Part 1 out of 7
Etext prepared by Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
and John Bickers, email@example.com
THE DAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS
By Louise Muhlbach
Countess Natalie Dolgorucki
The Night of the Conspiracy
The Regent Anna Leopoldowna
The Court Ball
The Sleep of Innocence
The Palace of the Empress
Scenes and Portraits
Princes also must die
The Charmed Garden
The Fish Feud
Pope Ganganelli (Clement XIV.)
The Pope's Recreation Hour
The Festival of Cardinal Bernis
An Honest Betrayer
The Holy Chafferers
"Sic transit gloria mundi"
The Dooming Letter
The Russian Officer
The Russian Fleet
THE DAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS
COUNTESS NATALIE DOLGORUCKI
"No, Natalie, weep no more! Quick, dry your tears. Let not my
executioner see that we can feel pain or weep for sorrow!"
Drying her tears, she attempted a smile, but it was an unnatural,
"Ivan," said she, "we will forget, forget all, excepting that we love
each other, and thus only can I become cheerful. And tell me, Ivan,
have I not always been in good spirits? Have not these long eight
years in Siberia passed away like a pleasant summer day? Have not our
hearts remained warm, and has not our love continued undisturbed by
the inclement Siberian cold? You may, therefore, well see that I have
the courage to bear all that can be borne. But you, my beloved, you my
husband, to see you die, without being able to save you, without being
permitted to die with you, is a cruel and unnatural sacrifice! Ivan,
let me weep; let your murderer see that I yet have tears. Oh, my God,
I have no longer any pride, I am nothing but a poor heart-broken
woman! Your widow, I weep over the yet living corpse of my husband!"
With convulsive sobs the trembling young wife fell upon her knees and
with frantic grief clung to her husband's feet.
Count Ivan Dolgorucki no long felt the ability to stand aloof from her
sorrow. He bent down to his wife, raised her in his arms, and with her
he wept for his youth, his lost life, the vanishing happiness of his
love, and the shame of his fatherhood.
"I should joyfully go to my death, were it for the benefit of my
country," said he. "But to fall a sacrifice to a cabal, to the
jealousy of an insidious, knavish favorite, is what makes the death-
hour fearful. Ah, I die for naught, I die that Munnich, Ostermann, and
Biron may remain securely in power. It is horrible thus to die!"
Natalie's eyes flashed with a fanatic glow. "You die," said she, "and
I shall live, will live, to see how God will avenge you upon these
evil-doers. I will live, that I may constantly think of you, and in
every hour of the day address to God my prayers for vengeance and
"Live and pray for our fatherland!" said Ivan.
"No," she angrily cried, "rather let God's curse rest upon this
Russia, which delivers over its noblest men to the executioner, and
raises its ignoblest women to the throne. No blessing for Russia,
which is cursed in all generations and for all time--no blessing for
Russia, whose bloodthirsty czarina permits the slaughter of the noble
Ivan and his brothers!"
"Ah," said Ivan, "how beautiful you are now--how flash your eyes, and
how radiantly glow your cheeks! Would that my executioner were now
come, that he might see in you the heroine, Natalie, and not the
"Ah, your prayer is granted; hear you not the rattling of the bolts,
the roll of the drum? They are coming, Ivan, they are coming!"
"Farewell, Natalie--farewell, forever!"
And, mutually embracing, they took one last, long kiss, but wept not.
"Hear me, Natalie! when they bind me upon the wheel, weep not. Be
resolute, my wife, and pray that their torments may not render me
weak, and that no cry may escape my lips!"
"I will pray, Ivan."
In half an hour all was over. The noble and virtuous Count Ivan
Dolgorucki had been broken upon the wheel, and three of his brothers
beheaded, and for what?--Because Count Munnich, fearing that the noble
and respected brothers Dolgorucki might dispossess him of his usurped
power, had persuaded the Czarina Anna that they were plotting her
overthrow for the purpose of raising Katharina Ivanovna to the
imperial throne. No proof or conviction was required; Munnich had said
it, and that sufficed; the Dolgoruckis were annihilated!
But Natalie Dolgorucki still lived, and from the bloody scene of her
husband's execution she repaired to Kiew. There would she live in the
cloister of the Penitents, preserving the memory of the being she
loved, and imploring the vengeance of Heaven upon his murderers!
It was in the twilight of a clear summer night when Natalie reached
the cloister in which she was on the next day to take the vows and
exchange her ordinary dress for the robe of hair-cloth and the nun's
Foaming rushed the Dnieper within its steep banks, hissing broke the
waves upon the gigantic boulders, and in the air was heard the sound
as of howling thunder and a roaring storm.
"I will take my leave of nature and of the world," murmured Natalie,
motioning her attendants to remain at a distance, and with firm feet
climbing the steep rocky bank of the rushing Dnieper. Upon their knees
her servants prayed below, glancing up to the rock upon which they saw
the tall form of their mistress in the moonlight, which surrounded it
with a halo; the stars laid a radiant crown upon her pure brow, and
her locks, floating in the wind, resembled wings; to her servants she
seemed an angel borne upon air and light and love upward to her
heavenly home! Natalie stood there tranquil and tearless. The
thoughtful glances of her large eyes swept over the whole surrounding
region. She took leave of the world, of the trees and flowers, of the
heavens and the earth. Below, at her feet, lay the cloister, and
Natalie, stretching forth her arms toward it, exclaimed: "That is my
grave! Happy, blessed Ivan, thou diedst ere being coffined; but I
shall be coffined while yet alive! I stand here by thy tomb, mine
Ivan. They have bedded thy noble form in the cold waves of the
Dnieper, whose rushing and roaring was thy funeral knell, mine Ivan! I
shall dwell by thy grave, and in the deathlike stillness of my cell
shall hear the tones of the solemn hymn with which the impetuous
stream will rock thee to thine eternal rest! Receive, then, ye sacred
waves of the Dnieper, receive thou, mine Ivan, in thy cold grave, thy
wife's vow of fidelity to thee. Again will I espouse thee--in life as
in death, am I thine!"
And drawing from her finger the wedding-ring which her beloved husband
had once placed upon it, she threw it into the foaming waves.
Bending down, she saw the ring sinking in the waters and murmured: "I
greet thee, Ivan, I greet thee! Take my ring--forever am I thine!"
Then, rising proudly up, and stretching forth her arms toward heaven,
she exclaimed aloud: "I now go to pray that God may send thee
vengeance. Woe to Russia, woe!" and the stream with its boisterous
waves howled and thundered after her the words: "Woe to Russia, woe!"
The Empress Anna was dead, and--an unheard-of case in Russian imperial
history--she had even died a natural death. Again was the Russian
imperial throne vacated! Who is there to mount it? whom has the
empress named as her successor? No one dared to speak of it; the
question was read in all eyes, but no lips ventured to open for the
utterance of an answer, as every conjecture, every expression, if
unfounded and unfulfilled, would be construed into the crime of high-
treason as soon as another than the one thus indicated should be
called to the throne!
Who will obtain that throne? So asked each man in his heart. The
courtiers and great men of the realm asked it with shuddering and
despair. For, to whom should they now go to pay their homage and thus
recommend themselves to favor in advance? Should they go to Biron, the
Duke of Courland? Was it not possible that the dying empress had
chosen him, her warmly-beloved favorite, her darling minion, as her
successor to the throne of all the Russias? But how if she had not
done so? If, instead, she had chosen her niece, the wife of Prince
Anton Ulrich, of Brunswick, as her successor? Or was it not also
possible that she had declared the Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of
Czar Peter the Great, as empress? The latter, indeed, had the
greatest, the most incontestable right to the imperial throne of
Russia; was she not the sole lawful heir of her father? How, if one
therefore went to her and congratulated her as empress? But if one
should make a mistake, how then?
The courtiers, as before said, shuddered and hesitated, and, in order
to avoid making a mistake, did nothing at all. They remained in their
palaces, ostensibly giving themselves up to deep mourning for the
decease of the beloved czarina, whom every one of them secretly hated
so long as she was yet alive.
There were but a few who were not in uncertainty respecting the
immediate future, and conspicuous among that few was Field-Marshal
While all hesitated and wavered in anxious doubt, Munnich alone was
calm. He knew what was coming, because he had had a hand in shaping
"Oh," said he, while walking his room with folded arms, "we have at
length attained the object of our wishes, and this bright emblem for
which I have so long striven will now finally become mine. I shall be
the ruler of this land, and in the unrestricted exercise of royal
power I shall behold these millions of venal slaves grovelling at my
feet, and whimpering for a glance or a smile. Ah, how sweet is this
"But," he then continued, with a darkened brow, "what is the good
of being the ruler if I cannot bear the name of ruler?--what is
it to govern, if another is to be publicly recognized as regent
and receive homage as such? The kernel of this glory will be
mine, but the shell,--I also languish for the shell. But no, this
is not the time for such thoughts, now, when the circumstances
demand a cheerful mien and every outward indication of
satisfaction! My time will also come, and, when it comes, the
shell as well as the kernel shall be mine! But this is the hour
for waiting upon the Duke of Courland! I shall be the first to
wish him joy, and shall at the same time remind him that he has
given me his ducal word that he will grant the first request I
shall make to him as regent. Well, well, I will ask now, that I
may hereafter command."
The field-marshal ordered his carriage and proceeded to the palace of
the Duke of Courland.
A deathlike stillness prevailed in the streets through which he rode.
On every hand were to be seen only curtained windows and closed
palaces; it seemed as if this usually so brilliant and noisy quarter
of St. Petersburg had suddenly become deserted and desolate. The usual
equipages, with their gold and silver-laced attendants, were nowhere
to be seen.
The count's carriage thundered through the deserted streets, but
wherever he passed curious faces were seen peeping from the curtained
windows of the palaces; all doors were hastily opened behind him, and
he was followed by the runners of the counts and princes, charged with
the duty of espying his movements.
Count Munnich saw all that, and smiled.
"I have now given them the signal," said he, "and this servile Russian
nobility will rush hither, like fawning hounds, to bow before a new
idol and pay it their venal homage."
The carriage now stopped before the palace of the Duke of Courland,
and with an humble and reverential mien Munnich ascended the stairs to
the brilliant apartments of Biron.
