Pan Tadeusz/Chapter 11
BOOK XI.—THE YEAR 1812
Memorable year! Happy is he who beheld thee in our land! The folk still call thee the year of harvest, but the soldiers the year of war; old men still love to tell tales of thee and poets still dream of thee. Thou hadst long been heralded by the marvel in the sky and preceded by a vague rumour among the folk; with the coming of the spring sun the hearts of the Lithuanians were seized with a certain strange foreboding, as if the end of the world were approaching—by a certain yearning and joyous expectation.
In the spring, when the cattle were driven forth for the first time, men noticed that, though famished and lean, they did not run to the young corn179 that already made gay the fields, but lay down on the ploughed land, and, drooping their heads, either lowed or chewed the cud of their winter food.
The villagers too, as they ploughed for the spring grain, did not show their wonted joy in the end of the long winter; they did not sing songs, but worked lazily, as though forgetful of the sowing and the harvest. As they harrowed, at every step they checked their oxen and their nags, and gazed anxiously towards the west, as though from this direction some marvel were about to appear. And they regarded anxiously the birds, which were returning home; for already the stork had flown back to its native pine and had spread its white wings, the early standard of spring; and after it the swallows, coming on in noisy regiments, gathered above the waters, and from the frozen earth collected mud for their tiny houses. At evening in the thickets one could hear the calling of the woodcocks as they rose from the earth; and flocks of wild geese honked over the forest and, wearied, settled noisily down to feed; and in the depths of the dark heaven the cranes kept up a continuous clamour. Hearing this, the night watchmen would ask in dread whence came such disorder in the winged kingdom, and what storm had driven forth these birds so early.
And now new swarms, like flocks of finches, plover, and starlings, swarms of bright plumes and pennons shone bright upon the hills and came down into the meadows. It was cavalry! In strange array, and arms never seen before, came regiment after regiment; and straight across the country, like melted snows, the iron-shod ranks flowed along the roads. From the forests emerged black shakos, a row of bayonets glittered, and the infantry, countless as ants, swarmed forth.
All were turned towards the north; you would have said that at that time, coming from the Sunny South180 and following the birds, men too were entering our land, driven on by the force of some instinct that they could not comprehend.
Steeds, men, cannon, eagles flowed on day and night; here and there fires glowed in the sky; the earth trembled, in the distance one could hear the rolling of thunder.—
War! war! There was no corner in the Lithuanian land to which its roar did not reach; amid dark forests, the peasant, whose grandfathers and kinsmen had died without seeing beyond the boundaries of the wood, who understood no other cries in the sky than those of the winds, and none on earth except the roaring of beasts, who had seen no other guests than his fellow-woodsmen, now beheld how a strange glare flamed in the sky—in the forest there was a crash—that was a cannon ball that had wandered from the battlefield and was seeking a path in the wood, tearing up stumps and cutting through boughs. The hoary, bearded bison trembled in his mossy lair and bristled up his long shaggy mane; he half rose, resting on his forelegs, and, shaking his beard, he gazed in amazement at the sparks suddenly glittering amid the brushwood: this was a stray bombshell that twirled and whirled and hissed, and at last broke with a roar like thunder; the bison for the first time in his life was terrified and fled to take refuge in deeper hiding.
"A battle! Where? In what direction?" asked the young men, as they seized their arms; the women raised their hands in prayer to Heaven. All, sure of victory, cried out with tears in their eyes: "God is with Napoleon and Napoleon is with us!"
O spring! Happy is he who beheld thee then in our country! Memorable spring of war, spring of harvest! O spring, happy is he who beheld how thou didst bloom with corn and grass, but glittered with men; how thou wert rich in events and big with hope! I see thee still, fair phantom of my dream! Born in slavery and chained in my swaddling bands, I have had but one such spring in my whole life.
Soplicowo lay close by the highway along which two generals were pressing forward from the Niemen. Our own Prince Joseph and Jerome, King of Westphalia,181 had already occupied Lithuania from Grodno to Slonim, when the King issued orders to give the army three days of repose. But the Polish soldiers, despite their hardships, murmured because the King would not permit them to march on; so eager were they to overtake the Muscovites at the earliest possible moment.
