A Dangerous Climate (Saint-Germain #22)

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05.03.2019

A puddle of light from the overhead oil-lamps brought the pages on the trestle-table to full legibility; he had set out the latest lists of words and phrases in Dutch and Russian, and was now waiting for Ludmilla to arrive. The room was warmer than it had been, for Saint-Germain's quarters were now almost finished. At the other end of the room, the half-built athanor was the only obvious sign of incompletion. The wall-panels were new enough to retain marks from the saws that cut them, but the book-cases placed up against them made the rawness less apparent. The bunk constructed for Gavril Valentinovich was next to the athanor, empty now that its occupant had died, but made up and ready to be put to use again.

At seven o'clock, there was a knock on the door, and Saint-Germain went to admit Ludmilla. Tonight he was in his long, black chamber-robe, which he wore over ankle-length black leggings of knitted silk; his chemise was simple, without collar or neck-cloth, and of spotless white triple-ply silk. His black slippers had unusually thick soles. He offered her a partial bow. "Come in, Ludmilla Borisevna. You are always prompt."

She bobbed a curtsy. "As we are under the same roof, I have no excuse not to be." She adjusted the fine Turkish shawl around her shoulders as she carried her lesson-books into his quarters; the lamplight turned the rust-color of her dress to chestnut, and shone on her ordered coronet of bronze braids. "They are having their meal downstairs."

"I can smell the fish baking," he said, watching her with concern. "It is baked fish and turnips boiled in milk tonight, I believe."

"That's right," she said. "We're getting to winter food now that it's November and the ice has come. In another week, the Neva's ice will be thick enough to hold carriages and wagons and all the boats will be marooned until spring, but the Guard can go hunting for game for the city."

"Winter food or not, should you not have something?"

"I wasn't very hungry." She looked away from him. "And it was time for our lesson. I'll have something later, while I take my ease at the end of my watches." Her watch concluded when the Cathedral clock chimed four, many hours away.

He saw the remoteness in her face, and said, "Are you sure you would not rather cancel tonight's instruction? This has been a harder day than most."

"Not studying won't change the day." She did her best not to look directly at him. "I'd like something to concentrate on, other than our losses."

"I have no wish to intrude, but, Ludmilla, have you recovered from the misfortune earlier today? It would be most understandable if you had not." He could see lingering shock in her eyes and the beginning of anguish. "If you are troubled, tell me; I will hold anything you say in confidence."

"Would you?" She studied him. "Why should you?"

"For respect, and trust." His voice was low and steady, like the bass string on the viola da gamba, and the sound reassured her.

"What if what I say doesn't deserve respect, or trust?"

"You already have my respect and my trust, Ludmilla Borisevna; nothing you say will change that."

She crossed herself; when she spoke it was as if she were compelled and relieved at once. "There are so few children in Sankt Piterburkh, fewer than forty that I know of. To lose one to something so simple as an inflamed cut … I do feel desolated by the death of the Ratschin boy as I have not when the deaths have been of adults. He is the fourth child we have lost since midsummer, and that troubles me. He was cheated of so much, that child. I would have been willing to try anything to keep him alive and help him to get well again-But there was nothing we could do by the time they brought him here. So the Danes no longer have a page at their Residence, and the steward and chambermaid have lost their only child. Just eight years old, and so far from home. He came here in June, from Moscow, with his parents. They told me that the Czar ordered them to come, as he has ordered so many others, and he told them to bring their son, to serve with them in the Danes' household. It is all part of the Czar's plan: Piotyr Alexeievich seeks to have his city built, and to be a hallmark for all Russia, and an example for Europe as well." Reciting this as if it were a strange alphabet, she moved automatically to the trestle-table, each step disjointed from every other step. "What would you like me to study tonight, Hercegek?"

"I think, as I have told you, that you may want to postpone the lesson, at least in our usual manner; I will not send you away, but with all you have been through, something a little less demanding may be preferable, and provide an instructive distraction-something that engages your attention without demanding your concentration," he said, taking the books from her and then gathering her hands in his so that she would face him. "If that seems too much, tonight you may choose to rest, so that you may restore yourself." He held her gaze with his own for several seconds, and then she looked away as if compelled by guilt.

