It was a cold and silent November night in the year of grace 1581, or, as the Russians then reckoned it, 1 the year 7089, "from the creation of the world". The moon began to rise over Moscow through a purple haze, swollen and dulled, and of the colour of molten copper. Superstitious men and women watched it with solemn eyes, fearing it foretold the approach of some new calamity, so prone were they to look for omens of evil. Nor did their hearts grow lighter when at length it climbed the naked heaven and shone forth as clear as burnished silver.
The capital of Muskovy then seemed fairer than by day. Much of the squalor was concealed in shadow, and the thin coating of snow which had whitened roofs and battlements and frozen streets, lay sparkling and pure in the soft moon-light. High above the ridge of the Kremlin the gilded Cathedral domes flashed in radiant splendour, but made no appeal to the hearts of the
oppressed citizens, for nigh to the stately Church of the Assumption and the great Cathedral of Michael the Archangel frowned the grim and massive palace of Ivan the Terrible, the tyrannical Tsar who had declared to his subjects: "I am your god as God is mine. My throne is surrounded by archangels as is the throne of God."
That gloomy royal abode was still kept astir like an uneasy conscience. The courtyard flared with torches, and lights twinkled from a hundred windows, while monks and courtiers and warriors jostled each other in its long corridors, continually passing to and fro. In a bleak chamber, guarded by lynx-eyed sentinels, Ivan Gronze sat apart, a wild-eyed old man, fretting with suppressed rage and suspicion as he received the secret reports of his dreaded spies and informers, who slandered the innocent if they could not discover the guilty. Although a fierce tyrant, the Tsar was at heart a coward. He trusted no one, and dreaded hourly that some fawning official would become his assassin. So he kept spies, to follow spies and informers to watch informers. In the black dungeons beneath the palace his manacled victims starved and shivered miserably, awaiting torture and slow death.
Wraiths of cold mist, that had risen from the Moscow and Neglin rivers, crawled over stone battlements and across the maze of shouldering roofs around the royal palace, assuming strange, distorted shapes in the moonlight. It
seemed that night as if the ghosts of murdered princes and boyarins 1 were returning to haunt lonely chambers, in which they had aforetime feasted and whispered treason, surrounded by the spies of the Tsar.
Adjoining the Kremlin, with its quaint and bold array of spires and domes of Eastern and Western design, the walled-in Katai Gorod (china city) drowsed in shadow, its bazaars and markets deserted and silent, its river gate shut and strongly guarded. These two fortified enclosures were buffered on all sides, save the Moscow river front, by the bulging and misnamed Byelo Gorod (white city), in shape resembling a chinless human skull, which was surrounded by thick and high earthen ramparts; sentinels were posted at its five iron-bound oaken gates, which had been closed at sunset. In this, the main part of the capital, were broad squares and long streets, in which commodious mansions shouldered wretched hovels that were cramped, overcrowded, and evil-smelling. This way and that ran narrow, twisting lanes, through which no stranger dared to venture even in daylight. Few houses had stone walls, most were built of timber; the homes of the poorest people were but shapeless heaps of dried mud and clay. Here and there throughout the city appeared wide, open spaces covered over with the charred remains of
numerous dwellings that had been burned down when Moscow was attacked by a Tartar army ten years previously.
Beyond the outer ramparts of the capital lay the unprotected slobadas (suburbs). In these dwelt all foreigners and heretics, many of whom seemed to enjoy more comfort and prosperity than the masses in the White City, for among such "out-dwellers" were prosperous merchants and traders, who hailed from countries as far apart as Persia and England, Sweden and Italy. In the north-western quarter, known as Nemetskaya Slobada ("the dumb suburb"), because its occupants were unable to speak the Russian language, were hundreds of disconsolate Scots and a few Englishmen, who had been taken prisoners in the wars with Poland and Sweden. They had built for themselves a number of stone houses, as if they expected their sojourn to be prolonged. These were of characteristic Scots design, with stone stairways outside the walls; some fronted the street, others shouldered it with their gables, while not a few had their doors at the back, which were reached through narrow arched courts.
Sandy Wood surveyed one of the little streets in the moonlight and wagged his head, chuckling to himself. "One might think he was in Crail," he muttered. "We must call this 'Fife Street', if the Tsar has no objections."
