A Dangerous Climate (Saint-Germain #22)

2,354
05.03.2019

Three new dock-side taverns and part of a warehouse had been turned into a reception hall and banqueting room for the Czar on this grand occasion of his return to his own city. It was two in the afternoon, and the day was bright enough, the sun's glare penetrating the thin veil of high clouds and turning the Neva into molten silver. Work on the harbor and the embankment went on in front of the guests, and laborers passed within an arm's-length of Piotyr Alexeievich's grand fete; the sounds of their labors carried into the celebration, at odds with the playing of the small orchestra. There were long tables set out in front of the warehouse, where the banquet was to take place, each manned by a staff of waiters, where a great number of fine viands ordered by the Czar from most of the household larders in the city were displayed: baskets of breads, tubs of apples and pears, stuffed hard-boiled eggs with shaved onions, tureens of pea-soup and fish-stew, platters of pickled beets on pickled beef, sliced cucumbers in vinegar and yogurt, cabbage-rolls stuffed with spiced lamb, oat cakes with pats of butter melting on them, roast boar on a standing spit, and on smaller spits broiled geese were ready for carving as soon as the Czar gave the order for his guests to eat. From the odors on the afternoon breeze, more foods were being cooked on the stoves of the taverns.

Marfa stood with the Czar and Alexander Menshikov at the entrance to the dock to welcome the new arrivals, Marfa in a grand toilette of embroidered faille in a soft, dark-rose shade, boned and corseted in the European fashion, with lavish skirts in matching taffeta, and covering petticoats of Belgian lace that matched the ruff at her open neckline and the cascades at her cuffs. The Czar, by far the tallest man in the gathering, was arrayed in blue-green satin coat and knee-britches; his waistcoat was buff damask and edged in gold piping. His chemise was ivory silk, as was his neck-cloth. By the way he was looking restlessly about the gathering, he was already bored. Menshikov had donned an ensemble of blue-gray satin with a waistcoat of silver embroidered with pearls, worn over a black-silk chemise with a neck-cloth of black lace. He had on an impressive English wig of ordered bright-chestnut curls. Unlike the Czar, he wore a profusion of rings over his fine, black kid-skin gloves.

Colonel Broughton waited in the reception line beside Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, and her brother, Benedykt Rozmowaslad, Ksiaze Radom; immediately behind him, Saint-Germain stood with Heer van Hoek and Ludmilla Borisevna. The whole line moved slowly as each guest sought to offer the Czar a compliment of some kind on the progress of his city, or to try to impart a kernel of information with the hope of securing a private audience while Piotyr Alexeievich remained here.

"What should I say to His Majesty?" Zozia asked coquettishly. She was in her most elaborate afternoon ensemble-a silk dress the color of lavender with knotted berry-colored ribbons around the corsage and a profuse skirt over a modified hoop. She wore a necklace of amethysts set in gold with earrings to match. Her satin shoes had delicate heels and buckles made of gold.

"Tell him as little as possible, nothing beyond what is courteous," her brother recommended. He was turned out in puce peau-de-soie knee-britches and coat, with a long waistcoat of rose velvet and a chemise of pale-blue linen. "Marfa will thank you for it later; she wants no competition for Piotyr's attentions."

"You're being cynical," said Zozia, adding, "I wish I had brought a parasol. The day is so shiny." She squinted along the line and made a gesture of irritation. "What does Theophilius Schaft have to say that takes so long?"

"Not that the Czar is listening, in any case," said Broughton. "Look at him. He's busy watching the men working on the embankment."

As if he had heard this complaint, Theophilius Schaft bowed and finally moved beyond the Czar and his two companions, and the line moved two steps forward.

"It's Nyland next," said Zozia. "He'll take his time."

"He has information to impart to Piotyr," said van Hoek, who had been listening to their conversation. "Since the dredging-barge was rammed, the work has gone more slowly, and he wants to set up buoys in the river, to avoid another collision: the Czar has to approve the buoys, and soon, or they will have to wait until spring to do it."

"This is hardly the place for making a report," said Benedykt. "You wouldn't do such a foolish thing, would you, min Heer?"

Behind Zozia and Heer van Hoek in line, Ludmilla turned to Saint-Germain. "Hercegek, there is something I have been meaning to ask you these last several days."

"What is it?" Saint-Germain asked, keeping his voice as low as hers. He was arrayed in blue-gray velvet with a waistcoat and leg-hose of black silk. His chemise was white and his neck-cloth edged in lace.

