Part 2 out of 7
best-beloved subjects and servants, and thus to break the point of the
weapon with which calumny threatened my breast! I therefore thank you,
my husband. But see! there comes the emperor."
In fact, the folding-doors were at this moment thrown open, and a long
train of palace officials and servants approached. At the head of the
train was Julia von Mengden, bearing a velvet cushion bespangled with
brilliants, upon which reposed the child in a dress of gold brocade.
On both sides were seen the richly adorned nurses and attendants, and
near them the major-domo, bearing upon a golden cushion the imperial
crown and other insignia of empire.
Anna Leopoldowna took young Ivan in her arms; the child smiled in her
face, and stretched forth his hand toward the sparkling crown.
With her son upon her arm, Anna majestically advanced to the centre of
the hall, and, lifting up the child, said: "Behold your emperor!
Respect and reverence for your illustrious master! Upon your knees in
the presence of your emperor!"
It was as if all, servants, attendants, and generals, had been struck
with a magic wand. They all fell upon their knees, and bowed their
heads to the earth--venal slaves, one word from their ruler sufficed
to set them all grovelling in the dust!
With a proud smile Anna enjoyed this triumph. Near her stood the
prince, the father of the emperor, with rage and shame in his heart.
"Long live the emperor!" resounded from all lips, and the child Ivan,
Emperor of all the Russias, screeched for joy at the noise and at the
splendor of the assemblage.
"Long live our noble regent, Anna Leopoldowna!" now loudly cried Julia
Like a thundering cry of jubilation it was instantly echoed through
The generals were the first to join in this enthusiastic /viva!/
A quarter of an hour later the generals were permitted to retire, and
the emperor was reconveyed to his apartments.
Anna Leopoldowna remained alone with her husband and the newly-married
pair, who had retreated to the recess of a window and were whispering
Anna now turned to her husband, and, with cutting coldness in her
"You must understand, my husband, that I am very generous. It was in
my power to arrest you as a traitor, but I preferred to shame you,
because you, unhappily, are the father of my child."
"You think, then," asked the prince, with a scornful smile, "that I
shall take the buffoonery you have just had played before us for
"That, my prince, must wholly depend upon your own good pleasure. But
for the present I must request you to retire to your own apartments! I
feel myself much moved and exhausted, and have also to prepare some
secret dispatches for Count Lynar to take with him in his journey."
"Count Lynar is, then, to leave us?" quickly asked the prince, in an
evidently more friendly tone.
"Yes," said Anna, "he leaves us for some weeks to visit the estate in
Liefland which I have given to Julia as a bridal present, and to make
there the necessary preparations for the proper reception of his
Julia clasped the hands of her mistress, and bathed them with tears of
joy and gratitude.
"Anna," whispered Prince Ulrich, "I did you wrong. Pardon me."
Anna coldly responded: "I will pardon you if you will be generous
enough to allow me a little repose."
The prince silently and respectfully withdrew.
Anna finally, left alone with her lover and her favorite, sank
exhausted upon a divan.
"Close the doors, Julia, that no one may surprise us," she faintly
murmured. "I will take leave. Oh, I would be left for at least a
quarter of an hour undisturbed in my unhappiness."
"Then it is quite true that you intend to drive me away?" asked Count
Lynar, kneeling and clasping her hands. "You are determined to send me
Anna gave him a glance of tenderness.
"No," said she, "I will send myself into banishment, for I shall not
see you dearest. But I felt that this sacrifice was necessary. Julia
has sacrificed herself for us. With another love in her heart, she has
magnanimously thrown away her freedom and given up her maiden love for
the promotion of our happiness. We owe it to her to preserve her honor
untarnished, that the calumnious crowd may not pry into the motives of
her generous act. For Julia's sake, the world must and shall believe
that she is in fact your wife, and that it was love that united you.
We must, therefore, preserve appearances, and you must conduct your
wife to your estate in triumph. Decency requires it, and we cannot
disregard its requirements."
"Princess Anna is in the right," said Julia; "you must absent yourself
for a few weeks--not for my sake, who little desire any such triumph,
but that the world may believe the tale, and no longer suspect my
It was a sweetly painful hour--a farewell so tearful, and yet so full
of deeply-felt happiness. On that very night was the count to commence
his journey to Liefland and Warsaw. As they wished to make no secret
of the marriage, the count needed the consent of his court and his
Anna provided him with letters and passports. The best and fairest of
the estates of the crown in Liefland was assigned to Julia as a bridal
present, and the count was furnished with the proper documents to
enable him to take possession of it.
And finally came the parting moment! For the last time they lay in
each other's arms; they mutually swore eternal love, unconquerable
fidelity--all that a loving couple could swear!
Tearing himself from her embrace, he rushed to the door.
Anna stretches out her arms toward him, her brow is pallid, her eyes
fixed. The door opens, he turns for one last look, and nods a
farewell. Ah, with her last glance she would forever enchain that
noble and beautiful face--with her extended arms she would forever
retain that majestic form.
"Farewell, Anna, farewell!"
The door closes behind him--he is gone!
A cold shudder convulsed Anna's form, a bodeful fear took possession
of her mind. It lay upon her heart like a dark mourning-veil.
"I shall never, never see him again!" she shrieked, sinking
unconscious into Julia's arms.
While a Mecklenburg princess had attained to the regency of Russia,
and while her son was hailed as emperor, the Princess Elizabeth lived
alone and unnoticed in her small and modestly-furnished throne, and
yet in St. Petersburg was living the only rightful heir to the empire,
the daughter of Czar Peter the Great! And as she was young, beautiful,
and amiable, how came she to be set aside to make room for a stranger
upon the throne of her father, which belonged to her alone?
Princess Elizabeth had voluntarily kept aloof from all political
intrigues and all revolutions. In the interior of her palace she
passed happy days; her world, her life, and her pleasures were there.
Princess Elizabeth desired not to reign; her only wish was to love and
be loved. The intoxicating splendor of worldly greatness was not so
inviting to her as the more intoxicating pleasure of blessed and happy
love. She would, above all things, be a woman, and enjoy the full
possession of her youth and happiness.
What cared she that her own rightful throne was occupied by a stranger
--what cared she for the blinding shimmer of a crown? Ah, it troubled
her not that she was poor, and possessed not even the means of
bestowing presents upon her favorites and friends. But she felt happy
in her poverty, for she was free to love whom she would, to raise to
herself whomsoever she might please.
It was a festival day that they were celebrating in the humble palace
of the emperor's daughter Elizabeth--certainly a festival day, for it
was the name-day of the princess.
The rooms were adorned with festoons and garlands, and all her
dependants and friends were gathered around her. Elizabeth saw not the
limited number of this band; she enjoyed herself with those who were
there, and lamented not the much greater number of those who had
She was among her friends, in her little reception-room. Evening had
come, the household and the less trusted and favored of her adherents
had withdrawn, and only the most intimate, most favored friends now
remained with the princess.
They had conversed so long that they now recurred to the enjoyment of
that always-ready, always-pleasing art, music. A young man sang to the
accompaniment of a guitar.
Elizabeth listened, listlessly reclining upon her divan. Behind her
stood two gentlemen, who, like her, were delightedly listening to the
singing of the youth.
Elizabeth was a blooming, beautiful woman. She was to-day charming to
the eye in the crimson-velvet robe, embroidered with silver, that
enveloped her full, voluptuous form, leaving her neck and /gorge/
free, and displaying the delicate whiteness of her skin in beautiful
contrast with the purple of her robe. Perhaps a severe judge might not
have pronounced her face handsome according to the rules of the
antique, but it was one of those faces that please and bewitch the
other sex; one of those beauties whose charm consists not so much in
the regularity of the lines as in the ever-varying expression. There
was so much that was winning, enticing, supercilious, much-promising,
and warm-glowing, in the face of this woman! The full, swelling, deep-
red lips, how charming were they when she smiled; those dark,
sparkling eyes, how seducing were they when shaded by a soft veil of
emotional enthusiasm; those faintly-blushing cheeks, that heaving
bosom, that voluptuous form, yet resplendent with youthful gayety--for
Elizabeth had not yet reached her thirtieth year--whom would she not
have animated, excited, transported?
Elizabeth knew she was beautiful and attractive, and this was her
pride and her joy. She could easily pardon the German princess, Anna
Leopoldowna, for occupying the throne that was rightfully her own, but
she would never have forgiven the regent had she been handsomer than
herself. Anna Leopoldowna was the most powerful woman in Russia, but
she, Elizabeth, was the handsomest woman in Russia, which was all she
coveted, and she had nothing more to desire.
But at this moment she thought neither of Anna Leopoldowna nor of her
own beauty, but only of the singer who was warbling to her those
Russian popular songs so full of love and sadness that they bring
tears into the eyes and fill the heart with yearning.
Elizabeth had forgotten all around her--she heard only him, saw only
him; her whole soul lay in the glances with which she observed him,
and around her mouth played one of those bewitching smiles peculiar to
her in moments of joy and satisfaction, and which her courtiers knew
He was very handsome, this young singer, and as Elizabeth saw him in
this moment, she congratulated herself that her connoisseur-glance had
quickly remarked him, when, some weeks previously, she had first seen
him as the precentor of the imperial chapel.
Surprised and excited by the beauty of his form and the sweetness of
his voice, Elizabeth had begged him of the lord-marshal for her
private service, and since then Alexis Razumovsky had entered her
house as her private secretary and the manager of her small estate.
While Alexis was singing with his sweetly-melting tones, Elizabeth
turned her swimming eyes to the two men who were standing in
respectful silence behind her.
"You must acknowledge," said she in a low tone, and as if oppressed by
internal commotion, "that you never saw nor heard say any thing finer
than my Alexis."
"Oh, yes," said one of these men, with a low bow, "we have seen
"And did we not yesterday hear you sing this same charming slumber-
song, princess?" asked the other.
Elizabeth smiled. "It is already well known that Woronzow and
Grunstein must always flatter!" said she.
"No, we do not flatter," responded Woronzow, the chamberlain of the
princess, "we only love truth! You ask if we have ever seen any thing
more beautiful than your private secretary, and we answer that we have
"Well, now, you have all so often assured me that I am the handsomest
woman in Russia, that at length I am compelled to believe you. But
Alexis is fortunately a man, and therefore not my rival; you may,
then, fearlessly confess that Alexis is the handsomest of all men! But
how is this?" exclaimed the princess, interrupting herself, as the
handsome young singer suddenly sprang up and threw his guitar aside
with an indignant movement; "do you sing no more, Alexis?"
