Hunting with hounds - A visitor at the castle - The last of the household tells the history of the last of the Horeszkos - A glance into the orchard -The girl in the cucumber patch - Breakfast - Madame Telimena's Petersburg anecdote - A fresh outburst of the dispute regarding Bobtail and Hawk - Father Worm's intervention - The Tribune's speech -The wager - Let's go
Who the years shan't recall when he, as a young lad,
Through the fields, gun on shoulder, strode whistling ahead;
Where no dyke, and no stile, will the huntsman's leg bother,
Stepping over a balk you'll not know it's another's!
For in Litwa a huntsman's a ship out at sea:
Where or how he likes, ranges the boundless space free!
Like a sage, may quiz heaven, and there may espy
In a cloud portents plain to a trained huntsman's eye,
Or may, a sorcerer, talk with the earth, which appears
Deaf to townsfolk but, many-voiced, speaks to his ears.
From a meadow a corncrake screamed, seek him in vain,
He, like pike in the Niemen, skims over the plain;
Overhead, there, the early spring's morning bell pealed:
The skylark, just as deeply in heaven concealed;
Somewhere an eagle rustled its wide-stretching wing,
Scaring sparrows as comets to czars terror bring;
While a hawk, from the azure sky hung, flaps its wing
As a butterfly flutters, transfixed on a pin,
Till a bird or hare sighting in meadow afar,
On its prey swoops and pounces, a grim falling star.
When will God let our wanderings be done at last, and
Let us dwell in house standing on our native land,
In a cavalry serve, which against hares war wages,
Or in foot, which birds only in battle engages;
And, except scythe and sickle, no other steel whet,
And read household account-books in lieu of gazette!
Risen above Soplicowo, the sun shone already
Through the chinks in the thatch of the barn on the bedding
That consisted of freshly-cut, fragrant green hay
Upon which the young sleepers in snug comfort lay,
And on which streamed and flickered bright golden bars that
Stole through holes in black thatching like braids from a plait.
And the sun's rays the sleepers' lips teased from above
Like a girl with a wheat-stalk awaking her love.
Now sparrows hopped and chirped in the thatch on the byre;
Now thrice the gander cackled, and echoed the choir
Of the ducks and the turkeys; then this chorus yields
To the bellow of cattle that move to the fields.
The young men rose: Tadeusz still sleeps out of sight
For the last to doze off: from the supper last night
He returned so perturbed that not by first cock-crow
Had his eyes closed in sleep; and, in bedding of straw
He so thrashed about, that he sank quite out of view
In deep sleep: when a cold wind into his eyes blew
As the barn's squeaking door with much noise opened wide,
And the Bernardine, strap in his hand, loudly cried,
"Surge, puer!" and over the youth's shoulders swung
The thonged strap from which knots, like small cucumbers, hung.
Already in the yard one can hunting cries hear;
Men are leading out horses, some britskas appear,
The courtyard scarcely can such a multitude bound;
The kennels have been opened, the bugles resound;
The pack, rushing out madly, with joy yelps and skitters
When they see huntsmen's steeds and the leashes of beaters;
The dogs, wildly cavorting, about the yard race
Then run up and necks gladly in their collars place:
All this augurs good hunting and puts all in heart;
Till the Chamberlain, at last, gives the order to start.
First the huntsmen moved forward at quite a slow pace,
One by one, but more quickly once outside the place;
In the middle Assessor and Notary rode;
Though their mutual malice their looks sometimes showed,
Talked politely as would men of honour and mettle,
On their way now their mortal contention to settle;
None can their deadly rancour deduce from their talk;
The Notary led Bobtail, Assessor led Hawk,
Last, the ladies in britskas, young men close beside
By the carriage wheels, chatting with them as they ride.
Father Worm paced the courtyard with slow measured step,
While his matins completing, but frequently kept
His eyes fixed on Tadeusz; first frowned, and then smiled,
At last beckoned him over. Tadeusz complied.
The priest threatened Tadeusz with finger on nose;
But though Tadeusz tried to persuade him that those
His vague gestures he should more precisely explain,
The Bernardine nor answered, nor look at him deigned.
He but pulled down his cowl, and his prayers recited;
So Tadeusz rode off, with the guests soon united.
Just then the leashmen halted, dogs checked in their course;
Each rider, like a statue, stock-still on his horse;
Each his neighbour bade silence by gesture alone,
And all eyes were directed towards a large stone
Upon which stood the Judge: he had sighted the beast;
Gave commands, with the motions of both hands expressed,
To stand still; they obey; and across the glebe's centre,
The Assessor and Notary carefully canter.
Tadeusz, being closer, had both of them passed,
And had stopped near the Judge; his eyes everywhere cast,
Inexperienced, in vain searched the vast grey expanse,
But the hare hard to spot, so concealed among stones.
The Judge then pointed to him: there sat the poor hare,
Flattening under a boulder, his ears in the air,
His eye crimson, unblinking, the huntsmen's gaze met
And, as if spellbound, dumbly awaiting his fate,
His eyes could not avert in his panic, and shock,
And beneath the rock sat he, as dead as a rock.
