to me!"
remarked Ranitski. "I would like to make a trial with some of those
fellows." Here he began to fence with his hand: "He thus, I thus! He
thus, I thus--and check!"

"You can easily have that delight for yourself," said Rekuts. "Not much
is needed with them for a quarrel."

"I would rather engage with those girls over there," said Zend, all at
once.

"They are candles, not girls!" cried Rekuts, with enthusiasm.

"What do you say,--candles? Pine-trees! And each one has a face as if
painted with crocus."

"It is hard to sit on a horse at such a sight."

Talking in this style, they rode out of the village and moved on again
at a trot. After half an hour's ride they came to a public house called
Dola, which was half-way between Volmontovichi and Mitruny. The
Butryms, men and women, generally stopped there going to and returning
from church, in order to rest and warm themselves in frosty weather. So
the cavaliers saw before the door a number of sleighs with pea-straw
spread in them, and about the same number of saddle-horses.

"Let us drink some gorailka, for it is cold," said Kokosinski.

"It wouldn't hurt," answered the others, in a chorus.

They dismounted, left their horses at the posts, and entered the
drinking-hall, which was enormous and dark. They found there a crowd of
people,--nobles sitting on benches or standing in groups before the
water-pail, drinking warmed beer, and some of them a punch made of
mead, butter, vudka, and spice. Those were the Butryms themselves,
stalwart and gloomy; so sparing of speech that in the room scarcely any
conversation was heard. All were dressed in gray overcoats of home-made
or coarse cloth from Rossyeni, lined with sheepskin; they had leather
belts, with sabres in black iron scabbards. By reason of that
uniformity of dress they had the appearance of soldiers. But they were
old men of sixty or youths under twenty. These had remained at home for
the winter threshing; the others, men in the prime of life, had gone to
Rossyeni.

When they saw the cavaliers of Orsha, they drew back from the
water-bucket and began to examine them. Their handsome soldierly
appearance pleased that warlike nobility; after a while, too, some one
dropped the word,--

"Are they from Lyubich?"

"Yes, that is Pan Kmita's company!"

"Are these they?"

"Of course."

The cavaliers drank gorailka, but the punch had a stronger odor.
Kokosinski caught it first, and ordered some. They sat around a table
then; and when the steaming kettle was brought they began to drink,
looking around the room at the men and blinking, for the place was
rather dark. The snow had blocked the windows; and the broad, low
opening of the chimney in which the fire was burning was hidden
completely by certain figures with their backs to the crowd.

When the punch had begun to circulate in the veins of the cavaliers,
bearing through their bodies an agreeable warmth, their cheerfulness,
depressed by the reception at Vodokty, sprang up again; and all at once
Zend fell to cawing like a crow, so perfectly that all faces were
turned toward him.

The cavaliers laughed, and the nobles, enlivened, began to approach,
especially the young men,--powerful fellows with broad shoulders and
plump cheeks. The figures sitting at the chimney turned their faces to
the room, and Rekuts was the first to see that they were women.

Zend closed his eyes and cawed, cawed. Suddenly he stopped, and in a
moment those present heard the cry of a hare choked by a dog; the hare
cried in the last agony, weaker and lower, then screamed in despair,
and was silent for the ages; in place of it was heard the deep bellow
of a furious stag as loud as in spring-time.

The Butryms were astonished. Though Zend had stopped, they expected to
hear something again; but they heard only the piping voice of Rekuts,--

"Those are titmice sitting near the chimney!"

"That is true!" replied Kokosinski, shading his eyes with his hand.

"As true as I live!" added Uhlik, "but it is so dark in the room that I
could not see them."

"I am curious. What are they doing?"

"Maybe they have come to dance."

"But wait; I will ask," said Kokosinski. And raising his voice, he
asked, "My dear women, what are you doing there at the chimney?"

"We are warming our feet," answered thin voices.

Then the cavaliers rose and approached the hearth. There were sitting
at it, on a long bench, about ten women, old and young, holding their
bare feet on a log lying by the fire. On the other side of the log
their shoes wet from the snow were drying.

"So you are warming your feet?" asked Kokosinski.

"Yes, for they are cold."

"Very pretty feet," piped Rekuts, inclining toward the log.

"But keep at a distance," said one of the women.

"I prefer to come near. I have a sure method, better than fire, for
cold feet; which is,--only dance with a will, and the cold flies away."

"If to dance, then dance," said Uhlik. "We want neither fiddles nor
bass-viols. I will play for you on the flageolet."

Taking from its leather case which hung near his sabre the ever-present
flageolet, he began to play; and the cavaliers, pushing forward with
dancing movement to the maidens, sought to draw them from the benches.
The maidens appeared to defend themselves, but more with their voices
than their hands, for in truth they were not greatly opposed. Maybe
the men, too, would have been willing in their turn; for against
dancing on Sunday after Mass and during the carnival no one would
protest greatly. But the reputation of the "company" was already
too well known in Volmontovichi; therefore first the gigantic Yuzva
Butrym, he who had but one foot, rose from the bench, and approaching
Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, caught him by the breast, held him, and said
with sullen voice,--

"If your grace wants dancing, then dance with me."

Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus blinked, and began to move his mustaches
convulsively. "I prefer a girl," said he; "I can attend to you
afterward."

Meanwhile Ranitski ran up with face already spotted, for he sniffed a
quarrel. "Who are you, road-blocker?" asked he, grasping his sabre.

Uhlik stopped playing, and Kokosinski shouted, "Hei, comrades!
together, together!"

But the Butryms were already behind Yuzva; sturdy old men and great
youths began to assemble, growling like bears.

"What do you want? Are you looking for bruises?" asked Kokosinski.

"No talk! Be off out of here!" said Yuzva, stolidly.

Then Ranitski, whose interest it was that an hour should not pass
without a fight, struck Yuzva with the hilt of his sword in the breast,
so that it was heard in the whole room, and cried, "Strike!"

Rapiers glittered; the scream of women was heard, the clatter of
sabres, uproar and disturbance. Then the gigantic Yuzva pushed out of
the crowd, took a roughly hewn bench from beside a table, and raising
it as though it were a light strip of wood, shouted, "Make way! make
way!"

Dust rose from the floor and hid the combatants; but in the confusion
groans were soon heard.



                              CHAPTER VI.


In the evening of that same day Pan Kmita came to Vodokty, at the head
of a hundred and some tens of men whom he had brought from Upita so as
to send them to Kyedani; for he saw himself that there were no quarters
in such a small place for a large number of soldiers, and when the
townspeople had been brought to hunger the soldiers would resort to
violence, especially soldiers who could be held in discipline only by
fear of a leader. A glance at Kmita's volunteers was enough to convince
one that it would be difficult to find men of worse character in the
whole Commonwealth. Kmita could not have others. After the defeat of
the grand hetman, the enemy deluged the whole country. The remnants of
the regular troops of the Lithuanian quota withdrew for a certain time
to Birji and Kyedani, in order to rally there. The nobility of
Smolensk, Vityebsk, Polotsk, Mstislavsk, and Minsk either followed
the army or took refuge in the provinces still unoccupied. Men
of superior courage among the nobility assembled at Grodno around
the under-treasurer, Pan Gosyevski; for the royal proclamation
summoning the general militia appointed that as the place of muster.
Unfortunately few obeyed the proclamation, and those who followed the
voice of duty assembled so negligently that for the time being no one
offered real resistance save Kmita, who fought on his own account,
animated more by knightly daring than patriotism. It is easy to
understand that in the absence of regular troops and nobility he took
such men as he could find, consequently men who were not drawn by duty
to the hetmans and who had nothing to lose. Therefore there gathered
around him vagrants without a roof and without a home, men of low rank,
runaway servants from the army, foresters grown wild, serving-men from
towns, or scoundrels pursued by the law. These expected to find
protection under a flag and win profit from plunder. In the iron hands
of Kmita they were turned into daring soldiers, daring even to madness;
and if Kmita had been prudent he might have rendered high service to
the Commonwealth. But Kmita was insubordinate himself, his spirit was
always seething; besides, whence could he take provisions and arms and
horses, since being a partisan he did not hold even a commission, and
could not look for any aid from the treasury of the Commonwealth? He
took therefore with violence,--often from the enemy, often from his
own,--could suffer no opposition, and punished severely for the least
cause.

In continual raids, struggles, and attacks he had grown wild,
accustomed to bloodshed in such a degree that no common thing could
move the heart within him, which however was good by nature. He was in
love with people of unbridled temper who were ready for anything. Soon
his name had an ominous sound. Smaller divisions of the enemy did not
dare to leave the towns and the camps in those regions where the
terrible partisan was raging. But the townspeople ruined by war feared
his men little less than they did the enemy, especially when the eye of
Kmita in person was not resting on them. When command was taken by his
officers, Kokosinski, Uhlik, Kulvyets, Zend, and particularly by
Ranitski,--the wildest and most cruel of them all, though a man of high
lineage,--it might always be asked, Are those defenders or ravagers?
Kmita at times punished his own men without mercy when something
happened not according to his humor; but more frequently he took their
part, regardless of the rights, tears, and lives of people. His
companions with the exception of Rekuts, on whom innocent blood was not
weighing, persuaded the young leader to give the reins more and more to
his turbulent nature. Such was Kmita's army. Just then he had taken his
rabble from Upita to send it to Kyedani.

When they stopped in front of the house at Vodokty, Panna Aleksandra
was frightened as she saw them through the window, they were so much
like robbers. Each one had a different outfit: some were in helmets
taken from the enemy; others in Cossack caps, in hoods and Polish caps;
some in faded overcoats, others in sheep-skin coats; their arms were
guns, spears, bows, battle-axes; their horses, poor and worn, were
covered with trappings, Polish, Russian, or Turkish.

Olenka was set at rest only when Pan Andrei, gladsome and lively as
ever, entered the room and rushed straight to her hands with incredible
quickness.

And she, though resolved in advance to receive him with dignity and
coldness, was still unable to master the joy which his coming had
caused her. Feminine cunning too may have played a certain part, for it
was necessary to tell Pan Andrei about turning his comrades out of
doors; therefore the clever girl wished to incline him first to her
side. And in addition he greeted her so sincerely, so lovingly that the
remnant of her offended feeling melted like snow before a blaze.

"He loves me! there is no doubt about that," thought she.

And he said: "I so longed for you that I was ready to burn all Upita if
I could only fly to you the sooner. May the frost pinch them, the
basswood barks!"

"I too was uneasy lest it might come to a battle there. Praise be to
God that you have returned!"

"And such a battle! The soldiers had begun to pull around the basswood
barks a little--"

"But you quieted them?"

"This minute I will tell you how it all happened, my jewel; only let me
rest a little, for I am wearied. Ei! it is warm here. It is delightful
in this Vodokty, just as in paradise. A man would be glad to sit here
all his life, look in those beautiful eyes, and never go away--But it
would do no harm, either, to drink something warm, for there is
terrible frost outside."

"Right away I will have wine heated, with eggs, and bring it myself."

"And give my gallows' birds some little keg of gorailka, and give
command to let them into the stable, so that they may warm themselves a
little even from the breath of the cattle. They have coats lined with
wind, and are terribly chilled."

"I will spare nothing on them, for they are your soldiers."

While speaking she smiled, so that it grew bright in Kmita's eyes, and
she slipped out as quietly as a cat to have everything prepared in the
servants' hall.

Kmita walked up and down in the room, rubbing the top of his head, then
twirling his young mustache, thinking how to tell her of what had been
done in Upita.

"The pure truth must be told," muttered he; "there is no help for it,
though the company may laugh because I am here in leading-strings." And
again he walked, and again he pushed the foretop on his forehead; at
last he grew impatient that the maiden was so long in returning.

Meanwhile a boy brought in a light, bowed to the girdle, and went out.
Directly after the charming lady of the house entered, bringing with
both hands a shining tin tray, and on it a small pot, from which rose
the fragrant steam of heated Hungarian, and a goblet of cut glass with
the escutcheon of the Kmitas. Old Billevich got this goblet in his time
from Andrei's father, when at his house as a guest.

Pan Andrei when he saw the lady sprang toward her. "Hei!" cried he,
"both hands are full, you will not escape me."

He bent over the tray, and she drew back her head, which was defended
only by the steam which rose from the pot. "Traitor! desist, or I will
drop the drink."

But he feared not the threat; afterward he cried, "As God is in heaven,
from such delight a man might lose his wits!"

"Then you lost your wit long ago. Sit down."

He sat down obediently; she poured the drink into the goblet.

"Tell me how you sentenced the guilty in Upita."

"In Upita? Like Solomon!"

"Praise to God for that! It is on my heart that all in this region
should esteem you as a steady and just man. How was it then?"

Kmita took a good draught of the drink, drew breath, and began,--

"I must tell from the beginning. It was thus: The townspeople with the
mayor spoke of an order for provisions from the grand hetman or the
under-treasurer. 'You gentlemen,' said they to the soldiers, 'are
volunteers, and you cannot levy contributions. We will give you
quarters for nothing, and provisions we will give when it is shown that
we shall be paid.'"

"Were they right, or were they not?"

"They were right according to law; but the soldiers had sabres, and in
old fashion whoever has a sabre has the best argument. They said then
to the basswood barks, 'We will write orders on your skins
immediately.' And straightway there rose a tumult. The mayor and the
people barricaded themselves in the street, and my men attacked them;
it did not pass without firing. The soldiers, poor fellows, burned a
couple of barns to frighten the people, and quieted a few of them
also."

"How did they quiet them?"

"Whoso gets a sabre on his skull is as quiet as a coward."

"As God lives, that is murder!"

"That is just why I went there. The soldiers ran to me at once with
complaints and outcries against the oppression in which they were
living, being persecuted without cause. 'Our stomachs are empty,' said
they, 'what are we to do?' I commanded the mayor to appear. He
hesitated long, but at last came with three other men. They began:
'Even if the soldiers had not orders, why did they beat us, why burn
the place? We should have given them to eat and to drink for a kind
word; but they wanted ham, mead, dainties, and we are poor people, we
have not these things for ourselves. We will seek defence at law, and
you will answer before a court for your soldiers.'"

"God will bless you," cried Olenka, "if you have rendered justice as
was proper."

"If I have." Here Pan Andrei wriggled like a student who has to confess
his fault, and began to collect the forelock on his forehead with his
hand. "My queen!" cried he at last, in an imploring voice, "my jewel,
be not angry with me!"

"What did you do then?" asked Olenka, uneasily.

"I commanded to give one hundred blows apiece to the mayor and the
councillors," said Kmita, at one breath.

Olenka made no answer; she merely rested her hands on her knees,
dropped her head on her bosom, and sank into silence.

"Cut off my head!" cried Kmita, "but do not be angry! I have not told
all yet!"

"Is there more?" groaned the lady.

"There is, for they sent then to Ponyevyej for aid. One hundred stupid
fellows came with officers. These men I frightened away, but the
officers--for God's sake be not angry!--I ordered to be chased and
flogged with braided whips, naked over the snow, as I once did to Pan
Tumgrat in Orsha."

Panna Billevich raised her head; her stern eyes were flashing with
indignation, and purple came out on her cheeks. "You have neither shame
nor conscience!" said she.

Kmita looked at her in astonishment, he was silent for a moment, then
asked with changed voice, "Are you speaking seriously or pretending?"

"I speak seriously; that deed is becoming a bandit and not a cavalier.
I speak seriously, since your reputation is near my heart; for it is a
shame to me that you have barely come here, when all the people look on
you as a man of violence and point at you with their fingers."

"What care I for the people? One dog watches ten of their cabins, and
then has not much to do."

"There is no infamy on those modest people, there is no disgrace on the
name of one of them. Justice will pursue no man here except you."

"Oh, let not your head ache for that. Every man is lord for himself in
our Commonwealth, if he has only a sabre in his hand and can gather any
kind of party. What can they do to me? Whom fear I here?"

"If you fear not man, then know that I fear God's anger, and the tears
of people; I fear wrongs also. And moreover I am not willing to share
disgrace with any one; though I am a weak woman, still the honor of my
name is dearer to me than it is to a certain one who calls himself a
cavalier."

"In God's name, do not threaten me with refusal, for you do not know me
yet."

"I think that my grandfather too did not know you."

Kmita's eyes shot sparks; but the Billevich blood began to play in her.

"Oh, gesticulate and grit your teeth," continued she, boldly; "but I
fear not, though I am alone and you have a whole party of robbers,--my
innocence defends me. You think that I know not how you fired at the
portraits in Lyubich and dragged in the girls for debauchery. You do
not know me if you suppose that I shall humbly be silent. I want
honesty from you, and no will can prevent me from exacting it. Nay, it
was the will of my grandfather that I should be the wife of only an
honest man."

Kmita was evidently ashamed of what had happened at Lyubich; for
dropping his head, he asked in a voice now calmer, "Who told you of
this shooting?"

"All the nobles in the district speak of it."

"I will pay those homespuns, the traitors, for their good will,"
answered Kmita, sullenly. "But that happened in drink,--in
company,--for soldiers are not able to restrain themselves. As for the
girls I had nothing to do with them."

"I know that those brazen ruffians, those murderers, persuade you to
everything."

"They are not murderers, they are my officers."

"I commanded those officers of yours to leave my house."

Olenka looked for an outburst; but she saw with greatest astonishment
that the news of turning his comrades out of the house made no
impression on Kmita; on the contrary, it seemed to improve his humor.

"You ordered them to go out?" asked be.

"I did."

"And they went?"

"They did."

"As God lives, you have the courage of a cavalier. That pleases me
greatly, for it is dangerous to quarrel with such people. More than one
man has paid dearly for doing so. But they observe manners before
Kmita! You saw they bore themselves obediently as lambs; you saw
that,--but why? Because they are afraid of me."

Here Kmita looked boastfully at Olenka, and began to twirl his
mustache. This fickleness of humor and inopportune boastfulness enraged
her to the last degree; therefore she said haughtily and with emphasis,
"You must choose between me and them; there is no other way."

Kmita seemed not to note the decision with which she spoke, and
answered carelessly, almost gayly: "But why choose when I have you and
I have them? You may do what you like in Vodokty; but if my comrades
have committed no wrong, no license here, why should I drive them away?
You do not understand what it is to serve under one flag and carry on
war in company. No relationship binds like service in common. Know that
they have saved my life a thousand times at least. I must protect them
all the more because they are pursued by justice. They are almost all
nobles and of good family, except Zend, who is of uncertain origin; but
such a horse-trainer as he there is not in the whole Commonwealth. And
if you could hear how he imitates wild beasts and every kind of bird,
you would fall in love with him yourself."

Here Kmita laughed as if no anger, no misunderstanding, had ever found
place between them; and she was ready to wring her hands, seeing how
that whirlwind of a nature was slipping away from her grasp. All that
she had said of the opinions of men, of the need of sedateness, of
disgrace, slipped along on him like a dart on steel armor. The unroused
conscience of this soldier could give no response to her indignation at
every injustice and every dishonorable deed of license. How was he to
be touched, how addressed?

"Let the will of God be done," said she at last; "since you will resign
me, then go your way. God will remain with the orphan."

"I resign you?" asked Kmita, with supreme astonishment.

"That is it!--if not in words, then in deeds; if not you me, then I
you. For I will not marry a man weighted by the tears and blood of
people, whom men point at with their fingers, whom they call an outlaw,
a robber, and whom they consider a traitor."

"What, traitor! Do not bring me to madness, lest I do something for
which I should be sorry hereafter. May the thunderbolts strike me this
minute, may the devils flay me, if I am a traitor,--I, who stood by the
country when all hands had dropped!"

"You stand by the country and act like an enemy, for you trample on it.
You are an executioner of the people, regarding the laws neither of God
nor man. No! though my heart should be rent, I will not marry you;
being such a man, I will not!"

"Do not speak to me of refusal, for I shall grow furious. Save me, ye
angels! If you will not have me in good-will, then I'll take you
without it, though all the rabble from the villages were here, though
the Radzivills themselves were here, the very king himself and all the
devils with their horns stood in the way, even if I had to sell my soul
to the Devil!"

"Do not summon evil spirits, for they will hear you," cried Olenka,
stretching forth her hands.

"What do you wish of me?"

"Be honest!"

Both ceased speaking, and silence followed; only the panting of Pan
Andrei was heard. The last words of Olenka had penetrated, however, the
armor covering his conscience. He felt himself conquered; he knew not
what to answer, how to defend himself. Then he began to go with swift
steps through the room. She sat there motionless. Above them hung
disagreement, dissension, and regret. They were oppressive to each
other, and the long silence became every instant more unendurable.

"Farewell!" said Kmita, suddenly.

"Go, and may God give you a different inspiration!" answered Olenka.

"I will go! Bitter was your drink, bitter your bread. I have been
treated here to gall and vinegar."

"And do you think you have treated me to sweetness?" answered she, in a
voice in which tears were trembling.

"Be well."

"Be well."

Kmita, advancing toward the door, turned suddenly, and springing to
her, seized both her hands and said, "By the wounds of Christ! do you
wish me to drop from the horse a corpse on the road?"

That moment Olenka burst into tears; he embraced her and held her in
his arms, all quivering, repeating through her set teeth, "Whoso
believes in God, kill me! kill, do not spare!"

At last he burst out: "Weep not, Olenka; for God's sake, do not
weep! In what am I guilty before you? I will do all to please you.
I'll send those men away, I'll come to terms in Upita, I will live
differently,--for I love you. As God lives, my heart will burst! I will
do everything; only do not cry, and love me still."

And so he continued to pacify and pet her; and she, when she had cried
to the end, said: "Go now. God will make peace between us. I am not
offended, only sore at heart."

The moon had risen high over the white fields when Pan Andrei pushed
out on his way to Lyubich, and after him clattered his men, stretching
along the broad road like a serpent. They went through Volmontovichi,
but by the shortest road, for frost had bound up the swamps, which
might therefore be crossed without danger.

The sergeant Soroka approached Pan Andrei. "Captain," inquired he,
"where are we to find lodgings in Lyubich?"

"Go away!" answered Kmita.

And he rode on ahead, speaking to no man. In his heart rose regret, at
moments anger, but above all, vexation at himself. That was the first
night in his life in which he made a reckoning with conscience, and
that reckoning weighed him down more than the heaviest armor. Behold,
he had come into this region with a damaged reputation, and what had he
done to repair it? The first day he had permitted shooting and excess
in Lyubich, and thought that he did not belong to it, but he did; then
he permitted it every day. Further, his soldiers wronged the
townspeople, and he increased those wrongs. Worse, he attacked the
Ponyevyej garrison, killed men, sent naked officers on the snow. They
will bring an action against him; he will lose it. They will punish him
with loss of property, honor, perhaps life. But why can he not, after
he has collected an armed party of the rabble, scoff at the law as
before? Because he intends to marry, settle in Vodokty, serve not on
his own account, but in the contingent; there the law will find him and
take him. Besides, even though these deeds should pass unpunished,
there is something vile in them, something unworthy of a knight. Maybe
this violence can be atoned for; but the memory of it will remain in
the hearts of men, in his own conscience, and in the heart of Olenka.

When he remembered that she had not rejected him yet, that when he was
going away he read in her eyes forgiveness, she seemed to him as kind
as the angels of heaven. And behold the desire was seizing him to go,
not to-morrow, but straightway, as fast as the horse could spring, fall
at her feet, beg forgetfulness, and kiss those sweet eyes which today
had moistened his face with tears. Then he wished to roar with weeping,
and felt that he loved that girl as he had never in his life loved any
one. "By the Most Holy Lady!" thought he, in his soul, "I will do what
she wishes; I will provide for my comrades bountifully, and send them
to the end of the world; for it is true that they urge me to evil."

Then it entered his head that on coming to Lyubich he would find them
most surely drunk or with girls; and such rage seized him that he
wanted to slash somebody with a sabre, even those soldiers whom he was
leading, and cut them up without mercy.

"I'll give it to them!" muttered he, twirling his mustache. "They have
not yet seen me as they will see me."

Then from madness he began to prick the horse with his spurs, to pull
and drag at the reins till the steed grew wild. Soroka, seeing this,
muttered to the soldiers,--

"The captain is mad. God save us from falling under his hand!"

Pan Andrei had become mad in earnest. Round about there was great calm.
The moon shone mildly, the heavens were glittering with thousands of
stars, not the slightest breeze was moving the limbs on the trees; but
in the heart of the knight a tempest was raging. The road to Lyubich
seemed to him longer than ever before. A certain hitherto unknown alarm
began to play upon him from the gloom of the forest depths, and from
the fields flooded with a greenish light of the moon. Finally weariness
seized Pan Andrei,--for, to tell the truth, the whole night before he
had passed in drinking and frolicking in Upita; but he wished to
overcome toil with toil, and rouse himself from unquiet by swift
riding; he turned therefore to the soldiers and commanded,--

"Forward!"

He shot ahead like an arrow, and after him the whole party. And in
those woods and along those empty fields they flew on like that hellish
band of knights of the cross of whom people tell in Jmud,--how at times
in the middle of bright moonlight nights they appear and rush through
the air, announcing war and uncommon calamities. The clatter flew
before them and followed behind, from the horses came steam, and only
when at the turn of the road the roofs of Lyubich appeared did they
slacken their speed.

The swinging gate stood open. It astonished Kmita that when the yard
was crowded with his men and horses no one came out to see or inquire
who they were. He expected to find the windows gleaming with lights, to
hear the sound of Uhlik's flageolet, of fiddles, or the joyful shouts
of conversation. At that time in two windows of the dining-hall
quivered an uncertain light; all the rest of the house was dark, quiet,
silent. The sergeant Soroka sprang first from his horse to hold the
stirrup for the captain.

"Go to sleep," said Kmita; "whoever can find room in the servants'
hall, let him sleep there, and others in the stable. Put the horses in
the cattle-houses and in the barns, and bring them hay from the shed."

"I hear," answered the sergeant.

Kmita came down from the horse. The door of the entrance was wide open,
and the entrance cold.

"Hei! Is there any one here?" cried Kmita.

No one answered.

"Hei there!" repeated he, more loudly.

Silence.

"They are drunk!" muttered Pan Andrei.

And such rage took possession of him that he began to grit his teeth.
While riding he was agitated with anger at the thought that he should
find drinking and debauchery; now this silence irritated him still
more.

He entered the dining-hall. On an enormous table was burning a tallow
lamp-pot with a reddish smoking light. The force of the wind which came
in from the antechamber deflected the flame so that for a time Pan
Andrei could not see anything. Only when the quivering had ceased did
he distinguish a row of forms lying just at the wall.

"Have they made themselves dead drunk or what?" muttered he, unquietly.

Then he drew near with impatience to the side of the first figure. He
could not see the face, for it was hidden in the shadow; but by the
white leather belt and the white sheath of the flageolet he recognized
Pan Uhlik, and began to shake him unceremoniously with his foot.

"Get up, such kind of sons! get up!"

But Pan Uhlik lay motionless, with his hands fallen without control at
the side of his body, and beyond him were lying others. No one yawned,
no one quivered, no one woke, no one muttered. At the same moment Kmita
noticed that all were lying on their backs in the same position, and a
certain fearful presentiment seized him by the heart. Springing to the
table, he took with trembling hand the light and thrust it toward the
faces of the prostrate men.

The hair stood on his head, such a dreadful sight met his eyes. Uhlik
he was able to recognize only by his white belt, for his face and his
head presented one formless, foul, bloody mass, without eyes, without
nose or mouth,--only the enormous mustaches were sticking out of the
dreadful pool. Kmita pushed the light farther. Next in order lay Zend,
with grinning teeth and eyes protruding, in which in glassy fixedness
was terror before death. The third in the row, Ranitski, had his eyes
closed, and over his whole face were spots, white, bloody, and dark.
Kmita took the light farther. Fourth lay Kokosinski,--the dearest to
Kmita of all his officers, being his former near neighbor. He seemed
to sleep quietly, but in the side of his neck was to be seen a large
wound surely given with a thrust. Fifth in the row lay the gigantic
Kulvyets-Hippocentaurus, with the vest torn on his bosom and his face
slashed many times. Kmita brought the light near each face; and when at
last he brought it to the sixth, Rekuts, it seemed that the lids of the
unfortunate victim quivered a little from the gleam.

Kmita put the light on the floor and began to shake the wounded man
gently. After the eyelids the face began to move, the eyes and mouth
opened and closed in turn.

"Rekuts, Rekuts, it is I!" said Kmita.

The eyes of Rekuts opened for a moment; he recognized the face of his
friend, and groaned in a low voice, "Yendrus--a priest--"

"Who killed you?" cried Kmita, seizing himself by the hair.

"Bu-try-my-" (The Butryms), answered he, in a voice so low that it was
barely audible. Then he stretched himself, grew stiff, his open eyes
became fixed, and he died.

Kmita went in silence to the table, put the tallow lamp upon it, sat
down in an armchair, and began to pass his hands over his face like a
man who waking from sleep does not know yet whether he is awake or
still sees dream figures before his eyes. Then he looked again on the
bodies lying in the darkness. Cold sweat came out on his forehead, the
hair rose on his head, and suddenly he shouted so terribly that the
panes rattled in the windows,--

"Come hither, every living man! come hither!"

The soldiers, who had disposed themselves in the servants' hall, heard
that cry and fell into the room with a rush. Kmita showed them with his
hand the corpses at the wall.

"Murdered! murdered!" repeated he, with hoarse voice.

They ran to look; some came with a taper, and held it before the eyes
of the dead men. After the first moment of astonishment came noise and
confusion. Those hurried in who had found places in the stables and
barns. The whole house was bright with light, swarming with men; and in
the midst of all that whirl, shouting, and questioning, the dead lay at
the wall unmoved and quiet, indifferent to everything, and, in
contradiction to their own nature, calm. The souls had gone out of
them, and their bodies could not be raised by the trumpet to battle, or
the sound of the goblets to feasting.

Meanwhile in the din of the soldiers shouts of threatening and rage
rose higher and higher each instant. Kmita, who till that moment had
been as it were unconscious, sprang up suddenly and shouted, "To
horse!"

Everything living moved toward the door. Half an hour had not passed
when more than one hundred horsemen were rushing with breakneck speed
over the broad snowy road, and at the head of them flew Pan Andrei, as
if possessed of a demon, bareheaded and with a naked sabre in his hand.
In the still night was heard on every side the wild shouts: "Slay!
kill!"

The moon had reached just the highest point on its road through the
sky, when suddenly its beams began to be mingled and mixed with a rosy
light, rising as it were from under the ground; gradually the heavens
grew red and still redder as if from the rising dawn, till at last a
bloody glare filled the whole neighborhood. One sea of fire raged over
the gigantic village of the Butryms; and the wild soldiers of Kmita, in
the midst of smoke, burning, and sparks bursting in columns to the sky,
cut down the population, terrified and blinded from fright.

The inhabitants of the nearer villages sprang from their sleep. The
greater and smaller companies of the Smoky Gostsyeviches and Stakyans,
Gashtovts and Domasheviches, collected on the road before their houses,
and looking in the direction of the fire, gave alarm from mouth to
mouth: "It must be that an enemy has broken in and is burning the
Butryms,--that is an unusual fire!"

The report of muskets coming at intervals from the distance confirmed
this supposition.

"Let us go to assist them!" cried the bolder; "let us not leave our
brothers to perish!"

And when the older ones spoke thus, the younger, who on account of the
winter threshing had not gone to Rossyeni, mounted their horses. In
Krakin and in Upita they had begun to ring the church bells.

In Vodokty a quiet knocking at the door roused Panna Aleksandra.

"Olenka, get up!" cried Panna Kulvyets.

"Come in, Aunt, what is the matter?"

"They are burning Volmontovichi!"

"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!"

"Shots are heard, there is a battle! God have mercy on us!"

Olenka screamed terribly; then she sprang out of bed and began to throw
on her clothes hurriedly. Her body trembled as in a fever. She alone
guessed in a moment what manner of enemy had attacked the ill-fated
Butryms.

After a while the awakened women of the whole house rushed into the
room with crying and sobbing. Olenka threw herself on her knees before
an image; they followed her example, and all began to repeat aloud the
litany for the dying.

They had scarcely gone through half of it when a violent pounding shook
the door of the antechamber. The women sprang to their feet; a cry of
alarm was rent from their breasts.

"Do not open! do not open!"

The pounding was heard with redoubled force; it seemed that the door
would spring from its hinges. That moment the youth Kostek rushed into
the midst of the assembled women.

"Panna!" cried he, "some man is knocking; shall I open or not?"

"Is he alone?"

"Alone."

"Go open."

The youth hurried away. She, taking a light, passed into the
dining-room; after her, Panna Kulvyets and all the spinning-women.

She had barely put the light on the table when in the antechamber was
heard the rattle of iron bolts, the creak of the opening door; and
before the eyes of the women appeared Pan Kmita, terrible, black from
smoke, bloody, panting, with madness in his eyes.

"My horse has fallen at the forest," cried he; "they are pursuing me!"

Panna Aleksandra fixed her eyes on him: "Did you burn Volmontovichi?"

"I--I--"

He wanted to say something more, when from the side of the road and the
woods came the sound of voices and the tramp of horses approaching with
uncommon rapidity.

"The devils are after my soul; let them have it!" cried Kmita, as if in
a fever.

Panna Aleksandra that moment turned to the women. "If they ask, say
there is no one here; and now go to the servants' hall and come here at
daylight!" Then to Kmita: "Go in there," said she, pointing to an
adjoining room; and almost by force she pushed him through the open
door, which she shut immediately.

Meanwhile armed men filled the front yard; and in the twinkle of an eye
the Butryms, Gostsyeviches, Domasheviches, with others, burst into the
house. Seeing the lady, they halted in the dining-room; but she,
standing with a light in her hand, stopped with her person the passage
to doors beyond.

"Men, what has happened? What do you want?" asked she, without blinking
an eye before the terrible looks and the ominous gleam of drawn sabres.

"Kmita has burned Volmontovichi!" cried the nobles, in a chorus. "He
has slaughtered men, women, children,--Kmita did this."

"We have killed his men," said Yuzva Butrym; "now we are seeking his
own head."

"His head, his blood! Cut down the murderer!"

"Pursue him!" cried the lady. "Why do you stand here? Pursue him!"

"Is he not hidden here? We found his horse at the woods."

"He is not here! The house was closed. Look for him in the stables and
barns."

"He has gone off to the woods!" cried some noble. "Come, brothers."

"Be silent!" roared with powerful voice Yuzva Butrym. "My lady," said
he, "do not conceal him! That is a cursed man!"

Olenka raised both hands above her head: "I join you in cursing him!"

"Amen!" shouted the nobles. "To the buildings, to the woods! We will
find him! After the murderer!"

"Come on! come on!"

The clatter of sabres and tramp of feet was heard again. The nobles
hurried out through the porch, and mounted with all speed. A part of
them searched still for a time in the stables, the cow-houses, and
hay-shed; then their voices began to retreat toward the woods.

Panna Aleksandra listened till they had ceased altogether; then she
tapped feverishly at the door of the room in which she had hidden
Kmita. "There is no one here now, come out."

Pan Andrei pushed himself forth from the room as if drunk. "Olenka!" he
began.

She shook her loosened tresses, which then covered her face like a
veil. "I wish not to see you or know you. Take a horse and flee hence!"

"Olenka!" groaned Kmita, stretching forth his hands.

"There is blood on your hands, as on Cain's!" screamed she, springing
back as if at the sight of a serpent. "Be gone, for the ages!"



                              CHAPTER VII.


The day rose gray, and lighted a group of ruins in Volmontovichi,--the
burned remnants of houses, out-buildings, bodies of people and horses
burned or slain with swords. In the ashes amidst dying embers crowds of
pale people were seeking for the bodies of the dead or the remains of
their property. It was a day of mourning and misfortune for all Lauda.
The numerous nobility had obtained, it is true, a victory over Kmita's
men, but a grievous and bloody one. Besides the Butryms, who had fallen
in greater numbers than the others, there was not a village in which
widows were not bewailing husbands, parents sons, or children their
fathers. It was the more difficult for the Lauda people to finish the
invaders, since the strongest were not at home; only old men or youths
of early years took part in the battle. But of Kmita's soldiers not one
escaped. Some yielded their lives in Volmontovichi, defending
themselves with such rage that they fought after they were wounded;
others were caught next day in the woods and killed without mercy.
Kmita himself was as if he had dropped into water. The people were lost
in surmising what had become of him. Some insisted that he had reached
the wilderness of Zyelonka and gone thence to Rogovsk, where the
Domasheviches alone might find him. Many too asserted that he had gone
over to Hovanski and was bringing the enemy; but these were the fewest,
their fears were untimely.

Meanwhile the surviving Butryms marched to Vodokty, and disposed
themselves as in a camp. The house was full of women and children.
Those who could not find a place there went to Mitruny, which Panna
Aleksandra gave up to those whose homes had been burned. There were,
besides, in Vodokty for defence about a hundred armed men in parties
which relieved one another regularly, thinking that Kmita did not
consider the affair ended, but might any day make an attempt on the
lady with armed hand. The most important houses in the neighborhood,
such as the Schyllings, the Sollohubs, and others, sent their attendant
Cossacks and haiduks. Vodokty looked like a place awaiting a siege. And
Panna Aleksandra went among the armed men, the nobles, the crowds of
women, mournful, pale, suffering, hearing the weeping of people, and
the curses of men against Pan Kmita,--which pierced her heart like
swords, for she was the mediate cause of all the misfortune. For her it
was that that frenzied man had come to the neighborhood, disturbed the
peace, and left the memory of blood behind, trampled on laws, killed
people, visited villages with fire and sword like an infidel, till it
was a wonder that one man could commit so much evil in such a short
time, and he a man neither entirely wicked nor entirely corrupt. If
there was any one who knew this best, it was Panna Aleksandra, who had
become acquainted with him most intimately. There was a precipice
between Pan Kmita himself and his deeds. But it was for this reason
precisely that so much pain was caused Panna Aleksandra by the thought
that that man whom she had loved with the whole first impulse of a
young heart might be different, that he possessed qualities to make him
the model of a knight, of a cavalier, of a neighbor, worthy to receive
the admiration and love of men instead of their contempt, and blessings
instead of curses.

At times, therefore, it seemed to the lady that some species of
misfortune, some kind of power, great and unclean, impelled him to all
those deeds of violence; and then a sorrow really measureless possessed
her for that unfortunate man, and unextinguished love rose anew in her
heart, nourished by the fresh remembrance of his knightly form, his
words, his imploring, his loving.

Meanwhile a hundred complaints were entered against him in the town, a
hundred actions threatened, and the starosta, Pan Hlebovich, sent men
to seize the criminal. The law was bound to condemn him.

Still, from sentences to their execution the distance was great, for
disorder increased every hour in the Commonwealth. A terrible war was
hanging over the land, and approaching Jmud with bloody steps. The
powerful Radzivill of Birji, who was able alone to support the law with
arms, was too much occupied with public affairs and still more immersed
in great projects touching his own house, which he wished to elevate
above all others in the country, even at the cost of the common weal.
Other magnates too were thinking more of themselves than of the State.
All the bonds in the strong edifice of the Commonwealth had burst from
the time of the Cossack war.

A country populous, rich, filled with a valiant knighthood, had become
the prey of neighbors; and straightway arbitrariness and license raised
their heads more and more, and insulted the law, so great was the power
which they felt behind them. The oppressed could find the best and
almost the only defence against the oppressor in their own sabres;
therefore all Lauda, while protesting in the courts against Kmita, did
not dismount for a long time, ready to resist force with force.

But a month passed, and no tidings of Kmita. People began to breathe
with greater freedom. The more powerful nobility withdrew the armed
servants whom they had sent to Vodokty as a guard. The lesser nobles
were yearning for their labors and occupations at home, and they too
dispersed by degrees. But when warlike excitement calmed down, as time
passed, an increased desire came to that indigent nobility to overcome
the absent man with law and to redress their wrongs before the
tribunals. For although decisions could not reach Kmita himself,
Lyubich remained a large and handsome estate, a ready reward and a
payment for losses endured. Meanwhile Panna Aleksandra restrained with
great zeal the desire for lawsuits in the Lauda people. Twice did the
elders of Lauda meet at her house for counsel; and she not only took
part in these deliberations but presided over them, astonishing all
with her woman's wit and keen judgment, so that more than one lawyer
might envy her. The elders of Lauda wanted to occupy Lyubich with armed
hand and give it to the Butryms, but "the lady" advised against this
firmly.

"Do not return violence for violence," said she; "if you do, your case
will be injured. Let all the innocence be on your side. He is a
powerful man and has connections, he will find too in the courts
adherents, and if you give the least pretext you may suffer new wrongs.
Let your case be so clear that any court, even if made up of his
brothers, could not decide otherwise than in your favor. Tell the
Butryms to take neither tools nor cattle, and to leave Lyubich
completely in peace. Whatever they need I will give them from Mitruny,
where there is more than all the property that was at any time in
Volmontovichi. And if Pan Kmita should appear here again, leave him in
peace till there is a decision, let them make no attempt on his person.
Remember that only while he is alive have you some one from whom to
recover for your wrongs."

Thus spoke the wise lady with prudent intent, and they applauded her
wisdom, not seeing that delay might benefit also Pan Andrei, and
especially in this that it secured his life. Perhaps too Olenka wished
to guard that unfortunate life against sudden attack. But the nobility
obeyed her, for they were accustomed from very remote times to esteem
as gospel every word that came from the mouth of a Billevich. Lyubich
remained intact, and had Pan Andrei appeared he might have settled
there quietly for a time. He did not appear, but a month and a half
later a messenger came to the lady with a letter. He was some strange
man, known to no one. The letter was from Kmita, written in the
following words:--


"Beloved of my heart, most precious, unrelinquished Olenka! It is
natural for all creatures and especially for men, even the lowest, to
avenge wrongs done them, and when a man has suffered evil he will pay
it back gladly in kind to the one who inflicted it. If I cut down those
insolent nobles, God sees that I did so not through cruelty, but
because they murdered my officers in defiance of laws human and divine,
without regard to their youth and high birth, with a death so pitiless
that the like could not be found among Cossacks or Tartars. I will not
deny that wrath more than human possessed me; but who will wonder at
wrath which had its origin in the blood of one's friends? The spirits
of Kokosinski, Ranitski, Uhlik, Rekuts, Kulvyets, and Zend, of sacred
memory; slain in the flower of their age and repute, slain without
reason, put arms in my hands when I was just thinking.--and I call God
to witness,--just thinking of peace and friendship with the nobles of
Lauda, wishing to change my life altogether according to your pleasant
counsels. While listening to complaints against me, do not forget my
defence, and judge justly. I am sorry now for those people in the
village. The innocent may have suffered; but a soldier avenging the
blood of his brothers cannot distinguish the innocent from the guilty,
and respects no one. God grant that nothing has happened to injure me
in your eyes. Atonement for other men's sins and faults and my own just
wrath is most bitter to me, for since I have lost you I sleep in
despair and I wake in despair, without power to forget either you or my
love. Let the tribunals pass sentence on me, unhappy man; let the diets
confirm the sentences, let them trumpet me forth to infamy, let the
ground open under my feet, I will endure everything, suffer everything,
only, for God's sake, cast me not out of your heart! I will do all that
they ask, give up Lyubich, give up my property in Orsha,--I have
captured rubles buried in the woods, let them take those,--if you will
promise to keep faith with me as your late grandfather commands from
the other world. You have saved my life, save also my soul; let me
repair wrongs, let me change my life for the better; for I see that if
you will desert me God will desert me, and despair will impel me to
still worse deeds."


How many voices of pity rose in the soul of Olenka in defence of Pan
Andrei, who can tell! Love flies swiftly, like the seed of a tree borne
on by the wind; but when it grows up in the heart like a tree in the
ground, you can pluck it out only with the heart. Panna Billevich was
of those who love strongly with an honest heart, therefore she covered
that letter of Kmita's with tears. But still she could not forget
everything, forgive everything after the first word. Kmita's
compunction was certainly sincere, but his soul remained wild and his
nature untamed; surely it had not changed so much through those events
that the future might be thought of without alarm. Not words, but deeds
were needed for the future on the part of Pan Andrei. Finally, how
could she say to a man who had made the whole neighborhood bloody,
whose name no one on either bank of the Lauda mentioned without curses,
"Come! in return for the corpses, the burning, the blood, and the
tears, I will give you my love and my hand"? Therefore she answered him
otherwise:--


"Since I have told you that I do not wish to know you or see you, I
remain in that resolve, even though my heart be rent. Wrongs such as
you have inflicted on people here are not righted either with property
or money, for it is impossible to raise the dead. You have not lost
property only, but reputation. Let these nobles whose houses you have
burned and whom you have killed forgive you, then I will forgive you;
let them receive you, and I will receive you; let them rise up for you
first, then I will listen to their intercession. But as this can never
be, seek happiness elsewhere; and seek the forgiveness of God before
that of man, for you need it more."


Panna Aleksandra poured tears on every word of the letter; then she
sealed it with the Billevich seal and took it herself to the messenger.

"Whence art thou?" asked she, measuring with her glance that strange
figure, half peasant, half servant.

"From the woods, my lady."

"And where is thy master?"

"That is not permitted me to say. But he is far from here; I rode five
days, and wore out my horse."

"Here is a thaler!" said Olenka. "And thy master is well?"

"He is as well, the young hero, as an aurochs."

"And he is not in hunger or poverty?"

"He is a rich lord."

"Go with God."

"I bow to my lady's feet."

"Tell thy master--wait--tell thy master--may God aid him!"

The peasant went away; and again began to pass days, weeks, without
tidings of Kmita, but tidings of public affairs came worse and worse.
The armies of Moscow under Hovanski spread more and more widely over
the Commonwealth. Without counting the lands of the Ukraine, in the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania alone, the provinces of Polotsk, Smolensk,
Vitebsk, Mstislavsk, Minsk, and Novgorodek were occupied; only a part
of Vilna, Brest-Litovsk, Trotsk, and the starostaship of Jmud breathed
yet with free breast, but even these expected guests from day to day.

The Commonwealth had descended to the last degree of helplessness,
since it was unable to offer resistance to just those forces' which
hitherto had been despised and which had always been beaten. It is true
that those forces were assisted by the unextinguished and re-arisen
rebellion of Hmelnitski, a genuine hundred-headed hydra; but in spite
of the rebellion, in spite of the exhaustion of forces in preceding
wars, both statesmen and warriors gave assurance that the Grand Duchy
alone might be and was in a condition not only to hurl back attack, but
to carry its banners victoriously beyond its own borders. Unfortunately
internal dissension stood in the way of that strength, paralyzing the
efforts even of those citizens who were willing to sacrifice their
lives and fortunes.

Meanwhile thousands of fugitives had taken refuge in the lands still
unoccupied,--both nobles and common people. Towns, villages, and
hamlets in Jmud were filled with men brought by the misfortunes of war
to want and despair. The inhabitants of the towns were unable either to
give lodgings to all or to give them sufficient food; therefore people
died not infrequently of hunger,--namely, those of low degree. Not
seldom they took by force what was refused them; hence tumults,
battles, and robbery became more and more common.

The winter was excessive in its severity. At last April came, and deep
snow was lying not only in the forests but on the fields. When the
supplies of the preceding year were exhausted and there were no new
ones yet, Famine, the brother of War, began to rage, and extended its
rule more and more widely. It was not difficult for the wayfarer to
find corpses of men lying in the field, at the roadside, emaciated,
gnawed by wolves, which having multiplied beyond example approached the
villages and hamlets in whole packs. Their howling was mingled with the
cries of people for charity; for in the woods, in the fields, and
around the many villages as well, there gleamed in the night-time fires
at which needy wretches warmed their chilled limbs; and when any man
rode past they rushed after him, begging for a copper coin, for bread,
for alms, groaning, cursing, threatening all at the same time.
Superstitious dread seized the minds of men. Many said that those wars
so disastrous, and those misfortunes till then unexampled, were coupled
with the name of the king; they explained readily that the letters "J.
C. K." stamped on the coins signified not only "Joannes Casimirus Rex,"
but also "Initium Calamitatis Regni" (beginning of calamity for the
kingdom). And if in the provinces, which were not yet occupied by war,
such terror rose with disorder, it is easy to understand what happened
in those which were trampled by the fiery foot of war. The whole
Commonwealth was distracted, torn by parties, sick and in a fever, like
a man before death. New wars were foretold, both foreign and domestic.
In fact, motives were not wanting. Various powerful houses in the
Commonwealth, seized by the storm of dissension, considered one another
as hostile States, and with them entire lands and districts formed
hostile camps. Precisely such was the case in Lithuania, where the
fierce quarrel between Yanush Radzivill, the grand hetman, and
Gosyevski, full hetman, and also under-treasurer of Lithuania, became
almost open war. On the side of the under-treasurer stood the powerful
Sapyeha, to whom the greatness of the house of Radzivill had long been
as salt in the eye. These partisans loaded the grand hetman with heavy
reproaches indeed,--that wishing glory for himself alone, he had
destroyed the army at Shklov and delivered the country to plunder; that
he desired more than the fortune of the Commonwealth, the right for his
house of sitting in the diets of the German Empire; that he even
imagined for himself an independent crown, and that he persecuted the
Catholics.

It came more than once to battles between the partisans of both sides,
as if without the knowledge of their patrons; and the patrons made
complaints against one another in Warsaw. Their quarrels were fought
out in the diets; at home license was let loose and disobedience
established. Such a man as Kmita might be sure of the protection of one
of those magnates the moment he stood on his side against his opponent.

Meanwhile the enemy were stopped only here and there by a castle;
everywhere else the advance was free and without opposition. Under such
circumstances all in the Lauda region had to be on the alert and under
arms, especially since there were no hetmans near by, for both hetmans
were struggling with the troops of the enemy without being able to
effect much, it is true, but at least worrying them with attacks and
hindering approach to the provinces still unoccupied. Especially did
Pavel Sapyeha show resistance and win glory. Yanush Radzivill, a famous
warrior, whose name up to the defeat at Shklov had been a terror to the
enemy, gained however a number of important advantages. Gosyevski now
fought, now endeavored to restrain the advance of the enemy by
negotiations; both leaders assembled troops from winter quarters and
whencesoever they could, knowing that with spring war would blaze up
afresh. But troops were few, and the treasury empty; the general
militia in the provinces already occupied could not assemble, for the
enemy prevented them. "It was necessary to think of that before the
affair at Shklov," said the partisans of Grosyevski; "now it is too
late." And in truth it was too late. The troops of the kingdom could
not give aid, for they were all in the Ukraine and had grievous work
against Hmelnitski, Sheremetyeff, and Buturlin.

Tidings from the Ukraine of heroic battles, of captured towns, of
campaigns without parallel, strengthened failing hearts somewhat, and
gave courage for defence. The names of the hetmans of the kingdom
thundered with a loud glory, and with them the name of Stefan
Charnetski was heard more and more frequently in the mouths of men; but
glory could not take the place of troops nor serve as an auxiliary. The
hetmans of Lithuania therefore retreated slowly, without ceasing to
fight among themselves.

At last Radzivill was in Jmud. With him came momentary peace in Lauda.
But the Calvinists, emboldened by the vicinity of their chief, raised
their heads in the towns, inflicting wrongs and attacking Catholic
churches. As an offset, the leaders of various volunteer bands and
parties--it is unknown whose--who under the colors of Radzivill,
Grosyevski, and Sapyeha had been ruining the country, vanished in the
forests, discharged their ruffians, and let people breathe more freely.

Since it is easy to pass from despair to hope, a better feeling sprang
up at once in Lauda. Panna Aleksandra lived quietly in Vodokty. Pan
Volodyovski, who dwelt continually in Patsuneli, and just now had begun
to return gradually to health, gave out the tidings that the king with
newly levied troops would come in the spring, when the war would take
another turn. The encouraged nobles began to go out to the fields with
their ploughs. The snows too had melted, and on the birch-trees the
first buds were opening. Lauda River overflowed widely. A milder sky
shone over that region, and a better spirit entered the people.

Meanwhile an event took place which disturbed anew the quiet of Lauda,
tore away hands from the plough, and let not the sabres be stained with
red rust.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Pan Volodyovski--a famous and seasoned soldier, though a young man--was
living, as we have said, in Patsuneli with the patriarch of the place,
Pakosh Gashtovt, who had the reputation of being the wealthiest noble
among all the small brotherhood of Lauda. In fact, he had dowered
richly with good silver his three daughters who had married Butryms,
for he gave to each one a hundred thalers, besides cattle, and an
outfit so handsome that not one noble woman or family had a better. The
other three daughters were at home unmarried; and they nursed
Volodyovski, whose arm was well at one time and sore at another, when
wet weather appeared in the world. All the Lauda people were occupied
greatly with that arm, for Lauda men had seen it working at Shklov and
Sepyel, and in general they were of the opinion that it would be
difficult to find a better in all Lithuania. The young colonel,
therefore, was surrounded with exceeding honor in all the
neighborhoods. The Gashtovts, the Domasheviches, the Gostsyeviches, the
Stakyans, and with them others, sent faithfully to Patsuneli fish,
mushrooms, and game for Volodyovski, and hay for his horses, so that
the knight and his servants might want for nothing. Whenever he felt
worse they vied with one another in going to Ponyevyej for a
barber;[10] in a word, all strove to be first in serving him.

Pan Volodyovski was so much at ease that though he might have had more
comforts in Kyedani and a noted physician at his call, still he
remained in Patsuneli. Old Gashtovt was glad to be his host, and almost
blew away the dust from before him, for it increased his importance
extremely in Lauda that he had a guest so famous that he might have
added to the importance of Radzivill himself.

After the defeat and expulsion of Kmita, the nobility, in love with
Volodyovski, searched in their own heads for counsel, and formed the
project of marrying him to Panna Aleksandra. "Why seek a husband for
her through the world?" said the old men at a special meeting at which
they discussed this question. "Since that traitor has so befouled
himself with infamous deeds that if he is now alive he should be
delivered to the hangman, the lady must cast him out of her heart, for
thus was provision made in the will by a special clause. Let Pan
Volodyovski marry her. As guardians we can permit that, and she will
thus find an honorable cavalier, and we a neighbor and leader."

When this proposition was adopted unanimously, the old men went first
to Volodyovski, who, without thinking long, agreed to everything, and
then to "the lady," who with still less hesitation opposed it
decisively. "My grandfather alone had the right to dispose of Lyubich,"
said she, "and the property cannot be taken from Pan Kmita until the
courts punish him with loss of life; and as to my marrying, do not even
mention it. I have too great sorrow on my mind to be able to think of
such a thing. I have cast that man out of my heart; but this one, even
though the most worthy, bring not hither, for I will not receive him."

There was no answer to such a resolute refusal, and the nobles returned
home greatly disturbed. Less disturbed was Pan Volodyovski, and least
of all the young daughters of Gashtovt,--Terka, Maryska, and Zonia.
They were well-grown, blooming maidens, with hair like flax, eyes like
violets, and broad shoulders. In general the Patsuneli girls were famed
for beauty; when they went in a flock to church, they were like flowers
of the field. Besides, old Gashtovt spared no expense on the education
of his daughters. The organist from Mitruny had taught them reading and
church hymns, and the eldest, Terka, to play on the lute. Having kind
hearts, they nursed Volodyovski sedulously, each striving to surpass
the others in watchfulness and care. People said that Maryska was in
love with the young knight; but the whole truth was not in that talk,
for all three of them, not she alone, were desperately in love with Pan
Michael. He loved them too beyond measure, especially Maryska and
Zonia, for Terka had the habit of complaining too much of the
faithlessness of men.

It happened often in the long winter evenings that old Gashtovt, after
drinking his punch, went to bed, and the maidens with Pan Michael sat
by the chimney; the charming Terka spinning flax, mild Maryska amusing
herself with picking down, and Zonia reeling thread from the spindle
into skeins. But when Volodyovski began to tell of the wars or of
wonders which he had seen in the great houses of magnates, work ceased,
the girls gazed at him as at a rainbow, and one would cry out in
astonishment, "Oh! I do not live in the world! Oh, my dears!" and
another would say, "I shall not close an eye the whole night!"

Volodyovski, as he returned to health and began at times to use his
sword with perfect freedom, was more joyous and told stories more
willingly. A certain evening they were sitting as usual, after supper,
in front of the chimney, from beneath which the light fell sharply on
the entire dark room. They began to chat; the girls wanted stories, and
Volodyovski begged Terka to sing something with the lute.

"Sing something yourself," answered she, pushing away the instrument
which Volodyovski was handing her; "I have work. Having been in the
world, you must have learned many songs."

"True, I have learned some. Let it be so to-day; I will sing first, and
you afterward. Your work will not run away. If a woman had asked, you
would not have refused; you are always opposed to men."

"For they deserve it."

"And do you disdain me too?"

"Oh, why should I? But sing something."

Volodyovski touched the lute; he assumed a comic air, and began to sing
in falsetto,--


           "I have come to such places
            Where no girl will have me!--"


"Oh, that is untrue for you," interrupted Maryska, blushing as red as a
raspberry.

"That's a soldier's song," said Volodyovski, "which we used to sing in
winter quarters, wishing some good soul to take pity on us."

"I would be the first to take pity on you."

"Thanks to you. If that is true, then I have no reason to sing longer,
and I will give the lute into worthier hands."

Terka did not reject the instrument this time, for she was moved by
Volodyovski's song, in which there was more cunning indeed than truth.
She struck the strings at once, and with a simpering mien began,--


           "For berries of elder go not to the green wood.
            Trust not a mad dug, believe not a young man.
            Each man in his heart bears rank poison;
            If he says that he loves thee, say No."


Volodyovski grew so mirthful that he held his sides from laughter, and
cried out: "All the men are traitors? But the military, my
benefactress!"

Panna Terka opened her mouth wider and sang with redoubled energy,--


     "Far worse than mad dogs are they, far worse, oh, far worse!"


"Do not mind Terka; she is always that way," said Marysia.[11]

"Why not mind," asked Volodyovski, "when she speaks so ill of the whole
military order that from shame I know not whither to turn my eyes?"

"You want me to sing, and then make sport of me and laugh at me," said
Terka, pouting.

"I do not attack the singing, but the cruel meaning of it for the
military," answered the knight. "As to the singing I must confess that
in Warsaw I have not heard such remarkable trills. All that would be
needed is to dress you in trousers. You might sing at St. Yan's, which
is the cathedral church, and in which the king and queen have their
box."

"Why dress her in trousers?" asked Zonia, the youngest, made curious by
mention of Warsaw, the king, and the queen.

"For in Warsaw women do not sing in the choir, but men and young
boys,--the men with voices so deep that no aurochs could bellow like
them, and the boys with voices so thin that on a violin no sound could
be thinner. I heard them many a time when we came, with our great and
lamented voevoda of Rus, to the election of our present gracious lord.
It is a real wonder, so that the soul goes out of a man. There is a
host of musicians there: Forster, famous for his subtle trills, and
Kapula, and Gian Battista, and Elert, a master at the lute, and Marek,
and Myelchevski,--beautiful composers. When all these are performing
together in the church, it is as if you were listening to choirs of
seraphim in the flesh."

"Oh, that is as true as if living!" said Marysia, placing her hands
together.

"And the king,--have you seen him often?" asked Zonia.

"I have spoken with him as with you. After the battle of Berestechko he
pressed my head. He is a valiant lord, and so kind that whoso has once
seen him must love him."

"We love him without having seen him. Has he the crown always on his
head?"

"If he were to go around every day in the crown, his head would need to
be iron. The crown rests in the church, from which its importance
increases; but his Grace the King wears a black cap studded with
diamonds from which light flashes through the whole castle."

"They say that the castle of the king is even grander than that at
Kyedani?"

"That at Kyedani! The Kyedani castle is a mere plaything in comparison.
The king's castle is a tremendous building, all walled in so that you
cannot see a stick of wood. Around are two rows of chambers, one more
splendid than the other. In them you can see different wars and
victories painted with brushes on the wall,--such as the battles of
Sigismund III. and Vladislav; a man could not satisfy himself with
looking at them, for everything is as if living. The wonder is that
they do not move, and that those who are fighting do not shout. But not
even the best artist can paint men to shout. Some chambers are all
gold; chairs and benches covered with brocade or cloth of gold, tables
of marble and alabaster, and the caskets, bottle-cases, clocks showing
the hour of day and night, could not be described on an ox-hide. The
king and queen walk through those chambers and delight themselves in
plenty; in the evening they have a theatre for their still greater
amusement--"

"What is a theatre?"

"How can I tell you? It is a place where they play comedies and exhibit
Italian dances in a masterly manner. It is a room so large that no
church is the equal of it, all with beautiful columns. On one side sit
those who wish to see, and on the other the arts are exhibited.
Curtains are raised and let down; some are turned with screws to
different sides. Darkness and clouds are shown at one moment; at
another pleasant light. Above is the sky with the sun or the stars;
below you may see at times hell dreadful--"

"Oh, God save us!" cried the girls.

"--with devils. Sometimes the boundless sea; on it ships and sirens.
Some persons come down from the skies; others rise out of the earth."

"But I should not like to see hell," cried Zonia, "and it is a wonder
to me that people do not run away from such a terrible sight."

"Not only do they not run away, but they applaud from pleasure," said
Volodyovski; "for it is all pretended, not real, and those who take
farewell do not go away. There is no evil spirit in the affair, only
the invention of men. Even bishops come with his Grace the King, and
various dignitaries who go with the king afterward and sit down to a
feast before sleeping."

"And what do they do in the morning and during the day?"

"That depends on their wishes. When they rise in the morning they take
a bath. There is a room in which there is no floor, only a tin tank
shining like silver, and in the tank water."

"Water, in a room--have you heard?"

"It is true; and it comes and goes as they wish. It can be warm or
altogether cold; for there are pipes with spigots, running here and
there. Turn a spigot and the water runs till it is possible to swim in
the room as in a lake. No king has such a castle as our gracious lord,
that is known, and foreign proverbs tell the same. Also no king reigns
over such a worthy people; for though there are various polite nations
on earth, still God in his mercy has adorned ours beyond others."

"Our king is happy!" sighed Terka.

"It is sure that he would be happy were it not for unfortunate wars
which press down the Commonwealth in return for our discords and sins.
All this rests on the shoulders of the king, and besides at the diets
they reproach him for our faults. And why is he to blame because people
will not obey him? Grievous times have come on the country,--such
grievous times as have not been hitherto. Our most despicable enemy now
despises us,--us who till recently carried on victorious wars against
the Emperor of Turkey. This is the way that God punishes pride. Praise
be to Him that my arm works well in its joints,--for it is high time to
remember the country and move to the field. 'Tis a sin to be idle in
time of such troubles."

"Do not mention going away."

"It is difficult to do otherwise. It is pleasant for me here among you;
but the better it is, the worse it is. Let men in the Diet give wise
reasons, but a soldier longs for the field. While there is life there
is service. After death God, who looks into the heart, will reward best
those who serve not for advancement, but through love of the country;
and indeed the number of such is decreasing continually, and that is
why the black hour has come."

Marysia's eyes began to grow moist; at last they were filled with tears
which flowed down her rosy cheeks. "You will go and forget us, and we
shall pine away here. Who in this place will defend us from attack?"

"I go, but I shall preserve my gratitude. It is rare to find such
honest people as in Patsuneli. Are you always afraid of this Kmita?"

"Of course. Mothers frighten their children with him as with a
werewolf."

"He will not come back, and even if he should he will not have with him
those wild fellows, who, judging from what people say, were worse than
he. It is a pity indeed that such a good soldier stained his reputation
and lost his property."

"And the lady."

"And the lady. They say much good in her favor."

"Poor thing! for whole days she just cries and cries."

"H'm!" said Volodyovski; "but is she not crying for Kmita?"

"Who knows?" replied Marysia.

"So much the worse for her, for he will not come back. The hetman sent
home a part of the Lauda men, and those forces are here now. We wanted
to cut him down at once without the court. He must know that the Lauda
men have returned, and he will not show even his nose."

"Likely our men must march again," said Terka, "for they received only
leave to come home for a short time."

"Eh!" said Volodyovski, "the hetman let them come, for there is no
money in the treasury. It is pure despair! When people are most needed
they have to be sent away. But good-night! it is time to sleep, and let
none of you dream of Pan Kmita with a fiery sword."

Volodyovski rose from the bench and prepared to leave the room, but had
barely made a step toward the closet when suddenly there was a noise in
the entrance and a shrill voice began to cry outside the door--

"Hei there! For God's mercy! open quickly, quickly!"

The girls were terribly frightened. Volodyovski sprang for his sabre to
the closet, but had not been able to get it when Terka opened the door.
An unknown man burst into the room and threw himself at the feet of the
knight.

"Rescue, serene Colonel!--The lady is carried away!"

"What lady?"

"In Vodokty."

"Kmita!" cried Volodyovski.

"Kmita!" screamed the girls.

"Kmita!" repeated the messenger.

"Who art thou?" asked Volodyovski.

"The manager in Vodokty."

"We know him," said Terka; "he brought herbs for you."

Meanwhile the drowsy old Gashtovt came forth from behind the stove, and
in the door appeared two attendants of Pan Volodyovski whom the uproar
had drawn to the room.

"Saddle the horses!" cried Volodyovski. "Let one of you hurry to the
Butryms, the other give a horse to me!"

"I have been already at the Butryms," said the manager, "for they are
nearer to us; they sent me to your grace."

"When was the lady carried away?" asked Volodyovski.

"Just now--the servants are fighting yet--I rushed for a horse."

Old Gashtovt rubbed his eyes. "What's that? The lady carried off?"

"Yes; Kmita carried her off," answered Volodyovski. "Let us go to the
rescue!" Then he turned to the messenger: "Hurry to the Domasheviches;
let them come with muskets."

"Now, my kids," cried the old man suddenly to his daughters, "hurry to
the village, wake up the nobles, let them take their sabres! Kmita has
carried off the lady--is it possible--God forgive him, the murderer,
the ruffian! Is it possible?"

"Let us go to rouse them," said Volodyovski; "that will be quicker!
Come; the horses are ready, I hear them."

In a moment they mounted, as did also the two attendants, Ogarek and
Syruts. All pushed on their way between the cottages of the village,
striking the doors and windows, and crying with sky-piercing voices:
"To your sabres, to your sabres! The lady of Vodokty is carried away!
Kmita is in the neighborhood!"

Hearing these cries, this or that man rushed forth from his cottage,
looked to see what was happening, and when he had learned what the
matter was, fell to shouting himself, "Kmita is in the neighborhood;
the lady is carried away!" And shouting in this fashion, he rushed
headlong to the out-buildings to saddle his horse, or to his cottage to
feel in the dark for his sabre on the wall. Every moment more voices
cried, "Kmita is in the neighborhood!" There was a stir in the village,
lights began to shine, the cry of women was heard, the barking of dogs.
At last the nobles came out on the road,--some mounted, some on foot.
Above the multitude of heads glittered in the night sabres, pikes,
darts, and even iron forks.

Volodyovski surveyed the company, sent some of them immediately in
different directions, and moved forward himself with the rest.

The mounted men rode in front, those on foot followed, and they marched
toward Volmontovichi to join the Butryms. The hour was ten in the
evening, and the night clear, though the moon had not risen. Those of
the nobles whom the grand hetman had sent recently from the war dropped
into ranks at once; the others, namely the infantry, advanced with less
regularity, making a clatter with their weapons, talking and yawning
aloud, at times cursing that devil of a Kmita who had robbed them of
pleasant rest. In this fashion they reached Volmontovichi, at the edge
of which an armed band pushed out to meet them.

"Halt! who goes?" called voices from that band.

"The Gashtovts!"

"We are the Butryms. The Domasheviches have come already."

"Who is leading you?" asked Volodyovski.

"Yuzva the Footless at the service of the colonel."

"Have you news?"

"He took her to Lyubich. They went through the swamp to avoid
Volmontovichi."

"To Lyubich?" asked Volodyovski, in wonder. "Can he think of defending
himself there? Lyubich is not a fortress, is it?"

"It seems he trusts in his strength. There are two hundred with him. No
doubt he wants to take the property from Lyubich; they have wagons and
a band of led horses. It must be that he did not know of our return
from the army, for he acts very boldly."

"That is good for us!" said Volodyovski. "He will not escape this time.
How many guns have you?"

"We, the Butryms, have thirty; the Domasheviches twice as many."

"Very good. Let fifty men with muskets go with you to defend the
passage in the swamps, quickly; the rest will come with me. Remember
the axes."

"According to command."

There was a movement; the little division under Yuzva the Footless went
forward at a trot to the swamp. A number of tens of Butryms who had
been sent for other nobles now came up.

"Are the Gostsyeviches to be seen?" asked Volodyovski.

"Yes, Colonel. Praise be to God!" cried the newly arrived. "The
Gostsyeviches are coming; they can be heard through the woods. You know
that they carried her to Lyubich?"

"I know. He will not go far with her."

There was indeed one danger to his insolent venture on which Kmita had
not reckoned; he knew not that a considerable force of the nobles had
just returned home. He judged that the villages were as empty as at the
time of his first stay in Lyubich; while on the present occasion
counting the Gostsyeviches, without the Stakyans, who could not come up
in season, Volodyovski was able to lead against him about three hundred
sabres held by men accustomed to battle and trained.

In fact, more and more nobles joined Volodyovski as he advanced. At
last came the Gostsyeviches, who had been expected till that moment.
Volodyovski drew up the division, and his heart expanded at sight of
the order and ease with which the men stood in ranks. At the first
glance it was clear that they were soldiers, not ordinary untrained
nobles. Volodyovski rejoiced for another reason; he thought to himself
that soon he would lead them to more distant places.

They moved then on a swift march toward Lyubich by the pine-woods
through which Kmita had rushed the winter before. It was well after
midnight. The moon sailed out at last in the sky, and lighting the
woods, the road, and the marching warriors, broke its pale rays on the
points of the pikes, and was reflected on the gleaming sabres. The
nobles talked in a low voice of the unusual event which had dragged
them from their beds.

"Various people have been going around here," said one of the
Domasheviches; "we thought they were deserters, but they were surely
his spies."

"Of course. Every day strange minstrels used to visit Vodokty as if for
alms," said others.

"And what kind of soldiers has Kmita?"

"The servants in Vodokty say they are Cossacks. It is certain that
Kmita has made friends with Hovanski or Zolotarenko. Hitherto he was a
murderer, now he is an evident traitor."

"How could he bring Cossacks thus far?"

"With such a great band it is not easy to pass. Our first good company
would have stopped him on the road."

"Well, they might go through the forests. Besides, are there few lords
travelling with domestic Cossacks? Who can tell them from the enemy? If
these men are asked they will say that they are domestic Cossacks."

"He will defend himself," said one of the Gostsyeviches, "for he is a
brave and resolute man; but our colonel will be a match for him."

"The Butryms too have vowed that even if they have to fall one on the
other, he will not leave there alive. They are the most bitter against
him."

"But if we kill him, from whom will they recover their losses? Better
take him alive and give him to justice."

"What is the use in thinking of courts now when all have lost their
heads? Do you know that people say war may come from the Swedes?"

"May God preserve us from that! The Moscow power and Hmelnitski at
present; only the Swedes are wanting, and then the last day of the
Commonwealth."

At this moment Volodyovski riding in advance turned and said, "Quiet
there, gentlemen!"

The nobles grew silent, for Lyubich was in sight. In a quarter of an
hour they had come within less than forty rods of the building. All the
windows were illuminated; the light shone into the yard, which was full
of armed men and horses. Nowhere sentries, no precautions,--it was
evident that Kmita trusted too much in his strength. When he had drawn
still nearer, Pan Volodyovski with one glance recognized the Cossacks
against whom he had warred so much during the life of the great Yeremi,
and later under Radzivill.

"If those are strange Cossacks, then that ruffian has passed the
limit."

He looked farther; brought his whole party to a halt. There was a
terrible bustle in the court. Some Cossacks were giving light with
torches; others were running in every direction, coming out of the
house and going in again, bringing out things, packing bags into the
wagons; others were leading horses from the stable, driving cattle from
the stalls. Cries, shouts, commands, crossed one another in every
direction. The gleam of torches lighted as it were the moving of a
tenant to a new estate on St. John's Eve.

Kryshtof, the oldest among the Domasheviches, pushed up to Volodyovski
and said, "They want to pack all Lyubich into wagons."

"They will take away," answered Volodyovski, "neither Lyubich nor their
own skins. I do not recognize Kmita, who is an experienced soldier.
There is not a single sentry."

"Because he has great force,--it seems to me more than three hundred
strong. If we had not returned he might have passed with the wagons
through all the villages."

"Is this the only road to the house?" asked Volodyovski.

"The only one, for in the rear are ponds and swamps."

"That is well. Dismount!"

Obedient to this command, the nobles sprang from their saddles. The
rear ranks of infantry deployed in a long line, and began to surround
the house and the buildings. Volodyovski with the main division
advanced directly on the gate.

"Wait the command!" said he, in a low voice. "Fire not before the
order."

A few tens of steps only separated the nobles from the gate when they
were seen at last from the yard. Men sprang at once to the fence, bent
forward, and peering carefully into the darkness, called threateningly,
"Hei! Who are there?"

"Halt!" cried Volodyovski; "fire!"

Shots from all the guns which the nobles carried thundered together;
but the echo had not come back from the building when the voice of
Volodyovski was heard again: "On the run!"

"Kill! slay!" cried the Lauda men, rushing forward like a torrent.

The Cossacks answered with shots, but they had not time to reload. The
throng of nobles rushed against the gate, which soon fell before the
pressure of armed men. A struggle began to rage in the yard, among
the wagons, horses, and bags. The powerful Butryms, the fiercest in
hand-to-hand conflict and the most envenomed against Kmita, advanced in
line. They went like a herd of stags bursting through a growth of young
trees, breaking, trampling, destroying, and cutting wildly. Alter them
rolled the Domasheviches and the Gostsyeviches.

Kmita's Cossacks defended themselves manfully from behind the wagons
and packs; they began to fire too from all the windows of the house and
from the roof,--but rarely, for the trampled torches were quenched, and
it was difficult to distinguish their own from the enemy. After a while
the Cossacks were pushed from the yard and the house to the stables;
cries for quarter were heard. The nobles had triumphed.

But when they were alone in the yard, fire from the house increased at
once. All the windows were bristling with muskets, and a storm of
bullets began to fall on the yard. The greater part of the Cossacks had
taken refuge in the house.

"To the doors!" cried Volodyovski.

In fact, the discharges from the windows and from the roof could not
injure those at the very walls. The position, however, of the besiegers
was difficult. They could not think of storming the windows, for fire
would greet them straight in the face. Volodyovski therefore commanded
to hew down the doors. But that was not easy, for they were bolts
rather than doors, made of oak pieces fixed crosswise and fastened with
many gigantic nails, on the strong heads of which axes were dented
without breaking the doors. The most powerful men pushed then from time
to time with their shoulders, but in vain. Behind the doors wore iron
bars, and besides they were supported inside by props. But the Butryms
hewed with rage. At the doors of the kitchen leading also to the
storehouse the Domasheviches and Gashtovts were storming.

After vain efforts of an hour the men at the axes were relieved. Some
cross-pieces had fallen, but in place of them appeared gun-barrels.
Shots sounded again. Two Butryms fell to the ground with pierced
breasts. The others, instead of being put to disorder, hewed still more
savagely.

By command of Volodyovski the openings were stopped with bundles of
coats. Now in the direction of the road new shouts were heard from the
Stakyans, who had come to the aid of their brethren; and following them
were armed peasants from Vodokty.

The arrival of these reinforcements had evidently disturbed the
besieged, for straightway a voice behind the door called loudly: "Stop
there! do not hew! listen! Stop, a hundred devils take you! let us
talk."

Volodyovski gave orders to stop the work and asked; "Who is speaking?"

"The banneret of Orsha, Kmita; and with whom am I speaking?"

"Col. Michael Volodyovski."

"With the forehead!" answered the voice from behind the door.

"There is no time for greetings. What is your wish?"

"It would be more proper for me to ask what you want. You do not know
me, nor I you; why attack me?"

"Traitor!" cried Volodyovski. "With me are the men of Lauda who have
returned from the war, and they have accounts with you for robbery, for
blood shed without cause and for the lady whom you have carried away.
But do you know what _raptus puellæ_ means? You must yield your life."

A moment of silence followed.

"You would not call me traitor a second time," said Kmita, "were it not
for the door between us."

"Open it, then! I do not hinder."

"More than one dog from Lauda will cover himself with his legs before
it is open. You will not take me alive."

"Then we will drag you out dead, by the hair. All one to us!"

"Listen with care, note what I tell you! If you do not let us go, I
have a barrel of powder here, and the match is burning already. I'll
blow up the house and all who are in it with myself, so help me God!
Come now and take me!"

This time a still longer silence followed. Volodyovski sought an answer
in vain. The nobles began to look at one another in fear. There was so
much wild energy in the words of Kmita that all believed his threat.
The whole victory might be turned into dust by one spark, and Panna
Billevich lost forever.

"For God's sake!" muttered one of the Butryms, "he is a madman. He is
ready to do what he says."

Suddenly a happy thought came to Volodyovski, as it seemed to him.
"There is another way!" cried he. "Meet me, traitor, with a sabre. If
you put me down, you will go away in freedom."

For a time there was no answer. The hearts of the Lauda men beat
unquietly.

"With a sabre?" asked Kmita, at length. "Can that be?"

"If you are not afraid, it will be."

"The word of a cavalier that I shall go away in freedom?"

"The word--"

"Impossible!" cried a number of voices among the Butryms.

"Quiet, a hundred devils!" roared Volodyovski; "if not, then let him
blow you up with himself."

The Butryms were silent; after a while one of them said, "Let it be as
you wish."

"Well, what is the matter there?" asked Kmita, derisively. "Do the gray
coats agree?"

"Yes, and they will take oath on their swords, if you wish."

"Let them take oath."

"Come together, gentlemen, come together!" cried Volodyovski to the
nobles who were standing under the walls and surrounding the whole
house.

After a while all collected at the main door, and soon the news that
Kmita wanted to blow himself up with powder spread on every side. They
were as if petrified with terror. Meanwhile Volodyovski raised his
voice and said amid silence like that of the grave,--

"I take you all present here to witness that I have challenged Pan
Kmita, the banneret of Orsha, to a duel, and I have promised that if he
puts me down he shall go hence in freedom, without obstacle from you;
to this you must swear on your sword-hilts, in the name of God and the
holy cross--"

"But wait!" cried Kmita,--"in freedom with all my men, and I take the
lady with me."

"The lady will remain here," answered Volodyovski, "and the men will go
as prisoners to the nobles."

"That cannot be."

"Then blow yourself up with powder! We have already mourned for her; as
to the men, ask them what they prefer."

Silence followed.

"Let it be so," said Kmita, after a time. "If I do not take her to-day,
I will in a month. You will not hide her under the ground! Take the
oath!"

"Take the oath!" repeated Volodyovski.

"We swear by the Most High God and the Holy Cross. Amen!"

"Well, come out, come out!" cried Volodyovski.

"You are in a hurry to the other world?"

"No matter, no matter, only come out quickly."

The iron bars holding the door on the inside began to groan.

Volodyovski pushed back, and with him the nobles, to make room. Soon
the door opened, and in it appeared Pan Andrei, tall, straight as a
poplar. The dawn was already coming, and the first pale light of day
fell on his daring, knightly, and youthful face. He stopped in the
door, looked boldly on the crowd of nobles, and said,--

"I have trusted in you. God knows whether I have done well, but let
that go. Who here is Pan Volodyovski?"

The little colonel stepped forward. "I am!" answered he.

"Oh! you are not like a giant," said Kmita, with sarcastic reference to
Volodyovski's stature, "I expected to find a more considerable figure,
though I must confess you are evidently a soldier of experience."

"I cannot say the same of you, for you have neglected sentries. If you
are the same at the sabre as at command, I shall not have work."

"Where shall we fight?" asked Kmita, quickly.

"Here,--the yard is as level as a table."

"Agreed! Prepare for death."

"Are you so sure?"

"It is clear that you have never been in Orsha, since you doubt. Not
only am I sure, but I am sorry, for I have heard of you as a splendid
soldier. Therefore I say for the last time, let me go! We do not know
each other; why should we stand the one in the way of the other? Why
attack me? The maiden is mine by the will, as well as this property;
and God knows I am only seeking my own. It is true that I cut down the
nobles in Volmontovichi, but let God decide who committed the first
wrong. Whether my officers were men of violence or not, we need not
discuss; it is enough that they did no harm to any one here, and they
were slaughtered to the last man because they wanted to dance with
girls in a public house. Well, let blood answer blood! After that my
soldiers were cut to pieces. I swear by the wounds of God that I came
to these parts without evil intent, and how was I received? But let
wrong balance wrong, I will still add from my own and make losses good
in neighbor fashion. I prefer that to another way."

"And what kind of people have you here? Where did you get these
assistants?" asked Volodyovski.

"Where I got them I got them. I did not bring them against the country,
but to obtain my own rights."

"Is that the kind of man you are? So for private affairs you have
joined the enemy. And with what have you paid him for this service, if
not with treason? No, brother, I should not hinder you from coming to
terms with the nobles, but to call in the enemy is another thing. You
will not creep out. Stand up now, stand up, or I shall say that you are
a coward, though you give yourself out as a master from Orsha."

"You would have it," said Kmita, taking position.

But Volodyovski did not hurry, and not taking his sabre out yet, he
looked around on the sky. Day was already coming in the east. The first
golden and azure stripes were extended in a belt of light, but in the
yard it was still gloomy enough, and just in front of the house
complete darkness reigned.

"The day begins well," said Volodyovski, "but the sun will not rise
soon. Perhaps you would wish to have light?"

"It is all one to me."

"Gentlemen!" cried Volodyovski, turning to the nobles, "go for some
straw and for torches; it will be clearer for us in this Orsha dance."

The nobles, to whom this humorous tone of the young colonel gave
wonderful consolation, rushed quickly to the kitchen. Some of them fell
to collecting the torches trampled at the time of the battle, and in a
little while nearly fifty red flames were gleaming in the semi-darkness
of the early morning.

Volodyovski showed them with his sabre to Kmita. "Look, a regular
funeral procession!"

And Kmita answered at once: "They are burying a colonel, so there must
be parade."

"You are a dragon!"

Meanwhile the nobles formed in silence a circle around the knights, and
raised the burning torches aloft; behind them others took their places,
curious and disquieted; in the centre the opponents measured each other
with their eyes. A grim silence began; only burned coals fell with a
crackle to the ground. Volodyovski was as lively as a goldfinch on a
bright morning.

"Begin!" said Kmita.

The first clash raised an echo in the heart of every onlooker.
Volodyovski struck as if unwillingly; Kmita warded and struck in his
turn; Volodyovski warded. The dry clash grew more rapid. All held
breath. Kmita attacked with fury. Volodyovski put his left hand behind
his back and stood quietly, making very careless, slight, almost
imperceptible movements; it seemed that he wished merely to defend
himself, and at the same time spare his opponent. Sometimes he pushed a
short step backward, again he advanced; apparently he was studying the
skill of Kmita. Kmita was growing heated; Volodyovski was cool as a
master testing his pupil, and all the time calmer and calmer. At last,
to the great surprise of the nobles, he said,--

"Now let us talk; it will not last long. Ah, ha! is that the Orsha
method? 'Tis clear that you must have threshed peas there, for you
strike like a man with a flail. Terrible blows! Are they really the
best in Orsha? That thrust is in fashion only among tribunal police.
This is from Courland, good to chase dogs with. Look to the end of your
sabre! Don't bend your hand so, for see what will happen! Raise your
sabre!"

Volodyovski pronounced the last words with emphasis; at the same time
he described a half-circle, drew the hand and sabre toward him, and
before the spectators understood what "raise" meant, Kmita's sabre,
like a needle pulled from a thread, flew above Volodyovski's head and
fell behind his shoulders; then he said,--

"That is called shelling a sabre."

Kmita stood pale, wild-eyed, staggering, astonished no less than the
nobles of Lauda; the little colonel pushed to one side, and repeated
again,--

"Take your sabre!"

For a time it seemed as if Kmita would rush at him with naked hands. He
was just ready for the spring, when Volodyovski put his hilt to his own
breast, presenting the point. Kmita rushed to take his own sabre, and
fell with it again on his terrible opponent.

A loud murmur rose from the circle of spectators, and the ring grew
closer and closer. Kmita's Cossacks thrust their heads between the
shoulders of the nobles, as if they had lived all their lives in the
best understanding with them. Involuntarily shouts were wrested from
the mouths of the onlookers; at times an outburst of unrestrained,
nervous laughter was heard; all acknowledged a master of masters.

Volodyovski amused himself cruelly like a cat with a mouse, and seemed
to work more and more carelessly with the sabre. He took his left hand
from behind his back and thrust it into his trousers' pocket. Kmita was
foaming at the mouth, panting heavily; at last hoarse words came from
his throat through his set lips,--

"Finish--spare the shame!"

"Very well!" replied Volodyovski.

A short terrible whistle was heard, then a smothered cry. At the same
moment Kmita threw open his arms, his sabre dropped to the ground, and
he fell on his face at the feet of the colonel.

"He lives!" said Volodyovski; "he has not fallen on his back!" And
doubling the skirt of Kmita's coat, he began to wipe his sabre.

The nobles shouted with one voice, and in those shouts thundered with
increasing clearness: "Finish the traitor! finish him! cut him to
pieces!"

A number of Butryms ran up with drawn sabres. Suddenly something
wonderful happened,--and one would have said that little Volodyovski
had grown tall before their eyes: the sabre of the nearest Butrym flew
out of his hand after Kmita's, as if a whirlwind had caught it, and
Volodyovski shouted with flashing eyes,--

"Stand back, stand back! He is mine now, not yours! Be off!"

All were silent, fearing the anger of that man; and he said: "I want no
shambles here! As nobles you should understand knightly customs, and
not slaughter the wounded. Enemies do not do that, and how could a man
in a duel kill his prostrate opponent?"

"He is a traitor!" muttered one of the Butryms. "It is right to kill
such a man."

"If he is a traitor he should be given to the hetman to suffer
punishment and serve as an example to others. But as I have said, he is
mine now, not yours. If he recovers you will be free to get your rights
before a court, and it will be easier to obtain satisfaction from a
living than a dead man. Who here knows how to dress wounds?"

"Krysh Domashevich. He has attended to all in Lauda for years."

"Let him dress the man at once, then take him to bed, and I will go to
console the ill-fated lady."

So saying, Volodyovski put his sabre into the scabbard. The nobles
began to seize and bind Kmita's men, who henceforth were to plough land
in the villages. They surrendered without resistance; only a few who
had escaped through the rear windows of the house ran toward the ponds,
but they fell into the hands of the Stakyans who were stationed there.
At the same time the nobles fell to plundering the wagons, in which
they found quite a plentiful booty; some of them gave advice to sack
the house, but they feared Pan Volodyovski, and perhaps the presence of
Panna Billevich restrained the most daring. Their own killed, among
whom were three Butryms and two Domasheviches, the nobles put into
wagons, so as to bury them according to Christian rites. They ordered
the peasants to dig a ditch for Kmita's dead behind the garden.

Volodyovski in seeking the lady burst through the whole house, and
found her at last in the treasure-chamber situated in a corner to which
a low and narrow door led from the sleeping-room. It was a small
chamber, with narrow, strongly barred windows, built in a square and
with such mighty walls, that Volodyovski saw at once that even if Kmita
had blown up the house with powder that room would have surely remained
unharmed. This gave him a better opinion of Kmita. The lady was sitting
on a chest not far from the door, with her head drooping, and her face
almost hidden by her hair. She did not raise it when she heard the
knight coming. She thought beyond doubt that it was Kmita himself or
some one of his people. Pan Volodyovski stood in the door, coughed
once, a second time, and seeing no result from that, said,--

"My lady, you are free!"

"From under the drooping hair blue eyes looked at the knight, and then
a comely face appeared, though pale and as it were not conscious.
Volodyovski was hoping for thanks, an outburst of gladness; but the
lady sat motionless, distraught, and merely looked at him. Therefore
the knight spoke again,--

"Come to yourself, my lady! God has regarded innocence,--you are free,
and can return to Vodokty."

This time there was more consciousness in the look of Panna Billevich.
She rose from the chest, shook back her hair, and asked, "Who are you?"

"Michael Volodyovski, colonel of dragoons with the voevoda of Vilna."

"Did I hear a battle--shots? Tell me."

"Yes. We came to save you."

She regained her senses completely. "I thank you," said she hurriedly,
with a low voice, through which a mortal disquiet was breaking. "But
what happened to him?"

"To Kmita? Fear not, my lady! He is lying lifeless in the yard; and
without praising myself I did it."

Volodyovski uttered this with a certain boastfulness; but if he
expected admiration he deceived himself terribly. She said not a word,
but tottered and began to seek support behind with her hands. At last
she sat heavily on the same chest from which she had risen a moment
before.

The knight sprang to her quickly: "What is the matter, my lady?"

"Nothing, nothing--wait, permit me. Then is Pan Kmita killed?"

"What is Pan Kmita to me?" interrupted Volodyovski; "it is a question
here of you."

That moment her strength came back; for she rose again, and looking him
straight in the eyes, screamed with anger, impatience, and despair: "By
the living God, answer! Is he killed?"

"Pan Kmita is wounded," answered the astonished Volodyovski.

"Is he alive?"

"He is alive."

"It is well! I thank you."

And with step still tottering she moved toward the door. Volodyovski
stood for a while moving his mustaches violently and shaking his head;
then he muttered to himself, "Does she thank me because Kmita is
wounded, or because he is alive?"

He followed Olenka, and found her in the adjoining bed room standing in
the middle of it as if turned to stone. Four nobles were bearing in at
that moment Pan Kmita; the first two advancing sidewise appeared in the
door, and between them hung toward the floor the pale head of Pan
Andrei, with closed eyes, and clots of black blood in his hair.

"Slowly," said Krysh Domashevich, walking behind, "slowly across the
threshold. Let some one hold his head. Slowly!"

"With what can we hold it when our hands are full?" answered those in
front.

At that moment Panna Aleksandra approached them, pale as was Kmita
himself, and placed both hands under his lifeless head.

"This is the lady," said Krysh Domashevich.

"It is I. Be careful!" answered she, in a low voice.

Volodyovski looked on, and his mustaches quivered fearfully.

Meanwhile they placed Kmita on the bed. Krysh Domashevich began to wash
his head with water; then he fixed a plaster previously prepared to the
wound, and said,--

"Now let him lie quietly. Oh, that's an iron head not to burst from
such a blow! He may recover, for he is young. But he got it hard."

Then he turned to Olenka: "Let me wash your hands,--here is water. A
kind heart is in you that you were not afraid to put blood on yourself
for that man."

Speaking thus, he wiped her palms with a cloth; but she grew pale and
changed in the eyes.

Volodyovski sprang to her again: "There is nothing here for you, my
lady. You have shown Christian charity to an enemy; return home." And
he offered her his arm.

She however, did not look at him, but turning to Krysh Domashevich,
said, "Pan Kryshtof, conduct me."

Both went out, and Volodyovski followed them. In the yard the nobles
began to shout at sight of her, and cry, "Vivat!" But she went forward,
pale, staggering, with compressed lips, and with fire in her eyes.

"Long life to our lady! Long life to our colonel!" cried powerful
voices.

An hour later Volodyovski returned at the head of the Lauda men toward
the villages. The sun had risen already; the early morning in the world
was gladsome, a real spring morning. The Lauda men clattered forward in
a formless crowd along the highway, discussing the events of the night
and praising Volodyovski to the skies; but he rode on thoughtful and
silent. Those eyes looking from behind the dishevelled hair did not
leave his mind, nor that slender form, imposing though bent by grief
and pain.

"It is a marvel what a wonder she is," said he to himself,--"a real
princess! I have saved her honor and surely her life, for though the
powder would not have blown up the treasure-room she would have died of
pure fright. She ought to be grateful. But who can understand a fair
head? She looked on me as on some serving-lad, I know not whether from
haughtiness or perplexity."



                              CHAPTER IX.


These thoughts did not let Volodyovski sleep on the night following.
For a number of days he was thinking continually of Panna Aleksandra,
and saw that she had dropped deeply into his heart. Besides, the Lauda
nobles wished to bring about a marriage between them. It is true that
she had refused him without hesitation, but at that time she neither
knew him nor had seen him. Now it was something quite different. He had
wrested her in knightly fashion from the hands of a man of violence,
had exposed himself to bullets and sabres, had captured her like a
fortress. Whose is she, if not his? Can she refuse him anything, even
her hand? Well, shall he not try? Perhaps affection has begun in her
from gratitude, since it happens often in the world that the rescued
lady gives straightway her hand to her rescuer. If she has not
conceived an affection for him as yet, it behooves him all the more to
exert himself in the matter.

