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fixed on a window in an upper story of the He came directly, striding into the smithy house, when a coarse voice, speaking a Polish with an air that made all else seem small, that was just understandable, recalled him. even the huge Adam. He was less tall, to be
“My good fellow, I have two horses to be sure, but his features were finely chiseled, shod."
with a small muscle behind each line, suggesAdam turned about. The speaker was as tive of terrific strength. He also wore the tall as himself, but thin and lean. He wore high boots, red trousers, and round, high high black boots, with shining spurs behind, turban; but instead of the leather jerkin, was trousers of rich red tucked into them at the a tight-fitting jacket of red, with much blue knees, and a close-fitting leather jerkin, open braid and gold ornament. at the neck to make room for a yellow scarf. "Are the horses ready?" he shot at the On his head was a round, turbanlike cap attendant. with a band of fur.
"They are, sir. The smith asks two zwota.” "Bring in the first and halter the other at He tossed them on the anvil. The gold of the ring in the tree," directed the apprentice. them rung like bronze new cast for a bell. “Whence come you?”
“One for good measure. Buy yourself a "From Lublin," answered the other, wife," he snapped, tossing a third piece down. shortly, as he led in a small black horse that Adam flushed red beneath the black on his was more pony than horse. As he leashed cheeks. Deliberately he took out his purse, the other to a ring in a tree outside the door, dropped two of the pieces of money in it, but Adam examined the hoofs.
left the third lying on the anvil. “H-m,” he soliloquized, “Lublin, hey? Lub The master's cheeks did not flush at this. lin? That's a rather smart outfit for Lublin. Instead, they grew a bit paler. He was Whoa, little one!” he admonished the pony; about to speak, when the door on the farther “whoa, baby! And I suppose you came from side of the smithy swung back, and a young Lublin too." Then a little louder: “Those Polish woman of about the same age as Adam hoofs have seen but little of shoes. Don't stood momentarily on the threshold. She like them, eh? You like soft Russian fields was dressed in white, with a half-crown of better than hard Polish streets, don't you?” lilies worked into her yellow hair.
It was a “What 's that?" demanded the owner of picture of loveliness that fairly took away the horse, putting his head inside the door. the breath of the two visitors—the black,
“Talking to the horse," replied Adam. dirty smithy, with its gloomy walls and sooty
The stranger looked at him searchingly, forge, was the huge jet frame in which stood but Adam paid no attention, only worked this figure of beautiful Polish womanhood. away more vigorously. In an hour the “Adam,” she said, “Adam”; and then her horse was shod, and the black animal ex eyes, accustoming themselves to the dim changed for the white one at the hitching- light, fell upon the strangers, whose attentree. He took to shoeing no better than the tion was fixed upon her. She fushed, then black had done. All the while that this was paled. "Adam," she repeated, her voice going on, the smartly dressed visitor strolled breaking a little, “Father has asked for you." back and forth in the smithy, then up and “What goddess, what queen are you that down the narrow foot-path by the roadside, haunts this dark place?" asked the master, in scrutinizing passers-by, conning the general a soft tone. She did not answer, but stepped lay-out of the town, then back to the smithy, involuntarily toward Adam, as the visitor where, from a corner near the street, he set moved between her and the door. himself to watch Adam's every movement. “Do you not know who I am?” he asked. Adam was aware of this, and watched him in She was still silent, and Adam's wits had return, with that trick of the eyes known not had time to work in face of this brazen best in the East, whereby vision is divided insolence. and wherein, while the observer is working "You please me wonderfully," the stranger away at some task, he is really keeping his continued. "In all Poland I have seen none attention upon another object as well.
so beautiful as you. What is your name?" "Two zwota” (pieces of money), said the This jarred Adam into action. “Have workman, letting down the last shod hoof of done, and leave this smithy!” he broke out. the white horse and slapping the little animal A streak of red ran straight across the playfully in the flank, "one for each."
stranger's forehead. "Lout, who are you?" “We must wait for my master," answered he screamed in passion. the stranger. “He will be here shortly.” "I am Adam, a Pole, apprentice to Stanis
laus Bryck, the smith, who lies upon a sickbed in the house there. Free-born am I and slave to none, neither to Pole nor Cossack."
