The chase was continued, over the boundless plains, for many days and often weeks. When night approached, the whole party, often consisting of thousands, dismounted and reared their village of tents. The tent of the emperor was ample, gorgeous, and furnished with all the appliances of luxury. Hounds were first introduced into these sports in Russia by Vassili. The evening hours were passed in festivity, with abundance of good cheer, and in narrating the adventures of the day.
Whenever the emperor appeared in public, he was preceded by esquires chosen from among the young nobles distinguished for their beauty, the delicacy of their features and the perfect proportion of their forms. Clothed in robes of white satin and armed with small hatchets of silver, they marched before the emperor, and appeared to strangers, say his cotemporaries, “like angels descended from the skies.”
Vassili was especially fond of magnificence in the audiences which he gave to foreign embassadors. To impress them with an idea of the vast population and wealth of Russia, and of the glory and power of the sovereign, Vassili ordered, on the day of presentation, that all the ordinary avocations of life should cease, and the citizens, clothed in their richest dresses, were to crowd around the walls of the Kremlin. All the young nobles in the vicinity, with their retinues, were summoned. The troops were under arms, and the most distinguished officers, glittering in the panoply of war, rode to meet the envoys. In the hall of audience, crowded to its utmost capacity, there was silence, as of the grave. The king sat upon his throne, his bonnet upon one side of him, his scepter upon the other. His nobles were seated around upon couches draped in purple and embroidered with pearls and gold.
[Footnote 7: Francis da Callo relates that when he was received by the emperor, forty thousand soldiers were under arms, in the richest uniform, extending from the Kremlin to the hotel of the embassadors.]
Following the example of Ivan III., Vassili was unwearied in his endeavors to induce foreigners of distinction, particularly artists, physicians and men of science, to take up their residence in Russia. Any stranger, distinguished for genius or capability of any kind, who entered Russia, found it not easy to leave the kingdom. A Greek physician, of much celebrity, from Constantinople, visited Moscow. Vassili could not find it in his heart to relinquish so rich a prize, and detained him with golden bonds, which the unhappy man, mourning for his wife and children, in vain endeavored to break away. At last the sultan was influenced to write in behalf of the Greek.
“Permit,” he wrote, “Marc to return to Constantinople to rejoin his family. He went to Russia only for a temporary visit.”
The emperor replied:
“For a long time Marc has served me to his and my perfect satisfaction. He is now my lieutenant at Novgorod. Send to him his wife and children.”