When William Came HTML version

“the Metskie Tsar”
“I was in the early stages of my fever when I got the first inkling of what was going on,”
said Yeovil to the doctor, as they sat over their coffee in a recess of the big smoking-
room; “just able to potter about a bit in the daytime, fighting against depression and
inertia, feverish as evening came on, and delirious in the night. My game tracker and my
attendant were both Buriats, and spoke very little Russian, and that was the only language
we had in common to converse in. In matters concerning food and sport we soon got to
understand each other, but on other subjects we were not easily able to exchange ideas.
One day my tracker had been to a distant trading-store to get some things of which we
were in need; the store was eighty miles from the nearest point of railroad, eighty miles
of terribly bad roads, but it was in its way a centre and transmitter of news from the
outside world. The tracker brought back with him vague tidings of a conflict of some
sort between the ‘Metskie Tsar’ and the ‘Angliskie Tsar,’ and kept repeating the Russian
word for defeat. The ‘Angliskie Tsar’ I recognised, of course, as the King of England,
but my brain was too sick and dull to read any further meaning into the man’s reiterated
gabble. I grew so ill just then that I had to give up the struggle against fever, and make
my way as best I could towards the nearest point where nursing and doctoring could be
had. It was one evening, in a lonely rest-hut on the edge of a huge forest, as I was
waiting for my boy to bring the meal for which I was feverishly impatient, and which I
knew I should loathe as soon as it was brought, that the explanation of the word
‘Metskie’ flashed on me. I had thought of it as referring to some Oriental potentate, some
rebellious rajah perhaps, who was giving trouble, and whose followers had possibly
discomfited an isolated British force in some out-of-the-way corner of our Empire. And
all of a sudden I knew that ‘Nemetskie Tsar,’ German Emperor, had been the name that
the man had been trying to convey to me. I shouted for the tracker, and put him through
a breathless cross-examination; he confirmed what my fears had told me. The ‘Metskie
Tsar’ was a big European ruler, he had been in conflict with the ‘Angliskie Tsar,’ and the
latter had been defeated, swept away; the man spoke the word that he used for ships, and
made energetic pantomime to express the sinking of a fleet. Holham, there was nothing
for it but to hope that this was a false, groundless rumour, that had somehow crept to the
confines of civilisation. In my saner balanced moments it was possible to disbelieve it,
but if you have ever suffered from delirium you will know what raging torments of agony
I went through in the nights, how my brain fought and refought that rumoured disaster.”
The doctor gave a murmur of sympathetic understanding.
“Then,” continued Yeovil, “I reached the small Siberian town towards which I had been
struggling. There was a little colony of Russians there, traders, officials, a doctor or two,
and some army officers. I put up at the primitive hotel-restaurant, which was the general
gathering-place of the community. I knew quickly that the news was true. Russians are
the most tactful of any European race that I have ever met; they did not stare with
insolent or pitying curiosity, but there was something changed in their attitude which told
me that the travelling Briton was no longer in their eyes the interesting respect-
commanding personality that he had been in past days. I went to my own room, where