Part 7 out of 7
"You have written to him?" asked Lorenzo, turning pale.
"I wrote him, particularly describing my condition and sufferings; in
God's name I conjured him to tell me the truth, and Brunelli is a man
of honor; he will do it! Am I right, therefore, in saying that the
contents of this letter are very heavy?"
Lorenzo trembled, and, grasping the pope's hand, he hastily and
anxiously said: "No, read it not. Of what use will it be to learn its
contents? It is tempting God to endeavor to learn the future in
advance! Let me destroy this fatal letter!"
And, while his faithful servant respectfully stood back, Ganganelli
broke the seal.
A pause ensued--a long, excruciating pause! Lorenzo, kneeling, prayed
--Pope Ganganelli read the letter of the physician of Bologna. His
face had assumed a mortal pallor; while reading, his lips trembled,
and tear-drops rolled slowly down over his sunken cheeks.
Falling from his hand, the letter rustled to the earth; with hanging
head and folded hands sat the pope. Lorenzo was still upon his knees
praying. Ganganelli suddenly raised his head, his eyes were turned
heavenward, a cheerful, God-given peace beamed from his eyes, and with
a clear, exulting voice, he said: "Lord, Thy will be done! I resign
myself to Thy holy keeping."
"The letter, then, brings good news?" asked Lorenzo, misled by the
joyfulness of the pope. "There is, then, no ground for the
presentiments of death, and the learned doctor says you will live?"
"The life eternal, Lorenzo!" said Ganganelli. "This letter confirms my
suppositions! Brunelli is a man of honor, and he has told me the
truth. Lorenzo, would you know what signifies this consuming fire,
this weariness and relaxation of my limbs? It is the effect of /Acqua
"Oh, my God," shrieked Lorenzo, "you are poisoned!"
"Irretrievably," calmly responded the pope; "Brunelli says it, and I
feel in my burning entrails that he speaks the truth."
"And are there no remedies?" lamented Lorenzo, wringing his hands. "No
means at least of prolonging your life?"
"There is such a means; and Brunelli recommends it. The application of
the greatest possible heat, the production of a continual
perspiration, which may a little retard the progress of the evil, and
perhaps prolong my life for a few weeks!
"Lorenzo, it is my duty to struggle every day with death. I have yet
much to complete before I die, yet much labor before I go to my
eternal rest, and, as far as I can, I must bring to an end what I have
commenced for the welfare of my people! Come, Lorenzo, let us return
to the Vatican; set pans of coals in my room, procure me furs and a
glowing hot sun! I would yet live some weeks!"
With feverish impetuosity Ganganelli grasped Lorenzo's arm and drew
him away. Then, suddenly stopping, he turned toward his favorite
"Lorenzo," he said in a low tone, and with deep sadness, "it was yet
very pleasant in the Franciscan cloister. Why did we not remain there?
Only see, my friend, how beautifully the sun glitters there among the
pines, and how delightfully this air fans us! Ah, Lorenzo, this world
is so beautiful, so very beautiful! Why must I leave it so soon?"
Lorenzo made no answer; he could not speak for tears.
Ganganelli cast a long and silent glance around him, greeting with his
eyes the trees and flowers, the green earth and the blue sky.
"Farewell, farewell, thou beautiful Nature!" he whispered low. "We
take our leave of each other. I shall never again see these trees or
this grassy seat. But you, Lorenzo, will I establish as the guardian
of this place, and when you sometimes sit here in the still evening
hour, then will you think of me! Now come, we must away. Feel you not
this cool and gentle air? Oh, how refreshingly it fans and cools, but
I dare not enjoy it--not I! This cooling cuts off a day from my life!"
And with the haste of a youth, Ganganelli ran down the alley. Bathed
with perspiration, breathless with heat, he arrived at the palace.
"Now give me furs, bring pans of coals, Lorenzo, shut all the doors
and windows. Procure me a heat that will shut out death--!"
But death nevertheless came; the furs and coverings, the steaming
coal-pans with which the pope surrounded himself, the glowing
atmosphere he day and night inhaled, and which quite prostrated his
friends and servants, all that could only keep off death for some few
weeks, not drive it away. More dreadful yet than this blasting heat
with which Ganganelli surrounded himself, yet more horrible, was the
fire that consumed his entrails and burned in his blood.
Finally, withered and consumed by these external and internal fires,
the pope greeted Death as a deliverer, and sank into his arms with a
But no sooner had he respired his last breath, no sooner had the
death-rattle ceased in this throat, and no sooner had death
extinguished the light in his eyes, than the cold corpse exhibited a
most horrible change.
The thin white hair fell off as if blown away by a breath of air, the
loosened teeth fell from their sockets, the formerly quietly smiling
visage became horribly distorted, the nose sank in and the eyes fell
out, the muscles of all his limbs became relaxed as if by a magic
stroke, and the rapidly putrefying members fell from each other.
The pope's two physicians, standing near the bed, looked with terror
upon the frightful spectacle.
"He was, then, right," murmured the physician Barbi, folding his
hands, "he was poisoned. These are the effects of the /Acqua Tofana/!"
Salicetti, the second physician, shrugged his shoulders with a
contemptuous smile. "Think as you will," said he, "for my part I shall
prove to the world that Pope Clement XIV. died a natural death."
Thus saying, Salicetti left the chamber of death with a proud step,
betaking himself to his own room, to commence his history of
Ganganelli's last illness, in which, despite the arsenic found in the
stomach of the corpse and despite the fact that all Rome was convinced
of the poisoning of the pope, and named his murderer with loud curses,
he endeavored to prove that Ganganelli died of a long-concealed
And while Ganganelli breathed out his last sigh, resounded the bells
of St. Peter's, thundered the cannon of Castle Angelo, and the curious
people thronged around the Vatican, where the conclave was in solemn
session for the choice of a new pope. Thousands stared up to the
palace, thousands prayed upon their knees, until at length the doors
of the balcony, behind which the conclave was in session, were opened,
and the papal master of ceremonies made his appearance upon it.
At a given signal the bells became silent, the cannon ceased to
thunder, and breathlessly listened the crowd.
The master of ceremonies advanced to the front of the balcony. A pause
--a silent, dreadful pause! His voice then resounded over the great
square, and the listeners heard these words: "/Habemus pontificem
maximum Pium VI.!/" (We have Pope Pius VI.)
And the bells rang anew, the cannon thundered, drums beat, and
trumpets sounded; upon the balcony appeared the new pope, Juan Angelo
Braschi, Pius VI., bestowing his blessing upon the kneeling people.
As they now had a new pope, nothing remained to be done for the
deceased pope but to bury him; and they buried him.
In solemn procession, followed by all the cardinals and high church
officials, surrounded by the Swiss guards, the tolling of the bells
and the dull rolling of the muffled drums, the solemn hymns of the
priests, moved the funeral /cortege/ from the Vatican to St. Peter's
church. In the usual open coffin lay the corpse of the deceased pope,
that the people might see him for the last time. As they passed the
bridge of St. Angelo, when the coffin had reached the middle of the
bridge, arose a shriek of terror from thousands of throats! A leg had
become severed from the body and hung out of the coffin, swinging in a
fold of the winding-sheet. Cardinal Albani, who walked near the
coffin, was touched on the shoulder by the loosely swinging limb, and
turned pale, but he yet had the courage to push it back into the
coffin. The people loudly murmured, and shudderingly whispered to each
other: "The dead man has touched his murderer. They have poisoned him,
our good pope! His members fall apart. That is the effect of /Acqua
[*] Archenholz relates yet another case where the Acqua Tofana had a
similar violent and sudden effect. "A respectable Roman lady, who
was young and beautiful, and had many admirers, made in the year
1778, a similar experiment, to rid herself of an old husband. As
the dose was rather strong, death was followed by the rapid and
violent separation of the members. They employed all possible
means to retain the body in a human form until the funeral was
over. The face was covered with a waxen mask, and by this means
was the condition of the corpse concealed. This separation of the
members seems to be the usual effect of this poison, and is said
to occur as soon as the body is cold."
The infernal work had therefore proved successful, the vengeance was
complete--Ganganelli was no more, and upon the papal throne sat
Braschi, the friend of the Jesuits and of Cardinal Albani, to whom he
had promised the crowning of the improvisatrice Corilla.
And as this cost nothing to the miserly Pope Pius, he this time found
no inconvenience in keeping his sacred promise, though not so promptly
as Corilla and the passionate cardinal desired.
Not until 1776, almost two years after Braschi had mounted the papal
throne, took place the crowning of the improvisatrice in the capitol
She had therefore attained the object of her wishes. She had finally
reached it by bribery and intrigue, by hypocritical tenderness, by the
resignation of her maiden modesty and womanly honor, and by all the
arts of coquetry.
But this triumph of hers was not to be untroubled. The /nobili/
shouted for her, and the cardinals and princes of the Church, but the
people accompanied her to the capitol with hissing and howling. Poems
came fluttering down on all sides; the first that fell upon Corilla's
head, Cardinal Albani eagerly seized and unfolded for the purpose of
reading it aloud. But after the first few lines his voice was silenced
--it was an abusive poem, full of mockery and scorn.
But nevertheless she was crowned. She still stood upon the capitol,
with the laurel-crown upon her brow, cheered by her respectable
protectors and friends. But the people joined not in those cheers,
and, as the exulting shouts ceased, there swelled up to the laurel-
crowned poetess, from thousands of voices, a thundering laugh of
scorn, and this scornful laugh, this hissing and howling of the
people, accompanied her upon her return from the capitol, following
her through the streets to her own door. The people had judged her!
