“My lord, there is a lady to see you,” Winkler said.Granger was at the desk in the library writing a letter to Bertie, and so immersed in his effort was he that Winkler’s interruption surprised him.He forced his mind away from his literary efforts.
“A lady?” Granger asked curiously.
“Yes, my lord,” he said, and handed Granger her calling card.Granger was worried it would be in Russian, and he had not been able to train his mind to understand Cyrillic yet, but he was fortunate that it was in French.
“Countess Dorothea von Lieven,” Granger read out loud, and was a bit apprehensive about this guest until he remembered that she was von Beckendorf’s sister.“Of course.Please show her into the drawing room.”
“Yes, my lord,” Winkler said, and left to do just that.Granger gathered up his papers and put them in his letter case, which he slid into the breast pocket of his jacket, then strode to the drawing room to meet this young woman.
He had arrived first, fortunately, so he was able to make it appear as if he had been there all along and could casually greet her as she entered.She was very young but carried herself confidently, and that did much to make her seem older than her years.She wasn’t beautiful, but she was pretty, with dark brown hair and dark eyes, and a rather large straight nose that jutted out, somewhat softening the effect of her high cheekbones.Her dress was quite ornate, but like most of the garments Granger had seen since he’d been in Russia, it was old-fashioned by British or French standards.Granger gave her a very courtly bow and kissed her hand, and noticed that her curtsey in return was quite well done.Clearly this young woman knew the ways of a court, and how to conduct herself in high society.“What an honor you do me, Countess, by calling on me here in Kiryanovo.”
“I thought I was being rather presumptuous,” she said with a smile.“I could not resist the opportunity of meeting someone who earned the friendship and affection of my brother.”
“He is a remarkable man, one I am happy to consider a close personal friend,” Granger said.He guided her to an armchair and helped her sit down, then got them both a glass of wine.He sat in a chair adjacent to hers.“I am worried that you are running a considerable risk should you be found here with me.There is an order for my arrest at the moment.”
“Such things do not concern me,” she said with a haughty air.“Your reason for being here, on the other hand, does.”
“I don’t see how my presence here should cause you alarm,” Granger said, wondering what she was talking about.
“Please do not insult my intelligence by considering me to be naïve,” she said.She was annoyed, and Granger certainly did not need to make an enemy of this woman who had so far been quite helpful to him.
“Countess, I feel we are talking in circles,” Granger said diplomatically.“Clearly you are upset about something.I would ask you to be candid with me.”
“My mother is very close to the Empress,” she said.“I am also one of her maids of honor.”
“Clearly Her Imperial Majesty holds you and your family in high regard,” Granger noted.
“That is why I am not afraid to be found with you,” she said arrogantly.“I am fairly certain the Empress does not know this, but there are rumors of a plot to overthrow the Tsar.”
“I have heard such rumors as well,” Granger said.
“And from whom did you hear such rumors?” she demanded.
Granger was of a mind to tell her that he’d heard them from her brother but opted to be oblique.“It would be inappropriate for me to reveal the names of those individuals.”
She gave him a very irritated look.“Well the rumors that I heard suggest such a plot is being financed with British gold, so that is what makes your presence here suspicious.”
“I can only account for my own purse, and while I am wealthy, I cannot imagine what the cost is to overthrow a Tsar, and even if I did know, I am certain that I would not be able to afford it,” Granger said.
“Not your money, Lord Granger, but your government’s money,” she said in a very annoyed tone.
“My government has not entrusted me with any money,” Granger answered honestly, since technically they’d given it to Daventry.
“My brother says you are trustworthy, so I will believe you,” she said.“I do not want to see Russia as a British puppet.”
Granger actually laughed at that.“Madame, I cannot see how that would be possible or desirable.”
“You would mock me?” she asked, outraged.Granger realized he’d offended her, as he had not accounted for her incredible haughtiness and extreme pride.
“Presumably if the Tsar is removed from the throne, the Tsarevich would replace him, is that not correct?”
“Yes,” she allowed grudgingly.