"But if she remembers and loves the other man still?"

"It cannot be," repeated Volodyovski to himself; "if she had not
rejected him, he would not have taken her by force. She showed, it is
true, uncommon kindness to him; but it is a woman's work to take pity
on the wounded, even if they are enemies. She is young, without
guardianship; it is time for her to marry. It is clear that she
has no vocation for the cloister, or she would have entered one
already. There has been time enough. Men will annoy such a comely lady
continually,--some for her fortune, others for her beauty, and still
others for her high blood. Oh, a defence the reality of which she can
see with her own eyes will be dear to her. It is time too for thee to
settle down, my dear Michael!" said Volodyovski to himself. "Thou art
young yet, but the years hurry swiftly. Thou wilt win not fortune in
service, but rather more wounds in thy skin, and to thy giddy life will
come an end."

Here through the memory of Pan Volodyovski passed a whole line of young
ladies after whom he had sighed in his life. Among them were some very
beautiful and of high blood, but one more charming and distinguished
there was not. Besides, the people of these parts exalted that family
and that lady, and from her eyes there looked such honesty that may God
give no worse wife to the best man.

Pan Volodyovski felt that a prize was meeting him which might not come
a second time, and this the more since he had rendered the lady such
uncommon service. "Why delay?" said he to himself. "What better can I
wait for? I must try."

Pshaw! but war is at hand. His arm was well. It was a shame for a
knight to go courting when his country was stretching forth its hands
imploring deliverance. Pan Michael had the heart of an honest soldier;
and though he had served almost from boyhood, though he had taken part
in nearly all the wars of his time, he knew what he owed his country,
and he dreamed not of rest.

Precisely because he had served his country not for gain, reward, or
praise, but from his soul, had he in that regard a clean conscience, he
felt his worth, and that gave him solace. "Others were frolicking, but
I was fighting," thought he. "The Lord God will reward the little
soldier, and will help him this time."

But he saw that soon there would be no time for courting; there was
need to act promptly, and put everything on the hazard at once,--to
make a proposal on the spot, and either marry after short bans or eat a
watermelon.[12] "I have eaten more than one; I'll eat another this
time," muttered Volodyovski, moving his yellow mustaches. "What harm
will it do?"

But there was one side to this sudden decision which did not please
him. He put the question to himself if going with a visit so soon after
saving the lady he would not be like an importunate creditor who wishes
a debt to be paid with usury and as quickly as possible. Perhaps it
will not be in knightly fashion? Nonsense! for what can gratitude be
asked, if not for service? And if this haste does not please the heart
of the lady, if she looks askance at him, why, he can say to her,
"Gracious lady, I would have come courting one year, and gazed at you
as if I were near-sighted; but I am a soldier, and the trumpets are
sounding for battle!"

"So I'll go," said Pan Volodyovski.

But after a while another thought entered his head: if she says, "Go to
war, noble soldier, and after the war you will visit me during one year
and look at me like a nearsighted man, for I will not give in a moment
my soul and my body to one whom I know not!"

Then all will be lost! That it would be lost Pan Volodyovski felt
perfectly; for leaving aside the lady whom in the interval some other
man might marry, Volodyovski was not sure of his own constancy.
Conscience declared that in him love was kindled like straw, but
quenched as quickly.

Then all will be lost! And then wander on farther, thou soldier, a
vagrant from one camp to another, from battle to battle, with no roof
in the world, with no living soul of thy kindred! Search the four
corners of earth when the war will be over, not knowing a place for thy
heart save the barracks!

At last Volodyovski knew not what to do. It had become in a certain
fashion narrow and stifling for him in the Patsuneli house; he took his
cap therefore to go out on the road and enjoy the May sun. On the
threshold he came upon one of Kmita's men taken prisoner, who in the
division of spoils had come to old Pakosh, The Cossack was warming
himself in the sun and playing on a bandura.

"What art thou doing here? asked Volodyovski.

"I am playing," answered the Cossack, raising his thin face,

"Whence art thou?" asked Volodyovski, glad to have some interruption to
his thoughts.

"From afar, from the Viahla."

"Why not run away like the rest of thy comrades? Oh, such kind of sons!
The nobles spared your lives in Lyubich so as to have laborers, and
your comrades all ran away as soon as the ropes were removed."

"I will not run away. I'll die here like a dog."

"So it has pleased thee here?"

"He runs away who feels better in the field; it is better for me here.
I had my leg shot through, and the old man's daughter here dressed it,
and she spoke a kind word. Such a beauty I have not seen before with my
eyes. Why should I go away?"

"Which one pleased thee so?"

"Maryska."

"And so thou wilt remain?"

"If I die, they will carry me out; if not, I will remain."

"Dost thou think to earn Pakosh's daughter?"

"I know not."

"He would give death to such a poor fellow before he would his
daughter."

"I have gold pieces buried in the woods," said the Cossack,--"two
purses."

"From robbery?"

"From robbery."

"Even if thou hadst a pot of gold, thou art a peasant and Pakosh is a
noble."

"I am an attendant boyar."

"If thou art an attendant boyar, thou art worse than a peasant, for
thou'rt a traitor. How couldst thou serve the enemy?"

"I did not serve the enemy."

"And where did Pan Kmita find thee and thy comrades?"

"On the road. I served with the full hetman; but the squadron went to
pieces, for we had nothing to eat. I had no reason to go home, for my
house was burned. Others went to rob on the road, and I went with
them."

Volodyovski wondered greatly, for hitherto he had thought that Kmita
had attacked Olenka with forces obtained from the enemy.

"So Pan Kmita did not get thee from Trubetskoi?"

"Most of the other men had served before with Trubetskoi and Hovanski,
but they had run away too and taken to the road."

"Why did you go with Pan Kmita?"

"Because he is a splendid ataman. We were told that when he called on
any one to go with him, thalers as it were flowed out of a bag, to that
man. That's why we went. Well, God did not give us good luck!"

Volodyovski began to rack his head, and to think that they had
blackened Kmita too much; then he looked at the pale attendant boyar
and again racked his head.

"And so thou art in love with her?"

"Oi, so much!"

Volodyovski walked away, and while going he thought: "That is a
resolute man. He did not break his head; he fell in love and remained.
Such men are best. If he is really an attendant boyar, he is of the
same rank as the village nobles. When he digs up his gold pieces,
perhaps the old man will give him Maryska. And why? Because he did not
go to drumming with his fingers, but made up his mind that he would get
her. I'll make up my mind too."

Thus meditating, Volodyovski walked along the road in the sunshine.
Sometimes he would stop, fix his eyes on the ground or raise them to
the sky, then again go farther, till all at once he saw a flock of wild
ducks flying through the air. He began to soothsay whether he should go
or not. It came out that he was to go.

"I will go; it cannot be otherwise."

When he had said this he turned toward the house; but on the way he
went once more to the stable, before which his two servants were
playing dice.

"Syruts, is Basior's mane plaited?"

"Plaited, Colonel!"

Volodyovski went into the stable. Basior neighed at him from the
manger; the knight approached the horse, patted him on the side, and
then began to count the braids on his neck. "Go--not go--go." Again the
soothsaying came out favorably.

"Saddle the horse and dress decently," commanded Volodyovski.

Then he went to the house quickly, and began to dress. He put on high
cavalry boots, yellow, with gilded spurs, and a new red uniform,
besides a rapier with steel scabbard, the hilt ornamented with gold; in
addition a half breastplate of bright steel covering only the upper
part of the breast near the neck. He had also a lynxskin cap with a
beautiful heron feather; but since that was worn only with a Polish
dress, he left it in the trunk, put on a Swedish helmet with a vizor,
and went out before the porch.

"Where is your grace going?" asked old Pakosh, who was sitting on the
railing.

"Where am I going? It is proper for me to go and inquire after the
health of your lady; if not, she might think me rude."

"From your grace there is a blaze like fire. Every bulfinch is a fool
in comparison! Unless the lady is without eyes, she will fall in love
in a minute."

Just then the two youngest daughters of Pakosh hurried up on their way
home from the forenoon milking, each with a pail of milk. When they saw
Volodyovski they stood as if fixed to the earth from wonder.

"Is it a king or not?" asked Zonia.

"Your grace is like one going to a wedding," added Marysia.

"Maybe there will be a wedding," laughed old Pakosh, "for he is going
to see our lady."

Before the old man had stopped speaking the full pail dropped from the
hand of Marysia, and a stream of milk flowed along till it reached the
feet of Volodyovski.

"Pay attention to what you are holding!" said Pakosh, angrily. "Giddy
thing!"

Marysia said nothing; she raised the pail and walked off in silence.

Volodyovski mounted his horse; his two servants followed him, riding
abreast, and the three moved on toward Vodokty. The day was beautiful.
The May sun played on the breastplate and helmet of the colonel, so
that when at a distance he was gleaming among the willows it seemed
that another sun was pushing along the road.

"I am curious to know whether I shall come back with a ring or a
melon?" said the knight to himself.

"What is your grace saying?" asked Syruts.

"Thou art a blockhead!"

Syruts reined in his horse, and Volodyovski continued: "The whole luck
of the matter is that it is not the first time!"

This idea gave him uncommon comfort.

When he arrived at Vodokty, Panna Aleksandra did not recognize him at
the first moment, and he had to repeat his name. She greeted him
heartily, but ceremoniously and with a certain constraint; but he
presented himself befittingly,--for though a soldier, not a courtier,
he had still lived long at great houses, had been among people. He
bowed to her therefore with great respect, and placing his hand on his
heart spoke as follows:--

"I have come to inquire about the health of my lady benefactress,
whether some pain has not come from the fright. I ought to have done
this the day after, but I did not wish to give annoyance."

"It is very kind of you to keep me in mind after having saved me from
such straits. Sit down, for you are a welcome guest."

"My lady," replied Volodyovski, "had I forgotten you I should not have
deserved the favor which God sent when he permitted me to give aid to
so worthy a person."

"No, I ought to thank first God, and then you."

"Then let us both thank; for I implore nothing else than this,--that he
grant me to defend you as often as need comes."

Pan Michael now moved his waxed mustaches, which curled up higher than
his nose, for he was satisfied with himself for having gone straight in
_medias res_ and placed his sentiments, so to speak, on the table. She
sat embarrassed and silent, but beautiful as a spring day. A slight
flush came on her cheeks, and she covered her eyes with the long lashes
from which shadows fell on the pupils.

"That confusion is a good sign," thought Volodyovski; and coughing he
proceeded: "You know, I suppose, that I led the Lauda men after your
grandfather?"

"I know," answered Olenka. "My late grandfather was unable to make the
last campaign, but he was wonderfully glad when he heard whom the
voevoda of Vilna had appointed to the command, and said that he knew
you by reputation as a splendid soldier."

"Did he say that?"

"I myself heard how he praised you to the skies, and how the Lauda men
did the same after the campaign."

"I am a simple soldier, not worthy of being exalted to the skies, nor
above other men. Still I rejoice that I am not quite a stranger, for
you do not think now that an unknown and uncertain guest has fallen
with the last rain from the clouds. Many people are wandering about who
call themselves persons of high family and say they are in office, and
God knows who they are; perhaps often they are not even nobles."

Pan Volodyovski gave the conversation this turn with the intent to
speak of himself and of what manner of man he was. Olenka answered at
once,--

"No one would think that of you, for there are nobles of the same name
in Lithuania."

"But they have the seal Ossorya, while I am a Korchak Volodyovski and
we take our origin from Hungary from a certain noble, Atylla, who while
pursued by his enemies made a vow to the Most Holy Lady that he would
turn from Paganism to the Catholic faith if he should escape with
his life. He kept this vow after he had crossed three rivers in
safety,--the same rivers that we bear on our shield."

"Then your family is not from those parts?"

"No, my lady, I am from the Ukraine of the Russian Volodyovskis, and to
this time I own villages there which the enemy have occupied; but I
serve in the army from youth, thinking less of land than of the harm
inflicted on our country by strangers. I have served from the earliest
years with the voevoda of Rus, our not sufficiently lamented Prince
Yeremi, with whom I have been in all his wars. I was at Mahnovka and at
Konstantinoff; I endured the hunger of Zbaraj, and after Berestechko
our gracious lord the king pressed my head. God is my witness that I
have not come here to praise myself, but desire that you might know, my
lady, that I am no hanger-on, whose work is in shouting and who spares
his own blood, but that my life has been passed in honorable service in
which some little fame was won, and my conscience stained in nothing,
so God be my aid! And to this worthy people can give testimony."

"Would that all were like you!" sighed Olenka.

"Surely you have now in mind that man of violence who dared to raise
his godless hand against you."

Panna Aleksandra fixed her eyes on the floor, and said not a word.

"He has received pay for his deeds," continued Volodyovski, "though it
is said that he will recover, still he will not escape punishment. All
honorable people condemn him, and even too much; for they say that he
had relations with the enemy so as to obtain reinforcements,--which is
untrue, for those men with whom he attacked you did not come from the
enemy, but were collected on the highway."

"How do you know that?" asked the lady, raising her blue eyes to
Volodyovski.

"From the Cossacks themselves. He is a wonderful man, that Kmita; for
when I accused him of treason before the duel he made no denial, though
I accused him unjustly. It is clear that there is a devilish pride in
him."

"And have you said everywhere that he is not a traitor?"

"I have not, for I did not know that he was not a traitor; but now I
will say so. It is wrong to cast such a calumny even on our own
greatest enemy."

Panna Aleksandra's eyes rested a second time on the little knight with
an expression of sympathy and gratitude. "You are so honorable a man
that your equal is rare."

Volodyovski fell to twitching his mustaches time after time with
contentment. "To business, Michael dear!" said he, mentally. Then aloud
to the lady: "I will say more: I blame Pan Kmita's method, but I do not
wonder that he tried to obtain you, my lady, in whose service Venus
herself might act as a maid. Despair urged him on to an evil deed, and
will surely urge him a second time, should opportunity offer. How will
you remain alone, with such beauty and without protection? There are
more men like Kmita in the world; you will rouse more such ardors, and
will expose your honor to fresh perils. God sent me favor that I was
able to free you, but now the trumpets of Gradivus call me. Who will
watch over you? My gracious lady, they accuse soldiers of fickleness,
but unjustly. Neither is my heart of rock, and it cannot remain
indifferent to so many excellent charms."

Here Volodyovski fell on both knees before Olenka. "My gracious lady,"
said he, while kneeling, "I inherited the command after your
grandfather; let me inherit the granddaughter too. Give me guardianship
over you; let me enjoy the bliss of mutual affection. Take me as a
perpetual protection, and you will be at rest and free from care, for
though I go to the war my name itself will defend you."

The lady sprang from the chair and heard Pan Volodyovski with
astonishment; but he still spoke on:--

"I am a poor soldier, but a noble, and a man of honor. I swear to you
that on my shield and on my conscience not the slightest stain can be
found. I am at fault perhaps in this haste; but understand too that I
am called by the country, which will not yield even for you. Will you
not comfort me,--will you not give me solace, will you not say a kind
word?"

"You ask the impossible. As God lives, that cannot be!" answered
Olenka, with fright.

"It depends on your will."

"For that reason I say no to you promptly." Here she frowned. "Worthy
sir, I am indebted to you much, I do not deny it. Ask what you like, I
am ready to give everything except my hand."

Pan Volodyovski rose. "Then you do not wish me, my lady? Is that true?"

"I cannot."

"And that is your last word?"

"The last and irrevocable word."

"Perhaps the haste only has displeased you. Give me some hope."

"I cannot, I cannot."

"Then there is no success for me here, as elsewhere there was none. My
worthy lady, offer not pay for services, I have not come for that; and
if I ask your hand it is not as pay, but from your own good-will. Were
you to say that you give it because you must, I would not take it.
Where there is no freedom there is no happiness. You have disdained me.
God grant that a worse do not meet you. I go from this house as I
entered, save this that I shall not come here again. I am accounted
here as nobody. Well, let it be so. Be happy even with that very Kmita,
for perhaps you are angry because I placed a sabre between you. If he
seems better to you, then in truth you are not for me."

Olenka seized her temples with her hands, and repeated a number of
times: "O God! O God! O God!"

But that pain of hers made no impression on Volodyovski, who, when he
had bowed, went out angry and wrathful; then he mounted at once and
rode off.

"A foot of mine shall never stand there again!" said he, aloud.

His attendant Syruts riding behind pushed up at once. "What does your
grace say?"

"Blockhead!" answered Volodyovski.

"You told me that when we were coming hither."

Silence followed; then Volodyovski began to mutter again: "Ah, I was
entertained there with ingratitude, paid for affection with contempt.
It will come to me surely to serve in the cavalry till death; that is
fated. Such a devil of a lot fell to me,--every move a refusal! There
is no justice on earth. What did she find against me?"

Here Pan Michael frowned, and began to work mightily with his brain;
all at once he slapped his leg with his hand. "I know now," shouted he;
"she loves that fellow yet,--it cannot be otherwise."

But this idea did not clear his face. "So much the worse for me,"
thought he, after a while; "for if she loves him yet, she will not stop
loving him. He has already done his worst. He may go to war, win glory,
repair his reputation. And it is not right to hinder him; he should
rather be aided, for that is a service to the country. He is a good
soldier, 'tis true. But how did he fascinate her so? Who can tell? Some
have such fortune that if one of them looks on a woman she is ready to
follow him into fire. If a man only knew how this is done or could get
some captive spirit, perhaps he might effect something. Merit has no
weight with a fair head. Pan Zagloba said wisely that a fox and a woman
are the most treacherous creatures alive. But I grieve that all is
lost. Oh, she is a terribly beautiful woman, and honorable and
virtuous, as they say; ambitious as the devil,--that's evident. Who
knows that she will marry him though she loves him, for he has offended
and disappointed her sorely. He might have won her in peace, but he
chose to be lawless. She is willing to resign everything,--marriage and
children. It is grievous for me, but maybe it is worse for her, poor
thing!"

Here Volodyovski fell into a tit of tenderness over the fate of Olenka,
and began to rack his brain and smack his lips. At last he said,--

"May God aid her! I have no ill feeling against her! It is not the
first refusal for me, but for her it is the first suffering. The poor
woman can scarcely recover now from sorrows. I have put out her eyes
with this Kmita, and besides have given her gall to drink. It was not
right to do that, and I must repair the wrong. I wish bullets had
struck me, for I have acted rudely. I will write a letter asking
forgiveness, and then help her in what way I can."

Further thoughts concerning Pan Kmita were interrupted by the attendant
Syruts, who riding forward again said: "Pardon, but over there on the
hill is Pan Kharlamp riding with some one else."

"Where?"

"Over there!"

"It is true that two horsemen are visible, but Pan Kharlamp remained
with the prince voevoda of Vilna. How dost thou know him so far away?"

"By his cream-colored horse. The whole array knows that horse
anywhere."

"As true as I live, there is a cream-colored horse in view, but it may
be some other man's horse."

"When I recognize the gait, it is surely Pan Kharlamp."

They spurred on; the other horsemen did the same, and soon Volodyovski
saw that Pan Kharlamp was in fact approaching.

Pan Kharlamp was the lieutenant of a light-horse squadron in the
Lithuanian quota. Pan Volodyovski's acquaintance of long standing, an
old soldier and a good one. Once he and the little knight had
quarrelled fiercely, but afterward while serving together and
campaigning they acquired a love for each other. Volodyovski sprang
forward quickly, and opening his arms cried,--

"How do you prosper, O Great-nose? Whence do you come?"

The officer--who in truth deserved the nickname of Great-nose, for he
had a mighty nose--fell into the embraces of the colonel, and greeted
him joyously; then after he had recovered his breath, he said, "I have
come to you with a commission and money."

"But from whom?"

"From the prince voevoda of Vilna, our hetman. He sends you a
commission to begin a levy at once, and another commission to Pan
Kmita, who must be in this neighborhood."

"To Pan Kmita also? How shall we both make a levy in one neighborhood?"

"He is to go to Troki, and you to remain in these parts."

"How did you know where to look for me?"

"The hetman himself inquired carefully till the people from this place
who have remained near him told where to find you. I came with sure
information. You are in great and continual favor there. I have heard
the prince himself say that he had not hoped to inherit anything from
Prince Yeremi, but still he did inherit the greatest of knights."

"May God grant him to inherit the military success of Yeremi! It is a
great honor for me to conduct a levy. I will set about it at once.
There is no lack of warlike people here, if there was only something
with which to give them an outfit. Have you brought much money?"

"You will count it at Patsuneli."

"So you have been there already? But be careful; for there are shapely
girls in Patsuneli, like poppies in a garden."

"Ah, that is why stopping there pleased you! But wait, I have a private
letter from the hetman to you."

"Then give it."

Kharlamp drew forth a letter with the small seal of the Radzivills.
Volodyovski opened it and began to read:--


Worthy Colonel Pan Volodyovski,--Knowing your sincere wish to serve the
country, I send you a commission to make a levy, and not as is usually
done, but with great haste, for _periculum in mora_ (there is danger in
delay). If you wish to give us joy, then let the squadron be mustered
and ready for the campaign by the end of July, or the middle of August
at the latest. We are anxious to know how you can find good horses,
especially since we send money sparingly, for more we could not hammer
from the under-treasurer, who after his old fashion is unfriendly to
us. Give one half of this money to Pan Kmita, for whom Pan Kharlamp has
also a commission. We hope that he will serve us zealously. But tidings
have come to our ears of his violence in Upita, therefore it is
better for you to take the letter directed to him from Kharlamp, and
discover yourself whether to deliver it to him or not. Should you
consider the accusations against him too great, and creating infamy,
then do not give it, for we are afraid lest our enemies--such as the
under-treasurer, and the voevoda of Vityebsk--might raise outcries
against us because we commit such functions to unworthy persons. But if
you give the letter after having found that there is nothing important,
let Pan Kmita endeavor to wipe away his faults by the greatest exertion
in service, and in no case to appear in the courts, for he belongs to
our hetman's jurisdiction,--we and no one else will judge him. Pay
attention to our charge at once, in view of the confidence which we
have in your judgment and faithful service.

                                    Yanush Radzivill,
                  _Prince in Birji and Dubinki, Voevoda of Vilna_.


"The hetman is terribly anxious about horses for you," said Kharlamp,
when the little knight had finished reading.

"It will surely be difficult in the matter of horses," answered
Volodyovski. "A great number of the small nobility here will rally at
the first summons, but they have only wretched little Jmud ponies, not
very capable of service. For a good campaign it would be needful to
give them all fresh horses."

"Those are good horses; I know them of old, wonderfully enduring and
active."

"Bah!" responded Volodyovski, "but small, and the men here are large.
If they should form in line on such horses, you would think them a
squadron mounted on dogs. There is where the rub is. I will work with
zeal, for I am in haste myself. Leave Kmita's commission with me, as
the hetman commands; I will give it to him. It has come just in
season."

"But why?"

"For he has acted here in Tartar fashion and taken a lady captive.
There are as many lawsuits and questions hanging over him as he has
hairs on his head. It is not a week since I had a sabre-duel with him."

"Ai!" cried Kharlamp. "If you had a sabre-duel with him, he is in bed
at this moment."

"But he is better already. In a week or two he will be well. What is to
be heard _de publicis_?"

"Evil in the old fashion. The under-treasurer, Pan Gosyevski, the full
hetman, is ever quarrelling with the prince; and as the hetmans do not
agree, affairs do not move in harmony. Still we have improved a little,
and I think that if we had concord we might manage the enemy. God will
permit us yet to ride on their necks to their own land. Gosyevski is to
blame for all."

"But others say it is specially the grand hetman, Prince Radzivill."

"They are traitors. The voevoda of Vityebsk talks that way, for he and
the under-treasurer are cronies this long time."

"The voevoda of Vityebsk is a worthy citizen."

"Are you on the side of Sapyeha against the Radzivills?"

"I am on the side of the country, on whose side all should be. In this
is the evil,--that even soldiers are divided into parties, instead of
fighting. That Sapyeha is a worthy citizen, I would say in the presence
of the prince himself, even though I serve under him."

"Good people have striven to bring about harmony, but with no result,"
said Kharlamp. "There is a terrible movement of messengers from the
king to our prince. They say that something is hatching. We expected
with the visit of the king a call of the general militia; it has not
come! They say that it may be necessary in some places."

"In the Ukraine, for instance."

"I know. But once Lieutenant Brohvich told what he heard with his own
ears. Tyzenhauz came from the king to our hetman, and when they had
shut themselves in they talked a long time about something which
Brohvich could not overhear; but when they came out, with his own ears
he heard the hetman say, 'From this a new war may come.' We racked our
heads greatly to find what this could mean."

"Surely he was mistaken. With whom could there be a new war? The
emperor is more friendly to us now than to our enemies, since it is
proper for him to take the side of a civilized people. With the Swedes
the truce is not yet at an end, and will not be for six years; the
Tartars are helping us in the Ukraine, which they would not do without
the will of Turkey."

"Well, we could not get at anything."

"For there was nothing. But, praise God, I have fresh work; I began to
yearn for war."

"Do you wish to carry the commission yourself to Kmita?"

"I do, because, as I have told you, the hetman has so ordered. It is
proper for me to visit Kmita now according to knightly custom, and
having the commission I shall have a still better chance to talk with
him. Whether I give the commission is another thing; I think that I
shall, for it is left to my discretion."

"That suits me; I am in such haste for the road. I have a third
commission to Pan Stankyevich. Next I am commanded to go to Kyedani, to
remove the cannon which are there; then to inspect Birji and see if
everything is ready for defence."

"And to Birji too?"

"Yes."

"That is a wonder to me. The enemy have won no new victories, and it is
far for them to go to Birji on the boundary of Courland. And since, as
I see, new squadrons are being formed, there will be men to defend even
those parts which have fallen under the power of the enemy. The
Courlanders do not think of war with us. They are good soldiers, but
few; and Radzivill might put the breath out of them with one hand."

"I wonder too," answered Kharlamp, "all the more that haste is enjoined
on me, and instructions given that if I find anything out of order I am
to inform quickly Prince Boguslav Radzivill, who is to send Peterson
the engineer."

"What can this mean? I hope 'tis no question of domestic war. May God
preserve us from that! But when Prince Boguslav touches an affair the
devil will come of the amusement."

"Say nothing against him; he is a valiant man."

"I say nothing against his valor, but there is more of the German or
Frenchman in him than the Pole. And of the Commonwealth he never
thinks; his only thought is how to raise the house of Radzivill to the
highest point and lower all others. He is the man who rouses pride in
the voevoda of Vilna, our hetman, who of himself has no lack of it; and
those quarrels with Sapyeha and Gosyevski are the tree and the fruit of
Prince Boguslav's planting."

"I see that you are a great statesman. You should marry, Michael dear,
as soon as possible, so that such wisdom is not lost."

Volodyovski looked very attentively at his comrade. "Marry,--why is
that?"

"Maybe you are going courting, for I see that you are dressed as on
parade."

"Give us peace!"

"Oh, own up!"

"Let each man eat his own melons, not inquire about those of other men.
You too have eaten more than one. It is just the time now to think of
marriage when we have a levy on our hands!"

"Will you be ready in July?"

"At the end of July, even if I have to dig horses out of the ground.
Thank God that this task has come, or melancholy would have devoured
me."

So tidings from the hetman and the prospect of heavy work gave great
consolation to Pan Michael; and before he reached Patsuneli, he had
scarcely a thought of the rebuff which had met him an hour before. News
of the commission flew quickly through the whole village. The nobles
came straightway to inquire if the news was true; and when Volodyovski
confirmed it, his words made a great impression. The readiness was
universal, though some were troubled because they would have to march
at the end of July before harvest. Volodyovski sent messengers to other
neighborhoods,--to Upita, and to the most considerable noble houses. In
the evening a number of Butryms, Stakyans, and Domasheviches came.

They began to incite one another, show greater readiness, threaten the
enemy, and promise victory to themselves. The Butryms alone were
silent; but that was not taken ill, for it was known that they would
rise as one man. Next day it was as noisy in all the villages as in
bee-hives. People talked no more of Pan Kmita and Panna Aleksandra, but
of the future campaign. Volodyovski also forgave Olenka sincerely the
refusal, comforting himself meanwhile in his heart that that was not
the last one, as the love was not the last. At the same time he
pondered somewhat on what he had to do with the letter to Kmita.



                               CHAPTER X.


A time of serious labor began now for Volodyovski,--of letter-writing
and journeying. The week following he transferred his head-quarters to
Upita, where he began the levy. The nobles flocked to him willingly,
both great and small, for he had a wide reputation. But especially came
the Lauda men, for whom horses had to be provided. Volodyovski hurried
around as if in boiling water; but since he was active and spared no
pains, everything went on successfully enough. Meanwhile he visited in
Lyubich Pan Kmita, who had advanced considerably toward health; and
though he had not risen yet from his bed, it was known that he would
recover.

Kmita recognized the knight at once, and turned a little pale at sight
of him. Even his hand moved involuntarily toward the sabre above his
head; but he checked himself when he saw a smile on the face of his
guest, put forth his thin hand, and said,--

"I thank you for the visit. This is courtesy worthy of such a
cavalier."

"I have come to inquire if you cherish ill feeling against me," said
Pan Michael.

"I have no ill feeling; for no common man overcame me, but a swordsman
of the first degree. Hardly have I escaped."

"And how is your health?"

"It is surely a wonder to you that I have come out alive. I confess
myself that it is no small exploit." Here Kmita laughed. "Well, the
affair is not lost. You may finish me at your pleasure."

"I have not come with such intent--"

"You must be the devil," interrupted Kmita, "or must have a captive
spirit. God knows I am far from self-praise at this moment, for I am
returning from the other world; but before meeting you I thought, 'If I
am not the best sabre in the Commonwealth, I am the second.' But I
could not have warded off the first blow if you had not wished it. Tell
me where did you learn so much?"

"I had some little innate capacity, and my father taught me from
boyhood. He said many a time, 'God has given you insignificant stature;
if men do not fear you, they will laugh at you.' Later on, while
serving with the voevoda of Rus, I finished my course. With him were a
few men who could stand boldly before me."

"But could there be such?"

"There could, for there were. There was Pan Podbipienta, a Lithuanian
of high birth, who fell at Zbaraj,--the Lord light his soul!--a man of
such strength that there were no means to stop him, for he could cut
through opponent and weapons. Then there was Skshetuski, my heartfelt
friend and confidant, of whom you must have heard."

"Of course! He came out of Zbaraj, and burst through the Cossacks. So
you are of such a brace, and a man of Zbaraj! With the forehead! with
the forehead! Wait a moment; I have heard of you at the castle of
Radzivill, voevoda of Vilna. Your name is Michael?"

"Exactly; I am Michael. My first name is Yerzi; but since Saint Michael
leads the whole host of heaven, and has gamed so many victories over
the banners of hell, I prefer him as a patron."

"It is sure that Yerzi is not equal to Michael. Then you are that same
Volodyovski of whom it is said that he cut up Bogun?"

"I am he."

"Well, to receive a slash on the head from such a man is not a
misfortune. If God would grant us to be friends! You called me a
traitor, 'tis true, but you were mistaken." When he said this, Kmita
frowned as if his wound caused him pain again.

"I confess my mistake," answered Volodyovski. "I do not learn that from
you; your men told me. And know that if I had not learned it I should
not have come here."

"Tongues have cut me and cut me," said Kmita, with bitterness. "Let
come what may, I confess more than one mark is against me; but in this
neighborhood men have received me ungraciously."

"You injured yourself most by burning Volmontovichi, and by the last
seizure."

"Now they are crushing me with lawsuits. I am summoned to courts. They
will not give a sick man time to recover. I burned Volmontovichi, 'tis
true, and cut down some people; but let God judge me if I did that from
caprice. The same night, before the burning I made a vow to live with
all men in peace, to attract to myself these homespuns around here, to
satisfy the basswood barks in Upita, for there I really played the
tyrant. I returned to my house, and what did I find? I found my
comrades cut up like cattle, lying at the wall. When I learned that the
Butryms had done this, the devil entered me, and I took stern
vengeance. Would you believe why they were cut up, why they were
slaughtered? I learned myself later from one of the Butryms, whom I
found in the woods. Behold, it was for this,--that they wanted to dance
with the women of the nobles in a public house! Who would not have
taken vengeance?"

"My worthy sir," answered Volodyovski, "it is true that they acted
severely with your comrades; but was it the nobles who killed them? No;
their previous reputation killed them,--that which they brought with
them; for if orderly soldiers had wished to dance, surely they would
not have slain them."

"Poor fellows!" said Kmita, following his own thoughts, "while I was
lying here now in a fever, they came in every evening through that door
from the room outside. I saw them around this bed as if living, blue,
hacked up, and groaning continually, 'Yendrus! give money to have a
Mass for our souls; we are in torments!' Then I tell you the hair stood
on my head, for the smell of sulphur from them was in the room. I gave
money for a Mass. Oh, may it help them!"

A moment of silence then followed.

"As to the carrying off," continued Kmita, "no one could have told you
about that; for in truth she saved my life when the nobles were hunting
me, but afterward she ordered me to depart and not show myself before
her eyes. What was there left for me after that?"

"Still it was a Tartar method."

"You know not what love is, and to what despair it may bring a man when
he loses that which he prizes most dearly."

"I know not what love is?" cried Volodyovski, with excitement. "From
the time that I began to carry a sabre I was in love. It is true that
the object changed, for I was never rewarded with a return. Were it not
for that, there could have been no Troilus more faithful than I."

"What kind of love can that be when the object is changing?" said
Kmita.

"I will tell you something else which I saw with my own eyes. In the
first period of the Hmelnitski affair, Bogun, the same who next to
Hmelnitski has now the highest respect of the Cossacks, carried off
Princess Kurtsevich, a maiden loved by Skshetuski above all things.
That was a love! The whole army was weeping in view of Skshetuski's
despair; for his beard at some years beyond twenty grew gray, and can
you guess what he did?"

"I have no means of knowing."

"Well, because the country was in need, in humiliation, because the
terrible Hmelnitski was triumphing, he did not go to seek the girl. He
offered his suffering to God, and fought under Prince Yeremi in all the
battles, including Zbaraj, and covered himself with such glory that
to-day all repeat his name with respect. Compare his action with your
own and see the difference."

Kmita was silent, gnawed his mustache. Volodyovski continued,--

"Then God rewarded and gave him the maiden. They married immediately
after Zbaraj, and now have three children, though he has not ceased to
serve. But you by making disturbance have given aid to the enemy and
almost lost your own life, not to mention that a few days ago you might
have lost the lady forever."

"How is that?" asked Kmita, sitting up in the bed; "what happened to
her?"

"Nothing; but there was found a man who asked for her hand and wanted
to marry her."

Kmita grew very pale; his hollow eyes began to shoot flames. He wanted
to rise, even struggled for a moment; then cried, "Who was this devil's
son? By the living God, tell me!"

"I," said Pan Volodyovski.

"You,--you?" asked Kmita, with astonishment, "Is it possible?"

"It is."

"Traitor! that will not go with you! But she--what--tell me everything.
Did she accept?"

"She refused me on the spot, without thinking."

A moment of silence followed. Kmita breathed heavily, and fixed his
eyes on Volodyovski, who said,--

"Why call me traitor? Am I your brother or your best man? Have I broken
faith with you? I conquered you in battle, and could have done what I
liked."

"In old fashion one of us would seal this with his blood,--if not with
a sabre, with a gun. I would shoot you; then let the devils take me."

"Then you would have shot me, for if she had not refused I should not
have accepted a second duel. What had I to fight for? Do you know why
she refused me?"

"Why?" repeated Kmita, like an echo.

"Because she loves you."

That was more than the exhausted strength of the sick man could bear.
His head fell on the pillows, a copious sweat came out on his forehead,
and he lay there in silence.

"I am terribly weak," said he, after a while. "How do you know that she
loves me?"

"Because I have eyes and see, because I have reason and observe; just
after I had received the refusal my head became clear. To begin with,
when after the duel I came to tell her that she was free, for I had
slain you, she was dazed, and instead of showing gratitude she ignored
me entirely; second, when the Domasheviches were bringing you in, she
carried your head like a mother; and third, because when I visited her,
she received me as if some one were giving me a slap in the face. If
these explanations are not sufficient, it is because your reason is
shaken and your mind impaired."

"If that is true," said Kmita, with a feeble voice, "many plasters are
put on my wounds; better balsam than your words there could not be."

"But a traitor applies this balsam."

"Oh, forgive me! Such happiness cannot find place in my mind, that she
has a wish for me still."

"I said that she loves you; I did not say that she has a wish for
you,--that is altogether different."

"If she has no wish for me, I will break my head against the wall; I
cannot help it."

"You might if you had a sincere desire of effacing your faults. There
is war now; you may go, you may render important services to our dear
country, you may win glory with bravery, and mend your reputation. Who
is without fault? Who has no sin on his conscience? Every one has. But
the road to penance and correction is open to all. You sinned through
violence, then avoid it henceforth; you offended against the country by
raising disturbance in time of war, save the country now; you committed
wrongs against men, make reparation for them. This is a better and a
surer way for you than breaking your head."

Kmita looked attentively at Volodyovski; then said, "You speak like a
sincere friend of mine."

"I am not your friend, but in truth I am not your enemy; and I am sorry
for that lady, though she refused me and I said a sharp word to her in
parting. I shall not hang myself by reason of the refusal; it is not
the first for me, and I am not accustomed to treasure up offences. If I
persuade you to the right road, that will be to the country a service
on my part, for you are a good and experienced soldier."

"Is there time for me to return to this road? How many summonses are
waiting for me? I shall have to go from the bed to the court--unless I
flee hence, and I do not wish to do that. How many summonses, and every
case a sure sentence of condemnation!"

"Look, here is a remedy!" said Volodyovski, taking out the commission.

"A commission!" cried Kmita; "for whom?"

"For you! You need not appear at any court, for you are in the hetman's
jurisdiction. Hear what the prince voevoda writes me."

Volodyovski read to Kmita the private letter of Radzivill, drew breath,
moved his mustaches, and said, "Here, as you see, it depends on me
either to give you the commission or to retain it."

Uncertainty, alarm, and hope were reflected on Kmita's face. "What will
you do?" asked he, in a low voice.

"T will give the commission," said Volodyovski.

Kmita said nothing at first; he dropped his head on the pillow, and
looked some time at the ceiling. Suddenly his eyes began to grow moist;
and tears, unknown guests in those eyes, were hanging on the lashes.

"May I be torn with horses," said he at last, "may I be pulled out of
my skin, if I have seen a more honorable man! If through me you have
received a refusal,--if Olenka, as you say, loves me,--another would
have taken vengeance all the more, would have pushed me down deeper;
but you give your hand and draw me forth as it were from the grave."

"Because I will not sacrifice to personal interests the country, to
which you may render notable service. But I say that if you had
obtained those Cossacks from Trubetskoi or Hovanski, I should have kept
the commission. It is your whole fortune that you did not do that."

"It is for others to take an example from you," said Kmita. "Give me
your hand. God permit me to repay you with some good, for you have
bound me in life and in death."

"Well, we will speak of that later. Now listen! There is no need of
appearing before any court, but go to work. If you will render service
to the Commonwealth, these nobles will forgive you, for they are very
sensitive to the honor of the State. You may blot out your offences
yet, win reputation, walk in glory as in sunlight, and I know of one
lady who will give you a lifelong reward."

"Hei!" cried Kmita, in ecstasy, "why should I rot here in bed when the
enemy is trampling the country? Hei! is there any one there? Come, boy,
give me my boots; come hither! May the thunderbolts strike me in this
bed if I stay here longer in uselessness!"

Volodyovski smiled with satisfaction and said, "Your spirit is stronger
than your body, for the body is not able to serve you yet."

When he had said this he began to take farewell; but Kmita would not
let him go, thanked him, and wished to treat him with wine. In fact, it
was well toward evening when the little knight left Lyubich and
directed his course to Vodokty.

"I will reward her in the best fashion for her sharp word," said he to
himself, "when I tell her that Kmita will rise, not only from his bed,
but from evil fame. He is not ruined yet, only very passionate. I shall
comfort her wonderfully too, and I think she will meet me better this
time than when I offered myself to her."

Here our honest Van Michael sighed and muttered: "Could it be known
that there is one in the world predestined to me?"

In the midst of such meditations he came to Vodokty. The tow-headed man
of Jmud ran out to the gate, but made no hurry to open; he only said,--

"The heiress is not at home."

"Has she gone away?"

"She has gone away."

"Whither?"

"Who knows?"

"When will she come back?"

"Who knows?"

"Speak in human fashion. Did she not say when she would return?"

"Maybe she will not return at all, for she went away with wagons and
bags. From that I think she has gone far for a long time."

"Is that true?" muttered Pan Michael. "See what I have done!"



                              CHAPTER XI.


Usually when the warm rays of the sun begin to break through the wintry
veil of clouds, and when the first buds appear on the trees and the
green fleece spreads over the damp fields, a better hope enters the
hearts of men. But the spring of 1655 brought not the usual comfort to
the afflicted inhabitants of the Commonwealth. The entire eastern
boundary, from the north to the wilderness on the south, was bound as
it were by a border of flame; and the spring torrents could not quench
the conflagration, but that border grew wider continually and occupied
broader regions. And besides there appeared in the sky signs of evil
omen, announcing still greater defeats and misfortunes. Time after time
from the clouds which swept over the heavens were formed as it were
lofty towers like the flanks of fortresses, which afterward rolled down
with a crash. Thunderbolts struck the earth while it was still covered
with snow, pine-woods became yellow, and the limbs of trees crossed one
another in strange sickly figures; wild beasts and birds fell down and
died from unknown diseases. Finally, strange spots were seen on the
sun, having the form of a hand holding an apple, of a heart pierced
through, and a cross. The minds of men were disturbed more and more;
monks were lost in calculating what these signs might mean. A wonderful
kind of disquiet seized all hearts.

New and sudden wars were foretold, God knows from what source. An
ominous report began to circulate from mouth to mouth in villages and
towns that a tempest was coming from the side of the Swedes. Apparently
nothing seemed to confirm this report, for the truce concluded with
Sweden had six years yet to run; and still people spoke of the danger
of war, even at the Diet, which Yan Kazimir the king had called on May
19 in Warsaw.

Anxious eyes were turned more and more to Great Poland, on which the
storm would come first. Leshchynski, the voevoda of Lenchytsk, and
Narushevich, chief secretary of Lithuania, went on an embassy to
Sweden; but their departure, instead of quieting the alarmed, increased
still more the disquiet.

"That embassy smells of war," wrote Yanush Radzivill.

"If a storm were not threatening from that direction, why were they
sent?" asked others.

Kanazyl, the first ambassador, had barely returned from Stockholm; but
it was to be seen clearly that he had done nothing, since immediately
after him important senators were sent.

However people of more judgment did not believe yet in the possibility
of war. "The Commonwealth," said they, "has given no cause, and the
truce endures in full validity. How could oaths be broken, the most
sacred agreements violated, and a harmless neighbor attacked in robber
fashion? Besides, Sweden remembers the wounds inflicted by the Polish
sabre at Kirchholm and Putsk; and Gustavus Adolphus, who in western
Europe found not his equal, yielded a number of times to Pan
Konyetspolski. The Swedes will not expose such great military glory won
in the world to uncertain hazard before an opponent against whom they
have never been able to stand in the field. It is true that the
Commonwealth is exhausted and weakened by war; but Prussia and Great
Poland, which in the last wars did not suffer at all, will of
themselves be able to drive that hungry people beyond the sea to their
barren rocks. There will be no war."

To this alarmists answered again that even before the Diet at Warsaw
counsel was taken by advice of the king at the provincial diet in
Grodno concerning the defence of the boundary of Great Poland, and
taxes and soldiers assigned, which would not have been done unless
danger was near.

And so minds were wavering between fear and hope; a grievous
uncertainty weighed down the spirits of people, when suddenly an end
was put to it by the proclamation of Boguslav Leshchynski, commander in
Great Poland, summoning the general militia of the provinces of Poznan
and Kalisk for the defence of the boundaries against the impending
Swedish storm.

Every doubt vanished. The shout, "War!" was heard throughout Great
Poland and all the lands of the Commonwealth.

That was not only a war, but a new war. Hmelnitski, reinforced by
Buturlin, was raging in the south and the east; Hovanski and Trubetskoi
on the north and east; the Swede was approaching from the west! The
fiery border had become a fiery wheel.

The country was like a besieged camp; and in the camp evil was
happening. One traitor, Radzeyovski, had fled from it, and was in the
tent of the invaders. He was guiding them to ready spoil, he was
pointing out the weak sides; it was his work to tempt the garrisons.
And in addition there was no lack of ill will and envy,--no lack of
magnates quarrelling among themselves or angry with the king by reason
of offices refused, and ready at any moment to sacrifice the cause of
the nation to their own private profit; there was no lack of dissidents
wishing to celebrate their own triumph even on the grave of the
fatherland; and a still greater number was there of the disorderly, the
heedless, the slothful, and of those who were in love with themselves,
their own ease and well being.

Still Great Poland, a country wealthy and hitherto untouched by war,
did not spare at least money for defence. Towns and villages of nobles
furnished as many infantry as were assigned to them; and before the
nobles moved in their own persons to the camp many-colored regiments of
land infantry had moved thither under the leadership of captains
appointed by the provincial diet from among men experienced in the art
of war.

Tan Stanislav Dembinski led the land troops of Poznan, Pan Vladyslav
Vlostovski those of Kostsian, and Pan Golts, a famous soldier and
engineer, those of Valets. The peasants of Kalisk were commanded by Pan
Stanislav Skshetuski, from a stock of valiant warriors, a cousin of the
famous Yan from Zbaraj. Pan Katsper Jyhlinski led the millers and
bailiffs of Konin. From Pyzdri marched Pan Stanislav Yarachevski, who
had spent his youth in foreign wars; from Ktsyna, Pan Pyotr
Skorashevski, and from Naklo, Pan Kosletski. But in military experience
no one was equal to Pan Vladyslav Skorashevski, whose voice was
listened to even by the commander in Great Poland himself and the
voevodas.

In three places--at Pila, Uistsie, Vyelunie--had the captains fixed the
lines on the Notets, waiting for the arrival of the nobles summoned to
the general militia. The infantry dug trenches from morning till
evening, looking continually toward the rear to see if the wished for
cavalry were coming.

The first dignitary who came was Pan Andrei Grudzinski, voevoda of
Kalisk. He lodged in the house of the mayor, with a numerous retinue of
servants arrayed in white and blue colors. He expected that the nobles
of Kalisk would gather round him straightway; but when no one appeared
he sent for Captain Stanislav Skshetuski, who was occupied in digging
trenches at the river.

"Where are my men?" asked he, after the first greetings of the captain,
whom he had known from childhood.

"What men?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"The general militia of Kalisk."

A smile of pain mingled with contempt appeared on the swarthy face of
the soldier.

"Serene great mighty voevoda," said he, "this is the time for shearing
sheep, and in Dantzig they will not pay for badly washed wool. Every
noble is now at a pond washing or weighing, thinking correctly that the
Swedes will not run away."

"How is that?" asked the troubled voevoda; "is there no one here yet?"

"Not a living soul, except the land infantry. And, besides, the harvest
is near. A good manager will not leave home at such a season."

"What do you tell me?"

"But the Swedes will not run away, they will only come nearer,"
repeated the captain.

The pock-pitted face of the voevoda grew suddenly purple. "What are the
Swedes to me? But this will be a shame for me in the presence of the
other lords if I am here alone like a finger."

Pan Stanislav laughed again: "Your grace will permit me to remark,"
said he, "that the Swedes are the main thing here, and shame afterward.
Besides, there will be no shame; for not only the nobles of Kalisk, but
all other nobles, are absent."

"They have run mad!" exclaimed Grudzinski.

"No; but they are sure of this,--if they will not go to the Swedes, the
Swedes will not fail to come to them."

"Wait!" said the voevoda. And clapping his hands for an attendant, he
gave command to bring ink, pen, and paper; then he sat down and began
to write. In half an our he had covered the paper; he struck it with
his hand, and said,--

"I will send another call for them to be here at the latest _pro die 27
praesentis_ (on the 27th of the present month), and I think that surely
they will wish at this last date _non deesse patriæ_ (not to fail the
country). And now tell me have you any news of the enemy?"

"We have. Wittemberg is mustering his troops on the fields at Dama."

"Are there many?"

"Some say seventeen thousand, others more."

"H'm! then there will not be so many of ours. What is your opinion?
Shall we be able to oppose them?"

"If the nobles do not appear, there is nothing to talk about."

"They will come; why should they not come? It is a known fact that the
general militia always delay. But shall we be able to succeed with the
aid of the nobles?"

"No," replied Pan Stanislav, coolly. "Serene great mighty voevoda, we
have no soldiers."

"How no soldiers?"

"Your grace knows as well as I that all the regular troops are in the
Ukraine. Not even two squadrons were sent here, though at this moment
God alone knows which storm is greater."

"But the infantry, and the general militia?"

"Of twenty peasants scarcely one has seen war; of ten, one knows how to
hold a gun. After the first war they will be good soldiers, but they
are not soldiers now. And as to the general militia let your grace ask
any man who knows even a little about war whether the general militia
can stand before regulars, and besides such soldiers as the Swedes,
veterans of the whole Lutheran war, and accustomed to victory."

"Do you exalt the Swedes, then, so highly above your own?"

"I do not exalt them above my own; for if there were fifteen thousand
such men here as were at Zbaraj, quarter soldiers and cavalry, I should
have no fear. But with such as we have God knows whether we can do
anything worth mention."

The voevoda placed his hands on his knees, and looked quickly into the
eyes of Pan Stanislav, as if wishing to read some hidden thought in
them. "What have we come here for, then? Do you not think it better to
yield?"

Pan Stanislav spat in answer, and said: "If such a thought as that has
risen in my head, let your grace give command to impale me on a stake.
To the question do I believe in victory I answer, as a soldier, that I
do not. But why we have come here,--that is another question, to which
as a citizen I will answer. To offer the enemy the first resistance, so
that by detaining them we shall enable the rest of the country to make
ready and march, to restrain the invasion with our bodies until we fall
one on the other."

"Your intention is praiseworthy," answered the voevoda, coldly; "but it
is easier for you soldiers to talk about death than for us, on whom
will fall all the responsibility for so much noble blood shed in vain."

"What is noble blood for unless to be shed?"

"That is true, of course. We are ready to die, for that is the easiest
thing of all. But duty commands us, the men whom providence has made
leaders, not to seek our own glory merely, but also to look for
results. War is as good as begun, it is true; but still Carolus
Gustavus is a relative of our king, and must remember this fact.
Therefore it is necessary to try negotiations, for sometimes more can
be effected by speech than by arms."

"That does not pertain to me," said Pan Stanislav, dryly.

Evidently the same thought occurred to the voevoda at that moment, for
he nodded and dismissed the captain.

Pan Stanislav, however, was only half right in what he said concerning
the delay of the nobles summoned to the general militia. It was true
that before sheep-shearing was over few came to the camp between Pila
and Uistsie; but toward the 27th of June,--that is, the date mentioned
in the second summons--they began to assemble in numbers considerable
enough.

Every day clouds of dust, rising by reason of the dry and settled
weather, announced the approach of fresh reinforcements one after
another. And the nobles travelled noisily on horses, on wheels, and
with crowds of servants, with provisions, with wagons, and abundance on
them of every kind of thing, and so loaded with weapons that many a man
carried arms of every description for three lances, muskets, pistols,
sabres, double-handed swords and hussar hammers, out of use even in
that time, for smashing armor. Old soldiers recognized at once by these
weapons men unaccustomed to war and devoid of experience.

Of all the nobles inhabiting the Commonwealth just those of Great
Poland were the least warlike. Tartars, Turks, and Cossacks had never
trampled those regions which from the time of the Knights of the Cross
had almost forgotten how war looked in the country. Whenever a noble of
Great Poland felt the desire for war he joined the armies of the
kingdom, and fought there as well as the best; but those who preferred
to stay at home became real householders, in love with wealth and with
ease,--real agriculturists, filling with their wool and especially with
their wheat the markets of Prussian towns. But now when the Swedish
storm swept them away from their peaceful pursuits, they thought it
impossible to pile up too many arms, provide too great supplies, or
take too many servants to protect the persons and goods of the master.

They were marvellous soldiers, whom the captains could not easily bring
to obedience. For example, one would present himself with a lance
nineteen feet long, with a breastplate on his breast, but with a straw
hat on his head "for coolness;" another in time of drill would complain
of the heat; a third would yawn, eat, or drink; a fourth would call his
attendant; and all who were in the ranks thought it nothing out of the
way to talk so loudly that no man could hear the command of an officer.
And it was difficult to introduce discipline, for it offended the
brotherhood terribly, as being opposed to the dignity of a citizen. It
is true that "articles" were proclaimed, but no one would obey them.

An iron ball on the feet of this army was the innumerable legion of
wagons, of reserve and draft horses, of cattle intended for food, and
especially of the multitude of servants guarding the tents, utensils,
millet, grits, hash, and causing on the least occasion quarrels and
disturbance.

Against such an army as this was advancing from the side of Stettin and
the plains on the Oder, Arwid Wittemberg, an old leader, whose youth
had been passed in the thirty years' war; he came at the head of
seventeen thousand veterans bound together by iron discipline.

On one side stood the disordered Polish camp, resembling a crowd at a
country fair, vociferous, full of disputes, discussions about the
commands of leaders, and of dissatisfaction; composed of worthy
villagers turned into prospective infantry, and nobles taken straight
from sheep-shearing. From the other side marched terrible, silent
quadrangles, which at one beck of their leaders turned, with the
precision of machines, into lines and half-circles, unfolding into
wedges and triangles as regularly as a sword moves in the hands of a
fencer, bristling with musket-barrels and darts: genuine men of war,
cool, calm; real masters who had attained perfection in their art. Who
among men of experience could doubt the outcome of the meeting and on
whose side the victory must fall?

The nobles, however, were assembling in greater and greater numbers;
and still earlier the dignitaries of Great Poland and other provinces
began to meet, bringing bodies of attendant troops and servants. Soon
after the arrival of Pan Grudzinski at Pila came Pan Kryshtof
Opalinski, the powerful voevoda of Poznan. Three hundred haiduks in red
and yellow uniforms and armed with muskets went before the carriage of
the voevoda; a crowd of attendant nobles surrounded his worthy person;
following them in order of battle came a division of horsemen with
uniforms similar to those of the haiduks; the voevoda himself was in a
carriage attended by a jester, Staha Ostrojka, whose duty it was to
cheer his gloomy master on the road.

The entrance of such a great dignitary gave courage and consolation to
all; for those who looked on the almost kingly majesty of the voevoda,
on that lordly face in which under the lofty vaulting of the forehead
there gleamed eyes wise and severe, and on the senatorial dignity of
his whole posture, could hardly believe that any evil fate could come
to such power.

To those accustomed to give honor to office and to person it seemed
that even the Swedes themselves would not dare to raise a sacrilegious
hand against such a magnate. Even those whose hearts were beating in
their breasts with alarm felt safer at once under his wing. He was
greeted therefore joyfully and warmly; shouts thundered along the
street through which the retinue pushed slowly toward the house of the
mayor, and all heads inclined before the voevoda, who was as visible as
on the palm of the hand through the windows of the gilded carriage. To
these bows Ostrojka answered, as well as the voevoda, with the same
importance and gravity as if they had been given exclusively to him.

Barely had the dust settled after the passage of Opalinski when
couriers rushed in with the announcement that his cousin was coming,
the voevoda of Podlyasye, Pyotr Opalinski, with his brother-in-law
Yakob Rozdrajevski, the voevoda of Inovratslav. These brought each a
hundred and fifty armed men, besides nobles and servants. Then not a
day passed without the arrival of dignitaries such as Sendzivoi
Charnkovski, the brother-in-law of Krishtof Opalinski, and himself
castellan of Kalisk; Maksymilian Myaskovski, the castellan of Kryvinsk;
and Pavel Gembitski, the lord of Myendzyrechka. The town was so filled
with people that houses failed for the lodging even of nobles. The
neighboring meadows were many-colored with the tents of the general
militia. One might say that all the various colored birds had flown to
Pila from the entire Commonwealth. Red, green, blue, azure, white were
gleaming on the various coats and garments; for leaving aside the
general militia, in which each noble wore a dress different from his
neighbor, leaving aside the servants of the magnates, even the infantry
of each district were dressed in their own colors.

Shop-keepers came too, who, unable to find places in the market-square,
built a row of booths by the side of the town, on these they sold
military supplies, from clothing to arms and food. Field-kitchens were
steaming day and night, bearing away in the steam the odor of hash,
roast meat, millet; in some liquors were sold. Nobles swarmed in front
of the booths, armed not only with swords but with spoons, eating,
drinking, and discussing, now the enemy not yet to be seen, and now the
incoming dignitaries, on whom nicknames were not spared.

Among the groups of nobles walked Ostrojka, in a dress made of
party-colored rags, carrying a sceptre ornamented with bells, and with
the mien of a simple rogue. Wherever he showed himself men came around
in a circle, and he poured oil on the fire, helped them to backbite the
dignitaries, and gave riddles over which the nobles held their sides
from laughter, the more firmly the more biting the riddles.

On a certain midday the voevoda of Poznan himself came to the bazaar,
speaking courteously with this one and that, or blaming the king
somewhat because in the face of the approaching enemy he had not sent a
single squadron of soldiers.

"They are not thinking of us, worthy gentlemen," said he, "and leave us
without assistance. They say in Warsaw that even now there are too few
troops in the Ukraine, and that the hetmans are not able to make head
against Hmelnitski. Ah, it is difficult! It is pleasanter to see the
Ukraine than Great Poland. We are in disfavor, worthy gentlemen, in
disfavor! They have delivered us here as it were to be slaughtered."

"And who is to blame?" asked Pan Shlihtyng, the judge of Vskov.

"Who is to blame for all the misfortunes of the Commonwealth," asked
the voevoda,--"who, unless we brother nobles who shield it with our
breasts?"

The nobles, hearing this, were greatly flattered that the "Count in
Bnino and Opalenitsa" put himself on an equality with them, and
recognized himself in brotherhood; hence Pan Koshutski answered,--

"Serene great mighty voevoda, if there were more such counsellors as
your grace near his Majesty, of a certainty we should not be delivered
to slaughter here; but probably those give counsel who bow lower."

"I thank you, brothers, for the good word. The fault is his who listens
to evil counsellors. Our liberties are as salt in the eye to those
people. The more nobles fall, the easier will it be to introduce
_absolutum dominium_ (absolute rule)."

"Must we die, then, that our children may groan in slavery?"

The voevoda said nothing, and the nobles began to look at one another
and wonder.

"Is that true then?" cried many. "Is that the reason why they sent us
here under the knife? And we believe! This is not the first day that
they are talking about _absolutum dominium_. But if it comes to that,
we shall be able to think of our own heads."

"And of our children."

"And of our fortunes, which the enemy will destroy _igne et ferro_
(with fire and sword)."

The voevoda was silent. In a marvellous manner did this leader add to
the courage of his soldiers.

"The king is to blame for all!" was shouted more and more frequently.

"But do you remember, gentlemen, the history of Yan Olbracht?" asked
the voevoda.

"The nobles perished for King Olbracht. Treason, brothers!"

"The king is a traitor!" cried some bold voices.

The voevoda was silent.

Now Ostrojka, standing by the side of the voevoda, struck himself a
number of times on the legs, and crowed like a cock with such
shrillness that all eyes were turned to him. Then he shouted, "Gracious
lords! brothers, dear hearts! listen to my riddle."

With the genuine fickleness of March weather, the stormy militia
changed in one moment to curiosity and desire to hear some new stroke
of wit from the jester.

"We hear! we hear!" cried a number of voices.

The jester began to wink like a monkey and to recite in a squeaking
voice,--


     "After his brother he solace! himself with a crown and a wife,
      But let pilory go down to the grave with his brother.
      He drove out the vice-chancellor; hence now has the fame
      Of being vice-chancellor to--the vice-chancellor's wife."


"The king! the king! As alive! Yan Kazimir!" they began to cry from
every side; and laughter, mighty as thunder, was heard in the crowd.

"May the bullets strike him, what a masterly explanation!" cried the
nobles.

The voevoda laughed with the others, and when it had grown somewhat
calm he said, with increased dignity: "And for this affair we must pay
now with our blood and our heads. See what it has come to! Here,
jester, is a ducat for thy good verse."

"Kryshtofek! Krysh dearest!" said Ostrojka, "why attack others because
they keep jesters, when thou not only keepest me, but payest separately
for riddles? Give me another ducat and I'll tell thee another riddle."

"Just as good?"

"As good, only longer. Give me the ducat first."

"Here it is!"

The jester slapped his sides with his hands, as a cock
with his wings, crowed again, and cried out, "Gracious gentlemen,
listen! Who is this?"


     "He complains of self-seeking, stands forth as a Cato;
      Instead of a sabre he took a goose's tail-feather
      He wanted the legacy of a traitor, and not getting that
      He lashed the whole Commonwealth with a biting rhyme.

     "God grant him love for the sabre! less woe would it bring.
      Of his satire the Swedes have no fear.
      But he has barely tasted the hardships of war
      When following a traitor he is ready to betray his king."


All present guessed that riddle as well as the first. Two or three
laughs, smothered at the same instant, were heard in the assembly; then
a deep silence fell.

The voevoda grew purple, and he was the more confused in that all eyes
were fixed on him at that moment. But the jester looked on one noble
and then on another; at last he said, "None of you gentlemen can guess
who that is?"

When silence was the only answer, he turned with the most insolent mien
to the voevoda: "And thou, dost thou too not know of what rascal the
speech is? Dost thou not know? Then pay me a ducat."

"Here!" said the voevoda.

"God reward thee. But tell me, Krysh, hast thou not perchance tried to
get the vice-chancellorship after Radzeyovski?"

"No time for jests," replied Opalinski; and removing his cap to all
present: "With the forehead, gentlemen! I must go to the council of
war."

"To the family council thou didst wish to say, Krysh," added Ostrojka;
"for there all thy relatives will hold council how to be off." Then he
turned to the nobles and imitating the voevoda in his bows, he added,
"And to you, gentlemen, that's the play."

Both withdrew; but they had barely gone a few steps when an immense
outburst of laughter struck the ears of the voevoda, and thundered long
before it was drowned in the general noise of the camp.

The council of war was held in fact, and the voevoda of Poznan
presided. That was a strange council! Those very dignitaries took part
in it who knew nothing of war; for the magnates of Great Poland did not
and could not follow the example of those "kinglets" of Lithuania or
the Ukraine who lived in continual fire like salamanders.

In Lithuania or the Ukraine whoever was a voevoda or a chancellor was a
leader whose armor pressed out on his body red stripes which never left
it, whose youth was spent in the steppes or the forests on the eastern
border, in ambushes, battles, struggles, pursuits, in camp or in
tabors. In Great Poland at this time dignitaries were in office who,
though they had marched in times of necessity with the general militia,
had never held positions of command in time of war. Profound peace had
put to sleep the military courage of the descendants of those warriors,
before whom in former days the iron legions of the Knights of the Cross
were unable to stand, and turned them into civilians, scholars, and
writers. Now the stern school of Sweden was teaching them what they had
forgotten.

The dignitaries assembled in council looked at one another with
uncertain eyes, and each feared to speak first, waiting for what
"Agamemnon," voevoda of Poznan, would say.

But "Agamemnon" himself knew simply nothing, and began his speech again
with complaints of the ingratitude and sloth of the king, of the
frivolity with which all Great Poland and they were delivered to the
sword. But how eloquent was he; what a majestic figure did he present,
worthy in truth of a Roman senator! He held his head erect while
speaking; his dark eyes shot lightnings, his mouth thunderbolts; his
iron-gray beard trembled with excitement when he described the future
misfortunes of the land.

"For in what does the fatherland suffer," said he, "if not in its sons?
and we here suffer, first of all. Through our private lands, through
our private fortunes won by the services and blood of our ancestors,
will advance the feet of those enemies who now like a storm are
approaching from the sea. And why do we suffer? For what will they take
our herds, trample our harvests, burn our villages built by our labor?
Have we wronged Radzeyovski, who, condemned unjustly, hunted like a
criminal, had to seek the protection of strangers? No! Do we insist
that that empty title 'King of Sweden,' which has cost so much blood
already, should remain with the signature of our Yan Kazimir? No! Two
wars are blazing on two boundaries; was it needful to call forth a
third? Who was to blame, may God, may the country judge him! We wash
our hands, for we are innocent of the blood which will be shed."

And thus the voevoda thundered on further; but when it came to the
question in hand he was not able to give the desired advice.

They sent then for the captains leading the land infantry, and
specially for Vladyslav Skorashevski, who was not only a famous and
incomparable knight, but an old, practised soldier, knowing war as he
did the Lord's Prayer. In fact, genuine leaders listened frequently to
his advice; all the more eagerly was it sought for now.

Pan Skorashevski advised then to establish three camps,--at Pila,
Vyelunie, and Uistsie,--so near one another that in time of attack they
might give mutual aid, and besides this to cover with trenches the
whole extent of the river-bank occupied by a half-circle of camps which
were to command the passage.

"When we know," said Skorashevski, "the place where the enemy will
attempt the crossing, we shall unite from all three camps and give him
proper resistance. But I with the permission of your great mighty
lordships, will go with a small party to Chaplinko. That is a lost
position, and in time I shall withdraw from it; but there I shall first
get knowledge of the enemy, and then will inform your great mighty
lordships."

All accepted this counsel, and men began to move around somewhat more
briskly in the camp. At last the nobles assembled to the number of
fifteen thousand. The land infantry dug trenches over an extent of six
miles. Uistsie, the chief position, was occupied by the voevoda of
Poznan and his men. A part of the knights remained in Vyelunie, a part
in Pila, and Vladyslav Skorashevski went to Chaplinko to observe the
enemy.

July began; all the days were clear and hot. The sun burned on the
plains so violently that the nobles hid in the woods between the trees,
under the shade of which some of them gave orders to set up their
tents. There also they had noisy and boisterous feasts; and still more
of an uproar was made by the servants, especially at the time of
washing and watering the horses which, to the number of several
thousand at once, were driven thrice each day to the Notets and Berda,
quarrelling and fighting for the best approach to the bank. But in the
beginning there was a good spirit in the camp; only the voevoda of
Poznan himself acted rather to weaken it.

If Wittemberg had come in the first days of July, it is likely that he
would have met a mighty resistance, which in proportion as the men
warmed to battle might have been turned into an invincible rage, of
which there were often examples. For still there flowed knightly blood
in the veins of these people, though they had grown unaccustomed to
war.

Who knows if another Yeremi Vishnyevetski might not have changed
Uistsie into another Zbaraj, and described in those trenches a new
illustrious career of knighthood? Unfortunately the voevoda of Poznan
was a man who could only write; he knew nothing of war.

Wittemberg, a leader knowing not merely war but men, did not hasten,
perhaps on purpose. Experience of long years had taught him that a
newly enrolled soldier is most dangerous in the first moments of
enthusiasm, and that often not bravery is lacking to him, but soldierly
endurance, which practice alone can develop. More than once have new
soldiers struck like a storm on the oldest regiments, and passed over
their corpses. They are iron which while it is hot quivers, lives,
scatters sparks, burns, destroys, but which when it grows cold is a
mere lifeless lump.

In fact, when a week had passed, a second, and the third had come, long
inactivity began to weigh upon the general militia. The heat became
greater each day. The nobles would not go to drill, and gave as excuse
that their horses tormented by flies would not stand in line, and as to
marshy places they could not live from mosquitoes. Servants raised
greater and greater quarrels about shady places, concerning which it
came to sabres among their masters. This or that one coming home in the
evening from the water rode off to one side from the camp not to
return.

Evil example from above was also not wanting. Pan Skorashevski had
given notice from Chaplinko that the Swedes were not distant, when at
the military council Zygmunt Grudzinski got leave to go home; on this
leave his uncle Andrei Grudzinski, voevoda of Kalisk, had greatly
insisted. "I have to lay down my head and my life here," said he; "let
my nephew inherit after me my memory and glory, so that my services may
not be lost." Then he grew tender over the youth and innocence of his
nephew, praising the liberality with which he had furnished one hundred
very choice soldiers; and the military council granted the prayer of
the uncle.

On the morning of July 16, Zygmunt with a few servants left the camp
openly for home, on the eve almost of a siege and a battle. Crowds of
nobles conducted him amid jeering cries to a distance beyond the camp.
Ostrojka led the party, and shouted from afar after the departing,--

"Worthy Pan Zygmunt, I give thee a shield, and as third name
Deest!"[13]

"Vivat Deest-Grudzinski!"

"But weep not for thy uncle," continued Ostrojka. "He despises the
Swedes as much as thou; and let them only show themselves, he will
surely turn his back on them."

The blood of the young magnate rushed to his face, but he pretended not
to hear the insults. He put spurs to his horse, however, and pushed
aside the crowds, so as to be away from the camp and his persecutors as
soon as possible, who at last, without consideration for the birth and
dignity of the departing, began to throw clods of earth at him and to
cry,--

"Here is a gruda, Grudzinski![14] You hare, you coward!"

They made such an uproar that the voevoda of Poznan hastened up with a
number of captains to quiet them, and explain that Grudzinski had taken
leave only for a week on very urgent affairs.

Still the evil example had its effect; and that same day there were
several hundred nobles who did not wish to be worse than Grudzinski,
though they slipped away with less aid and more quietly. Stanislav
Skshetuski, a captain from Kalisk and cousin of the famous Yan of
Zbaraj, tore the hair on his head; for his land infantry, following the
example of "officers," began to desert from the camp. A new council of
war was held in which crowds of nobles refused absolutely to take part.
A stormy night followed, full of shouts and quarrels. They suspected
one another of the intention to desert. Cries of "Either all or none!"
flew from mouth to mouth.

Every moment reports were given out that the voevodas were departing,
and such an uproar prevailed that the voevodas had to show themselves
several times to the excited multitude. A number of thousands of men
were on their horses before daybreak. But the voevoda of Poznan rode
between the ranks with uncovered head like a Roman senator, and
repeated from moment to moment the great words,--

"Worthy gentlemen, I am with you to live and die."

He was received in some places with vivats; in others shouts of
derision were thundering. The moment he had pacified the crowd he
returned to the council, tired, hoarse, carried away by the grandeur of
his own words, and convinced that he had rendered inestimable service
to his country that night. But at the council he had fewer words in his
mouth, twisted his beard, and pulled his foretop from despair,
repeating,--

"Give counsel if you can; I wash my hands of the future, for it is
impossible to make a defence with such soldiers."

"Serene great mighty voevoda," answered Stanislav Skshetuski, "the
enemy will drive away that turbulence and uproar. Only let the cannon
play, only let it come to defence, to a siege, these very nobles in
defence of their own lives must serve on the ramparts and not be
disorderly in camp. So it has happened more than once."

"With what can we defend ourselves? We have no cannon, nothing but
saluting pieces good to fire off in time of a feast."

"At Zbaraj Hmelnitski had seventy cannon, and Prince Yeremi only a few
eight-pounders and mortars."

"But he had an army, not militia,--his own squadrons famed in the
world, not country nobles fresh from sheep-shearing."

"Send for Pan Skorashevski," said the castellan of Poznan. "Make him
commander of the camp. He is at peace with the nobles, and will be able
to keep them in order."

"Send for Skorashevski. Why should he be in Drahim or Chaplinko?"
repeated Yendrei Grudzinski, the voevoda of Kalisk.

"Yes, that is the best counsel!" cried other voices.

A courier was despatched for Skorashevski. No other decisions were
taken at the council; but they talked much, and complained of the king,
the queen, the lack of troops, and negligence.

The following morning brought neither relief nor calm spirits. The
disorder had become still greater. Some gave out reports that the
dissidents, namely the Calvinists, were favorable to the Swedes, and
ready on the first occasion to go over to the enemy. What was more,
this news was not contradicted by Pan Shlihtyng nor by Edmund and
Yatsck Kurnatovski, also Calvinists, but sincerely devoted to the
country. Besides they gave final proof that the dissidents formed a
separate circle and consulted with one another under the lead of a
noted disturber and cruel man. Pan Rei, who serving in Germany during
his youth as a volunteer on the Lutheran side, was a great friend of
the Swedes. Scarcely had this suspicion gone out among the nobles when
several thousand sabres were gleaming, and a real tempest rose in the
camp.

"Let us punish the traitors, punish the serpents, ready to bite the
bosom of their mother!" cried the nobles.

"Give them this way!"

"Cut them to pieces! Treason is most infectious, worthy gentlemen. Tear
out the cockle or we shall all perish!"

The voevodas and captains had to pacify them again, but this time it
was more difficult than the day before. Besides, they were themselves
convinced that Rei was ready to betray his country in the most open
manner; for he was a man completely foreignized, and except his
language had nothing Polish in him. It was decided therefore to send
him out of the camp, which at once pacified somewhat the angry
multitude. Still shouts continued to burst forth for a long time,--

"Give them here! Treason, treason!"

Wonderful conditions of mind reigned finally in the camp. Some fell in
courage and were sunk in grief; others walked in silence, with
uncertain steps, along the ramparts, casting timid and gloomy glances
along the plains over which the enemy had to approach, or communicated
in whispers worse and worse news. Others were possessed of a sort of
desperate, mad joy and readiness for death. In consequence of this
readiness they arranged feasts and drinking-bouts so as to pass the
last days of life in rejoicing. Some thought of saving their souls, and
spent the nights in prayer. But in that whole throng of men no one
thought of victory, as if it were altogether beyond reach. Still the
enemy had not superior forces; they had more cannon, better trained
troops, and a leader who understood war.

And while in this wise on one side the Polish camp was seething,
shouting, and feasting, rising up with a roar, dropping down to quiet,
like a sea lashed by a whirlwind, while the general militia were
holding diets as in time of electing a king, on the other side, along
the broad green meadows of the Oder, pushed forward in calmness the
legions of Sweden.

In front marched a brigade of the royal guard, led by Benedykt Horn, a
terrible soldier, whose name was repeated in Germany with fear. The
soldiers were chosen men, large, wearing lofty helmets with rims
covering their ears, in yellow leather doublets, armed with rapiers and
muskets; cool and constant in battle, ready at every beck of the
leader.

Karl Schedding, a German, led the West Gothland brigade, formed of two
regiments of infantry and one of heavy cavalry, dressed in armor
without shoulder-pieces. Half of the infantry had muskets; the others
spears. At the beginning of a battle the musketeers stood in front, but
in case of attack by cavalry they stood behind the spearmen, who,
placing each the butt of his spear in the ground, held the point
against the onrushing horses. At a battle in the time of Sigismund III.
one squadron of hussars cut to pieces with their sabres and with hoofs
this same West Gothland brigade, in which at present Germans served
mainly.

The two Smaland brigades were led by Irwin, surnamed Handless, for he
had lost his right hand on a time while defending his flag; but to make
up for this loss he had in his left such strength that with one blow he
could hew off the head of a horse. He was a gloomy warrior, loving
battles and bloodshed alone, stern to himself and to soldiers. While
other captains trained themselves in continual wars into followers of a
craft, and loved war for its own sake, he remained the same fanatic,
and while slaying men he sang psalms to the Lord.

The brigade of Westrmanland marched under Drakenborg; and that of
Helsingor, formed of sharpshooters famed through the world, under
Gustav Oxenstiern, a relative of the renowned chancellor,--a young
soldier who roused great hopes. Fersen commanded the East Gothland
brigade; the Nerik and Werland brigades were directed by Wittemberg
himself, who at the same time was supreme chief of the whole army.

Seventy-two cannon pounded out furrows in the moist meadows; of
soldiers there were seventeen thousand, the fierce plunderers of all
Germany, and in battle they were so accurate, especially the infantry,
that the French royal guard could hardly compare with them. After the
regiments followed the wagons and tents. The regiments marched in line,
ready each moment for battle. A forest of lances was bristling above
the mass of heads, helmets, and hats; and in the midst of that forest
flowed on toward the frontier of Poland the great blue banners with
white crosses in the centre. With each day the distance decreased
between the two armies.

At last on July 27, in the forest at the village of Heinrichsdorf, the
Swedish legions beheld for the first time the boundary pillar of
Poland. At sight of this the whole army gave forth a mighty shout;
trumpets and drums thundered, and all the flags were unfurled.
Wittemberg rode to the front attended by a brilliant staff, and all the
regiments passed before him, presenting arms,--the cavalry with drawn
rapiers, the cannon with lighted matches. The time was midday; the
weather glorious. The forest breeze brought the odor of resin.

The gray road, covered with the rays of the sun,--the road over which
the Swedish regiments had passed,--bending out of the Heinrichsdorf
forest, was lost on the horizon. When the troops marching by it had
finally passed the forest, their glances discovered a gladsome land,
smiling, shining with yellow fields of every kind of grain, dotted in
places with oak groves, in places green from meadows. Here and there
out of groups of trees, behind oak groves and far away rose bits of
smoke to the sky; on the grass herds were seen grazing. Where on the
meadows the water gleamed widely spread, walked storks at their
leisure.

A certain calm and sweetness was spread everywhere over that land
flowing with milk and honey, and it seemed to open its arms ever wider
and wider before the army, as if it greeted not invaders but guests
coming with God.

At this sight a new shout was wrested from the bosoms of all the
soldiers, especially the Swedes by blood, who were accustomed to the
bare, poor, wild nature of their native land. The hearts of a
plundering and needy people rose with desire to gather those treasures
and riches which appeared before their eyes. Enthusiasm seized the
ranks.

But the soldiers, tempered in the fire of the Thirty Years' War,
expected that this would not come to them easily; for that grainland
was inhabited by a numerous and a knightly people, who knew how to
defend it. The memory was still living in Sweden of the terrible defeat
of Kirchholm, where three thousand cavalry under Hodkyevich ground into
dust eighteen thousand of the best troops of Sweden. In the cottages of
West Gothland, Smaland, or Delakarlia they told tales of those winged
knights, as of giants from a saga. Fresher still was the memory of the
struggles in the time of Gustavus Adolphus, for the warriors were not
yet extinct who had taken part in them. But that eagle of Scandinavia,
ere he had flown twice through all Germany, broke his talons on the
legions of Konyetspolski.

Therefore with the gladness there was joined in the hearts of the
Swedes a certain fear, of which the supreme chief, Wittemberg himself,
was not free. He looked on the passing regiments of infantry and
cavalry with the eye with which a shepherd looks on his flock;
then he turned to the rear man, who wore a hat with a feather, and a
light-colored wig falling to his shoulders.

"Your grace assures me," said he, "that with these forces it is
possible to break the army occupying Uistsie?"

The man with the light wig smiled and answered: "Your grace may rely
completely on my words, for which I am ready to pledge my head. If at
Uistsie there were regular troops and some one of the hetmans, I first
would give counsel not to hasten, but to wait till his royal Grace
should come with the whole army; but against the general militia and
those gentlemen of Great Poland our forces will be more than
sufficient."

"But have not reinforcements come to them?"

"Reinforcements have not come for two reasons,--first, because all the
regular troops, of which there are not many, are occupied in Lithuania
and the Ukraine; second, because in Warsaw neither the King Yan
Kazimir, the chancellor, nor the senate will believe to this moment
that his royal Grace Karl Gustav has really begun war in spite of the
truce, and notwithstanding the last embassies and his readiness to
compromise. They are confident that peace will be made at the last
hour,--ha, ha!"

Here the rear man removed his hat, wiped the sweat from his red face,
and added: "Trubetskoi and Dolgoruki in Lithuania, Hmelnitski in the
Ukraine, and we entering Great Poland,--behold what the government of
Yan Kazimir has led to."

Wittemberg gazed on him with a look of astonishment, and asked, "But,
your grace, do you rejoice at the thought?"

"I rejoice at the thought, for my wrong and my innocence will be
avenged; and besides I see, as on the palm of my hand, that the sabre
of your grace and my counsels will place that new and most beautiful
crown in the world on the head of Karl Gustav."

Wittemberg turned his glance to the distance, embraced with it the
oak-groves, the meadows, the grain-fields, and after a while said:
"True, it is a beautiful country and fertile. Your grace may be sure
that after the war the king will give the chancellorship to no one else
but you."

The man in the rear removed his cap a second time. "And I, for my part,
wish to have no other lord," added he, raising his eyes to heaven.

The heavens were clear and fair; no thunderbolt fell and crashed to the
dust the traitor who delivered his country, groaning under two wars
already and exhausted, to the power of the enemy on that boundary.

The man conversing with Wittemberg was Hieronim Kailzeyovski, late
under-chancellor of the Crown, now sold to Sweden in hostility to his
country.

They stood a time in silence. Meanwhile the last two brigades, those of
Nerik and Wermland, passed the boundary; after them others began to
draw in the cannon; the trumpets still played unceasingly; the roar and
rattle of drums outsounded the tramp of the soldiers, and filled the
forest with ominous echoes. At last the staff moved also. Radzeyovski
rode at the side of Wittemberg.

"Oxenstiern is not to be seen," said Wittemberg. "I am afraid that
something may have happened to him. I do not know whether it was wise
to send him as a trumpeter with letters to Uistsie."

"It was wise," answered Radzeyovski, "for he will look at the camp,
will see the leaders, and learn what they think there; and this any
kind of camp-follower could not do."

"But if they recognize him?"

"Rei alone knows him, and he is ours. Besides, even if they should
recognize him, they will do him no harm, but will give him supplies for
the road and reward him. I know the Poles, and I know they are ready
for anything, merely to show themselves polite people before strangers.
Our whole effort is to win the praise of strangers. Your grace may be
at rest concerning Oxenstiern, for a hair will not fall from his head.
He has not come because it is too soon for his return."

"And does your grace think our letters will have any effect?"

Radzeyovski laughed. "If your grace permits, I will foretell what will
happen. The voevoda of Poznan is a polished and learned man, therefore
he will answer us very courteously and very graciously; but because he
loves to pass for a Roman, his answer will be terribly Roman. He will
say, to begin with, that he would rather shed the last drop of his
blood than surrender, that death is better than dishonor, and the love
which he bears his country directs him to fall for her on the
boundary."

Radzeyovski laughed still louder. The stern face of Wittemberg
brightened also.

"Your grace does not think that he will be ready to act as he writes?"
asked Wittemberg.

"He?" answered Radzeyovski. "It is true that he nourishes a love for
his country, but with ink; and that is not over-strong food. His love
is in fact more scant than that of his jester who helps him to put
rhymes together. I am certain that after that Roman answer will come
good wishes for health, success, offers of service, and at last a
request to spare his property and that of his relatives, for which
again he with all his relatives will be thankful."

"And what at last will be the result of our letters?"

"The courage of the other side will weaken to the last degree, senators
will begin to negotiate with us, and we shall occupy all Great Poland
after perhaps a few shots in the air."

"Would that your grace be a true prophet!"

"I am certain that it will be as I say, for I know these people. I have
friends and adherents in the whole country, and I know how to begin.
And that I shall neglect nothing is made sure by the wrong which I
endure from Van Kazimir, and my love for Karl Gustav. People with us
are more tender at present about their own fortunes than the integrity
of the Commonwealth. All those lands upon which we shall now march are
the estates of the Opalinskis, the Charnkovskis, the Grudzinskis; and
because they are at Uistsie in person they will be milder in
negotiating. As to the nobles, if only their freedom of disputing at
the diets is guaranteed, they will follow the voevodas."

"By knowledge of the country and the people your grace renders the king
unexampled service, which cannot remain without an equally noteworthy
reward. Therefore from what you say I conclude that I may look on this
land as ours."

"You may, your grace, you may, you may," repeated Radzeyovski
hurriedly, a number of times.

"Therefore I occupy it in the name of his Royal Grace Karl Gustav,"
answered Wittemberg, solemnly.

While the Swedish troops were thus beginning beyond Heinrichsdorf to
walk on the land of Great Poland, and even earlier, for it was on July
18, a Swedish trumpeter arrived at the Polish camp with letters from
Radzeyovski and Wittemberg to the voevodas.

Vladyslav Skorashevski himself conducted the trumpeter to the voevoda
of Poznan, and the nobles of the general militia gazed with curiosity
on the "first Swede," wondering at his valiant bearing, his manly face,
his blond mustaches, the ends combed upward in a broad brush, and his
really lordlike mien. Crowds followed him to the voevoda; acquaintances
called to one another, pointing him out with their fingers, laughed
somewhat at his boots with enormous round legs, and at the long
straight rapier, which they called a spit, hanging from a belt richly
worked with silver. The Swede also cast curious glances from under his
broad hat, as if wishing to examine the camp and estimate the forces,
and then looked repeatedly at the crowd of nobles whose oriental
costumes were apparently novel to him. At last he was brought to the
voevoda, around whom were grouped all the dignitaries in the camp.

The letters were read immediately, and a council held. The voevoda
committed the trumpeter to his attendants to be entertained in soldier
fashion; the nobles took him from the attendants, and wondering at the
man as a curiosity, began to drink for life and death with him.

Pan Skorashevski looked at the Swede with equal scrutiny; but because
he suspected him to be some officer in disguise, he went in fact to
convey that idea in the evening to the voevoda. The latter, however,
said it was all one, and did not permit his arrest.

"Though he were Wittemberg himself, he has come hither as an envoy and
should go away unmolested. In addition I command you to give him ten
ducats for the road."

The trumpeter meanwhile was talking in broken German with those nobles
who, through intercourse with Prussian towns, understood that language.
He told them of victories won by Wittemberg in various lands, of the
forces marching against Uistsie, and especially of the cannon of a
range hitherto unknown and which could not be resisted. The nobles were
troubled at this, and no small number of exaggerated accounts began to
circulate through the camp.

That night scarcely any one slept in Uistsie. About midnight those men
came in who had stood hitherto in separate camps, at Pila and Vyelunie.
The dignitaries deliberated over their answer to the letters till
daylight, and the nobles passed the time in stories about the power of
the Swedes.

With a certain feverish curiosity they asked the trumpeter about the
leaders of the army, the weapons, the method of fighting; and every
answer of his was given from mouth to mouth. The nearness of the
Swedish legions lent unusual interest to all the details, which were
not of a character to give consolation.

About daylight Stanislav Skshetuski came with tidings that the Swedes
had arrived at Valch, one day's march from the Polish camp. There rose
at once a terrible hubbub; most of the horses with the servants were at
pasture on the meadows. They were sent for then with all haste.
Districts mounted and formed squadrons. The moment before battle was
for the untrained soldier the most terrible; therefore before the
captains were able to introduce any kind of system there reigned for a
long time desperate disorder.

Neither commands nor trumpets could be heard; nothing but voices crying
on every side: "Yan! Pyotr! Onufri! This way! I wish thou wert killed!
Bring the horses! Where are my men? Yan! Pyotr!" If at that moment one
cannon-shot had been heard, the disorder might easily have been turned
to a panic.

Gradually, however, the districts were ranged in order. The inborn
capacity of the nobles for war made up for the want of experience, and
about midday the camp presented an appearance imposing enough.
The infantry stood on the ramparts looking like flowers in their
many-colored coats, smoke was borne away from the lighted matches, and
outside the ramparts under cover of the guns the meadows and plain were
swarming with the district squadrons of cavalry standing in line on
sturdy horses, whose neighing roused an echo in the neighboring forests
and filled all hearts with military ardor.

Meanwhile the voevoda of Poznan sent away the trumpeter with an answer
to the letter reading more or less as Radzeyovski had foretold,
therefore both courteous and Roman; then he determined to send a party
to the northern bank of the Notets to seize an informant from the
enemy.

Pyotr Opalinski, voevoda of Podlyasye, a cousin of the voevoda Poznan,
was to go in person with a party together with his own dragoons, a
hundred and fifty of whom he had brought to Uistsie; and besides this
it was given to Captains Skorashevski and Skshetuski to call out
volunteers from the nobles of the general militia, so that they might
also look in the eyes of the enemy.

Both rode before the ranks, delighting the eye by manner and
posture,--Pan Stanislav black as a beetle, like all the Skshetuskis,
with a manly face, stern and adorned with a long sloping scar which
remained from a sword-blow, with raven black beard blown aside by the
wind; Pan Vladyslav portly, with long blond mustaches, open under
lip, and eyes with red lids, mild and honest, reminding one less of
Mars,--but none the less a genuine soldier spirit, as glad to be in
fire as a salamander,--a knight knowing war as his ten fingers, and of
incomparable daring. Both, riding before the ranks extended in a long
line, repeated from moment to moment,--

"Now, gracious gentlemen, who is the volunteer against the Swedes? Who
wants to smell powder? Well, gracious gentlemen, volunteer!"

And so they continued for a good while without result, for no man
pushed forward from the ranks. One looked at another. There were those
who desired to go and had no fear of the Swedes, but indecision
restrained them. More than one nudged his neighbor and said, "Go you,
and then I'll go." The captains were growing impatient, till all at
once, when they had ridden up to the district of Gnyezno, a certain man
dressed in many colors sprang forth on a hoop, not from the line but
from behind the line, and cried,--

"Gracious gentlemen of the militia, I'll be the volunteer and ye will
be jesters!"

"Ostrojka! Ostrojka!" cried the nobles.

"I am just as good a noble as any of you!" answered the jester.

"Tfu! to a hundred devils!" cried Pan Rosinski; under-judge, "a truce
to jesting! I will go."

"And I! and I!" cried numerous voices.

"Once my mother bore me, once for me is death!"

"As good as thou will be found!"

"Freedom to each. Let no man here exalt himself above others."

And as no one had come forth before, so now nobles began to rush out
from every district, spurring forward their horses, disputing with one
another and fighting to advance. In the twinkle of an eye there were
five hundred horsemen, and still they were riding forth from the ranks.
Pan Skorashevski began to laugh with his honest, open laugh.

"Enough, worthy gentlemen, enough! We cannot all go."

Then the two captains put the men in order and marched.

The voevoda of Podlyasye joined the horsemen as they were riding out of
camp. They were seen as on the palm of the hand crossing the Notets;
after that they glittered some time on the windings of the road, then
vanished from sight.

At the expiration of half an hour the voevoda of Poznan ordered the
troops to their tents, for he saw that it was impossible to keep them
in the ranks when the enemy were still a day's march distant. Numerous
pickets were thrown out, however; it was not permitted to drive horses
to pasture, and the order was given that at the first low sound of the
trumpet through the mouthpiece all were to mount and be ready.

Expectation and uncertainty had come to an end, quarrels and disputes
were finished at once, for the nearness of the enemy had raised their
courage as Pan Skshetuski had predicted. The first successful battle
might raise it indeed very high; and in the evening an event took place
which seemed of happy omen.

The sun was just setting,--lighting with enormous glitter, dazzling the
eyes, the Notets, and the pine-woods beyond,--when on the other side of
the river was seen first a cloud of dust, and then men moving in the
cloud. All that was living went out on the ramparts to see what manner
of guests these were. At that moment a dragoon of the guards rushed in
from the squadron of Pan Grudzinski with intelligence that the horsemen
were returning.

"The horsemen are returning with success! The Swedes have not eaten
them!" was repeated from mouth to mouth.

Meanwhile they in bright rolls of dust approached nearer and nearer,
coming slowly; then they crossed the Notets.

The nobles with their hands over their eyes gazed at them; for the
glitter became each moment greater, and the whole air was filled with
gold and purple light.

"Hei! the party is somewhat larger than when it went out," said
Shlihtyng.

"They must be bringing prisoners, as God is dear to me!" cried a noble,
apparently without confidence and not believing his eyes.

"They are bringing prisoners! They are bringing prisoners!"

They had now come so near that their faces could be recognized. In
front rode Skorashevski, nodding his head as usual and talking joyously
with Skshetuski; after them the strong detachment of horse surrounded a
few tens of infantry wearing round hats. They were really Swedish
prisoners.

At this sight the nobles could not contain themselves; and ran forward
with shouts: "Vivat Skorashevski! Vivat Skshetuski!"

A dense crowd surrounded the party at once. Some looked at the
prisoners; some asked, "How was the affair?" others threatened the
Swedes.

"Ah-hu! Well now, good for you, ye dogs! Ye wanted to war with the
Poles? Ye have the Poles now!"

"Give them here! Sabre them, make mince-meat of them!"

"Ha, broad-breeches! ye have tried the Polish sabres?"

"Gracious gentlemen, don't shout like little boys, for the prisoners
will think that this is your first war," said Skorashevski; "it is a
common thing to take prisoners in time of war."

The volunteers who belonged to the party looked with pride on the
nobles who overwhelmed them with questions: "How was it? Did they
surrender easily? Had you to sweat over them? Do they fight well?"

"They are good fellows," said Rosinski, "they defended themselves well;
but they are not iron,--a sabre cuts them."