He was a small wiry man with a scrubby grey beard, a thick short nose, and shrewd eyes,
one of which kept opening and shutting when he began to speak; his blue bonnet was worn tilted sideways on his head. During his lifetime he had followed various occupations. He had been a stone-mason, a sailor, a trader, and a soldier of fortune; now he acted as chief architect of the Scots quarter of the "dumb suburb" of Moscow.
A tall, red-bearded man approached with soft footsteps from behind and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Sandy Wood," he muttered in a grave, deep voice, "you're the very man I've been looking for."
"That's yourself, Jeamy Lingett, is it?" said Sandy. "See here--have you ever noticed this?" He nudged his friend gleefully, and pointed down the street. "Does yon corner house no' remind you o’ Bob Keith's at the west end o’ the town o’ Crail?"
"It does that," drawled the other. "Man, I thought it looked familiar."
"That house on your left there is as like as can be to the one I was born in," the little man went on. "All that's wanted now to complete it is a brier hedge, and honeysuckle at the gable. Ah! if ye came from Crail, like me, Jeamy, man, ye’d ken every house in this bonnie wee street."
"Doubtless, Sandy, doubtless. But I ken few folk in Crail other than Bob Keith and your own relatives, often as I've been in the town. But
Click to enlarge
SIR JEROME PAYS A VISIT TO THE SCOTS QUARTER IN MOSCOW
we'll have a chat about Crail some other night. What I want to see ye about now is o’ most serious importance. This morning who should come to pay me his respects but a braw English gentleman, to name Sir Jerome Horsey. He's a great traveller in foreign lands, and is held in good favour by the Tsar himself. 'You will not always be kept in this place under durance,' says he, 'if I can help it. I'll plead for you if such be your will,' says he, 'before his Majesty, so that he may be pleased to employ you all in his service, and spare such maintenance as you sorely need.' What think ye o’ that now, Sandy, my good man?"
"He would just waste his breath to speak on our account up yonder," the little man answered, nudging his head in the direction of the Kremlin.
We need expect but small mercy at the hands o’ Ivan the Terrible."
"Ye never can tell, Sandy; ye never can tell. Sir Jerome is a fair-spoken gentleman, and has no motive to serve other than becomes any good Christian."
"O’ his motives I'll say naught. I wish him well, for I'm no’ a man who despises the English, having lived among them a few years like one o’ their own race. But this I will say. He must needs be cautious in approaching the terrible Tsar, else he'll get a share o’ what was once given to a messenger from Poland who brought him a letter from some noble exile or other."
"I've never heard o’ that, man. Tell me about it."
"When ye pick up some Russian speech, as I've done, yell hear more of Ivan Gronzie than maybe yell care about. I've heard it said that when this messenger stood up before him, the Tsar stuck his iron-tipped staff, which he keeps as sharp as a spear-point, through the poor fellow's right foot, and says he, leering wickedly, 'Read oot what's written there,' says he; and he left the staff sticking in the foot until the long letter was read to the very end."
"Monstrous, monstrous!" groaned Jeamy Lingett.
"On another occasion," resumed Sandy, "he had a messenger from the King o’ Sweden thrown naked into his wild bears' den. No later than yesterday, man, he turned these very bears loose in the White City, and sat jeering, at a palace window, to see the people scampering away like sheep from foxes. Ah, Jeamy, don't speak about favours from Ivan Gronzie to me!"
"Still," protested the other, "Sir Jerome told me he knows how to get at the right side o’ him."
"The right side o’ a man who murdered his own son in a fit of passion?" exclaimed Sandy incredulously. "Man, man, I'm wondering to hear you."
"Come up-by to my house," Lingett said, "and speak to Sir Jerome yourself. He's promised to return to-night to talk matters o'er with two or three o’ us. A friend who comes to offer a helping
hand in a country like this is a friend worth having. Man, he's even promised to get the Tsar to let us build a kirk for our use."
"Weel, that was wise-like," Sandy answered musingly, as he walked round the square with his friend. "I'm keen to try my hand at building a kirk. I've been thinking that o'er in my mind more than once o’ late."
"I'm sure, I'm sure; a kirk's much needed here."
"I'd like to build one like St. Giles of Edinburgh, in which I've sat in my day under John Knox, who's dead and gone these nine years back--God rest his soul! But that would be a big job. I'll just have to give ye a second Reformed Kirk o’ Crail. It will be the best I can do for the lads."
"Ah! here comes none other than Sir Jerome himself," Lingett exclaimed, as he was about to open his house door.