“I have not had the honor of meeting the Tsarevich, nor do I know much about him, but you appear to be suggesting he is weak, and would be easily duped by British agents,” Granger said, neatly painting her into a corner.
“I suggested no such thing!” she said angrily.
“Then how are your fears of English domination over Russia to become a reality?” Granger demanded.She glared at him.“I would recommend that you more fully evaluate your theories before you allow your emotions to run away with you.”
She glowered at Granger, enraged, while he just looked back at her calmly.To give her space to calm down, he got up and refilled both of their glasses, then took his seat again.“Is the jeweler I sent you working out?” she asked, after her internal storms had abated.
“He is, and I must thank you for helping me out in that regard,” Granger said.
“You are an interesting man, one who has not even been introduced in St. Petersburg, and who is subject to arrest, yet at the top of your list of things to accomplish is to have a jeweler craft things for you,” she said a bit coquettishly.“Is there some woman who has already captured your attention?”
Granger smiled.“Alas, I am a happily married man, and I honor my commitments to my wife steadfastly.”
“That is a most unique yet boring attitude,” she said, flirting with him.“I think that rather than dissuade the women at Court, they will see it as a challenge.”
“I had that experience when I was in Paris, and I managed to maintain my virtue, such as it is,” Granger said with a smile.
“You are suggesting that Russian ladies are as undesirable as the women of the French Republic?” she demanded, with righteous indignation.
“I am not,” Granger asserted.“But I am confident that I can maintain my chastity even in the face of that temptation.”
“We shall see,” she said.“So if you are not crafting jewels for a lady, who are you crafting them for?”
“I never said I wasn’t crafting jewels for a lady,” Granger replied, bantering with her.
She smiled at him.“Would you be willing to reveal the name of this individual for whom you are making jewelry?” Granger knew that she had but to find the jeweler she had recommended and then to make him reveal everything, so there was nothing to be gained by being secretive about this.
“They are for His Imperial Majesty,” Granger said.
“I am not sure what you, a foreign nobleman, could have made in St. Petersburg that would appeal to the Tsar of all the Russias,” she said, her arrogance returning with gusto.
“Then I shall surprise you,” Granger said.“If you will call on me again at this time tomorrow, it will be finished, and I will show it to you.”
“And how are you going to give this gift to His Imperial Majesty?” she asked.
“I was of a mind to ask you to deliver it for me, along with a letter,” Granger suggested.
“And how would I explain that I met you?” she asked.
“I thought such risks did not concern you,” Granger responded.“If that is the case, you should have no problem conveying my gift and my letter to His Imperial Majesty.”
She gave him an annoyed look, then stood up to leave.“I will see you at this time, tomorrow,” she said.Granger escorted her out of the house and braved the freezing winds to escort her to her carriage door, then returned to the welcome warmth of the house.
February 5, 1801
St. Petersburg, Russia
The five men sat around the study, seemingly pondering their next move.Nikolay Zubov was chewing what was probably tobacco in a boorish way.Granger was having a hard time liking the man.His younger brother flirted with Granger with his eyes, using his handsomeness to try and crack Granger’s hard, stoic shell.He was tempting, but Granger was too practiced, so it was not to be.Daventry, Granger, and Count von der Pahlen had calmly glacial expressions.
“The star for His Imperial Majesty is ready,” Granger said, and showed them a polished wooden box.He opened it, revealing the sparkling Rhodian cross with the arms of the Knight’s Hospitaller superimposed on top of it.It sparkled in the candlelight of the room, making Granger appreciate the quality of the small stones the government had sent them.
“That is very well done,” the Count observed.Granger handed him the box, from which he picked up the star and studied it.“Very well done.”
“I will convey your compliments to the jeweler,” Granger said.He would no doubt appreciate them, but Granger was certain he appreciated the considerable fee Granger had paid him even more.
“So how will you give the bauble to the Tsar?” Nikolay asked.
“I was planning to have Countess von Lieven deliver it,” Granger said.
“An interesting choice,” von der Pahlen mused.
“What would a young woman be doing with a star and a letter?” Nikolay asked, then got even more annoyed.“They’ll demand to know where you are, and then they will come get you.”