"No," frowardly responded the young man, "I sing no more, when my
princess no longer listens!"
"There, see the ungrateful man," said the princess, with a charming
smile--"he was occupying all my thoughts, and yet he dares complain!
You are a malefactor deserving punishment. Come here to me, Alexis;
kneel, kiss my hand, and beg for pardon, you calumniator!"
"That is a punishment for which angels might be grateful!" responded
Alexis Razumovsky, kneeling to the princess and pressing her hand to
his burning lips. "Ah, that I might oftener incur such punishment!"
"Do you then prefer punishment to reward?" asked Elizabeth, tenderly
bending down to him and looking deep into his eyes.
"She loves him!" whispered Grunstein to the chamberlain Woronzow. "She
certainly loves him!"
Elizabeth's fine ear caught these words, and, slowly turning her head,
she slightly nodded. "Yes," said she, "Grunstein is right--she loves
him! Congratulate me, therefore, my friends, that the desert void in
my heart is at length filled--congratulate me for loving him. Ah,
nothing is sweeter, holier, or more precious than love; and I can tell
you that we women are happy only when we are under the influence of
that divine passion. Congratulate me, then, my friends, for, thank
God, I am in love! Now, Alexis, what have you to say?"
"There are no words to express such a happiness," cried Alexis,
pressing the feet of the princess to his bosom.
"Happiness, then, strikes you dumb," laughed the princess, "and will
not allow you to say that you love me? Such are all you men. You
envelope yourselves with a convenient silence, and would make us poor
women believe the superabundance of feeling deprives you of
At this moment the door was softly opened, and a lackey, who made his
appearance at the threshold, beckoned to Woronzow.
"What is it, Woronzow?" asked the princess, while, wholly
unembarrassed by the presence of the lackey, she played with the
profuse dark locks of the kneeling Razumovsky.
"An invitation from the Regent Anna to a court-ball, which is to take
place fourteen days hence," said Woronzow.
"Ah, our good cousin is, then, so gracious as to remember us," cried
the princess, with a somewhat clouded brow. "It will certainly be a
very magnificent festival, as we are invited so many days in advance.
How sad that I cannot have the pleasure of being present!"
"And why not, if one may be allowed to ask, princess?" asked Woronzow.
"Why?" sighed Elizabeth. "Ask my waiting-woman; she will tell you that
the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the great Czar Peter, has not one
single robe splendid enough to render her presentable, without
mortification, at a court-ball of the regent."
"Whatever robe you may wear," passionately interposed Alexis, "you
will still be resplendent, for your beauty will impart a divine halo
to any dress!"
That was precisely the kind of flattery pleasing to Elizabeth.
"Think you so, flatterer?" asked Elizabeth. "Well, for once I will
believe your words, and assume that the Princess Elizabeth may be fair
without the aid of splendor in dress. We therefore accept the
invitation, Woronzow. Announce that to the regent's messenger. But
still it is sad and humiliating," continued Elizabeth after a pause, a
cloud passing over her usually so cheerful countenance, "yes it is
still a melancholy circumstance for the daughter of the great Peter to
be so poor that she is not able to dress herself suitably to her rank.
Ah, how humiliating is the elevation of my high position, when I
cannot even properly reward you, my friends, for your fidelity and
"You will one day be able to reward us," significantly remarked
Grunstein. "One day, when an imperial crown surmounts your fair brows,
then will your generous heart be able to act according to its noble
"Still the same old dreams!" said Elizabeth, shaking her head and
letting Razumovsky's long locks glide through her fingers. "Pay no
attention to him, Alexis, he is an enthusiast who dreams of imperial
crowns, while I desire nothing but a ball-dress, that in it I may
please you, my friend!"
"Oh, you always please me," whispered Alexis, "and most pleasing are
The conclusion of his flattering speech he whispered so low that it
was heard by no one but the princess.
Patting his cheek with her little round hand, she blushed, but not for
shame, as she did not cast down her eyes, but answered with a glowing
glance the tender looks of her lover. She blushed only from an
internal passionate excitement, while her bosom stormily rose and
"You are very saucy, Alexis," said she, but at the same time lightly
kissing him upon the forehead, and smiling; but then her brow was
suddenly clouded, for the door was again opened and once more the
lackey appeared upon the threshold.
"The French ambassador," said he, "the Marquis de la Chetardie, begs
the favor of an audience."
"Ah, the good marquis!" cried the princess, rising from her reclining
position. "Conduct him in, he is very welcome."
The lackey opened both wings of the folding-door, and the marquis
entered, followed by several servants with boxes and packets.
"Ah, you come very much like a milliner," laughingly exclaimed
Elizabeth, graciously advancing to receive the ambassador.
Dropping upon one knee, the marquis kissed her offered hand.
"I come, illustrious Princess Elizabeth, to beg a favor of you!" he
"You wish to mortify me," responded Elizabeth. "How can the ambassador
of a great and powerful nation have a favor to ask of the poor,
repudiated, and forgotten Princess Elizabeth?"
"In the name of the king my master come I to demand this favor!"
solemnly answered the marquis.
"Well, if you really speak in earnest," said the princess, "then I
have only to respond that it will make me very happy to comply with
any request which your august king or yourself may have to make of
"Then I may be allowed, on this occasion of the celebration of your
name-day, to lay at your feet these trifling presents of my royal
master," said the ambassador of France, rising to take the boxes and
packages from the lackeys and place them before Elizabeth.
"They are only trifles," continued he, while assiduously occupied in
opening the boxes, "trifles of little value--only interesting,
perhaps, because they are novelties that have as yet been worn in
Paris by no lady except the queen and madame!
"This mantelet of Valenciennes lace," continued the busy marquis,
unfolding before the princess a magically fine lace texture, "this
mantelet is sent by the Queen of France to the illustrious Princess
Elizabeth. Only two such mantelets have been made, and her majesty has
strictly commanded that no more of a similar pattern shall be
Princess Elizabeth's eyes sparkled with delight. Like a curious child
she fluttered from one box to the other, and in fact they were very
costly, tasteful, and charming things which their majesties of France
had sent to the Princess Elizabeth, who prized nothing higher than
splendor in dress and ornaments.
There were the most beautiful gold-embroidered velvet robes, light
crape and lace dresses, and hats and topknots of charming elegance.
Elizabeth examined and admired all; she clapped her hands with delight
when any one of these precious presents especially pleased her,
calling Alexis, Grunstein, and Woronzow to share her joy and
"Now it will be a triumph for me to appear at this ball!" said
Elizabeth, exultingly; "ah, how beautiful it is of your king that he
has sent me these magnificent presents to-day, and not eight days
later! I shall excite the envy of the regent and all the court ladies
with these charming things, which no one besides myself will possess."
And the princess was constantly renewing her examination of the
presents, and breaking out into ecstasies over their beauty.
The Marquis de la Chetardie smilingly listened to her, told her much
about Paris and its splendors, declaring that even in Paris there was
no lady who could be compared to the fair Princess Elizabeth.
"Ah," remarked Elizabeth, smilingly threatening him with her finger,
"you would speak differently if the queen or some other lady of your
court were standing by my side!"
"No," seriously replied the marquis, "I would fall at the feet of my
queen and say: 'You are my queen, judge me, condemn me, my life is in
your hand. You are the Queen of France, and as such I bend before you;
but Princess Elizabeth is the queen of beauty, and as such I adore
Princess Elizabeth smiled, and with harmless unconstraint chatted yet
a long time with the shrewd and versatile ambassador of the French
"I have yet one more request to make," said the marquis, when about to
take leave. "But it is a request that no one but yourself must hear,
Elizabeth signed to her friends to withdraw into the open anteroom.
"Well, marquis," she then said with some curiosity, "let me now hear
what else you have to ask."
"My king and master has learned with regret that the noble Princess
Elizabeth is not surrounded with that wealth and splendor which is her
due as the daughter of the great emperor and the rightful heir to the
Russian throne. My king begs the favor of being allowed to make good
the delinquency toward you of the present Russian regency, and that he
may have the pleasure of providing you with the means necessary to
enable you to establish a court suitable to your birth and position. I
am provided with sufficient funds for these purposes. You have only to
send me by your physician in ordinary, Lestocq, a quittance signed by
you, and any sum you may require will be immediately paid!"
"Oh," said the princess, with emotion, "I shall never be able
sufficiently to testify my gratitude to the generous King of France. I
am a poor, insignificant woman, who can thankfully accept but never
requite his kindness."
"Who knows?" said the marquis significantly. "You may one day become
the most powerful woman in Europe, for your birth and your destiny
call you to the throne."
"Oh, I know you are Lestocq's friend, and share his dreams," said the
princess. "But let us not now speak of impossibilities, nor idly jest,
while I am deeply touched by the generous friendship of your
sovereign. That I accept his offer, may prove to him and you how much
I love and respect him; for we willingly incur obligations only to
those who are so highly estimated that we gratefully subordinate
ourselves to them. Write this to your king."
"And may I also write to him," asked the marquis, "that this
conversation will remain a secret, of which, above all things, the
regent, Anna Leopoldowna, is to know nothing?"
"My imperial word of honor," said the princess, "that no one except
ourselves and Lestocq, whom you yourself propose as a medium, shall
know anything of this great generosity of your sovereign. God grant
that a time may one day come when I may loudly and publicly
acknowledge my great obligations to him!"
"That time will have come when you are Empress of Russia!" said the
ambassador, taking his leave.
"Already one more who has taken it into his head to make an empress of
me," said the princess, as her three favorites again entered. "Foolish
people that you are! It does not satisfy you to be the friend of a
Princess Elizabeth, but I must become an empress for your sakes."
"How well the diadem would become that proud pure brow!" exclaimed
Alexis, with animation.
"How happy would this poor Russia be under your mild sceptre!" said
the chamberlain, Woronzow.
"Yes, you owe it to all of us, to yourself and your people, to mount
the throne of your fathers," said Grunstein.