The main staff of the Prince had halted in the town near by, but in Soplicowo was a camp of forty thousand men, and with them Generals Dombrowski,182 Kniaziewicz,183 Malachowski,184 Giedrojc,185 and Grabowski,186 with their staffs.
As it was late when they arrived, each man chose quarters wherever he could, either in the old castle or in the mansion; soon orders had been issued and guards stationed, and each weary man went to his chamber for sleep. As night drew on all became quiet, both camp, mansion, and field; one could see only the patrols wandering about like shadows, and here and there the flickering of the camp fires; one could hear only the watchwords being passed about from post to post in the army.
All slept, the master of the house, the generals, and the soldiers; the eyes of the Seneschal alone were not closed in sweet slumber. For on the morrow the Seneschal had to arrange a banquet by which he would fain make famous the house of the Soplicas for ever and ever; a banquet worthy of guests so dear to Polish hearts, and in keeping with the great solemnity of the day, which was both a church holiday and a family holiday; on the morrow the betrothals of three couples were to take place. Moreover, General Dombrowski had made known that evening that he wished to have a Polish dinner.
Though the hour was late, the Seneschal had gathered cooks from the neighbourhood with all possible speed; there were five of them working under his direction. As head cook he had girt him with a white apron, donned a nightcap, and tucked up his sleeves to the elbows. In one hand he held a fly-flapper, and with it he drove away insects of all sorts, which were settling greedily on the dainties; with the other hand he put on his well-wiped spectacles, took a book from his bosom, unwrapped it, and opened it.
This book was entitled The Perfect Cook.187 Herein were described in detail all the dishes peculiar to the Polish table: with its aid the Count of Tenczyn was wont to give those banquets in the Italian land at which the Holy Father Urban VIII. marvelled;188 by its aid, later on, Karol My-dear-friend Radziwill,189 when he entertained King Stanislaw at Nieswiez, arranged that memorable feast the fame of which still lives throughout Lithuania in popular tales.
What the Seneschal read, understood, and proclaimed, that straightway did the skilful cooks carry out. The work seethed: fifty knives clattered on the tables; scullions black as demons rushed about, some carrying wood, others pails of milk and wine; they poured them into kettles, spiders, and stew-pans, and the steam burst forth. Two scullions sat by the stove and puffed at the bellows; the Seneschal, the more easily to kindle the fire, had given orders to have melted butter poured on the wood—this bit of extravagance is permitted in a well-to-do household. The scullions stuffed bundles of dry brushwood into the fire; others of them placed upon spits immense roasts of beef and venison, and haunches of wild boars and of stags; still others were plucking whole heaps of birds of all sorts— clouds of down flew about, and grouse, heath cocks, and hens were stripped bare. But there were very few hens: since the attack that bloodthirsty Buzzard Dobrzynski had made on the hencoop at the time of the foray, when he had annihilated Zosia's establishment, without leaving a bit for medicine,190 Soplicowo, once famous for its poultry, had not yet managed to blossom out again with new birds. For the rest, there was a great abundance of all the sorts of meats that could be gathered from the house and from the butchers' shops, from the woods and from the neighbours, from near and from far: you would have said that the only thing lacking was bird's milk. The two things that a generous man requires in order to give a feast were united at Soplicowo: plenty and art.
Already the solemn day of the Most Holy Lady of Flowers191 was approaching; the weather was lovely, the hour early; the clear sky was extended about the earth like a calm, hanging, concavo-convex sea. A few stars shone from its depths, like pearls from the sea bottom, seen through waves; on one side a little white cloud, all alone, drifted along and buried its wings in the azure, like the vanishing pinions of a guardian angel, who, detained through the night by the prayers of men, has been belated, and is hastening to return to his fellow-denizens of heaven.