"I shouldn't," she said, her voice quiet. "Tonight is going to be a difficult time for all the staff, and I must be prepared, and not only for the boy's death: we have lost others today. With Heer van Hoek gone for two hours to be with his Dutch friends, to ease the burdens of the day and to relieve his homesickness … A lesson will help me to regain my perspective, a little. I need to regain it so that I can do my work. I can't allow …" She glanced toward the shuttered windows. "It's still snowing, you know. Kyril said so when he came in from the street a short while ago. He had gone to the Cathedral to arrange something for the boy." Her voice broke; she began to weep silently, without sobbing.

He released her hands and touched her shoulder lightly, letting her head fall forward onto his shoulder. "Better to weep, Ludmilla, and honor the child's life, than to nurture grief like a hidden treasure, for that can be poison to the spirit." His hand remained on her shoulder, not heavy but sustaining.

"I've seen children die before; we lost two to Swamp Fever in the summer; they were pages, too, and as innocent as the Ratschin boy, but their loss didn't seem as great as this one," she said, the words muffled. "I don't know why this has overcome me so." She attempted to wipe away her tears, but they continued; her face lost its impassivity as the lines of despair sank into her features. "Why couldn't we save them? Why do any of them die?"

Saint-Germain smoothed the wisps of hair back from her face. "Everything dies, Ludmilla." He spoke with sorrow and with an abiding acceptance that had come with his long, long life. "Everyone."

"But must they?" This was no louder than a whisper, but it held all the heartache she had experienced since she came to the care-house a year ago. She stared into his dark eyes as if she hoped to find the answer there.

It took him a while to compose an answer for her. "You have given many of your patients more days of life than they would have had without you. There may not be much consolation in that, but your gift is genuine, and the extra time you have provided is a gift beyond price. Yet in spite of your good care, every one of your patients will die, one day. That does not diminish your gift, either, nor is it lessened because you cannot always restore your patients to health. What matters is that you are willing to make the effort on their behalf." It had taken him three centuries to learn this during his service at the Temple of Imhotep.

Ludmilla leaned against him more fully. "But a little boy, with nothing more than a cut-Why should he die, and rough supervisors who live more like wolves and bears than humans survive?"

"I wish I knew," said Saint-Germain with undisputable sincerity. "Worthy people perish and reprehensible ones live, some of the time. Just as often the reprehensible ones die and the worthy live, and there is no reason for any of it, except that death comes to us all."

"His parents are mired in grief, and nothing can change that. I couldn't think of anything to say to them." This time when she wiped her eyes, her tears stopped. "If only I could believe that life is a bad joke that God plays on all of us, as many of my countrymen do, I would not be distressed." She gathered up her courage and looked directly into his eyes now. "But I can't."

"I would imagine that if you did, you would not be here; those who bank their feelings so relentlessly eventually lose all their emotions," he said, watching her attentively.

She managed a single, rueful laugh, and something corposant deep within her seemed to retreat. "Nor would you, Hercegek," she said, leaning forward to kiss him on the cheek.

For an instant both of them were perfectly still, then he returned the kiss affectionately, matching his mood to hers; he put his arms around her. "I have a notion," he said companionably. "Tonight, rather than our usual lesson, I will tell you stories in Dutch, and you will translate as much of them as you can as I go along-that is, if you are willing."

"Stories?" She gave this her consideration. "All right. If you promise me that you won't choose ones about reckless or vain girls coming to grief. I heard enough of those when I was young, along with constant admonitions to do my duty."

"No exemplary tales, then; my Word on it," he said with a quick, one-sided smile, and stepped back from her, pointing to the comfortable chair next to the largest book-case. "If you will sit down, I will light the lamps on the table by the chair, and we will begin."

"But isn't this your chair?" she asked, feeling uncomfortable at the thought of displacing him. "Don't you want to use it?"

"Everything in this room is mine, except that bunk on the wall," he said calmly. "It would please me if you would accept my hospitality; the chair is more comfortable than the stool, so it is fitting that you, as my guest, should have it." His bow, while moderate, was as elegant as any she had ever seen.

"All right: to please you," she said as she sank into the high-backed upholstered chair. "Has the Czar seen this?"

"The chair? Not that I know of," Saint-Germain said, surprised at her question. "Why do you ask?"

"Only that if he does see it, he'll probably expect you to make him a present of it. The workmanship is so fine, he would want it in his collection. It has happened with many another." She touched the padded arm and the lion's paw at the end of it.

"If he likes the design of this chair, surely he would prefer to make his own," said Saint-Germain, thinking of all the beautifully turned wood in the Czar's house, all of which Piotyr had done himself.