"But if I say to you that I will not?" cried the princess, reclining
again upon her divan. "The duties of an empress are very difficult and
wearing. I love quiet and enjoyment; and, moreover, this throne of my
father, of which you speak so pathetically, is already occupied, and
awaits me not. See you not your sublime Emperor Ivan, whom the regent-
mother is rocking in his cradle? That is your emperor, before whom you
can bow, and leave me unmolested with your imperial crown. Come,
Alexis, sit down by me upon this tabouret. We will take another look
at these magnificent presents. Ah! truly they are dearer to me than
the possession of empire."
"The Princess Elizabeth can thus speak only in jest," said an earnest
voice behind them.
"Ah, Lestocq!" said the princess, with a friendly nod. "You come very
late, my friend."
"And yet too soon to bring you bad news!" said Lestocq, with a
profound and respectful bow to the princess.
"Bad news?" repeated Elizabeth, turning pale. "/Mon Dieu/, am I, then,
one too many for them here? Would they kill me, or send me in exile to
"Yet worse!" laconically responded Lestocq. "But, first of all, let us
be cautious, and take care that we have no listeners." And, crossing
the room, Lestocq closed all the doors, and carefully looked behind
the window curtains to make sure that no one was concealed there.
"Now, princess," he commenced, in a tone of solemnity, "now listen to
what I have to say to you."
A momentary pause followed. Princess Elizabeth silently motioned her
friends to be seated, and drew her favorite Alexis nearer to her.
Lestocq, her physician and confidant, with a solemn countenance, took
a place opposite her.
"We are ready to hear your bad news," said the princess.
"The regent, Anna Leopoldowna, will have herself crowned as empress,"
laconically responded Lestocq.
Elizabeth looked at him interrogatively and with curiosity for the
continuation of his bad news. But as Lestocq remained silent, she
asked with astonishment: "Is that all you have to tell us?"
"Preliminarily, that is all," answered Lestocq.
Princess Elizabeth broke out with a joyous laugh.
"Well, this is, in fact, very comic. With a real Job's mien you
announce to us the worst news, and then inform us that Anna
Leopoldowna is to be crowned empress! Let her be crowned! No one will
interfere to prevent it, and she will be none the happier for it. No
woman who has taken possession of the Russian throne as an independent
princess has ever yet been happy. Or do you think that Catharine, my
lofty step-mother, was so? Believe me, upon the throne she trembled
with fear of assassins; for it is well known that this Russian throne
is surrounded by murderers, awaiting only the favorable moment. Ah,
whenever I have stood in front of this imperial throne, it has always
seemed to me that I saw the points of a thousand daggers peeping forth
from its soft cushions! And you would have me seat myself upon such a
dagger-beset throne? No, no, leave me my peace and repose. Let Anna
Leopoldowna declare herself empress--what should I care? I should have
to bend before her with my congratulations. That is all!"
And the princess, letting her head glide upon Razumovsky's shoulder,
as if exhausted by this long speech, closed her fatigued eyelids.
"Ah, if Czar Peter, your great father, could hear you," sadly said
Lestocq, "he would spurn you for such pusillanimity, princess."
"It is, therefore, fortunate for me that he is dead," said the
princess, with a smile. "And now, my dear Lestocq, if you know nothing
further, let this suffice you: I tell you, once for all, that I have
no desire for this imperial throne. I would crown my head with roses
and myrtles, but not with that golden circle which would crush me to
the earth. Therefore, trouble me no more on this subject. Be content
with what I am, and if you cannot, well--then I must be reconciled to
being abandoned by you!"
"I will never desert you, even if I must follow you to suffering and
death!" exclaimed Alexis Razumovsky, casting himself at the feet of
"We will remain true and faithful to you unto death!" cried Woronzow
"Well, and you alone remain silent, Lestocq?" asked the princess, with
tears in her eyes.
"I have not yet come to the end of my bad news," said Lestocq, with a
"Ah!" jestingly interposed the princess, "you would, perhaps, as
further bad news, inform us that the Emperor Ivan has cut his first
"No," said Lestocq, "I would only say to you, that the 18th of
December, the day on which the regent is to be crowned as empress, the
18th of December is the day assigned for the marriage of Princess
Elizabeth with Prince Louis of Brunswick, the new Duke of Courland!"
The princess sprang up from her seat as if stung by an adder. Alexis
Razumovsky, who still knelt at her feet, uttered loud lamentations, in
which Woronzow and Grunstein soon joined. With calm triumph Lestocq
observed the effect produced by his words.
"What are you saying there?" at length Elizabeth breathlessly asked.
"I say that on the 18th of December the Princess Elizabeth is to be
married to Prince Louis of Brunswick, who has already come to St.
Petersburg for that purpose," calmly answered Lestocq.
"And I say," cried the princess, "that no such marriage will ever take
Lestocq shrugged his shoulders. "Princess Elizabeth is a gentle,
peace-loving, always suffering lamb," he said.
"But Princess Elizabeth can become a tigress when it concerns the
defence of her holiest rights!" exclaimed the princess, pacing the
room in violent excitement.
"Ah," she continued, "they are not then satisfied with delivering me
over to poverty and abandonment; it does not suffice them to see me so
deeply humiliated as to receive alms from this regent who occupies the
throne that belongs to me. They would rob me of my last and only
remaining blessing, my personal freedom! They would make my poor heart
a prisoner, and bind it with the chains and fetters of a marriage
which I abhor! No, no, I tell you that shall they never do."
And the princess, quite beside herself with rage, stamped her feet and
doubled up her little hands into fists. Now was she her father's real
and not unworthy daughter; Czar Peter's bold and savage spirit flashed
from her eyes, his scorn and courageous determination spoke from her
wildly excited features. She saw not, she heard not what was passing
around her; she was wholly occupied with her own angry thoughts, and
with those dreadful images which the mere idea of marriage had
Her four favorites stood together at some distance, observing her with
"It is now for you, Alexis Razumovsky, to complete the work we have
begun," whispered Lestocq to him. "Elizabeth loves you; you must
nourish in her this abhorrence of a marriage with the prince. You must
make yourself so loved, that she will dare all rather than lose you!
We have long enough remained in a state of abjectness; it is time to
labor for our advancement. To the work, to the work, Alexis
Razumovsky! We must make an empress of this Elizabeth, that she may
raise us to wealth and dignities!"
"Rely upon me," whispered Alexis, "she must and shall join in our
He approached the princess, who was walking the room in a state of the
most violent agitation, giving vent to her internal excitement and
anger in loud exclamations and bitter curses.
"I must therefore die!" sighed Alexis, pressing Elizabeth's trembling
hand to his lips. "Kill me, princess, thrust a dagger in my heart,
that I at least may not live to see you married to another!"
"No, you shall not die," cried Elizabeth, with fierce vehemence,
throwing her arms around Razumovsky's neck. "I will know how to defend
you and myself, Alexis! Ah, they would shackle me,--they would force
me to marry, because they know I hate marriage. Yes, I hate those
unnatural fetters which could command my heart, force it into
obedience to an unnatural law, and degrade divine free love, which
would flutter from flower to flower, into a necessity and a duty. It
is an unnatural law which would compel us forever to love a man
because he pleased us yesterday or may please us to-day, and who
perhaps may not please us to-morrow, while on the next day he may
excite only repugnance! Would they forge these matrimonial chains for
me? Ah, Regent Anna, you are this time mistaken; you may be all-
powerful in this empire, but you cannot and shall not extend that
power over me!"
"And how," asked Lestocq, shrugging his shoulders, "how will Princess
Elizabeth oppose the regent or empress? What weapon has she with which
"If it must be so, I will oppose power to power!" passionately
exclaimed the princess. "Yes, when it comes to the defence of my
freedom and my personal rights I will then have the courage to dare
all, defy all; then will I shake off the lethargy of contented
mediocrity, and upon the throne will find that freedom which Anna
would tread under foot!"
"Long live our future empress! Long live Elizabeth!" cried the men
with wild excitement.
"I have long withstood you, my friends," said Elizabeth, "I have not
coveted this imperial Russian crown, but much less have I desired that
crown of thorns a compulsory marriage. I am now ready for the
struggle, and, if it must be so, let a revolution, let streams of
blood decide whether the Regent Anna Leopoldowna or the daughter of
Peter the Great has the best right to govern this land and prescribe
"Ah, now are you really your great father's great daughter!" cried
Lestocq, and bending a knee before the princess, he continued: "Let me
be the first to pay you homage, the first to swear eternal fidelity to
you, our Empress Elizabeth."
"Receive also my oath, Empress Elizabeth," said Alexis, falling upon
his knees before her, "receive the oaths of your slaves who desire
nothing but to devote their bodies and souls to your service!"
"Let me, also, do homage to you, Empress Elizabeth!" exclaimed
Woronzow, falling to the earth.
"And I, too, will lie at your feet and declare myself your slave,
Empress Elizabeth!" said Grunstein, kneeling with the others.
But Elizabeth's anger was already past; only a momentary storm-wind
had lashed her gently flowing blood into the high foaming waves of
rage; now all again was calm within her, and consequently this solemn
homage scene of her four kneeling friends made only a comic impression
She burst into a loud laugh; astonished and half angry, the kneeling
men looked up to her, and that only increased her hilarity.
"Ah, this is infinitely amusing," said the princess, continuing to
laugh; "there lie my vassals, and what vassals! Herr Lestocq, a
physician; Herr Grunstein, a bankrupt shopkeeper and now under-
officer; Herr Woronzow, chamberlain; and Alexis Razumovsky, my private
secretary. And here I am, the empress of such vassals, and what sort
of an empress? An empress of four subjects, an empress without a
throne and without a crown, without land and without a people--an
empress who never was and never will be an empress! And in this solemn
buffoonery you cut such serious faces as might make one die with
The princess threw herself upon the divan and laughed until the tears
ran down her cheeks.
"Princess," said Lestocq, rising, "these four men, at whom you now
laugh, will make you empress, and then it will be in your power to
convert this chirurgeon into a privy councillor and court physician,
this bankrupt merchant into a rich banker, this chamberlain into an
imperial lord-marshal, and your private secretary into a count or
prince of the empire."
The eyes of the princess shone yet brighter, and with a tender glance
at Alexis Razumovsky she said: "Yes, I will make him a prince and
overload him with presents and honors. Ah, that is an object worth the
pains of struggling for an imperial crown."