Meanwhile, the distant dust-cloud in plough-land draws near,
Bobtail runs on his leash, with fleet Hawk at his rear,
Now "Catch, catch!" screamed Assessor and Notary out loud,
And the dogs and men vanished in swirling dust-cloud!
While the hare in this manner was being pursued
The Count came in view, skirting the old castle's wood.
The whole neighbourhood knew that this lordling could not
Turn up anywhere, ever, at right time or spot,
And today he'd slept through, so at servants he ranted.
Seeing in the field huntsmen, towards them he cantered;
And his English-cut frockcoat, fine, pure white, and long,
With the wind he let flutter. Behind rode a throng,
Wearing head-gear like mushrooms, small, black, shiny-bright,
In short jackets, tight boots, and in pantaloons white;
The servants whom the Count had in this manner dressed,
In his palace were always as 'jockeys' addressed.
This troop rode at a gallop out onto the plain,
When the Count saw the Castle and pulled at the rein:
He'd not seen it at dawn, and now could not conceive
That these walls were the same walls, so much was achieved
By dawn, so much the contours enhanced by its light;
The Count could not but marvel at this wondrous sight.
The tower now appeared doubled: its top overhung
Morning mists; its tin roof blazed like gold in the sun;
Below shone a vast draughtsboard of glass panes, some whole,
Breaking up the sun's rays in a bright aureole;
Lower stories submerged in a hazy dust cover,
Which the dilapidations, and gaps, shrouded over.
The shouts distant of huntsmen, by wind here deflected,
Once, again, from the castle's stone walls were reflected:
You would swear the shouts came from the castle, again
Behind mist's veil restored, and once more filled with men.
The Count favoured views novel, unusual; said
Such prospects were romantic; would say that his head
Was romantic, while really was not quite all there.
Often, while he was hunting a fox or a hare,
He would suddenly, sadly, head backward incline,
Like a cat spying sparrows upon a tall pine;
Often, sans dog, sans weapon, he through the woods wandered
Like an escaped recruit; by a brook he would ponder,
Head bowed, motionless, watching the water stream by,
Like a crane keen to swallow all fish with its eye.
Such were the Count's strange habits and practices queer:
People said there was something quite missing up here.
Yet was honoured for family, most ancient and grand,
Wealthy, decent to peasants, to neighbours fair, and
The Count's stallion, once turned off the road,
Trotted straight through the field to the ancient abode.
The Count, solitary, sighed, and glanced at the walls: fetched
Out some paper and pencil, commencing a sketch.
Then, at some twenty paces, he saw such a second
Connoisseur of fine views whom this vista, too, beckoned,
Head thrown back, hands in pockets, and also alone,
You would think that his eyes tried to count every stone.
The Count knew him straightway, but called out more than once
Before would old Gerwazy come out of his trance.
Of the gentry, in service to masters once reigning,
Now the last of Horeszkos' old household remaining,
A tall grey-haired old man, with a hale, ruddy face
Ploughed by wrinkles and dour, of that humour no trace
For which once he was famed and by gentry was cherished.
Since that battle in which his last master had perished,
Gerwazy changed completely; for years now already
He would never be seen at a fair or a wedding;
Never since have his quips and his humour been heard
And his face to a smile now would never be stirred.
He would wear the Horeszko old livery, faded
Frock-coat with yellow tails, and all heavily braided,
(Braids, now jaundiced, their one-time gilt now long since gone),
With his master's insignia embroidered thereon-
The Half-Goat, for which reason the old fellow would
Be nicknamed the 'Half-Goat' in the whole neighbourhood.
And at times, from a phrase he would always employ,
He instead would be greeted as 'Well-My-dear-boy';
Sometimes 'Notchy': for notches embroidered his pate.
His real name was Rembailo, and no one could state
What his arms were. 'The Warden' he liked to be called-
At the castle indeed, he the post once did hold,
And still from his belt dangling a bunch of keys swung
Knotted to a thick thong with a gilt tassel hung,
Though with nothing to open, long since every door
In the castle had gone. He found two to restore,
Then at his own expense these repaired and installed,
And these doors every day would unfasten and fold.
He in one empty chamber had set up his bed;
Could have lived at the Count's house on charity bread,
But would not; for was home-sick and not well at all,
When he was not inhaling the air of the Hall.
When he saw the Count, pulling the cap off in haste,
He his old master's kin with a sweeping bow graced,
His huge bald pate inclining, which shone from afar
And, by sword-cuts criss-crossed, like a chopping-board, marred;
He his hand passed across it, approached, made a bow
Once again, and said sadly: "My-dear-boy, allow
And forgive me my manners, Sir, if not correct,
Just my habit, Your Honour, not lack of respect:
'My-dear-boy' was Horeszkos' own manner of speaking;
The last Pantler, my master, much favoured this greeting:
Is it true, My-dear-boy, that for pennies, you sealed
Some pact with the Soplicas, your castle will yield?
This I hardly believe, but it's voiced far and wide".
And with eyes on the castle he constantly sighed.
"What so strange?" said the Count, "cost is great, tedium greater;
I would settle this, but that shrewd procrastinator
Has dug in; he foresaw that I'd soon be too bored.
I can stand it no more, and will lay down my sword,
Peace conditions accept, which the courts will police."
