A Dangerous Climate (Saint-Germain #22)

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05.03.2019

Although it was nearing midnight, the midsummer sky was softly luminous overhead; the more than two dozen guests of the English Resident stood out on the wooden terrace he had ordered constructed behind his house where they were regaled with Champagne, Riesling, caviar, hard-boiled eggs, slivered onions, broiled lamb, broiled goose, a ragout of beets, assorted pickles, small English breads, and sweet Russian pastries while a consort of eight musicians played dances and airs by Henry Purcell and Francois Couperin. Among the foreigners at the English Resident's house there were five Russians, the most illustrious being the Czar's powerful deputy, Alexander Menshikov, newly arrived in Sankt Piterburkh. Lean, fastidious, resplendent in a jacket and knee-britches of dull-gold, impeccably white silk ruffles at his throat and wrists, and a superb wig of ordered dark-blond curls, with intelligent eyes and a manner that combined affability with arrogance, he made his way through the throng, accepting compliments and good wishes as he went, the English Resident keeping close behind him.

Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, one of seven women guests, was beautifully gowned in watered silk the color of aquamarines and set off with a spectacular necklace of diamonds and pearls with ear-drops of blue moonstones; she leaned against the balustrade and smiled winningly at Saint-Germain while she said quietly in Polish, her eyes irate, "So the Czar has sent his pie-man to tend to us. I suppose we should be flattered."

"It may be nothing more than a story-that Menshikov sold pies in the streets of Moscow: the sort of things jealous nobles say about royal companions," said Saint-Germain, elegantly arrayed in a coat and knee-britches of deep-rose silken twill, with a waistcoat of needlepoint tapestry in burgundy, ivy, and mauve. His leg-hose were the same shade of mauve, and his shoes were buckled with elaborate silver set with garnets; inwardly he longed for his customary black, white, and red, but knew that Augustus was right and that he needed to dress as Hercegek Gyor was known to dress. He turned the unfamiliar gold signet-ring on the little finger of his partially bandaged right hand, finding its alien presence disquieting.

"They say it's true. They also say he was born in a brothel: he has no patronymic; I heard someone call him Nyetovich-no father-and almost everyone laughed. Whatever the case, he is hardly a worthy deputy for the Czar, who should choose his court from among his nobles-the boyars," Zozia insisted, smiling at the Prussian Envoy's confidential secretary, a handsome man of twenty-nine years named Hugo Weissenkraft. She lifted her near-empty glass in his direction.

"Piotyr may not trust the boyars," Saint-Germain suggested.

Zozia laughed, and at the same time did her utmost to keep Weis-senkraft's gaze locked on her. "He is making plans, I think." There was quiet satisfaction in her whisper. "Now that he has this future city under way, the Czar is turning his eyes westward, and wants the world to take notice."

"He has done that already, and this project of his is the result," said Saint-Germain carefully. "As we've discussed."

"That was weeks ago. You ought to know that I've decided we've underestimated the seriousness of his building this city." She glanced at him, continuing more urgently, "Piotyr says now that he has no serious interest in European conquests beyond Sweden, but if he's going to turn this into an important port city, what can we do? We must consider that Sweden's isn't the only empire he may covet, and Poland is near at hand."

"Not here, Ksiezna. We will talk later, when there is less chance of being overheard. Think of your mission, which includes saying nothing against the Czar," Saint-Germain recommended in an under-voice.

Zozia frowned. "What does it matter to you?"