"No, no," interposed Alexis, kissing her hand, "I need neither wealth
nor titles; I need nothing, desire nothing but to be near you, to be
able to breathe the air that has fanned your cheek. I desire nothing
for myself, but everything for my friends here, with whose faithful
aid we shall soon be enabled to greet you a real empress."
Elizabeth's brow beamed with the purest blessedness. "You are as
unselfish as the angels in heaven, my Alexis," said she. "It suffices
you that I am Elizabeth, you languish not for this imperial title
which these others would force upon me."
Alexis smilingly shook his fine head. "You err, princess," said he; "I
would freely and joyfully give my heart's blood, could I this day but
salute you as empress! I should then, at least, have no more to fear
from this strange prince whom they would compel you to marry!"
A cloud passed over the brow of the princess. "Yes, you are right,"
said she, "we must avoid that at all events, and if there are no other
means, very well, I shall know what to decide upon--I shall venture an
attempt to dethrone the regent and make myself empress! But, my
friends, let that now suffice. I need rest. Call my women to undress
me, Woronzow. Good-night, good-night, my high and lofty vassals, your
great and powerful empress allows you to kiss her hand!"
With a pleasing graciousness she extended her fair hands to her
friends, who respectfully pressed them to their lips and then
"Alexis!" called the princess, as Razumovsky was about to withdraw
with the others--"Alexis, you will remain awhile. While my women are
undressing me, you shall sing me to sleep with that charming slumber-
song you sing so splendidly!"
Alexis smiled and remained.
A quarter of an hour later deep silence prevailed in the dark palace
of Elizabeth, and through the stillness of the night was heard only
the sweetly-melodious voice of the handsome Alexis, who was singing
his slumber-song to the princess.
From this day forward her four trusted friends left the princess no
peace. They so stormed her with prayers and supplications, Alexis so
well knew how to represent his despair at her approaching and
unavoidable marriage, that the amiable princess, to satisfy her
friends and be left herself at peace, declared herself ready to
sanction the plans of her confidants and enter into a conspiracy
against the regent.
Soon a small party was formed for the cause of the princess. Grunstein
--who, as the princess had said, from a bankrupt merchant had attained
the position of subordinate officer--Grunstein had succeeded in
winning for the cause of the princess some fifty grenadiers of the
Preobrajensky regiment, to which he belonged; and these people,
drunkards and dissolute fellows, were the principal props upon which
Elizabeth's throne was to be established! They were neither particular
about the means resorted to for the accomplishment of the proposed
revolution, nor careful to envelop their movements in secrecy.
Elizabeth soon began to find pleasure and distraction in exciting the
enthusiasm of the soldiers. She often repaired to the caserns of the
guards, and her mildness and affability won for her the hearts of the
rough soldiers accustomed to slavish subjection. When she rode through
the streets, it was not an unusual occurrence to see common soldiers
approach her sledge and converse familiarly with her. Wherever she
showed herself, there the soldiers received her with shouts, and the
palace of the princess was always open to them. In this way Elizabeth
made herself popular, and the Regent Anna, who was informed of it,
smiled at it with indifference.
Just as incautiously did Elizabeth's fanatical political manager,
Lestocq, set about his work. He made no secret of his intercourse with
the French ambassador, and in the public coffee-houses he was often
heard in a loud voice to prophesy an approaching political change.
But with regard to all these imprudences it seemed as if the court and
the regent were blinded by the most careless confidence, as if they
could not see what was directly before their eyes. It was as if
destiny covered those eyes with a veil, that they might not see, and
against destiny even the great and the powerful of the earth struggle
The 4th of December, the day of the court-ball, to which Elizabeth had
looked forward with a longing heart because of her anxiety to display
at court her new Parisian dresses, at length had come. A most active
movement prevailed in the palace of the regent. The lord-marshal and
the chamberlains on service passed up and down through the rooms,
overlooking with sharp eyes the various ornaments, festoons, garlands,
and draperies, to make sure that all was splendid, and tasteful, and
Anna Leopoldowna troubled herself very little about these busy
movements in her palace. She was in her boudoir, delightedly reading a
letter from her distant lover, which had just been received under
Julia's address. She had already read this letter several times, but
ever recommenced it, and ever found some new word, some new phrase
that proved to her the glowing love of her absent friend.
"Ah, he still loves me," murmured she, pressing the letter to her
lips; "he really loves me, and this short separation will not estrange
his heart, but cause it to glow with warmer passion! Oh, what a
happiness will it be when he again returns! And he will return! Yes,
he will be with me again on the 18th of December, and, animated by his
glances, I shall for the first time appear in all the splendor of an
imperial crown. Ah, they have no presentiment, my councillors and
ministers, that I have selected the 18th of December for the ceremony
precisely because it is the birthday of my beloved! He will know it,
he will understand why his Anna has chosen this particular day, and he
will thank me with one of those proud and glowing glances which always
made my heart tremulous with overpowering happiness. Oh, my Lynar,
what a blessed moment will be that when I see you again!"
A slight knock at the door interrupted the imaginings of the princess.
It was Julia von Mengden, who came to announce the old Count
"And is it for him that you disturb my delightful solitude?" asked the
princess, somewhat reproachfully. "Is this Count Ostermann, is this
whole miserable realm of so much importance to me as the sweet
contemplation of a letter from my friend? When I am reading his letter
it seems to me that my beloved himself is at my side, and therefore
you must clearly see that I cannot receive Count Ostermann, as Lynar
is with me!"
"Put your letter and your lover in your bosom," said Julia, with a
laugh; "he will be very happy there, and then you can receive the old
count without betraying your lover's presence! The count has so
pressingly begged for an audience that I finally promised to intercede
with you for him."
"Ah, this eternal business!" angrily exclaimed the princess. "They
will never let me have any peace; they harass me the whole day. Even
now, when it is time to be making my toilet for the ball--even now I
must be tormented with affairs of state."
"Shall I, then, send away Count Ostermann?" sulkily asked Julia.
"That I may, consequently, for the whole evening see you with a
dissatisfied face? No, let him come; but forget not that I submit to
this annoyance only to please you."
With a grateful smile, Julia kissed the regent's hand, and then
hastened to bear to Count Ostermann the favorable answer.
In a few minutes, Count Ostermann, painfully supporting himself upon
two crutches, entered the regent's cabinet.
Anna Leopoldowna received him, sitting in an armchair, and listlessly
rummaging in a band-box filled with various articles of dress and
embroidery, which had just been brought to her.
"Well," said she, raising her eyes for a moment to glance at
Ostermann, "you come at a very inconvenient hour, Herr Minister Count
Ostermann. You see that I am already occupied with my toilet, and am
endeavoring to find a suitable head-dress. Will you aid me in the
choice, sir count?"
Ostermann had until now, painfully and with many suppressed groans,
sustained himself upon his feet; at a silent nod from the princess he
glided down into a chair, and staring at Anna with his piercing and
wonderfully-flashing eyes, he said:
"You highness would select a head-dress? Well, as you ask my advice in
the matter, I will give it; choose a head-dress so firm and solid as
to prove a fortification for the defence of your head. Choose a head-
dress that will protect you against conspiracies and revolutions,
against false friends and smiling enemies! Choose a head-dress that
will keep your head upon your shoulders!"
"Count Ostermann speaks in riddles," said Anna, smiling, and at the
same time arranging a wreath of artificial roses. "Or no, it was not
Count Ostermann, but a toad singing his hoarse song. Drive away that
toad, Ostermann, it is broad day--why, then, have we the croaking of
"Listen to the croaking of this toad," anxiously responded the old
man. "Believe me, princess, when the toads croak in broad daylight, it
betokens an approaching misfortune. Let it warn you, Madame Regent
Anna! You have called me a toad--very well, toads always have
correctly prophesied misfortune, and if they can never avert it, it is
because otherwise people will not listen to such oracular voices of
all-wise Nature! Let me be your toad, your highness, and listen to me!
I foresee misfortune for you. Believe my prophecy, and that misfortune
may yet be averted. Mark the signs by which fate would warn you! Did
you not yesterday see Elizabeth driving through the streets, chatting
and jesting with the soldiers, who crowded around her sledge? Have you
not heard how the grenadiers of the Preobrajensky regiment shouted
after her? Has it not been told you that Lestocq holds secret
intercourse with the French ambassador, and know you not that Lestocq
is the confidential servant of the princess? Guard yourself against
Princess Elizabeth, your highness!"
"Are you in earnest?" smilingly asked Anna, drawing her silver toilet-
glass nearer to her person, and placing a bouquet of flowers in her
hair to examine its effect in the glass.
"Oh, Heavens!" cried Count Ostermann, "you adorn yourself with
flowers, while I am telling you that you are threatened with a
"A conspiracy!" laughed the regent, "and Princess Elizabeth to be at
the head of it! Believe me, you overwise men, with all your wisdom,
never learn rightly to understand women. I, however, am a woman, and I
understand Elizabeth. You think that when she kindly chats with the
soldiers, and admits the handsome stately grenadiers into her house,
it is done for the purpose of conspiring with them. Go to, Count
Ostermann, you are very innocent. Princess Elizabeth has but one
passion, but it is not the desire of ruling; and when she chats with
handsome men, she speaks not of conspiracy, believe me." And,
laughing, the regent essayed a new head-dress.
"And how do you explain the secret meetings of Lestocq and the Marquis
de la Chetardie?" asked Ostermann, with painfully-suppressed
"Explain? Why should I seek an explanation for things that do not at
all interest me? What is it to me what the surgeon Lestocq has to do
with the constantly-ailing French ambassador? Or do you think I should
trouble myself about the /lavements/ administered to an ambassador by
"Well, then, your highness will allow me to explain their meetings
from a less medical point of view? France is your enemy, France
meditates your destruction, and the Marquis de la Chetardie is
exciting the princess and Lestocq to an insurrection."