"What peace?" shouted Gerwazy, "with Soplicas, peace?
With Soplicas, My-dear-boy?" So saying, he twisted
His lips, as if the very word 'peace' they resisted.
"Peace and that Soplicowo! My-dear-boy, retreat?
Sure, you jest, Sir? The castle, Horeszkos' old seat,
In Soplicas' hands fall? Let your lordship agree
To dismount; let's go in, let your lordship but see;
Sir knows not what he's doing, let Sir but dismount,
Sir must see!"-and the stirrup he held for the Count.
They stepped into the castle; on entering the hall
Said Gerwazy: "Here, masters, surrounded by all,
Oftentimes on their chairs sat at ease after food
To judge peasants' disputes; or else, in a good mood,
Various interesting stories would tell to their guests;
Or, in turn, were amused by their stories and jests,
While the youths in the courtyard themselves entertained
At singlesticks, or Master's fine Turkish steeds trained."
They went in. Spoke Gerwazy: "In this massive chamber
You would not, Sir, as many here paving stones number
As were broached old wine barrels in those good old days:
On their belts, from the cellar, the gentry casks raised,
When here for moot or diet, or observance hearty
Of the master's saint's feast day, or some hunting party.
On this choir-loft musicians at feasts music made,
On the organ, and various old instruments played;
As on Judgement Day, trumpets to toasts would resound,
Thundering there; in due order the toasts passed around:
The first toast to the health of His Majesty raised,
Then the Primate's, and then in our gracious queen's praise,
Then the gentry's and after the whole Commonwealth's;
And, to end, after drinking the five above healths,
They raised: 'To love and friendship!' And toast after toast,
Which, in day-time begun, rang till next dawn almost;
Teams of horses and wagons stood harnessed already
To return to his inn each carouser unsteady".
They passed more rooms. Gerwazy in deep silence stepped,
His gaze here on a ceiling, there on a wall kept,
Recalled memories, sad ones, at other times splendid;
Sometimes, as if intending to say: "all is ended",
He would nod, or sometimes, a sad wave of his hand
To show even the memory was like torture, and
He would chase it away. Then at length they advanced
To the top floor, which had been a mirrored hall once:
Now, of mirrors bereft, stand the frames desolate,
Sashes glassless; a loggia there facing the gate;
Here the old man his head bowed in reverie and pain,
And then covered his face: when revealed once again,
Thereon grief and great sorrow could plainly be seen:
The Count, quite unaware of what all this could mean,
Watched the old man's face, felt too a certain emotion,
Pressed his hand, stood a moment without speech or motion.
The old man broke the still; raised and shook his right fist:
"No truce with the Soplicas, My-boy, can exist
And Horeszko blood. In you Horeszko blood flows:
Through your mother you're Pantler's kin, everyone knows,
And she Castellan's daughter's (the second one's) child
He who was Master's uncle-you thus are allied.
Listen, Sir, to the story of your kith and kin,
Which took place in this very same room you stand in!
"My last master, the Pantler, first gentleman styled
In the shire, of great family, rich, had but one child,
Daughter fair as an angel, of course she was wooed
By the gentry and lordlings, a great multitude.
'Mongst the gentry one fellow, a famed great firebrand
Bully, Jacek Soplica, known throughout the land
As 'Voivode' in jest; true, he pulled weight in the shire,
For he ruled like a general the family entire
Of Soplicas; three hundred sure votes he quite owned;
Though himself he had naught but a small piece of ground,
A sabre, and great whiskers from ear unto ear:
And so, the Pantler welcomed this brave fellow here
Most of all, at the time of the local elections,
Highly valued because of his kin and connections.
"'Whiskers' so grew in pride from the preference he saw
That it came to his head to be Sir's son-in-law;
To the castle, unasked, he would frequently come;
At last, taking root here as if in his own home,
Was about to propose, but they saw through the fool,
And served at the next dinner a bowl of black gruel.
It was whispered the daughter had fancied him rather,
If she did, she had hidden it well from her father.
"These were times of Kosciuszko, the master respected
The Third of May laws, straightway the gentry collected
All prepared to proceed to confederates' aid,
When us Moscow besieged in a sudden night raid;
Hardly time with the mortar to sound the assault,
Lower doors to swing shut and to slam home the bolt.
In the castle but Pantler, Milady, and me,
The head cook, and two kitchen lads (tipsy all three),
The parish priest, a valet, four heyduks, brave fellows,
So to arms, and to windows; a Moscow swarm bellows
"Urrah!" from the gate, and rushed in through the flat,
And with ten guns we answered: 'here's at you! take that!'
All was shrouded with gunsmoke, the staff, without stop,
From the lower floors fired; as did we from the top.
All went on in fine fettle, though in such great fear:
Twenty guns on the floorboards lay; just about here,
When one gun we had emptied another was handed,
The parish priest with zeal to this service attended,
With Milady, and Miss, and the ladies-in-waiting;
We, the three marksmen, kept up a fire unabating;
From the Russians down there a great hail of balls came,
While we peppered them less, but with far better aim.