The muscles on the master's face were writhing like snakes. “Marsyak,” he cried, “'fetch your knout and mar this fellow's face for me! Am I-such as I-to be insulted by a cur if I honor a blacksmith's daughter with my attention?”
Marsyak unstrapped a wicked whip from beneath his jerkin. It was a short piece of wood, with several strands of deer-hide attached, and at the end of each strand was a small piece of metal. At this, the young woman retreated behind Adam.
“By the blood of a dog, you Cossacks!” he shouted. “I'll crack open your skulls with one blow of this!" and he swung his great hammer overhead. “Do you think that I fear you, or fear that the law will not be on my side? This is Poland-not Russia, nor the Crimea, nor Turkey. This is the land of freemen, where the kings are chosen by vote, where every king is a Pole, and every Pole a king."
"King!" sneered the Cossack, for such he was, apparently so beside himself that he forgot prudence, "king! What is that? You speak perhaps of Stefan. Know you not that he is no more king than I? That his hands are tied by the quarrels and jealousies of a thousand nobles? I have more power than your boasted captains; I who am yet courted by your king, who carry the papers of his royal favor in my pouch. If we were but on the farther side of the Bug, I would have you well knouted for your insolence.”
Marsyak, taking this to mean that his master did not wish him to carry out his order, gladly thrust the whip back under his jerkin, keeping his eyes the while upon the heavy hammer which Adam still held poised.
The master, too, well knew in his heart that the first blow would bring a thousand town dwellers about. The Cossacks were far from being popular in the border; the inhabitants had suffered too much from them. The sight of one of them, even a noble, punishing a Pole in such a degrading fashion would have caused a small riot.
"Jadwiga,” said Adam, to the young woman, “go back to the house. And please, sir," addressing the Cossack, "I know not your name, kindly step away from that door.” He emphasized his words, gentle enough in tone, with a threatening motion of the hammer. It had the desired effect, for the master drew back, although only far enough to let the shrinking girl through.
The Cossack's wrath had cooled, but Adam, watching him closely, saw a growing hate in the hardening of his flinty eyes. The corners of the mouth were drawn down until the lower portion of the face had a disfigured appearance. Adam shuddered, and for the first time felt fear—not fear of a natural sort, but a fear akin to terror, as when a man gazes suddenly into the face of a hideous beast. But his fingers did not relax their grip upon the handle of the hammer.
To his intense relief, the Cossacks quitted the smithy the moment after, mounting their horses and galloping away. Adam drew the long door shut behind them, hesitated whether to throw the gold piece into the forge or put it in his pocket, finally doing neither, but taking it to the sick-room of Stanislaus, to whom he told the whole story.
“Yes, those are Cossacks,” said the sick man, “and no one knows why our good king has given them such honors."
Adam detailed more of the conversation, but when he came to the description of the Cossack's frown, the invalid in his excitement tried to rise from the bed.
"Now by the lightning!” he said, "there is but one Cossack so marred by nature. He is no other than Boris the Hetman, nicknamed Wrymouth, as merciless and cruel a rider as ever sacked town or trod his horse over his victims. In every plot in the Ukraine these many years he has been center and spirit. Thousands of homes are desolate because of him. He is right arm to the Turk and a very staff to Ivan the Terrible.
“That tall one with him—that must have been his faithful servant. He is Marsyak, a wrestler of much low-country fame, who wrestles in the public places and often breaks the bones of his victims, causing them to die. He maltreats them in the second fall, for he makes a claim to fairness by challenging all comers for the best two out of three bouts. He knows the wrestling tricks of the East; his arms are like mighty-muscled snakes; and though he seems slim and lean, he has the power of two of you.'
