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and one of the chief ministers of his cruelty, came into his cell, and demanded his blessing for the Tzar.
The Archbishop replied that blessings only await good men and good works, adding tranquilly, “I know what you are come for. I have long looked for death. Let the Tzar's will be done." The assassin then smothered him, but pretended to the abbot that he had been stified by the heat of the cell. He was buried in haste behind the altar, but his remains have since been removed to his own cathedral at Moscow, the scene where he had freely offered his own life by confronting the tyrant in the vain endeavor to save his pecple.
Vain, too, was the reproof of the hermit, who shocked Ivan's scruples by offering him a piece of raw flesh in the middle of Lent, and told him that he was preying on the flesh and blood of his subjects. The crimes of Ivan grew more and more terrible, and yet his acuteness was such that they can hardly be ascribed to insanity. He caused the death of his own son by a blow with that fatal staff of his ; and at last, after a fever, varied by terrible delirium, in which alone his remorse manifested itself, he died while setting up the pieces for a game at chess, on the 17th of March, 1584.
This has been a horrible story, in reality infinitely more horrible than we have made it; but there is this blessing among many others in Christianity, that the blackest night makes its diamonds only show their living lustre more plainly: and surely even Ivan the Terrible, in spite of himself, did something for the world in bringing out the faithful fearlessness of Archbishop Feeleep, and the constancy of the stirrup-bearer, Vasili.
FORT ST. ELMO.
1565 THE white cross of the Order of St. John waved fifty-five years. In 1552, after a desperate resistance, the Turks, under their great Sultan, Solyman the Magnificent, succeeded in driving the Knights Hospitaliers from their beautiful home, and they were again cast upon the world.
They were resolved, however, to continue their old work of protecting the Mediterranean travellers, and thankfully accepted, as a gift from the Emperor Charles V., the little islet of Malta as their new station. It was a great contrast to their former home, being little more than a mere rock rising steeply out of the sea, white, glaring, and with very shallow earth, unfit to bear corn, though it produced plenty of oranges, figs, and melons, with little water, and no wood, the buildings wretched, and for the most part uninhabited, and the few people a miserable, mongrel set, part Arab, part Greek, part Sicilian, and constantly kept down by the descents of the Moorish pirates, who used to land in the unprotected bays, and carry off all the wretched beings they could catch, to sell for slaves. It was a miserable exchange from fertile Rhodes, which was nearly five times larger than this barren rock; but the Knights only wanted a hospital, a fortress, and a harbor ; and this last they found in the deeply-indented northern shore, while they made the two first. Only a few years had passed before the dreary Città Notabile had become in truth a notable city, full of fine castle-like houses, infirmaries, and noble churches, and fenced in with mighty walls and battlements. Country-houses were perched upon the rocks ; the harbors were fortified, and filled with vessels of war; and deep vaults were hollowed out in the rock, in which corn was stored sufficient to supply the inhabitants for many months.
Everywhere that there was need was seen the red flag with the eight-pointed cross. If there was an earthquake on the shores of Italy or Sicily, there were the ships of St. John, bringing succor to the crushed and ruined towns-people. In every battle with Turk or Moor, the Knights were among the foremost; and, as ever before, their galleys were the aid of the peaceful merchant, and the terror of the corsair. Indeed, they were nearer Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers, the great nests of these Moorish pirates, and were better able to threaten them, and thwart their cruel descents, than when so much farther eastward; and the Mahometan power found them quite as obnoxious in Malta as in Rhodes.
Solyman the Magnificent resolved, in his old age, to sweep these obstinate Christians from the seas, and, only twelve years after the siege of Rhodes, prepared an enormous armament, which he united with those of the Barbary pirates, and placed under the command of Mustafa and Piali, his two bravest pashas, and Dragut, a terrible Algerine corsair, who had already made an attempt upon the island, but had been repulsed by the good English knight, Sir Nicholas Upton. Without the advice of this pirate the Sultan desired that nothing should be undertaken.
The Grand Master who had to meet this tremendous danger was Jean Parisot de La Valette, a brave and resolute man, as noted for his piety and tenderness to the sick in the infirmaries as for his unflinching courage. When he learnt the intentions of the Sultan, he began by collecting a Chapter of his Order, and, after laying his tidings before them, said : “ A formidable army and a cloud of barbarians are about to burst on this isle. Brethren, they are the enemies of Jesus Christ. The question is the defence of the Faith, and whether the Gospel shall yield to the Koran. God demands from us the life that we have already devoted to Him by our profession. Happy they who in so good a cause shall first consummate their sacrifice. But, that we may be worthy, my brethren, let us hasten to the altar, there to renew our vows; and may to each one of us be imparted, by the very Blood of the Saviour of mankind, and by faithful participation in His Sacraments, that generous contempt of death that can alone render us invincible.”
With these words he led the way to the church, and there was not an individual knight who did not on that day confess and receive the Holy Communion ; after which they were as new men, — all disputes, all trivialities and follies were laid aside, — and the whole community awaited the siege like persons under a solemn dedication.
The chief harbor of Malta is a deep bay, turned towards the north, and divided into two lesser bays by a large tongue of rock, on the point of which stood a strong castle, called Fort St. Elmo. The gulf to the westward has a little island in it, and both gulf and islet are called Marza Muscat. The gulf to the east, called the Grand Port, was again divided by three fingers of rock projecting from the mainland, at right angles to the tongue that bore Fort St. Elmo. Each finger was armed with a strong talon, the Castle of La Sangle to the east, the Castle of St. Angelo in the middle, and Fort Ricasoli to the west. Between St. Angelo and La Sangle was the harbor where all the ships of war were shut up at night by an immense chain ; and behind was il Borgo, the chief fortification in the island. Città Notabile and Gozo were inland, and their fate would depend upon that of the defences of the harbor. To defend all this, the Grand Master could only number 700 knights and 8,500 soldiers. He sent to summon home all those of the Order who were dispersed in the different commanderies in France, Spain, and Germany, and entreated aid from the Spanish king, Philip II., who wished to be considered as the prime champion of Roman Catholic Christendom, and who alone had the power of assisting him. The Duke of Alva, viceroy for Philip in Sicily, made answer that he would endeavor to relieve the Order, if they could hold out Fort St. Elmo till the fleet could be got together ; but that if this castle were once lost, it would be impossible to bring them aid, and they must be left to their fate.
The Grand Master divided the various posts to the knights according to their countries. The Spaniards under the Commander De Guerras, Bailiff of Negropont, had the Castle of St. Elmo; the French had Port de la Sangle ; the Germans, and the few English knights whom the Reformation had left, were charged with the defence of the Port of the Borgo, which served as head-quarters, and the Commander Copier, with a body of troops, was to remain outside the town and watch and harass the enemy.
On the 18th of May, 1565, the Turkish fleet came in sight. It consisted of 159 ships, rowed by Christian slaves between the decks, and carrying 30,000 Janissaries and Spahis, the terrible warriors to whom the Turks owed most of their victories, and after them came, spreading for miles over the blue wa