Three times the moujiks crowded right up to the door;
And three times there were three left face-down on the floor,
So they fled to the storehouse; it now was near dawn;
The Pantler, glad, stepped out on the loggia, alone:
When a Russ, from the storehouse, but dared show his phiz,
He at once pulled the trigger, and never would miss;
Every time a black shako would on the grass fall,
And now rarely would any his nose show at all.
The Pantler, with the enemy confused and afraid,
Thought to make an excursion, and snatched up his blade,
And, calling from the loggia, told each man his role;
To me turned, 'Follow me, my Gerwazy!' he called.
A shot came from the gateway, the Pantler swayed, stuttered;
Went red, paled, tried to speak, and instead with blood sputtered:
I saw him struck; the ball pierced his chest through and through;
The master, swaying, pointed-I saw him, I knew,
Knew the villain Soplica! I saw, knew him well!
By his height and his whiskers! By his gunshot fell
The Pantler! Saw the villain! Showed no sign of shame,
Still the gun aloft brandished, still smoke from it came!
I took aim, stood the ruffian as if petrified!
Once, twice I fired, and both of my shots carried wide,
I missed-my aim by anger, or grief, was misled...
Heard the women scream, looked down-the Master was dead."
Here Gerwazy was silent, his face with tears flooded,
Then concluded: "The Russians now at the doors thudded;
For I stood after Pantler's death senseless, and stared
All around, but of what then went on unaware.
By good fortune, with succour came Parafianowicz,
Mickiewiczes two hundred came from Horbatowicz,
Who are numerous gentry, and brave to a man,
And hate all the Soplicas since history began.
"Thus fell a lord of piety, principle, and power;
One with seats, ribands, batons, abundantly dowered;
Folk's father, gentry's brother; and he did not leave
A son who would swear vengeance upon his fresh grave!
But he had loyal servants; with his blood I smeared
My rapier, under name of the 'Penknife' so feared
(And no doubt, you have heard of my Penknife, dear sir,
Renowned at every diet, or council, or fair).
I swore on the Soplicas' necks this blade to notch,
And pursued them at diets, fairs, forays and such.
Two I butchered in duels, two at a carouse;
One to ashes I burnt in his own timber house,
When on raid with the Rymszas we gave them some hell:
Like a loach he baked in it, and those I can't tell
Whose ears I have cut off. One now only remained
Who to date has a keepsake from me not obtained!
Of that very same 'Whiskers' his own little brother
Who yet lives, and yet boasts of his wealth before others!
His haystacks the Horeszkos' own castle here nudge,
Has respect in the shire, has a rank, is a judge!
And you'd yield him the castle? Let base feet efface
The blood of my old master from floors of this place?
Oh, not while but a penn'orth of spirit, and such
Strength remains to Gerwazy, that his hand can touch
His old Penknife, still hanging today on the wall,
So long will not Soplica hold sway in this hall!"
"Oh indeed!" the Count cried out, his hands raising higher,
"My forebodings were right when these walls I admired!
Though I did not know then that such treasure's here scattered,
So many scenes dramatic, so much subject matter!
When I take from Soplicas these ancestral halls,
I shall make you a marshal upon these old walls:
Your old story, Gerwazy, affected me quite.
Pity, you did not bring me here at dead of night:
In a cloak draped, I would have sat here on the ruins
And have heard your recital of these bloody doings;
More pity, you're so little adept at rendition!
Oft I heard, and have read of, such similar traditions;
In England and in Scotland each castle of lords,
And each German schloss, tales of such murders affords!
Within each noble, puissant, old family, indeed,
There is lore of some bloody or treacherous deed,
After which to the heirs is bequeathed vengeance gory:
For the first time in Poland I hear such a story,
Feel within me Horeszkos' brave blood to be flowing!
To my fame and to family I know what is owing!
Yes! I must tear up all the Soplicas' accords,
Though it should come to pistols, or, maybe, to swords!
Honour bids!" He spoke, gravely traversing the ground,
And Gerwazy walked after in silence profound.
The Count stopped at the gateway, muttering, entranced,
Quickly mounting his horse, at the castle still glanced,
Thus his monologue ending, while yet there he tarried:
"'Tis a pity that this old Soplica's not married!
Nor has he a fair daughter whose charms I'd adore!
I, in love, and yet being forbidden the door,
To the plot complications fresh this would impart.
Here is love-there, revenge! Here is duty-there, heart!"
And thus murmuring, his horse towards the manor he urged:
On the far side, the huntsmen from woods just emerged.
Now the Count loved the hunt, when he saw them ahead,
By him all else forgotten, towards them he sped,
Passing gate, garden, fences; and when turning thence
He looked back, and arrested his horse by a fence;
There was an orchard-
Fruit trees, arranged in neat rows
Shade a generous area; below them there grows
The round cabbage: inclining its hoary bald pate,
It sits, seeming to ponder on legumes' sad fate;
There, its long pods entwined in the carrot's green plaits,
The slender vetch upon it a thousand eyes sets;
Elsewhere Indian corn raises its golden plume swelling;
Here, there, a watermelon suns its obese belly,
Which away from its stem, in a far-ranging quest,
Has among the red beetroot rolled in as a guest.
