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May 20 , 2010

The Gunmaker of Moscow


The time at which we open our story is midwinter and toward the close of

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the seventeenth century. Russia had passed through the long and bitter

ordeal of national night. The Tartar yoke had been worn till the very

bones of the nation were galled, and when this was thrown off civil

dissensions and insurrections commenced. The Poles and Swedes plundered

the country, and amid general tumult and confusion some half dozen men

were clamoring for the throne. At length a few patriotic citizens,

pledging everything they held dear on earth to the cause of freedom from

this curse of anarchy and headed by a noble prince and a humble,

patriotic butcher, made a bold stand to save the country. Moscow was

retaken, and Michael Romanoff was chosen czar, and this illustrious

family still occupies the imperial throne. And now the day of Russian

greatness dawned, but the sun was not fairly up and the broad light

opened not upon the empire until Peter came to the throne.


In the department of the Sloboda – the suburbs of Moscow – and very near

the river Moskwa stood a humble cot, the exterior of which betrayed a

neatness of arrangement and show of taste that more than made up for its

smallness of size. Nor was it so very small, in fact, but only in

contrast, for near at hand about it stood many large, shabby, dirty

looking structures that overlooked the prim cot, as bleak mountains may

look down upon a verdant hill. And within this cot was as neat as

without. The two apartments in front, one of which was only used in

winter, were furnished not only with neatness, but with a fair show of

ornament and luxury. Back of these were a large cooking and dining room

and two small bedrooms, and back still from these were an artisan's shop

and other outbuildings. The shop was devoted principally to the

manufacture of firearms. Some swords and other edged weapons were made

here upon special application.


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