"You're a learned man, are you not?" She wore a handsome, European-style sacque-back dress in wheat-colored taffeta with a standing embroidered collar and full-length sleeves with a row of mother-of-pearl buttons from elbow to wrist.

"Reasonably so," he answered, his curiosity rising at her inquiry.

"You know many languages."

"A good number," he told her; over his long life he had learned more than a hundred of them.

"Are you willing to have me as a pupil?" she asked at a rush.

"Of what, Ludmilla Borisevna? What would you like me to do for you?"

She took a long moment to gather up her courage. "I would like you to teach me to read and write, not just in Russian, but in Dutch as well."

He was startled, but he held his surprise in check. "If that is what you want"-the line moved forward again-"then I would be honored."

She gave him an amazed look. "You will?"

"Of course," he answered. "We may have difficulty setting aside the time for lessons, but I will be delighted to teach you as much as you wish to learn for as long as I am in Sankt Piterburkh. With the work you do, reading and writing can be essential to preserving life. I think you are wise to learn Dutch, and the Roman alphabet."

"Spasiba," she whispered.

"No thanks are necessary," he assured her. "Only tell me when you want lessons, and I will accommodate you."

"As soon as the Swamp Fever is over," she said quickly, drawing on every consideration she had brought to making this request. "I won't have time to study until then."

Saint-Germain shook his head. "No, Ludmilla, you must not wait for opportunities. If you make lessons determined by work, you will not begin studying until the end of winter, if then, and you will have to adjust your education to the impositions of the day, and all continuity will be lost. No, Madame: choose a time and instruct the nurses and Kyril not to disturb you except in a true emergency." He glanced behind him, and gave a little bow to Graf von Altenburg, saying to Ludmilla as he did, "Tomorrow morning, let us agree on the time to be set aside."

"As you wish," said Ludmilla, knowing he was right in his caveats.

"It will suit your desires more satisfactorily," Saint-Germain said with a quick, encouraging smile, and turned to answer the greeting of the man in line behind him.

"I hope I see you well, Hercegek," von Altenburg exclaimed. "Half the world seems to be laid up in bed, thanks to this Swamp Fever."

"True enough, Graf. Fortunately, I have not succumbed to the disease." Nor would he; no disease had touched him since his death thirty-seven centuries ago.

"May you continue as fortunately," said von Altenburg. "It is most lamentable that the disease should be so pervasive while the Czar is here."

"Or at any time," said Saint-Germain. "Fever is never a good companion."

"How much longer do you anticipate it will continue?" von Altenburg asked, doing his best to conceal his worry.

"Another three weeks, perhaps four," said Saint-Germain. "I doubt it will continue once the weather turns." He moved ahead, keeping an eye on Zozia and Benedykt.

"I hope you're right. My cook and my driver are both suffering, and the work-gang putting in the new street has been decimated by the fever. The work has slowed down. I fear the rest of my household will not be safe from it."

"Would you like me to prepare a tincture for them? For those who have not become infected by the disease, to help them to resist contracting it? I will have our messenger carry it round to you." He saw Colonel Broughton bow to their hosts, very grand in his dress-regimentals, and begin to offer his effusive compliments in German.

"Would you? I'd be most grateful. I don't trust the remedies our houseman provides, and there is no one else in the household who has knowledge of herbs and medicines." Von Altenburg made a point of not eavesdropping on the conversation Colonel Broughton was having with the Czar; he glanced around as if to be sure he himself was not overheard. "You're most kind to do this."

"I am glad to be of service," said Saint-Germain, and saw that Zozia was about to make her curtsy; he turned his attention to her as he prepared to be presented, smoothing his coat and tweaking his neck-cloth.

"The Ksiezna Nisko, Majesty," said Menshikov. "Zozia is her name."

Zozia dropped a deep Court curtsy, her eyes lowered as she sank down. "Majesty," she said, not moving.

"Polish. Hungarian husband," said Piotyr abruptly. "Is this he?" He stared at Benedykt.

"Alas, Majesty, I am only her brother. The gentleman behind me is her husband." Benedykt offered a graceful flourish with his bow. "I am Benedykt, Ksiaze Radom, if it please the Czar. My credentials were presented to your comrade a week ago in anticipation of this happy occasion. It is my honor to serve Stanislas as his Resident, along with my sister. In that capacity, I extend the greetings of the King to you, and look forward to serving both Poland and Russia in days to come." He held out his hand to help his sister rise.