Corilla was no poetess by the grace of God, and only by the grace of
man had she been crowned as queen of poesy!
Mortified, crushed, and enraged, she fled from Rome to Florence. She
knew how to flatter the great and win princes. She was a princess-
poetess, and the people rejected her!
But the laurel was hers. She was sought and esteemed, the princes
admired her, and Catharine of Russia fulfilled the promise Orloff had
made the improvisatrice in the name of the empress. Corilla received a
pension from Russia. Russia has always promptly and liberally paid
those who have sold themselves and rendered services to her. Russia is
very rich, and can always send so many thousands of her best and
noblest to work in the mines of Siberia, that she can never lack means
for paying her spies and agents.
THE RUSSIAN OFFICER
With Carlo's death, Natalie had lost her last friend; with the stolen
money and diamonds, Marianne was robbed of her last pecuniary means.
But Natalie paid no attention to Marianne's lamentations. What cared
she for poverty and destitution--what knew she of these outward
treasures, of this wealth consisting in gold and jewels? Natalie knew
only that she had been robbed of a noble, spiritual possession--that
they had murdered the friend who had consecrated himself to her with
such true and devoted love, and, weeping over his body, she dedicated
to him the tribute of a tear of the purest gratitude, of saddest
But so imperfect is the world that it often leaves no time for
mourning--that in the midst of our sorrow it causes us to hear the
prosaic voices of reality and necessity, compelling us to dry our eyes
and turning our thoughts from painfully-sweet remembrances of a lost
happiness to the realities of practical life.
Natalie's delicately-sensitive soul was to experience this rough
contact of reality, and, with an internal shudder, must she bend under
the rough hand of the present.
Pale, breathless, trembling, rushed Marianne into the room where
Natalie, in solitary mourning, was weeping for her lost friend.
"We are ruined, hopelessly ruined!" screamed Marianne. "They will
drive us from our last possession, they will turn us out of our house!
All the misfortunes of the whole world break over and crush us!"
The young maiden looked at her with a calm, clear glance.
"Then let them crush us," she quietly said. "It is better to be
crushed at once than to be slowly and lingeringly wasted!"
"But you hear me not, princess," shrieked Marianne, wringing her
hands. "They will drive us from here, I tell you; they will expel you
from your house!"
"And who will do that?" asked the young maiden, proudly rising with
flashing eyes. "Who dares threaten me in my own house?"
"Without are soldiers and bailiffs and the officers of the Russian
embassy. They have made a forcible entrance, and with force they will
expel you from the house. They are already sealing the doors and
seizing everything in the house."
A dark purple glow for a moment overspread Natalie's cheeks, and her
glance was flame. "I will see," said she, "who has the robber-like
boldness to dispute my possession of my own property!"
With proud steps and elevated head she strode through the room to the
door opening upon the corridor.
The bailiffs and soldiers, who had been placed there, respectfully
stood aside. Natalie paid no attention to them, but immediately
advanced to the officer who, with a loud voice, was just then
commanding them to seal all the doors and see that nothing was taken
from the rooms.
"I wish to know," said Natalie, with her clear, silver-toned voice--"I
wish to know by what right people here force their way into my house,
and what excuse you have for this shameless conduct?"
The officer, who was no other than Stephano, bowed to her with a
slightly ironical smile.
"Justice needs no excuse," said he. "On the part and by command of her
illustrious majesty, the great Empress Catharine, I lay an attachment
upon this house and all it contains. It is from this hour the sacred
possession of her Russian majesty."
"It is the exclusive property of the Count Paulo!" proudly responded
"It was the property of Count Paul Rasczinsky," said Stephano. "But
convicted traitors have no property. This criminal count has been
convicted of high-treason. The mercy of the empress has indeed changed
the sentence of death into one of eternal banishment to Siberia, but
she has been pleased to approve the confiscation of all he possessed.
In virtue of this approval, and by permission of the holy Roman
government, I attach this house and its contents!"
Natalie no longer heard him. Almost unconscious lay she in Marianne's
arms. Paulo was lost, sentenced to death, imprisoned, and banished for
life--that was all she had heard and comprehended--this terrible news
had confused and benumbed her senses.
"Sir!" implored Marianne, pressing Natalie to her bosom, "you will at
least have some mercy upon this young maiden; you will not thrust us
out upon the streets; you will grant us a quiet residence in this
house until we can collect our effects and secure what is indisputably
"Every thing in this house is the indisputable property of the
empress!" roughly responded Stephano.
"But not ourselves, I hope!" excitedly exclaimed Marianne. "This
imperial power does not extend over our persons?"
Stephano roughly replied: "The door stands open, go! But go directly,
or I shall be compelled to arrest you for opposing the execution of
the laws, and stirring up sedition!"
"Yes, let us go," cried Natalie, who had recovered her consciousness--
"let us go, Marianne. Let us not remain a moment longer in a house
belonging to that barbarous Russian empress who has condemned the
noble Count Paulo as a criminal, and, robber-like, taken forcible
possession of his property!"
And, following the first impulse of her noble pride, the young maiden
took Marianne by the hand and drew her away.
"They, at least, shall not forcibly eject us," said she; "no, no, we
will go of our own free will, self-banished!"
"But where shall we go?" cried Marianne, wringing her hands.
"Where God wills!" solemnly responded the young maiden.
"And upon what shall we live?" wailed Marianne. "We are now totally
destitute and helpless. How shall we live?"
"We will work!" said Natalie, firmly. A peculiar calm had come over
her. Misfortune had awakened a new quality in her nature, sorrow had
struck a new string in her being; she was no longer the delicate,
gentle, suffering, unresisting child; she felt in herself a firm
resolution, a bold courage, an almost joyful daring, and an invincible
"Work! /You/ will work, princess?" whispered Marianne.
"I will learn it!" said she, and with a constantly quickened step they
approached the outlet of the garden.
The gate which led out into the street was wide open; soldiers in
Russian uniform had been stationed before it, keeping back with their
carbines the curious Romans who crowded around in great numbers, glad
of an opportunity to get a peep into the so-long-closed charmed
"See, there she comes, the garden fairy!" cried they all, as Natalie
neared the gate.
"How beautiful she is, how beautiful!" they loudly exclaimed.
"That is a real fairy, a divinity!"
Natalie heard none of these expressions of admiration--she had but one
object, one thought. She wished to leave the garden; she wished to go
forth; she had no regrets, no complaints, for this lost paradise; she
only wished to get out of it, even if it was to go to her death.
But the soldiers stationed at the gate opposed her progress.
Natalie regarded them with terror and amazement.
"They cannot, at least, oppose my voluntary resignation of my
property," said she. "Away with these muskets and sabres! I would pass
And the young maiden boldly advanced a step. But those weapons
stretched before her like a wall, and Natalie was now overcome by
anguish and despair; the inconsolable feeling of her total
abandonment, of her miserable isolation. Tears burst from her eyes,
her pride was broken, she was again the trembling young girl, no
longer the heroic woman; she wept, and in tremulous tone, with folded
hands, she implored of these rough soldiers a little mercy, a little
They understood not her language, they had no sympathy; but the crowd
were touched by the tears of the beautiful girl and by the sad
lamentations of her companion. They screamed, they howled, they
insulted the soldiers, they swore to liberate the two women by force,
if the soldiers any longer refused them a passage. Dumb, unshaken,
immovable, like a wall stood the soldiers with their weapons stretched
Through the hissing and tumult a loud and commanding voice was
suddenly heard to ask, "What is going on here? What means this
disturbance?" An officer made his way through the crowd, and
approached the garden gate. The soldiers respectfully gave way, and he
stepped into the garden.
"Oh, sir," said Natalie, turning to him her tearful face, "if you are
an honorable man, have compassion for an abandoned and unprotected
maiden, and command these soldiers, who seem to obey you, to let me
and my companion go forth unhindered."
The Russian officer, Joseph Ribas, bowed low and respectfully to her.
"If it is the Princess Tartaroff whom I have the honor of addressing,"
said he, "I must in the name of my illustrious lord, beg your pardon
for what has improperly occurred here; at his command I come to set it
Thus speaking, he returned to the soldiers, and in a low tone
exchanged some words with their leader. The latter bowed respectfully,
and at his signal the soldiers shut the gate and retired into the
"Am I to be detained here as a prisoner?" exclaimed Natalie. "Am I not
allowed to leave this garden?"
"Your grace, preliminarily, can still consider this garden as your own
property," he respectfully responded. "I am commanded to watch that no
one dare to disturb you here, and for this purpose my lord
respectfully requests that you will have the goodness to permit me to
remain in your house as the guardian of your safety."
"And who is this generous man?" asked Natalie.
"He is a man who has made a solemn vow to protect innocence
everywhere, when he finds it threatened!" solemnly responded Joseph
Ribas. "He is a man who is ready to shed his blood for the Princess
Tartaroff, who is surrounded by enemies and dangers; a man," he
continued, in a lower tone, "who knows and loves your friend and
guardian, Count Paulo, and will soon bring you secret and sure news
"He knows Count Paulo!" joyfully exclaimed Natalie. "Oh, then all is
well. I may safely confide in whoever knows and loves Count Paulo, for
he must bear in his bosom a noble heart!"
And turning to Joseph Ribas with a charming smile, she said, "Sir,
lead me now where you will. We will both gladly follow you!"
