Four youngsters in the Konige's colors stood on the threshold to Rakoczy's manse, at once pugnacious and shy. They ranged from about nine to no more than twelve; their stiffly embroidered cotehardies did not fit particularly well, and they all four were uncomfortable in their grandeur, for though it was early, the day was warm. Two of the younger pages fretted at their posts while the oldest-a gangly lad with wary eyes and the first hint of a mustache on his upper lip-announced in a high voice that broke once during his recitation, "To Comes Santu-Germaniu: this day after High Mass, the Konige's lady-in-waiting and messenger to the Konige, Rozsa of Borsod, will visit this mansion on behalf of the Konige."
Hruther, arrayed in a dignified bleihaut of dove-gray linen over a bleached-cotton chainse and tan-linen trews, studied the four pages, and was startled by the sudden memory of his son, dead twelve centuries ago. "Thank you for your message. The Comes Santu-Germaniu will be honored to receive the Konige's messenger, Rozsa of Borsod."
The tallest of the four bowed for them all; he was slightly younger than his companion who spoke first. "You will make ready to receive her and her escort of four men-at-arms."
"We will welcome her and her escort most gladly," said Hruther. "We thank you for this notice, and for the distinguishment the Konige shows to the Comes."
After an awkward moment, the four youths stepped back and made for the gate in the wall. As they went through to the outside, two armed men fell in with them, making their way toward the narrow street that led up the ridge toward Vaclav Castle.
Closing the main door, Hruther stepped back into the entry hall; three workmen were finishing the repairs to the shutters, and two women were laying down new rushes intermixed with rosemary needles; the manse was nearly ready for invited guests. Hruther nodded to the workers and went into the main hall, now fully restored, with a new table capable of seating twenty dominating the room, wanting only padded benches to be complete. Climbing the stairs next to the fireplace, he continued along the gallery and the central corridor to the door to the nearer of two north-facing rooms. Here he rapped on the door, and being bidden to enter, he lifted the latch and stepped into what had become his master's workroom and library.
"What news, old friend?" Rakoczy asked in the Persian of a thousand years ago as he removed a flask from the athanor that sat at the far end of the room on a footing of bricks, and carefully set it down in a small stone bowl. "Sapphires this time: the Konige likes sapphires. They will be cool enough to touch by mid-day. I'll add them to the rest."
"You may be glad to have them," said Hruther in the same Persian. "One of the Konige's ladies is coming here after Mass."
"I thought I heard the bell," said Rakoczy, his attention still fixed on the flask.
Hruther chuckled. "Four pages, from Vaclav Castle-they came to give us time to prepare for the visit, and to make sure you would be here. Not that you have been granted leave to go about the city unguarded."
"Do we know which of her ladies will arrive?" It was slightly more than a month since he had first presented himself at the Konige's Court, and since then he had had no direct contact with anyone from Vaclav Castle. This, he knew, was a sign of change, and given the elaborate notification, it seemed to imply the Konige's favor and interest.
"Rozsa of Borsod." Hruther kept his demeanor exquisitely neutral.
"The wife of Otakar's favorite, Notay Tibor of Kaposvar? I believe I saw her at Bela's Court, five years ago," Rakoczy remarked, curious as to why Konige Kunigunde would send one of her highest-ranking ladies as her messenger unless the visit was official. "She was a pert bride, as I recall, very young to be married."
"I believe so, from what we have been told by the Counselors," said Hruther. "She may be bringing you a request of some sort, my master. Why else would the Konige's messenger be coming here?" This was not quite a warning. "Do you think that the Konige has an assignment for you?"
Both men knew that a request was likely, and they exchanged knowing nods. "I already have a pouch of diamonds and rubies for the Konige. It may be best to entrust them to Rozsa of Borsod, as a show of respect, both to Kunigunde and to her. Whatever else the Konige may want of me, the jewels should please her, and satisfy Bela."
"Not the rubies," Hruther warned him. "Remember, she's pregnant."
