Read CHAPTER II.  THE FALSE DEMETRIUS of The Historical Nights Entertainment‚ Second Series, free online book, by Rafael Sabatini, on ReadCentral.com.

Boris Godunov and the Pretended Son of Ivan the Terrible

The news of it first reached him whilst he sat at supper in the great hall of his palace in the Kremlin.  It came at a time when already there was enough to distract his mind; for although the table before him was spread and equipped as became an emperor’s, the gaunt spectre of famine stalked outside in the streets of Moscow, and men and women were so reduced by it that cannibalism was alleged to be breaking out amongst them.

Alone, save for the ministering pages, sat Boris Godunov under the iron lamps that made of the table, with its white napery and vessels of gold and silver plate, an island of light in the gloom of that vast apartment.  The air was fragrant with the scent of burning pine, for although the time of year was May, the nights were chill, and a great log-fire was blazing on the distant hearth.  To him, as he sat there, came his trusted Basmanov with those tidings which startled him at first, seeming to herald that at last the sword of Nemesis was swung above his sinful head.

Basmanov, a flush tinting the prominent cheek-bones of his sallow face, an excited glitter in his long eyes, began by ordering the pages out of earshot, then leaning forward quickly muttered forth his news.

At the first words of it, the Tsar’s knife clashed into his golden platter, and his short, powerful hands clutched the carved arms of his great gilded chair.  Quickly he controlled himself, and then as he continued to listen he was moved to scorn, and a faint smile began to stir under his grizzled beard.

A man had appeared in Poland ­such was the burden of Basmanov’s story ­coming none knew exactly whence, who claimed to be Demetrius, the son of Ivan Vassielivitch, and lawful Tsar of Russia ­Demetrius, who was believed to have died at Uglich ten years ago, and whose remains lay buried in Moscow, in the Church of St. Michael.  This man had found shelter in Lithuania, in the house of Prince Wisniowiecki, and thither the nobles of Poland were now flocking to do him homage, acknowledging him the son of Ivan the Terrible.  He was said to be the living image of the dead Tsar, save that he was swarthy and black-haired, like the dowager Tsarina, and there were two warts on his face, such as it was remembered had disfigured the countenance of the boy Demetrius.

Thus Basmanov, adding that he had dispatched a messenger into Lithuania to obtain more precise confirmation of the story.  That messenger ­chosen in consequence of something else that Basmanov had been told ­was Smirnoy Otrepiev.

The Tsar Boris sat back in his chair, his eyes on the gem encrusted goblet, the stem of which his fingers were mechanically turning.  There was now no vestige of the smile on his round white face.  It had grown set and thoughtful.

“Find Prince Shuiski,” he said presently, “and send him to me here.”

Upon the tale the boyar had brought him he offered now no comment.

“We will talk of this again, Basmanov,” was all he said in acknowledgment that he had heard, and in dismissal.

But when the boyar had gone, Boris Godunov heaved himself to his feet, and strode over to the fire, his great head sunk between his massive shoulders.  He was a short, thick-set, bow-legged man, inclining to corpulence.  He set a foot, shod in red leather reversed with ermine, upon an andiron, and, leaning an elbow on the carved overmantel, rested his brow against his hand.  His eyes stared into the very heart of the fire, as if they beheld there the pageant of the past, upon which his mind was bent.

Nineteen years were sped since Ivan the Terrible had passed away, leaving two sons, Feodor Ivanovitch, who had succeeded him, and the infant Demetrius.  Feodor, a weakling who was almost imbecile, had married Irene, the daughter of Boris Godunov, whereby it had fallen out that Boris became the real ruler of Russia, the power behind the throne.  But his insatiable ambition coveted still more.  He must wear the crown as well as wield the sceptre; and this could not be until the Ruric dynasty which had ruled Russia for nearly seven centuries should be stamped out.  Between himself and the throne stood his daughter’s husband and their child, and the boy Demetrius, who had been dispatched with his mother, the dowager Tsarina, to Uglich.  The three must be removed.

Boris began with the last, and sought at first to drive him out of the succession without bloodshed.  He attempted to have him pronounced illegitimate, on the ground that he was the son of Ivan’s seventh wife (the orthodox Church recognizing no wife as legitimate beyond the third).  But in this he failed.  The memory of the terrible Tsar, the fear of him, was still alive in superstitious Russia, and none dared to dishonour his son.  So Boris had recourse to other and surer means.  He dispatched his agents to Uglich, and presently there came thence a story that the boy, whilst playing with a knife, had been taken with a fit of epilepsy, and had fallen, running the blade into his throat.  But it was not a story that could carry conviction to the Muscovites, since with it came the news that the town of Uglich had risen against the emissaries of Boris, charging them with the murder of the boy, and killing them out of hand.