Granger and von der Pahlen shared a somewhat frustrated look, then Granger answered him.“My letter clearly identifies my location.I did not come all this way to hide in the shadows, forcing His Imperial Majesty to launch a man hunt for me.”
“Then you will be captured and taken to jail,” he said, as if he did not care one way or the other.Granger was fairly sure he was being sincere, and that he did not.
“I would hate to see you in a Russian jail, my lord,” Valerian said smoothly.
Granger smiled at him.“I do not think that will happen, but that is the risk I take.If that is my destiny, then I will live with it.”
“And what of Daventry?” Nikolay asked.“Will he join you in the Tsar’s dungeon?”
“That is a distinct possibility,” Daventry said coolly, showing no fear, which certainly impressed Granger.
“Nikolay, this entire effort is designed to elicit a sympathetic response from His Imperial Majesty, and I am confident that it will,” Count von der Pahlen said.“And if he does not initially have that reaction, I will attempt to persuade him to feel that way.”
“Of course,” Nikolay said, and assumed a more subdued pose.It was fascinating that he was quite obnoxious with the rest of them, but von der Pahlen had but to speak to him and the man immediately fell in line.Granger hoped that he would have the opportunity to meet more Russian nobles, but he also hoped they would be less strange than Nikolay Zubov.
“I will leave so as not to be here when Countess von Lieven arrives,” von der Pahlen said.“I would advise you gentlemen to do the same,” he said, addressing that comment to the Zubov brothers.They took their leave, and all left together.
“We had better hope your plan works,” Daventry said to Granger.
“I think that largely depends on the Tsar’s mood when he receives the letter and the star,” Granger said.
“And that is as unpredictable as the weather,” Daventry noted ruefully.Granger occupied himself by writing more letters, although how he would actually deliver them remained in question.He reasoned that if something were to happen to him, he would try to leave some words for his loved ones, if not for comfort, then perhaps for posterity.He ceased that effort when Winkler arrived to tell him Countess von Lieven was here.He took his time, deciding that today she could wait a few minutes.
As Granger was walking to the drawing room, he noticed the butler giving him an unpleasant look such that if Granger would not have had good peripheral vision, he would not have noticed it.Granger chose to ignore it.The man spoke only Russian and German, so that made it very difficult for Granger and Daventry to work with him.They’d taken to working through Winkler or Boles, who had to communicate to other servants who spoke French and could translate things to the butler.That evidently irritated him, at having to take his directions, such as they were, from people he considered his underlings.
He put his musings about their petulant butler behind him as he strode into the drawing room.He found the Countess looking much as she had yesterday, with a different yet similar dress.“Thank you for returning today,” Granger said, bowing and kissing her hand.“You have brightened my day.”
“Perhaps if you were more charming, you would have more visitors,” she said, with a certain amount of iciness.
“You are here, so I must indeed be charming, for you to not only visit, but to return the next day,” Granger said, teasing her in a taunting way.
“I am here the next day because you asked me to return, and because you promised to show me this work of art you have created,” she said with disdain.Granger was not sure what it was about her heritage that gave her such an air of superiority, but she was as arrogant as the worst of the French émigré aristocrats he had encountered.
“I did not realize you were pledged to do my bidding,” Granger responded, getting a very dirty look from her in return.
“I am most certainly not,” she objected strongly.“Are you going to show me these jewels or are you not?”
“Madame, patience is an important skill, one you should learn,” Granger said in a patronizing way.He strode out of the room, leaving her infuriated, and went back to the study where he had left the letter and polished box with the star in it.He returned to find her less irritated.“This is what the jeweler has crafted.”
Granger opened the box and showed her the star.She picked it up carefully and looked at it intently.“What is it?”
“I would have thought you would know,” Granger said.
“Well I do not, so explain it to me,” she said coldly.
“I am delighted that I can continue your education,” Granger said.That made her so angry her cheeks began to turn red.“This cross in the background is a Rhodian star, a symbol popular with the Knight’s Hospitaller.This crest affixed to the front contains the arms of that order.”
