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قراءة كتاب The Deluge: An Historical Novel of Poland, Sweden, and Russia. Vol. 2 (of 2)

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‏اللغة: English
The Deluge: An Historical Novel of Poland, Sweden, and Russia. Vol. 2 (of 2)

The Deluge: An Historical Novel of Poland, Sweden, and Russia. Vol. 2 (of 2)

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

higher! at the dog-brothers!"

Kordetski smiled, seeing such zeal, and returned to the cloister to send to the wearied men a drink made of beer with pieces of cheese broken in it.

Half an hour later appeared women, priests, and old men of the church, bringing steaming pots and jugs. The soldiers seized these with alacrity, and soon was heard along all the walls eager drinking. They praised the drink, saying,—

"We are not forgotten in the service of the Most Holy Lady. We have good food."

"It is worse for the Swedes," added others. "It was hard for them to cook food the past night; it will be worse the night coming."

"They have enough, the dog-faiths. They will surely give themselves and us rest during the day. Their poor guns must be hoarse by this time from roaring continually."

But the soldiers were mistaken, for the day was not to bring rest When, in the morning, officers coming with the reports informed Miller that the result of the night's cannonading was nothing, that in fact the night had brought the Swedes a considerable loss in men, the general was stubborn and gave command to continue cannonading. "They will grow tired at last," said he to the Prince of Hesse.

"This is an immense outlay of powder," answered that officer.

"But they burn powder too?"

"They must have endless supplies of saltpetre and sulphur, and we shall give them charcoal ourselves, if we are able to burn even one booth. In the night I went near the walls, and in spite of the thunder, I heard a mill clearly, that must be a powder-mill."

"I will give orders to cannonade as fiercely as yesterday, till sunset. We will rest for the night. We shall see if an embassy does not come out."

"Your worthiness knows that they have sent one to Wittemberg?"

"I know; I will send too for the largest cannons. If it is impossible to frighten the monks or to raise a fire inside the fortress, we must make a breach."

"I hope, your worthiness, that the field-marshal will approve the siege."

"The field-marshal knows of my intention, and he has said nothing," replied Miller, dryly. "If failure pursues me still farther, the field-marshal will give censure instead of approval, and will not fail to lay all the blame at my door. The king will say he is right,—I know that. I have suffered not a little from the field-marshal's sullen humor, just as if 'tis my fault that he, as the Italians state, is consumed by mal francese."

"That they will throw the blame on you I doubt not, especially when it appears that Sadovich is right."

"How right? Sadovich speaks for those monks as if he were hired by them. What does he say?"

"He says that these shots will be heard through the whole country, from the Carpathians to the Baltic."

"Let the king command in such case to tear the skin from Count Veyhard and send it as an offering to the cloister; for he it is who instigated to this siege."

Here Miller seized his head.

"But it is necessary to finish at a blow. It seems to me, something tells me, that in the night they will send some one to negotiate; meanwhile fire after fire!"

The day passed then as the day previous, full of thunder, smoke, and flames. Many such were to pass yet over Yasna Gora. But the defenders quenched the conflagrations and cannonaded no less bravely. One half the soldiers went to rest, the other half were on the walls at the guns.

The people began to grow accustomed to the unbroken roar, especially when convinced that no great damage was done. Faith strengthened the less experienced; but among them were old soldiers, acquainted with war, who performed their service as a trade. These gave comfort to the villagers.

Soroka acquired much consideration among them; for, having spent a great part of his life in war, he was as indifferent to its uproar as an old innkeeper to the shouts of carousers. In the evening when the guns had grown silent he told his comrades of the siege of Zbaraj. He had not been there in person, but he knew of it minutely from soldiers who had gone through that siege and had told him.

"There rolled on Cossacks, Tartars, and Turks, so many that there were more under-cooks there than all the Swedes that are here. And still our people did not yield to them. Besides, evil spirits have no power here; but there it was only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that the devils did not help the ruffians; the rest of the time they terrified our people whole nights. They sent Death to the breastworks to appear to the soldiers and take from them courage for battle. I know this from a man who saw Death himself."

"Did he see her?" asked with curiosity peasants gathering around the sergeant.

"With his own eyes. He was going from digging a well; for water was lacking, and what was in the ponds smelt badly. He was going, going, till he saw walking in front of him some kind of figure in a black mantle."

"In a black, not in a white one?"

"In black; in war Death dresses in black. It was growing dark, the soldier came up. 'Who is here?' inquired he—no answer. Then he pulled the mantle, looked, and saw a skeleton. 'But what art thou here for?' asked the soldier. 'I am Death,' was the answer; 'and I am coming for thee in a week.' The soldier thought that was bad. 'Why,' asked he, 'in a week, and not sooner? Art thou not free to come sooner?' The other said: 'I can do nothing before a week, for such is the order.'"

"The soldier thought to himself: 'That is hard; but if she can do nothing to me now, I'll pay her what I owe.' Winding Death up in the mantle, he began to beat her bones on the pebbles; but she cried and begged: 'I'll come in two weeks!' 'Impossible.' 'In three, four, ten, when the siege is over; a year, two, fifteen—' 'Impossible.' 'I'll come in fifty years.' The soldier was pleased, for he was then fifty, and thought: 'A hundred years is enough; I'll let her go.' The man is living this minute, and well; he goes to a battle as to a dance, for what does he care?"

"But if he had been frightened, it would have been all over with him?"

"The worst is to fear Death," said Soroka, with importance. "This soldier did good to others too; for after he had beaten Death, he hurt her so that she was fainting for three days, and during that time no one fell in camp, though sorties were made."

"But we never go out at night against the Swedes."

"We haven't the head for it," answered Soroka.

The last question and answer were heard by Kmita, who was standing not far away, and he struck his head. Then he looked at the Swedish trenches. It was already night. At the trenches for an hour past deep silence had reigned. The wearied soldiers were seemingly sleeping at the guns.

At two cannon-shots' distance gleamed a number of fires; but at the trenches themselves was thick darkness.

"That will not enter their heads, nor the suspicion of it, and they cannot suppose it," whispered Kmita to himself.

He went straight to Charnyetski, who, sitting at the gun-carriage, was reading his rosary, and striking one foot against the other, for both feet were cold.

"Cold," said he, seeing Kmita; "and my head is heavy from the thunder of two days and one night. In my ears there is continual ringing."

"In whose head would it not ring from such uproars? But to-day we shall rest. They have gone to sleep for good. It would be possible to surprise them like a bear in a den; I