He found the duke alone; absorbed in thought, he was standing at the
window looking down into streets which were henceforth to be subjected
to his sway.
"Your highness is surveying your realm," said Munnich, with a smile.
"Wait but a little, and you will soon see all the great nobility
flocking here to pay you homage. My carriage stops before your door,
and these sharp-scenting hounds now know which way to turn with their
"Ah," sadly responded Biron, "I dread the coming hour. I have a
misfortune-prophesying heart, and this night, in a dream, I saw myself
in a miserable hut, covered with beggarly rags, shivering with cold
and fainting with hunger!"
"That dream indicated prosperity and happiness, your highness,"
laughingly responded Munnich, "for dreams are always interpreted by
contraries. You saw yourself as a beggar because you were to become
our ruler--because a purple mantle will this day be placed upon your
"Blood also is purple," gloomily remarked the duke, "and a sharp
poniard may also convert a beggar's blouse into a purple mantle! Oh,
my friend, would that I had never become what I am! One sleeps ill
when one must constantly watch his happiness lest it escape him. And
think of it, my fortunes are dependent upon the eyes of a child, a
nurseling, that with its mother's milk imbibes hatred to me, and whose
first use of speech will be, perhaps, to curse me!"
"Then it must be your task to teach the young emperor Ivan to speak,"
exclaimed Munnich--"in that case he will learn to bless you."
"I shall not be able to snatch him from his parents," said Biron. "But
those parents certainly hate me, and indeed very naturally, as they,
it seems, were, next to me, designated as the guardians of their son
Ivan. The Duchess Anna Leopoldowna of Brunswick is ambitious."
"Bah! for the present she is in love," exclaimed Munnich, with a
laugh, "and women, when in love, think of nothing but their love. But
only look, your highness, did I not prophesy correctly? Only see the
numerous equipages now stopping before your door! The street will soon
be too narrow to contain them."
And in the street below was really to be seen the rapid arrival of a
great number of the most splendid equipages, from which alighted
beautiful and richly-dressed women, whose male companions were covered
with orders, and who were all hastening into the palace. There was a
pressing and pushing which produced the greatest possible confusion.
Every one wished to be the first to congratulate the new ruler, and to
assure him of their unbounded devotion.
The duke's halls were soon filled with Russian magnates, and when at
length the duke himself made his appearance among them, he everywhere
saw only happy, beaming faces, and encountered only glances of love
and admiration. The warmest wishes of all these hundreds seemed to
have been fulfilled, and Biron was precisely the man whom all had
desired for their emperor.
And, standing in the centre of these halls, they read to Biron the
testament of the deceased Empress Anna: that testament designated
Ivan, the son of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna and Prince Ulrich of
Brunswick, as emperor, and him, Duke Biron of Courland, as absolute
regent of the empire during the minority of the emperor, who had now
just reached the age of seven months. The joy of the magnates was
indescribable; they sank into each other's arms with tears of joy. At
this moment old enemies were reconciled; women who had long nourished
a mutual hatred, now tenderly pressed each other's hands; tears of joy
were trembling in eyes which had never before been known to weep;
friendly smiles were seen on lips which had usually been curled with
anger; and every one extolled with ecstasy the happiness of Russia,
and humbly bowed before the new sun now rising over that blessed
With the utmost enthusiasm they all took the oath of fidelity to the
new ruler, and then hastened to the palace of the Prince of Brunswick,
there with the humblest subjection to kiss the delicate little hand of
the child-emperor Ivan.
Munnich was again alone with the duke, who, forgetting all his ill-
boding dreams, now gave himself up to the proud feeling of his
greatness and power.
"Let them all go," said he, "these magnates, to kiss the hand of this
emperor of seven months, and wallow in the dust before the cradle of a
whimpering nurseling! I shall nevertheless be the real emperor, and
both sceptre and crown will remain in my hands!"
"But in your greatness and splendor you will not forget your faithful
and devoted friends," said Munnich; "your highness will remember that
it was I who chiefly induced the empress to name you as regent during
the minority of Ivan, and that you gave me your word of honor that you
would grant me the first request I should make to you."
"I know, I know," said Biron, with a sly smile, thoughtfully pacing
the room with his hands behind his back. But, suddenly stopping, he
remained standing before Munnich, and, looking him sharply in the eye,
said: "Shall I for once interpret your thoughts, Field-Marshal Count
Munnich? Shall I for once tell you why you used all your influence to
decide the Empress Anna to name me for the regency? Ah, you had a
sharp eye, a sure glance, and consequently discovered that Anna had
long since resolved in her heart to name me for the regency, before
you undertook to confirm her in this resolve by your sage counsels.
But you said to yourself: 'This good empress loves the Duke of
Courland; hence she will undoubtedly desire to render him great and
happy in spite of all opposition, and if I aid in this by my advice I
shall bind both parties to myself; the empress, by appearing to be
devoted to her favorite, and the favorite, by aiding him in the
accomplishment of his ambitious plans. I shall therefore secure my own
position, both for the present and future!' Confess to me, field-
marshal, that these were your thoughts and calculations."
"The regent, Sir Duke of Courland, has a great knowledge of human
nature, and hence I dare not contradict him," said Munnich, with a
constrained laugh. "Your highness therefore recognizes the service
that I, from whatever motive, have rendered you, and hence you will
not refuse to grant my request."
"Let me hear it," said the duke, stretching himself out on a divan,
and negligently playing with a portrait of the Empress Anna,
splendidly ornamented with brilliants, and suspended from his neck by
a heavy gold chain.
"Name me generalissimo of all the troops," said Munnich, with
"Of all the troops?" asked Biron. "Including those on the water, or
only those on land?"
"The troops on the water as well as those on land."
"Ah, that means, I am to give you unlimited power, and thus place you
at the head of all affairs!" Then, suddenly rising from his reclining
position, and striding directly to Munnich, the duke threateningly
said: "In my first observation I forgot to interpret a few of your
thoughts and plans. I will now tell you why you wished for my
appointment as regent. You desired it for the advancement of your own
ambitious plans. You knew Biron as an effeminate, yielding, pleasure-
seeking favorite of the empress--you saw him devoted only to amusement
and enjoyment, and you said to yourself: 'That is the man I need. As I
cannot myself be made regent, let it be him! I will govern through
him; and while this voluptuous devotee of pleasure gives himself up to
the intoxication of enjoyments, I will rule in his stead.' Well, Mr.
Field-Marshal, were not those your thoughts!"
Munnich had turned very pale while the duke was thus speaking, and a
sombre inquietude was depicted on his features.
"I know not," he stammered, with embarrassment.
"But /I/ know!" thundered the duke, "and in your terror-struck face I
read the confirmation of what I have said. Look in the glass, sir
count, and you will make no further attempt at denial."
"But the question here is not about what I might have once thought,
but of what you promised me. Your highness, I have made my first
request! It is for you to grant it. I implore your on the strength of
your ducal word to name me as the generalissimo of your troops!"
"No, never!" exclaimed the duke.
"You gave me your word!"
"I gave it as Duke of Courland! The regent is not bound by the promise
of the duke."
"I made you regent!"
"And I do /not/ make you generalissimo!"
"You forfeit your word of honor?"
"No, ask something else, and I will grant it. But this is not
feasible. I must myself be the generalissimo of my own troops, or I
should no longer be the ruler! Ask, therefore, for something else."
Munnich was silent. His features indicated a frightful commotion, and
his bosom heaved violently.
"I have nothing further to ask," said he, after a pause.
"But, I will confer upon you a favor without your asking it!" proudly
responded the duke. "Count Munnich, I confirm you in your offices and
dignities, and, to prove to you my unlimited confidence, you shall
continue to be what you were under the Empress Anna, field-marshal in
the Russian army!"
"I thank you, sir duke," calmly replied Munnich. "It is very noble in
you that you do not send me into banishment for my presumptuous
Clasping the offered hand of the duke, he respectfully pressed it to
"And now go, to kiss the hand of the young emperor, that you may not
be accused of disrespect," smilingly added Biron; "one must always
Munnich silently bowed, while walking backward toward the door.
"We part as friends?" asked the duke, nodding an adieu.
"As friends for life and death!" said Munnich, with a smile.
But no sooner had the door closed behind him than the smile vanished
from his features, and was replaced by an expression of furious rage.
He threateningly shook his fist toward the door which separated him
from the duke, and with convulsively compressed lips and grating teeth
he said: "Yes, we now part as friends, but we shall yet meet as
enemies! I shall remember this hour, sir duke, and shall do my best to
prevent your forgetting it. Ah, you have not sent me to Siberia, but I
will send you there! And now to the Emperor Ivan. I shall there meet
his parents, the shamefully-slighted Ulrich of Brunswick, and his wife
Anna Leopoldowna. I think they will welcome me."
With a firm step, rage and vengeance in his heart, but outwardly
smiling and submissive, Field-Marshal Count Munnich betook himself to
the palace of the Duke of Brunswick to kiss the hand of the cradled
Four weeks had passed since Biron, Duke of Courland, had commenced his
rule over Russia, as regent, in the name of the infant Emperor Ivan.
The Russian people had with indifference submitted to this new ruler,
and manifested the same subjection to him as to his predecessor. It
was all the same to them whoever sat in godlike splendor upon the
magnificent imperial throne--what care that mass of degraded slaves,
who are crawling in the dust, for the name by which their tyrants are
called? They remain what they are, slaves; and the one upon the throne
remains what he is, their absolute lord and tyrant, who has the right
to-day to scourge them with whips, to-morrow to make them barons and
counts, and perhaps the next day to send them to Siberia, or subject
them to the infliction of the fatal knout. Whoever proclaims himself
emperor or dictator, is greeted by the Russian people, that horde of
creeping slaves, as their lord and master, the supreme disposer of
life and death, while they crawl in the dust at his feet.
They had sworn allegiance to the Regent Biron, as they had to the
Empress Anna; they threw themselves upon the earth when they met him,
they humbly bared their heads when passing his palace; and when the
magnates of the realm, the princes and counts of Russia, in their
proud equipages, discovered the regent's carriage in the distance,
they ordered a halt, descended from their vehicles, and bowed
themselves to the ground before their passing lord. In Russia, all
distinctions of rank cease in the presence of the ruler; there is but
one lord, and one trembling slave, be he prince or beggar, and that
lord must be obeyed, whether he commands a murder or any other crime.