"To me, very little. But to your husband it could mean a great deal: it is your husband you will compromise, not me. If we're to keep up the imposture, we must suit our conduct to the roles we play." He took her small plate and bowed gallantly. "In that capacity, allow me to secure you something more to eat. I will return directly." With that he strolled away to a well-laden buffet table and selected more hard-boiled eggs and caviar, along with two soft rolls and leg of broiled goose. He then retrieved another glass of Champagne, as well as a linen serviette. Selecting food was a service he was glad to perform, not only because it pleased Zozia to be waited on, but it helped to maintain the illusion that he had eaten something, which spared him having to make awkward explanations. The choices he had made he carried back to Zozia, and found her deep in conversation-carried on in German-with a Danish nobleman who had arrived in Sankt Piterburkh only three days ago; he was an attractive man of about thirty-five, with a handsome dark wig and blue eyes. Trim, well-turned-out in mallard-blue satin and lace-edged silk, he carried on his part of their exchange in an animated manner that wakened all the coyness Zozia possessed. Saint-Germain gave a small sigh and went to present her with more food.

Zozia looked up, smiling. "Arco-Tolvay, here you are," she said to Saint-Germain. "This is Axel … Graf, you said?"

"Roughly Graf. It's what I use here, since Danish and Swedish sound too much alike, and Swedish is unwelcome here in Sankt Piterburkh. Axel Joren Evert Reynard Harald Nyland." He returned her smile. "Of Horsens; a pleasure, Herzog," he said to Saint-Germain with a casual bow. "Your wife has been most affable, telling me about the month you have been in Sankt Piterburkh and your harrowing adventures. Not what I would call a happy beginning in this place. You've had a most difficult introduction to the Czar's new city, or so I gather." He touched the rim of his glass to the one Saint-Germain carried. "Your good health. By the sound of it, you need it."

Saint-Germain handed the glass and plate to Zozia as he said to Nyland, "You're most gracious, Graf."

"To be set upon twice in a month-quite alarming, even in such a place as this is," Nyland continued, looking at Zozia rather than Saint-Germain. "And for no apparent reason. How very distressing for you-for both of you."

"It is that," agreed Saint-Germain. "I trust that my portion of ill-luck is now used up for the rest of the year, and that I will enjoy good health and safety through the winter." He joined Zozia, leaning a little against the balustrade. "Otherwise I must suppose that someone has a reason to single me out, and that is a far more perturbing notion than unpleasant happenstance, which I believe the two attacks to be: I cannot imagine that anyone would have developed so much hostility toward me in the four days I had been here, that I would become a deliberate target for attack. What would be the reason?"

"Yes; exactly: who in this place would want to attack you?" Zozia asked, an edge in her playful tone. She was examining the food on the plate Saint-Germain had handed her, and finally took a nibble of one of the rolls and washed it down with Champagne.

"I have no idea, which is why it is so perturbing," he responded, offering Zozia a slight, ironic smile; he looked at Nyland. "I hope your stay here will have no similar mishaps, for it would make foreigners less likely to come here once the pattern is known."

"Amen to that," Nyland said with a bit of a chuckle, then shifted their discussion to a safer topic. "Little as I may want to remain in this bleak village-for it is hardly more than that, in spite of all the workmen-I have been summoned to advise the Czar on the layout of his harbor."

"And why you? Have you a particular skill the Czar seeks?" Saint-Germain asked at his most gracious.

Nyland gave his attention to Zozia again as he answered. "Our harbor at Horsens has recently been expanded, and it seems that Piotyr Alexeievich wants the benefit of my experience contributed to his improvements here. Sankt Piterburkh is more of a challenge than Horsens, of course. I've brought four engineers with me, all of whom worked on the new harbor at home. Two of them are Germans, the other two are Danes."

"Did the Czar actually send for you, then? Or was it one of his many engineers who issued the invitation on the Czar's behalf-Graf? Do you know?" Zozia asked, taking a provocative bite out of her egg.

"The Czar extended the solicitation of my help; he wrote to the King and asked if Denmark could spare me and my advisors-and, of course, pay the cost of our presence here-for two years." He made a mock sigh. "The balance we Danes must strike between Sweden and Russia is a precarious one, one that is constantly shifting; my engineers and I are part of the balance." Then he grinned at Zozia, making the most out of her flirtatiousness. "I imagine Poland must feel some of the same strain as we do."

