A Dangerous Climate (Saint-Germain #22)


"We are being followed," Yrjo Saari told Saint-Germain as he descended from his carriage onto the levee road; Saari rode next to Gronigen in the driving-box, apparently acting as a kind of guide, but actually keeping a close eye on the men and women in the street. It was a blustery summer day, the rollicking wind tagging about among the small, fluffy clouds. The mid-day light was clear and pale, showing the broad stretch of shiny, bronze-colored exposed mud in the expanse of marsh at the foot of the first treadmill; the tide being out, there was a strong odor of decaying vegetation on the air. Sankt Piterburkh had been warm for the last week, alive with insects and other pests, but now the wind had driven away the heat and stirred up another outbreak of Swamp Fever that was taking its greatest toll among the work-gangs and their guards. "There is a man in European dress, long dull-blue coat, broad-pleated knee-britches with banded garters, black leg-hose, having the look of perhaps a merchant or a merchant's clerk, between thirty and forty, with a broad-brimmed hat on."

"I know," said Saint-Germain. "I've been aware of him since we took the turning for the third dyke. Until then he was fairly inconspicuous, but no longer. There are few merchants out on this part of the island." He looked toward the second treadmill-pump and said, "At least they've built the road out this far."

"The embankment builders need it, and the men starting to build the fourth dyke. The wooden walkways aren't enough for moving supporting sledges loaded with logs, and too uneven for men with laden wheelbarrows." Saari prepared to get down, but Saint-Germain waved him back.

"You can watch better from where you are, and you will be less obtrusive here. I do not want to alert the one following us; I would prefer to let him remain unaware of our observation." He said this in Finn, and added in Russian, "You know how uncertain the wooden walkways can be when they're crowded."

"All sorts of mischief can happen," said Saari.

"Exactly," said Saint-Germain. "It would be unwise to attract too much notice, as your presence would do."

Saari relented. "Just be careful. They've brought in two more work-gangs from Kazan. You can't trust Tartars. They're dangerous men. They'd kill you for a roast potato." He looked sharply at Gronigen. "You'll help me watch."

"Of course," said Gronigen, but with a hint of reserve.

Saint-Germain closed the coach-door and took a step away from the vehicle onto the wooden walkway. "I shouldn't be much more than an hour-probably less than that."

"Keep in mind that you have been summoned to a treadmillpump before, on a so-called emergency," Saari said.

"I have not forgotten," said Saint-Germain; the memory of the attack he had endured in May had caused him a slight qualm when the workman had come to his house to summon him out to the treadmill.

"We'll be here," said Gronigen. "I hope we won't have to keep the horses standing much longer than that."

"And we'll keep watch," Saari assured him.

"I have no doubt," said Saint-Germain as he left the coach behind and went along toward the second treadmill-pump; all around him work-gangs struggled to improve the footing in the mud in preparation for building; to bring logs to set in the riverbank, to pile up the silt brought by the dredging barges to add to the drained marsh-bottom, to build up the fourth levee, to remove the ooze of rotting vegetable matter from the exposed mud, to mix sand with the boggy earth where the roads would go, to bring in loads of rocks to shore up the dykes and levees, to provide access to the new dyke being built. The noise was constant and confusing. By the time Saint-Germain made it out to the second treadmill-pump, he wondered what he-or anyone-could do to lessen the chaos of this intense industry.

The new supervisor was waiting for him, a big man with black hair tied back, Asiatic features, and clan-mark on the side of his neck; he was dressed in the long canvas smock and short linen trousers that most of the workmen wore, all of it grimy from the task they had been assigned. He made an eastern bow to Saint-Germain. "Thank you for coming today, Exalted One. This is not something that can be ignored." His Tartar accent was strong, but his Russian was good enough for him to be understood.

"It is my duty to do so, Udek," Saint-Germain said, returning the bow. "What is the trouble?"

"There is something we must show you. We found it under the mat of water-weed, over there." He pointed down into the knee-deep water where his work-gang was busy using knives and hatchets to cut away the tough water-weed.

"Show me," said Saint-Germain, although the thought of going into water under the noon sunlight made him uncomfortable. "I should remove my shoes and leg-hose."

"Yes. The swamp will ruin them, most surely." He pointed to one of the low supports of the treadmill. "If you sit there, you will be able to take off your shoes and leg-hose without any interference from the work-gang." He held up his whip for emphasis.