Rakoczy frowned, then said, "Rubies and blood. Some would say they would bring about a miscarriage. So nothing red or otherwise hot."
"The sapphires will be cool enough," said Hruther.
"Yes. And a pair of rubies will be a gift for Rozsa of Borsod." He looked toward the window. "Thank you, old friend. I should have remembered."
"Why? The lore is Bohemian, not of your homeland."
"Still," said Rakoczy, his dark eyes becoming troubled.
"How should Rozsa of Borsod be received?" Hruther asked, intending to redirect Rakoczy's concerns. "Given that the manse is still largely unfinished? We can't yet have the kind of grand display she may expect. You don't want her to offer a disappointed report to Kunigunde."
"We will receive her as formally as we can, and with apologies for the manse not being fully ready. Make sure the servants are in clean clothes; that should help. Have wine and bread and salt set out for a proper welcome, and ask Pacar to make up a plate of pickles and sausages and sweetmeats for our guest. We must not be lacking in attention to one of the Konige's ladies-in-waiting. Have flowers strewn at the door. Also, see that her escort have beer and bread, and cheese if we have any to spare." He stared at the open window, and the serene blue sky beyond. "I suppose I ought to change my clothes," he said, looking down at his stained leather apron that covered an old-fashioned black-cotton dalmatica. "This is hardly fitting for Rozsa of Borsod."
"The Antioch silk huch and the embroidered braccae?" Hruther suggested. "They're fairly grand, but not over-much."
"With the red-silk chainse; yes," Rakoczy agreed. "I will finish up here and go along to my apartments."
"I'll go down to the kitchen and then will meet you in your quarters, unless you have more for me to do?" He started toward the door, glad that they had a strategy for the visit. "High Mass should begin in a short while."
Rakoczy held up his hand to slow his manservant. "Hruther, the second withdrawing room is the most complete; have it prepared for the visit. It can be made quite comfortable. Have the housemaid bring the silk cushions down from my apartments to set on the chairs." The second withdrawing room had been chosen to be his study, and although books were stacked on the reading table and the floor, it was more truly ready for occupants than the first, which was in the process of having its woodwork replaced. "A bowl of cinnamon and rose petals should sweeten the air. Also, be sure the shutters are fully open. It will be hot this afternoon."
"A good thing then that the dung farmer came yesterday," said Hruther with a faint smile.
Rakoczy nodded. "There's only the stable midden to contend with, and it is on the leeward side of the house." He paused, mentally reviewing what more ought to be done. "Tell Pacar to use the brass platter and the Chinese plates, and the glass goblet for wine. A wooden platter will do for her escort."
"Yes, my master," said Hruther, and hurried toward the stairs, climbing up them with unusual haste. By the time he entered Rakoczy's private apartments, he had had the satisfaction of seeing the kitchen in a bustle and two house-servants set to furbishing the withdrawing room according to Rakoczy's instructions in preparation for the official visit; he had dispatched two other house-servants-the seamstress Magda and the herb-woman Jozefa-to the main gate to greet Rozsa of Borsod as soon as she arrived, and to bring her into the manse. He himself had changed from his simple linen bleihaut to one of polished cotton the color of mulberries over a chainse of pale-gray cotton.
Rakoczy stood in the main room of his quarters, wrapped in a drying sheet, rubbing the water out of his hair with the end of it. "I see you have put camphor in the clothes chests," he remarked. "Or rather, I smell that you have."
"In all the chests and garderobes, yes. And added burdock to the latrines, to keep down the smell."
"I will give you some essence of cloves to hang in a vial. That should help." He stared at the garderobe that stood next to the open window. "Do the servants think me peculiar to demand weekly baths?"
"They fear you may be a follower of Mohammed, at the very least," said Hruther, his tone level. "Most of them have Confessed their bathing, and two are doing penance for it."
"I will have to account for my requirements, I suppose, to avoid unwanted attention," said Rakoczy, watching Hruther remove his clothes from the chest and the garderobe, hanging them on pegs set in the garderobe's door.