Zozia dared to look at Marfa. "It is most gracious of you to include me in your celebration, Madame."

Marfa's smile was wide and welcoming. "I am delighted to see you here, Ksiezna." She put her hand on Piotyr's arm. "This is the Polish lady of whom I've told you, Majesty."

Piotyr had been watching a work-gang sliding logs down the embankment to provide reinforcement to the retaining wall. "What did you say?"

"This is Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, O Joy of my Life. I have told you of her many kindnesses to me since I've come here. She has been unstinting in her attentions." She continued to smile. "You said you were grateful that such a generous woman was here to bear me company."

The Czar turned his prominent brown eyes on Zozia. "A pleasure, Ksiezna. And the same to your …?"

"Brother," said Zozia patiently, reminding him, "My husband is behind me, Majesty, with the founders of the care-house where he presently resides, the better to aid the sick and injured."

Menshikov motioned Saint-Germain, van Hoek, and Ludmilla forward. "This is the Ksiezna's husband, Majesty. This is Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor and husband of Zozia."

Saint-Germain made a most respectful bow. "My felicitations to you on the progress of this city that bears your name."

Piotyr stared at Saint-Germain, then blinked slowly, like a satisfied cat. He touched his upturned mustache and spoke. "You are in a most disconcerting situation, aren't you, Hercegek?"

"In what way do you mean, Majesty?" Saint-Germain asked, sounding unperturbed.

"With Stanislas ruling in Poland and not my old friend Augustus, your position is very ill-defined. If you were Polish, it would be different, but you are Hungarian. You have no true position now beyond husband." He laughed abruptly. "No, I am wrong. You are the one who has built the three treadmill-pumps to speed the draining, aren't you?"

"I have provided plans and advice," Saint-Germain answered. "And aided in the construction when it was necessary."

"Very good," the Czar approved. "You will be useful for some time to come."

"And he has done much to assist at the care-house," said Menshikov.

Piotyr nodded. "A man of many parts." He looked past Saint-Germain. "And this is-?" He scowled directly at van Hoek.

Van Hoek bowed. "Physician-anatomist van Hoek."

The Czar slapped his head. "Of course! Yes, of course! I remember you. It is a pleasure to welcome you to Sankt Piterburkh. We met while I was in Holland. You agreed then to answer my summons when it came. And here you are!" He looked at Menshikov. "You allocated a barrack to him for his care-house, didn't you? That's the one you meant when you spoke of Arco-Tolvay, isn't it?"

"Yes, Majesty," said Menshikov. "It is the only care-house we have."

"A good thing, then, to move it to a barrack instead of a house. A prudent thing to have done, with the Swamp Fever everywhere. Next year, we must provide a second care-house for our people. I am told you're already over-crowded. I'll be sure you have relief by next summer." Piotyr put his big, lean hand on van Hoek's shoulder. "I applaud your efforts. We need more men of your quality here in Piter." He watched Ludmilla curtsy. "This is your assistant, then? The boyar's wife? I've heard much good about her."

Ludmilla listened to him with both satisfaction and dismay. "If you have heard things to my credit, I am flattered that you remember them." This had not come out as she had intended, and she tried to think of a better way to acknowledge his compliment. "Not that I expect that such minor service should be-"

"Rise, rise," said Piotyr. "You have a difficult task, haven't you?- attending to the sick is a very demanding occupation."

"And a worthy task," she dared to correct him.

"Certainly," said the Czar. "But still a most exacting kind of work." He sighed. "We will speak of this later." He motioned the three to pass on and smiled at Graf von Altenburg. "And how is my Prussian friend?"

Ludmilla put her hand to her face as she moved away toward the far end of the dock. "How can I have made such a mull of speaking to him?" She could not bring herself to look at Saint-Germain or van Hoek.

"I doubt the Czar was offended," said van Hoek.

"I would wager he has heard others say similar things, so much so that he probably listens very little to what he hears during receptions like this one," Saint-Germain remarked as Zozia and Benedykt came up to them. "Van Hoek, you know my wife, do you not? And Zozia, you remember Ludmilla Borisevna?" He took Zozia's hand and kissed it. "How is your visit with your brother going, my dear?"

Zozia's laugh had a brittle edge to it. "Oh, it is always a joy to see my brother, even when he turns my life upside down."