Saint-Germain went and removed his shoes and leg-hose, putting them on the plank-brace that supported the axle of the huge double wheel. "Now I am ready. Tell me what you have found and how you found it."

Udek bowed again. "I don't know where to report this, but we cannot ignore it. If you would tell me who is to be informed, and how, or, better yet, do it yourself, none of us will be blamed for what seems to have happened. They won't torture us for information." He started down the rough steps in the damp bank.

"Tell me what this discovery is, and I will do my part in reporting it, so long as there is nothing that I, as a foreigner, am forbidden to report." He knew that workers who came upon unusual things were often punished rather than rewarded for making their discoveries known; he would spare them that if he could. "What have you found?"

But Udek was not yet ready to tell him. "The men were working early-less than an hour after sunrise. I saw them stop their labor, a few of them getting out of the marsh and refusing to go back into it. I asked what had happened." He paused. "There was an arm, one that has been under the weeds for at least a month, probably more. Most of the flesh is gone, and what remains is rotten."

"An arm? You have found nothing more?" He had seen workmen injured severely from their labors, and wondered if he should ask Ludmilla if any of her patients had lost an arm.

"Just the arm. It was cleanly severed, like a joint of meat. It made me think of a long knife or an axe-blade." He stepped into the water and waded toward a knot of Tartars standing silently around a mound of water-weed, some of them keeping as much of a distance as they dared, a few others staying close to one of the workmen to get a better look. "You men!" Udek shouted in the language of Kazan. "Out of the way! Make room! Bezmat!" The man bowed. "Show the Exalted One what you've uncovered."

One of the men reluctantly used the blade of his hatchet to lift the water-weed, revealing a human arm, most of it little more than bones and ligaments. A few of the finger-bones were gone altogether, but the three long bones were intact. It added to the general marsh odor-metallic, disgusting, and sweet all at once.

Saint-Germain stepped forward, bending over to look at the work-gang's find. "You have found nothing more?" he asked in their dialect.

Udek blinked, startled. "They told me they had not."

"Well?" Saint-Germain asked, addressing Bezmat.

"There may be more down there, but we haven't found anything," he said, uncomfortable with the question.

"Have you looked closely?" Saint-Germain inquired softly, purposefully.

"No," said Bezmat. He fretted, then added, "The arm was wedged into the weed-mat. I think it was hidden on purpose."

"I would agree," said Saint-Germain.

Bezmat was surprised. "Then you don't think this was an accident."

"With a clean cut? It is possible, but unlikely," Saint-Germain said, and watched as three of the workmen crossed themselves.

"Then hiding the arm could mean a crime has been concealed," said Udek.

Saint-Germain nodded. "That would appear to be the case: then why not take some time to make a search? The more I can find out now, the better for all of us." As he moved aside to allow the workmen to search for any more bones, he could not keep from wondering if this might be the remains of Vladimir Pavlovich Timchenkov, who had disappeared on the night he had first been attacked: the man had never been found, and there was no record of him leaving Sankt Piterburkh. This was near the place where the attack had occurred, although in May the water-level in this sector had been much higher. He told himself not to speculate and resigned himself to waiting.

Four men joined Bezmat and began to cut away more water-weed; they proceeded gingerly, afraid of what they might find, but worked quickly as well, since they wanted the search to be over. After fifteen minutes of effort, they came upon three ribs and male hip bones. The men piled these wordlessly with the arm. "It's thick mud beyond this. Anything in that is gone."

Saint-Germain went to look over the bones and found the straight cuts that revealed the man had been hacked with a long-bladed weapon, as Udek surmised, but there was nothing more to be learned from such an incomplete corpse. He pointed to the bones. "Put these in a sack and keep them near the treadmill until I come to claim them. Tell no one about them; you do not want to alert the culprits, or the guards." Even as he said this, he knew word of this discovery would be all through the work-camp before nightfall. "I will make a report and find out what the officials would like to have done with these. We cannot identify them, which may be troublesome in terms of burial." He was unsure to whom he should report, or what he should say in making such a report, but he was fairly certain that anything he remarked upon would eventually make its way to Alexander Menshikov and the demand for bribes would begin.

"We are not responsible for them," Bezmat insisted. "We don't want to keep them here."