The word and will of the emperor purify and sanctify every act,
blessing it and making it honorable.
Biron was emperor, although he bore only the name of regent; he had
the power and the dominion; the infant nurseling Ivan, the minor
emperor, was but a shadow, a phantom, having the appearance but not
the reality of lordship; he was a thing unworthy of notice; he could
make no one tremble with fear, and therefore it was unnecessary to
crawl in the dust before him.
Homage was paid to the Regent Biron, Duke of Courland; the palace of
Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and his son, the Emperor Ivan, stood empty
and desolate. No one regarded it, and yet perhaps it was worthy of
Yet many repaired to this quiet, silent palace, to know whom Biron
would perhaps have given princedoms and millions! But no one was there
to betray them to the regent; they were very silent and very cautious
in the palace of the Prince of Brunswick and his wife the Princess
It was, as we have said, about four weeks after the commencement of
the regency of the Duke of Courland, when a sedan-chair was set down
before a small back door of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna's palace; it
had been borne and accompanied by four serfs, over whose gold-
embroidered liveries, as if to protect them from the weather, had been
laid a tolerably thick coat of dust and sweat. Equally splendid,
elegant, and unclean was the chair which the servants now opened for
the purpose of aiding their age-enfeebled master to emerge from it.
That person, who now made his appearance, was a shrunken, trembling,
coughing old gentleman; his small, bent, distorted form was wrapped in
a fur cloak which, somewhat tattered, permitted a soiled and faded
under-dress to make itself perceptible, giving to the old man the
appearance of indigence and slovenliness. Nothing, not even the face,
or the thin and meagre hands he extended to his servants, was neat and
cleanly; nothing about him shone but his eyes, those gray, piercing
eyes with their fiery side-glances and their now kind and now sly and
subtle expression. This ragged and untidy old man might have been
taken for a beggar, had not his dirty fingers and his faded neck-tie,
whose original color was hardly discoverable, flashed with brilliants
of an unusual size, and had not the arms emblazoned upon the door of
his chair, in spite of the dust and dirt, betrayed a noble rank. The
arms were those of the Ostermann family, and this dirty old man in the
ragged cloak was Count Ostermann, the famous Russian statesman, the
son of a German preacher, who had managed by wisdom, cunning, and
intrigue to continue in place under five successive Russian emperors
or regents, most of whom had usually been thrust from power by some
bloody means. Czar Peter, who first appointed him as a minister of
state, and confided to him the department of foreign affairs, on his
death-bed said to his successor, the first Catherine, that Ostermann
was the only one who had never made a false step, and recommended him
to his wife as a prop to the empire. Catherine appointed him imperial
chancellor and tutor of Peter II.; he knew how to secure and preserve
the favor of both, and the successor of Peter II., the Empress Anna,
was glad to retain the services of the celebrated statesman and
diplomatist who had so faithfully served her predecessors. From Anna
he came to her favorite, Baron of Courland, who did not venture to
remove one whose talents had gained for him so distinguished a
reputation, and who in any case might prove a very dangerous enemy.
But with Count Ostermann it had gone as with Count Munnich. Neither of
them had been able to obtain from the regent any thing more than a
confirmation of their offices and dignities, to which Biron, jealous
of power, had been unwilling to make any addition. Deceived in their
expectations, vexed at this frustration of their plans, they had both
come to the determination to overthrow the man who was unwilling to
advance them; they had become Biron's enemies because he did not show
himself their friend, and, openly devoted to him and bowing in the
dust before him, they had secretly repaired to his bitterest enemy,
the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna, to offer her their services against the
haughty regent who swayed the iron sceptre of his despotic power over
A decisive conversation was this day to be held with the duchess and
her husband, Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and therefore, an unheard-of
case, had even Count Ostermann resolved to leave his dusty room for
some hours and repair to the palace of the Duchess Anna Leopoldowna.
"Slowly, slowly, ye knaves," groaned Ostermann, as he ascended the
narrow winding stairs with the aid of his servants." "See you not, you
hounds, that every one of your movements causes me insufferable pain?
Ah, a fearful illness is evidently coming; it is already attacking my
limbs, and pierces and agonizes every part of my system! Let my bed be
prepared at home, you scamps, and have a strengthening soup made ready
for me. And now away, fellows, and woe to you if, during my absence,
either one of you should dare to break into the store-room or wine-
cellar! You know that I have good eyes, and am cognizant of every
article on hand, even to its exact weight and measure. Take care,
therefore, take care! for if but an ounce of meat or a glass of wine
is missing, I will have you whipped, you hounds, until the blood
flows. That you may depend upon!"
And, dismissing his assistants with a kick, Count Ostermann ascended
the last steps of the winding stairs alone and unaided. But, before
opening the door at the head of the stairs, he took time for
"Hem! perhaps it would have been better for me to have been already
taken ill, for if this plan should miscarry, and the regent discover
that I was in the palace to-day, how then? Ah, I already seem to feel
a draught of Siberian air! But no, it will succeed, and how would that
ambitious Munnich triumph should it succeed without me! No, for this
time I must be present, to the vexation of Munnich, that he may not
put all Russia in his pocket! The good man has such large pockets and
such grasping hands!"
Nodding and smiling to himself, Ostermann opened the door of the
anteroom. A rapid, searching glance satisfied him that he was alone
there, but his brow darkened when he observed Count Munnich's mantle
lying upon a chair.
"Ah, he has preceded me," peevishly murmured Ostermann. "Well, well,
we can afford once more to yield the precedence to him. To-day he--
to-morrow I! My turn will come to-morrow!"
Quite forgetting his illness and his pretended pains, he rapidly
crossed the spacious room, and, throwing his ragged fur cloak upon
Munnich's mantle, said:
"A poor old cloak like this is yet in condition to render that
resplendent uniform invisible. Not a spangle of that magnificent gold
embroidery can be seen, it is all overshadowed by the ragged old cloak
which Munnich so much despises! Oh, the good field-marshal will
rejoice to find his mantle in such good company, and I hope my cloak
may leave some visible memento upon its embroidered companion. Well,
the field-marshal is a brave man, and I have given him an opportunity
to make a campaign against his own mantle! The fool, why does he
dislike these good little animals, and would yet be a Russian!"
As, however, he opened the door of the next room, his form again took
its former shrunken, frail appearance, and his features again bore the
expression of suffering and exhaustion.
"Ah, it is you," said Prince Ulrich, advancing to meet the count,
while Munnich stood near a writing-table, in earnest conversation with
Anna Leopoldowna, to whom he seemed to be explaining something upon a
sheet of paper.
"We have waited long for you, my dear count," continued the prince,
offering his hand to the new-comer, with a smile.
"The old and the sick always have the misfortune to arrive too late,"
said Count Ostermann, "pain and suffering are such hinderances, your
grace. And, moreover, I have only come in obedience to the wishes of
your highness, well knowing that I am superfluous here. What has the
feeble old man to do in the councils of the strong?"
"To represent wisdom in council," said the prince, "and for that, you
are precisely the man, count."
"Ah, Count Ostermann," at this moment interposed Munnich, "it is well
you have come. You will be best able to tell their excellencies
whether I am right or not."
"Field-Marshall Munnich is always right," said Ostermann, with a
pleasant smile. "I unconditionally say 'yes' to whatever you may have
proposed, provided that it is not a proposition of which my judgment
"That is a very conditional yes!" exclaimed the duchess, laughing.
"A 'yes,' all perforated with little back doors through which a 'no'
may conveniently enter," laughed the prince.
"The back doors are in all cases of the greatest importance," said
Count Ostermann, earnestly. "Through back doors one often attains to
the rooms of state, and had your palace here accidentally had no back
door for the admission of us, your devoted servants, who knows, your
highness Anna, whether you would on this very night become regent!"
"On this night!" suddenly exclaimed Munnich. "You see, your highness,
that Count Ostermann is wholly of my opinion. It must be done this
"That would be overhaste," cried the duchess; "we are not yet
"Nor is the regent, Biron of Courland," thoughtfully interposed
Ostermann; "and, therefore, our overhaste would take Biron by
"Decidedly my opinion," said Munnich. "All is lost if we give the
regent time and leisure to make his arrangements. If we do not
annihilate him to-day, he may, perhaps, send us to Siberia to-morrow."
The duchess turned pale; a trembling ran through her tall, noble form.
"I so much dread the shedding of blood!" said she.
"Oh, I am not at all vain," said Ostermann. "I find it much less
unpleasant to see the blood of others flowing than my own. It may be
egotism, but I prefer keeping my blood in my veins to exposing it to
the gaping curiosity of an astonished crowd!"
"You think, then, that he already suspects, and would murder us?"
"You, us, and also your son, the Emperor Ivan."
"Also my son!" exclaimed Leopoldowna, her eyes flashing like those of
an enraged lioness. "Ah, I should know how to defend my son. Let Biron
fall this night!"
"So be it!" unanimously exclaimed the three men.
"He has driven us to this extremity," said the princess. "Not enough
that he has banished our friends and faithful servants, surrounding us
with his miserable creatures and spies--not enough that he wounds and
humiliates us in every way--he would rend the young emperor from us,
his parents, his natural protectors. We are attacked in our holiest
rights, and must, therefore, defend ourselves."
"But what shall we do with this small Biron, when he is no longer the
great regent?" asked Ostermann.
"We will make him by a head smaller," said Munnich, laughing.
"No," vehemently exclaimed Leopoldowna--"no, no blood shall flow! Not
with blood shall our own and our son's rights be secured! Swear this
gentlemen, or I will never give my consent to the undertaking."
"I well knew that your highness would so decide," said Munnich, with a
smile, drawing a folded paper from his bosom. "In proof of which I
hand this paper to your highness."
"Ah, what is this?" said the duchess, unfolding the paper; "it is the
ground plan of a house!"
"Of the house we will have built for Biron in Siberia," said Munnich;
"I have drawn the plan myself."