Terrible had been the vengeance which Boris had exacted.  Of the luckless inhabitants of the town two hundred were put to death by his orders, and the rest sent into banishment beyond the Ural Mountains, whilst the Tsarina Maria, Demetrius’s mother, for having said that her boy was murdered at the instigation of Boris, was packed off to a convent, and had remained there ever since in close confinement.

That had been in 1591.  The next to go was Feodor’s infant son, and lastly ­in 1598 ­Feodor himself, succumbing to a mysterious illness, and leaving Boris a clear path to the throne.  But he ascended it under the burden of his daughter’s curse.  Feodor’s widow had boldly faced her father, boldly accused him of poisoning her husband to gratify his remorseless ambitions, and on a passionate appeal to God to let it be done by him as he had done by others she had departed to a convent, swearing never to set eyes upon him again.

The thought of her was with him now, as he stood there looking into the heart of the fire; and perhaps it was the memory of her curse that turned his stout heart to water, and made him afraid where there could surely be no cause for fear.  For five years now had he been Tsar of Russia, and in these five years he had taken such a grip of power as was not lightly to be loosened.

Long he stood there, and there he was found by the magnificent Prince Shuiski, whom he had bidden Basmanov to summon.

“You went to Uglich when the Tsarevitch Demetrius was slain,” said Boris.  His voice and mien were calm and normal.  “Yourself you saw the body.  There is no possibility that you could have been mistaken in it?”

“Mistaken?” The boyar was taken aback by the question.  He was a tall man, considerably younger than Boris, who was in his fiftieth year.  His face was lean and saturnine, and there was something sinister in the dark, close-set eyes under a single, heavy line of eyebrow.

Boris explained his question, telling him what he had learnt from Basmanov.  Basil Shuiski laughed.  The story was an absurd one.  Demetrius was dead.  Himself he had held the body in his arms, and no mistake was possible.

Despite himself, a sigh of relief fluttered from the lips of Boris.  Shuiski was right.  It was an absurd story, this.  There was nothing to fear.  He had been a fool to have trembled for a moment.

Nevertheless, in the weeks that followed, he brooded more and more over all that Basmanov had said.  It was in the thought that the nobility of Poland was flocking to the house of Wisniowiecki to do honour to this false son of Ivan the Terrible, that Boris found the chief cause of uneasiness.  There was famine in Moscow, and empty bellies do not make for loyalty.  Then, too, the Muscovite nobles did not love him.  He had ruled too sternly, and had curbed their power.  There were men like Basil Shuiski who knew too much ­greedy, ambitious men, who might turn their knowledge to evil account.  The moment might be propitious to the pretender, however false his claim.  Therefore Boris dispatched a messenger to Wisniowiecki with the offer of a heavy bribe if he would yield up the person of this false Demetrius.

But that messenger returned empty-handed.  He had reached Bragin too late.  The pretender had already left the place, and was safely lodged in the castle of George Mniszek, the Palatine of Sandomir, to whose daughter Maryna he was betrothed.  If these were ill tidings for Boris, there were worse to follow soon.  Within a few months he learned from Sandomir that Demetrius had removed to Cracow, and that there he had been publicly acknowledged by Sigismund III. of Poland as the son of Ivan Vassielivitch, the rightful heir to the crown of Russia.  He heard, too, the story upon which this belief was founded.  Demetrius had declared that one of the agents employed by Boris Godunov to procure his murder at Uglich had bribed his physician Simon to perform the deed.  Simon had pretended to agree as the only means of saving him.  He had dressed the son of a serf, who slightly resembled Demetrius, in garments similar to those worn by the young prince, and thereafter cut the lad’s throat, leaving those who had found the body to presume it to be the prince’s.  Meanwhile, Demetrius himself had been concealed by the physician, and very shortly thereafter carried away from Uglich, to be placed in safety in a monastery, where he had been educated.

Such, in brief, was the story with which Demetrius convinced the court of Poland, and not a few who had known the boy at Uglich came forward now to identify with him the grown man, who carried in his face so strong a resemblance to Ivan the Terrible.  That story which Boris now heard was soon heard by all Russia, and Boris realized that something must be done to refute it.