"I have said it is the custom of your House, and you follow it to honor your ancestors. So far they haven't balked: you are master here. I tell them that if they bathe on Saturday night, while they are fasting, they can go clean in body and soul to Mass on Sunday morning." Hruther handed a breechclout to Rakoczy, and saw him turn away to drop the drying sheet and don the undergarment. "Do you want me to trim your beard?"
"That would probably be advisable," said Rakoczy as he fingered his jaw. "It must look a bit ragged." He had long since become accustomed to lacking a reflection and had learned to rely on Hruther to look after his appearance.
"A bit," said Hruther. "And I'll shave the line for you as well." He handed over the red-silk chainse.
"Let me finish dressing. You can use a cloth around my neck to catch the trimmings." Rakoczy managed a rueful smile. "We must do our best to ensure that Rozsa of Borsod reports us favorably to Konig Bela."
"Do you really think she will do that?" asked Hruther as he offered the braccae to Rakoczy.
"She is a Hungarian noblewoman waiting on the granddaughter of Konig Bela. I think it is required of her to tell not only the Konige but her grandfather of how the meeting goes." He bent over and stepped into the close-fitting braccae, pulling them up and tying them to the braiel of the breechclout. "I think the Byzantine solers, not the estivaux-that would be too foreign."
"The solers," said Hruther, taking them from the box of footwear in the garderobe.
"The soles have been refilled-"
"-last week," said Hruther, sensing Rakoczy's nervousness. "It will go well, my master."
Rakoczy gave a deprecating shrug and finished fastening his solers. "I have done this enough in the past that you would think I would no longer be troubled by these little tests, would you not? I suppose it comes from living in this imposed isolation that magnifies my anxiety." As he rose, Hruther held out the heavy, black-silk huch and tugged the open square sleeves so that they would hang properly while Rakoczy fastened the lacing on the front of the garment.
"I'll get my razor and scissors," said Hruther as he handed Rakoczy his silver-linked eclipse pectoral.
"Very good." He dropped the silver chain around his neck and positioned the black-sapphire heart of the eclipse at the center of his chest. "To your trimming, old friend."
By the time he left his quarters, Rakoczy was superbly turned out, his clothes not truly Bohemian, but not strictly Hungarian, either, as was appropriate for an exile; he wore a signet ring and his pectoral but had decided against other jewelry. He made his way along the corridor to the gallery, then down the narrow stairs to the main hall, where half a dozen of the house-servants had found some excuse to be so that they could view him in his elegance. He went into the second withdrawing room to satisfy himself that it was ready for his guest; then he made his way to the entry hall, opening the door himself in preparation for Rozsa of Borsod's arrival.
Hruther appeared at Rakoczy's side. "This may sweeten your greeting," he said, and put a red, five-petaled rose into his master's hand. "I took the thorns off the stem."
"Deft as always," Rakoczy approved. "Is Pacar ready?"
"Almost. The food will be done very shortly. He said he prays that she does not come too late." He took his place two steps behind Rakoczy, and felt the sun beat down upon him, too hot to be entirely welcome; what Rakoczy was feeling he tried not to think.
In a short while, an elegant little wagon pulled by a pair of spotted ponies and escorted by men-at-arms in the Konige's colors-black and gold-carrying lances as well as swords made its way up the hill toward the mansion, preceded, followed, and flanked by armed men. The device of Borsod-gules, a wolf's head argent, erased to the chief; langed sable and dented or-was painted on the door-panel of the curtained wagon.
From his vantage-point above the gate, the warder, Minek, called out that their noble guest had arrived. The two women with their flowers straightened up and smoothed the fronts of their housses and tweaked their linen caps. The warder opened the gate, and the first armed man stepped through.
"In the name of Konige Kunigunde, her waiting-woman and messenger, Rozsa of Borsod, comes to this mansion."
Magda and Jozefa stepped toward the carriage, garlands in their hands.
Rakoczy came to the front steps. "Where she is most welcome. Pray bring her into our forecourt." He waited while the little company moved forward and the gate closed behind them, then stepped forward as the man-at-arms on her right opened the half-door for her and helped her to get down from the vehicle.