Zozia bristled. "Augustus is on good terms with the Czar; the two have a fondness for each other. It's well-known," she declared staunchly. "What I do here is a service to my King, just as Arco-Tolvay has his work to do on Augustus' behalf, for the benefit of both Poland and Hungary." Color mounted in her cheeks and she moved as if she might storm away; Saint-Germain laid his hand on hers.

Nyland realized he had over-stepped. "I didn't mean anything against Augustus," he assured her, glancing at Saint-Germain for some hint as to how he should go on.

Saint-Germain inclined his head, remarking urbanely, "As a loyal Pole, my wife feels the burden of our mission here. She has a highcouraged temperament, and because of that she is most diligent in her delegacy."

"Commendable," Nyland said.

Aware that she needed to provide something useful to their colloquy at this juncture, Zozia had a little more Champagne and said, "My husband was asked to come here to aid in the draining of the swamps, as he has done in his own lands. I am to make note of the state of the houses, the provisions, the rate of building, and similar information."

"The Czar has been getting many to help him make this city," said Nyland dubiously, trying to anticipate her intent.

"And how did he come to know about your harbor improvements?" Zozia finished her egg and reached for the glass of Champagne with calculated seductiveness.

"Through the recommendation of a Dutch seaman, who described what we had done to the Czar during his time in Holland in some detail, or so I've been informed. You know how fond the Czar is of the Dutch, and his penchant for the company of seamen," said Nyland, lifting his brows to show his opinion of such low company. "We came on a Dutch ship, in fact. The Goud Marie: she's anchored with the others in deep water."

"Did you have a safe passage?" Saint-Germain inquired politely.

"Safe enough. One day of squalls but otherwise a fairly uneventful voyage. Now this." He gestured to include the expanse of marsh that spread away from the two streets of houses and barracks that made up the Foreign Quarter. "You know this better than I do, Ksiezna: it will never prosper, this place, even with the river-mouth dredged free of silt."

"Are you certain of that?" Zozia cocked her head and caught her lower lip between her teeth.

"Yes, I am, although I would like to be wrong, in fact," Nyland answered. "I happen to be one who likes the idea of a Russian port giving access to the Baltic a great deal. We need to have more trade with Russia, if only to off-set what the French and English and Spanish are doing in the Americas; this-um-city seems the only possible place to accomplish that in any way that Russia can exploit, but this is the end of the earth, as desolate as anything I've ever seen: flat, damp, miserable, and isolated. Once the Czar tires of his project, or is defeated in battle, this will become swampland again, and all the men and treasure he has devoted to securing the port will be gone. It will be a sad day for the Baltic trade, but it will come."

"Do you really suppose it will, or is this just distress at seeing what the Czar has to work with here? Why would the Czar abandon a place he has done so much to build up?" Zozia asked, her face mocking and coquettish at once. "Don't you think the Russians will see the advantage of this place more than anyone else, and bring it to fruition?"

"The Russians?" Nyland laughed aloud. "They still kill themselves and one another over whether they should cross themselves with two fingers or three-or is it one or two? No matter: it goes to show how they are-the same adherence to old rites, to outworn traditions. No wonder the Czar and the Orthodox Church are at loggerheads. It's the way of the Russians; they're the slaves to custom, to stability. So long as they are told it will not bring change, they'll endorse almost any abuse, for the sake of maintaining their way of life."

"Do you think so?" Saint-Germain asked. "Might it not be their long history of invasions and hard conditions that makes them reluctant to embrace the new?"

Nyland shrugged. "Perhaps. But whatever the cause, the effect is the same." He rounded on Zozia. "How does it seem to you Poles?"

She drank the last of her Champagne. "It would depend on which context you ask," she said, and laid her hand on his arm. "I want another glass of Champagne. Surely you can find me one, Graf?" With a languid glance at the Dane, she said to Saint-Germain, "I'll return shortly, my husband-have no fear."

"An interesting woman," said Nyland with a ghost of a smile when Zozia had moved away into the gathering.