"And to what end, if I may be allowed to ask?" scornfully inquired
"France, struggling with internal and foreign enemies, at war with
Austria, involved in disputes with Holland and Spain, France would
wish at any price to see the Russian government so occupied with her
own domestic difficulties as to have no time to devote to
international affairs. She would provide you with plenty of occupation
at home, that you may not actively interfere with the affairs of the
rest of the world. That is the shrewd policy of France, and it would
fill me with admiration were it not fraught with the most terrible
danger to us. The Marquis de la Chetardie has it in charge to bring
about a revolution here at any price, and as an expert diplomatist, he
very well comprehends that Princess Elizabeth is the best means he can
employ for that purpose; for she, as the daughter of Czar Peter, has
the sympathies of the old Russians in her favor, and they will flock
to her with shouts of joy whenever she may announce to the people that
she is ready to drive the foreign rulers from Russia!"
"Ah, our good Russians," laughingly exclaimed the regent, "they shout
only for those who make them drunk, and for that the poor princess
lacks the means!"
"The Marquis de la Chetardie has, in the name of his king, offered her
an unlimited credit, and she is already provided with almost a million
of silver rubles."
"You have a reason for every thing," laughed the regent. "The princess
is poor; let the French ambassador quickly provide her with his
millions. The good princess, I wish she had these millions, and then
she could indulge her love of ornaments and magnificent dresses."
"The marquis has brought her rich dresses and stuffs from Paris," said
The regent burst into a clear, ringing laugh.
"The marquis is a real /deus ex machina/," exclaimed she. "Wherever
you need him, he appears and helps you out of your trouble. But
seriously, my dear count, let it now suffice with these gloomy
suspicions. They are already commencing the dance-music, and you will
put me out of tune with your croaking. A ball, my dear count, requires
that one should be in and not out of tune, and you are pursuing the
best course to frighten the smiles from my lips."
"Oh, could I but do that!" cried Ostermann, wringing his hands--"could
I but cry in your ear with a voice of thunder: 'Princess, awake from
this slumber of indifference, force yourself to act, save your son,
your husband, your friends; for we are all, all lost with you!' "
"Oh, speaking of my son," smilingly interposed the regent, "you must
see a splendid present which the Emperor Ivan has this day received."
With this she took from a carton a small child's dress, embroidered
with gold and sparkling with brilliants, which she handed to the
"Only look at this splendor," said she. "The ladies of Moscow have
embroidered this for the young emperor, and it has to-day been
presented by a deputation. Will not the little emperor make a
magnificent appearance in this brilliant dress?"
Count Ostermann did not answer immediately. His face had assumed a
very painful expression, and deep signs escaped his agitated breast.
Slowly rising from his seat, with a sad glance at the princess, he
"I see that your destruction is inevitable, and I cannot save you; you
will be ruined, and we all with you. Well, I am an old man, and I
pardon your highness, for you act not thus from an evil disposition,
but because you have a noble and confiding heart. Believe me,
generosity and confidence are the worst failings with which a man can
be tainted in this world--failings which always insure destruction,
and have only mockery and derision for an epitaph. You are no longer
to be helped, duchess. You are on the borders of an abyss, into which
you will smilingly plunge, dragging us all after you. Well, peace be
with you! My sufferings have lately been so great, that I can only
thank you for furnishing me with the means of quickly ending them!
Madame, we shall meet again on the scaffold, or in Siberia! Until
And, without waiting for an answer from the regent, the old man,
groaning, tottered out of the room.
"Thank Heaven that he is gone!" said Anna, drawing a long breath when
the door closed behind him. "This old ghost-seer has tormented me for
months with his strange vagaries, which weigh upon his soul like the
nightmare! Happily, thy letter, my beloved, has filled my whole heart
with the ecstasy of joy, else would his dark and foolish prophecies be
sufficient to sadden me."
Thus speaking, the princess again drew Count Lynar's letter from her
bosom and pressed it to her lips. Then she called her women to dress
her for the ball.
THE COURT BALL
Some hours later the /elite/ of the higher Russian nobility were
assembled in the magnificent halls of the regent. Princes and counts,
generals and diplomatists, beautiful women and blooming maidens, all
moved in a confused intermixture, jesting and laughing with each
other. They were all very gay on this evening, as the regent had
herself set the example. With the most unconstrained cheerfulness,
radiant with joy, did she wander through the rooms, dispensing smiles
and agreeable words among all whom she approached. She bore in her
bosom the glowing and cherished letter of her lover, and at its
lightest rustling she seemed to feel the immediate presence of the
writer. That was the secret of her gayety and her joyous smiles.
People, perhaps, knew not this secret, but they saw its effects, and,
as the all-powerful regent deigned this day to be cheerful and
smiling, it was natural for this host of slavish nobility, who breathe
nothing but the air of the court, to adopt for this evening's motto,
"Gayety and smiles."
As we have said, only smiling lips and faces beaming with joy were to
be seen; all breathed pleasure and enjoyment, all jested and laughed;
it seemed as if all care and sorrow had fled from this happy, select
circle, to give place to the delights of life. They had, with
submissive humility, repressed all discontent and disaffection, all
envyings and enmities; they chatted and laughed, while every one knew
or suspected that they were standing on a volcano, whose overwhelming
eruptions might be expected at any moment, and yet every one feigned
the most perfect innocence and unconstraint. The ladies scrutinized
each other's magnificent and costly toilets, jesting and exchanging
amorous glances with the gentlemen displaying orders and diamond
A movement suddenly arose in the rooms, the crowd divided and
respectfully withdrew to the sides, and through the rows of smiling,
humbly bowing courtiers passed the Princess Elizabeth, followed by her
chamberlain Woronzow, her private secretary Alexis Razumovsky, and her
physician Lestocq, in the splendor of her beauty and grace, all
kindness, all smiles. She was to-day wonderfully charming in her gold-
spangled lace dress, which flowed like a breath over her under-dress
of heavy white satin. Her widely-bared, full and luxuriant shoulders
were partially covered by a costly lace mantelet, the present of the
French queen, and her long, floating ringlets were surmounted by a
wreath of white roses such as only Parisian artistic skill could offer
in such perfect imitation of nature. Thus enveloped as it were in a
veil of white mist and floating vapors, Elizabeth's beauty appeared
only the more full and voluptuous. She looked like a purple rose
standing out from a cloud of fluttering snow-flakes, wonderfully
charming, wonderfully seductive. Princess Elizabeth was fully
conscious of the impression she made, and this internal satisfaction
manifested itself in a sweet smile which increased the charm of her
appearance. With pride and pleasure she enjoyed the triumph of being
the fairest of all the beauties present, and this triumph contented
The princess now approached her cousin, the Regent Anna, who came from
the adjoining room to meet and welcome her, and for one short moment
the courtiers forgot her smiles and her inoffensiveness. All eyes were
with the most intense anxiety directed toward those two women; all
conversation, jesting, and laughing were at once suspended. There was
a deep pause, all breathing was smothered, all feared that the loud
beating of their hearts might betray them and cause them to be
The two princesses now approached each other--Princess Elizabeth would
have bent a knee to the regent--Anna, with charming kindness, raising
and kissing her, tenderly reproached her for coming so late.
"I feared coming too early," said Elizabeth, pressing the regent's
hand to her lips, "for I doubted whether my fair cousin would find
time to bestow a friendly word upon her poor relation, Princess
"How could Elizabeth fear that, when she knows I love her like a
sister?" tenderly asked the regent, and, taking the arm of the
princess, she made with her a round through the rooms.
Now again came life and movement in this lately so silent and
anxiously expectant assemblage; they now knew how they were to deport
themselves: Princess Elizabeth was in the good graces of the regent,
and therefore they could receive her polite greetings with the most
reverential thankfulness; they could approach her and admire her
beauty without incurring suspicion. The stereotyped smile had
reappeared upon all faces, cheerful and lively conversation was again
resumed, and wherever the two arm-in-arm wandering princesses
appeared, they were greeted with endless shouts of ecstasy.
As we have said, it was a gay and very splendid festival. Only
occasionally did something like a dark shadow pass through the rooms;
only here and there did the chattering guests forget their wonted
smiles; only occasionally did the mask of cheerfulness fall from many
a face, discovering serious, anxious features, and suspicious, lurking
glances. Every one felt that a catastrophe was impending, but, as no
one could know its result in advance, all wished to keep as clear of
it as possible, and seem perfectly unconscious and unaffected by these
things. As they could not foresee which party would triumph, they
found it advisable to join neither while awaiting coming events, after
which they would hail as lords and masters those who might succeed in
attaining to power.
For the present, Anna Leopoldowna was the ruler, and, as they were her
subjects, they must in humble submission pay homage to her; but
Elizabeth might become empress, and therefore they must likewise pay
homage to her, with a prudent avoidance of the too much, which might
cause them to be suspected in case the regent should still continue in
These were the dangerous rocks between which this proud and elegant
assemblage had to find their winding way, and they did it with smiles
and outward ease, with open admiration of both princesses, before whom
they bowed to the ground with slavish submission.
But suddenly something like a panic-terror, like an unnatural awe,
flew through all these splendid halls; the smiles were arrested on all
faces, the harmless jests on all lips; the pallor of beautiful women
became visible through their paint, and generals staggered to and fro
as if a thunderbolt had fallen. As if touched by a magic wand, every
one stood motionless like statues modelled in clay, no one daring to
speak to his neighbor or make a sign to a friend. They would not see,
they would not hear, they only wished to seem to be indifferent and
As we said, a panic-terror pervaded the halls, and like an evil-
announcing night-spectre passed over the heads of the stiffened,
lifeless crowd the dismal rumor--"The regent and the princess are at
variance; the regent is speaking to her with vehemence, and the
This certainly was a terrible announcement. But if the regent was
angry, it must be because she knew of the intrigues and machinations
of the princess, and knowing them she could counteract and nullify
them; consequently the plans of the princess were upset, Anna
Leopoldowna would remain ruler, and her son Ivan the Czar of all the
Now the touch, the vicinity of Elizabeth's friends became an evil-
breathing pest, a death-bringing terror; they anxiously avoided the
vicinity of Lestocq, they crowded back from Woronzow and Razumovsky,
whom they had before sought with every demonstration of friendliness;
they even avoided looking at the French ambassador; for, if the regent
knew all, she must know of the intimate relations of Lestocq with the
Marquis de la Chetardie, and he was therefore doomed like the other
And moreover, this pernicious rumor had not lied; the two princesses
were at this moment no longer so tender and friendly disposed as
They had long wandered through the halls, confidingly chatting and
smiling, and Anna, leaning upon Elizabeth's arm--Anna who this day saw
every thing /couleur de rose/--felt a sort of disquiet that people
should suspect her who was walking by her side with such innocent
candor and unconstraint, seeming not to have the least presentiment of
the dark cloud gathering over her head.