"He may want this for a model to work from," said Ludmilla. "If you presented it to him directly, he would probably show his gratitude handsomely."

"I will bear that in mind," said Saint-Germain as he brought a long match to light the lamps on the inlaid occasional table from Egypt. "Would you like some tea? I have a spirit-lamp and a teapot to make it; and I have a cordial of black raspberries, if you would like stronger fare. I brought it with me from Poland."

She blinked at him in surprise. "May I have the cordial mixed with hot water?"

"Certainly." He brought the spirit-lamp from the end of the trestle-table and put it in the middle of a raised ring of iron. Next he took the teapot from its place on the shelves at the end of the table and filled it with water from a small barrel of it that stood under the table. After putting the pot on the raised iron ring, he used the match again to light the spirit-lamp. "It will boil shortly."

"Spasiba," she murmured.

He acknowledged her thanks with a nod even as he carried the stool nearer to the chair and set it down. "What sort of story would you like? There are stories about real people and actual events, stories about clever peasants, stories about seafaring to distant lands, stories about magic and wizardry, stories about great sacrifice, stories about foolishness-you have only to choose which one you want to hear."

"What story would use the Dutch words I know the most?" she asked.

"Probably the story of times past," he said. "If you think you would like to know some of the history of the Dutch?"

"It would please Heer van Hoek, and that would be useful," she said, trying to be practical; what she wanted most to hear was stories of high adventure in distant lands. Inspiration struck her. "Or you could tell me about your travels-all the places you have been, and the wonderful things you have seen."

It was Saint-Germain's turn to be perplexed; he knew a fair amount about Arpad Arco-Tolvay's life, but had only a sketchy knowledge of his journeys. "Shall I tell you about the great cities of the world? Not just the ones I have seen, but the ones I have had described to me? I have often asked travelers of their experiences," he offered, knowing he could draw on his long experience without exposing himself.

Her eyes brightened. "Oh, yes, please. The more ships come here, the more we will see sailors from many distant ports. I will need to know what is true and what is imaginary."

Saint-Germain said, "Let us begin, then, with Amsterdam, since it is Dutch, and the Czar admires it." Just as he said it, he remembered that Arpad Arco-Tolvay had never seen that city, and so he added, "Although I have never been there, I have often heard it described, and from most reliable people; I can compare what I have heard to places I have seen." He sat on the stool, and went on in that language, "Like this city, Amsterdam has been built on what once was marshland. It is low-lying, on the edge of a large bay to the east of the city. There is a good harbor there, and many canals, so that the city is protected and constantly busy." He paused and listened while Ludmilla repeated most of what he had said in Russian, then continued in Dutch, "Like Sankt Piterburkh, it is a cluster of islands, some as they were in nature, some made or made larger by human endeavor, and connected to the drained mainland and one another by bridges. The Dutch continue to enlarge their city, always striving to reclaim land from the sea. The canals are structured in a horse-shoe pattern, one set inside another, and another inside that, and so on. The canals are flanked by streets, and the houses line the canals. Merchants live along the canals." Again he went silent while she did her best to say a fair portion of what he had told her in her own tongue; she managed more than half the words without mishap.

"How long did it take the Dutch to finish their city?" she wondered aloud when she was done with her translation.

"It is unfinished still, and may be so for another century yet." He was still speaking Dutch.

After she had translated what he said, she remarked, "This city will be finished in fifteen years at the most. The Czar has ordered it. Why would the Dutch need more than fifteen years to build such a place?"

"The Dutch continue to expand their activities. Amsterdam grows. Even the Czar may discover that the same will happen here; the city may grow beyond the limits of his formidable design." Saint-Germain paused, then said, "I know of one city in the sea that changes very little, but that is because it keeps itself apart from the mainland, and has only so many islands that it can include within its boundaries: that is the fine city of Venezia on the Adriatic Sea." He experienced a pang of dejection, missing the Most Serene Republic where he maintained a trading company and a press-as he did in Amsterdam as well. "It has fallen from its earlier power, but still retains its importance in trade in the eastern seas."

"I've heard of Venezia. Is it true that it has palaces riding on boats?" Ludmilla asked in Russian, then asked the same thing in Dutch.