Adam looked doubtful.
"Yes, it is true,” Stanislaus went on, “and very fortunate it was that you had your hammers handy."
The sick man sank back, for he had spoken longer than was his wont.
"I called you here, Adam," he began again, "to tell you that my own end is near. I have no son, only Jadwiga. She is fond of you; she has lived a cloistered life without a moth
Stanislaus was a citizen of standing, a man of moderate wealth, able to provide good cheer and entertainment at such a celebration.
But the glory of this event was overshadowed by another, the announcement of
er's care, poor child. I can go to my rest happily if I leave her in your care. Swear to me that you will protect her.” As he turned with pleading eyes to his listener, Adam caught the feeble hands and kissed them.
"I swear," he said, "to you who have been more than father to me, I will do what you ask."
Jadwiga came at his call, pale, knowing all that had been spoken; but she put her hand within the young giant's and looked fearlessly into his honest eyes, for they had been as brother and sister almost as long as she could remember, and she trusted no one nor cared for no one so much as for him.
Adam summoned a notary at the sick man's wish, and the agreement was put into legal form. Lacking but a few formalities to complete the deed, the man of law turned to Adam and said:
"What givest thou?"
"I have nothing to give. Why?” he asked.
"It is required in the law that he who benefits in such a transaction shall give a stated sum. This be an article of inheritance, partnership, and dowry entailed, combined. In the law of Chelm no man can accept dowry save that he bestow his goods upon his wife. What givest thou?"
Stanislaus Bryck smiled at the serious notary, who scarce reached to Adam's shoulder. "He gives this,” he said, holding up a gold zwota, the third coin which Boris Wry. mouth had thrown on the anvil in the smithy. “And by the gods, he buys a wife with it. The Cossack spoke truly, Adam.”
The wedding was set for Monday, three weeks distant, at the preparations for which all Chelm was agog with excitement; for
poimg Polish woman...
stood on the thresholar..
which fell like a bursting meteor into the quiet little community. It was no less than this—the king himself was coming to Chelm. The proclamation began:
"Because of the right of every citizen of the Commonwealth of Poland to see his king, so do I visit those towns and cities in which live my loved subjects."
And more followed, with much Latin and red seals.
Then began great preparations. Streamers and cloths of decoration were taken out from oaken chests and dusted and made ready to deck the houses in the market-place. Dozens of fat geese were boxed close, to add to the final fattening that gives the delicious smack; the most corpulent pigs were sacrificed, so that fresh sausages, and yet not too fresh, should be ready against the arrival of the king and his train. Messengers and heralds ran to and fro. All the veterans of the border wars polished their out-of-date armor and brushed their faded suitings.
News of the king's visit had spread to the country outside, bringing in peasants by the score, days before the royal holiday. They came in with cakes of all descriptions, delicious cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and with women's work, laces, coarse work and fine embroidery, all to sell in the booths. In the week that elapsed before the king's coming, the town had undergone in appearance something of a transformation, from the Lublin road and entrance to the town, where rose a wooden arch bearing such mottos as “Praise God,” and “Welcome,” to the market-place, ready for the final decorations, where there was a platform built in the center, upon which the children were to sing and on which wrestling and other games were to be held.
The throne for the king, on a dais, was not erected until the day of his arrival, for it must needs be of rich furnishings, which inclement weather or, indeed, thieves might injure or spoil. Above the throne was to be a canopy of royal red velvet, and from the entrance of the market to the steps of the throne was to be unrolled a blue carpet, taken in wars from the Turks, and upon which the king might walk to his place.
A glorious sun shone on the morning of the festival. Two hours after mid-day was the time set for the king's arrival, and he was on time. Riding on a large white horse, followed by a retinue of knights in bright colors and shining armor, he was all and indeed more than the country people had promised themselves. These were the finest and, as it proved, among the last of the men of chivalry's flower; for scarcely forty years later, the conqueror from the North swept through the land with small cannon, firing balls of iron that made nothing of glittering armor. But at this time, Poland's knights were the peer of the best in the world.