"In fact, you are a skilful architect, Count Munnich," said Ostermann,
laughing, while casting an interrogating glance at the paper which
Anna was still thoughtfully examining. "How well you have arranged it
all! How delightful these snug little chambers will be! There will be
just space enough in them to turn around in. But these small chambers
seem to be a little too low. They are evidently not more than five
feet high. As Biron, however, has about your height, he will not be
able to stand upright in them."
"Bah! for that very reason!" said Munnich, with a cruel laugh. "He has
carried his head high long enough; now he may learn to bow."
"But that will be a continual torment!" exclaimed the Duke of
"On, has he not tormented us?" angrily responded Munnich. "We need
"How strange and horrible!" said Anna Leopoldowna, shuddering; "this
man is now standing here clothed with unlimited power, and we are
already holding in our hands the plan of his prison!"
"Yes, yes, and with this plan in his pocket will Count Munnich now go
to dine with Biron and enjoy his hospitality!" laughingly exclaimed
Ostermann. "Ah, that must make the dinner particularly piquant! How
agreeable it must be to press the regent's hand, and at the same time
feel the rustling in your pocket of the paper upon which you have
drawn the plan of his Siberian prison! But you are in the right. The
regent has deeply offended you. How could he dare refuse to make you
"Ah, it is not for that," said Munnich with embarrassment; and,
seeking to give the conversation a different turn, he continued--"ah,
see, Count Ostermann, what a terrible animal is crawling there upon
"Policy, nothing but policy," tranquilly responded Ostermann, while
the princess turned away with an expression of repugnance.
"Well," cried the prince, laughing, "explain to us, Count Ostermann,
what those disgusting insects have to do with policy or politics?"
"We are all four Germans," said Ostermann, "and consequently are all
familiar with the common saying, 'Tell me the company you keep, and I
will tell you what you are!' I have always kept that in mind since I
have been in Russia; and to make this good people forget that I am a
foreigner, I have taken particular pains to furnish myself with a
supply of their dirt and of these delicate insects. If any one asks me
who I am, I show him these creatures with whom I associate, and he
immediately concludes that I am a Russian."
Ostermann joined in the laugh that followed this explanation, but
suddenly he uttered a piercing cry, and sank down upon a chair.
"Ah, these pains will be the death of me!" he moaned--"ah, I already
feel the ravages of death in my blood; yes, I have long known that a
dangerous malady was hovering over me, and my death-bed is already
prepared at home! I am a poor failing old man, and who knows whether I
shall outlive the evening of this day?"
While Ostermann was thus lamenting, and the prince with kindly
sympathy was occupied about him, Munnich had returned the drawing to
his pocket, and was speaking in a low tone to the duchess of some yet
necessary preparations for the night. Count Ostermann, notwithstanding
his lamentations and his pretended pains, had yet a sharp ear for
every word they spoke. He very distinctly heard the duchess say:
"Well, I am satisfied! I shall expect you at about two o'clock in the
morning, and if the affair is successful, you, Count Munnich, may be
sure of my most fervent gratitude; you will then have liberated
Russia, the young emperor, and myself, from a cruel and despotic
tyrant, and I shall be eternally beholden to you."
Count Munnich's brow beamed with inward satisfaction. "I shall, then,
attain my ends," thought he. Aloud he said: "Your highness, I have but
one wish and one request; if you are willing to fulfil this, then will
there be nothing left on earth for me to desire."
"Then name your request at once, that I may grant it in advance!" said
the princess, with a smile.
"The man is getting on rapidly, and will even now get the appointment
of generalissimo," thought Ostermann. "That must never be; I must
And just as Munnich was opening his mouth to prefer his request,
Ostermann suddenly uttered so loud and piteous a cry of anguish that
the compassionate and alarmed princess hastened to offer him her
sympathy and aid.
At this moment the clock upon the wall struck four. That was the hour
for which Munnich was invited to dine with the regent. It would not do
to fail of his engagement to-day--he must be punctual, to avoid
exciting suspicion. He, therefore, had no longer the time to lay his
request before the princess; consequently Count Ostermann had
accomplished his object, and secretly triumphing, he loudly groaned
and complained of his sufferings.
Count Munnich took his leave.
"I go now," he smilingly said, "to take my last dinner with the Duke
of Courland. I shall return this night at the appointed hour. We shall
then convert the duke into a Siberian convict, which, at all events,
will be a very interesting operation."
Thus he departed, with a horrible laugh upon his lips, to keep his
appointment with the regent.
Count Ostermann had again attained his end--he remained alone with the
princely pair. Had Munnich been the first who came, Ostermann was the
last to go.
"Ah, said he, rising with apparent difficulty, "I will now bear my
old, diseased body to my dwelling, to repose and perhaps to die upon
my bed of pain."
"Not to die, I hope," said Anna.
"You must live, that you may see us in our greatness," said the
Ostermann feebly shook his head. "I see, I see it all," said he. "You
will liberate yourself from one tyrant, your highness, to become the
prey of another. The eyes of the dying see clear, and I tell you,
duchess, you were already on the point of giving away the power you
have attained. Know you what Munnich's demand will be?"
"He will demand what Biron refused him, and for which refusal Munnich
became his enemy. He will ask you to appoint him generalissimo of all
your forces by land and sea."
"Then will he demand what naturally belongs to me," said the prince,
excitedly, "and we shall of course refuse it."
"Yes, we must refuse it," repeated the princess.
"And in that you will do well," said Count Ostermann. "I may venture
to say so, as I have no longer the least ambition--death will soon
relieve me from all participation in affairs of state. I am a feeble
old man, and desire nothing more than to be allowed occasionally to
impart good counsels to my benefactors. And this is now my advice:
Guard yourselves against the ambition of Count Munnich."
"We shall bear your counsel in mind," said the prince.
"We will not appoint him generalissimo!" exclaimed the princess. "He
must never forget that he is our servant, and we his masters."
"And now permit me to go, your highness," said Ostermann. "Will you
have the kindness, prince, to command your lackeys to bear me to my
sedan-chair? It is impossible for me to walk a step. Yes, yes, while
you are this night contending for a throne, I shall, perhaps, be
struggling with death."
And with a groan, sinking back into the arms of the lackeys whom the
prince had called, Ostermann suffered himself to be carried down to
his chair, which awaited him at the door. He groaned and cried out as
they placed him in it, but as soon as its doors were closed and his
serfs were trotting with him toward his own palace, the suffering
expression vanished from Ostermann's face, and a sly smile of
satisfaction played upon his lips.
"I think I have well employed my time," he muttered to himself. "The
good Munnich will never become generalissimo, and poor old failing
Ostermann may now, unsuspected, go quietly to bed and comfortably
await the coming events. Such an illness, at the right time, is an
insurance against all accidents and miscarriages. I learned that after
the death of Peter II. Who knows what would then have become of me had
I not been careful to remain sick in bed until Anna had mounted the
throne? I will, therefore, again be sick, and in the morning we shall
see! Should this conjuration succeed, very well; then, perhaps, old
Ostermann will gradually recover sufficient health to take yet a few
of the burdens of state upon his own shoulders, and thus relieve the
good Munnich of a part of his cares!"
THE NIGHT OF THE CONSPIRACY
It was a splendid dinner, that which the regent had this day prepared
for his guests. Count Munnich was very much devoted to the pleasures
of the table, and, sitting near the regent, he gave himself wholly up
to the cheerful humour which the excellent viands and delicate wines
were calculated to stimulate. At times he entirely forgot his deep-
laid plans for the coming night, and then again he would suddenly
recollect them in the midst of his gayest conversation with his host,
and while volunteering a toast in praise of the noble regent, and
closing it by crying--"A long life and reign to the great regent,
Biron von Courland!" he secretly and with a malicious pleasure
thought: "This is thy last dinner, sir duke! A few hours, and those
lips, now smiling with happiness, will be forever silenced by our
These thoughts made the field-marshal unusually gay and talkative, and
the regent protested that Munnich had never been a more agreeable
/convive/ than precisely to-day. Therefore, when the other guests
retired, he begged of Munnich to remain with him awhile; and the
field-marshal, thinking it might possibly enable him to prevent any
warning reaching the regent, consented to stay.
They spoke of past times, of the happy days when the Empress Anna yet
reigned, and when all breathed of pleasure and enjoyment at that happy
court; and perhaps it was these recollections that rendered Biron sad
and thoughtful. He was absent and low-spirited, and his large,
flashing eyes often rested with piercing glances upon the calm and
smiling face of Munnich.
"You all envy me on account of my power and dominion," said he to
Munnich; "of that I am not ignorant. But you know not with what secret
pain and anguish these few hours of splendor are purchased!--the
sleepless nights in which one fears seeing the doors open to give
admission to murderers, and then the dreams in which blood is seen
flowing, and nothing is heard but death-shrieks and lamentations! Ah,
I hate the nights, which are inimical to all happiness. In the night
will misfortune at some time overtake me--in the night the evil spirit
With a drooping head the regent had spoken half to himself; but
suddenly raising his head and looking Munnich sharply in the eyes, he
said: "Have you, Mr. Field-Marshal, during your campaigns, never in
the night foreseen any important event?"
Munnich shuddered slightly, and the color forsook his cheeks. "He
knows all, and I am lost," thought he, and his hand involuntarily
sought his sword. "I will defend myself to the last drop of my blood,"
was his first idea.
But Biron, although surprised, saw nothing of the field-marshal's
strange commotion--he was wholly occupied with his own thoughts, and
only awaited an answer to his question.
"Well, Mr. Field-Marshal," he repeated, "tell me whether in the night
you have ever had the presentiment of any important event?"
"I was just considering," he calmly said. "At this moment I do not
recollect ever having foreseen any extraordinary event by night. But
it has always been a principle of mine to take advantage of every
favorable opportunity, whether by day or night."
Munnich remained with the regent until eleven o'clock in the evening,
and then they separated with the greatest kindness and the heartiest
assurances of mutual friendship and devotion.
"Ah, that was a hard trial!" said Munnich, breathing easier and
deeper, as he left the palace of the duke behind him. "I was already
convinced that all was lost, but this Biron is unsuspecting as a
child! Sleep now, Biron, sleep!--in a few hours I shall come to awaken
you, and realize your bloody dream!"