"It has fine boats, to be sure, and a great many of them, but all of their palaces are built on reinforced islands. You have seen the work-gangs here sinking logs straight down into the damp ground to shore up the footing? All of Venezia is built on such pilings. Its palaces and churches and piazzas all stand on a sunken forest." He waited for her to translate what he said, and spent some time explaining pilings and piazzas, then said, "Both Venezia and Amsterdam are seafaring centers, and both of them depend utterly upon shipping for their very survival."

"That must happen here," said Ludmilla emphatically. "So long as Piotyr is Czar, his city will endure, but once he is gone, it may fade, and all of us be cast on the world again."

The teapot began to boil; Saint-Germain went to remove it from the flame of the spirit-lamp and to blow the lamp out. He selected a porcelain cup from its place on his shelves and then brought the bottle of cordial from a chest beneath the empty bunk. "Half cordial, half hot water?" He saw her nod, and poured the cordial into the cup until it was half-full, then stoppered the bottle again and added the hot water. He carried the cup to her, setting it down carefully. "There you are, Ludmilla Borisevna." He withdrew to the stool again, but did not sit upon it.

"It is fragrant," she said in Dutch, then added in Russian, "There are so many things I need to learn to say, and to write. How can I ever hope to know what I'm reading if I don't understand enough? Yet I must know more, mustn't I? How can I provide records and other information if I haven't mastered writing?"

"You are learning very rapidly," Saint-Germain assured her in Russian. "You have good reason to be pleased with your progress."

"So you have told me," she muttered, taking up the cup and drinking. "It seems to me that I am dragging along like an old donkey behind a cart."

"I think perhaps that today everything disappoints you," he said kindly.

She lifted the cup. "This doesn't. This is very good." She drank again. "May I have some more? Not immediately, but when we're finished here?"

"If that would please you, of course you may." He could see the elusive radiance he had perceived within her earlier flicker in her eyes and then fade again. "In this room you are my guest as well as my student."

With a hint of a sigh, she abandoned her attempt to smile. "I thank you for your understanding, Hercegek. You are most generous. It is more than I have-" She made herself stop. "I beg your pardon. You've endured too much of my crying already."

"If you have tears to shed, they will not offend me," he said, and took a step toward her. "I won't impose upon you." Then, without warning, she began to cry once more, no longer silently, but in a soft, keening wail that reminded him of the rising wind. Scraps of words tumbled out of her, exposing the depth of her feelings that were beyond language. She made complicated gestures with her hands as if to keep him from coming nearer.

He went to her and knelt down on one knee beside her; he took a lace-edged linen handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to her. "There is no shame in mourning, Ludmilla," he said as gently as he could.

She took the handkerchief and held it to her eyes, struggling with her tears. She did her best to speak, but the words caught in her throat and she surrendered to her weeping, secretly astonished that he remained beside her. "It isn't just sorrow for the child: I can't go back to my husband; I can't. But if I fail here …" She was shocked to hear this admission, for until this outburst, she had not realized how much grief she had kept within her, and how much dread. For more than three minutes she wept, all the while staring at him through her flooded eyes, finding nothing but sympathy in his reaction to her crying. Gradually her tears diminished, and as she strove to compose herself, she kept her lips pressed tightly together. Finally she drew an unsteady breath. "Truly it's said that suffering is the way of the world," she murmured, making this a kind of apology. "The Church tells us that, and we haven't the wisdom to comprehend our mortality, the burden of sin, the innocence of children." Her body slumped. "So long as we will not lead blameless lives, we will be weighed down with wretchedness of our own making."

"It need not be so, not always," he said, getting to his feet and drawing her out of the chair to be close to him.

"For our sins we must endure pain and sadness, despair and loneliness, though the Savior died on the Cross to spare us. It is sin that often brings us down." She made the sign of the cross, more out of habit than piety. "No one can know grace but through embracing the agony of life."

"Life has pain and life has joy, and sin has nothing to do with it unless one makes it so," he said, trying to provide some consolation that would diminish her anguish.

"We are weak, and we fail God," she said, wadding the handkerchief into a ball. "The priests tell us every day, and we don't understand what they say."

"You have not failed, Ludmilla Borisevna," he said more compassionately. "You have done your utmost to ease misery and sickness. You have devoted yourself to alleviating pain. If your God expects more, who could satisfy His demands?"

"But that child-"

"It was a difficult loss," said Saint-Germain quietly, feeling her tremble against him.

"And Ivan Ivanovich Zacharov. He is alive, but his mind has gone. In the spring he will have to be sent to Moscow, to the monks who care for such men." Her shaking got worse. "If we had treated him properly, he would be restored."