"So they couldn't resist you, could they?"

"They could not resist the impetus."

"Gracious gentlemen, do you hear what is said,--they could not resist
the impetus. Well, what does that mean? Impetus is the main thing."

"Remember if only there is impetus!--that is the best method against
the Swedes."

If at that moment those nobles had been commanded to rush at the enemy,
surely impetus would not have been lacking; but it was well into the
night when the sound of a trumpet was heard before the forepost. A
trumpeter arrived with a letter from Wittemberg summoning the nobles to
surrender. The crowds hearing of this wanted to cut the messenger to
pieces; but the voevodas took the letter into consideration, though the
substance of it was insolent.

The Swedish general announced that Karl Gustav sent his troops to his
relative Yan Kazimir, as reinforcements against the Cossacks, that
therefore the people of Great Poland should yield without resistance.
Pan Grudzinski on reading this letter could not restrain his
indignation, and struck the table with his fist; but the voevoda of
Poznan quieted him at once with the question,--

"Do you believe in victory? How many days can we defend ourselves? Do
you wish to take the responsibility for so much noble blood which may
be shed to-morrow?"

After a long deliberation it was decided not to answer, and to wait for
what would happen. They did not wait long. On Saturday, July 24, the
pickets announced that the whole Swedish army had appeared before Pila.
There was as much bustle in camp as in a beehive on the eve of
swarming.

The nobles mounted their horses; the voevodas hurried along the ranks,
giving contradictory commands till Vladyslav Skorashevski took
everything in hand; and when he had established order he rode out at
the head of a few hundred volunteers to try skirmishing beyond the
river and accustom the men to look at the enemy.

The cavalry went with him willingly enough, for skirmishing consisted
generally of struggles carried on by small groups or singly, and such
struggles the nobles trained to sword exercise did not fear at all.
They went out therefore beyond the river, and stood before the enemy,
who approached nearer and nearer, and blackened with a long line the
horizon, as if a grove had grown freshly from the ground. Regiments of
cavalry and infantry deployed, occupying more and more space.

The nobles expected that skirmishers on horseback might rush against
them at any moment. So far they were not to be seen; but on the low
hills a few hundred yards distant small groups halted, in which were to
be seen men and horses, and they began to turn around on the place.
Seeing this, Skorashevski commanded without delay, "To the left! to the
rear!"

But the voice of command had not yet ceased to sound when on the hills
long white curls of smoke bloomed forth, and as it were birds of some
kind flew past with a whistle among the nobles; then a report shook the
air, and at the same moment were heard cries and groans of a few
wounded.

"Halt!" cried Skorashevski.

The birds flew past a second and a third time; again groans accompanied
the whistle. The nobles did not listen to the command of the chief, but
retreated at increased speed, shouting, and calling for the aid of
heaven. Then the division scattered, in the twinkle of an eye, over the
plain, and rushed on a gallop to the camp. Skorashevski was cursing,
but that did no good.

Wittemberg, having dispersed the skirmishers so easily pushed on
farther, till at last he stood in front of Uistsie, straight before the
trenches defended by the nobles of Kalish. The Polish guns began to
play, but at first no answer was made from the Swedish side. The smoke
fell away quietly in the clear air in long streaks stretching between
the armies, and in the spaces between them the nobles saw the Swedish
regiments, infantry and cavalry, deploying with terrible coolness as if
certain of victory.

On the hills the cannon were fixed, trenches raised; in a word, the
enemy came into order without paying the least attention to the balls
which, without reaching them, merely scattered sand and earth on the
men working in the trenches.

Pan Skshetuski led out once more two squadrons of the men of Kalish,
wishing by a bold attack to confuse the Swedes. But they did not go
willingly; the division fell at once into a disorderly crowd, for when
the most daring urged their horses forward the most cowardly held
theirs back on purpose. Two regiments of cavalry sent by Wittemberg
drove the nobles from the field after a short struggle, and pursued
them to the camp. Now dusk came, and put an end to the bloodless
strife.

There was firing from cannon till night, when firing ceased; but such a
tumult rose in the Polish camp that it was heard on the other bank of
the Notets. It rose first for the reason that a few hundred of the
general militia tried to slip away in the darkness. Others, seeing
this, began to threaten and detain them. Sabres were drawn. The words
"Either all or none" flew again from mouth to mouth. At every moment it
seemed most likely that all would go. Great dissatisfaction burst out
against the leaders: "They sent us with naked breasts against cannon,"
cried the militia.

They were enraged in like degree against Wittemberg, because without
regard to the customs of war he had not sent skirmishers against
skirmishers, but had ordered to fire on them unexpectedly from cannon.
"Every one will do for himself what is best," said they; "but it is the
custom of a swinish people not to meet face to face." Others were in
open despair. "They will smoke us out of this place like badgers out of
a hole," said they. "The camp is badly planned, the trenches are badly
made, the place is not fitted for defence." From time to time voices
were heard: "Save yourselves, brothers!" Still others cried: "Treason!
treason!"

That was a terrible night: confusion and relaxation increased every
moment; no one listened to commands. The voevodas lost their heads, and
did not even try to restore order; and the imbecility of the general
militia appeared as clearly as on the palm of the hand. Wittemberg
might have taken the camp by assault on that night with the greatest
ease.

Dawn came. The day broke pale, cloudy, and lighted a chaotic gathering
of people fallen in courage, lamenting, and the greater number drunk,
more ready for shame than for battle. To complete the misfortune, the
Swedes had crossed the Notets at Dzyembovo and surrounded the Polish
camp.

At that side there were scarcely any trenches, and there was nothing
from behind which they could defend themselves. They should have raised
breastworks without delay. Skorashevski and Skshetuski had implored to
have this done, but no one would listen to anything.

The leaders and the nobles had one word on their lips, "Negotiate!" Men
were sent out to parley. In answer there came from the Swedish camp a
brilliant party, at the head of which rode Radzeyovski and General
Wirtz, both with green branches.

They rode to the house in which the voevoda of Poznan was living; but
on the way Radzeyovski stopped amid the crowd of nobles, bowed with the
branch, with his hat, laughed, greeted his acquaintances, and said in a
piercing voice,--

"Gracious gentlemen, dearest brothers, be not alarmed! Not as enemies
do we come. On you it depends whether a drop of blood more will be
shed. If you wish instead of a tyrant who is encroaching on your
liberties, who is planning for absolute power, who has brought the
country to final destruction,--if you wish, I repeat, a good ruler, a
noble one, a warrior of such boundless glory that at bare mention of
his name all the enemies of the Commonwealth will flee,--give
yourselves under the protection of the most serene Karl Gustav.
Gracious gentlemen, dearest brothers, behold, I bring to you the
guarantee of all your liberties, of your freedom, of your religion. On
yourselves your salvation depends. Gracious gentlemen, the most serene
Swedish king undertakes to quell the Cossack rebellion, to finish the
war in Lithuania; and only he can do that. Take pity on the unfortunate
country if you have no pity on yourselves."

Here the voice of the traitor quivered as if stopped by tears. The
nobles listened with astonishment; here and there scattered voices
cried, "Vivat Radzeyovski, our vice-chancellor!" He rode farther, and
again bowed to new throngs, and again was heard his trumpet-like voice:
"Gracious gentlemen, dearest brothers!" And at last he and Wirtz with
the whole retinue vanished in the house of the voevoda of Poznan.

The nobles crowded so closely before the house that it would have been
possible to ride on their heads, for they felt and understood that
there in that house men were deciding the question not only of them but
of the whole country. The servants of the voevodas, in scarlet colors,
came out and began to invite the more important personages to the
council. They entered quickly, and after them burst in a few of the
smaller; but the rest remained at the door, they pressed to the
windows, put their ears even to the walls.

A deep silence reigned in the throng. Those standing nearest the
windows heard from time to time the sound of shrill voices from within
the chamber, as it were the echo of quarrels, disputes, and fights.
Hour followed hour, and no end to the council.

Suddenly the doors wore thrown open with a crash, and out burst
Vladyslav Skorashevski. Those present pushed back in astonishment. That
man, usually so calm and mild, of whom it was said that wounds might be
healed under his hand, had that moment a terrible face. His eyes were
red, his look wild, his clothing torn open on his breast; both hands
were grasping his hair, and he rushed out like a thunderbolt among the
nobles, and cried with a piercing voice,--

"Treason! murder! shame! We are Sweden now, and Poland no longer!"

He began to roar with an awful voice, with a spasmodic cry, and to tear
his hair like a man who is losing his reason. A silence of the grave
reigned all around. A certain fearful foreboding seized all hearts.

Skorashevski sprang away quickly, began to run among the nobles and cry
with a voice of the greatest despair: "To arms, to arms, whoso believes
in God! To arms, to arms!"

Then certain murmurs began to fly through the throngs,--certain
momentary whispers, sudden and broken, like the first beatings of the
wind before a storm. Hearts hesitated, minds hesitated, and in that
universal distraction of feelings the tragic voice was calling
continually, "To arms, to arms!"

Soon two other voices joined his,--those of Pyotr Skorashevski and
Stanislav Shshetuski. After them ran up Klodzinski, the gallant captain
of the district of Pozpan. An increasing circle of nobles began to
surround them. A threatening murmur was heard round about; flames ran
over the faces and shot out of the eyes; sabres rattled. Vladyslav
Skorashevski mastered the first transport, and began to speak, pointing
to the house in which the council was being held,--

"Do you hear, gracious gentlemen? They are selling the country there
like Judases, and disgracing it. Do you know that we belong to Poland
no longer? It was not enough for them to give into the hands of the
enemy all of you,--camp, army, cannon. Would they were killed! They
have affirmed with their own signatures and in your names that we
abjure our ties with the country, that we abjure our king; that the
whole land--towns, towers, and we all--shall belong forever to Sweden.
That an army surrenders happens, but who has the right to renounce his
country and his king? Who has the right to tear away a province, to
join strangers, to go over to another people, to renounce his own
blood? Gracious gentlemen, this is disgrace, treason, murder,
parricide! Save the fatherland, brothers! In God's name, whoever is a
noble, whoever has virtue, let him save our mother. Let us give our
lives, let us shed our blood! We do not want to be Swedes; we do not,
we do not! Would that he had never been born who will spare his blood
now! Let us rescue our mother!"

"Treason!" cried several hundred voices, "treason! Let us cut them to
pieces."

"Join us, whoever has virtue!" cried Skshetuski.

"Against the Swedes till death!" added Klodzinski.

And they went along farther in the camp, shouting: "Join us! Assemble!
There is treason!" and after them moved now several hundred nobles with
drawn sabres.

But an immense majority remained in their places; and of those who
followed some, seeing that they were not many, began to look around and
stand still.

Now the door of the council-house was thrown open, and in it appeared
the voevoda of Poznan, Pan Opalinski, having on his right side General
Wirtz, and on the left Radzeyovski. After them came Andrei Grudzinski,
voevoda of Kalisk; Myaskovski, castellan of Kryvinsk; Gembitski,
castellan of Myendzyrechka, and Andrei Slupski.

Pan Opalinski had in his hand a parchment with seals appended; he held
his head erect, but his face was pale and his look uncertain, though
evidently he was trying to be joyful. He took in with his glance the
crowds, and in the midst of a deathlike silence began to speak with a
piercing though somewhat hoarse voice,--

"Gracious gentlemen, this day we have put ourselves under the
protection of the most serene King of Sweden. Vivat Carolus Gustavus
Rex!"

Silence gave answer to the voevoda; suddenly some loud voice thundered,
"Veto!"

The voevoda turned his eyes in the direction of the voice and said:
"This is not a provincial diet, therefore a veto is not in place. And
whoever wishes to veto let him go against the Swedish cannon turned
upon us, which in one hour could make of this camp a pile of ruins."

Then he was silent, and after a while inquired, "Who said Veto?"

No one answered.

The voevoda again raised his voice, and began still more emphatically:
"All the liberties of the nobles and the clergy will be maintained;
taxes will not be increased, and will be collected in the same manner
as hitherto; no man will suffer wrongs or robbery. The armies of his
royal Majesty have not the right to quarter on the property of nobles
nor to other exactions, unless to such as the quota of the Polish
squadrons enjoy."

Here he was silent, and heard an anxious murmur of the nobles, as if
they wished to understand his meaning; then he beckoned with his hand.

"Besides this, we have the word and promise of General Wirtz, given in
the name of his royal Majesty, that if the whole country will follow
our saving example, the Swedish armies will move promptly into
Lithuania and the Ukraine, and will not cease to war until all the
lands and all the fortresses of the Commonwealth are won back. Vivat
Carolus Gustavus Rex!"

"Vivat Carolus Gustavus Rex!" cried hundreds of voices. "Vivat Carolus
Gustavus Rex!" thundered still more loudly in the whole camp.

Here, before the eyes of all, the voevoda of Poznan turned to
Radzeyovski and embraced him heartily; then he embraced Wirtz; then all
began to embrace one another. The nobles followed the example of the
dignitaries, and joy became universal. They gave vivats so loud that
the echoes thundered throughout the whole region. But the voevoda of
Poznan begged yet the beloved brotherhood for a moment of quiet, and
said in a tone of cordiality,--

"Gracious gentlemen! General Wittemberg invites us today to a feast in
his camp, so that at the goblets a brotherly alliance may be concluded
with a manful people."

"Vivat Wittemberg! vivat! vivat! vivat!"

"And after that, gracious gentlemen," added the voevoda, "let us go to
our homes, and with the assistance of God let us begin the harvest with
the thought that on this day we have saved the fatherland."

"Coming ages will render us justice," said Radzeyovski.

"Amen!" finished the voevoda of Poznan.

Meanwhile he saw that the eyes of many nobles were gazing at and
scanning something above his head. He turned and saw his own jester,
who, holding with one hand to the frame above the door, was writing
with a coal on the wall of the council-house over the door: "Mene
Tekel-Peres."[15]

In the world the heavens were covered with clouds, and a tempest was
coming.



                               CHAPTER XII.


In the district of Lukovo, on the edge of Podlyasye, stood the village
of Bujets, owned by the Skshetuskis. In a garden between the mansion
and a pond an old man was sitting on a bench; and at his feet were two
little boys,--one five, the other four years old,--dark and sunburned
as gypsies, but rosy and healthy. The old man, still fresh, seemed as
sturdy as an aurochs. Age had not bent his broad shoulders; from
his eyes--or rather from his eye, for he had one covered with a
cataract--beamed health and good-humor; he had a white beard, but a
look of strength and a ruddy face, ornamented on the forehead with a
broad scar, through which his skull-bone was visible.

The little boys, holding the straps of his boot-leg, were pulling in
opposite directions; but he was gazing at the pond, which gleamed with
the rays of the sun,--at the pond, in which fish were springing up
frequently, breaking the smooth surface of the water.

"The fish are dancing," muttered he to himself. "Never fear, ye will
dance still better when the floodgate is open, or when the cook is
scratching you with a knife." Then he turned to the little boys: "Get
away from my boot-leg, for when I catch one of your ears, I'll pull it
off. Just like mad horse-flies! Go and roll balls there on the grass
and let me alone! I do not wonder at Longinek, for he is young; but
Yaremka ought to have sense by this time. Ah, torments! I'll take one
of you and throw him into the pond."

But it was clear that the old man was in terrible subjection to the
boys, for neither had the least fear of his threats; on the contrary,
Yaremka, the elder, began to pull the boot-leg still harder, bracing
his feet and repeating,--

"Oh, Grandfather, be Bogun and steal away Longinek."

"Be off, thou beetle, I say, thou rogue, thou cheese-roll!"

"Oh, Grandfather, be Bogun!"

"I'll give thee Bogun; wait till I call thy mother!"

Yaremka looked toward the door leading from the house to the garden,
but finding it closed, and seeing no sign of his mother, he repeated
the third time, pouting, "Grandfather, be Bogun!"

"Ah, they will kill me, the rogues; it cannot be otherwise. Well, I'll
be Bogun, but only once. Oh, it is a punishment of God! Mind ye do not
plague me again!"

When he had said this, the old man groaned a little, raised himself
from the bench, then suddenly grabbed little Longinek, and giving out
loud shouts, began to carry him off in the direction of the pond.

Longinek, however, had a valiant defender in his brother, who on such
occasions did not call himself Yaremka, but Pan Michael Volodyovski,
captain of dragoons.

Pan Michael, then, armed with a basswood club, which took the place of
a sabre in this sudden emergency, ran swiftly after the bulky Bogun,
soon caught up with him, and began to beat him on the legs without
mercy.

Longinek, playing the rôle of his mamma, made an uproar, Bogun made an
uproar, Yaremka-Volodyovski made an uproar; but valor at last overcame
even Bogun, who, dropping his victim, began to make his way back to the
linden-tree. At last he reached the bench, fell upon it, panting
terribly and repeating,--

"Ah, ye little stumps! It will be a wonder if I do not suffocate."

But the end of his torment had not come yet, for a moment later Yaremka
stood before him with a ruddy face, floating hair, and distended
nostrils, like a brisk young falcon, and began to repeat with greater
energy,--

"Grandfather, be Bogun!"

After much teasing and a solemn promise given to the two boys that this
would surely be the last time, the story was repeated in all its
details; then they sat three in a row on the bench and Yaremka began,--

"Oh, Grandfather, tell who was the bravest."

"Thou, thou!" said the old man.

"And shall I grow up to be a knight?"

"Surely thou wilt, for there is good soldier blood in thee. God grant
thee to be like thy father; for if brave thou wilt not tease so
much--understand me?"

"Tell how many men has Papa killed?"

"It's little if I have told thee a hundred times! Easier for thee to
count the leaves on this linden-tree than all the enemies which thy
father and I have destroyed. If I had as many hairs on my head as I
myself have put down, the barbers in Lukovsk would make fortunes just
in shaving my temples. I am a rogue if I li--"

Here Pan Zagloba--for it was he--saw that it did not become him to
adjure or swear before little boys, though in the absence of other
listeners he loved to tell even the children of his former triumphs; he
grew silent this time especially because the fish had begun to spring
up in the pond with redoubled activity.

"We must tell the gardener," said he, "to set the net for the night; a
great many fine fish are crowding right up to the bank."

Now that door of the house which led into the garden opened, and
in it appeared a woman beautiful as the midday sun, tall, firm,
black-haired, with bloom on her brunette face, and eyes like velvet. A
third boy, three years old, dark as an agate ball, hung to her skirt.
She, shading her eyes with her hand, looked in the direction of the
linden-tree. This was Pani Helena Skshetuski, of the princely house of
Bulyga-Kurtsevich.

Seeing Pan Zagloba with Yaremka and Longinek under the tree, she went
forward a few steps toward the ditch, full of water, and called: "Come
here, boys! Surely you are plaguing Grandfather?"

"How plague me! They have acted nicely all the time," said the old man.

The boys ran to their mother; but she asked Zagloba, "What will Father
drink to-day,--dembniak or mead?"

"We had pork for dinner; mead will be best."

"I'll send it this minute; but Father must not fall asleep in the air,
for fever is sure to come."

"It is warm to-day, and there is no wind. But where is Yan, Daughter?"

"He has gone to the barns."

Pani Skshetuski called Zagloba father, and he called her daughter,
though they were in no way related. Her family dwelt beyond the
Dnieper, in the former domains of Vishnyevetski; and as to him God
alone knew his origin, for he told various tales about it himself. But
Zagloba had rendered famous services to Pani Skshetuski when she was
still a maiden, and he had rescued her from terrible dangers; therefore
she and her husband treated him as a father, and in the whole region
about he was honored beyond measure by all, as well for his inventive
mind as for the uncommon bravery of which he had given many proofs in
various wars, especially in those against the Cossacks. His name was
known in the whole Commonwealth. The king himself was enamored of his
stories and wit; and in general he was more spoken of than even Pan
Skshetuski, though the latter in his time had burst through besieged
Zbaraj and all the Cossack armies.

Soon after Pani Skshetuski had gone into the house a boy brought a
decanter and glass to the linden-tree. Zagloba poured out some mead,
then closed his eyes and began to try it diligently.

"The Lord God knew why he created bees," said he, with a nasal mutter.
And he fell to drinking slowly, drawing deep breaths at the same time,
while gazing at the pond and beyond the pond, away to the dark and blue
pine-woods stretching as far as the eye could reach on the other side.
The time was past one in the afternoon, and the heavens were cloudless.
The blossoms of the linden were falling noiselessly to the earth, and
on the tree among the leaves were buzzing a whole choir of bees, which
soon began to settle on the edge of the glass and gather the sweet
fluid on their shaggy legs.

Above the great pond, from the far-off reeds obscured by the haze of
distance, rose from time to time flocks of ducks, teal, or wild geese,
and moved away swiftly in the blue ether like black crosses; sometimes
a row of cranes looked dark high in the air, and gave out a shrill cry.
With these exceptions all around was quiet, calm, sunny, and gladsome,
as is usual in the first days of August, when the grain has ripened,
and the sun is scattering as it were gold upon the earth.

The eyes of the old man were raised now to the sky, following the
flocks of birds, and now they were lost in the distance, growing more
and more drowsy, as the mead in the decanter decreased; his lids became
heavier and heavier,--the bees buzzed their song in various tones as if
on purpose for his after-dinner slumber.

"True, true, the Lord God has given beautiful weather for the harvest,"
muttered Zagloba. "The hay is well gathered in, the harvest will be
finished in a breath. Yes, yes--"

Here he closed his eyes, then opened them again for a moment, muttered
once more, "The boys have tormented me," and fell asleep in earnest.

He slept rather long, but after a certain time he was roused by a light
breath of cooler air, together with the conversation and steps of two
men drawing near the tree rapidly. One of them was Yan Skshetuski, the
hero of Zbaraj, who about a month before had returned from the hetmans
in the Ukraine to cure a stubborn fever; Pan Zagloba did not know the
other, though in stature and form and even in features he resembled Yan
greatly.

"I present to you, dear father," said Yan, "my cousin Pan Stanislav
Skshetuski, the captain of Kalish."

"You are so much like Yan," answered Zagloba, blinking and shaking the
remnants of sleep from his eyelids, "that had I met you anywhere I
should have said at once, 'Skshetuski!' Hei, what a guest in the
house!"

"It is dear to me to make your acquaintance, my benefactor," answered
Stanislav, "the more since the name is well known to me, for the
knighthood of the whole Commonwealth repeat it with respect and mention
it as an example."

"Without praising myself, I did what I could, while I felt strength in
my bones. And even now one would like to taste of war, for _consuetudo
altera natura_ (habit is a second nature). But why, gentlemen, are you
so anxious, so that Yan's face is pale?"

"Stanislav has brought dreadful news," answered Yan. "The Swedes have
entered Great Poland, and occupied it entirely."

Zagloba sprang from the bench as if forty years had dropped from him,
opened wide his eyes, and began involuntarily to feel at his side, as
if he were looking for a sabre.

"How is that?" asked he, "how is that? Have they occupied all of it?"

"Yes, for the voevoda of Poznan and others at Uistsie have given it
into the hands of the enemy," answered Stanislav.

"For God's sake! What do I hear? Have they surrendered?"

"Not only have they surrendered, but they have signed a compact
renouncing the King and the Commonwealth. Henceforth Sweden, not
Poland, is to be there."

"By the mercy of God, by the wounds of the Crucified! Is the world
coming to an end? What do I hear! Yesterday Yan and I were speaking of
this danger from Sweden, for news had come that they were marching; but
we were both confident that it would end in nothing, or at most in the
renunciation of the title of King of Sweden by our lord, Yan Kazimir."

"But it has begun with the loss of a province, and will end with God
knows what."

"Stop, for the blood will boil over in me! How was it? And you were at
Uistsie and saw all this with your own eyes? That was simply treason
the most villanous, unheard of in history."

"I was there and looked on, and whether it was treason you will decide
when you hear all. We were at Uistsie, the general militia and the land
infantry, fifteen thousand men in all, and we formed our lines on the
Notets _ab incursione hostili_ (against hostile invasion). True the
army was small, and as an experienced soldier you know best whether the
place of regular troops can be filled by general militia, especially
that of Great Poland, where the nobles have grown notably unused to
war. Still, if a leader had been found, they might have shown
opposition to the enemy in old fashion, and at least detained them till
the Commonwealth could find reinforcements. But hardly had Wittemberg
shown himself when negotiations were begun before a drop of blood had
been shed. Then Radzeyovski came up, and with his persuasions brought
about what I have said,--that is, misfortune and disgrace, the like of
which has not been hitherto."

"How was that? Did no one resist, did no one protest? Did no one hurl
treason in the eyes of those scoundrels? Did all agree to betray the
country and the king?"

"Virtue is perishing, and with it the Commonwealth, for nearly all
agreed. I, the two Skorashevskis, Pan Tsisvitski, and Pan Klodzinski
did what we could to rouse a spirit of resistance among the nobles. Pan
Vladyslav Skorashevski went almost frantic. We flew through the camp
from the men of one district to those of another, and God knows there
was no beseeching that we did not use. But what good was it when the
majority chose to go in bonds to the banquet which Wittemberg promised,
rather than with sabres to battle? Seeing that the best went in every
direction,--some to their homes, others to Warsaw,--the Skorashevskis
went to Warsaw, and will bring the first news to the king; but I,
having neither wife nor children, came here to my cousin, with the idea
that we might go together against the enemy. It was fortunate that I
found you at home."

"Then you are directly from Uistsie?"

"Directly. I rested on the road only as much as my horses needed, and
as it was I drove one of them to death. The Swedes must be in Poznan at
present, and thence they will quickly spread over the whole country."

Here all grew silent. Yan sat with his palms on his knees, his eyes
fixed on the ground, and he was thinking gloomily. Pan Stanislav
sighed; and Zagloba, not having recovered, looked with a staring
glance, now on one, now on the other.

"Those are evil signs," said Yan at last, gloomily. "Formerly for ten
victories there came one defeat, and we astonished the world with our
valor. Now not only defeats come, but treason,--not merely of single
persons, but of whole provinces. May God pity the country!"

"For God's sake," said Zagloba, "I have seen much in the world. I can
hear, I can reason, but still belief fails me."

"What do you think of doing, Yan?" asked Stanislav.

"It is certain that I shall not stay at home, though fever is shaking
me yet. It will be necessary to place my wife and children somewhere in
safety. Pan Stabrovski, my relative, is huntsman of the king in the
wilderness of Byalovyej, and lives in Byalovyej. Even if the whole
Commonwealth should fall into the power of the enemy, they would not
touch that region. To-morrow I will take my wife and children straight
there."

"And that will not be a needless precaution," said Stanislav; "for
though 'tis far from Great Poland to this place, who knows whether the
flame may not soon seize these regions also?"

"The nobles must be notified," said Yan, "to assemble and think of
defence, for here no one has heard anything yet." Here he turned to
Zagloba: "And, Father, will you go with us, or do you wish to accompany
Helena to the wilderness?"

"I?" answered Zagloba, "will I go? If my feet had taken root in the
earth, I might not go; but even then I should ask some one to dig me
out. I want to try Swedish flesh again, as a wolf does mutton. Ha! the
rascals, trunk-breeches, long-stockings! The fleas make raids on their
calves, their legs are itching, and they can't sit at home, but crawl
into foreign lands. I know them, the sons of such a kind, for when I
was under Konyetspolski I worked against them; and, gentlemen, if you
want to know who took Gustavus Adolphus captive, ask the late
Konyetspolski. I'll say no more! I know them, but they know me too. It
must be that the rogues have heard that Zagloba has grown old. Isn't
that true? Wait! you'll see him yet! O Lord! O Lord, all-Powerful! why
hast thou unfenced this unfortunate Commonwealth, so that all the
neighboring swine are running into it now, and they have rooted up
three of the best provinces? What is the condition? Ba! but who is to
blame, if not traitors? The plague did not know whom to take; it took
honest men, but left the traitors. O Lord, send thy pest once more on
the voevoda of Poznan and on him of Kalish, but especially on
Radzeyovski and his whole family. But if 'tis thy will to favor hell
with more inhabitants, send thither all those who signed the pact at
Uistsie. Has Zagloba grown old? has he grown old? You will find out!
Yan, let us consider quickly what to do, for I want to be on
horseback."

"Of course we must know whither to go. It is difficult to reach the
hetmans in the Ukraine, for the enemy has cut them off from the
Commonwealth and the road is open only to the Crimea. It is lucky that
the Tartars are on our side this time. According to my head it will be
necessary for us to go to Warsaw to the king, to defend our dear lord."

"If there is time," remarked Stanislav. "The king must collect
squadrons there in haste, and will march on the enemy before we can
come, and perhaps the engagement is already taking place."

"And that may be."

"Let us go then to Warsaw, if we can go quickly," said Zagloba.
"Listen, gentlemen! It is true that our names are terrible to the
enemy, but still three of us cannot do much, therefore I should give
this advice: Let us summon the nobles to volunteer; they will come in
such numbers that we may lead even a small squadron to the king. We
shall persuade them easily, for they must go anyhow when the call comes
for the general militia,--it will be all one to them--and we shall tell
them that whoever volunteers before the call will do an act dear to the
king. With greater power we can do more, and they will receive us (in
Warsaw) with open arms."

"Wonder not at my words," said Pan Stanislav, "but from what I have
seen I feel such a dislike to the general militia that I choose to go
alone rather than with a crowd of men who know nothing of war."

"You have no acquaintance with the nobles of this place. Here a man
cannot be found who has not served in the army; all have experience and
are good soldiers."

"That may be."

"How could it be otherwise? But wait! Yan knows that when once I begin
to work with my head I have no lack of resources. For that reason I
lived in great intimacy with the voevoda of Rus, Prince Yeremi. Let Yan
tell how many times that greatest of warriors followed my advice, and
thereby was each time victorious."

"But tell us, Father, what you wish to say, for time is precious."

"What I wish to say? This is it: not he defends the country and the
king who holds to the king's skirts, but he who beats the enemy; and he
beats the enemy best who serves under a great warrior. Why go on
uncertainties to Warsaw, when the king himself may have gone to Cracow,
to Lvoff or Lithuania? My advice is to put ourselves at once under the
banners of the grand hetman of Lithuania, Prince Yanush Radzivill. He
is an honest man and a soldier. Though they accuse him of pride, he of
a certainty will not surrender to Swedes. He at least is a chief and a
hetman of the right kind. It will be close there, 'tis true, for he is
working against two enemies; but as a recompense we shall see Pan
Michael Volodyovski, who is serving in the Lithuanian quota, and again
we shall be together as in old times. If I do not counsel well, then
let the first Swede take me captive by the sword-strap."

"Who knows, who knows?" answered Yan, with animation. "Maybe that will
be the best course."

"And besides we shall take Halshka[16] with the children, for we must
go right through the wilderness."

"And we shall serve among soldiers, not among militia," added
Stanislav.

"And we shall fight, not debate, nor eat chickens and cheese in the
villages."

"I see that not only in war, but in council you can hold the first
place," said Stanislav.

"Well, are you satisfied?"

"In truth, in truth," said Yan, "that is the best advice. We shall be
with Michael as before; you will know, Stanislav, the greatest soldier
in the Commonwealth, my true friend, my brother. We will go now to
Halshka, and tell her so that she too may be ready for the road."

"Does she know of the war already?" asked Zagloba.

"She knows, she knows, for in her presence Stanislav told about it
first. She is in tears, poor woman! But if I say to her that it is
necessary to go, she will say straightway. Go!"

"I would start in the morning," cried Zagloba.

"We will start in the morning and before daybreak," said Yan. "You must
be terribly tired after the road, Stanislav, but you will rest before
morning as best you can. I will send horses this evening with trusty
men to Byala, to Lostsi, to Drohichyn and Byelsk, so as to have relays
everywhere. And just beyond Byelsk is the wilderness. Wagons will start
to-day also with supplies. It is too bad to so into the world from the
dear corner, but 'tis God's will! This is my comfort: I am safe as to
my wife and children, for the wilderness is the best fortress in the
world. Come to the house, gentlemen; it is time for me to prepare for
the journey."

They went in. Pan Stanislav, greatly road-weary, had barely taken food
and drink when he went to sleep straightway; but Pan Yan and Zagloba
were busied in preparations. And as there was great order in Pan Yan's
household the wagons and men started that evening for an all-night
journey, and next morning at daybreak the carriage followed in which
sat Helena with the children and an old maid, a companion. Pan
Stanislav and Pan Yan with five attendants rode on horseback near the
carriage. The whole party pushed forward briskly, for fresh horses were
awaiting them.

Travelling in this manner and without resting even at night, they
reached Byelsk on the fifth day, and on the sixth they sank in the
wilderness from the side of Hainovshyna.

They were surrounded at once by the gloom of the gigantic pine-forest,
which at that period occupied a number of tens of square leagues,
joining on one side with an unbroken line the wilderness of Zyelonka
and Rogovsk, and on the other the forests of Prussia.

No invader had ever trampled with a hoof those dark depths in which a
man who knew them not might go astray and wander till he dropped from
exhaustion or fell a prey to ravenous beasts. In the night were heard
the bellowing of the aurochs, the growling of bears, with the howling
of wolves and the hoarse screams of panthers. Uncertain roads led
through thickets or clean-trunked trees, along fallen timber, swamps,
and terrible stagnant lakes to the scattered villages of guards,
pitch-burners, and hunters, who in many cases did not leave the
wilderness all their lives. To Byalovyej itself a broader way led,
continued by the Suha road, over which the kings went to hunt. By that
road also the Skshetuskis came from the direction of Byelsk and
Hainovshyna.

Pan Stabrovski, chief-hunter of the king, was an old hermit and
bachelor, who like an aurochs stayed always in the wilderness. He
received the visitors with open arms, and almost smothered the children
with kisses. He lived with beaters-in, never seeing the face of a noble
unless when the king went to hunt. He had the management of all hunting
matters and all the pitch-making of the wilderness. He was greatly
disturbed by news of the war, of which he heard first from Pan Yan.

Often did it happen in the Commonwealth that war broke out or the king
died and no news came to the wilderness; the chief-hunter alone brought
news when he returned from the treasurer of Lithuania, to whom he was
obliged to render account of his management of the wilderness each
year.

"It will be dreary here, dreary," said Stabrovski to Helena, "but safe
as nowhere else in the world. No enemy will break through these walls,
and even if he should try the beaters-in would shoot down all his men.
It would be easier to conquer the whole Commonwealth--which may God not
permit!--than the wilderness. I have been living here twenty years, and
even I do not know it all, for there are places where it is impossible
to go, where only wild beasts live and perhaps evil spirits have their
dwelling, from whom men are preserved by the sound of church-bells. But
we live according to God's law, for in the village there is a chapel to
which a priest from Byelsk comes once a year. You will be here as if in
heaven, if tedium does not weary you. As a recompense there is no lack
of firewood."

Pan Yan was glad in his whole soul that he had found for his wife such
a refuge; but Pan Stabrovski tried in vain to delay him awhile and
entertain him.

Halting only one night, the cavaliers resumed at daybreak their journey
across the wilderness. They were led through the forest labyrinths by
guides whom the hunter sent with them.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


When Pan Skshetuski with his cousin Stanislav and Zagloba, after a
toilsome journey from the wilderness, came at last to Upita, Pan
Volodyovski went almost wild from delight, especially since he had long
had no news of them; he thought that Yan was with a squadron of the
king which he commanded under the hetmans in the Ukraine.

Pan Michael took them in turn by the shoulders, and after he had
pressed them once he pressed them again and rubbed his hands. When they
told him of their wish to serve under Radzivill, he rejoiced still more
at the thought that they would not separate soon.

"Praise God that we shall be together, old comrades of Zbaraj!" said
he. "A man has greater desire for war when he feels friends near him."

"That was my idea," said Zagloba; "for they wanted to fly to the king.
But I said, 'Why not remember old times with Pan Michael? If God will
give us such fortune as he did with Cossacks and the Tartars, we shall
soon have more than one Swede on our conscience.'"

"God inspired you with that thought," said Pan Michael.

"But it is a wonder to me," added Yan, "how you know already of the
war. Stanislav came to me with the last breath of his horse, and we in
that same fashion rode hither, thinking that we should be first to
announce the misfortune."

"The tidings must have come through the Jews," said Zagloba; "for they
are first to know everything, and there is such communication between
them that if one sneezes in Great Poland in the morning, others will
call to him in the evening from Lithuania and the Ukraine, 'To thy
health!'"

"I know not how it was, but we heard of it two days ago," said Pan
Michael, "and there is a fearful panic here. The first day we did not
credit the news greatly, but on the second no one denied it. I will say
more; before the war came, you would have said that the birds were
singing about it in the air, for suddenly and without cause all began
to speak of war. Our prince voevoda must also have looked for it and
have known something before others, for he was rushing about like a fly
in hot water, and during these last hours he has hastened to Kyedani.
Levies were made at his order two months ago. I assembled men, as did
also Stankyevich and a certain Kmita, the banneret of Orsha, who, as I
hear, has already sent a squadron to Kyedani. Kmita was ready before
the rest of us."

"Michael, do you know Prince Radzivill well?" asked Yan.

"Why should I not know him, when I have passed the whole present
war[17] under his command?"

"What do you know of his plans? Is he an honest man?"

"He is a finished warrior; who knows if after the death of Prince
Yeremi he is not the greatest in the Commonwealth? He was defeated in
the last battle, it is true; but against eighteen thousand he had six
thousand men. The treasurer and the voevoda of Vityebsk blame him
terribly for this, saying that with small forces he rushed against such
a disproportionate power to avoid sharing victory with them. God knows
how it was! But he stood up manfully and did not spare his own life.
And I who saw it all, say only this, that if we had had troops and
money enough, not a foot of the enemy would have left the country. So I
think that he will begin at the Swedes more sharply, and will not wait
for them here, but march on Livonia."

"Why do you think that?"

"For two reasons,--first, because he will wish to improve his
reputation, shattered a little after the battle of Tsybihova; and
second, because he loves war."

"That is true," said Zagloba. "I know him, for we were at school
together and I worked out his tasks for him. He was always in love with
war, and therefore liked to keep company with me rather than others,
for I too preferred a horse and a lance to Latin."

"It is certain that he is not like the voevoda of Poznan; he is surely
a different kind of man altogether," said Pan Stanislav.

Volodyovski inquired about everything that had taken place at Uistsie,
and tore his hair as he listened to the story. At last, when Pan
Stanislav had finished, he said,--

"You are right! Our Radzivill is incapable of such deeds. He is as
proud as the devil, and it seems to him that in the whole world there
is not a greater family than the Radzivills. He will not endure
opposition, that is true; and at the treasurer, Pan Gosyevski, an
honest man, he is angry because the latter will not dance when
Radzivill plays. He is displeased also with his Grace the king, because
he did not give him the grand baton of Lithuania soon enough. All true,
as well as this,--that he prefers to live in the dishonorable error of
Calvinism rather than turn to the true faith, that he persecutes
Catholics where he can, that he founds societies of heretics. But as
recompense for this, I will swear that he would rather shed the last
drop of his proud blood than sign a surrender like that at Uistsie. We
shall have war to wade in; for not a scribe, but a warrior, will lead
us."

"That's my play," said Zagloba, "I want nothing more. Pan Opalinski is
a scribe, and he showed soon what he was good for. They are the meanest
of men! Let but one of them pull a quill out of a goose's tail and he
thinks straightway that he has swallowed all wisdom. He will say to
others, 'Son of a such kind,' and when it comes to the sabre you cannot
find him. When I was young myself, I put rhymes together to captivate
the hearts of fair heads, and I might have made a goat's horn of Pan
Kohanovski with his silly verses, but later on the soldier nature got
the upper hand."

"I will add, too," continued Volodyovski, "that the nobles will soon
move hither. A crowd of people will come, if only money is not lacking,
for that is most important."

"In God's name I want no general militia!" shouted Pan Stanislav. "Yan
and Pan Zagloba know my sentiments already, and to you I say now that I
would rather be a camp-servant in a regular squadron than hetman over
the entire general militia."

"The people here are brave," answered Volodyovski, "and very skilful. I
have an example from my own levy. I could not receive all who came, and
among those whom I accepted there is not a man who has not served
before. I will show you this squadron, gentlemen, and if you had not
learned from me you would not know that they are not old soldiers.
Every one is tempered and hammered in fire, like an old horseshoe, and
stands in order like a Roman legionary. It will not be so easy for the
Swedes with them, as with the men of Great Poland at Uistsie."

"I have hope that God will change everything," said Pan Yan. "They say
that the Swedes are good soldiers, but still they have never been able
to stand before our regular troops. We have beaten them always,--that
is a matter of trial; we have beaten them even when they were led by
the greatest warrior they have ever had."

"In truth I am very curious to know what they can do," answered
Volodyovski; "and were it not that two other wars are now weighing on
the country, I should not be angry a whit about the Swedes. We have
tried the Turks, the Tartars, the Cossacks, and God knows whom we have
not tried; it is well now to try the Swedes. The only trouble in the
kingdom is that all the troops are occupied with the hetmans in the
Ukraine. But I see already what will happen here. Prince Radzivill will
leave the existing war to the treasurer and full hetman Pan Gosyevski,
and will go himself at the Swedes in earnest. It will be heavy work, it
is true. But we have hope that God will assist us."

"Let us go, then, without delay to Kyedani," said Pan Stanislav.

"I received an order to have the squadron ready and to appear in
Kyedani myself in three days," answered Pan Michael. "But I must show
you, gentlemen this last order, for it is clear from it that the prince
is thinking of the Swedes."

When he had said this, Volodyovski unlocked a box standing on a bench
under the window, took out a paper folded once, and opening it began to
read:--


Colonel Volodyovski:

Gracious Sir,--We have read with great delight your report that the
squadron is ready and can move to the campaign at any moment. Keep it
ready and alert, for such difficult times are coming as have not been
yet; therefore come yourself as quickly as possible to Kyedani, where
we shall await you with impatience. If any reports come to you, believe
them not till you have heard everything from our lips. We act as God
himself and our conscience command, without reference to what malice
and the ill will of man may invent against us. But at the same time we
console ourselves with this,--that times are coming in which it will be
shown definitely who is a true and real friend of the house of
Radzivill and who even _in rebus adversis_ is willing to serve it.
Kmita, Nyevyarovski, and Stankyevich have brought their squadrons here
already; let yours remain in Upita, for it may be needed there, and it
may have to march to Podlyasye under command of my cousin Prince
Boguslav, who has considerable bodies of our troops under his command
there. Of all this you will learn in detail from our lips; meanwhile we
confide to your loyalty the careful execution of orders, and await you
in Kyedani.

                                    Yanush Radzivill,

                   _Prince in Birji and Dubinki, voevoda of Vilna,
                                  grand hetman of Lithuania_.


"Yes, a new war is evident from this letter," said Zagloba.

"And the prince's statement that he will act as God commands him, means
that he will fight the Swedes," added Stanislav.

"Still it is a wonder to me," said Pan Yan, "that he writes about
loyalty to the house of Radzivill, and not to the country, which means
more than the Radzivills, and demands prompter rescue."

"That is their lordly manner," answered Volodyovski; "though that did
not please me either at first, for I too serve the country and not the
Radzivills."

"When did you receive this letter?" asked Pan Yan.

"This morning, and I wanted to start this afternoon. You will rest
to-night after the journey; to-morrow I shall surely return, and then
we will move with the squadron wherever they command."

"Perhaps to Podlyasye?" said Zagloba.

"To Prince Boguslav," added Pan Stanislav.

"Prince Boguslav is now in Kyedani," said Volodyovski. "He is a strange
person, and do you look at him carefully. He is a great warrior and a
still greater knight, but he is not a Pole to the value of a copper. He
wears a foreign dress, and talks German or French altogether; you might
think he was cracking nuts, might listen to him a whole hour, and not
understand a thing."

"Prince Boguslav at Berestechko bore himself well," said Zagloba, "and
brought a good number of German infantry."

"Those who know him more intimately do not praise him very highly,"
continued Volodyovski, "for he loves only the Germans and French. It
cannot be otherwise, since he was born of a German mother, the daughter
of the elector of Brandenburg, with whom his late father not only
received no dowry, but, since those small princes (the electors) as may
be seen have poor housekeeping, he had to pay something. But with the
Radzivills it is important to have a vote in the German Empire, of
which they are princes, and therefore they make alliances with the
Germans. Pan Sakovich, an old client of Prince Boguslav, who made him
starosta of Oshmiani, told me about this. He and Pan Nyevyarovski, a
colonel, were abroad with Prince Boguslav in various foreign lands, and
acted always as seconds in his duels."

"How many has he fought?" asked Zagloba.

"As many as he has hairs on his head! He cut up various princes greatly
and foreign counts, French and German, for they say that he is very
fiery, brave, and daring, and calls a man out for the least word."

Pan Stanislav was roused from his thoughtfulness and said: "I too have
heard of this Prince Boguslav, for it is not far from us to the
elector, with whom he lives continually. I have still in mind how my
father said that when Prince Boguslav's father married the elector's
daughter, people complained that such a great house as that of the
Radzivills made an alliance with strangers. But perhaps it happened for
the best; the elector as a relative of the Radzivills ought to be very
friendly now to the Commonwealth, and on him much depends at present.
What you say about their poor housekeeping is not true. It is certain,
however, that if any one were to sell all the possessions of the
Radzivills, he could buy with the price of them the elector and his
whole principality; but the present kurfürst, Friedrich Wilhelm, has
saved no small amount of money, and has twenty thousand very good
troops with whom he might boldly meet the Swedes,--which as a vassal of
the Commonwealth he ought to do if he has God in his heart, and
remembers all the kindness which the Commonwealth has shown his house."

"Will he do that?" asked Pan Yan.

"It would be black ingratitude and faith-breaking on his part if he did
otherwise," answered Pan Stanislav.

"It is hard to count on the gratitude of strangers, and especially of
heretics," said Zagloba. "I remember this kurfürst of yours when he was
still a stripling. He was always sullen; one would have said that he
was listening to what the devil was whispering in his ear. When I was
in Prussia with the late Konyetspolski, I told the kurfürst that to his
eyes,--for he is a Lutheran, the same as the King of Sweden. God grant
that they make no alliance against the Commonwealth!"

"Do you know, Michael," said Pan Yan, suddenly, "I will not rest here;
I will go with you to Kyedani. It is better at this season to travel in
the night, for it is hot in the daytime, and I am eager to escape from
uncertainty. There is resting-time ahead, for surely the prince will
not march to-morrow."

"Especially as he has given orders to keep the squadron in Upita,"
answered Pan Michael.

"You speak well!" cried Zagloba; "I will go too."

"Then we will all go together," said Pan Stanislav.

"We shall be in Kyedani in the morning," said Pan Michael, "and on the
road we can sleep sweetly in our saddles."

Two hours later, after they had eaten and drunk somewhat, the knights
started on their journey, and before sundown reached Krakin.

On the road Pan Michael told them about the neighborhood, and the
famous nobles of Lauda, of Kmita, and of all that had happened during a
certain time. He confessed also his love for Panna Billevich,
unrequited as usual.

"It is well that war is near," said he, "otherwise I should have
suffered greatly, when I think at times that such is my misfortune, and
that probably I shall die in the single state."

"No harm will come to you from that," said Zagloba, "for it is an
honorable state and pleasing to God. I have resolved to remain in it to
the end of my life. Sometimes I regret that there will be no one to
leave my fame and name to; for though I love Yan's children as if they
were my own, still the Skshetuskis are not the Zaglobas."

"Ah, evil man! You have made this choice with a feeling like that of
the wolf when he vowed not to kill sheep after all his teeth were
gone."

"But that is not true," said Zagloba. "It is not so long, Michael,
since you and I were in Warsaw at the election. At whom were all the
women looking if not at me? Do you not remember how you used to
complain that not one of them was looking at you? But if you have such
a desire for the married state, then be not troubled; your turn will
come too. This seeking is of no use; you will find just when you are
not seeking. This is a time of war, and many good cavaliers perish
every year. Only let this Swedish war continue, the girls will be
alone, and we shall find them in market by the dozen."

"Perhaps I shall perish too," said Pan Michael "I have had enough of
this battering through the world. Never shall I be able to tell you,
gentlemen, what a worthy and beautiful lady Panna Billevich is. And if
it were a man who had loved and petted her in the tenderest way--No!
the devils had to bring this Kmita. It must be that he gave her
something, it cannot be otherwise; for if he had not, surely she would
not have let me go. There, look! Just beyond the hills Vodokty is
visible; but there is no one in the house. She has gone God knows
whither. The bear has his den, the pig his nest, but I have only this
crowbait and this saddle on which I sit."

"I see that she has pierced you like a thorn," said Zagloba.

"True, so that when I think of myself or when riding by I see Vodokty,
I grieve still. I wanted to strike out the wedge with a wedge,[18] and
went to Pan Schilling, who has a very comely daughter. Once I saw her
on the road at a distance, and she took my fancy greatly. I went to his
house, and what shall I say, gentlemen? I did not find the father at
home, but the daughter Panna Kahna thought that I was not Pan
Volodyovski, but only Pan Volodyovski's attendant. I took the affront
so to heart that I have never shown myself there again."

Zagloba began to laugh. "God help you, Michael! The whole matter is
this,--you must find a wife of such stature as you are yourself. But
where did that little rogue go to who was in attendance on Princess
Vishnyevetski, and whom the late Pan Podbipienta--God light his
soul!--was to marry? She was just your size, a regular peach-stone,
though her eyes did shine terribly."

"That was Anusia Borzabogati," said Pan Yan. "We were all in love with
her in our time,--Michael too. God knows whore she is now!"

"I might seek her out and comfort her," said Pan Michael. "When you
mention her it grows warm around my heart. She was a most respectable
girl. Ah, those old days of Lubni were pleasant, but never will they
return. They will not, for never will there be such a chief as our
Prince Yeremi. A man knew that every battle would be followed by
victory. Radzivill was a great warrior, but not such, and men do not
serve him with such heart, for he has not that fatherly love for
soldiers, and does not admit them to confidence, having something about
him of the monarch, though the Vishnyevetskis were not inferior to the
Radzivills."

"No matter," said Pan Yan. "The salvation of the country is in his
hands now, and because he is ready to give his life for it, God bless
him!"

Thus conversed the old friends, riding along in the night. They called
up old questions at one time; at another they spoke of the grievous
days of the present, in which three wars at once had rolled on the
Commonwealth. Later they repeated "Our Father" and the litany; and when
they had finished, sleep wearied them, and they began to doze and nod
on the saddles.

The night was clear and warm; the stars twinkled by thousands in the
sky. Dragging on at a walk, they slept sweetly till, when day began to
break. Pan Michael woke.

"Gentlemen, open your eyes; Kyedani is in sight!" cried he.

"What, where?" asked Zagloba. "Kyedani, where?"

"Off there! The towers are visible."

"A respectable sort of place," said Pan Stanislav.

"Very considerable," answered Volodyovski; "and of this you will be
able to convince yourselves better in the daytime."

"But is this the inheritance of the prince?"

"Yes. Formerly it belonged to the Kishkis, from whom the father of the
present prince received it as dowry with Panna Anna Kishki, daughter of
the voevoda of Vityebsk. In all Jmud there is not such a well-ordered
place, for the Radzivills do not admit Jews, save by permission to each
one. The meads here are celebrated."

Zagloba opened his eyes.

"But do people of some politeness live here? What is that immensely
great building on the eminence?"

"That is the castle just built during the rule of Yanush."

"Is it fortified?"

"No, but it is a lordly residence. It is not fortified, for no enemy
has ever entered these regions since the time of the Knights of the
Cross. That pointed steeple in the middle of the town belongs to the
parish church built by the Knights of the Cross in pagan times; later
it was given to the Calvinists, but the priest Kobylinski won it back
for the Catholics through a lawsuit with Prince Krishtof."

"Praise be to God for that!"

Thus conversing they arrived near the first cottages of the suburbs.
Meanwhile it grew brighter and brighter in the world, and the sun began
to rise. The knights looked with curiosity at the new place, and Pan
Volodyovski continued to speak,--

"This is Jew street, in which dwell those of the Jews who have
permission to be here. Following this street, one comes to the market.
Oho! people are up already, and beginning to come out of the houses.
See, a crowd of horses before the forges, and attendants not in the
Radzivill colors! There must be some meeting in Kyedani. It is always
full of nobles and high personages here, and sometimes they come from
foreign countries, for this is the capital for heretics from all Jmud,
who under the protection of the Radzivills carry on their sorcery and
superstitious practices. That is the market-square. See what a clock is
on the town-house! There is no better one to this day in Dantzig. And
that which looks like a church with four towers is a Helvetic
(Calvinistic) meeting-house, in which every Sunday they blaspheme God;
and farther on the Lutheran church. You think that the townspeople are
Poles or Lithuanians,--not at all. Real Germans and Scots, but more
Scots. The Scots are splendid infantry, and cut terribly with
battle-axes. The prince has also one Scottish regiment of volunteers of
Kyedani. Ei, how many wagons with packs on the market-square! Surely
there is some meeting. There are no inns in the town; acquaintances
stop with acquaintances, and nobles go to the castle, in which there
are rooms tens of ells long, intended for guests only. There they
entertain, at the prince's expense, every one honorably, even if for a
year; there are people who stay there all their lives."

"It is a wonder to me that lightning has not burned that Calvinistic
meeting-house," said Zagloba.

"But do you not know that that has happened? In the centre between the
four towers was a cap-shaped cupola; on a time such a lightning-flash
struck this cupola that nothing remained of it. In the vault underneath
lies the father of Prince Boguslav, Yanush,--he who joined the mutiny
against Sigismund III. His own haiduk laid open his skull, so that he
died in vain, as he had lived in sin."

"But what is that broad building which looks like a walled tent?" asked
Pan Yan.

"That is the paper-mill founded by the prince; and at the side of it is
a printing-office, in which heretical books are printed."

"Tfu!" said Zagloba; "a pestilence on this place, where a man draws no
air into his stomach but what is heretical! Lucifer might rule here as
well as Radzivill."

"Gracious sir," answered Volodyovski, "abuse not Radzivill, for perhaps
the country will soon owe its salvation to him."

They rode farther in silence, gazing at the town and wondering at its
good order; for the streets were all paved with stone, which was at
that period a novelty.

After they had ridden through the market-square and the street of the
castle, they saw on an eminence the lordly residence recently built by
Prince Yanush,--not fortified, it is true, but surpassing in size not
only palaces but castles. The great pile was on a height, and looked on
the town lying, as it were, at its feet. From both sides of the main
building extended at right angles two lower wings, which formed a
gigantic courtyard, closed in front with an iron railing fastened with
long links. In the middle of the railing towered a strong walled gate;
on it the arms of the Radzivills and the arms of the town of Kyedani,
representing an eagle's foot with a black wing on a golden field, and
at the foot a horseshoe with three red crosses. In front of the gate
were sentries and Scottish soldiers keeping guard for show, not for
defence.

The hour was early, but there was movement already in the yard; for
before the main building a regiment of dragoons in blue jackets and
Swedish helmets was exercising. Just then the long line of men was
motionless, with drawn rapiers; an officer riding in front said
something to the soldiers. Around the line and farther on near the
walls, a number of attendants in various colors gazed at the dragoons,
making remarks and giving opinions to one another.

"As God is dear to me," said Pan Michael, "that is Kharlamp drilling
the regiment!"

"How!" cried Zagloba; "is he the same with whom you were going to fight
a duel at Lipkovo?"

"The very same; but since that time we have lived in close friendship."

"'Tis he," said Zagloba; "I know him by his nose, which sticks out from
under his helmet. It is well that visors have gone out of fashion, for
that knight could not close any visor; he would need a special
invention for his nose."

That moment Pan Kharlamp, seeing Volodyovski, came to him at a trot.
"How are you, Michael?" cried he. "It is well that you have come."

"It is better that I meet you first. See, here is Pan Zagloba, whom you
met in Lipkovo--no, before that in Syennitsy; and these are the
Skshetuskis,--Yan, captain of the king's hussars, the hero of Zbaraj--"

"I see, then, as God is true, the greatest knight in Poland!" cried
Kharlamp. "With the forehead, with the forehead!"

"And this is Stanislav Skshetuski, captain of Kalisk, who comes
straight from Uistsie."

"From Uistsie? So you saw a terrible disgrace. We know already what has
happened."

"It is just because such a thing happened that I have come, hoping that
nothing like it will happen in this place."

"You may be certain of that; Radzivill is not Opalinski."

"We said the same at Upita yesterday."

"I greet you, gentlemen, most joyfully in my own name and that of the
prince. The prince will be glad to see such knights, for he needs them
much. Come with me to the barracks, where my quarters are. You will
need, of course, to change clothes and eat breakfast. I will go with
you, for I have finished the drill."

Pan Kharlamp hurried again to the line, and commanded in a quick, clear
voice: "To the left! face--to the rear!"

Hoofs sounded on the pavement. The line broke into two; the halves
broke again till there were four parts, which began to recede with slow
step in the direction of the barracks.

"Good soldiers," said Skshetuski, looking with skilled eye at the
regular movements of the dragoons.

"Those are petty nobles and attendant boyars who serve in that arm,"
answered Volodyovski.

"Oh, you could tell in a moment that they are not militia," cried Pan
Stanislav.

"But does Kharlamp command them," asked Zagloba, "or am I mistaken? I
remember that he served in the light-horse squadron and wore silver
loops."

"True," answered Volodyovski; "but it is a couple of years since he
took the dragoon regiment. He is an old soldier, and trained."

Meanwhile Kharlamp, having dismissed the dragoons, returned to the
knights. "I beg you, gentlemen, to follow me. Over there are the
barracks, beyond the castle."

Half an hour later the five were sitting over a bowl of heated beer,
well whitened with cream, and were talking about the impending war.

"And what is to be heard here?" asked Pan Michael.

"With us something new may be heard every day, for people are lost in
surmises and give out new reports all the time," said Kharlamp. "But in
truth the prince alone knows what is coming. He has something on his
mind, for though he simulates gladness and is kind to people as never
before, he is terribly thoughtful. In the night, they say, he does not
sleep, but walks with heavy tread through all the chambers, talking
audibly to himself, and in the daytime takes counsel for whole hours
with Harasimovich."

"Who is Harasimovich?" asked Volodyovski.

"The manager from Zabludovo in Podlyasye,--a man of small stature, who
looks as though he kept the devil under his arm; but he is a
confidential agent of the prince, and probably knows all his secrets.
According to my thinking, from these counsellings a terrible and
vengeful war with Sweden will come, for which war we are all sighing.
Meanwhile letters are flying hither from the Prince of Courland, from
Hovanski, and from the Elector of Brandenburg. Some say that the prince
is negotiating with Moscow to join the league against Sweden; others
say the contrary; but it seems there will be a league with no one, but
a war, as I have said, with these and those. Fresh troops are coming
continually; letters are sent to nobles most faithful to the
Radzivills, asking them to assemble. Every place is full of armed men.
Ei, gentlemen, on whomsoever they put the grain, on him will it be
ground; but we shall have our hands red to the elbows, for when
Radzivill moves to the field, he will not negotiate."

"That's it, that's it!" said Zagloba, rubbing his palms. "No small
amount of Swedish blood has dried on my hands, and there will be more
of it in future. Not many of those old soldiers are alive yet who
remember me at Putsk and Tjtsianna; but those who are living will never
forget me."

"Is Prince Boguslav here?" asked Volodyovski.

"Of course. Besides him we expect to-day some great guests, for the
upper chambers are made ready, and there is to be a banquet in the
evening. I have my doubts, Michael, whether you will reach the prince
to-day."

"He sent for me himself yesterday."

"That's nothing; he is terribly occupied. Besides, I don't know whether
I can speak of it to you--but in an hour everybody will know of it,
therefore I will tell you--something or another very strange is going
on."

"What is it, what is it?" asked Zagloba.

"It must be known to you, gentlemen, that two days ago Pan Yudytski
came, a knight of Malta, of whom you must have heard."

"Of course," said Yan; "he is a great knight."

"Immediately after him came the full hetman and treasurer. We were
greatly astonished, for it is known in what rivalry and enmity Pan
Gosyevski is with our prince. Some persons were rejoiced therefore that
harmony had come between the lords, and said that the Swedish invasion
was the real cause of this. I thought so myself; then yesterday the
three shut themselves up in counsel, fastened all the doors, no one
could hear what they were talking about; but Pan Krepshtul, who guarded
the door, told us that their talk was terribly loud, especially the
talk of Pan Gosyevski. Later the prince himself conducted them to their
sleeping-chambers, and in the night--imagine to yourselves" (here
Kharlamp lowered his voice)--"guards were placed at the door of each
chamber."

Volodyovski sprang up from his seat. "In God's name! impossible!"

"But it is true. At the doors of each Scots are standing with muskets,
and they have the order to let no one in or out under pain of death."

The knights looked at one another with astonishment; and Kharlamp was
no less astonished at his own words, and looked at his companions with
staring eyes, as if awaiting the explanation of the riddle from them.

"Does this mean that Pan Gosyevski is arrested? Has the grand hetman
arrested the full hetman?" asked Zagloba; "what does this mean?"

"As if I know, and Yudytski such a knight!"

"But the officers of the prince must speak with one another about it
and guess at causes. Have you heard nothing?"

"I asked Harasimovich last night."

"What did he say?" asked Zagloba.

"He would explain nothing, but he put his finger on his mouth and said,
'They are traitors!'"

"How traitors?" cried Volodyovski, seizing his head. "Neither the
treasurer nor Pan Yudytski is a traitor. The whole Commonwealth knows
them as honorable men and patriots."

"At present 'tis impossible to have faith in any man," answered Pan
Stanislav, gloomily. "Did not Pan Opalinski pass for a Cato? Did he not
reproach others with defects, with offences, with selfishness? But when
it came to do something, he was the first to betray, and brought not
only himself, but a whole province to treason."

"I will give my head for the treasurer and Pan Yudytski!" cried
Volodyovski.

"Do not give your head for any man, Michael dear," said Zagloba. "They
were not arrested without reason. There must have been some conspiracy;
it cannot be otherwise,--how could it be? The prince is preparing for a
terrible war, and every aid is precious to him. Whom, then, at such a
time can he put under arrest, if not those who stand in the way of war?
If this is so, if these two men have really stood in the way, then
praise be to God that Radzivill has anticipated them. They deserve to
sit under ground. Ah, the scoundrels!--at such a time to practise
tricks, communicate with the enemy, rise against the country, hinder a
great warrior in his undertaking! By the Most Holy Mother, what has met
them is too little, the rascals!"

"These are wonders,--such wonders that I cannot put them in my head,"
said Kharlamp; "for letting alone that they are such dignitaries, they
are arrested without judgment, without a diet, without the will of the
whole Commonwealth,--a thing which the king himself has not the right
to do."

"As true as I live," cried Pan Michael.

"It is evident that the prince wants to introduce Roman customs among
us," said Pan Stanislav, "and become dictator in time of war."

"Let him be dictator if he will only beat the Swedes," said Zagloba; "I
will be the first to vote for his dictatorship."

Pan Yan fell to thinking, and after a while said, "Unless he should
wish to become protector, like that English Cromwell who did not
hesitate to raise his sacrilegious hand on his own king."

"Nonsense! Cromwell? Cromwell was a heretic!" cried Zagloba.

"But what is the prince voevoda?" asked Pan Yan, seriously.

At this question all were silent, and considered the dark future for a
time with fear; but Kharlamp looked angry and said,--

"I have served under the prince from early years, though I am little
younger than he; for in the beginning, when I was still a stripling, he
was my captain, later on he was full hetman, and now he is grand
hetman. I know him better than any one here; I both love and honor him;
therefore I ask you not to compare him with Cromwell, so that I may not
be forced to say something which would not become me as host in this
room."

Here Kharlamp began to twitch his mustaches terribly, and to frown a
little at Pan Yan; seeing which, Volodyovski fixed on Kharlamp a cool
and sharp look, as if he wished to say, "Only growl, only growl!"

Great Mustache took note at once, for he held Volodyovski in unusual
esteem, and besides it was dangerous to get angry with him; therefore
he continued in a far milder tone,--

"The prince is a Calvinist; but he did not reject the true faith for
errors, for he was born in them. He will never become either a
Cromwell, a Radzeyovski, or an Opalinski, though Kyedani had to sink
through the earth. Not such is his blood, not such his stock."

"If he is the devil and has horns on his head," said Zagloba, "so much
the better, for he will have something to gore the Swedes with."

"But that Pan Gosyevski and Pan Yudytski are arrested, well, well!"
said Volodyovski, shaking his head. "The prince is not very amiable to
guests who have confided in him."

"What do you say, Michael?" answered Kharlamp. "He is amiable as he has
never been in his life. He is now a real father to the knights. Think
how some time ago he had always a frown on his forehead, and on his
lips one word, 'Service.' A man was more afraid to go near his majesty
than he was to stand before the king; and now he goes every day among
the lieutenants and the officers, converses, asks each one about his
family, his children, his property, calls each man by name, and
inquires if injustice has been done to any one in service. He who among
the highest lords will not own an equal, walked yesterday arm-in-arm
with young Kmita. We could not believe our eyes; for though the family
of Kmita is a great one, he is quite young, and likely many accusations
are weighing on him. Of this you know best."

"I know, I know," replied Volodyovski. "Has Kmita been here long?"

"He is not here now, for he went yesterday to Cheykishki for a regiment
of infantry stationed there. No one is now in such favor with the
prince as Kmita. When he was going away the prince looked after him
awhile and said, 'That man is equal to anything, and is ready to seize
the devil himself by the tail if I tell him!' We heard this with our
own ears. It is true that Kmita brought a squadron that has not an
equal in the whole army,--men and horses like dragons!"

"There is no use in talking, he is a valiant soldier, and in truth
ready for everything," said Pan Michael. "He performed wonders in the
last campaign, till a price was set on his head, for he led volunteers
and carried on war himself."

Further conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a new figure.
This was a noble about forty years of age, small, dry, alert, wriggling
like a mud-fish, with a small face, very thin lips, a scant mustache,
and very crooked eyes. He was dressed in a ticking-coat, with such long
sleeves that they covered his hands completely. When he had entered he
bent double, then he straightened himself as suddenly as if moved by a
spring, again he inclined with a low bow, turned his head as if he were
taking it out of his own armpits, and began to speak hurriedly in a
voice which recalled the squeaking of a rusty weather-cock,--

"With the forehead, Pan Kharlamp, with the forehead. Ah! with the
forehead, Pan Colonel, most abject servant!"

"With the forehead, Pan Harasimovich," answered Kharlamp; "and what is
your wish?"

"God gave guests, distinguished guests. I came to offer my services and
to inquire their rank."

"Did they come to you, Pan Harasimovich?"

"Certainly not to me, for I am not worthy of that; but because I take
the place of the absent marshal. I have come to greet them profoundly."

"It is far from you to the marshal," said Kharlamp; "for he is
a personage with inherited land, while you with permission are
under-starosta of Zabludovo."

"A servant of the servants of Radzivill. That is true, Pan Kharlamp, I
make no denial; God preserve me therefrom. But since the prince has
heard of the guests, he has sent me to inquire who they are; therefore
you will answer, Pan Kharlamp, if I were even a haiduk and not the
under-starosta of Zabludovo."

"Oh, I would answer even a monkey if he were to come with an order,"
said Big Nose. "Listen now, and calk these names into yourself if your
head is not able to hold them. This is Pan Skshetuski, that hero of
Zbaraj; and this is his cousin Stanislav."

"Great God! what do I hear?" cried Harasimovich.

"This is Pan Zagloba."

"Great God! what do I hear?"

"If you are so confused at hearing my name," said Zagloba, "think of
the confusion of the enemy in the field."

"And this is Colonel Volodyovski," finished Kharlamp.

"And he has a famous sabre, and besides is a Radzivill man." said
Harasimovich, with a bow. "The prince's head is splitting from labor;
but still he will find time for such knights, surely he will find it.
Meanwhile with what can you be served? The whole castle is at the
service of such welcome guests, and the cellars as well."

"We have heard of the famous meads of Kyedani," said Zagloba,
hurriedly.

"Indeed!" answered Harasimovich, "there are glorious meads in Kyedani,
glorious. I will send some hither for you to choose from right away. I
hope that my benefactors will stay here long."

"We have come hither," said Pan Stanislav, "not to leave the side of
the prince."

"Praiseworthy is your intention, the more so that trying times are at
hand."

When he had said this, Harasimovich wriggled and became as small as if
an ell had been taken from his stature.

"What is to be heard?" asked Kharlamp. "Is there any news?"

"The prince has not closed an eye all night, for two envoys have come.
Evil are the tidings, increasingly evil. Karl Gustav has already
entered the Commonwealth after Wittemberg; Poznan is now occupied, all
Great Poland is occupied, Mazovia will be occupied soon; the Swedes are
in Lovich, right at Warsaw. Our king has fled from Warsaw, which he
left undefended. To-day or to-morrow the Swedes will enter. They say
that the king has lost a considerable battle, that he thinks of
escaping to Cracow, and thence to foreign lands to ask aid. Evil,
gracious gentlemen, my benefactors! Though there are some who say that
it is well; for the Swedes commit no violence, observe agreements
sacredly, collect no imposts, respect liberties, do not hinder the
faith. Therefore all accept the protection of Karl Gustav willingly.
For our king, Yan Kazimir, is at fault, greatly at fault. All is lost,
lost for him! One would like to weep, but all is lost, lost!"

"Why the devil do you wriggle like a mudfish going to the pot," howled
Zagloba, "and speak of a misfortune as if you were glad of it?"

Harasimovich pretended not to hear, and raising his eyes to heaven he
repeated yet a number of times: "All is lost, lost for the ages! The
Commonwealth cannot stand against three wars. Lost! The will of God,
the will of God! Our prince alone can save Lithuania."

The ill-omened words had not yet ceased to sound when Harasimovich
vanished behind the door as quickly as if he had sunk through the
earth, and the knights sat in gloom bent by the weight of terrible
thoughts.

"We shall go mad!" cried Volodyovski at last.

"You are right," said Stanislav. "God give war, war at the
earliest,--war in which a man does not ruin himself in thinking, nor
yield his soul to despair, but fights."

"We shall regret the first period of Hmelnitski's war," said Zagloba;
"for though there were defeats then, there were no traitors."

"Three such terrible wars, when in fact there is a lack of forces for
one," said Stanislav.

"Not a lack of forces, but of spirit. The country is perishing through
viciousness. God grant us to live to something better!" said Pan Yan,
gloomily.

"We shall not rest till we are in the field," said Stanislav.

"If we can only see this prince soon!" cried Zagloba.

Their wishes were accomplished directly; for after an hour's time
Harasimovich came again, with still lower bows, and with the
announcement that the prince was waiting anxiously to see them.

They sprang up at once, for they had already changed uniforms, and
went. Harasimovich, in conducting them from the barracks, passed
through the courtyard, which was full of soldiers and nobles. In some
places they were conversing in crowds, evidently over the same news
which the under-starosta of Zabludovo had brought the knights. On all
faces were depicted lively alarm and a certain feverish expectation.
Isolated groups of officers and nobles were listening to the speakers,
who standing in the midst of them gesticulated violently. On the way
were heard the words: "Vilna is burning, Vilna is burned!--No trace of
it, nor the ashes! Warsaw is taken!--Untrue, not taken yet!--The Swedes
are in Little Poland! The people of Syeradz will resist!--They will not
resist, they will follow the example of Great Poland!--Treason!
misfortune! O God, God! It is unknown where to put sabre or hand!"

Such words as these, more and more terrible, struck the ears of the
knights; but they went on pushing after Harasimovich through the
soldiers and nobles with difficulty. In places acquaintances greeted
Volodyovski: "How is your health, Michael? 'Tis evil with us; we are
perishing! With the forehead, brave Colonel! And what guests are these
whom you are taking to the prince?" Pan Michael answered not, wishing
to escape delay; and in this fashion they went to the main body of the
castle, in which the janissaries of the prince, in chain-mail and
gigantic white caps, were on guard.

In the antechamber and on the main staircase, set around with
orange-trees, the throng was still greater than in the courtyard. They
were discussing there the arrest of Gosyevski and Yudytski; for the
affair had become known, and roused the minds of men to the utmost.
They were astonished and lost in surmises, they were indignant or
praised the foresight of the prince; but all hoped to hear the
explanation of the riddle from Radzivill himself, therefore a river of
heads was flowing along the broad staircase up to the hall of audience,
in which at that time the prince was to receive colonels and the most
intimate nobility. Soldiers disposed along the stone banisters to see
that the throng was not too dense, repeated, from moment to moment,
"Slowly, gracious gentlemen, slowly!" And the crowd pushed forward or
halted for a moment, when a soldier stopped the way with a halbert so
that those in front might have time to enter the hall.

At last the blue vaultings of the hall gleamed before the open door,
and our acquaintances entered. Their glances fell first on an
elevation, placed in the depth of the hall, occupied by a brilliant
retinue of knights and lords in rich, many-colored dresses. In front
stood an empty arm-chair, pushed forward beyond the others. This chair
had a lofty back, ending with the gilded coronet of the prince, from
beneath which flowed downward orange-colored velvet trimmed with
ermine.

The prince was not in the hall yet; but Harasimovich, conducting the
knights without interruption, pushed through the nobility till he
reached a small door concealed in the wall at the side of the
elevation. There he directed them to remain, and disappeared through
the door.

After a while he returned with the announcement that the prince asked
them to enter.

The two Skshetuskis, with Zagloba and Volodyovski, entered a small but
very well-lighted room, having walls covered with leather stamped in
flowers, which were gilded. The officers halted on seeing in the depth
of the room, at a table covered with papers, two men conversing
intently. One of them, still young, dressed in foreign fashion, wearing
a wig with long locks falling to his shoulders, whispered something in
the ear of his elder companion; the latter heard him with frowning
brow, and nodded from time to time. So much was he occupied with the
subject of the conversation that he did not turn attention at once to
those who had entered.

He was a man somewhat beyond forty years, of gigantic stature and great
shoulders. He wore a scarlet Polish coat, fastened at the neck with
costly brooches. He had an enormous face, with features expressing
pride, importance, and power. It was at once the face of an angry lion,
of a warrior, and a ruler. Long pendent mustaches lent it a stern
expression, and altogether in its strength and size it was as if struck
out of marble with great blows of a hammer. The brows were at that
moment frowning from intense thought; but it could easily be seen that
when they were frowning from anger, woe to those men and those armies
on whom the thunders of that anger should fall.

There was something so great in the form that it seemed to those
knights that not only the room, but the whole castle was too narrow for
it; in fact, their first impression had not deceived them, for sitting
in their presence was Yanush Radzivill, prince at Birji and Dubinki,
voevoda of Vilna and grand hetman of Lithuania,--a man so powerful and
proud that in all his immense estates, in all his dignities, nay, in
Jmud and in Lithuania itself, it was too narrow for him.

The younger man in the long wig and foreign dress was Prince Boguslav,
the cousin of Yanush. After a while he whispered something more in the
ear of the hetman, and at last said audibly,--

"I will leave, then, my signature on the document and go."

"Since it cannot be otherwise, go," said Yanush, "though I would that
you remained, for it is unknown what may happen."

"You have planned everything properly; henceforth it is needful to look
carefully to the cause, and now I commit you to God."

"May the Lord have in care our whole house and bring it praise."

"Adieu, mon frère."

"Adieu."

The two princes shook hands; then Boguslav went out hurriedly, and the
grand hetman turned to the visitors.

"Pardon me, gentlemen, that I let you wait," said he, with a low,
deliberate voice; "but now time and attention are snatched from us on
every side. I have heard your names, and rejoice in my soul that God
sent me such knights in this crisis. Be seated, dear guests. Who of you
is Pan Yan Skshetuski?"

"I am, at the service of your highness."

"Then you are a starosta--pardon me, I forgot."

"I am not a starosta," answered Yan.

"How is that?" asked the prince, frowning with his two mighty brows;
"they have not made you a starosta for what you did at Zbaraj?"

"I have never asked for the office."

"But they should have made you starosta without the asking. How is
this? What do you tell me? You rewarded with nothing, forgotten
entirely? This is a wonder to me. But I am talking at random. It should
astonish no man; for in these days only he is rewarded who has the back
of a willow, light-bending. You are not a starosta, upon my word!
Thanks be to God that you have come hither, for here we have not such
short memories, and no service remains unrewarded. How is it with you,
worthy Colonel Volodyovski?"

"I have earned nothing yet."

"Leave that to me, and now take this document, drawn up in Rossyeni, by
which I give you Dydkyemie for life. It is not a bad piece of land, and
a hundred ploughs go out to work there every spring. Take even that,
for I cannot give more, and tell Pan Skshetuski that Radzivill does not
forget his friends, nor those who give their service to the country
under his leadership."

"Your princely highness!" stammered Pan Michael, in confusion.

"Say nothing, and pardon that it is so small; but tell these gentlemen
that he who joins his fortune for good and ill with that of Radzivill
will not perish. I am not king; but if I were, God is my witness that I
would never forget such a Yan Skshetuski or such a Zagloba."

"That is I!" said Zagloba, pushing himself forward sharply, for he had
begun to be impatient that there was no mention of him.

"I thought it was you, for I have been told that you were a man of
advanced years."

"I went to school in company with your highness's worthy father; and
there was such knightly impulse in him from childhood that he took me
to his confidence, for I loved the lance before Latin."

To Pan Stanislav, who knew Zagloba less, it was strange to hear
this, since only the day before, Zagloba said in Upita that he had
gone to school, not with the late Prince Kryshtof, but with Yanush
himself,--which was unlikely, for Prince Yanush was notably younger.

"Indeed," said the prince; "so then you are from Lithuania by family?"

"From Lithuania!" answered Zagloba, without hesitation.

"Then I know that you need no reward, for we Lithuanians are used to be
fed with ingratitude. As God is true, if I should give you your
deserts, gentlemen, there would be nothing left for myself. But such is
fate! We give our blood, lives, fortunes, and no one nods a head to us.
Ah! 'tis hard; but as they sow will they reap. That is what God and
justice command. It is you who slew the famous Burlai and cut off three
heads at a blow in Zbaraj?"

"I slew Burlai, your highness," answered Zagloba, "for it was said that
no man could stand before him. I wished therefore to show younger
warriors that manhood was not extinct in the Commonwealth. But as to
cutting off the three heads, it may be that I did that in the thick of
battle; but in Zbaraj some one else did it."

The prince was silent awhile, then continued: "Does not that contempt
pain you, gentlemen, with which they pay you?"

"What is to be done, your highness, even if it is disagreeable to a
man?" said Zagloba.

"Well, comfort yourselves, for that must change. I am already your
debtor, since you have come here; and though I am not king, still with
me it will not end with promises."

"Your princely highness," said Pan Yan, quickly and somewhat proudly,
"we have come hither not for rewards and estates, but because the enemy
has invaded the country, and we wish to go with our strength to assist
it under the leadership of a famous warrior. My cousin Stanislav saw at
Uistsie fear, disorder, shame, treason, and finally the enemy's
triumph. Here under a great leader and a faithful defender of our
country and king we will serve. Here not victories, not triumphs, but
defeats and death await the enemy. This is why we have come to offer
our service to your highness. We are soldiers; we want to fight, and
are impatient for battle."

"If such is your desire, you will be satisfied," answered the prince,
with importance. "You will not wait long, though at first we shall
march on another enemy, for the ashes of Vilna demand vengeance. To-day
or to-morrow we shall march in that direction, and God grant will
redeem the wrongs with interest. I will not detain you longer,
gentlemen; you need rest, and work is burning me. But come in the
evening to the hall; maybe some proper entertainment will take place
before the march, for a great number of fair heads have assembled under
our protection at Kyedani before the war. Worthy Colonel Volodyovski,
entertain these welcome guests as if in your own house, and remember
that what is mine is yours. Pan Harasimovich, tell my brother nobles
assembled in the hall, that I will not go out, for I have not the time,
and this evening they will learn everything that they wish to know. Be
in good health, gentlemen, and be friends of Radzivill, for that is
greatly important for him now."

When he had said this, that mighty and proud lord gave his hand in turn
to Zagloba, the two Skshetuskis, Volodyovski, and Kharlamp, as if to
equals. His stern face grew radiant with a cordial and friendly smile,
and that inaccessibleness usually surrounding him as with a dark cloud
vanished completely.

"That is a leader, that is a warrior!" said Stanislav, when on the
return they had pushed themselves through the throng of nobles
assembled in the audience-hall.

"I would go into fire after him!" cried Zagloba. "Did you notice how he
had all my exploits in his memory? It will be hot for the Swedes when
that lion roars, and I second him. There is not another such man in the
Commonwealth; and of the former men only Prince Yeremi first, and
second Konyetspolski, the father, might be compared with him. That is
not some mere castellan, the first of his family to sit in a senator's
chair, on which he has not yet smoothed out the wrinkles of his
trousers, and still turns up his nose and calls the nobles younger
brothers, and gives orders right away to paint his portrait, so that
while dining he may have his senatorship before him, since he has
nothing to look at behind. Pan Michael, you have come to fortune. It is
evident now that if a man rubs against Radzivill he will gild at once
his threadbare coat. It is easier to get promotion here, I see, than a
quart of rotten pears with us. Stick your hands into the water in this
place, and with closed eyes you will catch a pike. For me he is the
magnate of magnates! God give you luck, Pan Michael! You are as
confused as a young woman just married; but that is nothing! What is
the name of your life estate? Dudkovo, or something? Heathen names in
this country! Throw nuts against the wall, and you will have in the
rattling the proper name of a village or noble. But names are nothing
if the income is only good."

"I am terribly confused, I confess," said Pan Michael, "because what
you say about easy promotion is not true. More than once have I heard
old soldiers charge the prince with avarice, but now unexpected favors
are showered one after the other."

"Stick that document behind your belt,--do that for me,--and if any one
in future complains of the thanklessness of the prince, draw it out and
give it to him on the nose. You will not find a better argument."

"One thing I see clearly: the prince is attracting people to his
person, and is forming plans for which he needs help." said Pan Yan.

"But have you not heard of those plans?" asked Zagloba. "Has he not
said that we have to go to avenge the ashes of Vilna? They complained
that he had robbed Vilna, but he wants to show that he not only does
not need other people's property, but is ready to give of his own. That
is a beautiful ambition, Yan, God give us more of such senators."

Conversing thus, they found themselves in the courtyard, to which every
moment rode in now divisions of mounted troops, now crowds of armed
nobles, and now carriages rolled in, bringing persons from the country
around, with their wives and children.

Seeing this, Pan Michael drew all with him to the gate to look at those
entering.

"Who knows, Michael, this is your fortunate day? Maybe there is a wife
for you among these nobles' daughters," said Zagloba. "Look! see, there
an open carriage is approaching, and in it something white is sitting."

"That is not a lady, but a man who may marry me to one," answered the
swift-eyed Volodyovski; for from a distance he recognized the bishop
Parchevski, coming with Father Byalozor, archdeacon of Vilna.

"If they are priests, how are they visiting a Calvinist?"

"What is to be done? When it's necessary for public affairs, they must
be polite."

"Oh, it is crowded here! Oh, it is noisy!" cried Zagloba, with delight.
"A man grows rusty in the country, like an old key in a lock; here I
think of better times. I'm a rascal if I don't make love to some pretty
girl to-day."

Zagloba's words were interrupted by the soldiers keeping guard at the
gate, who rushing out from their booths stood in two ranks to salute
the bishop; and he rode past, making the sign of the cross with his
hand on each side, blessing the soldiers and the nobles assembled near
by.

"The prince is a polite man," said Zagloba, "since he honors the
bishop, though he does not recognize the supremacy of the Church. God
grant this to be the first step toward conversion!"

"Oh, nothing will come of it! Not few were the efforts of his first
wife, and she accomplished nothing, only died from vexation. But why do
the Scots not leave the line? It is evident that another dignitary will
pass."

In fact, a whole retinue of armed soldiers appeared in the distance.

"Those are Ganhoff's dragoons,--I know them," said Volodyovski; "but
some carriages are in the middle!"

At that moment the drums began to rattle.

"Oh, it is evident that some one greater than the bishop of Jmud is
there!" cried Zagloba.

"Wait, they are here already."

"There are two carriages in the middle."

"True. In the first sits Pan Korf, the voevoda of Venden."

"Of course!" cried Pan Yan; "that is an acquaintance from Zbaraj."

The voevoda recognized them, and first Volodyovski, whom he had
evidently seen oftener; in passing he leaned from the carriage and
cried,--

"I greet you, gentlemen, old comrades! See, I bring guests!"

In the second carriage, with the arms of Prince Yanush, drawn by four
white horses, sat two gentlemen of lordly mien, dressed in foreign
fashion, in broad-brimmed hats, from under which the blond curls of
wigs flowed to their shoulders over wide lace collars. One was very
portly, wore a pointed light-blond beard, and mustaches bushy and
turned up at the ends; the other was younger, dressed wholly in black.
He had a less knightly form, but perhaps a higher office, for a gold
chain glittered on his neck, with some order at the end. Apparently
both were foreigners, for they looked with curiosity at the castle, the
people, and the dresses.

"What sort of devils?" asked Zagloba.

"I do not know them, I have never seen them," answered Volodyovski.

Meanwhile the carriages passed, and began to turn in the yard so as to
reach the main entrance of the castle, but the dragoons remained
outside the gate. "Volodyovski knew the officer leading them.

"Tokarzevich!" called he, "come to us, please."

"With the forehead, worthy Colonel."

"And what kind of hedgehogs are you bringing?"

"Those are Swedes."

"Swedes!"

"Yes, and men of distinction. The portly one is Count Löwenhaupt, and
the slender man is Benedikt Schitte, Baron von Duderhoff."

"Duderhoff?" asked Zagloba.

"What do they want here?" inquired Volodyovski.

"God knows!" answered the officer. "We escorted them from Birji.
Undoubtedly they have come to negotiate with our prince, for we heard
in Birji that he is assembling a great army and is going to move on
Livonia."

"Ah, rascals! you are growing timid," cried Zagloba. "Now you are
invading Great Poland, now you are deposing the king, and now you are
paying court to Radzivill, so that he should not tickle you in Livonia.
Wait! you will run away to your Dunderhoff till your stockings are
down. We'll soon dunder with you. Long life to Radzivill!"

"Long life!" repeated the nobles, standing near the gate.

"Defender of the country! Our shield! Against the Swedes, worthy
gentlemen, against the Swedes!"

A circle was formed. Every moment nobles collected from the yard;
seeing which, Zagloba sprang on the low guard-post of the gate, and
began to cry,--

"Worthy gentlemen, listen! Whoso does not know me, to him I will say
that I am that defender of Zbaraj who with this old hand slew Burlai,
the greatest hetman after Hmelnitski; whoso has not heard of Zagloba
was shelling peas, it is clear, in the first period of the Cossack war,
or feeling hens (for eggs), or herding calves,--labors which I do not
connect with such honorable cavaliers as you."

"He is a great knight!" called numerous voices. "There is no greater in
the Commonwealth! Hear!"

"Listen, honorable gentlemen. My old bones craved repose; better for me
to rest in the bakehouse, to eat cheese and cream, to walk in the
gardens and gather apples, or putting my hands behind my back to stand
over harvesters or pat a girl on the shoulder. And it is certain that
for the enemy it would have been better to leave me at rest; for the
Swedes and the Cossacks know that I have a very heavy hand, and God
grant that my name is as well known to you, gentlemen, as to the
enemy."

"What kind of rooster is that crowing so loud?" asked some voice in the
crowd, suddenly.

"Don't interrupt! Would you were dead!"  cried others.

But Zagloba heard him. "Forgive that cockerel, gentlemen," said he;
"for he knows not yet on which end of him is his tail, nor on which his
head."

The nobles burst into mighty laughter, and the confused disturber
pushed quickly behind the crowd, to escape the sneers which came
raining on his head.

"I return to the subject," said Zagloba. "I repeat, rest would be
proper for me; but because the country is in a paroxysm, because the
enemy is trampling our land, I am here, worthy gentlemen, with you to
resist the enemy in the name of that mother who nourished us all. Whoso
will not stand by her to-day, whoso will not run to save her, is not a
son, but a step-son; he is unworthy of her love. I, an old man, am
going, let the will of God be done; and if it comes to me to die, with
my last breath will I cry, 'Against the Swedes! brothers, against the
Swedes!' Let us swear that we will not drop the sabre from our hands
till we drive them out of the country."

"We are ready to do that without oaths!" cried numbers of voices. "We
will go where our hetman the prince leads us; we will go where 'tis
needful."

"Worthy brothers, you have seen how two stocking-wearers came here in a
gilded carriage. They know that there is no trifling with Radzivill.
They will follow him from chamber to chamber, and kiss him on the
elbows to give them peace. But the prince, worthy gentlemen, with whom
I have been advising and from whom I have just returned, has assured
me, in the name of all Lithuania, that there will be no negotiations,
no parchments, nothing but war and war!"

"War! war!" repeated, as an echo, the voices of the hearers.

"But because the leader," continued Zagloba, "will begin the more
boldly, the surer he is of his soldiers, let us show him, worthy
gentlemen, our sentiments. And now let us go under the windows of the
prince and shout, 'Down with the Swedes!' After me, worthy gentlemen!"

Then he sprang from the post and moved forward, and after him the
crowd. They came under the very windows with an uproar increasing each
moment, till at last it was mingled in one gigantic shout,--"Down with
the Swedes! down with the Swedes!"

Immediately Pan Korf, the voevoda of Venden, ran out of the antechamber
greatly confused; after him Ganhoff; and both began to restrain the
nobles, quieting them, begging them to disperse.

"For God's sake!" said Korf, "in the upper hall the window-panes are
rattling. You gentlemen do not think what an awkward time you have
chosen for your shouting. How can you treat envoys with disrespect, and
give an example of insubordination? Who roused you to this?"

"I," said Zagloba. "Your grace, tell the prince, in the name of us all,
that we beg him to be firm, that we are ready to remain with him to the
last drop of our blood."

"I thank you, gentlemen, in the name of the hetman, I thank you; but I
beg you to disperse. Consider, worthy gentlemen. By the living God,
consider that you are sinking the country! Whoso insults an envoy
to-day, renders a bear's service to the Commonwealth."

"What do we care for envoys! We want to fight, not to negotiate!"

"Your courage comforts me. The time for fighting will come before long,
God grant very soon. Rest now before the expedition. It is time for a
drink of spirits and lunch. It is bad to fight on an empty stomach."

"That is as true as I live!" cried Zagloba, first.

"True, he struck the right spot. Since the prince knows our sentiments,
we have nothing to do here!"

And the crowd began to disperse. The greater part flowed on to rooms in
which many tables were already spread. Zagloba sat at the head of one
of them. Pan Korf and Colonel Ganhoff returned then to the prince, who
was sitting at counsel with the Swedish envoys, Bishop Parchevski,
Father Byalozor, Pan Adam Komorovski, and Pan Alexander Myerzeyevski, a
courtier of Yan Kazimir, who was stopping for the time in Kyedani.

"Who incited that tumult?" asked the prince, from whose lion-like face
anger had not yet disappeared.

"It was that noble who has just come here, that famous Zagloba,"
answered Pan Korf.

"That is a brave knight," said the prince, "but he is beginning to
manage me too soon."

Having said this, he beckoned to Colonel Ganhoff and whispered
something in his ear.

Zagloba meanwhile, delighted with himself, went to the lower halls with
solemn tread, having with him Volodyovski, with Yan and Stanislav
Skshetuski.

"Well, friends, I have barely appeared and have roused love for the
country in those nobles. It will be easier now for the prince to send
off the envoys with nothing, for all he has to do is to call upon us.
That will not be, I think, without reward, though it is more a question
of honor with me. Why have you halted, Michael, as if turned to stone,
with eyes fixed on that carriage at the gate?"

"That is she!" said Volodyovski, with twitching mustaches. "By the
living God, that is she herself!"

"Who?"

"Panna Billevich."

"She who refused you?"

"The same. Look, gentlemen, look! Might not a man wither away from
regret?"

"Wait a minute!" said Zagloba, "we must have a closer look."

Meanwhile the carriage, describing a half-circle, approached the
speakers. Sitting in it was a stately noble with gray mustaches, and at
his side Panna Aleksandra; beautiful as ever, calm, and full of
dignity.

Pan Michael fixed on her a complaining look and bowed low, but she did
not see him in the crowd.

"That is some lordly child," said Zagloba, gazing at her fine, noble
features, "too delicate for a soldier. I confess that she is a beauty,
but I prefer one of such kind that for the moment you would ask, 'Is
that a cannon or a woman?'"

"Do you know who that is who has just passed?" asked Pan Michael of a
noble standing near.

"Of course," answered the noble; "that is Pan Tomash Billevich,
sword-bearer of Rossyeni. All here know him, for he is an old servant
and friend of the Radzivills."