"You will need to have them kept safe in case there is an inquiry," said Saint-Germain carefully. "If you dispose of them, you will be regarded more suspiciously than if you keep them." As he said this, he decided that he should make his first report to the Orthodox Metropolitan, who had arrived in Sankt Piterburkh three weeks ago. Czar Piotyr Alexeievich might have weakened the Orthodox Church by weakening the office of Patriarch and replacing it with a council made up of Metropolitans, but in matters of burial, the Church still had precedence over everyone but the Czar; the Metropolitan would have the final say regarding the bones: by seeking out the Metropolitan, he could avoid the scrutiny of the Provost Marshal and Menshikov.

The workmen exchanged uneasy glances, but finally Udek said, "We will keep them, and see they are safe unless we have to move the treadmill. If that happens, you will have to take charge of them."

"I will do it," said Saint-Germain, "if it proves to be necessary."

Udek shrugged. "Then we'll do as you require." He clapped his hands. "Mehat, go fetch a sack. The rest of you, make a heap of the bones. I'll collect them later today."

Saint-Germain started back toward the muddy steps. "Thank you, Udek."

"I didn't know what to do, Exalted One, so I sent for you." He seemed uneasy about his decision, but his manner was respectful. "Will you tell me what the Czar's poteshnyes decide? They will surely make the decision while Piotyr Alexeievich is away at his siege."

"If they tell me, I will tell you," said Saint-Germain, disliking the squish under his bare feet; he could feel his strength leaching out of him. "Water and sunlight," he muttered in his native language as he struggled up to the top of the stairs. He went to reclaim his shoes and leg-hose, but did not bother to put them on. Carrying them in his one clean hand, he picked his way back to the carriage and got into it, taking relief from the lining of his native earth under the upholstered seat.

"Take me to the men's bath-house," he said, and, as Gronigen started the pair moving, he added, "They found part of a body."

"Only part?" Gronigen asked.

"Perkele!" Saari exclaimed.

"I doubt the devil had anything to do with it," said Saint-Germain. "This looks much more like the work of men: the arm was deliberately concealed." For the rest of the ride to the bath-house, he said nothing more.

"Do you want us to wait for you?" Saari asked as Saint-Germain once again descended from the carriage.

"No. If you will ask Hroger to come here with a change of clothes and shoes, and one of my Turkish bath-sheets, I would be most grateful." Saint-Germain achieved a quick smile. "It has been an interesting day thus far, has it not."

Neither Gronigen nor Saari knew how to respond to this; Gronigen touched his forehead in a kind of salute. "We'll send Hroger. I'll attend to the horses and finish installing the small stove in the barn. The cold weather is coming and we must be ready."

"A fine idea," Saint-Germain approved, and went, still barefoot and queasy without the protection of his native earth, into the bath-house. He consigned his clothes to one of the bath-house servants, then took a cotton smock from a line of them on pegs along the wall and pulled it on before walking into the main steam-room and the hot fog that rose from a large iron stove covered in rocks onto which a steady trickle of water dropped from an overhead pipe, creating a constant billow of hissing steam. Four clerestory windows let in just enough light to make it possible to see. Saint-Germain, for whom darkness was no impediment to sight, made out six other men in the steam-room as he found his way easily to a stand of benches against the far wall. Taking a seat about half-way up the stand, he opened the smock and sat down in the sodden heat. He had long since lost the ability to sweat, as he had lost the capacity to weep, but the warm steam was soothing, the darkness was comforting, and he felt some of his depleted vigor begin to return; for the time being, he found these things sufficient.

Somewhat later, he got up and went into the room filled with huge barrels of hot water. Choosing the darkest of the barrels, he went to it, removed his smock, and sank down into the water up to his chin. The water was not entirely comfortable since the tub was not set atop his native earth, but it washed away the last of the mud and gave him a little more time to think; in half an hour, he had a workable plan. By the time he emerged from the steam-room, he found Hroger waiting for him in the doorway to the dressing-room, bath-sheet and clothes in hand; a small leather case stood open on the bench behind him.

"I understand you need these, my master," he said by way of greeting. "Gronigen told me you were muddy to your knees."

"So I was, and the coat and knee-britches were spattered, as well," Saint-Germain agreed, turning away as he took the bath-sheet and wrapped it around himself.

"They also said that the work-crew found a body."

"Part of one," Saint-Germain corrected. "An arm, male hips, and three ribs, all showing signs of being cut by something sharp-edged."

"Like that body on the road to Baghdad," Hroger suggested.

"Very similar-enough to convince me that the man whose remains were found was killed in much the same way-hacked with swords and pole-axes." Saint-Germain's face clouded at the memory. "That was hard to watch."