Veiled in elaborate swaths of linen secured in her elaborate coronet with long golden pins, falling in graceful folds that concealed everything about her except for the russet hem of her hammered-silk bleihaut and the embroidered inner sleeve, Rozsa of Borsod turned to face her host, courtisying, and waiting for him to bow while all the servants abased themselves to honor the Konige in whose stead this noblewoman had come.
Holding out the rose, Rakoczy ducked his head while Jozefa and Magda went to hold the door open. "You do this mansion much honor and favor, Rozsa of Borsod," he said in Magyar.
She took the rose, sniffed it. "A pretty conceit, Comes."
"I am pleased you like it," he said, offering his hand on which she could lay her own; the men-at-arms bristled at this familiarity. "It is a pleasure to see you again."
Her laughter rippled like the warm breeze. "He is of ancient title, and from Hungary, as am I," she said to the men in the Bohemian tongue. "It is fitting that I should accept his courtesy. And he is right; I met him the day before my wedding." Very deliberately she put her hand on his. "I leave my men and my wagon to the care of your household."
Hruther signaled to Illes of Kotan to come to take the wagon in charge, and then motioned to Domonkos of Pest. "See to our visitors. Domonkos, there is food and drink for the lady's escort in the kitchen. Make it your purpose to be sure that their needs are provided for."
"Very well done," approved Rozsa to Rakoczy as he brought her to the threshold of his manse. "I particularly liked the women at the gate with their garlands. You have a refined way with you, Comes-not what I would have expected from a Carpathian lord." Behind her veil her eyes were unreadable; her practiced grace the result of her time at the Konige's Court.
Rakoczy offered her a Roman-style bow. "What would you expect, Rozsa of Borsod?"
"Oh, someone more like my husband: a crapulous, quick-tempered, debauched, uncouth-" She broke off. "The match was arranged by my father, with Konig Bela's approval." With a wave of her hand, she banished the topic, looking around the entry hall with interest.
"The work is not yet finished on most of the manse," he said deferentially.
"I heard about that: you sent the funds to put the place in order and they were spent elsewhere. It was to be expected." She released his hand, reaching up to her coronet and loosening the end of her enveloping veil, revealing her pert, feline features and green eyes. Her dark hair was done up in a complex braid and held in a golden snood.
"So Counselor Smiricti explained," Rakoczy said.
"Were you surprised?" The lilt in her voice was belied by a keenness in her glance that revealed she knew more of the incident than her question implied.
Rakoczy gave a half-smile. "Not surprised; more disheartened than anything else."
"Ah," she said, her face softening as she went toward the main hall. "So you have had some experience in these matters. Just as well." She paused to take in the room. "This will be very nice when it is complete."
"That is my hope," Rakoczy said, following her.
She turned toward him. "You will receive the Konige's Court as soon as the manse is ready? Is that your plan?"
"If that would please the Konige, then of course I will consider it a privilege to do so," he said, continuing to watch her.
"It will please her; I'll see to it." She went to the table and ran her fingers along its glossy top. "You could offer a fair banquet here."
"Once the chairs and benches arrive," Rakoczy said.
She laughed, the sound deliberately musical. "Yes. It would be easier with chairs and benches." Her gaze lingered on him, speculative and sensual. "But you already have a few benches, I see, certainly enough for our use. Why not be satisfied with those until you have more guests to receive?"
"A quirk of mine." He bowed her in the direction of the second withdrawing room, following two steps behind her as decorum required; he tried not to notice the servants who had come to the main hall to catch sight of their noble visitor. "If you would? There are refreshments waiting for you, and a small gift that I trust you will convey to the Konige."
She twitched the rose she held. "You will have to show me what it contains," Rozsa said, going toward the second withdrawing room ahead of him.
"Certainly." He moved to open the door for her, saying as he did, "The Anatolian chair is the most comfortable."
She stepped inside and halted, staring at the books. "Mary's Tits!" Her voice was hushed. "Are these all yours, Comes?"