"No, Ludmilla, he would not," said Saint-Germain. "Zacharov was struck in the head two times with an iron bar, which would have killed most men, and that has left a permanent injury. Nothing you or I or anyone could do would change this."

"Why was he spared, then?" Horrified at her own question, she pressed the handkerchief to her mouth.

"I wish I knew," he said. "If I understood why-"

"Don't say that! There must be a reason!" she interrupted.

"If there is, it has eluded me for a long, long time." He took her nearest hand, lifted it, and kissed it. "We must make our reasons for ourselves."

"No," said Ludmilla. "There must be reason beyond our own, or the world would never change, and we would live as our ancestors did."

"The world is always changing, and we, perforce, change with it," said Saint-Germain. "No change is for good or ill, it is for the necessity of the world. Good or ill is what we make of it." He put her hand down. "You have only yourself to answer to, Ludmilla, as we all must answer to ourselves." He felt her wince at this thought. "You are capable of all things, and you have decided to aid your fellow-beings. This speaks honorably of you."

She crossed herself again. "If I can't manage here, if I am condemned by the Metropolitan for permitting helpless children to die, I will have to return to my husband, in disgrace and an embarrassment to him. He would be allowed to dispose of me for bringing disgrace upon him. He will send me to a convent, or kill me." This last was said in flat certainty.

"Any man who would think you an embarrassment diminishes himself." He helped her to stand, and remained next to her. "I have no fear that you would be compelled to go back to your husband. The Czar would not want to lose such an accomplished woman as you are to the vanity of a boyar, given that you have done so much to benefit his new city."

"Let me lose another child, and I may be sent away," she said harshly. "It is not as if my skills are sufficient to sustain this care-house; I am not essential here. Heer van Hoek is a trained man with experience. I am little more than his assistant."

"One he could not manage without," said Saint-Germain, aware of the depth of her worry. "If there should be any doubt as to how essential you are, I will gladly tell Piotyr Alexeievich that you are as necessary to this care-house as Heer van Hoek is."

"You are a Hungarian. Why should he listen to you?"

"Because I know something of medical treatments, and my opinion is disinterested; I have nothing to lose or gain in speaking my mind. I think he would be willing to hear me out." Saying this, he had to admit he had doubts, but he was fairly sure that the Czar would want to keep Ludmilla here for the sake of the patients in the care-house.

"You have more faith in the Czar than I do," she said slowly as she wrapped her arms around him. "But it is good of you to make such an offer, and to permit me to give voice to my sadness and my fears. I'm grateful to you."

"I have no wish for your gratitude."

She stared at him. "Why?"

He answered her obliquely. "Long ago there was a merchant who traveled in the lands of Hind, and when he learned of a coming attack, he sent the woman he loved across the Arabian Sea to Egypt, providing her with the means to live comfortably until he should be able to join her. Unlike most of the women of Hind, the woman was spared penury and worse. But the barbarians took him captive and years passed until they were able to meet again, when it became apparent that the woman had come to resent him for caring for her." He kissed her forehead, the image of Avasa Dani fading from his thoughts. "I have learned from that man, and I distrust gratitude. Thank me if you like: that will discharge any obligation you may have to me."

"But …" She hesitated. "You've done so much for me-why shouldn't I be grateful?"

"I have done what I have done out of my own inclination, not to favor you," he said, with such tenderness that she blinked and hoped she would not cry again. "That I have pleased you is an added satisfaction for me."

Tentatively, Ludmilla asked, "Does your wife mind what you do here?"

Saint-Germain turned his enigmatic eyes on hers, then answered, "If my assisting here pleases the Czar, it pleases her, and her brother approves it, as well."

"And if she commanded you to stop your work here, would you?" Her question was breathless, and she remained still as she waited to hear what he would say.

"It would depend upon why she had commanded me," said Saint-Germain, a wry smile touching his mouth. "She is one of the representatives here for Poland, and I am pledged to assist her, but if she ordered me away in a fit of pique or because she dislikes some of the ills we treat, then I would not leave; my King would expect me to remain."

Ludmilla thought about this for several seconds. "And if you become ill, what then?"

"Those of my blood do not become ill," he said levelly.

"You say that after you were set upon in May? And those old scars you have?" Her incredulity turned to hard laughter.

