Part 3 out of 7
There all was still. Before the door opening upon the corridor she
heard the regular step of the soldier on guard. The waiters upon the
emperor were slumbering upon mattresses around him. It was a picture
of profound tranquillity.
With light steps Anna approached the cradle of her son, and, bending
down over him, regarded him with tender maternal glances, while his
still and peaceful slumber seemed to touch her heart with a sweet
"Sleep, my dear child, my charming little emperor," she murmured--
"sleep, and in your dreams may you play with angels as beautiful as
Bending again over the cradle, she breathed a light kiss upon the rosy
lips of her child, and then noiselessly returned to her own chamber.
"And now," said she, drawing a long breath, "now will I, also, sleep
and dream! Good-night, my beloved; good-night, Lynar!"
With a happy smile she reclined upon her couch, and soon slumbered.
At this moment the clock in the next chamber struck the twelfth hour.
Slowly and solemnly resounded the tones of the striking clocks that
announced the midnight.
At this same hour a lively movement commenced in the palace of the
Princess Elizabeth. Lights were seen glancing from window to window,
hurrying shadows were seen coming and going in the rooms, every thing
there announced an activity unusual for the hour, and certainly it was
a signal good fortune for Elizabeth that Anna had forbidden her
husband's sending a patrol through the streets. One single patrol
passing the palace might have frustrated the whole conspiracy!
But the streets were perfectly quiet; nowhere was a sentinel or
watchman to be seen.
The slight creaking and whizzing of a sledge upon the crackling snow
was now heard; it came nearer and nearer, and then there was a
knocking at the palace gate. The porter opened, and two sledges drove
into the court.
The first, with a rich covering and magnificent ornaments, was empty.
But Lestocq was seen to spring out of the second, and hurriedly enter
Elizabeth, splendidly dressed, sparkling with brilliants, was waiting
in her small reception-room. No one but Alexis Razumovsky was with
her. Neither of them spoke, and their visages plainly discovered that
they were in a state of painfully uncomfortable suspense.
Elizabeth was pale and had a convulsive twitching about her mouth, her
form trembled feverishly, and she was obliged to cling to Razumovsky,
to prevent falling.
"Did you hear the opening of the court-yard gate?" she breathed low.
"Lestocq is not yet here, and it is past midnight. Certainly he is
arrested, all is discovered, and we are lost! I am fearfully anxious,
Alexis; I already seem to feel the sword at my throat. Ah, hear you
not steps in the corridor? They come this way. They are my pursuers.
They come to conduct me to the scaffold! Save me, Alexis, save me!"
And with a shrill cry of anguish the princess clung to the neck of her
The door was now hastily opened, and upon the threshold appeared
Lestocq and Woronzow.
"Princess Elizabeth!" exclaimed Lestocq, with solemnity, "I have come
for you. The throne awaits its empress!"
"Up, Princess Elizabeth," said Alexis, "take courage, my fair empress,
give us an example of spirit and resolution!"
The princess slowly raised her pale face from Razumovsky's shoulder,
and looking around with timid glances, faintly said: "I suffer
fearfully! This anguish will kill me! My destiny is so cruel, I am so
tormented. Why must I be an empress?"
"That you may be no nun," laconically responded Lestocq.
"And to become the greatest and loftiest woman in the world!" said
"To raise to your own elevation the man you love," whispered Alexis.
With a glance of tenderness, Elizabeth nodded to him.
"Yes," said she, "for your sake, my Alexis, I will become an empress!
Come, let us go. But where is Grunstein?"
"With his faithful followers he awaits us before the casern of his
regiment. We go there first."
"Then let us go!" said Elizabeth, striding forward. But she stopped on
seeing that Alexis followed with the other two.
"No," said she, "you must not go with us, Alexis. If I am to have
courage to act and speak, I must know that you are not mingled in the
strife--I must not have to tremble for your life! No, no, only when I
know that you are concealed and in safety, can I have courage to
struggle for an imperial crown. Promise me, therefore, Alexis, that
you will quietly remain here until I send a messenger for you!"
Razumovsky begged and implored in vain--in vain he knelt before her,
and covered her hands with tears and kisses.
Elizabeth remained inflexible, and, as Alexis yet persisted in his
prayers, she earnestly and proudly said: "Alexis Razumovsky, I command
you to remain here. You will obey the first command of your empress!"
"I will remain," sighed Alexis, "and the world will point the finger
of scorn at me, calling me a coward!"
"And I will compel the world to honor you as a king!" said Elizabeth,
with tenderness, beckoning to Lestocq and Woronzow to follow her from
Silently they hastened down the stairs--silently was Elizabeth handed
into her sledge, while Lestocq and Woronzow took their places in the
"Forward!" thundered Lestocq's powerful voice, and the train rushed
through the dark and deserted streets.
St. Petersburg slept. No one appeared at the darkened windows of the
silent palaces, no one boded that a new empress was passing through
the streets,--an empress, who at this time had but two subjects in her
They had now reached the casern of the Peobrajensky regiment. There
they halted. In the open door stands Grunstein with his thirty
They silently approached the sledge of the princess and prostrated
themselves before her.
"Hail to our empress!" whispered Grunstein low, and as low was it
repeated by the soldiers.
"Let us enter the casern, call the soldiers, and awaken the officers;
I myself will address them!" said Elizabeth, alighting from her
sledge. She was now full of courage and resolution. In the face of
danger now no longer to be avoided, she had suddenly steeled her
heart; her father's spirit was awakened in her.
With a firm step she entered the casern; the conspirators had already
raised an alarm there, and the suddenly aroused soldiers rushed from
all the corridors, with wonder and admiration staring at this noble
and beautiful woman who, radiant in the splendor of her beauty, and
sparkling with jewels, stood in their midst.
"Soldiers," cried Elizabeth, with a firm voice, "I come to implore
your support in my attempt to obtain justice in the realm of my
father! I am the daughter of the great Emperor Peter, the rightful
heir to the throne of Russia, and I claim what is mine! I will no
longer suffer a German princess to give laws to you, my beloved
brethren and countrymen! Follow me, therefore, and let us drive away
these foreign intruders who have usurped the throne of your lawful
"All hail, Elizabeth, our empress!" cried the conspirators,
Surprised, benumbed, and overpowered, the others made no opposition.
Miserable slaves, they were accustomed to obey whoever dared assume
the command over them,--and they therefore submitted. Falling upon
their knees, they took the oath of allegiance to the new empress!
Elizabeth was now the empress of three hundred soldiers.
"Up, now, my friends, to the palace of the czar, where these usurpers
dwell and inflict upon you the shame of calling a cradled infant your
emperor. Come, and let us punish them for this insult, by thrusting
them from their usurped power!"
"We will follow our empress in life and death!" cried the soldiers.
They therefore started again, and once more hastened through the
silent streets until, at length, they reached the imperial palace,
where dwelt the Emperor Ivan with his parents.
Elizabeth, with her confidential partisans in four sledges, had
hastened on in advance of the others. With renewed courage they
approached the principal entrance of the palace.
The guard took to their arms, and the drummer was preparing to beat an
alarm, when a single blow of Lestocq's fist broke through the skin of
The terrified drummer fell, and over his body passed the band of
conspirators, Elizabeth at their head.
No one ventured to oppose them; the slaves fell upon their knees in
homage to her who announced herself as their mistress and empress!
Thus meeting with universal submission and obedience, they approached
the wing of the palace occupied by the Emperor Ivan and his mother the
regent. Here is stationed an officer of the guard. He alone ventures
defiance to the intruders. He meets them with his sword drawn, and
swears to strike down the first person who attempts to enter the
"Unhappy man, what is it you dare!" said Lestocq, boldly advancing.
"You are guilty of high-treason. Fall upon your knees and implore
pardon of your empress, Elizabeth!"
The officer shrank bank in terror. It was an empress who stood before
him, and he had dared to defy her!
Begging forgiveness and mercy, he dropped his sword and fell upon his
knees. The Russian slave was awakened in him, and he bent before the
one who had the power to command.
Unobstructed, retained by no one, Elizabeth and her followers now
strode through the corridor leading to the private apartments of the
regent. Sentinels were placed at every door, with strict commands to
strike down any one who should dare to oppose them.
In this manner they reached the anteroom of the regent's chamber.
Elizabeth had not the courage to go any farther. She hesitatingly
stopped. A deep shame and repentance came over her when she thought of
the noble confidence Anna had shown, and which she was now on the
point of repaying with the blackest treason.
Lestocq, whose sharp, observing glances constantly rested upon her,
divined her thoughts and the cause of her irresolution. He privately
whispered some words to Grunstein, who, with thirty grenadiers,
immediately approached the door of Anna's sleeping-room.
With a single push the door was forced, and with a wild cry the
soldiers rushed to the couch upon which Anna Leopoldowna was reposing.
With a cry of anguish Anna springs up from her slumber, and
shudderingly stares at the soldiers by whom she is encompassed, who,
with rough voices, command her to rise and follow them. They scarcely
give her time to put on a robe, and encase her little feet in shoes.
But Anna has become perfectly calm and self-possessed. She knows she
is lost, and, too proud to weep or complain, she finds in herself
courage to be tranquil.
"I beg only to be allowed to speak to Elizabeth," said she, aloud. "I
will do all you command me. I will follow you wherever you wish, only
let me first see your empress, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth, leaning against the door-post, had heard these words;
yielding to an involuntary impulse of her heart, she pushed open the
door and appeared upon the threshold of Anna Leopoldowna's chamber.
On perceiving her, a faint smile passed over Anna's features.
"Ah, come you thus to me, Elizabeth?" she said, reproachfully, with a
proud glance at the princess.
Elizabeth could not support that glance. She cast down her eyes, and
again Anna Leopoldowna smiled. She was conquered, but before her,
blushing with shame, stood her momentarily subdued conqueror. But Anna
now remembered her son, and, folding her hands, she said, in an
"Elizabeth, kill not my son! Have compassion upon him!"
Elizabeth turned away with a shudder, she felt her heart rent, she had
not strength for an answer.
Lestocq beckoned the soldiers, and commanded them to remove the
traitress, Anna Leopoldowna.
Thirty warriors took possession of the regent, who calmly and proudly
submitted herself to them and suffered herself to be led away.