"I collect them," he admitted.
"So many..." Her words trailed off. "Do you read them?"
"Of course: what would be the point of having them if I did not." He saw suspicion and awe in her eyes; he moved to guide her to the center of the room, saying as he did, "Let me offer you some refreshment." On the low table there stood a brass platter with bread and salt at one end of it and plates of sausages, sweetmeats, pickles, a mound of fresh cheese, and shelled nuts. Next to them stood a bottle of pale wine and a glass goblet. A lean, two-pronged iron pick and an Italian knife lay on the platter, a concession to Rakoczy's foreign manners. "May I pour a glass for you?" Rakoczy asked, picking up the bottle.
"I'd like that." She watched the glass fill as she put her rose down on the tray. "And you? Where is your goblet."
Rakoczy set the bottle down. "Alas," he said, "I do not drink wine."
"Whyever not?" Rozsa asked as she lifted the goblet.
"A condition of my blood will not permit it," he said with the ease of long practice.
"How sad for you," she said, and drank, looking at him through her lashes as she did. "This is excellent."
"I have more laid down; if you think the Konige would like it as well, you may take some bottles with you." He waited while she sank into the Anatolian chair and set her goblet on the table once again; her wide-skirted bleihaut draped her body like a caress.
"This is very comfortable," she said.
He pulled up his Spanish chair. "With your permission?"
"Do sit, Comes; this is your manse and I am your guest, not your-"
His interruption was as elegant as he could make it, combining elements of modesty and propriety with practiced courtesy. "You are here in the name of the Konige, and you are entitled to the full respect she deserves," he said, moving the platter a little nearer to her.
"She will be glad to know of it," she said, and pulled a small portion of the bread off the loaf, dipped it in the salt and popped it into her mouth, drank another generous sip of wine and put the glass down once more. "There. Bread and salt. Now my welcome is official."
"May I fill your glass again?" He had already picked up the bottle.
"You may." She continued to watch him, her green eyes alight, as he poured. "I like a generous host."
"You are kind to say so," he said, knowing it was expected of him.
"The Konige will be happy to hear good of you." There was a hint in her words, and he responded to it.
"What would the Konige desire me to do for her?" he asked as he sat down once again.
Rozsa sighed. "You're right, I am here at her behest and it is fitting that I present her request, and then we may become better acquainted." She licked her lips, flashing a provocative glance at him that was gone as soon as he had seen it. "I am charged with telling you that there is to be a tournament in ten days, for celebration of the arrival of May; she has chosen the sixth day so that the Episcopus cannot accuse her of giving credence to pagan rites." She waved her hand as if to reprimand herself. "Be that as it may, Konige Kunigunde would like you to compete in the lists for Hungary."
Of all the things he had been expecting, this had not been among them. Rakoczy did his best to conceal his surprise, saying with only a slight pause, "The Konige does me great honor, but I fear that her grandfather has forbidden me to bring arms with me into Bohemia, but for those reasonable weapons a man of rank might carry for his safety. He would forbid me to fight in armor even for a tourney." He was comforted by the knowledge that he spoke the truth.
Rozsa pouted a little. "The Konige will not be-" She stopped herself, her eyes narrowing. "But if Konig Bela has restricted you, then of course, it is out of the question that you should joust." She ignored the utensils on the platter, picking up one of the pickles and nibbling at it. "What else can you do that might entertain her on her festival day?"
"I have a lyre and a gittern. I can play for her."
"A gittern and a lyre." She ate a little more of the pickle. "If you would be willing to play for her between the contests, I think she may be satisfied."
He snapped his fingers as if a thought had just occurred to him. "In ten days this manse will be ready to receive guests. You were gracious enough to suggest that the Konige would accept an invitation to dine at this manse." He paused to allow her to question him; when she did not, he went on, "If it would not be too forward for an exile, I would be highly favored indeed if Konige Kunigunde and her Court would consider dining here at the conclusion of her tournament. There is room enough for a large company, and there is a room for servants that the Konige's Court might require." That should be enough to mitigate his refusal to joust for her, he told himself, and give Rozsa of Borsod something more to report.