                              CHAPTER XIV.


The prince did not show himself to the nobles that day till evening,
for he dined with the envoys and some dignitaries with whom he had held
previous counsel. But orders had come to the colonels to have the
regiments of Radzivill's guard ready, and especially the infantry under
foreign officers. It smelt of powder in the air. The castle, though not
fortified, was surrounded with troops as if a battle was to be fought
at its walls. Men expected that the campaign would begin on the
following morning at latest; of this there were visible signs, for the
countless servants of the prince were busied with packing into wagons
arms, valuable implements, and the treasury of the prince.

Harasimovich told the nobles that the wagons would go to Tykotsin in
Podlyasye, for it was dangerous to leave the treasury in the undefended
castle of Kyedani. Military stores were also prepared to be sent after
the army. Reports went out that Gosyevski was arrested because he would
not join his squadrons stationed at Troki with those of Radzivill, thus
exposing the whole expedition to evident destruction. Moreover
preparations for the march, the movement of troops, the rattle of
cannon drawn out of the castle arsenal, and all that turmoil which ever
accompanies the first movements of military expeditions, turned
attention in another direction, and caused the knights to forget the
arrest of Pan Gosyevski and cavalier Yudytski.

The nobles dining in the immense lower halls attached to the castle
spoke only of the war, of the fire at Vilna, now burning ten days and
burning with ever-growing fury, of news from Warsaw, of the advance of
the Swedes, and of the Swedes themselves, against whom, as against
faith-breakers attacking a neighbor in spite of treaties still valid
for six years, hearts and minds were indignant and souls filled with
rancor. News of swift advances, of the capitulation of Uistsie, of the
occupation of Great Poland and the large towns, of the threatened
invasion of Mazovia and the inevitable capture of Warsaw, not only did
not cause alarm, but on the contrary roused daring and a desire for
battle. This took place since the causes of Swedish success were
evident to all. Hitherto the Swedes had not met a real army once, or a
real leader. Radzivill was the first warrior by profession with whom
they had to measure strength, and who at the same time roused in the
nobility absolute confidence in his military gifts, especially as his
colonels gave assurance that they would conquer the Swedes in the open
field.

"Their defeat is inevitable!" said Pan Stankyevich, an old and
experienced soldier. "I remember former wars, and I know that they
always defended themselves in castles, in fortified camps, and in
trenches. They never dared to come to the open field, for they feared
cavalry greatly, and when trusting in their numbers they did come out,
they received a proper drilling. It was not victory that gave Great
Poland into their hands, but treason and the imbecility of general
militia."

"True," said Zagloba. "The Swedish people are weak, for their land is
terribly barren, and they have no bread; they grind pine cones, and of
that sort of flour make ash-cakes which smell of resin. Others go to
the seashore and devour whatever the waves throw up, besides fighting
about it as a tidbit. Terrible destitution! so there are no people more
greedy for their neighbors' goods. Even the Tartars have horse-flesh in
plenty, but these Swedes do not see meat once a year, and are pinched
with hunger unless when a good haul of fish comes."

Here Zagloba turned to Stankyevich: "Have you ever made the
acquaintance of the Swedes?"

"Under Prince Krishtof, the father of the present hetman."

"And I under Konyetspolski, the father. We gave Gustavus Adolphus many
crushing defeats in Prussia, and took no small number of prisoners;
there I became acquainted with them through and through, and learned
all their methods. Our men wondered at them not a little, for you must
know that the Swedes as a people always wading in water and having
their greatest income from the sea, are divers _exquisitissimi_. What
would you, gentlemen, say to what we made them do? We would throw one
of the rascals into a hole in the ice, and he would swim out through
another hole with a live herring in his mouth."

"In God's name, what do you tell us?"

"May I fall down a corpse on this spot if with my own eyes I have not
seen this done at least a hundred times, as well as other wonderful
customs of theirs! I remember also that as soon as they fed on Prussian
bread, they did not want to go home. Pan Stankyevich says truly that
they are not sturdy soldiers. They have infantry which is so-so; but
the cavalry--God pity us! for there are no horses in their country, and
they cannot train themselves to riding from childhood."

"Probably we shall not attack them first, but march on Vilna," said Pan
Shchyt.

"True, I gave that advice to the prince myself, when he asked what I
thought of this matter," answered Zagloba. "But when we have finished
with the others,[19] we will go against the Swedes. The envoys upstairs
must be sweating!"

"They are received politely," said Pan Zalenski, "but they will not
effect the least thing; the best proof of that is that orders are
issued to the army."

"Dear God, dear God!" said Pan Tvarkovski, judge of Rossyeni, "how
alacrity comes with danger! We were well-nigh despairing when we had to
do with one enemy, but now we have two."

"Of course," answered Stankyevich. "It happens not infrequently, that
we let ourselves be beaten till patience is lost, and then in a moment
vigor and daring appear. Is it little that we have suffered, little
endured? We relied on the king and the general militia of the kingdom,
not counting on our own force, till we are in a dilemma; now we must
either defeat both enemies or perish completely."

"God will assist us! We have had enough of this delay."

"They have put the dagger to our throats."

"We too will put it to theirs; we'll show the kingdom fellows what sort
of soldiers we are! There will be no Uistsie with us, as God is in
heaven!"

In the measure of the cups, heads became heated, and warlike ardor
increased. At the brink of a precipice the last effort often brings
safety; this was understood by those crowds of soldiers and that
nobility whom so recently Yan Kazimir had called to Grodno with
despairing universals to form the general militia. Now all hearts, all
minds were turned to Radzivill; all lips repeated that terrible name,
which till recently had ever been coupled with victory. In fact, he had
but to collect and move the scattered and drowsy strength of the
country, to stand at the head of a power sufficient to end both wars
with victory.

After dinner the colonels were summoned to the prince in the following
order: Mirski, lieutenant of the armored squadron of the hetman; and
after him Stankyevich, Ganhoff, Kharlamp, Volodyovski, and Sollohub.
Old soldiers wondered a little that they were asked singly, and not
collectively to counsel; but it was a pleasant surprise, for each came
out with some reward, with some evident proof of the prince's favor; in
return the prince asked only loyalty and confidence, which all offered
from heart and soul. The hetman asked anxiously also if Kmita had
returned, and ordered that Pan Andrei's arrival be reported to him.

Kmita came, but late in the evening, when the hall was lighted and the
guests had begun to assemble. He went first to the barracks to change
his uniform; there he found Volodyovski, and made the acquaintance of
the rest of the company.

"I am uncommonly glad to see you and your famous friends," said he,
shaking the hand of the little knight, "as glad as to see a brother!
You may be sure of this, for I am unable to pretend. It is true that
you went through my forehead in evil fashion, but you put me on my feet
afterward, which I shall not forget till death. In presence of all, I
say that had it not been for you I should be at this moment behind the
grating. Would more such men were born! Who thinks differently is a
fool, and may the devil carry me off if I will not clip his ears."

"Say no more!"

"I will follow you into fire, even should I perish. Let any man come
forward who does not believe me!"

Here Pan Andrei cast a challenging look on the officers. But no one
contradicted him, for all loved and respected Pan Michael; but Zagloba
said,--

"This is a sulphurous sort of soldier; give him to the hangman! It
seems to me that I shall have a great liking to you for the love you
bear Pan Michael, for I am the man to ask first how worthy he is."

"Worthier than any of us!" said Kmita, with his usual abruptness. Then
he looked at the Skshetuskis, at Zagloba, and added: "Pardon me,
gentlemen, I have no wish to offend any one, for I know that you are
honorable men and great knights; be not angry, for I wish to deserve
your friendship."

"There is no harm done," said Pan Yan; "what's in the heart may come to
the lip."

"Let us embrace!" cried Zagloba.

"No need to say such a thing twice to me!"

They fell into each other's arms. Then Kmita said, "To-day we must
drink, it cannot be avoided!"

"No need to say such a thing twice to me!" said Zagloba, like an echo.

"We'll slip away early to the barracks, and I'll make provision."

Pan Michael began to twitch his mustaches greatly. "You will have no
great wish to slip out," thought he, looking at Kmita, "when you see
who is in the hall tonight." And he opened his mouth to tell Kmita that
the sword-bearer of Rossyeni and Olenka had come; but he grew as it
were faint at heart, and turned the conversation. "Where is your
squadron?" asked he.

"Here, ready for service. Harasimovich was with me, and brought an
order from the prince to have the men on horseback at midnight. I asked
him if we were all to march; he said not. I know not what it means. Of
other officers some have the same order, others have not. But all the
foreign infantry have received it."

"Perhaps a part of the army will march to-night and a part in the
morning," said Pan Yan.

"In every case I will have a drink here with you, gentlemen. Let the
squadron go on by itself; I can come up with it afterward in an hour."

At that moment Harasimovich rushed in. "Serene great mighty banneret of
Orsha!" cried he, bowing in the doorway.

"What? Is there a fire? I am here!" said Kmita.

"To the prince! to the prince!"

"Straightway, only let me put on my uniform. Boy, my coat and belt, or
I'll kill thee!"

The boy brought the rest of the uniform in a twinkle; and a few minutes
later Pan Kmita, arrayed as for a wedding, was hurrying to the prince.
He was radiant, he seemed so splendid. He had a vest of silver brocade
with star-shaped buttons, from which there was a gleam over his whole
figure; the vest was fastened at the neck with a great sapphire. Over
that a coat of blue velvet; a white belt of inestimable value, so thin
that it might be drawn through a finger-ring. A silver-mounted sword
set with sapphires hung from the belt by silk pendants; behind the belt
was thrust the baton, which indicated his office. This dress became the
young knight wonderfully, and it would have been difficult in that
countless throng gathered at Kyedani to find a more shapely man.

Pan Michael sighed while looking at him; and when Kmita had vanished
beyond the door of the barracks he said to Zagloba, "With a fair head
there is no opposing a man like that."

"But take thirty years from me," answered Zagloba.

When Kmita entered, the prince also was dressed, attended by two
negroes; he was about to leave the room. The prince and Pan Andrei
remained face to face.

"God give you health for hurrying!" said the hetman.

"At the service of your highness."

"But the squadron?"

"According to order."

"The men are reliable?"

"They will go into fire, to hell."

"That is good! I need such men,--and such as you, equal to anything. I
repeat continually that on no one more than you do I count."

"Your highness, my services cannot equal those of old soldiers; but if
we have to march against the enemy of the country, God sees that I
shall not be in the rear."

"I do not diminish the services of the old," said the prince, "though
there may come such perils, such grievous junctures, that the most
faithful will totter."

"May he perish for nothing who deserts the person of your highness in
danger!"

The prince looked quickly into the face of Kmita. "And you will not
draw back?"

The young knight flushed. "What do you wish to say, your princely
highness? I have confessed to you all my sins, and the sum of
them is such that I thank only the fatherly heart of your highness
for forgiveness. But in all these sins one is not to be
found,--ingratitude."

"Nor disloyalty. You confessed to me as to a father; I not only forgave
you as a father, but I came to love you as that son--whom God has not
given me, for which reason it is often oppressive for me in the world.
Be then a friend to me."

When he had said this, the prince stretched out his hand. The young
knight seized it, and without hesitation pressed it to his lips.

They were both silent for a long time; suddenly the prince fixed his
eyes on the eyes of Kmita and said, "Panna Billevich is here!"

Kmita grew pale, and began to mutter something unintelligible.

"I sent for her on purpose so that the misunderstanding between you
might be at an end. You will see her at once, as the mourning for her
grandfather is over. To-day, too, though God sees that my head is
bursting from labor, I have spoken with the sword-bearer of Rossyeni."

Kmita seized his head. "With what can I repay your highness, with what
can I repay?"

"I told him emphatically that it is my will that you and she should be
married, and he will not be hostile. I commanded him also to prepare
the maiden for it gradually. We have time. All depends upon you, and I
shall be happy if a reward from my hand goes to you; and God grant you
to await many others, for you must rise high. You have offended because
you are young; but you have won glory not the last in the field, and
all young men are ready to follow you everywhere. As God lives, you
must rise high! Small offices are not for such a family as yours. If
you know, you are a relative of the Kishkis, and my mother was a
Kishki. But you need sedateness; for that, marriage is the best thing.
Take that maiden if she has pleased your heart, and remember who gives
her to you."

"Your highness, I shall go wild, I believe! My life, my blood belongs
to your highness. What must I do to thank you,--what? Tell me, command
me!"

"Return good for good. Have faith in me, have confidence that what I do
I do for the public good. Do not fall away from me when you see the
treason and desertion of others, when malice increases, when--" Here
the prince stopped suddenly.

"I swear," said Kmita, with ardor, "and give my word of honor to remain
by the person of your highness, my leader, father, and benefactor, to
my last breath."

Then Kmita looked with eyes full of fire at the prince, and was alarmed
at the change which had suddenly come over him. His face was purple,
the veins swollen, drops of sweat were hanging thickly on his lofty
forehead, and his eyes cast an unusual gleam.

"What is the matter, your highness?" asked the knight, unquietly.

"Nothing! nothing!"

Radzivill rose, moved with hurried step to a kneeling desk, and taking
from it a crucifix, said with powerful, smothered voice, "Swear on this
cross that you will not leave me till death."

In spite of all his readiness and ardor, Kmita looked for a while at
him with astonishment.

"On this passion of Christ, swear!" insisted the hetman.

"On this passion of Christ, I swear!" said Kmita, placing his finger on
the crucifix.

"Amen!" said the prince, with solemn voice.

An echo in the lofty chamber repeated somewhere under the arch, "Amen,"
and a long silence followed. There was to be heard only the breathing
of the powerful breast of Radzivill. Kmita did not remove from the
hetman his astonished eyes.

"Now you are mine,' said the prince, at last.

"I have always belonged to your highness," answered the young knight,
hastily; "but be pleased to explain to me what is passing. Why does
your highness doubt? Or does anything threaten your person? Has any
treason, have any machinations been discovered?"

"The time of trial is approaching," said the prince, gloomily, "and as
to enemies do you not know that Pan Gosyevski, Pan Yudytski, and the
voevoda of Vityebsk would be glad to bury me in the bottom of the pit?
This is the case! The enemies of my house increase, treason spreads,
and public defeats threaten. Therefore, I say, the hour of trial draws
near."

Kmita was silent; but the last words of the prince did not disperse the
darkness which had settled around his mind, and he asked himself in
vain what could threaten at that moment the powerful Radzivill. For he
stood at the head of greater forces than ever. In Kyedani itself and in
the neighborhood there were so many troops that if the prince had such
power before he marched to Shklov the fortune of the whole war would
have come out differently beyond doubt.

Gosyevski and Yudytski were, it is true, ill-wishers, but he had both
in his hands and under guard, and as to the voevoda of Vityebsk he was
too virtuous a man, too good a citizen to give cause for fear of any
opposition or machinations from his side on the eve of a new expedition
against enemies.

"God knows I understand nothing!" cried Kmita, being unable in general
to restrain his thoughts.

"You will understand all to-day," said Radzivill, calmly. "Now let us
go to the hall."

And taking the young colonel by the arm, he turned with him toward the
door. They passed through a number of rooms. From a distance out of the
immense hall came the sound of the orchestra, which was directed by a
Frenchman brought on purpose by Prince Boguslav. They were playing a
minuet which at that time was danced at the French court. The mild
tones were blended with the sound of many voices. Prince Radzivill
halted and listened.

"God grant," said he, after a moment, "that all these guests whom I
have received under my roof will not pass to my enemies to-morrow."

"Your highness," said Kmita, "I hope that there are no Swedish
adherents among them."

Radzivill quivered and halted suddenly.

"What do you wish to say?"

"Nothing, worthy prince, but that honorable soldiers are rejoicing
there."

"Let us go on. Time will show, and God will decide who is honorable.
Let us go!"

At the door itself stood twenty pages,--splendid lads, dressed in
feathers and satin. Seeing the hetman, they formed in two lines. When
the prince came near, he asked, "Has her princely highness entered the
hall?"

"She has, your highness."

"And the envoys?"

"They are here also."

"Open!"

Both halves of the door opened in the twinkle of an eye; a flood of
light poured in and illuminated the gigantic form of the hetman, who
having behind him Kmita and the pages, went toward the elevation on
which were placed chairs for the most distinguished guests.

A movement began in the hall; at once all eyes were turned to the
prince, and one shout was wrested from hundreds of breasts: "Long live
Radzivill! long live! Long live the hetman! long live!"

The prince bowed with head and hand, then began to greet the guests
assembled on the elevation, who rose the moment he entered. Among the
best known, besides the princess herself, were the two Swedish envoys,
the envoy of Moscow, the voevoda of Venden, Bishop Parchevski, the
priest Byalozor, Pan Komorovski, Pan Myerzeyevski, Pan Hlebovich,
starosta of Jmud, brother-in-law of the hetman, a young Pats, Colonel
Ganhoff, Colonel Mirski, Weisenhoff, the envoy of the Prince of
Courland, and ladies in the suite of the princess.

The hetman, as was proper for a welcoming host, began by greeting the
envoys, with whom he exchanged a few friendly words; then he greeted
others, and when he had finished he sat on the chair with a canopy of
ermine, and gazed at the hall in which shouts' were still sounding:
"May he live! May he be our hetman! May he live!"

Kmita, hidden behind the canopy, looked also at the throng. His glance
darted from face to face, seeking among them the beloved features of
her who at that moment held all the soul and heart of the knight. His
heart beat like a hammer.

"She is here! After a while I shall see her, I shall speak to her,"
said he in thought. And he sought and sought with more and more
eagerness, with increasing disquiet. "There! beyond the feathers of a
fan some dark brows are visible, a white forehead and blond hair. That
is she!" Kmita held his breath, as if fearing to frighten away the
picture; then the feathers moved and the face was disclosed. "No! that
is not Olenka, that is not that dear one, the dearest." His glance
flies farther, embraces charming forms, slips over feathers and satin,
faces blooming like flowers, and is mistaken each moment. That is she,
not she! Till at last, see! in the depth, near the drapery of the
window, something white is moving, and it grew dark in the eyes of the
knight; that was Olenka, the dear one, the dearest.

The orchestra begins to play; again throngs pass. Ladies are moving
around, shapely cavaliers are glittering; but he, like one blind and
deaf, sees nothing, only looks at her as eagerly as if beholding her
for the first time. She seems the same Olenka from Vodokty, but also
another. In that great hall and in that throng she seems, as it were,
smaller, and her face more delicate, one would say childlike. You might
take her all in your arms and caress her! And then again she is the
same, though different,--the very same features, the same sweet lips,
the same lashes casting shade on her cheeks, the same forehead, clear,
calm, beloved. Here memory, like lightning-flashes, began to bring
before the eyes of Pan Andrei that servants' hall in Vodokty where he
saw her the first time, and those quiet rooms in which they had sat
together. What delight only just to remember! And the sleigh-ride to
Mitruny, the time that he kissed her! After that, people began to
estrange them, and to rouse her against him.

"Thunderbolts crush it!" cried Kmita, in his mind. "What have I had and
what have I lost? How near she has been and how far is she now!"

She sits there far off, like a stranger; she does not even know that he
is here. Wrath, but at the same time immeasurable sorrow seized Pan
Andrei,--sorrow for which he had no expression save a scream from his
soul, but a scream that passed not his lips: "O thou Olenka!"

More than once Kmita was so enraged at himself for his previous deeds
that he wished to tell his own men to stretch him out and give him a
hundred blows, but never had he fallen into such a rage as that time
when after long absence he saw her again, still more wonderful than
ever, more wonderful indeed than he had imagined. At that moment he
wished to torture himself; but because he was among people, in a worthy
company, he only ground his teeth, and as if wishing to give himself
still greater pain, he repeated in mind: "It is good for thee thus,
thou fool! good for thee!"

Then the sounds of the orchestra were silent again, and Pan Andrei
heard the voice of the hetman: "Come with me."

Kmita woke as from a dream.

The prince descended from the elevation, and went among the guests. On
his face was a mild and kindly smile, which seemed still more to
enhance the majesty of his figure. That was the same lordly man who in
his time, while receiving Queen Marya Ludwika in Nyeporente,
astonished, amazed, and eclipsed the French courtiers, not only by his
luxury, but by the polish of his manners,--the same of whom Jean La
Boureur wrote with such homage in the account of his journey. This time
he halted every moment before the most important matrons, the most
respectable nobles and colonels, having for each of the guests some
kindly word, astonishing those present by his memory and winning in a
twinkle all hearts. The eyes of the guests followed him wherever he
moved. Gradually he approached the sword-bearer of Rossyeni, Pan
Billevich, and said,--

"I thank you, old friend, for having come, though I had the right to be
angry. Billeviche is not a hundred miles from Kyedani, but you are a
_rara avis_ (rare bird) under my roof."

"Your highness," answered Pan Billevich, bowing low, "he wrongs the
country who occupies your time."

"But I was thinking to take vengeance on you by going myself to
Billeviche, and I think still you would have received with hospitality
an old comrade of the camp."

Hearing this, Pan Billevich flushed with delight, and the prince
continued,--

"Time, time is ever lacking! But when you give in marriage your
relative, the granddaughter of the late Pan Heraclius, of course I
shall come to the wedding, for I owe it to you and to her."

"God grant that as early as possible," answered the sword-bearer.

"Meanwhile I present to you Pan Kmita, the banneret of Orsha, of those
Kmitas who are related to the Kishkis and through the Kishkis to the
Radzivills. You must have heard his name from Heraclius, for he loved
the Kmitas as brothers."

"With the forehead, with the forehead!" repeated the sword-bearer, who
was awed somewhat by the greatness of the young cavalier's family,
heralded by Radzivill himself.

"I greet the sword-bearer, my benefactor, and offer him my services,"
said Pan Andrei, boldly and not without a certain loftiness. "Pan
Heraclius was a father and a benefactor to me, and though his work was
spoiled later on, still I have not ceased to love all the Billeviches
as if my own blood were flowing in them."

"Especially," said the prince, placing his hand confidentially on the
young man's shoulder, "since he has not ceased to love a certain Panna
Billevich, of which fact he has long since informed us."

"And I will repeat it before every one's face," said Kmita, with
vehemence.

"Quietly, quietly!" said the prince. "This you see, worthy
sword-bearer, is a cavalier of sulphur and fire, therefore he has made
some trouble; but because he is young and under my special protection,
I hope that when we petition together we shall obtain a reversal of the
sentence from that charming tribunal."

"Your highness will accomplish what you like," answered Pan Billevich.
"The maiden must exclaim, as that pagan priestess did to Alexander the
Great, 'Who can oppose thee?'"

"And we, like that Macedonian, will stop with that prophecy," replied
the prince, smiling. "But enough of this! Conduct us now to your
relative, for I shall be glad to see her. Let that work of Pan
Heraclius which was spoiled be mended."

"I serve your highness-- There is the maiden; she is under the
protection of Pani Voynillovich, our relative. But I beg pardon if she
is confused, for I have not had time to forewarn her."

The foresight of Pan Billevich was just. Luckily that was not the first
moment in which Olenka saw Pan Andrei at the side of the hetman; she
was able therefore to collect herself somewhat, but for an instant
presence of mind almost left her, and she looked at the young knight as
if she were looking at a spirit from the other world. And for a long
time she could not believe her eyes. She had really imagined that that
unfortunate was either wandering somewhere through forests, without a
roof above his head, deserted by all, hunted by the law, as a wild
beast is hunted by man, or enclosed in a tower, gazing with despair
through the iron grating on the glad world of God. The Lord alone knew
what terrible pity sometimes gnawed her heart and her eyes for that
lost man; God alone could count the tears which in her solitude she had
poured out over his fate, so terrible, so cruel, though so deserved;
but now he is in Kyedani, free, at the side of the hetman, proud,
splendid, in silver brocade and in velvet, with the baton of a colonel
at his belt, with head erect, with commanding, haughty, heroic face,
and the grand hetman Radzivill himself places his hand confidentially
on his shoulder. Marvellous and contradictory feelings interwove
themselves at once in the heart of the maiden; therefore a certain
great relief, as if some one had taken a weight from her shoulders, and
a certain sorrow as well that so much pity and grief had gone for
naught; also the disappointment which every honest soul feels at sight
of perfect impunity for grievous offences and sins; also joy, with a
feeling of personal weakness, with admiration bordering on terror,
before that young hero who was able to swim out of such a whirlpool.

Meanwhile the prince, the sword-bearer, and Kmita had finished
conversation and were drawing near. The maiden covered her eyes with
her lids and raised her shoulders, as a bird does its wings when
wishing to hide its head. She was certain that they were coming to her.
Without looking she saw them, felt that they were nearer and nearer,
that they were before her. She was so sure of this that without raising
her lids, she rose suddenly and made a deep courtesy to the prince.

He was really before her, and said: "By the passion of the Lord! Now I
do not wonder at this young man, for a marvellous flower has bloomed
here. I greet you, my lady, I greet you with my whole heart and soul,
beloved granddaughter of my Billevich. Do you know me?"

"I know your highness," answered the maiden.

"I should not have known you; you were still a young, unblossomed thing
when I saw you last, not in this ornament in which I see you now. But
raise those lashes from your eyes. As God lives! fortunate is the diver
who gets such a pearl, ill-fated he who had it and lost it. Here he
stands before you, so despairing, in the person of this cavalier. Do
you know him?"

"I know," whispered Olenka, without raising her eyes.

"He is a great sinner, and I have brought him to you for confession.
Impose on him what penance you like, but refuse not absolution, for
despair may bring him to still greater sins."

Here the prince turned to the sword-bearer and Pani Voynillovich: "Let
us leave the young people, for it is not proper to be present at a
confession, and also my faith forbids me."

After a moment Pan Andrei and Olenka were alone. The heart beat in
Olenka's bosom as the heart of a dove over which a falcon is hovering,
and he too was moved. His usual boldness, impulsiveness, and
self-confidence had vanished. For a long time both were silent. At last
he spoke in a low, stifled voice,--

"You did not expect to see me, Olenka?"

"I did not," whispered the maiden.

"As God is true! you would be less alarmed if a Tartar were standing
here near you. Fear not! See how many people are present. No harm will
meet you from me. And though we were alone you would have nothing to
fear, for I have given myself an oath to respect you. Have confidence
in me."

For a moment she raised her eyes and looked at him, "How can I have
confidence?"

"It is true that I sinned, but that is past and will not be repeated.
When on the bed and near death, after that duel with Volodyovski, I
said to myself: 'Thou wilt not take her by force, by the sabre, by
fire, but by honorable deeds wilt thou deserve her and work out thy
forgiveness. The heart in her is not of stone, and her anger will pass;
she will see thy reformation and will forgive.' Therefore I swore to
reform, and I will hold to my oath. God blessed me at once, for
Volodyovski came and brought me a commission. He had the power not to
give it; but he gave it,--he is an honorable man! Now I need not appear
before the courts, for I am under the hetman's jurisdiction. I
confessed all my offences to the prince, as to a father; he not only
forgave me, but promised to settle everything and to defend me against
the malice of men. May God bless him! I shall not be an outlaw, I shall
come to harmony with people, win glory, serve the country, repair the
wrongs I have committed. What will you answer? Will you not say a good
word to me?" He gazed at Olenka and put his hands together as if
praying to her.

"Can I believe?"

"You can, as God is dear to me; it is your duty to believe. The hetman
believed, and Pan Volodyovski too. All my acts are known to them, and
they believed me. You see they did. Why should you alone have no trust
in me?"

"Because I have seen the result of your deeds,--people's tears, and
graves not yet grown over with grass."

"They will be grown over, and I will moisten them with tears."

"Do that first."

"Give me only the hope that when I do that I shall win you. It is easy
for you to say, 'Do that first.' Well, I do it; meanwhile you have
married another. May God not permit such a thing, for I should go wild.
In God's name I implore you, Olenka, to give me assurance that I shall
not lose you before I come to terms with your nobles. Do you remember?
You have written me of this yourself. I keep the letter, and when my
soul is deeply downcast I read it. I ask you only to tell me again that
you will wait, that you will not marry another."

"You know that by the will I am not free to marry another. I can only
take refuge in a cloister."

"Oh, that would be a treat for me! By the living God, mention not the
cloister, for the very thought of it makes me shudder. Mention it not,
Olenka, or I will fall down here at your feet in the presence of all,
and implore you not to do so. You refused Volodyovski, I know, for he
told me himself. He urged me to win you by good deeds. But what use in
them if you are to take the veil? If you tell me that virtue should be
practised for its own sake, I will answer that I love you to
distraction, and I will hear of nothing else. When you left Vodokty, I
had barely risen from the bed but I began to search for you. When I was
enlisting my squadron every moment was occupied; I had not time to eat
food, to sleep at night, but I ceased not to seek you. I was so
affected that without you there was neither life for me nor rest. I was
so deeply in the toils that I lived only on sighs. At last I learned
that you were in Billeviche with the sword-bearer. Then I tell you I
wrestled with my thoughts as with a bear. 'To go or not to go?' I dared
not go, lest I should be treated to gall. I said to myself at last: 'I
have done nothing good yet, I will not go.' Finally the prince, my dear
father, took pity on me, and sent to invite you and your uncle to
Kyedani, so that I might fill even my eyes with my love. Since we are
going to the war, I do not ask you to marry me to-morrow; but if with
God's favor I hear a good word from you, I shall feel easier,--you, my
only soul! I have no wish to die; but in battle death may strike any
man, and I shall not hide behind others; therefore 'tis your duty to
forgive me as a man before death."

"May God preserve you and guide you," responded the maiden, in a mild
voice, by which Pan Andrei knew at once that his words had produced
their effect.

"You, my true gold! I thank you even for that. But you will not go to
the cloister?"

"I will not go yet."

"God bless you!"

And as snow melts in spring-time, their mutual distrust was now
melting, and they felt nearer to each other than a moment before. Their
hearts were easier, and in their eyes it grew clear. But still she had
promised nothing, and he had the wit to ask for nothing that time. But
she felt herself that it was not right for her to close the road to the
reform of which he had spoken so sincerely. Of his sincerity she had no
doubt for a moment, for he was not a man who could pretend. But the
great reason why she did not repulse him again, why she left him hope,
was this,--that in the depth of her heart she loved yet that young
hero. Love had brought her a mountain of bitterness, disillusion, and
pain; but love survived ever ready to believe and forgive without end.

"He is better than his acts," thought the maiden, "and those are living
no longer who urged him to sin; he might from despair permit himself to
do something a second time; he must never despair." And her honest
heart was rejoiced at the forgiveness which it had given. On Olenka's
cheeks a flush came forth as fresh as a rose under the morning dew; her
eyes had a gleam sweet and lively, and it might be said that brightness
issued from them to the hall. People passed and admired the wonderful
pair; for in truth such a noble couple it would have been difficult to
find in that hall, in which, however, were collected the flower of the
nobility.

Besides both, as if by agreement, were dressed in like colors, for she
wore silver brocade fastened with sapphire and a sacque of blue
Venetian velvet. "Like a brother and sister," said persons who did not
know them; but others said straightway, "Impossible, for his eyes are
too ardent toward her."

Meanwhile in the hall the marshal announced that it was time to be
seated at table, and at once there was unusual movement. Count
Löwenhaupt, all in lace, went in advance, with the princess on his arm;
her train was borne by two very beautiful pages. Next after them Baron
Schitte escorted Pani Hlebovich; next followed Bishop Parchevski with
Father Byalozor, both looking troubled and gloomy.

Prince Yanush, who in the procession yielded to the guests, but at the
table took the highest place next to the princess, escorted Pani Korf,
wife of the voevoda of Venden, who had been visiting about a week at
Kyedani. And so the whole line of couples moved forward, like a
hundred-colored serpent, unwinding and changing. Kmita escorted Olenka,
who rested her arm very lightly on his; but he glanced sidewise at the
delicate face, was happy, gleaming like a torch,--the greatest magnate
among those magnates, since he was near the greatest treasure.

Thus moving to the sound of the orchestra, they entered the
banqueting-hall, which looked like a whole edifice by itself. The table
was set in the form of a horseshoe, for three hundred persons, and was
bending under silver and gold. Prince Yanush, as having in himself a
portion of kingly majesty and being the blood relative of so many
kings, took the highest place, at the side of the princess; and all
when passing him, bowed low and took their places according to rank.

But evidently, as it seemed to those present, the hetman remembered
that this was the last feast before an awful war in which the destiny
of great states would be decided, for his face was not calm. He
simulated a smile and joyousness, but he looked as if a fever were
burning him. At times a visible cloud settled on his menacing forehead,
and those sitting near him could see that that forehead was thickly
covered with drops of sweat; at times his glance ran quickly over the
assembled faces, and halted questioningly on the features of various
colonels; then again those lion brows frowned on a sudden, as if pain
had pierced them, or as if this or that face had roused in him wrath.
And, a wonderful thing! the dignitaries sitting near the prince, such
as the envoys, Bishop Parchevski, Father Byalozor, Pan Komorovski, Pan
Myerzeyevski, Pan Hlebovich, the voevoda of Venden, and others, were
equally distraught and disturbed. The two sides of the immense
horseshoe sounded with a lively conversation, and the bustle usual at
feasts; but the centre of it was gloomy and silent, whispered rare
words, or exchanged wandering and as it were alarmed glances.

But there was nothing wonderful in that, for lower down sat colonels
and knights whom the approaching war threatened at most with death. It
is easier to fall in a war than to bear the responsibility for it. The
mind of the soldier is not troubled, for when he has redeemed his sins
with his blood, he flies from the battlefield to heaven; he alone bends
his head heavily who in his soul must satisfy God and his own
conscience, and who on the eve of the decisive day knows not what
chalice the country will give him to drink on the morrow.

This was the explanation which men gave themselves at the lower parts
of the table.

"Always before each war he talks thus with his own soul," said the old
Colonel Stankyevich to Zagloba; "but the gloomier he is the worse for
the enemy, for on the day of battle he will be joyful to a certainty."

"The lion too growls before battle," said Zagloba, "so as to rouse in
himself fierce hatred for the enemy. As to great warriors, each has his
custom. Hannibal used to play dice; Scipio Africanus declaimed verses;
Pan Konyetspolski the father always conversed about fair heads; and I
like to sleep an hour or so before battle, though I am not averse to a
glass with good friends."

"See, gentlemen, Bishop Parchevski is as pale as a sheet of paper!"
said Stanislav Skshetuski.

"For he is sitting at a Calvinist table, and may swallow easily
something unclean in the food," explained Zagloba, in a low voice. "To
drinks, the old people say, the devil has no approach, and those can be
taken everywhere; but food, and especially soups, one should avoid. So
it was in the Crimea, when I was there in captivity. The Tartar mullahs
or priests knew how to cook mutton with garlic in such a way that
whoever tasted it was willing that moment to desert his faith and
accept their scoundrel of a prophet." Here Zagloba lowered his voice
still more: "Not through contempt for the prince do I say this, but I
advise you, gentlemen, to let the food pass, for God protects the
guarded."

"What do you say? Whoso commends himself to God before eating is safe;
with us in Great Poland there is no end of Lutherans and Calvinists,
but I have not heard that they bewitched food."

"With you in Great Poland there is no end of Lutherans, and so they
sniffed around at once with the Swedes," said Zagloba, "and are in
friendship with them now. In the prince's place, I would hunt those
envoys away with dogs, instead of filling their stomachs with dainties.
Hut look at that Löwenhaupt; he is eating just as if he were to be
driven to the fair with a rope around his leg before the month's end.
Besides, he will stuff his pockets with dried fruit for his wife and
children. I have forgotten how that other fellow from over the sea is
called. Oh, may thou--"

"Father, ask Michael," said Yan.

Pan Michael was sitting not far away; but he heard nothing, he saw
nothing, for he was between two ladies. On his left sat Panna
Syelavski, a worthy maiden about forty years old, and on his right
Olenka, beyond whom sat Kmita. Panna Syelavski shook her feather-decked
head above the little knight, and narrated something with great
rapidity. He looked at her from time to time with a vacant stare, and
answered continually, "As true as life, gracious lady!" but understood
not a word she said, for all his attention was turned to the other
side. He was seizing with his ear the sound of Olenka's words, the
flutter of her silver dress, and from sorrow moving his mustaches in
such fashion as if he wished to frighten away Panna Syelavski with
them.

"Ah, that is a wonderful maiden! Ah, but she is beautiful!" said he, in
his mind. "O God, look down on my misery, for there is no lonelier
orphan than I. My soul is piping within me to have my own beloved, and
on whomsoever I look another soldier stands quartered there. Where
shall I go, ill-fated wanderer?"

"And after the war, what do you think of doing?" inquired Panna
Syelavski, all at once pursing up her mouth and fanning herself
violently.

"I shall go to a monastery!" said the little knight, testily.

"Who mentions monastery here at the banquet?" cried Kmita, joyously,
bending in front of Olenka. "Oh, that is Pan Volodyovski."

"There is nothing like that in your head," retorted Pan Michael; "but I
think I shall go."

Then the sweet voice of Olenka sounded in his ear: "Oh, no need to
think of that! God will give you a wife beloved of your heart, and
honest as you are."

The good Pan Michael melted at once: "If any one were to play on a
flute to me, it would not be sweeter to my ear."

The increasing bustle stopped further conversation, for it had come now
to the glasses. Excitement increased. Colonels disputed about the
coming war, frowning and casting fiery glances.

Pan Zagloba was describing to the whole table the siege of Zbaraj; and
the ardor and daring of the hearers rose till the blood went to their
faces and hearts. It might seem that the spirit of the immortal
"Yarema"[20] was flying above that hall, and had filled the souls of
the soldiers with heroic inspiration.

"That was a leader!" said the famous Mirski, who led all Radzivill's
hussars. "I saw him only once, but to the moment of my death I shall
remember it."

"Jove with thunderbolts in his grasp!" cried old Stankyevich. "It would
not have come to this were he alive now!"

"Yes; think of it! Beyond Romni he had forests cut down to open a way
for himself to the enemy."

"The victory at Berestechko was due to him."

"And in the most serious moment God took him."

"God took him," repeated Pan Yan, in a loud voice; "but he left a
testament behind him for all coming leaders and dignitaries and for the
whole Commonwealth. This is it: to negotiate with no enemy, but to
fight them all."

"Not to negotiate; to fight!" repeated a number of powerful voices,
"fight! fight!"

The heat became great in the hall, and the blood was boiling in the
warriors; therefore glances began to fall like lightning-flashes, and
the heads shaven on the temples and lower forehead began to steam.

"Our prince, our hetman, will be the executioner of that will!" said
Mirski.

Just at that moment an enormous clock in the upper part of the hall
began to strike midnight, and at the same time, the walls trembled, the
window-panes rattled plaintively, and the thunder of cannon was heard
saluting in the courtyard.

Conversation was stopped, silence followed. Suddenly at the head of the
table they began to cry: "Bishop Parchevski has fainted! Water!"

There was confusion. Some sprang from their seats to see more clearly
what had happened. The bishop had not fainted, but had grown very weak,
so that the marshal supported him in his chair by the shoulders, while
the wife of the voevoda of Venden sprinkled his face with water.

At that moment the second discharge of cannon shook the window-panes;
after it came a third, and a fourth.

"Live the Commonwealth! May its enemies perish!" shouted Zagloba.

But the following discharges drowned his speech. The nobles began to
count: "Ten, eleven, twelve!"

Each time the window-panes answered with a mournful groan. The candles
quivered from the shaking.

"Thirteen, fourteen! The bishop is not used to the thunder. With his
timidity he has spoiled the entertainment; the prince too is uneasy.
See, gentlemen, how swollen he is! Fifteen, sixteen!--Hei, they are
firing as if in battle! Nineteen, twenty!"

"Quiet there! the prince wants to speak!" called the guests at once,
from various parts of the table. "The prince wishes to speak!"

There was perfect silence; and all eyes were turned to Radzivill, who
stood, like a giant, with a cup in his hand. But what a sight struck
the eyes of those feasting! The face of the prince was simply terrible
at that moment, for it was not pale, but blue and twisted, as if in a
convulsion, by a smile which he strove to call to his lips. His
breathing, usually short, became still shorter; his broad breast welled
up under the gold brocade, his eyes were half covered with their lids,
and there was a species of terror and an iciness on that powerful face
such as are usual on features stiffening in the moments before death.

"What troubles the prince? what is taking place here?" was whispered
unquietly around; and an ominous foreboding straitened all hearts,
startled expectation was on every face.

He began to speak, with a short voice broken by asthma: "Gracious
gentlemen! this toast will astonish many among you,--or simply it will
terrify them,--but whoso trusts and believes in me, whoso really wishes
the good of the country, whoso is a faithful friend of my house, will
drink it with a will, and repeat after me, 'Vivat Carolus Gustavus Rex,
from this day forth ruling over us graciously!'"

"Vivat!"  repeated the two envoys, Löwenhaupt and Schitte; then some
tens of officers of the foreign command.

But in the hall there reigned deep silence. The colonels and the nobles
gazed at one another with astonishment, as if asking whether the prince
had not lost his senses. A number of voices were heard at last at
various parts of the table: "Do we hear aright? What is it?" Then there
was silence again.

Unspeakable horror coupled with amazement was reflected on faces, and
the eyes of all were turned again to Radzivill; but he continued to
stand, and was breathing deeply, as if he had cast off some immense
weight from his breast. The color came back by degrees to his face;
then he turned to Pan Komorovski, and said,--

"It is time to make public the compact which we have signed this day,
so that those present may know what course to take. Read, your grace!"

Komorovski rose, unwound the parchment lying before him, and began to
read the terrible compact, beginning with these words:--

"Not being able to act in a better and more proper way in this most
stormy condition of affairs, after the loss of all hope of assistance
from the Most Serene King, we the lords and estates of the Grand
Principality of Lithuania, forced by extremity, yield ourselves to the
protection of the Most Serene King of Sweden on these conditions:--

"1. To make war together against mutual enemies, excepting the king and
the kingdom of Poland.

"2. The Grand Principality of Lithuania will not be incorporated with
Sweden, but will be joined to it in such manner as hitherto with the
kingdom of Poland; that is, people shall be equal to people, senate to
senate, and knighthood to knighthood in all things.

"3. Freedom of speech at the diets shall not be prohibited to any man.

"4. Freedom of religion is to be inviolable--"

And so Pan Komorovski read on further, amid silence and terror, till he
came to the paragraph: "This act we confirm with our signature for
ourselves and our descendants, we promise and stipulate--" when a
murmur rose in the hall, like the first breath of a storm shaking the
pine-woods. But before the storm burst, Pan Stankyevich, gray as a
pigeon, raised his voice and began to implore,--

"Your highness, we are unwilling to believe our own ears! By the wounds
of Christ! must the labor of Vladislav and Sigismund Augustus come to
nothing? Is it possible, is it honorable, to desert brothers, to desert
the country, and unite with the enemy? Remember the name which you
bear, the services which you have rendered the country, the fame of
your house, hitherto unspotted; tear and trample on that document of
shame. I know that I ask not in my own name alone, but in the names of
all soldiers here present and nobles. It pertains to us also to
consider our own fate. Gracious prince, do not do this; there is still
time! Spare yourself, spare us, spare the Commonwealth!"

"Do it not! Have pity, have pity!" called hundreds of voices.

All the colonels sprang from their places and went toward him; and the
gray Stankyevich knelt down in the middle of the hall between the two
arms of the table, and then was heard more loudly: "Do that not! spare
us!"

Radzivill raised his powerful head, and lightnings of wrath began to
fly over his forehead; suddenly he burst out,--

"Does it become you, gentlemen, first of all to give an example of
insubordination? Does it become soldiers to desert their leader, their
hetman, and bring forward protests? Do you wish to be my conscience? Do
you wish to teach me how to act for the good of the country? This is
not a diet, and you are not called here to vote; but before God I take
the responsibility!"

And he struck his broad breast with his fist, and looking with flashing
glance on the officers, after a while he shouted again: "Whoso is not
with me is against me! I knew you, I knew what would happen! But know
ye that the sword is hanging over your heads!"

"Gracious prince! our hetman!" implored old Stankyevich, "spare
yourself and spare us!"

But his speech was interrupted by Stanislav Skshetuski, who seizing his
own hair with both hands, began to cry with despairing voice: "Do not
implore him; that is vain. He has long cherished this dragon in his
heart! Woe to thee, O Commonwealth! woe to us all!"

"Two dignitaries at the two ends of the Commonwealth have sold the
country!" cried Yan Skshetuski. "A curse on this house, shame and God's
anger!"

Hearing this, Zagloba shook himself free from amazement and burst out:
"Ask him how great was the bribe he took from the Swedes? How much have
they paid him? How much have they promised him yet? Oh, gentlemen, here
is a Judas Iscariot. May you die in despair, may your race perish, may
the devil tear out your soul, O traitor, traitor, thrice traitor!"

With this Stankyevich, in an ecstasy of despair, drew the colonel's
baton from his belt, and threw it with a rattle at the feet of the
prince. Mirski threw his next; the third was Yuzefovich; the fourth,
Hoshchyts; the fifth, pale as a corpse, Volodyovski; the sixth,
Oskyerko,--and the batons rolled on the floor. Meanwhile in that den of
the lion these terrible words were repeated before the eyes of the lion
from more and more mouths every moment: "Traitor! traitor!"

All the blood rushed to the head of the haughty magnate. He grew blue;
it seemed that he would tumble next moment a corpse under the table.

"Ganhoff and Kmita, to me!" bellowed he, with a terrible voice.

At that moment four double doors leading to the hall opened with a
crash, and in marched divisions of Scottish infantry, terrible, silent,
musket in hand. Ganhoff led them from the main door.

"Halt!" cried the prince. Then he turned to the colonels: "Whoso is
with me, let him go to the right side of the hall!"

"I am a soldier, I serve the hetman; let God be my judge!" said
Kharlamp, passing to the right side.

"And I!" added Myeleshko. "Not mine will be the sin!"

"I protested as a citizen; as a soldier I must obey," added a third,
Nyevyarovski, who, though he had thrown down his baton before, was
evidently afraid of Radzivill now.

After them passed over a number of others, and quite a large group of
nobles; but Mirski, the highest in office, and Stankyevich, the oldest
in years, Hoshchyts, Volodyovski, and Oskyerko remained where they
were, and with them the two Skshetuskis, Zagloba, and a great majority
as well of the officers of various heavy and light squadrons as of
nobles. The Scottish infantry surrounded them like a wall.

Kmita, the moment the prince proposed the toast in honor of Karl
Gustav, sprang up from his seat with all the guests, stared fixedly and
stood as if turned to stone, repeating with pallid lips, "God! God!
God! what have I done?"

At the same time a low voice, but for his ear distinct, whispered near
by, "Pan Andrei!"

He seized suddenly his hair with his hands. "I am cursed for the ages!
May the earth swallow me!"

A flame flashed out on Olenka's face; her eyes bright as stars were
fixed on Kmita. "Shame to those who remain with the hetman! Choose! O
God, All Powerful!--What are you doing? Choose!"

"Jesus! O Jesus!" cried Kmita.

Meanwhile the hall was filled with cries. Others had thrown their
batons at the feet of the prince, but Kmita did not join them; he did
not move even when the prince shouted, "Ganhoff and Kmita, to me!" nor
when the Scottish infantry entered the hall; and he stood torn with
suffering and despair, with wild look, with blue lips.

Suddenly he turned to Panna Billevich and stretched his hands to her.
"Olenka! Olenka!" repeated he, with a sorrowful groan, like a child
whom some wrong is confronting.

But she drew back with aversion and fear in her face. "Away, traitor!"
she answered with force.

At that moment Ganhoff commanded, "Forward!" and the division of Scots
surrounding the prisoners moved toward the door.

Kmita began to follow them like one out of his mind, not knowing where
he was going or why he was going.

The banquet was ended.



                              CHAPTER XV.


That same night the prince held a long consultation with the voevoda of
Venden and with the Swedish envoys. The result of the treaty had
disappointed his expectations, and disclosed to him a threatening
future. It was the prince's plan to make the announcement in time of
feasting, when minds are excited and inclined to agreement. He expected
opposition in every event, but he counted on adherents also; meanwhile
the energy of the protest had exceeded his reckoning. Save a few tens
of Calvinist nobles and a handful of officers of foreign origin, who as
strangers could have no voice in the question, all declared against the
treaty concluded with Karl Gustav, or rather with his field-marshal and
brother-in-law, Pontus de la Gardie.

The prince had given orders, it is true, to arrest the stubborn
officers of the army, but what of that? What will the squadrons say?
Will they not think of their colonels? Will they not rise in mutiny to
rescue their officers by force? If they do, what will remain to the
proud prince beyond a few dragoon regiments and foreign infantry? Then
the whole country, all the armed nobles, and Sapyeha, voevoda of
Vityebsk,--a terrible opponent of the house of Radzivill, ready to
fight with the whole world in the name of the unity of the
Commonwealth? Other colonels whose heads he cannot cut off, and Polish
squadrons will go to Sapyeha, who will stand at the head of all the
forces of the country, and Prince Radzivill will see himself without an
army, without adherents, without significance. What will happen then?

These were terrible questions, for the position was terrible. The
prince knew well that if he were deserted the treaty on which he had
toiled so much in secret would by the force of events lose all meaning
and the Swedes would despise him, or take revenge for the discovered
deceit. But he had given them his Birji as a guaranty of his loyalty;
by that he had weakened himself the more.

Karl Gustav was ready to scatter rewards and honors with both hands for
a powerful Radzivill, but Radzivill weak and deserted by all he would
despise; and if the changing wheel of fortune should send victory to
Yan Kazimir, final destruction would come to that lord who this day in
the morning had no equal in the Commonwealth.

When the envoys and the voevoda of Venden had gone, the prince seized
with both hands his head weighed down with care, and began to walk with
swift steps through the room. From without came the voices of the
Scottish guards and the rattle of the departing carriages of the
nobles. They drove away quickly and hurriedly, as if a pest had fallen
on the lordly castle of Kyedani. A terrible disquiet rent the soul of
Radzivill. At times it seemed to him that besides himself there was
some other person who walked behind him and whispered in his ear,
"Abandonment, poverty, and infamy as well!" But he, the voevoda of
Vilna and grand hetman, was already trampled upon and humiliated! Who
would have admitted yesterday that in all Kyedani, in Lithuania, nay,
in the whole world, there could be found a man who would dare to shout
before his eyes, "Traitor!" Nevertheless he had heard it, and he lives
yet, and they who spoke that word are living too. Perhaps if he were to
re-enter that hall of the banquet he would still hear as an echo among
the cornices and under the vaults, "Traitor! traitor!"

And wild, mad rage seized at moments the breast of the oligarch. His
nostrils dilated, his eyes shot lightnings, veins came out on his
forehead. Who here dares to oppose his will? His enraged mind brought
before his eyes the picture of punishments and torments for rebels who
had the daring not to follow his feet like a dog. And he saw their
blood flowing from the axes of executioners, he heard the crunching of
their bones broken by the wheel, and he took delight in and sated
himself with visions of blood.

But when more sober judgment reminded him that behind those rebels is
an army, that he cannot take their heads with impunity, an unendurable
and hellish unquiet came back and filled his soul, and some one
whispered anew in his ear, "Abandonment, poverty, judgment, and
infamy!"

How is that? Is it not permitted to Radzivill to decide the fate of the
country,--to retain it for Yan Kazimir or give it to Karl Gustav,--to
give, to convey, to present, to whom it may please him?

The magnate looked before himself with amazement.

Who then are the Radzivills? Who were they yesterday? What was said
everywhere in Lithuania? Was that all deception? Will not Prince
Boguslav join the grand hetman with his regiments, after him his uncle
the Elector of Brandenberg, and after all three Karl Gustav, the
Swedish king, with all his victorious power, before which recently all
Germany trembled through the length and the breadth of it? Did not the
Polish Commonwealth itself extend its arms to the new master, and yield
at the mere report of the approach of the lion of the North? Who will
offer resistance to that unrestrained power?

On one side the King of Sweden, the Elector of Brandenberg, the
Radzivills, in case of necessity Hmelnitski too, with all his power,
and the hospodar of Wallachia, and Rakotsy of Transylvania,--almost
half Europe; on the other side the voevoda of Vityebsk with Mirski, Pan
Stankyevich, and those three nobles who had just come from Lukovo, and
also a few rebellious squadrons! What is that?--a jest, an amusement.

Then suddenly the prince began to laugh loudly. "By Lucifer and all the
Diet of hell, it must be that I have gone mad! Let them all go to the
voevoda of Vityebsk!"

But after a while his face had grown gloomy again: "The powerful admit
only powerful to alliance. Radzivill casting Lithuania at the feet of
the Swedes will be sought for; Radzivill asking aid against Lithuania
will be despised. What is to be done?"

The foreign officers will stay with him, but their power is not enough;
and if the Polish squadrons go over to the voevoda of Vityebsk, he will
have the fate of the country in his hands. Each foreign officer will
carry out commands, it is true; but he will not devote his whole soul
to the cause of Radzivill, he will not give himself to it with ardor,
not merely as a soldier, but as an adherent. For devotion there is
absolute need, not of foreigners, but of men of his own people to
attract others by their names, by their bravery, by their reputation,
by their daring example and readiness to do everything. He must have
adherents in the country, even for show.

Who of his own men responded to the prince? Kharlamp, an old, worn-out
soldier, good for service and nothing more; Nyevyarovski, not loved in
the army and without influence; besides these a few others of still
less distinction; no man of another kind, no man whom an army would
follow, no man to be the apostle of a cause.

There remained Kmita, young, enterprising, bold, covered with great
knightly glory, bearing a famous name, standing at the head of a
powerful squadron, partly fitted out at his own expense,--a man as it
were created to be the leader of all the bold and restless spirits in
Lithuania, and withal full of ardor. If he should take up the cause of
Radzivill, he would take it up with the faith which youth gives, he
would follow his hetman blindly, and spread the faith in his name; and
such an apostle means more than whole regiments, whole divisions of
foreigners. He would be able to pour his faith into the heart of the
young knighthood, to attract it and fill the camp of Radzivill with
men.

But he too had hesitated evidently. He did not cast his baton, it is
true, at the feet of the hetman, but he did not stand at his side in
the first moment.

"It is impossible to reckon on any one, impossible to be sure of any
man," thought the prince, gloomily. "They will all go to the voevoda of
Vityebsk, and no man will wish to share with me."

"Infamy!" whispered his conscience.

"Lithuania!" answered, on the other hand, pride.

It had grown dim in the room, for the wicks had burned long on the
candles, but through the windows flowed in the silver light of the
moon. Radzivill gazed at those rays and fell into deep thought.
Gradually something began to grow dark in those rays; certain figures
rose up each moment, increasing in number, till at last the prince saw
as it were an army coming toward him from the upper trails of the sky
on the broad road of the moonbeams. Regiments are marching, armored
hussars and light horse; a forest of banners are waving; in front rides
some man without a helmet, apparently a victor returning from war.
Around is quiet, and the prince hears clearly the voice of the army and
people, "Vivat defensor patriae! vivat defensor patriae! (Live the
defender of the country!)" The army approaches, each moment increasing
in number; now he can see the face of the leader. He holds the baton in
his hand; and by the number of bunchuks ( horse-tails on his standard).
Radzivill can see that he is the grand hetman.

"In the name of the Father and the Son!" cries the prince, "that is
Sapyeha, that is the voevoda of Vityebsk! And where am I, and what is
predestined to me?"

"Infamy!" whispers his conscience.

"Lithuania!" answers his pride.

The prince clapped his hands; Harasimovich, watching in the adjoining
room, appeared at once in the door and bent double.

"Lights!" said the prince.

Harasimovich snuffed the candles, then went out and returned with a
candlestick in his hand.

"Your Highness," said he, "it is time to repose; the cocks have crowed
a second time."

"I have no wish to sleep," replied the prince. "I dozed, and the
nightmare was suffocating me. What is there new?"

"Some noblemen brought a letter from Nyesvyej from the Prince Michael,
but I did not venture to enter unsummoned."

"Give me the letter at once!"

Harasimovich gave the sealed letter; the prince opened it, and began to
read as follows:--


May God guard and restrain your highness from such plans as might bring
eternal infamy and destruction to our house! Set your mind on a
hair-shirt rather than on dominion. The greatness of our house lies at
my heart also, and the best proof of this is in the efforts which I
made in Vienna that we should have a vote in the diets of the Empire.
But I will not betray the country nor my king for any reward or earthly
power, so as not to gather after such a sowing a harvest of infamy
during life and damnation after death. Consider, your highness, the
services of your ancestors and their unspotted fame; think of the mercy
of God while the time is fitting. The enemy have surrounded me in
Nyesvyej, and I know not whether this letter will reach your hands; but
though destruction threatens me every moment, I do not ask God to
rescue me, but to restrain your highness from those plans and bring you
to the path of virtue. Even if something evil is done already, it is
possible yet to draw hack, and it is necessary to blot out the offences
with a swift hand. But do not expect aid from me, for I say in advance
that without regard to bonds of blood, I will join my forces with those
of Pan Gosyevski and the voevoda of Vityebsk; and a hundred times
rather would I turn my arms against your highness than put my hands
voluntarily to that infamous treason. I commend your highness to God.

                                  Michael Kazimir,

                 _Prince in Nyesvyej and Olyta, Chamberlain of the
                           Grand Principality of Lithuania_.


When the hetman had finished the letter he dropped it on his knee, and
began to shake his head with a painful smile on his face.

"And he leaves me, my own blood rejects me, because I wished to adorn
our house with a glory hitherto unknown! Ah! it is difficult! Boguslav
remains, and he will not leave me. With us is the Elector and Karl
Gustav; and who will not sow will not reap."

"Infamy!" whispered his conscience.

"Is your highness pleased to give an answer?" asked Harasimovich.

"There will be no answer."

"May I go and send the attendants?"

"Wait! Are the guards stationed carefully?"

"They are."

"Are orders sent to the squadrons?"

"They are."

"What is Kmita doing?"

"He was knocking his head against the wall and crying about disgrace.
He was wriggling like a mudfish. He wanted to run after the
Billeviches, but the guards would not let him. He drew his sabre; they
had to tie him. He is lying quietly now."

"Has the sword-bearer of Rossyeni gone?"

"There was no order to stop him."

"I forgot!" said the prince. "Open the windows, for it is stifling and
asthma is choking me. Tell Kharlamp to go to Upita for the squadron and
bring it here at once. Give him money, let him pay the men for the
first quarter and let them get merry. Tell him that he will receive
Dydkyemie for life instead of Volodyovski. The asthma is choking me.
Wait!"

"According to order."

"What is Kmita doing?"

"As I said, your highness, he is lying quietly."

"True, you told me. Give the order to send him here. I want to speak
with him. Have his fetters taken off."

"Your highness, he is a madman."

"Have no fear, go!"

Harasimovich went out. The prince took from a Venetian cabinet a case
with pistols, opened it, and placed it near at hand on the table by
which he sat.

In a quarter of an hour Kmita entered, attended by four Scottish
soldiers. The prince ordered the men to withdraw, and remained face to
face with Kmita.

There did not seem to be one drop of blood in the visage of the young
man, so pale was it, but his eyes were gleaming feverishly; for the
rest he was calm, resigned, though apparently sunk in endless despair.

Both were silent for a while. The prince spoke first.

"You took oath on the crucifix not to desert me."

"I shall be damned if I keep that oath, damned if I break it. It is all
one to me!"

"Even if I had brought you to evil, you would not be responsible."

"A month ago judgments and punishments threatened me for killing;
to-day it seems to me that then I was as innocent as a child."

"Before you leave this room, you will feel absolved from all your
previous sins," said the prince.

Suddenly, changing his tone, he inquired with a certain confidential
kindness, "What do you think it was my duty to do in the face of two
enemies, a hundred-fold stronger than I, enemies against whom I could
not defend this country?"

"To die!" answered Kmita, rudely.

"You soldiers, who can throw off so easily the pressing burden are to
be envied. To die! For him who has looked death in the eyes and is not
afraid, there is nothing in the world simpler. Your head does not ache
over this, and it will occur to the mind of none that if I had roused
an envenomed war and had died without making a treaty, not a stone
would be left on a stone in this country. May God not permit this, for
even in heaven my soul could not rest. _O, terque, quaterque beati_ (O
thrice and four times blessed) are ye who can die! Do you think that
life does not oppress me, that I am not hungry for everlasting sleep
and rest? But I must drain the chalice of gall and vinegar to the
bottom. It is needful to save this unhappy land, and for its salvation
to bend under a new burden. Let the envious condemn me for pride, let
them say that I betrayed the country to exalt myself. God has seen me,
God is the judge whether I desire this elevation, and whether I would
not resign it could matters be otherwise. Find you who desert me means
of salvation; point out the road, ye who call me a traitor, and this
night I will tear that document and rouse all the squadrons from
slumber to move on the enemy."

Kmita was silent.

"Well, why are you silent?" exclaimed Radzivill, in a loud voice. "I
will make you grand hetman in my place and voevoda of Vilna. You must
not die, for that is no achievement, but save the country. Defend the
occupied provinces, avenge the ashes of Vilna, defend Jmud against
Swedish invasion, nay, defend the whole Commonwealth, drive beyond the
boundaries every enemy! Rush three on a thousand; die not,--for that is
not permitted,--but save the country."

"I am not hetman and voevoda of Vilna," answered Kmita, "and what does
not belong to me is not on my head. But if it is a question of rushing
the third against thousands I will go."

"Listen, then, soldier! Since your head has not to save the country,
leave it to mine."

"I cannot!" said Kmita, with set teeth.

Radzivill shook his head. "I did not count on the others, I looked for
what happened; but in you I was deceived. Interrupt not, but listen. I
placed you on your feet, I freed you from judgment and punishment, I
gathered you to my heart as my own son. Know you why? Because I thought
that in you was a daring soul, ready for grand undertakings. I needed
such men, I hide it not. Around me was no man who would dare to look at
the sun with unflinching eye. There were men of small soul and petty
courage. To such never show a path other than that on which they and
their fathers have travelled, for they will halt saying that you have
sent them on a devious way. And still, where, if not to the precipice,
have we all come by these old roads? What is happening to the
Commonwealth which formerly could threaten the world?"

Here the prince seized his head in his hands and repeated thrice: "O
God! God! God!"

After a while he continued: "The time of God's anger has come,--a time
of such misfortunes and of such a fall that with the usual methods we
cannot rise from this sickness; and if I wish to use new ones, which
alone can bring us salvation, even those desert me on whose readiness I
counted, whose duty it was to have confidence, who took oath on the
cross to trust me. By the blood and wounds of Christ! Did you think
that I submitted to the protection of Karl Gustav forever, that in
truth I think to join this country to Sweden, that the treaty, for
which I am called a traitor, will last beyond a year? Why do you look
with astonished eyes? You will be still more astonished when you hear
all. You will be more astonished, for something will happen which no
one will think of, no one admit, which the mind of a common man has not
power to grasp. But I say to you, Tremble not, for in this is the
country's salvation; do not draw back, for if I find no one to help me,
possibly I may perish, but with me will perish the Commonwealth and ye
all for the ages. I alone can save, but I must bend and trample all
obstacles. Woe to him who opposes me; for God himself will crush him
through me, whether he be the voevoda of Vityebsk or Pan Gosyevski or
the army, or a refractory nobility. I wish to save the Commonwealth;
and to me all ways, all methods are good for that end. Rome in times of
disaster named dictators,--such power, nay, greater and more lasting,
is needful to me. Not pride draws me to it,--whoso feels equal to this
power let him take it instead of me. But if no one does I will take the
power, though these walls should fall first on my head!"

Then the prince stretched both his hands upward, as if in fact he
wished to support the arches falling upon his head, and there was in
him something so gigantic that Kmita opened his eyes and gazed as if he
had never seen him before; and at last he asked with changed voice:
"Whither art thou striving, your highness? What do you wish?"

"A crown!" cried Radzivill.

"Jesus, Mary!"

A moment of deep silence followed; but an owl on the tower of the
castle began to hoot shrilly.

"Listen," said the prince, "it is time to tell you all. The
Commonwealth is perishing, and must perish. There is no salvation on
earth for it. The question is to save first from the ruin this country
(Lithuania), this our immediate fatherland, and then--then make the
whole Commonwealth rise from its own ashes, as the ph[oe]nix rises. I
will do this; and the crown, which I desire, I will place as a burden
on my head, so as to bring out from this great tomb a new life. Do not
tremble! The ground will not open, everything stands on its own place;
but new times are coming. I give this country to the Swedes so as to
stop with Swedish arms another enemy, to drive him beyond the
boundaries, to win back what is lost, and force with the sword a treaty
from that enemy in his own capital. Do you hear me? But in rocky,
hungry Sweden there are not men enough, not forces enough, not sabres
enough to take possession of this immense Commonwealth. They may defeat
our army once and a second time; but to hold us in obedience they
cannot. If one Swede were given as a guard to every ten men in this
land, there would still be many tens of them without guards. Karl
Gustav knows this well, and neither does he wish nor is he able to take
the whole Commonwealth. He will occupy Royal Prussia, most of Great
Poland, and will be content with that. But to hold in coming time these
acquisitions securely, he must break the union of the kingdom with us;
otherwise he could not remain in those provinces. What will happen then
to this country? To whom will it be given? Well, if I refuse the crown
which God and fortune places on my head, it will be given to him who at
this moment is in possession. But Karl Gustav is not willing to consent
to this act, which would increase a neighboring power too greatly, and
create for himself a formidable enemy. But if I refuse the crown, he
will be forced to consent. Have I the right, then, to refuse? Can I
allow that to take place which would threaten us with final ruin? For
the tenth and the hundredth time I ask, Where are there other means of
salvation? Let the will of God, then, be done! I take this burden on my
shoulders. The Swedes are on my aide; the elector, our relative,
promises aid. I will free the country from war! With victories and
extension of boundaries will begin the rule of my house. Peace and
prosperity will flourish; fire will not burn towns and villages. Thus
it will be, thus it must be. So help me God and the holy cross! I feel
within me power and strength from heaven, I desire the happiness of
this land, and that is not yet the end of my plans. And by those
heavenly lights I swear, by those trembling stars, that if only
strength and health remain to me, I will build anew all this edifice,
now tumbling to ruins; I will make it stronger than ever."

Fire was flashing from the pupils and eyes of the prince; his whole
form shed an uncommon halo.

"Your highness," cried Kmita, "I cannot grasp that thought; my head is
bursting, my eyes fear to look ahead."

"Besides," said Radzivill, as if pursuing the further course of his own
thoughts, "the Swedes will not deprive Yan Kazimir of the kingdom nor
of rule, but will leave him in Mazovia and Little Poland. God has not
given him posterity. An election will come in time. Whom will they
choose to the throne if they wish a further union with Lithuania? When
did the kingdom grow strong and crush the Knights of the Cross? After
Vladyslav Yagyello had mounted the throne. It will be the same this
time. The Poles can call to the throne only him who will be reigning
here. They cannot and will not call another, for they would perish,
because the breath would not remain in their breasts between the
Germans and the Turks, and as it is, the Cossack cancer is gnawing the
kingdom. They can call no one else! Blind is he who does not see this;
foolish who does not understand it. Both countries will unite again and
become one power in my house. Then I shall see if those kinglets of
Scandinavia will remain in their Prussia and Great Poland acquired
to-day. Then I will say to them, _Quos ego!_ and with this foot will
crush their lean ribs, and create a power such as the world has not
seen, such as history has not described; perhaps I may carry the cross
with fire and sword to Constantinople, and in peace at home terrify the
enemy. Thou great God, who orderest the circuits of the stars, grant me
to save this ill-fated land, for thy glory and that of all Christendom;
give me men to understand my thought, men to put their hands to
salvation. There is where I stand!" Here the prince opened his arms,
and raised his eyes aloft: "Thou seest me, thou judgest me!"

"Mighty prince, mighty prince!" cried Kmita.

"Go, desert me, cast the baton at my feet, break your oath, call me
traitor! Let no thorn be lacking in that prickly crown which they have
put on my head. Destroy ye the country, thrust it over the precipice,
drag away the hand that could save it, and go to the judgment of God!
Let him decide between us."

Kmita cast himself on his knees before Radzivill. "Mighty prince, I am
with you to the death! Father of the country, savior!"

Radzivill put both hands on his head, and again followed a moment of
silence. Only the owl hooted unceasingly on the tower.

"You will receive all that you have yearned for and wished," said the
prince, with solemnity. "Nothing will miss you, and more will meet you
than your father and mother desired. Rise, future grand hetman and
voevoda of Vilna!"

It had begun to dawn in the sky.



                              CHAPTER XVI.


Pan Zagloba had his head mightily full when he hurled the word
"traitor" thrice at the eyes of the terrible hetman. At an hour nearer
morning, when the wine had evaporated from his bald head, and he found
himself with the two Skshetuskis and Pan Michael in a dungeon of
Kyedani Castle, he saw, when too late, the danger to which he had
exposed his own neck and the necks of his comrades, and was greatly
cast down.

"But what will happen now?" asked he, gazing with dazed look on the
little knight, in whom he had special trust in great peril.

"May the devil take life! it is all one to me!" answered Volodyovski.

"We shall live to such times and such infamy as the world and this
kingdom have not seen hitherto!" said Pan Yan.

"Would that we might live to them!" answered Zagloba; "we could restore
virtue in others by our good example. But shall we live? That is the
great question."

"This is a terrible event, passing belief!" said Pan Stanislav. "Where
has the like of it happened? Save me, gentlemen, for I feel that there
is confusion in my head. Two wars,--a third, the Cossack,--and in
addition treason, like a plague: Radzyovski, Opalinski, Grudzinski,
Radzivill! The end of the world is coming, and the day of judgment; it
cannot be otherwise! May the earth open under our feet! As God is dear
to me, I am losing my mind!"

And clasping his hands at the back of his head, he began to pace the
length and width of the cellar, like a wild beast in a cage.

"Shall we begin to pray, or what?" asked he at last. "Merciful God,
save us!"

"Be calm!" said Zagloba; "this is not the time to despair."

Pan Stanislav ground his teeth on a sudden; rage carried him away. "I
wish you were killed!" cried he to Zagloba. "It was your thought to
come to this traitor. May vengeance reach you and him!"

"Bethink yourself, Stanislav," said Pan Yan, sternly. "No one could
foresee what has happened. Endure, for you are not the only man
suffering; and know that our place is here, and not elsewhere. Merciful
God! pity, not us, but the ill-fated country."

Stanislav made no answer, but wrung his hands till the joints were
cracking.

They were silent. Pan Michael, however, began to whistle through his
teeth, in despair, and feigned indifference to everything happening
around him, though, in fact, he suffered doubly,--first, for the
misfortune of the country, and secondly, because he had violated his
obedience to the hetman. The latter was a terrible thing for him, a
soldier to the marrow of his bones. He would have preferred to die a
thousand times.

"Do not whistle, Pan Michael," said Zagloba.

"All one to me!"

"How is it? Is no one of you thinking whether there are not means of
escape? It is worth while to exercise one's wits on this. Are we to rot
in this cellar, when every hand is needed for the country, when one man
of honor must settle ten traitors?"

"Father is right," said Pan Yan.

"You alone have not become stupid from pain. What do you suppose? What
does that traitor think of doing with us? Surely he will not punish us
with death?"

Pan Michael burst out in a sudden laugh of despair. "But why not? I am
curious to learn! Has he not authority, has he not the sword? Do you
not know Radzivill?"

"Nonsense! What right do they give him?"

"Over me, the right of a hetman; over you, force!"

"For which he must answer."

"To whom,--to the King of Sweden?"

"You give me sweet consolation; there is no denying that!"

"I have no thought of consoling you."

They were silent, and for a time there was nothing to be heard but the
measured tread of Scottish infantry at the door of the cellar.

"There is no help here," said Zagloba, "but stratagem."

No one gave answer; therefore he began to talk again after a while: "I
will not believe that we are to be put to death. If for every word
spoken in haste and in drink, a head were cut off, not one noble in
this Commonwealth would walk around with his head on his shoulders. But
_neminem captivabimus?_ Is that a trifle?"

"You have an example in yourself and in us," answered Stanislav.

"Well, that happened in haste; but I believe firmly that the prince
will take a second thought. We are strangers; in no way do we come
under his jurisdiction. He must respect opinion, and not begin with
violence, so as not to offend the nobles. As true as life, our party is
too large to have the heads cut from all of us. Over the officers he
has authority, I cannot deny that; but, as I think, he will look to the
army, which surely will not fail to remember its own. And where is your
squadron, Michael?"

"In Upita."

"But tell me, are you sure that the men will be true to you?"

"Whence should I know? They like me well enough, but they know that the
hetman is above me."

Zagloba meditated awhile. "Give me an order to them to obey me in
everything, as they would you, if I appear among them."

"You think that you are free!"

"There is no harm in that. I have been in hotter places, and God saved
me. Give an order for me and the two Skshetuskis. Whoso escapes first
will go straight to the squadron, and bring it to rescue the others."

"You are raving! It is a pity to lose time in empty talk! Who will
escape from this place? Besides, on what can I give an order; have you
paper, ink, pen? You are losing your head."

"Desperation!" cried Zagloba; "give me even your ring."

"Here it is, and let me have peace!"

Zagloba took the ring, put it on his little finger, and began to walk
and meditate.

Meanwhile the smoking candle went out, and darkness embraced them
completely; only through the grating of the high window a couple of
stars were visible, twinkling in the clear sky. Zagloba's eye did not
leave the grating. "If heaven-dwelling Podbipienta were living and with
us," mattered the old man, "he would tear out that grating, and in an
hour we should see ourselves beyond Kyedani."

"But raise me to the window," said Pan Yan, suddenly.

Zagloba and Pan Stanislav placed themselves at the wall; in a moment
Yan was on their shoulders.

"It cracks! As God is dear to me, it cracks!" cried Zagloba.

"What are you talking about, father? I haven't begun to pull it yet."

"Crawl up with your cousin; I'll hold you somehow. More than once I
pitied Pan Michael because he was so slender; but now I regret that he
is not still thinner, so as to slip through like a snake."

But Yan sprang down from their shoulders. "The Scots are standing on
this side!" said he.

"May God turn them into pillars of salt, like Lot's wife!" said
Zagloba. "It is so dark here that you might strike a man in the face,
and he could not see you. It will soon be daybreak. I think they will
bring us food of some kind, for even Lutherans do not put prisoners to
a hunger death. Perhaps, too, God will send reflection to the hetman.
Often in the night conscience starts up in a man, and the devils pinch
sinners. Can it be there is only one entrance to this cellar? I will
look in the daytime. My head is somehow heavy, and I cannot think out a
stratagem. To-morrow God will strengthen my wit; but now we will say
the Lord's Prayer, and commit ourselves to the Most Holy Lady, in this
heretical dungeon."

In fact they began a moment later to say the Lord's Prayer and the
litany to the Mother of God; then Yan, Stanislav, and Volodyovski were
silent, for their breasts were full of misfortune, but Zagloba growled
in a low voice and muttered,--

"It must be beyond doubt that to-morrow he will say to us, _aut_,
_aut!_ (either, or). 'Join Radzivill and I will pardon everything.' But
we shall see who outwits the other. Do you pack nobles into prison,
have you no respect for age or services? Very good! To whom the loss,
to him the weeping! The foolish will be under, and the wise on top. I
will promise what you like, but what I observe would not make a patch
for your boot. If you do not hold to the country, he is virtuous who
holds not to you. This is certain, that final ruin is coming on the
Commonwealth if its foremost dignitaries join the enemy. This has never
been in the world hitherto, and surely a man may lose his senses from
it. Are there in hell torments sufficient for such traitors? What was
wanting to such a Radzivill? Is it little that the country has given
him, that he should sell it like a Judas, and in the very time of its
greatest misfortunes, in the time of three wars? Just is thy anger, O
Lord! only give swiftest punishment. So be it! Amen! If I could only
get out of here quickly, I would create partisans for thee, mighty
hetman! Thou wilt know how the fruits of treason taste. Thou wilt look
on me yet as a friend; but if thou findest no better, do not hunt a
bear unless thy skin is not dear to thee."

Thus did Zagloba converse with himself. Meanwhile one hour passed, and
a second; at last day began to dawn. The gray light falling through the
grating dissipated slowly the darkness in the cellar, and brought out
the gloomy figures sitting at the walls. Volodyovski and the
Skshetuskis were slumbering from weariness; but when things were more
visible, and when from the courtyard came the sounds of soldiers'
footsteps, the clatter of arms, the tramp of hoofs, and the sound of
trumpets at the gate, the knights sprang to their feet.

"The day begins not too favorably for us," said Yan.

"God grant it to end more favorably," answered Zagloba. "Do you know
what I have thought in the night? They will surely treat us with the
gift of life if we will take service with Radzivill and help him in his
treason; we ought to agree to that, so as to make use of our freedom
and stand up for the country."

"May God preserve me from putting my name to treason," answered Yan;
"for though I should leave the traitor afterward, my name would remain
among those of traitors as an infamy to my children. I will not do
that, I prefer to die."

"Neither will I!" said Stanislav.

"But I tell you beforehand that I will. No one will think that I did it
voluntarily or sincerely. May the devils take that dragon Radzivill! We
shall see yet who gets the upper hand."

Further conversation was stopped by sounds in the yard. Among them were
the ominous accents of anger and indignation. At the same time single
voices of command, the echo of footsteps of whole crowds, and heavy
thunder as of cannon in motion.

"What is going on?" asked Zagloba. "Maybe there is some help for us."

"There is surely an uncommon uproar," said Volodyovski. "But raise me
to the window, for I shall see right away what it is."

Yan took Volodyovski and raised him as he would a boy. Pan Michael
caught the grating, and looked carefully through the yard.

"There is something going on,--there is!" said he, with sudden
alertness. "I see the Hungarian castle regiment of infantry which
Oskyerko led--they loved him greatly, and he too is arrested; they are
demanding him surely. As God lives! they are in order of battle.
Lieutenant Stahovich is with them; he is a friend of Oskyerko."

At that moment the cries grew still louder.

"Ganhoff has ridden up. He is saying something to Stahovich, and what a
shout! I see that Stahovich with two officers is walking away from the
troops. They are going of course as a deputation to the hetman. As God
is dear to me, mutiny is spreading in the army! The cannon are pointed
against the Hungarians, and the Scottish regiment is also in order of
battle. Men from the Polish squadrons are gathering to the Hungarians.
Without them they would not be so daring, for in the infantry there is
stern discipline."

"In God's name!" cried Zagloba. "In that is salvation for us. Pan
Michael, are there many Polish squadrons? If they rise, it will be a
rising!"

"Stankyevich's hussars and Mirski's mailed squadrons are two days'
march from Kyedani," answered Volodyovski. "If they had been here, the
hetman would not have dared to arrest their commanders. Wait! There are
Kharlamp's dragoons, one regiment, Myeleshko's another; they are for
the prince. Nyevyarovski declared also for the prince, but his regiment
is far away,--two Scottish regiments."

"Then there are four with the prince?"

"And the artillery under Korf, two regiments."

"Oh, that's a strong force!"

"And Kmita's squadron, well equipped,--six hundred men."

"And on whose side is Kmita?"

"I do not know."

"Did you not see him? Did he throw down his baton?"

"We know not."

"Who are against the prince,--what squadrons?"

"First, these Hungarians evidently, two hundred men; then a number of
detached men from the commands of Mirski and Stankyevich; some nobles
and Kmita,--but he is uncertain."

"God grant him!--By God's mercy!--Too few, too few."

"These Hungarians are as good as two regiments, old soldiers and tried.
But wait! They are lighting the matches at the cannon; it looks like a
battle!"

Yan and Stanislav were silent; Zagloba was writhing as in a fever,--

"Slay the traitors! Slay the dog-brothers! Ai, Kmita! Kmita! All
depends on him. Is he daring?"

"As the devil,--ready for anything."

"It must be that he will take our side."

"Mutiny in the army! See to what the hetman has brought things!" cried
Volodyovski.

"Who is the mutineer,--the army, or the hetman who rose against his own
king?" asked Zagloba.

"Godwin judge that. Wait! Again there is a movement! Some of Kharlamp's
dragoons take the part of the Hungarians. The very best nobles serve in
that regiment. Hear how they shout!"

"The colonels! the colonels!" cried threatening voices in the yard.

"Pan Michael! by the wounds of God, cry to them to send for your
squadron and for the armored regiment and the hussars."

"Be silent!"

Zagloba began to shout himself: "But send for the rest of the Polish
squadrons, and cut down the traitors!"

"Be silent there!"

Suddenly, not in the yard, but in the rear of the castle, rang forth a
sharp salvo of muskets.

"Jesus Mary!" cried Volodyovski.

"Pan Michael, what is that?"

"Beyond doubt they have shot Stahovich and the two officers who went as
a deputation," said Volodyovski, feverishly. "It cannot be otherwise!"

"By the passion of our Lord! Then there is no mercy. It is impossible
to hope."

The thunder of shots drowned further discourse. Pan Michael grasped the
grating convulsively and pressed his forehead to it, but for a while he
could see nothing except the legs of the Scottish infantry stationed at
the window. Salvos of musketry grew more and more frequent; at last the
cannon were heard. The dry knocking of bullets against the wall over
the cellar was heard distinctly, like hail. The castle trembled to its
foundation.

"Jump down, Michael, or you will be killed!" cried Yan.

"By no means. The balls go higher; and from the cannon they are firing
in the other direction. I will not jump down for anything."

And Volodyovski, seizing the grating more firmly, drew himself entirely
to the window-sill, where he did not need the shoulder of Pan Yan to
hold him. In the cellar it became really dark, for the window was small
and Pan Michael though slender filled it completely; but as a
recompense the men below had fresh news from the field of battle every
minute.

"I see now!" cried Pan Michael. "The Hungarians are resting against the
wall and are firing. I was afraid that they would be forced to a
corner, then the cannon would destroy them in a moment. Good soldiers,
as God is dear to me! Without officers, they know what is needed. There
is smoke again! I see nothing--"

The firing began to slacken.

"O merciful God, delay not thy punishment!" cried Zagloba.

"And what, Michael?" asked Yan.

"The Scots are advancing to the attack!"

"Oh, brimstone thunderbolts, that we must sit here!" cried Stanislav.

"They are there already, the halberd-men! The Hungarians meet them with
the sabre! Oh, my God! that you cannot look on. What soldiers!"

"Fighting with their own and not with an enemy."

"The Hungarians have the upper hand. The Scots are falling back on the
left. As I love God! Myeleshko's dragoons are going over to them! The
Scots are between two fires. Korf cannot use his cannon, for he would
strike the Scots. I see Ganhoff uniforms among the Hungarians. They are
going to attack the gate. They wish to escape. They are advancing like
a storm,--breaking everything!"

"How is that? I wish they would capture this castle!" cried Zagloba.

"Never mind! They will come back to-morrow with the squadrons of
Mirski and Stankyevich--Oh, Kharlamp is killed! No! He rises; he is
wounded--they are already at the gate. What is that? Just as if the
Scottish guard at the gate were coming over to the Hungarians, for they
are opening the gate,--dust is rising on the outside; I see Kmita!
Kmita is rushing through the gate with cavalry!"

"On whose side is he, on whose side?" cried Zagloba.

For a moment Pan Michael gave no answer; but very soon the clatter of
weapons, shrieks, and shouts were heard with redoubled force.

"It is all over with them!" cried Pan Michael, with a shrill voice.

"All over with whom, with whom?"

"With the Hungarians. The cavalry has broken them, is trampling them,
cutting them to pieces! Their flag is in Kmita's hand! The end, the
end!"

When he had said this, Volodyovski dropped from the window and fell
into the arms of Pan Yan.

"Kill me!" cried he, "kill me, for I had that man under my sabre and
let him go with his life; I gave him his commission. Through me he
assembled that squadron with which he will fight now against the
country. I saw whom he got: dog-brothers, gallows-birds, robbers,
ruffians, such as he is himself. God grant me to meet him once more
with the sabre--God! lengthen my life to the death of that traitor, for
I swear that he will not leave my hands again."

Meanwhile cries, the trample of hoofs, and salvos of musketry were
thundering yet with full force; after a time, however, they began to
weaken, and an hour later silence reigned in the castle of Kyedani,
broken only by the measured tread of the Scottish patrols and words of
command.

"Pan Michael, look out once more and see what has happened," begged
Zagloba.

"What for?" asked the little knight. "Whoso is a soldier will guess
what has happened. Besides, I saw them beaten,--Kmita triumphs here!"

"God give him to be torn with horses, the scoundrel, the hell-dweller!
God give him to guard a harem for Tartars!"



                             CHAPTER XVII.


Pan Michael was right. Kmita had triumphed. The Hungarians and a part
of the dragoons of Myeleshko and Kharlamp who had joined them, lay dead
close together in the court of Kyedani. Barely a few tens of them had
slipped out and scattered around the castle and the town, where the
cavalry pursued them. Many were caught; others never stopped of a
certainty till they reached the camp of Sapyeha, voevoda of Vityebsk,
to whom they were the first to bring the terrible tidings of the grand
hetman's treason, of his desertion to the Swedes, of the imprisonment
of the colonels and the resistance of the Polish squadrons.

Meanwhile Kmita, covered with blood and dust, presented himself with
the banner of the Hungarians before Radzivill, who received him with
open arms. But Pan Andrei was not delighted with the victory. He was as
gloomy and sullen as if he had acted against his heart.

"Your highness," said he, "I do not like to hear praises, and would
rather a hundred times fight the enemy than soldiers who might be of
service to the country. It seems to a man as if he were spilling his
own blood."

"Who is to blame, if not those insurgents?" answered the prince. "I too
would prefer to send them to Vilna, and I intended to do so. But they
chose to rebel against authority. What has happened will not be undone.
It was and it will be needful to give an example."

"What does your highness think of doing with the prisoners?"

"A ball in the forehead of every tenth man. Dispose the rest among
other regiments. You will go to-day to the squadrons of Mirski and
Stankyevich, announce my order, to them to be ready for the campaign. I
make you commander over those two squadrons, and over the third, that
of Volodyovski. The lieutenants are to be subordinate to you and obey
you in everything. I wished to send Kharlamp to that squadron at first,
but he is useless. I have changed my mind."

"What shall I do in case of resistance? For with Volodyovski are Lauda
men who hate me terribly."

"Announce that Mirski, Stankyevich, and Volodyovski will be shot
immediately."

"Then they may come in arms to Kyedani to rescue these officers. All
serving under Mirski are distinguished nobles."

"Take a regiment of Scottish infantry and a German regiment. First
surround them, then announce the order."

"Such is the will of your highness."

Radzivill rested his hands on his knees and fell to thinking.

"I would gladly shoot Mirski and Stankyevich were they not respected in
the whole country as well as in their own regiments. I fear tumult and
open rebellion, an example of which we have just had before our eyes. I
am glad, thanks to you, that they have received a good lesson, and each
squadron will think twice before rising against us. But it is
imperative to act swiftly, so that resisting men may not go to the
voevoda of Vityebsk."

"Your highness has spoken only of Mirski and Stankyevich, you have not
mentioned Volodyovski and Oskyerko."

"I must spare Oskyerko, too, for he is a man of note and widely
related; but Volodyovski comes from Russia[21] and has no relatives
here. He is a valiant soldier, it is true. I counted on him,--so much
the worse that I was deceived. If the devil had not brought hither
those wanderers his friends, he might have acted differently; but after
what has happened, a bullet in the forehead waits him, as well as those
two Skshetuskis and that third fellow, that bull who began first to
bellow, 'Traitor, traitor!'"

Pan Andrei sprang up as if burned with iron: "Your highness, the
soldiers say that Volodyovski saved your life at Tsibyhova."

"He did his duty; therefore I wanted to give him Dydkyemie for life.
Now he has betrayed me; hence I give command to shoot him."

Kmita's eyes flashed, and his nostrils began to quiver.

"Your highness, that cannot be!"

"How cannot be?" asked Radzivill, frowning.

"I implore your highness," said Kmita, carried away, "that not a hair
fall from Volodyovski. Forgive me, I implore. Volodyovski had the power
not to deliver to me the commission, for it was sent to him and left at
his disposal. But he gave it. He plucked me out of the whirlpool.
Through that act of his I passed into the jurisdiction of your
highness. He did not hesitate to save me, though he and I were trying
to win the same woman. I owe him gratitude, and I have vowed to repay
him. Your highness, grant for my sake that no punishment touch him or
his friends. A hair should not fall from the head of either of them,
and as God is true, it will not fall while I live. I implore your
highness."

Pan Andrei entreated and clasped his hands, but his words were ringing
with anger, threats, and indignation. His unrestrained nature gained
the upper hand, and he stood above Radzivill with flashing eyes and a
visage like the head of an angry bird of prey. The hetman too had a
storm in his face. Before his iron will and despotism everything
hitherto in Lithuania and Russia had bent. No one had ever dared to
oppose him, no one to beg mercy for those once condemned; but now
Kmita's entreating was merely for show, in reality he presented
demands; and the position was such that it was impossible to refuse
him.

At the very beginning of his career of treason, the despot felt that he
would have to yield more than once to the despotism of men and
circumstances, and would be dependent on adherents of far less
importance than this one; that Kmita, whom he wished to turn into a
faithful dog, would be rather a captive wolf, ready when angry to bite
its master's hand.

All this roused the proud blood of Radzivill. He resolved to resist,
for his inborn terrible vengefulness urged him to that.

"Volodyovski and the other three must lose their heads," said he, with
a loud voice.

But to speak thus was to throw powder on fire.

"If I had not dispersed the Hungarians, these are not the men who had
lost their heads," shouted Kmita.

"How is this? Are you renouncing my service already?" asked the hetman,
threateningly.

"Your highness," answered Pan Andrei, with passion, "I am not
renouncing; I am begging, imploring. But the harm will not happen.
These men are famous in all Poland. It cannot be, it cannot be! I will
not be a Judas to Volodyovski. I will follow your highness into fire,
but refuse not this favor."

"But if I refuse?"

"Then give command to shoot me; I will not live! May thunderbolts split
me! May devils take me living to hell!"

"Remember, unfortunate, before whom you are speaking."

"Bring me not to desperation, your highness."

"To a prayer I may give ear, but a threat I will not consider."

"I beg,--I implore." Here Pan Andrei threw himself on his knees.
"Permit me, your highness, to serve you not from constraint, but with
my heart, or I shall go mad."

Radzivill said nothing. Kmita was kneeling; pallor and flushes chased
each other like lightning gleams over his face. It was clear that a
moment more and he would burst forth in terrible fashion.

"Rise!" said Radzivill.

Pan Andrei rose.

"To defend a friend you are able. I have the test that you will also be
able to defend me and will never desert. But God made you of nitre, not
of flesh, and have a care that you run not to fluid. I cannot refuse
you anything. Listen to me: Stankyevich, Mirski, and Oskyerko I will
send to the Swedes at Birji; let the two Skshetuskis and Volodyovski go
with them. The Swedes will not tear off their heads there, and it is
better that they sit out the war in quiet."

"I thank your highness, my father," cried Andrei.

"Wait," said the prince. "I have respected your oath already too
much; now respect mine. I have recorded death in my soul to that old
noble,--I have forgotten his name,--that bellowing devil who came here
with Skshetuski. He is the man who first called me traitor. He
mentioned a bribe; he urged on the others, and perhaps there would not
have been such opposition without his insolence." Here the prince
struck the table with his fist. "I should have expected death sooner,
and the end of the world sooner, than that any one would dare to shout
at me, Radzivill, to my face, 'Traitor!' In presence of people! There
is not a death, there are not torments befitting such a crime. Do not
beg me for him; it is useless."

But Pan Andrei was not easily discouraged when once he undertook a
thing. He was not angry now, nor did he blaze forth. But seizing again
the hand of the hetman, he began to cover it with kisses and to entreat
with all the earnestness in his soul--

"With no rope or chain could your highness bind my heart as with this
favor. Only do it not half-way nor in part, but completely. That noble
said yesterday what all thought. I myself thought the same till you
opened my eyes,--may fire consume me, if I did not! A man is not to
blame for being unwise. That noble was so drunk that what he had on his
heart he shouted forth. He thought that he was defending the country,
and it is hard to punish a man for love of country. He knew that he was
exposing his life, and shouted what he had on his mind. He neither
warms nor freezes me, but he is to Pan Volodyovski as a brother, or
quite as a father. Volodyovski would mourn for him beyond measure, and
I do not want that. Such is the nature within me, that if I wish good
to a man I would give my soul for him. If any one has spared me, but
killed my friend, may the devil take him for such a favor! Your
highness, my father, benefactor, do a perfect kindness,--give me this
noble, and I will give you all my blood, even tomorrow, this day, this
moment!"

Radzivill gnawed his mustaches. "I determined death to him yesterday in
my soul."