"She is inconsiderate," thought the regent; "she allows herself to be
carried away by her temperament, and behind her inclination and her
weakness for handsome grenadiers and soldiers, her enemies seek to
discover an insidious and well-considered conspiracy; this is cruel
and unjust! This good Elizabeth must be warned, that she may become
more cautious, and give her numerous enemies no occasion for
suspecting her. Poor innocent child, so gay and ingenuous, she plays
with roses under which serpents lie concealed! It is my duty to warn
her, and I will."
Wholly penetrated with this noble and generous resolution, the regent
drew her cousin Elizabeth into the little boudoir which lay at the end
of the hall, offering a convenient resting-place for a confidential
But at this moment Anna's eyes fell upon the lace mantelet of the
princess, and quite involuntarily came to her mind the warning words
of Ostermann, who had said to her: "The French ambassador, by command
of his government, provides the princess not only with money, but also
with the newest modes and most costly stuffs." This lace mantelet
could surely only come from Paris; nothing similar to it had been seen
in St. Petersburg; it certainly required especial sources and especial
means for the procurement of such a rare and magnificent exemplar.
A cloud drew over the regent's brow, and in a rather sharp and cutting
tone she said; "One question, princess! How came you by this admirable
lace veil, the like of which I have not seen here in St. Petersburg?"
While putting this question, the regent's eyes were fixed with a
piercing, interrogating expression upon the face of the princess: she
wished to observe the slightest shrinking, the least movement of her
But Elizabeth was prepared for the question; she had already
considered her answer with the marquis and Lestocq. Her features
therefore betrayed not the least disturbance or disquiet; raising her
bright and childlike eyes, she said, with an unconstrained smile: "You
wonder, do you not, how I came by this costly ornament? Ah, I have for
the last eight days rejoiced in the expectation of surprising you
to-day with the sight of it!"
"But you have not yet told me whence you have these costly laces?"
asked the regent in a sharper tone.
"It is a wager I have won of the good Marquis de la Chetardie," said
Elizabeth, without embarrassment, "and your highness must confess that
this French ambassador has paid his wager with much taste."
The regent had constantly become more serious and gloomy. A dark,
fatal suspicion for a moment overclouded her soul, and in her usually
unsuspicious mind arose the questions: "What if Ostermann was right,
if Elizabeth is really conspiring, and the French ambassador is her
"And what, if one may ask, was the subject of the wager?" she asked,
with the tone of an inquisitor.
"Ah, this good marquis," said the princess, laughing, "had never yet
experienced the rigor of a Russian winter, and he would not believe
that our Neva with its rushing streams and rapid current would in
winter be changed into a very commodious highway. I wagered that I
would convince him of the fact, and be the first to cross it on the
ice; he would not believe me, and declared that I should lack the
courage. Well, of course I did it, and won my wager!"
The regent had not turned her eyes from the princess while she was
thus speaking. This serene calmness, this unembarrassed childishness,
completely disarmed her. The dark suspicion vanished from her mind;
Anna breathed freer, and laid her hand upon her heart as if she would
restrain its violent beating. The letter of Lynar slightly rustled
under her hand.
A ray of sunshine became visible in Anna's face; she thought of her
beloved; she felt his presence, and immediately all the vapors of
mistrust were scattered--Anna feared no more, she suspected no more,
she again became cheerful and happy--for she thought of her distant
lover, his affectionate words rested upon her bosom--how, therefore,
could she feel anger?
She only now recollected that she had intended to warn Elizabeth. She
therefore threw her arms around the neck of the princess, and, sitting
with her upon the divan, said: "Do you know, Elizabeth, that you have
many enemies at my court, and that they would excite my suspicions
"Ah, I may well believe they would be glad to do so, but they cannot,"
said Elizabeth, laughing; "I am a foolish, trifling woman, who,
unfortunately for them, do nothing to my enemies that can render me
suspected, as, in reality, I do nothing at all. I am indolent, Anna,
very indolent; you ought to have raised me better, my dear lady
And with an amiable roguishness Elizabeth kissed the tips of Anna's
"No, no, be serious for once," said Anna; "laugh not, Elizabeth, but
listen to me!"
And she related to the listening princess how people came from all
sides to warn her; that she was told of secret meetings which Lestocq,
in Elizabeth's name, held with the French ambassador, and that the
object of these meetings was the removal of the regent and her son,
and the elevation of Elizabeth to the imperial throne.
Elizabeth remained perfectly cheerful, perfectly unembarrassed, and
even laughingly exclaimed--"What a silly story!"
"I believe nothing of it," said Anna, "but at last my ministers will
compel me to imprison Lestocq and bring him to trial, in order to get
the truth out of him."
"Ah, they will torture him, and yet he is innocent!" cried Elizabeth,
bursting into tears. And, clasping the regent's neck, she anxiously
exclaimed: "Ah, Anna, dear Anna, save me from my enemies! Let them not
steal away my friends and ruin me! They would also torture me and send
me to Siberia; Anna, my friend, my sovereign, save me! You alone can
do it, for you know me, and know that I am innocent! The idea that I
should conspire against you, against you whom I love, and to whom,
upon the sacred books of our religion, I have sworn eternal fidelity
and devotion! Anna, Anna, I swear to you by the soul of my father, I
am innocent, as also is my friend. Lestocq has never passed the
threshold of the French ambassador's hotel! Oh, dear, dear Anna, have
mercy on me, and do not permit them to torture me and wrench my poor
With a loud cry of anguish, with streaming tears, pale and trembling,
Elizabeth sank down at the regent's feet.
It was this cry of anguish that rang through the hall, and spread
everywhere astonishment and consternation. And this shrieking, and
weeping, and trembling, was no mask, but truth. Elizabeth was
frightened, she wept and trembled from fear, but she had sufficient
presence of mind not to betray herself in words. It was fear even that
gave her that presence of mind and enabled her to play her part in a
manner so masterly that the regent was completely deceived. Taking the
princess in her arms, she pressed her to her bosom, at the same time
endeavoring to reassure and console her with tender and affectionate
words, with reiterated promises of her protection and her love.
But it was a long time before the trembling and weeping princess could
be tranquillized--before she could be made to believe Anna's
asseverations that she had always loved and never mistrusted her.
"What most deeply saddens me," said Elizabeth, with feeling, "is the
idea that you, my Anna, could believe these calumnies, and suppose me
capable of such black treason. Ah, I should be as bad as Judas
Iscariot could I betray my noble and generous mistress."
Tears of emotion stood in Anna's eyes. She impressed a tender kiss
upon Elizabeth's lips, and with her own hand wiped the tears from the
cheeks of the princess.
"Weep no more, Elizabeth," she tenderly said--"nay, I beg of you, weep
no more. It is indeed all right and good between us, and no cloud
shall disturb our love or our mutual confidence. Come, let us smile
and be cheerful again, that this listening and curious court may know
nothing of your tears. They would make a prodigious affair of it, and
we will not give them occasion to say we have been at variance."
"No, they shall all see that I love, that I adore you," said
Elizabeth, covering Anna's hand with kisses.
"They shall see that we love each other," said Anna, taking the arm of
the princess. "Be of good cheer, my friend, and take my imperial word
for it that I, whatever people may say of you, will believe no one but
yourself; that I will truly inform you of all calumnies, and give you
an opportunity to disarm your enemies and defend yourself. Now come,
and let us make another tour through the halls."
Arm in arm the two princesses returned to the nearest hall. This was
empty, no one daring to remain there lest they might incur the blame
of having overheard and understood some word of the princesses, and
thus acquired a knowledge of their private conversation. People had
therefore withdrawn to the more distant rooms, where they still
preserved a breathless silence.
Suddenly the two princesses, arm in arm, again appeared in the halls,
pleasantly conversing, and instantly the scene was again changed, as
if by the stroke of a magic wand. The chilling silence melted into an
agreeable smile, and all recovered their breaths and former joviality.
All was again sunshine and pleasure, for the princesses were again
there, and the princesses smiled--must they not laugh and be beside
themselves with joy?
Elizabeth's tender glances sought her friend, the handsome Alexis
Razumovsky. Suddenly her brow as darkened and her cheeks paled, for
she saw him and saw that his eyes did not seek hers!
He stood leaning against a pillar, his eyes fixed upon a lady who had
just then entered the hall, and whose wonderful beauty had everywhere
called forth a murmur of astonishment and admiration. This lady was
the Countess Lapuschkin, the wife of the commissary-general of marine,
from whose family came the first wife of Czar Peter the Great, the
beautiful Eudoxia Lapuschkin.
Eleonore Lapuschkin was more beautiful than Eudoxia. An infinite magic
of youth and loveliness, of purity and energy, was shed over her
regular features. She had the traits of a Hebe, and the form of a
Juno. When she smiled and displayed her dazzlingly white teeth, she
was irresistibly charming. When, in a serious mood, she raised her
large dark eyes, full of nobleness and spirit, then might people fall
at her feet with adoration. Countess Lapuschkin had often been
compared and equalled to the Princess Elizabeth, and yet nothing could
be more dissimilar or incomparable than these two beauties.
Elizabeth's was wholly earthly, voluptuous, glowing with youth and
love, but Eleonore's was chaste and sublime, pure and maidenly.
Elizabeth allured to love, Eleonore to adoration.
The princess had long hated the young Countess Eleonore Lapuschkin,
and considered her as a rival; but that this rival should now gain an
interest in the heart of her favorite, that filled Elizabeth's soul
with anger and agitation, that caused her eyes to flash and her blood
Staringly as Alexis Razumovsky's eyes were fixed upon the countess,
she, unconscious of this double observation, stood cheerful and
unembarrassed in the circle of her admiring friends and adorers.
Anna Leopoldowna followed the glance of the princess, and, observing
the beautiful Lapuschkin, said, without thinking of Elizabeth's very
"Leonore Lapuschkin is an admirably beautiful woman, is she not? I
never saw a handsomer one. To look at her is like a morning dream; her
appearance diffuses light and splendor. Do you not find it so,
"Oh, yes, I find it so," said Elizabeth, with a constrained smile.