Already the last pearls of the stars had grown dim and been extinguished in the depths of the sky, and the centre of the sky's brow was growing pale; its right temple, reposing on a pillow of shadow, was still swarthy, but its left grew ever rosier; but farther off the horizon line parted like a broad eyelid, and in the centre one could see the white of an eye, one could see the iris and the pupil—now a ray darted forth and circled and shimmered over the rounded heavens, and hung in the white cloud like a golden arrow. At this beam, at this signal of day, a cluster of fires flew forth, crossing one another a thousand times on the sphere of the skies—and the eye of the sun rose up—still somewhat sleepy, it blinked and trembled and shook its gleaming lashes; it glittered with seven tints at once: at first sapphire, it straightway turned blood red like a ruby, and yellow as a topaz; next it sparkled transparent as crystal, then was radiant as a diamond; finally it became the colour of pure flame, like a great moon, or like a twinkling star: thus over the measureless heaven advanced the solitary sun.
To-day from the whole neighbourhood the Lithuanian populace had gathered before sunrise around the chapel, as if to hear some new marvel proclaimed. This gathering was due in part to the piety of the folk and in part to curiosity; for to-day at Soplicowo the generals were to attend service, those famous captains of our legions, whose names the folk knew and honoured as those of patron saints; all whose wanderings, cam-paigns, and battles were the people's gospel throughout Lithuania.
Now some officers and a throng of soldiers arrived. The folk surrounded them and gazed upon them, and they could hardly believe their eyes when they beheld their fellow-countrymen wearing uniforms, and carrying arms—free, and speaking the Polish language!
The mass began. The little sanctuary could not contain the entire throng; the folk kneeled on the grass, gazing at the door of the chapel, and bared their heads. The white or yellow hair of the Lithuanian folk was gilded like a field of ripe grain; here and there a maiden's fair head, decked with fresh flowers or with peacock's feathers, and with ribbons flowing loose from her braided hair, blossomed among the men's heads like a corn-flower or poppy amid the wheat. The kneeling, many-coloured throng covered the plain, and at the sound of the bell, as though at a breath of wind, all heads bent down like ears of corn on a field.
To-day the village girls had brought to the altar of the Virgin Mother the first tribute of spring—fresh sheaves of greenery; everything was decked with nosegays and garlands—the altar, the image, and even the belfry and the galleries. Sometimes a morning zephyr, stirring from the east, would tear down the garlands and throw them upon the brows of the kneeling worshippers, and would spread fragrance abroad as from a priest's censer.
When the mass and the sermon were over in the church, there came forth at the head of the whole gathering the Chamberlain, who had recently been unanimously chosen Marshal of the Confederacy192 by the electoral assembly of the district. He wore the uniform of the wojewodeship, a tunic embroidered with gold, a kontusz of gros-de-Tours with a fringe, and a massive brocade belt, on which hung a sabre with a hilt of lizard skin. At his neck shone a large diamond pin; his cap was white, and on it was a large tuft of costly feathers, the crests of white herons. (Only on festival days is worn so rich an ornament, every little feather of which is worth a ducat.) Thus adorned, he stepped up on a mound before the church; the villagers and soldiers crowded around him: he spoke:—
"Brothers, the priest has proclaimed to you from the pulpit the liberty that the Emperor-King has already restored to the Kingdom, and is now restoring to the Duchy of Lithuania, to all Poland; you have heard the official decrees and the letters convening a General Diet. I have only a few words to say to the company on a matter that pertains to the Soplica family, the lords of this district.
"All the neighbourhood remembers the crime committed here by the deceased Pan Jacek Soplica; but, since you all know of his sins, it is time to proclaim his merits, also, before the world. Here are present the generals of our armies, from whom I have heard all that I tell you. This Jacek did not die at Rome, as was reported, but only changed his former way of life, his calling, and his name; and all his offences against God and his country he has blotted out by his holy life and by great deeds.