"What the hetman and voevoda of Vilna determined, that can the Grand
Prince of Lithuania and, God grant in the future, the King of Poland,
as a gracious monarch, efface."

Pan Andrei spoke sincerely what he felt and thought; but had he been
the most adroit of courtiers he could not have found a more powerful
argument in defence of his friends. The proud face of the magnate grew
bright at the sound of those titles which he did not possess yet, and
he said,--

"You have so understood me that I can refuse you nothing. They will all
go to Birji. Let them expiate their faults with the Swedes; and when
that has happened of which you have spoken, ask for them a new favor."

"As true as life, I will ask, and may God grant as quickly as
possible!" said Kmita.

"Go now, and bear the good news to them."

"The news is good for me, not for them; and surely they will not
receive it with gratitude, especially since they did not suspect what
threatened them. I will not go, your highness, for it would seem as if
I were hurrying to boast of my intercession."

"Do as you please about that, but lose no time in bringing the
squadrons of Mirski and Stankyevich; immediately after there will be
another expedition for you, from which surely you will not flee."

"What is that?"

"You will go to ask on my behalf Pan Billevich, the sword-bearer of
Rossyeni, to come to me here at Kyedani, with his niece, and stay
during the war. Do you understand?"

Kmita was confused. "He will not be ready to do that. He went from
Kyedani in a great rage."

"I think that the rage has left him already. In every case take men,
and if they will not come of their own will put them in a carriage,
surround it with dragoons, and bring them. He was as soft as wax when I
spoke with him; he blushed like a maiden and bowed to the floor, but he
was as frightened at the name of the Swedes as the devil is at holy
water, and went away. I want him here for myself and for you; I hope to
form out of that wax a candle that I can light when I like and for whom
I like. It will be all the better if it happens so; but if not, I will
have a hostage. The Billeviches are very powerful in Jmud, for they are
related to almost all the nobles. When I have one of them in my hands,
and that one the eldest, the others will think twice before they
undertake anything against me. Furthermore, behind them and your maiden
are all that throng of Lauda men, who, if they were to go to the camp
of the voevoda of Vityebsk, would be received by him with open arms.
That is an important affair, so important that I think to begin with
the Billeviches."

"In Volodyovski's squadron are Lauda men only."

"The guardians of your maiden. If that is true, begin by conveying her
to Kyedani. Only listen: I will undertake to bring the sword-bearer to
our side, but do you win the maiden as you can. When I bring over the
sword-bearer, he will help you with the girl. If she is willing, I will
have the wedding for you at once. If not, take her to the altar without
ceremony. When the storm is over, all will be well. That is the best
method with women. She will weep, she will despair, when they drag her
to the altar; but next day she will think that the devil is not so
terrible as they paint him, and the third day she will be glad. How did
you part from her yesterday?"

"As if she had given me a slap in the face."

"What did she say?"

"She called me a traitor. I was almost struck with paralysis."

"Is she so furious? When you are her husband, tell her that a distaff
is fitter for her than public affairs, and hold her tight."

"Your highness does not know her. She must have a thing either virtue
or vice; according to that she judges, and more than one man might envy
her her mind. Before you can look around she has struck the point."

"She has struck you to the heart. Try to strike her in like manner."

"If God would grant that, your highness! Once I took her with armed
hand, but afterward I vowed to do so no more. And something tells me
that were I to take her by force to the altar it would not be to my
heart, for I have promised her and myself not to use force again. If
her uncle is convinced he will convince her, and then she will look on
me differently. Now I will go to Billeviche and bring them both here,
for I am afraid that she may take refuge in some cloister. But I tell
your highness the pure truth, that though it is a great happiness for
me to look on that maiden, I would rather attack the whole Swedish
power than stand before her at present, for she does not know my honest
intentions and holds me a traitor."

"If you wish I will send another,--Kharlamp or Myeleshko."

"No, I would rather go myself; besides, Kharlamp is wounded."

"That is better. I wanted to send Kharlamp yesterday to Volodyovski's
squadron to take command, and if need be force it to obedience; but he
is an awkward fellow, and it turns out that he knows not how to hold
his own men. I have no service for him. Go first for the sword-bearer
and the maiden, and then to those squadrons. In an extreme case do not
spare blood, for we must show the Swedes that we have power and are not
afraid of rebellion. I will send the colonels away at once under
escort; I hope that Pontus de la Gardie will consider this a proof of
my sincerity. Myeleshko will take them. The beginning is difficult. I
see that half Lithuania will rise against me."

"That is nothing, your highness. Whoso has a clean conscience fears no
man."

"I thought that all the Radzivills at least would be on my side, but
see what Prince Michael writes from Nyesvyej."

Here the hetman gave Kmita the letter of Kazimir Michael. Pan Andrei
cast his eyes over the letter.

"If I knew not the intentions of your highness I should think him
right, and the most virtuous man in the world. God give him everything
good! He speaks what he thinks."

"Set out now!" said the prince, with a certain impatience.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


Kmita, however, did not start that day, nor the following, for
threatening news began to arrive at Kyedani from every side. Toward
evening a courier rushed in with tidings that Mirski's squadron and
Stankyevich's also were marching to the hetman's residence, prepared to
demand with armed hand their colonels; that there was terrible
agitation among them, and that the officers had sent deputations to all
the squadrons posted near Kyedani, and farther on to Podlyasye and
Zabludovo, with news of the hetman's treason, and with a summons to
unite in defence of the country. From this it was easy to see that
multitudes of nobles would fly to the insurgent squadrons and form an
important force, which it would be difficult to resist in unfortified
Kyedani, especially since not every regiment which Radzivill had at
hand could be relied on with certainty.

This changed all the calculations and plans of the hetman; but instead
of weakening, it seemed to rouse his courage still more. He determined
to move at the head of his faithful Scottish regiments, cavalry and
artillery, against the insurgents, and stamp out the fire at its birth.
He knew that the soldiers without colonels were simply an unorganized
throng, that would scatter from terror at the mere name of the hetman.
He determined also not to spare blood, and to terrify with examples the
whole army, all the nobles, nay, all Lithuania, so that it should not
dare even to tremble beneath his iron hand. Everything that he had
planned must be accomplished, and accomplished with his own forces.

That very day a number of foreign officers went to Prussia to make new
enlistments, and Kyedani was swarming with armed men. The Scottish
regiments, the foreign cavalry, the dragoons of Myeleshko and Kharlamp,
with the "fire people" of Pan Korf, were preparing for the campaign.
The prince's haiduks, his servants, and the citizens of Kyedani were
obliged to increase the military forces; and it was determined to
hasten the transfer of the prisoners to Birji, where it would be safer
to keep them than in exposed Kyedani. The prince hoped with reason that
to transport the colonels to a remote fortress, in which, according to
treaty, there must be a Swedish garrison already, would destroy in the
minds of the rebellious soldiers all hope of rescuing them, and deprive
the rebellion itself of every basis. Pan Zagloba, the Skshetuskis, and
Volodyovski were to share the lot of the others.

It was already evening when an officer with lantern in hand entered the
cellar in which they were, and said,--

"Prepare, gentlemen, to follow me."

"Whither?" asked Zagloba, with a voice of alarm.

"That will be seen. Hurry, hurry!"

"We come."

They went out. In the corridor Scottish soldiers armed with muskets
surrounded them. Zagloba grew more and more alarmed.

"Still they would not lead us to death without a priest, without
confession," whispered he in the ear of Volodyovski. Then he turned to
the officer; "What is your rank, I pray?"

"What is my rank to you?"

"I have many relatives in Lithuania, and it is pleasant to know with
whom one has to do."

"No time for inquiries, but he is a fool who is ashamed of his name. I
am Roh Kovalski, if you wish to know."

"That is an honorable stock! The men are good soldiers, the women are
virtuous. My grandmother was a Kovalski, but she made an orphan of me
before I came to the world. Are you from the Vyerush, or the Korab
Kovalskis?"

"Do you want to examine me as a witness, in the night?"

"Oh, I do this because you are surely a relative of mine, for we have
the same build. You have large bones and shoulders, just like mine, and
I got my form from my grandmother."

"Well, we can talk about that on the road. We shall have time!"

"On the road?" said Zagloba; and a great weight fell from his breast.
He breathed like a bellows, and gained courage at once.

"Pan Michael," whispered he, "did I not say that they would not cut our
heads off?"

Meanwhile they had reached the courtyard. Night had fallen completely.
In places red torches were burning or lanterns gleaming, throwing an
uncertain light on groups of soldiers, horse and foot, of various arms.
The whole court was crowded with troops. Clearly they were ready to
march, for a great movement was manifest on all sides. Here and
there in the darkness gleamed lances and gun-barrels; horses' hoofs
clattered on the pavement; single horsemen hurried between the
squadrons,--undoubtedly officers giving commands.

Kovalski stopped the convoy and the prisoners before an enormous wagon
drawn by four horses, and having a box made as it were of ladders.

"Take your places, gentlemen," said he.

"Some one is sitting there already," said Zagloba, clambering up. "But
our packs?"

"They are under the straw," said Kovalski; "hurry, hurry!"

"But who are sitting here?" asked Zagloba, looking at dark figures
stretched on the straw.

"Mirski, Stankyevich, Oskyerko," answered voices.

"Volodyovski, Yan and Stanislav Skshetuski, and Zagloba," answered our
knights.

"With the forehead, with the forehead!"

"With the forehead! We are travelling in honorable company. And whither
are they taking us, do you know, gentlemen?"

"You are going to Birji," said Kovalski.

When he said this, he gave the command. A convoy of fifty dragoons
surrounded the wagon and moved on. The prisoners began to converse in a
low voice.

"They will give us to the Swedes," said Mirski; "I expected that."

"I would rather sit among enemies than traitors," answered Stankyevich.

"And I would rather have a bullet in my forehead," said Volodyovski,
"than sit with folded arms during such an unfortunate war."

"Do not blaspheme, Michael," answered Zagloba, "for from the wagon,
should a convenient moment come, you may give a plunge, and from Birji
also; but it is hard to escape with a bullet in the forehead. I foresaw
that that traitor would not dare to put bullets in our heads."

"Is there a thing which Radzivill does not dare to do?" asked Mirski.
"It is clear that you have come from afar and know him not. On
whomsoever he has sworn vengeance, that man is as good as in the grave;
and I remember no instance of his forgiving any one the slightest
offence."

"But still he did not dare to raise hands on me!" answered Zagloba.
"Who knows if you have not to thank me for your lives?"

"And how?"

"Because the Khan loves me wonderfully, for I discovered a conspiracy
against his life when I was a captive in the Crimea. And our gracious
king, Yan Kazimir, loves me too. Radzivill, the son of a such a one,
did not wish to break with two such potentates; for they might reach
him, even in Lithuania."

"Ah! what are you saying? He hates the king as the devil does holy
water, and would be still more envenomed against you did he know you to
be a confidant of the king," observed Stankyevich.

"I think this," said Oskyerko. "To avoid odium the hetman would not
stain himself with our blood, but I could swear that this officer is
bearing an order to the Swedes in Birji to shoot us on the spot."

"Oi!" exclaimed Zagloba.

They were silent for a moment; meanwhile the wagon had rolled into the
square of Kyedani. The town was sleeping, there were no lights in the
windows, only the dogs before the houses snapped angrily at the passing
party.

"Well," said Zagloba, "we have gained time anyhow, and perhaps a chance
will serve us, and some stratagem may come to my head." Here he turned
to the old colonels: "Gentlemen, you know me little, but ask my
comrades about the hot places in which I have been, and from which I
have always escaped. Tell me, what kind of officer is this who commands
the convoy? Could he be persuaded not to adhere to a traitor, but take
the side of his country and join us?"

"That is Roh Kovalski of the Korab Kovalskis," answered Oskyerko.

"I know him. You might as well persuade his horse as him; for as God is
bountiful I know not which is more stupid."

"But why did they make him officer?"

"He carried the banner with Myeleshko's dragoons; for this no wit is
needed. But he was made officer because his fist pleased the prince;
for he breaks horseshoes, wrestles with tame bears, and the man has not
yet been discovered whom he cannot bring to the earth."

"Has he such strength?"

"That he has such strength is true; but were his superior to order him
to batter down a wall with his head he would fall to battering it
without a moment's delay. He is ordered to take us to Birji, and he
will take us, even if the earth had to sink."

"'Pon my word," said Zagloba, who listened to this conversation with
great attention, "he is a resolute fellow."

"Yes, but with him resolution consists in stupidity alone. When he has
time, and is not eating, he is sleeping. It is an astonishing thing,
which you will not believe; but once he slept forty-eight hours in the
barracks, and yawned when they dragged him from the plank bed."

"This officer pleases me greatly," said Zagloba, "for I always like to
know with whom I have to do."

When he had said this he turned to Kovalski. "But come this way,
please!" cried he, in a patronizing tone.

"What is it?" asked Kovalski, turning his horse.

"Have you gorailka?"

"I have."

"Give it!"

"How give it?"

"You know, gracious Kovalski, if it were not permitted you would have
had an order not to give it; but since you have not an order, give it."

"Ah," said Kovalski, astonished, "as I live! but that is like forcing."

"Forcing or not forcing, it is permitted you; and it is proper to
assist a blood relative and an older man, who, if he had married your
mother, might have been your father as easily as wink."

"What relative are you of mine?"

"I am, for there are two stocks of Kovalskis,--they who use the seal of
Vyerush and have a goat painted on their shield, with upraised hind
leg; and they who have on their shield the ship in which their ancestor
Kovalski sailed from England across the sea to Poland; and these are my
relatives, through my grandmother, and this is why I, too, have the
ship on my shield."

"As God lives! you are my relative."

"Are you a Korab (ship)?"

"A Korab."

"My own blood, as God is dear to me!" cried Zagloba. "It is lucky that
we have met, for in very truth I have come here to Lithuania to see the
Kovalskis; and though I am in bonds while you are on horseback and in
freedom I would gladly embrace you, for what is one's own is one's
own."

"How can I help you? They commanded me to take you to Birji; I will
take you. Blood is blood, but service is service."

"Call me Uncle," said Zagloba.

"Here is gorailka for you, Uncle," said Kovalski; "I can do that much."

Zagloba took the flask gladly, and drank to his liking. Soon a pleasant
warmth spread through his members. It began to grow clear in his brain,
and his mind became bright.

"Come down from the horse," said he to Kovalski, "and sit here a short
time in the wagon; let us talk, for I should like to have you say
something about our family. I respect service, but this too is
permitted."

Kovalski did not answer for a while.

"This was not forbidden," said he, at last.

Soon after he was sitting at the side of Zagloba, and stretched himself
gladly on the straw with which the wagon was filled.

Zagloba embraced him heartily.

"How is the health of thy old father?--God help me,--I've forgotten his
name."

"Roh, also."

"That's right, that's right. Roh begat Roh,--that is according to
command. You must call your son Roh as well, so that every hoopoo may
have his topknot. But are you married?"

"Of course! I am Kovalski, and here is Pani Kovalski; I don't want any
other."

So saying, the young officer raised to the eyes of Zagloba the hilt of
a heavy dragoon sabre, and repeated, "I don't want any other."

"Proper!" said Zagloba. "Roh, son of Roh, you are greatly pleasing to
me. A soldier is best accommodated when he has no wife save such a one,
and I will say more,--she will be a widow before you will be a widower.
The only pity is that you cannot have young Rohs by her, for I see that
you are a keen cavalier, and it would be a sin were such a stock to die
out."

"Oh, no fear of that!" said Kovalski; "there are six brothers of us."

"And all Kohs?"

"Does Uncle know that if not the first, then the second, has to be
Roh?--for Roh is our special patron."

"Let us drink again."

"Very well."

Zagloba raised the bottle; he did not drink all, however, but gave it
to the officer and said, "To the bottom, to the bottom! It is a pity
that I cannot see you," continued he. "The night is so dark that you
might hit a man in the face, you would not know your own fingers by
sight. But hear me, Roh, where was that army going from Kyedani when we
drove out?"

"Against the insurgents."

"The Most High God knows who is insurgent,--you or they."

"I an insurgent? How could that be? I do what my hetman commands."

"But the hetman does not do what the king commands, for surely the king
did not command him to join the Swedes. Would you not rather slay the
Swedes than give me, your relative, into their hands?"

"I might; but for every command there is obedience."

"And Pani Kovalski would rather slay Swedes; I know her. Speaking
between us, the hetman has rebelled against the king and the country.
Don't say this to any one, but it is so; and those who serve him are
rebels too."

"It is not proper for me to hear this. The hetman has his superior, and
I have mine; what is his own belongs to the hetman, and God would
punish me if I were to oppose him. That is an unheard of thing."

"You speak honestly; but think, Roh, if you were to happen into the
hands of those insurgents, I should be free, and it would be no fault
of yours, for _nec Hercules contra plures!_--I do not know where those
squadrons are, but you must know, and you see we might turn toward them
a little."

"How is that?"

"As if we went by chance to them? It would not be your fault if they
rescued us. You would not have me on your conscience,--and to have a
relative on a man's conscience, believe me, is a terrible burden."

"Oh Uncle, what are you saying! As God lives, I will leave the wagon
and sit on my horse. It is not I who will have uncle on my conscience,
but the hetman. While I live, nothing will come of this talk."

"Nothing is nothing!" said Zagloba; "I prefer that you speak sincerely,
though I was your uncle before Radzivill was your hetman. And do you
know, Roh, what an uncle is?"

"An uncle is an uncle."

"You have calculated very adroitly; but when a man has no father, the
Scriptures say that he must obey his uncle. The power of an uncle is as
that of a father, which it is a sin to resist. For consider even this,
that whoever marries may easily become a father; but in your uncle
flows the same blood as in your mother. I am not in truth the brother
of your mother, but my grandmother must have been your grandmother's
aunt. Know then that the authority of several generations rests in me;
for like everything else in the world we are mortal, therefore
authority passes from one of us to another, and neither the hetman nor
the king can ignore it, nor force any one to oppose it. It is sacred!
Has the full hetman or even the grand hetman the right to command not
merely a noble or an officer, but any kind of camp-follower, to rise up
against his father, his mother, his grandfather, or his blind old
grandmother? Answer me that, Roh. Has he the right?"

"What?" asked Kovalski, with a sleepy voice.

"Against his blind old grandmother!" repeated Zagloba. "Who in that
case would be willing to marry and beget children, or wait for
grandchildren? Answer me that, Roh."

"I am Kovalski, and this is Pani Kovalski," said the still sleepier
officer.

"If it is your wish, let it be so," answered Zagloba. "Better indeed
that you have no children, there will be fewer fools to storm around in
the world. Is it not true, Roh?"

Zagloba held down his ear, but heard nothing,--no answer now.

"Roh! Roh!" called he, in a low voice.

Kovalski was sleeping like a dead man.

"Are you sleeping?" muttered Zagloba. "Wait a bit--I will take this
iron pot off your head, for it is of no use to you. This cloak is too
tight at the throat; it might cause apoplexy. What sort of relative
were I, did I not save you?"

Here Zagloba's hands began to move lightly about the head and neck of
Kovalski. In the wagon all were in a deep sleep; the soldiers too
nodded in the saddles; some in front were singing in a low voice, while
looking out the road carefully,--for the night, though not rainy, was
exceedingly dark.

After a time, however, the soldier leading Kovalski's horse behind the
wagon saw in the darkness the cloak and bright helmet of his officer.
Kovalski, without stopping the wagon, slipped out and nodded to give
him the horse. In a moment he mounted.

"Pan Commandant, where shall we stop to feed?" asked the sergeant,
approaching him.

Pan Roh gave no word in reply, but moving forward passed slowly those
riding in front and vanished in the darkness. Soon there came to the
ears of the dragoons the quick tramp of a horse.

"The commandant has gone at a gallop!" said they to one another.
"Surely he wants to look around to see if there is some public house
near by. It is time to feed the horses,--time."

A half-hour passed, an hour, two hours, and Pan Kovalski seemed to be
ahead all the time, for somehow he was not visible. The horses grew
very tired, especially those drawing the wagon, and began to drag on
slowly. The stars were leaving the sky.

"Gallop to the commandant," said the sergeant; "tell him the horses are
barely able to drag along, and the wagon horses are tired."

One of the soldiers moved ahead, but after an hour returned alone.

"There is neither trace nor ashes of the commandant," said the soldier;
"he must have ridden five miles ahead."

The soldiers began to grumble.

"It is well for him he slept through the day, and just now on the
wagon; but do thou, soldier, pound through the night with the last
breath of thy horse and thyself!"

"There is an inn eighty rods distant," said the soldier who had ridden
ahead. "I thought to find him there, but no! I listened, trying to hear
the horse--Nothing to be heard. The devil knows where he is!"

"We will stop at the inn anyhow," said the sergeant. "We must let the
horses rest."

In fact they halted before the inn. The soldiers dismounted. Some went
to knock at the door; others untied bundles of hay, hanging at the
saddles, to feed the horses even from their hands.

The prisoners woke when the movement of the wagon ceased.

"But where are we going?" asked old Stankyevich.

"I cannot tell in the night," answered Volodyovski, "especially as we
are not going to Upita."

"But does not the load from Kyedani to Birji lie through Upita?" asked
Pan Yan.

"It does. But in Upita is my squadron, which clearly the prince fears
may resist, therefore he ordered Kovalski to take another road. Just
outside Kyedani we turned to Dalnovo and Kroki; from the second place
we shall go surely through Beysagoli and Shavli. It is a little out of
the way, but Upita and Ponyevyej will remain at the right. On this road
there are no squadrons, for all that were there were brought to
Kyedani, so as to have them at hand."

"But Pan Zagloba," said Stankyevich, "instead of thinking of
stratagems, as he promised, is sleeping sweetly, and snoring."

"Let him sleep. It is clear that he was wearied from talk with that
stupid commandant, relationship with whom he confessed. It is evident
that he wanted to capture him, but with no result. Whoso would not
leave Radzivill for his country, will surely not leave him for a
distant relative."

"Are they really relatives?" asked Oskyerko.

"They? They are as much relatives as you and I," answered Volodyovski.
"When Zagloba spoke of their common escutcheon, I knew it was not true,
for I know well that his is called wczele (in the forehead)."

"And where is Pan Kovalski?"

"He must be with the soldiers or in the inn."

"I should like to ask him to let me sit on some soldier's horse," said
Mirski, "for my bones are benumbed."

"He will not grant that," said Stankyevich; "for the night is dark, you
could easily put spurs to the horse, and be off. Who could overtake?"

"I will give him my word of honor not to attempt escape; besides, dawn
will begin directly."

"Soldier, where is the commandant?" asked Volodyovski of a dragoon
standing near.

"Who knows?"

"How, who knows? When I ask thee to call him, call him."

"We know not ourselves, Colonel, where he is," said the dragoon. "Since
he crawled out of the wagon and rode ahead, he has not come back."

"Tell him when he comes that we would speak with him."

"As the Colonel wishes," answered the soldier.

The prisoners were silent. From time to time only loud yawning was
heard on the wagon; the horses were chewing hay at one side. The
soldiers around the wagon, resting on the saddles, were dozing; others
talked in a low voice, or refreshed themselves each with what he had,
for it turned out that the inn was deserted and tenantless.

The night had begun to grow pale. On its eastern side the dark
background of the sky was becoming slightly gray; the stars, going out
gradually, twinkled with an uncertain, failing light. Then the roof of
the inn became hoary; the trees growing near it were edged with silver.
The horses and men seemed to rise out of the shade. After a while it
was possible to distinguish faces, and the yellow color of the cloaks.
The helmets began to reflect the morning gleam.

Volodyovski opened his arms and stretched himself, yawning from ear to
ear; then he looked at the sleeping Zagloba. All at once he threw back
his arms and shouted,--

"May the bullets strike him! In God's name! Gracious gentlemen, look
here!"

"What has happened?" asked the colonels, opening their eyes.

"Look here, look here!" said Volodyovski, pointing at the sleeping
form.

The prisoners turned their glances in the direction indicated, and
amazement was reflected on every face. Under the burka, and in the cap
of Zagloba, slept, with the sleep of the just, Pan Roh Kovalski; but
Zagloba was not in the wagon.

"He has escaped, as God is dear to me!" said the astonished Mirski,
looking around on every side, as if he did not yet believe his own
eyes.

"Oh, he is a finished rogue! May the hangman--" cried Stankyevich.

"He took the helmet and yellow cloak of that fool, and escaped on his
horse."

"Vanished as if he had dropped into water."

"He said he would get away by stratagem."

"They will never see him again!"

"Gentlemen," said Volodyovski, with delight, "you know not that man;
and I swear to you to-day that he will rescue us yet,--I know not how,
when, with what means,--but I swear that he will."

"God grant it! One cannot believe his eyesight," said Pan Stanislav.

The soldiers now saw what had happened. An uproar rose among them. One
crowded ahead of the other to the wagon, stared at their commandant,
dressed in a camel's hair burka and lynx-skin cap, and sleeping
soundly.

The sergeant began to shake him without ceremony. "Commandant!
commandant!"

"I am Kovalski, and this is Pani Kovalski," muttered Roh.

"Commandant, a prisoner has fled."

Kovalski sat up in the wagon and opened his eyes. "What?"

"A prisoner has fled,--that bulky noble who was talking with the
commandant."

The officer came to his senses. "Impossible!" cried he, with terrified
voice. "How was it? What happened? How did he escape?"

"In the helmet and cloak of the commandant; the soldiers did not know
him, the night was dark."

"Where is my horse?" cried Kovalski.

"The horse is gone. The noble fled on him."

"On my horse?"

"Yes."

Kovalski seized himself by the head. "Jesus of Nazareth! King of the
Jews!"

After a while he shouted, "Give here that dog-faith, that son of a such
a one who gave him the horse!"

"Pan Commandant, the soldier is not to blame. The night was dark, you
might have struck a man in the face, and he took your helmet and cloak;
rode near me, and I did not know him. If your grace had not sat in the
wagon, he could not have done it."

"Kill me, kill me!" cried the unfortunate officer.

"What is to be done?"

"Kill him, catch him!"

"That cannot be done in any way. He is on your horse,--the best horse;
ours are terribly road-weary. He fled at the first cock-crow; we cannot
overtake him."

"Hunt for a wind in the field!" said Stankyevich.

Kovalski, in a rage, turned to the prisoners. "You helped him to
escape! I will--"

Here he balled his gigantic fist, and began to approach them. Then
Mirski said threateningly, "Shout not, and remember that you are
speaking to superiors."

Kovalski quivered, and straightened himself involuntarily; for really
his dignity in presence of such a Mirski was nothing, and all his
prisoners were a head above him in rank and significance.

Stankyevich added: "If you have been commanded to take us, take us; but
raise no voice, for to-morrow you may be under the command of any one
of us."

Kovalski stared and was silent.

"There is no doubt you have fooled away your head, Pan Roh," said
Oskyerko. "To say, as you do, that we helped him is nonsense; for, to
begin with, we were sleeping, just as you were, and secondly, each one
would have helped himself rather than another. But you have fooled away
your head. There is no one to blame here but you. I would be the first
to order you shot, since being an officer you fell asleep like a
badger, and allowed a prisoner to escape in your own helmet and cloak,
nay, on your own horse,--an unheard of thing, such as has not happened
since the beginning of the world."

"An old fox has fooled the young man!" said Mirski.
"Jesus, Mary! I have not even the sabre!" cried Kovalski.

"Will not the sabre be of use to him?" asked Stankyevich, laughing.
"Pan Oskyerko has said well,--you have fooled away your head. You must
have had pistols in the holsters too?"

"I had!" said Kovalski, as if out of his mind.

Suddenly he seized his head with both hands: "And the letter of the
prince to the commandant of Birji! What shall I, unfortunate man, do
now? I am lost for the ages! God give me a bullet in the head!"

"That will not miss you," said Mirski, seriously. "How will you take us
to Birji now? What will happen if you say that you have brought us as
prisoners, and we, superior in rank, say that you are to be thrown into
the dungeon? Whom will they believe? Do you think that the Swedish
commandant will detain us for the reason simply that Pan Kovalski will
beg him to do so? He will rather believe us, and confine you under
ground."

"I am lost!" groaned Kovalski.

"Nonsense!" said Volodyovski.

"What is to be done, Pan Commandant?" asked the sergeant.

"Go to all the devils!" roared Kovalski. "Do I know what to do, where
to go? God give thunderbolts to slay thee!"

"Go on, go on to Birji; you will see!" said Mirski.

"Turn back to Kyedani," cried Kovalski.

"If they will not plant you at the wall there and shoot you, may
bristles cover me!" said Oskyerko. "How will you appear before
the hetman's face? Tfu! Infamy awaits you, and a bullet in the
head,--nothing more."

"For I deserve nothing more!" cried the unfortunate man.

"Nonsense, Pan Roh! We alone can save you," said Oskyerko. "You know
that we were ready to go to the end of the world with the hetman, and
perish. We have shed our blood more than once for the country, and
always shed it willingly; but the hetman betrayed the country,--he gave
this land to the enemy; he joined with them against our gracious lord,
to whom we swore allegiance. Do you think that it came easy to soldiers
like us to refuse obedience to a superior, to act against discipline,
to resist our own hetman? But whoso to-day is with the hetman is
against the king. Whoso to-day is with the hetman is a traitor to the
king and the Commonwealth. Therefore we cast down our batons at the
feet of the hetman; for virtue, duty, faith, and honor so commanded.
And who did it? Was it I alone? No! Pan Mirski, Pan Stankyevich, the
best soldiers, the worthiest men. Who remained with the hetman?
Disturbers. But why do you not follow men better, wiser, and older than
yourself? Do you wish to bring infamy on your name, and be trumpeted
forth as a traitor? Enter into yourself; ask your conscience what you
should do,--remain a traitor with Radzivill, the traitor, or go with
us, who wish to give our last breath for the country, shed the last
drop of our blood for it. Would the ground had swallowed us before we
refused obedience to the hetman; but would that our souls never escaped
hell, if we were to betray the king and the country for the profit of
Radzivill!"

This discourse seemed to make a great impression on Kovalski. He
stared, opened his mouth, and after a while said, "What do you wish of
me, gentlemen?"

"To go with us to the voevoda of Vityebsk, who will fight for the
country."

"But when I have an order to take you to Birji?"

"Talk with him," said Mirski.

"We want you to disobey the command,--to leave the hetman, and go with
us; do you understand?" said Oskyerko, impatiently.

"Say what you like, but nothing will come of that. I am a soldier; what
would I deserve if I left the hetman? It is not my mind, but his; not
my will, but his. When he sins he will answer for himself and for me,
and it is my dog-duty to obey him. I am a simple man; what I do not
effect with my hand, I cannot with my head. But I know this,--it is my
duty to obey, and that is the end of it."

"Do what you like!" cried Mirski.

"It is my fault," continued Roh, "that I commanded to return to
Kyedani, for I was ordered to go to Birji; but I became a fool through
that noble, who, though a relative, did to me what a stranger would not
have done. I wish he were not a relative, but he is. He had not God in
his heart to take my horse, deprive me of the favor of the prince, and
bring punishment on my shoulders. That is the kind of relative he is!
But, gentlemen, you will go to Birji, let come what may afterward."

"A pity to lose time, Pan Oskyerko," said Volodyovski.

"Turn again toward Birji!" cried Kovalski to the dragoons.

They turned toward Birji a second time. Pan Roh ordered one of the
dragoons to sit in the wagon; then he mounted that man's horse, and
rode by the side of the prisoners, repeating for a time, "A relative,
and to do such a thing!"

The prisoners, hearing this, though not certain of their fate and
seriously troubled, could not refrain from laughter; at last
Volodyovski said, "Comfort yourself, Pan Kovalski, for that man has
hung on a hook persons not such as you. He surpassed Hmelnitski himself
in cunning, and in stratagems no one can equal him."

Kovalski said nothing, but fell away a little from the wagon, fearing
ridicule. He was shamefaced in presence of the prisoners and of his own
soldiers, and was so troubled that he was pitiful to look at.

Meanwhile the colonels were talking of Zagloba, and of his marvellous
escape.

"In truth, 'tis astonishing," said Volodyovski, "that there are not in
the world straits, out of which that man could not save himself. When
strength and bravery are of no avail, he escapes through stratagem.
Other men lose courage when death is hanging over their heads, or they
commit themselves to God, waiting for what will happen; but he begins
straightway to work with his head, and always thinks out something. He
is as brave in need as Achilles, but he prefers to follow Ulysses."

"I would not be his guard, though he were bound with chains," said
Stankyevich; "for it is nothing that he will escape, but besides, he
will expose a man to ridicule."

"Of course!" said Pan Michael. "Now he will laugh at Kovalski to the
end of his life; and God guard a man from coming under his tongue, for
there is not a sharper in the Commonwealth. And when he begins, as is
his custom, to color his speech, then people are bursting from
laughter."

"But you say that in need he can use his sabre?" asked Stankyevich.

"Of course! He slew Burlei at Zbaraj, in view of the whole army."

"Well, God save us!" cried Stankyevich, "I have never seen such a man."

"He has rendered us a great service by his escape," said Oskyerko, "for
he took the letters of the hetman, and who knows what was written in
them against us? I do not think that the Swedish commandant at Birji
will give ear to us, and not to Kovalski. That will not be, for we come
as prisoners, and he as commanding the convoy. But certainly they will
not know what to do with us. In every case they will not cut off our
heads, and that is the main thing."

"I spoke as I did merely to confuse Kovalski completely," said Mirski;
"but that they will not cut off our heads, as you say, is no great
consolation, God knows. Everything so combines that it would be better
not to live; now another war, a civil war, will break out, that will be
final ruin. What reason have I, old man, to look on these things?"

"Or I, who remember other times?" said Stankyevich.

"You should not say that, gentlemen; for the mercy of God is greater
than the rage of men, and his almighty hand may snatch us from the
whirlpool precisely when we least expect."

"Holy are these words," said Pan Yan. "And to us, men from under the
standard of the late Prince Yeremi, it is grievous to live now, for we
were accustomed to victory; and still one likes to serve the country,
if the Lord God would give at last a leader who is not a traitor, but
one whom a man might trust with his whole heart and soul."

"Oi! true, true!" said Pan Michael. "A man would fight night and day."

"But I tell you, gentlemen, that this is the greatest despair," said
Mirski; "for every one wanders as in darkness, and asks himself what to
do, and uncertainty stifles him, like a nightmare. I know not how it is
with you, but mental disquiet is rending me. And when I think that I
cast my baton at the feet of the hetman, that I was the cause of
resistance and mutiny, the remnants of my gray hair stand on my head
from terror. So it is! But what is to be done in presence of open
treason? Happy are they who do not need to give themselves such
questions, and seek for answers in their souls."

"A leader, a leader; may the merciful Lord give a leader!" said
Stankyevich, raising his eyes toward heaven.

"Do not men say that the voevoda of Vityebsk is a wonderfully honest
man?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"They do," replied Mirski; "but he has not the baton of grand or full
hetman, and before the king clothes him with the office of hetman, he
can act only on his own account. He will not go to the Swedes, or
anywhere else; that is certain."

"Pan Gosyevski, full hetman, is a captive in Kyedani."

"Yes, for he is an honest man," said Oskyerko. "When news of that came
to me, I was distressed, and had an immediate foreboding of evil."

Pan Michael fell to thinking, and said after a while: "I was in Warsaw
once, and went to the king's palace. Our gracious lord, since he loves
soldiers and had praised me for the Berestechko affair, knew me at once
and commanded me to come to dinner. At this dinner I saw Pan
Charnyetski, as the dinner was specially for him. The king grew a
little merry from wine, pressed Charnyetski's head, and said at last:
'Even should the time come in which all will desert me, you will be
faithful.' With my own ears I heard that said, as it were with
prophetic spirit. Pan Charnyetski, from emotion, was hardly able to
speak. He only repeated: 'To the last breath! to the last breath!' And
then the king shed tears--"

"Who knows if those were not prophetic words, for the time of disaster
had already come," said Mirski.

"Charnyetski is a great soldier," replied Stankyevich. "There are no
lips in the Commonwealth which do not repeat his name."

"They say," said Pan Yan, "that the Tartars, who are aiding Revera
Pototski against Hmelnitski, are so much in love with Charnyetski that
they will not go where he is not with them."

"That is real truth," answered Oskyerko. "I heard that told in Kyedani
before the hetman. We were all praising at that time Charnyetski
wonderfully, but it was not to the taste of Radzivill, for he
frowned and said, 'He is quartermaster of the king, but he might be
under-starosta with me at Tykotsin.'"

"Envy, it is clear, was gnawing him."

"It is a well-known fact that an apostate cannot endure the lustre of
virtue."

Thus did the captive colonels converse; then their speech was turned
again to Zagloba. Volodyovski assured them that aid might be looked for
from him, for he was not the man to leave his friends in misfortune.

"I am certain," said he, "that he has fled to Upita, where he will find
my men, if they are not yet defeated, or taken by force to Kyedani.
With them he will come to rescue us, unless they refuse to come, which
I do not expect; for in the squadron are Lauda men chiefly, and they
are fond of me."

"But they are old clients of Radzivill," remarked Mirski

"True; but when they hear of the surrender of Lithuania to the Swedes,
the imprisonment of the full hetman and Pan Yudytski, of you and me, it
will turn their hearts away greatly from Radzivill. Those are honest
nobles; Pan Zagloba will neglect nothing to paint the hetman with soot,
and he can do that better than any of us."

"True," said Pan Stanislav; "but meanwhile we shall be in Birji."

"That cannot be, for we are making a circle to avoid Upita, and from
Upita the road is direct as if cut with a sickle. Even were they to
start a day later, or two days, they could still be in Birji before us,
and block our way. We are only going to Shavli now, and from there we
shall go to Birji directly; but you must know that it is nearer from
Upita to Birji than to Shavli."

"As I live, it is nearer, and the road is better," said Mirski, "for it
is a high-road."

"There it is! And we are not yet in Shavli."

Only in the evening did they see the hill called Saltuves-Kalnas, at
the foot of which Shavli stands. On the road they saw that disquiet was
reigning in all the villages and towns through which they passed.
Evidently news of the hetman's desertion to the Swedes had run through
all Jmud. Here and there the people asked the soldiers if it were true
that the country was to be occupied by Swedes; here and there crowds of
peasants were leaving the villages with their wives, children, cattle,
and effects, and going to the depths of the forest, with which the
whole region was thickly covered. In places the aspect of the peasants
was almost threatening, for evidently the dragoons were taken for
Swedes. In villages inhabited by nobles they were asked directly who
they were and where they were going; and when Kovalski, instead of
answering, commanded them to leave the road, it came to shouts and
threats to such a degree that muskets levelled for firing were barely
sufficient to open a passage.

The highway leading from Kovno through Shavli to Mitava was covered
with wagons and carriages, in which were the wives and children of
nobles wishing to take refuge from war in estates in Courland. In
Shavli itself, which was an appanage of the king, there were no private
squadrons of the hetman, or men of the quota; but here the captive
colonels saw for the first time a Swedish detachment, composed of
twenty-five knights, who had come on a reconnoissance from Birji.
Crowds of Jews and citizens were staring at the strangers. The colonels
too gazed at them with curiosity, especially Volodyovski, who had never
before seen Swedes; hence he examined them eagerly with the desiring
eyes with which a wolf looks at a flock of sheep.

Pan Kovalski entered into communication with the officer, declared who
he was, where he was going, whom he was conveying, and requested him to
join his men to the dragoons, for greater safety on the road. But the
officer answered that he had an order to push as far as possible into
the depth of the country, so as to be convinced of its condition,
therefore he could not return to Birji; but he gave assurance that the
road was safe everywhere, for small detachments, sent out from Birji,
were moving in all directions,--some were sent even as far as Kyedani.
After he had rested till midnight, and fed the horses, which were very
tired, Pan Roh moved on his way, turning from Shavli to the east
through Yohavishkyele and Posvut toward Birji, so as to reach the
direct highway from Upita and Ponyevyej.

"If Zagloba comes to our rescue," said Volodyovski, about daylight, "it
will be easiest to take this road, for he could start right at Upita."

"Maybe he is lurking here somewhere," said Pan Stanislav.

"I had hope till I saw the Swedes," said Stankyevich, "but now it
strikes me that there is no help for us."

"Zagloba has a head to avoid them or to fool them; and he will be able
to do so."

"But he does not know the country."

"The Lauda people know it; for some of them take hemp, wainscots, and
pitch to Riga, and there is no lack of such men in my squadron."

"The Swedes must have occupied all the places about Birji."

"Fine soldiers, those whom we saw in Shavli, I must confess," said the
little knight, "man for man splendid! Did you notice what well-fed
horses they had?"

"Those are Livland horses, very powerful," said Mirski. "Our hussar and
armored officers send to Livland for horses, since our beasts are
small."

"Tell me of the Swedish infantry!" put in Stankyevich. "Though the
cavalry makes a splendid appearance, it is inferior. Whenever one of
our squadrons, and especially of the important divisions, rushed on
their cavalry, the Swedes did not hold out while you could say 'Our
Father' twice."

"You have tried them in old times," said the little knight, "but I have
no chance of testing them. I tell you, gentlemen, when I saw them now
in Shavli, with their beards yellow as flax, ants began to crawl over
my fingers. Ei, the soul would to paradise; but sit thou here in the
wagon, and sigh."

The colonels were silent; but evidently not Pan Michael alone was
burning with such friendly feeling toward the Swedes, for soon the
following conversation of the dragoons surrounding the wagon came to
the ears of the prisoners.

"Did you see those pagan dog-faiths?" said one soldier; "we were to
fight with them, but now we must clean their horses."

"May the bright thunderbolts crush them!" muttered another dragoon.

"He quiet, the Swede will teach thee manners with a broom over thy
head!"

"Or I him."

"Thou art a fool! Not such as thou wish to rush at them; thou seest
what has happened."

"We are taking the greatest knights to them, as if into the dog's
mouth. They, the sons of Jew mothers, will abuse these knights."

"Without a Jew you cannot talk with such trash. The commandant in
Shavli had to send for a Jew right away."

"May the plague kill them!"

Here the first soldier lowered his voice somewhat and said, "They say
the best soldiers do not wish to fight against their own king."

"Of course not! Did you not see the Hungarians, or how the hetman used
troops against those resisting. It is unknown yet what will happen.
Some of our dragoons too took part with the Hungarians; these men very
likely are shot by this time."

"That is a reward for faithful service!"

"To the devil with such work! A Jew's service!"

"Halt!" cried, on a sudden, Kovalski riding in front.

"May a bullet halt in thy snout!" muttered a voice near the wagon.

"Who is there?" asked the soldiers of one another.

"Halt!" came a second command.

The wagon stopped. The soldiers held in their horses. The day was
pleasant, clear. The sun had risen, and by its rays was to be seen, on
the highway ahead, clusters of dust rising as if herds or troops were
coming.

Soon the dust began to shine, as if some one were scattering sparks in
the bunches of it; and lights glittered each moment more clearly, like
burning candles surrounded with smoke.

"Those are spears gleaming!" cried Pan Michael.

"Troops are coming."

"Surely some Swedish detachment!"

"With them only infantry have spears; but there the dust is moving
quickly. That is cavalry,--our men!"

"Ours, ours!" repeated the dragoons.

"Form!" thundered Pan Roh.

The dragoons surrounded the wagon in a circle. Pan Volodyovski had
flame in his eyes.

"Those are my Lauda men with Zagloba! It cannot be otherwise!"

Now only forty rods divided those approaching from the wagon, and the
distance decreased every instant, for the coming detachment was moving
at a trot. Finally, from out the dust pushed a strong body of troops
moving in good order, as if to attack. In a moment they were nearer. In
the first rank, a little from the right side, moved, under a bunchuk,
some powerful man with a baton in his hand. Scarcely had Volodyovski
put eye on him when he cried,--

"Pan Zagloba! As I love God, Pan Zagloba!"

A smile brightened the face of Pan Yan. "It is he, and no one else, and
under a bunchuk! He has already created himself hetman. I should have
known him by that whim anywhere. That man will die as he was born."

"May the Lord God give him health!" said Oskyerko.

Then he put his hands around his mouth and began to call, "Gracious
Kovalski! your relative is coming to visit you!"

But Pan Roh did not hear, for he was just forming his dragoons. And it
is only justice to declare that though he had a handful of men, and on
the other side a whole squadron was rolling against him, he was not
confused, nor did he lose courage. He placed the dragoons in two ranks
in front of the wagon; but the others stretched out and approached in a
half-circle, Tartar fashion, from both sides of the field. But
evidently they wished to parley, for they began to wave a flag and
cry,--

"Stop! stop!"

"Forward!" cried Kovalski.

"Yield!" was cried from the road.

"Fire!" commanded in answer Kovalski.

Dull silence followed,--not a single dragoon fired. Pan Roh was dumb
for a moment; then he rushed as if wild on his own dragoons.

"Fire, dog-faiths!" roared he, with a terrible voice; and with one blow
of his fist he knocked from his horse the nearest soldier.

Others began to draw back before the rage of the man, but no one obeyed
the command. All at once they scattered, like a flock of frightened
partridges, in the twinkle of an eye.

"Still I would have those soldiers shot!" muttered Mirski.

Meanwhile Kovalski, seeing that his own men had left him, turned his
horse to the attacking ranks.

"For me death is there!" cried he, with a terrible voice.

And he sprang at them, like a thunderbolt. But before he had passed
half the distance a shot rattled from Zagloba's ranks.

Pan Roh's horse thrust his nose into the dust and fell, throwing his
rider. At the same moment a soldier of Volodyovski's squadron pushed
forward like lightning, and caught by the shoulder the officer rising
from the ground.

"That is Yuzva Butrym," cried Volodyovski, "Yuzva Footless!"

Pan Roh in his turn seized Yuzva by the skirt, and the skirt remained
in his hand; then they struggled like two enraged falcons, for both had
gigantic strength. Butrym's stirrup broke; he fell to the ground and
turned over, but he did not let Pan Roh go, and both formed as it were
one ball, which rolled along the road.

Others ran up. About twenty hands seized Kovalski, who tore and dragged
like a bear in a net; he hurled men around, as a wild boar hurls dogs;
he raised himself again and did not give up the battle. He wanted to
die, but he heard tens of voices repeating the words, "Take him alive!
take him alive!" At last his strength forsook him, and he fainted.

Meanwhile Zagloba was at the wagon, or rather on the wagon, and had
seized in his embraces Pan Yan, the little knight, Mirski, Stankyevich,
and Oskyerko, calling with panting voice,--

"Ha! Zagloba was good for something! Now we will give it to that
Radzivill. We are free gentlemen, and we have men. We'll go straightway
to ravage his property. Well! did the stratagem succeed? I should have
got you out,--if not in one way, in another. I am so blown that I can
barely draw breath. Now for Radzivill's property, gracious gentlemen,
now for Radzivill's property! You do not know yet as much of Radzivill
as I do!"

Further outbursts were interrupted by the Lauda men, who ran one after
another to greet their colonel. The Butryms, the Smoky Gostsyeviches,
the Domasheviches, the Stakyans, the Gashtovts, crowded around the
wagon, and powerful throats bellowed continually,--

"Vivat! vivat!"

"Gracious gentlemen," said the little knight when it grew somewhat
quieter, "most beloved comrades, I thank you for your love. It is a
terrible thing that we must refuse obedience to the hetman, and raise
hands against him; but since his treason is clear, we cannot do
otherwise. We will not desert our country and our gracious king--Vivat
Johannes Casimirus Rex!"

"Vivat Johannes Casimirus Rex!" repeated three hundred voices.

"Attack the property of Radzivill!" shouted Zagloba, "empty his larders
and cellars!"

"Horses for us!" cried the little knight.

They galloped for horses.

Then Zagloba said, "Pan Michael, I was hetman over these people in
place of you, and I acknowledge willingly that they acted with
manfulness; but as you are now free, I yield the command into your
hands."

"Let your grace take command, as superior in rank," said Pan Michael,
turning to Mirski.

"I do not think of it, and why should I?" said the old colonel.

"Then perhaps Pan Stankyevich?"

"I have my own squadron, and I will not take his from a stranger.
Remain in command; ceremony is chopped straw, satisfaction is oats! You
know the men, they know you, and they will fight better under you."

"Do so, Michael, do so, for otherwise it would not be well," said Pan
Yan.

"I will do so."

So saying, Pan Michael took the baton from Zagloba's hands, drew up the
squadron for marching, and moved with his comrades to the head of it.

"And where shall we go?" asked Zagloba.

"To tell the truth, I don't know myself, for I have not thought of
that," answered Pan Michael.

"It is worth while to deliberate on what we should do," said Mirski,
"and we must begin at once. But may I be permitted first to give thanks
to Pan Zagloba in the name of all, that he did not forget us in straits
and rescued us so effectually?"

"Well," said Zagloba, with pride, raising his head and twisting his
mustache. "Without me you would be in Birji! Justice commands to
acknowledge that what no man can think out, Zagloba thinks out. Pan
Michael, we were in straits not like these. Remember how I saved you
when we were fleeing before the Tartars with Helena?"

Pan Michael might have answered that in that juncture not Zagloba saved
him, but he Zagloba; still he was silent, and his mustache began to
quiver. The old noble spoke on,--

"Thanks are not necessary, since what I did for you today you certainly
would not fail to do for me to-morrow in case of need. I am as glad to
see you free as if I had gained the greatest battle. It seems that
neither my hand nor my head has grown very old yet."

"Then you went straightway to Upita?" asked Volodyovski.

"But where should I go,--to Kyedani?--crawl into the wolf's throat? Of
course to Upita; and it is certain that I did not spare the horse, and
a good beast he was. Yesterday early I was in Upita, and at midday we
started for Birji, in the direction in which I expected to meet you."

"And how did my men believe you at once? For, with the exception of two
or three who saw you at my quarters, they did not know you."

"To tell the truth, I had not the least difficulty; for first of all, I
had your ring, Pan Michael, and secondly, the men had just learned of
your arrest and the treason of the hetman. I found a deputation to them
from Pan Mirski's squadron and that of Pan Stankyevich, asking to join
them against the hetman, the traitor. When I informed them that you
were being taken to Birji, it was as if a man had thrust a stick into
an ant-hill. Their horses were at pasture; boys were sent at once to
bring them in, and at midday we started. I took the command openly, for
it belonged to me."

"But, father, where did you get the bunchuk?" asked Pan Yan. "We
thought from a distance that you were the hetman."

"Of course, I did not look worse than he? Where did I get the bunchuk?
Well, at the same time with the deputations from the resisting
squadrons, came also Pan Shchyt with a command to the Lauda men to
march to Kyedani, and he brought a bunchuk to give greater weight to
the command. I ordered his arrest on the spot, and had the bunchuk
borne above me to deceive the Swedes if I met them."

"As God lives, he thought all out wisely!" cried Oskyerko.

"As Solomon!" added Stankyevich.

Zagloba swelled up as if he were yeast.

"Let us take counsel at once as to what should be done," said he at
last. "If it is agreeable to the company to listen to me with patience,
I will tell what I have thought over on the road. I do not advise you
to commence war with Radzivill now, and this for two reasons: first,
because he is a pike and we are perches. It is better for perches never
to turn head to a pike, for he can swallow them easily, but tail, for
then the sharp scales protect them. May the devil fix him on a spit in
all haste, and baste him with pitch lest he burn overmuch."

"Secondly?" asked Mirski.

"Secondly," answered Zagloba, "if at any time, by any fortune, we
should fall into his hands, he would give us such a flaying that all
the magpies in Lithuania would have something to scream about. See what
was in that letter which Kovalski was taking to the Swedish commandant
at Birji, and know the voevoda of Vilna, in case he was unknown to you
hitherto."

So saying, he unbuttoned his vest, and taking from his bosom a letter,
gave it to Mirski.

"Pshaw! it is in German or Swedish," said the old colonel. "Who can
read this letter?"

It appeared that Pan Stanislav alone knew a little German, for he had
gone frequently to Torun (Thorn), but he could not read writing.

"I will tell you the substance of it," said Zagloba. "When in Upita the
soldiers sent to the pasture for their horses, there was a little time.
I gave command to bring to me by the locks a Jew whom every one said
was dreadfully wise, and he, with a sabre at his throat, read quickly
all that was in the letter and shelled it out to me. Behold the hetman
enjoined on the commandant at Birji, and for the good of the King of
Sweden directed him, after the convoy had been sent back, to shoot
every one of us, without sparing a man, but so to do it that no report
might go abroad."

All the colonels began to clap their hands, except Mirski, who, shaking
his head, said,--

"It was for me who knew him marvellous, and not find a place in my
head, that he would let us out of Kyedani. There must surely be reasons
to us unknown, for which he could not put us to death himself."

"Doubtless for him it was a question of public opinion."

"Maybe."

"It is wonderful how venomous he is," said the little knight; "for
without mentioning services, I and Ganhof saved his life not so long
ago."

"And I," said Stankyevich, "served under his father and under him
thirty-five years."

"He is a terrible man!" added Pan Stanislav.

"It is better not to crawl into the hands of such a one," said Zagloba.
"Let the devils take him! We will avoid fighting with him, but we will
pluck bare these estates of his that lie on our way."

"Let us go to the voevoda of Vityebsk, so as to have some defence, some
leader; and on the road we will take what can be had from the larders,
stables, granaries, and cellars. My soul laughs at the thought, and it
is sure that I will let no one surpass me in this work. What money we
can take from land-bailiffs we will take. The more noisily and openly
we go to the voevoda of Vityebsk, the more gladly will he receive us."

"He will receive us gladly as we are," said Oskyerko. "But it is good
advice to go to him, and better can no one think out at present."

"Will all agree to that?" asked Stankyevich.

"As true as life!" said Pan Mirski. "So then to the voevoda of
Vityebsk! Let him be that leader for whom we prayed to God."

"Amen!" said the others.

They rode some time in silence, till at last Pan Michael began to be
uneasy in the saddle. "But could we not pluck the Swedes somewhere on
the road?" asked he at last, turning his eyes to his comrades.

"My advice is: if a chance comes, why not?" answered Stankyevich.
"Doubtless Radzivill assured the Swedes that he had all Lithuania in
his hands, and that all were deserting Yan Kazimir willingly; let it be
shown that this is not true."

"And properly!" said Mirski. "If some detachment crawls into our way,
we will ride over it. I will say also: Attack not the prince himself,
for we could not stand before him, he is a great warrior! But, avoiding
battles, it is worth while to move about Kyedani a couple of days."

"To plunder Radzivill's property?" asked Zagloba.

"No, but to assemble more men. My squadron and that of Pan Stankyevich
will join us. If they are already defeated,--and they may be,--the men
will come to us singly. It will not pass either without a rally of
nobles to us. We will bring Pan Sapyeha fresh forces with which he can
easily undertake something."

In fact, that reckoning was good; and the dragoons of the convoy served
as the first example, though Kovalski himself resisted--all his men
went over without hesitation to Pan Michael. There might be found more
such men in Radzivill's ranks. It might also be supposed that the first
attack on the Swedes would call forth a general uprising in the
country.

Pan Michael determined therefore to move that night toward Ponyevyej,
assemble whom he could of the Lauda nobles in the vicinity of Upita,
and thence plunge into the wilderness of Rogovsk, in which, as he
expected, the remnants of the defeated resisting squadrons would be in
hiding. Meanwhile he halted for rest at the river Lavecha, to refresh
horses and men.

They halted there till night, looking from the density of the forest to
the high-road, along which were passing continually new crowds of
peasants, fleeing to the woods before the expected Swedish invasion.

The soldiers sent out on the road brought in from time to time single
peasants as informants concerning the Swedes; but it was impossible to
learn much from them. The peasants were frightened, and each repeated
separately that the Swedes were here and there, but no one could give
accurate information.

When it had become completely dark, Pan Volodyovski commanded the men
to mount their horses; but before they started a rather distinct sound
of bells came to their ears.

"What is that?" asked Zagloba, "it is too late for the Angelus."

Volodyovski listened carefully, for a while. "That is an alarm!" said
he.

Then he went along the line. "And does any one here know what village
or town there is in that direction?"

"Klavany, Colonel," answered one of the Gostsyeviches; "we go that way
with potash."

"Do you hear bells?"

"We hear! That is something unusual."

Volodyovski nodded to the trumpeter, and in a low note the trumpet
sounded in the dark forest. The squadron pushed forward.

The eyes of all were fixed in the direction from which the ringing came
each moment more powerful; indeed they were not looking in vain, for
soon a red light gleamed on the horizon and increased every moment.

"A fire!" muttered the men in the ranks.

Pan Michael bent toward Skshetuski. "The Swedes!" said he.

"We will try them!" answered Pan Yan.

"It is a wonder to me that they are setting fire."

"The nobles must have resisted, or the peasants risen if they attacked
the church."

"Well, we shall see!" said Pan Michael. And he was panting with
satisfaction.

Then Zagloba clattered up to him. "Pan Michael?"

"What?"

"I see that the odor of Swedish flesh has come to you. There will
surely be a battle, will there not?"

"As God gives, as God gives!"

"But who will guard the prisoner?"

"What prisoner?"

"Of course, not me, but Kovalski. Pan Michael, it is a terribly
important thing that he should not escape. Remember that the hetman
knows nothing of what has happened, and will learn from no one, if
Kovalski does not report to him. It is requisite to order some trusty
men to guard him; for in time of battle he might escape easily,
especially if he takes up some stratagem."

"He is as capable of stratagems as the wagon on which he is sitting.
But you are right; it is necessary to station some one near. Will you
have him under your eye during this time?"

"H'm! I am sorry to be away from the battle! It is true that in the
night near fire I am as good as blind. If it were in the daytime you
would never have persuaded me; but since the public good requires it,
let this be so."

"Very well, I will leave you with five soldiers to assist; and if he
tries to escape, fire at his head."

"I'll squeeze him like wax in my fingers, never fear!--But the fire is
increasing every moment. Where shall I stay with Kovalski?"

"Wherever you like. I've no time now!" answered Pan Michael, and he
rode on.

The flames were spreading rapidly. The wind was blowing from the fire
and toward the squadron, and with the sound of bells brought the report
of firearms.

"On a trot!" commanded Volodyovski.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


When near the village, the Lauda men slackened their speed, and saw a
broad street so lighted by flames that pins might be picked from the
ground; for on both sides a number of cottages were burning, and others
were catching fire from these gradually, for the wind was strong and
carried sparks, nay, whole clusters of them, like fiery birds, to the
adjoining roofs. On the street the flames illuminated greater and
smaller crowds of people moving quickly in various directions. The
cries of men were mingled with the sounds of the church-bells hidden
among trees, with the bellowing of cattle, the barking of dogs, and
with infrequent discharges of firearms.

After they had ridden nearer, Volodyovski's soldiers saw troopers
wearing round hats, not many men. Some were skirmishing with groups of
peasants, armed with scythes and forks; firing at them from pistols,
and pushing them beyond the cottages, into the gardens; others were
driving oxen, cows, and sheep to the road with rapiers; others, whom it
was barely possible to distinguish among whole clouds of feathers, had
covered themselves with poultry, with wings fluttering in the agonies
of death; some were holding horses, each man having two or three
belonging to officers who were occupied evidently in plundering the
cottages.

The road to the village descended somewhat from a hill in the midst of
a birch-grove; so that the Lauda men, without being seen themselves,
saw, as it were, a picture representing the enemy's attack on the
village, lighted up by flames, in the glare of which could be clearly
distinguished foreign soldiers, villagers, women dragged by troopers,
and men defending themselves in disordered groups. All were moving
violently, like puppets on springs, shouting, cursing, lamenting.

The conflagration shook a full mane of flame over the village, and
roared each moment more terribly.

Volodyovski led his men to the open gate, and ordered them to slacken
their pace. He might strike, and with one blow wipe out the invaders,
who were expecting nothing; but the little knight had determined "to
taste the Swedes" in open battle,--he had so arranged that they might
see him coming.

Some horsemen, standing near the gate, saw the approaching squadron
first. One of them sprang to an officer, who stood with drawn rapier in
the midst of a considerable group of horsemen, in the middle of the
road, and began to speak to him, pointing to where Volodyovski was
descending with his men. The officer shaded his eyes with his hand and
gazed for a time; then he gave a sign, and at once the sharp sound of a
trumpet was heard, mingled with various cries of men and beasts.

And here our knight could admire the regularity of the Swedish
soldiers; for barely were the first tones of the trumpet heard, when
some of the horsemen rushed out in hot haste from the cottages, others
left the plundered articles, the oxen and sheep, and ran to their
horses. In the twinkle of an eye they stood in regular line; at sight
of which the little knight's heart rose with wonder, so select were the
men. All were large, sturdy fellows, dressed in coats, with leather
straps over the shoulders, and black hats with rim raised on the left
side; all had matched bay horses, and stood in line with rapiers at
their shoulders, looking sharply, but calmly, at the road.

An officer stepped forth from the line with a trumpeter, wishing
apparently to inquire what sort of men were approaching so slowly.
Evidently they were thought to be one of Radzivill's squadrons, from
which no encounter was expected. The officer began to wave his rapier
and his hat; the trumpeter sounded continually, as a sign that they
wished to parley.

"Let some one fire at him," said the little knight, "so that he may
know what to expect from us."

The report sounded; but the shot did not reach, for the distance was
too great. Evidently the officer thought that there was some
misunderstanding, for he began to shout and to wave his hat.

"Let him have it a second time!" cried Volodyovski.

After the second discharge the officer turned and moved, though not too
hurriedly, toward his own, who also approached him on a trot.

The first rank of Lauda men were now entering the gate.

The Swedish officer, riding up, shouted to his men; the rapiers,
hitherto standing upright by the shoulders of the horsemen, dropped and
hung at their belts; but all at the same instant drew pistols from the
holsters, and rested them on the pommels of their saddles, holding the
muzzle upward.

"Finished soldiers!" muttered Volodyovski, seeing the rapidity of their
movements, which were simultaneous and almost mechanical. Then he
looked at his own men to see if the ranks were in order, straightened
himself in the saddle, and cried,--

"Forward!"

The Lauda men bent down to the necks of their horses, and rushed on
like a whirlwind.

The Swedes let them come near, and then gave a simultaneous discharge
from their pistols; but this did little harm to the Lauda men hidden
behind the heads of their horses; only a few dropped the reins and fell
backward, the rest rushed on and struck the horsemen, breast to breast.

The Lithuanian light squadrons used lances yet, which in the army of
the kingdom the hussars alone used; but Volodyovski expecting a battle
at close quarters, had ordered his men to plant their lances at the
roadside, therefore it came to sabres at once.

The first impetus was not sufficient to break the Swedes, but it pushed
them back, so that they began to retreat, cutting and thrusting with
their rapiers; but the Lauda men pushed them furiously along the road.
Bodies began to fall thickly. The throng grew denser each moment; the
clatter of sabres frightened the peasants out of the broad road, in
which the heat from the burning houses was unendurable, though the
houses were separated from the road and the fences by gardens.

The Swedes, pressed with increasing vigor, retreated gradually, but
still in good order. It was difficult moreover to scatter them, since
strong fences closed the road on both sides. At times they tried to
stop, but were unable to do so.

It was a wonderful battle, in which, by reason of the relatively narrow
place of meeting, only the first ranks fought, those next in order
could only push forward those standing in front of them; but just for
this reason the struggle was turned into a furious encounter.

Volodyovski, having previously requested the old colonels and Pan Yan
to look after the men during the attack, enjoyed himself to the full in
the first rank. And every moment some Swedish hat fell before him in
the throng, as if it had dived into the ground; sometimes a rapier,
torn from the hand of a horseman, flew whistling above the rank, and at
the same instant was heard the piercing cry of a man, and again a hat
fell; a second took its place, then a third the place of the second;
but Volodyovski pushed ever forward. His eyes glittered like two
ill-omened sparks, but he was not carried away and did not forget
himself; at moments, when he had no one at sword's length in front of
him, he turned his face and blade somewhat to the right or left, and
destroyed in the twinkle of an eye a horseman, with a movement
apparently trifling; and he was terrible through these slight and
lightning movements which were almost not human.

As a woman pulling hemp disappears in it and is hidden completely, but
by the falling stalks her road is known easily, so he vanished from the
eye for a time in the throng of large men; but where soldiers were
falling like stalks under the sickle of the harvester who cuts near the
ground, there was Pan Michael. Pan Stanislav and the gloomy Yuzva
Butrym, called Footless, followed hard in his track.

At length the Swedish rear ranks began to push out from between the
fences to the broad grass-plot before the church and the bell-tower,
and after them came the front ranks. Now was heard the command of the
officer, who wished evidently to bring all his men into action at once;
and the oblong rectangular body of horsemen stretched out, deployed in
the twinkle of an eye, into a long line to present its whole front.

But Pan Yan, who directed the battle and led the squadron, did not
imitate the Swede; he rushed forward with a dense column which,
striking the now weaker line, broke it, as if with a wedge, and turned
swiftly to the right toward the church, taking with this movement the
rear of one half of the Swedes, while on the other half Mirski and
Stankyevich sprang with the reserve in which were a part of the Lauda
men and all of Kovalski's dragoons.

Two battles now began; but they did not last long. The left wing, on
which Pan Yan had struck, was unable to form, and scattered first; the
right, in which was the commanding officer, resisted longer, but being
too much extended, it began to break, to fall into disorder, and at
last followed the example of the left wing.

The grass-plot was broad, but unfortunately was enclosed on all sides
by a lofty fence; and the church-servants closed and propped the
opposite gate when they saw what was taking place.

The scattered Swedes then ran around, but the Lauda men rushed after
them. In some places larger groups fought, a number at a time, with
sabres and rapiers; in other places the conflict was turned into a
series of duels, and man met man, the rapier crossed the sabre, and at
times the report of a pistol burst forth. Here and there a Swedish
horseman, escaping from one sabre, ran, as if to a trap, under another.
Here and there a Swede or a Lithuanian rose from under a fallen horse
and fell that moment under the blow of a weapon awaiting him.

Through the grass-plot terrified horses rushed about riderless, with
waving mane and nostrils distended from fear; some bit one another;
others, blinded from fright, turned their tails to the groups of
fighting men and kicked them.

Pan Volodyovski, hurling down Swedes as he went, searched the whole
place with his eyes for the officer in command; at last he saw him
defending himself against two Butryms, and he sprang toward him.

"Aside!" cried he to the Butryms, "aside!"

The obedient soldiers sprang aside, the little knight rushed on and
closed with the Swede, the horses of the two stood on their haunches.

The officer wished evidently to unhorse his opponent with a thrust; but
Volodyovski, interposing the hilt of his sabre, described a half-circle
like lightning, and the rapier flew away. The officer bent to his
holsters, but, cut through the cheek at that moment, he dropped the
reins from his left hand.

"Take him alive!" shouted Volodyovski to the Butryms.

The Lauda men seized the wounded officer and held him tottering in the
saddle; the little knight pushed on and rode farther against the
Swedes, quenching them before him like candles.

But the Swedes began to yield everywhere before the nobles, who were
more adroit in fencing and single combat. Some of the Swedes, seizing
their rapier blades, extended the hilts to their opponents; others
threw their weapons at their feet; the word "Pardon!" was heard more
and more frequently on the field. But no attention was paid to the
word, for Pan Michael had commanded to spare but few. The Swedes,
seeing this, rushed anew to the struggle, and died as became soldiers
after a desperate defence, redeeming richly with blood their own death.

An hour later the last of them were cut down. The peasants ran in
crowds from the village to the grass-plot to catch the horses, kill the
wounded, and plunder the dead.

Such was the end of the first encounter of Lithuanians with Swedes.

Meanwhile Zagloba, stationed at a distance in the birch-grove with the
wagon in which lay Pan Roh, was forced to hear the bitter reproach
that, though a relative, he had treated that young man shamefully.

"Uncle, you have ruined me utterly, for not only is a bullet in the
head waiting for me at Kyedani, but eternal infamy will fall on my
name. Henceforth whoso wants to say, 'Fool,' may say, 'Roh Kovalski!'"

"The truth is that not many will be found to contradict him," answered
Zagloba; "and the best proof of your folly is that you wonder at being
hung on a hook by me who moved the Khan of the Crimea as a puppet.
Well, did you think to yourself, worthless fellow, that I would let you
take me and other men of importance to Birji, and throw us, the
ornaments of the Commonwealth, into the jaws of the Swedes?"

"I was not taking you of my own will."

"But you were the servant of an executioner, and that for a noble is
infamy from which you must purify yourself, or I will renounce you and
all the Kovalskis. To be a traitor is worse than to be a crabmonger,
but to be the servant of some one worse than a crabmonger is the lowest
thing."

"I was serving the hetman."

"And the hetman the devil. There you have it! You are a fool, Roh: get
that into your head once and forever, dispute not, but hold to my
skirts, and a man will come of you yet; for know this, that advancement
has met more than one personage through me."

The rattle of shots interrupted further conversation, for the battle
was just beginning in the village. Then the discharges stopped, but the
noise continued, and shouts reached that retreat in the birch-grove.

"Ah, Pan Michael is working," said Zagloba. "He is not big, but he
bites like a viper. They are shelling out those devils from over the
sea like peas. I would rather be there than here, and through you I
must listen here. Is this your gratitude? Is this the act of a
respectable relative?"

"What have I to be grateful for?" asked Roh.

"For this, that a traitor is not ploughing with you, as with an
ox,--though you are grandly fitted for ploughing, since you are stupid
and strong. Understand me? Ai! it is getting hotter and hotter there.
Do you hear? That must be the Swedes who are bawling like calves in a
pasture."

Here Zagloba became serious, for he was a little disturbed; on a sudden
he asked, looking quickly into Pan Roh's eyes,--

"To whom do you wish victory?"

"To ours, of course."

"See that! And why not to the Swedes?"

"I would rather pound them. Who are ours, are ours!"

"Conscience is waking up in you. But how could you take your own blood
to the Swedes?"

"For I had an order."

"But now you have no order?"

"True."

"Your superior is now Pan Volodyovski, no one else."

"Well, that seems to be true."

"You must do what Pan Volodyovski commands."

"I must."

"He commands you now to renounce Radzivill future, and not to serve
him, but the country."

"How is that?" asked Pan Roh, scratching his head.

"A command!" cried Zagloba.

"I obey!" said Kovalski.

"That is right! At the first chance you will thrash the Swedes."

"If it is the order, it is the order!" answered Kovalski, and breathed
deeply, as if a great burden had fallen from his breast.

Zagloba was equally well satisfied, for he had his own views concerning
Kovalski. They began then to listen in harmony to the sounds of the
battle which came to them, and listened about an hour longer, until all
was silent.

Zagloba was more and more alarmed. "If they have not succeeded?" asked
he.

"Uncle, you an old warrior and can say such things! If they were beaten
they would come back to us in small groups."

"True! I see thy wit will be of service."

"Do you hear the tramp, Uncle? They are riding slowly. They must have
cut the Swedes to pieces."

"Oi, if they are only ours! Shall I go forward, or not?"

Saying this, Zagloba dropped his sabre at his side, took his pistol in
his hand, and moved forward. Soon he saw before him a dark mass moving
slowly along the road; at the same time noise of conversation reached
him.

In front rode a number of men talking with one another loudly; soon the
well-known voice of Pan Michael struck the ear of Zagloba. "They are
good men! I don't know what kind of infantry they have, but the cavalry
is perfect."

Zagloba touched his horse with the spurs. "Ah! how is it, how is it?
Oh, impatience was tearing me, I wanted to fly into the fire! But is no
one wounded?"

"All are sound, praise to God; but we have lost more than twenty good
soldiers."

"And the Swedes?"

"We laid them down like a pavement."

"Pan Michael, you must have enjoyed yourself as a dog in a spring. But
was it a decent thing to leave me, an old man, on guard? The soul came
near going out of me, so much did I want Swedish meat. Oh, I should
have gnawed them!"

"You may have a roast now if you like, for a number of them are in the
fire."

"Let the dogs eat them. And were prisoners taken?"

"A captain, and seven soldiers."

"What do you think to do with them?"

"I would have them hanged, for like robbers they fell on an innocent
village and were killing the people. Yan says, however, that that will
not do."

"Listen to me, gentlemen, hear what has come to my head just now: there
is no good in hanging them; on the contrary, let them go to Birji as
soon as possible."

"What for?"

"You know me as a soldier, know me now as a statesman. We will let the
Swedes go, but we will not tell them who we are. We will say that we
are Radzivill's men, that we have cut off this detachment at command of
the hetman, and in future will cut off whom we meet, for the hetman
only pretended, through strategy, to join the Swedes. They will break
their heads over this, and thus we will undermine the hetman's credit
terribly. Just think, this hits the Swedes and hits Radzivill too.
Kyedani is far from Birji, and Radzivill is still farther from Pontus
de la Gardie. Before they explain to each other what has happened and
how, they will be ready to fight. We will set the traitor against the
invaders; and who will gain by this, if not the Commonwealth?"

"This is excellent counsel, and quite worth the victory. May the
bullets strike him!" said Stankyevich.

"You have the mind of a chancellor," added Mirski, "for this will
disturb their plans."

"Surely we should act thus," said Pan Michael. "I will set them free
to-morrow; but to-day I do not wish to know of anything, for I am
dreadfully wearied. It was as hot in the village as in an oven! Uf! my
arms are paralyzed completely. The officer could not go to-day in any
case, for his face is cut."

"But in what language shall we tell them all this? What is your
counsel, father?" asked Pan Yan.

"I have been thinking of that too," answered Zagloba. "Kovalski told me
that there are two Prussians among his dragoons who know how to jabber
German, and are sharp fellows. Let them tell in German,--which the
Swedes know of course, after fighting so many years in Germany.
Kovalski is ours, soul and body. He is a man in a hundred, and we will
have no small profit from him."

"Well done!" said Volodyovski. "Will some of you, gentlemen, be so kind
as to see to this, for I have no voice in my throat from weariness? I
have told the men that we shall stay in this grove till morning. The
villagers will bring us food, and now to sleep! My lieutenant will see
to the watch. 'Pon my word, I cannot see you, for my eyes are closing."

"Gentlemen," said Zagloba, "there is a stack of hay just outside the
birches; let us go to the stack, we shall sleep like susliks, and to
the road on the morrow. We shall not come back to this country, unless
with Pan Sapyeha against Radzivill."



                              CHAPTER XX.


In Lithuania a civil war had begun, which, with two invasions of the
Commonwealth and the ever more stubborn war of the Ukraine, filled the
measure of misfortune.

The army of the Lithuanian quota, though so small in number that alone
it could not offer effectual resistance to any of the enemies, was
divided into two camps. Some regiments, and specially the foreign ones,
remained with Radzivill; others, forming the majority, proclaimed the
hetman a traitor, protested in arms against joining Sweden, but without
unity, without a leader, without a plan. Sapyeha might be its leader,
but he was too much occupied at that time with the defence of Byhovo
and with the desperate struggle in the interior of the country, to be
able to take his place immediately at the head of the movement against
Radzivill.

Meanwhile the invaders, each considering a whole region as his own,
began to send threatening messages to the other. From their
misunderstandings might rise in time the salvation of the Commonwealth;
but before it came to hostile steps between them there reigned the most
terrible chaos in all Lithuania. Radzivill, deceived in the army,
determined to bring it to obedience through force.

Volodyovski had barely reached Ponyevyej with his squadron, after the
battle of Klavany, when news came to him of the destruction, by
Radzivill, of Mirski's squadron, and that of Stankyevich. Some of the
men were placed by force among Radzivill's troops; others were cut down
or scattered to the four winds; the remainder were wandering singly or
in small groups through villages and forests, seeking a place to hide
their heads from vengeance and pursuit.

Fugitives came daily to Pan Michael's detachment, increasing his force
and bringing news the most varied.

The most important item was news of the mutiny of Lithuanian troops
stationed in Podlyasye, near Byalystok and Tykotsin. After the armies
of Moscow had occupied Vilno the squadrons from that place had to cover
the approach to the territories of the kingdom. But hearing of the
hetman's treason, they formed a confederation, at the head of which
were two colonels, Horotkyevich and Yakub Kmita, a cousin of Andrei,
the most trusty assistant of Radzivill.

The name of the latter was repeated with horror by the soldiers. He
mainly had caused the dispersion of Stankyevich's squadron and that of
Mirski; he shot without mercy the captured officers. The hetman trusted
him blindly, and just recently had sent him against Nyevyarovski's
squadron, which, disregarding the example of its colonel, refused
obedience.

Volodyovski heard the last account with great attention; then he turned
to the officers summoned in counsel, and asked,--

"What would you say to this,--that we, instead of hurrying to the
voevoda of Vityebsk, go to those squadrons which have formed a
confederacy in Podlyasye?"

"You have taken that out of my mouth!" said Zagloba "It is nearer home
there, and it is always pleasanter among one's own people."

"Fugitives mention too a report," added Pan Yan, "that the king has
ordered some squadrons to return from the Ukraine, to oppose the Swedes
on the Vistula. If this should prove true, we might be among old
comrades instead of pounding from corner to corner."

"But who is going to command those squadrons? Does any one know?"

"They say that Charnyetski will," answered Volodyovski; "but people say
this rather than know it, for positive intelligence could not come
yet."

"However it may be," said Zagloba, "my advice is to hurry to Podlyasye.
We can bring to our side those squadrons that have risen against
Radzivill, and take them to the king, and that certainly will not be
without a reward."

"Let it be so!" said Oskyerko and Stankyevich.

"It is not easy," said the little knight, "to get to Podlyasye, for we
shall have to slip through the fingers of the hetman. If fortune
meanwhile should grant us to snap up Kmita somewhere on the road, I
would speak a couple of words in his ear, from which his skin would
grow green."

"He deserves it," said Mirski. "That some old soldiers who have served
their whole lives under the Radzivills hold to the hetman, is less to
be wondered at; but that swaggerer serves only for his own profit, and
the pleasure which he finds in betrayal."

"So then to Podlyasye?" asked Oskyerko.

"To Podlyasye! to Podlyasye!" cried all in one voice.

But still the affair was difficult, as Volodyovski had said; for to go
to Podlyasye it was necessary to pass near Kyedani, as near a den in
which a lion was lurking.

The roads and lines of forest, the towns and villages were in the hands
of Radzivill; somewhat beyond Kyedani was Kmita, with cavalry,
infantry, and cannon. The hetman had heard already of the escape of the
colonels, the mutiny of Volodyovski's squadron, and the battle of
Klavany; the last brought him to such rage that there was fear for his
life, since a terrible attack of asthma had for a time almost stopped
his breathing.

In truth he had cause enough for anger, and even for despair, since
that battle brought on his head a whole Swedish tempest. People began
at once after this battle to cut up here and there small Swedish
detachments. Peasants did this, and individual nobles independently;
but the Swedes laid it to the account of Radzivill, especially as the
officers and men sent by Volodyovski to Birji declared before the
commandant that one of Radzivill's squadrons had fallen upon them at
his command.

In a week a letter came to the prince from the commandant at Birji, and
ten days later from Pontus de la Gardie himself, the commander-in-chief
of the Swedish forces.

"Either your highness has no power and significance," wrote the
latter,--"and in such case how could you conclude a treaty in the name
of the whole country!--or it is your wish to bring about through
artifice the ruin of the king's army. If that is the case, the favor of
my master will turn from your highness, and punishment will come
quickly, unless you show obedience and efface your faults by faithful
service."

Radzivill sent couriers at once with an explanation of what had
happened and how; but the dart had fastened in his haughty soul, and
the burning wound began to rankle more and more. He whose word not long
before terrified the country more than all Sweden; he for the half of
whose property all the Swedish lords might have been bought; he who
stood against his own king, thinking himself the equal of monarchs; he
who had acquired fame in the whole world by his victories, and who
walked in his own pride as in sunshine--must now listen to the threats
of one Swedish general, must hear lectures on obedience and
faithfulness. It is true that that general was brother-in-law to the
king; but the king himself,--who was he? A usurper of the throne
belonging by right and inheritance to Yan Kazimir.

Above all, the rage of the hetman was turned against those who were the
cause of that humiliation, and he swore to himself to trample
Volodyovski and those colonels who were with him and the whole squadron
of Lauda. With this object he marched against them; and as hunters to
clear out the wolf's nest surround a forest with shares, he surrounded
them and began to pursue without rest.

Meanwhile tidings came that Kmita had crushed Nyevyarovski's squadron,
cut down or scattered the officers, and joined the men to his own.
Radzivill, to strike the more surely, commanded Pan Andrei to send him
some of these troops.

"Those men," wrote the hetman, "for whose lives you interceded with us
so persistently, and mainly Volodyovski with that other straggler,
escaped on the road to Birji. We sent the stupidest officer with them
on purpose, so that they might not win him over; but even he either
became a traitor, or they fooled him. Now Volodyovski has the whole
Lauda squadron, and fugitives are reinforcing him. They cut to pieces
one hundred and twenty Swedes at Klavany, saying that they did it at
our command, from which great distrust has arisen between us and
Pontus. The whole cause may be ruined by those traitors, whose heads,
had it not been for your interference, would have been cut off at our
command, as God is in heaven. So we have to repent of our mildness,
though we hope in God that vengeance will soon overtake them. Tidings
have come to us, too, that in Billeviche nobles assemble at the house
of the sword-bearer and conspire against us. This must be stopped! You
will send all the cavalry to us, and the infantry to Kyedani to guard
the castle and the town, for from those traitors anything may be
expected. You will go yourself with some tens of horsemen to
Billeviche, and bring the sword-bearer and his niece to Kyedani. At
present it is important, not only for you, but for us; for whoso has
them in hand has the whole Lauda region, in which the nobles, following
the example of Volodyovski, are beginning to rise against us. We have
sent Harasimovich to Zabludovo with instructions how to begin with
those confederates. Of great importance among them is Yakub, your
cousin, to whom you will write, if you think you can act on him through
a letter. Signifying to you our continual favor, we commit you to the
care of God."

When Kmita had read this letter, he was content at heart that the
colonels had succeeded in escaping the Swedes, and in secret he wished
them to escape Radzivill. Still he carried out all commands of the
prince, sent him the cavalry, garrisoned Kyedani with infantry, and
began to make trenches along the castle and the town, promising himself
to go immediately after this work was done to Billeviche for the
sword-bearer and the young woman.

"I will use no force, unless in the last resort," thought he, "and in
no case will I urge Olenka. Finally, it is not my will, 'tis the
command of the prince. She will not receive me pleasantly, I know; but
God grant that in time she will know my intentions, and that I serve
Radzivill not against the country, but for its salvation."

Thinking thus, he labored zealously at fortifying Kyedani, which was to
be the residence of his Olenka in the future.

Meanwhile Volodyovski was slipping away before the hetman, but the
hetman pursued him furiously. It was, however, too narrow for Pan
Michael; for from Birji considerable detachments of Swedish troops
pushed toward the south, the east of the country was occupied by the
legions of the Tsar, and on the road to Kyedani the hetman was lying in
wait.

Zagloba was greatly depressed by such a condition of affairs, and he
turned with increasing frequency to Pan Michael with questions: "Pan
Michael, by the love of God, shall we break through or shall we not
break through?"

"There is not even talk of breaking through here," answered the little
knight. "You know that I am not lined with cowardice, and that I attack
whom I will, even the devil himself. But I cannot meet the hetman, for
I am not equal to him. You have said yourself that he is a pike and we
perches. I shall do what is in my power to slip out, but if it comes to
a battle, I tell you plainly that he will defeat us."

"Then he will command to chop us up and throw us to the dogs. As God
lives! into any man's hands save Radzivill's! But in this case why not
turn to Pan Sapyeha?"

"It is too late now, for the hetman's troops and the Swedes have closed
the roads."

"The devil tempted me when I persuaded Pan Yan and his cousin to go to
Radzivill!" said Zagloba, in despair.

But Pan Michael did not lose hope yet, especially since the nobles, and
even the peasants, brought him warning of the hetman's movements; for
all hearts were turning from Radzivill. Pan Michael twisted out
therefore as he knew how,--and he knew how famously, for almost from
childhood he had inured himself to war with Tartars and Cossacks. He
had been made renowned in the army of Yeremi by descents on Tartar
chambuls, by scouting expeditions, unexpected attacks, lightning
escapes, in which he surpassed other officers.

At present hemmed in between Upita and Rogova on one side and Nyevyaja
on the other, he doubled around on the space of a few miles, avoiding
battle continually, worrying the Radzivill squadrons, and even plucking
them a little as a wolf hunted by dogs slips by often near the hunters,
and when the dogs press him too closely, turns and shows his white
gleaming teeth.

But when Kmita's cavalry came up, the hetman closed the narrowest gaps
with them, and went himself to see that the two ends of the snare came
together.

That was at Nyevyaja.

The regiments of Myeleshko and Ganhoff with two squadrons of cavalry,
under the lead of the prince himself, formed as it were a bow, the
string of which was the river. Volodyovski with his squadron was in the
centre of the bow. He had in front of him, it is true, one ford which
led through a swampy stream, but just on the other side of the ford
were two Scottish regiments and two hundred of Radzivill's Cossacks,
with six fieldpieces, turned in such manner that even one man could not
have reached the other side under the fire of them.

Now the bow began to contract. The middle of it was led by the hetman
himself.

Happily for Volodyovski, night and a storm with pouring rain stopped
the advance; but for the enclosed men there remained not more than a
square half-mile of meadow, grown over with willows, in the middle of
the half-ring of Radzivill's army, and the river guarded on the other
side by the Scots.

Next morning when the early dawn was just whitening the tops of the
willows, the regiments moved forward to the river and were struck dumb
with amazement.

Volodyovski had gone through the earth,--there was not a living soul in
the willows.

The hetman himself was astounded, and then real thunders fell on the
heads of the officers commanding at the ford. And again an attack of
asthma seized the prince with such force that those present trembled
for his life. But rage overcame even the asthma. Two officers,
intrusted with guarding the bank, were to be shot; but Ganhoff
prevailed on the prince to have inquiries made first as to how the
beast had escaped from the toils.

It appeared in fact that Volodyovski, taking advantage of the darkness
and rain, had led his whole squadron out of the willows into the river,
and swimming or wading with the current had slipped along Radzivill's
right wing, which touched the bank at that point. Some horses, sunk to
their bellies in the mud, indicated the place where he had come out on
the right bank. From farther tracks it was easy to see that he had
moved with all horse-breath in the direction of Kyedani. The hetman
guessed at once from this that he wished to make his way to
Horotkyevich and Yakub Kmita in Podlyasye.

"But in passing near Kyedani would he not burn the town or try to
plunder the castle?"

A terrible fear straitened the heart of the prince. The greater part of
his ready money and treasures were in Kyedani. Kmita, it is true, was
bound to supply it with infantry; but if he had not done so, the
undefended castle would easily become plunder for the insolent colonel.
Radzivill felt sure that courage would not be wanting Volodyovski to
attack the residence of Kyedani itself. It might be that time would not
be wanting, for escaping in the beginning of the night he had left
pursuit at least six hours behind.

In every case it was imperative to hasten with all breath to the
rescue. The prince left the infantry, and pushed on with the cavalry.
When he arrived at Kyedani he did not find Kmita, but he found
everything quiet; and the opinion which he had of the young colonel's
ability increased doubly at sight of the finished trenches and
field-cannon standing on them. That same day he reviewed them in
company with Ganhoff, to whom he remarked in the evening,--

"He acted thus of his own mind, without my order, and finished those
trenches so well that a protracted defence might be made here, even
against artillery. If that man does not break his neck too early, he
may rise high."

There was another man, at thought of whom the hetman could not restrain
a certain kind of admiration, but mingled with rage, for the man was
Pan Michael. "I could finish the mutiny soon," said he to Ganhoff, "if
I had two such servants. Kmita may be still more alert, but he has not
the experience, and the other was brought up in the school of Yeremi,
beyond the Dnieper."

"Does your highness give command to pursue him?" asked Ganhoff.

The prince looked at Ganhoff, and said with emphasis, "He would beat
you and escape from me." But after a while he frowned, and added,
"Everything is quiet here now; but we must move to Podlyasye at once,
and finish those there."

"Your highness," said Ganhoff, "as soon as we move a foot out of this
place, all will seize arms against the Swedes."

"Which all?"

"The nobles and peasants. And not stopping with the Swedes, they will
turn against the dissidents, for they put all the blame of this war on
our co-religionists, saying that we sent to the enemy, and in fact
brought the enemy in."

"It is a question with me of my cousin Boguslav. I know not whether he
is able to hold out against the confederates in Podlyasye."

"It is a question of Lithuania to keep it in obedience to us and the
King of Sweden."

The prince began to walk through the room, saying, "If I could in any
way get Horotkyevich and Yakub Kmita into my hands! They will devour my
property, destroy, plunder it; they will not leave a stone upon a
stone."

"Unless we stipulate with General de la Gardie to send hither as many
troops as possible, while we are in Podlyasye."

"With Pontus,--never!" answered Radzivill, to whose head a wave of
blood rushed. "If with any one, with the king himself. I do not need to
treat with servants when I can treat with their master. If the king
were to command Pontus to place two thousand cavalry at my disposal,
that would be another thing. But I will not ask Pontus for them. It is
needful to send some one to the king; it is time to negotiate with him
directly."

The lean face of Ganhoff flushed slightly, and his eyes were lighted
with desire. "If your highness commanded--"

"You would go; but for you to arrive there is another thing. You are a
German, and it is dangerous for a foreigner to enter an uprisen
country. Who knows where the king is at this moment, and where he will
be in half a month or a month? It is necessary to ride through the
whole country. Besides, it cannot be! You will not go, for it is
necessary to send one of my own people, a man of high family, so as to
convince the king that not all the nobles have left me."

"An inexperienced man might do much harm," said Ganhoff, timidly.

"An envoy will have no work there except to deliver my letter, and
bring back an answer; and any man can explain that it was not I who
gave orders to beat the Swedes at Klavany."

Ganhoff was silent.

The prince began again to walk with unquiet steps through the room; on
his forehead was manifest a continual struggle of thought. In truth, he
had not known a moment of peace from the time of his treaty with the
Swedes. Pride devoured him, his conscience gnawed him, the unexpected
resistance of the country and the army gnawed him; the uncertainty of
the future, and the threat of ruin terrified him. He struggled, he
fought, he passed sleepless nights, he was failing in health. His eyes
were sinking, he was growing thin; his face, formerly red, became blue,
and almost with every hour silver threads increased in his mustaches
and his forelock. In a word, he lived in torment, and bent under the
burden.

Ganhoff followed him with his eyes as he walked through the room; he
had still a little hope that the prince would bethink himself, and send
him.

But the prince halted suddenly, and struck his forehead with his palm.
"Two squadrons of cavalry, to horse at once! I will lead them myself."

Ganhoff looked on him with wonderment. "An expedition?" inquired he,
involuntarily.

"Move on!" said the prince. "God grant that it be not too late!"



                              CHAPTER XXI.


When Kmita had finished the trenches and secured Kyedani from sudden
attack, he was unable to delay further his expedition for the
sword-bearer and Olenka, especially since the command of the prince to
bring them to Kyedani was imperative. But still Pan Andrei loitered,
and when at last he did move at the head of fifty dragoons, he was as
unquiet as if going on a forlorn hope. He felt that he would not be
thankfully received, and he trembled at the thought that the old man
might try to resist, even with armed hand, and in such an event it
would be necessary to use force. But he determined first to persuade
and entreat. With the intent of stripping his visit of all semblance of
armed attack, he left the dragoons at an inn a quarter of a mile from
the village, and two from the house, and ordering the carriage to
follow a little later, rode ahead himself, with only the sergeant and
one attendant.

It was in the afternoon, and the sun was already well inclined toward
the west, but after a rainy and stormy night the day was beautiful and
the sky pure, only here and there was it variegated on the western side
by small rosy clouds which pushed slowly beyond the horizon, like a
flock of sheep leaving a field. Kmita rode through the village with
throbbing heart and as uneasy as the Tartar who entering a village
first, in advance of a chambul, looks around on every side to see if he
can discover armed men in ambush. But the three horsemen attracted no
attention. Barefooted little peasant boys merely jumped out of the road
before the horses; peasants seeing the handsome officer, bowed to him,
sweeping the ground with their caps. He rode on, and passing the
village saw ahead a large dwelling, the old Billevich nest; behind it
broad gardens ending far beyond in the flat fields.

Kmita slackened his pace still more, and began to talk with himself,
evidently framing answers to questions; and meanwhile he gazed with
anxious eye on the buildings rising before him. It was not at all a
lordly mansion, but at the first glance it would have been guessed that
a noble lived there of more than medium fortune. The house itself, with
its back to the gardens and front to the highway, was enormous, but of
wood. The pine of the walls had grown so dark with age that the panes
in the windows seemed white in contrast. Above the walls rose a
gigantic roof with four chimneys in the middle, and two dovecotes at
the gables. A whole cloud of white doves were collected on the roof,
now flying away with clapping of wings, now dropping, like snowy
kerchiefs, on the black ridges, now flapping around the pillars
supporting the entrance.