"Let us, first of all, go into the villa, and send away those
troublesome people!" said the Russian officer, preceding the two women
to the house.
The bailiffs and soldiers were still there, occupied with sealing the
doors and closets. Joseph Ribas approached them with angry glances,
and, turning to Stephano, said, "Sir, I shall call you to account for
this over-hasty and illegal proceeding!"
"I am in my right!" morosely answered Stephano. "Here is the command
to attach this villa. It has fallen to the Russian crown as the
property of the traitor Rasczinsky."
"There is only the one error to be corrected," said Joseph Ribas,
"that this villa was not the property of Count Rasczinsky, as he some
months ago sold it to his friend, my master. And as, so far as I know,
the illustrious count, my master, never was a traitor, you will please
to respect his property!"
"You will have first to authenticate your assertions!" responded
Stephano, with a rude laugh.
"Here is the documental authentication!" said Joseph Ribas, handing a
paper to Stephano. The latter, after attentively reading the
documents, bowed reverentially, and said: "Sir, it appears that I was
certainly mistaken. This deed of gift is /en regle/, and is
undersigned by his grace the Russian ambassador. You will pardon me,
as I only acted according to my orders."
Joseph Ribas answered Stephano's reverential bow with a haughty nod.
"Go," said he, "take off the seals in the quickest possible time, and
then away with you!"
But as Stephano was about retiring with his people, Joseph Ribas
beckoned him back again.
"You have, therefore, recognized this deed of gift?" asked he, and as
Stephano assented, he continued: "You therefore cannot deny that my
master is the undisputed possessor of this villa, and can do with it
according to his pleasure?"
"I do not deny it at all!" growled Stephano.
Joseph Ribas then drew forth another paper, which he also handed
Stephano. "You will also recognize this deed of gift to be regular and
legal! It is likewise undersigned and authenticated by our
Stephano, having attentively read it, almost indignantly said:
"It is all right. But the count is crazy, to give away so fine a
And still grumbling, he departed with his people.
Clinging to Marianne's side, Natalie had observed the whole proceeding
with silent wonder; and, with the astonishment of innocence and
inexperience, she comprehended nothing of the whole scene, nor was a
suspicion awakened in her childishly pure soul.
"He is, then, really going?" she asked, as Stephano was slowly moving
"Yes, he is going," said Joseph Ribas, "and will never venture to
disturb you again. Henceforth you will be in undisputed possession of
your property. My lord has made this villa and garden forever yours by
a regular legal deed of gift."
"And who is your lord?" asked Natalie. "Tell me his name--tell me
where I may find him, that I may return him my thanks?"
"Yes, conduct us to him," said the weeping Marianne. "Let me clasp his
feet and implore his further protection for my poor helpless
"My lord desires no thanks," proudly responded Ribas. "He does good
for his own sake, and protects innocence because that is the duty of
every knight and nobleman."
"At least tell me his name, that I may pray for him," sobbed Marianne.
"Yes, his name," said Natalie, with a charming smile. "Ah, how I shall
love that name!"
"His name is his own secret," said Ribas. "The world, indeed, knows
and blesses him, calling him the bravest of the brave. But it is his
command that you shall never be informed of it. He desires nothing, no
thanks, no acknowledgments--he wishes only to secure your peace and
happiness, and thus redeem the solemn vow he made to his friend, Count
Paulo Rasczinsky, to guard and preserve you as a father, and to watch
over you as your tutelar genius!"
"Thanks, thanks, my God!" cried Marianne, with her arms raised toward
heaven. "Thou sendest us help in our need, Thou hast mercy on
suffering innocence, and sendest her a saviour in her greatest
The young maiden said nothing. Her radiant glance was directed
heavenward, and, folding her hands over her bosom, with a happy,
grateful smile she murmured:
"I am therefore no longer alone, I have a friend who watches over and
protects me. Whoever he may be, he is sent by Count Paulo. Whatever
may be his name, I shall be forever grateful to him!"
From that day had a new and marvellous life commenced for Natalie. She
felt herself surrounded by a dreamy, magic, fantastic, supernatural
life; it seemed as if some invisible genius hovered over her,
listening to all her thoughts, realizing all her wishes! And Joseph
Ribas was the merry, always-cheerful, always-serious Kobold of this
"My lord is not satisfied with the modest furnishing of your villa,"
said he to Natalie, on the first day. "He begs to be allowed to adorn
your chamber with a splendor suited to your rank and your future
"And in what is my future greatness to consist?" asked the young
maiden, with curiosity.
"That will be made known to you at the proper time," mysteriously
replied Joseph Ribas.
"Who will tell me?"
"He, the count."
"I shall therefore see him!" she joyfully exclaimed.
"Perhaps! Will you, however, first allow me to have your room properly
"This villa belongs to your lord," said Natalie. "It is for him, as
lord and master, to do as he pleases in it."
And satisfied, Ribas hastened away, to return in a few hours with more
than fifty workmen and artists, in order to commence the improvements.
Until now the villa had been finished and furnished with simple
elegance. One missed nothing necessary for comfort or convenience, for
pleasantness or taste. But it was still only the elegant and
fashionable residence of a private person. Now, as by the stroke of a
magic wand, this villa in a few days was converted into the splendid
palace of some sultan or caliph. There were heavy Turkish carpets on
the floors, velvet curtains with gold embroidery at the windows and on
the walls, the richest and most comfortable divans and arm-chairs,
covered with gold-embroidered stuffs; vases ornamented with the most
costly precious stones, noble bronze statues, beautiful paintings, and
between them the rarest ornaments, glistening with jewels, which
modern times have designated by the name of ribs; there were delicate
little trifles of inestimable value, and with refined taste and
judgment every thing was sought out which luxury and convenience could
demand. With childish astonishment and ecstasy, Natalie wandered
through these rooms, which she hardly recognized in their splendid
ornamentation, and stood before these treasures of trifles which she
hardly dared to touch.
"This lord must be either a magician or a nabob," thoughtfully
remarked Marianne; "it must have required millions to effect all
Natalie asked neither whether he was a magician, a millionaire, or a
nabob; she only thought she was to see him, and be allowed to thank
"Will he come now?" she constantly asked of the humble and slavishly
devoted Joseph Ribas; "will he come now that his house is prepared for
"It is adorned only for you, princess," humbly replied Ribas. "The
count, my master, wishes for nothing but to see you in a habitation
worthy of you!"
But what was this luxury, what cared she for these treasures the value
of which she was incapable of estimating, and which were indifferent
to her? She who had no conception of wealth or of money?--she, who
knew not that there was poverty in the world, and who, raised in an
Eden separated from the world, had no idea that hunger had ever made
its appearance within it--she knew only the sorrows of the happy, the
deprivations of the rich; she had never had either to struggle against
real misfortune or to experience real want and deprivation.
Now, indeed, a deeper sorrow had entered into her life; she had lost
her beloved paternal friend, Count Paulo; and Carlo, also, had been
torn from her! That was certainly a more profound sorrow, and she had
wept much for both of them,--but yet that was no real misfortune. She
had never yet lost the whole substance of her life; for those two,
however much she might always have loved them, had nevertheless, not
entirely filled out her life; they had been a part of her happiness,
but not that happiness itself.
And she awaited happiness! She awaited it with ecstasy and devotion,
with feverish hope and glowing desire! She knew not and asked not in
what this happiness was to consist, and yet her heart yearned for it;
she called for this unknown and nameless happiness with a throbbing
bosom and tremulously whispering lips!
She was so much alone, she had so much time for dreaming, and
intoxicating herself with fantastic imaginations! She was surrounded
by a fabulous world, and she was the fairy of that world! But out of
that fabulous world she sometimes longed to be, out of the ideal into
the real; she yearned for truth and actuality. Then she would call
Joseph Ribas to her side and bid him relate to her of that unknown
lord, his master.
He told her of his battles and his heroic deeds, of his wonderful acts
of bravery, and the young maiden tremblingly and shudderingly listened
to him. She feared this man, who had shed streams of blood, and whose
enemies with their dying lips had lauded as the greatest of heroes!
And Joseph Ribas smiled when he saw her turn pale and tremble, and he
would speak to her of his generosity and humanity, of his knighthood
and virtue; he related to her how, on one occasion, at the risk of his
life he had protected and saved a persecuted young maiden; how on
another he had taken pity on a helpless old man, and singly had
defended him against a host of bloodthirsty enemies. He also spoke to
her of the sorrow of his master on account of the ingratitude and
deceptions he had experienced, and Natalie's eyes filled with tears
as, with reproachful glances, she asked of Heaven how it could have
permitted the virtue of this noble unknown hero to be so severely
tried, and the baseness of mankind to trouble him.
"That is it, then," Ribas would often say; "he diffuses happiness
everywhere around him, while he himself has it not! He makes glad and
cheerful faces wherever he appears, and his own is the only serious
and sad brow. Mankind have made him hopeless, and for himself he no
longer believes in happiness!"
Ah, how then did the heart of this innocent child tremble, and how she
longed to find some means for restoring his belief in happiness.
"But why does he not come to those who love him?" asked she. "Why does
he decline the thanks of those whose hearts are truly devoted to him?
Ah, in our humid eyes and joy-beaming faces he would recognize the
truthfulness of our feelings! Why, then, comes he not?"
"I will tell you," said Ribas, with a smile; "he hates women, because
the only one he ever loved was false to him, and now his love is
changed to ardent hatred of all women!"