"It was he who at Hohenlinden,193 when General Richepanse, half vanquished, was already preparing to retreat, not knowing that Kniaziewicz was on the way to his rescue—it was he, Jacek, called Robak, who amid spears and swords brought to Richepanse from Kniaziewicz letters announcing that our men were attacking the enemy in the rear. Later, in Spain, when our uhlans had taken the fortified ridge of Somosierra,194 he was wounded twice by the side of Kozietulski! Following this, as an emissary, with secret instructions, he traversed various quarters of our land, in order to watch the currents of popular feeling and to found and build up secret societies. Finally, at Soplicowo, in the home of his fathers, while he was paving the way for an insurrection, he perished in a foray. The news of his death arrived in Warsaw just at the moment when His Majesty the Emperor deigned to bestow on him as a reward for his former heroic deeds the knightly badge of the Legion of Honour.
"Therefore, taking into consideration all these matters, I, as representative of the authority of the wojewodeship, proclaim to you with my confederate's staff of office that Jacek by faithful service and by the favour of the Emperor has removed the blot of infamy from his name, and has won back his honour, taking once more his place in the ranks of true patriots. So whoever dares to speak a word at any time to the family of the deceased Jacek of the offence that he long since atoned for, that man will be liable, as a penalty for such a taunt, to gravis notæ macula,195 according to the words of the statutes, which thus punish both militem and skartabell196 if he spread calumny against a citizen of the Commonwealth—and since general equality before the law has now been proclaimed, therefore Article 3 is likewise binding on townsfolk and serfs.197 This decree of the Marshal the Scribe will enter in the acts of the General Confederation, and the Apparitor will proclaim it."
"As for the cross of the Legion of Honour, the fact that it arrived late does not derogate from its glory; if it could not serve Jacek as an adornment, let it serve as a memorial of him: I hang it on his grave. For three days it will hang there, then it will be deposited in the chapel, as a votum for the Virgin."
So saying, he took the badge from its case and hung on the modest cross that marked the grave a red ribbon knotted into a cockade, and a starry white cross with a golden crown; the rays of the star shone in the sunlight like the last gleam of Jacek's earthly glory. Meanwhile the kneeling folk repeated the Angelus, praying for the eternal repose of the sinner; the Judge walked about among the guests and the throng of villagers and invited all to the banquet at Soplicowo.
But on the bench of turf before the house two old men had taken their seats, each holding on his knees a tankard full of mead. They gazed into the garden, where amid the buds of bright-coloured poppy stood an uhlan like a sunflower, wearing a glittering head-dress adorned with gilded metal and with a cock's feather; near him a little maid in a garment green as the lowly rue raised eyes blue as forget-me-nots towards the eyes of the youth. Farther on girls were plucking flowers among the beds, purposely turning away their heads from the lovers, in order not to embarrass their talk together.
But the old men, as they drank their mead and passed from hand to hand a bark snuffbox, continued their chat.
"Yes, yes, my dear Protazy," said Gerwazy the Warden. "Yes, yes, my dear Gerwazy," said Protazy the Apparitor. "Yes, yes indeed," they repeated in unison over and over again, nodding their heads in time to the words; finally the Apparitor spoke:—
"That our lawsuit has a strange conclusion I do not deny; however, there are precedents. I remember lawsuits in which worse outrages were committed than in ours, and yet marriage articles ended the whole trouble: in this way Lopot was reconciled to the Borzdobohaty family, the Krepsztuls with the Kupsces, Putrament with Pikturna, Mackiewicz with the Odynieces, and Turno with the Kwileckis. What am I saying! The Poles used to have worse broils with Lithuania than the Horeszkos with the Soplica family; but when Queen Jadwiga198 took the matter under advisement, then that difficulty too was settled out of court. It is a good thing when the parties have maidens or widows to give in marriage; then a compromise is always ready at hand. The longest suits are ordinarily with the Catholic clergy or with close kindred, for then the cases cannot be concluded by marriage. Hence come the endless quarrels between the Lechites and the Russians, who proceed from Lech and Rus,199 two born brothers; hence also there were so many prolonged lawsuits between the Lithuanians and the Knights of the Cross, until Jagiello finally won. Hence finally that famous lawsuit of the Rymszas and the Dominicans long pendebat on the calendar, until finally Father Dymsza, the syndic of the convent, won the case: whence the 'proverb, the Lord God is greater than Lord Rymsza. And I may add, mead is better than the penknife."