"She is the handsomest woman in your realm."
"Yourself excepted, Elizabeth," kindly subjoined the regent.
"Oh, no, she is handsomer than I!" murmured Elizabeth.
Poor Leonore! In this moment hath the princess pronounced your
sentence of condemnation, and in her heart subscribed the stern order
for your execution.
A longer view of this triumph of the countess became insufferable;
alleging a sudden attack of illness, she immediately took leave of the
regent, and ordered her carriage.
Tears of anger and love stood in her eyes as Razumovsky approached to
aid her in entering it. Hurling away his hand, she entered the
carriage without assistance.
"And may I not accompany you in the carriage as usual?" asked Alexis,
with tenderness in his tone.
"No," she curtly said, "go back into the hall, and again admire the
handsomest woman in the empire!"
Then, jealousy getting the better of anger, she beckoned to Alexis,
who was about departing in sadness, and commanded him to enter the
carriage without delay.
As soon as the carriage door was closed, with an angry movement she
seized both of Razumovsky's hands.
"Look at me," said she--"look me directly in the eye, and then tell
me, is Eleonore Lapuschkin handsomer than I?"
It was the day after the court ball. Princess Elizabeth was in her
dressing-room, and occupied in enveloping herself in a very charming
and seductive /neglige/. She was to-day in very good humor, very happy
and free from care, for Alexis Razumovsky had, with the most solemn
asserverations, assured her of his truth and devotion, and Elizabeth
had been soothed and reconciled by his glowing language. It was for
him that she wished to appear especially attractive to-day, that
Alexis, by the sight of her, might be made utterly to forget the
Countess Eleonore Lapuschkin. In these coquettish efforts of her
vanity she had utterly forgotten all the plans and projects of her
friends and adherents; she thought no more of becoming empress, but
she would be the queen of beauty, and in that realm she would reign
alone with an absolute sway.
A servant announced Lestocq.
A cloud of displeasure lowered on the brow of the princess. Startled
from her sweet dreams by this name, she now for the first time
recollected the fatal conversation she had had on the previous evening
with the regent. In her love and jealousy she had totally forgotten
the occurrence, but now that she was reminded of it, she felt her head
throb with anxiety and terror.
Dismissing her attendants with an imperious nod, she hastened to meet
the entering physician.
"Lestocq," said she, "it is well you have come at this moment, else,
perhaps, I might have forgotten to say to you that it is all over with
the conjuration spun and woven by you and the French marquis. We must
give it up, for the affair is more dangerous than you think it, and I
may say that you have reason to be thankful to me for having, by my
foresight and intrepidity, saved you from the torture, and a possible
transportation to Siberia. Ah, it is very cold in Siberia, my dear
Lestocq, and you will do well silently and discreetly to build a warm
nest here, instead of inventing ambitious projects dangerous to all of
"And whence do you foresee danger, princess?" asked Lestocq.
"The regent knows all! She knows our plans and combinations. In a
word, she knows that we conspire, and that you are the principal agent
in the conspiracy."
"Then I am lost!" sighed Lestocq, gliding down upon a chair.
"No, not quite," said Elizabeth, with a smile, "for I have saved you.
Ah, I should never have believed that the playing of comedy was so
easy, but I tell you I have played one in a masterly manner. Fear was
my teacher; it taught me to appear so innocent, to implore so
affectingly, that Anna herself was touched. Ah, and I wept whole
streams of tears, I tell you. That quite disarmed the regent. But you
must bear the blame if my eyes to-day are yet red with weeping, and
not so brilliant as usual."
And Princess Elizabeth ran to the toilet-table to examine critically
her face in the glass.
"Yes, indeed," she cried, with a sort of terror, "it is as I feared.
My eyes are quite dull. Lestocq, you must give me a means, a quick and
sure means, to restore their brightness."
Thus speaking, Elizabeth looked constantly in the glass, full of care
and anxiety about her eyes.
"I shall appear less beautiful to him to-day," she murmured; "he will,
in thought, compare me with Eleonore Lapuschkin, and find her
handsomer than I. Lestocq, Lestocq!" she then called aloud,
impatiently stamping with her little foot, "I tell you that you must
immediately prescribe a remedy that will restore the brilliancy of my
"Princess," said Lestocq, with solemnity, "I beseech you for a moment
to forget your incomparable beauty and the unequalled brilliancy of
your eyes. Be not only a woman, but be, as you can, the great czar's
great daughter. Princess, the question here is not only of the
diminished brilliancy of your eyes, but of a real danger with which
you are threatened. Be merciful, be gracious, and relate to me the
exact words of your yesterday's conversation with the regent."
The princess looked up from her mirror, and turned her head toward
"Ah, I forgot," she carelessly said, "you are not merely my physician,
but also a revolutionist, and that is of much greater importance to
"The question is of your head, princess, and as a true physician I
would help you to preserve it. Therefore, dearest princess, I beseech
you, repeat to me that conversation with the regent."
"Will you then immediately give me a recipe for my eyes?"
"Yes, I will."
"Well, listen, then."
And the princess repeated, word for word, to the breathless Lestocq,
her conversation with Anna Leopoldowna. Lestocq listened to her with
most intense interest, taking a piece of paper from the table and
mechanically writing some unmeaning lines upon it with an appearance
of heedlessness. Perhaps it was this mechanical occupation that
enabled him to remain so calm and circumspect. During the narration of
the princess his features again assumed their expression of firmness
and determination; his eyes again flashed, and around his mouth played
a saucy, scornful smile, such as was usually seen there when,
conscious of his superiority, he had formed a bold resolution.
"This good regent has executed a stroke of policy for which Ostermann
will never forgive her," said he, after the princess had finished her
narration. "She should have kept silence and appeared unconstrained--
then /we/ should have been lost; but now it is /she/."
"No," exclaimed the princess, with generous emotion, "the regent has
chosen precisely the best means for disarming us! She has manifested a
noble confidence in me, she has discredited the whisperings of her
minister and counsellors, and instead of destroying me, as she should
have done, she has warned me with the kindness and affection of a
sister. I shall never forget that, Lestocq; I shall ever be grateful
for that! Henceforth the Regent or Empress Anna Leopoldowna shall have
no truer or more obedient subject than I, the Princess Elizabeth!"
"By this you would not say, princess--"
"By this I mean to say," interposed Elizabeth, "that this conspiracy
is brought to a bloodless conclusion, and that, from this hour, there
is but one woman in this great Russian realm who has any claim to the
title of empress, and that woman is the Regent Anna Leopoldowna!"
"You will therefore renounce your sacred and well-grounded claims to
the imperial throne?" asked Lestocq, continuing his scribbling.
"Yes, that will I," responded Elizabeth. "I will no longer be plagued
with your plans and machinations--I will have repose. In the interior
of my palace I will be empress; there will I establish a realm, a
realm of peace and enjoyable happiness; there will I erect the temple
of love, and consecrate myself as its priestess! No, speak no more of
revolutions and conspiracies. I am not made to sit upon a throne as
the feared and thundering goddess of cowardly slaves, causing millions
to tremble at every word and glance! I will not be empress, not the
bugbear of a quaking, kneeling people, I will be a woman, who has
nothing to do with the business and drudgery of men; I will not be
plagued with labor and care, but will enjoy and rejoice in my
"For that you will be allowed no time!" said Lestocq, with solemnity.
"When you give up your plans and renounce your rights, then, princess,
it will be all over with the days of enjoyment and happiness. It will
then no longer be permitted you to convert your palace into a temple
of pleasure, and thenceforth you will be known only as the priestess
of misfortune and misery!"
"You have again your fever-dreams," said Elizabeth, smiling. "Come, I
will awaken you! I have told you my story; it is now for you to give
me a recipe for my inflamed eyes."
"Here it is," earnestly answered Lestocq, handing to the princess the
paper upon which he had been scribbling.
Elizabeth took it and at first regarded it with smiling curiosity; but
her features gradually assumed a more serious and even terrified
expression, and the roses faded from her cheeks.
"You call this a recipe for eyes reddened with weeping," said she,
with a shudder, "and yet it presents two pictures which make my hair
bristle with terror, and might cause one to weep himself blind!"
"They represent our future!" said Lestocq, with decision. "You see
that man bound upon the wheel--that is myself! Now look at the second.
This young woman who is wringing her hands, and whose head one of
these nuns is shearing, while the other is endeavoring, in spite of
her struggling resistance, to envelope her in that black veil;--that
is you, princess. For you the cloister, for me the wheel! That will be
our future, Princess Elizabeth, if you now hesitate in your forward
march in the path upon which you have once entered.
"And to persevere in this conspiracy is to give ourselves up to
certain destruction, for doubt not they will be able to convict us.
Among Grunstein's enlisted friends there are drunkards enough who
would betray you for a flask of brandy! Princess Elizabeth, would you
be a nun or an empress? Choose between these two destinations. There
is no middle course."
"Then I would be an empress!" said Elizabeth, with flashing eyes,
trembling with anxiety and excitement, and still examining the two
drawings. "Ah, you are an accomplished artist, Lestocq, you have
designed this picture with a horrible truth of resemblance. How I
stand there! how I wring my hands, the pale lips opened for a cry of
terror, and yet silenced by a view of those dreadful shears before
whose deadly operations my hair falls to the earth, and that veil
entombs me while yet living!"
And casting away the drawings, the princess trod them under foot,
declaring in a loud and imperious tone: "These drawings are false,
Lestocq, and that will I prove to you--I, the Empress Elizabeth!"
"All hail, my empress!" cried Lestocq, throwing himself at her feet
and kissing the hem of her robe; "blessings upon you, for you have now
rescued me from the hands of the executioner! You have saved my life,
in return for which I will this day place an imperial crown upon your
"This day?" asked Elizabeth, with a shudder.
"Yes, it must be done this very night! We must improve the moment, for
only the moment is ours. Every hour of delay but brings us nearer to
our destruction. Yet one night of hesitation, and they will already
have rendered our success impossible. Ah, the Regent Anna has sworn to
believe only you, and never to doubt you, and yet she has ordered
three battalions of the guards to march early in the morning to join
the army in Viborg. Our friends and confidants are in these three
battalions. Judge, then, how very much Anna Leopoldowna confides in
"Ah, if it be really so," said Elizabeth, "then can I no longer have
any regard for her. Anna will remove my friends from here, and that is
a betrayal of the friendship she has sworn for me. I have therefore no
further obligations toward her! I am free to act as I think best.