In the corridor they encountered another troop of soldiers, who were
escorting the regent's husband, Prince Ulrich of Brunswick, and Anna's
favorite, Julia von Mengden.
"Anna!" sorrowfully exclaimed the prince, "oh, had you but listened to
my warning! Why did I not, in spite of your commands, what I ought to
have done? I alone am to blame for this sad misfortune."
"It is no one's fault but mine," calmly responded Anna. "Pardon me, my
husband, pardon me, Julia."
And so they descended to the sledges in waiting below. They placed the
prince in one, and the regent, with Julia, in the other.
"Ah," said Julia, throwing her arms around Anna's neck, "we shall at
least suffer together."
Anna reclined her head upon her friend's shoulder.
"God is just and good," said she. "He punishes me for my criminal
love, and mercifully spares the object of my affections. I thank God
for my sufferings. Julia, should you one day be liberated and allowed
to see him again, then bear to him my warmest greetings; then tell him
that I shall love him eternally, and that my last sigh shall be a
prayer for his happiness. I shall never see him again. Bear to him my
Julia dissolved in tears, and, clinging to her friend, she sobbed:
"No, no, they will not dare to kill you."
"Then they will condemn me to a life-long imprisonment," calmly
"No, no, your head is sacred, and so is your freedom. They dare not
"Nothing is sacred in Russia," laconically responded Anna.
The sledges stopped at the palace of the Princess Elizabeth. Hardly
two hours had passed since Elizabeth, in those same sledges, had left
her palace as a poor, trembling princess; and now, as reigning
empress, she sent them back to the dethroned regent.
The latter entered the palace of the princess as a prisoner, while
Elizabeth, as empress, took possession of the palace of the czars.
THE SLEEP OF INNOCENCE
Anna Leopoldowna had hardly left the room in which she had been
surprised and captured, when Lestocq turned to Grunstein with a new
"Now," said he, in an undertone to him--"now hasten to seize the
emperor. This little Ivan must be annihilated."
Elizabeth had overheard these words, and remembering Anna's last
prayer, she exclaimed with vehemence:
"No, no, I say, he shall not be annihilated! Woe to him who injures a
hair of his head! I will not be the murderer of an innocent child!
Take him prisoner, get him in your power, but in him respect the child
and the emperor! Tear him not forcibly from his slumber, but protect
his sleep! Poor child, destined to suffer so early!"
"No weakness now, princess," whispered Lestocq; "show yourself great
and firm, else all is lost! Come away from here, that the sight of
this child may not yet more enfeeble your heart. Come, much more
remains to be done."
And, reverently taking Elizabeth's hand, he led her to the door.
"Now do your duty," said he to Grunstein. "Seize young Ivan."
"But remember my command, and spare him," said Elizabeth, slowly and
hesitatingly leaving the chamber.
"Now to Ivan!" Grunstein commanded his soldiers, and with them he
hastened to the sleeping-room of the young emperor.
There deep stillness and undisturbed peace yet prevailed. Only the
waiting-women were awakened, and had hastily fled in search of
concealment and safety. They had left the young emperor entirely
alone, and he had not been awakened by the disturbance all around him.
He lay quietly in his splendid cradle, which was placed upon a sort of
estrade in the centre of the room, dimly lighted by a lamp suspended
from the ceiling by golden chains. This slumbering, smiling, childish
face, peeping forth from the green silk coverings of the pillows,
resembled a fresh, bursting rosebud. It was a sight that inspired
respect even in those rough soldiers.
Devoutly staring, they at first remained at the door of the room; then
slowly, and stepping on the points of their toes, they approached
nearer and surrounded the cradle. But, remembering the words of their
new empress, "Spare his sleep," no one dared to touch the child, or
awaken him from his slumber.
In close order the bearded warriors pressed around the cradle of the
imperial child, leaning upon their halberds, watching for his awaking.
It was a rare and admirable picture. In the centre, upon its estrade,
was the splendid cradle of the slumbering child, and all around, upon
the steps of this child-throne, these soldiers with their wild and
threatening faces, all eyes expectantly resting upon the smiling
The door now opened, and, her face pallid with terror, Ivan's nurse
rushed into the room and to the cradle of her imperial nursling. The
soldiers, with imperious glances, beckoned her to await in silence,
like themselves, the awakening of the emperor. The poor woman spoke
not, but her fast-flowing tears indicated the depth of her grief.
Time passes. As if under enchantment, earnest, immovable, silent,
stand the soldiers. Behind the cradle, her eyes and arms raised
imploringly toward heaven, stands the nurse, while the child continues
to slumber, smiling in its sleep.
At the expiration of an hour thus passed, the imperial infant moves,
throws up its little rosy arms, opens its eyes--it is awake!
A cry of triumph escapes the lips of all the soldiers--all arms were
stretched forth to seize him who, an hour before, had been their lord
The child, frightened by the aspect of these rough soldiers, bursts
out into a cry of alarm, and stretches out its little arms toward its
She takes him in her arms and weeps over him. The frightened child
buries its little face in the bosom of his nurse, and the soldiers now
convey them both to the waiting sledges. The dethroned emperor is
quickly transported to the dethroned regent at Elizabeth's palace,
who, with hot tears, clasps her son to her heart.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth had made herself absolute mistress of the
imperial palace. Hastening to the throne-room, she had taken
possession of the throne of her father, and administered the oath of
allegiance to the guards surrounding her.
They lay upon their knees before her, these cowardly instruments of
despotism; they bowed their heads in the dust, and these four or five
thousand slaves, to which number the followers of the empress already
amounted, swore fealty to Elizabeth, ready to strangle the regent and
the young emperor at her command, or to serve her the same if,
peradventure, the regent should regain a momentary power.
While the guards were doing homage in the palace, Grunstein and
Woronzow, by Lestocq's command, led their men to Munnich's and
Ostermann's, and both were imprisoned; with them, a great number of
leading and suspected persons, who, perhaps, might have been disposed
to draw the sword for Anna Leopoldowna. Lestocq had thought of every
thing, had considered every thing; at the same time that he entered
the regent's palace with Elizabeth, he sent to the printer the
manifesto which proclaimed Elizabeth as empress. With the appearance
of the sun in the horizon, Elizabeth was recognized as empress in the
capital, and soon after throughout the whole empire. Who were they who
recognized her? It was not the people, for in Russia there are no
people--there are only masters and slaves. Elizabeth had become
empress because fortune and Anna Leopoldowna's generous confidence had
favored her; not the exigencies of the people, nor the tyranny of her
predecessor had called her to the throne, but she had attained to it
by the cunning and intrigues of some few confederates. She had become
empress because Lestocq was tired of being only physician to a poor
princess; because Grunstein thought the position of under-officer was
far too humble for him, and because Alexis Razumovsky, the former
precentor in the imperial chapel, found it desirable to add to his
name the title of count or prince!
When St. Petersburg awoke it heard with astonishment the news of a new
revolution. From mouth to mouth flew this astounding announcement: "We
have changed our rulers! We are no longer the servants of the Emperor
Ivan, but of the Empress Elizabeth! A new dynasty has arisen, and we
have a new oath of allegiance to take!"
At first only a few ventured to spread this extraordinary
intelligence, and these few were tremblingly and anxiously avoided; it
was dangerous to listen to them; people fled from them without
answering. But as the rumors became constantly louder and more
significant, as at length their truth could no longer be doubted, as
it became certain that the regent and her son were dethroned and
Elizabeth was established in power, all the doubting and anxious faces
were, as by an electric spark, lighted up with joy; then nothing was
heard but the cry of triumph and jubilation; then was Anna Leopoldowna
loudly cursed by those who had blessed her on the preceding day; then
was the new Empress Elizabeth loudly lauded by those who yesterday had
smiled with contempt at her powerlessness.
All again hastened to the imperial palace; the great and the noble
again brought out their state coaches for the purpose of throwing
themselves at the feet of the new possessor of power and swearing a
new allegiance; again nothing was heard but the sound of universal
rejoicing, nothing seen but faces lighted up by ecstasy and eyes
glistening with tears of joy. And this was, in fourteen months, the
third time that they had done homage to a new ruler who had as
regularly dethroned his predecessor, and they had each time gone
through the same ceremony with the same evidences of joy, the same
ecstasies, the same slavish humility, not commiserating the defeated
party, but professing love and devotion to the victor!
And as the day dawned on St. Petersburg, as it gloriously beamed upon
the young empress, as she saw these thousands of worshipping slaves at
her feet, Elizabeth's heart swelled with a proud joy, and looking down
upon the masses of humble and devoted subjects, whose mistress she
was, she felt herself momentarily overcome by a deep and holy emotion.
"I will be a mother to this people," thought she; "I will love and
spare them; I will govern them with mildness; they shall not curse,
but adore me!"
Yielding to this first generous impulse of her heart, Elizabeth rose
from the throne, and with uplifted hands loudly and solemnly swore
that she would be a mother to her subjects--a mother who, when
compelled to punish, would never forget love and forbearance!
"No one, however great his crime," said she, with flashing eyes--"no
one shall be punished with death so long as I sit upon this throne!
From this day the punishment of death is abolished in my realm! I will
punish crime, but I will spare the life of the criminal!"
When Elizabeth had thus spoken, the large hall again resounded with
the rejoicing shouts of the great and noble--men breathed freer and
deeper, they raised their heads more proudly; for centuries the all-
powerful word of the czars had swept over the heads of Russians like
the sword of Damocles--it now seemed to be removed, and to promise to
each one a longer life, a longer unendangered existence. For where was
there a subject of the czars who might not at any time be convicted of
a crime--where an innocent person who might not at any moment be
condemned to death? A glance, a smile, an inconsiderate word, had
often sufficed to cause a head to fall! And now this eternally present
danger seemed to be removed! What wonder, then, that they raised
shouts of joy, that they embraced each other, that they loudly and
solemnly called down the blessings of Heaven upon this noble and
During this time of general rejoicing among the great and noble of the
realm in the brilliant imperial halls above, the palace was surrounded
by dense masses of people looking up with curiosity at the bright
windows, and listening with astonishment to the joyful shouts that
reached their ears below. And when they heard the cause of the
rejoicing above, they shrugged their shoulders and murmured low: "The
empress will henceforth punish no one with death! What is that to us?