"That she is," Saint-Germain said levelly, watching her take another glass of Champagne and engage Drury Carruther, the English Resident's secretary, in a lively exchange; studying her face, Saint-Germain decided they were speaking French.

"How long have you been married, Herzog?" asked Nyland.

Remembering what he had been told, Saint-Germain answered, "Eight years and seven months."

"No children?" It was an impertinent question, and asked brashly.

"Not yet," said Saint-Germain with almost no inflection. "Our positions in life require that we spend a fair amount of time apart, she at Nisko, I at Gyor." He began to wonder why Nyland was keeping near to him.

Nyland looked directly at him. "So tell me, Hercegek-that is the Hungarian title, isn't it?-what is it the Czar wants of you-really?"

Saint-Germain went through his standard explanation of a more efficient treadmill-pump to drain the marshes. He could see that Nyland wanted a broader explanation. "Gyor, being in a valley, is much subjected to floods, and I have done all I can to make sure flooded land is quickly reclaimed; the treadmill-pumps have made it possible to clear the fields of water in relatively short time. That way my tenants need not face famine every time the river overflows its banks."

"A most useful tool. Yet-you'll pardon my saying-you don't have the appearance of a man who works much with his hands. I would have thought you are more theoretical in your approach to things."

"I do not, in general, spend much time in laboring"-he recalled long, exhausting hours in Aleppo, in Tunis, in Stara Zagora, in the marshlands of Krozn-"although I have done so from time to time. But I have traveled widely and studied all I've seen, which has been useful to me, for I have been able to adapt what I have discovered in other parts of the world to my own purposes, such as draining marshes." He supposed that Nyland was continuing his tests, and did his best to remain affable. "And before you ask, I have no additional information as to how the Czar learned about the treadmill than what my wife has already imparted; Augustus only told me that he needed me to come here and show the work-crews how to make the pumps, and to supervise their installation and use."

"So you dropped everything and came," said Nyland, the hint of a question in his statement. "How accommodating."

"That was the way of it," Saint-Germain said, reminding himself of the clandestine meeting to which Augustus summoned him, and his first introduction to Zozia, seven months earlier. In spite of Augustus' conviction that this imposture would be successful, Saint-Germain had reservations, and they were still with him.

"You just came to Sankt Piterburkh, no questions, no problems?"

"Well, I had to find a capable steward and a manager for my estates, and fortunately I have a man I can truly rely on to handle them for me," said Saint-Germain, faintly amused because this much was true, but his estates were not at Gyor, but farther to the east, in the Carpathians, in the region of Hungary called Transylvania.

"Then Augustus has much to be grateful for in you and your wife," said Nyland, now making no attempt to conceal his dubiety.

"If it falls out that way, well and good," said Saint-Germain, ceasing to lean against the balustrade. "I have just seen Colonel Sir Peregrine Broughton; I need to have a word with him, and this may be my best opportunity. If you will excuse me?" It was true enough that he wanted to talk with Broughton, but the matter was not so urgent that he had to attend to it this instant-still, it gave him an excuse to leave Nyland to his own devices, and at present, that was the major advantage for him.

"More English!" the Dane deplored, waving Saint-Germain away.

"And Scots and Irish," Saint-Germain added as he made his way toward the terrace door, speaking politely to any guest who signaled for his attention. He reached the doorway and bowed to Colonel Broughton. "Colonel Broughton."

"Duke Gyor," Colonel Broughton said, returning the bow; his dress regimentals were slightly mussed, and his wig a bit askew; his square jaw was set at a more pugnacious angle than usual and his speech was overly crisp. "I had hoped I would find you here." He squinted up at the pale sky. "Doesn't this long twilight bother you? I know I find it most disorienting. It should have been dark two hours ago."

"It is inconvenient," Saint-Germain agreed, matching his English to Colonel Broughton's. "I, too, prefer nights to be dark."

"Better than north of here, where the sun stays up all night long." He shook his head in disapproval.