That entrance, adorned with a shield on which the Billevich arms were
painted, disturbed the proportions of the house, for it was not in the
middle, but toward one side of it. Evidently the house had once been
smaller, but new parts were added subsequently from one side, though
the added parts had grown so black with the passage of years as not to
differ in anything from the old. Two wings, of enormous length, rose on
both sides of the house proper, and formed as it were two arms of a
horseshoe. In these wings were guest-chambers used in time of great
gatherings, kitchens, store-houses, carriage-houses, stables for
carriage horses which the masters wished to keep near at hand, rooms
for officials, servants, and house Cossacks.

In the middle of the broad yard grew old linden-trees, on them were
storks' nests. Among the trees was a bear chained to a pillar. Two
well-sweeps at the sides of the yard, a cross with the Passion of the
Lord between two spears at the entrance, completed this picture of the
residence of a powerful, noble family. At the right of the house, in
the middle of frequent linden-trees, rose the straw roofs of stables,
cow-houses, sheep-houses, and granaries.

Kmita entered the gate, which was open on both sides; like the arms of
a noble awaiting the arrival of a guest. Then two dogs loitering
through the yard announced the stranger, and from a wing two boys ran
to take the horses.

At the same moment in the door of the main building stood a female
figure, in which Kmita recognized Olenka at once. His heart beat more
quickly, and throwing the reins to the servant, he went toward the
porch with uncovered head, holding in one hand his sabre, and in the
other his cap.

She stood before him like a charming vision, shading her eyes with her
hand against the setting sun, and then vanished on a sudden, as if
frightened by the sight of the approaching guest.

"Bad!" thought Pan Andrei; "she hides from me."

He was pained, and his pain was all the greater since just before the
mild sunset, the view of that house, and the calm so spread around it
filled his heart with hope, though perhaps Pan Andrei did not note
that.

He cherished as it were an illusion that he was going to his betrothed,
who would receive him with eyes gleaming from joy and a blush on her
cheeks.

And the illusion was broken. Scarcely had she seen him when she rushed
away, as if from an evil spirit; and straightway Pan Tomash came out to
meet him with a face at once unquiet and cloudy.

Kmita bowed and said, "I have long wished to express duly my devotion
to you, my benefactor; but I was unable to do so sooner in these times
of disturbance, though surely there was no lack in me of desire."

"I am very grateful, and I beg you to enter," answered the
sword-bearer, smoothing the forelock on his head,--an act usual with
him when confused or uncertain of himself. And he stepped aside from
the door to let the guest pass.

Kmita for a while did not wish to enter first, and they bowed to each
other on the threshold; at last Pan Andrei took the step before the
sword-bearer, and in a moment they were in the room.

They found there two nobles,--one, a man in the bloom of life, Pan
Dovgird of Plemborg, a near neighbor of the Billeviches; the other, Pan
Hudzynski, a tenant in Eyragoly. Kmita noticed that they had barely
heard his name when their faces changed and they seemed to act like
dogs at sight of a wolf; he looked at them first defiantly, and then
feigned not to see them.

A disagreeable silence succeeded.

Pan Andrei grew impatient and gnawed his mustaches; the guests looked
at him with a fixed frown, and the sword-bearer stroked his forelock.

"Will you drink a glass of poor nobles' mead with us?" asked he at
last, pointing to a decanter and a glass. "I request you--"

"I will drink with a gentleman!" said Kmita, rather abruptly.

Dovgird and Hudzynski began to puff, taking the answer as an expression
of contempt for them; but they would not begin a quarrel at once in a
friendly house, and that with a roisterer who had a terrible reputation
throughout all Jmud. Still the insult nettled them.

Meanwhile the sword-bearer clapped his hands for a servant, and ordered
him to bring a fourth glass; then he filled it, raised his own to his
lips, and said, "Into your hands-- I am glad to see you in my house."

"I should be sincerely glad were that true."

"A guest is a guest," said the sword-bearer, sententiously.

After awhile, conscious evidently of his duty as a host to keep up the
conversation, he asked, "What do you hear at Kyedani? How is the health
of the hetman?"

"Not strong," answered Kmita, "and in these unquiet times it cannot be
otherwise. The prince has a world of troubles and annoyances."

"I believe that!" said Pan Hudzynski.

Kmita looked at him for a while, then turned to the host and
continued,--

"The prince, being promised assistance by the Swedish King, expected to
move against the enemy at Vilna without delay, and take vengeance for
the ashes of that place, which have not yet grown cold. And it must be
known also to you that now it is necessary to search for Vilna in
Vilna, for it was burning seventeen days. They say that nothing is
visible among the ruins but the black holes of cellars from which smoke
is still rising continually."

"Misfortune!" said the sword-bearer.

"Of course a misfortune, which if it could not have been prevented
should be avenged and similar ruins made of the enemy's capital. In
fact, it was coming to this when disturbers, suspecting the best
intentions of an honorable man, proclaimed him a traitor, and resisted
him in arms instead of aiding him against the enemy. It is not to be
wondered, therefore, that the health of the prince totters, since he,
whom God predestined to great things, sees that the malice of man is
ever preparing new obstacles through which the entire undertaking may
come to naught. The best friends of the prince have deceived him; those
on whom he counted most have left him, or gone to the enemy."

"So it is," said the sword-bearer, seriously.

"That is very painful," continued Kmita, "and I myself have heard the
prince say, 'I know that honorable men pass evil judgments on me; but
why do they not come to Kyedani, why do they not tell me to my face
what they have against me, and listen to my reasons?'"

"Whom has the prince in mind?" asked the sword-bearer.

"In the first rank you, my benefactor, for whom he has a genuine
regard, and he suspects that you belong to the enemy."

The sword-bearer began to smooth his forelock quickly. At last, seeing
that the conversation was taking an undesirable turn, he clapped his
hands.

A servant appeared in the doorway.

"Seest not that it is growing dark? Bring lights!" cried Pan Tomash.

"God sees," continued Kmita, "that I had intended to lay before you
proper assurances of my own devotion separately, but I have come here
also at the order of the prince, who would have come in person to
Billeviche if the time were more favoring."

"Our thresholds are too lowly," said the sword-bearer.

"Do not say that, since it is customary for neighbors to visit one
another; but the prince has no time unoccupied, therefore he said to
me, 'Explain in my name to Pan Billevich that I am not able to visit
him, but let him come to me with his niece, and that of course without
delay, for to-morrow or the day following I know not where I shall be.'
So I have come with a request, and I trust that both of you are in good
health; for when I drove in here I saw Panna Aleksandra in the door,
but she vanished at once, like mist from the field."

"That is true," said the sword-bearer; "I sent her myself to see who
had come."

"I am waiting for your reply, my benefactor," said Kmita.

At that moment the attendant brought in a light and placed it on the
table; by the shining of the light it was seen that Billevich was
greatly confused.

"This is no small honor for me," said he, "but--I cannot go at once. Be
pleased to excuse me to the hetman--you see that I have guests."

"Oh, surely that will not hinder, for these gentlemen will yield to the
prince."

"We have our own tongues in our mouths, and can answer for ourselves,"
said Pan Hudzynski.

"Without waiting for others to make decisions concerning us," added
Dovgird.

"You see," continued Kmita, pretending to take in good part the
churlish words of the nobles, "I knew that these were polite cavaliers.
But to avoid slighting any one, I invite them also in the name of the
prince to come to Kyedani."

"Too much favor," said both; "we have something else to do."

Kmita looked on them with a peculiar expression, and then said coldly,
as if speaking to some fourth person, "When the prince invites, it is
not permitted to refuse."

At that they rose from their chairs.

"But is that constraint?" asked the sword-bearer.

"Pan Billevich, my benefactor," answered Kmita, quickly, "those
gentlemen will go whether they wish or not, for thus it has pleased me;
but I desire not to use force with you, and I beg most sincerely that
you will deign to gratify the prince. I am on service, and have an
order to bring you; but as long as I do not lose hope of effecting
something with entreaty, I shall not cease to entreat,--and I swear to
you that not a hair will fall from your head while there. The prince
wishes to talk with you, and wishes you to live in Kyedani during these
troubled times, when even peasants collect in crowds and plunder. This
is the whole affair! You will be treated with fitting respect in
Kyedani, as a guest and a friend; I give my word of honor for that."

"As a noble, I protest," said the sword-bearer, "and the law protects
me."

"And sabres!" cried Hudzynski and Dovgird.

Kmita laughed, frowned, and said, "Put away your sabres, gentlemen, or
I shall give the order to place you both against the barn and put a
bullet into the head of each one of you."

At this they grew timid, and began to look at each other and at Kmita;
but the sword-bearer cried,--

"The most outrageous violence against the freedom of nobles, against
privileges!"

"There will be no violence if you comply of your own will," said Kmita;
"and the proof is in this that I left dragoons in the village, and came
here alone to invite you as one neighbor another. Do not refuse, for
the times are such that it is difficult to pay attention to refusals.
The prince himself will excuse you therefore, and know that you will be
received as a neighbor and a friend. Understand, too, that could you be
received otherwise, I would a hundred times rather have a bullet in my
head than come here for you. Not a hair will fall from any Billevich
head while I am alive. Call to mind who I am, remember Heraclius
Billevich, remember his will, and consider whether the prince would
have selected me did he not intend to deal with you in sincerity."

"Why then does he use force, why have I to go under constraint? How am
I to trust him, when all Lithuania talks of the oppression under which
honorable citizens are groaning in Kyedani?"

Kmita drew breath; for, from his words and voice he knew that Billevich
was beginning to weaken in his resistance.

"Worthy benefactor," said he, almost joyously, "constraint among
neighbors often rises from affection. And when you order servants to
put the carriage-wheel of a welcome guest in the storehouse, or his
provision-chest in the larder, is not that constraint? And when you
force him to drink, even when wine is flowing out through his nostrils,
is not that constraint? And be assured that even had I to bind you and
take you bound to Kyedani among dragoons, that would be for your good.
Just think, insurgent soldiers are wandering about and committing
lawless deeds, peasants are mustering, Swedish troops are approaching,
and do you think to save yourself from accident in the uproar, or that
some of these will not come to-day or tomorrow, plunder and burn your
property, and attack your person? Is Billeviche a fortress? Can you
defend yourself here? What does the prince wish for you? Safety; for
Kyedani is the only place where you are not in danger. A detachment of
the prince's troops will guard your property here, as the eyes in their
heads, from all disorder of soldiers; and if one fork is lost, then
take my whole fortune."

Billevich began to walk through the room. "Can I trust your word?"

At that moment Panna Aleksandra entered the room. Kmita approached her
quickly, but suddenly remembered the events of Kyedani, and her cold
face fixed him to the floor; he bowed therefore from a distance, in
silence.

Pan Billevich stood before her. "We have to go to Kyedani," said he.

"And for what reason?" asked she.

"For the hetman invites."

"Very kindly,--as a neighbor," added Kmita.

"Yes, very kindly," said Billevich, with a certain bitterness; "but if
we do not go of our own will, this cavalier has the order to surround
us with dragoons and take us by force."

"God preserve us from that!" said Kmita.

"Have not I told you, Uncle," asked Panna Aleksandra, "that we ought to
flee as far as possible, for they would not leave us here undisturbed?
Now my words have come true."

"What's to be done, what's to be done? There is no remedy against
force," cried Billevich.

"True," answered the lady: "but we ought not to go to that infamous
house of our own will. Let murderers take us, bind us, and bear us. Not
we alone shall suffer persecution, not us alone will the vengeance of
traitors reach; but let them know that we prefer death to infamy."

Here she turned with an expression of supreme contempt to Kmita: "Bind
us, sir officer, or sir executioner, and take us with horses, for in
another way we will not go."

The blood rushed to Kmita's face; it seemed for a time that he would
burst forth in terrible anger, but he restrained himself.

"Ah, gracious lady," said he, with a voice stifled from excitement, "I
have not favor in your eyes, since you wish to make me a murderer, a
traitor, and a man of violence. May God judge who is right,--whether I
serving the hetman, or you insulting me as a dog. God gave you beauty,
but a heart venomous and implacable. You are glad to suffer yourself,
that you may inflict still greater pain on another. You exceed the
measure,--as I live, you exceed it,--and nothing will come of that."

"The maiden speaks well," cried Billevich, to whom daring came
suddenly; "we will not go of our own will. Take us with dragoons."

But Kmita paid no attention whatever to him, so much was he excited,
and so deeply touched.

"You are in love with the sufferings of people," continued he to
Olenka, "and you proclaim me a traitor without judgment, without
considering a reason, without permitting me to say a word in my own
defence. Let it be so. But you will go to Kyedani,--of your own will or
against your will; it is all one. There my intentions will become
evident; there you will know whether you have justly accused me of
wrong, there conscience will tell you who of us was whose executioner.
I want no other vengeance. God be with you, but I want that vengeance.
And I want nothing more of you, for you have bent the bow to the
breaking. There is a serpent under your beauty as under a flower."

"We will not go!" repeated Billevich, still more resolutely.

"As true as life we will not!" shouted Hudzynski and Dovgird.

Kmita turned to them; but he was very pale now, for rage was throttling
him, and his teeth chattered as in a fever.

"Ei! Try now to resist! My horses are to be heard,--my dragoons are
coming. Will some one say again that he will not go?"

In fact the tramp of numerous horses was heard. All saw that there was
no help, and Kmita said,--

"Young lady, within the time that a man could repeat the Lord's Prayer
twice you must be in the carriage, or your uncle will have a bullet in
his head."

And it was evident that the wild frenzy of anger was taking possession
more and more of Pan Andrei, for suddenly he shouted till the panes
rattled in the windows, "To the road!"

That same instant the door of the front chamber opened quietly, and
some strange voice inquired,--

"To what place, Cavalier?"

All became as stone from amazement, and every eye was turned to the
door, in which stood some small man in armor, and with a naked sabre in
his hand.

Kmita retreated a step, as if he had seen an apparition. "Pan
Volodyovski!" cried he.

"At your service!" answered the little man. And he advanced into the
middle of the chamber; after him entered in a crowd Mirski, Zagloba,
Pan Yan, Pan Stanislav, Stankyevich, Oskyerko and Roh Kovalski.

"Ha!" cried Zagloba; "the Cossack caught a Tartar, and the Tartar holds
him by the head!"

Billevich began to speak: "Whoever you are, gentlemen, save a citizen
whom in spite of law, birth, and office they wish to arrest and
confine. Save, brothers, the freedom of a noble, whoever you may be."

"Fear not!" answered Volodyovski, "the dragoons of this cavalier are
already in fetters, and now he needs rescue himself more than you do."

"But a priest most of all!" added Zagloba.

"Sir Knight," said Volodyovski, turning to Kmita, "you have no luck
with me; a second time I stand in your way. You did not expect me?"

"I did not! I thought you were in the hands of the prince."

"I have just slipped out of those hands,--this is the road to
Podlyasye. But enough! The first time that you bore away this lady I
challenged you to sabres, is it not true?"

"True," answered Kmita, reaching involuntarily to his head.

"Now it is another affair. Then you were given to fighting,--a thing
usual with nobles, and not bringing the last infamy. To-day you do not
deserve that an honest man should challenge you."

"Why is that?" asked Kmita; and raising his proud head, he looked
Volodyovski straight in the eyes.

"You are a traitor and a renegade," answered Volodyovski, "for you have
cut down, like an executioner, honest soldiers who stood by their
country,--for it is through your work that this unhappy land is
groaning under a new yoke. Speaking briefly, prepare for death, for as
God is in heaven your last hour has come."

"By what right do you judge and execute me?" inquired Kmita.

"Gracious sir," answered Zagloba, seriously, "say your prayers instead
of asking us about a right. But if you have anything to say in your
defence, say it quickly, for you will not find a living soul to take
your part. Once, as I have heard, this lady here present begged you
from the hands of Pan Volodyovski; but after what you have done now,
she will surely not take your part."

Here the eyes of all turned involuntarily to Panna Aleksandra, whose
face at that moment was as if cut from stone; and she stood motionless,
with downcast lids, icy-cold, but she did not advance a step or speak a
word.

The voice of Kmita broke the silence--"I do not ask that lady for
intercession."

Panna Aleksandra was silent.

"This way!" called Volodyovski, turning toward the door.

Heavy steps were heard, followed by the gloomy rattle of spurs; and six
soldiers, with Yuzva Butrym in front, entered the room.

"Take him!" commanded Volodyovski, "lead him outside the village and
put a bullet in his head."

The heavy hand of Butrym rested on the collar of Kmita, after that two
other hands.

"Do not let them drag me like a dog!" said Kmita to Volodyovski. "I
will go myself."

Volodyovski nodded to the soldiers, who released him at once, but
surrounded him; and he walked out calmly, not speaking to any man, only
whispering his prayers.

Panna Aleksandra went out also, through the opposite door, to the
adjoining rooms. She passed the first and the second, stretching out
her hand in the darkness before her; suddenly her head whirled, the
breath failed in her bosom, and she fell, as if dead, on the floor.

Among those who were assembled in the first room a dull silence reigned
for some time; at last Billevich broke it. "Is there no mercy for him?"
asked he.

"I am sorry for him," answered Zagloba, "for he went manfully to
death."

To which Mirski said, "He shot a number of officers out of my squadron,
besides those whom he slew in attack."

"And from mine too," added Stankyevich; "and he cut up almost all of
Nyevyarovski's men."

"He must have had orders from Radzivill," said Zagloba.

"Gentlemen," said Billevich, "you bring the vengeance of Radzivill on
my head."

"You must flee. We are going to Podlyasye, for there the squadrons have
risen against traitors; go with us. There is no other help. You can
take refuge in Byalovyej, where a relative of Pan Skshetuski is the
king's hunter. There no one will find you."

"But my property will be lost."

"The Commonwealth will restore it to you."

"Pan Michael," said Zagloba, suddenly, "I will gallop off and see if
there are not some orders of the hetman on that unfortunate man. You
remember what I found on Roh Kovalski."

"Mount a horse. There is time yet; later the papers will be bloody. I
ordered them to take him beyond the village, so that the lady might not
be alarmed at the rattle of muskets, for women are sensitive and given
to fright."

Zagloba went out, and after a while the tramp of the horse on which he
rode away was heard. Volodyovski turned to the host.

"What is the lady doing?"

"Beyond doubt she is praying for that soul which must go before God."

"May the Lord give him eternal rest!" said Pan Yan. "Were it not for
his willing service with Radzivill, I should be the first to speak in
his favor; but if he did not wish to stand by his country, he might at
least not have sold his soul to Radzivill."

"That is true!" added Volodyovski.

"He is guilty and deserves what has come upon him," said Pan Stanislav;
"but I would that Radzivill were in his place, or Opalinski--oh,
Opalinski!"

"Of how far he is guilty, you have best proof here," put in Oskyerko;
"this lady, who was his betrothed, did not find a word in his favor. I
saw clearly that she was in torment, but she was silent; for how could
she take the part of a traitor."

"She loved him once sincerely, I know that," said Billevich. "Permit
me, gentlemen, to go and see what has befallen her, as this is a
grievous trial for a woman."

"Make ready for the road!" cried the little knight, "for we shall
merely give rest to the horses. We move farther. Kyedani is too near
this place, and Radzivill must have returned already."

"Very well!" said the noble, and he left the room.

After a while his piercing cry was heard. The knights sprang toward the
sound, not knowing what had happened; the servants also ran in with the
lights, and they saw Billevich raising Olenka, whom he had found lying
senseless on the floor.

Volodyovski sprang to help him, and together they placed her on the
sofa. She gave no sign of life. They began to rub her. The old
housekeeper ran in with cordials, and at last the young lady opened her
eyes.

"Nothing is the matter," said the old housekeeper; "go ye to that room,
we will take care of her."

Billevich conducted his guests. "Would that this had not happened!"
said the anxious host. "Could you not take that unfortunate with you,
and put him out of the way somewhere on the road, and not on my place?
How can I travel now, how flee, when the young woman is barely alive,
on the brink of serious illness?"

"The illness is all over now," answered Volodyovski. "We will put the
lady in a carriage; you must both flee, for the vengeance of Radzivill
spares no man."

"The lady may recover quickly," said Pan Yan.

"A comfortable carriage is ready, with horses attached, for Kmita
brought it with him," said Volodyovski. "Go and tell the lady how
things are, and that it is impossible to delay flight. Let her collect
her strength. We must go, for before to-morrow morning Radzivill's
troops may be here."

"True," answered Billevich; "I go!"

He went, and after a while returned with his niece, who had not only
collected her strength, but was already dressed for the road. She had a
high color on her face, and her eyes were gleaming feverishly.

"Let us go, let us go!" repeated she, entering the room.

Volodyovski went out on the porch for a moment to send men for the
carriage; then he returned, and all began to make ready for the road.

Before a quarter of an hour had passed, the roll of wheels was heard
outside the windows, and the stamping of horses' hoofs on the pavement
with which the space before the entrance was covered.

"Let us go!" said Olenka.

"To the road!" cried the officers.

That moment the door was thrown open, and Zagloba burst into the room
like a bomb.

"I have stopped the execution!" cried he.

Olenka from being ruddy became in one moment as white as chalk; she
seemed ready to faint again; but no one paid attention to her, for all
eyes were turned on Zagloba, who was panting like a whale, trying to
catch breath.

"Have you stopped the execution?" inquired Volodyovski. "Why was that?"

"Why?--Let me catch breath. This is why,--without Kmita, without that
honorable cavalier, we should all of us be hanging on trees at Kyedani.
Uf! we wanted to kill our benefactor, gentlemen! Uf!"

"How can that be?" cried all, at once.

"How can it be? Read this letter; in it is the answer."

Here Zagloba gave a letter to Volodyovski. He began to read, stopping
every moment and looking at his comrades; for it was in fact the letter
in which Radzivill reproached Kmita bitterly because by his stubborn
persistence he had freed the colonels and Zagloba from death at
Kyedani.

"Well, what do you think?" repeated Zagloba, at each interval.

The letter ended, as we know, with the commission for Kmita to bring
Billevich and his niece to Kyedani. Pan Andrei had the letter with him,
apparently to show it to the sword-bearer in case of necessity, and it
had not come to that.

Above all there remained no shadow of doubt that but for Kmita the two
Skshetuskis, Volodyovski, and Zagloba would have been killed without
mercy in Kyedani, immediately after the famous treaty with Pontus de la
Gardie.

"Worthy gentlemen," said Zagloba, "if you wish now to shoot him, as God
is dear to me, I will leave your company and know you no longer."

"There is nothing more to be said here!" replied Volodyovski.

"Ah!" said Skshetuski, seizing his head with both hands, "what a
happiness that father read that letter at once, instead of bringing it
to us!"

"They must have fed you with starlings from childhood!" cried Mirski.

"Ha! what do you say to that?" asked Zagloba. "Every one else would
have put a bullet in his head. But the moment they brought me the paper
which they found on him, something touched me, because I have by nature
a universal curiosity. Two men were going ahead of me with lanterns,
and they were already in the field. Said I to them, 'Give me light
here; let me know what is in this!' I began to read. I tell you,
gentlemen, there was darkness before me as if some man had thumped my
bald head with his fist. 'In God's name!' said I, 'why did you not show
this letter?' And he answered, 'Because it did not suit me!' Such a
haughty fellow, even at the point of death! But didn't I seize him,
embrace him? 'Benefactor,' cried I, 'without you the crows would have
eaten us already!' I gave orders to bring him back and lead him here;
and I almost drove the breath out of the horse to tell you what had
happened as quickly as possible. Uf!"

"That is a wonderful man, in whom it is clear as much good as evil
resides," said Pan Stanislav. "If such would not--"

But before he had finished, the door opened and the soldiers came in
with Kmita.

"You are free," said Volodyovski, at once; "and while we are alive none
of us will attack you. What a desperate man you are, not to show us
that letter immediately! We would not have disturbed you."

Here he turned to the soldiers: "Withdraw, and every man to horse!"

The soldiers withdrew, and Pan Andrei remained alone in the middle of
the room. He had a calm face; but it was gloomy, and he looked at the
officers standing before him, not without pride.

"You are free!" repeated Volodyovski; "go whithersoever you please,
even to Radzivill, though it is painful to see a man of honorable blood
aiding a traitor to his country."

"Reflect well," answered Kmita, "for I say beforehand that I shall go
nowhere else but to Radzivill."

"Join us; let the thunderbolt crush that tyrant of Kyedani!" cried
Zagloba. "You will be to us a friend and dear comrade; the country,
your mother, will forgive your offences against her."

"It is no use," said Kmita, with energy. "God will decide who serves
the country better,--you who begin civil war on your own
responsibility, or I, serving a lord who alone can save this ill-fated
Commonwealth. Go your own way, I will go mine. It is not time to
convert you, and the attempt is vain; but I tell you from the depth of
my soul that you are ruining the country,--you who stand in the way of
its salvation. I do not call you traitors, for I know that your
intentions are honorable; but this is the position,--the country is
perishing, Radzivill stretches a hand to it, and you thrust swords into
that hand, and in blindness make traitors of him and all those who
stand by him."

"As God is true!" said Zagloba, "if I had not seen how manfully you
went to meet death, I should think that terror had disturbed your mind.
To whom have you given oath,--to Radzivill or Yan Kazimir, to Sweden or
the Commonwealth? You have lost your wits!"

"I knew that it would be vain to attempt to convert you. Farewell!"

"But wait," said Zagloba; "for here is a question of importance. Tell
me, did Radzivill promise that he would spare us when you interceded
for us in Kyedani?"

"He did," said Kmita. "You were to remain during the war in Birji."

"Know now your Radzivill, who betrays not only the country, not only
the king, but his own servants." When he had said this, Zagloba gave
the hetman's letter to Kmita. He took it, and began to run over it with
his eyes; and as he read, the blood came to his face, and a blush of
shame for his own leader covered his forehead more and more. All at
once he crushed the letter in his hand, and threw it on the floor.

"Farewell!" said he. "Better I had perished at your hands!" and he went
out of the room.

"Gentlemen," said Pan Yan, after a moment's silence, "an affair with
that man is difficult, for he believes in his Radzivill as a Turk in
Mohammed. I thought myself, as you do, that he was serving him for
profit or ambition, but that is not the case. He is not a bad man, only
an erring one."

"If he has had faith in his Mohammed hitherto, I have undermined that
faith infernally," said Zagloba. "Did you see how he threw down the
letter as soon as he had read it? There will be no small work between
them, for that cavalier is ready to spring at the eyes, not only of
Radzivill, but the devil. As God is dear to me, if a man had given me a
herd of Turkish horses I should not be so well pleased as I am at
having saved him from death."

"It is true he owes his life to you," said Billevich; "no one will deny
that."

"God be with him!" said Volodyovski; "let us take counsel what to do."

"But what? Mount and take the road; the horses have rested a little,"
answered Zagloba.

"True, we should go as quickly as possible! Are you going with us?"
asked Mirski of the sword-bearer.

"I cannot remain here in peace, I must go. But if you wish to take the
road at once, gentlemen, I say sincerely that it is not convenient to
tear away now with you. Since that man has left here alive, they will
not burn me up immediately, neither will they kill any one; and before
such a journey it is necessary to provide one's self with this thing
and that. God knows when I shall return. It is necessary to make one
arrangement and another,--to secrete the most valuable articles, send
my cattle to the neighbors, pack trunks. I have also a little ready
money which I would take with me. I shall be ready to-morrow at
daybreak; but to go now, in seize-grab fashion, I cannot."

"On our part we cannot wait, for the sword is hanging over our heads,"
said Volodyovski. "And where do you wish to take refuge?"

"In the wilderness, as you advised. At least, I shall leave the maiden
there; for I am not yet old, and my poor sabre may be of use to the
country and the king."

"Farewell! God grant us to meet in better times!"

"God reward you, gentlemen, for coming to rescue me. Doubtless we shall
see one another in the field."

"Good health!"

"Happy journey!"

They began to take farewell of one another, and then each came to bow
down before Panna Billevich.

"You will see my wife and little boys in the wilderness: embrace them
for me, and bloom in good health," said Pan Yan.

"Remember at times the soldier, who, though he had no success in your
eyes, is always glad to bend the skies for you."

After them others approached, and last Zagloba.

"Receive, charming flower, farewell from an old man too. Embrace Pani
Skshetuski and my little stumps. They are boys in a hundred!"

Instead of an answer, Olenka seized his hand, and pressed it in silence
to her lips.



                             CHAPTER XXII.


That night, at the latest two hours after the departure of
Volodyovski's detachment, Radzivill himself came to Billeviche at the
head of his cavalry. He came to the assistance of Kmita, fearing lest
he might fall into the hands of Volodyovski. When he learned what had
happened he took the sword-bearer and Olenka and returned to Kyedani,
without even giving rest to the horses.

The hetman was enraged beyond measure when he heard the story from the
mouth of the sword-bearer, who told everything in detail, wishing to
turn from himself the attention of the terrible magnate. He dared not
protest, for the same reason, against the journey to Kyedani, and was
glad in his soul that the storm ended thus. Radzivill, on his part,
though suspecting Billevich of "practices" (conspiracy), had in fact
too many cares to remember the matter at that moment.

The escape of Volodyovski might change affairs in Podlyasye.
Horotkyevich and Yakub Kmita, who were there at the head of squadrons
confederated against the hetman, were good soldiers, but not important;
hence the whole confederacy had no weight. But now with Volodyovski had
fled such men as Mirski, Stankyevich, and Oskyerko, without counting
the little knight himself,--all excellent officers, enjoying universal
respect.

But in Podlyasye was Prince Boguslav also, who with the castle
squadrons was opposing the confederates, waiting meanwhile for aid from
his uncle the elector; but the elector delayed, evidently waiting for
events; and the confederated forces were gaining strength, and
adherents came to them every day.

For some time the hetman had been wishing to march to Podlyasye
himself, and crush the insurgents with one blow, but he was restrained
by the thought that let him set foot over the boundary of Jmud the
whole country would rise, and the importance of the Radzivills be
reduced in the eyes of the Swedes to zero. The prince was meditating
whether it were not better to abandon Podlyasye altogether for the
time, and bring Prince Boguslav to Jmud.

That was necessary and urgent. On the other hand threatening news came
touching the deeds of the voevoda of Vityebsk. The hetman had tried to
negotiate and bring him over to his plans, but Sapyeha sent back the
letters unanswered; and besides, as report said, the voevoda was
selling his effects at auction, disposing of what he could, melting
silver into coin, selling his cattle for ready money, pawning tapestry
and valuables to the Jews, renting his lands and collecting troops.

The hetman, greedy by nature and incapable of making sacrifices of
money, refused to believe, at first, that any man would cast his whole
fortune without hesitation on the altar of the country; but time
convinced him that this was really the case, for Sapyeha's military
power increased daily. Fugitives, settled nobles, patriots gathered
around him,--enemies of the hetman, and still worse, his blood
relatives, such as Prince Michael Radzivill, of whom news came that he
had ordered all the income of his estates still unoccupied by the enemy
to be given to the voevoda of Vityebsk.

In this way then did the edifice, built by the pride of Yanush
Radzivill, crack from its foundations and totter. The whole
Commonwealth was to find a place in that edifice, but now it appeared
in advance that it could not contain even Jmud.

The condition was becoming more and more like a vicious circle; for
Radzivill might summon against the voevoda of Vityebsk Swedish forces
which were occupying the country by degrees, but that would be to
acknowledge his own weakness. Besides, the relations of the hetman with
the generalissimo of the Swedes were strained since the affair at
Klavany, thanks to the plan of Zagloba; and in spite of all
explanations, irritation and distrust reigned between them.

The hetman, when setting out to aid Kmita, had hope that perhaps he
might yet seize Volodyovski and destroy him; therefore, when his
reckoning was at fault, he returned to Kyedani angry and frowning. It
astonished him too that he did not meet Kmita on the road to
Billeviche; this happened because Pan Andrei, whose dragoons
Volodyovski did not fail to take with him, returned alone, and
therefore chose the shortest road through the forest, avoiding Plemborg
and Eyragoly.

After a night spent entirely on horseback the hetman came back to
Kyedani on the following day at noon with his troops, and his first
question was about Kmita. He was informed that Pan Andrei had returned,
but without soldiers. Of that last circumstance the prince knew
already; but he was curious to hear from the lips of Kmita himself the
story, therefore he gave command to call him at once.

"There was no success for you, as there was none for me," said he, when
Kmita stood before him. "The sword-bearer told me that you fell into
the hands of that little devil."

"That is true," answered Kmita.

"And my letter saved you?"

"Of what letter are you speaking, your highness? For when they had read
themselves the one found on me, they read to me in return another
letter, written to the commandant of Birji."

The gloomy face of Radzivill was covered as it were with a bloody skin.
"Then do you know?"

"I know!" answered Kmita, emphatically. "Your highness, how could you
act so with me? For a common noble it is a shame to break his word, but
what is it for a prince and a leader?"

"Silence!" cried Radzivill.

"I will not be silent, for before the eyes of those men I had to take
your place. They were urging me to join them; but I would not, and
said, 'I serve Radzivill; for with him is justice, with him virtue.'
Then they showed me that letter: 'See what a man your Radzivill is!' I
had to shut my mouth and gulp shame."

The hetman's lips began to quiver from fury. A wild desire seized him
to wring that insolent head from its shoulders, and he was already
raising his hands to clap for the servants. Rage closed his eyes,
stopped the breath in his breast; and surely Kmita would have paid
dearly for his outburst were it not for the sudden attack of asthma
which at that moment seized the prince. His face grew black, he sprang
up from the chair and began to beat the air with his hands, his eyes
were coming out of his head, and from his throat rose a hoarse bellow,
in which Kmita barely heard the word, "Choking!"

At the alarm the servants and the castle physicians ran in. They tried
to restore the prince, who had lost consciousness. They roused him in
about an hour; and when he showed signs of life Kmita left the room.

In the corridor he met Kharlamp, who had recovered from the wounds and
bruises received in the battle with Oskyerko's insurgent Hungarians.

"What news?" asked Great Mustache.

"He has come to himself," answered Kmita.

"H'm! But any day he may not come! Bad for us, Colonel; for when the
prince dies they will grind out his deeds on us. My whole hope is in
Volodyovski. I trust that he will shield his old comrades; therefore I
tell you" (here Kharlamp lowered his voice) "that I am glad he
escaped."

"Was he cornered so closely, then?"

"What, cornered! From that willow grove in which we surrounded him
wolves could not have sprung out, and he sprang out. May the bullets
strike him! Who knows, who knows that we shall not have to grasp hold
of his skirts, for there is something bad about us here. The nobles are
turning away terribly from our prince, and all say that they would
rather have a real enemy, a Swede, even a Tartar, than a renegade. That
is the position. And, besides, the prince gives more and more orders to
seize and imprison citizens,--which, speaking between us, is against
law and liberty. To-day they brought in the sword-bearer of Rossyeni."

"Have they indeed?"

"Yes, with his niece. The lady is a beauty. You are to be
congratulated!"

"Where are they lodged?"

"In the right wing. Five rooms are assigned them; they cannot complain,
unless of this,--that a guard walks before their doors. And when will
the wedding be, Colonel?"

"The music is not yet engaged for it. Farewell!" added Kmita.

Pan Andrei went from Kharlamp to his own room. A sleepless night with
its stormy events, and his last meeting with the prince had wearied him
to such a degree that he was barely able to stand. And as every touch
causes pain to a wearied, bruised body, so had he a soul full of
anguish. Kharlamp's simple question 'When will the wedding be?' pierced
him sorely; for before his eyes at once appeared, as if alive, the icy
face of Olenka, and her fixed lips when their silence confirmed the
death-sentence against him. Even a word from her would have saved him.
Volodyovski would have respected it. All the sorrow and pain which
Kmita felt at that moment consisted in this, that she did not say that
word. Still she had not hesitated to save him twice before. Such now
was the precipice between them, so utterly quenched in her heart was
not merely love, but simple kind feeling, which it was possible to have
even for a stranger,--simple pity, which it is incumbent to have for
every one. The more Kmita thought over this, the more cruel did Olenka
seem to him, the greater his complaint against her, and the deeper his
wrong. "What have I done of such character," asked he of himself, "that
I am scorned, like one cursed by the church? Even if it were evil to
serve Radzivill, still I feel innocent, since I can answer on my
conscience, that not for promotion, not for gain, nor for bread do I
serve him, but because I see profit to the country from my service. Why
am I condemned without trial? Well, well! Let it be so! I will not go
to clear myself of uncommitted offences, nor to beg love," repeated he
for the thousandth time.

Still the pain did not cease; it increased. On returning to his
quarters Pan Andrei cast himself on the bed and tried to sleep; but he
could not, despite all his weariness. After a while he rose and began
to walk through the room. From time to time he raised his hands to his
forehead and said aloud to himself,--

"Oh, the heart of that woman is hard!"

And again,--

"I did not expect that of you, young lady,--May God reward you!"

In these meditations an hour passed, and a second. At last he tired
himself out and began to doze, sitting on the bed; but before he fell
asleep an attendant of Radzivill, Pan Skillandz, roused him and
summoned him to the prince.

Radzivill felt better already, and breathed more freely, but on his
leaden face could be seen a great weakening. He sat in a deep armchair,
covered with leather, having before him a physician whom he sent out
immediately after Kmita entered.

"I had one foot in the other world and through you," said he to Pan
Andrei.

"Your highness, it was not my fault; I said what I thought."

"Let no further mention be made of this. But do not add to the weight
of the burden which I bear; and know this, that what I have forgiven
you I would not forgive another."

Kmita was silent.

"If I gave order," added the prince, after a while, "to execute in
Birji these men whom at your request I pardoned in Kyedani, it was not
because I wanted to deceive you, but to spare you pain. I yielded
apparently, because I have a weakness for you. But their death was
imperative. Am I an executioner, or do you think that I spill blood
merely to feast my eyes on red? But when older you will know that if a
man would achieve anything in this world, he is not free to sacrifice
great causes to smaller. It was imperative that these men should die
here in Kyedani, for see what has happened through your prayers:
resistance is increased in the country, civil war begun, friendship
with the Swedes is strained, an evil example given to others, from
which mutiny is spreading like a plague. More than this, I had to go on
a later expedition in my own person, and be filled with confusion in
the presence of the whole army; you came near death at their hands, and
now they will go to Podlyasye and become chiefs of an uprising. Behold
and learn! If they had perished in Kyedani, nothing of all this would
have happened; but when imploring for them you were thinking only of
your own feelings. I sent them to die at Birji, for I am experienced, I
see farther; for I know from practice that whoso in running stumbles,
even against a small stone, will easily fall, and whoso falls may not
rise again, and the faster he was running the less likely is he to
rise. God save us, what harm these people have done!"

"They are not so important as to undo the whole work of your highness."

"Had they done no more than rouse distrust between me and Pontus, the
harm would be incalculable. It has been explained that they, not my
men, attacked the Swedes; but the letter with threats which Pontus
wrote to me remains, and I do not forgive him that letter. Pontus is
brother-in-law of the king, but it is doubtful whether he could become
mine, and whether the Radzivill thresholds are not too high for him."

"Let your highness treat with the king himself, and not with his
servant."

"So I intend to do; and if vexation does not kill me I will teach that
little Swede modesty,--if troubles do not kill me; and would that that
were all, for no one here spares me thorns or pain. It is grievous to
me, grievous! Who would believe that I am the man who was at Loyovo,
Jechytsa, Mozyr, Turoff, Kieff, Berestechko? The whole Commonwealth
gazed at me and Vishnyevetski, as at two suns. Everything trembled
before Hmelnitski, but he trembled before me. And the very men whom in
time of universal disaster I led from victory to victory, forsake me
to-day and raise their hands against me as against a parricide."

"But all are not thus, for there are some who believe in your highness
yet," said Kmita, abruptly.

"They believe till they stop," added Radzivill, with bitterness. "Great
is the love of the nobles! God grant that I be not poisoned by it! Stab
after stab does each one of you give me, though it occurs not to any
that--"

"Consider intentions, not words, your highness."

"I give thanks for the counsel. Henceforth I will consider carefully
what face each common man shows me, and endeavor with care to please
all."

"Those are bitter words, your highness."

"But is life sweet? God created me for great things, and look at me; I
must wear out my powers in district struggles, which village might wage
against village. I wanted to measure myself with mighty monarchs, and I
have fallen so low that I must hunt some Volodyovski through my own
estates. Instead of astonishing the world with my power, I astonish it
with my weakness; instead of paying for the ashes of Vilna with the
ashes of Moscow, I have to thank you for digging trenches around
Kyedani. Oh, it is narrow for me, and I am choking,--not alone because
the asthma is throttling me; helplessness is killing me, inactivity is
killing me! It is narrow for me and heavy for me! Do you understand?"

"I thought myself that affairs would go differently," answered Kmita,
gloomily.

Radzivill began to breathe with effort.

"Before another crown can come to me they have crowned me with thorns.
I commanded the minister, Aders, to look at the stars. He made a figure
and said that the conjunctions were evil, but that they would pass.
Meanwhile I am suffering torments. In the night there is something
which will not let me sleep; something walks in the room, faces of some
kind stare at me in the bed, and at times a sudden cold comes. This
means that death is walking around me. I am suffering. I must be
prepared for more treason and apostasy, for I know that there are men
still who waver."

"There are no longer such," answered Kmita, "for whoso was to go has
gone."

"Do not deceive yourself; you see that the remnant of the Polish people
are beginning to take thought."

Kmita remembered what he had heard from Kharlamp and was silent.

"Never mind!" continued Radzivill, "it is oppressive and terrible, but
it is necessary to endure. Tell no one of what you have heard from me.
It is well that this attack came to-day, for it will not be repeated;
and especially to-day I need strength, for I wish to have a feast, and
show a glad face to strengthen the courage of people. And do you
brighten your face and tell nothing to any man, for what I say to you
is for this purpose only, that you at least refrain from tormenting me.
Anger carried me away to-day. Be careful that this happen not again,
for it is a question of your head. But I have forgiven you. Of those
trenches with which you surrounded Kyedani, Peterson himself would not
be ashamed. Go now and send me Myeleshko. They have brought in
deserters from his squadron,--common soldiers. I shall order them
hanged to a man. We need to give an example. Farewell! It must be
joyful to-day in Kyedani."



                             CHAPTER XXIII.


The sword-bearer of Rossyeni had a difficult struggle with Panna
Aleksandra before she consented to go to that feast which the hetman
had prepared for his people. He had to implore almost with tears the
stubborn, bold girl, and swear that it was a question of his head; that
all, not only the military, but citizens dwelling in the region of
Kyedani, as far as Radzivill's hand reached, were obliged to appear
under terror of the prince's wrath: how then could they oppose who were
subject to the favor and disfavor of the terrible man? Olenka, not to
endanger her uncle, gave way.

The company was really not small, for he had forced many of the
surrounding nobles to come with their wives and daughters. But the
military were in the majority, and especially officers of the foreign
regiments, who remained nearly all with the prince. Before he showed
himself to the guests he prepared an affable countenance, as if no care
had weighed on him previously; he wished with that banquet to rouse
courage, not only in his adherents and the military, but to show that
most of the citizens were on his side, and only turbulent people
opposed the union with Sweden. He did not spare therefore trouble or
outlay to make the banquet lordly, that the echo of it might spread as
widely as possible through the land. Barely had darkness covered the
country when hundreds of barrels were set on fire along the road
leading to the castle and in the courtyard; from time to time cannons
were thundering, and soldiers were ordered to give forth joyous shouts.

Carriages and covered wagons followed one another on the road, bringing
personages of the neighborhood and the "cheaper" (smaller) nobility.
The courtyard was filled with equipages, horses, and servants, who had
either come with guests or belonged to the town. Crowds dressed in
velvet, brocade, and costly furs filled the so-called "Golden Hall;"
and when the prince appeared at last, all glittering from precious
stones, and with a welcoming smile on his face, usually gloomy, and
besides wrinkled at that time by sickness, the first officers shouted
in one voice,--

"Long live the prince hetman! Long live the voevoda of Vilna!"

Radzivill cast his eyes suddenly on the assembled citizens, wishing to
convince himself whether they repeated the cries of the soldiers. In
fact a few tens of voices from the most timid breasts repeated the cry;
the prince on his part began at once to bow, and to thank them for the
sincere and "unanimous" love.

"With you, gracious gentlemen!" said he, "we will manage those who
would destroy the country. God reward you! God reward you!"

And he went around through the hall, stopped before acquaintances, not
sparing titles in his speech,--"Lord brother," "dear neighbor;" and
more than one gloomy face grew bright under the warm rays of the
magnate's favor.

"But it is not possible," said those who till recently looked on his
deeds with dislike, "that such a lord, such a lofty senator should wish
ill to his country; either he could not act differently from what he
has acted, or there is some secret in this, which will come out for the
good of the Commonwealth."

"In fact, we have more rest already from one enemy who does not wish to
light about us with the Swedes."

"God grant that all turn out for the best."

Some, however, shook their heads, or said with a look to one another,
"We are here because they put the knife to our throats."

But these were silent; meanwhile others, more easily brought over, said
in loud voices, to be heard by the prince,--

"It is better to change the king than ruin the Commonwealth."

"Let the kingdom think of itself, but we will think of ourselves."

"Besides, who has given us an example, if not Great Poland? _Extrema
necessitas, extremis nititur rationibus! Tentanda omnia!_"

"Let us put all confidence in our prince, and trust him in everything.
Let him have Lithuania and the government in his hands."

"He deserves both. If he will not save us, we perish,--in him is
salvation."

"He is nearer to us than Yan Kazimir, for he is our blood."

Radzivill caught with an eager ear those voices, dictated by fear or
flattery, and did not consider that they came from the mouths of weak
persons, who in danger would be the first to desert him,--from the
mouths of persons whom every breath of wind might bend as a wave. And
he was charmed with those expressions, and tempted himself, or his own
conscience, repeating from the maxims he had heard that which seemed to
excuse him the most: "_Extrema necessitas, extremis nititur
rationibus!_"

But when passing a large group of nobles he heard from the lips of Pan
Yujits, "He is nearer to us than Yan Kazimir," his face grew bright
altogether. To compare him with the king, and then to prefer him,
flattered his pride; he approached Pan Yujits at once and said,--

"You are right, brothers, for in Yan Kazimir, in one pot of blood there
is a quart of Lithuanian, but in me there is nothing but Lithuanian. If
hitherto the quart has commanded the potful, it depends on you,
brothers, to change that condition."

"We are ready to drink a potful to your health," answered Pan Yujits.

"You have struck my mind. Rejoice, brothers; I would gladly invite
hither all Lithuania."

"It would have to be trimmed still better," said Pan Shchanyetski of
Dalnovo,--a bold man, and cutting with the tongue as with the sword.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the prince, fixing his eyes on him.

"That the heart of your highness is wider than Kyedani."

Radzivill gave a forced laugh and went farther.

At this moment the marshal of the castle approached him with the
announcement that the banquet was ready. Crowds began to flow, like a
river, after the prince to the same hall in which not long before the
union with Sweden was declared. The marshal seated the guests according
to dignity, calling each one by name and rank. But it was evident that
the orders of the prince had been issued in advance on this point, for
Kmita's place was between Billevich and Panna Aleksandra.

The hearts jumped in both when they heard their names called in
succession, and both hesitated at the first moment; but it occurred to
them that to refuse would be to draw on themselves the eyes of all
present, therefore they sat side by side. They were angry and ill at
ease. Pan Andrei determined to be as indifferent as if a stranger were
sitting next him; but soon he understood that he could not be so
indifferent, and that his neighbor was not such a stranger that they
could begin an ordinary conversation. But both saw that in that throng
of persons of the most varied feelings, interests, and passions, he
thinks only of her and she of him. For this very reason it was awkward
for them. They would not and could not tell sincerely, clearly, and
openly, what lay on their hearts. They had the past, but no future.
Recent feelings, confidence, even acquaintance, were all broken. There
was nothing between them save the feeling of disappointment and
offence. If this link should burst, they would be freer; but time only
could bring forgetfulness: it was too soon for that.

For Kmita it was so disagreeable that he almost suffered torments;
still he would not have yielded, for anything in the world, the place
which the marshal had given him. He caught with his ear the rustle of
her dress; he watched every movement of hers,--he watched while
feigning not to watch; he felt the warmth beating from her, and all
this caused him a certain painful delight.

At the same moment he discovered that she too was equally on the alert,
though she was as if not paying attention. An unconquerable desire of
looking at her drew him on; therefore he glanced sidewise, until he saw
her clear forehead, her eyes covered with dark lashes, and her fair
face, not touched by paint, as were those of other ladies. For him
there had always been something attractive in that face, so that the
heart in the poor knight was shivering from sorrow and pain. "To think
that such animosity could find a place with such beauty," thought he.
But the offence was too deep; hence he added soon in his soul, "I have
nothing to do with you; let some other man take you."

And he felt suddenly that if that "other" were merely to try to make
use of the permission, he would cut him into pieces as small as chopped
straw. At the very thought terrible anger seized him; but he calmed
himself when he remembered that he was still alone, that no "other" was
sitting near her, and that no one, at least at that moment, was trying
to win her.

"I will look at her once more and turn to the other side," thought he.

And again he cast a sidelong glance; but just at that moment she did
the same, and both dropped their eyes with all quickness, terribly
confused, as if they had been caught in a crime.

Panna Aleksandra too was struggling with herself. From all that had
happened, from the action of Kmita at Billeviche, from the words of
Zagloba and Pan Yan, she learned that Kmita erred, but that he was not
so guilty and did not deserve such contempt, such unreserved
condemnation, as she had thought previously. Besides, he had saved
those worthy men from death, and there was so much in him of a certain
grand pride that when he had fallen into their hands, having a letter
on his person sufficient to vindicate him, or at least to save him from
execution, he did not show that letter, he said not a word, but went to
death with head erect.

Olenka, reared by an old soldier who placed contempt for death above
all virtues, worshipped courage with her whole heart; therefore she
could not resist an involuntary admiration for that stern knightly
daring which could be driven from the body only with the soul.

She understood also that if Kmita served Radzivill he did so in perfect
good faith; what a wrong therefore to condemn him for intentional
treason! And still she had put that wrong on him, she had spared him
neither injustice nor contempt, she would not forgive him even in the
face of death.

"Right the wrong," said her heart; "all is finished between you, but it
is thy duty to confess that thou hast judged him unjustly. In this is
thy duty to thyself also."

But there was in this lady no little pride, and perhaps something of
stubbornness; therefore it came at once to her mind that that cavalier
was not worth such satisfaction, and a flush came to her face.

"If he is not worth it, let him go without it," said her mind.

But conscience said further that whether the injured one is worth
satisfaction or not, it is needful to give it; but on the other side
her pride brought forth continually new arguments,--

"If--which might be--he was unwilling to listen, she would have to
swallow her shame for nothing. And secondly, guilty or not guilty,
whether he acts purposely or through blindness, it is enough that he
holds with traitors and enemies of the country, and helps them to ruin
it. It is the same to the country whether he lacks reason or honesty.
God may forgive him; men must and ought to condemn, and the name of
traitor will remain with him. That is true! If he is not guilty, is she
not right in despising a man who has not the wit to distinguish wrong
from right, crime from virtue?"

Here anger began to carry the lady away, and her cheeks flushed.

"I will be silent!" said she to herself. "Let him suffer what he has
deserved. Until I see penitence I have the right to condemn him."

Then she turned her glance to Kmita, as if wishing to be convinced
whether penitence was yet to be seen in his face. Just then it was
that the meeting of their eyes took place, at which both were so
shame-stricken.

Olenka, it may be, did not see penitence in the face of the cavalier,
but she saw pain and suffering; she saw that face pale as after
sickness; therefore deep pity seized her, tears came perforce to her
eyes, and she bent still more over the table to avoid betraying
emotion.

Meanwhile the banquet was becoming animated. At first all were
evidently under a disagreeable impression, but with the cups came
fancy. The bustle increased. At last the prince rose,--

"Gracious gentlemen, I ask leave to speak."

"The prince wishes to speak! The prince wishes to speak!" was called
from every side.

"I raise the first toast to the Most Serene King of Sweden, who gives
us aid against our enemies, and ruling meanwhile this country, will not
leave it till he brings peace. Arise, gentlemen, for that health is
drunk standing."

The guests rose, except ladies, and filled their glasses, but without
shouts, without enthusiasm. Pan Shchanyetski of Dalnovo muttered
something to his neighbors, and they bit their mustaches to avoid
laughter. It was evident that he was jeering at the King of Sweden.

It was only when the prince raised the other toast to his "beloved
guests" kind to Kyedani, who had come even from distant places to
testify their confidence in the intentions of the host, that they
answered him with a loud shout,--

"We thank you from our hearts!"

"The health of the prince!"

"Our Hector of Lithuania!"

"May he live! Long life to the prince hetman, our voevoda."

Now Pan Yujits, a little drunk already, cried with all the strength of
his lungs, "Long life to Yanush I., Grand Prince of Lithuania!"

Radzivill blushed like a young lady at her betrothal, but remarking
that those assembled were stubbornly silent and looking at him with
astonishment, he said,--

"That is in your power; but your wishes are premature, Pan Yujits,
premature."

"Long live Yanush I., Grand Prince of Lithuania!" repeated Pan Yujits,
with the stubbornness of a drunken man.

Pan Shchanyetski rose in his turn and raised his glass. "True," said
he, coolly, "Grand Prince of Lithuania, King of Poland, and Emperor of
Germany!"

Again an interval of silence. Suddenly the company burst out into
laughter. All were staring, their mustaches were dancing on their
reddened faces, and laughter shook their bodies, echoed from the arches
of the hall, and lasted long; and as suddenly as it rose so suddenly
did it die on the lips of all at sight of the hetman's face, which was
changing like a rainbow.

Radzivill restrained the terrible anger which had seized his breast and
said, "Low jests, Pan Shchanyetski."

The noble pouted, and not at all disconcerted answered: "That also is
an elective throne, and we cannot wish your highness too much. If as a
noble your highness may become King of Poland, as a prince of the
Gorman Empire you might be raised to the dignity of Emperor. It is as
far or near for you to the one as to the other; and who does not wish
this to you, let him rise. I will meet him with the sabre." Here he
turned to the company: "Rise, whoso does not wish the crown of the
German Empire to the voevoda of Vilna!"

Of course no one rose. They did not laugh either, for in the voice of
Pan Shchanyetski there was so much insolent malice that an involuntary
disquiet came upon all as to what would happen.

Nothing happened, save that relish for the banquet was spoiled. In vain
did the servants of the castle fill the glasses every moment. Wine
could not scatter gloomy thoughts in the minds of the banqueters, nor
the disquiet increasing every moment. Radzivill concealed his anger
with difficulty, for he felt that, thanks to the toasts of Pan
Shchanyetski, he was belittled in the eyes of the assembled nobles, and
that, intentionally or not, that man had forced the conviction on those
present that the voevoda of Vilna was no nearer the throne of grand
prince than the crown of Germany. Everything was turned into jests,
into ridicule, while the banquet was given mainly to accustom men's
minds to the coming rule of the Radzivills. What is more, Radzivill was
concerned lest this ridicule of his hopes should make a bad impression
on the officers, admitted to the secret of his plans. In fact, deep
dissatisfaction was depicted on their faces.

Ganhoff filled glass after glass, and avoided the glance of the prince.
Kmita, however, did not drink, but looked at the table before him with
frowning brow, as if he were thinking of something, or lighting an
internal battle. Radzivill trembled at the thought that a light might
flash into that mind any moment, and bring forth truth from the
shadows, and then that officer, who furnished the single link binding
the remnants of the Polish squadrons with the cause of Radzivill, would
break the link, even if he had at the same time to drag the heart out
of his own breast.

Kmita had annoyed Radzivill already over much; and without the
marvellous significance given him by events, he would long since have
fallen a victim to his own impetuosity and the wrath of the hetman. But
the prince was mistaken in suspecting him of a hostile turn of thought,
for Pan Andrei was occupied wholly with Olenka and that deep dissension
which separated them.

At times it seemed to him that he loved that woman sitting at his side
beyond the whole world; then again he felt such hatred that he would
give death to her if he could but give it to himself as well.

Life had become so involved that for his simple nature it was too
difficult, and he felt what a wild beast feels when entangled in a net
from which it cannot escape.

The unquiet and gloomy humor of the whole banquet irritated him in the
highest degree. It was simply unendurable.

The banquet became more gloomy every moment. It seemed to those present
that they were feasting under a leaden roof resting on their heads.

At that time a new guest entered the hall. The prince, seeing him,
exclaimed,--

"That is Pan Suhanyets, from Cousin Boguslav! Surely with letters!"

The newly arrived bowed profoundly. "True, Most Serene Prince, I come
straight from Podlyasye."

"But give me the letters, and sit at the table yourself. The worthy
guests will pardon me if I do not defer the reading, though we are
sitting at a banquet, for there may be news which I shall need to
impart to you. Sir Marshal, pray think of the welcome envoy there."

Speaking thus, he took from the hands of Pan Suhanyets a package of
letters, and broke the seal of the first in haste.

All present fixed curious eyes on his face, and tried to divine the
substance of the letter. The first letter did not seem to announce
anything favorable, for the face of the prince was filled with blood,
and his eyes gleamed with wild anger.

"Brothers!" said the hetman, "Prince Boguslav reports to me that those
men who have chosen to form a confederation rather than march against
the enemy at Vilna, are ravaging at this moment my villages in
Podlyasye. It is easier of course to wage war with peasant women in
villages. Worthy knights, there is no denying that!--Never mind! Their
reward will not miss them."

Then he took the second letter, but had barely cast his eyes on it when
his face brightened with a smile of triumph and delight,--

"The province of Syeradz has yielded to the Swedes!" cried he, "and
following Great Poland, has accepted the protection of Karl Gustav."

And after a while another,--

"This is the latest dispatch. Good for us, worthy gentlemen, Yan
Kazimir is beaten at Vidava and Jarnov. The army is leaving him! He is
retreating on Cracow; the Swedes are pursuing. My cousin writes that
Cracow too must fall."

"Let us rejoice, gracious gentlemen," said Shchanyetski, with a strange
voice.

"Yes, let us rejoice!" repeated the hetman, without noticing the tone
in which Shchanyetski had spoken. And delight issued from the whole
person of the prince, his face became in one moment as it were younger,
his eyes gained lustre; with hands trembling from happiness, he broke
the seal of the last letter, looked, became all radiant as the sun, and
cried,--

"Warsaw is taken! Long life to Karl Gustav!"

Here he first noticed that the impression which these tidings produced
on those present was entirely different from that which he felt
himself. For all sat in silence, looking forward with uncertain glance.
Some frowned; others covered their faces with their hands. Even
courtiers of the hetman, even men of weak spirit, did not dare to
imitate the joy of the prince at the tidings that Warsaw was taken,
that Cracow must fall, and that the provinces, one after the other,
would leave their legal king and yield to the enemy. Besides, there was
something monstrous in the satisfaction with which the supreme leader
of half the armies of the Commonwealth, and one of its most exalted
senators, announced its defeats. The prince saw that it was necessary
to soften the impression.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I should be the first to weep with you, if harm
were coming to the Commonwealth; but here the Commonwealth suffers no
harm, it merely changes kings. Instead of the ill-fated Yan Kazimir we
shall have a great and fortunate warrior. I see all wars now finished,
and enemies vanquished."

"Your highness is right," answered Shchanyetski. "Cup for cup, the same
thing that Radzeyovski and Opalinski held forth at Uistsie. Let us
rejoice, gracious gentlemen! Death to Yan Kazimir!"

When he had said this, Shchanyetski pushed back his chair with a
rattle, and walked out of the hall.

"The best of wines that are in the cellar!" cried the prince.

The marshal hastened to carry out the order. In the hall it was as
noisy as in a hive. When the first impression had passed, the nobles
began to talk of the news and discuss. They asked Pan Suhanyets for
details from Podlyasye, and adjoining Mazovia, which the Swedes had
already occupied.

After a while pitchy kegs were rolled into the hall and opened. Spirits
began to grow brighter and improve by degrees.

More and more frequently voices were heard to repeat: "All is over!
perhaps it is for the best!" "We must bend to fortune!" "The prince will
not let us be wronged." "It is better for us than for others. Long life
to Yanush Radzivill, our voevoda, hetman, and prince!"

"Grand Prince of Lithuania!" cried again Pan Yujits.

But at this time neither silence nor laughter answered him; but a
number of tens of hoarse throats roared at once,--

"That is our wish,--from heart and soul our wish! Long life to him! May
he rule!"

The magnate rose with a face as red as purple. "I thank you, brothers,"
said he, seriously.

In the hall it had become as suffocating and hot, from lights and the
breath of people, as in a bath.

Panna Aleksandra bent past Kmita to her uncle. "I am weak," said she;
"let us leave here."

In truth her face was pale, and on her forehead glittered drops of
perspiration; but the sword-bearer of Rossyeni cast an unquiet glance
at the hetman, fearing lest it be taken ill of him to leave the table.
In the field he was a gallant soldier, but he feared Radzivill with his
whole soul.

At that moment, to complete the evil, the hetman said,--

"He is my enemy who will not drink all my toasts to the bottom, for I
am joyful to-day."

"You have heard?" asked Billevich.

"Uncle, I cannot stay longer, I am faint," said Olenka, with a
beseeching voice.

"Then go alone," answered Pan Tomash.

The lady rose, wishing to slip away unobserved; but her strength
failed, and she caught the side of the chair in her weakness.

Suddenly a strong knightly arm embraced her, and supported the almost
fainting maiden.

"I will conduct you," said Pan Andrei.

And without asking for permission he caught her form as if with an iron
hoop. She leaned on him more and more; before they reached the door,
she was hanging powerless on his arm.

Then he raised her as lightly as he would a child, and bore her out of
the hall.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.


That evening after the banquet, Pan Andrei wished absolutely to see the
prince, but he was told that the prince was occupied in a secret
interview with Pan Suhanyets.

He went therefore early next morning, and was admitted at once.

"Your highness," said he "I have come with a prayer."

"What do you wish me to do for you?"

"I am not able to live here longer. Each day increases my torment.
There is nothing for me here in Kyedani. Let your highness find some
office for me, send me whithersoever it please you. I have heard that
regiments are to move against Zolotarenko; I will go with them."

"Zolotarenko would be glad to have an uproar with us, but he cannot get
at us in any way, for Swedish protection is here already, and we cannot
go against him without the Swedes. Count Magnus advances with terrible
dilatoriness because he does not trust me. But is it so ill for you
here in Kyedani at our side?"

"Your highness is gracious to me, and still my suffering is so keen
that I cannot describe it. To tell the truth, I thought everything
would take another course,--I thought that we should fight, that we
should live in fire and smoke, day and night in the saddle. God created
me for that. But to sit here, listen to quarrels and disputes, rot in
inactivity, or hunt down my own people instead of the enemy,--I cannot
endure it, simply I am unable. I prefer death a hundred times. As God
is dear to me, this is pure torture!"

"I know whence that despair comes. From love,--nothing more. When
older, you will learn to laugh at these torments. I saw yesterday that
you and that maiden were more and more angry with each other."

"I am nothing to her, nor she to me. What has been is ended."

"But what, did she fall ill yesterday?"

"She did."

The prince was silent for a while, then said: "I have advised you
already, and I advise once more, if you care for her take her. I will
give command to have the marriage performed. There will be a little
screaming and crying,--that's nothing! After the marriage take her to
your quarters; and if next day she still cries, that will be the most."

"I beg, your highness, for some office in the army, not for marriage,"
said Kmita, roughly.

"Then you do not want her?"

"I do not. Neither I her, nor she me. Though it were to tear the soul
within me, I will not ask her for anything. I only wish to be as far
away as possible, to forget everything before my mind is lost. Here
there is nothing to do; and inactivity is the worst of all, for trouble
gnaws a man like sickness. Remember, your highness, how grievous it was
for you yesterday till good news came. So it is with me to-day, and so
it will be. What have I to do? Seize my head, lest bitter thoughts
split it, and sit down? What can I wait for? God knows what kind of
times these are, God knows what kind of war this is, which I cannot
understand nor grasp with my mind,--which causes me still more grief.
Now, as God is dear to me, if your highness will not use me in some
way, I will flee, collect a party, and fight."

"Whom?" asked the prince.

"Whom? I will go to Vilna, and attack as I did Hovanski. Let your
highness permit my squadron to go with me, and war will begin."

"I need your squadron here against internal enemies."

"That is the pain, that is the torment, to watch in Kyedani with folded
arms, or chase after some Volodyovski whom I would rather have as a
comrade by my side."

"I have an office for you," said the prince. "I will not let you go to
Vilna, nor will I give you a squadron; and if you go against my will,
collect a squadron and fight, know that by this you cease to serve me."

"But I shall serve the country."

"He serves the country who serves me,--I have convinced you of that
already. Remember also that you have taken an oath to me. Finally, if
you go as a volunteer you will go also from under my jurisdiction, and
the courts are waiting for you with sentences. In your own interest you
should not do this."

"What power have courts now?"

"Beyond Kovno none; but here, where the country is still quiet, they
have not ceased to act. It is true you may not appear, but decisions
will be given and will weigh upon you until times of peace. Whom they
have once declared they will remember even in ten years, and the nobles
of Lauda will see that you are not forgotten."

"To tell the truth to your highness, when it comes to atonement I will
yield. Formerly I was ready to war with the whole Commonwealth, and to
win for myself as many sentences as the late Pan Lashch, who had a
cloak lined with them. But now a kind of galled spot has come out on my
conscience. A man fears to wade farther than he wished, and mental
disquiet touching everything gnaws him."

"Are you so squeamish? But a truce to this! I will tell you, if 'tis
your wish to go hence, I have an office for you and a very honorable
one. Ganhoff is creeping into my eyes for this office, and talks of it
every day. I have been thinking to give it to him. Still 'tis
impossible to do so, for I must have a man of note, not with a trifling
name, not a foreigner, but a Pole, who by his very person will bear
witness that not all men have left me, that there are still weighty
citizens on my side. You are just the man; you have so much good
daring, are more willing to make others bend than to bow down
yourself."

"What is the task?"

"To go on a long journey."

"I am ready to-day!"

"And at your own cost, since I am straitened for money. Some of my
revenues the enemy have taken; others, our own people are ravaging, and
no part comes in season; besides, all the army which I have here, has
fallen to my expense. Of a certainty the treasurer, whom I have now
behind a locked door, does not give me a copper,--first, because he has
not the wish to do so; second; because he has not the coin. Whatever
public money there is, I take without asking; but is there much? From
the Swedes you will get anything sooner than money, for their hands
tremble at sight of a farthing."

"Your highness need not explain. If I go, it will be at my own
expense."

"But it will be necessary to appear with distinction, without sparing."

"I will spare nothing."

The hetman's face brightened; for in truth he had no ready money,
though he had plundered Vilna not long before, and, besides, he was
greedy by nature. It was also true that the revenues from his immense
estates, extending from Livonia to Kieff and from Smolensk to Mazovia,
had really ceased to flow in, and the cost of the army increased every
day.

"That suits me," said he; "Ganhoff would begin at once to knock on my
coffers, but you are another kind of man. Hear, then, your
instructions."

"I am listening with care."

"First, you will go to Podlyasye. The road is perilous; for the
confederates, who left the camp, are there and acting against me. How
you will escape them is your own affair. Yakub Kmita might spare you;
but beware of Horotkyevich, Jyromski, and especially of Volodyovski
with his Lauda men."

"I have been in their hands already, and no evil has happened to me."

"That is well. You will go to Zabludovo, where Pan Harasimovich lives;
you will order him to collect what money he can from my revenues, the
public taxes and whencesoever it is possible, and send it to me,--not
to this place, however, but to Tyltsa, where there are effects of mine
already. What goods or property he can pawn, let him pawn; what he can
get from the Jews, let him take. Secondly, let him think how to ruin
the confederates. But that is not your mission; I will send him
instructions under my own hand. You will give him the letter and move
straight to Tykotsin, to Prince Boguslav--"

Here the hetman stopped and began to breathe heavily, for continuous
speaking tortured him greatly. Kmita looked eagerly at Radzivill, for
his own soul was chafing to go, and he felt that the journey, full of
expected adventures, would be balsam to his grief.

After a while the hetman continued: "I am astonished that Boguslav is
loitering still in Podlyasye. As God is true, he may ruin both me and
himself. Pay diligent attention to what he says; for though you will
give him my letters, you should supplement them with living speech, and
explain that which may not be written. Now understand that yesterday's
intelligence was good, but not so good as I told the nobles,--not so
good, in fact, as I myself thought at first. The Swedes have the upper
hand, it is true; they have occupied Great Poland, Mazovia, Warsaw; the
province of Syeradz has yielded to them, they are pursuing Yan Kazimir
to Cracow, and as God is in heaven, they will besiege the place.
Charnyetski is to defend it. He is a newly baked senator, but, I must
confess, a good soldier. Who can foresee what will happen? The Swedes,
of course, know how to take fortresses, and there was no time to
fortify Cracow. Still, that spotted little castellan[22] (Charnyetski)
may hold out there a month, two, three. Such wonders take place at
times, as we all remember in the case of Zbaraj. If he will stand
obstinately, the devil may turn everything around. Learn now political
secrets. Know first that in Vienna they will not look with willing eye
on the growing power of Sweden, and may give aid. The Tartars, too, I
know this well, are inclined to assist Yan Kazimir, and to move against
the Cossacks and Moscow with all force; and then the armies in the
Crimea under Pototski would assist. Yan Kazimir is in despair, but
tomorrow his fortune may be preponderant."

Here the prince was forced to give rest again to his wearied breast,
and Pan Andrei experienced a wonderful feeling which he could not
himself account for at once. Behold, he, an adherent of Radzivill and
Sweden, felt as it were a great joy at the thought that fortune might
turn from the Swedes!

"Suhanyets told me," said the prince, "how it was at Vidava and Jarnov.
There in the first onset our advance guard--I mean the Polish--ground
the Swedes into the dust. They were not general militia, and the Swedes
lost courage greatly."

"Still victory was with the Swedes, was it not?"

"It was, for the squadrons mutinied against Yan Kazimir, and the nobles
declared that they would stand in line, but would not fight. Still it
was shown that the Swedes are no better in the field than the quarter
soldiers. Only let there be one or two victories and their courage may
change. Let money come to Yan Kazimir to pay wages, and the troops will
not mutiny. Pototski has not many men, but they are sternly disciplined
and as resolute as hornets. The Tartars will come with Pototski, but
the elector will not move with his reinforcement."

"How is that?"

"Boguslav and I concluded that he would enter at once into a league
with the Swedes and with us, for we know how to measure his love for
the Commonwealth. He is too cautious, however, and thinks only of his
own interest. He is waiting to see what will happen; meanwhile he is
entering into a league, but with the Prussian towns, which remain
faithful to Yan Kazimir. I think that in this there will be treason of
some kind, unless the elector is not himself, or doubts Swedish success
altogether. But until all this is explained, the league stands against
Sweden; and let the Swedes stumble in Little Poland, Great Poland and
Mazovia will rise, the Prussians will go with them, and it may come to
pass--" Here the prince shuddered as if terrified at his supposition.

"What may come to pass?" asked Kmita.

"That not a Swedish foot will go out of the Commonwealth," answered the
prince, gloomily.

Kmita frowned and was silent.

"Then," continued the hetman, in a low voice, "our fortune will have
fallen as low as before it was high."

Pan Andrei, springing from his seat, cried with sparkling eyes and
flushed face: "What is this? Why did your highness say not long ago
that the Commonwealth was lost,--that only in league with the Swedes,
through the person and future reign of your highness, could it possibly
be saved? What have I to believe,--what I heard then, or what I hear
now? If what your highness says to-day is true, why do we hold with the
Swedes, instead of beating them?--and the soul laughs at the thought of
this."

Radzivill looked sternly at Kmita. "You are over bold!" said he.

But Kmita was careering on his own enthusiasm as on a horse. "Speak
later of what kind of man I am; but now answer my question, your
highness."

"I will give this answer," said Radzivill, with emphasis: "if things
take the turn that I mention, we will fall to beating the Swedes."

Pan Andrei ceased distending his nostrils, slapped his forehead with
his palm, and cried, "I am a fool! I am a fool!"

"I do not deny that," answered the prince. "I will say more: you exceed
the measure of insolence. Know then that I send you to note the turns
of fortune. I desire the good of the country, nothing else. I have
mentioned to you suppositions which may not, which certainly will not,
come true. But there is need to be cautious. Whoso wishes that water
should not bear him away must know how to swim, and whoso goes through
a pathless forest must stop often to note the direction in which he
should travel. Do you understand?"

"As clearly as sunshine."

"We are free to draw back, and we are bound to do so if it will be
better for the country; but we shall not be able if Prince Boguslav
stays longer in Podlyasye. Has he lost his head, or what? If he stays
there, he must declare for one side or the other,--either for the
Swedes or Yan Kazimir,--and that is just what would be worst of all."

"I am dull, your highness, for again I do not understand."

"Podlyasye is near Mazovia; and either the Swedes will occupy it or
reinforcements will come from the Prussian towns against the Swedes.
Then it will be necessary to choose."

"But why does not Prince Boguslav choose?"

"Until he chooses, the Swedes will seek us greatly and must win our
favor; the same is true of the elector. If it comes to retreating and
turning against the Swedes, he is to be the link between me and Yan
Kazimir. He is to ease my return, which he could not do if previously
he had taken the side of the Swedes. But since he will be forced to
make a final choice if he remains in Podlyasye, let him go to Prussia,
to Tyltsa, and wait there for events. The elector stays in Brandenburg.
Boguslav will be of greater importance in Prussia; he may take the
Prussians in hand altogether, increase his army, and stand at the head
of a considerable force. And then both the Swedes and Yan Kazimir will
give what we ask in order to win us both; and our house will not only
not fall, but will rise higher, and that is the main thing."

"Your highness said that the good of the country was the main thing."

"But do not break in at every word, since I told you at first that the
two are one; and listen farther. I know well that Prince Boguslav,
though he signed the act of union with Sweden here in Kyedani, does not
pass as an adherent of theirs. Though the report will be baseless, do
you declare along the road that I forced him to sign it against his
heart. People will believe this readily, for it happens frequently that
even full brothers belong to different parties. In this way he will be
able to gain the confidence of the confederates, invite the leaders to
his camp as if for negotiations, and then seize and take them to
Prussia. That will be a good method, and salutary for the country,
which those men will ruin completely unless they are stopped."

"Is this all that I have to do?" asked Kmita, with a certain
disillusion.

"This is merely a part, and not the most important. From Prince
Boguslav you will go with my letters to Karl Gustav himself. I cannot
come to harmony with Count Magnus from the time of that battle at
Klavany. He looks at me askance, and does not cease from supposing that
if the Swedes were to stumble, if the Tartars were to rush at the other
enemy, I would turn against the Swedes."

"By what your highness has said just now, his supposition is correct."

"Correct or not, I do not wish it held, or wish him to see what trumps
I have in my hand. Besides, he is ill-disposed toward me personally.
Surely he has written more than once against me to the king, and beyond
a doubt one of two things,--either that I am weak, or that I am not
reliable. This must be remedied. You will give my letter to the king.
If he asks about the Klavany affair, tell the truth, neither adding nor
taking away. You may confess that I condemned those officers to death,
and you obtained their pardon. That will cost you nothing, but the
sincerity may please him. You will not complain against Count Magnus
directly in presence of the king, for he is his brother-in-law. But if
the king should ask, so, in passing, what people here think, say that
they are sorry because Count Magnus does not repay the hetman
sufficiently, in view of his sincere friendship for the Swedes; that
the prince himself (that is I) grieves greatly over this. If he asks if
it is true that all the quota troops have left me, say that 'tis not
true; and as proof offer yourself. Tell him that you are colonel; for
you are. Say that the partisans of Pan Gosyevski brought the troops to
mutiny, but add that there is a mortal enmity between us. Say that if
Count Magnus had sent me cannon and cavalry I should have crushed the
confederates long ago,--that this is the general opinion. Finally, take
note of everything, give ear to what they are saying near the person of
the king, and report, not to me, but, if occasion offers, to Prince
Boguslav in Prussia. You may do so even through the elector's men,
should you meet them. Perhaps you know German?"

"I had an officer, a noble of Courland, a certain Zend, whom the Lauda
men slew; from him I learned German not badly. I have also been often
in Livonia."

"That is well."

"But, your highness, where shall I find the King of Sweden?"

"You will find him where he will be. In time of war he may be here
to-day and there to-morrow. Should you find him at Cracow, it would be
better, for you will take letters to other persons who live in those
parts."

"Then I am to go to others?"

"Yes. You must make your way to the marshal of the kingdom. Pan
Lyubomirski. It is of great moment to me that he come to our views. He
is a powerful man, and in Little Poland much depends on him. Should he
declare sincerely for the Swedes, Yan Kazimir would have no place in
the Commonwealth. Conceal not from the King of Sweden that you are
going from me to Lyubomirski to win him for the Swedes. Do not boast of
this directly, but speak as it were inadvertently. That will influence
him greatly in my favor. God grant that Lyubomirski declare for us. He
will hesitate, that I know; still I hope that my letters will turn the
scale, for there is a reason why he must care greatly for my good will.
I will tell you the whole affair, that you may know how to act. You see
Pan Lyubomirski has been coming around me for a long time, as men go
around a bear in a thicket, and trying from afar to see if I would give
my only daughter to his son Heraclius. They are children yet, but the
contract might be made,--which is very important for the marshal, more
than for me, since there is not another such heiress in the
Commonwealth, and if the two fortunes were united, there would not be
another such in the world. That is a well-buttered toast! But if the
marshal were to conceive the hope that his son might receive the crown
of the Grand Principality as the dower of my daughter! Rouse that hope
in him and he will be tempted, as God is in heaven, for he thinks more
of his house than he does of the Commonwealth."

"What have I to tell him?"

"That which I cannot write. But it must be placed before him with
skill. God preserve you from disclosing that you have heard from me how
I desire the crown,--it is too early for that yet,--but say, 'All the
nobles in Lauda and Lithuania talk of crowning Radzivill, and rejoice
over it; the Swedes themselves mention it, I have heard it near the
person of the king.' You will observe who of his courtiers is the
marshal's confidant, and suggest to that courtier the following
thought: 'Let Lyubomirski join the Swedes and ask in return the
marriage of Heraclius and Radzivill's daughter, then let him support
Radzivill as Grand Prince. Heraclius will be Radzivill's heir.' That is
not enough; suggest also that once Heraclius has the Lithuanian crown
he will be elected in time to the throne of Poland, and so the two
crowns may be united again in these two families. If they do not grasp
at this idea with both hands, they will show themselves petty people.
Whoso does not aim high and fears great plans, should be content with a
little baton, with a small castellanship; let him serve, bend his neck,
gain favor through chamber attendants, for he deserves nothing better!
God has created me for something else, and therefore I dare to stretch
my hands to everything which it is in the power of man to reach, and to
go to those limits which God alone has placed to human effort."

Here the prince stretched his hands, as if wishing to seize some unseen
crown, and gleamed up altogether, like a torch; from emotion the breath
failed in his throat again.

After a while he calmed himself and said with a broken voice,--

"Behold--where my soul flies--as if to the sun--Disease utters its
warning--let it work its will--I would rather death found me on the
throne--than in the antechamber of a king."

"Shall the physician be called?" asked Kmita.

Radzivill waved his hand.

"No need of him--I feel better now--That is all I had to say--In
addition keep your eyes open, your ears open--See also what the
Pototskis will do. They hold together, are true to the Vazas (that is,
to Yan Kazimir)--and they are powerful--It is not known either how the
Konyetspolskis and Sobyeskis will turn--Observe and learn--Now the
suffocation is gone. Have you understood everything clearly?"

"Yes. If I err, it will be my own fault."

"I have letters written already; only a few remain. When do you wish to
start?"

"To-day! As soon as possible."

"Have you no request to make?"

"Your highness," began Kmita, and stopped suddenly. The words came from
his mouth with difficulty, and on his face constraint and confusion
were depicted.

"Speak boldly," said the hetman.

"I pray," said Kmita, "that Billevich and she--suffer no harm while
here."

"Be certain of that. But I see that you love the girl yet."

"Impossible," answered Kmita. "Do I know! An hour I love her,
an hour I hate her. The devil alone knows! All is over, as I have
said,--suffering only is left. I do not want her, but I do not want
another to take her. Your highness, pardon me, I know not myself what I
say. I must go,--go with all haste! Pay no heed to my words, God will
give back my mind the moment I have gone through the gate."

"I understand that, because till love has grown cold with time, though
not wanting her yourself, the thought that another might take her burns
you. But be at rest on that point, for I will let no man come here, and
as to going away they will not go. Soon it will be full of foreign
soldiers all around, and unsafe. Better, I will send her to Tanrogi,
near Tyltsa, where my daughter is. Be at rest, Yendrek. Go, prepare for
the road, and come to me to dine."

Kmita bowed and withdrew, and Radzivill began to draw deep breaths. He
was glad of the departure of Kmita. He left him his squadron and his
name as an adherent; for his person the prince cared less.

But Kmita in going might render him notable services; in Kyedani he had
long since grown irksome to the hetman, who was surer of him at a
distance than near at hand. The wild courage and temper of Kmita might
at any instant bring an outburst in Kyedani and a rupture very
dangerous for both. The departure put danger aside.

"Go, incarnate devil, and serve!" muttered the prince, looking at the
door through which the banneret of Orsha had passed. Then he called a
page and summoned Ganhoff.

"You will take Kmita's squadron," said the prince to him, "and command
over all the cavalry. Kmita is going on a journey."

Over the cold face of Ganhoff there passed as it were a ray of joy. The
mission had missed him, but a higher military office had come. He bowed
in silence, and said,--

"I will pay for the favor of your highness with faithful service." Then
he stood erect and waited.

"And what will you say further?" asked the prince.

"Your highness, a noble from Vilkomir came this morning with news that
Pan Sapyeha is marching with troops against your highness."

Radzivill quivered, but in the twinkle of an eye he mastered his
expression.

"You may go," said he to Ganhoff.

Then he fell into deep thought.



                              CHAPTER XXV.


Kmita was very busily occupied in preparations for the road, and in
choosing the men of his escort; for he determined not to go without a
certain-sized party, first for his own safety, and second for the
dignity of his person as an envoy. He was in a hurry, since he wished
to start during the evening of that day, or if the rain did not cease,
early next morning. He found men at last,--six trusty fellows who had
long served under him in those better days when before his journey to
Lyubich he had stormed around Hovanski,--old fighters of Orsha, ready
to follow him even to the end of the earth. They were themselves nobles
and attendant boyars, the last remnant of that once powerful band cut
down by the Butryms. At the head of them was the sergeant Soroka, a
trusty servant of the Kmitas,--an old soldier and very reliable, though
numerous sentences were hanging over him for still more numerous deeds
of violence.

After dinner the prince gave Pan Andrei the letters and a pass to the
Swedish commanders whom the young envoy might meet in the more
considerable places; he took farewell of him and sent him away with
much feeling, really like a father, recommending wariness and
deliberation.

Meanwhile the sky began to grow clear; toward evening the weak sun of
autumn shone over Kyedani and went down behind red clouds, stretched
out in long lines on the west.

There was nothing to hinder the journey. Kmita was just drinking a
stirrup cup with Ganhoff, Kharlamp, and some other officers when about
dusk Soroka came in and asked,--

"Are you going, Commander?"

"In an hour," answered Kmita.

"The horses and men are ready now in the yard."

The sergeant went out, and the officers began to strike glasses still
more; but Kmita rather pretended to drink than to drink in reality. The
wine had no taste for him, did not go to his head, did not cheer his
spirit, while the others were already merry.

"Worthy Colonel," said Ganhoff, "commend me to the favor of Prince
Boguslav. That is a great cavalier; such another there is not in the
Commonwealth. With him you will be as in France. A different speech,
other customs, every politeness may be learned there more easily than
even in the palace of the king."

"I remember Prince Boguslav at Berestechko," said Kharlamp; "he had one
regiment of dragoons drilled in French fashion completely,--they
rendered both infantry and cavalry service. The officers were French,
except a few Hollanders; of the soldiers the greater part were French,
all dandies. There was an odor of various perfumes from them as from a
drug-shop. In battle they thrust fiercely with rapiers, and it was said
that when one of them thrust a man through he said, 'Pardonnez-moi!'
(pardon me); so they mingled politeness with uproarious life. But
Prince Boguslav rode among them with a handkerchief on his sword,
always smiling, even in the greatest din of battle, for it is the
French fashion to smile amid bloodshed. He had his face touched with
paint, and his eyebrows blackened with coal, at which the old soldiers
were angry and called him a bawd. Immediately after battle he had new
ruffs brought him, so as to be always dressed as if for a banquet, and
they curled his hair with irons, making marvellous ringlets out of it.
But he is a manful fellow, and goes first into the thickest fire. He
challenged Pan Kalinovski because he said something to him, and the
king had to make peace."

"There is no use in denying," said Ganhoff. "You will see curious
things, and you will see the King of Sweden himself, who next to our
prince is the best warrior in the world."

"And Pan Charnyetski," said Kharlamp; "they are speaking more and more
of him."

"Pan Charnyetski is on the side of Yan Kazimir, and therefore is our
enemy," remarked Ganhoff, severely.

"Wonderful things are passing in this world," said Kharlamp, musingly.
"If any man had said a year or two ago that the Swedes would come
hither, we should all have thought, 'We shall be fighting with the
Swedes;' but see now."

"We are not alone; the whole Commonwealth has received them with open
arms," said Ganhoff.

"True as life," put in Kmita, also musingly.

"Except Sapyeha, Gosyevski, Charnyetski, and the hetmans of the crown,"
answered Kharlamp.

"Better not speak of that," said Ganhoff. "But, worthy Colonel, come
back to us in good health; promotion awaits you."

"And Panna Billevich?" added Kharlamp.

"Panna Billevich is nothing to you," answered Kmita, brusquely.

"Of course nothing, I am too old. The last time-- Wait, gentlemen, when
was that? Ah, the last time during the election of the present
mercifully reigning Yan Kazimir."

"Cease the use of that name from your tongue," interrupted Ganhoff.
"To-day rules over us graciously Karl Gustav."

"True! _Consuetudo altera natura_ (custom is a second nature). Well,
the last time, during the election of Yan Kazimir, our ex-king and
Grand Duke of Lithuania, I fell terribly in love with one lady, an
attendant of the Princess Vishnyevetski. Oh, she was an attractive
little beast! But when I wanted to look more nearly into her eyes, Pan
Volodyovski thrust up his sabre. I was to fight with him; then Bogun
came between us,--Bogun, whom Volodyovski cut up like a hare. If it had
not been for that, you would not see me alive. But at that time I was
ready to fight, even with the devil. Volodyovski stood up for her only
through friendship, for she was betrothed to another, a still greater
swordsman. Oh, I tell you, gentlemen, that I thought I should wither
away--I could not think of eating or drinking. When our prince sent me
from Warsaw to Smolensk, only then did I shake off my love on the road.
There is nothing like a journey for such griefs. At the first mile I
was easier, before I had reached Vilna my head was clear, and to this
day I remain single. That is the whole story. There is nothing for
unhappy love like a journey."

"Is that your opinion?" asked Kmita.

"As I live, it is! Let the black ones take all the pretty girls in
Lithuania and the kingdom, I do not need them."

"But did you go away without farewell?"

"Without farewell; but I threw a red ribbon behind me, which one old
woman, very deeply versed in love matters, advised me to do."

"Good health!" interrupted Ganhoff, turning again to Pan Andrei.

"Good health!" answered Kmita, "I give thanks from my heart."

"To the bottom, to the bottom! It is time for you to mount, and service
calls us. May God lead you forth and bring you home."

"Farewell!"

"Throw the red ribbon behind," said Kharlamp, "or at the first
resting-place put out the fire yourself with a bucket of water; that
is, if you wish to forget."

"Be with God!"

"We shall not soon see one another."

"Perhaps somewhere on the battlefield," added Ganhoff. "God grant side
by side, not opposed."

"Of course not opposed," said Kmita.

And the officers went out.

The clock on the tower struck seven. In the yard the horses were pawing
the stone pavement with their hoofs, and through the window were to be
seen the men waiting. A wonderful disquiet seized Pan Andrei. He was
repeating to himself, "I go, I go!" Imagination placed before his eyes
unknown regions, and a throng of strange faces which he was to see, and
at the same time wonder seized him at the thought of the journey, as if
hitherto it had never been in his mind.

He must mount and move on. "What happens, will happen. What will be,
will be!" thought he to himself.

When, however, the horses were snorting right there at the window, and
the hour of starting had struck, he felt that the new life would be
strange, and all with which he had lived, to which he had grown
accustomed, to which he had become attached heart and soul, would stay
in that region, in that neighborhood, in that place. The former Kmita
would stay there as well. Another man as it were would go hence,--a
stranger to all outside, as all outside were strangers to him. He would
have to begin there an entirely new life. God alone knew whether there
would be a desire for it.

Pan Andrei was mortally wearied in soul, and therefore at that moment
he felt powerless in view of those new scenes and new people. He
thought that it was bad for him here, that it would be bad for him
there, at least it would be burdensome.

But it is time, time. He must put his cap on his head and ride off.

But will he go without a last word? Is it possible to be so near and
later to be so far, to say not one word and go forth? See to what it
has come! But what can he say to her? Shall he go and say, "Everything
is ruined; my lady, go thy way, I will go mine"? Why, why say even
that, when without saying it is so? He is not her betrothed, as she is
not and will not be his wife. What has been is lost, is rent, and will
not return, will not be bound up afresh. Loss of time, loss of words,
and new torture.

"I will not go!" thought Pan Kmita.

But, on the other hand, the will of a dead man binds them yet. It is
needful to speak clearly and without anger of final separation, and to
say to her, "My lady, you wish me not; I return you your word.
Therefore we shall both act as though there had been no will, and let
each seek happiness where each can find it?"

But she may answer: "I have said that long since; why tell it to me
now?"

"I will not go, happen what may!" repeated Kmita to himself.

And pressing the cap on his head, he went out of the room into the
corridor. He wished to mount straightway and be outside the gate
quickly.

All at once, in the corridor, something caught him as it were by the
hair. Such a desire to see her, to speak to her, possessed him, that he
ceased to think whether to go or not to go, he ceased to reason, and
rather pushed on with closed eyes, as if wishing to spring into water.

Before the very door whence the guard had just been removed, he came
upon a youth, a servant of the sword-bearer.

"Is Pan Billevich in the room?" asked he.

"The sword-bearer is among the officers in the barracks."

"And the lady?"

"The lady is at home."

"Tell her that Pan Kmita is going on a long journey and wishes to see
the lady."

The youth obeyed the command; but before he returned with an answer
Kmita raised the latch and went in without question.

"I have come to take farewell," said he, "for I do not know whether we
shall meet again in life."

Suddenly he turned to the youth: "Why stand here yet?"

"My gracious lady," continued Kmita, when the door had closed after the
servant, "I intended to go without parting, but had not the power. God
knows when I shall return, or whether I shall return, for misfortunes
come lightly. Better that we part without anger and offence in our
hearts, so that the punishment of God fall not on either of us. There
is much to say, much to say, and now the tongue cannot say it all.
Well, there was no happiness, clearly by the will of God there was not;
and now, O man, even if thou batter thy head against the wall, there is
no cure! Blame me not, and I will not blame you. We need not regard
that testament now, for as I have said, the will of man is nothing
against the will of God. God grant you happiness and peace. The main
thing is that we forgive each other. I know not what will meet me
outside, whither I am going. But I cannot sit longer in torture, in
trouble, in sorrow. A man breaks himself on the four walls of a room
without result, gracious lady, without result! One has no labor
here,--only to take grief on the shoulders, only think for whole days
of unhappy events till the head aches, and in the end think out
nothing. This journey is as needful to me, as water to a fish, as air
to a bird, for without it I should go wild."

"God grant you happiness," said Panna Aleksandra.

She stood before him as if stunned by the departure, the appearance,
and the words of Pan Kmita. On her face were confusion and
astonishment, and it was clear that she was struggling to recover
herself; meanwhile she gazed on the young man with eyes widely open.

"I do not cherish ill will against you," said she after a time.