That the great shall no more be put to death by the empress, is no
concern of ours, the serfs of the great! The empress is powerful, but
our lords and masters have yet more power over us. They will still
scourge us to death, and the empress cannot hinder them!"
That a word of authority from the czarina had abolished the punishment
of death, did not stir them up from their dull, expectant silence; but
when a messenger from the empress came and announced that Elizabeth
had ordered a flask of brandy to be given to each one of the crowd
assembled below, that they might drink her health, then came life and
movement to these stupid masses, then their dull faces were distorted
into a friendly grin, then they screamed and howled with a brutish
ecstasy, and they all rushed to the opened door to avail themselves of
the promised benevolence of the empress and receive the divine liquor!
For the great, the abolition of capital punishment--for the people, a
flask of brandy--these were the first rays that announced the
appearance of the newly-rising sun Elizabeth in the horizon of her
No,--Elizabeth did yet more!--in this hour she remembered with a
grateful heart the faithful friends who had assisted her to the
throne; to reward these was her next and most sacred duty!
A nod from her called to her presence the thirty grenadiers of the
Preobrajensky regiment whom Grunstein had won over, and the empress
with a gracious smile gave them her hand to kiss.
Then, rising from her throne, and glancing at the assembled magnates
and princes, she said, in a clear and flattering tone: "It is service
that ennobles, it is fidelity that lends fame and splendor. And
service and fidelity have you rendered and shown to me, my faithful
grenadiers! I will reward you as you deserve. From this hour you are
free; nay, more, you are magnates of my realm; you belong, with the
best of right, to their circle, for, in virtue of my imperial power, I
raise you to the nobility by creating you barons, all of you, my
thirty faithful grenadiers, and you, Grunstein, the leader of this
faithful band! Receive them into your ranks, my counts and barons,
they are worthy of you!"
Hesitating, not daring to mingle with those proud magnates, stood the
new barons; but the princes and counts advanced to them with open
arms, with exclamations of tenderness and assurances of friendship.
The empress had spoken, the slaves must obey; and these princes and
counts, these generals and field-marshals, who yesterday would hardly
have thrown away a contemptuous glance upon these grenadiers, now
called them friends and brothers, and were most happy to admit them
into their circle.
Elizabeth gave a satisfied glance at these hearty greetings: she found
it infinitely sweet and agreeable to make so many men happy in so easy
a manner, and with pleasure she recollected that she had yet to reward
her coachman who had guided her sledge in the great and decisive hour.
She ordered him to be called. A considerable time elapsed, and all
were looking expectantly toward the door, which finally opened, and,
led by four lackeys, the coachman stumbled into the hall. They had had
some trouble in finding him, until at length he was discovered among
the people in the court-yard, enjoying the brandy distributed by order
of the empress. From this crowd they had withdrawn him in spite of his
resistance, in order to bring him to his sovereign.
She received the staggering Petrovitch with a gracious smile, she
praised the dauntlessness with which he had guided her sledge in that
eventful night, and in gratitude for his good conduct she raised him,
as she had the grenadiers, to the rank of a nobleman by naming him a
baron of the Russian empire.
Petrovitch listened to her with a stupid laugh; and when the magnates
crowded around him, offering their hands and assuring him of their
friendship, he tremblingly and with effort stammered some unmeaning
words, and falling upon his knees, he bowed his head in the dust
before these great and powerful magnates, humbly kissing the hems of
their garments, not suspecting that he was their equal in rank.
And constantly more brilliant and beautiful beamed the imperial grace.
None of Elizabeth's faithful friends and servants were forgotten, for
she possessed a virtue rare among princes--she was grateful.
She named Lestocq her first physician, president of the medical
college, and member of her privy council. She made Grunstein an
imperial aide-de-camp, with the rank of brigadier-general; and
Woronzow a count and her first chamberlain.
Then, at last, she repeated the name of her friend Alexis Razumovsky.
Her fair brow lighted up as with a reflected sunbeam on his
approaching her throne, and, holding out to him both hands, she said
aloud: "Alexis Razumovsky, I have you most to thank for my success in
dispossessing the usurpers who have robbed me of my father's throne;
for your wise counsels gave me courage and force: be then, henceforth,
next to my throne, my chamberlain, Count Razumovsky!"
Bending a knee before her, Alexis gratefully kissed her beloved hand,
and the counts and gentlemen surrounded him, loudly praising the great
wisdom of the empress, whose divine penetration enabled her everywhere
to discover and reward true service!
"Ah," sighed Elizabeth, when, on the evening of this glorious day, she
was again alone with her confidential friends, "ah, my friends, I have
now complied with your wishes and allowed you to make an empress of
me! But forget not, Lestocq, that I have become empress only on
condition that I am not to be troubled with business and state
affairs. This has been a day of great exertion and fatigue, and I hope
you will henceforth leave me in repose. I have done what you wished, I
am empress, and have rewarded you for your aid, but now I also demand
my reward, and that is undisturbed peace! Once for all, in my private
apartments no one is to speak of state affairs, here I will have
repose; you can carry on the government through your bureaux and
/chancelleries/; I will have nothing to do with it! Here we will be
gay and enjoy life. Come here, my Alexis,--come here and tell me if
this imperial crown is becoming, and whether you found me fair in my
ermine-trimmed purple mantle?"
"My lofty empress is always the fairest of women," tenderly responded
"Call me not empress," said she, drawing him closer to her. "That
brings again to mind all the hardships and wearinesses I have this day
"Only yet a moment, your majesty; let me remind you that you are now
empress, and, as such, have duties to perform!" pressingly exclaimed
Lestocq. "You have this day exercised the pleasantest right of your
imperial power--the right of rewarding and making happy. But there
remains another and not less important duty; your majesty must now
think of punishing. The regent, and her husband and son, are
prisoners; as, also are Munnich, Ostermann, Count Lowenwald, and Julia
von Mengden. You must think of judging and punishing them."
Elizabeth had paid no attention to him. She was whispering and
laughing with Alexis, who had let down her long dark hair, and was now
playfully twining it around her white neck.
"Ah, you have not listened to me, your majesty," impatiently cried
Lestocq. "You must, however, for a few moments remember your dignity,
and direct what is to be done with the imprisoned traitors."
"Only see, Alexis, how this new lord privy counsellor teases me,"
sighed the princess, and, turning to Lestocq, she continued: "I think
you should understand the laws better than I, and should know how
traitors are punished."
"In all countries high-treason is punished with death," said Lestocq,
"Well, let these traitors fare according to the common usage, and kill
them," responded Elizabeth, comfortably extending herself upon the
"But your majesty has this day abolished the punishment of death."
"Have I so? Ah, yes, I now remember. Well, as I have said it, I must
keep my word."
"And the regent, Prince Ulrich, the so-called Emperor Ivan, Counts
Ostermann, Munnich, Lowenwald, as well as Julia von Mengden, and the
other prisoners, are all to remain unpunished?"
"Can they be punished in no other way than by death?" impatiently
asked Elizabeth. "Have we not prisons and the knout? Have we not
Siberia and the rack? Punish these traitors, then, as you think best.
I give you full powers, and, if it must be so, will even take the
trouble to affix my signature to your sentence."
"But we cannot scourge the regent or her son?"
"No," said Elizabeth, with vehemence, "these you must permit to go
free and without hindrance to Germany; your judicial powers will not
extend to them. It shall not be said that Elizabeth has delivered up
her aunt and cousin to torture for the purpose of securing her own
advantage. Let them go hence free and unobstructed! I tell you this is
my express, imperial will!"
And Elizabeth, exhausted by so great an effort, leaned her head upon
the shoulder of Alexis, mechanically playing with his locks.
"And Munnich and Ostermann?" asked Lestocq.
"/Mon Dieu!/ will, then, this annoyance never cease?" impatiently
exclaimed the empress. "What are Munnich and Ostermann to me? I know
them not; they have never injured and are wholly indifferent to me. Do
with them as you and your colleagues think best, I shall not trouble
myself about it. Judge, condemn, punish them, it is all one to me--
only their lives must be spared, as I have promised that no one shall
be punished with death."
"I may, then, announce to the council that you will confirm their
"Yes, yes, certainly," cried Elizabeth, springing up. "Scourge, banish
them, do what you please, but leave me in peace! Come, my Alexis, this
good Lestocq is insufferable to-day; he will annoy us to death if we
remain any longer here! Come, we will escape from him and his serious
face! Oh, we have much more serious subjects of conversation.
To-morrow is my grand gala dinner, and we have my toilet to examine,
to be certain that every thing is in the proper order. And then the
ball toilet for the evening, which is far more important. I shall open
the ball with a /Polonnaise/. You promised me, Alexis, to practice
with me the new tour which the Marquis de la Chetardie describes as
the latest Parisian mode. Come, let us essay this tour. For a new
empress, at her first court ball, there is nothing more important than
that she should perform her duty as leader of the dance with propriety
and grace. Quick, therefore, to the work! Give me your hand--and now,
Alexis, let us commence. Sing a melody to it, and then it will go
Alexis began to sing a /Polonnaise/, and, taking the hand of the
empress, they commenced the practice of the new /Polonnaise/ tour.
"So, that is right," said he, interrupting his singing, "that is very
fine. Now let go my hand and turn proudly and majestically around.
Beautifully done! Now a half turn sideward. One, two, three--la, la,
la, tra la!"
"Yet one more question," interposed Lestocq; "may the council of state
sit in judgment upon Lowenwald and de Mengden, and will you confirm
"One, two, three--tra, la, la!" sang Alexis, and the empress whirled
and made her graceful turn, as he had taught her.
Lestocq repeated his question to the empress.
Elizabeth was precisely in the most difficult tour.
"Yes, yes," she breathlessly cried, "I deliver them all over to you;
scourge them, punish them, send them to Siberia--whatever you think
best! Halt, Alexis, we must try this tour over again. But, indeed, I
think I shall acquit myself very well in it."
"Heavenly!" cried Alexis. "Once more, then! One, two, three--la, la,
la, tra la!"
"Punish them all, all!" had Elizabeth said, "but the regent, her
husband, and her son--them you will permit to return to Germany!"