So saying, he drank off a tankard to the health of the Warden.
"True, true!" replied Gerwazy with emotion. "Strange have been the fortunes of our beloved Kingdom and of our Lithuania! They are like a true married pair! God joined them, and the devil divides them; God has his own and the devil has his own! Ah, dear brother Protazy, that our eyes should see this—that these brethren from the Kingdom should visit us once more! I served with them years ago, and remember that bold confederates came from their country! If only my deceased lord the Pantler had lived to see this hour! O Jacek, Jacek!—but why should we lament? Now Lithuania will soon be reunited to the Kingdom, and therewith all is forgiven and forgotten."
"And it is strange," said Protazy, "that in regard to this Zosia, for whose hand our Thaddeus is now suing, a year ago there was an omen, as it were a sign from Heaven."
"Panna Sophia she should be called," interrupted the Warden, "for she is now grown up, and is no longer a little girl; besides that, she comes of the blood of dignitaries; she is the granddaughter of the Pantler."
"Well, it was an omen prophetic of her fate," Protazy concluded; "I beheld the omen with my own eyes. A year ago our servants were sitting here on a holiday, drinking mead, and we saw—whack! there fell from the eaves two sparrows fighting, both old males. One, which was somewhat the younger, had a grey throat, the other a black one; they continued to scuffle about the yard, turning over and over, until they were buried in dust. We gazed at them, and meanwhile the servants whispered to one another that the black one must stand for the Horeszko, and the other for the Soplica. So, whenever the grey one was on top, they would cry, ‘Vivat Soplica; foh, the Horeszko cowards!’ but when it fell, they shouted, ‘Get up, Soplica; don't give in to the magnate—that's shameful for a gentleman!’ So we laughed and waited to see which would beat; but suddenly little Zosia, moved with pity for the birds, ran up and covered those warriors with her tiny hand: they still fought in her hands till the feathers flew, such was the fury of those little scamps. The old wives, looking at Zosia, quietly passed the word about, that it would certainly be that girl's destiny to reconcile two families long at variance. So I see that the old wives' omen has to-day come true. To be sure, at that time they had in mind the Count, and not Thaddeus."
To this the Warden replied: "There are strange things in the world; who can fathom them all! I too will tell you, sir, something which, though not so marvellous as that omen, is nevertheless hard to understand. You know that in old days I should have been glad to drown the Soplica family in a spoonful of water; and yet of this young fellow Thaddeus I was always immensely fond, from his childhood up. I took nonce that whenever he got into a fight with the other lads he always beat them; so, every time that he came to the castle, I kept stirring him up to difficult feats. He succeeded in everything, whether he set out to dislodge the doves from the tower, or to pluck the mistletoe from the oak, or to tear down a crow's nest from the highest pine: he was equal to anything. I thought to myself—that boy was born under a happy star; too bad that he is a Soplica! Who would have guessed that in him I was to greet the owner of the castle, the husband of Panna Sophia, Her Grace my Lady!"
Here they broke off their conversation, but, deep in thought, they continued to drink; one could only hear now and then these brief words, "Yes, yes, Gerwazy"; "Yes, Protazy."
The bench adjoined the kitchen, the windows of which were standing open and pouring forth smoke as from a conflagration; at last between the clouds of smoke, like a white dove, flashed the shining nightcap of the head cook. The Seneschal, putting his head out of the kitchen window, above the heads of the old men, listened in silence to their talk, and finally handed them some biscuits in a saucer, with the remark:—
"Have something to eat with your mead, and I will tell you a curious story of a quarrel that seemed likely to end in a bloody fight, when Rejtan, hunting in the depths of the forests of Naliboki, played a trick on the Prince de Nassau. This trick he nearly atoned for with his own life; I made up the gentlemen's quarrel, as I will tell you."
But the Seneschal's story was interrupted by the cooks, who inquired whom he would have set the table.