Benedykt's frown came and went rapidly. "It is not surprising that she misses you, Arco-Tolvay. She reminds me daily of your virtues."

"As she has done for me with yours," said Saint-Germain, and earned a little chuckle for his efforts.

Behind him, van Hoek said, "Ludmilla Borisevna and I are going to get some lemonade. We'll return shortly."

Saint-Germain nodded. "Just as well to get out of the sun," he said, wishing he could do the same; even with his native earth lining the soles of his shoes, the combination of sunlight and the force of running water was enervating for him.

"You may think I am unreasonable," Zozia said archly, "but men, being what they are, are often more prized in their absence, when their daily failings aren't everywhere apparent." She looked around and saw Drury and Abigail Carruther going toward the open door to the tavern where wine, beer, and Russian spirits were being poured. "If you will excuse me, I must have a word with Missus Carruther." Without waiting for any formalities, she hurried away toward the English couple.

"How are things at the care-house?" Benedykt asked in Polish once Zozia was out of earshot. "We keep hearing about Swamp Fever. Is it getting worse, or are those dire tales only rumors?"

"It is increasing," said Saint-Germain.

"A good reason for you to remain at the care-house, then: that, and there's no room in my sister's house while I'm here." Benedykt folded his arms. "The Czar is right: with Stanislas King in Poland, you are in a difficult position. Just as well that you keep your distance from Zozia."

"And why do my difficulties please you so?" Saint-Germain asked in an even voice.

"They don't please me," said Benedykt, looking affronted. "Why would you say that?"

"Because you were smiling," said Saint-Germain.

"I am a diplomat-I am expected to smile." Benedykt continued to frown at him. "You don't understand our position here."

"How can I, when I have been told only to do as Zozia instructs me, and she tells me nothing? If Stanislas expects me to continue to assist your sister, he must suppose that we will have regular contact, and that I am well-informed on what the King desires." He noticed Hugo Weissenkraft headed toward them. "We can talk later. For now, we had best mingle among the guests."

Benedykt sighed. "It isn't as if we don't see one another every day, as part of being in this place. The city is more a small village, especially for the Foreign Quarter. Everyone lives in everyone else's pockets."

"But we do not see the Czar every day, nor do we have banquets like this one," Saint-Germain pointed out. "When Piotyr Alexeievich is here, this village is a world capital, and has been told to behave as such." He moved away from Benedykt and soon found himself near the entrance to one of the open taverns: inside perhaps thirty of the Czar's guests were drinking various liquids and trading bits of scandal and speculation to bruit about. He noticed a saturnine man in dark-brown silken twill cut dolman-style over full britches, with a fine wig from Vienna-Saint-Germain decided this must be the new Hungarian arrival he had been told about two days since. He wondered if he should introduce himself to the stranger, but remained where he was as Piotyr Alexeievich strode into the tavern, calling for beer.

"Best drink deep now. We're about to sit down at table. You can take your plates and fill them as soon as I have my beer and my first plate is readied." He clapped his hands and stood, arms akimbo, waiting for beer.

Half a dozen men surged toward the bar to get a tankard of beer for him, two of the men colliding and scuffling in their efforts to be the one to procure what the Czar wanted. They exchanged a few blows and discovered that Tarquin Humphries, the English shipwright, had beaten them to the prize and was now handing a large tankard to Piotyr.

Lifting his tankard, the Czar called out, "Let us drink to Sankt Piterburkh and its glory!" He took a long draft of beer, looking around to see that everyone had joined in the salute. "You!" he shouted, pointing at Saint-Germain. "You do not drink to this city?"

"I endorse the pledge with all my heart, Majesty," Saint-Germain said, feeling intensely uncomfortable. He wanted to find an excuse to leave before the Czar became angry. "But sadly, I am unable to join in the toast. Pardon me, and permit me to depart."

Piotyr's face darkened. "You will drink!"

"If I could, I-" Saint-Germain began, and felt the Czar's free hand come down on the back of his neck.

"You will drink!" Piotyr insisted.

Saint-Germain had the strength to break the Czar's hold, but knew it would be unwise to do so; he took a long breath. "If I am made to drink, I fear I will disgrace myself and this noble company."

"You do that by not drinking," Piotyr said in a tone that brooked no opposition. "Oleg! Beer for my guest. Now!"