"A banquet at night!" For an instant she collected her thoughts. "We don't see many of those in Praha. A great undertaking." She offered another of her feline smiles. "And all the cost will be borne by you?"
"Of course," he said, more certain now that he had struck the right note. "If you will advise me, I will try to provide entertainment to the Konige's taste."
She finished the pickle and licked her fingers before picking up one of the sweetmeats. "Entertainment which you will pay for?"
"Yes." He resisted the urge to embellish his answer, for he was aware that they were overheard and that her response, whatever it might be, would spread through his household like dust in summer.
"It may be possible. The Konige likes banquets and festivities. She likes mountebanks and jongleurs and troubadours, too." She tasted the sweetmeat. "You have a good cook. I hope you pay him well."
"I do, to both of your concerns." He regarded her with good-mannered interest, alert to the tests she was posing to him. "May I entrust a gift to Konige Kunigunde to your care, to assure her of my devotion to her House? I will provide you a token of my gratitude for your conveyance."
"It is my duty as her lady-in-waiting to do so," Rozsa said, a speculative angle to her brows. "What do you want to give her?"
Rakoczy rose and went to take a small gilded pouch off the nearest shelf. "These are for Konige Kunigunde, with my duty to her, exile though I am." He handed the pouch to Rozsa. "You may look inside."
"I am required to look inside," she said, her tone sharpening. "I would be responsible if you sent her any unwholesome or ill-omened thing." She pulled open the mouth of the pouch and poured its contents out into her lap, then sat still in amazement as the diamonds and sapphires shone back at her. "So many," she whispered, impressed in spite of herself.
"Nine sapphires and thirteen diamonds," he said.
"And all of them large, and so well-polished," Rozsa marveled, touching them as if she were afraid they might burst.
"One of many such gifts I hope to provide for the Konige." Rakoczy went to the shelf and took down another, smaller pouch of tooled Florentine leather. "This is for you, for your willingness to carry the jewels to the dear Royal." He gave the small pouch to her and watched her try to discern its contents by pressing the leather. "Open it, if you wish."
Rozsa set her pouch aside and carefully gathered up the diamonds and sapphires for the Konige, counting them aloud as they went into the pouch. Once its neck was closed, she reached for her gift and opened the securing laces of twined red silk, turning it over so it emptied onto the palm of her hand. As she caught sight of the two cabochon rubies the size of currants, she let out a little shriek of excitement, the first truly spontaneous sound she had made since arriving at Rakoczy's manse. "Are they real?"
"Most certainly. I would be a fool indeed to offer false jewels to a noble of the Konige's Court." He said it smoothly enough, concealing the stab of dismay that had gone through him at her exclamation: what had Konig Bela said of him that would lead anyone to suspect that he might offer counterfeit goods? He made himself smile and bow. "I hope you will enjoy them, Rozsa of Borsod."
"Will you make fittings for them, so I may wear them as ear-drops?" Her eagerness was entirely genuine. She laid the two rubies down next to the rose he had offered her.
As he filled her goblet once again, he met her green eyes with his dark ones. "It will be my delectation to do so."
Text of a dictated message from Hovarth Pisti of Buda, Master Tapestry-Weaver, at Praha in Bohemia, to Donat, monk and clerk to Konig Bela of Hungary, at Buda, carried by the apprentice Jeno of Buda, and delivered twenty-four days after it was dispatched.
To Donat, clerk to my most puissant Konig, Bela of Hungary, the dutiful greetings of the Konig's servant Hovarth Pisti of Buda, on this day, the eighteenth day of May in the 1269th Year of Salvation,
To the Konig, His Grace,
We are now all well-established in the household of your granddaughter, Konige Kunigunde, with the exception of Rakoczy Ferancsi, Comes Santu-Germaniu, who has set up his own household at Mansion Belcrady, which makes it difficult for me to keep the close watch upon him you have charged me to do. The rest of us have been given apartments in Vaclav Castle or provided housing outside the walls but near to the Castle. Slaves have been presented to all of us but the Comes, who refuses to have slaves in his household. The Konige has permitted him to maintain his customs in this regard without insult to her for offering him such a gift, for it is known that his blood have not kept slaves for more than five hundred years.