"I shall therefore never see him!" sighed the girl, hanging her head
with the sadness of disappointment.
This expectation, this constantly increasing impatience, rendered her
inaccessible to any other feeling, any other thought. He of whom she
did not know even the name, was sent by Paulo, and therefore had she
believed and confided in him from the first. Now had she already
forgotten that she had confided in him on Paulo's account; she
believed in him on his own account, and Paulo had retreated into the
background. Occasionally also the bloody image of poor Carlo presented
itself to her mind, and she secretly reproached herself for having
mourned him for so short a time, for having so soon forgotten that
faithful, self-sacrificing friend.
But even these reproaches were soon silenced when with a throbbing
bosom she thought of this new friend, who like a divinity hovered over
her at an infinite and unattainable distance, and whose mysteriously
active nearness replaced both of those friends she had lost, and for
whom she could no longer mourn.
"It is now high time!" said Joseph Ribas, one day, as, coming from
Natalie, he entered the boudoir of Count Alexis Orloff. "Now, your
excellency, the right moment has come! You must show yourself, or this
curious child will consume herself with a longing that has changed her
blood to fire! She thinks of nothing but you; with open eyes she
dreams of you, and without the least suspicion that any one is
listening to her, she speaks to you, ah, with what modest tenderness
and with what humble devotion! I tell you, your excellency, you are
highly blessed. There is no child more innocent, no woman more glowing
with love. And she knows it not; no, she has not the least suspicion
that she already loves you with enthusiasm, and thirsts for your
kisses as the rose for the morning dew! She knows nothing of her
"She shall learn something of it!" said Orloff, laughing. "It will be
a pleasant task to enlighten this little unknowing one as to her own
feelings. And I flatter myself I understand how to do that."
"Endeavor, above all things, your excellency, to realize the ideal she
bears in her heart. She expects to see nothing less than an Apollo,
whose radiant beauty will annihilate her as Jupiter did Semele!"
"Well, in that, I hope she has not deceived herself," responded
Orloff, with a self-satisfied glance into the mirror. "If I am not
Jupiter, yet they call me Hercules, and he, you know, was the son of
Jupiter, and, indeed, his handsomest son!"
"And be you not only a Hercules, but a Zephyr and Apollo, at the same
time. Make her tremble before your heroic character, and at the same
time win her confidence in your humble, modest love--then is she
yours. You must cautiously and noiselessly spread your nets, you must
not wound her delicate sensitiveness by a word or look, or she will
flee from you like a frightened gazelle!"
"Oh, should she wish to flee, my arms are strong enough to hold her!"
"Yet is it better to hold her so fast by her own enthusiasm, that she
shall not wish to flee," said Ribas. "You must entirely intoxicate her
with your humble and respectful love--then is she yours!"
"Does she know I am coming?" thoughtfully asked Orloff.
"No, she knows nothing of it. She sits in the garden and sighs,
occasionally grasping the golden guitar that lies on her arm, and asks
of the flowers: 'What is the name of my unknown friend? In what star
does he dwell, and how shall I invoke him?' "
"I will, then, surprise her!" said Orloff. "Let her anticipate my
coming, but do not promise it. It begins to grow dark. Where is she,
"Always in the garden. There she sighs and dreams of you!"
"Persuade her to go into the house, and let it be well lighted up! I
would appear to her in the full splendor of the lights! Ha, you
ragamuffins, you hounds, bring me my oriental costume, the richest,
handsomest; hasten, or I will throttle you!"
And Count Orloff hurried into his toilet-chamber, to the trembling
slaves who there awaited him.
With a sly smile Joseph Ribas returned to the villa. As he had
previously said, he found Natalie dreaming in the garden, the guitar
upon her arm.
"You ought to go into the house this evening," said he, "the air is
damp and cold, and may injure you."
"Of what consequence would that be?" she sadly responded. "Who would
ask whether I was ill nor not? Who would weep for my death?"
"Oh, he!" sighed she. "He hates all women!"
"Excepting you!" whispered Ribas. "Princess, go into the house! Take
care of your precious life. It is not I who beg it of you!"
"Who is it then?" she hastily interposed.
"It is he! He begs it of you!"
Natalie, springing up, hurried into the house.
"I will never again go into the garden in the evening!" said she. "It
is his command! Thank God, there is yet something in which I can obey,
and he commands it of me! But why these lights?" asked she, almost
blinded by the brilliancy of the girandoles and chandeliers, the
mirrors, and jewels.
"The count has so commanded!" said Ribas. "He loves a bright light!
But, princess, cannot you remain in this boudoir for one evening? Only
see how beautiful it is, how enticingly cool, with these fountains
that refresh the air and diffuse fragrance! How delightfully still and
snug it is! Reposing upon these velvet cushions, you can look through
the whole suite of rooms, which in fact, tonight, flash and sparkle
like the heavens, and yet in this boudoir there is a sweet twilight,
refreshing to eye and heart!"
"No, no," said she, with a charming smile. "I also like brightness and
light! It is too dusky here!"
"Nevertheless, remain here!"
"He wishes it!" said Ribas mysteriously.
"He wishes it?" cried Natalie, turning pale, and trembling. Then,
suddenly, a purple flush spread over her brow, and, reeling, she was
obliged to hold by a chair to prevent falling. "Ah," she stammered,
"can it be possible? Can this happiness be intended? Is it true, what
I read in your eyes? Is it? Comes he here?"
"Hope always!" said Ribas, suddenly disappearing through a side-door.
Natalie, benumbed by surprise, sank down upon the divan. A feeling of
boundless anxiety, of immeasurable ecstasy suddenly overcame her. She
could have fled, but she felt as if spell-bound; she could have
concealed herself from him, and yet was joyfully ready to purchase
with her life the happiness of seeing him. It was a strange mixture of
delight and terror, of happiness and despair. She spread her arms
toward heaven, she sought to pray, but she had no words, no thoughts,
not even tears!
A slight rustle made her rise. Almost with terror flew her glance
through the suite of rooms. There below she saw the approach of
something strange, singular, magical. It was a never-before-seen form,
but surrounded by a wonderfully bright halo, enveloped in rich,
glittering garments, such as she had never before seen. It was a
strange, unknown face, but of a sublime, heroic beauty, proud and
noble, bold and mild.
"That is he!" she breathlessly and sadly murmured--"yes, that is he!
That is a man and a hero! Ah, I shall die under his glance!"
He still continued to approach, and with every forward step he made
she felt her heart contract with anxiety, admiration, and a feverish
Now he stood on the threshold of the boudoir--his glance fell upon
her. And she? She lay, or rather half knelt upon the divan,
motionless, pale as a marble statue, with that divine smile which we
admire in ancient sculpture.
Touching was she to behold, white and delicate as a lily, so humble
and devoted, so shelter-needing and love-imploring!
But Count Orloff felt neither sympathy nor compassion. He saw only
that she was beautiful as an angel, an admirable woman, whom he
desired to possess!
Proud as a king, and at the same time very reverential and submissive,
he approached and sank upon his knee before the divan upon which she
reclined in trembling yet blissful sadness.
"Princess Natalie," he murmured low, "will you be angry with your
slave for daring to intrude upon you without knowing whether he would
She breathed freer. It was a relief to her to hear his voice--it made
her feel easier. He was no magician, no demon, he was a man, and spoke
to her with human words! That gave her courage and strength, it gave
her back the consciousness of her own dignity. She was ashamed of her
anxiety, her trembling, her childish helplessness. Yet she could say
nothing, answer nothing. She only gave him her hand, and with a
charming smile, an inimitable grace, and welcomed him with a silent
inclination of the head.
Taking her hand he pressed it to his lips. His touch seemed to kindle
in her an electric glow, and with something like alarm she withdrew
"Are you, then, angry with me?" he asked in a tone of sadness.
"No," said she, "I am not angry, but I fear you. You are so great a
hero, and your sword has done so many brave deeds. I looked at your
sword, and it alarmed me."
Count Orloff gave her a surprised and interrogating glance. Why said
she that? Had she some suspicion, some mistrust, or was it only a
presentiment, an inexplicable instinct, that made her tremble at his
"No, she suspects nothing," thought he, as he gazed upon that pure,
innocent, childish brow, which was turned toward him in pious
confidence, and yet with timid hesitation.
He loosened his sword from his girdle, sparkling with diamonds, and
humbly laid both at Natalie's feet.
"Princess," said he, "the empress herself girded me with this sword,
and I swore it should never leave my side but with my life. You are
dearer to me than my life or my honor, and I therefore break my sacred
oath. Take my sword, I am now without arms, and you will no longer
have occasion to tremble before me."
She smilingly shook her head. "You still remain a hero, though without
arms--it lies in your eyes!"
"I would close my eyes," said he, "but then I should not see you,
princess, and I have already so long languished for a sight of you!"
"Why, then, came you not sooner?" she asked, now feeling herself
entirely cheerful and unembarrassed. "Oh, did you but know how
impatiently I have awaited you!"
And with childish innocence she began to relate how much she had
thought of him, how often she had dreamed of him, how she had
sometimes spoken aloud to him, and almost thought she heard his
Count Orloff listened to her with surprise and delight. Thus had he
not expected to find her, so childishly cheerful, so charmingly
innocent, and yet at the same time with so much maidenly reserve, so
much natural dignity. Now she laughed like a child, now was her face
serious and proud, now again tender and timid. She was at once a timid
child and a glowing woman; she was innocent as an angel, and yet so
full of sweet, unconscious maiden coquetry. She enchanted, while
inspiring devotion, she excited passions and desires, while, with a
natural maiden dignity, she kept one within the bounds of respect. She
was entirely different from what Orloff had expected; perhaps less
beautiful, less dazzling, but infinitely more lovely. She enchanted
him with her smile, and her innocent childish face touched him.