"You were buried in sand to your neck at the time," Hroger reminded him. "Even you couldn't do much under those circumstances."

"I realize that, but it still rankles; that whole journey does." He was almost finished drying himself.

"Shall I leave you to dress and go collect your muddied clothes from the bath-servant?" Hroger asked.

"If you would." He glanced at the clothes Hroger had brought: a sensible twill coat and britches in dove-gray, a dark-blue waistcoat, a white chemise, and simple leg-hose for under his riding boots. "You must be prescient; I am planning to ride this afternoon."

"I thought you might," said Hroger. "I've told Gronigen to turn the gray Andalusian out before saddling him. A quarter-hour of kicking up his heels and he'll mind his manners."

"Thank you. I would rather he not practice his airs above ground on the street." He glanced around. "I will plan on visiting the care-house and the residence of the Metropolitan. I should probably plan to see him after Vespers." He considered the time of day. "Do we have anything I can take along to the care-house for the patients? As I recall, they have five sick children to treat."

"I'm sure we can find something. Narkiss has been smoking fowl again, and I think there will be some he can spare." He handed Saint-Germain his under-drawers, then went to collect his clothes from the bath-servant.

While Hroger was gone, Saint-Germain dressed quickly, so that by the time Hroger returned, he was pulling on his leg-hose. His waistcoat was still unbuttoned and his coat lay on the bench next to him. "Thank you for taking such good care of me, old friend. We have so much to contend with beyond our mission, I know you are doubly valuable to me."

"I didn't bring a neck-cloth for you. Tell me which one you want and I'll tie it for you back at the house." He put the muddied clothes into the leather case. "I'll see they're washed by tomorrow morning."

"Thank you again," said Saint-Germain, then paused thoughtfully. "Tell me: is Zozia at the house?"

"No; she's gone to wait on the Czar's Marfa, to see how she is doing, and to introduce Missus Carruther to Marfa; Missus Carruther arrived two days ago."

"I remember-Abigail is her Christian name, as I recall," said Saint-Germain as he pulled on his boot; his native earth in the thick sole was revitalizing. "She seemed a timorous woman when we were introduced."

"She doesn't speak Russian, or Dutch, or German, just French as a foreign tongue," Hroger said. "And Sankt Piterburkh is a long way from Devon. The Ksiezna said she would assist her with learning the ways of this new city."

"By the sound of it, Zozia is willing to extend herself on behalf of Missus Carruther," said Saint-Germain, a puzzled frown drawing down his brows.

"All the more reason for Missus Carruther to rely on the Ksiezna," said Hroger. "It suits them both."

"It may be because both women speak French, or they would have a difficult time of it. As it is, Zozia can serve as Abigail Carruther's Virgil in this netherworld, which should make both wife and husband beholden to her," said Saint-Germain, pulling on his other boot. "Let us be under way. It may be a busy afternoon."

Hroger ducked his head in acquiescence. "Saari and I discussed the man following you; he was out near the treadmill earlier today. I saw him in the street near the house. I had Saari confirm that this was the same man he had seen earlier. When we return to the house, I'll have Saari see where he has gone."

"Tell him not to be obvious," Saint-Germain said as he went to the outer door of the bath-house. "I would prefer the spy not know that he has been seen. It might put Saari in danger if the spy discovers he has been noticed."

"Both Saari and I are in accord about that," Hroger said, following Saint-Germain out into the daylight. "We've planned to watch him by turns, so that he won't be too aware of our notice. It should work, at least for a while."

"Fortunately the nights are longer," said Saint-Germain.

"You will find the winter less strenuous than the summer. There will be only four or five hours of faint daylight as the Solstice nears."

"So I hope," said Saint-Germain. "Even now, I should think that the spy will not watch the house through the night; that would be too obvious."

"He might not, but there may be others who will, men who will not be as obvious as he is," Hroger said. "Until we come upon the identity of the person in charge of this man …" He coughed a warning and nodded to the half-finished house down the street from the men's bath-house. "There. At the far end-the man smoking the pipe."

"I see him," said Saint-Germain. "It is the same man I saw earlier today. He would do well to exchange that hat for one of the Russian caps."

"Be pleased that he doesn't," Hroger remarked.