Sandy Wood turned round and saw riding towards him in the moonlight a dignified English gentleman, followed by two mounted soldiers of the Tsar, who acted as an escort.
"Ha! Well met, Jeamy Lingett," Sir Jerome exclaimed with genial voice, dismounting nimbly. "Who is your friend?--a fellow-countryman, or I misjudge him."
"Sandy Wood is the name he's kent by, Sir Jerome," Lingett answered, "and a good man and true ye’ll find him."
"And Scots to the marrow o’ his bones," Sandy
added, doffing his bonnet. "I'm a Scot who is ever well pleased to meet an Englishman face to face."
"A fellow of good wit, I'll warrant you," laughed Sir Jerome. "But I've not come hither this night to fight old battles. Let us enter your house, good Master Lingett, if such be your will."
"I bid you kindly welcome, sir," Lingett said, with a bow, as he thrust open the door.
Sir Jerome bowed in return, and having instructed the soldiers to await his pleasure, walked through the low doorway, followed by the two Scots exiles.
"Be seated, sir," Lingett said courteously, drawing a rough wooden chair in front of a log fire. "I will go round and gather a few more lads to meet with your Honour."
"Let only one of my own countrymen come hither," Sir Jerome remarked. "The presence of Englishmen among you troubles you greatly."
"They might be in worse company," said Sandy Wood somewhat dryly.
"That I grant, my friend," Sir Jerome answered with a smile. "I make no reflection on any good Scotsman among you." Then his face grew grave again as he resumed: "What troubles me greatly is that the Tsar may be enraged to discover Englishmen among his enemies, and revenge himself by seizing the goods and treasure of certain of our merchants here who owe allegiance to Queen Elizabeth. For a smaller offence, His Majesty,
some eight years ago, did confiscate many thousand pounds' worth of cloth, silk, wax, fur, and other merchandise from an English agent, one Thomas Glover, and then did banish him and his dear wife empty out of this land."
"Well, well; worry no more about the matter, Sir Jerome," said Sandy Wood. "Your countrymen are believed to be Scots, and Scots they may remain until they can return safely again to their native land."
"And may they feel highly honoured thereat!" smiled Jerome with twinkling eyes.
"Having myself been called an Englishman in foreign parts, where I've done gallant service with sword and hand gun," Sandy declared with a characteristic chuckle, "and having thus honoured the country o’ good Queen Bess, we can call quits, Sir Jerome, if a few subjects o’ Her Majesty must be let to pass themselves off here as Scots to save certain o’ their countrymen from misfortune."
Sir Jerome bowed, and Lingett turned away to summon other prisoners to the conference. The genial knight chatted meanwhile with Sandy.
"You have travelled much, Master Wood. No doubt, like many of your countrymen, you know more of the Continent than of England."
"I've traversed England from Carlisle to London in my day, and met with many a kindness, sir, at the hands of your countrymen. I've found them better than they're called north o’ the Border."
"It pleases me to hear you say so. What, I pray you, was the occasion of your visit to London?"
"It was my misfortune, sir, to show my native land a pair o’ clean heels. You'll understand I belong to the Reformed Kirk, and I've sat under John Knox in my day. I have that. Every time I heard him preach I said to myself: 'With every word you say, reverend sir, I agree and will hold by.' . . . But I'm a man o’ contrary thoughts, and have aye kept a soft place in my heart for our own Queen Mary, poor dear lady! Chancing to be in Glasgow when she was trying to hold her own against her son's friends, I fought on her side at the battle o’ Langside. . . . We were scattered like chaff before the wind, and I fled to England with others that followed her; and no’ being a man of any account, was let go scot-free there, as the saying is. From London I crossed to Holland, and then made my way to Sweden, where I took arms to fight against the Russians, finding nothing better to do. In a skirmish I was taken prisoner with the rest o’ the lads. So that's how I've wandered all the way from Glasgow to Moskwa, where ye find me now."
"Lingett tells me that you are making yourself at home."
"That's so; as far as it's possible here. I've shown the lads how to build a few stone houses to keep them from dying o’ weariness and cold."
"And you wander about freely, too. When I called this forenoon Lingett could not find you anywhere. Have you ventured to enter the White City without leave of the Tsar? To do so is a perilous undertaking, I warn you."
"I've been out and in now and then, but it's no’ a place with much attraction to a man who has seen better. Most o’ the time I'm away from here I spend on the Moskwa river."
"Fishing, I suppose?"