"Speak on, speak on!" said he, when she became silent. "It is
delightful to listen to you, princess."
"Why do you call me so?" asked she, with a slight contraction of her
brow. "It is such a strange cold word! It does not at all belong to
me, and it is only within the last few months that I have been thus
addressed. With wise and tender forbearance, Paulo long delayed
informing me that I was a princess, and that was beautiful in him. To
be a princess and yet an orphan, a poor, deserted, helpless child,
living upon the charity of a friend, and tremulously clinging to his
protecting hand! See, that is what I am, a poor orphan; why, then, do
you call me princess!"
"Because you are so in reality," responded Orloff, pressing the hem of
her garment to his lips--"because I am come to lead you to your
splendid and powerful future!--because I will glorify you above all
women on earth, and make you mistress of this great empire."
She regarded him with a dreamy smile. "You speak as Paulo often spoke
to me," said she. "He also swore to me that he would one day place an
imperial crown upon my head, and elevate me to great power! I
understood him as little as I understand you!"
A slight scornful smile momentarily passed over Orloff's features.
"Catharine has therefore rightly divined," thought he, "and her wise
mind rightly understood this Rasczinsky. There was, indeed, question
of an imperial crown, and this was to have been the new little
Aloud he said: "You will soon understand me, princess, and it is time
you knew of what crown Paulo spoke."
"I know it not," said she, "nor do I desire to know it! Perhaps it was
a jest, with which he sought to console me when I complained of being
a homeless orphan, a poor child, who knew not even the name of her
"Do you not know that?" exclaimed Orloff, with astonishment.
She sadly shook her head. "They would never tell it me," said she.
"But I have her image in my heart, and that, at least, I shall never
lose or forget!"
"I knew your mother," said Orloff; "she was beautiful as you are, and
mild and merciful."
"You knew her!" exclaimed the young maiden, grasping his hand and
looking at him with a confiding friendliness. "Oh, you knew her! You
will now be doubly dear to me, for those bright eyes have seen my
mother, and perhaps this hand which now rests in mine has also touched
"That," said Count Orloff, with a smile, "I should not have dared to
do; it would have been high-treason!"
"Was she, then, so great a sublime a princess?" asked Natalie.
"She was an empress!"
"An empress!" And the young maiden, sprang up with beaming eyes and
glowing cheeks. "My mother was an empress!" said she, breathing hard.
"Empress Elizabeth of Russia."
Overcome by the feelings suddenly excited by this news, Natalie sank
again upon her seat and covered her face with her hands. Tears gushed
out between her delicate, slender fingers; her whole being was in
violent, feverish commotion. Then, raising her arms toward heaven,
with a celestial smile, while the tears overflowed her face, she said:
"I am, then, no longer a homeless orphan; I have a fatherland, and my
mother was an empress!"
Count Orloff respectfully kissed the hem of her garment.
"You are the daughter of an empress," said he, "and will yourself be
an empress! That was what Paulo wished, and therefore have they
condemned him as a criminal. What he was unable to accomplish must be
done by me, and for that purpose have I come. Princess Natalie, your
fatherland calls you, your throne awaits you! Follow me to your
crowning in the city of your fathers--follow me, that I may place the
crown of your grandfather, Peter the Great, upon your noble and
From this time forward Alexis Orloff was the inseparable companion of
Natalie. With the most reverential submission, and at the same time
with the tenderest affection, seemed he to be devoted to her, and
equally to adore her as his empress and his beloved.
He took pains to represent to her that she was necessarily and
inevitably destined to become an empress.
And she had comprehended him but too well. Ambition was awakened in
this young maiden of eighteen years; it was an imperial crown that
called her--why should she not listen to this call coming from the
lips of one in whom she had unlimited confidence, and toward whom she
felt infinitely grateful?
He had unfolded and explained all to her. He had told her of her
mother, the good Empress Elizabeth, who had made Russia so great and
happy; he had explained to her how Count Paulo Rasczinsky had flown
with her on the day of her mother's death, in order to preserve her
from the pursuits of her mother's successor, the cunning and cruel
Peter III., and to insure to her the realm at a later period. He had
then spoken to her of Catharine, who had forcibly possessed herself of
the throne of her unworthy husband, and taken the reins of government
into her own hands. He had spoken to her of Catharine's cruelty and
despotic tyranny; he had told her that all Russia groaned under the
oppression of this foreigner, and that a universal cry was heard
through the whole realm, of lamentation and longing, a cry for her,
the Russian princess, the grand-daughter of Peter the Great, the
daughter of the beloved Elizabeth.
"You are called for by all these millions of your oppressed subjects
now trodden in the dust," said he; "toward you they stretch forth
their trembling hands, from you they expect relief and consolation,
from you they expect happiness!"
"And I will bring them happiness," exclaimed Natalie, with emotion. "I
will dry the tears of misery and console the suffering. Oh, my people
shall love me as my mother once did!"
"The noblest of the land have pledged their property and their lives
to give you back to your people," said Orloff; "we have solemnly sworn
it upon the altar of God, and for the attainment of this end no one of
us will shun want or death, treason or revolt. Look at me, Natalie! I
stand before you a traitor to this empress, to whom I have sworn faith
and obedience; she has heaped favors upon me, and at one time I was
even passionately devoted to her! But Count Paulo awoke me from that
intoxication; he roused me from the condition of a favorite of the
empress; he taught me to see the cruel, bloodthirsty empress in her
true form; he spoke to me of your sacred rights, and when I recognized
and comprehended them, I collected myself, vowed myself your knight,
devoting myself to the defence of your rights, and swore to leave no
artifices, no dissimulation, nor even treason itself, unessayed for
the promotion of this great, this sublime object! Princess Natalie,
for your sake I have become a traitor! The admiral of the Russian
fleet, he whom the world calls the favorite of the empress, Count
Alexis Orloff, lies at your feet and swears to you eternal faith,
devotion, and adoration!"
"Alexis Orloff!" she joyfully exclaimed, "at length, then, I have a
name by which I can call you! Alexis, was not that the name of my
father? Oh, that is a good omen! You bear the name of my father, whom
my mother so dearly loved!"
"And whom the empress, impelled by love, raised to the position of her
husband," whispered Orloff, bending nearer to her and pressing her
hand to his bosom. Could you, indeed, love as warmly and devotedly as
your mother loved her Alexis?"
The young maiden blushed and trembled, but a sweet smile played upon
her lips, and although she cast down her eyes and did not look at him,
yet Count Orloff saw that he had given no offence, and might venture
He gently encircled her delicate form with his arm, and, inclining his
mouth so close to her ear that she felt his hot breath upon her cheek,
whispered: "Will Natalie love her Alexis as Elizabeth loved Alexis
Razumovsky? Ah, you know not how boundlessly, how immeasurably I love
you! Yes, immeasurably, Natalie. You are my happiness, my life, my
future. Command me, rule me, make of me a traitor, a murderer! I will
do whatever you command; at your desire I could even murder my own
father! Only tell me, Natalie, that you do not hate me; tell me that
my love will not be rejected by you; that this passion, under which I
almost succumb, has found an echo in your heart, and that you will one
day say to me, as Elizabeth said to your father, 'Alexis, I love you,
and will therefore make you my husband!' You are silent, Natalie; have
you no word of sympathy, of compassion for me! Ah, I offer up all to
you, and you--"
He could proceed no further; he saw her turn toward him; he suddenly
felt a glowing kiss upon his lips, and then, springing up from her
seat, she fled through the rooms like a frightened roe, and took
refuge in her boudoir, which she locked behind her.
Orloff glanced after her with a triumphant smile. "She is mine,"
thought he; "I am here living through a charming romance, and
Catharine will be satisfied with me!"
Yes, she was his; she now knew that she loved him, and with joyful
ecstasy she took this new and delightful feeling to her heart; she
welcomed it as the joy-promising dawn of a new day, a precious new
life. She permitted this feeling to stream through her whole being,
her whole soul; she made it a worship for her whole existence.
"You see," she said to Marianne, "so had I dreamed the man whom I
should one day love. So brave, so proud, so beautiful. Ah, it is so
charming to be obliged to tremble before the man one loves; it is so
sweet to cling to him and think: 'I am nothing of myself, but all
through thee! I am the ivy and thou the oak; thou wilt hold and
sustain me, and if a storm-wind comes, thou wilt not waver, but stand
firm and great in thy heroic strength, and protect me, and impart
courage and confidence even to me!' "
She loved him, and clung to him with boundless confidence, but she was
yet so full of tender maiden timidity that she could confess to him
nothing of this love; and since that kiss she shyly avoided him, and
constantly left his often-renewed love-questions unanswered.
At this Alexis secretly laughed. "She will come round," said he; "she
will finally be compelled to it by her own feelings. I will give her
time and leisure to come to a knowledge of herself!"
And for some days he kept away from the villa, pretending pressing
business, and left the poor isolated princess to her languishing love-
It was precisely in these days that, on one forenoon, a carriage of
indifferent appearance, adorned with no heraldic arms, stopped before
the villa; a man closely enveloped in a mantle, his hat pressed deeply
down over his forehead, issued from the carriage and rang the bell.