The crowd had drawn back from Piotyr and his captive, a few of them trying to laugh to dispel the sense of fright that had gone through them all, for Piotyr's temper was well-known throughout Russia and northern Europe; no one wanted to be in his way when he was in the full grip of his fury. The second tap-man behind the bar hurried out with a tankard of dark ale, holding it out to the Czar, who thrust his own drink into the bar-man's free hand, took the second tankard, and forced Saint-Germain's head back.

"Majesty, I cannot-" he tried to protest as the ale poured into his mouth. He sputtered, swallowed, sputtered more, feeling the ale splash and soak into his clothes.

"No man insults me, Hercegek. No man." The Czar emptied the tankard, and reached for his own, adding the lighter beer to the cascade. "Drink!" he ordered, and tossed aside the second tankard. "Oleg! More ale for the Hungarian Hercegek. Let him swim in it."

Oleg scuttled away to do as Piotyr commanded.

Saint-Germain felt a sharp pain at the base of his ribs where his scars could not stretch; his stomach-what little remained of it-had not been stretched this way for more than two thousand years, and it left him nauseated and miserable. "Majesty-" he muttered. "No more."

"If the Czar drinks, you will drink," Piotyr said grimly, and reached out for the next tankard.

With a sudden, powerful movement, Saint-Germain wrenched away from Piotyr, stumbled toward the wall, braced one arm against it, and abruptly vomited all that had been poured down his throat. He panted, retched, and brought up the last; certain he had got it all out, he coughed and reached for his handkerchief to wipe his mouth and the front of his clothes. Then he sagged against the wall, shivering from shock. "I ask your pardon, Majesty. I have no desire to offend you, or to slight your honor." He took a deep breath. "I … received injuries that make it impossible for me to take more than a palmful of nourishment at any time. It is nothing to your discredit that I do not drink."

Heer van Hoek, who had been standing, aghast, with Ludmilla, in the corner, now came forward and bowed. "He speaks the truth, Majesty," he said. "When he was first here, he was set upon by robbers and badly beaten. I saw his scars while treating him, and I must tell you that his injuries are severe."

"Scars, you say?" Piotyr inquired, and came to take hold of Saint-Germain again. "Show me, min Heer."

Van Hoek looked abashed. "Here? Your Majesty cannot mean-"

The Czar flung open Saint-Germain's coat and tugged up his waistcoat, then pulled his chemise from his knee-britches: a broad swath of scars was revealed, the token of his execution by disemboweling. The scars continued below the waist of his britches, but their extent above it was sufficient to earn a hard stare from the Czar. "Yes. Severe wounds." He released his hold on Saint-Germain's clothes and patted his arm. "Well, you've convinced me, Hercegek. You are unable to join us in the delights of the table. I will hold you excused." He held out his hand for another tankard. "So long as you will not mind if I drink your share!" His bellow of laughter was quickly echoed throughout the tap-room.

Trying to restore some order to his appearance, Saint-Germain said to van Hoek, "Thank you, min Heer. You spared me a dreadful afternoon."

"You have no reason to thank me," said van Hoek. "The Czar goes beyond the conduct of royals."

"He may do," said Saint-Germain, reaching for his handkerchief and patting the remaining drips of ale from his wig. "But it is the privilege of the Czar to be exempt from restrictions."

"It's all very well for you to take such a stance," said van Hoek stiffly, "but it is not good conduct on Piotyr's part." He paused awkwardly. "I assume you'll return to the care-house to change clothes."

"And bathe." He sniffed at his sleeve and shook his head. "Everything needs washing. I cannot tell if any of these garments can be saved; the chemise, perhaps, but I fear the coat and britches are stained beyond remedy." He shrugged. "I will depart when the rest of you go in to dine."

"I doubt I'll want more than a bite," said van Hoek, continuing unhappily, "After this, my appetite is quite gone."

"Eat anyway. The Czar demands excess of his guests." He heard Piotyr's voice and looked up to see the Czar approaching, the stranger in Hungarian dress beside him. "Majesty," he said neutrally.

"I didn't understand your condition, Hercegek. I own my mistake." He tugged the new-comer nearer. "I thought the introduction of a countryman would help restore you to good-humor. It is always pleasant to find compatriots in distant lands, and I am told you have never met." He beamed at this solution he had hit upon, and announced, "Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor, this is Lajos Rakoczi, Grofok Saint-Germain, from Transylvania."

As Saint-Germain stared, the other man bowed, saying in heavily accented Russian, "Hercegek Gyor, a pleasure."