"We must accomplish the will of the empress, and therefore let them
"We will obey her commands," said Lestocq to Alexis Razumovsky. "We
must let them go free, but it would be dangerous to let them ever
reach Germany. With their persons they would preserve their rights and
their claims, and Elizabeth would always stand in fear of this regent
and this young growing emperor, whose claims to the imperial Russian
crown are incontestable. You alone, Razumovsky, can turn away this
danger from the head of the empress, by convincing her of its reality,
and inducing her to change her mind. Reflect that the safety of the
empress is our own; reflect that, as we have risen with her, so shall
we fall with her!"
"Rely upon me," said Alexis, with a confident smile; "this regent and
her young Emperor Ivan shall never pass the Russian boundary! Let them
now go, but send a strong guard with them, and travel by slow marches,
that our couriers may be able to overtake them at a later period. That
is all you have to do in the case."
And, humming a sentimental song, Alexis repaired to the apartments of
Before the back door of the palace Elizabeth had occupied as princess,
a travelling-sledge was waiting. Gayly sounded and clattered the bells
on the six small horses attached to the sledge; gayly did the
postilions blow their horns, and with enticing calls resounded the
thundering /fanfares/ through the cold winter air.
To those for whom this sledge was destined, this call sounded like a
greeting from heaven. It was to them the dove with the olive-branch,
announcing to them the end of their torments; it was the messenger of
peace, which gave them back their freedom, their lives, and perhaps
even happiness. They were to return to Germany, their long-missed
home; hastening through the Russian snow-fields, they would soon reach
a softer climate, where they would be surrounded by milder manners and
customs. What was it to Anna that she was to be deprived of earthly
elevation and power--what cared she that she henceforth would no more
have the pleasure of commanding others? She was free, free from the
task of ruling slaves and humanizing barbarians; free from the
constraint of greatness, and, finally free to live in conformity with
her own inclinations, and perhaps, ah, perhaps, to found a happiness,
the bare dreaming of which already caused her heart to tremble with
Again and again the /fanfares/ resounded without. Anna, weeping, tore
herself from the arms of Julia. She had in vain implored the favor of
taking Julia von Mengden with her. Elizabeth had refused it, and, in
this refusal, she had pronounced the sentence of the favorite--this
was understood by both Julia and Anna.
They held each other in a last embrace. Anna wept hot tears, but Julia
remained calm, and even smiled.
"They may send me to Siberia, if they please, my heart will remain
warm under the coldness of the Siberian climate, and this great
happiness of knowing that you and yours are saved they cannot rend
from me; that will be for me a talisman against all misfortunes!"
"But I," sadly responded Anna--"shall I not always be tortured by the
reflection that it is I who have been the cause of your misfortunes?
Are you not condemned because you loved and were true to me? Ah, does
love, then, deserve so hard a punishment?"
"The punishment passes, but love remains," calmly responded Julia.
"That will always be my consolation."
"And mine also," sighed Anna.
"You will not need it," said Julia, with a smile. "You, at least, will
Anna sighed again, and her cheek paled. A dark and terrible image
arose in her soul, and she shudderingly whispered:
"Ah, would that we were once beyond the Russian boundary, for then,
first, shall we be free."
"Then let us hasten our journey," said Prince Ulrich; "once in the
sledge, and every minute brings us nearer to freedom and happiness.
Only hear how the horns are calling us, Anna--they call us to Germany!
Come, take your son, wrap him close in your furred mantle, and let us
hasten away--away from here!" The prince laid little Ivan in the arms
of his wife, and drew her away with him.
"Farewell, farewell, my Julia!" cried Anna, as she took he seat in the
"Farewell!" was echoed as a low spirit-breath from the palace.
Shuddering, Anna pressed her child to her bosom, and cast an anxiously
interrogating glance at her husband, who was sitting by her.
"Be calm, tranquillize yourself--it will all be well," said the
latter, with a smile.
The postilion blew his horn--the horses started; gayly resounded the
tones of the silver bells; with a light whizzing, away flew the sledge
over the snow. It bore thence a dethroned emperor and his overthrown
Rapidly did this richly-laden sledge pass through the streets, but,
following it, was a troop of armed, grim-looking soldiers, like
unwholesome ravens following their certain booty.
At about the same hour, another armed troop passed through the streets
of St. Petersburg. With drawn swords they surrounded two closely-
covered sledges, the mysterious occupants of which no one was allowed
to descry! The train made a halt at the same gate through which the
overthrown imperial family had just passed. The soldiers surrounded
the sledges in close ranks; no one was allowed a glimpse at those who
alighted from them.
But these extra precautions of the soldiery were unnecessary, as
nobody wished to see the unfortunate objects. Every one timidly
glanced aside, that they might not, by looking at the poor creatures,
bring themselves into suspicion of favoring men suffering under the
displeasure of the government. But though they looked not at them,
every one knew who they were; though they dared not speak to each
other, every one tremblingly said to himself: "There go Munnich and
Ostermann to their trials!"
Munnich and Ostermann, the faithful servants of Peter the Great--
Munnich, whom Prince Eugene called "his beloved pupil;" Ostermann, of
whom the dying Czar Peter said he had never caught him in a fault;
that he was the only honest statesman in Russia--Munnich and
Ostermann, those two great statesmen to whom Russia was chiefly
indebted for what civilization and cultivation she had acquired, were
now accused of high-treason, and sent for trial before a commission
commanded to find them guilty and to punish them. They were to be put
out of the way because they were feared, and to be feared was held as
a crime deserving death!
Firm and outrageous stood they before their judges. In this hour old
Ostermann had shaken off his illness and thrown away the shield of his
physical sufferings! He would not intrench himself behind his age and
his sickness; he would be a man, and boldly offer his unprotected
breast to the murderous weapons of his enemies!
For, that he was lost he knew! A single glance at his judges made him
certain of it, and from this moment his features wore a calm and
contemptuous smile, an unchangeable expression of scorn. With an
ironic curiosity he followed his judges through the labyrinth of
artfully contrived captious questions by which they hoped to entangle
him; occasionally he gave himself, as it were for his own amusement,
the appearance of voluntarily being caught in their nets, until he
finally by a side spring tore their whole web to pieces and laughingly
derided his judges for not being able to convict him!
He was accused of having, by his cabals alone, after the death of
Catharine, effected the elevation to the throne of Anna, Duchess of
Courland. And yet they very well knew that precisely at that time
Ostermann had for weeks pretended to be suffering from illness, for
the very purpose of avoiding any intermingling with state affairs.
They accused him of having suppressed the testament of Catharine, and
yet that testament had been published in all the official journals of
Ostermann laughed loud at all of these childish accusations.
"Ah," said he, "should I be sitting in your places, and you all,
though innocent, should be standing accused before me, my word for it,
I would so involve you in questions and answers that you would be
compelled to confess your guilt! But you do not understand
questioning, and old Ostermann is a sly fox that does not allow
himself to be easily caught! The best way will be for you to declare
me guilty, though I am no criminal; for as your empress has commanded
that I should be found guilty, it would certainly be in me a crime
worthy of death not to be guilty."
"You dare to deride our empress!" cried one of the judges.
"Aha!" said Ostermann, laughing, "I have there thrown you a bait, and
you, good judicial fishes, bite directly! That is very well, you are
now in a good way! Only go on, and I will help you to find me guilty,
if it be only of simple high-treason. It will then be left to the
mercy of your empress to declare me convicted of threefold high-
treason! Go on, go on!"
But Munnich showed himself less unruffled and sarcastic in the face of
his judges. These never-ending questions, this ceaseless teasing about
trifles, exhausted his patience at last. He wearied of continually
turning aside these laughably trivial accusations, of convincing his
judges of his innocence, and making them ashamed of the nature of the
"Let it suffice," said he, at length to his judges; "after hours of
vain labor, you see that in this way you will never attain your end. I
will propose to you a better and safer course. Write down your
questions, and append to each the answer you desire me to give; I will
then sign the whole protocol and declare it correct."
"Are you in earnest?" joyfully asked the judges.
"Quite in earnest!" proudly answered Munnich.
They were shameless enough to accept his offer; they troubled him with
no more questions, but wrote in the protocol such answers as would
best suit the purpose of his judges. In these answers Munnich declared
himself guilty of all the crimes laid to his charge, acknowledged
himself to be a traitor, and deserving death.
When they had finished their artistic labor, they handed to Munnich
the pen for his signature.
He calmly took the pen, and, while affixing his signature, said with a
contemptuous smile: "Was I not right? In this way it is rendered much
easier for you to make of me a very respectable criminal, and I have
only the trouble of writing my name! I thank you, gentlemen, for this
Quick and decisive as were the hearings, now followed the sentences.
Ostermann was condemned to be broken on the wheel, Munnich to be
quartered, and the two ministers, Lowenwald and Golopkin, to the axe!
But Elizabeth had promised her people that no one should be punished
with death; she must abide by that promise, and she did. She commuted
the punishment of the condemned, as also of Julia von Mengden, into
banishment to Siberia for life. What a grace! and even this grace was
first communicated to Ostermann after his old limbs had been bound to
the wheel and his executioners were on the point of crushing him!
But even in this extreme moment Count Ostermann's calm heroism did not
"I was convinced that such would be the result!" he calmly said,
quietly stretching his released limbs; "this Empress Elizabeth has not
the courage to break her oath by chopping off a few heads! It is a
pity. On the wheel it might have become a little warm for me, but in
Siberia it will be fearfully cold."
From the windows of her palace Elizabeth had witnessed the
preparations for this pretended execution; and as she knew that at
last their punishment would be commuted, she was amused to see the
solemn earnestness and the death-shudder of the condemned. It was a
very entertaining hour that she and her friends passed at that window,
and the comical face of old Ostermann, the proud gravity of Count
Munnich, the folded hands and heaven-directed glances of Golopkin and
Lowenwald, had often made her laugh until the tears ran down her
"That was a magnificent comedy!" said she, retreating from the window
when the condemned were released from their bands and raised into the
vehicles that were immediately to start with them for Siberia. "Yes,
it was, indeed, very amusing! But tell me, Lestocq, where are they
about to take old Count Ostermann?"
"To the most northerly part of Siberia!" calmly replied Lestocq.
"Poor old man!" signed Elizabeth; "it must be very sad for him thus to
pass his last years in suffering and deprivation."
Lestocq seemed not to have heard her remark, and laughingly continued:
"To Munnich I have thought to apply a jest of his own."