"And stays below the horizon in the middle of winter."

"True-another hindrance. Still, I would imagine one becomes accustomed." Colonel Broughton, who was drinking Riesling, and had been doing so for a while, stopped himself from emptying his glass. "I don't want to stagger about the way these Russians do; makes one a trifle obvious to thieves, to say nothing of the-" He stopped and went on more measuredly. "I'm a foreigner here, like you, and your recent mishaps are a reminder that one needs to remain vigilant. Someone gone in drink could easily be lured into a trap, and worse." He paused, clearly organizing his thoughts. "After our conversation three days ago, I've given the matter some consideration, and it seems to me that if you want to discover if your treadmill-pump can be adapted to our uses on the barges, the one you should speak to is Mungo Laurie-he's the chief engineer on the dredging project-obviously a Scot. Good man-steady, hard-working, not one to be put off by dealing with foreigners. I can send him along to you one of these mornings, if that's to your liking. Just tell me which days will suit you best and I'll find out which he can most readily accommodate." He finished his wine and signaled one of the two English servants for another. "Slovenly fellows, Russian servants. At least the Resident has a few English with him."

"It is a practical solution, I suppose, on all fronts." Saint-Germain wondered how much of what he was saying Broughton would recall in the morning.

"Well, yes-from what you told me, you have your manservant with you, and your wife has three maids and you both have coachmen, which ensures your comfort and the advantages of habit, for all that some of the servants may complain of service in this place." Colonel Sir James Peregrine Ambrose Mordecai Broughton accepted another large glass of the German white wine, tasting it carefully, then nodding his acceptance. "Still, even with complaints, it saves having to hire and train Russians, so I can understand why the Czar allows it. His purpose is building, not catering to outlanders. They want as many of their men in the work-crews as possible, and this way, he gets what he wants."

"It also means that the treasury doesn't have to pay servants' wages," Saint-Germain remarked. "That will surely please the Czar."

"They're mean that way, you know, small and niggardly." He realized he had been overheard by one of Menshikov's companions, and so made an effort to undo any offense he might give. "I will say this for the Russians-they have lavish hospitality. There is so much food and drink at their feasts that it's all quite Lucullan." Satisfied that this would restore him to Russian good graces, he went on more quietly, "Sometimes I think their hospitality is almost too lavish. They want one to eat to bursting, and the other night I drank so much of their vodka-amazing stuff!-that I almost had to go home in a wheelbarrow. I don't know how they manage to sluice it down night after night as they do. I would be overwhelmed completely on such a regimen as they keep."

"They say it fortifies them," Saint-Germain pointed out.

"In winter, they probably need it." The Colonel studied Saint-Germain. "I've heard that since your attacks, you've been abstemious. You don't look like you're starving, but you'll have to be willing to gorge yourself if you're to be a guest of any of the Russians."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Have you had any recent requests from the Czar?" He asked this a bit too casually.

"When I arrived there was a missive from him waiting: the Czar is interested in adding some Hungarian broodmares to his breeding stock. I have sent an answer to him saying that in spring, I will see he has a dozen of the best from my estates. Other than that, nothing." He had already dispatched one of his messengers with this request, hoping that the mares could reach Kiev before winter closed in.

"I, like you, have a request from Piotyr to send home to England-he wants trees now, a great many trees. He barely has any streets, only a few houses are up and finished, and he has decided to plant trees." He made an exasperated gesture. "He wants them hardy and handsome. When the Duke of Gloucester returns, she's supposed to bring forty tubs of trees, and she's not the only ship to receive such orders. The Duke of Gloucester sailed today and should be back before the ice forms. If not, the Czar will have to wait until spring for his trees." Broughton stared up at the pale night sky. "It's quite eerie, isn't it? That color that says night is coming, but it never actually arrives."

"It will not last forever," Saint-Germain told him. "In another month the light will be fading again, and we'll have a proper night, albeit a short one until autumn comes."