With winged steps he hastened to his own palace. Arrived there, he
summoned his adjutant, Captain von Mannstein, and, after having
briefly given him the necessary orders, took him with him into his
carriage for the purpose of repairing to the palace of the Prince of
It was a cold November night of the year 1740. The deserted streets
were hushed in silence, and no one of the occupants of the dark
houses, no one on earth, dreamed that this carriage, whose rumbling
was only half heard in sleep, was in a manner the thundering herald of
new times and new lords.
Munnich had chosen his time well. For if it was forbidden to admit any
one whatever, during the night, to the palace occupied by the young
czar, and if also the regent had given the guards strict orders to
shoot any one who might attempt, in spite of these commands, to
penetrate into the forbidden precincts, this day made an exception for
Munnich, as a portion of one of his own regiments was to-day on duty
at the imperial palace.
Unimpeded, stayed by no one, Munnich penetrated to the apartments of
Anna Leopoldowna. She was awaiting him, and at his side she descended
to receive the homage of the officers and soldiers, who had been
commanded by Munnich to submit themselves to her.
With glowing words she described to the listening soldiers all the
insults and injuries to which the regent had subjected herself, her
husband, and their son the emperor.
"Who can say that this miserable low-born Biron is called to fill so
exalted a place, and to lord it over you, my beloved friends and
brothers? To me, as the niece of the blessed Empress Anna, to me, as
the mother of Ivan, chosen as emperor by Anna, to me alone belongs the
regency, and by Heaven I will reconquer that of which I have been
nefariously robbed! I will punish this insolent upstart whose shameful
tyranny we have endured long enough, and I hope you, my friends, will
stand by me and obey the commands of your generals."
A loud /viva/ followed this speech of Anna Leopoldowna, who tenderly
embraced the enraptured officers, commanding them to follow her.
Accompanied by Marshal Munnich and eighty soldiers, Anna then went out
into the streets. In silence they advanced to within a hundred steps
of Biron's palace. Here, making a halt, Mannstein alone approached the
palace to command the officers of the guard in the name of the new
regent, Anna Leopoldowna, to submit and pay homage to her. No
opposition was made; accustomed always to obey, they had not the
courage to dispute the commands of the new ruler, and declared
themselves ready to assist her in the arrest of the regent.
Mannstein returned to Anna and Munnich with this joyful intelligence,
and received orders to penetrate into the palace with twenty men, to
capture the duke, and even kill him if he made resistance.
Without opposition Mannstein again returned to the palace with his
small band, carefully avoiding making the least noise in his approach.
All the soldiers in the palace knew him; and as the watch below had
permitted him to pass, they supposed he must have an important message
for the duke, and no one stopped him.
He had already wandered through several rooms, when an unforeseen
difficulty presented itself. Where is the sleeping-room of the duke?
Which way must he turn, in order to find him? He stood there
undecided, not daring to ask any of the attendants in the anterooms,
lest perhaps they might suspect him and awaken the duke! He finally
resolved to go forward and trust to accident. He passed two or three
chambers--all were empty, all was still!
Now he stands before a closed door! What if that should prove the
chamber of the duke? He thinks he hears a breathing.
He cautiously tries the door. Slightly closed, it yields to his
pressure, and he enters. There stands a huge bed with hanging
curtains, which are boldly drawn aside by Mannstein.
Before him lies the regent, Duke Biron of Courland, with his wife by
"Duke Biron, awake!" called Mannstein, with a loud voice. The ducal
pair started up from their slumber with a shriek of terror.
Biron leaps from the bed, but Mannstein overpowers him and holds him
fast until his soldiers come. The duke defends himself with his hands,
but is beaten down with musket-stocks. They bind his hands with an
officer's scarf, they wrap him in a soldier's mantle, and so convey
him down to Field-Marshal Munnich's carriage which is waiting, below,
to transport him to the winter palace.
While Mannstein and the soldiers were occupied with the duke, his
duchess had found an opportunity to make her escape. With only her
light night-dress, shrieking and lamenting, she had rushed into the
She was seized by a soldier, who, conducting her to Mannstein, asked
what he should do with her.
"Take her back into the palace!" said Mannstein, hastening past.
But the soldier, only anxious to rid himself of an encumbrance, threw
the now insensible duchess into the snow, and hurried away.
In this situation she was found by a captain of the guard, who lifted
her up and conveyed her into the palace to give her over to the care
of her women, that she might be restored to consciousness and dressed.
But she no longer had either women or servants! Her reign is over;
they have all fled in terror, as from the house of death, that they
may not be involved in the disaster of those whose good fortunes they
have shared. The slaves had all decamped in search of new masters, and
the regent's palace, so often humbly and reverently sought, is now
avoided as a pest-house.
With trembling hands the duchess enveloped herself in her clothes, and
then followed her husband into the winter palace.
And while all this was taking place the court and nation yet trembled
at the names of these two persons who had just been so deeply humbled.
The Princess Anna Leopoldowna, accompanied by the shouting soldiery,
made a triumphant progress through the streets of the city, stopping
at all the caserns to receive the oaths and homage of the regiments.
This palace-revolution was consummated without the shedding of blood,
and the awaking people of St. Petersburg found themselves with
astonishment under a new regency and new masters!
But a population of slaves venture no opposition. Whoever may have the
power to declare and maintain himself their ruler, he is their master,
and the slavish horde bow humbly before him.
As, hardly four weeks previously, the great magnates of the realm had
hurried to the Duke of Courland to pay their homage and prostrate
themselves in the dust before him, so did they now hasten to the
palace of the new regent, humbly to pay their court to her. The same
lips that even yesterday swore eternal fidelity to the Regent Biron,
and sounded his praise to the skies, now condemned him, and as loudly
commended their august new mistress, Anna Leopoldowna! The same knees
which had yesterday bent to Biron, now bent before Anna; and, with
tears of joy, men now again sank into the arms of each other, loudly
congratulating their noble Russia upon which the sun of happiness had
now risen, given her Anna Leopoldowna as regent!
And while all was jubilation in the palace of the new regent, that of
the great man of yesterday stood silent and deserted--no one dared to
raise a voice in his favor! Those who yesterday revelled at his table
and sang his praises were to-day his bitterest enemies, cursing him
the louder the more they had lauded him yesterday.
Magnificent festivals were celebrated in St. Petersburg in honor of
the new regent, while they were at the same time trying the old one
and condemning him to death. But Anna Leopoldowna mitigated his
punishment--what a mitigation!--by changing the sentence of death into
that of perpetual banishment to Siberia!
Tranquillity was again established in Russia. Once again all faces
were lighted up with joy at this new state of affairs, and again the
people congratulated themselves on the good fortune of the Russian
empire! All this was done four weeks previously, when Biron took upon
himself the regency, and the same will be done again when another
comes to overthrow the Regent Anna!
It was on the day after this new revolution, when Munnich, entering
the palace with a proud step and elevated head, requested an interview
with the regent.
"Your highness," he said, not bending the knee before his sovereign as
custom demanded, but only slightly pressing her hand to his lips--
"your highness, I have redeemed my word and fulfilled my promise. I
promised to liberate you from Biron and make you regent, and I have
kept my word. Now, madame, it is for you to fulfil your pledge! You
solemnly promised that when I should succeed in making you regent, you
would immediately and unconditionally grant me whatever I might
demand. Well, now, you are regent, and I come to proffer my request!"
"It will make me happy, field-marshal, to discharge a small part of my
obligations toward you, by yielding to your demand. Ask quickly, that
I may the sooner give!" said Anna Leopoldowna, with an engaging smile.
"Make me the generalissimo of your forces!" responded Munnich in an
almost commanding tone.
A cloud gathered over the smiling features of the regent.
"Why must you ask precisely this--this one only favor which it is no
longer in my power to bestow?" she sadly said. "There are so many
offices, so many influential positions--ah, I could prove my gratitude
to you in so many ways! Ask for money, treasures, landed estates--all
these it is in my power to give. Why must you demand precisely that
which is no longer mine!"
Munnich stared at her with widely opened eyes, trembling lips, and
pallid cheeks. His head swam, and he thought he could not have rightly
"I hope this is only a misunderstanding!" he stammered. "I must have
heard wrong; it cannot be your intention to refuse me."
"Would to God it were yet in my power to gratify you"! sighed the
regent. "But I cannot give what is no longer mine! Why came you not a
few hours earlier, field-marshal? then it would have been yet possible
to comply with your request. But now it is too late!"
"You have, then, appointed another generalissimo?" shrieked Munnich,
quivering with rage.
"Yes," said Anna, smiling; "and see, there comes my generalissimo!"
It was the regent's husband, Prince Ulrich von Brunswick, who that
moment entered the room and calmly greeted Munnich.
"You have here a rival, my husband," said the princess, without
embarrassment; "and had I not already signed your diploma, it is very
questionable whether I should now do it, now that I know Count Munich
desires the appointment."
"I hope," proudly responded the prince, "Count Munnich will comprehend
that this position, which places the whole power of the empire in the
hands of him who holds it, is suitable only for the father of the
Count Munnich made no answer. Already so near the attainment of his
end, he saw it again elude his grasp. Again had he labored, struggled,
in vain. This was the second revolution which he had brought about,
with this his favorite plan in view: two regents were indebted to him
for their greatness, and both had refused him the one thing for which
he had made them regents; neither had been willing to create him
In this moment Munnich felt unable to conceal his rage under an
assumed tranquillity; pretending a sudden attack of illness, he begged
permission to retire.
Tottering, scarcely in possession of his senses, he hastened through
the hall thronged with petitioners. All bowed before him, all
reverently saluted him; but to him it seemed that he could read
nothing but mockery and malicious joy upon all those smiling faces.
Ah, he could have crushed them all, and trodden them under his feet,
in his inextinguishable rage!
When he finally reached his carriage, and his proud steeds were
bearing him swiftly away--when none could any longer see him--then he
gave vent to furious execrations, and tears of rage flowed from his
eyes; he tore out his hair and smote his breast; he felt himself
wandering, frantic with rage and despair. One thought, one wish had
occupied him for many long years; he had labored and striven for it.
He wished to be the first, the most powerful man in the Russian
empire; he would control the military force, and in his hands should
rest the means of giving the country peace or war! That was what he
wanted; that was what he had labored for--and now. . . .