"Ah, a jest!" cried Elizabeth, suddenly brightening up. "Let me hear
it. You know I love a jest, it is so amusing! Quick, therefore, let us
"Perhaps your majesty may remember Biron, Duke of Courland," said
Lestocq. "Count Munnich, as you know, overthrew him, and placed Anna
Leopoldowna in the regency. Biron has ever since lived at Pelym in
Siberia, and, indeed, in a house of which Munnich himself drew the
plan, the rooms of which are so low that poor Biron, who is as tall as
Munnich, could never stand erect in them. The good Munnich, he was
very devoted to the duke, and hence in pure friendship invented this
means of reminding him, every hour in the day, of the architect of his
house, his friend Munnich!"
"Ah, you promised us a jest, and you are there repeating an old and
well-known story!" interposed the empress, yawning.
"Now comes the joke!" continued Lestocq. "We have transferred Biron to
another colony, and Herr Munnich will occupy the poetical pleasure-
house of his friend Biron at Pelym."
"Ah, that is delightful, in fact!" cried Elizabeth, clapping her
little hands. "How will Munnich curse himself for cruelty which now
comes home to himself! That is very witty in you, Herr Lestocq; very
laughable, is it not, Alexis? But, Alexis, you do not laugh at all;
you look sad. What is the matter with you? Who has disobliged, who has
Alexis sighed. "You yourself!" he said, in a low tone.
"I?" exclaimed the astonished empress. "I could not be so inhuman!"
"No, only to wound me by refusing the first request I addressed to
"Name your request once more, I have forgotten it!" said Elizabeth
Alexis Razumovsky fell upon his knees before her, and, imploringly
raising his hands, said:
"Elizabeth, my empress, have compassion for my care and anxiety on
your account; leave me not to tremble for your safety! Grant me the
happiness of seeing you unthreatened and free from danger in your
greatness and splendor! Oh, Elizabeth, listen to the prayer of your
faithful servant--let not this Anna Leopoldowna pass the boundary of
your realm--let not your most deadly enemy escape!"
"Oh, grant his prayer," cried Lestocq, kneeling beside Alexis; "there
is wisdom in his words; listen to him rather than to the too great
generosity of your own heart! Let not your enemies escape, but seize
them while they are yet in your power!"
"Elizabeth, greatest and fairest woman on earth," implored Alexis,
"have compassion for my anxiety; I shall never laugh again, never be
cheerful, if you allow these your most dangerous enemies to withdraw
themselves from your power!"
Elizabeth bent down to him with a smile of tenderness, and laid her
left hand upon his locks, while with her right she gently raised his
head to herself.
"Love you me, then, so very much, my Alexis," she asked, "that you
suffer with anxiety for my safety? Ah, that makes me happy--that fills
my whole heart with joy! Only look at him, Lestocq; see how beautiful
he is, and then say whether one can refuse the prayer of those
heavenly eyes, those pleading lips?"
"You will, then, grant my prayer?" exultingly asked Alexis.
"Well, yes," tenderly responded she, "since there is no other means of
rendering you again cheerful and happy, I must, indeed, consent to the
fulfilment of your wishes, and not let my enemies quit the country if
it be yet possible to retain them."
"They have proceeded by slow marches, and can hardly now have arrived
in Riga, where they are to rest several days," said Lestocq. "There
will consequently be time for a courier yet to reach them with your
"And he must be dispatched immediately!" said Alexis, pressing the
hand of the empress to his lips. "In this hour will my kind and
gracious empress sign the command for the arrest of Anna Leopoldowna,
her husband, and her son!"
"Already another signature!" sighed Elizabeth. "How you annoy me with
this eternal signing and countersigning! Will it, then, never have an
end? I already begin to hate my name, because of being compelled so
often to write it under your musty old documents. Why did the emperor,
my dear deceased father, give me so long a name!--a shorter one would
now relieve me of half my labor!"
But in spite of her lamentings, Elizabeth nevertheless, a quarter of
an hour later, subscribed the order to arrest the regent, her husband,
and son, and shut them up, preliminarily, in the citadel of Riga.
"So now I hope you will again be happy and cheerful," said she,
throwing away the pen, and with a tender glance at Razumovsky. "Come,
look at me--I have done all you wished; let us now be gay and take our
And while Elizabeth was jesting and laughing with Alexis, Lestocq,
taking the newly-signed order, hurried away to dispatch his courier.
At length they had reached the borders of this feared, pernicious
Russian empire. They now needed no longer to tremble, no longer to
fear at the slightest sound. Only a short quarter of an hour and the
boundary will be passed and liberty secured!
They had made a halt at a small public house near the boundary. The
horses were to be changed there, and there the soldiers of the escort
were to get their last taste of Russian brandy before crossing the
Anna and her husband have remained in the sledge. She holds her son in
her arms, she presses him to her bosom, full of exulting maternal joy:
for he is now saved, this poor little emperor; Anna has now no longer
to fear that her son will be torn from her--he is saved--he belongs to
her; she can rejoice in his childish beauty, in the happy
consciousness of safety.
She has thrown back the curtains of the sledge. She felt no cold. With
joy-beaming eyes she looked forward to that blessed land beyond the
boundary! There, where upon its tall staff the Russian flag floated
high in the air, there freedom and happiness were to begin for her--
there will she find again her youth and her maiden dreams, her
cheerfulness and her pleasure--there is freedom--golden, heavenly
She is so happy at this moment that she loves all and every one. For
the first time she feels a sort of tenderness for her husband, who
patiently bearing all in silence, had complained and wept only for
her. Gently she reclined her head upon his shoulder, and with a cry of
ecstasy the prince encircled her neck with his arms.
"Oh, my husband," she whispered, with overflowing eyes, "look there,
over there! There is our future, there will we seek for happiness.
Perhaps we may unitedly find it in the same path, for we have here a
sweet bond to hold our hands together. Look at him, your son. Ulrich,
you are the father of my child! Grant my heart only a little repose,
and perhaps we may yet be happy with each other."
Prince Ulrich's eyes were suffused with tears; he experienced a moment
of the purest happiness. He impressed a kiss upon the brow of his
wife, and in a low tone called her by the tenderest names.
The child awoke and smilingly looked up from Anna's bosom to both of
his parents. Anna lifted up the little Ivan.
"Look there, my son," said she--"there you will no longer be an
emperor, but you will have the right to be a free and happy man. No
crown awaits you there, but freedom, worth more than all the crowns in
Little Ivan exultingly stretched forth his tiny arms, as if he would
draw down to his childish heart this future and this freedom so highly
lauded by his mother.
And, like the child, the parents looked smilingly out upon the broad
expanse that stretched away before them.
Look only forward, constantly forward, where the skies are clear, and
dream of happiness! Look forward--no, turn not backward your glance,
for the horizon darkens in your rear; misfortune is closely following
upon your track! You see it not, you only look forward and still you
It draws nearer and nearer, this black cloud of evil. It is the
ravens, the booty-scenting ravens who are following you!
Look forward, dream yourselves happy, and smile yet. What would it
help you to look back! You cannot escape the calamity.
Nearer and nearer, with a wild cry, rush these ravens of misfortune;
the air already bears detached sounds to Anna's ears.
She trembles. It is as if her boding soul scented the approaching
evil. Pressing her child closer to her bosom, she gives her husband
The horses are attached to the sledge, and the soldiers leave the
public house. All is ready for the train to go on over the boundary.
The postilions draw the rein! Now a wild cry of "Halt! halt!"
The soldiers bear up, the postilions halt!
"Forward! forward!" shrieks Prince Ulrich, in mortal anguish.
"Halt! in the name of the empress!" cried an officer who came rushing
past upon a foaming steed, and he handed to the commander of the
escort an open writing, furnished with the imperial seal.
The commander turned to the postilions.
"To the right about, toward Riga!" ordered he, and then, turning to
the trembling princely pair, he said: "In the name of the empress, you
are my prisoners! I am directed to conduct you to the citadel of
With a loud groan, Anna sinks into the arms of her husband. He
consoles her with the most soothing and affectionate words; he has
thought, sorrow, only for her--he feels not for himself, but only for
For a moment Anna was overpowered by this unexpected horror; then she
calmly rose erect, and pressed her son more closely to her bosom.
"We are all lost," whispered she, "prisoners forever! Poor child--
poor, unhappy husband!"
"Despair not," said Prince Ulrich, "all may yet turn out well! Who
knows how soon aid may reach us!"
Anna lightly shook her head, and thinking of the last words of her
friend, she murmured low: "Punishment passes, but love remains!"
THE PALACE OF THE EMPRESS
The new empress, Elizabeth, had rewarded and punished, and with that
thought she had finished her imperial labors and forever dismissed all
"I have shaken off my imperial burdens," said she to her friends; "let
us now begin to enjoy the imperial pleasures. Ah! we shall lead a
pleasant life in this splendid palace. My first law is this: No one
shall speak to me of government business or state affairs. I will have
nothing to do with such things, do you hear! For what purpose do I
have my ministers and my council? Go you with such wearisome questions
to my grand chancellor, Tscherkaskoy, and my minister, Bestuscheff;
they shall govern for me. I can demand that of them, as I pay them for
it. If you seek an office, if you have invented any thing for
promoting the welfare of the country, if you have found any official
abuse, or discovered any conspiracy, then go to Bestuscheff or to
Woronzow, or also to Lestocq--spare me! But when you have a grace to
demand, when you need money, when you desire a title or orders, then
come to me, and I will satisfy your wishes. We have much money, many
ribbons for orders, and as for titles, they are the cheapest and most
convenient of all, as they cost absolutely nothing. Ah, a jest just
now occurs to me. We will amuse ourselves a little to-day. We will
have a title-auction. Call our courtiers, attendants, and servants. We
shall have a gay time of it! We will have a game at dice. Bring the
dice! I will at each throw announce the prize, and the dice shall then
decide who is the winner!"
They all gathered around her; the noble gentlemen of her body-guard,
consisting of the grenadiers who had been raised to nobility and
created officers at the commencement of her reign. They came noisily,
with singing and laughing, and saluting their empress, Elizabeth, with
a thundering /viva/.
"First of all, let us drink your health, sir captain!" said she,
ordering wine to be brought, as well as brandy of the costly sort she
had lately received as a present from the greatest distiller of her
capital, to which she herself was very partial.