The Seneschal withdrew, and the old men, having finished their mead, turned their thoughtful eyes towards the centre of the garden, where that handsome uhlan was talking with the young lady. At that moment the uhlan, taking her hand in his left (his right hung in a sling, so that he was evidently wounded), addressed the lady with these words:—
"Sophia, you positively must tell me this; before we exchange rings, I must be sure of it. What does it matter that last winter you were prepared to give me your promise? I did not accept your promise then, for what did I care for such a forced promise? I had then stayed in Soplicowo but a very short time, and I was not so vain as to flatter myself that by my mere glance I could awaken love in you. I am no braggart; I wished by my own merits to win your regard, even though I might have to wait long for it. Now you are so gracious as to repeat your promise—how have I ever deserved such favour? Perhaps you are taking me, Zosia, not so much from attachment, as because your uncle and aunt are urging you to do so; but marriage, Zosia, is a very serious matter: take counsel of your own heart and do not hearken to any one's authority, either to your uncle's threats or to your aunt's entreaties. If you feel for me nothing but kindness, we may postpone this betrothal for a time; I do not wish to bind your will: let us wait, Zosia. There is no reason for haste, especially since, yesterday evening, I received orders to remain here in Lithuania as instructor in the local regiment, until I am healed of my wounds. Well, my beloved Zosia?"
Raising her head, and looking timidly into his eyes, Zosia replied:—
"I do not now remember perfectly what happened so long ago; I know that everybody told me that I must marry you. I always assent to the will of Heaven and the will of my elders." Then, lowering her eyes, she added: "Before your departure, if you remember, when Father Robak died on that stormy night, I saw that you were dreadfully sorry to leave us. You had tears in your eyes: those tears, I tell you truly, fell deep into my heart; since then I have trusted your word, that you were fond of me. Whenever I have uttered a prayer for your success, I have always had before my eyes the picture of you with those great shining tears. Later the Chamberlain's wife went to Wilno and took me there for the winter; but I longed for Soplicowo and for that little room where you met me for the first time one evening by the table, and where you later bade me farewell. In some strange way the memory of you, like seeds of kale planted in the fall, all through the winter sprouted in my heart, so that, as I tell you, I continually longed for that little room; and something whispered to me that I should find you there again; and so it has happened. While thinking of this, I often had your name on my lips as well—this was at Wilno in the carnival season; the girls said that I was in love. So now, if I love any one, it must surely be you."
Thaddeus, happy at such a proof of affection, took her arm and pressed it to him, and they left the garden for the lady's chamber, for that room that Thaddeus had occupied ten years before.
At this moment the Notary was tarrying there in marvellous array, and proffering his services to his betrothed lady: he bustled about and handed her signet rings, little chains, gallipots and bottles and powders and patches; gay at heart, he gazed in triumph on the young damsel. The young damsel had finished making her toilet, and was sitting before the mirror taking counsel of the Graces; but the maids were still toiling over her, some with curling irons in their hands were freshening the limp ringlets of her tresses, others, on their knees, were working at a flounce.
While the Notary was thus tarrying with his betrothed, a scullion rapped on the window to attract his attention; they had caught sight of a rabbit. The rabbit, stealing out of the willows, had whisked over the meadow and leapt into the garden amid the growing vegetables; there it was seated, and it was an easy matter to fright it from the cabbage patch and to course it, stationing the hounds on the narrow path that it must take. The Assessor ran up, pulling Falcon by the collar; the Notary hurried after him, calling to Bobtail. The Seneschal made them both stand with their dogs near the fence, while he himself with his fly-flapper set out for the garden, and by trampling, whistling, and clapping his hands greatly terrified the poor beast. The huntsmen, each holding his hound by the collar, pointed their fingers to the spot from which the hare was to appear, and made a soft smacking sound with their lips; the hounds pricked up their ears, snuffed the wind with their muzzles and trembled impatiently, like two arrows set on one string. All at once the Seneschal shouted, "At him," and the hare darted from behind the fence into the meadow, the hounds after him; and speedily, without making a single turn, Falcon and Bobtail together fell upon the grey rabbit from opposite sides at the same instant, like the two wings of a bird, and buried their teeth like talons in his back. The rabbit gave one cry, like a newborn babe, pitifully! The huntsmen ran up; it already lay breathless, and the hounds were tearing the white fur beneath its belly.