Of the servant who answered the bell he hastily inquired if the
princess was at home and alone; these questions being answered in the
affirmative, and the servant having asked his name in order to
announce him, the stranger said, almost in a commanding tone: "The
princess knows my name, and will gladly welcome me; therefore lead me
directly to her!"
"The princess receives no one," said the servant, placing himself in a
position to prevent the stranger's entrance.
"She will receive me," said the unknown, dropping some gold-pieces
into the servant's hand.
"I will conduct you to her," said the suddenly mollified servant, but
I do it on your own responsibility."
Princess Natalie was in her boudoir. She was alone, and thinking, in a
languishing reverie, of her friend, who had now been two days absent.
On hearing a light knock at the door, she sprang up from her seat.
"It is he!" she murmured, and with glowing cheeks she hastened to the
But on finding there a strange and closely-enveloped form, Natalie
timidly drew back.
The stranger entered, closing the door behind him, threw back his
mantle and took off the hat that shaded his face.
"Cardinal Bernis!" cried Natalie, with surprise.
"Ah, then you yet recognize me, princess!" said Bernis. "That is
beautiful in you, and therefore you will not be angry with me for
calling upon you unannounced. I knew that I should find you alone, and
this was a too fortunate circumstance for me to let it pass
unimproved. I must speak to you, princess, even at the hazard of
Natalie said, with a soft smile: "You were the friend of Count Paulo,
and therefore can never prove tiresome to me! I bid you welcome,
"It is precisely because I was Count Paulo's friend, that I have
come!" said Bernis, seriously. "The count loved you, princess, and
what I did not know at the time is known to me now. Because he loved
and was devoted to you, he hazarded his life, and more than his life,
"And they have robbed him of that precious liberty," sighed Natalie.
"For his fidelity to me they have condemned him to a shameful
"You know that!" exclaimed Bernis, with astonishment, "you know that,
and nevertheless--" Then, interrupting himself, he broke off, and
after a pause continued: "Pardon me one question, and if you deem it
indiscreet, please remember that it is put to you by an old man and a
priest, and that his only object is, if possible to be useful to you.
Do you love Count Paulo Rasczinksy?"
"I love him," said she, "as one loves a father. I shall always be
grateful to him, and shall never esteem myself happy until I have
liberated him and restored him to his country!"
"You liberate him!" sadly exclaimed Bernis. "Ah, then you know not,
you do not once dream, that you are yourself surrounded by dangers,
that your own liberty, indeed your life itself, is threatened."
"I know it," calmly responded the young maiden, "but I also know that
strong and powerful friends stand by my side, who will protect and
defend me with their lives."
"But how if these friends are deceiving you--if precisely they are
your bitterest enemies and destroyers?"
"Sir Cardinal!" exclaimed Natalie, reddening with indignation.
"Oh, I may not anger you," he continued, "but it is my duty to warn
you, princess! They have undoubtedly deceived you with false
pretensions, and in some deceitful way obtained your confidence. Tell
me, princess, do you know the name of this count whom you daily
"It is Count Alexis Orloff," said the young maiden, blushing.
"You know him, know his name, and yet you confide in him!" exclaimed
the cardinal. "But it cannot be that you know his history: have you
any idea to whom he is indebted for his prosperity and greatness?"
"The Empress Catharine, his mistress," said Natalie, without
The cardinal looked, with increasing astonishment, into her calm,
smiling face. "I now comprehend it all," he then said; "they have laid
a very shrewd and cunning plan. They have deceived you while telling
you a part of the truth!"
"No one has deceived me," indignantly responded Natalie. "I tell you,
Sir Cardinal, that I am neither deceived nor overreached, easy as you
seem to think it to deceive me!"
"Oh, it is always easy to deceive innocence and nobleness," sadly
remarked the cardinal. "Listen to me, princess, and think, I conjure
you, that this time a true and sincere friend is speaking to you."
"And how shall I recognize that?" asked the young maiden, with a
slight touch of irony. "How shall I recognize a friend, when, as you
say, it is precisely my pretended friends who are my enemies!"
"Recognize me by this!" said the cardinal, drawing a folded paper from
his bosom and handing it to the princess.
"That is Count Paulo's handwriting!" she joyfully exclaimed.
"Ah, you recognize the handwriting," said the cardinal, "and you see
that this letter is addressed to me. Count Paulo therefore considers
me his friend!"
"May I read this letter?"
"I beg you to do so."
Natalie unfolded the letter and read: "Warn the Princess Tartaroff;
danger threatens her!"
"That is all?" she asked with a smile.
"That is all! said the cardinal; "but when Paulo considered these few
words of sufficient importance to send them to me, you may well
suppose they are of the utmost significance."
"Count Paulo is in Siberia," said Natalie, shaking her head; "how
could he have written you from thence?"
"How he succeeded in doing so, I know not, but the firm, determined
will of man often conquers supposed impossibilities! Enough--in a
mysterious, enigmatical manner was this letter put into the hands of
our ambassador at St. Petersburg, with the most urgent prayer that he
would immediately send it to me by a special courier, with all the
"And was that done?" asked Natalie.
"It was done! I know why your life is threatened! Princess Tartaroff,
you are the daughter of the Empress Elizabeth; and therefore it is
that this Empress Catharine, upon her usurped throne, trembles with
fear of you--therefore was it that she said to her favorite: 'Go, and
deliver me from this troublesome pretender. But do it in a sly,
cautious, and noiseless manner. Avoid attracting attention, murder her
not, threaten her not; I wish not to give people new reasons for
calling me a bloodthirsty woman. Entice her with flatteries into our
net, induce her to follow you voluntarily, that the people of no
country in which she may be may have an occasion to accuse us of using
force.' Thus did Catharine speak to her favorite; he understood her
and swore to execute her commands, as he did when Catharine ordered
him to throttle her husband, the Emperor Peter; as he also did when
she ordered him to shoot poor Ivan, the son of Anna Leopoldowna, for
the criminal reason that he had a greater right to the imperial crown
of Russia than this little German princess of Zerbst!"
"And he shot that poor innocent Ivan!" shudderingly asked Natalie.
"Ah, this Catharine is bloodthirsty as a hyena, and her friends and
favorites are hangmen's servants--ah, history will brand this murderer
"It will," solemnly responded Cardinal Bernis, "and people will
shudder when they hear the name of the man who strangled the Emperor
Peter, who shot Ivan, and who, at the command of Catharine, has come
to Italy to ensnare the noble and innocent Princess Tartaroff with
cunning and flatteries and convey her to St. Petersburg. Shall I tell
you this man's name? He is called Alexis Orloff!"
The young maiden sprang up from her seat, her eyes flashed, and her
"That is false," said she--"a shameful, malicious falsehood!"
"Would to God it were so!" cried the cardinal. "But it is too true,
princess! Oh, listen to me, and close not your ears to the truth.
Remember that I am an old man, who has long observed men, and long
studied life. I know this Russian diplomacy, and this Russian craft;
they have in them something devilish; and these Russian diplomatists,
they poison and confound the shrewdest with their deceitful smiles and
infernal cunning. Guard yourself, princess, against this Russian
diplomacy, and, above all things, be on your guard against this
ambassador of the Russian empress, Alexis Orloff!"
"Ah, you dare to defame him!" cried the young maiden, trembling with
anger. "You have, therefore, never seen him; you have never read in
his noble face that Count Alexis Orloff can never betray. He is a
hero, and a hero never descends to a murder! Ah, if the whole world
should rise up against him, if it should point the finger at him and
say: 'That is a murderer!' I would cry in the face of the whole world:
'Thou liest! Alexis Orloff can never be a murderer! I know him better,
and know that he is pure and clear of every crime. You may continue to
call him a betrayer! I know why he suffers himself to be so called! I
know the secret of his conduct, and a day will come when you will all
learn it; when you will all feel compelled to fall down at his feet
and confess, "Alexis Orloff is no false betrayer!" For the sake of her
to whom he has vowed fidelity has he borne this shame. For her whom he
loved has he staked his blood and his life. Alexis Orloff is a
She was strangely beautiful while speaking with such spirit and
animation. The cardinal observed her noble and excited features with
an admiration mingled with the most painful emotions.
"Poor child!" he murmured, dropping his head--"poor child, she loves
him, and is therefore lost!"
"You, then, do not believe me!" he asked aloud.
"No," said she, with a glad smile--"no, all the happiness I ever
expect, all the good that may hereafter come to me, I shall receive
only from the hands of Alexis Orloff!"
"Poor child!" sighed the cardinal. "In many a case even death may
prove a blessing!"
"Then will I also joyfully receive even that from his hands!" cried
the young maiden, with enthusiasm.
"It is in vain, she is not to be helped!" murmured the cardinal, with
a melancholy shake of the head, and, grasping the hand of the young
maiden, with a compassionate glance at her fair face, he continued: "I
would gladly aid you, and thereby expiate the evil you once suffered
at my festival! But you will not consent to be aided. You rush to your
destruction, and it is your noblest qualities, your innocence, and
your generous confidence, which are preparing your ruin! May God bless
you and preserve you! How glad I should be to find myself a liar and
"And you will so find yourself!" exclaimed Natalie.
"You believe it, because you are in love, and when a woman loves she
believes in the object of her love, and smilingly offers up her life
for him! Like all women, you will do so! You will sacrifice your life
to your love; and when this barbarian thrusts the dagger in your
heart, you will say with a smile: 'I did it! I, myself--' "
And, bowing to her with a sad smile, slowly and sighing, the cardinal
left the room.