Loudly clinked their glasses, loudly was shouted a /viva/ to the
empress, which Elizabeth laughingly accepted by offering them her
hands to kiss, and was delighted when they fell into ecstasies over
the beauty and freshness of those hands.
"Now, silence, gentlemen of the body-guard!" she cried. "I, your
captain, command attention!"
And, when silence was established, she continued: "We will have a game
at dice, and titles and orders, gold and brandy, shall be the prizes
for which you shall contend!"
"Ah, that is magnificent, that is a glorious game!" exclaimed they
"The first prize," said Elizabeth, "is the position of privy
councillor! Now take the dice, gentlemen!"
They began to throw the dice, with laughter and shouting when they had
thrown a high number--with lamentations and stamping of the feet when
it was a low one.
In the meanwhile Elizabeth listlessly stretched herself upon a divan,
and laughingly said to Alexis, who sat by her side: "Oh, it is very
pleasant to be an empress. Only see how happy they all are, and it is
I alone who make them so; for out of these common soldiers I have
created respectable officers, and have converted serfs into barons and
gentlemen! I thank you, Alexis, for impelling me to become an empress.
It is a noble pleasure, and I should now be unwilling to return to
that still and uneventful life that formerly pleased me so well! I
will so manage that the Empress Elizabeth shall be as little troubled
with labor and business as the princess, and the empress can
doubtlessly procure for herself more pleasures than could the
princess! Yes, certainly, I will now remain what I am, am empress by
the grace of God!"
A thundering shout and loud laughter here interrupted Elizabeth. The
dice had decided! The cook of the empress had won, and become a
councillor of state.
Elizabeth laughed. "These dice are very witty," said she, "for
certainly the cook must be a privy councillor! I establish you in your
dignity, Feodor, your title is recognized! Now for a new trial. Two
thousand rubles is the prize, which I think of more value than a
There was a zealous pressing and shoving, a pushing and puffing; every
one desired to be the first to get hold of the dice and struggle for
the rich prize. There were many ungentle encounters, many a thrust in
the ribs, many invectives, many a gross, unseemly word; the empress
saw all, heard all, laughed at all, and said to Alexis: "These
gentlemen are very practical! Two thousand rubles are estimated by
them at a higher rate than the proudest title! I comprehend that a
title is a nonsensical thing, of which no real use can be made, but
what beautiful dresses can be bought with two thousand rubles! And
that reminds me that you have not yet told me how you like this dress
of mine! You take so little notice of my toilet, dearest, and yet it
is only for you that I change my dress seven or eight times a day; I
would, every hour, please you better and better."
"Oh, no dressing is necessary for that," tenderly responded Alexis;
and stooping, he whispered some words in her ear which pleased her
well, and made her laugh heartily.
Meanwhile the dicing continued. Blind luck scattered her gifts in the
strangest manner; under-officers of the palace attained to high
titles, and high officers with laughing faces won pipes of brandy;
barons of the body-guard made of men who but a few days before had
been serfs, were seen approaching the mirrors with vain coxcombry to
see the effect of orders just won by a cast of the dice, or with
greedy avidity pocketing the rubles which fortune had thrown to them!
It was a jovial and brilliant evening, and, in dismissing her friends,
Elizabeth promised them many repetitions of it.
And she kept her word. Frenzied merry-makings, pleasures and festivals
of the roughest sorts were now the principal occupation of the new
empress. The amusement of her court, the providing it with new
festivals and pleasures, she considered as the first and most
important of her imperial duties; and these alone she endeavored to
But who composed her court, and of what elements did it consist?
Elizabeth found the presence of her serious official councillors very
tiresome, as they knew not how to make themselves agreeable; she found
the surrounding of herself with the respectable ladies of her court to
be very incommodious, as there might some day be found among them one
with a handsomer or more tasteful toilet than herself, or, indeed, one
who might dare to be of a finer type of beauty than she! She therefore
gladly avoided inviting the distinguished men of her court with their
wives, or the higher class of state officials. It was far more
convenient, far more agreeable, to surround herself with frivolous and
handsome young men. They knew how to laugh and be cheerful, and she
was thus sure that no other lady would be there to dispute with her
the palm of beauty.
Elizabeth was not proud. She cared not whether noble blood flowed in
the veins of those who were invited to her festivals. The youth,
beauty, and agreeable qualities which the empress found in any person,
alone decided the question of their admittance to the court.
Peasants, grooms, soldiers, servants, abandoned reprobates, who by
their beauty had won the favor of the empress, were seen to attain to
the highest stations.
On them were lavished the treasures of the state; they were adorned
with orders and titles, and the magnates bowed to the ground before
these potent favorites of the all-powerful empress, and the people
shouted with transport when their beloved czarina, with her
magnificent train of newly-created noblemen, made her appearance in
the streets, and with gracious smiles returned the humble salutations
of her kneeling slaves. That was the ruler in perfect accordance with
Russian ideas; they sympathized with her inclinations and pleasures--
she was blood of their blood and flesh of their flesh! The strangers
were at length banished, and a real Russian sat upon the throne of the
And yet Elizabeth trembled upon her imperial throne, surrounded by the
band of magnates and nobles of whom she could truly say, "I am their
creator--they are my work!" She trembled before those secret daggers,
those lingering poisons, which always surround the imperial Russian
throne as its truest satellites, and lay low many a high-born head;
she trembled before Anna Leopoldowna, who was sighing away her days in
the closed citadel of Riga, and before Anna's son, the infant Ivan,
whom the Empress Anna in her testament had named as Emperor of all the
Russias! She, indeed, would not work and trouble herself for her
country and her people, this good empress by the grace of God, but yet
she would be empress, that she might be enabled to enjoy life, and no
cloud must obscure the heaven of her earthly glory!
She therefore tore herself for some short hours from the pleasures in
which she was usually immersed, from the arms of her lover, the object
of her deepest interest; her own safety and her own peace were
concerned. That was well worth the effort to take the pen once more in
hand, and affix the troublesomely long name of Elizabeth to some few
She consequently signed the command to bring back Anna Leopoldowna and
her husband from the citadel of Riga to the interior of Russia, and
place them in strict confinement in Raninburg.
She also signed another order, and that was to rend the young Ivan
from the arms of his mother, to take him to the castle of
Schlusselburg, and there to hold him in strict imprisonment, to grow
up without teachers, or any kind of instruction, and without the least
occupation or amusement.
"I well know," said she, with a sigh, as she signed the document--"I
well know that it would be better for this Ivan to be executed for
high-treason than to remain in this condition, but I lack the courage
for it. It is so horrible to kill a poor, innocent child!"
"And in this way we attain our end more safely," said Lestocq, with a
smile. "Your majesty has sworn to take the life of no one; very well,
you keep your word as to physical life--we do not destroy the body but
the spirit of this boy Ivan! We raise him as an idiot, which is the
surest means of rendering him innoxious!"
Elizabeth had signed the order, and her command was executed. They
took from Anna Leopoldowna her last joy, her only consolation--they
took away her son, whose smiling face had lighted her prison as with
sunbeams, whose childishly stammered words had sounded to her as the
voice of an angel from heaven.
They took the poor weeping child to Schlusselburg, and his crushed and
heart-broken parents first to Raninburg, and finally to the fortress
Kolmogory, situated upon an island in the Dwina, near to that gulf
which, on account of its never-melting ice, has obtained the name of
the /White Sea/.
No one could rescue poor Anna Leopoldowna from that fortress--no one
could release her son, the poor little Emperor Ivan, from
Schlusselburg! They were rendered perfectly inoffensive; Elizabeth had
not killed them, she had only buried them alive, this good Russian
And, nevertheless, she still trembled upon her throne, she still felt
unsafe in her imperial magnificence! She yet trembled on account of
another pretender, the Duke Karl Peter Ulrich of Holstein, who, as the
son of an elder daughter of Peter the Great, had a more direct claim
to the throne than Elizabeth herself.
That no party might declare for him and invite him to Russia, her
ministers advised the empress herself to send for him, and declare him
her successor. Elizabeth followed this advice, and the young Duke
Peter Ulrich of Holstein accepted her call. Declining the crown of
Sweden, he professed the Greek religion in St. Petersburg, was clothed
with the title of grand prince by Elizabeth, and declared her
successor to the throne of the czars.
Elizabeth could now undisturbedly enjoy her imperial splendor. The
successor to the throne was assured, Anna Leopoldowna languished in
the fortress of Kolmogory, and in Schlusselburg the little Emperor
Ivan was passing his childish dream-life! Who was there now to contest
her rights--who would dare an attempt to shake a throne which rested
upon such safe pillars of public favor, and which so many new-made
counts and barons protected with their broad shoulders and nervous
Elizabeth had no more need to govern, no more occasion to tremble. She
let sink the hand which, with a single stroke of the pen, could give
laws to millions of men, which could give them interminable sorrow and
endless torments; she again took the heavy imperial crown from her
head, replacing it with wreaths of myrtles and ever-fragrant roses.
She permitted Tscherkaskoy to govern, and Bestuscheff to sell to
England the dearest interests of Russia. She permitted her ministers
to govern with unrestricted power, and was rejoiced when no one came
to trouble her about affairs of state or the interests of her people.
Two years had elapsed since Elizabeth's accession to the throne; for
her, two years of pleasure and enjoyment, only troubled here and there
with occasional small clouds of ill-humor--but those clouds
overshadowed only her domestic peace. It was not the affairs of state,
not the interests of her people, that troubled and saddened Elizabeth;
she asked not how many of her subjects the war with Sweden had swept
away; how many had fallen a sacrifice to hunger in the southern
provinces of her realm. She had quite other cares and anxieties than
those which concerned only her ministers, not herself. What have
princes to do with the happiness of their people.
Elizabeth was a consummate princess; she thought only of her own
happiness, only of herself and her own sorrows. And it was a very
severe, very incurable sorrow that visited her--a sorrow that often
brought tears of anger into her eyes and curses upon her lips.