"What else?" Sandy cocked his head side-ways and folded his arms. "Fishing, as you say," he chuckled, "but no’ for fish, for I can't endure these Russian fish at all."
"And what fish you? I pray you to tell me," asked Sir Jerome with a smile.
"Silver and gold--rings, brooches, ear-rings, crucifixes, and such-like," Sandy explained. "There's a fortune in that river for a man who can work a drag-net, I tell ye. As you'll maybe ken, thousands and thousands o’ the Moskwa folk were drowned in the river when the Tartars came and set the city on fire. They fled from their houses with all their valuables, and pressed through the streets in crowds like sheep without a shepherd, the Tsar Ivan having taken flight, and those that did not drown themselves of their own free will were forced o'er the river bank."
"It was a lamentable spectacle," Sir Jerome said; "and has been fully described to me by eye-witnesses. Men and women were wedged fast
in the streets trying to reach the gates, and some began to walk over the heads of others until dire confusion reigned and large numbers were trodden to death. How many thousands perished by fire, in the press, and by drowning has never been rightly computed. I've heard it said the victims numbered 800,000."
"God pity us all!" murmured Sandy. "No wonder the river bed is strewn with human bones and valuables. You should come with me some day when I'm working my drag-net and see what's to be seen for yourself."
"I have already dragged there as you have done, and was somewhat the better for the fishing," Sir Jerome said laughingly. "But here come our friends."
Lingett entered the house, followed by seven men, each of whom he introduced to the knight, beginning with his countryman, "Roger Wyatt, late of London city."
"Wyatt won't do for a prisoner who is supposed to be a Scot," Sandy Wood chuckled, "we must call him MacWatt."
"This," Lingett said, as the next man advanced, "is Master Alastair Grigor, a Highland gentleman, sir."
"As we know well," Sandy said, "because he talks the Gaelic language in his sleep and sings doleful songs in it when he's longing for bonnie Scotland."
Lingett gave the names of the others as
[paragraph continues] "Andrew Lermont, Gilbert Keith, and Willie Leslie".
"They're very poor masons," was Sandy's comment, "but good fighters one and all."
Sir Jerome bade all the prisoners. be seated, and spoke, saying: "I have come here, as my friend and yours, good Master Lingett will have stated, with great concern regarding your welfare. Being conversant and familiar in the Tsar's Court, I would fain plead for favours on your behalf. If that you are so willing, I will endeavour to procure for you abundance of food and clothing and other favours, and also permission to build a church, so that you may meet for divine service each Sabbath day, and to procure a learned and preaching minister after your Lutheran profession. But first I must ask you to allow me to inform the Tsar that you are willing to serve him on the battlefield, as you are well fitted to do, being soldiers of fortune. I am fully confident that you would display great valour against His Majesty's enemies."
"Are you willing, lads, to serve the Tsar, so that we may be relieved of our misfortunes in this sad place?" asked Lingett in a solemn voice.
"You can count on me for one," declared Sandy Wood. "Although I'm getting old, I'd like to strike a blow against those Krim Tartars, 1 who burned old Moskwa and massacred thousands o’ men, women, and bairns."
"We are all ready and willing," declared the other Scots, "and speak also for our fellows."
"And you, my friend, Mr. MacWyatt?" Sir Jerome asked with a pleasing bow.
"For myself and my countrymen, I offer ready assent," answered Wyatt.
"We're all of one mind when there's fighting to be done," declared Sandy Wood.
"His. Majesty, Tsar Ivan, will find us all at his service," Lingett assured Sir Jerome, "if so be it he needs our help against his enemies, but we'd rather be sent against the Krim Tartars than against Poles or Swedes, in whose armies are many of our own countrymen."
Sir Jerome bowed again. "Meanwhile," he said, taking farewell, "I counsel you to behave well and show courtesy and friendship to all Russians, so that no bad feeling may be raised up against you. May you soon have less cause to be doleful, and to mourn, as you now do, the loss of goods, friends, and country! I pray God to bless you, and bid you all good night."
After leaving the Scots, Sir Jerome, mightily pleased with himself, rode towards a spacious mansion in the north-eastern slobada, where he met with Mr. John Logan, the agent of an English trading company which had obtained special privileges from the Tsar.
"Ah! Sir Jerome, and have you found these adventurers willing to follow your advice?" Logan asked with unconcealed anxiety.
"Fear you not on their account," Sir Jerome assured him. "By my troth! they are valiant fellows, anxious indeed to serve the Tsar if so he desires, being aweary of their sad condition."