But something more than assurances ­his own assurances ­were necessary if the Muscovites were to believe him.  And so at last Boris bethought him of the Tsarina Maria, the mother of the murdered boy.  He had her fetched to Moscow from her convent, and told her of this pretender who was setting up a claim to the throne of Russia, supported by the King of Poland.

She listened impassively, standing before him in the black robes and conventual coif which his tyranny had imposed upon her.  When he had done, a faint smile swept over the face that had grown so hard in these last twelve years since that day when her boy had been slain almost under her very eyes.

“It is a circumstantial tale,” she said.  “It is perhaps true.  It is probably true.”

“True!” He bounded from his seat.  “True?  What are you saying, woman?  Yourself you saw the boy dead.”

“I did, and I know who killed him.”

“But you saw him.  You recognized him for your own, since you set the people on to kill those whom you believed had slain him.”

“Yes,” she answered.  And added the question:  “What do you want of me now?”

“What do I want?” He was amazed that she should ask, exasperated.  Had the conventual confinement turned her head?  “I want your testimony.  I want you to denounce this fellow for the impostor that he is.  The people will believe you.”

“You think they will?” Interest had kindled in her glance.

“What else?  Are you not the mother of Demetrius, and shall not a mother know her own son?”

“You forget.  He was ten years of age then ­a child.  Now he is a grown man of three-and-twenty.  How can I be sure?  How can I be sure of anything?”

He swore a full round oath at her.  “Because you saw him dead.”

“Yet I may have been mistaken.  I thought I knew the agents of yours who killed him.  Yet you made me swear ­as the price of my brothers’ lives ­that I was mistaken.  Perhaps I was more mistaken than we thought.  Perhaps my little Demetrius was not slain at all.  Perhaps this man’s tale is true.”

“Perhaps...”  He broke off to stare at her, mistrustfully, searchingly.  “What do you mean?” he asked her sharply.

Again that wan smile crossed the hard, sharp-featured face that once had been so lovely.  “I mean that if the devil came out of hell and called himself my son, I should acknowledge him to your undoing.”

Thus the pent-up hate and bitterness of years of brooding upon her wrongs broke forth.  Taken aback, he quailed before it.  His jaw dropped foolishly, and he stared at her with wide, unblinking eyes.

“The people will believe me, you say ­they will believe that a mother should know her own son.  Then are your hours of usurpation numbered.”

If for a moment it appalled him, yet in the end, forewarned, he was forearmed.  It was foolish of her to let him look upon the weapon with which she could destroy him.  The result of it was that she went back to her convent under close guard, and was thereafter confined with greater rigour than hitherto.

Desperately Boris heard how the belief in Demetrius was gaining ground in Russia with the people.  The nobles might still be sceptical, but Boris knew that he could not trust them, since they had no cause to love him.  He began perhaps to realize that it is not good to rule by fear.

And then at last came Smirnoy Otrepiev back from Cracow, where he had been sent by Basmanov to obtain with his own eyes confirmation of the rumour which had reached the boyar on the score of the pretender’s real identity.

The rumour, he declared, was right.  The false Demetrius was none other than his own nephew, Grishka Otrepiev, who had once been a monk, but, unfrocked, had embraced the Roman heresy, and had abandoned himself to licentious ways.  You realize now why Smirnoy had been chosen by Basmanov for this particular mission.

The news heartened Boris.  At last he could denounce the impostor in proper terms, and denounce him he did.  He sent an envoy to Sigismund III. to proclaim the fellow’s true identity, and to demand his expulsion from the Kingdom of Poland; and his denunciation was supported by a solemn excommunication pronounced by the Patriarch of Moscow against the unfrocked monk, Grishka Otrepiev, who now falsely called himself Demetrius Ivanovitch.

But the denunciation did not carry the conviction that Boris expected.  It was reported that the Tsarevitch was a courtly, accomplished man, speaking Polish and Latin, as well as Russian, skilled in horsemanship and in the use of arms, and it was asked how an unfrocked monk had come by these accomplishments.  Moreover, although Boris, fore-warned, had prevented the Tsarina Maria from supporting the pretender out of motives of revenge, he had forgotten her two brothers; he had not foreseen that, actuated by the same motives, they might do that which he had prevented her from doing.  This was what occurred.  The brothers Nagoy repaired to Cracow publicly to acknowledge Demetrius their nephew, and to enrol themselves under his banner.