The huntsmen were patting their dogs, but meanwhile the Seneschal, drawing the hunting-knife that hung at his girdle, cut off the feet and said:—
"To-day each dog shall receive an equal fee, for they have gained equal glory; equal was their fleetness and equal was their toil; worthy is the palace of Pac, and worthy is Pac of the palace;200 worthy are the huntsmen of the hounds, and worthy are the hounds of the huntsmen. Thus is ended your long and furious quarrel; I, whom you appointed your judge and stakeholder, at last give my verdict: you both have triumphed. I return your stakes; let each man keep his own, and do you both sign the treaty."
At the summons of the old man the huntsmen turned beaming faces on each other and joined their long parted right hands. Then the Notary spoke:—
"My stake was a horse with its caparison; I also agreed before the district authorities to deposit my ring as a fee for the judge; a forfeit once pledged cannot be withdrawn. Let the Seneschal accept the ring as a reminder of this incident, and let him have engraved on it either his own name or, if he prefers, the armorial bearings of the Hreczechas; the carnelian is smooth, the gold eleven carats fine. The uhlans have now commandeered my horse for their troop, but the caparison remains in my possession; every expert praises this caparison, that it is strong and comfortable, and pretty as a picture. The saddle is narrow, in the Turko-Cossack style; in front it has a pommel, and in the pommel are set precious stones; the seat is covered with a damask pad. And when you leap into your place, you rest on that soft down as comfortably as in a bed; and when you start to gallop"—here the Notary Bolesta, who, as is well known, was extremely fond of gestures, spread out his legs as though he were leaping on a horse, and then, imitating a gallop, he swayed slowly to and fro—"and when you start to gallop, then light flashes from the housing as though gold were dripping from your charger, for the side bands are thickly set with gold and the broad silver stirrups are gilded; on the straps of the bit and on the bridle glitter buttons of mother of pearl, and from the breastplate hangs a crescent shaped like Leliwa,201 that is, like the new moon. This whole splendid outfit was captured, as rumour reports, in the battle of Podhajce,202 from a certain Turkish noble of very high station. Accept it, Assessor, as a proof of my esteem."
Happy in his gift, the Assessor replied:—
"My stake was the gift that I once received from Prince Sanguszko—my elegant dog-collars, covered with lizard-skin, with rings of gold, and my leash woven of silk, the workmanship of which is as precious as the jewel that glitters upon it. That outfit I wanted to leave as an inheritance for my children; I shall surely have children, for you know that I am to be married to-day. But, my dear Notary, I beg you humbly that you will deign to accept that outfit in exchange for your rich caparison, and as a reminder of the quarrel that was prolonged for so many years and has finally been concluded in a manner honourable to us both.—May harmony flourish between us!"
So they returned home, to proclaim at table that the quarrel between Bobtail and Falcon had been concluded.
There was a report that the Seneschal had raised that rabbit in the house and slyly let it out into the garden, in order to make the huntsmen friends by means of too easy a prey. The old man played his trick so mysteriously that he completely fooled all Soplicowo. A scullion, some years later, whispered a word of this, wishing to embroil once more the Assessor and the Notary; but in vain did he spread abroad reports slanderous to the hounds—the Seneschal denied the story, and nobody believed the scullion.
The guests were already assembled in the great hall of the castle, and were conversing around the table as they awaited the banquet, when the Judge entered in the uniform of a wojewoda, escorting Thaddeus and Sophia. Thaddeus, raising his left hand to his forehead, saluted his superior officers with a military bow. Sophia, lowering her eyes and blushing, greeted the guests with a curtsy (she had been taught by Telimena how to curtsy gracefully). On her head she wore a wreath, as a betrothed maiden; for the rest, her costume was the same that she had worn that morning in the chapel, when she brought in her spring sheaf for the Virgin Mary. She had reaped once more, for the guests, a fresh sheaf of greenery, and with one hand she distributed flowers and grasses from it; with the other she adjusted on her head her glittering sickle. The leaders, kissing her hands, took the posies; Zosia curtsied once more to all in turn, her cheeks glowing.