Beds by mounds interrupted: along each such mound,
Stalks of hemp in stiff ranks seem as guarding the ground:
The cypresses of legumes, calm, simple, and green;
Their leaves and odour serving the beds for a screen
For, athwart their lobed leaves, no snake dares to crawl through,
And their scent caterpillars and insects kills too.
Further on poppies raise up their milky-white stalks
On which butterflies settled, you might think, in flocks
With little wings aflutter in multi-hued show,
And like rainbows, with lustre of precious stones, glow:
Thus they with varied colours the pupil deceive.
Like full moon among stars, mid the flowers and leaves,
The sunflower's enormous face ardently burns,
Which from dawn until sunset he to the sun turns.
Near the fence long mounds, convex, with greenery filled,
Without tree, bush or flower: the cucumber hill.
Growing gloriously, large-leafed and broadly outspread,
Like a rich verdant carpet they covered the bed.
In its middle-a maid moved, in white linen dressed,
To her knees by May greenery concealed and caressed;
Gliding from bed to furrow, seemed not to walk through,
But skim over the leaves, and to bathe in their hue.
A straw hat her head covered, and to it she'd pinned
Two pink ribbons that fluttered about in the wind
As did some scattered ringlets, sun-bright and unwound;
In her hand a small basket, her eyes she cast down,
With her right hand raised somewhat, as if for a catch,
Like a girl in a pond, whose feet little fish touch,
And which she plays at chasing; just so the girl bends
Now and then for the fruit with her basket and hands,
Which her foot found in nudging, or which her eye found.
The Count, by this so lovely sight simply spellbound,
Stood stock still; and then hearing his servants' clip-clop,
Gestured to them to rein in their horses; they stop.
He kept gazing with outstretched long neck, like a great,
Long-beaked crane, which away from its flock, stands in wait,
Poised on one leg, the other foot upraised to keep
A stone in it, to stop it from going to sleep.
The Count came to with rustling on back and on temple:
It was Father Worm lifting in one hand an ample
Thong switch from which hung knotted short cords in great numbers:
"Hands off, you want cucumbers, sir? Have your cucumbers!
Keep thumbs out of this pot, in this bed is no profit
For you, sir, no fruit, nothing for you will come of it."
Then his finger wagged, straightened his cowl up, and went.
The Count still a good moment there motionless spent
Laughing at, also cursing this hindrance a bit;
Turned his eyes to the garden, in vain now, for it
Was abandoned; but in one house window there flashed
Her pink ribbons, white linen frock and the white sash.
One could tell from the beds, though, what path she had taken:
Here and there a green leaf, by her shoe lightly shaken,
Straightened, quivered a while, then was still, like the rings
In calm water, disturbed by a little bird's wings.
And where once she had stood now could only be found
Her cane basket, abandoned, and turned upside-down:
Having lost all its fruit, it hung from the leaves, hollow,
And was still gently rocking upon the green billow.
A brief moment and all was deserted and still;
The Count straining his ear, and still gazing his fill
At the house and yet musing; his men standing close,
Dumb-when from the deserted and still house arose,
First some murmurs, then cheerful commotion and humming,
Like a once empty beehive upon bees' homecoming:
A sign, guests were returning from chasing the hare,
So the staff were now busy, and breakfast prepared.
Indeed, throughout all rooms there was movement and sound,
Dishes, cutlery, bottles, were carried around,
The men, just as they came, in their green outfits dressed,
Wandered with glass and plate from one room to the next,
And ate and drank, or leant on a window reveal
And of flints, hounds and hares talked with usual zeal.
At the table the Judge and the Chamberlain sat;
In a corner girls whispered; no order kept that
At a dinner or supper was held to be due
(In an old-Polish home this was something quite new);
At breakfast the Judge did not, though grudging, reprove
Such chaos, although certes did not quite approve.
They served different refreshments to ladies and men:
Here a whole coffee service on trays was brought in,
Trays enormous, each painted with exquisite flowers,
And upon each a steaming tin coffeepot towers,
And cups of gilded Dresden fine porcelain gleam,
With each cup a small pitcher containing the cream.
Such coffee as in Poland you'll not find elsewhere:
In a good house, in Poland, by old custom there,
Making coffee's the task of one housemaid alone
(As the coffee-maid known), who imports from the town,
The best beans, or from trading barge buys them, and who
Has her own secret ways of preparing the brew,
Which as jet-black as coal is, and as amber limpid:
Is as fragrant as mocca, and as honey viscid.
It's well known that good coffee needs really good cream:
In the country that's easy; the maid, at first beam,
Sets the kettles, proceeds next to visit the dairies
And there gathers the flower of cream; gently carries
In a separate jug, to each cup freshly brought,
So that each one is dressed in a separate coat.
Elder ladies, up earlier, had coffee before;
For themselves they've prepared now a tasty encore,
A concoction from heated, with cream thickened, beer,
In which curds, densely floating, of cream cheese appear.
For men there's a choice of smoked meats on a platter:
There is tongue, savouries, sausage, and half-geese well fattened,
All first-rate, all by secret house recipe cured,
Long in juniper smoke in the chimney matured,
At the end, as the last course, 'Zrazy' were served.
Thuswise was in the Judge's house breakfast observed.