Against this Boris realized that mere words were useless.  The sword of Nemesis was drawn indeed.  His sins had found him out.  Nothing remained him but to arm and go forth to meet the impostor, who was advancing upon Moscow with a great host of Poles and Cossacks.

He appraised the support of the Nagoys at its right value.  They, too, had been at Uglich, and had seen the dead boy, almost seen him slain.  Vengeance upon himself was their sole motive.  But was it possible that Sigismund of Poland was really deceived, as well as the Palatine of Sandomir, whose daughter was betrothed to the adventurer, Prince Adam Wisniowiecki, in whose house the false Demetrius had first made his appearance, and all those Polish nobles who flocked to his banner?  Or were they, too, moved by some ulterior motive which he could not fathom?

That was the riddle that plagued Boris Godunov what time ­in the winter of 1604 ­he sent his armies to meet the invader.  He sent them because, crippled now by gout, even the satisfaction of leading them was denied him.  He was forced to stay at home in the gloomy apartments of the Kremlin, fretted by care, with the ghosts of his evil past to keep him company, and assure him that the hour of judgment was at hand.

With deepening rage he heard how town after town capitulated to the adventurer, and mistrusting Basmanov, who was in command, he sent Shuiski to replace him.  In January of 1605 the armies met at Dobrinichi, and Demetrius suffered a severe defeat, which compelled him to fall back on Putioli.  He lost all his infantry, and every Russian taken in arms on the pretender’s side was remorselessly hanged as Boris had directed.

Hope began to revive in the heart of Boris; but as months passed and no decision came, those hopes faded again, and the canker of the past gnawed at his vitals and sapped his strength.  And then there was ever present to his mind the nightmare riddle of the pretender’s identity.  At last, one evening in April, he sent for Smirnoy Otrepiev to question him again concerning that nephew of his.  Otrepiev came in fear this time.  It is not good to be the uncle of a man who is giving so much trouble to a great prince.

Boris glared at him from blood-injected eyes.  His round, white face was haggard, his cheeks sagged, and his fleshly body had lost all its erstwhile firm vigour.

“I have sent for you to question you again,” he said, “touching this lewd nephew of yours, this Grishka Otrepiev, this unfrocked monk, who claims to be Tsar of Muscovy.  Are you sure, man, that you have made no mistake ­are you sure?”

Otrepiev was shaken by the Tsar’s manner, by the ferocity of his mien.  But he made answer:  “Alas, Highness!  I could not be mistaken.  I am sure.”

Boris grunted, and moved his body irritably in his chair.  His terrible eyes watched Otrepiev mistrustfully.  He had reached the mental stage in which he mistrusted everything and everybody.

“You lie, you dog,” he snarled savagely.

“Highness, I swear...”

“Lies!” Boris roared him down.  “And here’s the proof.  Would Sigismund of Poland have acknowledged him had he been what you say?  When I denounced him the unfrocked monk Grishka Otrepiev, would not Sigismund have verified the statement had it been true?”

“The brothers Nagoy, the uncles of the dead Demetrius...”  Otrepiev was beginning, when again Boris interrupted him.

“Their acknowledgment of him came after Sigismund’s, after ­long after ­my denunciation.”  He broke into oaths.  “I say you lie.  Will you stand there and pelter with me, man?  Will you wait until the rack pulls you joint from joint before you speak the truth?”

“Highness!” cried Otrepiev, “I have served you faithfully these years.”

“The truth, man; as you hope for life,” thundered the Tsar, “the whole truth of this foul nephew of yours, if so be he is your nephew.”

And Otrepiev spoke the whole truth at last in his great dread.  “He is not my nephew.”

“Not?” It was a roar of rage.  “You dared lie to me?”

Otrepiev’s knees were loosened by terror, and he went down upon them before the irate Tsar.

“I did not lie ­not altogether.  I told you a half-truth, Highness.  His name is Grishka Otrepiev; it is the name by which he always has been known, and he is an unfrocked monk, all as I said, and the son of my brother’s wife.”

“Then... then...”  Boris was bewildered.  Suddenly he understood.  “And his father?”

“Was Stephen Bathory, King of Poland.  Grishka Otrepiev is King Stephen’s natural son.”

Boris seemed to fight for breath for a moment.

“This is true?” he asked, and himself answered the question.  “Of course it is true.  It is the light at last... at last.  You may go.”

Otrepiev stumbled out, thankful, surprised to escape so lightly.  He could not know of how little account to Boris was the deception he had practiced in comparison with the truth he had now revealed, a truth that shed a fearful, dazzling light upon the dark mystery of the false Demetrius.  The problem that so long had plagued the Tsar was solved at last.