Lestocq, I will be no nun, but an empress! You now have my word, and
are at liberty to make all necessary arrangements. If it must be done,
let it be done quickly and unhesitatingly. I have yet to-day the
courage to dare any enormity, therefore let us utilize this day!"
"Expect me to-night at twelve o'clock!" said Lestocq, rising; "I will
then be here to bring you the imperial crown."
This firm confidence made Elizabeth tremble again. Until now all had
seemed like a dream, a play of the imagination; but when she read in
Lestocq's bold and resolved features that it was a reality, she shook
with terror, and an anxious fear overpowered her soul.
"And if it miscarry?" said she, thoughtfully.
"It will not and cannot miscarry!" responded Lestocq. "The right is on
your side, and God will watch over the daughter of the great czar."
"And then, when I am really empress," said Elizabeth, thoughtfully, to
herself, "what then? There is no happiness in it! They will give me
another title, they will place a crown upon my head, and bind me to a
throne. I shall no longer be free to act according to my will, to live
as I would. Thousands of spies will lurk around me. Thousands of eyes
will follow my steps, thousands of ears will listen for my every word,
in order to interpret and attach a secret meaning to it! They will
call me an empress, but I shall be a slave bound with golden fetters,
upon whose head sits a golden crown of thorns. And this toil and
weariness! These tiresome sittings of the ministers, this law-making
and the signing of orders and commands! How horrible!--Lestocq,"
suddenly cried the princess aloud, "if I must always labor, and make
laws, and subscribe my name, and command and govern, then I will be no
empress, no, never!"
"You shall be empress only to enjoy life in its highest splendor. We,
your servants and slaves, we will work and govern for you!" said
"Swear that to me! Swear to me that I shall not be constrained to
labor, swear that you will govern for me, that I may devote my time to
the enjoyment of life!"
"I swear it to you by all that is most sacred to me."
"Well, then, I will be your empress!" said Elizabeth, satisfied.
At this moment a secret door opened and gave admission to Alexis
By his entrance Elizabeth was reminded of her inflamed eyes, and of
the fair Countess Eleanore Lapuschkin.
She gave Alexis a searching, scrutinizing glance, and it seemed to her
that he appeared less tender and ardent than usual.
"Oh," she proudly said, motioning her favorite to approach her and
lightly kissing him upon the forehead, "oh, I will yet compel you to
adore me. When an imperial crown encircles my brow, then will you be
obliged to confess that I am the fairest of women! Alexis, on this
night shall I become an empress!"
With a cry of joy Alexis sank to her feet.
"Hail to my adored empress!" he exclaimed, with enthusiasm. "Hail
Elizabeth, the fairest of all women!"
"With the exception of the beautiful Countess Lapuschkin!" said
Elizabeth, with a bitter smile--"ah, when I am empress, I shall at
least have the power to render that woman harmless, and to annihilate
her!--You turn pale, Alexis," she continued with more vehemence--"your
hand trembles in mine! You must therefore love her very much, this
exalted queen of godlike beauty? Ah, I shall know how to punish her
"Princess!" reproachfully exclaimed Alexis--"Elizabeth, you, my august
and gentle empress, you will not sacrifice an innocent woman to a
momentary jealous vagary!"
"Ah, he ventures to intercede for her!" cried Elizabeth, with a hoarse
laugh, and, turning to Lestocq, she continued, with anger-flashing
eyes: "Lestocq, I have yet a condition to make before consenting to
become an empress."
"Name your condition, princess, and if it be within the compass of
human power it shall be fulfilled."
Casting an angry glance at Razumovsky, Elizabeth said, with a sinister
"Swear to me, by all you hold most sacred, to find some fault in this
Countess Lapuschkin which shall give me the right to condemn her to
"I swear it by all I hold most sacred," solemnly responded Lestocq.
"And you will do well in that!" exclaimed Alexis. "For when a crime
rests upon her, and she, only with a word or look, offends against my
fair and noble empress, she will deserve such condemnation."
"You will, then, defend her no longer?" asked the somewhat appeased
princess, bending down to her kneeling lover.
"What is Countess Lapuschkin to me?" tenderly responded Alexis. "For
me there is but one woman, one empress, and one beauty, and that is
The princess smiled with satisfaction. "Lestocq," said she, "this time
I keep my word. I am ready to dare all, in order to place the imperial
crown upon my head. I must and will be empress, that I may have the
power to reward you all, and to raise you, my Alexis, to me!"
And drawing the handsome Alexis up to herself, she gave him her hand
"I now go to make all necessary preparations," said Lestocq. "At
midnight I will come for you. Be ready at that time, Elizabeth!"
"I will then be ready!" said Princess Elizabeth, nodding a farewell to
"At midnight!" she then thoughtfully continued. "Well, we have twelve
hours until then, which will suffice for the invention of a suitable
toilet. Alexis, tell me what sort of dress I shall wear. What color
best becomes me and in what shall I please the soldiers? The toilet,
my Alexis, is often decisive in such cases; an unsuitable costume
might cause me to displease the conspirators, and lead them to give up
the enterprise. You must aid me, Alexis, in choosing a costume. Come,
let us repair to the wardrobe, and call my women. I will try on all my
dresses, one after the other; then you shall decide which is most
becoming, and that will we choose."
The princess and her lover betook themselves to the wardrobe, and
called her women to assist in selecting a suitable revolution-toilet.
Night had come. The lights in palaces and houses were gradually
extinguished. St. Petersburg began to sleep, or at least to give
itself the appearance of sleeping. The regent, Anna Leopoldowna, also,
had already dismissed her household and withdrawn into her private
It was a fine starlight night. Anna leaned upon the window-frame,
thoughtfully and dreamily glancing up at the heavens. Her eyes
gradually filled with tears, which slowly rolled down her cheeks and
fell upon her hands. She was startled by the falling of these warm,
glowing drops. She was thinking of Lynar, of the distant, warmly-
desired one, to whom she would gladly have devoted her whole
existence, but to whom she could belong only through falsehood. She
thought it would be nobler and greater to renounce him, that her love
might be consecrated by her abnegation, while actually devoting her
life to the duties enjoined by the laws and the Church. But these
thoughts filled her bosom with a nameless sorrow, and it was
involuntarily that she wept.
"No," she murmured low, "I cannot make this sacrifice; I cannot make
an offering of my love to my virtue; for this bugbear of a compulsory
marriage I cannot give up a love which God Himself has inspired in my
heart. Then let it be so! Let the world judge and the priests condemn
me. I will not sacrifice my love to a prejudice. I know that this is
sinful, but God will have compassion on the sinner who has no other
happiness on earth than this only one--a love that controls her whole
being. And if this sin must be punished, oh, my Maker, I pray you to
pardon him, and let the punishment fall on me alone!"
Thus speaking, she raised her arms and directed her eyes toward the
heavens in fervent prayer. Suddenly a brilliant light flashed through
the air--a star had shot from its sphere, and, after a short course,
had become extinguished.
"That bodes misfortune," said Anna, with a shudder, her head sinking
upon her breast.
At this moment there was a loud knocking at her door, and Prince
Ulrich, Anna's husband, earnestly demanded admission.
Anna hastened to open, asking with surprise the cause of his unusual
"Anna," said the prince, hastily entering, "I come to warn you once
more. Again has a warning letter been mysteriously conveyed to me. I
have just found it upon my night-table. See for yourself. It implores
us to be on our guard. It informs us that we are threatened with a
frightful danger, that Elizabeth conspires, and that we are lost if we
do not instantly take preventive measures."
Anna read the warning letter, and then smilingly gave it back to her
"Always the same old song, the same croaking of the toad," said she.
"Count Ostermann has taken it into his head that Elizabeth is
conspiring, and doubtless all these warning letters come from him.
Read them no more in future, my husband, and now let us retire to
"And what if it were, nevertheless, true," said the prince, pressingly
--"if we are really threatened with a great danger? A word from you
can turn it away. Let us, therefore, be careful! Remember your son,
Anna--/his/ life is also threatened! Protect him, mother of the
emperor! Allow me, the generalissimo of your forces, to take measures
of precaution! Let me establish patrols, and cause a regiment, for
whose fidelity I can be answerable, to guard the entrances of the
Anna smilingly shook her head. "No," said she, "nothing of all that
shall be done! Such precautions manifest suspicion, and would wound
the feelings of this good Elizabeth. She is innocent, believe me. I
yesterday sharply observed her, and she came out from the trial pure.
It would be ignoble to distrust her now. Moreover, she has my princely
word that I will always listen only to herself, and believe no one but
her. In the morning I will go to her and show her this letter, that
she may have an opportunity to justify herself."
"You therefore consider her wholly innocent?" asked the prince, with a
"Yes, perfectly innocent. Her firm demeanor, her asseverations, her
tears, have convinced me that it was unjust in us to believe the
hateful rumors that had spread concerning her. Let us therefore retire
in peace and quiet. No danger threatens us from Elizabeth!"
There was something convincing and tranquillizing in Anna's immovable
conviction; the prince felt his inability to oppose her, and was
ashamed of his feminine fears in the face of her masculine
With a sigh he took his leave and returned to his own room. At the
door he turned once again.
"Anna," said he, with solemnity, "you have decided upon our destiny,
and God grant that it may eventuate happily! But should it be
otherwise, should the monstrous and terrible break in upon you, then,
at least, remember this hour, in which I warned you, and confess that
I am free from all blame!"
Without awaiting an answer, with a drooping head and deep sigh, the
prince left the room.
Anna looked after him with a compassionate smile.
"Poor prince!" she murmured low, "he is always so timid and trembling;
that indicates unhappiness! He loves me, and I cannot force my heart
to return the feeling. Poor prince, it must be very sad to love and be
With a sigh she closed the door through which her husband had passed.
"I will now sleep," said she. "Yes, sleep! Possibly Heaven may send me
a pleasant dream, and I may see my Lynar! But no, I must first go to
Ivan, to ascertain whether his slumber is tranquil."
With hasty steps she repaired to the adjacent chamber, which was that
of the young emperor.