Then he related all that had passed, praising Jeamy Lingett whom they had chosen as their leader and dwelling with amusement on Sandy Wood's sayings and doings. "If that knave had the power, and sufficient length of days withal," Sir Jerome laughed, "he would transform Muskovy into a second Scotland."
"I greatly fear," sighed Logan, "that the Tsar will suspect our motive in this matter, and, refusing the services of these men, wreak his vengeance upon us, because a few Englishmen are among the Scots prisoners, by confiscating goods and money. We have observed signs of his growing displeasure of late."
Sir Jerome shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "Be not surfeited with doubts, good Master Logan," he urged. "Methinks I guess what runs in your mind. You have heard that our noble lady Queen Elizabeth, whom God protect and prosper, has refused with due courtesy to become the eighth wife of Ivan Gronzie. You expect him on that account to be ready to persecute you on slight provocation. I grant it is possible. But he is not likely to know now that
any of these prisoners are our countrymen. Besides, I have good cause for believing that His Majesty inclines well to favour England in these days."
"Glad indeed would I be to think so. But I do not share your optimism, Sir Jerome."
"What I tell you must be kept secret," the Knight whispered. "Were you to repeat my words to the merchants here, you might receive the close and unwelcome attention of the Tsar's spies, and perhaps suffer loss of liberty. As you know well, the Tsar lives in constant dread of revolution. Like a good general, who ever pre-pares for retreat even when advancing victoriously, he has solicited from Queen Elizabeth a promise to grant him an asylum in England should his ungrateful subjects render it necessary for him to abdicate. His wish has been granted in a solemn and binding treaty by Her Majesty, whereat he is. well pleased."
Logan uttered an exclamation of surprise. "Revolution," he declared, "would bring ruin to my company. Alas! I pray that it is not now imminent."
"Who knows, good Master Pessimist," Sir Jerome answered somewhat testily, "but revolution might cause you to prosper greatly? But I do not apprehend such a development. The spirit of Muskovy is too severely crushed, and there does not remain alive in these melancholy times a serious opponent to His Majesty, who,
although he liveth in constant fear, daily discovers treasons real and imaginary, and spends much time in torturing and execution. The first great change likely to occur is his death, for he grows exceedingly frail, and is much comforted to be attended by Dr. Robert Jacobs of London, who at his request has been sent to him by Queen Elizabeth, for which further favour he is disposed to harbour as much gratitude as is possible in such a man."
Logan seemed somewhat reassured. "I pray that success may attend your efforts, Sir Jerome," he said. "Still, my mind will not feel at ease until you have secured some definite promise from the Tsar regarding the prisoners. I dread the wrath of Ivan Gronzie. He is a difficult man to conciliate, living as he does in an atmosphere of treachery and suspicion, and cunning withal, as he has need to be. May he not suspect your motive in this matter and bring ruin to our hopes!"
On the following forenoon Sir Jerome Horsey was granted an audience with the Tsar in a small private apartment of the palace. There was no one else present save Dr. Jacobs, who was a sharp-featured, black-bearded man, with immobile face and brown inscrutable eyes.
The English Knight found that His Majesty had changed greatly since last he had seen
him. His body was shrunken and bent, and although his face seemed more ferocious than ever it was shrivelled prematurely and deathly pale; his ears and lips were tinged with blue and his breathing had become laboured; his eyes moved restlessly, casting furtive glances hither and thither as if he entertained fear of sudden attack; he had grown almost completely bald, and a few rugged grey patches were all that remained of his once luxuriant beard.
"I sleep badly," he complained querulously in answer to Sir Jerome's courteous enquiry regarding his health. "Evil dreams torment me; they are produced by my magic-working enemies. Yet I pray daily for the welfare of the souls of such as have been found guilty of treasonable plottings and transferred to the judgment place of the Eternal, there to answer for their sins. Withal, I concern myself greatly regarding the affairs of state, constant wars against hostile nations, and the welfare of my poor people. My health has consequently suffered greatly. I have grown old before my time."
Having thus delivered himself, the Tsar asked Sir Jerome many questions regarding his travels and also about England, in which country he took a keen and special interest. A passing reference to the Scots enabled the diplomatic Knight to say something regarding the prisoners in the "Dumb Suburb".