Saint-Germain said nothing more until they entered the house. "If you will order the food donation for the care-house first-then, I think the dark-gray neck-cloth will do, since I will visit the Metropolitan. Matvei Nikitich Golrugy expects restraint in dress to show respect for the Orthodox Church."

"I'll get it for you," Hroger said, going first into the servants' room, where he gave Saint-Germain's order to Narkiss. That done, he crossed the main room into the bedchamber to get the neck-cloth from Saint-Germain's chest-of-drawers. He was back quickly, and took a little less than a minute to fashion a subdued knot in the wide, bias-cut band of silk. "That should do. I will arrange for your gift for the care-house and you can decide which wig will suit you." And again he left the main room.

For the next ten minutes, Saint-Germain paced around the room, forming in his mind the manner in which he would approach the Metropolitan Matvei. He wished he knew more about the man, for he would have a better notion as to how he could explain the discovery of the partial remains. When Hroger returned, Saint-Germain asked him, "Am I being a fool to wonder if the dead man is Vladimir Timchenkov? I know men are often attacked out in the marshes-Timchenkov and I are not the only ones. Yet try as I will, I cannot rid myself of the impression that it must be he."

"I would be astounded if you hadn't thought that," said Hroger, settling the German wig on his head.

"Ah," Saint-Germain agreed.

"You may want to inform the Metropolitan of the two attacks you have sustained, and to include Timchenkov's disappearance as part of the mystery. That way your involvement will be more readily understood, and your motives would not be questioned." Hroger stepped back to inspect Saint-Germain. "You look a picture of dignity."

"That should please the Metropolitan," said Saint-Germain. "I will try to return within the hour, but if I am gone longer, do not worry unless I am still missing by sunset." He paused, then called out, "Narkiss. My donation for the care-house."

"I'm putting it in the sack," the cook called to him. "Two smoked geese, four loaves of black bread, a string of onions, and a tub of new butter."

"A fine choice," Saint-Germain approved.

Narkiss came out of the servants' room, a large sack in his hands. "Here you are," he said with an appropriate nod to Saint-Germain. "They should be grateful."

Saint-Germain took the sack. "Thank you, Narkiss: I am sure they will be."

"This, from a man who never eats," said Narkiss as he withdrew from the main room, muttering to himself.

"So he has noticed-this could prove awkward," said Saint-Germain.

"It isn't the sort of report that you would want being generally known," said Hroger in Visigothic Spanish. "I've said that you have a very restrictive diet, and for that reason you dine in private. I assumed the servants accepted that."

"Much the same explanation as usual," said Saint-Germain.

"Should I enlarge my account of your limitations?"

"Indeed not," Saint-Germain said, and went toward the door. "I hope that I can avoid any suspicions about my true nature, and revealing more could lead to a wider inquiry. I have no wish to be scrutinized."

"Too late, at least in this household." He went to the door to watch as Gronigen led the Andalusian up to the step. "I'll do what I can to laugh at such an assumption."

"Very good," said Saint-Germain as he swung up into the saddle, the sack of food still in his right hand. He secured the sack to the saddle-ring, then gathered up the reins and nodded to Gronigen to step back; he tapped his heels to the horse's sides and moved him out into the road for the short ride to the care-house.

Heer van Hoek was busy with a patient who had crushed his hand on the dredging-barge, but Ludmilla welcomed him enthusiastically, exclaiming how much his donations of all kinds had done to improve the care-house. "I know I've said it before, but it continues to be true."

"I am pleased to be able to help you: you did so much for me," Saint-Germain responded, his bow graceful. He looked at the beds-now numbering twenty-and saw that all but one were occupied. "You are busier than usual."

"Swamp Fever has struck again." Ludmilla moved away from the beds, her face somber. "We have lost six supervisors to it in the last ten days." She crossed herself.

"Ten days," Saint-Germain shook his head. "If so many supervisors have died, how many of the workmen have contracted it?"

"One of the men who brought the most recent patient said that more than twenty men in his work-gang have been ill, and some are expected to die." She made a gesture of helplessness. "I have no room for the men even if we were allowed to treat them."

"I will see if I can persuade the Metropolitan to speak to Menshikov on your behalf. With more laborers arriving, better facilities for caring for the injured and ill will be needed." He thought a minute. "Would you find more help useful? Kyril may be a good man, but you may need more than your three assistants if the disease spreads."

"You mean you would lend us one of your servants?" She stared in surprise. "What would the Ksiezna say?"