"Oh, Biron, Biron," he faintly groaned, "why must I overthrow you? You
loved me, and perhaps would one day have accorded me what you at first
refused! Biron, I have betrayed you with a kiss. It is your guardian
angel who is now avenging you!"
Thus he reached his palace, and the servants who opened the door of
his carriage started back with alarm at the fearful expression of
their master's face. It had become of an ashen gray, his blue lips
quivered, and his gloomily-gleaming eyes seemed to threaten those who
dared approach him.
Alighting in silence, he strode on through the rows of his trembling
servants. Suddenly two of his lackeys fell upon their knees before
him, weeping and sobbing; they stretched forth their hands to him,
begging for mercy.
"What have they done?" asked he of his major-domo.
"Feodor has had the misfortune to break your excellency's drinking-
cup, and Ivanovitch bears the blame of suffering your greyhound
Artemisia to escape."
A strange joy suddenly lighted up the brow of the count.
"Ah," said he, breathing more freely, and stretching himself up--"ah,
I thank God that I now have some one on whom I can wreak my
And kicking the unfortunate weeping and writhing servants, who were
crawling in the dust before him, Munnich cried:
"No mercy, you hounds--no, no mercy! You shall be scourged until you
have breathed out your miserable lives! The knout here! Strike! I will
look on from my windows, and see that my commands are executed! Ah, I
will teach you to break my cups and let my hounds escape! Scourge them
unto death! I will see their blood--their red, smoking blood!"
The field-marshal stationed himself at his open window. The servants
had formed a close circle around the unhappy beings who were receiving
their punishment in the court below. The air was filled with the
shrieks of the tortured men, blood flowed in streams over their flayed
backs, and at every new stroke of the knout they howled and shrieked
for mercy; while at every new shriek Munnich cried out to his
"No, no mercy, no pity! Scourge the culprits! I would, I must see
blood! Scourge them to death!"
Trembling, the band of servants looked on with folded hands; with a
savage smile upon his face, stood Count Munnich at his window above.
Weaker and weaker grew the cries of the unhappy sufferers--they no
longer prayed for mercy. The knout continued to flay their bodies, but
their blood no longer flowed--they were dead!
The surrounding servants folded their hands in prayer for the souls of
the deceased, and then loudly commended the mild justice of their
Retiring from the window, Count Munnich ordered his breakfast to be
[*] Such horribly cruel punishments of the serfs were at that time no
uncommon occurrence in Russia. Unhappy serfs were daily scourged
to death at the command of their masters. Moreover, princes and
generals, and even respectable ladies, were scourged with the
knout at the command of the emperor. Yet these punishments in
Russia had nothing dishonoring in them. The Empress Catharine II.
had three of her court ladies stripped and scourged in the
presence of the whole court, for having drawn some offensive
caricatures of the great empress. One of these scourged ladies,
afterward married to a Russian magnate, was sent by Catharine as a
sort of ambassadress to Sweden, for the purpose of inducing the
King of Sweden to favor some of her political plans.--"Memoires
Secrets sur la Russie, par Masson," vol. iii., p. 392.
From that time forward, however, Munnich's life was a continuous chain
of vexations and mortifications. As his inordinate ambition was known,
he was constantly suspected, and was reprehended with inexorable
severity for every fault.
It is true the regent raised him to the post of first minister; but
Ostermann, who recovered his health after the successful termination
of the revolutionary enterprise, by various intrigues attained to the
position of minister of foreign affairs; while to Golopkin was given
the department of the interior, so that only the war department
remained to the first minister, Munnich. He had originated and
accomplished two revolutions that he might become generalissimo, and
had obtained nothing but mortifications and humiliations that
embittered every moment of his life!
THE REGENT ANNA LEOPOLDOWNA
Anna had succeeded, she was regent; she had shaken off the burden of
the Bironic tutelage, and her word was all-powerful throughout the
immeasurable provinces of the Russian empire. Was she now happy, this
proud and powerful Anna Leopoldowna? No one had ever yet been happy
and free from care upon this Russian throne, and how, then, could Anna
Leopoldowna be so? She had read the books of Russian political
history, and that history was written with blood! Anna was a woman,
and she trembled when thinking of the poison, the dagger, the
throttling hands, and flaying sword, which had constantly beset the
throne of Russian, and in a manner had been the means in the hands of
Providence of clearing it from one tyrant, only, indeed, to make room
for another. Anna, as we have said, trembled before this means of
Providence; and when her eyes fell upon Munnich--upon his dark, angry
brow and his secretly threatening glance--she then with inward terror
asked herself: "May not Providence have chosen him for my murderer?
Will he not overthrow me, as he overthrew his former master and friend
Anna now feared him whom she had chiefly to thank for her greatness.
At the time when he had made her regent he had satisfactorily shown
that his arm was sufficiently powerful to displace one regent and hurl
him to the dust! What he had once done, might not he now be able to
She surrounded this feared field-marshal with spies and listeners; she
caused all his actions to be watched, every one of his words to be
repeated to her, in order to ascertain whether it had not some
concealed sense, some threatening secret; she doubled the guards of
her palace, and, always trembling with fear, she no longer dared to
occupy any one of her apartments continuously. Nomadically wandered
they about in their own palace, this Regent Anna Leopoldowna and her
husband Prince Ulrich of Brunswick; remembering the sleeping-chamber
of Biron, she dared not select any one distinct apartment for constant
occupation; every evening found her in a new room, every night she
reposed in a different bed, and even her most trusted servant often
knew not in which wing of the castle the princely pair were to pass
She, before whom these millions of Russian subjects humbled themselves
in the dust, trembled every night in her bed at the slightest
rustling, at the whisperings of the wind, at every breath of air that
beat her closed and bolted doors.
She might, it is true, have released herself from these torments with
the utterance of only one word of command; it required only a wave of
her hand to send this haughty and dangerous Munnich to Siberia! Nor
was an excuse for such a proceeding wanting. Count Munnich's pride and
presumption daily gave occasion for anger; he daily gave offence by
his reckless disregard and disrespect for his chief, the
generalissimo, Prince Ulrich; daily was it necessary to correct him
and to confine him within his own proper official boundaries.
And such refractory conduct toward a Russian master, had it not in all
times been a terrible and execrable crime--a crime for which
banishment to Siberia had always been considered a mild punishment?
Poor Anna! called to rule over Russia, she lacked only the first and
most necessary qualification for her position--a Russian heart! There
was, in this German woman's disposition, too much gentleness and
mildness, too much confiding goodness. To a less barbarous people she
might have been a blessing, a merciful ruler and gracious benefactor!
But her arm was too weak to wield the knout instead of the sceptre
over this people of slaves, her heart too soft to judge with
inexorable severity according to the barbarous Russian laws which,
never pardoning, always condemn and flay.
It was this which gradually estranged from her the hearts of the
Russians. They felt that it was no Russian who reigned over them; and
because they had no occasion to tremble and creep in the dust before
her, they almost despised her, and derided the idyllic sentiments of
this good German princess who wished to realize her fantastic dreams
by treating a horde of barbarians as a civilized people!
The slaves longed for their former yoke; they looked around them with
a feeling of strangeness, and to them it seemed unnatural not
everywhere to see the brandished knout, the avenging scaffold, and the
transport-carriages departing for Siberia!
Much as Ostermann importuned her, often as her own husband warned her,
Anna nevertheless refused; she would not banish Field-Marshal Munnich
to Siberia, but remained firm in her determination to leave him in
possession of his liberty and his dignities.
But when Munnich himself, excited and fatigued with these never-ending
annoyances, and moreover believing that Anna could not do without him,
and therefore would not grant his request, finally demanded his
dismission, Anna granted it with joy; and Munnich, deceived in all his
ambitious plans and expectations, angrily left the court to betake
himself to his palace beyond the Neva.
Anna now breathed easier; she now felt herself powerful and free, for
Munnich was as least removed farther from her; his residence was no
longer separated from hers only by a wall, she had no longer to fear
his breaking through in the night--ah, Munnich dwelt beyond the Neva,
and a whole regiment guarded its banks and bridges by night! Munnich
could no longer fall upon her by surprise, as she could have him
Anna no longer trembled with fear; she could yield to her natural
indolence, and if she sometimes, from fear of Munnich, troubled
herself about state affairs and labored with her ministers, she now
felt it to be an oppressive burden, to which she could no longer
consent to subject herself.
Satiated and exhausted, she in some measure left the wielding of the
sceptre to her first and confidential minister, Count Golopkin. He
ruled in her name, as Count Ostermann was generalissimo in the name of
her husband the Prince of Brunswick. Why trouble themselves with the
pains and cares of governing, when it was permitted them to only enjoy
the pleasures of their all-powerful position?
The minister might flourish the knout and proclaim the Siberian
banishment over the trembling people; the scourged might howl, and the
banished might lament, the great and powerful might dispose of the
souls and bodies of their serfs; rare honesty might be oppressed by
consuming usury; offices, honors, and titles might be gambled for;
justice and punishment might be bought and sold; vice and immorality
might universally prevail--Anna would not know it. She would neither
see nor hear any thing of this outside world! The palace is her world,
in which she is happy, in which she revels!
Ah, that charming, silent little boudoir, with is soft Turkish carpet,
with its elastic divans and heavily curtained windows and doors--that
little boudoir is now her paradise, the temple of her happiness! In it
she lingers, and in it is she blessed. There she reposes, dreaming of
past delightful hours, or smiling with the intoxication of the still
more delightful present in the arms of the one she loves.
See how her eyes flash, how her heart beats--how beautiful she is in
the warm glow of excitement, this beautiful Anna Leopoldowna.
The door opens, and a smiling young maiden looks in with many a nod of
her little head.
"Ah, is it you, my Julia?" calls the princess, opening her arms to
press the young girl to her heart. "Come, I will kiss you, and imagine
it is he who receives the kiss! Ah, what would this poor Anna
Leopoldowna be if deprived of her dear friend, Julia von Mengden?" And
drawing her favorite down into her lap, she continued: "Now relate to
me, Julia. Set your tongue in motion, that I may hear one of your very
pleasantest stories. That will divert me, and cause the long hours
before his coming to pass more quickly."