Tsar Ivan frowned darkly. "These Scots", he
exclaimed with angry voice, "are among my deadliest and most persistent enemies. Of them I have complained to Queen Elizabeth, that eminent lady, who promises much but does little, so that in return for the favours I have conferred upon her rich merchants, she might undertake to hold them in check. But she has answered that those Scots who reach my empire enter it through Sweden and Poland, and are therefore beyond her control. She has, however, many war-ships, as sundry travellers have informed me. Can she not, therefore, prevent the Scots from crossing the seas over which her sway is complete? But I have been told also that she cares not to offend them, as a union between the nations of England and Scotland is pending, if not already accomplished in secret."
Sir Jerome was startled by this sudden out-burst, but, preserving perfect self-control, made answer, saying: "Your Majesty, these Scots have proved even more troublesome to England than to Muskovy. For centuries they have waged warfare against my countrymen, raiding and pillaging prosperous districts and destroying what they could not carry away. They dwell in remote parts among barren hills and on storm-lashed coasts, and thus protected by nature have defied the might of our arms. Their poor circumstances and hardy manners of life have stirred in them a spirit of adventure, and since the strengthening of England's defences, many have crossed the seas to
seek fortunes in distant lands as traders and mercenary soldiers. These Scots, your Majesty, are indeed a nation of adventurous and warlike peoples, and, as I know well from what I have observed in my travels, are ever ready to serve any Christian prince in return for good maintenance and pay. This your Majesty may prove," Sir Jerome added with a shrug of his shoulders, "if it pleases you to grant the dearest wish of those prisoners in the 'Dumb Suburb' by employing them and providing clothing and arms, so that they may display their valour against your mortal enemies, the Krim Tartars. Since entering Muskovy, they have learned to hate fiercely these barbarians, having obtained knowledge regarding their methods of warfare, their oppressions and their burnings, and their hatred of Christian peoples."
Ivan Gronzie grunted impatiently, tapping his bony fingers on a small table beside him.
"But what of this union between your nation and that of the Scots?" he asked in querulous voice.
"It has not yet been accomplished, your Majesty; nor is it imminent. When it comes, however, the result may prove pleasing to you, for the Scots will then find it profitable, as do my countrymen, to win your good graces by exemplary conduct and faithful dealing."
The Tsar moved restlessly in his chair, his face betraying conflicting emotions. After a silence
of many minutes' duration he remarked, as if speaking to himself, "I have need of valiant soldiers." He tugged his beard and cast furtive glances now and again at Sir Jerome, who preserved a placid and respectful demeanour, having spoken as one entirely disinterested and sincerely anxious to smooth the Tsar's difficulties in dealing with his enemies.
At length Ivan gave his decision, half-heartedly it might be, but yet not without evidence that he had been impressed by the courtly Knight's information and suggestions: "I will consider this matter ", he said, "more fully at a later time. That the Scots are valiant I know full well, and it may be wise to dispose of them in a manner which will prove profitable to my empire if that they can be trusted, for no punishment I may inflict, as experience has shown, seems sufficient to deter their nation from giving aid to my enemies west and north, who show me no gratitude for protecting them against Tartar inroads. Were I to ally myself with these barbarians, our joint armies could achieve the conquest of the whole world."
He paused, for a recurring fit of wrath caused him to breathe with difficulty.
"I thank you, Sir Jerome Horsey," he continued after an interval, "for what you have told me regarding these Scots prisoners. But how comes it that you are so well acquainted with their intentions and desires?"
A cunning smile overspread his face, as, grasping the arms of his chair, he bent forward, gazing keenly in the Knight's face.
"Your Majesty," Sir Jerome answered promptly and blandly, "I heard such good reports from English merchants who enjoy your favour and hospitality, regarding your treatment of these Scots, that I paid them a visit. It is my desire to convey to Queen Elizabeth a full and accurate account of your leniency and compassion towards them, and by doing so to thwart in their ill intentions those who endeavour to poison her heart against your Majesty."
The Tsar smiled icily and seemed satisfied. "I have trusted you before, Sir Jerome," he said, "and proved your veracity. Why, then, should I not trust you again? When you return to England, convey my greetings to your exalted Queen, and say it would become her to convey my intention to the Scots King regarding these prisoners, so that he may show me some gratitude by preventing his subjects from giving aid to my most jealous and ungrateful enemies."
Sir Jerome bowed. "With your Majesty's permission," said he, "I would fain visit these Scots prisoners once again, so that I may counsel them to be faithful and obedient to your commands."