This pretended Demetrius, this unfrocked monk, was a natural son of Stephen Bathory, and a Roman Catholic.  Such men as Sigismund of Poland and the Voyvode of Sandomir were not deceived on the score of his identity.  They, and no doubt other of the leading nobles of Poland, knew the man for what he was, and because of it supported him, using the fiction of his being Demetrius Ivanovitch to impose upon the masses, and facilitate the pretenders occupation of the throne of Russia.  And the object of it was to set up in Muscovy a ruler who should be a Pole and a Roman Catholic.  Boris knew the bigotry of Sigismund, who already had sacrificed a throne ­that of Sweden ­to his devout conscience, and he saw clearly to the heart of this intrigue.  Had he not heard that a Papal Nuncio had been at Cracow, and that this Nuncio had been a stout supporter of the pretender’s claim?  What could be the Pope’s concern in the Muscovite succession?  Why should a Roman priest support the claim of a prince to the throne of a country devoted to the Greek faith?

At last all was clear indeed to Boris.  Rome was at the bottom of this business, whose true aim was the Romanization of Russia; and Sigismund had fetched Rome into it, had set Rome on.  Himself an elected King of Poland, Sigismund may have seen in the ambitious son of Stephen Bathory one who might perhaps supplant him on the Polish throne.  To divert his ambition into another channel he had fathered ­if he had not invented ­this fiction that the pretender was the dead Demetrius.

Had that fool Smirnoy Otrepiev but dealt frankly with him from the first, what months of annoyance might he not have been spared; how easy it might have been to prick this bubble of imposture.  But better late than never.  To-morrow he would publish the true facts, and all the world should know the truth; and it was a truth that must give pause to those fools in this superstitious Russia, so devoted to the Orthodox Greek Church, who favoured the pretender.  They should see the trap that was being baited for them.

There was a banquet in the Kremlin that night to certain foreign envoys, and Boris came to table in better spirits than he had been for many a day.  He was heartened by the thought of what was now to do, by the conviction that he held the false Demetrius in the hollow of his hand.  There to those envoys he would announce to-night what to-morrow he would announce to all Russia ­tell them of the discovery he had made, and reveal to his subjects the peril in which they stood.  Towards the close of the banquet he rose to address his guests, announcing that he had an important communication for them.  In silence they waited for him to speak.  And then, abruptly, with no word yet spoken, he sank back into his chair, fighting for breath, clawing the air, his face empurpling until suddenly the blood gushed copiously from his mouth and nostrils.

He was vouchsafed time in which to strip off his splendid apparel and wrap himself in a monk’s robe, thus symbolizing the putting aside of earthly vanities, and then he expired.

It has been now and then suggested that he was poisoned.  His death was certainly most opportune to Demetrius.  But there is nothing in the manner of it to justify the opinion that it resulted from anything other than an apoplexy.

His death brought the sinister opportunist Shuiski back to Moscow to place Boris’s son Feodor on the throne.  But the reign of this lad of sixteen was very brief.  Basmanov, who had gone back to the army, being now inspired by jealousy and fear of the ambitious Shuiski, went over at once to the pretender, and proclaimed him Tsar of Russia.  Thereafter events moved swiftly.  Basmanov marched on Moscow, entered it in triumph, and again proclaimed Demetrius, whereupon the people rose in revolt against the son of the usurper Boris, stormed the Kremlin, and strangled the boy and his mother.

Basil Shuiski would have shared their fate had he not bought his life at the price of betrayal.  Publicly he declared to the Muscovites that the boy whose body he had seen at Uglich was not that of Demetrius, but of a peasant’s son, who had been murdered in his stead.

That statement cleared the last obstacle from the pretender’s path, and he advanced now to take possession of his throne.  Yet before he occupied it, he showed the real principles that actuated him, proved how true had been Boris’s conclusion.  He ordered the arrest and degradation of the Patriarch who had denounced and excommunicated him, and in his place appointed Ignatius, Bishop of Riazan, a man suspected of belonging to the Roman communion.

On the 30th of June of that year 1605, Demetrius made his triumphal entry into Moscow.  He went to prostrate himself before the tomb of Ivan the Terrible, and then to visit the Tsarina Maria, who, after a brief communion with him in private, came forth publicly to acknowledge him as her son.

