Through the thickening fog the Czar's four-room house blazed with lights, making it a fuzzily luminous beacon to all those summoned to his gala of farewell; Watchmen on the streets carried extra lanterns to help guide the sleighs and horses to the splendid occasion that was to mark Piotyr's departure to rejoin his troops.
Huddled in her enclosed Polish sleigh, Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, snuggled into her long sable coat and glared at Saint-Germain. "You should have told me before now, and you know it," she complained, her breath adding to the fog; she had been argumentative since he had arrived at her house an hour before, and that acrimony continued as they cut along the icy street. "If you are withholding this deliberately-"
"That Graf von Altenburg is very ill? I thought it was generally known already. The Prussians have certainly made no secret of it, and the Foreign Quarter has few secrets. Is there something you would like to know in regard to his case?" His courtly garb was covered by a long cloak lined and hooded in wolf's-fur, and his gloves were elk-leather lined in silk.
She answered obliquely. "Benedykt said he was ailing, but not that it was anything more than a winter fever. Now you tell me that he may have putrid lungs. Putrid lungs, in this place! How can he expect to recover? And what I am to do to keep on good terms with the Prussians while he is unavailable to me? Hugo Weissenkraft won't provide me the information that von Altenburg has." She held a small heated stone in her gloved hands to keep them warm, but she balanced it now as if she intended to throw it at him. "This is important, Grofok. The Prussians and the Poles have many interests in common, and if von Altenburg dies, then my position could become more perilous, and with it, your own."
"In what way?" Saint-Germain asked with great cordiality. "I am willing to do what I can to ensure our mutual security, but until this evening, you have said nothing about von Altenburg's relationship to your mission, or what it has to do with his illness, since I went to the care-house. I may no longer be directly included in your duties here, Zozia, but I do not grasp how von Altenburg's sickness endangers you, or me. I do see his present incapacity may be an inconvenience, but-"
"Do think a little, Grofok." She stared at him in exaggerated patience. "If I am required to make a decision that could bear on Poland, I prefer to consult with von Altenburg so that nothing I do will compromise any understandings that exist between Prussia and Poland. Surely you can see that, can't you? You were recommended for this post because you are said to be sensitive to diplomatic relations; doubtless you are aware that Poland and Prussia have many interests in common in regard to Russia; you were ready enough to support them when you accepted Augustus' terms for this delegacy." Before he could speak, she went on, "So far, in spite of changing mandates, you have shown that you have a good understanding of my situation, and I know you are a man of worldly experience, or you would not have been asked to accompany me in this ineluctable deceit, and I would not have lent myself to this project. Having agreed to our task, why would you hesitate to inform me of something so important as the Envoy's condition? If he is seriously ill, then I will be stymied, and will have to wait until he recovers or his replacement arrives to make any commitments to other foreigners in this city."
"A situation shared by many of those living in the Foreign Quarter," said Saint-Germain. "Nothing official may be concluded before spring, unless you have a special courier to take dispatches overland. With the worst weather yet to come, I presume you would not want to send a courier out except in the direst emergency." He thought for an instant of Niklos Aulirios, and hoped that he would be able to make the most of his journey from the Carpathians to the banks of the Neva before the thaw, though it meant traveling in the fiercest weather. "If your problem is urgent enough, perhaps you can arrange something with the Prussians to your mutual but temporary benefit."
This time she regarded him with dislike. "You have no idea of how difficult my situation here has become," she announced.
"No, I do not: how could I?" he countered reasonably. "Since Stanislas replaced Augustus, I have not been included in any aspect of Polish efforts here; that was to be expected, and I have no argument with it. Since Augustus left Poland, I have been superfluous to your purposes; I know Stanislas approved my work at the care-house, little as you may wish to admit it, not only to allow you to consult more often with your brother, but to remove me from your activities, and the chance that I might do something contrary to your assignments for the benefit of Augustus or Hungary."
Her indignation was immediate. "How can you say such a thing to me, Grofok? How can you impugn me so unjustly? You have no right to cast aspersions upon me. You agreed from the first that you would accommodate me in all matters diplomatic, and yet you have the gall to claim I have treated you unfairly."