"So be it," Tsar Ivan grunted, as he rose abruptly to signify that the interview had come to an end.
Sir Jerome rode in high spirits towards the "Dumb Suburb" through a haze of falling snow, and intimated to Lingett that His Majesty was impressed favourably by the prisoners' offer of military service. He then hastened to meet with Mr. Logan, the English agent, who expressed great satisfaction because the Tsar had made no remark regarding the few Englishmen among the Scots prisoners.
Ere Sir Jerome departed towards the coast, so as to obtain a passage homeward in an English vessel, he learned with satisfaction that the Tsar had arranged to supply the prisoners in the "Dumb Suburb" with daily allowances of food and drink, and with clothing, horses, and fodder, swords, hand-guns, and pistols.
Jeamy Lingett came to bid him farewell. "We'll long remember your kindness, sir," he exclaimed, "and will consider it an honour to prove to you, in God's good time, that you have earned our gratitude, and, as we hope also will be the case, the gratitude also of Tsar Ivan Gronzie. Our lads, whom you found poor enough and sad enough, are now cheerful and well favoured. They long, one and all, to strike a blow against the heathenish Krim Tartars, who have dealt sorely indeed with the Russian peasantry in their diabolic raids."
"I have written His Majesty," Sir Jerome said in parting, "advising him to grant you permission to build a church."
"God will reward you for that," Lingett exclaimed with fervour. "May He protect you on your journey, and bring you back safely to us in His good time!"
. . . . . . . .
Not until summer had smoothed the seas and made beautiful hill and plain once again did Sir Jerome Horsey return to Moscow. Being the bearer of a private letter from Queen Elizabeth to the Tsar, and sundry other documents of great import, he tarried nowhere on his way, but rode straight to the royal palace accompanied by armed men who had been sent to meet him.
He found Tsar Ivan in better health and good spirits. The royal letter seemed to please him mightily. Having read it twice over, he turned to Sir Jerome and said, "Doubtless you have heard of the doings of these Scots, my faithful allies."
"Rumours have reached me, your Majesty," Sir Jerome answered, "and these are of favourable character. I trust they are well founded."
My gratitude to you is unbounded, Sir Jerome," exclaimed His Majesty with some warmth. "But for your advice I should never have employed these valiant soldiers. They have stricken a sore and staggering blow against my worst enemies, the Krim Tartars. Twelve hundred Scots, armed with pistols and hand-guns, have done better than twelve thousand Russians with short bows and arrows. When, in battle,
the Tartar hosts saw their horses falling before invisible bullets, and their ranks mowed down like barley by a sickle, they stared with terror at the Scots and cried out, 'Away, away with those new demons and their thundering puffs!' and then broke and fled in dire confusion."
The Tsar gurgled a hollow laugh in his throat, and repeated over and over again what the affrighted Krim Tartars had exclaimed.
"By my soul," he declared, "these new demons of mine will receive fitting reward."
That evening Sir Jerome visited the "Dumb Suburb" and met with Lingett, who had been promoted to the rank of General, and Sandy Wood, who still bubbled over with pawky humour.
"What think ye o’ Jeamy Lingett?" he chuckled. "He's now a Russian general, and is getting a braw estate to himself, although his father was just a plain sailorman in Aberdeen, and he himself never anything above the skipper o’ a leaky sloop. There's Lermont, too, and Highland Grigor. They both hacked out long lanes through the Tartar army, so they're getting estates as well as Jeamy Lingett. In time they'll a’ three have coughs and sneezes after their names, and be kent among the big folk as Lingettovitch, Grigorvitch, Lermontov, and------"
"And what of yourself, good Master Wood? Have you won a sneeze or a cough?" smiled Sir Jerome.
"No, and I want neither the one or the other,"
[paragraph continues] Sandy made answer. "I'm taking my payment in good red gold and white silver. Being old and near by wi’ it, I've got permission to return home to bonnie Scotland, but I'm no’ going to leave the lads until the new kirk is finished."
"So you have secured permission to build a church?"
"We have that, Sir Jerome, thanks to yourself, and we'll ne’er forget ye for all your kindness to us. If you've nothing better to do, come down by and see our bonnie wee kirk. It's as like as can be the Reformed Kirk in my native town o’ Crail."
108:1 The Julian Calendar was introduced by Peter the Great.
110:1 A class like the English feudal barons. Also rendered in English "boyars" and "boyards".
121:1 Tartars of the Crimea.