"I was thinking I would help you, if you would permit me to do it. The Ksiezna doesn't mind that I do this, for it adds to her reputation for magnanimity." His quick smile was self-effacing. "I have some experience in these matters, as you know."

"But you're a nobleman," she said quietly. "Would the Polish King allow you to take such risks?"

"You are the daughter and wife of boyars," he pointed out. "Neither your father nor your husband have required you to stop tending the sick."

"But I'm Russian," she said as an explanation.

"Does my being Hungarian make it impossible for me to assist you?"

"No, but-"

"Then accept my help. Who knows: it may help in persuading Menshikov to authorize your new care-house before autumn." He knew that would convince her if anything would.

Ludmilla mused for a short while, then said, "I shouldn't accept your offer, no matter how kind it may be, but we are desperate here, and without someone to speak for us, we will be overwhelmed in this house. What we need is a barrack, and a dozen assistants."

"I know," he said, "which is why I want to help you. There is no other place here that can offer what you do. If you are to continue to provide succor to those who need it, you will need all those things, and more. I am determined to be of what use I can be."

"You do so much already," she said, knowing it was the proper thing to say. "Why do you want to do more?"

Saint-Germain looked directly into her eyes, the full force of his compelling gaze upon her. "Someone must," he said.

Text of a letter from Alexander Menshikov dictated to Nikolai Dmitreivich Urusov, to Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor, delivered by personal courier.

To the respected Hungarian, Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor, presently living in the Foreign Quarter of Sankt Piterburkh, the greetings of Alexander Menshikov.

Hercegek Gyor,

I have given your request my consideration, and have decided to allocate the two-story barrack near the fortress wall for the use of Heer van Hoek and Ludmilla Borisevna Svarinskaya, with the provision that their care be extended to soldiers as well as work supervisors, and such merchants and foreign residents as may require it. As you warned me last week, the Swamp Fever is indeed worsening and the number of men requiring medical attention is on the rise, and unless a better care-house is constructed, the deaths from the malady will slow the rate of building demanded by Piotyr Alexeievich. So that the care-house may be put into service, I will require one of the staff of the care-house to take up residence in the unfinished barrack in order to instruct the workers in how the construction must be done to provide the staff of the care-house the best realization of their facilities. The sum you offered to defray the building expenses has been deemed acceptable, and should ensure the full cooperation of the workmen and carpenters assigned to the new care-house.

You are also authorized to build sleeping quarters in your stable, so that your horses, tack, carriages, and feed may be protected through the winter. Your coachmen and your messenger will be permitted to sleep there, so that they may execute their duties even in winter. Again, your munificent gift for the workmen should ensure a rapid completion of your new rooms to be prepared in the loft. It is most useful to realize that foreigners can comprehend the way in which projects in Sankt Piterburkh are accomplished.

I have spoken with the Metropolitan, and I agree that the remains of the unknown man found in the partially drained portion of the marsh near the treadmill-pump should receive proper burial, and to that end, I have arranged for the graves work-gang to inter what little has been found of the unknown man in the cemetery being established across the river from the fortress. None of the work-gang who found the bones will be held responsible for the death of the man, for, as you pointed out, the man died before the current work-gang was moved to this part of the marsh.

It is my intention to hold a banquet in ten days, and I hope you and your lovely wife will be able to attend. The Czar's Marfa Skavronskaya has expressed a desire for Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko's company on this occasion, and for your many charitable acts on behalf of this city, you will be most welcome as well. We will dine in as much magnificence as we can achieve here at this time. It is my hope that Czar Piotyr Alexeievich may be able to leave the siege at Narva and join these festivities.

The recent scandal of the replacement of the King of Poland, which was rife with bribery and corruption, may have impact upon you and the Ksiezna, but rest assured, no one in this city will oblige you to depart unless Stanislas Leszczynski should decide to recall you. That would be a foolish decision, for all the good-will you and the Ksiezna have achieved here. If it would be to your advantage, I would be willing to recommend to Stanislas that you and the Ksiezna be left in place here. I am planning to point out the benefits to both Russia and Poland that would result in having the two of you, and your household, remain at least through the winter. I will dispatch a courier to Poland by the middle of September, so that the message will be delivered before winter stops all ships in the Baltic.

In appreciation for your generosity and excellent conduct, I remain

Most sincerely,

Alexander Menshikov

at Sankt Piterburkh, August 30th, 1704

all but the signature by the hand of Nikolai Dmitreivich Urusov