"I do not claim that you are unfair, only that your purposes are not unknown to me although your instructions are, which is where we have encountered trouble, as you have acknowledged before now. If you are willing to tell me what you need me to do or say, then it is far more likely that we will deal better with each other. I will respect your confidences, as I have done from the first." His voice softened, and he leaned forward on the seat. "I would appreciate candor from you, so that I may do my part to help you." He held up his hands. "I have nothing against you, Zozia. I have no objection to you sending me away from your house so that you could continue your mission in safety with your brother. But I cannot intuit all that you require of me; in order to support you, I have to know what you expect of me."
She lowered her head so that he could not see the expression that marred her pretty features. "I take your point, Grofok. You and I must find a way to share our work but without the risk of exposure," she said at last. "Pragmatically it is the best approach for us to have more regular private discussions, so that this kind of impasse may be avoided in future." There was a steeliness in her voice that made it apparent that she would not back down from her position.
"I agree," he said as the sleigh was pulled in to a stop. "If you will permit me to help you to descend?" He had reached to open the door and let down the steps, rose crouched over and stepped back out of the sleigh, then held out his hand to assist her.
She put her hand in his. "Be careful tonight. If anyone asks you about von Altenburg, say as little as you can, and dismiss the rumors that he is dying in any way you can short of clear mendacity." Putting her foot on the hard-packed icy snow, she had to steady herself on his arm.
"I will do my best, Ksiezna." Looking up at her coachman, he said, "If you will return at midnight?" He started toward the door of the Czar's house.
"Vincenty," said Zozia to the coachman; she still clung to Saint-Germain's arm. "Tell Gronigen to come at midnight. You need some rest."
"Yes, Ksiezna," he said, and prepared to turn the sleigh around.
"If you hear any rumors tonight about Polish or Prussian interests, let me know at once," Zozia said as they reached the small porch of the house.
"I will," he promised her, stepping into the vestibule and removing his cloak, which he handed to the servant, revealing himself in a deep-red damask silk coat and britches with black leg-hose, black shoes with diamond buckles, a black chemise and a dull-silver satin waistcoat; his English wig was freshly dressed and curled, and he had two splendid brooches holding the revers of his coat in place. He removed Zozia's long sable wrap and handed it to the servant, then went into the main room where more than thirty guests had already gathered.
Marfa Skavronskaya greeted Zozia warmly, complimenting her elegant dress of plum-colored satin over petticoats of light-blue lawn cut-lace, with matching tiers of the same lace at her elbows and framing her face with a curled ruff, setting off a collar of diamonds and rubies. Marfa herself was in a dress of red satin with a square neckline piped in Baroque pearls and sprays of gold embroidery; on both wrists she had multiple gold bracelets set with precious stones. "Your husband is a generous man; no doubt you're deserving of his gifts."
"He has good taste in jewels," Zozia allowed, and was rewarded with Marfa's hearty laugh.
"That's to his credit," said Marfa.
"Madame," said Saint-Germain, bowing over Marfa's hand. "If you think well of my taste, what can I be but flattered."
"Deft, very deft. You're being quite grand tonight, Hercegek," Marfa said, an appreciative glint in her eyes. "The Czar will be glad to see you, as am I." She indicated the far end of the room where most of the guests were gathered.
Piotyr had abandoned his place beside Marfa near the door and was standing beside the stove, busily pouring libations for his guests and trying to get more of the company to join him in a drinking contest. Catching sight of Saint-Germain, he raised his tankard of beer and shouted, "Ah! My Hungarian Hercegek and your Polish wife! Twice welcome!" He was in a handsome ensemble of lilac satin coat, puce britches, a blue velvet waistcoat lavishly embroidered in gold thread, and a chemise of pale-gray silk with a neck-cloth of matching lace; his wig was a masterpiece of cascading russet curls. Doughty and effusive, he dominated the room as much by the force of his presence as his great height.
"Majesty," said Saint-Germain, offering an extravagant bow; beside him, Zozia made an elegant curtsy.
"Come! Come." He held up a glass of Champagne, beaming at them as they obeyed. "Let me give you something to-" He stopped himself with a booming laugh. "No, Hercegek; I think nothing for you. You see, I remember your scars." He wagged a finger at Saint-Germain. "I will excuse you from joining in the merriment. But your wife will not refuse my wine, will she? It is a fine vintage."
"Most gracious, Majesty," said Zozia, moving toward Piotyr to take the glass he had poured for her. "May God attend you in your travels."