Elizabeth was jealous--jealous not of this or that woman, but of the
whole sex. She glowingly desired to be the fairest of all women, and
constantly trembled lest some one should come to rob her of the prize
of beauty. And were there not, in her own court, women who might
venture to enter the lists with her? Was there not, before all, one
woman whose aspect filled the heart of the empress with a thirst for
vengeance, of whom she was compelled to say that she was younger,
handsomer, and more attractive than herself--and this one, was it not
For two long years had Elizabeth borne about with her this hatred and
jealousy; for two long years had she in vain sought to discover some
punishable fault in her rival; for two long years had she in vain
reminded Lestocq of his promise to find Eleonore Lapuschkin guilty of
some crime. She had come out pure from all these persecuting pursuits,
and even the eyes of the most zealous spy could find no blot upon her
escutcheon. Like a royal lily she proudly bloomed with undisputed
splendor in the midst of this court, whose petty cabals and intrigues
could not soil her fair fame. Her presence spread around her a sort of
magic. The most audacious courtier, the most presumptuous cavalier,
approached her with only reverence; they ventured not in her presence
to use such words and jests as but too well pleased the empress; there
was something in Eleonore's glance that commanded involuntary respect
and awe; an elevation, a mildness, a soft feminine majesty was shed
over her whole being that enchanted even those who were inimical to
her. Elizabeth had perceived that, with her eyes sharpened by
jealousy; her envy was yet more mighty than her vanity, and her envy
told her Eleonore Lapuschkin is handsomer than the Empress Elizabeth;
wherever Eleonore appears, there all hearts fly to meet her, all
glances incline to her; every one feels a sort of ecstasy of adoration
whom she greets with a word or a smile, for that word or that smile
sanctifies him as it were, and enrolls him among the noblest and best.
And even Alexis had been unable to withstand this magic! Oh, Elizabeth
narrowly watched him; she had analyzed his every word and every
glance; she had seen how he always pressed near her, how he blushed
with joy when she remarked his presence and returned his salutation!
Yea, she, and perhaps only she, had seen Alexis covertly possess
himself of the glove which Eleonore had lost the previous evening at
the grand court ball, had seen him press that glove to his lips and
afterward conceal it in his bosom.
As Elizabeth thought of these things her eyes filled with tears, and
her whole form shook with rage. She felt unable to be angry with or to
punish him, but she was resolved that Eleonore Lapuschkin should feel
the whole weight of her vengeance.
"Oh," said she, while pacing her boudoir in a state of violent
excitement, "I shall know how to punish this presumptuous woman! Ha,
does she not give herself the appearance of not remarking that I
constantly have for her a clouded brow and an unfriendly greeting?
How! will she not take the pains to see that her empress looks upon
her with disfavor? But she shall see and feel that I hate, that I
abhor her. Oh, what a powerless creature is yet an empress! I hate
this woman, and she has the impudence to think I cannot punish her
unless she is guilty."
And weeping aloud, Elizabeth threw herself upon the divan. A low knock
at the door recalled her attention from her angry grief. Rising, she
bade the person at the door to enter.
It was Lestocq, the privy councillor and president--Lestocq, the
confidant of the empress, who came with a joyful face and cheerful
Elizabeth felt annoyed by this cheerfulness of her physician. With an
angry frown she turned her back upon him.
"Why were you not at the court ball last evening?" she then roughly
"I was there," answered Lestocq.
"Ah, that is not true," cried the empress with vehemence, glad at
least to have some one on whom she could discharge her anger. "It is
false, I say; no one saw you there! Ah, you dare, then, to impose a
falsehood upon your empress? You would--"
"I was at the court ball," interposed Lestocq; "I saw and noted all
that occurred there. I saw that my empress beamed in all the splendor
of beauty, and yet with her amiable modesty she thought Eleonore
Lapuschkin handsomer than herself. I read in Elizabeth's noble brow
that she was pained by this, and that she promised to punish the
presumption of the insolent countess."
"And to what end have you read all that," responded Elizabeth, with
vehemence, "to what end, since you are so sluggish a servant that you
make no effort to fulfil any wish of your mistress? To what end, since
you are so disregardful of your word as not to hold even your oath
"I was at the ball precisely because I remembered my oath," said
Lestocq, "because I was intent upon redeeming my word and delivering
over to you this Countess Lapuschkin as a criminal! But you could not
recognize me, as I was in the disguise of a lackey of the Countess
Elizabeth springing up from her seat, stared with breathless curiosity
into Lestocq's face.
"Well?" she anxiously asked, as Lestocq remained silent. "Speak on;
then what further?"
"Illustrious empress," said Lestocq, "I am now here to redeem my word.
This Countess Eleonore Lapuschkin is a criminal!"
"Ah, thank God!" cried Elizabeth, breathing more freely.
"By various intrigues and stratagems, by bribery of her servants, I
have finally succeeded in spying out her secrets, and last evening,
when as her lackey I conducted her from the ball and afterward waited
at table at an entertainment given by her husband to some confidential
friends, last evening her whole plan was made clear to me. It is a
great and very important conspiracy that I have detected! This
Countess Eleonore Lapuschkin is guilty of high-treason; she conspires
against her legitimate empress!"
"Ah, she conspires!" exclaimed Elizabeth, with a fierce laugh. "For
whom, then, does she conspire?"
"For one whose name I dare not utter without the express permission of
"Speak, speak quickly!"
Lestocq bent down close to the ear of the empress. "She conspires for
the Schlusselburg prisoner Ivan!" said he.
"I shall therefore be able to punish her," said Elizabeth, smilingly.
"I shall no longer be obliged to suffer this hated woman within the
walls of my capital!"
"Siberia has room for her and her fellow-conspirators!" replied
Lestocq. "For this fair countess is not alone guilty, although she is
the soul of the conjuration, as it is love that animates her. Eleonore
Lapuschkin conspires for her lover!"
"Oh, this adored saint has, then, a lover!" exclaimed the empress.
"And I believed her spotless as a lily, so pure that I felt abashed in
"You have banished her lover to Siberia, the lover of Eleonore, Count
Lowenwald. You may believe that that has caused her a mortal grief."
"Ah," joyfully exclaimed Elizabeth, "I have, therefore, unknowingly
caused her tears to flow! But I will yet do it with a perfect
consciousness! Relate to me in detail exactly what you know of this
And Lestocq related that Eleonore Lapuschkin, in connection with her
husband, the chamberlain Lilienfeld, and Madame Bestuscheff, who was
the sister of the condemned Golopkin, had entered into a conspiracy
for the overthrow of Elizabeth and the placing of Ivan upon the
throne, and thus releasing the prisoners banished to Siberia.
"Oh, they were very gay at the yesterday's dinner of the
conspirators," said Lestocq. "The husband of Countess Lapuschkin even
ventured to drink the health of the Emperor Ivan, and to his speedy
"But that is high-treason!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "Ah, I had cause to
tremble and eternally to stand in fear of my murderers! I already see
them lurking around me, encircling me on all sides, to destroy me!
Lestocq, save me from my murderers!"
And with a cry of anguish the empress clung convulsively to the arm of
"The incautiousness of these conspirators has already saved you,
empress," said Lestocq. "They have delivered themselves into our hand,
they have made us masters of the situation. What would you more? You
will punish the traitors; that is all!"
"And I cannot kill them!" shrieked Elizabeth, with closed fists. "I
have tied my own hands in my unwise generosity! Ah, they call me an
empress, and yet I cannot destroy those I hate!"
"And who denies you that right?" asked Lestocq. "Destroy their bodies,
but kill them not! Wherefore have we the knout, if it cannot flay the
back of a beauty?"
"Yes, wherefore have we the knout?" exclaimed Elizabeth, with a joyous
laugh. "Ah, Lestocq, you are an exquisite man, you always give good
advice. Ah, this beautiful Countess Eleonore shall be made acquainted
with the knout!"
"You have a double right for it," said Lestocq, "for she has dared to
speak of your majesty in unseemly language!"
"Has she done that?" cried Elizabeth. "Ah, I almost love her for it,
as that gives me the right to chastise her. Lestocq, what punishment
is prescribed for a subject who dares revile his empress? You must
know it, you are familiar with the laws! Therefore tell me quickly,
"It is written," said Lestocq, after a moment's reflection, "that any
one who dares so misuse his tongue as to revile the sublime majesty of
his emperor or empress with irreverent language, such criminal shall
have the instrument of his crime, his tongue, torn out by the roots!"
"And this time I will exercise no mercy!" triumphantly exclaimed
She kept her word--she exercised no mercy! Count Lapuschkin, with his
fair wife, the wife of Bestuscheff, the Chamberlain Lilienfeld, and
some others, were accused of high-treason and brought before the
It was not difficult to convict the countess of the crime charged;
incautiously enough had she often expressed her attachment to the
cause of the imprisoned Emperor Ivan, and her contempt for the Empress
Elizabeth. And in what country is it not a crime to speak
disrespectfully of the prince, though he be a criminal and one of the
lowest of men?
She was therefore declared guilty; she was sentenced to be scourged
with the knout, to have her tongue torn out, and to be transported to
Elizabeth did not pardon her. She was a princess--how, then, could she
pardon one who had dared to revile her? Every crime is easier to
pardon than that of high-treason; for every other there may be
extenuating circumstances--for that, never; it is a capital crime
which a prince never pardons; how then, could Elizabeth have done so?
--Elizabeth, Empress by the grace of God, as all are princes and kings
by the grace of God!
The people were running to and fro in the wildest confusion in the
streets of St. Petersburg; they cried and shouted /vivas/ to their
empress who to-day accorded to them the splendid spectacle of the
knouting of some respectable ladies and gentlemen! Ah, that was a very
gracious and condescending empress to provide once more a delightful
spectacle for her serfs at the expense of the nobility! That was an
empress after their own hearts--real Russian blood!
Shrieking and shouting they rushed to the place of execution, pressing
against the barriers that separated the central point from the
spectators. There stood the bearded assistants of the executioner,
there lay the knouts and other instruments, and with eager glances the
people devoured all: they found all these preparations admirable, they
rejoiced with unrestrained delight in the prospect of seeing the
handsomest woman in the realm flayed with the knout. And not the
common people alone, the /noblesse/ must also be present; the great
magnates of the court must also come, if they would avoid exciting a
suspicion that they commiserated the condemned and revolted at their
punishment. They all came, these slavish magnates, perhaps with tears
in their hearts, but with smiles upon their lips; perhaps murmuring
secret curses, but aloud applauding the just sentence of the empress.