"And in winter, we'll be grateful for four hours of half-light. That's the way it is this far north." Taking a quick drink of his wine, Broughton listened to the consort play, their music making little headway against the polyglot conversation on the terrace. "That is a most pleasing air, the Purcell they're doing now. Pity there aren't more women here, so we could dance. I think your wife would enjoy an Allemande."

"You are right: this is a pleasant piece, and I am sure the Ksiezna would be glad to dance," Saint-Germain agreed. "But the other ladies here might not."

"No. You're right there," said Broughton, peering through the crowd to make out three other women at the party: one was a German matron heavily pregnant; another was the young wife of the Irish shipbuilder Brian Lucius O'Meaghar; the third was the wife of the Swiss fortification architect, a sober, straight-laced stick of a woman who made no effort to hide her disapproval of the evening's entertainments. The other four were out of immediate sight. "Next year, if we're all still here, we'll all be allowed to have our wives with us. Damned inconvenient without wives or whores."

Saint-Germain was keenly aware of the shortage of women-he had only once visited a woman in her sleep since he had arrived in Sankt Piterburkh, and with all that had happened, he was feeling the lack of sustenance; in so small a group, such visits were far more risky than in a larger population. "Indeed."

He regarded Saint-Germain suddenly. "Not a loquacious sort, are you."

"Upon occasion, but not tonight; this is a time for listening, so many tongues are loosening that much can be learned if you are willing to listen," said Saint-Germain; he wondered idly how many glasses of wine the Colonel had drunk this evening, for he was showing signs of early inebriation-someone who could be counted upon to blurt out things before his mind could engage to stop him. He began to understand Zozia's insistence on not knowing his name.

"Why? Do you find the company suspect?" There was a belligerence about Broughton that had been missing before. He drank down half the glass of wine and scowled at Saint-Germain.

"I find the servants are listening, Colonel, as are some of the guests," Saint-Germain said gently. "In this assembly, you and I are not the only ones who know English."

Colonel Broughton went still; after a long pause he nodded slowly. "I take your point. You're right, of course. Very prudent of you, Duke. I should mind my tongue, as well. No one should think they can speak recklessly without consequences. You're right." He finished his wine and stared at Saint-Germain. "Are you always so circumspect?"

"No, not always," he said, and added, "If you will arrange for Mungo Laurie to speak with me, I would be most grateful."

Broughton choked in his efforts not to laugh; he ended up sputtering and coughing. "Around here," he said slyly, "gratitude comes in gold."

"If you need a guinea to sweeten your memory, you may have it," said Saint-Germain, finding himself growing weary of what was happening; he realized Broughton was more drunk than he appeared. "I will present you with five of them when you send me word that the meeting with Laurie is arranged."

Broughton still had the capacity to be abashed. "Fine," he mumbled. "It's just that not everyone is aware of the way of things."

"If you do not notify me, there will be no guineas," Saint-Germain said with as much firmness as was appropriate to the occasion; he did not want to give the guests more reasons to speculate about him.

"I'm not that drunk," Broughton countered, turning sullen.

"I hope not," said Saint-Germain, bowing courteously to Broughton before searching out Zozia. He found her with Graf von Altenburg at the end of the buffet table where the Champagne and wine were being poured. With a bow to von Altenburg, he said to Zozia in German, "Are you enjoying yourself, my dear?"

"Oh, yes," Zozia said. "The Graf is most engaging. He's been telling me about the tavern that's opened now for sailors. Apparently it is a most … lively place."

"Hardly where a woman of breeding would ever go," said von Altenburg hastily. "Ask Menshikov, if you doubt me."

"I may," said Zozia with a wink. "Or I may wait until Piotyr Alexeievich returns, and broach him about it." She swung around to look at Saint-Germain. "I will have a dreadful headache in the morning, but for now, I am having the most delightful time." Her laughter was as light and free as the sound of a running stream. "I hope there will be more parties for us foreigners."