In two rooms have two different societies assembled:
The older folk were gathered around a small table,
To discuss various recent improvements in farming,
Or the latest, and drastic, severe, most alarming,
Czar's ukase; the Chamberlain considered some new
War rumours, and politic conclusions thence drew.
Miss Hreczeha, with cards, and her blue glasses on,
Told the Chamberlain's lady her fortune for fun.
In the next room young people still talked of the chase,
But now with quieter and with less passionate phrase:
For Assessor and Notary, both great talkers once,
Foremost judges of hunting, among the best guns,
Sat across from each other, bad-tempered and hurting;
Both their dogs set correctly, both had been quite certain
Of their hound's coming triumph, when suddenly loomed
A large patch, peasant owned, of ungathered legume;
Ere pounced Bobtail and Hawk, in this bed hopped the brute,
When the Judge, riding up, stopped all further pursuit,
And, though great was their anger, they had to obey.
Both dogs came back, jowls empty, and no man could say
If the beast had been taken-or not; and no talk
Would decide whether run down by Bobtail, or Hawk,
Or by both of them-there are still differing views,
And the issue remains, as before, quite confused.
From one room to another old Tribune proceeded,
Absent-mindedly gazing to both sides, nor heeded
Either huntsmen nor seniors; this was a sure sign
That a subject quite different must weigh on his mind;
He held a leathern fly-swat: would sometimes stand by
In one spot and long ponder-then slaughter a fly.
Tadeusz and the 'auntie' stood face to face in
One doorway, and conducted their talk in the din.
From them was no great distance to other folk's ears
So they quietly whispered: Tadeusz now hears
That Auntie Telimena is well situated,
That, canonically speaking, they are not related
Even closely by blood; and it's not a sure thing
That auntie Telimena is this nephew's kin,
Though Uncle calls her 'sister', it merely appears
Parents called them so, for all the difference in years;
Then she, dwelling so long in the capital city,
Rendered Uncle great service, and he this admitting,
Being in her debt, honoured her and, before others,
Liked, from vanity maybe, the title of 'brother';
Telimena this would not deny an old friend.
All this lightened the heart of Tadeusz no end.
Many other things, too, they declared face to face;
And all this in the blink of an eyelid took place.
To their right, said the Notary off-hand, just to bait
The Assessor: "Did I not but yesterday state
That our chase would not likely succeed well at all,
It is still much too early; the grain still stands tall;
There's so much peasants' legume still on the ground here,
Hence the Count, though invited, chose not to appear.
For the Count is well versed in the lore of the chase,
Often speaks he of hunting: its right time and place.
The Count was raised from childhood among foreign nations,
And says that we are lacking in civilization
To hunt without us giving due consideration
To articles, to by-laws, to state regulations;
Trampling mounds, balks of others without respect owing,
Riding over strange land, with its owner not knowing;
Whether summer or spring to go leaping and vaulting
Through field and forest, killing the fox when it's moulting;
Or allowing a pregnant she-hare in the heath,
Or green rye, to be taken, or hounded, to death,
With great harm to game numbers. The Count thus complains
That more civilization in Russia obtains:
For there hunting is ruled by Czar's laws of the land,
By police watched, and punished if any offend."
Telimena, towards the left chamber turned, and
Her white shoulders with kerchief of white cambric fanned,
Said: "The Count, cross my heart; is not so very wrong,
I know Russia well. You thought my words were too strong,
When I often declared how, in so many ways
Their alert and strict courts are deserving of praise.
I in Petersburg sojourned, not once, and not twice!
Pleasant memories, which with their sweet image entice!
What a town! Have you been there? If not, I can show
You its plan: it is somewhere inside my bureau.
Every summer escape all the Petersburg gentry,
To their villas, or 'dachas' (for 'dacha' means country).
I lived in a palazzo near the river Neva,
Not too close to town, and yet not far from it, either,
On a small knoll, constructed just for my chateau.
A sweet villa! Its plan is inside my bureau.
"But, to my bad luck, moved in near my habitation
Some official low sent on an investigation:
The man kept some dogs; oh, it is worse than it sounds,
To reside near a petty official with hounds!
Whenever, with a book, to my garden I'd go
To enjoy cool of evening, the moon's silver glow,
Straightaway would a dog come, tail wagging, and raising,
And pricking its ears, as if it were going crazy.
I was terrified often. My heart augured ill
From these dogs, some disaster; and so it befell.
For en route to the garden on one certain morning,
At my feet a hound throttled my very own darling
Pekinese! Ach, it was the most simply bewitching,
Gorgeous puppy! A keepsake for me from Prince Bitchin,
Bright and quick like a squirrel, it ran to and fro;
I had her done: her portrait is in my bureau.
From seeing her thus throttled, the dreadful sensation
Gave me trauma and spasms and heart palpitations.
Indeed maybe my health would have suffered much more,
When, by chance, on a visit arrived Kirilo
Gavrilich Kozodusin, the Court Hunting Master:
Seeing my wretched humour, asks of the disaster,
And orders the official dragged in by one ear:
He stands there, pale and trembling, near lifeless from fear.
'How dare you', thunders Kiryl, the little man froze,
'Chase a deer in foal under the Czar's very nose?'