Just as Shuiski had purchased his life by a falsehood, so did she purchase her enlargement from that convent where so long she had been a prisoner, and restoration to the rank that was her proper due.  After all, she had cause for gratitude to Demetrius, who, in addition to restoring her these things, had avenged her upon the hated Boris Godunov.

His coronation followed in due season, and at last this amazing adventurer found himself firmly seated upon the throne of Russia, with Basmanov at his right hand to help and guide him.  And at first all went well, and the young Tsar earned a certain measure of popularity.  If his swarthy face was coarse-featured, yet his bearing was so courtly and gracious that he won his way quickly to the hearts of his people.  For the rest he was of a tall, graceful figure, a fine horseman, and of a knightly address at arms.

But he soon found himself in the impossible position of having to serve two masters.  On the one hand there was Russia, and the orthodox Russians whose tsar he was, and on the other there were the Poles, who had made him so at a price, and who now demanded payment.  Because he saw that this payment would be difficult and fraught with peril to himself he would ­after the common wont of princes who have attained their objects ­have repudiated the debt.  And so he was disposed to ignore, or at least to evade, the persistent reminders that reached him from the Papal Nuncio, to whom he had promised the introduction into Russia of the Roman faith.

But presently came a letter from Sigismund couched in different terms.  The King of Poland wrote to Demetrius that word had reached him that Boris Godunov was still alive, and that he had taken refuge in England, adding that he might be tempted to restore the fugitive to the throne of Muscovy.

The threat contained in that bitter piece of sarcasm aroused Demetrius to a sense of the responsibilities he had undertaken, which were precisely as Boris Godunov had surmised.  As a beginning he granted the Jesuits permission to build a church within the sacred walls of the Kremlin, whereby he gave great scandal.  Soon followed other signs that he was not a true son of the Orthodox Greek Church; he gave offence by his indifference to public worship, by his neglect of Russian customs, and by surrounding himself with Roman Catholic Poles, upon whom he conferred high offices and dignities.

And there were those at hand ready to stir up public feeling against him, resentful boyars quick to suspect that perhaps they had been swindled.  Foremost among these was the sinister turncoat Shuiski, who had not derived from his perjury all the profit he expected, who resented, above all, to see Basmanov ­who had ever been his rival ­invested with a power second only to that of the Tsar himself.  Shuiski, skilled in intrigue, went to work in his underground, burrowing fashion.  He wrought upon the clergy, who in their turn wrought upon the populace, and presently all was seething disaffection under a surface apparently calm.

The eruption came in the following May, when Maryna, the daughter of the Palatine of Sandomir, made her splendid entry into Moscow, the bride-elect of the young Tsar.  The dazzling procession and the feasting that followed found little favour in the eyes of the Muscovites, who now beheld their city aswarm with heretic Poles.

The marriage was magnificently solemnized on the 18th of May, 1606.  And now Shuiski applied a match to the train he had so skilfully laid.  Demetrius had caused a timber fort to be built before the walls of Moscow for a martial spectacle which he had planned for the entertainment of his bride.  Shuiski put it abroad that the fort was intended to serve as an engine of destruction, and that the martial spectacle was a pretence, the real object being that from the fort the Poles were to cast firebrands into the city, and then proceed to the slaughter of the inhabitants.

No more was necessary to infuriate an already exasperated populace.  They flew to arms, and on the night of the 29th of May they stormed the Kremlin, led on by the arch-traitor Shuiski himself, to the cry of “Death to the heretic!  Death to the impostor!”

They broke into the palace, and swarmed up the stairs into the Tsar’s bedchamber, slaying the faithful Basmanov, who stood sword in hand to bar the way and give his master time to escape.  The Tsar leapt from a balcony thirty feet to the ground, broke his leg, and lay there helpless, to be dispatched by his enemies, who presently discovered him.

He died firmly and fearlessly protesting that he was Demetrius Ivanovitch.  Nevertheless, he was Grishka Otrepiev, the unfrocked monk.

It has been said that he was no more than an instrument in the hands of priestcraft, and that because he played his part badly he met his doom.  But something more he was.  He was an instrument indeed, not of priestcraft, but of Fate, to bring home to Boris Godunov the hideous sins that stained his soul, and to avenge his victims by personating one of them.  In that personation he had haunted Boris as effectively as if he had been the very ghost of the boy murdered at Uglich, haunted and tortured, and finally broken him so that he died.

That was the part assigned him by Fate in the mysterious scheme of human things.  And that part being played, the rest mattered little.  In the nature of him and of his position it was impossible that his imposture should be other than ephemeral.