Text of a letter from Ferenz Ragoczy, Grofok Saint-Germain, in Sankt Piterburkh, to Niklos Aulirios at Saint-Germain in Transylvania, written in Latin code and carried by private courier; delivered forty-nine days after it was written.

To Niklos Aulirios at my estate in Transylvania, the greetings of your beleaguered friend from the Czar's new city.

My dear Niklos,

A problem has arisen here that makes it necessary to impose upon you to a far greater extent than I would like to do, but out of my urgent need, I must: as you doubtless have been informed, the mission I have undertaken here has been in the person of Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Herecegek Gyor, an imposture I must continue for the sake of Arco-Tolvay's wife, who is an agent for the Polish Throne, and who must be in the company of her husband if she is to remain in Sankt Piterburkh. That, in and of itself, is strenuous enough, but there is now a second factor that compounds the problems: there has come to Sankt Piterburkh a man claiming to be my heir, one Lajos Rakoczi-spelled with the i the way the Hungarian patriot spells his name-who claims he has recently succeeded to my title and lands-meaning those of Grofok Saint-Germain, not Hercegek Gyor-and is present here to arrange some sort of entente cordiale for the Czar and Rakoczi II Ferenc, or so he claims. He purports to be my cousin, and the cousin of II Ferenc as well. He has sought to have me, as Arco-Tolvay, support his assertions of rank.

As you are aware, there are many reasons I cannot reveal him as a fraud without risking my own undoing, and the exposure of Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, to royal censure, which would compromise all of us, and spark such inquiries as I could not readily sustain. It is one thing to be a stand-in for a married woman's missing husband, it is quite another to have my true nature revealed. Spies are common enough in Sankt Piterburkh-vampires are not, and little though Piotyr Alexeievich may observe the strictures of Orthodoxy, he would draw the line at those of my blood.

Therefore, Niklos, I am asking you to undertake a mission to this city, in winter, for the purpose of routing this so-called Grofok Saint-Germain by assuming my identity yourself. I realize that this is a great infliction of hardship, and for that I ask your pardon. Were there anyone else I could rely on in this most complicated situation, I would not ask this of you, but I fear my situation is such that you are the only one I can charge with this task. Bring as much with you that will demonstrate that you are Grofok Saint-Germain-Moricz Losi can provide all you need, and I will give you my sigil when you arrive-and confront this man with the purpose of discrediting him. If it is possible to determine whom he serves, then that would be a most welcome addition to disclosing his imposture. Better to have the light of inquiry shine in other directions.

I apologize for asking you to travel in winter, and I will authorize you as much money as you may need to make the journey possible. I anticipate the messenger who brings this will be able to advise you on what you will need for your travels, and how long it will take. Keep in mind that the days will shorten until the Solstice, and only then will there be increasing light for your travels; also the farther north you go, the longer the nights are. I advise you to travel on horseback, since the roads are deep in snow and a carriage would be hard-put to get far before spring. There are sheep-skin saddle-pads and bear-skin riding cloaks that will cover your horse as well as you, and there are sheep-skin splint-boots for the horses, as well. Take at least two remounts apiece and carry enough grain to last the horses fifteen days. I am sorry that you will have such arduous travel, but the longer a challenge is delayed, the less likely it is to be heeded.

The man who brings this is Boguslav Miesienkevic, a private courier by trade, and a most dependable man, so long as he is well-paid. Be sure he is given three gold Polish Angels every week that you travel. Keep up this special pay and he will deal with you honestly and will do his utmost to bring you here safely. I have pledged to buy him passage on a ship to France before you reach Sankt Piterburkh, with money enough to keep him away for two years. I have explained to the Prussian Envoy that I know beyond all doubt that Ferenz Ragoczy is still alive, and that this man had not the right to claim his lands and his title. I have addressed the matter to Alexander Menshikov in private, with a generous donation for his attention and time, and been assured that if I can provide proof that Ferenz Ragoczy still lives, this Lajos Rakoczi will be returned to Hungary for the judgment of the Hapsburgs.

There are instructions to Moricz Losi included with this, which I ask you to give to him as soon as you have read this.

In the name of Atta Olivia Clemens, whom we both cherish in our memories, I thank you for undertaking this. You must miss her even more than I do.

Gratefully,

Ferenz Ragoczy (Sanct' Germain Franciscus)

(his sigil, the eclipse)

October 2nd, 1704