Then General Kniaziewicz took her by the shoulders, and, imprinting a fatherly kiss on her brow, lifted the girl aloft and set her on the table; all clapped their hands and shouted "Bravo!" being charmed by the girl's figure and bearing, and more particularly by her Lithuanian village attire; since for these famous captains, who in their roving life had wandered so long in foreign lands, there was a marvellous charm in the national costume, which reminded them both of the years of their youth and of their loves of long ago: so almost with tears they gathered around the table and gazed eagerly upon her. Some asked Zosia to raise her head and show her eyes; others begged her to be so kind as to turn around—the bashful girl turned around, but covered her eyes with her hands. Thaddeus looked on gaily and rubbed his hands.
Whether some one had counselled Zosia to make her appearance in such garments, or whether she knew by instinct (for a girl always guesses by instinct what is becoming to her), suffice it to say that this morning for the first time in her life Zosia had been scolded for obstinacy by Telimena, since she had refused to put on fashionable attire: at last by her tears she had prevailed on them to let her remain in this village costume.
She wore a long white underskirt and a short gown of green camlet with a pink border; the bodice was also of green, laced crosswise with pink ribbons from the waist to the neck; under it her bosom took refuge like a bud beneath leaves. On her shoulders shone the full white sleeves of the shirt, like the wings of a butterfly stretched for flight; at the wrist they were gathered and fastened with a ribbon; her throat was also encircled by the close-fitting shirt, the collar of which was fastened with a pink knot. Her earrings were artistically carved out of cherry stones; in their making Buzzard Dobrzynski had taken huge pride; they represented two hearts with dart and flame, and had been a present to Zosia when Buzzard was paying his court to her. About her collar hung two strings of amber beads, and on her temples was a wreath of green rosemary; the ribbons that decked her tresses Zosia had thrown back over her shoulders. On her brow, as is the custom with reapers, she had fastened a curved sickle, freshly polished by cutting grasses, bright as the new moon above the brow of Diana.
All admired and clapped their hands. One of the officers took from his pocket a portfolio containing bundles of papers; he undid them, sharpened his pencil, moistened it with his lips, gazed at Zosia, and began to draw. Hardly had the Judge beheld the papers and pencils, when he recognised the artist, though he had been greatly changed by his colonel's uniform, his rich epaulets, his truly uhlan-like bearing, his blackened mustache, and a small Spanish beard. The Judge recognised the Count: "How are you, Your Excellency? So you keep a travelling painter's kit even in your cartridge box!" In very truth it was the young Count. He was a soldier of no long standing, but since he had a large income and had fitted out a whole troop of cavalry at his own expense, and had borne himself admirably in the very first battle, the Emperor had to-day just appointed him a colonel. So the Judge greeted the Count and congratulated him on his promotion, but the Count paid no attention, and continued to draw diligently.
In the meantime a second betrothed pair had entered. The Assessor, once in the service of the Tsar, had entered that of Napoleon; he had a company of gendarmes under his command, and, although he had been in office hardly twelve hours, he had already donned a dark blue uniform with Polish facings, and dragged behind him a curved sabre, and clinked his spurs. By his side, with dignified steps, walked his belovèd, dressed with great magnificence, Tekla Hreczecha: for the Assessor had long ago abandoned Telimena, and, the more deeply to wound that coquette, he had turned his heart's devotion to the Seneschal's daughter. The bride was not over young, she had perhaps already seen half a century go by; but she was a good housekeeper and a dignified and well-to-do person, for, aside from her ancestral village, her dowry had been increased by a little sum presented to her by the Judge.
For the third pair they waited vainly, a long time. The Judge grew impatient and sent servants; they returned and reported that the third bridegroom, the Notary, when looking for the rabbit, had lost his wedding ring, and was now looking for it in the meadow; meanwhile the Notary's lady was still at her dressing-table, and, though she was herself hurrying and was being aided by the serving women, she had been absolutely unable to finish her toilet: she would scarcely be ready by four o'clock.