She looked at it more objectively now and nodded approvingly.“Where did you get these diamonds? They are small, but the cut is so excellent they sparkle more than much bigger stones would.”
“I am guessing that they came from the Netherlands, as they have the best diamond cutters, but I cannot be sure,” Granger answered.“I acquired them from England.”
“The rubies are bigger, but cut in an equally precise way,” she said.“I think His Imperial Majesty will like this star, and what it represents.”
“I am glad to hear you say that,” Granger said with a smile.“I would like you to take the star along with this letter and deliver them to him.”
“You mentioned that yesterday. I have thought about it, and I cannot do it,” she said firmly.
“Why not?” Granger challenged.“You said that he would probably like them.What is the risk?”Granger knew very well what the risk was, but he was going to push her into a corner, relying on her conceit to get her to do as he wished.
“There is considerable risk to you,” she said, slightly changing the subject.“The Tsar will ask me where I got these items, and I will have to tell him.Then he will know where you are.”
“It is good of you to worry about me, Madame,” Granger said, making it seem like he appreciated her concern when in reality she was worried about her own skin.“That letter explains my presence in St. Petersburg and tells the Tsar that I am here at Kiryanovo.”
“That is quite a risk you are taking,” she noted, raising an eyebrow.
“Quite possibly,” Granger said.
“I still see no reason for me to expose myself by making such a delivery,” she said, going exactly where Granger had wanted her to go.
“I am surprised to hear you say that,” Granger noted.“You told me yesterday that being here was not a concern to someone as influential as you.Delivering this letter and star should be no more dangerous.”
“It is one thing to be seen here, it is another to take a message from an outlaw to His Imperial Majesty,” she said.
“I had assumed, based on your assertions, that you and your family were in high enough positions at the Imperial Court so as to be above reproach,” Granger said.“It sounds as if you misrepresented your own importance.”
“I most certainly did not,” she objected.
“Then you will take the star and the letter and deliver them to the Tsar,” Granger said, more of a directive than a request.
“You are manipulating me,” she accused.
“I am doing nothing of the kind,” Granger said, even though he was.“I am merely asking you to honor your statements to me.”
“You are now saying I have no honor?” she asked, outraged.
“I would suggest that is in question if you refuse to deliver these items,” he said.
“You are a most despicable man, Lord Granger.I cannot imagine what you have done to poor Fritz’s mind for him to like you so well, as he is the least intelligent of my siblings,” she spat.
“I cannot speak to that, but he is a man of his word, and one I would die for,” Granger said honestly.
She turned away from him and walked a few steps away, pondering her situation.Granger could see her shoulders stiffen in resolve, then she turned and walked back toward him.“I will take these items to the Tsar, and risk my own standing in his eyes, not because you questioned my honor, but because you so revere my brother’s.”
Granger sensed that she was ready for an intense and lengthy argument about the whole situation, so he used his reply to truncate such an attempt.“Thank you, Countess.Allow me to see you out.”
Granger guessed that she was so frustrated with him, she was dying to stomp her foot, but instead she just gave him a foul look and headed toward her carriage.Granger followed her and, once he had helped her into the carriage, he handed her the letter and the wooden box.She tossed them both on the seat next to her in a cavalier way, Granger shut the coach door, and she knocked on the roof to tell her coachman to leave.Granger walked into the house, chuckling to himself, even as he heard the wheels of her carriage grinding in the packed snow, then went to inform Daventry of his encounter.
Daventry was laughing as he heard Granger’s replay of his conversation with the Countess von Lieven.“You are not making friends as you usually do, George,” he chided.
“She is but a child in women’s clothing,” Granger said.“She is petulant and arrogant, to a point I have rarely seen.”
“I am not quite sure what has possessed these people to give them a complex like that,” Daventry mused much as Granger had.They laughed about that, then Granger broached a new topic.
“I would like to plan our supper to be a rather grand affair, and invite Boles, McGillivray, Winkler, and Jacobs to join us,” Granger said.
“I think that is a marvelous idea,” he said.“I am wondering what has prompted you to make this decision?”