Some hours later came Alexis Orloff. Natalie received him with an
expression of the purest pleasure, and, extending both hands to him,
"Know you yet what my mother said to her lover?"
Looking at her, he read his happiness in her face. With an exclamation
of ecstasy he fell at her feet.
"I know it well, but you, Natalie, do you also know it?" he
Natalie smiled. "Alexis," said she, "I love you, and therefore will I
raise you to my side as my husband!" and with a charming modest blush
she drew the count up to her arms.
"You do not deceive me, and this is no dream?" he cried, while
glowingly embracing her.
"No," said she, "it is the truth, and I owe you this satisfaction. You
have been slandered to me to-day. Ah, they shall see how little I
believe them. Alexis, call a priest to bless our union, and make me
your wife. Whatever then may come, we will share it with each other.
If I am one day empress, you will be the emperor, and I will always
honor and obey you as my lord and master."
On the evening of this day a very serious and solemn ceremony took
place in the boudoir of Princess Natalie. An altar wreathed with
flowers stood in the centre of the room, and before the altar stood
Natalie in a white satin robe, the myrtle-crown upon her head, the
long bridal veil waving around her delicate form. She was very
beautiful in her joyful, modest emotion, and Count Alexis Orloff, who,
in a rich Russian costume stood by her side, viewed her with ecstatic
and warm desiring glances. The inhuman executioner led the lamb to the
slaughter without pity or compunction!
At the other side of the altar stood the priest, a reverend old man,
with long flowing silver hair and beard. Near him the sacristan, not
less reverend in appearance. No one else was present except Marianne,
who, in tears, knelt behind her mistress, and with folded hands prayed
for her beloved princess, who was now marrying Count Alexis Orloff.
The solemn ceremony was at an end, and the young wife sank weeping
into the arms of her husband, who, with tenderest whisperings, led her
into the next room.
Marianne, overcome by her tears and emotions, hastened to her own
room, and the reverend priest remained alone with his sacristan.
They silently looked at each other, and their faces were distorted by
a knavish, grinning laugh.
"It was a wonderful scene," said the priest, who was no other than
Joseph Ribas. "In earnest, I was quite affected by it myself, and I
came near weeping at my own sublime homily. Confess, Stephano, that a
consecrated priest could not have better gone through the ceremony."
"We have both performed our parts," simpered Stephano, the sacristan,
"and I think the count must be satisfied with us."
At that moment the count returned to the room. Natalie had begged to
be left alone--she needed solitude and prayer.
The priest, Joseph Ribas, and the sacristan, Stephano, gave him sly,
"I am satisfied with you," said Orloff, with a smile. "You are both
excellent actors. This new little countess was pleased and touched by
your discourse, Joseph, my very worthy priest. Where did you learn
this new villainy?"
"In the high school of the galleys, your excellency," said Ribas.
"Only there is one taught such precious things. We had a priest there,
a real consecrated priest, who was sentenced for life. From /ennui/ he
gave lessons to the smartest among us in his art, and taught us how to
fold the hands, roll the eyes, and render the voice tremulous. But
now, your excellency, one thing! You desired to know who it was that
warned your princess to-day. I can now give you information on that
point. It was the French Cardinal Bernis!"
"They are, therefore, beginning to observe our movements,"
thoughtfully remarked Orloff, "and these gentlemen diplomatists wish
to take a hand in the game. Ah, we understand the French policy. It is
the same now that it was when they helped to make the Princess
Elizabeth empress. At that time they interposed, that Russia might be
so occupied with her own affairs as to have no time for looking into
those of France. Precisely so is it to-day. They would compassionate
the daughter as they did the mother. With the help of Natalie they
would again bless Russia with a revolution, that we might not have
time to observe the events now fermenting in France. But this time we
shall be more cautious, my shrewd French cardinal. Stephano, let every
preparation be made for our immediate departure. We are no longer safe
and unobserved here. Therefore we will go to Leghorn."
"We alone, or with the princess?" asked Stephano.
"My wife will naturally accompany me," said Orloff, with a derisive
"Will she consent to leave Rome?" asked Joseph Ribas.
"I shall request her to do so," proudly replied Orloff, "and I think
my request will be a command to her."
And the proud count was not mistaken. His request was a command for
her. He told her she must leave Rome because she was no longer in
safety there, and Princess Natalie believed him.
"We will go to Leghorn, and there await the arrival of the Russian
fleet," said he. "When that fleet shall have safely arrived, then our
ends will be attained, then we shall have conquered, for then it will
be evident that the empress has conceived no suspicion; and I am the
commander of that fleet, which is wholly manned with conspirators who
all await you as their empress. Will you follow me to Leghorn,
She clung with tender submissiveness to his bosom.
"I will follow you everywhere," murmured she, "and any place to which
you conduct me will be a paradise for me!"
THE RUSSIAN FLEET
Unsuspectingly had she followed Orloff to Leghorn; full of devoted
tenderness, full of glowing love, she was only anxious to fulfil all
his wishes and to constantly afford him new proofs of her affection.
And how? Did he not deserve that love? Was he not constantly paying
her the most delicate attentions? Was he not always as humbly
submissive as he was tender? Did it not seem as if the lion was
subdued, that the Hercules was tamed, by his tender Omphale, whom he
adored, at whose feet he lay for the purpose of looking into her eyes,
to read in them her most secret thoughts and wishes?
She was not only his wife, she was also his empress. Such he called
her, as such he respected her, and surrounded her with more than
The house of the English Consul Dyke was changed into an imperial
palace for Natalie, and the young and beautiful wife of the consul was
her first lady of honor. She established a court for the young
imperial princess, she surrounded her with numerous servants and a
splendid train of attendants whose duty it was to follow the
illustrious young empress everywhere, and never to leave her!
And Natalie suspected not that this English consul received from the
Empress of Russia a million of silver rubles, and that his wife was
rewarded with a costly set of brilliants for the hospitality shown to
this Russian princess, which was so well calculated to deceive not
only Natalie herself, but also the European courts whose attention had
been aroused. Natalie suspected not that her splendid train, her
numerous servants--that all these who apparently viewed her as their
sublime mistress, were really nothing more than spies and jailors, who
watched her every step, her every word, her every glance. Poor child,
she suspected nothing! They honored and treated her as an empress, and
she believed them, smiling with delight when the people of Leghorn--
whenever she with her splendid retinue appeared at her husband's side
--shouted with every demonstration of respect for her as an empress.
And finally, one day the long-expected Russian fleet arrived!
Radiant with joy, Alexis Orloff rushed into Natalie's apartment.
"We have now attained our end," said he, dropping upon one knee before
his wife; "I can now in truth greet you as my empress and mistress!
Natalie, the Russian fleet is here, and only waits to convey you in
triumph to your empire, to the throne that is ready for you, to your
people who are languishing for your presence! Ah, you are now really
an empress, and marvellous will you be when the imperial crown
encircles your noble head!"
"I shall be an empress," said Natalie, "but you, Alexis, will always
be my lord and emperor!"
"Natalie," continued the count, "your people call for you!--your
soldiers languish for you, the sailors of all these ships direct their
eyes to the shore where their empress lingers. The admiral's ship will
be splendidly adorned for your reception, and Admiral Gluck will be
the first to pay homage to you. Therefore adorn yourself, my charming,
beautiful empress--adorn yourself, and show yourself to your faithful
subjects in all the magnificence of your imperial position. Ah, it
will be a wonderful and intoxicating festival when you celebrate the
first day of your greatness!"
And Count Orloff called her attendants. Smiling, perfectly happy at
seeing the pleasure and satisfaction of her husband, Natalie suffered
herself to be adorned, to be enveloped in that costly gold-embroidered
robe, those pearls and diamonds, that sparkling diadem, those chains
She was dressed, she was ready! With a charming smile she gave her
hand to her husband, who viewed her with joyous glances, and loudly
praised the beauty of her celestial countenance.
"They will be enchanted with the sight of you," said he.
Natalie smilingly said: "Let them be so! I am only happy when I please
In an open carriage, attended by her retinue, she proceeded to the
haven, and all the people who thronged the streets shouted in honor of
the beautiful princess, astonished at the splendor by which she was
surrounded, and estimating Count Orloff a very happy man to be the
husband of such an empress!
And when she appeared upon the shore, when the carriages stopped and
Princess Natalie rose from her seat, there arose from all the ships
the thousand-voiced cheers of their crews. Russian flags waved from
every spar, cannon thundered and drums rolled, and all shouted: "Hail
to the imperial princess! Hail, Natalie, the daughter of Elizabeth!"
It was a proud, an intoxicating moment, and Natalie's eyes were filled
with tears. Trembling with proud ecstasy, she was compelled to lean
upon Orloff's arm to preserve herself from falling.
"No weakness now!" said he, and for the first time his voice sounded
harsh and rough. Surprised, she glanced at him--there was something in
his face that she did not understand; there was something wild and
disagreeable in the expression of his features, and he avoided meeting
He looked over to the ships. "See," said he, "they are letting down
the great boat; Admiral Gluck himself is coming for you. And see that
host of gondolas, that follow the admiral's boat! All his officers are
coming to do homage to you, and when you, in their company, reach the
admiral's ship, they will let down the golden arm-chair to take you on
board. That is an honor they pay only to persons of imperial rank!"