"I should think there will be, for none of us want to expire from boredom," said von Altenburg. "What else is there to do, but make notes, take care of our duties here, and keep company with one another? If we are so constrained, it is up to us to make the most of it." He looked at Saint-Germain, and amended his words. "For people like you, Herzog, of course you must dedicate some portion of every day to the Czar's demands and your mission, but you will agree that our society is limited, and that we're all dependent on other foreigners for entertainment."

Zozia wagged her finger at him. "You're a most adroit fellow, Graf. No wonder you're so useful to your King." She drank down the Champagne in her glass, then held it out to be refilled. "If you have run out, I'll be very disappointed."

The English servant manning the wine-pouring shook his head. "There are a good number of cases still waiting," he told her in stilted German. "And more coming in the next ship."

"Just as well that there're no Russians pouring, or everyone would be under the table by now-they drink whole bottles at a time," von Altenburg declared, and stifled a giggle. "Except for you, Herzog, or so I must suppose."

Saint-Germain acknowledged this with a nod. "Heer van Hoek has not yet rescinded his ban on drink."

Von Altenburg pulled at his lower lip with his free hand. "The Russians won't like that, and they may insist that you do justice to their food and their drink before much more time goes by. I'm surprised that they haven't compelled you to excess before now, injuries be damned. You won't be allowed to remain aloof forever, you know."

"I have managed so far, but I appreciate the warning." Saint-Germain held out his hand to Zozia. "If you would like to thank the Resident and depart? It is past the hour you told me we ought to leave."

"But I've changed my mind-I don't want to go. I have a fresh glass to drink, and I haven't had the pastries stuffed with honied almonds yet." She frowned at him. "The night is young. And even if it isn't, it doesn't matter." Defiantly she lifted her glass and drank.

"If you wish to remain, I am at your service," Saint-Germain said with a bow, telling himself that it was incumbent upon him to guard Zozia in whatever extravagance commanded her attention. "You have only to tell me when you wish to depart."

"If you are so willing, you won't linger at my side, keeping me from making friends," she said bluntly in Polish.

Saint-Germain bowed a second time. "As you wish," he said, and went to listen to the musicians, taking care to find a place to stand where he could watch Zozia without being obvious about it; for the sake of her reputation in this city, it was the least he could do.

Text of a letter from Lovre Pisek to Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, written in code and delivered by private messenger on July 1st, 1704.

To the most exalted Ksiezna, the devoted greetings of your servant Lovre Pisek.

Ksiezna,

I am saddened to report that in spite of all my efforts, I can find no trace of your missing husband. The rumor that he had gone over to the Sultan in Constantinople has turned out to be false. I have begun to wonder if the suggestion that he has taken ship for the New World, or the Far East, may be accurate after all.

I do not wish to be discouraging, but I am running out of places to look, and information to pursue. I can remain on the hunt, if you like, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you that at this point I think it highly unlikely that I will find the Hercegek. I realize this is not what you want to hear, most gracious Ksiezna, and I apologize for the distress you must feel. Let me extend to you the sympathy that I, and those in my employ, feel for your unfortunate predicament.

Your brother continues to insist that your husband is fighting with II Ferenc Rakoczi against the Austrians, but the contacts I have made with those forces indicate that your husband is not one of Rakoczi's supporters. If you wish, I will send in my agent again, to try to find out more, but I believe we have the truth of the situation already.

There is one letter we have found that suggests he might have joined a company going to South America, and I am about to see if there is any truth in the rumor. After I return to Brno, I am planning to go to Spain in two months-to Barcelona, Valencia, and Cadiz, then on to Madrid-to find out if your husband was seen at any of the travelers' taverns, or if his name appears on any record of passengers that might reveal his whereabouts. If you like I will press on to Bilbao and Lisboa in Portugal as well, for the same purpose.

I assure you, Ksiezna, that I remain

Yours to command,

Lovre Pisek

May 10th, 1704, at Vienna