"I hope He will," said the Czar, pointing to the Captain of the stranded Koenigen Frika, who was lingering near the stove as much for beer as warmth. "Herr Drost there is making the most of the evening. I hope you will do the same, Ksiezna."
"Herr Drost," she said with a gracious nod.
"Ksiezna," he said, returning her nod. "I am delighted to see you." His hang-dog expression belied his courtesy.
"He is glum because two more sailors from his ship have died of the epidemic cough; that makes five." Piotyr held up an empty tankard. "Hercegek! For you!" He shoved the tankard into Saint-Germain's hands, grinning as he did. "Since I won't put you through another bout of vomiting, not tonight."
"Most gracious of you, Majesty," said Saint-Germain, taking the tankard and holding it carefully as if it contained something of great value.
"So," the Czar boomed, "you can tell me, Hercegek: is it true that von Altenburg is dying?"
Zozia shot an accusatory glance at Saint-Germain. "Yes; is he?"
"He is gravely ill, but I am not yet certain that he will die," said Saint-Germain, uncomfortably aware of the high degree of attention he was receiving. "The Envoy is a man of strong constitution, and that always gives reason for hope."
"Well, then, I will hope," said the Czar, and drank a generous draft of beer. "See that you do your best for him."
"Certainly, Majesty." Saint-Germain made a leg in the manner of the French and English, and was rewarded with a whoop from Piotyr.
"Well done, well done!" he exclaimed, and rounded on Zozia. "You have a most clever husband, Madame."
"So I think," said Zozia with a trace of a simper, taking a step away from Piotyr. "We must not monopolize you, Majesty. You have many other guests coming to wish you Godspeed on your return to your troops."
"And for that, I am grateful," said Piotyr automatically. "See that you remember me and my soldiers in your prayers, Ksiezna."
"I will," said Zozia, still backing away from the Czar; she signaled to Saint-Germain to join her. "Hercegek, I would like to have some of the sausages I smell cooking in the next room. Will you escort me?"
"Of course, Ksiezna," said Saint-Germain, keeping by her side as they moved into the second room of the house. "Would you like me to bring you a plate, or will you select your food for yourself?" He set his tankard down next to her Champagne glass on the table but remained standing while she decided.
"If you will bring me sausages, and a few of those little pastries stuffed with sour cream and spinach?" She waved him in the direction of the buffet table, then sought out a seat at one of a half-dozen small tables out of the line of sight from the main room.
Saint-Germain did as she bade him, taking a plate and serviette, and selecting from the uncovered platters the food she had requested. As he turned to carry it to her, he saw that she was deep in conversation with Lajos Rakoczi; her voice was low, but her manner was emphatic as she leaned forward to address him, saying in German: "-have no business questioning the Hercegek's veracity. He has done what any honorable man must do; if your claims are truthful, then you can have no reason for your indignation. If my husband says that he has seen Ferenz Ragoczy alive, then you may be sure he has done so."
"It is admirable, Ksiezna, that you defend the Hercegek so passionately, but you do so without the knowledge you need to be able to-" He broke off as he saw Saint-Germain approaching. "Hercegek," he said curtly, rising and offering a minimal bow.
"Grofok," said Saint-Germain as he put down the plate and the serviette he had brought. "I trust I see you well." His politeness concealed his inclination to remove the man from Zozia's vicinity, but he knew he should not provoke a confrontation with him at this gathering. Belatedly he managed a small bow.
"I would be better if you would respond to the letter I sent to you." For some reason, he continued to speak in German. His face was set in uncompromising lines as he regarded Saint-Germain, obviously disapproving of his clothes, for Rakoczi was in full Hungarian array: a heavy russet-colored woolen dolman with black lacings, embroidered leather gloves tucked in his belt, elaborately embroidered riding-britches with high black boots; he wore his own hair and a narrow gold coronet to proclaim his rank. "I would have thought you would have done me the courtesy of answering my very reasonable requests."
"As nothing has changed since my original declaration to Menshikov, I did not see how an answer would alter anything. You already have all the information I can provide; I have had no new information." He inclined his head, his manner impeccable. "If this has offended you, I am sorry that you chose to see it in such terms."
"I will be less offended if you will tell me when I might expect you to withdraw your challenge to my rights to my estates and title." The audacity of this remark was deliberate, and it commanded the attention of the dozen guests in the room, as well as the servants who waited upon them.