“It is possible we will be arrested within the next few hours or so,” Granger said.“If that happens, I want to ensure they know what to do.”Daventry nodded as he pondered that, and pondered that he may very soon be inside a Russian jail cell.
“I will leave it to you to arrange it,” Daventry said.
Granger nodded and left the room.He was about to go track down Winkler when his redoubtable steward appeared in front of him.“I would like to plan a rather grand supper, with four guests in addition to Lords Daventry and myself.”
“I’ll inform the staff, my lord,” Winkler said.“The butler will undoubtedly want to know who is attending.”
Granger was of a mind to tell the man to mind his own damn business, but he opted to be reasonable.“You and Jacobs, as well as Boles and McGillivray,” Granger said, and watched Winkler’s eyes bulge at that.
“My lord, perhaps you had better inform the staff, begging your pardon,” Winkler suggested nervously.Granger was annoyed that he was being tasked to go deal with foreign servants he couldn’t communicate with, but he recognized that the butler would be most difficult, so he acquiesced.
“Very well.I will let you lead the way,” Granger said.He descended the stairs to the first level then dispatched Winkler to bring the butler and the servant who was their interpreter into the study to meet with him.
He poured himself a glass of wine, then sat in one of the chairs, pondering the day’s events and what he’d say at supper.His thoughts were interrupted when the butler, Winkler, and a woman who was probably in her forties entered.“My lord, this is Mrs. Gatchina, the chief cook.She speaks French,” Winkler said in English.
Granger rose to greet her.“I am grateful that I am getting the chance to personally meet you,” he said pleasantly in French.“This gives me the opportunity to thank you for the excellent meals you have provided.”
“You flatter me, my lord,” she said, grinning and exposing her smile which was lacking a few prominent teeth.
“It is not flattery to merely observe what is true,” Granger said.
“Thank you, my lord,” she said, and seemed quite awestruck to be in his presence.The butler muttered a few words to her, which made her frown.
“Is there a problem?” Granger asked.
“Mr. Simonovski runs the house, my lord, and he is telling me that I am not to be so informal with the guests,” she said.
“Please convey to him that it is not his place to interfere in my conversations with the staff.To do so would make it appear as if he is contradicting me,” Granger said with real venom.She relayed those words to him and he argued back.
“He says that he is in charge of the house, and you are the guests,” she said.Granger was infuriated at encountering such an attitude from this man, but hid it quite effectively.
“One moment,” Granger said to her, then turned to Winkler and spoke in English.“I’ll want you to get Jacobs, McGillivray, and Boles, and I want this man seized, tied up, and stored in a room where he has food, water, and nothing else.He can stay there until he learns his place.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Winkler said, stunned.
“Do you think the footmen will give you any problems?” Granger asked.
“I think that is unlikely,” Winkler said with a wry grin.“I’ll be back shortly.”
“Excellent,” Granger said, then turned back to the cook and switched back to speaking French.“I am planning to host my staff to supper tonight.I would appreciate it if you would make it a special meal.I would also appreciate it if you would make sure there is ample and excellent food for the other staff members here.”
“My lord?” she asked, stunned, then got herself together.“I have enough foodstuffs to prepare such a feast, and I can do it, but I will have a hard time explaining the costs.”The butler started jabbering, and she paused to listen to him.“He wants to know what we’re talking about.”
“Ignore him,” Granger said.“He won’t be a problem much longer.”
“As you wish, my lord,” she said.
“I will gladly reimburse the costs of supper for everyone.Just let me know how much you require,” Granger said.
“Then I will get to work,” she said.Just then Jacobs, Winkler, Boles, and McGillivray came in.Jacobs and McGillivray walked up to the butler and seized him, causing him to begin shouting until Winkler put a ball of twine in his mouth.
“Please explain to this man that he is about to learn what happens when he forgets his place,” Granger said to her in French.“He is to be confined to a room until I order otherwise, where he will be provided with water and basic foodstuffs.”