"Would that all this had not been!" said Kmita. "Some evil spirit came
between us and separated us as if with a sea, and that water is neither
to be swum across nor waded through. The man did not do what he wanted,
he went not where he wished, but something as it were pushed him till
we both entered pathless regions. But since we are to vanish the one
from the eyes of the other, it is better to cry out even from
remoteness, 'God guide!' It is needful also for you to know that
offence and anger are one thing, and sorrow another. From anger I have
freed myself, but sorrow sits in me--maybe not for you. Do I know
myself for whom and for what? Thinking, I have thought out nothing; but
still it seems to me that it will be easier both to you and to me if we
talk. You hold me a traitor, and that pricks me most bitterly of all,
for as I wish my soul's salvation, I have not been and shall not be a
traitor."

"I hold you that no longer," said Olenka.

"Oi, how could you have held me that even one hour? You know of me,
that once I was ready for violence, ready to slay, burn, shoot; that is
one thing, but to betray for gain, for advancement, never! God guard
me, God judge me! You are a woman, and cannot see in what lies the
country's salvation; hence it beseems you not to condemn, to give
sentence. And why did you utter the sentence? God be with you! Know
this, that salvation is in Prince Radzivill and the Swedes; and who
thinks otherwise, and especially acts, is just ruining the country. But
it is no time to discuss, it is time to go. Know that I am not a
traitor, not one who sells. May I perish if I ever be that! Know that
unjustly you scorned me, unjustly consigned me to death--I tell you
this under oath and at parting, and I say it that I may say with it, I
forgive you from my heart; but do you forgive me as well."

Panna Aleksandra had recovered completely. "You say that I have judged
you unjustly; that is true. It is my fault; I confess it and beg your
forgiveness."

Here her voice trembled, her blue eyes filled with tears, and he cried
with transport,--

"I forgive! I forgive! I would forgive you even my death!"

"May God guide you and bring you to the right road. May you leave that
on which you are erring."

"But give peace, give peace!" cried Kmita, excitedly; "let no
misunderstanding rise between us again. Whether I err or err not, be
silent on that point. Let each man follow the way of his conscience;
God will judge every intention. Better that I have come hither, than to
go without farewell. Give me your hand for the road. Only that much is
mine; for to-morrow I shall not see you, nor after tomorrow, nor in a
month, perhaps never--Oi, Olenka! and in my head it is dim--Olenka! And
shall we never meet again?"

Abundant tears like pearls were falling from Panna Aleksandra's lashes
to her cheeks.

"Pan Andrei, leave traitors, and all may be."

"Quiet, oh, quiet!" said Kmita, with a broken voice. "It may not be--I
cannot--better say nothing-- Would I were slain! less should I
suffer-- For God's sake, why does this meet us? Farewell for the last
time. And then let death close my eyes somewhere outside-- Why are you
weeping? Weep not, or I shall go wild!"

And in supreme excitement he seized her half by constraint, and though
she resisted, he kissed her eyes and her mouth, then fell at her feet.
At last he sprang up, and grasping his hair like a madman, rushed forth
from the chamber.

"The devil could do nothing here, much less a red ribbon."

Olenka saw him through the window as he was mounting in haste; the
seven horsemen then moved forward. The Scots on guard at the gate made
a clatter with their weapons, presenting arms; then the gate closed
after the horsemen, and they were not to be seen on the dark road among
the trees.

Night too had fallen completely.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.


Kovno, and the whole region on the left bank of the Vilia, with all the
roads, were occupied by the enemy (the Russians); therefore Kmita, not
being able to go to Podlyasye by the high-road leading from Kovno to
Grodno and thence to Byalystok, went by side-roads from Kyedani
straight down the course of the Nyevyaja to the Nyemen, which he
crossed near Vilkovo, and found himself in the province of Trotsk.

All that part of the road, which was not over great, he passed in
quiet, for that region lay as it were under the hand of Radzivill.

Towns, and here and there even villages, were occupied by castle
squadrons of the hetman, or by small detachments of Swedish cavalry
which the hetman pushed forward thus far of purpose against the legions
of Zolotarenko, which stood there beyond the Vilia, so that occasions
for collisions and war might be more easily found.

Zolotarenko would have been glad too to have an "uproar" with the
Swedes, according to the words of the hetman; but those whose ally he
was did not wish war with them, or in every case wished to put it off
as long as possible. Zolotarenko therefore received the strictest
orders not to cross the river, and in case that Radzivill himself,
together with the Swedes, moved on him, to retreat with all haste.

For these reasons the country on the right side of the Vilia was quiet;
but since from one side Cossack pickets, from the other those of the
Swedes and Radzivill were looking at one another, one musket-shot might
at any, moment let loose a terrible war.

In prevision of this, people took timely refuge in safe places.
Therefore the whole country was quiet, but empty. Pan Andrei saw
deserted towns, everywhere the windows of houses held up by sticks, and
whole villages depopulated. The fields were also empty, for there was
no crop that year. Common people secreted themselves in fathomless
forests, to which they drove all their cattle; but the nobles fled to
neighboring Electoral Prussia, at that time altogether safe from war.
For this reason there was an uncommon movement over the roads and
trails of the wilderness, and the number of fugitives was still more
increased by those who from the left bank of the Vilia were able to
escape the oppression of Zolotarenko.

The number of these was enormous, and especially of peasants; for the
nobles who had not been able hitherto to flee from the left bank went
into captivity or yielded their lives on their thresholds.

Pan Andrei, therefore, met every moment whole crowds of peasants with
their wives and children, and driving before them flocks of sheep with
horses and cattle. That part of the province of Trotsk touching upon
Electoral Prussia was wealthy and productive; therefore the well-to-do
people had something to save and guard. The approaching winter did not
alarm fugitives, who preferred to await better days amid mosses of the
forest, in snow covered huts, than to await death in their native
villages at the hands of the enemy.

Kmita often approached the fleeing crowds, or fires gleaming at night
in dense forest places. Wherever he met people from the left bank of
the Vilia, from near Kovno, or from still remoter neighborhoods, he
heard terrible tales of the cruelties of Zolotarenko and his allies,
who exterminated people without regard to age or sex; they burned
villages, cut down even trees in the gardens, leaving only land and
water. Never had Tartar raids left such desolation behind.

Not death alone was inflicted on the inhabitants, but before death they
were put to the most ingenious tortures. Many of those people fled with
bewildered minds. These filled the forest depths at night with awful
shrieks; others were ever in a species of continual fear and
expectation of attack, though they had crossed the Nyemen and Vilia,
though forests and morasses separated them from Zolotarenko's bands.
Many of these stretched their hands to Kmita and his horsemen of Orsha,
imploring rescue and pity, as if the enemy were standing there over
them.

Carriages belonging to nobles were moving toward Prussia; in them old
men, women, and children; behind them, dragged on wagons with servants,
effects, supplies of provisions, and other things. All these fleeing
people were panic-stricken, terrified and grieved because they were
going into exile.

Pan Andrei comforted these unfortunates at times by telling them that
the Swedes would soon pass over and drive that enemy far away. Then the
fugitives stretched their hands to heaven and said,--

"God give health, God give fortune to the prince voevoda! When the
Swedes come we will return to our homes, to our burned dwellings."

And they blessed the prince everywhere. From mouth to mouth news was
given that at any moment he might cross the Vilia at the head of his
own and Swedish troops. Besides, they praised the "modesty" of the
Swedes, their discipline, and good treatment of the inhabitants.
Radzivill was called the Gideon of Lithuania, a Samson, a savior. These
people from districts steaming with fresh blood and fire were looking
for him as for deliverance.

And Kmita, hearing those blessings, those wishes, those almost prayers,
was strengthened in his faith concerning Radzivill, and repeated in his
soul,--

"I serve such a lord! I will shut my eyes and follow blindly his
fortune. At times he is terrible and beyond knowing; but he has a
greater mind than others, he knows better what is needed, and in him
alone is salvation."

It became lighter and calmer in his breast at this thought; he advanced
therefore with greater solace in his heart, dividing his soul between
sorrow for Kyedani and thoughts on the unhappy condition of the
country.

His sorrow increased continually. He did not throw the red ribbon
behind him, he did not put out the fire with water; for he felt, first,
that it was useless, and then he did not wish to do so.

"Oh that she were present, that she could hear the wailing and groans
of people, she would not beg God to turn me away, she would not tell me
that I err, like those heretics who have left the true faith. But never
mind! Earlier or later she will be convinced, she will see that her own
judgment was at fault. And then what God will give will be. Maybe we
shall meet again in life."

And yearning increased in the young cavalier; but the conviction that
he was marching by the right, not by the wrong road, gave him a peace
long since unknown. The conflict of thought, the gnawing, the doubts
left him by degrees, and he rode forward; he sank in the shoreless
forest almost with gladness. From the time that he had come to Lyubich,
after his famous raids on Hovanski, he had not felt so vivacious.

Kharlamp was right in this, that there is no cure like the road for
cares and troubles. Pan Andrei had iron health; his daring and love of
adventures were coming back every hour. He saw these adventures before
him, smiled at them, and urged on his convoy unceasingly, barely
stopping for short night-rests.

Olenka stood ever before the eyes of his spirit, tearful, trembling in
his arms like a bird, and he said to himself, "I shall return."

At times the form of the hetman passed before him, gloomy, immense,
terrible. But it may be just because he was moving away more and more,
that that form became almost dear to him. Hitherto he had bent before
Radzivill; now he began to love him. Hitherto Radzivill had borne him
along as a mighty whirlpool of water seizes and attracts everything
that comes within its circle; now Kmita felt that he wished with his
whole soul to go with him.

And in the distance that gigantic voevoda increased continually in the
eyes of the young knight, and assumed almost superhuman proportions.
More than once, at his night halt, when Pan Andrei had closed his eyes
in sleep, he saw the hetman sitting on a throne loftier than the tops
of the pine-trees. There was a crown on his head; his face was the
same, gloomy, enormous; in his hand a sword and a sceptre, at his feet
the whole Commonwealth. And in his soul Kmita did homage to greatness.

On the third day of the journey they left the Nyemen far behind, and
entered a country of still greater forests. They met whole crowds of
fugitives on the roads; but nobles unable to bear arms were going
almost without exception to Prussia before the bands of the enemy, who,
not held in curb there, as on the banks of the Vilia, by the regiments
of Sweden and Radzivill, pushed at times far into the heart of the
country, even to the boundary of Electoral Prussia. Their main object
was plunder.

Frequently these were detachments as if from the army of Zolotarenko,
but really recognizing no authority,--simply robber companies, so
called "parties" commanded at times even by local bandits. Avoiding
engagements in the field with troops and even with townspeople, they
attacked small villages, single houses, and travellers.

The nobles on their own account attacked these parties with their
household servants, and ornamented with them the pine-trees along the
roads; still it was easy in the forest to stumble upon their frequent
bands, and therefore Pan Andrei was forced to exercise uncommon care.

But somewhat beyond Pilvishki on the Sheshupa, Kmita found the
population living quietly in their homes. The townspeople told him,
however, that not longer than a couple of days before, a strong band of
Zolotarenko's men, numbering as many as five hundred, had made an
attack, and would, according to their custom, have cut down all the
people, and let the place rise in smoke, were it not for unexpected aid
which fell as it were from heaven.

"We had already committed ourselves to God," said the master of the inn
in which Pan Andrei had taken lodgings, "when the saints of the Lord
sent some squadrons. We thought at first that a new enemy had come, but
they were ours. They sprang at once on Zolotarenko's ruffians, and in
an hour they laid them out like a pavement, all the more easily as we
helped them."

"What kind of a squadron was it?" asked Kmita.

"God give them health! They did not say who they were, and we did not
dare to ask. They fed their horses, took what hay and bread there was,
and rode away."

"But whence did they come, and whither did they go?"

"They came from Kozlova Ruda, and they went to the south. We, who
before that wished to flee to the woods, thought the matter over and
stayed here, for the under-starosta said that after such a lesson the
enemy would not look in on us again soon."

The news of the battle interested Kmita greatly, therefore he asked
further: "And do you not know who commanded that squadron?"

"We do not know; but we saw the colonel, for he talked with us on the
square, he is young, and sharp as a needle. He does not look like the
warrior that he is."

"Volodyovski!" cried Kmita.

"Whether he is Volodyovski, or not, may his hands be holy, may God make
him hetman!"

Pan Andrei fell into deep thought. Evidently he was going by the same
road over which a few days before Volodyovski had marched with the
Lauda men. In fact, that was natural, for both were going to Podlyasye.
But it occurred to Pan Andrei that if he hastened he might easily meet
the little knight and be captured; in that case, all the letters of
Radzivill would fall with him into possession of the confederates. Such
an event might destroy his mission, and bring God knows what harm to
the cause of Radzivill. For this reason Pan Andrei determined to stay a
couple of days in Pilvishki, so that the squadron of Lauda might have
time to advance as far as possible.

The men, as well as the horses, travelling almost with one sweep from
Kyedani (for only short halts had been given on the road hitherto),
needed rest; therefore Kmita ordered the soldiers to remove the packs
from the horses and settle themselves comfortably in the inn.

Next day he was convinced that he had acted not only cleverly but
wisely, for scarcely had he dressed in the morning, when his host stood
before him.

"I bring news to your grace," said he.

"It is good?"

"Neither good nor bad, but that we have guests. An enormous court
arrived here to-day, and stopped at the starosta's house. There is a
regiment of infantry, and what crowds of cavalry and carriages with
servants!--The people thought that the king himself had come."

"What king?"

The innkeeper began to turn his cap in his hand. "It is true that we
have two kings now, but neither one came,--only the prince marshal."

Kmita sprang to his feet. "What prince marshal? Prince Boguslav?"

"Yes, your grace; the cousin of the prince voevoda of Vilna."

Pan Andrei clapped his hands from astonishment. "And so we have met."

The innkeeper, understanding that his guest was an acquaintance of
Prince Boguslav, made a lower bow than the day before, and went out of
the room; but Kmita began to dress in haste, and an hour later was
before the house of the starosta.

The whole place was swarming with soldiers. The infantry were stacking
their muskets on the square; the cavalry had dismounted and occupied
the houses at the side. The soldiers and attendants in the most varied
costumes had halted before the houses, or were walking along the
streets. From the mouths of the officers were to be heard French and
German. Nowhere a Polish soldier, nowhere a Polish uniform; the
musketeers and dragoons were dressed in strange fashion, different,
indeed, from the foreign squadrons which Pan Andrei had seen in
Kyedani, for they were not in German but in French style. The soldiers,
handsome men and so showy that each one in the ranks might be taken for
an officer, delighted the eyes of Pan Andrei. The officers looked on
him also with curiosity, for he had arrayed himself richly in velvet
and brocade, and six men, dressed in new uniforms, followed him as a
suite.

Attendants, all dressed in French fashion, were hurrying about in
front of the starosta's house; there were pages in caps and feathers,
armor-bearers in velvet kaftans, and equerries in Swedish, high,
wide-legged boots.

Evidently the prince did not intend to tarry long in Pilvishki, and had
stopped only for refreshment, for the carriages were not taken to the
shed; and the equerries, in waiting, were feeding horses out of tin
sieves which they held in their hands.

Kmita announced to an officer on guard before the house who he was and
what was his mission; the officer went to inform the prince. After a
while he returned hastily, to say that the prince was anxious to see a
man sent from the hetman; and showing Kmita the way, he entered the
house with him.

After they had passed the antechamber, they found in the dining-hall a
number of attendants, with legs stretched out, slumbering sweetly in
arm-chairs; it was evident that they must have started early in the
morning from the last halting-place: The officer stopped before the
door of the next room, and bowing to Pan Andrei, said,--

"The prince is there."

Pan Andrei entered and stopped at the threshold. The prince was sitting
before a mirror fixed in the corner of the room, and was looking so
intently at his own face, apparently just touched with rouge and white,
that he did not turn attention to the incomer. Two chamber servants,
kneeling before him, were fastening buckles at the ankles on his high
travelling-boots, while he was arranging slowly with his fingers the
luxuriant, evenly cut forelock of his bright gold-colored wig, or it
might be of his own abundant hair.

He was still a young man, of thirty-five years, but seemed not more
than five and twenty. Kmita knew the prince, but looked on him always
with curiosity: first, because of the great knightly fame which
surrounded him, and which was won mainly through duels fought
with various foreign magnates; second, by reason of his peculiar
figure,--whoso saw his form once was forced to remember it ever after.
The prince was tall and powerfully built, but on his broad shoulders
stood a head as diminutive as if taken from another body. His face,
also, was uncommonly small, almost childlike; but in it, too, there was
no proportion, for he had a great Roman nose and enormous eyes of
unspeakable beauty and brightness, with a real eagle boldness of
glance. In presence of those eyes and the nose, the rest of his face,
surrounded, moreover, with plentiful tresses of hair, disappeared
almost completely; his mouth was almost that of a child; above it was a
slight mustache barely covering his upper lip. The delicacy of his
complexion, heightened by rouge and white paint, made him almost
like a young lady; and at the same time the insolence, pride, and
self-confidence depicted in that face permitted no one to forget that
he was that _chercheur de noises_ (seeker of quarrels), as he was
nicknamed at the French court,--a man out of whose mouth a sharp word
came with ease, but whose sword came from its scabbard with still
greater ease.

In Germany, in Holland, in France, they related marvels of his military
deeds, of his disputes, quarrels, adventures, and duels. He was the man
who in Holland rushed into the thickest whirl of battle, among the
incomparable regiments of Spanish infantry, and with his own princely
hand captured a flag and a cannon; he, at the head of the regiments of
the Prince of Orange, captured batteries declared by old leaders to be
beyond capture; he, on the Rhine, at the head of French musketeers,
shattered the heavy squadrons of Germany, trained in the Thirty Years'
War; he wounded, in a duel in France, the most celebrated fencer among
French knights. Prince de Fremouille; another famous fighter, Baron Von
Goetz, begged of him life, on his knees; he wounded Baron Grot, for
which he had to hear bitter reproaches from his cousin Yanush, because
he was lowering his dignity as prince by fighting with men beneath him
in rank; finally, in presence of the whole French court, at a ball in
the Louvre, he slapped Marquis de Rieux on the face, because he had
spoken to him "unbecomingly." The duels that he had fought incognito in
smaller towns, in taverns and inns, did not enter into reckoning.

He was a mixture of effeminacy and unbounded daring. During rare and
short visits to his native land he amused himself by quarrels with the
Sapyehas, and with hunting; but on those occasions the hunters had to
find for him she-bears with their young, as being dangerous and
enraged; against these he went armed only with a spear.

But it was tedious for him in his own country, to which he came, as was
said, unwillingly, most frequently in time of war; he distinguished
himself by great victories at Berestechko, Mogilyoff, and Smolensk. War
was his element, though he had a mind quick and subtle, equally fitted
for intrigues and diplomatic exploits. In these he knew how to be
patient and enduring, far more enduring than in the "loves," of which a
whole series completed the history of his life. The prince, at the
courts where he had resided, was the terror of husbands who had
beautiful wives. For that reason, doubtless, he was not yet married,
though his high birth and almost inexhaustible fortune made him one of
the most desirable matches in Europe. The King and Queen of France,
Marya Ludvika of Poland, the Prince of Orange, and his uncle, the
Elector of Brandenburg, tried to make matches for him; but so far he
preferred his freedom.

"I do not want a dower," said he, cynically; "and of the other
pleasures I have no lack as I am."

In this fashion he reached the thirty-fifth year of his age.

Kmita, standing on the threshold, examined with curiosity Boguslav's
face, which the mirror reflected, while he was arranging with
seriousness the hair of his forelock; at last, when Pan Andrei coughed
once and a second time, he said, without turning his head,--

"But who is present? Is it a messenger from the prince voevoda?"

"Not a messenger, but from the prince voevoda," replied Pan Andrei.

Then the prince turned his head, and seeing a brilliant young man,
recognized that he had not to do with an ordinary servant.

"Pardon, Cavalier," said he, affably, "for I see that I was mistaken in
the office of the person. But your face is known to me, though I am not
able to recall your name. You are an attendant of the prince hetman?"

"My name is Kmita," answered Pan Andrei, "and I am not an attendant; I
am a colonel from the time that I brought my own squadron to the prince
hetman."

"Kmita!" cried the prince, "that same Kmita, famous in the last war,
who harried Hovanski, and later on managed not worse on his own
account? I have heard much about you."

Having said this, the prince began to look more carefully and with a
certain pleasure at Pan Andrei, for from what he had heard he thought
him a man of his own cut.

"Sit down," said he, "I am glad to know you more intimately. And what
is to be heard in Kyedani?"

"Here is a letter from the prince hetman," answered Kmita.

The servants, having finished buckling the prince's boots, went out.
The prince broke the seal and began to read. After a while there was an
expression of weariness and dissatisfaction on his face. He threw the
letter under the mirror and said,--

"Nothing new! The prince voevoda advises me to go to Prussia, to Tyltsa
or to Taurogi, which, as you see, I am just doing. _Ma foi_, I do not
understand my cousin. He reports to me that the elector is in
Brandenburg, and that he cannot make his way to Prussia through the
Swedes, and he writes at the same time that the hairs are standing on
his head because I do not communicate with him, either for health or
prescription; and how can I? If the elector cannot make his way through
the Swedes, how can my messenger do so? I am in Podlyasye, for I have
nothing else to do. I tell you, my cavalier, that I am as much bored as
the devil doing penance. I have speared all the bears near Tykotsin;
the fair heads of that region have the odor of sheepskin, which my
nostrils cannot endure. But-- Do you understand French or German?"

"I understand German," answered Kmita.

"Praise be to God for that! I will speak German, for my lips fly off
from your language."

When he had said this the prince put out his lower lip and touched it
with his fingers, as if wishing to be sure that it had not gone off:
then he looked at the mirror and continued,--

"Report has come to me that in the neighborhood of Lukovo one
Skshetuski, a noble, has a wife of wonderful beauty. It is far from
here; but I sent men to carry her off and bring her. Now, if you will
believe it, Pan Kmita, they did not find her at home."

"That was good luck," said Pan Andrei, "for she is the wife of an
honorable cavalier, a celebrated man, who made his way out of Zbaraj
through the whole power of Hmelnitski."

"The husband was besieged in Zbaraj, and I would have besieged the wife
in Tykotsin. Do you think she would have held out as stubbornly as her
husband?"

"Your highness, for such a siege a counsel of war is not needed, let it
pass without my opinion," answered Pan Andrei, brusquely.

"True, loss of time!" said the prince. "Let us return to business. Have
you any letters yet?"

"What I had to your highness I have delivered; besides those I have one
to the King of Sweden. Is it known to your highness where I must seek
him?"

"I know nothing. What can I know? He is not in Tykotsin; I can assure
you of that, for if he had once seen that place he would have resigned
his dominion over the whole Commonwealth. Warsaw is now in Swedish
hands, but you will not find the king there. He must be before Cracow,
or in Cracow itself, if he has not gone to Royal Prussia by this time.
To my thinking Karl Gustav must keep the Prussian towns in mind, for he
cannot leave them in his rear. Who would have expected, when the whole
Commonwealth abandons its king, when all the nobles join the Swedes,
when the provinces yield one after the other, that just then towns,
German and Protestant, would not hear of the Swedes but prepare for
resistance? They wish to save the Commonwealth and adhere to Yan
Kazimir. In beginning our work we thought that it would be otherwise:
that before all they would help us and the Swedes to cut that loaf
which you call your Commonwealth; but now they won't move! The luck is
that the elector has his eye on them. He has offered them forces
already against the Swedes; but the Dantzig people do not trust him,
and say that they have forces enough of their own."

"We knew that already in Kyedani," said Kmita.

"If they have not forces enough, in every case they have a good sniff,"
continued the prince, laughing; "for the elector cares as much, I
think, about the Commonwealth as I do, or as the prince voevoda of
Vilna does."

"Your highness, permit me to deny that," said Kmita, abruptly. "The
prince cares that much about the Commonwealth that he is ready at every
moment to give his last breath and spill his last blood for it."

Prince Boguslav began to laugh.

"You are young, Cavalier, young! But enough! My uncle the elector wants
to grab Royal Prussia, and for that reason only, he offers his aid. If
he has the towns once in hand, if he has his garrisons in them, he will
be ready to agree with the Swedes next day, nay, even with the Turks or
with devils. Let the Swedes add a bit of Great Poland, he will be ready
to help them with all his power to take the rest. The only trouble is
in this, that the Swedes are sharpening their teeth against Prussia,
and hence the distrust between them and the elector."

"I hear with astonishment the words of your highness," said Kmita.

"The devils were taking me in Podlyasye," answered the prince,--"I had
to stay there so long in idleness. But what was I to do? An agreement
was made between me and the prince voevoda, that until affairs were
cleared up in Prussia, I was not to take the Swedish side publicly. And
that was right, for thus a gate remains open. I sent even secret
couriers to Yan Kazimir, announcing that I was ready to summon the
general militia in Podlyasye if a manifesto were sent me. The king, as
king, might have let himself be tricked; but the queen it is clear does
not trust me, and must have advised against it. If it were not for that
woman, I should be to-day at the head of all the nobles of Podlyasye;
and what is more, those confederates who are now ravaging the property
of Prince Yanush would have no choice but to come under my orders. I
should have declared myself a partisan of Yan Kazimir, but, in fact,
having power in my hand, would treat with the Swedes. But that woman
knows how grass grows, and guesses the most secret thought. She is the
real king, not queen! She has more wit in one finger than Yan Kazimir
in his whole body."

"The prince voevoda--" began Kmita.

"The prince voevoda," interrupted Boguslav, with impatience, "is
eternally late with his counsel; he writes to me in every letter, 'Do
this and do that,' while I have in fact done it long before. Besides,
the prince voevoda loses his head. For listen what he asks of me."

Here the prince took up the letter and began to read aloud,--


"Be cautious yourself on the road; and those rascals, the confederates,
who have mutinied against me and are ravaging Podlyasye, for God's sake
think how to disperse them, lest they go to the king. They are
preparing to visit Zabludovo, and beer in that place is strong; when
they get drunk, let them be cut off,--each host may finish his guest.
Nothing better is needed; for when the heads are removed, the rest will
scatter--"


Boguslav threw the letter with vexation on the table.

"Listen, Pan Kmita," said he, "you see I have to go to Prussia and at
the same time arrange a slaughter in Zabludovo. I must feign myself a
partisan of Yan Kazimir and a patriot, and at the same time cut off
those people who are unwilling to betray the king and the country. Is
that sense? Does one hang to the other? _Ma foi_, the prince is losing
his head. I have met now, while coming to Pilvishki, a whole insurgent
squadron travelling along through Podlyasye. I should have galloped
over their stomachs with gladness, even to gain some amusement; but
before I am an open partisan of the Swedes, while my uncle the elector
holds formally with the Prussian towns, and with Yan Kazimir too, I
cannot permit myself such pleasure, God knows I cannot. What could I do
more than to be polite to those insurgents, as they are polite to me,
suspecting me of an understanding with the hetman, but not having black
on white?"

Here the prince lay back comfortably in the armchair, stretched out his
legs, and putting his hands behind his head carelessly, began to
repeat,--

"Ah, there is nonsense in this Commonwealth, nonsense! In the world
there is nothing like it!"

Then he was silent for a moment; evidently some idea came to his head,
for he struck his wig and inquired,--

"But will you not be in Podlyasye?"

"Yes," said Kmita, "I must be there, for I have a letter with
instructions to Harasimovich, the under-starosta in Zabludovo."

"In God's name!" exclaimed the prince, "Harasimovich is here with me.
He is going with the hetman's effects to Prussia, for we were afraid
that they might fall into the hands of the confederates. Wait, I will
have him summoned."

Here the prince summoned a servant and ordered him to call the
under-starosta.

"This has happened well," said the prince, "You will save yourself a
journey,--though it may be too bad that you will not visit Podlyasye,
for among the heads of the confederacy there is a namesake of yours
whom you might secure."

"I have no time for that," said Kmita, "since I am in a hurry to go to
the king and Pan Lyubomirski."

"Ah, you have a letter to the marshal of the kingdom? Well, I can
divine the reason of it. Once the marshal thought of marrying his son
to Yanush's daughter. Did not the hetman wish this time to renew
negotiations delicately?"

"That is just the mission."

"Both are quite children. H'm! that's a delicate mission, for it does
not become the hetman to speak first. Besides--"

Here the prince frowned.

"Nothing will come of it. The daughter of the hetman is not for
Heraclius, I tell you that! The prince hetman must understand that his
fortune is to remain in possession of the Radzivills."

Kmita looked with astonishment on the prince, who was walking with
quicker and quicker pace through the room.

All at once he stopped before Pan Andrei, and said, "Give me the word
of a cavalier that you will answer truly my question."

"Gracious prince," said Kmita, "only those lie who are afraid, and I
fear no man."

"Did the prince voevoda give orders to keep secret from me the
negotiations with Lyubomirski?"

"Had I such a command, I should not have mentioned Lyubomirski."

"It might have slipped you. Give me your word."

"I give it," said Kmita, frowning.

"You have taken a weight from my heart, for I thought that the voevoda
was playing a double game with me."

"I do not understand, your highness."

"I would not marry, in France, Rohan, not counting half threescore
other princesses whom they were giving me. Do you know why?"

"I do not."

"There is an agreement between me and the prince voevoda that his
daughter and his fortune are growing up for me. As a faithful servant
of the Radzivills, you may know everything."

"Thank you for the confidence. But your highness is mistaken. I am not
a servant of the Radzivills."

Boguslav opened his eyes widely. "What are you?"

"I am a colonel of the hetman, not of the castle; and besides I am the
hetman's relative."

"A relative?"

"I am related to the Kishkis, and the hetman is born of a Kishki."

Prince Boguslav looked for a while at Kmita, on whose face a light
flush appeared. All at once he stretched forth his hands and said,--

"I beg your pardon, cousin, and I am glad of the relationship."

The last words were uttered with a certain inattentive though showy
politeness, in which there was something directly painful to Pan
Andrei. His face flushed still more, and he was opening his mouth to
say something hasty, when the door opened and Harasimovich appeared on
the threshold.

"There is a letter for you," said Boguslav.

Harasimovich bowed to the prince, and then to Pan Andrei, who gave him
the letter.

"Read it!" said Prince Boguslav.

Harasimovich began to read,--


"Pan Harasimovich! Now is the time to show the good will of a faithful
servant to his lord. As whatever money you are able to collect, you in
Zabludovo and Pan Pjinski in Orel--"


"The confederates have slain Pan Pjinski in Orel, for which reason Pan
Harasimovich has taken to his heels," interrupted the prince.

The under-starosta bowed and read further,--


"--and Pan Pjinski in Orel, even the public revenue, even the excise,
rent--"


"The confederates have already taken them," interrupted Boguslav again.


"--send me at once," continued Harasimovich. "If you can mortgage some
villages to neighbors or townspeople, obtaining as much money on them
as possible, do so, and whatever means there may be of obtaining money,
do your best in the matter, and send the money to me. Send horses and
whatever effects there are in Orel. There is a great candlestick too,
and other things,--pictures, ornaments, and especially the cannons on
the porch at my cousins; for robbers may be feared--"


"Again counsel too late, for these cannons are going with me," said the
prince.


"If they are heavy with the stocks, then take them without the stocks
and cover them, so it may not be known that you are bringing them. And
take these things to Prussia with all speed, avoiding with utmost care
those traitors who have caused mutiny in my army and are ravaging my
estates--"


"As to ravaging, they are ravaging! They are pounding them into dough,"
interrupted the prince anew.


"--ravaging my estates, and are preparing to move against Zabludovo on
their way perhaps to the king. With them it is difficult to fight, for
they are many; but if they are admitted, and given plenty to drink, and
killed in the night while asleep (every host can do that), or poisoned
in strong beer, or (which is not difficult in that place) a wild crowd
let in to plunder them--"


"Well, that is nothing new!" said Prince Boguslav. "You may journey
with me, Pan Harasimovich."

"There is still a supplement," said the under-starosta. And he read on,


"The wines, if you cannot bring them away (for with us such can be had
nowhere), sell them quickly--"


Here Harasimovich stopped and seized himself by the head,--

"For God's sake! those wines are coming half a day's road behind us,
and surely have fallen into the hands of that insurgent squadron which
was hovering around us. There will be a loss of some thousands of gold
pieces. Let your highness give witness with me that you commanded me to
wait till the barrels were packed in the wagons."

Harasimovich's terror would have been still greater had he known Pan
Zagloba, and had he known that he was in that very squadron. Meanwhile
Prince Boguslav smiled and said,--

"Oh, let the wines be to their health! Read on!"


"--if a merchant cannot be found--"


Prince Boguslav now held his sides from laughter. "He has been found,"
said he, "but you must sell to him on credit."


"--but if a merchant cannot be found," read Harasimovich, in a
complaining voice, "bury it in the ground secretly, so that more than
two should not know where it is; but leave a keg in Orel and one in
Zabludovo, and those of the best and sweetest, so that the officers may
take a liking to it; and put in plenty of poison, so that the officers
at least may be killed, then the squadron will break up. For God's
sake, serve me faithfully in this, and secretly, for the mercy of God.
Burn what I write, and whoso finds out anything send him to me. Either
the confederates will find and drink the wine, or it may be given as a
present to make them friendly."


The under-starosta finished reading, and looked at Prince Boguslav, as
if waiting for instructions; and the prince said,--

"I see that my cousin pays much attention to the confederates; it is
only a pity that, as usual, he is too late. If he had come upon this
plan two weeks ago, or even one week, it might have been tried. But now
go with God, Pan Harasimovich; I do not need you."

Harasimovich bowed and went out.

Prince Boguslav stood before the mirror, and began to examine his own
figure carefully; he moved his head slightly from right to left, then
stepped back from the mirror, then approached it, then shook his curls,
then looked askance, not paying any attention to Kmita, who sat in the
shade with his back turned to the window.

But if he had cast even one look at Pan Andrei's face he would have
seen that in the young envoy something wonderful was taking place; for
Kmita's face was pale, on his forehead stood thick drops of sweat, and
his hands shook convulsively. After a while he rose from the chair, but
sat down again immediately, like a man struggling with himself and
suppressing an outburst of anger or despair. Finally his features
settled and became fixed; evidently he had with his whole strong
force of will and energy enjoined calm on himself and gained complete
self-control.

"Your highness," said he, "from the confidence which the prince hetman
bestows on me you see that he does not wish to make a secret of
anything. I belong soul and substance to his work; with him and your
highness my fortune may increase; therefore, whither you both go,
thither go I also. I am ready for everything. But though I serve in
those affairs and am occupied in them, still I do not of course
understand everything perfectly, nor can I penetrate all the secrets of
them with my weak wit."

"What do you wish then, Sir Cavalier, or rather, fair cousin?"

"I ask instruction, your highness; it would be a shame indeed were I
unable to learn at the side of such statesmen. I know not whether your
highness will be pleased to answer me without reserve--"

"That will depend on your question and on my humor," answered Boguslav,
not ceasing to look at the mirror.

Kmita's eyes glittered for a moment, but he continued calmly,--

"This is my question: The prince voevoda of Vilna shields all his acts
with the good and salvation of the Commonwealth, so that in fact the
Commonwealth is never absent from his lips; be pleased to tell me
sincerely, are these mere pretexts, or has the hetman in truth nothing
but the good of the Commonwealth in view?"

Boguslav cast a quick glance on Pan Andrei. "If I should say that they
are pretexts, would you give further service?"

Kmita shrugged his shoulders carelessly. "Of course! As I have said, my
fortune will increase with the fortune of your highness and that of the
hetman. If that increase comes, the rest is all one to me."

"You will be a man! Remember that I foretell this. But why has my
cousin not spoken openly with you?"

"Maybe because he is squeamish, or just because it did not happen to be
the topic."

"You have quick wit, Cousin Cavalier, for it is the real truth that he
is squeamish and shows his true skin unwillingly. As God is dear to me,
true! Such is his nature. So, even in talking with me, the moment he
forgets himself he begins to adorn his speech with love for the
country. When I laugh at him to his eyes, he comes to his senses. True!
true!"

"Then it is merely a pretext?" asked Kmita.

The prince turned the chair around and sat astride of it, as on a
horse, and resting his arms on the back of it was silent awhile, as if
in thought; then he said,--

"Hear me, Pan Kmita. If we Radzivills lived in Spain, France, or
Sweden, where the son inherits after the father, and where the right of
the king comes from God himself, then, leaving aside civil war,
extinction of the royal stock, or some uncommon event, we should serve
the king and the country firmly, being content with the highest offices
which belong to us by family and fortune. But here, in the land where
the king has not divine right at his back, but the nobles create
him, where everything is in free suffrage, we ask ourselves with
reason,--Why should a Vaza rule, and not a Radzivill? There is no
objection so far as the Vazas are concerned, for they take their origin
from hereditary kings; but who will assure us, who will guarantee that
after the Vazas the nobles will not have the whim of seating on the
throne of the kingdom and on the throne of the Grand Principality even
Pan Harasimovich, or some Pan Myeleshko, or some Pan Pyeglasyevich from
Psivolki? Tfu! can I guess whom they may fancy? And must we,
Radzivills, and princes of the German Empire, come to kiss the hand of
King Pyeglasyevich? Tfu! to all the horned devils, Cavalier, it is time
to finish with this! Look meanwhile at Germany,--how many provincial
princes there, who in importance and fortune are fitted to be
under-starostas for us. Still they have their principalities, they
rule, wear crowns on their heads, and take precedence of us, though it
would be fitter for them to bear the trains of our mantles. It is time
to put an end to this, and accomplish that which was already planned by
my father."

Here the prince grew vivacious, rose from the chair, and began to walk
through the room.

"This will not take place without difficulty and obstacles," continued
he, "for the Radzivills of Olyta and Nyesvyej are not willing to aid
us. I know that Prince Michael wrote to my cousin that he would better
think of a hair-shirt than of a royal mantle. Let him think of a
hair-shirt himself, let him do penance, let him sit on ashes, let the
Jesuits lash his skin with disciplines; if he is content with being a
royal carver, let him carve capons virtuously all his virtuous life,
till his virtuous death! We shall get on without him and not drop our
hands, for just now is the time. The devils are taking the
Commonwealth; for now it is so weak, has gone to such dogs, that it
cannot drive them away. Every one is crawling in over its boundaries,
as into an unfenced garden. What has happened here with the Swedes has
happened nowhere on earth to this day. We, Sir Cavalier, may sing in
truth 'Te Deum laudamus.' In its way the event is unheard of,
unparalleled. Just think: an invader attacks a country, an invader
famous for rapacity; and not only does he not find resistance,
but every living man deserts his old king and hurries to a new
one,--magnates, nobles, the army, castles, towns, all,--without honor,
without fame, without feeling, without shame! History gives not another
such example. Tfu! tfu! trash inhabit this country,--men without
conscience or ambition. And is such a country not to perish? They are
looking for our favor! Ye will have favor! In Great Poland already the
Swedes are thumb-screwing nobles; and so will it be everywhere,--it
cannot be otherwise."

Kmita grew paler and paler, but with the remnant of his strength he
held in curb an outburst of fury; the prince, absorbed in his own
speech, delighted with his own words, with his own wisdom, paid no
attention to his listener, and continued,--

"There is a custom in this land that when a man is dying his relatives
at the last moment pull the pillow from under his head, so that he may
not suffer longer. I and the prince voevoda of Vilna have determined to
render this special service to the Commonwealth. But because many
plunderers are watching for the inheritance and we cannot get it all,
we wish that a part, and that no small one, should come to us. As
relatives, we have that right. If with this comparison I have not
spoken on a level with your understanding, and have not been able to
hit the point, I will tell you in other words: Suppose the Commonwealth
a red cloth at which are pulling the Swedes, Hmelnitski, the
Hyperboreans,[23] the Tartars, the elector, and whosoever lives around.
But I and the prince voevoda of Vilna have agreed that enough of that
cloth must remain in our hands to make a robe for us; therefore we do
not prevent the dragging, but we drag ourselves. Let Hmelnitski
stay in the Ukraine; let the Swedes and the elector settle about
Prussia and Great Poland; let Rakotsy, or whoever is nearer, take
Little Poland,--Lithuania must be for Prince Yanush, and, together with
his daughter, for me."

Kmita rose quickly. "I give thanks, your highness; that is all I wanted
to know."

"You are going out. Sir Cavalier?"

"I am."

The prince looked carefully at Kmita, and at that moment first noted
his pallor and excitement.

"What is the matter, Pan Kmita?" asked he. "You look like a ghost."

"Weariness has knocked me off my feet, and my head is dizzy. Farewell,
your highness; I will come before starting, to bow to you again."

"Make haste, then, for I start after midday myself."

"I shall return in an hour at furthest."

When he had said this, Kmita bent his head and went out. In the other
room the servants rose at sight of him, but he passed like a drunken
man, seeing no one. At the threshold of the room he caught his head
with both hands, and began to repeat, almost with a groan,--

"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews! Jesus, Mary, Joseph!"

With tottering steps he passed through the guard, composed of six men
with halberds. Outside the gate were his own men, the sergeant Soroka
at the head of them.

"After me!" called Kmita. And he moved through the town toward the inn.

Soroka, an old soldier of Kmita's, knowing him perfectly, noticed at
once that something uncommon had happened to the colonel.

"Let your soul be on guard," said he quietly to the men; "woe to him on
whom his anger falls now!"

The soldiers hastened their steps in silence, but Kmita did not go at a
walk; he almost ran, waving his hand and repeating words well-nigh
incoherent.

To the ears of Soroka came only broken phrases,--

"Poisoners, faith-breakers, traitors! Crime and treason,--the two are
the same--"

Then he began to mention his old comrades. The names Kokosinski,
Kulvyets, Ranitski, Rekuts, and others fell from his lips one after
another; a number of times he mentioned Volodyovski. Soroka heard this
with wonder, and grew more and more alarmed; but in his mind he
thought,--

"Some one's blood will flow; it cannot be otherwise."

Meanwhile they had come to the inn. Kmita shut himself in his room at
once, and for about an hour he gave no sign of life. The soldiers
meanwhile had tied on the packs and saddled the horses without order.

"That is no harm," said Soroka; "it is necessary to be ready for
everything."

"We too are ready!" answered the old fighters, moving their mustaches.

In fact, it came out soon that Soroka knew his colonel well; for Kmita
appeared suddenly in the front room, without a cap, in his trousers and
shirt only.

"Saddle the horses!" cried he.

"They are saddled."

"Fasten on the packs!"

"They are fastened."

"A ducat a man!" cried the young colonel, who in spite of all his fever
and excitement saw that those soldiers had guessed his thought quickly.

"We give thanks, Commander!" cried all in chorus.

"Two men will take the pack-horses and go out of the place immediately
toward Dembova. Go slowly through the town; outside the town put the
horses on a gallop, and stop not till the forest is reached."

"According to command!"

"Four others load their pistols. For me saddle two horses, and let
another be ready."

"I knew there would be something!" muttered Soroka.

"Now, Sergeant, after me!" cried Kmita.

And undressed as he was, in trousers only, and open shirt, he went out
of the front room. Soroka followed him, opening his eyes widely with
wonder; they went in this fashion to the well in the yard of the inn.
Here Kmita stopped, and pointing to the bucket hanging from the sweep,
said,--

"Pour water on my head!"

Soroka knew from experience how dangerous it was to ask twice about an
order; he seized the rope, let the bucket down into the water, drew up
quickly, and taking the bucket in his hands, threw the water on Pan
Andrei, who, puffing and blowing like a whale, rubbed his wet hair with
his hands, and cried,--

"More!"

Soroka repeated the act, and threw water with all his force, just as if
he were putting out a fire.

"Enough!" said Kmita, at length. "Follow me, help me to dress."

Both went to the inn. At the gate they met the two men going out with
two pack-horses.

"Slowly through the town; outside the town on a gallop!" commanded
Kmita; and he wont in.

Half an hour later he appeared dressed completely, as if for the road,
with high boots and an elkskin coat, girded with a leather belt into
which was thrust a pistol.

The soldiers noticed, too, that from under his kaftan gleamed the edge
of chain mail, as if he were going to battle. He had his sabre also
girt high, so as to seize the hilt more easily. His face was calm
enough, but stern and threatening. Casting a glance at the soldiers to
see if they were ready and armed properly, he mounted his horse, and
throwing a ducat at the innkeeper, rode out of the place.

Soroka rode at his side; three others behind, leading a horse. Soon
they found themselves on the square filled by Boguslav's troops. There
was movement among them already; evidently the command had come to
prepare for the road. The horsemen were tightening the girths of the
saddle and bridling the horses; the infantry were taking their muskets,
stacked before the houses; others were attaching horses to wagons.

Kmita started as it were from meditation.

"Hear me, old man," said he to Soroka; "from the starosta's house does
the road go on,--it will not be necessary to come back through the
square?"

"But where are we going, Colonel?"

"To Dembova."

"Then we must go from the square past the house. The square will be
behind us."

"It is well," said Kmita.

"Oh, if only those men were alive now! Few are fitted for work like
this,--few!"

Meanwhile they passed the square, and began to turn toward the
starosta's house, which lay about one furlong and a half farther on,
near the roadside.

"Stop!" cried Kmita, suddenly.

The soldiers halted, and he turned to them. "Are you ready for death?"
asked he, abruptly.

"Ready!" answered in chorus these dare-devils of Orsha.

"We crawled up to Hovanski's throat, and he did not devour us,--do you
remember?"

"We remember!"

"There is need to dare great things to-day. If success comes, our
gracious king will make lords of you,--I guarantee that! If failure,
you will go to the stake!"

"Why not success?" asked Soroka, whose eyes began to gleam like those
of an old wolf.

"There will be success!" said three others,--Biloüs, Zavratynski, and
Lubyenyets.

"We must carry off the prince marshal!" said Kmita. Then he was silent,
wishing to see the impression which the mad thought would make on the
soldiers. But they were silent too, and looked on him as on a rainbow;
only, their mustaches quivered, and their faces became terrible and
murderous.

"The stake is near, the reward far away," added Kmita.

"There are few of us," muttered Zavratynski.

"It is worse than against Hovanski," said Lubyenyets.

"The troops are all in the market-square, and at the house are only the
sentries and about twenty attendants," said Kmita, "who are off their
guard, and have not even swords at their sides."

"You risk your head; why should we not risk ours?" said Soroka.

"Hear me," continued Kmita. "If we do not take him by cunning, we shall
not take him at all. Listen! I will go into the room, and after a time
come out with the prince. If the prince will sit on my horse, I will
sit on the other, and we will ride on. When we have ridden about a
hundred or a hundred and fifty yards, then seize him from both sides by
the shoulders, and gallop the horses with all breath."

"According to order!" answered Soroka.

"If I do not come out," continued Kmita, "and you hear a shot in the
room, then open on the guards with pistols, and give me the horse as I
rush from the door."

"That will be done," answered Soroka.

"Forward!" commanded Kmita.

They moved on, and a quarter of an hour later halted at the gate of the
starosta's house. At the gate were six guards with halberds; at the
door of the anteroom four men were standing. Around a carriage in the
front yard were occupied equerries and outriders, whom an attendant of
consequence was overseeing,--a foreigner, as might be known from his
dress and wig.

Farther on, near the carriage-house, horses were being attached to two
other carriages, to which gigantic Turkish grooms were carrying packs.
Over these watched a man dressed in black, with a face like that of a
doctor or an astrologer.

Kmita announced himself as he had previously, through the officer of
the day, who returned soon and asked him to the prince.

"How are you, Cavalier?" asked the prince, joyfully. "You left me so
suddenly that I thought scruples had risen in you from my words, and I
did not expect to see you again."

"Of course I could not go without making my obeisance."

"Well, I thought: the prince voevoda has known whom to send on a
confidential mission. I make use of you also, for I give you letters to
a number of important persons, and to the King of Sweden himself. But
why armed as if for battle?"

"I am going among confederates; I have heard right here in this place,
and your highness has confirmed the report, that a confederate squadron
passed. Even here in Pilvishki they brought a terrible panic on
Zolotarenko's men, for a famed soldier is leading that squadron."

"Who is he?"

"Pan Volodyovski; and with him are Mirski, Oskyerko, and the two
Skshetuskis,--one that man of Zbaraj, whose wife your highness wanted
to besiege in Tykotsin. All rebelled against the prince voevoda; and it
is a pity, for they were good soldiers. What is to be done? There are
still fools in the Commonwealth who are unwilling to pull the red cloth
with Cossacks and Swedes."

"There is never a lack of fools in the world, and especially in this
country," said the prince. "Here are the letters; and besides, when you
see his Swedish grace, say as if in confidence that in heart I am as
much his adherent as my cousin, but for the time I must dissemble."

"Who is not forced to that?" answered Kmita. "Every man dissembles,
especially if he thinks to do something great."

"That is surely the case. Acquit yourself well, Sir Cavalier, I will be
thankful to you, and will not let the hetman surpass me in rewarding."

"If the favor of your highness is such, I ask reward in advance."

"You have it! Surely my cousin has not furnished you over abundantly
for the road. There is a serpent in his money-box."

"May God guard me from asking money! I did not ask it of the hetman,
and I will not take it from your highness. I am at my own expense, and
I will remain so."

Prince Boguslav looked at the young knight with wonder. "I see that in
truth the Kmitas are not of those who look at men's hands. What is your
wish then, Sir Cavalier?"

"The matter is as follows: without thinking carefully in Kyedani, I
took a horse of high blood, so as to show myself before the Swedes. I
do not exaggerate when I say there is not a better in the stables of
Kyedani. Now I am sorry for him, and I am afraid to injure him on the
road, in the stables of inns, or for want of rest. And as accidents are
not hard to meet, he may fall into enemies' hands, even those of that
Volodyovski, who personally is terribly hostile to me. I have thought,
therefore, to beg your highness to take him to keep and use until I ask
for him at a more convenient time."

"Better sell him to me."

"Impossible,--it would be like selling a friend. At a small estimate
that horse has taken me a hundred times out of the greatest danger; for
he has this virtue too, that in battle he bites the enemy savagely."

"Is he such a good horse?" asked Prince Boguslav, with lively interest.

"Is he good? If I were sure your highness would not be offended, I
would bet a hundred gold florins without looking, that your highness
has not such a one in your stables."

"Maybe I would bet, if it were not that to-day is not the time for a
trial. I will keep him willingly, though; if possible, I would buy. But
where is this wonder kept?"

"My men are holding him just here in front of the gate. As to his being
a wonder, he is a wonder; for it is no exaggeration to say that the
Sultan might covet such a horse. He is not of this country, but from
Anatolia; and in Anatolia, as I think, only one such was found."

"Then let us look at him."

"I serve your highness."

Before the gate Kmita's men were holding two horses completely
equipped: one was indeed of high breed, black as a raven, with a star
on his forehead, and a white fetlock to a leg like a lance; he neighed
slightly at sight of his master.

"I guess that to be the one," said Boguslav. "I do not know whether he
is such a wonder as you say, but in truth he is a fine horse."

"Try him!" cried Kmita; "or no, I will mount him myself!"

The soldiers gave Kmita the horse; he mounted, and began to ride around
near the gate. Under the skilled rider the horse seemed doubly
beautiful. His prominent eyes gained brightness as he moved at a trot;
he seemed to blow forth inner fire through his nostrils, while the wind
unfolded his mane. Pan Kmita described a circle, changed his gait; at
last he rode straight on the prince, so that the nostrils of the horse
were not a yard from his face, and cried,--

"Halt!"

The horse stopped with his four feet resisting, and stood as if fixed
to the ground.

"What do you say?" asked Kmita.

"The eyes and legs of a deer, the gait of a wolf, the nostrils of an
elk, and the breast of a woman!" said Boguslav. "Here is all that is
needed. Does he understand German command?"

"Yes; for my horse-trainer Zend, who was a Courlander, taught him."

"And the beast is swift?"

"The wind cannot come up with him; a Tartar cannot escape him."

"Your trainer must have been a good one, for I see that the horse is
highly taught."

"Is he taught? Your highness will not believe. He goes so in the rank
that when the line is moving at a trot, you may let the reins drop and
he will not push one half of his nose beyond the line. If your highness
will be pleased to try, and if in two furlongs he will push beyond the
others half a head, then I will give him as a gift."

"That would be the greatest wonder, not to advance with dropped reins."

"It is wonderful and convenient, for both hands of the rider are free.
More than once have I had a sabre in one hand and a pistol in the
other, and the horse went alone."

"But if the rank turns?"

"Then he will turn too without breaking the line."

"Impossible!" exclaimed the prince; "no horse will do that. I have seen
in France horses of the king's musketeers, greatly trained, of purpose
not to spoil the court ceremonies, but still it was necessary to guide
them with reins."

"The wit of man is in this horse. Let your highness try him yourself."

"Give him here!" said the prince, after a moment's thought.

Kmita held the horse till Boguslav mounted. He sprang lightly into the
saddle, and began to pat the steed on his shining neck.

"A wonderful thing," said he; "the best horses shed their hair in the
autumn, but this one is as if he had come out of water. In what
direction shall we go?"

"Let us move in a line, and if your highness permits, toward the
forest. The road is even and broad, but in the direction of the town
some wagon might come in the way."

"Let us ride toward the forest."

"Just two furlongs. Let your highness drop the reins and start on a
gallop. Two men on each side, and I will ride a little behind."

"Take your places!" said the prince.

The line was formed; they turned the horses' heads from the town. The
prince was in the middle.

"Forward!" said he. "On a gallop from the start,--march!"

The line shot on, and after a certain time was moving like a whirlwind.
A cloud of dust hid them from the eyes of the attendants and equerries,
who, collecting in a crowd at the gate, looked with curiosity at the
racing. The trained horses going at the highest speed, snorting from
effort, had run already a furlong or more; and the prince's steed,
though not held by the reins, did not push forward an inch. They ran
another furlong. Kmita turned, and seeing behind only a cloud of dust,
through which the starosta's house could barely be seen, and the people
standing before it not at all, cried with a terrible voice,--

"Take him!"

At this moment Biloüs and the gigantic Zavratynski seized both arms of
the prince, and squeezed them till the bones cracked in their joints,
and holding him in their iron fists, put spurs to their own horses.

The prince's horse in the middle held the line, neither pushing ahead
nor holding back an inch. Astonishment, fright, the whirlwind beating
in his face, deprived Prince Boguslav of speech for the first moment.
He struggled once and a second time,--without result, however, for pain
from his twisted arms pierced him through.

"What is this, ruffians? Know ye not who I am?" cried he at last.

Thereupon Kmita pushed him with the barrel of the pistol between the
shoulders. "Resistance is useless; it will only bring a bullet in your
body!" cried he.

"Traitor!" said the prince.

"But who are you?" asked Kmita.

And they galloped on farther.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.


They ran long through the pine-forest with such speed that the trees by
the roadside seemed to flee backward in panic; inns, huts of forest
guards, pitch-clearings, flashed by, and at times wagons singly or a
few together, going to Pilvishki. From time to time Boguslav bent
forward in the saddle as if to struggle; but his arms were only
wrenched the more painfully in the iron hands of the soldiers, while
Pan Andrei held the pistol-barrel between the princess shoulders again,
and they rushed on till the white foam was falling in flakes from the
horses.

At last they were forced to slacken the speed, for breath failed both
men and beasts, and Pilvishki was so far behind that all possibility of
pursuit had ceased. They rode on then a certain time at a walk and in
silence, surrounded by a cloud of steam, which was issuing from the
horses.

For a long time the prince said nothing; he was evidently trying to
calm himself and cool his blood. When he had done this he asked,--

"Whither are you taking me?"

"Your highness will know that at the end of the road," answered Kmita.

Boguslav was silent, but after a while said, "Cavalier, command these
trash to let me go, for they are pulling out my arms. If you command
them to do so, they will only hang; if not, they will go to the stake."

"They are nobles, not trash," answered Kmita; "and as to the punishment
which your highness threatens, it is not known whom death will strike
first."

"Know ye on whom ye have raised hands?" asked the prince, turning to
the soldiers.

"We know," answered they.

"By a million horned devils!" cried Boguslav, with an outburst. "Will
you command these people to let me go, or not?"

"Your highness, I will order them to bind your arms behind your back;
then you will be quieter."

"Impossible! You will put my arms quite out of joint."

"I would give orders to let another off on his word that he would not
try to escape, but you know how to break your word," said Kmita.

"I will give another word," answered the prince,--"that not only will I
escape at the first opportunity, but I will have you torn apart with
horses, when you fall into my hands."

"What God wants to give, he gives!" said Kmita. "But I prefer a sincere
threat to a lying promise. Let go his hands, only hold his horse by the
bridle; but, your highness, look here! I have but to touch the trigger
to put a bullet into your body, and I shall not miss, for I never miss.
Sit quietly; do not try to escape."

"I do not care, Cavalier, for you or your pistol."

When he had said this, the prince stretched his aching arms, to
straighten them and shake off the numbness. The soldiers caught the
horse's bridle on both sides, and led him on.

After a while Boguslav said, "Yon dare not look me in the eyes, Pan
Kmita; you hide in the rear."

"Indeed!" answered Kmita; and urging forward his horse, he pushed
Zavratynski away, and seizing the reins of the prince's horse, he
looked Boguslav straight in the face. "And how is my horse? Have I
added even one virtue?"

"A good horse!" answered the prince. "If you wish, I will buy him."

"This horse deserves a better fate than to carry a traitor till his
death."

"You are a fool, Pan Kmita."

"Yes, for I believed the Radzivills."

Again came a moment of silence, which was broken by the prince.

"Tell me, Pan Kmita, are you sure that you are in your right mind, that
your reason has not left you? Have you asked yourself what you have
done, madman? Has it not come to your head that as things are now it
would have been better for you if your mother had not given you birth,
and that no one, not only in Poland, but in all Europe, would have
ventured on such a dare-devil deed?"

"Then it is clear that there is no great courage in that Europe, for I
have carried off your highness, hold you, and will not let you go."

"It can only be an affair with a madman," said the prince, as if to
himself.

"My gracious prince," answered Pan Andrei, "you are in my hands; be
reconciled to that, and waste not words in vain. Pursuit will not come
up, for your men think to this moment that you have come off with me
voluntarily. When my men took you by the arms no one saw it, for the
dust covered us; and even if there were no dust, neither the equerries
nor the guards could have seen, it was so far. They will wait for you
two hours; the third hour they will be impatient, the fourth and fifth
uneasy, and the sixth will send out men in search; but we meanwhile
shall be beyond Maryapole."

"What of that?"

"This, that they will not pursue; and even if they should start
immediately in pursuit, your horses are just from the road, while ours
are fresh. Even if by some miracle they should come up, that would
not save you, for, as truly as you see me here, I should open your
head,--which I shall do if nothing else is possible. This is the
position! Radzivill has a court, an army, cannon, dragoons; Kmita has
six men, and Kmita holds Radzivill by the neck."

"What further?" asked the prince.

"Nothing further! We will go where it pleases me. Thank God, your
highness, that you are alive; for were it not that I gave orders to
throw many gallons of water on my head to-day, you would be in the
other world already, that is, in hell, for two reasons,--as a traitor
and as a Calvinist."

"And would you have dared to do that?"

"Without praising myself I say that your highness would not easily find
an undertaking on which I would not venture; you have the best proof of
that in yourself."

The prince looked carefully at the young man and said, "Cavalier, the
devil has written on your face that you are ready for anything, and
that is the reason why I have a proof in myself. I tell you, indeed,
that you have been able to astonish me with your boldness, and that is
no easy thing."

"That's all one to me. Give thanks to God, your highness, that you are
alive yet, and quits."

"No, Cavalier. First of all, do you thank God; for if one hair had
fallen from my head, then know that the Radzivills would find you even
under the earth. If you think that because there is disunion between us
and those of Nyesvyej and Olyta, and that they will not pursue you, you
are mistaken. Radzivill blood must be avenged, an awful example must be
given, otherwise there would be no life for us in this Commonwealth.
You cannot hide abroad, either: the Emperor of Germany will give you
up, for I am a prince of the German Empire; the Elector of Brandenburg
is my uncle; the Prince of Orange is his brother-in-law; the King and
Queen of France and their ministers are my friends. Where will you
hide? The Turks and Tartars will sell you, though we had to give them
half our fortune. You will not find on earth a corner, nor such
deserts, nor such people--"

"It is a wonder to me," replied Kmita, "that your highness takes such
thought in advance for my safety. A great person a Radzivill! Still I
have only to touch a trigger."

"I do not deny that. More than once it has happened in the world that a
great man died at the hands of a common one. A camp-follower killed
Pompey; French kings perished at the hands of low people. Without going
farther, the same thing happened to my great father. But I ask you what
will come next?"

"What is that to me? I have never taken much thought of what will be
to-morrow. If it comes to close quarters with all the Radzivills, God
knows who will be warmed up best. The sword has been long hanging over
my head, but the moment I close my eyes I sleep as sweetly as a suslik.
And if one Radzivill is not enough for me, I will carry off a second,
and a third."

"As God is dear to me, Cavalier, you please me much; for I repeat that
you alone in Europe could dare a deed like this. The beast does not
care, nor mind what will come to-morrow. I love daring people, and
there are fewer and fewer of them in the world. Just think! he has
carried off a Radzivill and holds him as his own. Where were you reared
in this fashion, Cavalier? Whence do you come?"

"I am banneret of Orsha."

"Pan Banneret of Orsha, I grieve that the Radzivills are losing a man
like you, for with such men much might be done. If it were not a
question of myself--h'm! I would spare nothing to win you."

"Too late!" said Kmita.

"That is to be understood," answered the prince. "Much too late! But I
tell you beforehand that I will order you only to be shot, for you are
worthy to die a soldier's death. What an incarnate devil to carry me
off from the midst of my men!"

Kmita made no answer; the prince meditated awhile, then cried,--

"If you free me at once, I will not take vengeance. Only give me your
word that you will tell no one of this, and command your men to be
silent."

"Impossible!" replied Kmita.

"Do you want a ransom?"

"I do not."

"What the devil, then, did you carry me off for? I cannot understand
it."

"It would take a long time to tell. I will tell your highness later."

"But what have we to do on the road unless to talk? Acknowledge,
Cavalier, one thing: you carried me off in a moment of anger and
desperation, and now you don't know well what to do with me."

"That is my affair!" answered Kmita; "and if I do not know what to do,
it will soon be seen."

Impatience was depicted on Prince Boguslav's face.

"You are not over-communicative, Pan Banneret of Orsha; but answer me
one question at least sincerely: Did you come to me, to Podlyasye, with
a plan already formed of attacking my person, or did it enter your head
in the last moment?"

"To that I can answer your highness sincerely, for my lips are burning
to tell you why I left your cause; and while I am alive, while there is
breath in my body, I shall not return to it. The prince voevoda of
Vilna deceived me, and in advance brought me to swear on the crucifix
that I would not leave him till death."

"And you are keeping the oath well. There is nothing to be said on that
point."

"True!" cried Kmita, violently. "If I have lost my soul, if I must be
damned, it is through the Radzivills. But I give myself to the mercy of
God, and I would rather lose my soul, I would rather burn eternally,
than to sin longer with knowledge and willingly,--than to serve longer,
knowing that I serve sin and treason. May God have mercy on me! I
prefer to burn, I prefer a hundred times to burn; I should burn surely,
if I remained with you. I have nothing to lose; but at least I shall
say at the judgment of God: 'I knew not what I was swearing, and had I
discovered that I had sworn treason to the country, destruction to the
Polish name, I should have broken the oath right there.' Now let the
Lord God be my judge."

"To the question, to the question!" said Boguslav, calmly.

But Pan Andrei breathed heavily, and rode on some time in silence, with
frowning brow and eyes fixed on the earth, like a man bowed down by
misfortune.

"To the question!" repeated the prince.

Kmita roused himself as if from a dream, shook his head, and said,--

"I believed the prince hetman as I would not have believed my own
father. I remember that banquet at which he announced his union with
the Swedes. What I suffered then, what I passed through, God will
account to me. Others, honorable men, threw their batons at his feet
and remained with their country; but I stood like a stump with the
baton, with shame, with submission, with infamy, in torture, for I was
called traitor to my eyes. And who called me traitor? Oi, better not
say, lest I forget myself, go mad, and put a bullet right here in the
head of your highness. You are the men, you the traitors, the Judases,
who brought me to that."

Here Kmita gazed with a terrible expression on the prince, and hatred
came out on his face from the bottom of his soul, like a dragon which
had crawled out of a cave to the light of day; but Boguslav looked at
the young man with a calm, fearless eye. At last he said,--

"But that interests me, Pan Kmita; speak on."

Kmita dropped the bridle of the prince's horse, and removed his cap as
if wishing to cool his burning head.

"That same night," continued he, "I went to the hetman, for he gave
command to call me. I thought to myself, 'I will renounce his service,
break my oath, suffocate him, choke him with these hands, blow up
Kyedani with powder, and then let happen what may.' He knew too that
was ready for anything, knew what I was; I saw well that he was
fingering a box in which there were pistols. 'That is nothing,' thought
I to myself; 'either he will miss me or he will kill me.' But he began
to reason, to speak, to show such a prospect to me, simpleton, and put
himself forward as such a savior, that your highness knows what
happened."

"He convinced the young man," said Boguslav.

"So that I fell at his feet," cried Kmita, "and saw in him the father,
the one savior, of the country; so that I gave myself to him soul and
body as to a devil. For him, for his honesty I was ready to hurl myself
headlong from the tower of Kyedani."

"I thought such would be the end," said Boguslav.

"What I lost in his cause I will not say, but I rendered him important
services. I held in obedience my squadron, which is in Kyedani
now,--God grant to his ruin! Others, who mutinied, I cut up badly. I
stained my hands in brothers' blood, believing that a stern necessity
for the country. Often my soul was pained at giving command to shoot
honest soldiers; often the nature of a noble rebelled against him, when
one time and another he promised something and did not keep his word.
But I thought: 'I am simple, he is wise!--it must be done so.' But
to-day, when I learned for the first time from those letters of the
poisons, the marrow stiffened in my bones. How? Is this the kind of
war? You wish to poison soldiers? And that is to be in hetman fashion?
That is to be the Radzivill method, and am I to carry such letters?"

"You know nothing of politics, Cavalier," interrupted Boguslav.

"May the thunders crush it! Let the criminal Italians practise it, not
a noble whom God has adorned with more honorable blood than others, but
at the same time obliged him to war with a sabre and not with a
drug-shop."

"These letters, then, so astonished you that you determined to leave
the Radzivills?"

"It was not the letters,--I might have thrown them to the hangman, or
tossed them into the fire, for they refer not to my duties; it was not
the letters. I might have refused the mission without leaving the
cause. Do I know what I might have done? I might have joined the
dragoons, or collected a party again, and harried Hovanski as before.
But straightway a suspicion came to me: 'But do they not wish to poison
the country as well as those soldiers?' God granted me not to break
out, though my head was burning like a grenade, to remember myself, to
have the power to think: 'Draw him by the tongue, and discover the
whole truth; betray not what you have at heart, give yourself out as
worse than the Radzivills themselves, and draw him by the tongue.'"

"Whom,--me?"

"Yes! God aided me, so that I, simple man, deceived a politician,--so
that your highness, holding me the last of ruffians, hid nothing of
your own ruffianism, confessed everything, told everything, as if it
had been written on the hand. The hair stood on my head, but I listened
and listened to the end. O traitors! arch hell-dwellers! O parricides!
How is it, that a thunderbolt has not stricken you down before now? How
is it that the earth has not swallowed you? So you are treating with
Hmelnitski, with the Swedes, with the elector, with Rakotsy, and with
the devil himself to the destruction of this Commonwealth? Now you want
to cut a mantle out of it for yourself, to sell it to divide it, to
tear your own mother like wolves? Such is your gratitude for all the
benefits heaped on you,--for the offices, the honors, the dignities,
the wealth, the authority, the estates which foreign kings envy you?
And you were ready without regard to those tears, torments, oppression.
Where is your conscience, where your faith, where your honesty? What
monster brought you into the world?"

"Cavalier," interrupted Boguslav, coldly, "you have me in your hand,
you can kill me; but I beg one thing, do not bore me."

Both were silent.

However, it appeared plainly, from the words of Kmita, that the soldier
had been able to draw out the naked truth from the diplomat, and that
the prince was guilty of great incautiousness, of a great error in
betraying his most secret plans and those of the hetman. This pricked
his vanity; therefore, not caring to hide his ill-humor, he said,--

"Do not ascribe it to your own wit merely, Pan Kmita, that you got the
truth from me. I spoke openly, for I thought the prince voevoda knew
people better, and had sent a man worthy of confidence."

"The prince voevoda sent a man worthy of confidence," answered Kmita,
"but you have lost him. Henceforth only scoundrels will serve you."

"If the way in which you seized me was not scoundrelly, then may the
sword grow to my hand in the first battle."

"It was a stratagem! I learned it in a hard school. You wish, your
highness, to know Kmita. Here he is! I shall not go with empty hands to
our gracious lord."

"And you think that a hair of my head will fall from the hand of Yan
Kazimir?"

"That is a question for the judges, not for me."

Suddenly Kmita reined in his horse: "But the letter of the prince
voevoda,--have you that letter on your person?"

"If I had, I would not give it. The letter remained in Pilvishki."

"Search him!" cried Kmita.

The soldiers seized the prince again by the arms. Soroka began to
search his pockets. After a while he found the letter.

"Here is one document against you and your works," said Pan Andrei,
taking the letter. "The King of Poland will know from it what you have
in view; the Swedish King will know too, that although now you are
serving him, the prince voevoda reserves to himself freedom to withdraw
if the Swedish foot stumbles. All your treasons will come out, all your
machinations. But I have, besides, other letters,--to the King of
Sweden, to Wittemberg, to Radzeyovski. You are great and powerful;
still I am not sure that it will not be too narrow for you in this
Commonwealth, when both kings will prepare a recompense worthy of your
treasons."

Prince Boguslav's eyes gleamed with ill-omened light, but after a while
he mastered his anger and said,--

"Well, Cavalier! For life or death between us! We have met! You may
cause us trouble and much evil, but I say this: No man has dared
hitherto to do in this country what you have done. Woe be to you and to
yours!"

"I have a sabre to defend myself, and I have something to redeem my own
with," answered Kmita.

"You have me as a hostage," said the prince.

And in spite of all his anger he breathed calmly; he understood one
thing at this moment, that in no case was his life threatened,--that
his person was too much needed by Kmita.

Then they went again at a trot, and after an hour's ride they saw two
horsemen, each of whom led a pair of packhorses. They were Kmita's men
sent in advance from Pilvishki.

"What is the matter?" asked Kmita.

"The horses are terribly tired, for we have not rested yet."

"We shall rest right away!"

"There is a cabin at the turn, maybe 'tis a public house."

"Let the sergeant push on to prepare oats. Public house or not, we must
halt."

"According to order, Commander."

Soroka gave reins to the horses, and they followed him slowly. Kmita
rode at one side of the prince, Lubyenyets at the other. Boguslav had
become completely calm and quiet; he did not draw Pan Andrei into
further conversation. He seemed to be exhausted by the journey, or by
the position in which he found himself, and dropping his head somewhat
on his breast, closed his eyes. Still from time to time he cast a side
look now at Kmita, now at Lubyenyets, who held the reins of the horse,
as if studying to discover who would be the easier to overturn so as to
wrest himself free.

They approached the building situated on the roadside at a bulge of the
forest. It was not a public house, but a forge and a wheelwright-shop,
in which those going by the road stopped to shoe their horses and mend
their wagons. Between the forge and the road there was a small open
area, sparsely covered with trampled grass; fragments of wagons and
broken wheels lay thrown here and there on that place, but there were
no travellers. Soroka's horses stood tied to a post. Soroka himself was
talking before the forge to the blacksmith, a Tartar, and two of his
assistants.

"We shall not have an over-abundant repast," said the prince; "there is
nothing to be had here."

"We have food and spirits with us," answered Kmita.

"That is well! We shall need strength."

They halted. Kmita thrust his pistol behind his belt, sprang from the
saddle, and giving his horse to Soroka, seized again the reins of the
prince's horse, which however Lubyenyets had not let go from his hand
on the other side.

"Your highness will dismount!" said Kmita.

"Why is that? I will eat and drink in the saddle," said the prince,
bending down.

"I beg you to come to the ground!" said Kmita, threateningly.

"But into the ground with you!" cried the prince, with a terrible
voice; and drawing with the quickness of lightning the pistol from
Kmita's belt, he thundered into his very face.

"Jesus, Mary!" cried Kmita.

At this moment the horse under the prince struck with spurs reared so
that he stood almost erect; the prince turned like a snake in the
saddle toward Lubyenyets, and with all the strength of his powerful arm
struck him with the pistol between the eyes.

Lubyenyets roared terribly and fell from the horse.

Before the others could understand what had happened, before they had
drawn breath, before the cry of fright had died on their lips, Boguslav
scattered them as a storm would have done, rushed from the square to
the road, and shot on like a whirlwind toward Pilvishki.

"Seize him! Hold him! Kill him!" cried wild voices.

Three soldiers who were sitting yet on the horses rushed after him; but
Soroka seized a musket standing at the wall, and aimed at the fleeing
man, or rather at his horse.

The horse stretched out like a deer, and moved forward like an arrow
urged from the string. The shot thundered. Soroka rushed through the
smoke for a better view of what he had done; he shaded his eyes with
his hand, gazed awhile, and cried at last,--

"Missed!"

At this moment Boguslav disappeared beyond the bend, and after him
vanished the pursuers.

Then Soroka turned to the blacksmith and his assistants, who were
looking up to that moment with dumb astonishment at what had happened,
and cried,--

"Water!"

The blacksmith ran to draw water, and Soroka knelt near Pan Andrei, who
was lying motionless. Kmita's face was covered with powder from the
discharge, and with drops of blood; his eyes were closed, his left brow
and left temple were blackened. The sergeant began first to feel
lightly with his fingers the head of his colonel.

"His head is sound."

But Kmita gave no signs of life, and blood came abundantly from his
face. The blacksmith's assistants brought a bucket of water and a
cloth. Soroka, with equal deliberation and care, began to wipe Kmita's
face.

Finally the wound appeared from under the blood and blackness. The ball
had opened Kmita's left cheek deeply, and had carried away the end of
his ear. Soroka examined to see if his cheek-bone were broken.

After a while he convinced himself that it was not, and drew a long
breath. Kmita, under the influence of cold water and pain, began to
give signs of life. His face quivered, his breast heaved with breath.

"He is alive!--nothing! he will be unharmed," cried Soroka, joyfully;
and a tear rolled down the murderous face of the sergeant.

Meanwhile at the turn of the road appeared Biloüs, one of the three
soldiers who had followed the prince.

"Well, what?" called Soroka.

The soldier shook his head. "Nothing!"

"Will the others return soon?"

"The others will not return."

With trembling hands the sergeant laid Kmita's head on the threshold of
the forge, and sprang to his feet. "How is that?"

"Sergeant, that prince is a wizard! Zavratynski caught up first, for he
had the best horse, and because the prince let him catch up. Before our
eyes Boguslav snatched the sabre from his hand and thrust him through.
We had barely to cry out. Vitkovski was next, and sprang to help; and
him this Radzivill cut down before my eyes, as if a thunderbolt had
struck him. He did not give a sound. I did not wait my turn. Sergeant,
the prince is ready to come back here."

"There is nothing in this place for us," said Soroka. "To horse!"

That moment they began to make a stretcher between the horses for
Kmita. Two of the soldiers, at the command of Soroka, stood with
muskets on the road, fearing the return of the terrible man.

But Prince Boguslav, convinced that Kmita was not alive, rode quietly
to Pilvishki. About dark he was met by a whole detachment of horsemen
sent out by Patterson, whom the absence of the prince had disturbed for
some time. The officer, on seeing the prince, galloped to him,--

"Your highness, we did not know--"

"That is nothing!" interrupted Prince Boguslav. "I was riding this
horse in the company of that cavalier, of whom I bought him."

And after a while he added: "I paid him well."



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.


The trusty Soroka carried his colonel through the deep forest, not
knowing himself what to begin, whither to go or to turn.

Kmita was not only wounded, but stunned by the shot. Soroka from time
to time moistened the piece of cloth in a bucket hanging by the horse,
and washed his face; at times he halted to take fresh water from the
streams and forest ponds; but neither halts nor the movement of the
horse could restore at once consciousness to Pan Andrei, and he lay as
if dead, till the soldiers going with him, and less experienced in the
matter of wounds than Soroka, began to be alarmed for the life of their
colonel.

"He is alive," answered Soroka; "in three days he will be on horseback
like any of us."

In fact, an hour later, Kmita opened his eyes; but from his mouth came
forth one word only,--

"Drink!"

Soroka held a cup of pure water to his lips; but it seemed that to open
his mouth caused Pan Andrei unendurable pain, and he was unable to
drink. But he did not lose consciousness: he asked for nothing,
apparently remembered nothing; his eyes were wide open, and he gazed,
without attention, toward the depth of the forest, on the streaks of
blue sky visible through the dense branches above their heads, and at
his comrades, like a man roused from sleep, or like one recovered from
drunkenness, and permitted Soroka to take care of him without saying a
word,--nay, the cold water with which the sergeant washed the wound
seemed to give him pleasure, for at times his eyes smiled. But Soroka
comforted him,--

"To-morrow the dizziness will pass, Colonel; God grant recovery."

In fact, dizziness began to disappear toward evening; for just before
the setting of the sun Kmita seemed more self-possessed and asked on a
sudden, "What noise is that?"

"What noise? There is none," answered Soroka.

Apparently the noise was only in the head of Pan Andrei, for the
evening was calm. The setting sun, piercing the gloom with its slanting
rays, filled with golden glitter the forest darkness, and lighted the
red trunks of the pine-trees. There was no wind, and only here and
there, from hazel, birch, and hornbeam trees leaves dropped to the
ground, or timid beasts made slight rustle in fleeing to the depths of
the forest in front of the horsemen.

The evening was cool; but evidently fever had begun to attack Pan
Andrei, for he repeated,--

"Your highness, it is life or death between us!"

At last it became dark altogether, and Soroka was thinking of a night
camp; but because they had entered a damp forest and the ground began
to yield under the hoofs of their horses, they continued to ride in
order to reach high and dry places.

They rode one hour and a second without being able to pass the swamp.
Meanwhile it was growing lighter, for the moon had risen. Suddenly
Soroka, who was in advance, sprang from the saddle and began to look
carefully at the ground.

"Horses have passed this way," said he, at sight of tracks in the soft
earth.

"Who could have passed, when there is no road?" asked one of the
soldiers supporting Pan Kmita.

"But there are tracks, and a whole crowd of them! Look here between the
pines,--as evident as on the palm of the hand!"

"Perhaps cattle have passed."

"Impossible. It is not the time of forest pastures; horse-hoofs are
clearly to be seen, somebody must have passed. It would be well to find
even a forester's cabin."

"Let us follow the trail."

"Let us ride forward!"

Soroka mounted again and rode on. Horses' tracks in the turfy ground
were more distinct; and some of them, as far as could be seen in the
light of the moon, seemed quite fresh. Still the horses sank to their
knees, and beyond. The soldiers were afraid that they could not wade
through, or would come to some deeper quagmire; when, at the end of
half an hour, the odor of smoke and rosin came to their nostrils.

"There must be a pitch-clearing here," said Soroka.

"Yes, sparks are to be seen," said a soldier.

And really in the distance appeared a line of reddish smoke, filled
with flame, around which were dancing the sparks of a fire burning
under the ground.

When they had approached, the soldiers saw a cabin, a well, and a
strong shed built of pine logs. The horses, wearied from the road,
began to neigh; frequent neighing answered them from under the shed,
and at the same time there stood before the riders some kind of a
figure, dressed in sheepskin, wool outward.

"Are there many horses?" asked the man in the sheepskin.

"Is this a pitch-factory?" inquired Soroka.

"What kind of people are ye? Where do ye come from?" asked the
pitch-maker, in a voice in which astonishment and alarm were evident.

"Never fear!" answered Soroka; "we are not robbers."

"Go your own way; there is nothing for you here."

"Shut thy mouth, and guide us to the house since we ask. Seest not,
scoundrel, that we are taking a wounded man?"

"What kind of people are ye?"

"Be quick, or we answer from guns. It will be better for thee to hurry.
Take us to the house; if not, we will cook thee in thy own pitch."

"I cannot defend myself alone, but there will be more of us. Ye will
lay down your lives here."

"There will be more of us too; lead on!"

"Go on yourselves; it is not my affair."

"What thou hast to eat, give us, and gorailka. We are carrying a man
who will pay."

"If he leaves here alive."

Thus conversing, they entered the cabin; a fire was burning in the
chimney, and from pots, hanging by the handles, came the odor of
boiling meat. The cabin was quite large. Soroka saw at the walls six
wooden beds, covered thickly with sheepskins.

"This is the resort of some company," muttered he to his comrades.
"Prime your guns and watch well. Take care of this scoundrel, let him
not slip away. The owners sleep outside to-night, for we shall not
leave the house."

"The men will not come to-day," said the pitch-maker.

"That is better, for we shall not quarrel about room, and to-morrow we
will go on," replied Soroka; "but now dish the meat, for we are hungry,
and spare no oats on the horses."

"Where can oats be found here, great mighty soldiers?"

"We heard horses under the shed, so there must be oats; thou dost not
feed them with pitch."

"They are not my horses."

"Whether they are yours or not, they must eat as well as ours. Hurry,
man, hurry! if thy skin is dear to thee!"

The pitch-maker said nothing. The soldiers entered the house, placed
the sleeping Kmita on a bed, and sat down to supper. They ate eagerly
the boiled meat and cabbage, a large kettle of which was in the
chimney. There was millet also, and in a room at the side of the cabin
Soroka found a large decanter of spirits.

He merely strengthened himself with it slightly, and gave none to the
soldiers, for he had determined to hold it in reserve for the night.
This empty house with six beds for men, and a shed in which a band of
horses were neighing, seemed to him strange and suspicious. He judged
simply that this was a robbers' retreat, especially since in the room
from which he brought the decanter he found many weapons hanging on the
wall, and a keg of powder, with various furniture, evidently plundered
from noble houses. In case the absent occupants of the cabin returned,
it was impossible to expect from them not merely hospitality, but even
mercy. Soroka therefore resolved to hold the house with armed hand, and
maintain himself in it by superior force or negotiations.

This was imperative also in view of the health of Pan Kmita, for whom a
journey might be fatal, and in view of the safety of all.

Soroka was a trained and seasoned soldier, to whom one feeling was
foreign,--the feeling of fear. Still in that moment, at thought of
Prince Boguslav, fear seized him. Having been for long years in the
service of Kmita, he had blind faith, not only in the valor, but the
fortune of the man; he had seen more than once deeds of his which in
daring surpassed every measure, and touched almost on madness, but
which still succeeded and passed without harm. With Kmita he had gone
through the "raids" on Hovanski; had taken part in all the surprises,
attacks, fights, and onsets, and had come to the conviction that Pan
Andrei could do all things, succeed in all things, come out of every
chaos, and destroy whomsoever he wished. Kmita therefore was for him
the highest impersonation of power and fortune,--but this time he had
met his match seemingly, nay, he had met his superior. How was this?
One man carried away, without weapons, and in Kmita's hands, had freed
himself from those hands; not only that, he had overthrown Kmita,
conquered his soldiers, and terrified them so that they ran away in
fear of his return. That was a wonder of wonders, and Soroka lost his
head pondering over it. To his thinking, anything might come to pass in
the world rather than this, that a man might be found who could ride
over Kmita.

"Has our fortune then ended?" muttered he to himself, gazing around in
wonder.

It was not long since with eyes shut he followed Pan Kmita to
Hovanski's quarters surrounded by eighty thousand men; now at the
thought of that long-haired prince with lady's eyes and a painted face,
superstitious terror seized him, and he knew not what to do. The
thought alarmed him, that to-morrow or the next day he would have to
travel on highways where the terrible prince himself or his pursuers
might meet him. This was the reason why he had gone from the road to
the dense forest, and at present wished to stay in that cabin until
pursuers were deluded and wearied.

But since even that hiding-place did not seem to him safe for other
reasons, he wished to discover what course to take; therefore he
ordered the soldiers to stand guard at the door and the windows, and
said to the pitch-maker,--

"Here, man, take a lantern and come with me."

"I can light the great mighty lord only with a pitch-torch, for we have
no lantern."

"Then light the torch; if thou burn the shed and the horses, it is all
one to me."

After such words a lantern was found right away. Soroka commanded the
fellow to go ahead, and followed himself with a pistol in his hand.

"Who live in this cabin?" asked he on the road.

"Men live here."

"What are their names?"

"That is not free for me to say."

"It seems to me, fellow, that thou'lt get a bullet in thy head."

"My master," answered the pitch-maker, "if I had told in a lie any kind
of name, you would have to be satisfied."

"True! But are there many of those men?"

"There is an old one, two sons, and two servants."

"Are they nobles?"

"Surely nobles."

"Do they live here?"

"Sometimes here, and sometimes God knows where."

"But the horses, whence are they?"

"God knows whence they bring them."

"Tell the truth; do thy masters not rob on the highway?"

"Do I know? It seems to me they take horses, but whose,--that's not on
my head."

"What do they do with the horses?"

"Sometimes they take ten or twelve of them, as many as there are, and
drive them away, but whither I know not."

Thus conversing, they reached the shed, from which was heard the
snorting of horses.

"Hold the light," said Soroka.

The fellow raised the lantern, and threw light on the horses standing
in a row at the wall. Soroka examined them one after another with the
eye of a specialist, shook his head, smacked his lips, and said,--

"The late Pan Zend would have rejoiced. There are Polish and Muscovite
horses here,--there is a Wallachian, a German,--a mare. Fine horses!
What dost thou give them to eat?"

"Not to lie, my master, I sowed two fields with oats in springtime."

"Then thy masters have been handling horses since spring?"

"No, but they sent a servant to me with a command."

"Then art thou theirs?"

"I was till they went to the war."

"What war?"

"Do I know? They went far away last year, and came back in the summer."

"Whose art thou now?"

"These are the king's forests."

"Who put thee here to make pitch?"

"The royal forester, a relative of these men, who also brought horses
with them; but since he went away once with them, he has not come
back."

"And do guests come to these men?"

"Nobody comes here, for there are swamps around, and only one road. It
is a wonder to me that ye could come, my master; for whoso does not
strike the road, will be drawn in by the swamp."

Soroka wanted to answer that he knew these woods and the road very
well; but after a moment's thought he determined that silence was
better, and inquired,--

"Are these woods very great?"

The fellow did not understand the question. "How is that?"

"Do they go far?"

"Oh! who has gone through them? Where one ends another begins, and God
knows where they are not; I have never been in that place."

"Very well!" said Soroka.

Then he ordered the man to go back to the cabin, and followed himself.

On the way he was pondering over what he should do, and hesitated.
On one hand the wish came to him to take the horses while the
cabin-dwellers were gone, and flee with this plunder. The booty was
precious, and the horses pleased the old soldier's heart greatly; but
after a while he overcame the temptation. To take them was easy, but
what to do further. Swamps all around, one egress,--how hit upon that?
Chance had served him once, but perhaps it would not a second time. To
follow the trail of hoofs was useless, for the cabin-dwellers had
surely wit enough to make by design false and treacherous trails
leading straight into quagmires. Soroka knew clearly the methods of men
who steal horses, and of those who take booty.

He thought awhile, therefore, and meditated; all at once he struck his
head with his fist,--

"I am a fool!" muttered he. "I'll take the fellow on a rope, and make
him lead me to the highway."

Barely had he uttered the last word when he shuddered, "To the highway?
But that prince will be there, and pursuit. To lose fifteen horses!"
said the old fox to himself, with as much sorrow as if he had cared for
the beasts from their colthood. "It must be that our fortune is ended.
We must stay in the cabin till Pan Kmita recovers,--stay with consent
of the owners or without their consent; and what will come later, that
is work for the colonel's head."

Thus meditating, he returned to the cabin. The watchful soldiers were
standing at the door, and though they saw a lantern shining in
the dark from a distance,--the same lantern with which Soroka and the
pitch-maker had gone out,--still they forced them to tell who they were
before they let them enter the cabin. Soroka ordered his soldiers to
change the watch about midnight, and threw himself down on the plank
bed beside Kmita.

It had become quiet in the cabin; only the crickets raised their usual
music in the adjoining closet, and the mice gnawed from moment to
moment among the rubbish piled up there. The sick man woke at intervals
and seemed to have dreams in his fever, for to Soroka's ears came the
disconnected words,--

"Gracious king, pardon--Those men are traitors--I will tell all their
secrets--The Commonwealth is a red cloth--Well, I have you, worthy
prince--Hold him!--Gracious king, this way, for there is treason!"

Soroka rose on the bed and listened; but the sick man, when he had
screamed once and a second time, fell asleep, and then woke and
cried,--

"Olenka, Olenka, be not angry!"

About midnight he grew perfectly calm and slept soundly. Soroka also
began to slumber; but soon a gentle knocking at the door of the cabin
roused him.

The watchful soldier opened his eyes at once, and springing to his feet
went out.

"But what is the matter?" asked he.

"Sergeant, the pitch-maker has escaped."

"A hundred devils! he'll bring robbers to us right away."

"Who was watching him?"

"Biloüs."

"I went with him to water our horses," said Biloüs, explaining. "I
ordered him to draw the water, and held the horses myself."

"And what? Did he jump into the well?"

"No, Sergeant, but between the logs, of which there are many near the
well, and into the stump-holes. I let the horses go; for though they
scattered there are others here, and sprang after him, but I fell into
the first hole. It was night,--dark; the scoundrel knows the place, and
ran away. May the pest strike him!"

"He will bring those devils here to us,--he'll bring them. May the
thunderbolts split him!"

The sergeant stopped, but after a while said,--

"We will not lie down; we must watch till morning. Any moment a crowd
may come."

And giving an example to the others, he took his place on the threshold
of the cabin with a musket in his hand. The soldiers sat near him
talking in an undertone, listening sometimes to learn if in the night
sounds of the pine-woods the tramp and snort of coming horses could
reach them.

It was a moonlight night, and calm, but noisy. In the forest depths
life was seething. It was the season of mating; therefore the
wilderness thundered with terrible bellowing of stags. These sounds,
short, hoarse, full of anger and rage, were heard round about in all
parts of the forest, distant and near,--sometimes right there, as if a
hundred yards from the cabin.

"If men come, they will bellow too, to mislead us," said Biloüs.

"Eh! they will not come to-night. Before the pitch-maker finds them
'twill be day," said the other soldiers.

"In the daytime, Sergeant, it would be well to examine the cabin and
dig under the walls; for if robbers dwell here there must be
treasures."

"The best treasures are in that stable," said Soroka, pointing with his
finger to the shed.

"But we'll take them?"

"Ye are fools! there is no way out,--nothing but swamps all around."

"But we came in."

"God guided us. A living soul cannot come here or leave here without
knowing the road."

"We will find it in the daytime."

"We shall not find it, for tracks are made everywhere purposely, and
the trails are misleading. It was not right to let the man go."

"It is known that the highroad is a day's journey distant, and in that
direction," said Biloüs.

Here he pointed with his finger to the eastern part of the forest.

"We will ride on till we pass through,--that's what we'll do! You think
that you will be a lord when you touch the highway? Better the bullet
of a robber here than a rope there."

"How is that, father?" asked Biloüs.

"They are surely looking for us there."

"Who, father?"

"The prince."

Soroka was suddenly silent; and after him were silent the others, as if
seized with fear.

"Oi!" said Biloüs, at last. "It is bad here and bad there; though you
twist, you can't turn."

"They have driven us poor devils into a net; here robbers, and there
the prince," said another soldier.

"May the thunderbolts burn them there! I would rather have to do with a
robber than with a wizard," added Biloüs; "for that prince is
possessed, yes, possessed. Zavratynski could wrestle with a bear, and
the prince took the sword from his hands as from a child. It can only
be that he enchanted him, for I saw, too, that when he rushed at
Vitkovski Boguslav grew up before the eyes to the size of a pine-tree.
If he had not, I shouldn't have let him go alive."

"But you were a fool not to jump at him."

"What had I to do, Sergeant? I thought this way: he is sitting on the
best horse; if he wishes, he will run away, but if he attacks me I
shall not be able to defend myself, for with a wizard is a power not
human! He becomes invisible to the eye or surrounds himself with
dust--"

"That is truth," answered Soroka; "for when I fired at him he was
surrounded as it were by a fog, and I missed. Any man mounted may miss
when the horse is moving, but on the ground that has not happened to me
for ten years."

"What's the use in talking?" said Biloüs, "better count: Lyubyenyets,
Vitkovski, Zavratynski, our colonel; and one man brought them all down,
and he without arms,--such men that each of them has many a time stood
against four. Without the help of the devil he could not have done
this."

"Let us commend our souls to God; for if he is possessed, the devil
will show him the road to this place."

"But without that he has long arms for such a lord."