"I have not challenged you, Grofok. I have been at pains not to challenge you, but I also cannot fail to report what I know." Saint-Germain studied him. "If you were in my position, would you withdraw?"
He glowered at Saint-Germain. "I would wait to determine if the man who you saw a year ago was still alive before I said anything to his discredit. I wouldn't besmirch the reputation of an honest man by claiming that I have come by my advancement through fraud."
"I have never said you were perpetrating a fraud, nor would I ever do so. As Menshikov has been informed, I have dispatched a courier at my own expense to attempt to reach Ferenz Ragoczy. You may think that I am not giving you the benefit of the doubt, or allowing for misinformation." He nodded toward four more guests who had come into this second room to help themselves to the buffet, and added in the Transylvanian dialect, "If you have other proof, why not offer it?"
Rakoczi ignored the last. "But you have done nothing to stop the speculation that has become rife in the Foreign Quarter. I would have thought that, as conscientious as you are, you would have worked to quell the gossip." He leaned toward Saint-Germain, deliberately looming, as if to make their difference in height more apparent. "You're Hungarian, and so am I. It behooves you to support me, Hercegek Gyor."
"Does it?" Saint-Germain asked in Magyar, as if appealing to their shared Hungarian heritage; he was unimpressed at this attempt at intimidation. "I would have thought that I have done so." There was an ironic shine in his eyes.
"How do you reckon that?" Rakoczi said more pugnaciously, still in German.
Saint-Germain continued in Magyar. "I have said, on those occasions when I have been asked, that I have only done what is required of me, and that until Ferenz Ragoczy himself can be located, alive or dead"-a faint smile fluttered at the corners of his mouth-"the matter must remain unresolved."
"Why does that help me?" Rakoczi asked indignantly in German-accented Magyar.
"I have done everything that law and honor compel me to do were we in Hungary: nothing less and nothing more." He was about to continue when Zozia stood up.
"Both of you-stop. Unless you want to give fuel to more rumors, you will say nothing more." She pushed Saint-Germain on the shoulder. "You are here to promote Polish goals, not to dispute the titles and estates of a missing Hungarian nobleman."
"You are right, Ksiezna," said Saint-Germain, and glanced at Rakoczi. "If you must press your arguments with me, another time would suit both of us better than doing anything now." Rakoczi looked about the room as if he had been unaware of the attention they had attracted. "For you," he said, recovering himself and bowing to Zozia, "I will withdraw. But only temporarily. I will have answers." Without any acknowledgment of Saint-Germain, he turned on his heel and left the room.
"How dare he snub you!" Zozia exclaimed, ignoring her own stricture.
"He dared quite readily," said Saint-Germain, sounding amused. "And no doubt he has accomplished his purpose."
"What purpose would that be? He said he wanted to dispel rumors. Nothing he did here will have that result." She sat back down and pulled at his sleeve to urge him to take the other chair drawn up at the small table. "For the sake of the Holy Angels, sit down, Hercegek. Everyone's staring as it is."
Settling into the chair, he took one of her hands in his. "I think that he has no reason or inclination to dispel rumors; in fact, I think his intention was to prime the rumor-mill with more grist," he said in Polish, fairly softly. "You may believe what he told you if you like, but to me he is all of a piece."
"You mean you think he's deliberately deceptive?" Her question was genuinely shocked.
"Why is that so astonishing to you?" he inquired gently.
She fixed him with her stare. "What makes you think he is deceptive?"
"He speaks Magyar badly, and from what I could tell, he does not speak Romanian at all," said Saint-Germain. "Yet the inheritance he says is his is in Transylvania. You would think he would know Romanian at the least."
"He might be from another part of the country originally. He is a nephew, not a son," she said. "It wouldn't be the first time a man came to his inheritance as a stranger."
"Would you say the same if he were Polish?" Saint-Germain inquired quietly. "Would you question his assertions more closely then?"
"Until he explains his reasons, I see no reason to condemn him; he wouldn't be the first man to come by his inheritance early," she said. "You said yourself that his mistake could be an honest one; the Grofok is rumored to be a great traveler, as you yourself have said. I can't bring myself to discredit his explanations."
"Because you admire his bravado, or his dissimulation?" He was about to rise, but Zozia laid her hand on his to stop him.
Color mounted in her face, and though she managed to keep her voice low, her eyes blazed. "If you mean that I must occasionally avoid the truth for the sake of my mission, that's entirely different than what you're implying."