It was interesting to note the change in her attitude toward him.She said those words almost with a sneer, while his eyes bulged.“He understands, but he isn’t happy about it,” she said, making Granger chuckle.“I will show them where to store him, and I will start work on supper.”
“Excellent,” Granger said.Winkler remained, while she led the four men off.
“I think, my lord, that you will be the most popular man in this house tonight,” Winker said.“The staff hate him.”
“As long as he is out of my way, and I can have my supper, I will be happy,” Granger said.“I will trust you to see that he is not unduly inconvenienced.”
“Yes, my lord,” Winkler said.
Granger retired to his room to rest, and actually managed to doze off.Winkler awoke him some two hours later to tell him that supper was almost ready.“And how are things downstairs?” Granger asked, referring to the servants.
“The cook pretty much runs things, or the important things anyway, my lord,” he said.“Things are going well, although with a little less stuffiness and a lot more cheerfulness.”
“That is good,” Granger said.“You look quite nice this evening.”Winkler was wearing nice trousers, a shirt, and a jacket, as well as shoes Granger didn’t remember seeing before.
“Thank you, my lord,” he said.He followed Granger down to the dining room, where everyone else had already assembled.
“George, I’ve just been hearing how you’ve completely turned the staff upside down,” Daventry said.
“I am unused to insubordination, and am loathe to tolerate it,” Granger said in a way to get a chuckle from his fellow peer.“You are all quite nicely turned out,” he said to the others.
“Thank you, my lord,” Boles said, speaking for all of them.Granger and Daventry acted as the good hosts, and they focused on eating and drinking.
In fact, Granger was having such a good time, he’d forgotten the reason for the dinner, until Daventry prompted him.“Perhaps you can explain to these men why we invited them to sup with us.”
“You are quite the taskmaster tonight,” Granger joked, getting a chuckle from all of them, then got serious.“Most of you have seen the jeweler working here.”
“Aye, my lord,” McGillivray said.
“He was hired to create a star for the Maltese order the Tsar recently took over,” Granger explained.“I dispatched that star as a gift, along with a letter explaining that Lord Daventry and I are here in St. Petersburg.”
“Will he know where you are, my lord?” Jacobs asked.
“He will,” Granger affirmed.“I told him we were staying here.I felt it was important to be honest about that, and not to try and taunt the Tsar of All the Russias with a game of hide and seek.”
That got laughter from everyone but Winkler.“So you are telling us, my lord, that at any moment, Russian guards could come bursting in and seize all of us?”
“That is a possibility,” Granger said.“I wanted to sup with you all to explain the risk Lord Daventry and I are taking, and to give you some guidance on what to do if that happens.”
“That would be most helpful, my lord,” Jacobs said a bit nervously.
“I think it is unlikely that they will arrest the four of you.Lord Daventry and I will probably be the focus of their ire, such as it is,” Granger said.
“Then what are we to do, my lord?” Winkler asked, clearly distraught over Granger ending up in a Russian jail.
“That is what I plan to talk to you all about,” Granger said.“After dinner, Lord Daventry and I plan to spend time with you and cover the details.”
“I’ll meet with Boles and McGillivray, while Lord Granger will meet with Winkler and Jacobs,” Daventry supplemented to make sure their intentions were clear.
“The coat that I wore that was designed for Mr. Cochrane contained metal boxes.I am of a mind to let Jacobs wear it, and to put money in those boxes, along with important dispatches we will need to get back to England,” Granger said.He continued with a smile.“I am entrusting these things to Jacobs for a few reasons.First, he is the largest of the four of you.In addition, he was originally an American, so he will probably be able to find friends in this part of the world more easily than the rest of you.”
“This much is certain,” Daventry agreed.
“I am hoping this is all much ado about nothing, but it is important for you to be aware of what could happen.If we are thrown in a Russian jail, you should contact Count von der Pahlen and see if he will help you leave this country.If that is not possible, Colonel von Beckendorf would be another good person to help you, should he return.Barring that, I would recommend you try your luck at one of the foreign embassies here.The United States does not have an ambassador here, so your best hope is probably the Swedish embassy.”
There would be more to talk about, but that could wait until after dinner.