The official, dumbfounded, swore that he had done
Nothing wrong, that his hunting had not yet begun,
That with leave of His Highness, to him would appear
That the unlucky beast seemed a dog, not a deer.
'How so?' screamed Kiryl, 'so, you great rascal would dare
To know better of species and hunting affairs
Than do I, Kozodusin, the Czar's Jaeger-master?
Let our case now be settled by our Police-master!'
So they call the police-chief, bid issue of writ:
'I', Kozodusin stated, 'do hereby submit
That this is a spring doe; it's a house-dog, he says:
So be judge, who knows better the game and the chase!'
The policeman, in duties of office well-grounded,
At the clerk's great effrontery immensely astounded,
Took the scoundrel aside, like a brother admonished
To admit to his guilt, and the sin thus diminish.
The Master, appeased, promised to put in a word
With the Czar, and the sentence reduce by a third:
It ended with the hounds all strung up, so I think,
The official enjoying four weeks in the clink.
This nonsense entertained us a whole evening through,
And all Petersburg next day laughed too when it knew
That the Master appeared in the case of my puppy;
And I'm told it made even the Czar himself happy."
Laughter rose in both chambers-in one the priest played
At 'marriage' with the Judge, whose next lead was a spade;
The priest (the trick was vital) exhaled not, nor stirred.
When the Judge the first words of the anecdote heard,
He became so absorbed, that with head tilted back
Card uplifted, and ready to throw on the stack,
Like a statue sat frozen; the monk turned quite green.
The tale over, the Judge then put down the trump queen
And said, heartily laughing: "Let he who will, praise
German civilisation, and Russian strict ways;
Let our friends in Great Poland be taught by the Krauts
To sue over a fox, and to call in their louts
To arrest any hound, which in hunting trespassed:
In Lithuania, thank God, old customs still last.
Plenty for us, and neighbours, of game of all sorts;
No need here about suchlike to go to the courts;
And of grain we have plenty, of want shall not die
If dogs run through our legumes or trample the rye;
But I allow no hunting across peasant land."
From the left room, the Steward: "This I understand,
For in such a case, sir, you paid dear for such game.
Peasants rubbed their hands when through their legume bed came
The odd hound; let it shake off but ten ears of rye-
You, sir, give him a bushel, and then not deny
One or two thalers extra for misuse of land;
Believe me, sir; the peasants will get out of hand
Unless you...", but the rest of the Steward's review
Was quite lost to the Judge, for as well as the two
Discussions, there began now some ten conversations,
Anecdotes, and accounts, and, at last, altercations.
Our youth and Telimena, forgot by the crowd,
One another remembered. The lady was proud
That her humourous tale so Tadeusz amused;
The young man in turn at her bold compliments loosed.
Telimena spoke ever more low-voiced, and slowly,
And Tadeusz pretended he heard her not wholly
In the babble of voices: so, whispering, he placed
His face near, till he felt the sweet warmth of her face;
Held his breath, with his mouth he would catch all her sighs,
And his eyes hunted every bright ray from her eyes.
When, between their two mouths, unexpectedly shot
First a fly and, soon after, the Tribune's fly-swat.
Litwa has flies aplenty. Among these, there hum
A species quite distinct and called 'gentry' by some,
Which in colour and shape do resemble the others,
But broader, bigger bellied, than their vulgar brothers:
They drone dreadfully, flying, and vilely buzz too,
And so strong, they a spider's web often pierce through,
If caught, one of these will for three days thrash about:
For the spider himself it can wrestle and rout.
This the Tribune researched, and the thesis defended,
That from these 'gentry' lesser fly plebs are descended;
That to flies these as bees are to mother queen bee,
And that when they're extinct, of these pests we'll be free.
True, the housekeeper would not, nor would parish priest,
These daring propositions accept in the least,
And about the fly species held different views;
But the Tribune would keep his habitual use,
And set off in pursuit if he saw one appear.
Just then, did one such 'gentry' fly buzz in his ear;
Twice the Tribune swiped, missed once, then missed once again,
Surprised, third time swished, nearly destroyed a glass pane;
Till the fly, stunned, confused by the din, and in fright,
Seeing two in a doorway impeding her flight,
Plunged between the two faces headlong in despair;
Flashed the Tribune's right arm and had followed her there:
The blow struck with such power, two heads sprang apart
As do halves of an oak tree, split by lightning's dart;
And both heads bumped the recess with such sudden force
That they bore quite a while the marks made by the doors.
By chance, no one paid heed, for the hitherto loud
And well-mannered, though lively, small-talk of the crowd
Ended now with a sudden explosion of sound.
At a hunt, when a fox in the undergrowth's found
One hears baying of hounds, shots and shouts, branches snap,
Then, a beater surprises a boar from its nap,
Gives a signal-from men and from dogs comes a noise
As if trees of the forest had all given voice;
Thus too with conversation: it trots slow before
It meets up with a subject as gross as a boar.
Here for huntsmen the boar was the fierce, beyond bounds,
The Notary and Assessor's war over their hounds.
A short war, but they managed a lot in one moment;
For each fired off so many rude words at his foeman,
They went through the three stages of all duellists:
Taunts, and anger, and challenge-were coming to fists.