"No; you do not lie to gain position and wealth for yourself, but to secure your country." He looked at her plate of unfinished food. "If you would eat a little more, most of the guests will pay us no more notice."
"And are you going to pretend to drink from the tankard?" Zozia asked, too sweetly.
"No; if I did, Piotyr would probably order it filled, and then things could become unpleasant." He reached over and tweaked one of the curls that hung down beside her ear. "You know how to conduct yourself in these sorts of circumstances: you can hardly blame Rakoczi for seeking an early conclusion to the problem, but all that can be done is being done, and everyone knows how slowly these issues are concluded."
For the first time this evening her laughter was untouched by anger. "I know precisely how that game is played, and for once I'll relish my role in it," she said, anticipating a lively evening of misdirection. "I'll extend every sympathy to Rakoczi, but point out that your situation demands that you present your information. I should have most of the Foreign Quarter concurring by the time the sun sets tomorrow."
"I am most grateful, Ksiezna," he said. "Why not begin with Colonel Broughton?"
"You mean he's here?" She looked around in some alarm.
"Yes, he is here," said Saint-Germain, puzzled by her response. "Did you think he would not be?"
"It's not that," she said hurriedly. "There is something I don't want to have to … He's been deeply caught up in plans with Benedykt." Belatedly she started to eat again, selecting the sausages, picking them up in her fingers, as she was intended to do.
"Why would you not want to talk to him, if that is the case?" He could see her jaw set as she listened. "You need not tell me if you would prefer not to, but it may be wiser to take me into your confidence a little, so that I may continue to serve your purposes. If I am not familiar with your intentions, I might, accidentally, put you at a marked disadvantage."
She swallowed very slowly. "It would be easier if I knew more about you. I know you're Hungarian, a Grofok, and have good reason to cooperate with Poland, but-"
"It is burdensome to have such secrets between us, I understand, and I chafe at the restrictions as well as you do," he said at his most reassuring. "But they are conditions of our mission, and we are constrained by them."
"Do you really know that Grofok Saint-Germain is alive-"
"-or are you trying to interfere with his heir?" It took all her audacity to ask, and she held her breath as he answered.
"I have good reason to suppose that this Rakoczi is not all he claims to be."
"Because his uncle is alive?"
"That is one way to put it," he said, and would have added more, but he lifted his head to see Colonel Sir Peregrine Broughton coming toward them, a brimming tankard in one hand, a glass of Champagne in the other.
"Ksiezna! The Czar said you might be thirsty," he cried in German as he held out the glass to her.
Zozia took the glass and set it down next to the half-empty one. "I've been enjoying the Czar's table and have neglected his Champagne." She reached for the half-empty glass and hastily drank it down. "There." She smiled at Saint-Germain. "You and Colonel Broughton must have matters you want to discuss, so I will excuse you."
Since there was nothing for Broughton to do but accept his dismissal, he bowed, smiling, his regimentals as grand as dress occasions could make them. "Rest assured that you and I will share a libation later this evening, Ksiezna." He turned to Saint-Germain. "Well, Hercegek, shall we get to it?"
"If you like," said Saint-Germain as he picked up his empty tankard. "That alcove there, behind the baskets of bread?"
"That gives an excellent view of the room. Yes, it will do." He half-bowed to allow Saint-Germain to proceed him. "And you can tell me what you know about the condition of Count von Altenburg," he said in English. "As you can imagine, the tales of his imminent demise are all over the Foreign Quarter."
"He has a high fever and putrid lungs, which is serious but not necessarily deadly," Saint-Germain said automatically.
"And the rumors of an epidemic-would you say they are groundless?" Broughton asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"I would say that in this place, with conditions as they are, it is possible that we will see more of the disease-what the Italian physicians at Padova and Bologna would call l'influenza, due to the insalubrious alignment of the stars. I would recommend care with any sign of sickness." He could read the lack of interest in Broughton's eyes, and an underlying uneasiness that revealed an unspoken urgency; he looked directly at Broughton. "Now, Colonel, what do you really want to know?"
Text of a report from Heer van Hoek to Nikolai Evkareivich Fet, Captain of the Sankt Piterburkh Guard, carried by a Guardsman.
To the most distinguished Captain Nikolai Evkareivich Fet, the physician-anatomist Lodewick Kerstan van Hoek sends this report from the care-house.