Julia von Mengden roguishly shook her beautifully curling locks with a
comic earnestness, and, very aptly and unmistakably imitating the
somewhat hoarse and nasal voice of Prince Ulrich, said:
"Your grace forgets that you are regent, and have to hold the reins of
government in the name of the illustrious imperial squaller, your son,
since his imperial grace still remains in his swaddling-clothes, and
has much less to do with state affairs than with many other little
Anna Leopoldowna, breaking out in joyous laughter, exultingly clapped
her little hands, which were sparkling with brilliants.
"This is superb," said she. "You play the part of my very worthy
husband to perfection. It is as if one saw and heard him. Ah, I would
that he resembled you a little, as he would then be less
insupportable, and it would be somewhat easier to endure him."
Julia von Mengden, making no answer to this remark, continued with her
nasal voice and comic pathos:
"Your grace, this is not the time to analyze our diverting little
domestic dissensions, and occupy ourselves with the quiet joys of our
happy union! Your grace is, above all things, regent, and must give
your attention to state affairs. Without are standing three most
worthy, corpulent, tobacco-scented ambassadors, who desire an
audience. Your grace is, above all things, regent, and must receive
"Must!" exclaimed Anna, suddenly contracting her brows. "We will first
hear what they desire of us."
"The first is the envoy of the great Persian conqueror, Thamas-Kouli-
Khan, who comes to lay at your feet the magnificent presents of his
"Bah! they are presents for the young Emperor Ivan. He may, therefore,
be conducted to the cradle of my son, and there display his presents.
It does not interest me."
"The second is a messenger from our camp. He brings news of a great
victory obtained by one of your brave generals over the Swedes!"
"But what does that concern me?" angrily cried the regent. "Let them
conquer or be defeated, it is all the same to me. That concerns my
husband the generalissimo! Let me be spared the sight of the warlike
and blood-dripping messenger!"
"The third is the ambassador of the wavering and shaking young
Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. He comes, he says, upon a secret
mission, and pretends to have discovered a sort of conspiracy that is
hatching against you."
"Let him go with his discovery to Golopkin, our minister of the
interior. That is his business!"
"Your grace is, above all things, regent, and should remember--"
"Nothing--I will remember nothing!" exclaimed Anna Leopoldowna,
interrupting her favorite. "I will not be annoyed, that is all."
"Well, thank God!" now cried Julia von Mengden, in her natural tone--
"thank God, that such is your determination, princess! you are, then,
in earnest, and I am to send these three amiable persons to the devil,
or, what is just the same, to your husband?"
"That is my meaning."
"And this is beautiful in you," continued Julia, cowering down before
her mistress. "These eternal, tiresome and intolerable state affairs
would make your face prematurely old and wrinkled, my dear princess.
Ah, there is nothing more tedious than governing. I am heartily sick
of it! At first I was amused when we two sat together and settled who
should be sent to prison and who should be pardoned; whom we should
make counts and princes, or degrade to the ranks as common soldiers.
But all that pleased only for a short time; now it is annoying, and
why should we take upon ourselves this trouble? Have we not the power
to act and live according to our own good pleasure? Bah! that is the
least compensation you should receive for allowing these horrid
Russians the privilege of calling you their regent and mistress!"
"But, my little chatterer, you forget the three envoys who are waiting
without," said Anna, with a smile.
"Ah, that is true! I must first send those wig-blocks away!" said
Anna, tenderly looking after her departing favorite. "She is, indeed,
my good genius, who drives away the cares from my poor brain."
"So, it is done!" cried Julia, quickly returning to the room. "I have
sent the gentlemen away. To the Persian envoy I said: 'Go to our
emperor, Ivan. He feeds upon brilliants, and, as he has had no
breakfast this morning, his appetite will be good. Go, therefore, and
give him your diamonds for breakfast. Anna Leopoldowna wants them not;
she is already satiated with them!'--To the second I said: 'Go and
announce your glorious victory to our sublime generalissimo. He is at
his toilet, and as he every morning touches his noble cheeks with
rouge, your new paint, prepared from the purple blood of the enemy,
will doubtless be very welcome to him!'--'And as to what concerns your
secret mission and your discovered conspiracy,' said I to the Austrian
ambassador, 'I am sorry that you cannot here give birth to the dear
children of your inventive head; go with them to our midwife, Minister
Golopkin, and hasten a little, for I see in your face that you are
already in the pangs of parturition!' "
"Well," asked Anna Leopoldowna, loudly laughing, "what said their
worships to that?"
"What did they say? They said nothing! They were dumb and looked
astonished. They made exactly such eyes as I have seen made at home,
upon my father's estate in Liefland, by the calves when the butcher
knocked them upon the head. But now," continued Julia, nestling again
at the feet of her mistress, "now give me a token of your favor, and
forget for a while that you are regent. Let us chat a little like a
couple of real genuine women--that is, of our husbands and lovers. Oh,
I have very important news for you!"
"Well, speak quickly," said Anna, with eagerness. "What have you to
Julia assumed a very serious and important countenance. "The first and
most important piece of news is, that your husband, Prince Ulrich of
Brunswick, is very jealous of me, and yet of one other!"
"Bah!" said Anna, contemptuously, "let him be jealous. I do not
trouble myself about it, and shall always do as I please."
"No, no, that will not do," seriously responded Julia. "It is so
tiresome to always hear the wrangling and growling of a jealous
husband! I tell your grace that I must have quiet in his presence; I
can no longer bear his grim looks and his constant anger and abuse.
You must soothe him, Princess Anna, or I will run away from this
horrible court, where a poor maiden is not allowed to have her friend
and mistress, the charming Princess Anna Leopoldowna, with all her
heart and soul!"
The regent's eyes filled with tears. "My Julia," she tremulously said,
"can you seriously think of leaving me? See you not that I should be
thereby rendered very solitary and miserable?"
And, raising up her favorite into her arms, she kissed her.
Julia's bright eyes also filled with tears. "Think you, then,
princess, that I could ever leave, ever be separated from you?" she
tenderly asked. "No, my Princess Anna has such entire possession of my
heart, that it has no room for any other feeling than the most
unbounded love and devotion to my dear, my adored princess. But for
the very reason that I love you, I cannot bear to have your husband
fill the palace with his jealous complaints, and thus publishing to
St. Petersburg and all the world your unfaithfulness and criminal
intrigues. Oh, I tell you I see through this generalissimo, I know all
his plans and secret designs. He would gladly be able to convict you
of infidelity to him--then, with the help of the army he commands,
declare his criminal wife unfit for the regency, and then make himself
regent! He has a cunningly devised plan, but which my superior cunning
shall bring to naught! I will play him a trick!--But no, I will tell
you no more now! At the right time you shall know all. Now, Princess
Anna, now answer me one question. Do you, then, so very much love this
The princess looked up with a dreamy smile. "Do I love him!" she then
murmured low. "Oh, my God, Thou knowest how truly, how glowingly my
heart clings to him. Thou knowest that of all the world I have never
loved any other man than him alone! And you, Julia, you who know every
emotion and palpitation of my heart, you yet ask me if I love him--
when he stood before me in all his proud manly beauty, with his
conquering glance, his heart-winning smile? Ah, my whole heart already
then flew to meet him. I revelled in the sight of him, I thought only
of him, I spoke to him in my thoughts, and my prayers, I loved only
when I saw him; and that happy, that never-to-be-forgotten day when he
confessed his love, when he lay at my feet and swore eternal truth to
me--ah, why could I not have died on that day? I was then /so/ happy!"
"Poor Princess Anna," said Julia, sympathetically, "they soon grudged
you that happiness!"
"Yes," continued Anna with a bitter smile, "yes, the virtuous Empress
Anna blushed in the arms of her lover, Biron, at this aberration of
her sold and coupled niece. She found it very revolting that the poor
sixteen-year-old Anna Leopoldowna dared to have a heart of her own and
to feel a real love. They must therefore rob her of the only happiness
Heaven had vouchsafed her. Consequently, they wrote to Warsaw, asking,
nay, commanding the recall of the ambassador, and Lynar was compelled
to leave me."
"Ah, I well know how unhappy you were at that time," said Julia,
pressing the hand of the princess to her bosom; "how you wept, how you
wrung your hands--"
"And how I nowhere found mercy or commiseration," interposed Anna,
with bitterness, "neither on earth nor in heaven. I was and remained
deserted and solitary, and was compelled to marry this Prince Ulrich
of Brunswick, for whom I felt nothing but a chilling, mortal
indifference. But you must know, Julia, that when I stood with this
man at the altar, and was compelled to become his wife, I thought only
of him I loved; I vowed eternal love only to Lynar, and when the
prince folded me in his arms as his wife, then was my God gracious to
me, and in a happy deception it seemed to me that it was my lover who
held me in his arms--I thought only of him and breathed only his name,
and loved him, kissed him, and became his wife, although he was far,
alas, so immeasurably far from me! And when I felt a second self under
my heart, I then loved with redoubled warmth the distant one whom I
had not seen for years; and when Ivan was born, it seemed to me that
the eyes of my lover looked at me through his, and blessed my son
whose spiritual father he was! And, my child, what think you gave me
the courage to overthrow Biron and assume the regency? Ah, it was only
that I might have the power to recall Lynar to my side! I would and
must be regent, that I might demand the return of Lynar as ambassador
from Warsaw. That gave me courage and decision; that enabled me to
overcome all timidity and anxiety. I thought only of him, and when the
end was attained, when I was declared regent, the first exercise of my
power was to recall Lynar to Court. Julia, what a happy day was that
when I saw him again!"
And the princess, wholly absorbed in her delightful reminiscences,
smilingly and silently reclined upon the cushions of the divan.
"Ah, it must be love that so thinks and feels," thoughtfully observed
Julia. "I no longer ask you, Princess Anna, if you love the count, I
now know you do. But answer me yet one question. Have you confidence
in me--full, unlimited confidence? Will you never mistake, never doubt
"Never!" said Anna Leopoldowna, confidently. "And if all the world
should tell me that Julia von Mengden is a traitress, I would
nevertheless firmly rely upon you, and reply to the whole world: 'That
is false! Julia von Mengden is true and pure as gold. I shall always
love her.' "
Julia gratefully glanced up to the heavens, and her eyes filled with
"I thank you, princess," she then said, with a happy smile. "I now
have courage for all. You shall now be enabled to love your Lynar
without fear or trembling, and your husband's clouded brow and
reproaching tongue shall molest us no more. Confide in me and ask no
questions. It is all decided and arranged in my mind. But hark! do you
Anna's face was transfused with a purple glow, and her eyes flashed.