So towards this pair all from the other room leapt,
And rolling through the door like a mighty wave swept,
And the young pair they nearly had underfoot trod,
Who had stood there like Janus, the double-faced god.
Tadeusz and the lady could hardly adjust
Their mussed hair, when the threat of hostilities passed;
Murmurs, mingled with laughter, from out the crowd welled;
A truce halted the quarrel; the Almsman it quelled,
A man oldish, but thick-set, and very broad backed:
And just when the Assessor ran up in attack,
As they threatened each other, he each duellist
Grabbed at once by the collar; one man in each fist,
And twice the two tough noggins together cracked, rather
Like two eggs boiled for Easter, the one with the other;
Then, his arms flung apart like a signpost, across
To the room's farthest corners the combatants tossed;
A brief moment with outstretched arms quietly stood
And "Pax, pax, pax vobiscum!" cried, "peace be with you!"
The two sides were surprised, some amused, some were both,
But due to the respect owed a man of the cloth
None dared the monk admonish; and after such sample,
None had the inclination to set an example:
While Father Worm, when once he restored peace unaided,
It was clear, no applause sought, nor triumph paraded,
The quarrellers nor threatened more, nor them upbraided;
Stuck his hands in his belt, cowl adjusted a fraction,
And quietly the room left.
During this transaction
The Judge already had with the Chamberlain taken
Their place between the factions. The Tribune, awakened
As from deep reverie, taking his stand in the middle,
Twirling his grizzled whiskers, with his kontusz fiddled,
Then passed over his audience his fiery glance
And, as a priest his brush waves, whenever he chanced
To hear a whisper, at it his fly swat he waved,
Its shaft raising aloft in a manner most grave;
As with a marshal's baton, strict silence enjoined:
"Be quiet!" he repeated, "and have this in mind,
You, who are foremost huntsmen the whole shire can show,
From this unseemly quarrel, what good? Do you know?
Our young, in whom are vested the hopes of the nation,
Who should enhance our thickets and woods' reputation,
And who, alas, already their hunting neglect,
A new motive may gain for their lack of respect!
To see those, who should set an example to others,
From the day's chase return but with squabbles and bothers.
More, a proper regard for my grey hair is due;
In my time I have greater known huntsmen than you,
And have refereed many a huntsman's dispute.
Who in Litwan woods ever could Rejtan out-shoot
Or draw game, or the beast in a 'face-to-face' meet?
Who with Bialopietrowicz for fame could compete?
Where's another Zegota, who with a hand-gun
Never missing, would skittle a hare on the run?
Terajewicz I knew, who, when stalking wild boar,
Carried only a spear and not one weapon more!
Knew Budrewicz, who'd wrestle a bear quite alone:
Such famed stalwarts our forests have long ago known!
If it came to a dispute, what course did they take?
They would choose arbitrators, and wager a stake.
Once a wolf cost Oginski a wood in a wager,
Niesiolowski two hamlets lost over a badger!
Them, sirs, you as examples to follow should take,
And thus settle your quarrel, though with smaller stake.
Words are wind, there's no end to a wordy affair,
And why dry out your tongues with words over a hare:
So, first, settle between you on an arbitrator,
And, however he judges, abide by it later:
And the Judge will not stop, I this humbly entreat,
The whips chasing the hare, if right over the wheat;
I hope, Sir, you may grant me this boon I request",
And he thus having spoken, the Judge's knees pressed.
"A horse", cried out the Notary, "and harness I stake,
And before the land office shall this undertake
That this ring I will deed as his fee to the judge".
"I shall", said the Assessor, "my gold collars pledge,
With golden sequins studded, with shagreen inlaid,
And a leash of silk woven, so cunningly made
And handsome, as the jewel which shines on it still.
I wished to leave these trappings to sons in my will,
Had I taken a wife. I received this fine trim
From Prince Dominik, when I once hunted with him
And Prince-Marshal Sanguszko and General Mejen,
When I challenged the company to hounds on the plain,
Thereon, in an unmatched in all hunt-lore display,
I, with but one bitch, bagging six hares in one day.
This great hunting took place on the Kupiski moors;
Prince Radziwill could hardly keep still on his horse;
He dismounted, my famous bitch Kania embraced,
And the prince, her snout clapping thrice with his own hand,
Said: 'I dub you here Duchess upon Kupiskland'.
Thus Napoleon fiefdoms on generals settles
Named for the field whereon they have won their great battles."
Telimena, bored by those disputes overlong,
Wished to take some fresh air, but not walk out alone;
Off a peg took a basket: "If you, sirs, are sticking
Indoors, that is your business; I'll go mushroom picking;
Who so wishes is welcome to follow", she said.
Having placed a red cashmere shawl over her head,
She the Chamberlain's daughter took by one small hand,
With the other hand slightly her hem lifted, and,
Tadeusz, silent, followed (for mushrooms) with speed.
The Judge to the excursion plan gladly agreed,
He'd seen the means the noisy debate to conclude,
So now cried: "It is mushroom time, sirs, in the wood!
Who with the very best to the table returns,
His place next to the loveliest of ladies he earns;
He will choose her himself. If a lady's the winner,
She the handsomest fellow can partner at dinner."