My esteemed Captain Fet:
It is my unhappy duty to inform you that the spread of the feverish influenza continues to spread, and it has become a serious problem among the supervisors of the work-gangs. We now have sixteen men at the care-house suffering from the disease, and each one of them reports that the disease is rife among the work-gangs, for although most of them are working indoors through the winter finishing buildings to be occupied as soon as the thaw sets in, they are exposed daily to cold and the company of those who already carry the cough and aching muscles that mark the illness. Here at the care-house we are struggling to give the attention needed by these men, but it is proving difficult, and is unlikely to get better before the end of the year, and may, in fact, continue until the thaw.
I fear that the disease has already become prevalent among the residents of the Foreign Quarter and the Russian people of the city. I mention this because my colleague, Hercegek Gyor, has offered to take on the task of visiting the sick in their homes and treating those members of the households, including servants, who show signs of having contracted the condition. He has various treatments to offer, and can assure you of some success in treating the condition, so long as there is no cough or constant flux in the symptoms. If you will provide him an escort and the permission of the Guard and the Metropolitan to do this, he will take up his rounds at once. If you are not inclined to permit this, I must warn you that there is insufficient space here at the care-house to accommodate all those who may contract the influenza.
We have also had an increase of supervisors and servants with frozen fingers and toes, and also a few noses. If putrefaction is not to set in, such frozen parts as turn black must be removed, or the person will die. At the moment, we have seven cases of frozen extremities recovering from surgery, including two Watchmen who have been patrolling at the third and fourth levees. Also the coachman for the Dutch clock-maker has had his nose and ears removed, and I am by no means sure that the man is yet safe from danger. I have heard, but I do not know of my own witness, that many of the men in the work-gangs, if they show signs of freezing, are dispatched as being useless, and their bodies disposed of in the deep holes sawn in the ice. If this is true, it is a deplorable practice and one I must urge you to make efforts to stop.
For the last four weeks, we have treated no more cases of Swamp Fever, which is a favorable development, one of the few for which we may thank the cold, for Swamp Fever is inactive when there is ice on the ground. I pray it will not return until May, for it most certainly will be back again. For now, I encourage you to insist on boiling linens and blankets at least once a month through the winter to check the spread of fleas and bed-bugs, which seem to be everywhere. This may not stem the tide of the epidemic disease, but it is likely to increase the haleness of the population and thereby reduce the number of people tending to be subject to infection.
Although the care-house has a devoted staff, Ludmilla Borisevna Svarinskaya and I have decided that we need at least four more men to assist us. Those we have are over-worked and two of them are sick themselves, and one other has died, so none of the three can be of help to us in our work just now. With another four men, we could maintain the level of care we have been providing through the dark of the year. Without additional help, however, if we continue to receive more patients here, the quality of attention we will be able to give must be curtailed, and that, as you must realize, is something none of us can want. Hercegek Gyor has already provided his manservant to help us, and his personal messenger, Yrjo Saari, who was once a Watchman before he was injured in an attack. The Hercegek is already covering most of our expenses from his own purse, so I am loath to ask him to extend himself further. I require you to consider this request as one intended to benefit everyone in this city. Heer Bourgdrei, the recently arrived Resident from Flanders, has offered his under-steward to help us for half-days as a gesture of community support, but this is not the sort of continual assistance we need for the next year or two, until trained nurses may be found to work here.
The six men who have been brought here for treatment for injuries inflicted upon them by gangs are generally improving, except one, who is blind in one eye as a result of the attack he sustained; it is unlikely that he will be fit to return to his barrack for several weeks at least. He has also claimed that the comrade who was with him must have frozen to death, for no Watchman and no Guard has found his body, and he remains missing. This may not be the time to search, but once the spring arrives, it would behoove you to arrange a squad to find those hapless men who died in the snow. I fear you may find more of them than you presently anticipate.
At the moment all our beds are full and we have brought in an additional nine pallets for those we have taken in beyond our usual limits. We have food enough for all the patients and our reduced staff to last into January, but then we must have more smoked meats and pickled vegetables, or some of our patients may begin to starve. I ask for your consideration when your midwinter supplies arrive from Moscow, for the men who are our patients surely deserve help from you and the garrison as much as from our staff and Hercegek Gyor.
Submitted to you as per your request,
Heer Lodewik Kerstan van Hoek
November 17th, 1704, at Sankt Piterburkh