When the royal appetite had been fully satisfied at the castle, and that of his men in the town, the visitors and spectators re
turned to the platform in the market-place, now streaming with many pennants, where, amid much applause, the old charter of the town was presented to the king, who kissed it, opened and read it, and then resealed it with his ring, signifying that he was pleased at all that it contained and renewed it during the period of his reign. After this, such of the local nobility and chief citizens as had not been at the dinner were presented.
Among the number was Boris Wrymouth, the Cossack hetman, followed by Marsyak, his servant and skilled wrestler, who rode up at a great gallop on their steaming little horses, wihch they left in charge of some man at the edge of the crowd. Advancing on his knees to the throne, Boris took the king's extended hand and kissed the seal of Poland on the ring. Stefan responded very favorably to him and even gave his hand to the wrestler to kiss. They finally took seats just to the right of the royal canopy, where they could watch the stage and at the same time keep their eyes on the king.
Adam in the meantime had not left the house, but was busying himself with Stanislaus. The old smith had looked eagerly for this day, and he had insisted upon being carried to an upper window of his house, where he could look down on the market-place. He was settled in a position that pleased him, just as Boris was kissing the king's ring.
Starting for the square a second time, Adam had scarcely reached the corner where the court turns into the main street, when a man, staggering and lurching, turned the corner, coming from the opposite direction, raised his eyes, cried out his name, and then fell, breathing heavily, at his feet. Adam raised him in his arms, and as he scrutinized the haggard, bloody face, his own went pale.
"My brother!” he exclaimed. “What has happened to you? Why are you here in such condition and without letting me know?"
As the other was unable to reply, Adam carried him into the house and laid him on his bed, calling to Jadwiga to bring water and cloths. Together they bathed his face and hands and stanched the flow of blood from a cut in the scalp. It had been made several hours before, and in that period much blood had been lost, so that the man-he was slightly older than Adam-was very weak.
But this weakness only lay over a dogged persistency in the heart, that was bound to form itself into words. Feeble as he was, this purpose held him conscious. Adam, although on fire to hear the story, insisted that
the wounded man should remain quiet, but he could not long stem the stream of words that poured forth. At the first sentence, he became as keen as the teller; as the narrative progressed he paced up and down the little room; and when the crucial point of the story was reached, it was all that he could do to keep himself from leaping from the window into the public square.
tified as Cossacks, trooping in and out among the smoke columns, that clearly arose from burning farm-houses. In trepidation, and then in terror, he started forward on the run, and was fortunate enough to fall in with a teamster who was ambling slowly along in a low Russian cart. When Jan was beside him in the seat, however, the horses fairly flew. About two versts out of Chelm the
scaping from The light guard, he stumbled through
The brush and briar.
Jan, the brother, gasped out his story briefly, but very vividly.
Being bound out to a farmer about twenty versts to the south of Chelm, he had decided to come into the town on the holiday and see the king and also his brother Adam. So, starting from his home early in the morning, he followed the main road through a clump of woods and out into the plain. At a point where the highway rose to a considerable elevation, about one quarter of the distance to Chelm, he chanced to look behind him and saw great clouds of smoke rising in the air. This was new to him, for in his day there had been no such sight; but as he looked back, he saw large bodies of horsemen, which he iden
wagon was overtaken by Cossacks, the teamster was killed trying to escape, and Jan, after much beating, was taken prisoner. He feigned unconsciousness, after receiving a heavy blow, and was therefore lightly guarded when the Cossacks made a camp. Then, while lying on the ground as the horsemen prepared their dinner over a fire, he gathered much information concerning the raid and the men involved in it.
In short, it was this: a general movement was on foot among the lieutenants of Ivan the Terrible to terrorize at a blow the entire province of Wolyn and as far on the west side of the Bug River as troops could go. Boris Wrymouth, whom Jan saw through the