"It is my beloved," said she. "Yes, it is he. I know his step!"
Julia smilingly opened the concealed door, and Count Lynar, with a cry
of joy, rushed to the feet of his beloved.
"At length!" he exclaimed, clasping her feet, and pressing them to his
"Yes, at length!" murmured Anna, looking down upon him with a
Julia stood at a distance, contemplating them with thoughtful glances.
"They should be happy," she murmured low, and then asked aloud: "Count
Lynar, did you receive my letter?"
"I did receive it," said the count, "and may God reward you for the
sacrifice you are so generously disposed to make for us! Anna, your
friend Julia is our good angel. To her we shall owe it if our
happiness is henceforth indestructible and indissoluble. Do you know
the immense sacrifice this young maiden proposes to make for us?"
"No, Princess Anna knows nothing, and shall know nothing of it," said
Julia, with a grand air. "Princess Anna shall only know that I love
her, and am ready to give my life for her. And now," she continued,
with her natural gayety, "forget me, ye happy lovers! Lull yourselves
in the sweet enjoyment of nameless ecstasies! I go to watch the spies,
and especially your husband, lest he break in upon you without
And Julia suddenly left the room, shutting the door upon Anna
Leopoldowna and her lover, the Polish Count Lynar.
Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, the husband of the regent, had assembled
the officers of his general staff for a secret conference. Their dark,
threatening glances were prophetic of mischief, and angrily flashed
the eyes of the prince, who, standing in their midst, had spoken to
them in glowing words of his domestic unhappiness, and of the idle,
dreamy, and amatory indolence into which the regent had fallen.
"She writes amorous complainings," he now said, with a voice of rage,
in closing his long speech--"she writes sonnets to her lover, instead
of governing and reading the petitions, reports, and other documents
that come to her from the different ministries and bureaus, which she
constantly returns unread. You are men, and are you willing to bear
the humiliation of being governed by a woman who dishonors you by
disregarding her first and holiest duties, and setting before your
wives and daughters the shameful example of a criminal love, thus
disgracing her own son, your emperor and master?"
"No, no, we will not bear it!" cried the wildly excited men, grasping
the hilts of their swords. "Give us proof of her unfaithfulness, and
we shall know how to act as becomes men over whom an adulterous woman
"It is an unnatural and unendurable law that commands man to obey a
woman. It is contrary to nature that the mother should rule in the
name of her son, when the father is living--the father, whom nature
and universal custom acknowledge as the lord and head of his wife and
children!" cried the prince.
"Give us proof of her guilt," cried the soldiers, "and we will this
very hour proclaim you regent in her stead!"
A confidential servant of the prince, who entered at this moment, now
whispered a few words in his ear.
The prince's face flamed up. "Well, then, gentleman," said he,
straightening himself up, "you demand proof. In this very hour will I
furnish it to you. But I do it upon one condition. No personal
violence! In the person of your present regent you must respect the
mother of your emperor, the wife of your future regent! Anna will
yield to our just representations, and voluntarily sign the act of
abdication in my favor. That is all we ought to demand of her. She
will retain her sacred and inviolable rights as the wife of your
regent, as the mother of your emperor. Forget not that!"
"First of all, give us the proof of her guilt!" impatiently cried the
"I shall, alas, be able to give it you!" said the prince, with
dignity. "Far be it from me to desire the conviction of an innocent
person! Believe me, nothing but her guilt could induce me to take
action against her; were she innocent, I would be the first to kneel
and renew to her my oath of fidelity and obedience. But you cannot
desire that I, your generalissimo, should be the subject of a wife who
shamefully treads under foot her first and holiest duty! The honor of
you all is wounded in mine. Come, follow me now. I will show you Count
Lynar in the arms of his mistress, the Regent Anna Leopoldowna!"
The prince strode forth, cautiously followed by his generals. They
thus passed noiselessly through the long corridor leading from the
wing of the palace inhabited by the prince to that occupied by the
In the boudoir of the Regent Anna a somewhat singular scene was now
The tender caresses of the lovers were suddenly interrupted by Julia
von Mengden, who slipped in through the secret door in a white satin
robe, and with a myrtle crown upon her head.
"Princess Anna, it is time for you to know all!" she hurriedly said.
"Your husband is now coming here through the corridor with his
generals; they hope to surprise you in your lover's arms, that they
may have an excuse for deposing you from the regency and substituting
your husband. Struggle against struggle! We will outwit them, and cure
your husband of his jealousy! From this hour he shall be compelled to
acknowledge that he was mistaken, and that it is for him to implore
your pardon. Anna Leopoldowna, I love no one in the world but you, and
therefore I am ready to do all that love can do for you. I will marry
Count Lynar for the purpose of preserving you from suspicion and
slander. I will bear the name of his wife, as a screen for the
concealment of your loves."
Anna's eyes overflowed with tears of emotion and transport.
"Weep not, my love," whispered the count, "be strong and great in this
eventful hour! Now will you be forever mine, for this magnanimous
friend veils and protects our union."
Julia opened the door and waved her hand.
A Russian pope in sacred vestments, followed by two other servants of
the church, entered the room. With them came the most trusted maid-
servants of Julia.
Clasping the count's hand and advancing to Anna, Julia said: "Grant,
illustrious princess, that we may celebrate our solemn espousal in thy
high presence, which is the best blessing of our union!"
Anna opened wide her arms to her favorite, and, pressing her to her
bosom, whispered: "I will never forget thee, my Julia. My blessing
upon thee, my angel!"
"I will be a true sister to him," whispered Julia in return; "always
believe in me and trust me. And now, my Anna, calmness and self-
possession! I already hear your husband's approach. Be strong and
great. Let no feature of your dear face betray your inward commotion!"
And, stepping back to the count, Julia made a sign to the priest to
commence the marriage ceremony.
Hand in hand the bridal pair knelt before the priest, the servants
folded their hands in prayer, and, proudly erect, with a heavenly
transfiguration of her noble face, stood Anna Leopoldowna--the priest
commenced the ceremony.
A slight noise was heard at the closed, concealed door. The priest
calmly continued to speak, the bridal pair remained in their kneeling
position, and, calmly smiling, stood the regent by their side.
The door opened, and, followed by his generals, the enraged prince
appeared upon the threshold.
No one suffered himself to be disturbed; the priest continued the
service, the parties remained upon their knees, Anna Leopoldowna stood
looking on with a proud and tranquil smile.
Motionless, benumbed, as if struck by lightning, remained the prince
upon the threshold; behind him were seen the astonished faces of his
generals, who, on tiptoe, stretched their necks to gaze, over each
other's shoulders, upon this singular and unexpected spectacle!
At length a murmur arose, they pressed farther forward toward the
door, and, overcoming his momentary stupefaction, the prince ventured
into the room.
An angry glance of the priest commanded silence; with a louder voice
he continued his prayer. Anna Leopoldowna smilingly beckoned her
husband to her side, and slightly nodded to the generals.
They bowed to the ground before their august mistress, the regent.
Now came the closing prayer and the dispensation of the blessing. The
priest pronounced it kneeling,--the regent also bent the knee, and
drew the prince down beside her. Following the example of the
generalissimo, the other generals also sank upon their knees,--it was
a general prayer, which no one dared disturb.
The ceremony was ended. The priest kissed and blessed the bridal pair,
and then departed with his assistants; he was followed by the servants
of the favorite.
Anna now turned with a proud smile to the prince.
"Accident, my husband, has made you a witness of this marriage," said
she. "May I ask your highness what procures me this unexpected and
somewhat intrusive visit, and why my generals, unannounced, accompany
you to their regent and mistress?"
The embarrassed prince stammered some unintelligible words, to which
Anna paid no attention.
Stepping forward, she motioned the generals to enter, and with her
most fascinating smile said: "Ah, I think I now know the reason of
your coming, gentlemen! Your loyal and faithful hearts yearn for a
sight of your young emperor. It is true, his faithful subjects have
not seen him for a long time! Even a sovereign is not guaranteed
against the evil influences of the weather, which has lately been very
rough, and for that reason the young czar has been unable to show
himself to his people. Ah, it pleases me that you have come, and I am
obliged to my husband for bringing you to me so unexpectedly. You may
now satisfy yourselves that the emperor lives and is growing fast.
Julia, bring us the young emperor!"
Julia von Mengden silently departed, while Count Lynar, respectfully
approaching the regent, said a few words to her in a low tone.
"You are quite right, sir count," said the regent aloud, and, turning
to her husband and the generals, continued: "Count Lynar is in some
trouble about the unexpected publicity given to his marriage. There
are, however, important reasons for keeping it still a secret. The
family of my maid of honor are opposed to this alliance with the
foreigner, and insist that Julia shall marry another whom they have
destined for her. On the other hand, certain family considerations
render secrecy the duty of the count. Julia, oppressed by her
inexorable relations, disclosed the state of affairs to me, and as I
love Julia, and as I saw that she was wasting away with grief without
the possession of her lover, I favored her connection with Count
Lynar. They daily saw each other in my apartments, and, finally
yielding to their united prayers, I consented that they should this
day be legally united by the priest, and thus defeat the opposition of
their respective families.
"This, gentlemen," continued Anna, raising her voice, "is the simple
explanation of this mystery. I owe this explanation to myself, well
knowing that secret slander and malicious insinuations might seek to
implicate me in this affair, and that a certain inimical and evil-
disposed party, displeased that you should have a woman for regent,
would be glad to prove to you that all women are weak, faulty, and
sinful creatures! Be careful how you credit such miserable tales!"
Silent, with downcast eyes, stood the generals under the flashing
glance of the regent, who now turned to her husband with a mocking
smile. "You, my prince and husband," said she, "you I have to thank!--
your tenderness of heart induced you generously to furnish me with
this opportunity to justify my conduct to my most distinguished and