It is two days since the Konige's tournament, and the Comes Santu-Germaniu's banquet, and the Court is full of talk and rumors. There were twelve jousts, to honor the Apostles, and three interludes of diverse entertainment, to honor the Trinity. In the jousts, German and Bohemian knights prevailed, but there were only two Hungarians entered in the bouts, so it is no disgrace to the Konige or to you. One knight, Bubna, Rytir Oldrich, suffered a broken leg when his horse was fatally lanced and fell with Rytir Oldrich still in the saddle, and Thun, Rytir Dake, took a hard blow to the head and is much affected by it, his memory seeming faulty due to the ferocity of the impact he endured. One Hungarian contestant, Nitra Akos, bested three Bohemians before he was unhorsed and disqualified from competition. Konige Kunigunde presented Nitra with a wreath of silver leaves, and proclaimed him to be her champion for the month of May. Since the Konig is not presently in Praha, no greater honors were awarded, although it is likely that Nitra Akos will be advanced to the official rank of Rytir, and as Rytir Akos will be able to take his place among the officers of the Konig's army.
The evening of the tournament, we were all welcomed to Mansion Belcrady, which Comes Santu-Germaniu has bought, as I have mentioned. This is a very fine mansion, consisting of a manse of ten rooms, a bake-house, a bath-house, a creamery, a small mews (currently vacant), and a stable with stalls for sixteen horses. Rakoczy has put many craftsmen and servants to work to make the manse not only livable, but an example to all the nobles of Praha, so it would appear that his wealth is undiminished in spite of your denying him the right to take his gold with him. Clearly he has other sources of treasure, and not just from the jewels he has presented to the Konige.
The Comes offered a banquet of nine courses, beginning with a pottage of oats and new onions, then a stew of eels, ducks turned on a spit and basted with wine, collops of veal cooked in beer, a subtiltie of pork in the shape of a hunting horn, dried berries cooked in cream, pastry boats filled with forcemeat and garlic, venison with bitter herbs, ending with a cream-bastard and candied flowers. There were four different wines poured and in such quantity that anyone might drink his fill three times over. What this hospitality must have cost the Comes is beyond my reckoning, but I cannot fault him either in the quantity or the quality of the food he provided. Among the twenty-four of us, no one had cause to complain. Rakoczy busied himself serving the courses with his own hands and did not join us to eat. This troubled a few of the Konige's Court, but none of them refused any of what they were offered, and none has had cause to regret their decision.
Along with this magnificent meal, we were treated to songs from the Konige's Court singers, as well as a celebrated minstrel from Venezia; they say Rakoczy paid him ten pieces of gold to come to perform for your granddaughter. There were two men with four dogs who had been taught to do things of such skill that it is almost beyond the nature of dogs for them to behave in such a way. The Episcopus who attended the banquet declared that such displays by simple animals smacked of diabolism, and was only dissuaded from arresting the trainers on the spot by the Konige, who put the two men and their animals under her protection.
I have sought an audience with the Comes in the hope of learning more of his activities here in Praha, but so far he has continued to delay offering me any time for a discussion. His obvious wealth has made him wary of those less fortunate than he, and given the envy his riches inspire, I am sure he has cause to be cautious, but I will persist in my efforts. It is my hope that as the time of the Konige's delivery grows nearer I will be able to take advantage of our shared interest in her well-being and turn that to the acquisition of information that I may relay to you.
This, with every promise of my devotion to you and to the mission you have entrusted to me; I pray daily that God will bring you victory and the esteem of the world as well as a place of honor in Heaven,
Hovarth Pisti of Buda (his mark)
by the hand of Lukash, scribe to Konige Kunigunde's Court