"Quiet!" exclaimed Soroka, quickly; "something is making the leaves
rustle."

The soldiers were quiet and bent their ears. Near by, indeed, were
heard some kind of heavy steps, under which the fallen leaves rustled
very clearly.

"I hear horses," whispered Soroka.

But the steps began to retreat from the cabin, and soon after was heard
the threatening and hoarse bellowing of a stag.

"That is a stag! He is making himself known to a doe, or fighting off
another horned fellow."

"Throughout the whole forest are entertainments as at the wedding of
Satan."

They were silent again and began to doze. The sergeant raised his head
at times and listened for a while, then dropped it toward his breast.
Thus passed an hour, and a second; at last the nearest pine-trees from
being black became gray, and the tops grew whiter each moment, as some
one had burnished them with molten silver. The bellowing of stags
ceased, and complete stillness reigned the forest depths. Dawn passed
gradually into day; the white and pale light began to absorb rosy and
gold gleams; at last perfect morning had come, and lighted the tired
faces of the soldiers sleeping a firm sleep at the cabin.

Then the door opened, Kmita appeared on the threshold and called,--

"Soroka! come here!"

The soldiers sprang up.

"For God's sake, is your grace on foot?" asked Soroka.

"But you have slept like oxen; it would have been possible to cut off
your heads and throw them out before any one would have been roused."

"We watched till morning, Colonel; we fell asleep or in the broad day."

Kmita looked around. "Where are we?"

"In the forest, Colonel."

"I see that myself. But what sort of a cabin is this?"

"We know not ourselves."

"Follow me," said Kmita. And he turned to the inside of the cabin.
Soroka followed.

"Listen," said Kmita, sitting on the bed. "Did the prince fire at me?"

"He did."

"And what happened to him?"

"He escaped."

A moment of silence followed.

"That is bad," said Kmita, "very bad! Better to lay him down than to
let him go alive."

"We wanted to do that, but--"

"But what?"

Soroka told briefly all that had happened. Kmita listened with
wonderful calmness; but his eyes began to glitter, and at last he
said,--

"Then he is victor; but we'll meet again. Why did you leave the
highroad?"

"I was afraid of pursuit."

"That was right, for surely there was pursuit. There are too few of us
now to fight against Boguslav's power,--too few. Besides, he has gone
to Prussia; we cannot reach him there, we must wait--"

Soroka was relieved. Pan Kmita evidently did not fear Boguslav greatly,
since he talked of overtaking him. This confidence was communicated at
once to the old soldier accustomed to think with the head of his
colonel and to feel with his heart.

Meanwhile Pan Andrei, who had fallen into deep thought, came to himself
on a sudden, and began to seek something about his person with both his
hands.

"Where are my letters?" asked he.

"What letters?"

"Letters that I had on my body. They were fastened to my belt; where is
the belt?" asked Pan Andrei, in haste.

"I unbuckled the belt myself, that your grace might breathe more
easily; there it is."

"Bring it."

Soroka gave him a belt lined with white leather, to which a bag was
attached by cords. Kmita untied it and took out papers hastily.

"These are passes to the Swedish commandants; but where are the
letters?" asked he, in a voice full of disquiet.

"What letters?" asked Soroka.

"Hundreds of thunders! the letters of the hetman to the Swedish King,
to Pan Lyubomirski, and all those that I had."

"If they are not on the belt, they are nowhere. They must have been
lost in the time of the riding."

"To horse and look for them!" cried Kmita, in a terrible voice.

But before the astonished Soroka could leave the room Pan Andrei sank
to the bed as if strength had failed him, and seizing his head with his
hands, began to repeat in a groaning voice,--

"Ai! my letters, my letters!"

Meanwhile the soldiers rode off, except one, whom Soroka commanded to
guard the cabin. Kmita remained alone in the room, and began to
meditate over his position, which was not deserving of envy. Boguslav
had escaped. Over Pan Andrei was hanging the terrible and inevitable
vengeance of the powerful Radzivills. And not only over him, but over
all whom he loved, and speaking briefly, over Olenka. Kmita knew that
Prince Yanush would not hesitate to strike where he could wound him
most painfully,--that is, to pour out his vengeance on the person of
Panna Billevich. And Olenka was still in Kyedani at the mercy of the
terrible magnate, whose heart knew no pity. The more Kmita meditated
over his position, the more clearly was he convinced that it was simply
dreadful. After the seizure of Boguslav, the Radzivills will hold him a
traitor; the adherents of Yan Kazimir, the partisans of Sapyeha, and
the confederates who had risen up in Podlyasye look on him as a traitor
now, and a damned soul of the Radzivills. Among the many camps,
parties, and foreign troops occupying at that moment the fields of the
Commonwealth, there is not a camp, a party, a body of troops which
would not count him as the greatest and most malignant enemy. Indeed,
the reward offered for his head by Hovanski is still in force, and now
Radzivill and the Swedes will offer rewards,--and who knows if the
adherents of the unfortunate Yan Kazimir have not already proclaimed
one?

"I have brewed beer and must drink it," thought Kmita. When he bore
away Prince Boguslav, he did so to throw him at the feet of the
confederate's, to convince them beyond question that he had broken with
the Radzivills, to purchase a place with them, to win the right of
fighting for the king and the country. Besides, Boguslav in his hands
was a hostage for the safety of Olenka. But since Boguslav has crushed
Kmita and escaped, not only is Olenka's safety gone, but also the proof
that Kmita has really left the service of the Radzivills. But the road
to the confederates is open to him; and if he meets Volodyovski's
division and his friends the colonels, they may grant him his life, but
will they take him as a comrade, will they believe him, will they not
think that he has appeared as a spy, or has come to tamper with their
courage and bring over people to Radzivill? Here he remembered that the
blood of confederates was weighing on him; that to begin with, he had
struck down the Hungarians and dragoons in Kyedani, that he had
scattered the mutinous squadrons or forced them to yield, that he had
shot stubborn officers and exterminated soldiers, that he had
surrounded Kyedani with trenches and fortified it, and thus assured the
triumph of Radzivill in Jmud. "How could I go?" thought he; "the plague
would in fact be a more welcome guest there than I! With Boguslav on a
lariat at the saddle it would be possible; but with only my mouth and
empty hands!"

If he had those letters he might join the confederates, he would have
had Prince Yanush in hand, for those letters might undermine the credit
of the hetman, even with the Swedes,--even with the price of them he
might save Olenka; but some evil spirit had so arranged that the
letters were lost.

When Kmita comprehended all this, he seized his own head a second time.

"For the Radzivills a traitor, for Olenka a traitor, for the
confederate's a traitor, for the king a traitor! I have ruined my fame,
my honor, myself, and Olenka!"

The wound in his face was burning, but in his soul hot pain, a
hundred-fold greater, was burning him. In addition to all, his
self-love as a knight was suffering. For he was shamefully beaten by
Boguslav. Those slashes which Volodyovski had given him in Lyubich were
nothing. There he was finished by an armed man whom he had called out
in a duel, here by a defenceless prisoner whom he had in his hand.

With every moment increased in Kmita the consciousness of how terrible
and shameful was the plight into which he had fallen. The longer he
examined it the more clearly he saw its horror; and every moment he saw
new black corners from which were peering forth infamy and shame,
destruction to himself, to Olenka, wrong against the country,--till at
last terror and amazement seized him.

"Have I done all this?" asked he of himself; and the hair stood on his
head.

"Impossible! It must be that fever is shaking me yet," cried he.
"Mother of God, this is not possible!"

"Blind, foolish quarreller," said his conscience, "this would not have
come to thee in fighting for the king and the country, nor if thou
hadst listened to Olenka."

And sorrow tore him like a whirlwind. Hei! if only he could say to
himself: "The Swedes against the country, I against them! Radzivill
against the king, I against him!" Then it would be clear and
transparent in his soul. Then he might collect a body of cut-throats
from under a dark star and, frolic with them as a gypsy at a fair, fall
upon the Swedes, and ride over their breasts with pure heart and
conscience; then he might stand in glory as in sunlight before Olenka,
and say,--

"I am no longer infamous, but _defensor patriæ_ (a defender of the
country); love me, as I love thee."

But what was he now? That insolent spirit, accustomed to
self-indulgence, would not confess to a fault altogether at first. It
was the Radzivills who (according to him) had pushed him down in this
fashion; it was the Radzivills who had brought him to ruin, covered him
with evil repute, bound his hands, despoiled him of honor and love.

Here Pan Kmita gnashed his teeth, stretched out his hands toward Jmud,
on which Yanush, the hetman, was sitting like a wolf on a corpse, and
began to call out in a voice choking with rage,--

"Vengeance! Vengeance!"

Suddenly he threw himself in despair on his knees in the middle of the
room, and began to cry,--

"I vow to thee, O Lord Christ, to bend those traitors and gallop over
them with justice, with fire, and with sword, to cut them, while there
is breath in my throat, steam in my mouth, and life for me in this
world! So help me, O Nazarene King! Amen!"

Some kind of internal voice told him in that moment, "Serve the
country, vengeance afterward."

Pan Andrei's eyes were flaming, his lips were baked, and he trembled as
in a fever; he waved his hands, and talking with himself aloud, walked,
or rather ran, through the room, kicked the bed with his feet; at last
he threw himself once more on his knees.

"Inspire me, O Christ, what to do, lest I fall into frenzy."

At that moment came the report of a gun, which the forest echo threw
from pine-tree to pine-tree till it brought it like thunder to the
cabin.

Kmita sprang up, and seizing his sabre ran out.

"What is that?" asked he of the soldier standing at the threshold.

"A shot, Colonel."

"Where is Soroka?"

"He went to look for the letters."

"In what direction was the shot?"

The soldier pointed to the eastern part of the forest, which was
overgrown with dense underwood.

"There!"

At that moment was heard the tramp of horses not yet visible.

"Be on your guard!" cried Kmita.

But from out the thicket appeared Soroka, hurrying as fast as his horse
could gallop, and after him the other soldier. They rushed up to the
cabin, sprang from the horses, and from behind them, as from behind
breastworks, took aim at the thicket.

"What is there?" asked Kmita.

"A party is coming," answered Soroka.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.


Silence succeeded; but soon something began to rustle in the near
thicket, as if wild beasts were passing. The movement, however, grew
slower the nearer it came. Then there was silence a second time.

"How many of them are there?" asked Kmita. "About six, and perhaps
eight; for to tell the truth I could not count them surely," said
Soroka.

"That is our luck! They cannot stand against us."

"They cannot. Colonel; but we must take one of them alive, and scorch
him so that he will show the road."

"There will be time for that. Be watchful!"

Kmita had barely said, "Be watchful," when a streak of white smoke
bloomed forth from the thicket, and you would have said that birds had
fluttered in the near grass, about thirty yards from the cabin.

"They shot from old guns, with hob-nails!" said Kmita; "if they have
not muskets, they will do nothing to us, for old guns will not carry
from the thicket."

Soroka, holding with one hand the musket resting on the saddle of the
horse standing in front of him, placed the other hand in the form of a
trumpet before his mouth, and shouted,--

"Let any man come out of the bushes, he will cover himself with his
legs right away."

A moment of silence followed; then a threatening voice was heard in the
thicket,--

"What kind of men are you?"

"Better than those who rob on the highroad."

"By what right have you found out our dwelling?"

"A robber asks about right! The hangman will show you right! Come to
the cabin."

"We will smoke you out just as if you were badgers."

"But come on; only see that the smoke does not stifle you too."

The voice in the thicket was silent; the invaders, it seemed, had begun
to take counsel. Meanwhile Soroka whispered to Kmita,--

"We must decoy some one hither, and bind him; we shall then have a
guide and a hostage."

"Pshaw!" answered Kmita, "if any one comes it will be on parole."

"With robbers parole may be broken."

"It is better not to give it!" said Kmita.

With that questions sounded again from the thicket.

"What do you want?"

Now Kmita began to speak. "We should have gone as we came if you had
known politeness and not fired from a gun."

"You will not stay there,--there will be a hundred horse of us in the
evening."

"Before evening two hundred dragoons will come, and your swamps will
not save you, for they will pass as we passed."

"Are you soldiers?"

"We are not robbers, you may be sure."

"From what squadron?"

"But are you hetman? We will not report to you."

"The wolves will devour you, in old fashion."

"And the crows will pick you!"

"Tell what you want, a hundred devils! Why did you come to our cabin?"

"Come yourselves, and you will not split your throat crying from the
thicket. Nearer, nearer!"

"On your word."

"A word is for knights, not for robbers. If it please you, believe; if
not, believe not."

"May two come?"

"They may."

After a while from out the thicket a hundred yards distant appeared two
men, tall and broad-shouldered. One somewhat bent seemed to be a man of
years; the other went upright, but stretched his neck with curiosity
toward the cabin. Both wore short sheepskin coats covered with gray
cloth of the kind used by petty nobles, high cowhide boots, and fur
caps drawn down to their ears.

"What the devil!" said Kmita, examining the two men with care.

"Colonel!" cried Soroka, "a miracle indeed, but those are our people."

Meanwhile they approached within a few steps, but could not see the men
standing near the cabin, for the horses concealed them.

All at once Kmita stepped forward. Those approaching did not recognize
him, however, for his face was bound up; they halted, and began to
measure him with curious and unquiet eyes.

"And where is the other son, Pan Kyemlich?" asked Kmita; "he has not
fallen, I hope."

"Who is that--how is that--what--who is talking?" asked the old man, in
a voice of amazement and as it were terrified.

And he stood motionless, with mouth and eyes widely open; then the son,
who since he was younger had quicker vision, took the cap from his
head.

"For God's sake, father! that's the colonel!" cried he.

"O Jesus! sweet Jesus!" cried the old man, "that is Pan Kmita!"

And both took the fixed posture of subordinates saluting their
commanders, and on their faces were depicted both shame and wonder.

"Ah! such sons," said Pan Andrei, laughing, "and greeted me from a
gun?"

Here the old man began to shout,--

"Come this way, all of you! Come!"

From the thicket appeared a number of men, among whom were the second
son of the old man and the pitch-maker; all ran up at breakneck speed
with weapons ready, for they knew not what had happened. But the old
man shouted again,--

"To your knees, rogues, to your knees! This is Pan Kmita! What fool was
it who fired? Give him this way!"

"It was you, father," said young Kyemlich.

"You lie,--you lie like a dog! Pan Colonel, who could know that it was
your grace who had come to our cabin? As God is true, I do not believe
my own eyes yet."

"I am here in person," answered Kmita, stretching his hand toward him.

"O Jesus!" said the old man, "such a guest in the pine-woods. I cannot
believe my own eyes. With what can we receive your grace here? If we
expected, if we knew!"

Here he turned to his sons: "Run, some blockhead, to the cellar, bring
mead!"

"Give the key to the padlock, father."

The old man began to feel in his belt, and at the same time looked
suspiciously at his son.

"The key of the padlock? But I know thee, gypsy; thou wilt drink more
thyself than thou'lt bring. What's to be done? I'll go myself; he wants
the key of the padlock! But go roll off the logs, and I'll open and
bring it myself."

"I see that you have spoons hidden under the logs, Pan Kyemlich," said
Kmita.

"But can anything be kept from such robbers!" asked the old man,
pointing to the sons. "They would eat up their father. Ye are still
here? Go roll away the logs. Is this the way ye obey him who begat
you?"

The young men went quickly behind the cabin to the pile of logs.

"You are in disagreement with your sons in old fashion, it seems?" said
Kmita.

"Who could be in agreement with them? They know how to fight, they know
how to take booty; but when it comes to divide with their father, I
must tear my part from them at risk of my life. Such is the pleasure I
have; but they are like wild bulls. I beg your grace to the cabin, for
the cold bites out here. For God's sake! such a guest, such a guest!
And under the command of your grace we took more booty than during this
whole year. We are in poverty now, wretchedness! Evil times, and always
worse; and old age, too, is no joy. I beg you to the cabin, over our
lowly threshold. For God's sake! who could have looked for your grace
here!"

Old Kyemlich spoke with a marvellously rapid and complaining utterance,
and while speaking cast quick, restless glances on every side. He was a
bony old man, enormous in stature, with a face ever twisted and sullen!
He, as well as his two sons, had crooked eyes. His brows were bushy,
and also his mustaches, from beneath which protruded beyond measure an
underlip, which when he spoke came to his nose, as happens with men who
are toothless. The agedness of his face was in wonderful contrast to
the quickness of his movements, which displayed unusual strength and
alertness. His movements were as rapid as if a spring stirred him; he
turned his head continually, trying to take in with his eyes everything
around,--men as well as things. Toward Kmita he became every minute
more humble, in proportion as subservience to his former leader, fear,
and perhaps admiration or attachment were roused in him.

Kmita knew the Kyemliches well, for the father and two sons had served
under him when single-handed he had carried on war in White Russia with
Hovanski. They were valiant soldiers, and as cruel as valiant. One son,
Kosma, was standard-bearer for a time in Kmita's legion; but he soon
resigned that honorable office, since it prevented him from taking
booty. Among the gamblers and unbridled souls who formed Kmita's
legion, and who drank away and lost in the day what they won with blood
in the night from the enemy, the Kyemliches were distinguished for
mighty greed. They accumulated booty carefully, and hid it in the
woods. They took with special eagerness horses, which they sold
afterward at country houses and in towns. The father fought no worse
than the twin sons, but after each battle he dragged away from them the
most considerable part of the booty, scattering at the same time
complaints and regrets that they were wronging him, threatening a
father's curse, groaning and lamenting. The sons grumbled at him, but
being sufficiently stupid by nature they let themselves be tyrannized
over. In spite of their endless squabbles and scoldings, they stood up,
one for the other, in battle venomously without sparing blood. They
were not liked by their comrades, but were feared universally, for in
quarrels they were terrible; even officers avoided provoking them.
Kmita was the one man who had roused indescribable fear in them, and
after Kmita, Pan Ranitski, before whom they trembled when from anger
his face was covered with spots. They revered also in both lofty birth;
for the Kmitas, from old times, had high rank in Orsha, and in Ranitski
flowed senatorial blood.

It was said in the legion that they had collected great treasures, but
no one knew surely that there was truth in this statement. On a certain
day Kmita sent them away with attendants and a herd of captured horses;
from that time they vanished. Kmita thought that they had fallen; his
soldiers said that they had escaped with the horses, the temptation in
this case being too great for their hearts. Now, as Pan Andrei saw them
in health, and as in a shed near the cabin horses were neighing, and
the rejoicing and subservience of the old man were mingled with
disquiet, he thought that his soldiers were right in their judgment.
Therefore, when they had entered the cabin he sat on a plank bed, and
putting his hands on his sides, looked straight into the old man's eyes
and asked,--

"Kyemlich, where are my horses?"

"Jesus! sweet Jesus!" groaned the old man. "Zolotarenko's men took the
horses; they beat us and wounded us, drove us ninety miles; we hardly
escaped with our lives. Oh, Most Holy Mother! we could not find either
your grace or your men. They drove us thus far into these pine-woods,
into misery and hunger, to this cabin and these swamps. God is kind
that your grace is living and in health, though, I see, wounded. Maybe
we can nurse you, and put on herbs; and those sons of mine went to roll
off the logs, and they have disappeared. What are the rogues doing?
They are ready to take out the door and get at the mead. Hunger here
and misery; nothing more! We live on mushrooms; but for your grace
there will be something to drink and a bite to eat. Those men took the
horses from us, robbed us,--there is no denying that! And they deprived
us of service with your grace. We shall not have a bit of bread for old
age, unless your grace takes us back into service."

"That may happen too," answered Kmita.

Now the two sons of the old man came in,--Kosma and Damian, twins, big
fellows, awkward, with enormous heads completely overgrown with an
immensely thick bush of hair, stiff as a brush, sticking out unevenly
around the ears, forming hair-screws and fantastic tufts on their
skulls. When they came in they stood near the door, for in presence of
Kmita they dared not sit down; and Damian said,--

"The cellar is cleared."

"'Tis well," answered old Kyemlich, "I will go to bring mead."

Here he looked significantly at his sons.

"And Zolotarenko's men took the horses," said he, with emphasis; and
went out of the cabin.

Kmita glanced at the two who stood by the door, and who looked as if
they had been hewn out of logs roughly with an axe.

"What are you doing now?"

"We take horses!" answered the twins at the same time.

"From whom?"

"From whomsoever comes along."

"But mostly?"

"From Zolotarenko's men."

"That is well, you are free to take from the enemy; but if you take
from your own you are robbers, not nobles. What do you do with those
horses?"

"Father sells them in Prussia."

"Has it happened to you to take from the Swedes? Swedish companies are
not far from here. Have you attacked the Swedes?"

"We have."

"Then you fall on single men or small companies; but when they defend
themselves, what then?"

"We pound them."

"Ah, ha, you pound them! Then you have a reckoning with Zolotarenko's
men and with the Swedes, and surely you could not have got away dry had
you fallen into their hands."

Kosma and Damian were silent.

"You are carrying on a dangerous business, more becoming to robbers
than nobles. It must be, also, that some sentences are hanging over you
from old times?"

"Of course there are!" answered Kosma and Damian.

"So I thought. From what parts are you?"

"We are from these parts."

"Where did your father live before?"

"In Borovichko."

"Was that his village?"

"Yes, together with Pan Kopystynski."

"And what became of him?"

"We killed him."

"And you had to flee before the law. It will be short work with you
Kyemliches, and you'll finish on trees. The hangman will light you, it
cannot be otherwise!"

Just then the door of the room creaked, and the old man came in
bringing a decanter of mead and two glasses. He looked unquietly at his
sons and at Kmita, and then said,--

"Go and cover the cellar."

The twins went out at once. The old man poured mead into one glass; the
other he left empty, waiting to see if Kmita would let him drink with
him.

But Kmita was not able to drink himself, for he even spoke with
difficulty, such pain did the wound cause him. Seeing this, the old man
said,--

"Mead is not good for the wound, unless poured in, to clear it out more
quickly. Your grace, let me look at the wound and dress it, for I
understand this matter as well as a barber."

Kmita consented. Kyemlich removed the bandage, and began to examine the
wound carefully.

"The skin is taken off, that's nothing! The ball passed along the
outside; but still it is swollen."

"That is why it pains me."

"But it is not two days old. Most Holy Mother! some one who must have
been very near shot at your grace."

"How do you know that?"

"Because all the powder was not burned, and grains like cockle are
under the skin. They will stay with your grace. Now we need only bread
and spider-web. Terribly near was the man who fired. It is well that he
did not kill your grace."

"It was not fated me. Mix the bread and the spider-web and put them on
as quickly as possible, for I must talk with you, and my jaws pain me."

The old man looked suspiciously at the colonel, for in his heart there
was fear that the talk might touch again on the horses said to have
been taken by the Cossacks; but he busied himself at once, kneaded the
moistened bread first, and since it was not hard to find spider-webs in
the cabin he attended promptly to Kmita.

"I am easy now," said Pan Andrei; "sit down, worthy Kyemlich."

"According to command of the colonel," answered the old man, sitting on
the edge of a bench and stretching out his iron-gray bristly head
uneasily toward Kmita.

But Kmita, instead of conversing, took his own head in his hands and
fell into deep thought. Then he rose and began to walk in the room; at
moments he halted before Kyemlich and gazed at him with distraught
look; apparently he was weighing something, wrestling with thoughts.
Meanwhile about half an hour passed; the old man squirmed more and more
uneasily. All at once Kmita stopped before him.

"Worthy Kyemlich," said he, "where are the nearest of those squadrons
which rose up against the prince voevoda of Vilna?"

The old man began to wink his eyes suspiciously. "Does your grace wish
to go to them?"

"I do not request you to ask, but to answer."

"They say that one squadron is quartered in Shchuchyn,--that one which
came here last from Jmud."

"Who said so?"

"The men of the squadron themselves."

"Who led it?"

"Pan Volodyovski."

"That's well. Call Soroka!"

The old man went out, and returned soon with the sergeant.

"Have the letters been found?" asked Kmita.

"They have not, Colonel," answered Soroka.

Kmita shook his hands. "Oh, misery, misery! You may go, Soroka. For
those letters which you have lost you deserve to hang. You may go.
Worthy Kyemlich, have you anything on which to write?"

"I hope to find something," answered the old man.

"Even two leaves of paper and a pen."

The old man vanished through the door of a closet which was evidently a
storeroom for all kinds of things, but he searched long. Kmita was
walking the while through the room, and talking to himself,--

"Whether I have the letters or not," said he, "the hetman does not know
that they are lost, and he will fear lest I publish them. I have him in
hand. Cunning against cunning! I will threaten to send them to the
voevoda of Vityebsk. That is what I will do. In God is my hope, that
the hetman will fear this."

Further thought was interrupted by old Kyemlich, who, coming out of the
closet, said,--

"Here are three leaves of paper, but no pens or ink."

"No pens? But are there no birds in the woods here? They may be shot
with a gun."

"There is a falcon nailed over the shed."

"Bring his wing hither quickly!"

Kyemlich shot off with all speed, for in the voice of Kmita was
impatience, and as it were a fever. He returned in a moment with the
falcon's wing. Kmita seized it, plucked out a quill, and began to make
a pen of it with his dagger.

"It will do!" said he, looking at it before the light; "but it is
easier to cut men's heads than quills. Now we need ink."

So saying, he rolled up his sleeve, cut himself deeply in the arm, and
moistened the quill in blood.

"Worthy Kyemlich," said he, "leave me."

The old man left the room, and Pan Andrei began to write at once:--


I renounce the service of your highness, for I will not serve traitors
and deceivers. And if I swore on the crucifix not to leave your
highness, God will forgive me; and even if he were to damn me, I would
rather burn for my error than for open and purposed treason to my
country and king. Your highness deceived me, so that I was like a blind
sword in your hand, ready to spill the blood of my brethren. Therefore
I summon your highness to the judgment of God, so that it may be known
on whose side was treason, and on whose honest intention. Should we
ever meet, though you are powerful and able to strike unto death, not
only a private man, but the whole Commonwealth, and I have only a sabre
in my hand, still I will vindicate my own, and will strike your
highness, for which my regret and compunction will give me power. And
your highness knows that I am of those who without attendant squadrons,
without castles and cannon, can injure. While in me there is breath,
over you there is vengeance, so that you can be sure neither of the day
nor the hour. And this is as certain to be as that this is my own blood
with which I write. I have your letters, letters to ruin you, not only
with the King of Poland, but the King of Sweden, for in them treason to
the Commonwealth is made manifest, as well as this too, that you are
ready to desert the Swedes if only a leg totters under them. Even had
you twice your present power, your ruin is in my hands, for all men
must believe signatures and seals. Therefore I say this to your
highness: If a hair falls from the heads which I love and which are
left in Kyedani, I will send those letters and documents to Pan
Sapyeha, and I will have copies printed and scattered through the land.
Your highness can go by land or water (you have your choice); but after
the war, when peace comes to the Commonwealth, you will give me the
Billeviches, and I will give you the letters, or if I hear evil tidings
Pan Sapyeha will show them straightway to Pontus de la Gardie. Your
highness wants a crown, but where will you put it when your head falls
either from the Polish or the Swedish axe? It is better, I think, to
have this understanding now; though I shall not forget revenge
hereafter, I shall take it only in private, excepting this case. I
would commend you to God were it not that you put the help of the devil
above that of God.                  Kmita.

P. S. Your highness will not poison the confederates, for there will be
those who, going from the service of the devil to that of God, will
forewarn them to drink beer neither in Orel nor Zabludovo.


Here Kmita sprang up and began to walk across the room. His face was
burning, for his own letter had heated him like fire. This letter was a
declaration of war against the Radzivills; but still Kmita felt in
himself some extraordinary power, and was ready, even at that moment,
to stand eye to eye before that powerful family who shook the whole
country. He, a simple noble, a simple knight, an outlaw pursued by
justice, who expected assistance from no place, who had offended all so
that everywhere he was accounted an enemy,--he, recently overthrown,
felt in himself now such power that he saw, as if with the eyes of a
prophet, the humiliation of Prince Yanush and Boguslav, and his own
victory. How he would wage war, where he would find allies, in what way
he would conquer, he knew not,--what is more, he had not thought of
this. But he had profound faith that he would do what he ought to
do,--that is, what is right and just, in return for which God would be
with him. He was filled with confidence beyond measure and bounds. It
had become sensibly easier in his soul. Certain new regions were opened
as it were entirely before him. Let him but sit on his horse and ride
thither to honor, to glory, to Olenka.

"But a hair will not fall from her head," repeated he to himself, with
a certain feverish joy; "the letters will defend her. The hetman will
guard her as the eye in his head,--as I myself would. Oh, I have
settled this! I am a poor worm, but they will be afraid of my sting."

Then this thought came to him: "And shall I write to her too? The
messenger who will take the letter to the hetman can give a slip of
paper to her secretly. Why not inform her that I have broken with the
Radzivills, and that I am going to seek other service?"

This thought struck his heart greatly. Cutting his arm again, he
moistened the pen and began to write,--


Olenka,--I am no longer on the Radzivill side, for I have seen through
them at last--


But suddenly he stopped, thought awhile, and said to himself, "Let
deeds, not words, bear witness for me henceforth; I will not write."
And he tore the paper. But he wrote on a third sheet a short letter to
Volodyovski in the following words,--


Gracious Colonel,--The undersigned friend warns you and the other
colonels to be on your guard. There were letters from the hetman to
Prince Boguslav and Pan Harasimovich to poison you, or to have men
under you in your own quarters. Harasimovich is absent, for he has gone
with Prince Boguslav to Tyltsa in Prussia; but there may be similar
commands to other managers. Be careful of those managers, receive
nothing from them, and at night do not sleep without guards. I know
also to a certainty that the hetman will march against you soon with an
army; he is waiting only for cavalry which General de la Gardie is to
send, fifteen hundred in number. See to it, therefore, that he does not
fall upon you and destroy you singly. But better send reliable men to
the voevoda of Vityebsk to come, with all haste and take chief command.
A well-wisher counsels this,--believe him. Meanwhile keep together,
choosing quarters for the squadrons one not far from the other, so that
you may be able to give mutual assistance. The hetman has few cavalry,
only a small number of dragoons, and Kmita's men, but they are not
reliable. Kmita himself is absent. The hetman found some other office
for him; it being likely that he does not trust him. Kmita too is not
such a traitor as men say; he is merely led astray. I commit you to
God.

                                          Babinich.


Pan Andrei did not wish to put his own name to the letter, for he
judged that it would rouse in each one aversion and especially
distrust. "In case they understand," thought he, "that it would be
better for them to retreat before the hetman than to meet him in a
body, they will suspect at once, if they see my name, that I wish to
collect them, so that the hetman may finish them at a blow; they will
think this a new trick, but from some Babinich they will receive
warning more readily."

Pan Andrei called himself Babinich from the village Babiniche, near
Orsha, which from remote times belonged to the Kmitas.

When he had written the letter, at the end of which he placed a few
timid words in his own defence, he felt new solace in his heart at the
thought that with that letter he had rendered the first service, not
only to Volodyovski and his friends, but to all the colonels who would
not desert their country for Radzivill. He felt also that that thread
would go farther. The plight into which he had fallen was difficult,
indeed, almost desperate; but still there was some help, some issue,
some narrow path which would lead to the highroad.

But now when Olenka in all probability was safe from the vengeance of
Radzivill, and the confederates from an unexpected attack. Pan Andrei
put the question, What was he to do himself?

He had broken with traitors, he had burned the bridges in the rear, he
wished now to serve his country, to devote to it his strength, his
health, his life; but how was he to do this, how begin, to what could
he put his hand?

Again it came to his head to join the confederates; but if they will
not receive him, if they will proclaim him a traitor and cut him down,
or what is worse, expel him in disgrace?

"I would rather they killed me!" cried Pan Andrei; and he flushed from
shame and the feeling of his own disgrace. Perhaps it is easier to save
Olenka or the confederates than his own fame.

Now the position was really desperate, and again the young hero's soul
began to seethe.

"But can I not act as I did against Hovanski?" asked he of himself. "I
will gather a party, will attack the Swedes, burn, pursue. That is
nothing new for me! No one has resisted them; I will resist until the
time comes when the whole Commonwealth will ask, as did Lithuania, who
is that hero who all alone dares to creep into the mouth of the lion?
Then I will remove my cap and say, 'See, it is I, it is Kmita!'"

And such a burning desire drew him on to that bloody work that he
wished to rush out of the room and order the Kyemliches, their
attendants, and his own men to mount and move on. But before he reached
the door he felt as if some one had suddenly punched him in the breast
and pushed him back from the threshold. He stood in the middle of the
room, and looked forward in amazement.

"How is this? Shall I not efface my offences in this way?"

And at once he began to reckon with his own conscience.

"Where is atonement for guilt?" asked his conscience. "Here something
else is required!"

"What?" asked Kmita.

"With what can thy guilt be effaced, if not with service of some kind,
difficult and immense, honorable and pure as a tear? Is it service to
collect a band of ruffians and rage like a whirlwind with them through
the fields and the wilderness? Dost thou not desire this because
fighting has for thee a sweet odor, as has roast meat for a dog? That
is amusement, not service; a carnival, not war; robbery, not defence of
the country! And didst thou not do the same against Hovanski, but what
didst thou gain? Ruffians infesting the forests are ready also to
attack the Swedish commands, and whence canst thou get other men? Thou
wilt attack the Swedes, but also the inhabitants; thou wilt bring
vengeance on these inhabitants, and what wilt thou effect? Thou art
trying to escape, thou fool, from toil and atonement."

So conscience spoke in Kmita; and Kmita saw that it was right, and
vexation seized him, and a species of grief over his own conscience
because it spoke such bitter truth.

"What shall I begin?" asked he, at last; "who will help me, who will
save me?"

Here somehow his knees began to bend till at last he knelt down at the
plank bed and began to pray aloud, and implore from his whole soul and
heart,--

"O Jesus Christ, dear Lord," said he, "as on the cross thou hadst pity
for the thief, so now have pity for me. Behold I desire to cleanse
myself from sins, to begin a new life, and to serve my country
honestly; but I know not how, for I am foolish. I served those
traitors, O Lord, also not so much from malice, but especially as it
were through folly; enlighten me, inspire me, comfort me in my despair,
and rescue me in thy mercy, or I perish."

Here Pan Andrei's voice quivered; he beat his broad breast till it
thundered in the room, and repeated, "Be merciful to me, a sinner! be
merciful to me, a sinner! Be merciful to me, a sinner!" Then placing
his hands together and stretching them upward, he said, "And thou, Most
Holy Lady, insulted by heretics in this land, take my part with thy
Son, intercede for my rescue, desert me not in my suffering and misery,
so that I may be able to serve thee, to avenge the insults against
thee, and at the hour of my death have thee as a patroness for my
unhappy soul."

When Pan Andrei was imploring thus, tears began to fall from his eyes;
at last he dropped his head on the plank bed and sank into silence, as
if waiting for the effect of his ardent prayer. Silence followed in the
room, and only the deep sound of the neighboring pine-trees entered
from outside. Then chips crackled under heavy steps beyond the window,
and two men began to speak,--

"What do you think, Sergeant? Where shall we go from here?"

"Do I know?" answered Soroka. "We shall go somewhere, maybe far off, to
the king who is groaning under the Swedish hand."

"Is it true that all have left him?"

"But the Lord God has not left him."

Kmita rose suddenly from the bed, but his face was clear and calm; he
went straight to the door, and opening it said to the soldier,--

"Have the horses ready! it is time for the road!"



                              CHAPTER XXX.


A movement rose quickly among the soldiers, who were glad to go out of
the forest to the distant world, all the more since they feared pursuit
on the part of Boguslav Radzivill; and old Kyemlich went to the cabin,
understanding that Kmita would need him.

"Does your grace wish to go?" asked he.

"I do. Will you guide me out of the forest? Do you know all the roads?"

"I know all the roads in these parts. But whither does your grace wish
to go?"

"To our gracious king."

The old man started back in astonishment. "O Wise Lady!" cried he. "To
what king."

"Not to the Swedish, you may be sure."

Kyemlich not only failed to recover, but began to make the sign of the
cross.

"Then surely your grace does not know that people say our lord the king
has taken refuge in Silesia, for all have deserted him. Cracow is
besieged."

"We will go to Silesia."

"Well, but how are we to pass through the Swedes?"

"Whether we pass through as nobles or peasants, on horseback or on
foot, is all one to me, if only we pass."

"Then too a tremendous lot of time is needed."

"We have time enough, but I should be glad to go as quickly as
possible."

Kyemlich ceased to wonder. The old man was too cunning not to surmise
that there was some particular and secret cause for this undertaking of
Pan Kmita's, and that moment a thousand suppositions began to crowd
into his head. But as the soldiers, on whom Pan Andrei had enjoined
silence, said nothing to the old man or his sons about the seizure of
Prince Boguslav, the supposition seemed to him most likely that the
prince voevoda of Vilna had sent the young colonel on some mission to
the king. He was confirmed in this opinion specially because he counted
Kmita a zealous adherent of Prince Yanush, and knew of his services to
the hetman; for the confederate squadrons had spread tidings of him
throughout the whole province of Podlyasye, creating the opinion that
Kmita was a tyrant and a traitor.

"The hetman is sending a confidant to the king," thought the old man;
"that means that surely he wishes to agree with him and leave the
Swedes. Their rule must be bitter to him already, else why send?"

Old Kyemlich did not struggle long over this question, for his interest
in the matter was altogether different; and namely, what profit could
he draw from such circumstances? If he served Kmita he would serve at
the same time the hetman and the king, which would not be without a
notable reward. The favor of such lords would be of service, too,
should he be summoned to account for old sins. Besides, there will
surely be war, the country will flame up, and then plunder will crawl
of itself into his hands. All this smiled at the old man, who besides
was accustomed to obey Kmita, and had not ceased to fear him like fire,
cherishing toward him also a certain kind of love, which Kmita knew how
to rouse in all his subordinates.

"Your grace," said he, "must go through the whole Commonwealth to reach
the king. Swedish troops are nothing, for we may avoid the towns and go
through the woods; but the worst is that the woods, as is usual in
unquiet times, are full of parties of freebooters, who fall upon
travellers; and your grace has few men."

"You will go with me, Pan Kyemlich, and your sons and the men whom you
have; there will be more of us."

"If your grace commands I will go, but I am a poor man. Only misery
with us; nothing more. How can I leave even this poverty and the roof
over my head?"

"Whatever you do will be paid for; and for you it is better to take
your head out of this place while it is yet on your shoulders."

"All the Saints of the Lord! What does your grace say? How is that?
What threatens me, innocent man, in this place? Whom do we hinder?"

"I know you robbers!" answered Pan Andrei. "You had partnership with
Kopystynski, and killed him; then you ran away from the courts, you
served with me, you took away my captured horses.

"As true as life! O Mighty Lady!" cried the old man.

"Wait and be silent! Then you returned to your old lair, and began to
ravage in the neighborhood like robbers, taking horses and booty
everywhere. Do not deny it, for I am not your judge, and you know best
whether I tell the truth. If you take the horses of Zolotarenko, that
is well; if the horses of the Swedes, that is well. If they catch you
they will flay you; but that is their affair."

"True, true; but we take only from the enemy," said the old man.

"Untrue; for you attack your own people, as your sons have confessed to
me, and that is simple robbery, and a stain on the name of a noble.
Shame on you, robbers! you should be peasants, not nobles."

"Your grace wrongs us," said old fox, growing red, "for we, remembering
our station, do no peasant deed. We do not take horses at night from
any man's stable. It is something different to drive a herd from the
fields, or to capture horses. This is permitted, and there is no
prejudice to a noble therefrom in time of war. But a horse in a stable
is sacred; and only a gypsy, a Jew, or a peasant would steal from a
stable,--not a noble. We, your grace, do not do that. But war is war!"

"Though there were ten wars, only in battle can plunder be taken; if
you seek it on the road, you are robbers."

"God is witness to our innocence."

"But you have brewed beer here. In few words, it is better for you to
leave this place, for sooner or later the halter will take you. Come
with me; you will wash away your sins with faithful service and win
honor. I will receive you to my service, in which there will be more
profit than in those horses."

"We will go with your grace everywhere; we will guide you through the
Swedes and through the robbers,--for true is the speech of your grace,
that evil people persecute us here terribly, and for what? For our
poverty,--for nothing but our poverty. Perhaps God will take pity on
us, and save us from suffering."

Here old Kyemlich rubbed his hands mechanically, and his eyes
glittered. "From these works," thought he, "it will boil in the country
as in a kettle, and foolish the man who takes no advantage."

Kmita looked at him quickly. "Only don't try to betray me!" said he,
threateningly, "for you will not be able, and the hand of God only
could save you."

"We have never betrayed," answered Kyemlich, gloomily, "and may God
condemn me if such a thought entered my head."

"I believe you," said Kmita, after a short silence, "for treason is
something different from robbery; no robber will betray."

"What does your grace command now?" asked Kyemlich.

"First, here are two letters, requiring quick delivery. Have you sharp
men?"

"Where must they go?"

"Let one go to the prince voevoda, but without seeing Radzivill
himself. Let him deliver the letter in the first squadron of the
prince, and come back without awaiting an answer."

"The pitch-maker will go; he is a sharp man and experienced."

"He will do. The second letter must be taken to Podlyasye; inquire for
Pan Volodyovski's Lauda squadron, and give it into the hands of the
colonel himself."

The old man began to mutter cunningly, and thought, "I see work on
every side; since he is sniffing with the confederates there will be
boiling water,--there will be, there will be!"

"Your grace," said he, aloud, "if there is not such a hurry with this
letter, when we leave the forest it perhaps might be given to some man
on the road. There are many nobles here friendly to the confederates;
any one would take it willingly, and one man more would remain to us."

"You have calculated shrewdly," answered Kmita, "for it is better that
he who delivers the letter should not know from whom he takes it. Shall
we go out of the forest soon?"

"As your grace wishes. We can go out in two weeks, or to-morrow."

"Of that later; but now listen to me carefully, Kyemlich."

"I am attending with all my mind, your grace."

"They have denounced me in the whole Commonwealth as a tyrant, as
devoted to the hetman, or altogether to Sweden. If the king knew who I
am, he might not trust me, and might despise my intention, which, if it
is not sincere, God sees! Are you attending, Kyemlich?"

"I am, your grace."

"Therefore I do not call myself Kmita, but, Babinich, do you
understand? No one must know my real name. Open not your lips; let not
a breath out. If men ask whence I come, say that you joined me on the
road and do not know, but say, 'Whoso is curious, let him ask the man
himself.'"

"I understand, your grace."

"Warn your sons, and also your men. Even if straps were cut out of
them, they must say my name is Babinich. You will answer for this with
your life."

"It will be so, your grace. I will go and tell my sons, for it is
necessary to put everything into the heads of those rogues with a
shovel. Such is the joy I have with them. God has punished me for the
sins of my youth; that is the trouble. Let me say another word, your
grace."

"Speak boldly."

"It seems to me better not to tell soldiers or men where we are going."

"That is true."

"It is enough for them to know that Babinich, not Pan Kmita, is
travelling. And on such a journey it is better to conceal your grace's
rank."

"Why?"

"Because the Swedes give passes to the more considerable people; and
whoso has not a pass, him they take to the commandant."

"I have passes to the Swedish troops."

Astonishment gleamed in the cunning eyes of Kyemlich; but after a while
he asked, "Will your grace let me say once more what I think?"

"If you give good counsel and delay not, speak; for I see that you are
a clever man."

"If you have passes, it is better, for in need they may be shown; but
if your grace is travelling on an errand that should remain secret, it
is safer not to show the passes. I know not whether they are given in
the name of Babinich or Kmita; but if you show them, the trace will
remain and pursuit will be easier."

"You have struck the point!" cried Kmita. "I prefer to reserve the
passes for another time, if it is possible to go through without them."

"It is possible, your grace; and that disguised either as a peasant or
a petty noble,--which will be easier, for I have some clean clothes, a
cap and gray coat, for example, just such as petty nobles wear. We may
travel with a band of horses, as if we were going to the fairs, and
drive farther till we come to Lovich and Warsaw, as I have done more
than once during peace, and I know the roads. About this time there is
a fair in Sobota, to which people come from afar. In Sobota we shall
learn of other places where there are fairs, and so on. The Swedes too
take less note of small nobles, for crowds of them stroll about at all
the fairs. If some commandant inquires we will explain ourselves, but
if a small party asks we will gallop over their bellies, God and the
Most Holy Lady permitting."

"But if they take our horses? Requisitions in time of war are of daily
occurrence."

"Either they will buy or they will take them. If they buy we will go to
Sobota, not to sell, but to buy horses; and if they take them, we will
raise a lament and go with our complaint to Warsaw and to Cracow."

"You have a cunning mind," said Kmita, "and I see that you will serve
me. Even if the Swedes take these horses, some man will be found to pay
for them."

"I was going to Elko in Prussia with them; this turns out well, for
just in that direction does our road lie. From Elko we will go along
the boundary, then turn to Ostrolenko, thence through the wilderness to
Pultusk and to Warsaw."

"Where is that Sobota?"[24]

"Not far from Pyantek."[25]

"Are you jesting, Kyemlich?"

"How should I dare," answered the old man, crossing his arms on his
breast and bending his head; "but they have such wonderful names for
towns in this region. It is a good bit of road beyond Lovich, your
grace."

"Are there large fairs in that Sobota?"

"Not such as in Lovich; but there is one at this time of year, to which
horses are driven from Prussia, and crowds of people assemble. Surely
it will not be worse this year, for it is quiet about there. The Swedes
are in power everywhere, and have garrisons in the towns. Even if a man
wanted to rise against them, he could not."

"Then I will take your plan. We will go with horses, and that you
suffer no loss I will pay for them in advance."

"I thank your grace for the rescue."

"Only get sheepskin coats ready and common saddles and sabres, for we
will start at once. Tell your sons and men who I am, what my name is,
that I am travelling with horses, that you and they are hired
assistants. Hurry!"

When the old man turned to the door, Pan Andrei said further, "No one
will call me grace nor commandant nor colonel, only _you_ and
_Babinich_."

Kyemlich went out, and an hour later all were sitting on their horses
ready to start on the long journey. Kmita dressed in the gray coat of a
poor noble, a cap of worn sheepskin, and with a bandaged face, as if
after a duel in some inn, was difficult of recognition, and looked
really like some poor devil of a noble, strolling from one fair to
another. He was surrounded by people dressed in like fashion, armed
with common poor sabres, with long whips to drive the horses, and
lariats to catch those that might try to escape.

The soldiers looked with astonishment at their colonel, making various
remarks, in low tones, concerning him. It was a wonder to them that he
was Babinich instead of Pan Kmita, that they were to say _you_ to him;
and most of all shrugged his shoulders old Soroka, who, looking at the
terrible colonel as at a rainbow, muttered to Biloüs,--

"That _you_ will not pass my throat. Let him kill me, but I will give
him, as of old, what belongs to him."

The soldiers knew not that the soul in Pan Andrei had changed as well
as his external form.

"Move on!" cried Babinich, on a sudden.

The whips cracked; the riders surrounded the horses, which were huddled
together, and they moved on.



                             CHAPTER XXXI.


Passing along the very boundary between the province of Trotsk and
Prussia, they travelled through broad and pathless forests known only
to Kyemlich, until they entered Prussia and reached Leng, or, as old
Kyemlich, called it, Elko, where they got news of public affairs from
nobles stopping there, who, taking their wives, children, and effects,
had fled from the Swedes and sought refuge under the power of the
elector.

Leng had the look of a camp, or rather it might be thought that some
petty diet was in session there. The nobles drank Prussian beer in the
public houses, and talked, while every now and then some one brought
news. Without making inquiries and merely by listening with care,
Babinich learned that Royal Prussia and the chief towns in it had taken
decisively the side of Yan Kazimir, and had made a treaty of mutual
defence with the elector against every enemy. It was said, however,
that in spite of the treaty the most considerable towns were unwilling
to admit the elector's garrisons, fearing lest that adroit prince, when
he had once entered with armed hand, might hold them for good, or might
in the decisive moment join himself treacherously to the Swedes,--a
deed which his inborn cunning made him capable of doing.

The nobles murmured against this distrust entertained by townspeople;
but Pan Andrei, knowing the Radzivill intrigues with the elector, had
to gnaw his tongue to refrain from telling what was known to him. He
was held back by the thought that it was dangerous in Electoral Prussia
to speak openly against the elector; and secondly, because it did not
beseem a small gray-coated noble who was going to a fair with horses,
to enter into the intricate subject of politics, over which the ablest
statesmen were racking their brains to no purpose.

He sold a pair of horses, bought new ones, and journeyed farther, along
the Prussian boundary, but by the road leading from Leng to Shchuchyn,
situated in the very corner of the province of Mazovia, between Prussia
on the one side and the province of Podlyasye on the other. To
Shchuchyn Pan Andrei had no wish to go, for he learned that in that
town were the quarters of the confederate squadron commanded by
Volodyovski.

Volodyovski must have passed over almost the same road on which Kmita
was travelling, and stopped before the very boundary of Podlyasye,
either for a short rest or for temporary quarters, in Shchuchyn, where
it must have been easier to find food for men and horses than in
greatly plundered Podlyasye.

Kmita did not wish to meet the famous colonel, for he judged that
having no proofs, except words, he would not be able to persuade
Volodyovski of his conversion and sincerity. He gave command,
therefore, to turn to the west toward Vansosh, ten miles from
Shchuchyn. As to the letter he determined to send it to Pan Michael at
the first opportunity.

But before arriving at Vansosh, they stopped at a wayside inn called
"The Mandrake," and disposed themselves for a night's rest, which
promised to be comfortable, for there was no one at the inn save the
host, a Prussian.

But barely had Kmita with the three Kyemliches and Soroka sat down to
supper when the rattling of wheels and the tramp of horses were heard.
As the sun had not gone down yet, Kmita went out in front of the inn to
see who was coming, for he was curious to know if it was some Swedish
party; but instead of Swedes he saw a carriage, and following it two
pack-wagons, surrounded by armed men.

At the first glance it was easy to see that some personage was coming.
The carriage was drawn by four good Prussian horses, with large bones
and rather short backs; a jockey sat on one of the front horses,
holding two beautiful dogs in a leash; on the seat was a driver, and at
his side a haiduk dressed in Hungarian fashion; in the carriage was the
lord himself, in a cloak lined with wolfskin and fastened with numerous
gilded buttons.

In the rear followed two wagons, well filled, and at each of them four
servants armed with sabres and guns.

The lord, though a personage, was still quite young, a little beyond
twenty. He had a plump, red face, and in his whole person there was
evidence that he did not stint himself in eating.

When the carriage stopped, the haiduk sprang to give his hand to help
down the lord; but the lord, seeing Kmita standing on the threshold,
beckoned with his glove, and called,--

"Come this way, my good friend!"

Kmita instead of going to him withdrew to the interior, for anger
seized him at once. He had not become accustomed yet to the gray coat,
or to being beckoned at with a glove. He went back therefore, sat at
the table, and began to eat. The unknown lord came in after him. When
he had entered he half closed his eyes, for it was dark in the room,
since there was merely a small fire burning in the chimney.

"But why did no one come out as I was driving up?" asked the unknown
lord.

"The host has gone to another room," answered Kmita, "and we are
travellers, like your grace."

"Thank you for the confidence. And what manner of travellers?"

"Oh, a noble travelling with horses."

"And your company are nobles too?"

"Poor men, but nobles."

"With the forehead, then, with the forehead. Whither is God guiding
you?"

"From fair to fair, to sell horses."

"If you stay here all night, I'll see, perhaps I'll pick out something.
Meanwhile will you permit me to join you at the table?"

The unknown lord asked, it is true, if they would let him sit with
them, but in such a tone as if he were perfectly sure that they would;
and he was not mistaken. The young horse-dealer said,--

"We beg your grace very kindly, though we have nothing to offer but
sausage and peas."

"There are better dainties in my bags," answered the lordling, not
without a certain pride; "but I have a soldier's palate, and sausage
with peas, if well cooked, I prefer to everything." When he had
said this,--and he spoke very slowly, though he looked quickly and
sharply,--he took his seat on the bench on which Kmita pushed aside to
give convenient room.

"Oh, I beg, I beg, do not incommode yourself. On the road rank is not
regarded; and though you were to punch me with your elbow, the crown
would not fall from my head."

Kmita, who was pushing a plate of peas to the unknown, and who, as has
been said, was not used to such treatment, would certainly have broken
the plate on the head of the puffed up young man if there had not been
something in that pride of his which amused Pan Andrei; therefore not
only did he restrain his internal impulse at once, but laughed and
said,--

"Such times are the present, your grace, that crowns fall from the
loftiest heads; for example, our king Yan Kazimir, who by right should
wear two crowns, has none, unless it be one of thorns."

The unknown looked quickly at Kmita, then sighed and said, "Times are
such now that it is better not to speak of this unless with
confidants." Then after a moment he added: "But you have brought that
out well. You must have served with polished people, for your speech
shows more training than your rank."

"Rubbing against people, I have heard this and that, but I have never
been a servant."

"Whence are you by birth, I beg to ask?"

"From a village in the province of Trotsk."

"Birth in a village is no drawback, if you are only noble; that's the
main thing. What is to be heard in Lithuania?"

"The old story,--no lack of traitors."

"Traitors, do you say? What kind of traitors?"

"Those who have deserted the king and the Commonwealth."

"How is the prince voevoda of Vilna?"

"Sick, it is said; his breath fails him."

"God give him health, he is a worthy lord!"

"For the Swedes he is, since he opened the gates to them."

"I see that you are not a partisan of his."

Kmita noticed that the stranger, while asking him questions as it were
good-naturedly, was observing him.

"What do I care!" said he; "let others think of him. My fear is that
the Swedes may take my horses in requisition."

"You should have sold them on the spot, then. In Podlyasye are
stationed, very likely, the squadrons which rebelled against the
hetman, and surely they have not too many horses."

"I do not know that, for I have not been among them, though some man in
passing gave me a letter to one of their colonels, to be delivered when
possible."

"How could that passing man give you a letter when you are not going to
Podlyasye?"

"Because in Shchuchyn one confederate squadron is stationed, therefore
the man said to me, 'Either give it yourself or find an opportunity in
passing Shchuchyn.'"

"That comes out well, for I am going to Shchuchyn."

"Your grace is fleeing also before the Swedes?"

The unknown, instead of an answer, looked at Kmita and asked
phlegmatically, "Why do you say _also_, since you not only are not
fleeing from the Swedes, but are going among them and will sell them
horses, if they do not take your beasts by force?"

At this Kmita shrugged his shoulders. "I said _also_, because in Leng I
saw many nobles who escaped before the Swedes; and as to me, if all
were to serve them as much as I wish to serve them, I think they would
not warm the places here long."

"Are you not afraid to say this?"

"I am not afraid, for I am not a coward, and in the second place your
grace is going to Shchuchyn, and there every one says aloud what he
thinks. God grant a quick passage from talking to action."

"I see that you are a man of wit beyond your station," repeated the
unknown. "But if you love not the Swedes, why leave these squadrons,
which have mutinied against the hetman? Have they mutinied because
their wages were kept back, or from caprice? No! but because they would
not serve the hetman and the Swedes. It would have been better for
those soldiers, poor fellows, to remain under the hetman, but they
preferred to give themselves the name of rebels, to expose themselves
to hunger, hardships, and many destructive things, rather than act
against the king. That it will come to war between them and the Swedes
is certain, and it would have come already were it not that the Swedes
have not advanced to that corner as yet. Wait, they will come, they
will meet here, and then you will see!"

"I think, too, that war will begin here very soon," said Kmita.

"Well, if you have such an opinion, and a sincere hatred for the
Swedes,--which looks out of your eyes, for you speak truth, I am a
judge of that,--then why not join these worthy soldiers? Is it not
time, do they not need hands and sabres? Not a few honorable men are
serving among them, who prefer their own king to a foreign one, and
soon there will be more of these. You come from places in which men
know not the Swedes as yet, but those who have made their acquaintance
are shedding hot tears. In Great Poland, though it surrendered to them
of its own will, they thumbscrew nobles, plunder, make requisitions,
seize everything they can. At present in this province their manner is
no better. General Stenbok gave forth a manifesto that each man remain
quietly at home, and his property would be respected. But what good was
in that! The General has his will, and the smallest commandants have
theirs, so that no man is sure of to-morrow, nor of what property he
holds. Every man wishes to get good of what he has, to use it in peace,
wants it to bring him pleasure. But now the first best adventurer will
come and say, 'Give.' If you do not give, he will find reason to strip
you of your property, or without reason will have your head cut off.
Many shed bitter tears, when they think of their former king. All are
oppressed and look to those confederates unceasingly, to see if some
rescue for the country and the people will not come from them."

"Your grace, as I see, has no better wish for the Swedes than I have,"
said Kmita.

The unknown looked around as it were with a certain alarm, but soon
calmed himself and spoke on,--

"I would that pestilence crushed them, and I hide that not from you,
for it seems to me that you are honest; and though you were not honest,
you would not bind me and take me to the Swedes, for I should not
yield, having armed men, and a sabre at my side."

"Your grace may be sure that I will not harm you; your courage is to my
heart. And it pleases me that your grace did not hesitate to leave
property behind, in which the enemy will not fail to punish you. Such
good-will to the country is highly deserving of praise."

Kmita began unwittingly to speak in a patronizing tone, as a superior
to a subordinate, without thinking that such words might seem strange
in the mouth of a small horse-dealing noble; but apparently the young
lord did not pay attention to that, for he merely winked cunningly and
said,--

"But am I a fool? With me the first rule is that my own shall not leave
me, for what the Lord God has given must be respected. I stayed at home
quietly with my produce and grain, and when I had sold in Prussia all
my crops, cattle, and utensils, I thought to myself: 'It is time for
the road. Let them take vengeance on me now, let them take whatever
pleases their taste.'"

"Your grace has left the hind and the buildings for good?"

"Yes, for I hired the starostaship of Vansosh from the voevoda of
Mazovia, and just now the term has expired. I have not paid the last
rent, and I will not, for I hear the voevoda of Mazovia is an adherent
of the Swedes. Let the rent be lost to him for that, and it will add to
my ready money."

"'Pon my word," said Kmita, smiling, "I see that your grace is not only
a brave cavalier, but an adroit one."

"Of course," replied the unknown. "Adroitness is the main thing! But I
was not speaking of that. Why is it that, feeling the wrongs of our
country and of our gracious king, you do not go to those honorable
soldiers in Podlyasye and join their banner? You would serve both God
and yourself; luck might come, for to more than one has it happened to
come out of war a great man, from being a small noble. It is evident
that you are bold and resolute, and since your birth is no hindrance,
you might advance quickly to some fortune, if God favors you with
booty. If you do not squander that which here and there will fall into
your hands, the purse will grow heavy. I do not know whether you have
land or not, but you may have it; with a purse it is not hard to rent
an estate, and from renting an estate to owning one, with the help of
the Lord, is not far. And so, beginning as an attendant, you may die an
officer, or in some dignity in the country, in case you are not lazy in
labor; for whoso rises early, to him God gives treasure."

Kmita gnawed his mustache, for laughter seized him; then his face
quivered, and he squirmed, for from time to time pain came from the
healing wound. The unknown continued,--

"As to receiving you there, they will receive you, for they need men;
besides, you have pleased me, and I take you under my protection, with
which you may be certain of promotion."

Here the young man raised his plump face with pride, and began to
smooth his mustaches; at last he said,--

"Will you be my attendant, carry my sabre, and manage my men?"

Kmita did not restrain himself, but burst out in sincere, joyous
laughter, so that all his teeth gleamed.

"Why laugh?" asked the unknown, frowning.

"From delight at the service."

But the youthful personage was offended in earnest, and said,--

"He was a fool who taught you such manners, and be careful with whom
you are speaking, lest you exceed measure in familiarity."

"Forgive me, your grace," answered Kmita, joyously, "for really I do
not know before whom I am standing."

The young lord put his hands on his hips: "I am Pan Jendzian of
Vansosh," said he, with importance.

Kmita had opened his mouth to tell his assumed name, when Biloüs came
hurriedly into the room.

"Pan Com--"

Here the soldier, stopped by the threatening look of Kmita, was
confused, stammered, and finally coughed out with effort,--

"I beg to tell you some people are coming."

"Where from?"

"From Shchuchyn."

Kmita was embarrassed, but hiding his confusion quickly, he answered,
"Be on your guard. Are there many?"

"About ten men on horseback."

"Have the pistols ready. Go!"

When the soldier had gone out, Kmita turned to Pan Jendzian of Vansosh
and asked,--

"Are they not Swedes?"

"Since you are going to them," answered Pan Jendzian, who for some time
had looked with astonishment on the young noble, "you must meet them
sooner or later."

"I should prefer the Swedes to robbers, of whom there are many
everywhere. Whoso goes with horses must go armed and keep on the watch,
for horses are very tempting."

"If it is true that Pan Volodyovski is in Shchuchyn," said Pan
Jendzian, "this is surely a party of his. Before they take up their
quarters there they wish to know if the country is safe, for with
Swedes at the border it would be difficult to remain in quiet."

When he heard this, Pan Andrei walked around in the room and sat down
in its darkest corner, where the sides of the chimney cast a deep
shadow on the corner of the table; but meanwhile the sound of the tramp
and snorting of horses came in from outside, and after a time a number
of men entered the room.

Walking in advance, a gigantic fellow struck with wooden foot the loose
planks in the floor of the room. Kmita looked at him, and the heart
died within his bosom. It was Yuzva Butrym, called Footless.

"But where is the host?" inquired he, halting in the middle of the
room.

"I am here!" answered the innkeeper, "at your service."

"Oats for the horses!"

"I have no oats, except what these men are using." Saying this, he
pointed at Jendzian and the horse-dealer's men.

"Whose men are you?" asked Jendzian.

"And who are you yourself?"

"The starosta of Vansosh."

His own people usually called Jendzian starosta, as he was the tenant
of a starostaship, and he thus named himself on the most important
occasions.

Yuzva Butrym was confused, seeing with what a high personage he had to
do; therefore he removed his cap, and said,--

"With the forehead, great mighty lord. It was not possible to recognize
dignity in the dark."

"Whose men are these?" repeated Jendzian, placing his hands on his
hips.

"The Lauda men from the former Billevich squadron, and now of Pan
Volodyovski's."

"For God's sake! Then Pan Volodyovski is in the town of Shchuchyn?"

"In his own person, and with other colonels who have come from Jmud."

"Praise be to God, praise be to God!" repeated the delighted starosta.
"And what colonels are with Pan Volodyovski?"

"Pan Mirski was," answered Butrym, "till apoplexy struck him on the
road; but Pan Oskyerko is there, and Pan Kovalski, and the two
Skshetuskis."

"What Skshetuskis?" cried Jendzian. "Is not one of them Skshetuski from
Bujets?"

"I do not know where he lives," said Butrym, "but I know that he was at
Zbaraj."

"Save us! that is my lord!"

Here Jendzian saw how strangely such a word would sound in the mouth of
a starosta, and added,--

"My lord godson's father, I wanted to say."

The starosta said this without forethought, for in fact he had been the
second godfather to Skshetuski's first son, Yaremka.

Meanwhile thoughts one after another were crowding to the head of Pan
Kmita, sitting in the dark corner of the room. First the soul within
him was roused at sight of the terrible graycoat, and his hand grasped
the sabre involuntarily. For he knew that Yuzva, mainly, had caused the
death of his comrades, and was his most inveterate enemy. The old-time
Pan Kmita would have commanded to take him and tear him with horses,
but the Pan Babinich of that day controlled himself. Alarm, however,
seized him at the thought that if the man were to recognize him various
dangers might come to his farther journey and the whole undertaking. He
determined, therefore, not to let himself be known, and he pushed ever
deeper into the shade; at last he put his elbow on the table, and
placing his head in his palms began to feign sleep; but at the same
time he whispered to Soroka, who was sitting at the table,--

"Go to the stable, let the horses be ready. We will go in the night."

Soroka rose and went out; Kmita still feigned sleep. Various memories
came to his head. These people reminded him of Lauda, Vodokty, and that
brief past which had vanished as a dream. When a short time before
Yuzva Butrym said that he belonged to the former Billevich squadron,
the heart trembled in Pan Andrei at the mere name. And it came to his
mind that it was also evening, that the fire was burning in the chimney
in the same way, when he dropped unexpectedly into Vodokty, as if with
the snow, and for the first time saw in the servants' hall Olenka among
the spinners.

He saw now with closed lids, as if with eyesight, that bright, calm
lady; he remembered everything that had taken place,--how she wished to
be his guardian angel, to strengthen him in good, to guard him from
evil, to show him the straight road of worthiness. If he had listened
to her, if he had listened to her! She knew also what ought to be done,
on what side to stand; knew where was virtue, honesty, duty, and simply
would have taken him by the hand and led him, if he had listened to
her.

Here love, roused by remembrance, rose so much in Pan Andrei's heart
that he was ready to pour out all his blood, if he could fall at the
feet of that lady; and at that moment he was ready to fall on the neck
of that bear of Lauda, that slayer of his comrades, simply because he
was from that region, had named the Billeviches, had seen Olenka.

His own name repeated a number of times by Yuzva Butrym roused him
first from his musing. The tenant of Vansosh inquired about
acquaintances, and Yuzva told him what had happened in Kyedani from the
time of the memorable treaty of the hetman with the Swedes; he spoke of
the oppression of the army, the imprisonment of the colonels, of
sending them to Birji, and their fortunate escape. The name of Kmita,
covered with all the horror of treason and cruelty, was repeated
prominently in those narratives. Yuzva did not know that Pan
Volodyovski, the Skshetuskis, and Zagloba owed their lives to Kmita;
but he told of what had happened in Billeviche,--

"Our colonel seized that traitor in Billeviche, as a fox in his den,
and straightway commanded to lead him to death; I took him with great
delight, for the hand of God had reached him, and from moment to moment
I held the lantern to his eyes, to see if he showed any sorrow. But no!
He went boldly, not considering that he would stand before the judgment
of God,--such is his reprobate nature. And when I advised him to make
even the sign of the cross, he answered, 'Shut thy mouth, fellow; 'tis
no affair of thine!' We posted him under a pear-tree outside the
village, and I was already giving the word, when Pan Zagloba, who went
with us, gave the order to search him, to see if he had papers on his
person. A letter was found. Pan Zagloba said, 'Hold the light!' and he
read. He had barely begun reading when he caught his head: 'Jesus,
Mary! bring him back to the house!' Pan Zagloba mounted his horse and
rode off, and we brought Kmita back, thinking they would burn him
before death, to get information from him. But nothing of the kind!
They let the traitor go free. It was not for my head to judge what they
found in the letter, but I would not have let him go."

"What was in that letter?" asked the tenant of Vansosh.

"I know not; I only think that there must have been still other
officers in the hands of the prince voevoda, who would have had them
shot right away if we had shot Kmita. Besides, our colonel may have
taken pity on the tears of Panna Billevich, for she fell in a faint so
that hardly were they able to bring her to her senses. I do not make
bold to complain; still evil has happened, for the harm which that man
has done, Lucifer himself would not be ashamed of. All Lithuania weeps
through him; and how many widows and orphans and how many poor people
complain against him is known to God only. Whoso destroys him will have
merit in heaven and before men."

Here conversation turned again to Pan Volodyovski, the Skshetuskis, and
the squadrons in Podlyasye.

"It is hard to find provisions," said Butrym, "for the lands of the
hetman are plundered completely,--nothing can be found in them for the
tooth of a man or a horse; and the nobles are poor in the villages, as
with us in Jmud. The colonels have determined therefore to divide the
horses into hundreds, and post them five or ten miles apart. But when
winter comes, I cannot tell what will happen."

Kmita, who had listened patiently while the conversation touched him,
moved now, and had opened his mouth to say from his dark corner, "The
hetman will take you, when thus divided, one by one, like lobsters from
a net." But at that moment the door opened, and in it stood Soroka,
whom Kmita had sent to get the horses ready for the road. The light
from the chimney fell straight on the stern face of the sergeant. Yuzva
Butrym glanced at him, looked a long time, then turned to Jendzian and
asked,--

"Is that a servant of your great mightiness? I know him from some place
or another."

"No," replied Jendzian; "those are nobles going with horses to fairs."

"But whither?" asked Yuzva.

"To Sobota," said old Kyemlich.

"Where is that?"

"Not far from Pyantek."

Yuzva accounted this answer an untimely jest, as Kmita had previously,
and said with a frown, "Answer when people ask!"

"By what right do you ask?"

"I can make that clear to you, for I am sent out to see if there are
not suspicious men in the neighborhood. Indeed it seems to me there are
some, who do not wish to tell where they are going."

Kmita, fearing that a fight might rise out of this conversation, said,
without moving from the dark corner,--

"Be not angry, worthy soldier, for Pyantek and Sobota are towns, like
others, in which horse-fairs are held in the fall. If you do not
believe, ask the lord starosta, who must know of them."

"They are regular places," said Jendzian.

"In that case it is all right. But why go to those places? You can sell
horses in Shchuchyn, where there is a great lack of them, and those
which we took in Pilvishki are good for nothing; they are galled."

"Every man goes where it is better for him, and we know our own road,"
answered Kmita.

"I know not whether it is better for you; but it is not better for us
that horses are driven to the Swedes and informants go to them."

"It is a wonder to me," said the tenant of Vansosh. "These people talk
against the Swedes, and somehow they are in a hurry to go to them."
Here he turned to Kmita: "And you do not seem to me greatly like a
horse-dealer, for I saw a fine ring on your finger, of which no lord
would be ashamed."

"If it has pleased your grace, buy it of me; I gave two quarters for it
in Leng."

"Two quarters? Then it is not genuine, but a splendid counterfeit. Show
it."

"Take it, your grace."

"Can you not move yourself? Must I go?"

"I am terribly tired."

"Ah, brother, a man would say that you are trying to hide your face."

Hearing this, Yuzva said not a word, but approached the chimney, took
out a burning brand, and holding it high above his head, went straight
toward Kmita and held the light before his eyes.

Kmita rose in an instant to his whole height, and during one wink of an
eyelid they looked at each other eye to eye. Suddenly the brand fell
from the hand of Yuzva, scattering a thousand sparks on the way.

"Jesus, Mary!" screamed Butrym, "this is Kmita!"

"I am he!" said Pan Andrei, seeing that there were no further means of
concealment.

"This way, this way! Seize him!" shouted Yuzva to the soldiers who had
remained outside. Then turning to Pan Andrei, he said,--

"Thou art he, O hell-dweller, traitor! Thou art that Satan in person!
Once thou didst slip from my hands, and now thou art hurrying in
disguise to the Swedes. Thou art that Judas, that torturer of women and
men! I have thee!"

So saying, he seized Pan Andrei by the shoulder; but Pan Andrei seized
him. First, however, the two young Kyemliches, Kosma and Damian, had
risen from the bench, almost touching the ceiling with their bushy
heads, and Kosma asked,--

"Shall we pound, father?"

"Pound!" answered old Kyemlich, unsheathing his sabre.

The doors burst open, and Yuzva's soldiers rushed in; but behind them,
almost on their necks, came Kyemlich's men.

Yuzva caught Pan Andrei by the shoulder, and in his right hand held a
naked rapier, making a whirlwind and lightning with it around himself.
But Pan Andrei, though he had not the gigantic strength of his enemy,
seized Butrym's throat as if in a vice. Yuzva's eyes were coming out;
he tried to stun Kmita with the hilt of his rapier, but did not
succeed, for Kmita thundered first on his forehead with the hilt of his
sabre. Yuzva's fingers, holding the shoulder of his opponent, opened at
once; he tottered and bent backward under the blow. To make room for a
second blow, Kmita pushed him again, and slashed him with full sweep on
the face with his sabre. Yuzva fell on his back like an oak-tree,
striking the floor with his skull.

"Strike!" cried Kmita, in whom was roused, in one moment, the old
fighting spirit.

But he had no need to urge, for it was boiling in the room, as in a
pot. The two young Kyemliches slashed with their sabres, and at times
butted with their heads, like a pair of bullocks, putting down a man
with each blow; after them advanced their old father, bending every
moment to the floor, half closing his eyes, and thrusting quickly the
point of his weapon under the arms of his sons.

But Soroka, accustomed to fighting in inns and close quarters, spread
the greatest destruction. He pressed his opponents so sorely that they
could not reach him with a blade; and when he had discharged his
pistols in the crowd, he smashed heads with the butts of the pistols,
crushing noses, knocking out teeth and eyes. Kyemlich's servants and
Kmita's two soldiers aided their masters.

The fight moved from the table to the upper end of the room. The Lauda
men defended themselves with rage; but from the moment that Kmita,
having finished Yuzva, sprang into the fight and stretched out another
Butrym, the victory began to incline to his side.

Jendzian's servants also sprang into the room with sabres and guns; but
though their master cried, "Strike!" they were at a loss what to do,
for they could not distinguish one side from the other, since the Lauda
men wore no uniforms, and in the disturbance the starosta's young men
were punished by both sides.

Jendzian held himself carefully outside the battle, wishing to
recognize Kmita, and point him out for a shot; but by the faint light
of the fire Kmita vanished time after time from his eye,--at one
instant springing to view as red as a devil, then again lost in
darkness.

Resistance on the part of the Lauda men grew weaker and weaker, for the
fall of Yuzva and the terrible name of Kmita had lessened their
courage; still they fought on with rage. Meanwhile the innkeeper went
past the strugglers quietly with a bucket of water in his hand and
dashed it on the fire. In the room followed black darkness; the
strugglers gathered into such a dense crowd that they could strike with
fists only; after a while cries ceased; only panting breaths could be
heard, and the orderless stamp of boots. Through the door, then flung
open, sprang first Jendzian's people, after them the Lauda men, then
Kmita's attendants.

Pursuit began in the first room, in the bins before the house, and in
the shed. Some shots were heard; then uproar and the noise of horses. A
battle began at Jendzian's wagons, under which his people hid
themselves; the Lauda men too sought refuge there, and Jendzian's
people, taking them for the other party, fired at them a number of
times.

"Surrender!" cried old Kyemlich, thrusting the point of his sabre
between the spokes of the wagon and stabbing at random the men crouched
beneath.

"Stop! we surrender!" answered a number of voices.

Then the people from Vansosh threw from under the wagon their sabres
and guns; after that the young Kyemliches began to drag them out by the
hair, till the old man cried,--

"To the wagons! take what comes under your hands! Quick! quick! to the
wagons!"

The young men did not let the command be given thrice, but rushed to
untie the coverings, from beneath which the swollen sides of Jendzian's
sacks appeared. They had begun to throw out the sacks, when suddenly
Kmita's voice thundered,--

"Stop!"

And Kmita, supporting his command by his hand, fell to slashing them
with the flat of his bloody sabre.

Kosma and Damian sprang quickly aside.

"Cannot we take them, your grace?" asked the old man, submissively.

"Stand back!" cried Kmita. "Find the starosta for me."

Kosma and Damian rushed to the search in a moment, and behind them
their father; in a quarter of an hour they came bringing Jendzian, who,
when he saw Kmita, bowed low and said,--

"With the permission of your grace, I will say that wrong is done me
here, for I did not attack any man, and to visit acquaintances, as I am
going to do, is free to all."

Kmita, resting on his sabre, breathed heavily and was silent; Jendzian
continued,--

"I did no harm here either to the Swedes or the prince hetman. I was
only going to Pan Volodyovski, my old acquaintance; we campaigned
together in Russia. Why should I seek a quarrel? I have not been in
Kyedani, and what took place there is nothing to me. I am trying to
carry off a sound skin; and what God has given me should not be lost,
for I did not steal it, but earned it in the sweat of my brow. I have
nothing to do with this whole question! Let me go free, your great
mightiness--"

Kmita breathed heavily, looking absently at Jendzian all the time.

"I beg humbly, your great mightiness," began the starosta again. "Your
great mightiness saw that I did not know those people, and was not a
friend of theirs. They fell upon your grace, and now they have their
pay; but why should I be made to suffer? Why should my property be
lost? How am I to blame? If it cannot be otherwise, I will pay a ransom
to the soldiers of your great mightiness, though there is not much
remaining to me, poor man. I will give them a thaler apiece, so that
their labor be not lost,--I will give them two; and your great
mightiness will receive from me also--"

"Cover the wagons!" cried Kmita, suddenly. "But do you take the wounded
men and go to the devil!"

"I thank your grace humbly," said the lord tenant of Vansosh.

Then old Kyemlich approached, pushing out his underlip with the
remnants of his teeth, and groaning,--

"Your grace, that is ours. Mirror of justice, that is ours."

But Kmita gave him such a look that the old man cowered, and dared not
utter another word.

Jendzian's people rushed, with what breath they had, to put the horses
to the wagons. Kmita turned again to the lord starosta,--

"Take all the wounded and killed, carry them to Pan Volodyovski, and
tell him from me that I am not his enemy, but may be a better friend
than he thinks. I wish to avoid him, for it is not yet time for us to
meet. Perhaps that time will come later; but to-day he would neither
believe me, nor have I that wherewith to convince him,--perhaps
later--Do you understand? Tell him that those people fell upon me and I
had to defend myself."

"In truth it was so," responded Jendzian.

"Wait; tell Pan Volodyovski, besides, to keep the troops together, for
Radzivill, the moment he receives cavalry from Pontus de la Gardie,
will move on them. Perhaps now he is on the road. Yanush and Boguslav
Radzivill are intriguing with the Elector of Brandenburg, and it is
dangerous to be near the boundary. But above all, let them keep
together, or they will perish for nothing. The voevoda of Vityebsk
wishes to come to Podlyasye; let them go to meet him, so as to give aid
in case of obstruction."

"I will tell everything, as if I were paid for it."

"Though Kmita says this, though Kmita gives warning, let them believe
him, take counsel with other colonels, and consider that they will be
stronger together. I repeat that the hetman is already on the road, and
I am not an enemy of Pan Volodyovski."

"If I had some sign from your grace, that would be still better," said
Jendzian.

"What good is a sign?"

"Pan Volodyovski would straightway have greater belief in your grace's
sincerity; would think, 'There must be something in what he says if he
has sent a sign.'"

"Then here is the ring; though there is no lack of signs of me on the
heads of those men whom you are taking to Pan Volodyovski."

Kmita drew the ring from his finger. Jendzian on his part took it
hastily, and said,--

"I thank your grace humbly."

An hour later, Jendzian with his wagons and his people, a little shaken
up however, rode forward quietly toward Shchuchyn, taking three killed
and the rest wounded, among whom were Yuzva Butrym, with a cut face and
a broken head. As he rode along Jendzian looked at the ring, in which
the stone glittered wonderfully in the moonlight, and he thought of
that strange and terrible man, who having caused so much harm to the
confederates and so much good to the Swedes and Radzivill, still wished
apparently to save the confederates from final ruin.

"For he gives sincere advice," said Jendzian to himself. "It is always
better to hold together. But why does he forewarn? Is it from love of
Volodyovski, because the latter gave him his life in Billeviche? It
must be from love! Yes, but that love may come out with evil result for
the hetman. Kmita is a strange man; he serves Radzivill, wishes well to
our people, and is going to the Swedes; I do not understand this."
After a while he added: "He is a bountiful lord; but it is evil to come
in his way."

As earnestly and vainly as Jendzian, did old Kyemlich rack his brain in
effort to find an answer to the query, "Whom does Pan Kmita serve?"

"He is going to the king, and kills the confederates, who are fighting
specially on the king's side. What is this? And he does not trust the
Swedes, for he hides from them. What will happen to us?"

Not being able to arrive at any conclusion, he turned in rage to his
sons: "Rascals! You will perish without blessing! And you could not
even pull away a little from the slain?"

"We were afraid!" answered Kosma and Damian.

Soroka alone was satisfied, and he clattered joyously after his
colonel.

"Evil fate has missed us," thought he, "for we killed those fellows.
I'm curious to know whom we shall kill next time."

And it was all one to him, as was also this,--whither he was faring.

No one dared approach Kmita or ask him anything, for the young colonel
was as gloomy as night. He grieved terribly that he had to kill those
men, at the side of whom he would have been glad to stand as quickly as
possible in the ranks. But if he had yielded and let himself be taken
to Volodyovski, what would Volodyovski have thought on learning that he
was seized making his way in disguise to the Swedes, and with passes to
the Swedish commandants?

"My old sins are pursuing and following me," said Kmita to himself. "I
will flee to the farthest place; and guide me, O God!"

He began to pray earnestly and to appease his conscience, which
repeated, "Again corpses against thee, and not corpses of Swedes."

"O God, be merciful!" answered Kmita. "I am going to my king; there my
service will begin."



                             CHAPTER XXXII.


Jendzian had no intention of passing a night at "The Mandrake," for
from Vansosh to Shchuchyn was not far,--he wanted merely to give rest
to his horses, especially to those drawing the loaded wagons.
Therefore, when Kmita let him travel farther, Jendzian lost no time,
and entered Shchuchyn late in the evening. Having announced himself to
the sentries, he took his place on the square; for the houses were
occupied by soldiers, who even then were not all able to find lodgings.
Shchuchyn passed for a town, but was not one in reality; for it had not
yet even walls, a town hall, courts of justice, or the college of
monks, founded in the time of King Yan III. It had a few houses, but a
greater number of cabins than houses, and was called a town, because it
was built in a quadrangular form with a market-place in the centre,
slightly less swampy than the pond at which the paltry little place was
situated.

Jendzian slept under his warm wolfskin till morning, and then went
straight to Pan Volodyovski, who, as he had not seen him for an age,
received him with gladness and took him at once to Pan Yan and Zagloba.
Jendzian shed tears at sight of his former master, whom he had served
faithfully so many years; and with whom he had passed through so many
adventures and worked himself finally to fortune. Without shame of his
former service, Jendzian began to kiss the hands of Pan Yan and repeat
with emotion,--

"My master, my master, in what times do we meet again!"

Then all began in a chorus to complain of the times; at last Zagloba
said,--

"But you, Jendzian, are always in the bosom of fortune, and as I see
have come out a lord. Did I not prophesy that if you were not hanged
you would have fortune? What is going on with you now?"

"My master, why hang me, when I have done nothing against God, nothing
against the law? I have served faithfully; and if I have betrayed any
man, he was an enemy,--which I consider a special service. And if I
destroyed a scoundrel here and there by stratagem, as some one of the
rebels, or that witch,--do you remember, my master?--that is not a sin;
but even if it were a sin, it is my master's, not mine, for it was from
you that I learned stratagems."

"Oh, that cannot be! See what he wants!" said Zagloba. "If you wish me
to howl for your sins after death, give me their fruit during life. You
are using alone all that wealth which you gained with the Cossacks, and
alone you will be turned to roast bacon in hell."

"God is merciful, my master, though it is untrue that I use wealth for
myself alone; for first I beggared our wicked neighbors with lawsuits,
and took care of my parents, who are living now quietly in Jendziane,
without any disputes,--for the Yavorskis have gone off with packs to
beg, and I, at a distance, am earning my living as I can."

"Then you are not living in Jendziane?" asked Pan Yan.

"In Jendziane my parents live as of old, but I am living in Vansosh,
and I cannot complain, for God has blessed me. But when I heard that
all you gentlemen were in Shchuchyn, I could not sit still, for I
thought to myself, 'Surely it is time to move again!' There is going to
be war, let it come!"

"Own up," said Zagloba, "the Swedes frightened you out of Vansosh?"

"There are no Swedes yet in Vidzka, though small parties appear, and
cautiously, for the peasants are terribly hostile."

"That is good news for me," said Volodyovski, "for yesterday I sent a
party purposely to get an informant concerning the Swedes, for I did
not know whether it was possible to stay in Shchuchyn with safety;
surely that party conducted you hither?"

"That party? Me? I have conducted it, or rather I have brought it, for
there is not even one man of that party who can sit on a horse alone."

"What do you say? What has happened?" inquired Volodyovski.

"They are terribly beaten!" explained Jendzian.

"Who beat them?"

"Pan Kmita."

The Skshetuskis and Zagloba sprang up from the benches, one
interrupting the other in questioning,--

"Pan Kmita? But what was he doing here? Has the prince himself come
already? Well! Tell right away what has happened."

Pan Volodyovski rushed out of the room to see with his eyes, to verify
the extent of the misfortune, and to look at the men; therefore
Jendzian said,--

"Why should I tell? Better wait till Pan Volodyovski comes back; for it
is more his affair, and it is a pity to move the mouth twice to repeat
the same story."

"Did you see Kmita with your own eyes?" asked Zagloba.

"As I see you, my master!"

"And spoke with him?"

"Why should I not speak with him, when we met at 'The Mandrake' not far
from here? I was resting my horses, and he had stopped for the night.
An hour would have been short for our talk. I complained of the Swedes,
and he complained also of the Swedes--"

"Of the Swedes? He complained also?" asked Pan Yan.

"As of devils, though he was going among them."

"Had he many troops?"

"He had no troops, only a few attendants; true, they were armed, and
had such snouts that even those men who slaughtered the Holy Innocents
at Herod's command had not rougher or viler. He gave himself out as a
small noble in pigskin boots, and said that he went with horses to the
fairs. But though he had a number of horses, his story did not seem
clear to me, for neither his person nor his bearing belonged to a
horse-dealer, and I saw a fine ring on his finger,--this one." Here
Jendzian held a glittering stone before the listeners.

Zagloba struck himself on the side and cried: "Ah, you gypsied that out
of him! By that alone might I know you, Jendzian, at the end of the
world!"

"With permission of my master, I did not gypsy it; for I am a noble,
not a gypsy, and feel myself the equal of any man, though I live on
rented lands till I settle on my own. This ring Pan Kmita gave as a
token that what he said was true; and very soon I will repeat his words
faithfully to your graces, for it seems to me that in this case our
skins are in question."

"How is that?" asked Zagloba.

At this moment Volodyovski came in, roused to the utmost, and pale from
anger; he threw his cap on the table and cried,--

"It passes imagination! Three men killed; Yuzva Butrym cut up, barely
breathing!"

"Yuzva Butrym? He is a man with the strength of a bear!" said the
astonished Zagloba.

"Before my eyes Pan Kmita stretched him out," put in Jendzian.

"I've had enough of that Kmita!" cried Volodyovski, beside himself;
"wherever that man shows himself he leaves corpses behind, like the
plague. Enough of this! Balance for balance, life for life; but now a
new reckoning! He has killed my men, fallen upon good soldiers; that
will be set to his account before our next meeting."

"He did not attack them, but they him; for he hid himself in the
darkest corner, so they should not recognize him," explained Jendzian.

"And you, instead of giving aid to my men, testify in his favor!" said
Volodyovski, in anger.

"I speak according to justice. As to aid, my men tried to give aid; but
it was hard for them, for in the tumult they did not know whom to beat
and whom to spare, and therefore they suffered. That I came away with
my life and my sacks is due to the sense of Pan Kmita alone, for hear
how it happened."

Jendzian began a detailed account of the battle in "The Mandrake,"
omitting nothing; and when at length he told what Kmita had commanded
him to tell, they were all wonder fully astonished.

"Did he say that himself?" asked Zagloba.

"He himself," replied Jendzian. "'I,' said he, 'am not an enemy to Pan
Volodyovski or the confederates, though they think differently. Later
this will appear; but meanwhile let them come together, in God's name,
or the voevoda of Vilna will take them one by one like lobsters from a
net.'"

"And did he say that the voevoda was already on the march?" asked Tan
Yan.

"He said that the voevoda was only waiting for Swedish reinforcements,
and that he would move at once on Podlyasye."

"What do you think of all this, gentlemen?" asked Volodyovski, looking
at his comrades.

"Either that man is betraying Radzivill, or he is preparing some ambush
for us. But of what kind? He advises us to keep in a body. What harm to
us may rise out of that?"

"To perish of hunger," answered Volodyovski. "I have just received news
that Jyromski, Kotovski, and Lipnitski must dispose their cavalry in
parties of some tens each over the whole province, for they cannot get
forage together."

"But if Radzivill really does come," asked Pan Stanislav, "who can
oppose him?"

No one could answer that question, for really it was as clear as the
sun that if the grand hetman of Lithuania should come and find the
confederates scattered, he could destroy them with the greatest ease.

"An astonishing thing!" repeated Zagloba; and after a moment's silence
he continued: "Still I should think that he had abandoned Radzivill.
But in such a case he would not be slipping past in disguise, and to
whom,--to the Swedes." Here he turned to Jendzian: "Did he tell you
that he was going to Warsaw?"

"He did."

"But the Swedish forces are there already."

"About this hour he must have met the Swedes, if he travelled all
night," answered Jendzian.

"Have you ever seen such a man?" asked Zagloba, looking at his
comrades.

"That there is in him evil with good, as tares with wheat, is certain,"
said Pan Yan; "but that there is any treason in this counsel that he
gives us at present, I simply deny. I do not know whither he is going,
why he is slipping past in disguise; and it would be idle to break my
head over this, for it is some mystery. But he gives good advice, warns
us sincerely: I will swear to that, as well as to this,--that the only
salvation for us is to listen to his advice. Who knows if we are not
indebted to him again, for safety and life?"

"For God's sake," cried Volodyovski, "how is Radzivill to come here
when Zolotarenko's men and Hovanski's infantry are in his way? It is
different in our case! One squadron may slip through, and even with one
we had to open a way through Pilvishki with sabres. It is another thing
with Kmita, who is slipping by with a few men; but when the prince
hetman passes with a whole army? Either he will destroy those first--"

Volodyovski had not finished speaking when the door opened and an
attendant came in.

"A messenger with a letter to the Colonel," said he.

"Bring it."

The attendant went out and returned in a moment with the letter. Pan
Michael broke the seal quickly and read,--


That which I did not finish telling the tenant of Vansosh yesterday, I
add to-day in writing. The hetman of himself has troops enough against
you, but he is waiting for Swedish reinforcements, so as to go with the
authority of the King of Sweden; for then if the Northerners[26] attack
him they will have to strike the Swedes too, and that would mean war
with the King of Sweden. They will not venture to make war without
orders, for they fear the Swedes, and will not take on themselves the
responsibility of beginning a war. They have discovered that it is
Radzivill's purpose to put the Swedes forward against them everywhere;
let them shoot or cut down even one man, there would be war at once.
The Northerners themselves know not what to do now, for Lithuania is
given up to the Swedes; they stay therefore in one place, only waiting
for what will be, and warring no further. For these reasons they do not
restrain Radzivill, nor oppose him. He will go directly against you,
and will destroy you one after the other, unless you collect in one
body. For God's sake, do this, and beg the voevoda of Vityebsk to come
quickly, since it is easier for him to reach you now through the
Northerners while they stand as if stupefied. I wanted to warn you
under another name, so that you might more easily believe, but because
tidings are given you already from another, I write my own name. It is
destruction if you do not believe. I am not now what I was, and God
grant that you will hear something altogether different about me.

                                                Kmita.


"You wished to know how Radzivill would come to us; here is your
answer!" said Pan Yan.

"That is true, he gives good reasons," answered Volodyovski.

"What good reasons! holy reasons!" cried Zagloba. "There can be no
doubt here. I was the first to know that man; and though there are no
curses that have not been showered on his head, I tell you we shall
bless him yet. With me it is enough to look at a man to know his value.
You remember how he dropped into my heart at Kyedani? He loves us, too,
as knightly people. When he heard my name the first time, he came near
suffocating me with admiration, and for my sake saved you all."

"You have not changed," remarked Jendzian; "why should Pan Kmita admire
you more than my master or Pan Volodyovski?"

"You are a fool!" answered Zagloba. "He knew you at once; and if he
called you the tenant, and not the fool of Vansosh, it was through
politeness."

"Then maybe he admired you through politeness!" retorted Jendzian.

"See how the bread swells; get married, lord tenant, and surely you
will swell better--I guarantee that."

"That is all well," said Volodyovski; "but if he is so friendly, why
did he not come to us himself instead of slipping around us like a wolf
and biting our men?"

"Not your head, Pan Michael. What we counsel do you carry out, and no
evil will come of it. If your wit were as good as your sabre, you would
be grand hetman already, in place of Revera Pototski. And why should
Kmita come here? Is it not because you would not believe him, just as
you do not now believe his letter, from which it might come to great
trouble, for he is a stubborn cavalier. But suppose that you did
believe him, what would the other colonels do, such as Kotovski,
Jyromski, or Lipnitski? What would your Lauda men say? Would not they
cut him down the moment you turned your head away?"

"Father is right!" said Pan Yan; "he could not come here."

"Then why was he going to the Swedes?" insisted the stubborn Pan
Michael.

"The devil knows, whether he is going to the Swedes; the devil knows
what may flash into Kmita's wild noddle. That is nothing to us, but let
us take advantage of the warning, if we wish to carry away our heads."

"There is nothing to meditate on he