Now the closed carriages of the condemned were seen approaching in a
long, lingering train; the train halted, the doors were opened, and in
the centre of the place of execution appeared Eleonore Lapuschkin,
radiant with the brilliancy of the purest beauty, her noble form
enveloped in a full, draping robe, which lent to her loveliness an
additional charm. She looked around with an astonished and
interrogating glance, as if awaking from a confused dream. Young,
amiable, the first and most celebrated lady of the court, of which she
was the most brilliant ornament, she now sees herself, instead of the
admirers who humbly paid their court to her, surrounded by these rough
executioners, who regard her with bold and insolent glances, eagerly
stretching forth their hands for their prey. One of them, approaching
her, ventures to rend from her bosom the kerchief that covers it.
Eleonore, shuddering, shrinks back, her cheeks are pale as marble, a
stream of tears gushes from her eyes. In vain she implores, in vain
her lamentations, in vain her trembling innocence, in vain her efforts
to cover herself anew. Her clothes are torn off, and in a few moments
she stands there naked to the girdle, with all the upper portion of
her person exposed to the eager glances of the masses, who in silence
stare at this specimen of the purest feminine beauty.
The proud lily is broken, shattered; she bows her head, the storm has
crushed her. Incapable of resistance, she is seized by one of the
executioners, who, by a sudden movement, throws her upon her back.
Another then approaches and places her in the most convenient position
for receiving the punishment. Soon, with rough brutality, he lays his
broad hand upon her head, and places it so that it may not be hit by
the knout, and then, like a butcher who is about to throttle a lamb,
he caresses that snow-white back, as if taking pleasure in the
contemplation of the wonderful fairness of his victim.
Now is she in the right position; he steps back, and raising the
knout, brings it down upon Eleonore's back with such accuracy that it
takes off a strip of skin from her neck to her girdle. Then he swings
the knout anew, with the same accuracy and the same result. In a few
moments her skin hangs in shreds over her girdle, her whole form is
dripping with blood, and the shuddering spectators venture not a
single bravo for this dexterous executioner.
The work is finished! With a flayed back Eleonore is raised upon the
shoulders of the executioner. She has not screamed, she has not
moaned, she has remained dumb and without complaint, but she has
prayed to God for vengeance and expiation for the shame inflicted upon
And again advances the executioner, with a pair of pincers in his
hand. Eleonore looks at him through eyes flaming with anger.
"What would you?" she coldly asks.
"Tear out your tongue!" answers he, with a rude laugh. Two of the
executioner's assistants then seizing her, grasp her head.
This time Eleonore defends herself--despair lends her strength.
Freeing herself from the grasp of these barbarous executioners, she
falls upon her knees, and, raising her bloody arms toward heaven,
implores the mercy of God: glancing at the spectators, she implores
their pity and their aid; turning her eyes toward the proud imperial
palace, where Elizabeth sits enthroned, she begs there for grace and
But as all remained silent, and as neither God nor man, nor yet the
empress, had mercy upon her, a wild rage took possession of Eleonore's
Raising her eyes toward heaven with flaming glances, she exclaimed:
"Woe to this merciless Elizabeth! Woe to this woman who has no
compassion for another woman! What she now does to me, do Thou also to
her, my God and Lord! Grant that she be flayed as she has now flayed
me! Grant her a daughter, and let that daughter before her mother's
eyes suffer what I now suffer, O my God! Woe to Elizabeth, and woe to
you, ye cowardly slaves, who can look on and see a woman flayed and
tortured! Shame and perdition to Russia and its Empress Elizabeth!"
These were Eleonore's last words. With a wild rage her executioners
seized her for the purpose of tearing out her tongue. And when that
was accomplished, and her husband and son had suffered a similar
martyrdom, all three were placed upon a /kibitka/, to be conveyed to
Eleonore could no longer speak with her tongue, but her eyes spoke,
and those eyes continued to repeat the prayer for vengeance she had
addressed to Heaven: "Grant to this Empress Elizabeth a daughter, and
let that daughter's sufferings be like mine."
The people dispersed. The great returned to their palaces, and also
Alexis Razumovsky, who, that he might not excite the anger of the
empress, had likewise attended the execution, returned to the imperial
Elizabeth was standing before a large Venetian mirror, scrutinizing a
toilet which she had to-day changed for the fourth time.
"Well," she asked of Alexis, as he entered, "was it an interesting
spectacle? Was the handsome countess soundly whipped?"
And, while so asking, she was smilingly occupied in attaching a purple
flower to her hair.
"She was flayed," laconically replied Alexis. "Her blood streamed down
a back that was as red as your beautiful lips, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth offered him her lips to kiss.
"Now," she jestingly asked, "who is now the handsomest woman in my
"You are and always were!" responded Alexis, embracing her.
"And now tell me," said she, with curiosity, "what did this proud
countess do? How did she behave, what did she say?"
Alexis, seating himself upon a tabouret at her feet, related to her
all about the fair Eleonore, and what a terrible curse she uttered.
"Ah, nonsense!" replied Elizabeth, shrugging her shoulders, "How can
one make such a stupid prayer to God! I shall never marry, and
therefore never have a daughter to be scourged with the knout."
But while thus speaking, her eyes suddenly became fixed and her cheek
pale. She laid her trembling hand upon her heart--tears gushed from
Under her heart she had felt a movement of a new and mysterious life!
Heaven itself seemed to contradict her words! Elizabeth felt that she
was a mother, and Eleonore's words now filled her with awe and terror!
Fainting, she sank into Razumovsky's arms.
A few weeks later, a great and magnificent court festival was
celebrated at the imperial palace at St. Petersburg. It was not enough
that Elizabeth had chosen a successor in the person of Peter, Duke of
Holstein, she must also give this successor a wife, that the throne
might be fortified and assured by a numerous progeny.
She chose for him the Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, the young and
beautiful Sophia Augusta, who, embracing the Greek religion, received
the name of Catharine.
It was the marriage festival of this young German princess with the
heir to the Russian throne which was celebrated in the imperial palace
at St. Petersburg--a festival of splendor and enthusiasm, as it was
attended by two women of the most exciting beauty, Elizabeth the
present and Catharine the future empress--the one gorgeous with the
splendor of the present, the other irradiated with the glory of the
future. People looked at the fair youthful face of Catharine, and
sought to read in her majestic high forehead the hopes that Russia
might cherish of her! It was, therefore, a festival of the present and
future that was there and then celebrated, and the magnates humbly
prostrated themselves before this new star, and threw themselves upon
the earth before the ever-new sun of imperial majesty which shone upon
them in the person of Elizabeth.
Catharine with a joyful spirit and a proud smile laid her hand in that
of Peter, and as she stepped with him to the altar she thought: "I do
this that I may one day be empress! and as I can reach that position
in no other way--well, then, let them call me the wife of this under-
aged boy! I will suffer it until the time when I shall no longer
suffer, but command."
With such thoughts did Catharine become the wife of the Grand-duke
Peter, who, as he with a loud and solemn "yes" vowed eternal truth to
his young wife, looked at the Countess Woronzow, and both exchanged a
stolen smile and a glowing glance of love.
"They may henceforth call this proud Catharine my wife," thought
Peter, "but I shall never love her, as my heart will ever belong to my
dear Woronzow! But Elizabeth has decided that Catharine shall be my
wife. I accommodate myself to her command, and obey now, that I may
one day command! But then woe to the wife this day forced upon me!"
And when the ceremony was ended, the new-married pair received with
smiling faces and radiant glances the congratulations of the court,
which in loud and ecstatic exclamations commended the love and
happiness of this young princely pair.
On the same day a second marriage was celebrated in this same imperial
palace, perhaps not so splendid, but certainly a happier one, for it
was love that united the two--love had overcome Elizabeth's aversion
to marriage, and decided her to raise her dear Alexis Razumovsky to
the position of her husband--love, and also a little superstition! As
the son born to Elizabeth some months previously had died soon after
its birth, and in this dispensation Elizabeth recognized the
punishment of heaven in disapproval of her connection with Alexis, she
shudderingly, remembered the words spoken by Eleonore Lapuschkin, and
her heart was filled with fear for the children which the future might
"I will destroy the curse which this Countess Lapuschkin has
pronounced against my children," thought Elizabeth, as she now for the
second time felt herself to be a mother. "If God blesses my children,
the curse of no human being can affect them, and this revengeful
prayer of the countess will have no more power when the priest of God
has consented and blessed the child now quietly reposing under my
This was the reason why Elizabeth resolved to marry Alexis Razumovsky;
this was the reason why she, in a solitary chapel, accompanied only by
Lestocq and the priest, stood before the marriage-altar with Alexis,
and became his wife.
She breathed freer when the priest had pronounced his blessing upon
her; an oppressive weight was lifted from her heart; the child she was
about to bear was saved and sheltered, and Eleonore's curse had no
longer any power over it!
On the next day Elizabeth appointed Alexis field-marshal, and raised
him in the ranks of the nobility.
"We must at any rate give our son a respectable father," said she. "I
hope we shall have a son, who will be as beautiful as his father; whom
I will overload with honors, and place high above all the magnates of
my court. Ah, a son! No daughter, Alexis!"
"And why no daughter?" smilingly asked Razumovsky.
Elizabeth shuddered, and, clinging to her beloved, whispered:
"Has not Eleonore Lapuschkin said, 'Give her a daughter, and let her,
before the eyes of her mother, experience what I now suffer!' Oh,
Alexis, wish me therefore no daughter! I shall always tremble for
And God seemed to have listened to the anxious prayer of the empress.
Again she bore a son, but again the son died shortly after his birth.
"It is very sad to lose a child, and especially a son," sighed
Elizabeth, and involuntarily she thought of Anna, that poor mother
whom she had robbed of her son, that he might grow up in eternal
joyless imprisonment, that he might be morally murdered, and from a
man be converted into an idiot!
"This is God's vengeance!" whispered something in her breast, but
Elizabeth shrank from these low whisperings of her conscience, and she
tremulously said: "I will not listen to it! Away, ye intrusive
thoughts! I am an empress--for me there are no crimes, no laws! An
empress is exalted above all law, and whatever she does is right!
Away, away, therefore, ye troublesome thoughts! This boy Ivan must
remain in prison; I cannot restore him to his mother. May she bear
other children, and then new joys will bloom for her!"
But these thoughts would not be thus be banished, they constantly
haunted her; they left not her nightly couch; they constantly renewed
their dismal, awful whisperings; and this all-powerful empress would