"I did not say I could not be injured," he told her steadily, "I said I do not become ill; they are two different matters."

Her laughing stopped abruptly. "You are right," she allowed. "They are different." Once more tears welled in her eyes. "Not again."

"Weep as long and as often as you need to, Ludmilla," said Saint-Germain.

"I don't want to need to," she said, opening the handkerchief once more. "I've ruined this, I think," she added before she wiped her eyes.

"I have more," he assured her as she stepped into his arms.

They stood together for some little time, Ludmilla leaning on him as the accumulated despair and fatigue went slowly out of her and she began to feel purged of her exhaustion; with it came a distancing from their closeness. She lifted her head from his shoulder and took a step back. "Is Hroger here?"

"He is at the Polish Residence," said Saint-Germain. "I sent him to deliver a message to the Ksiezna and to my coachman." He did not add that he had included instructions for Saari as well.

"How long will he be gone?"

"He will return after he has eaten."

"Should we try for a lesson tomorrow night as well as the night after?" She put the handkerchief down on the table beside the chair. "I should be more attentive then."

"If you would like it," he said, releasing his hold on her.

"Then we can do the lessons you planned for tonight." She picked up the teacup and drank the last of the black raspberry cordial, though the water with which it was mixed had gone cold.

"Would you like some more?" he offered, aware that she had a secondary reason for her inquiries.

"No, not now. If you are awake when I've finished my watch tonight, then I'd welcome it." The smile she gave was more secure than any other he had seen that night, and her voice more caressing than he had ever heard it. "You are often awake far into the night, aren't you?"

"I require little sleep," he said.

"Might I come up then? For your cordial in hot water?" There was a promise of something more in her request; she confirmed his supposition by suddenly closing the distance between them and kissing him on the lips. "Will you let me visit you then?"

He nodded. "You are welcome here at any time."

"No matter what your wife may think?"

He held her eyes with his. "Until the end of your watch, Ludmilla."

"Yes, Hercegek Gyor, until then," she said before she let herself out of his quarters.

Text of a letter to Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor, from Johannes Walther Oertel Stiffelmund, Graf von Altenburg, Prussian Envoy to Sankt Piterburkh, carried by messenger.

To the esteemed Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor, from the Graf von Altenburg, his apologies for the cancellation of the fete tomorrow night, and the brevity of this note.

My dear Arco-Tolvay,

It is inconvenient, I know, to postpone the entertainment I had planned to offer to the diplomats and other important figures of the Foreign Quarter tomorrow, but as I have become ill, as has Theophilius Schaft, I am reluctant to expose others to this inconvenient fever, which I fear I contracted while I was supervising the unloading of the Koenigen Frika. She has become mired in ice, as you know, and will remain at her moorings until the thaw releases her in spring. All her cargo and many of her ship's appointments have been removed to our assigned warehouse for the winter, in case there should be trouble out in the river, and the ship be damaged because of it. Four of the sailors were suffering from this sickness, and I have assumed that I have had the disease from them. As soon as the illness has run its course, I will once again set a time for the fete. I am only sorry that it will mean that the Czar will not be here to lend his presence to our amusements.

We have arranged with the Guard for one of the Watchmen groups to visit the ship twice a day in order to ascertain its condition and to protect it from some of the robbers from the mainland who have taken to plundering unmanned ships caught in the ice. That should at least spare us the loss of goods that so many others have experienced. The Watchmen we have been assigned are from Novgorod, and have sworn to keep our ship protected. We are paying them well for their protection, and we have secured the services of a pair of sailors who will spend time on the ship during the daylight hours. They have been given a signal-horn to sound in case of trouble, as have the Watchmen. Under the circumstances, this is the best we can do to protect the Koenigen Frika.

I dislike having to impose upon your good-will still further, but I would like to ask you, since the care-house where you work has agreed to take in Schaft tonight, that you will deign to visit me with your case of medicaments, as I must, of necessity, remain here at the Residence. The ship's physician, who is staying at the Residence along with the rest of the Koenigen Frika's officers, has bled me, but I have felt no reduction in symptoms-in fact, my cough is worse. You are said to possess an array of treatments, some of which might serve to lessen my fever and my cough. You will be welcome whenever it is convenient for you to call; you need not send a messenger to announce your coming.

Anticipating your arrival,

I remain most sincerely,

J. W. O. Stiffelmund

Graf von Altenburg

Prussian Envoy at Sankt Piterburkh

November 9th, 1704