Her glance passed by all these unimportant things; she saw only his
face; she thoughtfully and sadly asked herself what change had come
over Alexis, and what was the meaning of his half-sly, half-angry
The boats came to the shore, and now came the admiral with his
officers; prostrating themselves before her, they paid homage to this
beautiful princess, whom they hailed as their mistress.
Natalie thanked them with a fascinating smile; and, graciously giving
her hand to the admiral, suffered herself to be assisted by him into
the great boat.
As soon as her foot touched it, the cannon thundered, flags were waved
on all the ships, and their crews shouted, "Viva Natalie of Russia!"
Her eyes sought Orloff, who, with a scowling brow and gloomy features,
was still standing on the shore.
"Count Alexis Orloff!" cried she, with her silvery voice, "we await
But Alexis came not at her call. He hastily sprang into an officer's
boat, without giving her even a look.
"Alexis!" she anxiously cried.
"He follows us, your highness," whispered the wife of Consul Dyke,
while taking her place near the princess. "It would be contrary to
etiquette for him to appear at the side of the empress at this moment.
See, he is close behind us, in the second gondola!"
"Shove off!" cried Admiral Gluck, he himself taking the rudder in
honor of the empress.
The boats moved from the land. First, the admiral's boat, with the
princess, the admiral, and the Englishwoman; and then, in brilliant
array, the innumerable crowd of adorned gondolas containing the
officers of the fleet.
It was a magnificent sight. The people who crowded the shore could not
sufficiently admire the splendid spectacle.
When they reached the admiral's ship the richly-gilded arm-chair was
let down for Natalie's reception. She tremblingly rose from her seat--
a strange, inexplicable fear came over her, and she anxiously glanced
around for Orloff. He sat in the second boat, not far from her, but he
looked not toward her, not even for a moment, and upon his lips there
was a wild, triumphant smile.
"Princess, they wait for you; seat yourself in the arm-chair!" said
Madame Dyke, in a tone which to Natalie seemed to have nothing of the
former humility and devotion--all seemed to her to be suddenly
changed, all! Shudderingly she took her seat in the swinging chair--
but, nevertheless, she took it.
The chair was drawn up, the cannon thundered anew, the flags were
waved, and again shouted the masses of people on the shore.
Suddenly it seemed as if, amid the shouts of joy and the thundering of
the cannon, a shriek of terror was heard, loud, penetrating, and
heartrending. What was that? What means the tumult upon the deck of
the admiral's ship? Seems it not as if they had roughly seized this
princess whose feet had just now touched the ship? as if they had
grasped her, as if she resisted, stretching her arms toward heaven!
and hark, now this frightful cry, this heart-rending scream!
Shuddering and silent stand the people upon the shore, staring at the
ships. And the cannon are silenced, the flags are no longer waved, all
is suddenly still.
Once more it seems as if that voice was heard, loudly shrieking the
Trembling and quivering, Alexis Orloff orders his boat to return to
In the admiral's ship all is now still. The princess is no longer on
the deck. She has disappeared! The people on shore maintained that
they had seen her loaded with chains and then taken away! Where?
All was still. The boats returned to the shore. Count Orloff gave his
hand to the handsome Madame Dyke, to assist her in landing.
"To-morrow, madame," he whispered, "I will wait upon you with the
thanks of my empress. You have rendered us an essential service."
The people at the landing received them with howls, hisses, and
curses!--but Count Orloff, with a contemptuous smile, strewed gold
among them, and their clamors ceased.
Tranquil and still lay the Russian fleet in the haven. But the ports
of the admiral's ship were opened, and the yawning cannon peeped
threateningly forth. No boats were allowed to approach the ship; but
some, impelled by curiosity, nevertheless ventured it, and at the
cabin window they thought they saw the pale princess wringing her
hands, her arms loaded with chains. Others also asserted that in the
stillness of the night they had heard loud lamentations coming from
the admiral's ship.
On the next day the Russian fleet weighed anchor for St. Petersburg!
Proudly sailed the admiral's ship in advance of the others, and soon
became invisible in the horizon.
On the shore stood Count Alexis Orloff, and, as he saw the ships
sailing past, with a savage smile he muttered: "It is accomplished! my
beautiful empress will be satisfied with me!"
She was satisfied, the great, the sublime empress--satisfied with the
work Alexis Orloff had accomplished, and with the manner in which it
In the presence of her confidential friends she permitted Orloff's
messenger, Joseph Ribas, to relate to her all the particulars of the
affair from the commencement to the end, and to the narrator she
nodded her approval with a fell smile.
"Yes," said she to Gregory Orloff, "we understand women's hearts, and
therefore sent Alexis to entrap her. A handsome man is the best jailer
for a woman, from whom she never runs away." And bending nearer to
Gregory's ear, she whispered: "I, myself, your empress, am almost your
prisoner, you wicked, handsome man!"
And ravished by the beauty of Gregory Orloff, the third in the ranks
of her recognized favorites, the empress leaned upon his arm,
whispering words of tenderness in his ear.
"And what does your sublime majesty decide upon respecting the
prisoner?" humbly asked Joseph Ribas.
"Oh, I had almost forgotten her," said the empress, with indifference.
"She is, then, yet living, this so-called daughter of Elizabeth?"
"She is yet alive."
The empress for some time thoughtfully walked back and forth,
occasionally turning her bold eagle eye upon her two favorite
pictures, hanging upon the wall. They were battle-pieces full of
terrible truth; they displayed the running blood, the trembling flesh,
the rage of opponents, and the death-groans of the defeated. Such were
the pictures loved by Catharine, and the sight of which always
inspired her with bold thoughts.
As she now glanced at these sanguinary pictures, a pleasant smile drew
over the face of this Northern Semiramis. She had just come to a
decision, and, being content with it, expressed her satisfaction by a
"That bleeding feminine torso," said she, pointing to one of the
pictures, "look at it, Gregory, that wonderful feminine back reminds
me of the vengeance Elizabeth took for the beauty of Eleonore
Lapuschkin. Well, Elizabeth's pretended daughter shall find me
teachable; I will learn from her mother how to punish. Let this
criminal be conducted to the same place where the fair Lapuschkin
suffered, and as she was served so serve Elizabeth's daughter! We have
no desire to tear out the tongue of this child. Whip her, that is all,
but whip her well and effectually. You understand me?"
And while she said this, that animated smile deserted not Catharine's
lips for a moment, and her features constantly displayed the utmost
"I think," said she, turning to Gregory, "that is bringing an
expiatory offering to the fair Eleonore Lapuschkin, and we here
exercise justice in the name of God!--As to you," she then said to
Joseph Ribas, "we have reason to be satisfied with you, and you shall
not go without your reward. Moreover, our beloved Alexis Orloff has
especially recommended you to us, and spoken very highly of your
information and talents. You shall be satisfied."[*]
[*] Joseph Ribas was rewarded by the empress with the place of an
officer and teacher in the corps of cadets. Afterward, upon the
recommendation of Betzkoi, he was made the tutor of Bobrinsky, one
of the sons of the empress by Gregory Orloff. "He accompanied
Bobrinsky in all his travels," says Massen, "and inoculated the
prince with all the terrible vices he himself possessed." At a
later period, as we have already said, he became an admiral and a
favorite of Potemkin, the fourth of Catharine's lovers.
It was a dark and dreadfully cold night. St. Petersburg slept; the
streets were deserted and silent. But there, upon the place where
Elizabeth once caused the beautiful Lapuschkin to be tortured, there
torches glanced, there dark forms were moving to and fro, there a
mysterious life was stirring. What was being done there?
No spectators are to-night assembled around these barriers. Catharine
had commanded all St. Petersburg to sleep at this hour, and
accordingly it slept. Nobody is upon the place--nobody but the cold,
unfeeling executioners and their assistants--nobody but that pale,
feeble, and shrunken woman, who, in her slight white dress, kneels at
the feet of her executioners. She yet lives, it is true, but her soul
has long since fled, her heart has long been broken. The chains and
tortures of her imprisonment have done that for her. It was Alexis
Orloff who murdered Natalie's heart and soul. For him had she wept
until her tears had been exhausted--for him had she lamented until her
voice had become extinct. She now no longer weeps, no longer
complains; glancing at her executioners, she smiles, and, raising her
hands to God, she thanks him that at last she is about to die.
She is yet praying when her executioners approach and roughly raise
her up, when they tear off her light robe, and devour with their
brutal eyes her noble naked form. Her soul is with God, to whom she
yet prays. But when they would rend from her bosom the chain to which
Paulo's papers are attached, she shudders, her eyes flash, and she
holds the papers in her convulsively clinched hands.
"I have sworn to defend them with my life!" she exclaims aloud.
"Paulo, Paulo, I will keep my word!"
And with the boldness of a lioness she defends herself against her
"Leave her those papers!" commanded Joseph Ribas who was present by
order of the empress. "She may keep them now--they will directly be
"Oh, Paulo, I have kept the promise I made thee!" murmured Natalie.
She then implores to be allowed to read them, and Joseph Ribas grants
her the desired permission.
With trembling hands she breaks the seal and reads by the light of a
torch held up for her. A melancholy smile flits over her features, and
her arms fall powerless.
"Ah, they are the proofs of my imperial descent, nothing further. How
little is that, Paulo!"
And now lifting her up, they raise her high upon the backs of the
The knout whistles as it whirls through the air, the noble blood flows
in streams. She makes no complaint, she prays. Only once, overcome by
pain, only once she loudly screams: "/Mercy, mercy for the daughter of