“I don’t say that he is perfect. He gets into passions, and it is mighty hard for anyone he gets into a passion with. But who would not get into passions, when there is so much work to be done, and everyone tries to hinder instead of to help? It would break the heart of Saint Patrick! Why, that affair at Narva would have broken down most men. Here, for years, has he been working to make an army, and the first time they meet an enemy worthy of the name, what do they do? Why, they are beaten by a tenth of their number of half-starved men, led by a mad-brained young fellow who had never heard a shot fired before, and lose all their cannon, guns, ammunition, and stores. Why, I was heartbroken, myself, when I heard of it; but Peter, instead of blowing out his brains, or drowning himself, set to work, an hour after the news reached him, to bring up fresh troops, to re-arm the men, and to prepare to meet the Swedes again, as soon as the snow is off the ground.
“If James of England had been Peter of Russia, he would be ruling over Ireland now, and England and Scotland, too.
“But now, I must be off. Don’t you worry about your head. I have seen as bad a clip given by a blackthorn. I have got to go round now and see the wounded, and watch some operations being done, but I will come in again this evening. Don’t eat any more of their messes, if they bring them in. You and I will have a snug little dinner together. I might get you put into a more dacent chamber, but the general is one of the old pig-headed sort. We don’t pull together, so I would rather not ask any favours from him.
“The czar may come any day—he is always flying about. I will speak to him when he comes, and see that you have better entertainment.”
Late in the afternoon, Doctor Kelly came in again to the cell.
“Come along,” he said; “I have got lave for you to have supper with me, and have given my pledge that you won’t try to escape till it is over, or make any onslaught on the garrison, but will behave like a quiet and peaceable man.”
“You are quite safe in giving the pledge, doctor,” Charlie laughed.
“Come along then, me boy, for they were just dishing up when I came to fetch you. It is cold enough outside, and there is no sinse in putting cold victuals into one in such weather as this.”
They were not long in reaching a snugly-furnished room, where a big fire was burning. Another gentleman was standing, with his back to it. He was a man of some seven or eight and twenty, with large features, dark brown hair falling in natural curls over his ears, and large and powerful in build.
“This is my friend, Charlie Carstairs,” the doctor said.
“This, Carstairs, is Peter Michaeloff, a better doctor than most of those who mangle the czar’s soldiers.”
“Things will better in time,” the other said, “when your pupils begin to take their places in the army.”